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Comment Black swan events (Score 2) 79

Three Mile Island was the only major commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history. Nuclear power in the U.S. has generated 24,196,167 GWh between 1971-2015. At an average price of 12 cents/kWh, that's $2.90354 trillion. So the approx $3.4 billion in cleanup and lossses from TMI is 0.117% of that. Or in other words, at a retail price of 12 cents/kWh, the historical cost of cleaning up nuclear accidents in the U.S. is 0.014 cents per kWh.

In contrast, subsidies for different energy sources are 23.1 cents/kWh for solar, 3.5 cents/kWh for wind, and 0.2 cents/kWh for nuclear. (Tables ES4 and ES4. Solar received $4.393 billion in subsidies while generating 19,000 GWh. Wind received $5.936 billion while generating 5,936 GWh, and nuclear received $1.66 billion while generating 789,000 GWh.) That's right. The subsidy for solar is 1650x more expensive than cleaning up nuclear accidents. The subsidy for wind is 250x more expensive.

Nuclear decommissioning costs are already paid for by the NRC's Financial Assurance fund. A portion of the revenue from electricity sales are placed into this fund.

The problem with insuring nuclear plants is just a quirk of statistics. The more times you roll the dice, the narrower the bell curve becomes and the more predictable the average outcome. e.g. A 1d100 has an equal chance to produce any result between 1 and 100 - the probability distribution function is a straight line. 2d50 produces a triangular PDF, with the values in the middle tending to be more likely. 10d10 produces an even more compact PDF - a narrow normal curve with results in the middle much more likely than the extremes. And 100d0.5 will always produce 50 - its PDF is just a single peak in the middle.

This is a problem for insuring nuclear plants - because they produce so much energy you don't need very many of them. Whereas there are thousands of coal plants, and (potentially) millions of solar installations, there are only operating 100 nuclear plants in the U.S. So insuring a nuclear plant represents a greater risk for the insurer. Even though the mean outcome will be that there is 1 accident every 30 years, the chance of a 2nd or 3rd accident is still significant and the amount the insurer has to pay out may easily surpass how much they've collected in premiums if they assume the statistically most likely outcome of a single accident.

The insurance company's response is to increase the premium to also cover that 2nd or 3rd event even though they're unlikely. In contrast, with thousands of coal plants they can be much more confident that there will be (say) only 10 accidents every 30 years, and 20 or 30 accidents is extraordinarily unlikely. So the premiums can be lower, even if the average risk (mean) is exactly the same. If there were some way to build thousands of small-scale nuclear plants instead of 100 large ones, private insurance wouldn't be a problem. You get around this problem by creating the largest insurance pool possible, which in this case would be nationalized insurance covering all 100 nuclear power plants.

Statistically, per unit of energy generated, nuclear power is the safest power source man has invented.

Comment Seems to me this is a design flaw of the web (Score 1) 192

The web is asymmetric. A single host (or hosts in the case of a CDN like Akamai) sends files to thousands or millions of clients (web browsers).

This seems like something a distributed symmetric system like bittorrent could fix. Each browser already caches files for the web sites it's visited. If they could also be made to serve those cached pages to other web browsers (with a checksum to allow the new recipient to detect and discard corrupted caches), that would solve server overloading. The more popular a site/page is, the more computers it's cached on, and the more "load" it can take - it's self-scaling.

Making it SSL-only would prevent manipulation of the content (cache the page pre-decryption) since you'd need the original site's private key to alter the content in any meaningful way. A bad actor could still turn their cache into gibberish, but you should be able to counter that with automated blacklists of computers with corrupted caches, and using multiple parity copies for redundancy - sort of a distributed RAID. Basically the same problems bittorrent has to deal with.

Comment Re:Confusing summary from CNET article (Score 1) 49

Why are they using the mean? Isn't something like this precisely when you're supposed to use the median? Ok, that means they have to store a lot more data (time spent per each individual view, instead of just aggregate time viewed and aggregate number of viewers). But presumably they're already keeping track of every video every FB member has viewed, so this wouldn't be that much more data.

Comment Re:Popcorn. (Score 1) 381

The Trump University stuff will need to go to trial before I can form an opinion. What most non-business people don't seem to understand is that any business endeavor is a risk. There's a chance you may succeed, there's a chance you may fail. The idea is to try to find or create business ventures which have a higher than average chance of succeeding, and spend your time (and money) on them.

In that respect, it does not surprise me at all that some of the people who paid for Trump University weren't successful afterwards, and were dissatisfied with the course. Are their numbers large enough to characterize Trump University as fraud? I don't know, and with the press highlighting only the people who were dissatisfied it's impossible to say.

If you want guaranteed success, put your money into a savings account or CD at the bank. If you want a better return than the paltry 0.25%-1% those instruments will give you, then you need to be prepared to take some risks, and be ready to blame failures on yourself or just bad luck instead of on others. The better businessmen pick themselves up and brush themselves off after a failure and move on, chalking up the time and money lost as a cost of learning lessons on what not to do in the future. The poor businessmen dwell on their failures and don't move on, trying to pin the blame on someone else, thus decreasing their chances of finding a new successful venture.

Comment That's the wrong way to think of it (Score 1) 197

Conversion efficiency is a big deal when you're using a mix of renewable and fossil fuel energy sources. It makes little sense to send renewable energy to a train at (say) 20% efficiency causing a shortage in the electrical grid which needs to be made up by a fossil fuel plant operating at 50% efficiency (overall average 35% efficiency), if you can instead use the renewable energy directly on the grid at 70% efficiency and power the train with fossil fuel at 40% efficiency (overall average 55% efficiency).

This is a very common error I see made by people advocating renewables. They like to compare to a nonexistant zero state. You need to compare to the next best (or better) alternative. Or in other words, you can't think of this in terms of where the energy for the train (and only for the train) is coming from. You need to think of it as having x MWh of renewable energy, and where is the best place to send it to maximize the reduction in fossil fuel burn. In that respect, it is deceptive describing vehicles as "zero emissions" - all they do is shift the emissions elsewhere. The act of charging up their batteries or hydrogen tanks requires energy, and implemented poorly it can actually end up requiring more energy than just burning diesel.

Comment People tend to think others will behave as they do (Score 5, Insightful) 133

If you're a music executive who made it to where you are by cheating musicians and paying them as little as possible, and by overcharging customers at every opportunity, you will tend to assume other people will behave the same way you yourself do. It will literally be inconceivable to you that a lot of people, even given the opportunity to get something for free by piracy, would rather pay you what they consider to be a fair amount for your work.

Comment Re:Which RAID level? (Score 1) 467

Back in the 2000s, most single-drive Toshiba laptops were set up this way in RAID mode. You could switch it to IDE mode, but you couldn't even install an OS (not even Windows) in that mode. I think it was to enable that tech Intel was pushing for a while to use a USB flash drive as a disk cache. It was a major PITA recovering data off these laptop drives because Windows wouldn't recognize the partition when I popped the drive into another computer. At least until I figured out it was still a NTFS-formatted partition, just the filesystem type ID was just set to something other than NTFS (0x7) to tell the laptop that it was a "RAID" partition.

Comment Re:This is my shocked face (Score 1) 272

Those of us who are older have seen this all before. Japanese products were crap, until the Japanese finally figured out what they were doing, got consistency and reliability down, and by the 1980s all the best stuff was made in Japan. Same thing happened with Taiwan and Korea in the 1990s-2000s.

I haven't seen any evidence that China won't follow the same path. They're just still at the point where getting paid is more important to them than establishing and maintaining a reputation for making quality stuff.

Comment Re:The Music Industry Has Always Complained... (Score 1) 125

For those of us who were kids in the 1970s and 1980s, the brouhaha about piracy over the Internet was act 2. We got to experience act 1 when the recording industry went after cassette tapes as facilitating piracy because they enabled you to record songs off the radio, or make your own mix tapes which you could then hand out to friends. My sister's stereo specifically had the ability to record radio broadcasts to tape disabled because of their nonsense.

Their paranoia and lack of forward thinking killed off DATs (digital audio tapes) through an early form of DRM. That helped launch the popularity of CDs (initially there were no such things as CD-Rs). And their greed led them to pick the worst, most bloated format possible for audio on CDs (basically completely uncompressed audio) to limit its capacity to about 1 hour of music, about the same as a double-sided LP. Of course they ended up hoisted by their own petard because this raw audio format was trivial to rip and convert into MP3.

Comment Re:Single payer system would avoid this problem (Score 1) 324

In most countries the government is in charge of health care and they have a VERY easy way to regulate price gouging such as this. In any single payer system the national health service basically sets the price they are willing to pay and that's what it costs. End of story. We only run into this problem because we have a portion of our population who breaks out in hives anytime they hear the words "socialized medicine".

That is all good in theory. If you assume that there is no corruption in government.

The people who don't want a single payer system don't fear socialized whatever. That's just a condescending description of their position made up by people who oppose them. They fear too much government control. If a fiasco like this Epi-pen price gouging happens, you have legal recourse, you have government recourse, hell if you work for a pharmaceutical company you could even lobby your own company to start producing a competitor. There are things the everyday person can do to try to get it fixed. But if a fiasco like this were to happen with a government-controlled single-payer system, there is nothing the everyday person can do to fix it.

Politics would go a lot more smoothly if people actually tried to understand the position and concerns of those with differing views, and came up with creative ways to address those concerns. Instead of coming up with creative ways to distort and misstate their position to insult those people and make them appear ignorant. As nice as it is to theorize how great life would be with a benevolent government, most people know that's not a valid assumption. If you want to sell the idea to people opposed to socialized health care, you have to start taking them seriously and implement measures to allay their concerns. Add a system where the everyday person can protest certain policies or prices. A system of checks and balances within the system which allows it to circumvent any roadblocks set up by an unelected bureaucrat, an internal monitoring and appraising system which detects corruption and bans any corrupt government worker from ever working in government again for life, etc.

As for the "it works in other countries" argument, yes it does, at the cost of a slowed rate of technological progress. This is a disadvantage of non-market systems which is normally invisible because you cannot see the future that might have been, Although occasionally the differences can be seen. e.g. GSM was the de facto government-approved world standard for cell phone service. The U.S. decided not to go along with it, and to allow competition instead. GSM was based on TDMA - each phone takes turns communicating with the tower. This wastes a lot of bandwidth as each phone gets a slice of bandwidth even when it doesn't need it. Not a big problem with voice, but a huge disadvantage when it comes to data service. The competitor which sprang up in the U.S. was CDMA - all phones can transmit at the same time, the tower just tells the transmissions from individual phones apart using orthogonal codes. This results in all bandwidth being divided evenly between all phones who are transmitting at that time (transmissions from other phones raise the noise floor, reducing the signal to noise ratio for any individual phone). CDMA demolished GSM when it came to data speeds, and within a year the GSM specification was updated to allow CDMA for data. Most implementations of 3G data on GSM networks (UMTS, HSPA+, HSDPA, etc) used wideband CDMA. That's why you could talk and use data at the same time on GSM phones - they had a TDMA radio for voice, and a separate CDMA radio for data. If the U.S. had just gone along with GSM and prohibited competition, our data speeds today would probably be down around 1 Mbps, and LTE (most implementations are OFDMA - same thing as CDMA but using orthogonal frequencies) would probably still be several years in the future.

Comment Needs a different voice trigger (Score 1) 14

Tour guide: "If you've brought along a GoPro, start recording when we hit this section of the rapids tomorrow. It's a wild ride and you want to be sure to get it on video."

Next day just as they're about to start their raft trip: "WTF? Why is my GoPro saying the memory card is full and the battery is almost dead?"

Comment Basically they're hoping it becomees a video Lena (Score 1) 40

Lena is the centerfold of the November 1972 issue of Playboy. One of the earlier researchers in image processing and compression was trying to find a good test image - glossy photo, large dynamic range, fine detail, and a human face with its fine color gradients. Someone walked in with an issue of Playboy, and they quickly scanned the top third of of the centerfold picture (the non-nude part). It has since become ingrained in the image compression/processing community as an archetype test sample since so many algorithms have been tested against that particular image.

Comment Re:Not fixing the underlying cause (Score 2) 51

The reason we need this hack is because Android essentially stops any application that is not on the foreground (if memory pressure becomes an issue, the application is killed instead)

That's how iOS used to work until recently (when real multitasking was added). Any time you started a new app, the previous one's state was saved and it was killed. "Switching" to the previous app meant saving the state of the current app and killing it, then restoring the saved state of the previous app. This gave the illusion of multitasking, but there was no multitasking going on.

Android has always supported multitasking (it's based on the Linux kernel), and apps not in the foreground continue to run until memory is exhausted, at which point the oldest/least used has its state saved and is killed to free up memory. Android utilities (like backup utilities), Google Play app updates, music playing apps, etc. run just fine in the background (formerly, iOS needed a kludge to get music to play in the "background"). Video not playing in the background is a choice made by the video app designer - a pretty good choice too in most cases. No point decoding and rendering the video if it can't be viewed. And it's a reasonable assumption that if someone watching a video switches to a different app, like text messaging or to take a phone call, that they want the video paused until they can switch back to it.

Comment Re:The market didn't solve the problem, dummy (Score 1) 428

The problem was a lot of innocent people in a potentially dangerous area. The market didn't fix that.

Yes it did fix it, at least until Uber disabled surge pricing.

Let's say Uber left the price the same. There were x Uber drivers plying the roads when the bomb went off. They are able to give x people rides out of the affected area.

Now let's say Uber had stuck with surge pricing. Uber raises the prices. This does not affect the Uber drivers who are already out there and able to give rides. So x people still get rides out of the affected area. However, other Uber drivers who are not giving rides notice the higher price, and y of them decide to take advantage of it and get into their car to give people rides. So under this scenario, x+y people are able to get rides out of the affected area.

(x+y) > x

Therefore the market was fixing the problem, until Uber did the "socially responsible" thing and disabled surge pricing, thereby stranding y people in the affected area who would've been able to get a ride out had they left surge pricing in place.

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