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Comment Re:Extraordinary claims require ... (Score 1) 154

Indeed. But Occam's Razor only applies to a conclusion's relation to the information you have at hand. It is conceivable that if you collect enough information the same heuristic can lead you in a different direction.

It should be able to confirm his genetic relationship to his putative great-great-great grandchildren, and thus let a lower limit on his age. That and other documentary evidence of him and his descendants could make his age seem plausible. In a world with seven billion people, outliers can be very unusual indeed.

Comment It's hard to believe. (Score 5, Interesting) 103

The amount of data you need assemble a global navigation system is enormous. You don't hire some intern to transcribe data out of Wikipedia, you license it from companies like Tele Atlas.

Now for geographic place names you'd turn to sources like the USGS GNIS system for the US, whatever the local equivalent of GNIS is, or for places that don't have that datasets like GNIS the DoD's Defense Mapping Agency.

It can't possibly be that Bing gets their place/position data mainly from Wikipedia. The only thing I can think is that they did some kind of union of all the geographic name sources they could find in order to maximize the chance of getting a hit on a place name search, and somehow screwed up prioritizing the most reliable sources first.

Comment Re: It's research... (Score 1) 142

Tee hee! Back in the day, one of the points I made to the old farts was that I had passed the 20 WPM exam and had my K6BP call to show for it, but refused to use the code on the air until the requirement was gone. Nobody spat at me or punched me out, the worst that ever happened was a poor behaving slim using my call and a postcard from the ARRL observer who thouht it was me.

Comment Re:Epinephrine cost per dose in about 50 cents (Score 3, Insightful) 349

Well, it's the very fact that the alternative is, possibly, death that makes it possible for a company to do this. This thing occupies a peculiar corner case where the demand is modest, but inelastic.

This means a monopolist can milk the market by raising the price to insane levels, but because the market is small no competitor wants to enter it. Were the market to become competitive it is so small that the newly entered competitors wouldn't make much off their efforts. This is contrasted with statins, which are blockbuster drugs. You don't need a very large slice of that pie for the slice to be very large indeed.

The same thing happened last year with Duraprim. If you have toxoplasmosis, you absolutely have to have it. But how many people get toxoplasmosis?

Comment Re:It's research... (Score 3, Informative) 142

WSPR tells you when communication paths are open between two points at a specific frequency and S/N ratio. This is useful but does not span the extent of research that HAARP is directed to. One of the most interesting things about HAARP is that it can incite the formation of radio-reflective regions in the ionosphere. That takes a lot of power.

Comment Re:Useful for desalination plants? (Score 1) 80

Well, to answer your question, of course if we covered the entire ocean, or significant fractions of it, sure there'd be undesirable ecological effects. Just like anything else that is scaled up endlessly without allowance for what economists call "externalities".

If you could internalize all externalities then the market would provide a perfect solution without any kind of regulation whatsoever. But since nobody knows how to do that, then I imagine that you'll get two regimes: (1) do whatever you want as long as you grease the the correct palms (in authoritarian states like China) or (2) go through the rigmarole of doing environmental impact studies before getting permits to beuild (in democratic societies).

Comment Re:Useful for desalination plants? (Score 4, Insightful) 80

I should think not -- at least not in the way you're probably thinking.

The device consists of a wicking layer topped by a light-absorbing layer. This boils water, which produces more or less pure steam. It also leaves the minerals from the water in the wicking layer. If you take distilled water directly away from the device and replace it with fresh seawater, those minerals will build up until the layer is no longer absorbent. On the other hand if all you want is the heat, you run the steam-distilled water through a heat exchanger and return it to the wicking layer, reconstituting the original water.

So it'd probably wouldn't work to use this directly as a steam distiller. However you could use the heat you collect to run a separate steam distiller. That would be very inefficient, but the thing about "renewables" is that conversion efficiency is less important than low installation and operation cost, because you're not paying for your feedstock of energy; any sunshine you don't use would have been wasted anyway. So while it seems physically possible to use this device to power a desalinization plant, whether it makes economic sense depends on whether this is actually the cheapest way to run a plant.

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