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Comment Elephants have a defense against cancer (Score 3, Interesting) 259

And it's surprisingly simple. And they need it, because they have so many more cells than people do they would have a high risk of cancer without some sort of defense.

http://www.nature.com/news/how...

To summarize the contents of the link, elephants just have 20 copies of the p53 gene. To incite cancer, all the copies would have to be disabled, via the most common cancer generating mutation mechanism.

If you want to engineer people to be cancer resistant, it might be as simple as introducing more copies of the p53 gene into our genome.

Comment Error free copies wouldn't work. (Score 1) 259

The DNA damage that leads to cancer doesn't exclusively happen during copying. Sometimes free radicals just damage your DNA, or radiation does, or just heat, or other chemical action. You not only have to copy 100% correct but correctly repair errors 100% of the time.

In order to fix both issues to extremely high probability, we'd need to have SIX strands of DNA. In case of damage to one, the repair happens according to the majority opinion of the correct sequence. If there's no majority opinion, (all three strands differ) then the cell self-destructs. When copies are done, the copy has to check correctly vs. the previous strands. Periodic comparisons of the three strands would eliminate random bit flips.

Given the already low error rate of DNA copying and data storage, such a six stranded system with elimination of cells that fail the test would come so close to 100% that it almost wouldn't matter. Existing error repair mechanisms have the error rate at 10^-10. This sort of system would push it to 10^-30 or lower--since we're discarding cells that can't agree.

--PeterM

Comment $10 refrigerator? Great! Can I have $10 please? (Score 2) 256

As the the other reply to your post said, how are people going to get *any* money if their labor can't be sold?

Face it, the more jobs get automated, the less labor can be sold for. And when automation gets cheaper in terms of resources than maintaining a person to do the same thing, then the people who own capital will do away with labor entirely.

Then, people who own "enough" will be fine, and the people who don't own will not be able to labor to make money.

"But there will always be new jobs" you say? That's been true in the past, but look at what has happened to the earnings of labor in the USA as a fraction of corporate earnings. It has dropped 50% in inflation-adjusted dollars.

And a weak labor market brings down the value of *all* labor. People have been climbing up the skills ladder like crazy in the USA. More college graduates than ever before. Yet the wages are not higher. Why? Supply and demand. More supply of labor means lower wages for labor. More people fighting over the same jobs.

Even the poorest won't live comfortably when they can't get *any* money. And the USA has demonstrated a deep hostility to providing a decent safety net. People are reverting to subsistence farming in Detroit.

Comment I used to have insomnia too, just like you (Score 1) 819

But instead of using alcohol, I exercise a lot (a little under an hour on working days as a rule). I have very little trouble sleeping any more, and I have energy all day and pretty much never feel tired at work. No chemical enhancement at all, not even caffeine, and no need for alcohol either.

Not to mention all the other health benefits I get from regular exercise. And yes, I have a demanding job and I'm a parent.

--PM

Comment Speculation is a symptom of wealth inequity (Score 2, Interesting) 205

The 1% now has so much wealth at their command they don't know what to do with it, which fuels these speculative bubbles.

If the middle classes had this money instead, they'd be buying houses and living in them--arguably much healthier for the market than the very rich bidding up these assets because they've got nothing better to do with their money.

It's just another of the ways that the 1% is going to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg--the middle class--via their own unfettered insane greed. Because unless the people have money, there is no market, eventually, for the things the rich make via their assets.

--PM

Comment Re:Then mandating military service is tyrrany (Score 1) 499

At least you're consistent. However, consider a competition between two societies, one which allows a lot of individual freedom, but has military conscription and vaccination, and the other which doesn't allow military conscription or vaccine mandate.

I think it's pretty clear the "individual freedoms" society will quickly be outstripped economically (because of lack of disease burden) and militarily by the one with "tyrannical" policies on conscription and vaccination.

Unless of course, the "individual freedoms" society had the sense to voluntarily have very high military volunteer rates and very high vaccination rates.

That said, suppose you're one of the enlightened members of the 2nd society who is vaccinated and serves in the military. How do you feel about freeloaders who are enjoying the protections you risk your life to provide, but are not only doing nothing to help but are undermining those protections by failing to participate? (Herd immunity).

--PM

Comment Then mandating military service is tyrrany (Score 1) 499

If you think that mandating vaccination is tyranny, then military conscription is 10x worse. In the case of military conscription, you're being made to take a far higher risk of injury/death and being made to do violence against others.

Given that the vast majority in the US feels like mandatory military conscription is just fine, what's so horrifying about mandated vaccination?

Mandated vaccination is nothing more and nothing less than the military conscription of everyone in a society for the society's common defense--against disease. It also has the benefit that the individuals are far less at risk of the disease, are not made to do violence, and are at far less risk than military service in wartime entails.

Personally, I think mandating both military service and vaccination upon individuals in a society is NOT tyranny but rather are practical necessities of survival of that society. Don't like society? Go live where no society has jurisdiction and live without society's protection. Like society's protections? Then do your damn share to contribute to those protections! Want to live in society but not contribute? Then be prepared to be treated as that society's enemy! Because you are.

And let's face it, we have a lot of societal mandates for the general good. You are "tyrannically" prevented from driving any way you want on the roads, AT GUNPOINT, for the safety of others. Similarly, you can logically be forced to not risk the lives of others by negligently allowing yourself to be a vector of deadly disease.

Fundamentally, you go too far when you start calling slight infringements on your freedom for the common good "tyranny". How about we reserve the word "tyranny" for rules imposed by the minority upon the majority with no input from the majority that oppress the majority for the sole benefit of the minority?

--PM

Comment They must form consortiums to survive (Score 1) 342

If the little vendors want to survive, they will have to form consortiums of little vendors to get stuff approved. Either that or only and solely sell stuff that's already made it through approval.

It's going to narrow the options for consumers at the least.

But if they form the consortiums they need, then Big Tobacco might have shot themselves in the foot: they will have created competition that can not only organize to get their products approved, but lobby congress and form an opposition power to Big Tobacco's interests.

In fact, I hope that is just what happens, and the quicker the better. Odds are that vaping is far less harmful than traditional tobacco, and the sooner traditional tobacco is abandoned by the consumer the better!

Comment Re:Aneutronic reactions only work in nonequilibriu (Score 1) 485

> But you can still have a self sustaining reactor which captures those photons, uses some to reheat the plasma and outputs the rest as energy.

No. At the high temperatures required for fusion, the Bremsstrahlung photon spectrum is going to be high energy, think X-rays and gamma rays. You can't "catch" those in any efficient way. You need to use a lot of mass, which is probably going to be near room temperature and then thermally convert their energy back into something you can feed back into heating the plasma--via a steam cycle. So you get 75% of the energy is lost to the plasma when it radiates energy as photons.

The upshot is that an "optically sparse" aneutronic fusion plasma isn't really self-sustaining--it requires massive energy input to stay hot. Note that this is for the aneutronic reactions, not for D-T.

If the plasma is big and dense enough to do its own shielding, as in a star, the Bremsstrahlung isn't much of a net loss, but the remarkable penetrating power of X-rays and gamma rays would rapidly cool any conceivable thermal aneutronic fusion plasma that we could make on our planet with a reasonable investment.

> Cheap to the investor, not necessarily cheap to humanity as a whole. Unaccounted externalities are slowly but surely making capitalism itself a problem.

I mentioned externalities two posts up in the thread. CO2 is a problem for natural gas fired plants, much less so for solar/wind. It's not clear what the real cost of frakking to get your gas is. And the DOE report I cited included the cost of carbon capture in coal plants. They still come out at about the same expense as they think fission/fusion is going to be, and solar/wind come out cheaper--with CO2 externality cost included.

Again, I'm in favor of fission/fusion research, however, someone is really going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to beat solar/wind/natural gas economically.

As for externalities making capitalism itself a problem, that's only an issue if Government fails in it's necessary role of regulation of markets. If the full cost of CO2 emission were regulated to be included in the price of using fossil fuels, regulated capitalism would work nicely to account for the externalities. However, capitalist-religionists are incapable of realizing that market failures like externalities exist and refuse to admit that Government has a role in fixing the market failures that are inevitable in unfettered capitalism.

--PM

Comment Aneutronic reactions only work in nonequilibrium (Score 1) 485

Thanks for the pointer to Dusty Plasma Reactors: never heard of the concept. At first blush, I don't think it can be made into a practical large scale energy generation source, but that's a mostly-uninformed opinion, I'll admit.

All of the aneutronic fusion reactions you point out have a difficulty. Perhaps surmountable, but a serious one.

It's this: someone's proven that:
1) for any plasma below a certain size (not optically dense), if the plasma contains species with atomic numbers > 1 (i.e., helium on up),
2) and if the plasma is in thermal equilibrium, it will cool faster by Bremsstrahlung than it is heated by fusions.

What this means is that unless you have a really big plasma, if it's got anything higher in atomic number than hydrogen in it, it can't have a self sustaining reaction if it's an equilibrium thermal plasma, because it radiatively cools itself (photons escape carrying energy) faster than it heats itself via fusion reactions.

OK, so how about a NON-equilibrium plasma (like two counter- or co-propagating beams)? You ever heard "nature abhors a vacuum"? Well, nature ALSO abhors a nonequilibrium/nonthermal particle distribution. There are powerful instabilities that like to thermalize such distributions really quick. Maintaining a nonequilibrium plasma is likely to take a lot of energy--maybe more than you can get from the fusions. Just look at how hard people at LHC have to work to keep their beam nice and clean.

All that said, it'd be awesome if someone conquers the difficulties and makes either sort of direct conversion nuclear practical. I even support using tax funds to research toward those goals. But I see them as long shots and in the meantime, the market is going to vote with its dollars and go with what works today and is cheap!

--PeterM

Comment Maybe, if it can be done economically (Score 1) 485

I've seen it argued that any "indirect" energy source, such as coal burning to boil water,
nuclear to boil water,
and then steam --> electrical,
is going to lose out on cost to any "direct" energy source,
such as solar-->electrical,
wind-->electrical,
natural gas turbine-->electrical.

The argument is that the extra capital involved in the intermediate steam conversion step is going to price "indirect" power generation above all direct means.

This seems to be borne out somewhat in the real world, in that in the USA all new electrical generation capacity is overwhelmingly in "direct" conversion. This is largely driven by inexpensive natural gas, but there's plenty of solar and wind capacity being installed, too.

By this argument, both nuclear fusion and nuclear fission aren't going to be economical, ever.

Check out this report from the US DOE:
http://web.ornl.gov/~webworks/...

It forecasts the cost of nuclear, either fission or fusion, to be higher than pretty much all alternatives. I'm not sure whether this includes externalities such as environmental damage from CO2 emissions, but that would seem to favor wind/solar even more, and these were already the winners based on cost.

Maybe nuclear power might still make economic sense for baseload applications, but if energy storage options become cheap enough (battery technology is being worked on feverishly worldwide), then nuclear plants will be relegated to niches where solar/wind/gas can't work....

The "killer app" for fission/fusion might be for energy in space, not on earth. Can't use solar very well out past the orbit of Mars, and if you're mining asteroids, there isn't going to be any wind either.

--PeterM

Comment Re:Basic income is NOT inevitable. (Score 1) 954

> Sounds like you've read Manna.

Yes, partly, and I'll give it some credit for helping me see the trends that are already evident if you look, like for example, that the labor market is going to get ever weaker as more jobs are automated and all those selling labor compete for what few jobs are left, and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few--both very evident trends in the USA right now.

> I can't imagine much of the first world, say Europe, would look away and let it happen only to part of the world, say the US.

Again, we see the trend today. Europe, by and large, is mostly happy to look the other way from all the atrocities that happen around the world, like Syria (except for the refugees that show up), the conflicts in Africa, North Korea..... Especially if a dangerously armed oligarchy wants things that way.

> Does money become effectively worthless?

Not exactly. Money might still play a large role, however, you won't be able to get enough money to command resources by selling your labor, by and large.

I don't know whether there'll be a collapse. It might work out that the oligarchy just exterminates the bulk of the population, either with killbots or via neglect and denial of adequate resources, and lives like emperors on the resources of the planet.

--PM

Comment Basic income is NOT inevitable. (Score 5, Interesting) 954

Consider this alternative future:
1) Wealth and control of resources concentrates in the hands of a few.
2) These people stop considering the rest of humanity "humans", or just believe that what is theirs is theirs and no one else has a right to anything. They also don't need labor very much at all because it is automated. So people who have only their labor to offer are frozen out economically.
3) The owners use automated weaponry to enforce their rights of ownership
4) The power of the few snowballs and they eventually own the entire planet and all means of production, and the rest live in misery on whatever pittiance is allowed them or is outright exterminated via automated weaponry.

To see this in its infancy, look at Detroit. People there can't sell their labor, don't have means to leave, and have resorted to subsistence farming. However, if a "landowner" comes along with the means of ejecting the "squatters", they won't even be able to subsistence farm.

Societies that *do* what you say is inevitable (basic income) will avoid this. Societies which allow ever increasing concentration of wealth into the hands of a few might not. The USA's trend on this is pretty scary, witness the almost complete capture of the political system by money.

-PM

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