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Comment Re:Hmm.... (Score 5, Interesting) 275

Tada: it's a micronation... in space!

Of course it's unrealistic armchair-libertarian drivel: the magnetosphere is a harsh mistress, after all.

What's interesting about this development is that it isn't a nearly-entirely American endeavour, which is often the case with such ambitions; Asgardia seems to be Russian and the AIRC supporting it is Viennese. I suspect we'll see a lot more anti-authoritarian behaviour from Europeans in the coming years as a) the EU weakens, b) the Internet transmits political memes that were previously comparatively contained by media limitations like talk radio and poor English literacy, and c) people already exposed to (b) come of age.

The much more feasible version of "let's get off the Earth so we can get away from our countries' laws" is called seasteading, and generally involves a platform in international waters. There's one clear non-Libertarian, non-American example of seasteading (Sealand, UK) which is fairly old and unusually successful by micronation standards. These days, however, the idea is generally associated with these guys, who have been funded by Peter Thiel. They, unquestionably, are primarily concerned with ways to dodge regulation. Without a realistic means of building such a gigantic physical presence, though, they certainly aren't going to be doing much of that; at best they'd end up creating their own passports that no one would accept.

Comment Re:Genesis 6:3 NIV (Score 1) 290

Legend vs Myth vs History. However, remember that the OT was basically written, or rewritten, after the Babylonian captivity, and that (being a living document) it was rewritten every single time it was copied in manuscript. It is chock full of anachronisms, and actually, a lot of its "history" does NOT line up with archeology. There is considerable doubt that Moses was a real person, for example, and if he was, there is no record of him on the Egyptian side (where they kept good records). Here is one account that points to the utter lack of historical evidence for ANY "Exodus", and establishes the made-up conclusion that Moses was a conflation of two different people with completely different stories (made up because there isn't any real evidence outside of the contradictions of the Biblical accounts for either one). http://www.ancient-origins.net...

A better summary is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... (see "historicity"). Moses was basically unmentioned until after the exile, and at that point appears to be a rewrite of an ancient Sumerian mythic figure, like (for that matter) the flood. But then, the Canaanites were basically Sumerians.

Comment Re:Genesis 6:3 NIV (Score 2) 290

Tough on you that you got a tiny bit annoyed for pissing away 40 years in the desert...

The desert that a man on a crutch could cross in a couple of weeks, and that a healthy man could cross in a week on foot. God must have created a dimensional warp mid-desert that stretched its size out to, lessee, suppose we assume only ONE mile a day -- the distance one can crawl on hands and knees and still have time to spare to collect the morning manna and pitch the tents and all. 40 x 365 x 6 / 7 (can't crawl on the Sabbath) = 12514 miles, which is roughly half the circumference of the world at the equator. The distance from Cairo to Israel is what, 200 miles, and the "desert" in between is more like 100 of that (so 1 mph for a man on a crutch in two weeks with manna breaks is about right). Even if they came up from Khartoum and wandered Saudi Arabia north it is only maybe 500 miles.

But hey, the Bible also has Noah preserving all of the several million species that would be killed in a saltwater/freshwater flood that covered the top of Mt Everest in 40 days -- around 5 or 6 inches of rain A MINUTE, on every square meter of the Earth's surface pole to pole -- in a wooden boat the size of a Wal Mart, ventilated by a single window one square meter in size. Since that includes all of the ocean species that would be killed in the freshwater dilution AND all of the land species that would be killed in the saltwater irrigation, it pretty much means every species on Earth, animals and plants alike, and a lot of the microfauna as well. Then there is the thermodynamics involved, and the problem of where the water came from and where it all went since we can presume that God did NOT pour it through the holes in the solid sky from which he hung the little lights over the flat ground beneath or lose it by letting it run over the side of the world into the deep below (past the elephants).

Or maybe he did. After all, if you can dimensionally warp 100 miles into 100,000 miles and twist the night sky up so that tracking the sun East moves you in a drunkard's walk, performing an impossible toplogical trick of warping a spherical manifold into a flat plane with edges should be a piece of cake. I feel sorry for all of the people in the Americas, though, being all stretched out like that...


Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 1) 235

Yeah, I looked at the arithmetic and yeah, the arithmetic is sketchy (if 22% cells aren't already sketchy for that price). But yes, they do cover the doors, the rear, basically all non-transparent surfaces with cells. Other neglected things are what happens if you park under trees, in a forest of tall buildings, in parking garages. It's never going to be 7.5 m^2 x 0.22 x whatever you want to claim for mean daily integrated flux through a perpendicular surface (200 to 300 W/m^2 if I recall correctly).

It's also not clear how much of a "real car" they have in mind. Is it an ELF http://organictransit.com/ with solar cells on all surfaces? The ELF now looks more like a car with glossy hard sides than it used to, and they now seem to come with a 100W solar panel on the roof, allowing one to accumulate as much as a KW-H over a whole day. Since it comes with a 500+ W-H battery, it actually could fully recharge over a day in the sun. This gives it a range of around 15 to 18 miles no pedalling on flat ground. Obviously if you add battery, you can add range, but you probably can't fully recharge with only sun unless you add more panels.

The ELF is not vaporware -- I live in Durham and see these all the time on the roads (they cost $6000 to $9000 depending on how tricked out you get them). Adding solar capacity is actually pretty easy, as is adding battery capacity. One could probably accessorize to 30 miles a day and still manage a full recharge on its rated mileage of 34 mpkwh (add another 500 W-H battery and another 100 W panel with some sort of hinge that you can tilt up to horizontal-ish when you park). Actually, this isn't bad at all, and would probably do me just fine on my commute, leaves the money in my home town, and gives me the option of pedalling to get SOME exercise on the run without having to pedal up all the hills on muscle alone (hot and sweaty, at least, during the summer). Pedalling also extends the range, obviously.

The catch is that it isn't technically a car, and cannot go 45 to 50 mph on the one road I would HAVE to drive on that is 45 to 50 mph if you want to go WITH the traffic, and it is even more of a road obstacle than a bike if you are traveling under road speed. Which makes it still quite dangerous, although maybe a hair less so than a bike (at least one person I know of has been killed on the road I have to ride in on in the last year on a bike).

So, can one imagine taking the working ELF design, bumping its internal energy storage to 14.5 KW-H, bumping its solar capacity to (say) 400 to 600 W, (say, 2400 KW-H/day) increasing its top speed to street legal (say 55 mph for mostly in town driving), sticking with polycarbonate sides but increasing seating to four in more of a car-like configuration, and still maintaining at least 12 m/KWH, needed to get 30 m in a day's charge (with no pedals)?

It's not completely insane. Doubling speed increases power required by around a factor of 8 but takes only 1/2 the time to go the distance, so it needs 4 times as much energy IF one assumes energy is dominated at that point by quadratic drag. Well, we've quadrupled incoming power (relative to 30 miles/day), increased stored power by a much larger factor than necessary, so in principle if we haven't added TOO much weight or MUCH less efficient motors, we are at least in the ballpark. Can we do this by no more than doubling the high end cost? Again, maybe, hard to say. We'd save some by not having pedals and all the dual power source gearing, we'd spend it and more on the extra batteries, solar capacity, and the 4+x more powerful motor. But it might be doable. ELF might make it there on its own as it has the substantial advantage of building and selling actual vehicles right now that already work pretty well as in-town commuters, better/safer where the speed limit is 35 mph and under, not so well where it is 35 mph and over. If they are and remain profitable as they grow, they could end up bringing out higher end, closer to car vehicles within a year or two even without any competitive incentive, and in Europe the cost profile may or may not be advantageous for a local competitor to develop.

ANY real improvement in several critical components -- motor efficiency, energy recovery while braking, active solar charging, energy storage -- could make this general approach into a COST efficient alternative to auto-based in-town or in-city commuting. Cheaper than a car, check. Self-solar-fueling or nearly so for the expected daily driving range, check. Low maintenance (compared to a car!), probably check. Made of materials that will last without rusting out or getting brittle (and cheap to replace), maybe check, dunno. Insurance? Dunno. Safe? Probably not as safe as a car, conceivably safer than a bike (if they build them truly street-legal at 55 mph). Quite aside from "saving the planet for the whales", I've thought about them as ways of saving the $100-150 I have to spend per week on fuel, maintenance, insurance, and depreciation to do my daily commute in a car whose capital cost was over $16K used. Spend less than $16K new, save (say) $1200/year, and be insulated from fuel supply chain interruptions and price hikes? Sounds like a good bet to me, if it is safe enough to drive without quadrupling the risk of an accident during rush hour.


Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 1) 235

For windmills, you can use vertical axis windmills to avoid slaughtering birds.

Or, you can put cats in hamster-wheel cages that generate electricity. After all, cats kill somewhere between several hundred million and a billion birds a year, almost as many as transparent glass windows kill by enticing birds to bash in their own brains flying into them. According to at least one of the efforts to put names to causes of human-linked bird mortality. Turbines aren't really in the top ten causes. Windows is number one, with cats at number 2, high tension power lines, pesticides, cars, communication towers, and hunting all much higher in total mortality than wind turbines. So if you want to save birds, put some of those ugly little butterfly decals on your windows and don't wash them so often that they are perfectly transparent. Use your neighborhood cats for target practice. Avoid using electricity, don't use chlorinated hydrocarbons and anticholinesterases on your lawn and garden, try not to drive, and go hunting for the human hunters as well as the cat (and even dog) hunters. As many birds are killed every year as fishing by-catch (in nets and with hook and line) as are killed by turbines.

Just to get a little perspective. I have other reasons to dislike turbines as energy sources, one of them being that they are large and ugly and have a poor duty cycle in many locations and have high maintenance costs and take up a lot of room and... but there is no need to throw birds in as a good reason to be hatin'.

Outside of that, I agree. But see the article on New Atlas today -- it alleges that a car that at least charges itself on a daily basis with no external power supply at all is possible and should be commercially available next year, maybe, if the article isn't bullshit. I rather think that it is, but will reserve judgement for the time being.

Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 2) 235

I don't disagree with your math, but an article on NewAtlas TODAY extols a claim from a German company that they are going to build a car with 7.5 m^2 of 22% efficient polycrystalline solar cells covering its flattish surfaces, with a 14.5 kW-H internal battery, that will get at least 30 km/day from normal ambient (unobstructed, sure) sun. Their so-far rendered image of a car looks like a smallish four seater commuter car. They also CLAIM that they will sell this for $14 to $16K USD.

I'm skeptical -- but if the DO manage this, it would make a hell of a car for my in-town driving. Basically buy it and then use it without fuel for the rest of its useful life, because I don't drive 30 km/day on average, even including runs to stores as well as work. I'm not sure it would be a good "only car", but it would sure take the pressure off of my 4Runner (needed to pull a boat and for trips but overkill for daily commuting).

The point being that there may be "specialty cars" that can actually function as solar cars for limited length commutes. The ELF (made in Durham NOW, as opposed to dreaming-ware like the car in the new atlas article) could almost do it, if you could hook it up to a few square meters of panel this efficient, but it isn't really a "car", it is more of an electric enhanced tricycle with a tarp-like cover and a bit of storage. But for $6000, one could add the solar panels and a system to accumulate enough charge at home in a day to keep it charged for standard commutes, if it were really road safe (IMO it's not, quite).


Comment Re:the enemy (Score 1) 129

You are an idiot or an ignorant.

Possibly both at the same time! Let's see:


Hmmm, 1/5th the cost already affordable by nearly any "kitchen pot" dictatorship around the world. And this isn't new technology -- rumor in the physics world has it that this is how Israel has been making its bombs for decades. So right, not quite in my kitchen with my pots, but in a small warehouse somewhere? Maybe, if I have a few million and access to uranium 238 (which is, one profoundly hopes, not THAT easy to arrange, actually). In a small production facility in (pick a place loosely controlled by your favorite world group that you really don't want to have nuclear devices)? Without question. It's just a matter of time, although frankly centrifuges are already more than sufficient to build uranium bombs with or to enrich fuel-grade uranium to where you can cook out plutonium. Plutonium is, no argument, hard to squeeze off in a bomb, but enriched Uranium is laughably easy.

Thorium is arguably more of a challenge. For one thing, making U233 involves the Pa chain and a breeder reactor that makes lots of gamma rays and neutrons, so it probably isn't a good candidate for basements unless one's basement has thick lead and concrete walls and one has a degree in nuclear engineering. OTOH, separating out U233 is just chemistry once you get there. So far, it has been easier and cheaper to stick to U235 and plutonium for reasons that are well described and discussed elsewhere:


but there is little doubt that one can make bombs from Thorium, and further, that the bombs you make are the nice, easy to manage Uranium bombs and not the nasty, prematurely detonating fizzling fissioning (unless you build them just right) plutonium bombs. You can store the bomb grade material without any particular precautions other than keeping it subcritical and our borders are totally porous (a nation's worth of heroin addicts agree!) so again, a terror group in any country that has access to e.g. Monazite sands -- India, Australia, Madagascar, Western North Carolina... can if they wish follow this alternative route to a Uranium bomb that doesn't even require a laser OR a centrifuge (although it does require building a breeder with a chemical separation step, plus some fuel grade material to get it started). Basement stuff? I was kidding -- or being sarcastic if you prefer -- because while no, one cannot do it in a literal garage, it is still a technology well within the reach of middle-tier proliferation risks who might have a comparatively hard time getting their hands on Uranium.

Best of all, nowadays they could trumpet to the world that they were fixing Global Warming by building thorium based nuclear self-sufficiency and all it takes in a MSR is to divert the breeder-enriched salts into a chemical extraction step and siphon off a steady supply of bomb-grade material. Material that you can even show that you NEED (in at least some capacity) to restart your reactor after fuelling or start a new one...

The point is -- to repeat myself -- that killing large numbers of people is easy enough to be nearly impossible to prevent if:

    a) You don't care if you die yourself in the process;
    b) You don't care who you kill, and are perfectly happy to take the lowest hanging fruit you can find if people take steps to protect one possible target (say, the super bowl). Are people going to be able to provide the same protection to every football, soccer, basketball game, forever? How about airports, train stations? How about high-profile, expensive, human filled skyscrapers in every city?
    c) You have at least some money to put towards the project. To kill more than 100 people at a time will likely require some investment and a comparatively high risk of premature discovery BECAUSE there are people out there looking for signatures in at least some of the predictable pathways. I'm guessing if I ordered a bunch of 16 micron lasers it might trigger SOME sort of alarm SOMEWHERE. At least, I hope so. But how hard would it be to develop a cover? The technology is old:


and tunable lasers have many uses, some quite innocuous. But there are LOTS of potential WMDs out there, some dating back a full century and no more difficult to make than meth, and we all know how hard THAT is to make, even by people who are a few cards short of a full deck.

In the end, our best defense is excellent, public, free mental health care, plus solving the problem of inequity on a global scale so that entire populations don't grow up with PTSD and anger at the level of suicidal rage. Having a viable, rational, shared human global ethos wouldn't hurt a bit as well, but that ain't happening anytime soon, is it?

Sorry you missed the bit about tongue in cheek. For what it's worth, my house doesn't even have a basement, and I don't have the money to buy either a bank of 16 micron lasers or the tons of unprocessed uranium needed as base stock, or to build the chemical plant needed in my back yard, which might not be able to hold it and enough shielding to keep neighborhood animals from mutating down the road into giant squirrels with an attitude and cockroaches large enough to start in MIB IV. But nine countries are known to have nuclear devices. Three of them are basically nuclear wars waiting to happen, with North Korea getting special mention in the Hey We're Batshit Crazy and Plan To Nuke You category, and with Pakistan not far behind and a disaffected general away from delivering them into the hands of Islamic terrorist groups.

Then there is the list of countries that HAD nukes for at least a little while and who supposedly disassembled them or gave them (back) to Russia. Then there is the list of countries with active nuclear energy programs, any one of which COULD build a bomb in a matter of weeks if they really wanted to, whether or not they have signed the NPT. Then there is the list of countries that would LIKE to build or buy a bomb, with or without a functioning nuclear program. And sadly, it has never been simpler, or cheaper, to build a bomb. If your country has a nuclear physics group at its national University or some expatriate nationals employed in nuclear engineering in countries that have functioning reactors, chances are pretty good that you could build a bomb in a remarkably short time if you could keep your efforts secret and have access to Uranium or Thorium ores (where the latter are also the source of rare earth elements of great industrial importance, making it easy to produce thorium as a byproduct of something entirely legitimate).

Personally, I think all of this is worth worrying about, but hey, I grew up in the cold war living for a while just outside of the beltway in Northern Virginia, and would lie in bed at night wondering if the thing that would wake me would be an unholy sun rising over the Pentagon right before the shock wave arrived. Back then the risk was 1 to 5 megaton MIRV'd ICBMs in sufficient quantity to give "civilization" a serious set-back. Now it is whether North Korea will manage to self-destruct with or without delivering a handful of 10 kt devices to a handful of countries first, and how much restraint we will use bombing it back to the stone age in response.

Honestly, that's an improvement.


Comment Re:the enemy (Score 2) 129

Yeah, now if WE were nefarious Dr. Evil types, WE would be able to fill full sized buses with the name of your favorite rental car company on the side right up to the pickup area of any major metropolitan area, loaded not with a single drum of witchbrew nitro but with dozens of them, with walls lined with preformed shrapnel on the terminal side and with a concrete wall on the other to direct the explosion (and likely with heavy heavy duty shocks:-). Then sure, we could remote pilot it into place in any terminal in the country with an Airplane-style inflatable driver on the front seat and detonate it on Thanksgiving weekend at peak travel hours. Even if there IS somebody literally sitting on a camera watching, they'd have to be monitoring EVERY large vehicle that EVER enters the main airport, and the only monitoring that would work worth a damn is something fully automated (transponders on every permitted vehicle?) and then you have to defend the automation!

OR, we could do pretty much the same thing with any of a number of small planes -- turn them into de facto cruise missiles and direct them straight at the containment vessel of a nuclear power plant, or better yet, at its spent fuel dump. Or turn a 21 foot power boat into an enormous remote control "torpedo" and take out a cruise ship. The most nefarious of WE could probably figure out the laser enrichment trick, beg borrow buy steal a few dozen tons of Uranium, enrich our own U235 in our basement, and build a REAL bomb and simply drop it in the middle of any random city, anywhere. Or, if Uranium is all locked down maybe we could buy up less-controlled Thorium and cook it down into bomb grade U233. Yes, these require a really big basement, but plenty of countries, all drug lords, and lots of billionaires all have "big basements". The drug lords already have fully debugged means of delivery that don't even require electronics!

All of these things are why Homeland Security people get ulcers. They aren't stupid, or at least some of them aren't stupid, and they probably have whole spreadsheets of identified pathways for bad people to do bad things (and activities that "might" serve as a signal for these bad things in preparation). And they know that all of this is really pissing into the wind -- just as 9/11 came out of the blue, the next attack will come out of the blue, and EVEN if it follows one of the identified scenarios, they ultimately rely as much on luck as anything else to detect it and successfully intervene. They just haven't been too lucky, recently. Too much dike -- a UNIVERSE of dike, all rotten and crumbling in the storm -- and not enough fingers.

Ultimately, one has to hope that smart people are too smart, usually, to want to mass-murder their neighbors. Admittedly, history doesn't provide a whole lot of support for this hope, but in the end, anybody who really IS smart, and patient, and who has the resources to invest in it (big tour bus sized buses aren't all that cheap, and it isn't that easy to buy the materials to make good explosives or to make GOOD chemical explosives, defined to be ones that blow up when you want them to instead of when you are halfway through making them and get crystallization of unstable nitrates on the lips of your reaction vessels) can probably figure out a bunch of ways to kill people hundreds to thousands at a time, especially if they don't care WHO they kill or WHEN it happens and can just target any old event where large numbers of people are concentrated in a comparatively small space.

There was a science fiction short story I remember reading (but I cannot remember who wrote it, or when) where somebody discovered a way of basically destroying the world using the moral equivalent of household cleaners from under the sink. The "recipe" was widely disbursed so suddenly everybody -- everybody -- knew how to kill every other person in the world (and themselves). The story explored whether suddenly every human alive would instantly become moral and treat everybody else as if they could end the world if they were pissed off and suicidal. Personally, I think that if you put a magic button that would destroy the entire world in front of every person on Earth, the button would be pressed almost instantly by millions of people worldwide. It isn't a story that would end well.

And that's the rub. Technology makes the world better. It provides us with the hope that one day we really will bring about world peace, feed the hungry, heal amputees and the blind, all of the stuff Jesus promised to do with magic we can and are doing with science. But the dark side is that the same techno-magic can be turned to evil, and the crazy and disaffected among us can do far more damage in a rampage than a medieval peasant armed with a repurposed farm tool. In the 21st century, it won't just be nations that have the power and resources to cook up e.g. Sarin or Mustard Gas or even binary nerve gases, or build nukes, or do recombinant DNA to weaponize a hypervirulent strain of E Coli. Quite small groups, even individuals, will be able to do the same thing.

And it doesn't even require this to hurt a lot of people very quickly. An over-the-counter semi-automatic weapon with a few 3D printed replacement parts works just fine, as recent events prove. And they also prove that there are people out there crazy enough to use it.


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