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Comment Re:Wouldn't need subsidies (Score 1) 188

It repeat after me: only needs a "great deal of development" because of safety concerns. Lock some engineers in a room overnight and tell them to build a reactor with zero safety concerns and it will be quite simple. I'm not terribly familiar with breeder technology but it cannot possibly be remotely as expensive as uranium centrifuging. Here's my breeder reactor design and I'm 70% sure it'll work despite my knowing almost nothing: aerosolize the U238 or other isotope-to-transmute of choice. Set up a convection system that thoroughly mixes and circulates the powder near your neutron source--this could be done in a relatively neutron-transparent liquid or (maybe) a gas. Set up your neutron detectors and thermal imaging all around the area. When fission rates increase and/or when it starts looking hot, your neutron source retracts into its safety chamber and a series of fans blows away any residue dust off of it. Resulting powder is measured and melted or compressed into appropriate ingots for fuel usage. If it's going too slow, increase rate of neutron flow. If it's too fast, reduce it. If it's so fast that it blows up, oh well, stuff blows up with oil and coal all the time. None of this is prohibitively expensive unless/until you try to make it super safe.

By that design principles, I have three better proposals: First, lets go to fusion directly. We only need to set up a containment field for Deuterium plasma, heat the plasma with lasers until there is ignition, and then keep running the plasma through an magnetohydrodynamic generator which we can also use (with some tricks) to separate out the fusion products (heavier nucleus = less deviation in the electric or magnetic field). Easy peasy! Or we could go to an antimatter reactor - just feed hydrogen and antihydrogen into the reactor core in a controlled manner, and use the trilithium crystals to convert the resulting gamma- and neutrino flux to usable energy. The last option, and maybe the best one, would be a perpetuum mobile. I have a design with magnets and a wheel with paddles on hinges that only needs a little tinkering before it becomes a better-than-unity device!

More seriously, have you considered the problem of induced radioactivity? Everything in your reactor with be "hot", so that it will be extremely hard to do maintenance. Most sensors will not work well when constantly bombarded with neutrons and various forms of radiation - and neither will computers. Indeed, any serious neutron flux will make most construction material brittle over time, so they need extremely careful selection on materials, careful monitoring (with sensors being susceptible to radiation damage themselves, as stated above) and frequent replacement - leaving you with a heap of radioactive waste.

There may be reasons to consider nuclear to be better than coal, but it's not remotely as simple. To use an analogy, we don't have to chose buying "protection" from Luigi or from Guido - we can just invest in a working society with a working police force. It may be a little bit more expensive in the short term, but it has plenty of secondary advantages, and certainly is cheaper in the long term.

Comment Re:Two thoughts (Score 1) 73

Can you explain the ridiculous dancing in the background? Did people really think we'd dance like that in the future?

I think this is just intended to show that it's different from today. But if you look at history, I don't think this is too far from the envelope of human behaviour:

Comment Re:Two thoughts (Score 4, Informative) 73

Only seven episodes? Guess it was like "The Prisoner", where it establishes its premise and then wraps everything up. I wonder if the series ended when the spaceship achieved a victory -- or peace -- with the Frogs. (See Star Trek VI...) Surely it's just a coincidence that "frogs" is also a derogatory slang word for French people...

Actually, it ended because it was too expensive to produce - especially the special effects. They are not great, but then it was 1966, and Orion showed a lot more space action than Star Trek, where the redshirts beam down to whatever stage setting was available from the latest western or mobster movie.

The series used the English term "Frogs" even in German. Neither Frogs not "Frösche" is now or was then a derogative term for the French in German.

Comment Re:green fantasies (Score 1) 114

Wind is cheaper (in optimal cases) where you don't consider the cost of indetermittancy and reserves. But actual cost of wind in most real world large projects, even the most recent, it higher than nuclear. You just oversimplify things by using capacity cost rather than cost per MWH.

First, wind is only one part of a diversified energy portfolio. And secondly, no-one so far has solved the nuclear waste disposal problem, and hence no-one knows what it will cost. But we do know that it will be very expensive indeed. Current nuclear technology is a child of both cold war military subsidies and plenty of civilian subsidies, so complaining about subsidies for renewables now is a bit hypocritical.

Comment Re:Completely wrong.... (Score 1) 618

The purpose of the government is not to be your conscience and humor your universalist fantasies. It is to protect the way of life of our unique, and exceptional people. And it is absolutely not to impose burdens on our people in order to serve foreigners.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". -- Thomas Jefferson, with some help from Franklin and Adams, 1776, before there even was a United States you or anyone could be a citizen of.

"Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. [....] Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the enjoyment of these same rights." -- Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." -- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Those are exceptional thoughts by exceptional people. What you exhibit is small, petty and shortsighted egoism. Life is not a zero sum game.

Comment Re: Completely wrong.... (Score 1) 618

Why is that wrong? I live in the USA. I am an American citizen. It is wrong for the government to have policies that benefit its own citizens instead of those of other countries?

If you go by Adam Smith, in a voluntary exchange, both sides win. The university could argue that it has a fiduciary duty to spend taxpayer money as efficient as possible, and if they can buy the same service abroad cheaper, that's the way to maximise the amount of education it can provide for a given budget. So they can either give a better education to their students or increase the revenue of US companies. And the universities job is education, not subsidising the economy.

And on a national level, if the university needs fewer local IT people for comparatively low-paying jobs like IT infrastructure maintenance and help desks, that leaves more well-trained US people to go to Silicon Valley and invent the next high-value product. iPhones are made in China, but only 1.8% of the price stays with Chinese labourers, while nearly 60% are profits realised by Apple in the US. If Apple made the iPhones in the US, they would probably go broke, and neither side had any of the revenue (or phones).

Comment Re:Completely wrong.... (Score 1) 618

This university should lose it's state and federal funding for doing something like this.

Horrible insult to the USA, our students, and our educators.

Terrible.

That "argument" boils down to "USA! USA! USA!" - might fit a Trump rally, but really is not argument at all.

What is an argument is that service from abroad is likely to be unsatisfactory - at least because of distance, time zones, and the cultural differences, even if the provider is competent in general. And that last point is not a given.

Of course, the UC also thinks its ok to let torture lawyer John Yoo teach constitutional law to impressive young students. On the other hand, they gave us UCSD Pascal and BSD UNIX. Overall, it looks like some talents, no judgement to me.

Comment Re:Hooray! (Score 4, Informative) 163

Icelandic vulcanos produce more but thei don't count that. They can't do much about that either.

Well, good thing then that that claim is plainly wrong, by many orders of magnitude. Overall, volcanic activity produces less than 1% of human CO2 emissions. And Iceland is only a small part of the overall picture. This is based on a a well-debunked claim - currently no. 74 of pseudo-sceptical arguments.

Comment Re:Assertion without evidence (Score 1) 271

What is interesting is that the Berkeley Earth project, organised by then-sceptic Richard Muller did a different, completely independent analysis of the temperature record. BEST automatically detected discontinuities in individual temperature records, split the record at each discontinuity, and then spliced all the continuous subrecords together again, merging them into a global temperature record. The result is basically indistinguishable from the other major reconstructions (which are also mostly independent, but use more similar methodologies). Muller has adapted his opinion to the data and now acknowledges that the manual adjustments were indeed justified and done with skill and care.

Comment Re:Activism (Score 1) 323

Most wood is, however, not in a museum.

Indeed, most of it actually lives to be alive for hundreds of years. Even thousands.

If we are picking nits, most of the wood in living trees is not alive.

A decade is not a very long period of time in the context of the climate system.

You are being deliberately obtuse.

If a decade (and I didn't say a decade) is not a very long time in the context of the climate system, then how come there are measurable and visible changes in the climate during last decades? How come there are visible and measurable changes in the ozone layer - for the better?

We typically define climate via the long-term average, about 30 years, to filter out short-tern random fluctuations, but also cycles like the 11/22 year sunspot cycle. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed 1987, nearly exactly 30 years ago. 1996, 20 years ago, emission of controlled substances was not to exceed zero. And we can now tentatively detect the fist signs of a slow recovery of the ozone layer. And that is for a very simple, direct process that only involves the atmosphere, with few feedbacks.

Besides - I was talking of wood being explicitly left to the elements and the ecosystem to reclaim it. I.e. Left to "rot".

On the other hand, while "decades and decades" which may take a piece of wood to rot naturally and decompose back to carbon (which basically never happens as it gets used up by the ecosystem centuries before that can happen) - a bullshit time period or physical state like "permanently" doesn't even exist.

No, wood does of course not decay to "carbon". It mostly gets consumed by other organisms, which use it to produce energy, resulting in, surprise, CO2, either directly or via the route of methane, also a greenhouse gas, and one that relatively quickly decays into CO2 in the atmosphere, thus completing one particular path through the Carbon cycle.

Much of the carbon in the coal we now dig up has been sequestered during the Carboniferous, over a period of 60 million years, ending 290 million years ago. It has thus been sequestered for a around 300 million years. Carbon in most crude oil reservoirs has been sequestered for 100 million years or more. On human and civilisation time scales, that is essentially forever. A few decades is not forever.

If it did - we wouldn't be able to use fossil fuels in the first place. Carbon would have been "permanently sequestered".

Also, you should really go to a museum. Primarily to look up how long have we actually had museums AND ways to preserve stuff in them. Then look up all the wooden artifacts found. All they needed to stay preserved for millennia was a thin layer of dirt or water to keep all those aerobic bacteria out. Hell, we got processed wood from over 4000 years ago.

And yet, the number of wooden artefacts from the past is so low that we actually do put them in a museum to preserve them. Nearly all of them have decomposed, one way or the other, over time. One poster above cited an estimate of 3 trillion living trees, or 375 trees per human. Older estimates are around 400 billion, or 50 trees per human in the ecosphere. How much wooden artefacts does the average human have? I'd be surprised if my furniture makes up one decent-sized tree. The amount of wood in artefacts that are preserved (usually for a small while) is miniscule. We have no ancient triere, although Herodotus tells us there were hundreds built under Themistocles alone. We do have HMS Victory, but none of the hundreds of her contemporary ships of the line.

Sequestering carbon is a piece of cake. Literally. We make cakes out of sequestered carbon.

It's only sequestered if you neither eat the cake, nor allow it to be eaten or to decay otherwise. Otherwise its still part of one of the short-term carbon cycles (plants use photosynthesis to fix carbon from CO2 into complex sugars, animals and bacteria consume these sugars, using the stored energy, and turn them back into CO2).

If we wanted to, we could sequester it all into the ground. We don't want to. Nor do we need to. We're keeping it sequestered in mobile form. As humans and food for humans. And you need to grab a lot of carbon from the air to feed 7.4 billion humans (and growing) and all our pets and food.

Unless total biomass is increasing, that is not removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Once Waldo dies, it decomposes and releases the carbon from its complex structure back into CO2.

And when we're done with using our carbon we put it under ground. Or we reclaim it and use it to trap more carbon. Or we put it in a large pile and cover it with more stuff until no air can get to it. Just like we always did.

We know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that neither we nor the environment are sequestering carbon at a rate remotely sufficient to compensate for the fossil carbon we release into the atmosphere. We know that from the simple fact that we can measure atmospheric CO2 (and its isotopic composition), and it goes up by about 2ppm per year at the moment, from sources that matches the isotopic composition of our fossil fuels. We also know that a lot of the CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere goes not into permanent sequestration, much less into human artefacts (if intentional of not), but is absorbed by the oceans, forming carbonic acid and causing a measurable decrease in ph level.

Comment Re:Activism (Score 1) 323

And even that CO2 is only permanently sequestered if the tree is neither burned nor allowed to rot - otherwise it just turns back into CO2.

Ever been to a museum? Ever saw an old piece of wood in there?

CO2 sequestered by trees takes CENTURIES to return to CO2 again - unless you burn it.

Yes, under carefully controlled conditions, as in a museum, wood is stable for a long time. Most wood is, however, not in a museum.

Even left to rot it will take decades. Ever seen an old tree stump, sticking out of the ground, all covered in moss and mushrooms? Decades and decades.

A decade is not a very long period of time in the context of the climate system. And, of course, in a mature forrest, rotting and growth are in balance. Otherwise, where would all that extra wood go? There are very limited conditions under which plant mass is permanently sequestered.

Comment Re:Activism (Score 1) 323

Yes, the trees, grass, plants, and plankton breath in CO2 and release O2, converting CO2 to O2 and bonding the Carbon into carbohydrates.

There are more trees on the planet earth than there are stars in the milkyway galaxy.

So the real question is, how much co2 does a tree sequester? (48lbs a year)

48 pounds is the highest estimate for the biggest tree under the best circumstances. And even that CO2 is only permanently sequestered if the tree is neither burned nor allowed to rot - otherwise it just turns back into CO2.

How many trees are there? 3,000,000,000,000

Also the highest available estimate.

I guess you can do the math on that one. ;)

I could, but why should I? We can directly measure CO2 in the atmosphere, and we do. We know that CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing at slightly more than 2ppm/year at the moment, and has increased from about 280 ppm to about 400ppm over the last 150 years. We also know that this is about half of the CO2 that we emit into the atmosphere, while the other half is currently still being taken up by natural sinks (mostly the ocean), which have serious limits.

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