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Comment Yes, but... (Score 1) 524

My family and I are better off than we were, mostly because my wife and I are both software engineers... one of the few professions to do really well through the recession. But we're significantly worse off than we expected to be. That's the real question: Have your plans and hopes and dreams come true, and not just for you personally, but for the world at large? Almost everyone in the West would probably answer "No". We were used to having our expectations exceeded. Now they are disappointed.

One of the reasons software eng. has done so well is that it can deliver improvements through depreciation. A smartphone takes less energy to produce than a PC. A die shrink uses less energy per FLOP. Distributing "apps" over the internet uses less energy per sale than shrink wrap, etc. In the physical world, where it takes energy to make improvements, almost everything seems in decay. Tech bloggers call it "dematerialization".

Dematerialization is fine and good, but when it's the only kind of improvement civilization can muster for four years... it leaves something to be desired. As Peter Thiel says, "let them eat iPhones" is not a hopeful direction for the future.


Submission + - China Initiates Thorium MSR Project (energyfromthorium.com)

beefubermensch writes: Pro-Thorium articles have been featured here several times in recent years. Now it looks as though Thorium advocates are finally getting their wish: China has announced the first serious program to develop this transformative technology. In the words of President Obama, I think we just had a "sputnik moment".

Submission + - China starts molten salt nuclear reactor project (energyfromthorium.com)

greg_barton writes: The blog Energy From Thorium blog reports, "The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology, it was announced in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) annual conference on Tuesday, January 25." The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor is an alternative reactor design that 1) burns existing nuclear waste, 2) uses abundant thorium as a base fuel, 3) produces far less toxic, shorter lived waste than existing designs, and 4) can be mass produced, run unattended for years, and installed underground for safety.

Submission + - Self-assembling Photovoltaic Tech from MIT (nextbigfuture.com)

telomerewhythere writes: Michael Strano and his team at MIT have made a self-assembling and indefinitely repairable photovoltaic cell based on the principle found in chloroplasts in plant cells.
The system Strano's team produced is made up of seven different compounds, including the carbon nanotubes, the phospholipids, and the proteins that make up the reaction centers, which under the right conditions spontaneously assemble themselves into a light-harvesting structure that produces an electric current. Strano says he believes this sets a record for the complexity of a self-assembling system. When a surfactant is added to the mix, the seven components all come apart and form a soupy solution. Then, when the researchers removed the surfactant, the compounds spontaneously assembled once again into a perfectly formed, rejuvenated photocell.

Comment Irrational fear and misinformation (Score 3, Interesting) 136

Canadian nuclear plants emit 40 times more tritium every day when functioning normally than the Vermont Yankee leak emitted in a year:

A 1 GW(e) natural gas turbine will emit about 9 curies/year,* which is 20 times the rate of radiation from the VT Yankee leak at its highest.

Oh, and natural gas "fracking" produces toxic and radioactive wastewater. This article from last summer discusses EPA tests that found nasties from the fracturing fluid in domestic well water:
New York State is doing fracking in something called Marcellus shale. This article from last fall says that surface wastewater from these sites was found to contain Ra-226 in concentrations "thousands of times" the limit for drinking water:
This page
says, "more than 18 billion barrels of waste fluids from oil and gas production are generated annually in the United States".


* Radioactivity of fossil gas. This abstract
gives 200 Bq/m^3. It doesn't say where they measured, but given context of the paper I'll assume it was at the consumer end of the line, at STP. I don't know if gas used at electrical plants is any fresher, but I'll assume it's no more stale. Pure methane has an energy content of 55.5 kJ/g and a density of 667 g/m^3, or about 5 Wh(e)/L from a 50%-efficient combined-cycle plant. So about 40Bq/Wh, or 1 nanoCurie per Wh, or 9 Curies/GW-yr.

Comment Sousa (Score 1) 280

Any tie-in with copyright aside, Sousa was correct. Technology has negative sides, and music playback technology deeply damaged the participatory nature of music in our culture, and the associated music skills in the population.

Comment midi-chlorians (Score 1) 832

A Hugo-award winning science fiction buff who doesn't realize that midi-chlorians are based on mitochondria? For shame.

While I would have preferred to leave the Force mysterious, I think midi-chlorians are one of the *best* revisions in the Star Wars universe. Understanding that mitochondria probably started out as bacteria which began living symbiotically with algae -- a symbiosis so successful, they do indeed provide the 'life force' to every eukaryotic organism on the planet.

Comment one bug tracker for all users (Score 1) 281

One bug tracker, for bugs and new features, for all users internal and external. That includes developers.

If you have too many ideas, you'll need to filter them. The only thing that matters is how efficiently you can filter them by merit. I don't believe that preventing end users, and certainly not internal people!, from accessing the bug tracker is an efficient way to filter by merit.

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