Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Comment Re:Frank Yu doesn't know what he's talking about. (Score 1) 144

Superheated liquid metal is very reactive with water or moisture and creates hydrogen gas.

Which is why they take great care in keeping water from it. Seriously though, there are concerns about water getting to the liquified metal and it could be quite a problem if it got out of hand. I do recall that in an experimental reactor in Japan they had pools of liquid metal that were open to the air without much concern, the metal would form a "crust" that prevented further oxidation. This is much like a tarnish on a solid metal forming. This worked well in that Japanese reactor until a crane fell into one of the liquid metal pools. That was pretty much the end of that reactor.

Liquid salt is corrosive.

Largely a myth. Tests show that use of fairly common alloys will hold up to the salts used in these planned reactors for decades. Of course we won't know for sure if it will hold up for decades until it is actually tested for decades but this is a largely solved problem.

Graphite moderator burns in atmosphere and made Chernobyl accident worse.

Also largely a myth. Graphite is pure carbon, much like coal. Unlike coal the graphite used as a moderator is in a metallic state. As a metal is it highly conductive, making it difficult to get hot enough to ignite. As a metal it's not "rough" like coal and does not give much surface area to oxidize. If hot enough, long enough, with enough air, it will start on fire. However, at that point the reactor will already have been destroyed from whatever made it that hot to begin with. Also, there just isn't a lot of graphite in these reactors. The heat from burning graphite is a rounding error if there is ever a problem of something burning.

No matter what clever materials you use, no fission reactor is inherently safe, unless it is some sort of subcritical reactor, so that you don't act upon it to keep its chain reaction stable, but instead continuously supply energy to it to produce more energy.

When it comes to molten salt reactors a common safety element is the "freeze plug". This is a section of pipe at the bottom of the reactor vessel that is kept cool to plug the pipe. This pipe drains to a tank which is in a shape that prevents fission, removed from the moderator, and kept cool with passive systems. If power is lost the plug thaws, the reactor drains, and fission stops. If the reactor gets too hot the cooling system that freezes the plug is overwhelmed, the plug thaws, the reactor drains, and fission stops.

Some designs go an extra mile and allow for the unlikely event the freeze plug fails. This is done by having the moderator rods getting inserted from the bottom of the reactor and held up by electric motors. If power is lost then gravity lowers the moderator from the reactor and fission stops. Another fail safe which is rarely mentioned is that the alloy that the reactor vessel is made of has a melting point lower than the boiling point of the salt it holds. If for some reason the reactor got really hot the vessel would melt away and release the salt into the drain pan below it, which drains to the same drain tank that the freeze plug would open into.

I've seen a few sub-critical reactor designs and a common feature on them are scram rods. Why would a sub-critical reactor need to have scram rods? At least I asked myself this question. The reason is that these reactors are held so close to critical that it is possible for it to go super-critical in a split second. If this is not accounted for with a means to scram beyond just shutting down the accelerator then it would never get licensed. If built so that it was further from critical mass so scram rods are not needed then the accelerators need to be so large as to become impractical. Which means, in short, sub-critical reactors are impractical.

Molten salt reactors are much like accelerator driven reactors in that if power is lost the reaction stops. The difference is in the power required to keep the reactor going. In an accelerator driven system it takes a large fraction of the power produced, in a molten salt reactor the power required is in the noise.

Comment Re:Frank Yu doesn't know what he's talking about. (Score 3, Interesting) 144

You really think it's unrealistic to replace 60 year old nuclear technology with something as simple an elegant as a windmill or a sheet of semiconductor with no moving parts?

Yes, I do believe it unrealistic to replace 60 year old nuclear technology with wind and solar power. There's two big reasons I believe this.

First, it's a matter of resources. Wind power takes ten times as much steel and concrete to produce the same power as coal or nuclear. I don't have the numbers for solar in front of me but I do recall it being similar. Those windmills sit atop large steel poles anchored to large concrete pads. We can choose to put those resources into wind power or we can use those same resources, put it into nuclear power, and get ten times more energy in return.

Second, it's a matter of reliability. Wind power only works when the wind blows. Solar power only works when the sun shines. Nuclear power doesn't care what the weather is or the time of day. Wind and solar have a capacity factor of about 30%, nuclear power has a capacity factor of about 90%. I don't know if that 10 times number from Morgan Stanley I gave above includes the capacity factor issue or not but this still makes nuclear look real good.

This is using numbers from "60 year old" nuclear technology. We got better stuff in development now. There's nothing inherently wrong with how we've been doing nuclear considering how safe it has been but we do know how to make it safer and therefore cheaper. By doing away with the large pools of water for moderator and cooling, and therefore the threat of a flash boil in a loss of cooling event, the large containment domes are unnecessary. By using liquid metal or liquid salt for cooling, and graphite moderator, the containment can be much smaller. That alone saves a lot on material costs.

What I foresee as replacing these 60 year old nuclear reactors are new nuclear reactors. With a four decade span where the USA has not built a new nuclear power plant we are going to see a lot of nuclear reactors being in operation for twice their intended lifespan. When those reactors were designed they were intended to run for 30 to 50 years before being replaced, many of them are now expected to run for 80 years. While this is impressive engineering it is also pushing the limits of safety. If you don't want to see another Fukushima style disaster then you are going to want to see many more new nuclear power plants built.

Without nuclear power we have the option of smog or the lights going out. Wind and solar are not a solution. "Smart grids" and utility scale batteries will not make wind and solar viable and they certainly will not make them affordable.

Comment Re:Only half true article (Score 1) 144

Here's a news article from a few weeks ago:

Happier now?

I didn't say that nuclear power requires "special" mention, only that by leaving it out of the discussion the authors of the article show an anti-nuclear bias. Forbes claims that China's wind and solar growth cannot continue at this rate for long, the economics don't add up. Forbes also claims that if China is going to reduce its coal use by any meaningful amount it will be from growth in nuclear and hydro energy.

Reuters claims that this shift to zero carbon energy will come from wind and solar. The implication is that the rest of the world should follow China's lead in this. I agree, only if the whole story is told. China, or any other nation, can only truly reduce fossil fuel use if nuclear power is part of the solution.

Comment Only half true article (Score 5, Insightful) 144

Interesting that the article makes no mention of China's plans to build more nuclear power plants.
Found this with a quick Google search:

China intends to bring 58 gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity into operation by 2020, up from the current capacity of roughly 27 gigawatts, according to World Nuclear News. China plans to follow this by getting about 10 percent of its electricity from 150 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2030, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Why mention plans to reduce coal use, increase wind and solar use but not mention the plans to also increase the use of nuclear power?

There is a bias in all news. The bias is in not only what they choose to report but what they choose to leave out. I've begun to seek out news from places that wear their bias on their sleeve, that way at least I know what they likely chose to report and leave out.

Comment Re:Indiscriminate antibiotic use in farm animals.. (Score 1) 293

Prove it. Farmers today are college educated and they are taught how to manage illness in herds. Overuse of antibiotics is a known problem. Meat inspectors will look for sick animals and not allow them into the food supply. Too many sick animals, antibiotics in meat or milk, and a farmer risks losing their license to sell product.

Did you even know you need a license to sell milk? There are inspectors that know about the problem of "superbugs" and they look for bad practices that can breed them. One thing inspectors look for is how antibiotics are used.

Again, show me how antibiotics are abused. I admit that my knowledge of how a farm is run could be out of date. Dad was one of the last of his kind, he ran a farm without even a high school education. Today farmers are college educated, they tend to study animal science like Gov. Rick Perry did. Among those classes they'll take is "meat safety" which Perry famously got a "D" grade in. People laugh at how Perry got a poor grade in a class on "meat" but this is serious stuff. It's these college educated farmers that make the tasty tasty bacon I love. I'm not going to second guess their use of antibiotics, just like they aren't likely to second guess my choice of compilers. We each have our specializations, I'm staying in mine and perhaps you need to stay in yours.

Comment Re:Indiscriminate antibiotic use in farm animals.. (Score 1) 293

I think you may have misunderstood the argument. The concern isn't that humans are getting antibiotics into their system from meat or dairy, the concern is that the animals themselves provide an environment in which antibiotic-resistant bacteria can grow.

Do you have any evidence of this? If the pigs didn't get their shot on coming into the confinement building then a lot of them would get sick, we know this. Sick pigs cost money. Dead pigs cost even more money.

Farmers get it from all sides, if they give the pigs antibiotics then they are breeding "superbugs", if they don't then they are abusing the animals by not keeping them healthy. Which is it? Antibiotics or a bunch of dead pigs from a common lung infection?

Raw meat with resistant bacteria can spread it around a kitchen (using antibacterial soap will only make the problem worse--killing off the competition), and then accidentally cutting yourself while preparing food can lead to life threatening illness.

Cook your meat, be careful with a knife, and generally take care with your food.

You think that modern farmers don't know about the risks of a "superbug"? Of course they do. They also know that without this stuff we'd see a lot more sick people. There is a lot of care in making sure our food it safe to eat. This is often taken to extremes, costing farmers a lot of money for a minor risk.

The need to keep the antibiotics out of the meat and milk is precisely the kind of precautions taken to keep "superbugs" out of the food supply.

Comment Re:Indiscriminate antibiotic use in farm animals.. (Score 4, Interesting) 293

I have to wonder what people think happens on a farm. I grew up on a farm where we had pigs and dairy cattle. We gave the animals antibiotics, but it was rare.

For the pigs we'd give them a shot of antibiotics when we'd get a batch of new pigs in. A pig's life is short, less than a year, and they'd typically get one shot of antibiotics in their life. Pigs cost money, so do antibiotics, so the job of a pig farmer is to balance those costs. Penicillin is cheap but not free. If a pig got sick then it might get another shot. If it got real sick then it got a different kind of shot, as in from a rifle. The carcass of a pig like that could not be sold for meat but the leather was valuable, for a while at least. At some point the rendering truck stopped picking up the dead pigs for free and started to charge for the service, that's when Dad started to just bury them. Any pigs sold for meat are tested for antibiotics. I'm not sure what happened if they tested positive but Dad would make sure that any pig given a shot would not go to market until enough time has passed for the antibiotics to get out of their system.

The dairy cattle would also typically get one shot of antibiotics in their life, when they'd get dehorned. This was because they were at risk of infection at this point until the wound healed over. Any cattle given antibiotics recently were not able to be sold for meat, and they are also tested like the pigs. Any cow given antibiotics while milking had the milk discarded until the antibiotics were out of their system. Milk was also regularly tested for antibiotics. If antibiotics were found in the milk this would mean the milk was discarded. Since the milk of an entire herd was put in the same tank a single cow testing positive would contaminate thousands of gallons of milk. I remember having to do this before, Dad was pissed since that meant not getting money for that milk.

Here's the thing, antibiotics are necessary. I thought it funny too on how much farmers rely on antibiotics if it upset so many people. I saw the value in the Army. When going through in processing I got an antibiotic shot, as did everyone else in the company. It turns out that when you put a lot of living and breathing beings in an enclosed space, be they recruits in a barracks or pigs in a shed, they tend to get sick. I still ended up getting a pretty nasty lung infection while in the Army, they gave me a potent antibiotic that made me sensitive to the sun. I got the worst sunburn in my life then.

Just say no to antibiotic treated animals.

If you don't like it then go ahead and buy your "organic" meat or go vegan. I know what farmers do to get animals to market and if these animals weren't treated for infections then meat gets real expensive due to losses. Quality would go down too because healthy animals make tasty meat. Since so many people in this world seem able to eat this meat and live well I'm trying to figure out what the problem is exactly.

Comment Re:Nice Job HTC (Score 1) 205

People find a way to make stuff useful despite manufacturers trying to cripple it.

You think that perhaps Apple, et al., anticipated this?

I've heard all kinds of conspiracy theories about removing the headphone jack all with nefarious intent. What if a phone manufacturer wanted to make a cheap(er) and small(er) phone for the masses while those that didn't mind a larger phone with a headphone jack could just buy the case with them in it? It saves them engineering, marketing, logistics, etc. on making another phone model and every market is still served.

Perhaps the phone makers want to keep people happy as best they can so they keep coming back for more. Isn't that how a free society works?

Comment Re:SD and battery (Score 1) 205

I know of several places that offer battery replacement services for phones. If a phone is old enough it needs this then it can be done, the phone would have to be worth it though. This service costs money and phones are cheap, so it would have to be a really nice phone to bother.

For those not wanting to go to the expense of a battery replacement there are battery extender cases for most popular phones. Again the phone must be valuable enough to bother.

What I find to be the best reason for not offering replaceable batteries is that the batteries are much better now. I've had several phones and similar portable devices and never did I feel a desire to get a new battery even in devices where it could be replaced easily. By the time the battery no longer held enough of a charge for me I felt the device was old enough to toss to recyclers and buy a new replacement.

Laptops though have been different for me. I replaced batteries in three laptops now and for one of them I feel I may need to replace the replacement. With charging ports on laptops getting standardized like they have been on cell phones the need to replace the internal battery may be unnecessary as well, I can likely get a "piggyback" battery to get an old laptop to limp along for long enough that I would not feel bad to replace it.

Comment Re:No headphone jack ... (Score 1) 205

I fully expect someone to introduce "end to end" DRM within a year or two which will require an authenticated and encrypted connection from the source (file or stream) through the mobile processor, to the headphones.

I'm not sure how this helps, it's not like people can't or won't strip the wires from a pair of headphones and wire them to the wires stripped from a microphone. A simpler solution that doesn't destroy the headphones and with only a minimal loss in quality is putting microphones in the ears of a foam head to wear the headphones.

They can't plug the analog hole.

Don't be surprised when Apple shows more "courage" and removes the analog audio connectors from their next lineup of desktops and laptops (if they haven't already). The desktop / laptop market will swiftly follow once people accept it on mobile.

If Apple does get rid of the analog audio ports I expect them to be replaced with the Lightning port or whatever they come up to replace it. This gets back to the stripped wires and/or foam head solutions I mentioned before for copying music. This also addresses some of the complaints of the loss of the headphone port on iDevices, now the same accessories work on all Apple devices again.

I've been looking off and on for years for a headset that has stereo, microphone, and plugs into the headphone/mic port common on Apple devices (desktop, laptop, and iOS) for years. People would sell mono devices and obviously I can get stereo headphones without a mic. There are USB headsets like this which supposedly work on iDevices with the "camera" adapter, but this is an unsupported feature that might stop working at any time with an iOS update. I can also find a number of other adapters to make a number of headsets work. I guess I'm not part of a big enough market for someone to bother making a product to fit. I don't know if this shift to digital ports will make finding a headset to fit all my requirements easier or not but I doubt it will hurt.

Comment Re:No headphone jack ... (Score 1) 205

I have a lot of broken and worn headphone jacks that say different.

Having USB-C ports on portable devices is relatively new so time will tell. Given that the USB-C port is an evolution of the mini and micro USB port I suspect that the people behind this have it figured out. If not then expect USB-D ports or something else to replace them. Sure it sucks having to buy all new accessories when getting a new phone but I'm old enough to remember the days before USB became the charging standard. There were a lot of sucky, proprietary, expensive, and fragile connectors then.

It's not like headphone jacks were always the norm. I remember all kinds of crazy ports on portable devices to get people to buy accessories from the device maker. At least now we have people following standards like USB-C, Bluetooth, and WiFi. Even the Lighting port is a blessing since we can be reasonably assured it's going to stick around for a while and third parties are making cables, adapters, and accessories with that connector.

Comment Re:Unfortunate. (Score 4, Interesting) 205

Because the engineering mantra of designing something that's the minimum needed to do the job properly has been supplanted with a long-term strategic goal to attempt to sell more things to consumers by selling them devices that don't do everything they need out of the box.

Is this feature reduction or future proofing? I have a laptop with a SD slot and HDMI port that I've never used, except to only prove to myself that they worked, and not likely to use in the future. It also has USB-3 and DisplayPort outputs which with inexpensive adapters I can use to attach an SD card reader or HDMI cable. If given the option now I'd much rather buy a replacement that lacks a SD reader and HDMI port so that I can have a laptop that is just that much smaller, lighter, and cheaper.

I've had an iPod Touch for years that has seen daily use, and is now going into semi-retirement with my acquisition of an iPhone. That iPod had it's headphone jack damaged about a year ago but after an initial transition period I didn't miss it. I could still dock it with my truck stereo for music. When at home I could stream my music to an AirPort Expess, put in in a dock by my stereo, or just listen to it through the internal speaker. This is how I intend to use my iPhone now. What allowed me to keep that iPod working for me for so long was the ability to get audio and video from the dock port. I didn't need all kinds of ports and plugs on the iPod itself, I just bought the cables as I needed them. These cables and adapters included a composite A/V cable, component A/V cable, USB "card reader" adapter, and the car stereo adapter I mentioned earlier. An iPod with all of those ports on the device itself would have been huge.

This is a bit different with a laptop due to the inherent proportions of the format. I do remember many many people essentially laughing at Apple for not putting an optical drive in their laptop. Now we have people laughing at them for not having a SD slot. In the past I hated having to need adapters because they were exceedingly large and expensive, or so I perceived them to be, and it seemed I could never find the one I needed when I needed it. What has changed is the technology, adapters are smaller and cheaper now, and with the growth in the internet I have access to many competing suppliers trying to get me what I want when I want it.

Another change, perhaps just as important, is my perception. I have come to realize that no matter what two devices I have before me that I wish to connect I will need an adapter. We might not perceive this as an adapter but as a cable but every cable is effectively an adapter. Instead of thinking of this as having to buy another damned adapter I think of it as having to get a cable I would have had to get anyway but now I don't have to have a dozen ports on a computer where I'll only use half of them.

A joke among my friends was that USB stood for "useless serial bus" since when it was introduced there was nothing to plug into it. Now it's replaced nearly everything and I'm liking it. I don't need a laptop with a serial port, Ethernet port, flash card reader, modem port, Firewire port, parallel port, and DVI port like my old one did. When I pack my laptop I also pack the cables I need with the USB adapters attached. I treat the USB adapter and cable as a single unit, if it isn't a single physical unit already. While USB isn't quite "universal" it's close enough that I only need a couple other kinds of ports to plug into everything I need to get my work done.

Another thing that has changed with time is the weight bearing ability of my knees. Having all those ports on the laptop means weight that I must carry even if I just want to have a laptop with me to do a bit of work at a deli while eating. I'll still pack my bag with my laptop but all those adapters can be left behind.

So, yes, they do intend for people to come back for the cable they need. Any more I find complaints that a device doesn't have the precise port you require is like complaining your pants didn't come with a belt. Not everyone is going to agree on what kind of belt goes with those pants just like not everyone is going to agree on what kind of port goes on the computer. If the pants didn't come with belt loops then that is something else, since it prevents the use of any belt. So long as the computer or smart phone has a port to get the right cable I find it real hard to complain any more.

Comment I've seen this before (Score 0) 74

This sounds a lot like a bunch of talks I attended while in college. When in college I was taking a power class required of all electrical engineering students and some company sponsored a handful of students to go to some big energy conference. What was big news then was the then new federal regulation that utilities had to charge other utilities the sames fees they charge themselves to carry power. What the government wanted to see was utilities stopping to abuse their monopoly on wires to prop up unprofitable electricity generation. Or, at least that is how it was explained to me.

This seemed to be viewed as generally favorable. No one at this conference seemed to consider this a bad thing. Effectively the government enforced a separation between energy generation and energy transmission. Where this equates to this AT&T deal, at least IMHO, is that this is enforcing a separation between content ownership and delivery. The "monopoly" isn't as obvious since most areas of the USA are serviced by more than one cell phone company but it's not like people can switch cell phone providers on a whim, or get the same great deal on data from more than one content owner at the same time.

I generally oppose the government getting in the way of business because it is so easy for rules intended to protect the average consumer to evolve into rules that protect a business. I'm not a DirectTV subscriber but I do get AT&T cell service. One thing I considered in choosing my cell service provider was that AT&T did not charge data usage for DirectTV and I thought that in the near future I may want that service. I could have stayed with Verizon as the price and data limit differences were small. I will say that it is nice that I get cell service while at work but that could be the new phone and not the new provider.

Comment Re:But where's the chain of custody? (Score 5, Interesting) 389

I was taking an information security certification course from an interesting character. He was a USMC sniper, police officer on a narc team, then a lecturer offering courses in Microsoft and security certifications, and running a part time data forensics job with one of his old friends. He says he gets a call from the local PD about data recovery on a computer that they say has child porn on it. My instructor tells his partner not to touch the computer. Then tells him that as mere possession of child porn is a felony the only way they could legally touch this is with some kind of immunity or being deputized. The partner seemed to really want the job since it could mean good money and putting a bad guy away. My instructor, a retired police officer, knew that being in possession of child porn regardless of the source is going to be problematic.

He talked a bit more on this and he seemed to imply that child porn cases can fetch good money for the technicians because so few people are willing to do it. There is an obvious "ick" factor that so many healthy people have. There are legal problems to deal with, as in all your ducks in a row or by doing exactly as the PD requests can still end up with getting charged with a crime.

So, you have a presumably high dollar and experienced technician with considerable knowledge on how files can be hidden as well as a beat cop level of legal knowledge on this, and he won't touch it for what I can assume is much more than the $500 that these "geeks" could get. Do these Geek Squad people even know what they are doing? Can they be trusted? Would they be willing to be a witness in court? Would the prosecutor even want the typical Geek Squad member testifying in court?

I can see no good coming from these Geek Squad types looking for incriminating evidence.

Slashdot Top Deals

Maybe Computer Science should be in the College of Theology. -- R. S. Barton