Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×

Comment 100% chance of bullshit (Score 4, Informative) 140

This "study" doesn't even appear to make any comparison to the loss of life and property from reduced electrical power output from taking these nuclear power plants off line or any comparison to the loss of life and property from producing the electricity from sources other than nuclear power. The reason they do not do this is obvious to anyone that has seen the death rates to energy produced for the energy sources in common use.

Nuclear power is the safest energy source we have available to us.

This is a bunch of fear mongering which serves only to make future deployment of nuclear power more expensive and therefore cause more deaths. Again, nuclear power is the safest form of energy we have and therefore anyone that opposes nuclear power is lobbying for more people to die.

Here's another thing, when it comes to our "carbon footprint" there is nothing that produces more energy with less carbon in the air than nuclear power except hydro. We've run out of rivers to dam up so if we want to even maintain the energy output we have now and not increase our carbon footprint then we need to build more nuclear power plants. If global warming is going to kill us all, and even assuming this "study" has even a grain of truth to it, then the answer is more nuclear power.

Anyone that claims man made global warming is a problem and opposes nuclear power is either completely ignorant or completely stupid.

Comment Re:Probably Trump (Score 4, Insightful) 180

"There's a ton of voter fraud in the US, and the only reason it stays anywhere near fair is because the winner wins by more than the margin of fraud."

Which makes me wonder why a political party would work so hard to commit fraud. Are they so afraid that the people are so opposed to what they stand for that they cannot win by compromise? The art of compromise is an entrenched aspect of our political system. One might argue that every law ever passed is due to the art of compromise.

Let's assume that these people do get the people they want in office by fraud. Do they expect this to continue indefinitely? In a less connected world it may have been possible to win with fraud by small margins and get away with it. Now we have polling with considerable accuracy. People can communicate with an ease and speed that has been unheard of before.

For such fraud to go unnoticed it must be at such a small margin that it can be explained away by a margin of error. If that margin is that small then would not the energy expended on fraud be better spent on making their case to the people? Or, compromising on small matters that people vote on so that larger matters can go their way?

"Voter restrictions of various stripe tend to affect poor and minorities more than other groups. Those groups typically vote Democratic."

Everything in life affects the poor and minorities disproportionately. That's effectively the definition of what it means to be poor and/or a minority. That does not mean we should make elections in a way that they are open to fraud. I believe that it makes a case to make elections as fair as possible. If the poor and minorities want to make sure that their vote counts then they should want to know that their vote counts just as much as any other vote.

What party they vote for should be irrelevant.

Comment WTF? (Score 1, Flamebait) 180

[quote]In Sandoval County, New Mexico, federal observer reports showed that Native-American voters had difficulty getting voting information in their native languages during the decade between 1994 and 2004, according to a 2011 court order in a case the United States brought against the county.[/quote]

To me "Native-American" means that this person descends from a people that lived on the land now known as America before it became known as America. America has since the beginning been a place where English has been spoken. Any place that is now America is a place that has been speaking English for decades, if not centuries. In America the road signs are in English, the schools teach English, television and radio broadcasts are in English. Every product sold in America will have English labels, manuals, etc. While I'm certain that certain local newspapers might be in some language other than English the regional and national ones are in English. Someone not capable of reading and/or speaking English will be largely ignorant of what is going on in the world unless someone is there to translate for them.

I find it very difficult to believe that someone that has lived in America for so long has failed to grasp enough of the English language to perform as simple of a task as to identify the people they wish to vote for on an English language ballot. Even so, there should be someone they trust available to translate for them. If neither are true then can someone explain how they would even know who to vote for? Or, even know an election was happening?

I have to wonder what language these Americans were speaking while living inside America for so long? What sort of a bubble did they live in where they isolated themselves so much from the American culture that they did not care to learn the language and yet connected enough to the nation at large that they cared enough to vote at all?

I call bullshit on this.

Comment Re:FDA Scheduling (Score 1) 416

PCP and cocaine are schedule 2 drugs in the USA, PCP has known uses for mental health and cocaine is used as a local anesthetic in some cases. Heroin is just another name for diamorphine, which is a commonly used opiate outside the USA. In the USA it's ban on use is quite curious not just because of its common use elsewhere but also because even more potent opiates are schedule 2 or lower. Since the heroin ban does not affect the ability for people to access it's derivatives, such as morphine and codeine, there is little reason to lobby for it being rescheduled.

Marijuana is unique compared to many other drugs in that anything that behaves like it is also banned. PCP can be prescribed, at least legally, but it's not on the market any more. I suspect that there are better drugs and no drug company wants to be known for producing PCP. Heroin is one of a dozen opiates that are known and so loss of legal access to it is of little matter to medical care providers. But when it comes to marijuana, and the cannabinoids it is known for, all derivatives are banned. This creates an interesting catch-22. People would like to investigate medical uses but since the government has declared it unfit for any medical use this research into rescheduling cannot be done.

This makes me believe that the whole idea of any substance being declared as "having no medical use" is nonsensical. If it is known to have an effect on the body then someone can derive a medical use for it. That's not to say that if something has a medical use that using it is a good idea, there may be better alternatives that should be used if available.. This is also not saying that all medical uses have been established. For example, Viagra was originally used to treat circulatory problems, but people found it had interesting side effects for which it is now widely known. By banning a substance completely we've arbitrarily cut ourselves off from future research on how it may benefit us in the future.

Not only is a complete ban on substances tyrannical but also scientifically nearsighted.

Comment It's inevitable now (Score 2) 416

We now have 25 states and DC that have made marijuana available for medical use. A handful of states, in spite of federal prohibitions, that have legalized it for recreational purposes. Half of the US states, districts, and territories are now violating federal law. What happened to the supremacy of federal law? Makes me wonder how else the states can tell the federal government to fuck off.

The DEA has now drawn up a set of "policies", which also violate federal law, where they do not enforce federal law on the possession of marijuana in jurisdictions where it is "legal". IMHO, this is an admission by the federal government that they cannot enforce federal laws without the cooperation of local law enforcement. This was always true but now they must admit it outright. Things were different when the federal government was unopposed.

The event that set a countdown timer in my mind for the end of federal prohibitions on marijuana possession was a news article about a Girl Scout selling cookies outside a medical marijuana dispensary in California. That must have been two years ago now and she was about 12 years old as I recall. This tells me that we have four years until this young lady is old enough to vote. When that happens then expect the federal government to fold on marijuana.

I expect to see in 2020, if not sooner, people running for public office talking about how they believe marijuana to be as safe as alcohol and tobacco. What this means in more specific policy terms would be interesting. Would this mean that marijuana regulation moves from the DEA to the BATFE? What would this mean for the future of the DEA? Would they be tasked with keeping marijuana from being smuggled *from* the USA *into* Mexico?

I don't expect the legalization of marijuana to have further effects on other drugs but I do see it as setting into motion other aspects of states rights. If states can legalize marijuana without federal opposition then what about gun laws? Energy is a big concern, what keeps a state from licensing nuclear power reactors on their own? We're already seeing states push back on the DHS running security at airports, what purpose does the DHS serve if all the states kick them out of all their airports?

It's also possible that the federal government learns from this to pick the fights they can win in order to keep federal supremacy from being questioned again. Legalizing marijuana might just do that. If the federal government backs off on this now then the smaller things like gun control might not come up. This assumes the federal government, made up of thousands of alpha personality types and each having their own idea on what roles the federal government should fulfill, can come to any singular conclusion on policy.

I think we are seeing a new revolution on rights, or merely a government sized train wreck, happen in slow motion.

Comment Re:Big pharmas hate it! (Score 3, Informative) 416

There is such a thing as "weed in a pill" and it is sold under the brand name Marinol. It is a schedule 3 drug under US law which means that prescribing it is under considerable scrutiny from the DEA. Low dose opiates and many mood altering drugs are schedule 4 and 5, which means the DEA is much less likely to scrutinize the physician for running a pill mill for addicts.

I'm stepping a bit further into speculation here but it appears that there is a social aspect here on not wanting to be seen as a quack for prescribing "weed in a pill" when there are a number of other schedule 3 drugs which are widely accepted to treat pain, even though those pain pills contain opiates. Cannabinoids have been shown to treat issues besides pain but again there are other drugs on the same level of controls or lower that are more socially acceptable.

If you are getting high from your pain meds then you are doing it wrong. I've been prescribed opiates for years for chronic pain and I take my pills carefully so that I don't get high from them. That high feeling was fun for a while but as you also found out that is no way to go through life. So I'll space out my doses, sometimes cut pills in half, so that I get the pain reducing benefits without that warm and tingly feeling.

I have no formal medical training so my speculation on what you've experienced is from that of a pain patient, not a licensed medical provider. People can have different kinds of pain. People can react differently to medications. I've gone through a number of medications for my chronic pain and I've had some side effects that seemed to baffle the physicians that prescribed my meds. One example is Tramadol, some people love this drug as it reduces pain but has no significant side effects for them. Apparently I'm in the 1% of people where Tramadol produces sleeplessness. Tramadol will help with my pain but if I take it before noon then I may not be able to get to sleep that night.

I've learned that just because something does not work for you does not mean it will not work for someone else. Humans are unlike many other species of animals out there. We've got such a varied genome that drugs can have a wide variety of effects. Animals like horses, cattle, and domestic cats don't have such variation so when drugs are tested on animals they don't always tell the whole story. The only animal that seems to be as widely varied as humans are dogs. My sister in law is a veterinary surgeon and she has to treat certain breeds of dogs as if they are a different species.

Which brings me back to why the drug companies can't just put "weed in a pill". The effects for marijuana can vary widely on the person and so dosage is difficult. If put in a pill form the marijuana would have to be in a wide variety of dosages and/or the physicians may have to prescribe a rather unrealistic number of pills for some people. This would make the regulation difficult and make them expensive. Marijuana in its natural form is easy to meter in that it is dilute, just take a bite of a marijuana cookie if that is all you need or eat the whole thing. Marijuana is naturally cheap to produce, it's a plant that grows like a weed, processing it to a pill form would make it expensive.

Probably the biggest reason that drug companies don't just put it in pill form is that there would be no profit in it. It would take only a minute for someone to see that the pills they are prescribed are just the same thing the stoner on the street corner is selling. Drug companies cannot compete with that.

Then this quickly turns to politics. For a drug company to sell a drug derived from marijuana on the market they'd have to lobby the DEA to reschedule the drug. Since there is now a large gray market for this in many states the big drug companies know they cannot act quickly enough to get any profit from it. Their potential customers would be quickly grabbed up by the existing marijuana dealers. Those taking what the big companies are offering now might just switch. They stand to only lose from making "weed in a pill". Therefore they fight to keep the status quo.

I realized that marijuana rescheduling was inevitable when I saw a news article about a Girl Scout selling cookies outside a California medical marijuana dispensary. I recall the scout was 12 years old. I then figured that when this young lady is old enough to vote in six years that marijuana will be legalized nationwide. I forget when exactly that article made the news but we can't be more that four years until this issue becomes a prominent plank on the big parties platform.

Comment Re:Dear Brain Master (Score 1) 108

The major component of concern on the waste produced from rare earth mining is thorium. Thorium is not an environmental hazard since it's biologically inert, is insoluble in water, is dense enough it doesn't really blow around in the wind, it just sits there. It is mildly radioactive but then so much stuff in the world is radioactive that tossing it in hole in the ground is a perfectly acceptable way to dispose of it.

The US government treats thorium as if it is weapon grade material. In theory it can be used to make a bomb but when the government tried it failed. What I mean by "in theory" it is a weapon grade material is that if placed in a nuclear reactor it will soak up neutrons to make uranium. The uranium would have to be enriched, like with centrifuges. The enriched uranium would then have to be machined into a pit for a bomb core. Then one would have to design a finely tuned implosion system. The implosion detonation would have to be precisely timed, and then one would likely be disappointed on how it didn't make an earth shattering ka-boom. Because when the federal government tried this decades ago it didn't work so great then.

Rare earth mines in the USA are not selected on the quality of the rare earth elements, they are selected on the lack of thorium. The quality deposits will contain thorium but if that thorium is mined then the mining company would be responsible for its disposal. The Chinese just pile it up because it's worthless and harmless. We can't do that in the USA because some people decided that the theory of a weapon threat out weighed that of the value of having a domestic supply of these valuable metals.

If we could refine it legally in the USA then we would not have to ship it off to China. If this thorium is in fact a weapon grade material then should we be shipping it off to a nation that we don't have the best political relationship with right now? We're giving them material that is vital to our economy *AND* giving them what the federal government (wrongly IMHO) believes to be worthy of producing nuclear weapons.

Good job! Our federal laws makes us reliant on a potential military adversary for vital materials for our economy. These same materials used in every modern weapon system we have, from the F-22 fighter, to the radios, to the GPS units our soldiers carry, to the alternators in the trucks the military uses to move soldiers and supplies. At the same time we're shipping what is potentially fuel for nuclear power reactors, and possibly (in theory) material to make nuclear weapons.

It's nice that Honda figured out how to make an electric motor without these elements but what about everything else? The targeting lasers for our weapons will not work without these elements. What if China doesn't want to give them to us any more?

Comment Re:Dear Brain Master (Score 4, Interesting) 108

I have learned that there is a different problem. Certainly mining disturbs the earth, and extracting the metals from the ore is a process requiring some nasty chemicals and lots of energy, but we've learned how to do both without damaging the environment. The real problem is that of regulation.

Rare earth elements tend to be found in the same places as thorium. Current regulations in the USA treat thorium as a weapon grade material since, in theory, thorium can be used to produce uranium-233 which, in theory, can be used to produce a "Little Boy" style bomb. There's a couple problems with that. Producing uranium from thorium requires neutron bombardment and, if the process does not remove the uranium from the neutron source quickly enough, separation of the different uranium isotopes produced. This is not an easy process and would take considerable effort to produce. The other problem with using uranium-233 in a weapon is that no one has successfully demonstrated it as workable. There was one such bomb produced and it fizzled out.

Unlike uranium, which occurs naturally in different isotopes, thorium exists naturally in only one isotope. There is no such thing as "enriched" thorium since it is already better than 99.9% pure out of the ground. There are some traces of other isotopes but only so much that it is barely detectable.

Because the mining of rare earths produces tails containing everything but the rare earths that are extracted the natural thorium in the tails is almost always of a concentration that it would be considered high level nuclear waste. No one wants to pay to dispose of this since that would destroy their profits. China doesn't worry about this, they just pile up the thorium ore.

It's perfectly safe to pile up the thorium ore because it is not water soluble, it won't contaminate the water. It's quite dense, so it does not tend to blow away in the wind. It's a heavy element but it's not fissile, so it's not going to go critical and glow in the dark. It's radioactive but the half life is more than 14 billion years, meaning it's radioactive in a more theoretical sense. It's an alpha particle emitter, so when it does decay the radiation emitted is stopped by the skin, clothing, or a short distance through the air.

Thorium as a commonly used element for many years to make gas lamp mantles because it made a very intense and white light when heated. It also made some interesting alloys and was used to make optical lenses. This ended when the federal government thought that someone might use thorium to make a bomb, even though their own experiments proved it to be a poor fuel to build a bomb.

So, here we are. We buy our rare earth elements from China where they pile up the thorium ore like worthless and inert sand, because that is what it is. We don't dare do the same here because someone might take that sand and put it in a nuclear reactor to make weapon grade uranium, because if you have enough enriched uranium to make a reactor then... my head hurts just trying to follow the logic.

The laws in the USA on nuclear materials are stupid. Because of our own stupid laws we cannot mine our own rare earth elements.

We could make that thorium useful, not just for gas lamp mantles, but to produce energy. Thorium can be put in a reactor to make uranium but the uranium is worthless for bombs. What it is useful for is producing energy. An experimental thorium reactor was built decades ago but the technology was abandoned. If we could have some sane laws on radioactive materials then we'd not only solve our rare earth supply problem but our energy supply problem.

To those that think that a thorium reactor would produce a bunch of nuclear waste, or potentially blow up like Chernobyl, need to look up the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, LFTR. The acronym is often pronounced as "lifter". Look it up, you will be impressed.

Comment Re:We should speed this up (Score 1) 263

To your questions: (1) you use engines without rare earth elements? The difference in efficiency is negligible. They weight more, that basically is it. If you fear pollution, you tax the pollution and set up laws to avoid it. Like for everything else.

Why do you hate poor people? You propose taxing energy use and also raising the costs of obtaining the rare earth elements needed to make them more efficient. People need to get shit done and that takes energy. By making energy artificially expensive, and artificially limiting access to the materials to reduce energy use then you have reduced the ability for people to get shit done, and therefore created more poor people. In which case I may conclude you do in fact not hate poor people, which is also why you wish to make more people poor.

(2) Same as (1), except I would not know what "rare earth" you would need for a frame of a car. Never heard about anything except steel, aluminium and plastics for car frames.

Perhaps if you read the same article that you provided a link to you'd see that rare earth elements are used in aluminum and steel alloys used in car frames.

Somewhere you lost me in your brute force paragraph :D solar power is soon the cheapest power on the planet and available plentiful.

I've been hearing that solar will win out "soon" for thirty years. I'm tired of waiting. I say while people like yourself go looking to make solar power "cheap and plentiful" the rest of us go about drilling for oil & gas, and build more nuclear power plants. Or people like yourself can take a long walk off a short pier, I don't care much which you choose as I suspect the result will be much the same.

Comment Re:"US reactor" What exactly does that mean? (Score 3, Interesting) 117

It's not NIMBY that stops nukes. It's an electricity price of 14 cents/kwh and that's with the government providing free insurance.

Have you thought about why the government is providing insurance? Nuclear power reactors have a history of getting their license revoked by that same government for seemingly no reason. No insurance company is going to insure that because there are simply too many unknowns, the biggest one is the government itself. No bank will lend money for any construction project unless it is insured, nuclear power plants included. To make sure the government won't pull a license on a whim the other investors require some government monetary stake in the project. This means that everyone involved wants to see the government pay for the project if they pull the license.

Few other industries work this way because few other industries have such long construction times and such a high rate of construction licenses getting pulled in the middle of the project. The high cost of nuclear power is because the government has a history of changing the rules. If the government didn't keep changing the rules then the price would come down. Any project that takes longer than the two year election cycle to complete runs the risk of the rules changing. Part of the reason these nuclear power plants take so long to complete is because the rules keep changing. The longer a project goes on the more expensive it becomes.

The cost, the long completion times, and the need for government insurance is all because the federal government cannot make up its mind on what the rules are for nuclear power. This will continue so long as we have a major political party that is openly hostile to nuclear power.

Then one might feel compelled to ask, why would any political party oppose nuclear power? Perhaps it is because of the high costs and long completion times. In other words, we have politicians that oppose nuclear power solely based on the problems they created for it.

Comment Re:We should speed this up (Score 1) 263

Solar Panels don't use rare earthes btw ...

That's nice but how do you propose a solar powered society to work without rare earth magnets for electric cars? Frames for those electric cars, if they are to be light weight and strong, need rare earth elements. Energy efficient lighting needs rare earth elements. Every modern convenience we have today relies on rare earth elements in some way.

Society has been able to get where it is now without rare earth elements because we've brute forced the problems. We were able to brute force the problems because we had cheap and plentiful coal power. If we lose access to cheap and plentiful coal, and have to rely on expensive and diffuse solar power, then we cannot brute force the problems any more. That means using the technologies that rare earth elements, and only rare earth elements, can provide.

Your statement is true but also misses the point.

Comment Re:aint none (Score 2) 87

Makes me wonder what implications this has for gun control. The Democrats are working hard to recreate the failed assault weapons ban, what if they are successful and a handful of states pass opposing laws? Will AR-15 rifles be legal in Colorado but not Wyoming?

I think the federal government set themselves up for failure by not legalizing marijuana a decade ago. Now we have a precedent of federal law getting overruled by state law. If the federal government wants to claim that federal law is supreme then they fucked up a long time ago.

Comment Re:Redundant Systems (Score 3, Insightful) 170

I agree. The US GPS, Navstar, is quite durable but it still requires a very extensive system to keep functional. It's also quite likely very expensive too but given it's capability the cost to benefit likely still falls in Navstar's favor over any ground based system.

The problem with a satellite navigation system is that if anything goes wrong that can affect many satellites, like the solar storm you mention, the means to repair or replace it is limited. We cannot simply fly up to a satellite and fix it. The only thing we can do is launch a replacement. If the satellite is truly dead then we'd lack the ability to re-orbit or de-orbit it and get it out of the way of the replacement satellite. It will be a hazard to subsequent satellites for 10,000 years. Launching satellites is limited to the number of spares on the ground and/or the rate in which they can be manufactured, as well as the rate in which they can be launched.

There are a number of ground based systems that augment or assist satellite navigation, WAAS is one that comes to mind, but they rely on satellite signals to operate. I assume it would be relatively trivial to allow these systems to operate autonomously but I've seen no effort to do so.

LORAN, VOR, and other ground based navigation aids are quite valuable in that being land based they can be repaired and replaced with much greater ease than anything in orbit. If there is an extended outage of satellite navigation then I'd expect ground based systems to get put into use relatively quickly but when talking about replacing an entire constellation of satellite navigation aids "relatively quickly" can still mean months, or even years. In the mean time we'd likely see many flights cancelled or put on longer routes because of reduced navigation capability. This would no doubt come at great expense and inconvenience. Had the US designed Navstar to integrate with ground based systems from the start then we'd never see this threat since the value of ground based navigation would be much more obvious and we'd not see systems like LORAN lose interest, and then funding, and then get destroyed.

Given the way that governments operate we'll see funding for ground based navigation fade to nothing until something happens to the satellites. At which point large sums of money will be allocated quickly with all the waste and corruption inherent with that panic. At which point, if we are lucky enough to have some smart people get paired up with some politically connected people, we just might get a very durable navigation system that integrates ground and satellite navigation seamlessly.

I doubt we'll be so lucky.

Slashdot Top Deals

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

Working...