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Comment Re:DEA already has rescheduled and overruled itsel (Score 1) 145

Actually, their constitutional authority to exist is that the Executive Branch calls them into existence to execute the provisions of laws passed by the Legislative branch.

It took a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol, and that amendment has been repealed. This leaves no authority for any branch of the government to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or use of any drug. Any act of the congress that purports to do so is not a law at all, it is as James Madison would describe it, a usurpation.

-jcr

Comment Re:Not Just The Middle (Score 1) 326

>We've reached a point where AI in medical diagnosis is more accurate then human doctors

I've gone to a talk on this subject at UCSF.

For some tests, yes, but not overall. Watson, hype excluded, cannot replace a human doctor.

There's certainly benefit to it, but in the short-mid term, doctors are in no danger of losing their jobs.

Comment Re:Woosh. (Score 1) 53

You're probably right about your assessment of Natural Gas's ability to change the industry. But the fact that these guys have several billion dollars of orders stacked up shows there are companies that are interested and see the value it in. I think Nikola's engineers aren't operating in the dark here. They are well aware of what natural gas can do. It's easy to pretend they don't know what they are doing. We can't just use our armchair logic to summarily dismiss them. I hope they succeed.

Good point about specs. As they say, "there's no replacement for displacement." I'm not sure I'd say engines are "detuned" though. Bigger displacement engines do have a better torque curve than smaller ones. Remember an engine will develop as much horsepower as the load requires up to the limits set on the fuel system. At highway speeds your tractor may be using a fraction of the maximum rated horsepower. Start climbing a hill and this goes up to the max pretty quickly. Also starting out from a dead stop uses most of the engine's power too (torque is often limited in low gears to prevent breaking things).

An 850 hp bulldozer can use up to 850 but probably often isn't generating that much power. And it's all going through a steep gear reduction, so the torque demands on the engine may not be that great. We can't really compare a bulldozer to a semi truck tractor.

Comment For the Bank of Russia it's not even pocket change (Score 2) 48

It's just numbers on a spreadsheet. The Bank of Russia is Russia's central bank and there is literally no amount of money you can steal from a central bank that will harm it. That's because they're the people who issue the fiat in "fiat currency".

The harm is to the economy as a whole, in the form of inflation. In this case we're talking about the release of thirty one million spurious extra bucks into a two trillion dollar economy. Just a tiny bit of inflation, diluted to homeopathic concentrations and applied to everyone who uses rubles.

Of course the bank has to pursue this because it undermines confidence in the system, but this is as close to a victimless crime as any illegal way of obtaining thirty-one million dollars can be.

Comment Great idea to do this with a truck (Score 3, Interesting) 53

Although trucks are highly regulated they also happen to be a lot easier to use a platform for this kind of experimentation. For one an extra 1000 pounds isn't going to impact performance (though it will reduce freight capacity). Some truckers tell me just ice and snow can add a couple of thousand pounds to their trucks in the winter. Anyway plenty of room to play around with different drive trains and power systems, which is what this company seem to have done.

I've always been skeptical of hydrogen as a means of of energy storage, but if the numbers are right this is pretty good, for a range of about 800 miles. 1000 hp and 2000 ft-pounds of torque are definitely good numbers for a class 8 truck. The truck I drive sometimes is only 500 hp and 1800 ft-pounds of torque, and pulls 63500 KG GVW (only on flat roads and not fast). So this should easily go up and down mountains. And with no transmission to shift, the power will be smooth and efficient. I'm thinking they've had their prototypes on the road for some time now, so it will be interesting to see how quickly they can really bring this to actual market (start leasing them to real drivers and real companies).

The articles I've read don't talk a lot about how the refueling is done and pouring liquid cryogenic fluids is pretty dangerous. So we shall see. And we don't know much about other details like if the drive train can act as a big engine brake. It's pretty funny how the media reacts to things like this. Instead of focusing on the truly interesting aspects of the truck like the power cell and drive train, they focus on the cab and how it has a nice sleeper with a microwave oven! Hilarious.

Anyway, coming from someone who actually has a CDL and drives trucks on occasion, I'm quite interested to see where this goes.

Comment I find this kind of depressing. (Score 1) 115

I'm all for things that go boom. I love weird, clever little gadgets. I admire a clever and subtle subversion of a system, even when I don't condone its use.

But geez; this thing is not exactly elegant. It uses a fairly basic circuit to exploit the completely unsurprising fact that the interface isn't designed to handle high voltages.

Comment Re:Not much. I do look at data which may upset you (Score 3, Interesting) 251

Attempting to simplify the crises in Syria by pointing at climate change seriously under states all other factors. Hell, one of your own links (the usda one) clearly shows that Syria has been able to meet its needs IF allowed via imports

The USDA link shows no such thing; it shows Syria eating up its reserves as it fails to import enough wheat to make up the shortfall. Yes, Assad underwrote the price of bread, but there wasn't enough subsidized bread to meet demand, forcing people to buy non-subsidized bread which increased in price six-fold. The net bread expenditure went up by 20% in a country where many people spend half their income on food.

I'm not a reductionist; situations like this have multiple important factors. The Assad/Islamist thing had been simmering for decades -- generations really. Had that situation been different, the climate shock might not have destabilized the country. In point of fact bread prices were an issue throughout the Middle East and a major factor in the Arab Spring. Syria was arguably better positioned than most other Arab countries, but the stress of having 5% of your population displaced on top of the deep and old fault lines broke the country apart.

This is precisely how climate shock is going to work. It won't be like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water; it'll be formerly rare occurrences happening more frequently and stressing vulnerable populations. Take sea level rise; cities won't drown slpowly, but what was once a hundred year flood will become twenty year flood. That will stress coastal cities, and the results depend on how stable and wealthy a particular city is.

For example were sea level to rise almost a meter by 2100 (as is now within the scope of mainstream positions), the very wealthy coastal city I live in would go the Venice route and build a tidal barrier, which would conservatively cost at least ten billion dollars. Chittagong Bengladesh, however, will be screwed. My city has twice the GDP of Bengladesh as a whole even though it has 3% of the population.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 326

Economy does not work that way, sorry. Hawking should read from a real economist, like Milton Friedman.

Although I generally respect economists within their domain of expertise, they do have a habit of blithely extrapolating from their models to the unknowable, or even the impossible. For example once I was at a symposium on limits to the Earth's carrying capacity. A physicist pointed out that since life is eventually sustained by solar energy, there are at least thermodynamic limits to the number of people you can support on a single planet. The economist on the panel contradicted him, claiming that the carrying capacity of the Earth was infinite. His justification was that all past attempts to put a Malthusian limit on population growth had run afoul of human innovation.

Now he's correct about summarizing the situation *thus far*, but that's only from a few centuries of economic experience that covers an insignificant fraction between the status quo and infinite population.

Now the real problem with futurism, aside from simply getting things wrong (e.g., the counter-intuitive link between higher wealth and lower birth rate), is judging precisely when something that's bound to happen is going happen. If we *do* continue to increase population, eventually we will reach the point where we won't be able to grow it any farther. But we won't know the precise moment we're going to hit the wall until we actually do.

Likewise unless you take a mystical view of thought, eventually computers are going to get better at it than we are. And when that day comes, we'll be obsolete as thought-workers. However we're very far from that now. What I think will happen is that the nature of work will change so rapidly people will find employment to be unstable. I believe what we'll see increasing levels of intractable structural unemployment: square pegs trying to fit themselves into round holes because the square holes have been filled in.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 326

I think this Friedman quote still has relevance though:

Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it's jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.

Does it really serve a purpose if you make it harder than it needs to be? And self-driving cars will be a benefit to everyone else. I can go down to the store and get a liter of milk for next to nothing because of milking robots and other automation, if I had to pay a living wage for someone to pull a cow's teats it would cost a *lot* more. All those stores who transport goods will get cheaper. The money people don't pay on taxis will be spent on other things. Everyone can spend their commute watching TV instead of wasting home time. It'll be more practical to live further from the office. Elderly might get around more and live more fulfilling lives. Large groups of people would have the benefits of a private driver, previously a rare luxury. In ways perhaps even better, since you get total discretion and it's always at your whim 24x7.

Assuming you can still find a job, of course. But we've been pretty inventive about creating new needs and services once we could afford to. The burger flipper might be on the way out, I doubt the chef is. A robot vacuum cleaner isn't scrubbing the bathroom or dusting the furniture. The electric lawn mower doesn't do flower beds or trimming the hedge. The washing machine doesn't pair my socks or iron my shirts. Of course you might say that one day we'll have a "I, Robot" assistant that'll do absolutely everything a human does cheaper and better but that's not in 10 or 50 years. Neither is self-repairing, self-replicating and self-evolving robots that work almost by themselves.

Real wages in the US has been flat for quite some time now, but at the same time you've had a massive influx of cheap labor on the global market depressing wages. You don't get a zillion Chinese or Indian employees working for a pittance anymore, when you look at the whole world workers are getting better paid. If it keeps going up, sooner or later it will return to growth in the US too because US wages are normal wages and not super expensive wages anymore. There is no magic that makes Americans stay far ahead of the pack forever, even though that how it's been in the past with the old world destrroying itself with world wars and an illiterate, primitive third world. There are smart people other places too, when they get the opportunity.

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