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Comment Re:Is there a thing called time? (Score 2) 167

I suspect strongly that the universe does have a clock.

Consider the Cosmic Microwave Background. The average temperature of the CMB is a function of the age of the universe, and should be pretty close to the same for any given reference point. Yes, I'd agree it isn't a very accurate clock, but it is indeed a clock.

Similar arguments work with the distance to the cosmic horizon.

Comment Re:Frankenbugs (Score 1) 112

... The scientists will sit back in their air-conditioned offices and say, well I guess we were wrong about that but at least we advanced science by performing this experiment.

Probably the biggest experiment that we'd be conducting is about pollination. Mosquitoes (and other flies) do pollinate quite a few plant species.

Sometimes pollination is incredibly fussy and sometimes only one species specializes in pollinating a given plant. So one of the unintended consequences here might be the disappearance of one or more plant species. Of course, something else absolutely critical to the ecosystem will depend on one or more of the plants that are no longer pollinated...

It is obvious that mother nature loves to write spaghetti code.

Comment Re:Why do I even NEED a password? (Score 1) 498

Two factor authentication is a thing.

If they require a special character and uppercase in their passwords, I usually add something like ";DROP TABLE users;" to the end of my password -- that'll show 'em.

I still haven't figured out why somebody's blog needs 16-character passwords with a dozen rules and the IRS settles for a five-digit PIN code....

Comment Re:Russian hacking (Score 1) 251

Yes, as a completely fabricated story without any basis in fact or proof. This was a democrat talking point and was denied by Assange multiple times.

The DNC attack used twitter and photos posted to algorithmically generated accounts to exfiltrate data. The algorithms and encryption keys were identical to other attacks attributed to the Russians, most notably the JCS and White House Executive office attacks.

The attackers honored Russian government holidays and working hours compatible with people working in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Word documents provided by Wikileaks were produced on a machine with a version of MS Word registered to the Russian Government. Later Word documents provided by Wikileaks had that provenance sanitized before release, along with mac addresses and IP addresses of the host where the document was produced.

Nope, no evidence at all.

Comment Re: Clearly (Score 4, Insightful) 194

I am often struck by the way that the current debate about intermittent renewable power is strikingly similar to the arguments between net heads and bell heads two decades previously. The funny part from a historical standpoint is that both were kind of right.

You also miss an important point. The other factor that is important in power generation is if it is dispatchable. By dispatchable I mean can she adjust the power generated quickly to meet demand. Current nuclear and coal plants require long startup times and current nuclear plants can't throttle their power output very well, which makes them much less valuable in a world with a lot of renewables. Combined-cycle natural gas, on the other hand, is easy and quick to start up so it is very dispatchable.

There are a few other factors that somewhat mitigate the intermittent nature of solar and wind. The first one, kind of obvious, is that you know more or less in the near future how much power you will be able to produce from these sources (we know when the sun rises and sets, and weather forecasts 24 hours out are fairly accurate -- especially if you just want to know if it will be sunny or windy). The other is that if we have a larger geographical distribution for solar and wind, the intermittency problem is somewhat mitigated -- it is unlikely to be cloudy and windless everywhere at the same time. Finally, there are other ways to store energy than batteries. If you have an old-style hot water heater rather than an on-demand system, you are essentially storing energy in the hot water tank -- and it would be plausible to have a system that would heat your hot water when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. You can do similar things with heating and air conditioning systems in buildings, and even to a lesser extent in refrigerators or freezers.

You will still need some storage, but probably not as much as you think.

Comment Re:Full employment for .... (Score 1) 364

There are reasons to go solar that don't necessarily correlate to economies of scale. My own story is a case in point. I broke down and installed an 8kw array on my roof, mainly as backup power. Where I live we've had a few catastrophic power outages in recent years (caused by fires). When I worked out the cost on a generator, piping from the propane tank to the generator, and a shack to put the generator in, it came out within a MacBook Pro of what that 8kw array, inverter, and installation (I admit I got a deal on the panels, but not much of one) cost. Maintenance is a wash -- either hire a high school kid to shovel snow off the panels a few times each winter and wash the panels a few times each summer or pay some dude to drive out a hundred miles to service the generator once a month. This isn't even considering how much propane costs to run the generator (a lot) or the fact that I can sell surplus sun watts back to the grid.

The thing is that the costs of solar are plummeting. We've seen exactly that cost curve before, in everything from megabytes of ram to gigabytes of disk space and megaflops. But with solar it is for watts. Since there are no moving parts in PV solar (well, except for electrons and holes) the costs per watt will likely asymptotically approach zero over time. Very quickly we are approaching a situation where the dominant part of the costs to go solar are installation costs.

Comment Re:Depends who pays (Score 3, Insightful) 333

It's not economical when you take out the subsidies for solar/wind and the targeted overbearing rules that drive up the price of coal.
Put a number on pollution - all pollution including manufacturing those solar cells, not just local burning gas - then we'll talk.
Expensive Green = Brown

... and of course fossil fuels are never, ever subsidized?

Comment Re:Leave. (Score 1) 433

... any well-ran company will give you an exit interview.

Once, long-ago, I promptly quit because of an abusive coworker. I was somewhat shielded by my immediate supervisor from his depredations but when she quit I was left in the line of fire. I lasted about six more weeks. At my exit interview, the first question out of the interviewer (whom I respected and trusted) was: "You're quitting because of G-----, correct?"

My jaw hit the floor. I didn't realize anyone knew. It turned out damned near the whole company knew about this jerk.

Comment Re:Top 3 promising fusion concepts: (Score 1) 431

Lithium costs a fraction of the deuterium, hence "essentially free". And D-D fusion reactors don't need either tritium or lithium.

At current prices high-purity deuterium oxide costs about $1/gram, so for the deuterium part you have a floor of about 11 cents per gram. Lithium costs about 27 cents per gram. So yes, Lithium costs a fraction of Deuterium -- a fraction greater than 2. Source: Google.

Oh, and we can't even do a D-T reactor at a sustainable level yet, much less the much higher temperatures and pressures required for a D-D reaction.

Comment Re:Top 3 promising fusion concepts: (Score 1) 431

The tritium is bred from lithium, so essentially free.

That has to be the biggest hand wave I have ever seen in my entire life.

I'd just point out a couple of obvious things. First off, the lithium you breed tritium from is very much not free, and since there are different reactions for Lithium-6 and Lithium-7 (both produce Tritium, but the Lithium-7 reaction doesn't consume the neutron, which is probably very important) you probably need to enrich the Lithium somewhat -- which is again very much not free. For all of the hoopla about fusion it doesn't seem like many people are looking at the engineering problems required to build a practical Tritium breeding system.

The other obvious thing is that getting all of the Tritium out of a hunk of Lithium is probably going to be at least a little bit challenging, given that both elements are wickedly reactive and there is the obvious engineering challenge of how much of your Lithium you let react before you extract the Tritium -- obviously you can't go for one hundred percent conversion because the Tritium would just float away, or more likely catch fire.

So no, not "essentially free".

Comment Re:It's even easier than that (Score 1) 110

... then maybe one way to solve it is to have "credit card numbers" be ridiculously large, like 1024 digits. The mag stripe or pin wouldn't care if the number was large for card-present transactions, and you could scan the card number with a camera for online transactions.

Of course, the next step would be to generate a unique "credit card number" for each transaction, that was valid exactly once.

Comment Re:Tech won't fix society (Score 1) 270

So the real problem is, "How do you convince most people who currently believe that those news are real, that they're actually fake." And that is entirely a social problem, which tech cannot and will not solve.

The very long-term solution is to educate the citizens of the Republic in the skill of thinking critically.

I absolutely agree that we are dealing with a social problem, not a technological one. And one that isn't really amenable to a quick technical fix.

It is easy to distinguish "fake" news, propaganda, and out-and-out bullshit if you don't have a dog in the fight. Go watch "Reefer Madness" for one hilarious example. Old WWII newsreels seem similarly mawkish today. And reading *Tass* articles from the 70's and 80's is also instructive. If you watch/read enough of those you can develop a mental model of what bullshit smells like.

My own personal rule of thumb is that I become suspicious of any news that agrees too much with how I view the world.

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"Here's something to think about: How come you never see a headline like `Psychic Wins Lottery.'" -- Comedian Jay Leno