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Comment Re:What he took away is more precious than given (Score 1) 1613

Steve's genius was in predicting the things nobody thought they wanted until he showed it to them.

Star Wars, for example.

(Darn, can't find a link -- but it was in one of the Star Wars documentaries. Jobs attended a screening of a rough cut of Star Wars, along with other friends of Lucas, many of whom went on to become big-name directors. Most of them were somewhat puzzled by what they saw; Jobs was the only one who went up to Lucas and told him, "You're going to make a TON of money with this!!")

Comment Re:How many... (Score 1) 897

Honda is working on a home hydrogen fuel station that connects to your water main and somehow generates hydrogen from the water mains. Not sure how that is accomplished.

The "how" is electrolysis.

Now as to what is accomplished: it lets you consume four times the amount of electricity to move your H2-powered car a given distance, as compared to an EV or plug-in hybrid.

On top of that, H2 is difficult to store on board the car in much better energy densities than you can get with the latest batteries. So you get a similar range, only with the added excitement of possible leaks and explosions. Neat!

Comment Re:And Uma takes an early lead... (Score 1) 300

Pretty clear to me. The intention was for the U.S. to NOT have a permanent, standing army in peacetime. Rather, responsible members of the citizenry would form a well-regulated militia force, able to go retrieve weapons from town armories, and then use them effectively, when threats presented themselves.

The fact that we've abandoned that idea, and are maintaining a permanent army in peacetime... well, one could argue that we threw out the 2nd amendment long ago.

Comment Re:And Uma takes an early lead... (Score 1) 300

"... we fixed our gun laws. Norway will do the same. Any weapon that can kill 80 fleeing humans is not appropriate for civilians."

To be fair, the reason the body count was so high was not about the weapon; rather, it was the amount of time the terrorist was able to carry out his assault -- nearly an hour and a half. The police department was not adequately equipped to deal with a madman on that island; they had no helicopter, and their first boat broke down. The main change Norway needs is to invest more resources into their existing domestic security system.

Comment Re:And Uma takes an early lead... (Score 1) 300

I kept thinking, about the attack in Norway, if it had been a US camp there would have been a range, and if someone had the keys to the guns they wood have shot the guy long before the cops arrived.

And if the cops had had a helicopter, they would have arrived before such a solution would have made much difference.

Norway just needs to invest more resources into its domestic security apparatus -- not give their police more powers, not institute paranoid restrictions on their citizenry -- and certainly not flood their nation with guns.

Like the U.S. has.

Comment Re:And Uma takes an early lead... (Score 1) 300


No, it's supposed to be for allowing the citizenry to form a "well-regulated militia," instead of the country having a permanent standing army.

Since we've wound up going with the permanent standing army instead, that means we've already pretty much thrown out hte 2nd amendment already.
It's now used in a bastardized context, by gun nuts who want to prevent reasonable safety laws from getting in the way of their fun and/or paranoia.

Comment Re:Solar to Hydrocarbons (Score 1) 410

... I've recently changed my opinion to favoring solar heavily. Specifically, solar to various hydrocarbons.

What you're talking about is storage of energy, to smooth out unevenness in demand vs. supply. Sounds like you're focusing on storing in the form of gasoline, for powering cars at a later time.

But using solar energy directly as electricity has a lot of growth remaining before storage even starts to even become an issue. And when it does, you need to look at the full picture:

- Demand shifting can further defer the need for storage. For example, a relatively new trend in air conditioning for large buildings is to manufacture ice at night, which is then used to help cool the air during the day. This takes advantage of lower electric rates at night due to the excess supply from fossil sources, as well as improved efficiency in the ice making itself, due to cooler air temps. But when the installed base of solar becomes large enough that the cheapest rates are in the daytime on sunny days, you could easily switch the ice-making to those times. Of course, excess supply from wind sources at night could often keep the cheapest rates where they are now.

- By the time the installed solar base is large enough to need to worry about storage, the electric car fleet will be substantial. Most of these cars will be commuter cars, so that means that workplaces will need to have charging available. But that seems a relatively minor infrastructure improvement. And again, wind energy will usually be providing cheap rates at night as well.

- Battery technology is is getting a lot of investment attention these days, and in the next decade we're probably going to see the installation of very large flow-type batteries or similar on the grid. These are already very useful for smoothing out demand/supply fluctuations, and protecting against cascading failures. They will be one of the most efficient means of storing excess renewable energy of all kinds.

Only after all these options are at capacity would we start talking about storage by way of driving chemical reactions. And there, yes, making gasoline might make sense, because long-haul trucking and airplanes really need that energy density. But then again, by the time we get there, battery storage may be very competitive -- especially when you take the inefficiency of manufacturing gasoline from scratch into account.

And if you're talking about making gasoline or some such from solar in the near term, for use in the current fleet of cars, there are still problems. True, you'll be supplanting fossil-carbon use from oil, but you'd most likely be able to supplant many times the amount of fossil carbon from coal and natural gas if you put that solar energy into the grid. Even generating hydrogen loses 75% of the energy, if you're converting that H2 back into electricity. The other options above give you far more bang for your solar-investment buck.

Also, generating gasoline from solar only serves to boost the lifetime of the gas-based transportation industry, and all the ill health effects that go with it. It would soak up a lot of the innovative energy/investment that could otherwise go to building a clean infrastructure.

Comment Re:new scientist (Score 1) 337

The articles changed in tone -- to me they are trying to adopt Wired's pop-geek approach, compromising the technical depth...

There have been formatting changes numerous times since the 90's (in both SciAm and Science News). Certainly, SciAm in 1990 looked much more like a dry technical journal than it does now. But having gotten used to each new change, I'm not convinced that it's really being dumbed down. There's more (or different) decoration around the articles, but the content of the articles is still quite rich, generally. In fact, I can't even think of what the change was 2 years ago that you're talking about...

Comment Re:new scientist (Score 4, Interesting) 337

Scientific American is amongst the least accessible of this type imo.

Not sure what you mean by "accessible", because I find it very readable in every subject area -- physics, biology, geology, what have you -- even though I have little or no training in any of those beyond some basic high school or college classes. (my degree is in C.S.)

And I still find new ideas and concepts in there that just knock my socks off -- the small-molecule theory of the origin of life, for example. This even though I've been reading it and Science News for nearly 30 years now.

Comment Re:Contempt (Score 4, Interesting) 226

Mind listing some of that unconscionable behavior here? I'm an employee at the former Sun, but I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to the wider business world since the takeover (I'm also just getting back into reading Slashdot...). The main effect of the takeover on me personally has been improved job security in the near term, so I'm curious what else is going on. Thanks.

Comment Re:Thanks (Score 1) 256

<blockquote>But Atlantis and her sisters' record of achievement is magnificent, and will probably never be matched. They launched space probes, they ... [long list of different kinds of tasks]...</blockquote>

That was actually the most fundamental problem: we tried to have a single piece of equipment do too many different things.

In software, this is called "incoherence". Basically, if you have one object that you rely on to do too many different things, then you're asking for bugs. Such a module needs to be broken up into multiple ones, each one with a clear purpose.

The shuttle was intended to be:

        - A launcher/lander for human passengers
        - A cargo launcher/lander
        - A space station (it could support 7+ astronauts in orbit for multiple weeks)
        - A service vehicle
        - An experiment bay

And on top of that, it was intended to be reusable, despite the fact that this most-complex machine had to be put through extreme vibration and other duress every time it was used.

A proper space program would break everything into more manageable pieces:
        - Human launcher/lander for max 4 persons, which has a single in-orbit task: docking with a space station
        - Separate cargo launcher/lander (can be much cheaper, and doesn't need as high a reliability factor)
        - A minimal human-habitation module for orbit: supports 1 astronaut for some week or months, or 1 year or more with a supply module attached. A space station would include 2 of these modules for every crew member
        - Interconnect module
        - Science-bay module(s)
        - rec room or other "common room" modules for space station crews to gather
        - in-orbit propulsion modules -- probalbly ion engines -- to maintain or adjust a station's orbit

Each module would have its own 2- or 3-year design cycle, with new & improved designs going into production on each cycle. One or more space stations would be assembled from various assortments of the standard modules. A station's old and/or obsolete versions of modules would be periodically jettisoned, and replaced with modules of the newest designs. The engine module would be steadily improved in power, to the point where a "station" could become an earth-moon shuttle, or eventually earth-NEO or earth-mars transporters.

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