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Comment Addendum (Score 1) 350

FWIW, the conditions for speech to not fall under the first amendment is that the speech must advocate "imminent lawless action". So, your co-worker spouting off about how he wants to kill infidels is legal under the first amendment because it is not imminent. He's just advocating lawless action at some unspecified time in the future.

Comment Would you object if there were due process? (Score 1) 350

a list which has no Due Process to be either listed or removed?

Would you object if there were due process to be listed or removed?

How would the due process to be listed work? Someone on the terrorism watch list hasn't committed a crime yet, and they're innocent until they have committed a crime, so how could due process be applied to bar an innocent person from their 2nd amendment rights? Can you suggest any mechanism whereby a suspected "lone wolf terrorist" could be denied a gun purchase through due process? (You can't really charge a lone wolf with conspiracy if they've only made threatening but non-specific comments to their family, co-workers, on twitter, etc.)

If you think that every non-criminal should be allowed to purchase firearms, then just cut to the chase and say so.

Comment One of many feedback mechanisms (Score 4, Informative) 170

Believe it or not, you're not the first person to think of feedback loops at work in climate change. There are many known feedback mechanisms (relevant wikipedia article), both negative and _positive_. Let's not pretend that the "Net Primary Productivity" feedback mechanism (what you're talking about) will save us. In fact, it seems to be a pretty weak feedback loop compared to feedback loops that are at work. After all, we're burning up a _lot_ of dead plants (many of them from the days when the earth was covered with jungles). We'd need a lot of new plants to make up for it, and they'd have to show up pretty fast to overpower the other feedback mechanisms. It's easy to see that this feedback loop isn't too strong: just look at the amount of biomass around us and compare it to how much was there 50 years ago. The amount of biomass hasn't changed much even though the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has gone up an appreciable amount.

These feedback loops are included in climate models. No one pretends that we fully understand them or model them exactly, but people have put a lot of thought into them and have a decent grasp of their workings.

Comment Easier said than done (Score 2) 170

Let's crunch some numbers.

The largest tree planting project that I know of is the Civilian Conservation Core which planted about 3 billion trees in the US over about a decade (source).

Let's say that a 40-year-old tree is sequestering about 1 ton of CO2 (source, and yes, I realize this will vary a lot based on species and location, but we need to start somewhere).

So, let's say that we magically plant 3 billion trees tomorrow. That will sequester 3e9 trees*2e3 lbs/tree*4.54e-13 lbs/gigatonne / 40 years = 0.068 gigatonnes/year of CO2 sequestered. (Note that ton and tonne are different.) In comparison, the US produces about 1.4 gigatonnes a year (source).

I'm not saying that sequestering CO2 in rock is a better scheme, but planting a few *billion* trees won't solve our problem.

(PS. someone check my math. It's easy to screw these calculations up.)

Comment Trains are incredibly efficient (Score 2) 220

Even if these were diesel trains (they're actually electric), there would be a significant reduction in pollution because trains are incredibly efficient and trucks are not. All things being equal, a gallon of diesel fuel will move one ton of cargo over 200 miles on a railroad (or over 400 miles, depending on your reference). Trucks are nowhere close to that efficient.

It's hard to overstate how efficient trains are at moving cargo; no other land method comes close. (You can only do better on boats/barges.)

Comment Maybe not so on budget and on time... (Score 4, Informative) 220

I'm no expert on the AlpTransits project (which includes the Gotthard Base Tunnel and a number of other new tunnels), but the whole project seems to have been on budget in part because they cut stuff. For example, the Loetschberg Base Tunnel, which is the second longest tunnel in this project, is opened but not complete. They just stopped part way through and declared it good enough (one bore is up and running -- I've been through it -- but the other isn't finished). Or, as wikipedia puts it:

Due to the soaring costs of the AlpTransit initiative, funds were diverted to the Gotthard Base Tunnel; and the LBT [Loetschberg Base Tunnel] is only half finished.

Even worse, work on the Zimmerberg Base Tunnel is suspended -- possibly without plans to complete it.

The whole "on budget and in time" thing doesn't sound so miraculous in context: the Gotthard Base Tunnel is part of a larger project that is neither on time nor on budget. However, the Swiss government sure did a good job spinning it that way.

Comment Useless abstractions (Score 1) 76

Those are the second order effects that I talked about, and they're irrelevant for this question. If you win a grant, then yes the school does take a cut, but there is money earmarked for an individual researcher. If you don't win a grant, then no money is earmarked for you. The question is: do you win a grant or not. That's it.

You're making this more complicated than it really is. Let's take your logic a step further. You argue that because all the money is sitting in the school's bank account, then all the school's money has a bit of government grant mixed in since the source of the money is indistinguishable. But the money sitting in a bank is indistinguishable too. The money from the university just sits in a big pool inside the bank -- along with the money from all other bank accounts, so by your logic all checking accounts in the bank also have government grant money in them too! In fact, if you and your neighbor use the same bank, then your money is your neighbor's money and vice versa because it's all sitting in the same pool inside the bank! If your neighbor writes a check to someone at another bank, then some of your money is now in everyone's account at the other bank too! Declaring that money is distinguishable is a useful and self-consistent construct, just like money as a whole is a useful and self-consistent construct. Just go with it.

Comment Grants, Grants, Grants (Score 2) 76

(I assume that you're in the US since you consider the case where the government might only contribute 5% of a university's budget.)

Second order effects like the school's general fund getting a pinch government money are irrelevant. The question is whether the research is being directly payed for, in full or in part, by a government grant (e.g. NSF, NIH, DOE, DARPA). US researchers already have to state government funding sources in publications, so there's not much ambiguity about whether research is being funded by a government grant. Look at the acknowledgement section of a research article and you'll see something like

Work at UCSB was supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (BES) under Award No. DE-SC0010689. Computational resources were provided by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, which is supported by the DOE Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231.

(Taken from a random physics article.)

It's not that complicated.

Comment Bad example (Score 1) 267

It's just like the air traffic control system "upgrade" they've been working on for nearly 30 years. The contractors have ZERO incentive to ever provide a working product. Much better to keep in in development forever.

Next Generation Air Transportation System started initial planning in 2003 (nowhere close to 30 years ago), and the actual implimentation started some time later. It was always planned to be a slow rollout, in part because aircraft would have to be fitted with new equipment, and airlines did want to rush to do that.

Moreover, many parts of the system are already working. For example, see the section in the linked article on noise pollution. The system is efficient in that it can pack more planes in a given amount of airspace and can better make the planes follow the same route. If you live under the flightpath that kind of sucks, since the system being efficient means more noise above your head. The increase in noise pollution complains is a signal that the system is working!

There are many examples of the problem you mentioned, but this isn't really one of them. This is the system working basically as intended: slow but steady progress to update multiple intertwined, critical systems that can't reasonably be replaced all at once.

Comment Because money (Score 1) 630

In principle, nothing. In practice, the cost of the equipment to do it. Plus, your garage hydrogen generator probably won't be that energy efficient. Industrial-scale hydrogen generation isn't super efficient, so I'd bet that your garage hydrogen generator would be even less efficient.

The equipment would probably be heavily regulated, because this is a lot different than simply having a propane tank in your back yard or an electric car charger in your garage. If you're _generating_ (rather than simply storing) an explosive, highly pressurized gas in a residential neighborhood, your neighbors will want your garage hydrogen generator to inspected periodically to ensure that it's in working order. I certainly wouldn't what a ghetto hydrogen generator next door to me.

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