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Comment It's hard to believe. (Score 3, Interesting) 83

The amount of data you need assemble a global navigation system is enormous. You don't hire some intern to transcribe data out of Wikipedia, you license it from companies like Tele Atlas.

Now for geographic place names you'd turn to sources like the USGS GNIS system for the US, whatever the local equivalent of GNIS is, or for places that don't have that datasets like GNIS the DoD's Defense Mapping Agency.

It can't possibly be that Bing gets their place/position data mainly from Wikipedia. The only thing I can think is that they did some kind of union of all the geographic name sources they could find in order to maximize the chance of getting a hit on a place name search, and somehow screwed up prioritizing the most reliable sources first.

Comment Re:You have no rights when applying for entry to a (Score 2) 169

U.S. Constitutional rights are limited to everyone (citizens, foreigners, illegals) in certain U.S. territories. When you're trying to enter the U.S. and are held up at Customs and Immigration, you are not yet considered to be on U.S. soil, so you do not enjoy the protection of U.S. Constitutional rights. This is precisely why Bush put a POW prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. While Guantanamo is controlled by the U.S., it is Cuban territory. And thus prisoners there would not be protected by the U.S. Constitution. (At least until Boumediene v. Bush which decided since the U.S. maintained "de facto sovereignty" over the base, it could be considered U.S. territory.)

Whether U.S. citizens enjoy U.S. Constitutional protections when abroad is an unsettled matter too. The recent drone killings of U.S. citizens fighting for ISIS abroad were done under the presumption that the answer is "no". They are not entitled to due process guaranteed by the 5th and 14th Amendments. If you extend that reasoning (not saying this is correct, just saying if you extend that reasoning), then U.S. citizens trying to re-enter the U.S. do not enjoy Constitutional protection until after they have been admitted.

That's why DHS trying to extend this territorial exclusion to a 100 mile bubble around U.S. entry points (borders and international airports) was so ridiculous and troubling. They were basically trying to make it so anyone within 100 miles of the U.S. border or an international airport did not have Constitutional protection.

Comment Re:I don't normally swear online (Score 1) 295

Invented in the mid 1970s, any patent on it expired in the mid 90s at the latest

Which brings us right back to the FDA only having approved one such product. The patent (and its expiration) is mostly irrelevant. Given that an EpiPen is frequently used in a life-or-death situation, no other manufacturer wants to assume the product liability associated with such a device unless the can shield themselves with the "FDA-approved" label. And the FDA is glacially slow at approving these things; so slow that manufacturers probably figure it's not worth the investment to even bother trying. Thus leaving one company with a government-granted monopoly (just like cable Internet service, whee).

Comment Re:Epinephrine cost per dose in about 50 cents (Score 2) 295

Well, it's the very fact that the alternative is, possibly, death that makes it possible for a company to do this. This thing occupies a peculiar corner case where the demand is modest, but inelastic.

This means a monopolist can milk the market by raising the price to insane levels, but because the market is small no competitor wants to enter it. Were the market to become competitive it is so small that the newly entered competitors wouldn't make much off their efforts. This is contrasted with statins, which are blockbuster drugs. You don't need a very large slice of that pie for the slice to be very large indeed.

The same thing happened last year with Duraprim. If you have toxoplasmosis, you absolutely have to have it. But how many people get toxoplasmosis?

Comment Re:Useful for desalination plants? (Score 1) 78

Well, to answer your question, of course if we covered the entire ocean, or significant fractions of it, sure there'd be undesirable ecological effects. Just like anything else that is scaled up endlessly without allowance for what economists call "externalities".

If you could internalize all externalities then the market would provide a perfect solution without any kind of regulation whatsoever. But since nobody knows how to do that, then I imagine that you'll get two regimes: (1) do whatever you want as long as you grease the the correct palms (in authoritarian states like China) or (2) go through the rigmarole of doing environmental impact studies before getting permits to beuild (in democratic societies).

Comment Re:Ye olde 'negawatts' concept (Score 1) 151

California has given up on bringing new power generation online,

"Almost half of all capacity added in 2013 [across the US] was located in California." "Nearly 60% of the natural gas capacity [across the US] added in 2013 was located in California." http://www.eia.gov/todayinener...

California's total electrical generation capacity has gone from 55,344 MW in 2001, to 79,359 MW in 2015. That's an average increase of 1,644 MW of new capacity going online each and every year.

http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/el...

Energy standards in California call for 33 percent of the stateâ(TM)s power to come from renewables by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030, and so the state is building new wind and solar capacity as fast as possible. The recently built Ivanpah plant was the world's largest, and it's in California, not Arizona, for good reason.

In fact you can get a current list of power plants planned, under construction, and newly online, here:

http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitin...

Conservation is fine is a short-term solution to shortage - of anything - but in the long run there is no substitute for generating more power

California "has one of the lowest per capita total energy consumption levels in the country. California state policy promotes energy efficiency. The state's extensive efforts to increase energy efficiency and the implementation of alternative technologies have restrained growth in energy demand." https://www.eia.gov/state/anal...

Comment Re:Useful for desalination plants? (Score 4, Insightful) 78

I should think not -- at least not in the way you're probably thinking.

The device consists of a wicking layer topped by a light-absorbing layer. This boils water, which produces more or less pure steam. It also leaves the minerals from the water in the wicking layer. If you take distilled water directly away from the device and replace it with fresh seawater, those minerals will build up until the layer is no longer absorbent. On the other hand if all you want is the heat, you run the steam-distilled water through a heat exchanger and return it to the wicking layer, reconstituting the original water.

So it'd probably wouldn't work to use this directly as a steam distiller. However you could use the heat you collect to run a separate steam distiller. That would be very inefficient, but the thing about "renewables" is that conversion efficiency is less important than low installation and operation cost, because you're not paying for your feedstock of energy; any sunshine you don't use would have been wasted anyway. So while it seems physically possible to use this device to power a desalinization plant, whether it makes economic sense depends on whether this is actually the cheapest way to run a plant.

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