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Comment Re:Chinese speakers only (Score 1) 159

fluency in [ mandarin | Chinese ] is a plus

Of course it's a plus. I'm likely to be hiring a group of Mechanical Engineers in the next six months, and I certainly want at least one of them to be fluent in Mandarin to make it easier to work with Chinese suppliers. It would be pretty handy if they speak Korean, Japanese or Hindi, too.

-jcr

Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 1) 182

As a first step you could roll back vehicle weights to what they were 40 years ago.

No, you can't. Vehicles 40 years ago were much smaller inside, much noisier, and far less comfortable. (I assume you're talking about European cars; 40 years ago was 1976, and the American cars of the time were gigantic, although there again they weren't that large inside, but had gigantic engine compartments, and were quite heavy.) People now expect larger, more comfortable vehicles which can seat people who are both taller and fatter than 40 years ago.

Depends on streamlining, and on what "useful speed" means (you said highway speed, not me -- the solar challenge vehicles go much faster than bicycles but not highway speeds),

I'm sorry, the general public does not want to travel at 25mph.

Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 1) 182

That's a good point, but it's going to be a while before we get to that point. A lot of people are going to insist on keeping their non-autonomous cars. But you still have to worry about things like the car sliding off the road due to icy roads, and crash resistance is important there too. Finally, you can't shave *that* much weight off the car even if you stopped worrying about crashworthiness altogether; you can only make a steel box for 4/5 people so light, and still make it ride nicely, not be noisy inside, have comfortable seats, be able to fit people over 6' tall, etc.

As for solar panels, again, no, it's completely impossible. At highway speeds, you need tens of horsepower to overcome air resistance. There's no way you'd get even 10kW out of solar panels on a car's roof and hood, you need a house-size roof for that much. And that's just steady-state cruising, with no acceleration.

Comment Re:US is tops in freight rail (Score 1) 182

US freight rail used to be a lot better. The problem was that back in the 50s, rail was highly regulated, but trucking was then deregulated, so it became cheaper to ship a lot of stuff by truck.

I'm guessing the reason freight rail isn't that great in Europe is because Europe isn't a single country (yet), so getting so many squabbling nations to agree on things and build a continental rail network hasn't been easy. Even worse, the continent was split in two by the Cold War until ~1990, and IIRC, Russia and its buddies used a different rail standard than the western nations which all used the UK standard. We never had either of these problems in the US. Being a single nation, composed of federal states with rather limited power, and occupying a whole continent, has been the biggest factor in our economic success. We tried letting the states have a lot more power back in the late 1700s under the Articles of Confederation and it didn't work out because no one could agree on anything and the central government didn't have the power to overrule them.

Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 1) 182

Vertical-axis mills should be better for another reason, however: they don't care which direction the wind is traveling. Regular (fan-looking) windmills have to be actively turned into the wind. Also, they should have lower maintenance requirements as they should be mechanically simpler (just a straight vertical shaft, no 90-degree turn at the top).

Comment Re:I live not too far from a major highway (Score 2) 182

I live not too far from major highway. Noise and pollution from automobiles worry me. The electric revolution cannot come soon enough

Electric cars aren't going to help your noise problems. With modern cars, most of the noise comes from the tires at high speeds. Electric cars use the same tires as gas cars.

And why the hell do these riders intentionally make their bikes so loud?

Two reasons: 1) many of them actually believe (or claim to believe) all the noise makes them more visible to car drivers, even though it doesn't (it's mainly people behind them who hear all the noise; that isn't helpful for safety), and 2) they're obnoxious people who like to make a nuisance of themselves for attention.

As for beating the shit out of them, they only really annoy me if I'm outside my car, such as when they pull into a gas station or parking lot that I'm at. When I'm inside my car, the noise is a little annoying but generally short-lived and not that high in volume; outside, it's deafening.

Comment Re:Kinda makes sense actually (Score 2) 182

No, what GM needs to do is license their technology from the Volt to other automakers. The biggest problem with the Volt is that it's made by GM, the same company that made defective ignition switches for years and intentionally hid this and murdered people so they wouldn't have to pay for a recall. They're also known for making cars that don't last long and have crappy interiors that fall apart in a few years, and very ugly exteriors too, not to mention very poor driving dynamics.

If I could get that technology in a car made by Honda or Mazda, I'd buy one.

Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 1) 182

Solar-powered cars are physically impossible. There isn't enough photonic energy, even in Arizona, striking the surface of a car to power it. Unless you mean battery-powered cars recharged using solar power, which is completely doable, and already done today (ask anyone who has a Tesla and a bunch of solar panels on their roof).

Solar power is completely viable almost anywhere, not just in equatorial regions and deserts. Germany makes a huge amount of power with it, and their climate is not sunny at all (look at their latitude on a globe). You do need more panel surface area in such places to make up for reduced sunlight though, but it's not that bad.

For windmills, you can use vertical axis windmills to avoid slaughtering birds.

For nuclear ships, there was a nuclear-powered cargo ship made back in the 70s I think. It wasn't used very long; it was simply too expensive to operate. It wound up in a museum in Charleston SC, though I think it's been moved from there now. Nuclear power works great for ships if you're the US Navy, but it's costly and requires extremely well-trained personnel. It's too bad someone like GE hasn't figured out how to make it much simpler to operate and thus cheap enough to build into cargo ships, perhaps as easily-replaced modules, to eliminate fossil fueling. The problem here is that fossil fuels for cargo ships are just too cheap, and there's no emissions laws at sea.

Comment Re:This simply means we're succeeding. (Score 2) 182

The best next thing to tackle is reducing air travel and freight. Air travel should be one of those novelty things that the lucky few can justify, same with having something air freighted, sure its nice to get stuff 2 days, but reality is waiting a week or two isnt a problem. Unless I realllllllly need something fast I choose the slower cheaper shipping, and so what that it took 2 weeks to get something shipped from Florida to Seattle for a home project that can wait.

This is basically wrong, as Amazon has proven.

Of course, if you're buying for a specialty vendor that only has one shipping location that's across the country from you, it's going to take a few days to be shipped over by truck or train.

However, when you buy from a very large retailer like Amazon, they have multiple warehouses. Amazon has one in nearly every state now, last I heard. So when you order from them, depending on what you get, you may very well get it from a warehouse that's not very far from you, so you don't need air freight to get your item quickly. And those warehouses can, of course, be stocked by trucks or trains that take a week to get stuff around.

We really could be using more trains in the US for shipping stuff; it's a lot more efficient than truck, and it's compatible with trucks too, thanks to containerization (meaning you can ship a container from a rail terminal the last few dozen miles to its final destination, instead of driving it across the country with a truck). We've done a really bad job there, considering we used to have a lot more rail shipping.

As for travel, what we need to do is build SkyTran for shorter-distance travel to replace most cars, at least in the suburbs, and for inter-city transport. With pods that can travel at 100-150mph on suspended maglev rails, you'd be able to get around to cities within your region pretty quickly, much faster than by ground car, and probably faster than plane too since there's no TSA. For longer-distance travel, Hyperloop sounds interesting though it hasn't been proven (one problem with it seems to me that the passenger cabin doesn't hold nearly enough people to exploit economies of scale, but if it works out to have lots of pods, like SkyTran, then this might not be a problem). HSR seems to not be that great an idea; the speeds aren't much higher than SkyTran, it costs an absolute fortune to build (as it sits on the ground and has to be site-built rather than factory-built), it isn't suspended like SkyTran, and it isn't anywhere near as fast as Hyperloop.

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