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Comment Re:Can't it be self funding? (Score 1) 246

Can't it be self-funding?

Even if it were, I'm sure there's a sizable portion of the government and electorate that would like to see it killed off because...well...it's gub'mint!

Never mind that it has saved U.S. consumers (and governments, funded by taxpayers) tens-to-hundreds of billions of dollars over its life, and forced companies to create more efficient products that probably wouldn't have come about solely by the magic of capitalism.

Comment Re:Money to burn I guess (Score 3, Informative) 117

than on political manipulation like buying the Washington Post and turning it into a political blog

On the other hand, Jeff Bezos is also funding Blue Origin, which is building rockets. I suppose if you have enough money, you can do all kinds of things.

My personal favorite of "I have so much money..." examples is Larry Ellison, who essentially bought the America's Cup by plowing so much money into winning, largely so that he could totally remake it into a high-speed, trimarans of death, competition circuit. Oh, and he bought a Hawaiian Island to be his personal fiefdom.

Comment Classic (Score 2) 102

I would give Tracey Kidder's Soul of a New Machine a heavy recommendation. Released in 1981, it recounts events at Data General in 1979-1980, where a small team of engineers rapidly developed a 32-bit minicomputer. The team was up against nearly impossible deadlines and breaking new ground to create a machine that paved new ground while maintaining backwards compatibility with 16-bit predecessors. Some of it is just narrative, but mostly it is a study of the players: their motivations, their backgrounds, and how they all operated as a team. If you enjoy the TV show Halt and Catch Fire, this book will be right up your alley.

Comment Alternate technology, available today (Score 4, Informative) 439

I applaud developing new technologies for energy efficiency. Still, it's going to be a while before this is available.

In the meantime one could consider a heat-pump clothes dryer. Rather than using electricity or natural gas to heat indoor air, pass it over the clothes, then dump it to the outside in a once-through cycle, a heat-pump dryer uses (as you can guess) a heat pump. The hot side of the heat pump creates warm air that passes over the clothes gathering moisture. The cold side condenses the moisture back out, before passing this de-humidifed air back to the hot side.

Advantages:
  • * Uses 1/2 the electricity of an ordinary dryer
  • * It has no vent to the outdoors, so the whole home envelope can be that much tighter. (It does have a water drain for the condensate.)
  • * The mechanism relies on warm, de-humidified air, rather than heavily heated air, so it is more gentle on clothes
  • * They've been available as consumer products for a number of years now - it's not brand new technology

Yes, they are more expensive. That is to be expected, considering how dirt-simple the mechanisms of a traditional dryer are. However, depending on your local electricity rates and how much laundry you do, the breakeven should be well within the lifetime of the appliance. Maybe that's not enough to junk a perfectly good existing dryer, but should definitely be considered when purchasing a replacement.

Comment Re:Rare-Earths aren't rare! (Score 1) 79

Part of the problem is that they have a lot of chemical similarities, and so are difficult to separate from one another and to purify to the point where you can do something useful with them.

and while it is true that the rare earths are actually pretty easy to find, the natural concentrations tend to be quite low, making it not commercially viable in most places.

Comment Re:No (Score 3, Insightful) 152

You might remember that there already have been a few wars since 1945.

Correction: turns out 1945 was the last time we officially were at war. At least, if you're talking about how how it pertains to the Constitution.

Korea: just some misadventure by the 38th parallel. War never actually declared.

Vietnam: just some misadventure on the Mekong. War never actually declared. I think this movie summed it up best: Bob Hope doesn't play at police actions.

Cold War: a convenient shorthand for simmering tensions between two nuclear-capable factions. War definitely not declared.

All those fun and games we had down in Central and South America? That's just the military and intelligence agencies off at summer camp. War never declared.

Remember that time when we put the beatdown on Saddam Hussein because he invaded Kuwait? Nope, not a war.

You better believe we would never go to war to stop a genocide in the Balkans.

Remember that other time we put the beatdown on Saddam Hussein, because he supposedly had weapons of mass destruction? That wasn't a war either. Can you believe it?!

And the gift that keeps on giving in Afghanistan? We still haven't gotten around to declaring that a war.

Now, I'll grant you - those last two were A-OK due to an authorization for the use of military force. I'm not sure what Iraq had to do with 9/11, but G.W. can't be wrong.

Still, it ain't a war unless Congress says so.

Isn't it?

Comment Re:I Haven't Seen the Bill Yet (Score 1) 78

I'm from 'Merica. If it ain't green, it ain't money!

Unless it's solid gold, I'm good with that, too. And once we're back on the gold standard, all will be right with the world.

I jest, but it is increasingly disappointing, as someone from the United States, that we cling to the notion that paper currency must be of uniform size and color. Varying size and color by denomination is a sensible feature that 1) makes it easier to identify notes, particularly if you are blind and 2) makes it a lot harder to counterfeit by washing. I think the U.S. is the last major economy that hasn't done it.

Plastic bills? I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.

Comment PIN length? (Score 1) 61

I will assume that this research was conducted using 4-digit PINs, which are the default for iOS and Android. I wonder how their success rate would hold up against, say, a 5-digit PIN, or 8, or N?

I generally rely on a biometric sign in for my phone*, but fall back on the PIN code once or twice per week. It's a whole lot more than 4 digits.

* I know, biometrics have their own set of risks; different conversation

Comment Re:This is why Cassini must die now (Score 1) 86

We are getting a new awesome space movie soon, right?

Not anytime soon, no. Cassini was the last of the real flagship, multi-billion dollar planetary exploration programs. The Jovian Icy Moons / Europa mission may or may not proceed. An orbiter mission to Neptune or Uranus isn't scientifically sexy enough to warrant the funding. There was a lot of scraping to get the relatively low-cost Pluto Express launched; a redux of Voyager is astromechanically impractical. We have Juno in orbit around Jupiter, but that, too, was a relatively low-cost mission. Oh, and we're just about out of Pu-238, so power options in the outer solar system are limited.

The biggest budget stuff now is directed at Mars and James Webb Space Telescope. Maybe those could have awesome narration.

Comment Re:Misguided priorities for sure (Score 1) 209

Radios are everywhere

One could probably find a radio, but then you have to keep yourself in proximity to said radio. That is, if your most readily-accessible radio is in your car, it's bloody inconvenient to sit in the car just to listen to the radio (assuming you're not actively driving somewhere - sheltering in place). Restaurants, offices, ..., sure, they may have a radio, but you take it with you to go somewhere else? One person probably could, assuming it could be run on batteries, but that one person is probably not you.

The beauty of unlocking the capability of your smartphone is that you are likely to have it on your person a lot of the time, and it is trivial to take with you.

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