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Comment Gold in iPhones (Score 1) 45

iPhones and other mobile phones have more gold per unit weight than almost any other consumer electronics, and they are much more valuable than gold ore ... if, and only if, they can be collected and processed in very high volume. Apple is not in the high volume business of smelting and refining iPhones, so of course it contracts with a subcontract electronics recycling industry that has existed for decades to recover gold. And that industry puts all gold-bearing electronics, e.g. mobile phones, circuit boards, connectors, into large process-efficient batches. A batch is smelted in copper, and after the copper is removed the residue is further refined for precious metal content. After all of this no one can trace a molecule of gold back to a specific source, but It is entirely possible that $40 million in gold from that industry is fairly attributable to recycled Apple iPhones. Whether Apple receives a payment for its collection and delivery of iPhones and other electronic scrap into the electronics recycling industry, or a credit against costs, seems irrelevant to its goal of putting raw materials back into commerce, rather than disposing of them.

Comment No FCC value judgments of the public interest (Score 1) 340

The FCC asserts, on the one hand, that it “is considering whether advances in technology no longer warrant – on a technological basis – the prohibition of in-flight mobile phone use. This is purely a technical decision.” (FAQ: What has the FCC proposed?) And yet in the NPRM the Commission makes a sweeping and non-technical assertion that “we find that it is in the public interest to bring the benefits of mobile communications services on aircraft to domestic consumers.” (79 FR 2616) The FCC cannot make such a finding; the public interest in this issue goes far beyond the technical considerations for which it has expertise. And indeed the Commission has not actually made a true finding of the public interest, nor even attempted to do so. The Commission has repeatedly and expressly absolved itself of the responsibility of weighing, or even considering, the costs to the traveling public of cellphone use on aircraft. And while it makes passing reference to “public safety” and “law enforcement” (79 FR 2626) its use of these terms does not include concern for the safety of passengers from emotional disruption, confrontation and potential violence on board aircraft, or of the law enforcement responsibilities of aircraft crew in such circumstances. If the FCC must remove a technical barrier to cellphone use, so be it, but it should not purport to have made a public interest value judgment upon such use.

Comment Boycott the Congo (Score 1) 136

Tarring and feathering remote manufacturers, by stories like this, ensure that they will do their utmost to avoid sourcing any minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is the common reaction, perfectly sensible for any business, and it is actually happening. For a private manufacturing company, without government investigative powers or private armies of their own, to operate safely in that incredibly corrupt, violent country and discover which mine and which trader has not "supported" an armed group, i.e., that has not been victimized, had not its work product stolen or "taxed" and so is "DRC conflict-free," is not possible. So Central Africa, the size of the United States with 200 million people, is simply stigmatized by the Dodd-Frank Act and shunned in its entirety by those manufacturers who are capable of controlling their supply chains. Remaining DRC mineral trade goes into criminal channels. More Congolese starve. The horror, the horror, for those who never read Heart of Darkness. The circumstances are very complex and difficult, and the time has long passed to address the problems with realism on the ground, in country, and not just try to privatize larger societal obligations. The Dodd-Frank Act, and wrathful moralizing of the Slate article, only prolong the agony.

Comment Lead toxicity (Score 1) 366

The removal of lead from automotive gasoline in 1976 brought about a very significant reduction in airborne lead, for which there was a risk of exposure by inhalation. There is little to no need for additional reduction to mitigate that risk. The only remaining serious risk of lead exposure is by ingestion of lead paint chips by children living in old houses. The FAA will need to be very careful not to increase the risk of aircraft engine failure beyond any possible mitigation of a minuscule inhalation exposure.

Comment Efficiency of SOFC Reaction (Score 1) 562

Oxidation of any hydrocarbon is an electrochemical reaction - an exchange of electrons between fuel and oxidizer. In an "ordinary" oxidation reaction, the electron exchange is completely internal, and the only product is heat. That heat is converted to electric power through a series of mechanical means, e.g., heating water to steam, using the expansion of stem to push a turbine, using the turbine in a magnetic field to create electricity. It wastes a lot of the energy of the original oxidation reaction. In a solid oxide fuel cell, the electron exchange is captured through an external circuit, making it significantly more efficient as a generator of electricity. This is why, for example, Google reports using half of the natural gas for the same electrical output.

Directed Energy Weapon Downs Mosquitos 428

wisebabo writes "Nathan Myhrvol demonstrated at TED a laser, built from parts scrounged from eBay, capable of shooting down not one but 50 to 100 mosquitos a second. The system is 'so precise that it can specify the species, and even the gender, of the mosquito being targeted.' Currently, for the sake of efficiency, it leaves the males alone because only females are bloodsuckers. Best of all the system could cost as little as $50. Maybe that's too expensive for use in preventing malaria in Africa but I'd buy one in a second!" We ran a story about this last year. It looks like the company has added a bit more polish, and burning mosquito footage to their marketing.

Comment Environmentalism is a religion (Score 3, Insightful) 474

"Studies" that are funded or sponsored or promoted by environmental organizations should be taken as expressions of religious dogma, essentially worthless to those who endeavor to understand the underlying issue. Environmental organizations, like religious organizations, perceive themselves as above criticism, and therefore not accountable for the veracity of their proclamations. Commercial organizations might be equally and oppositely dogmatic in their desire for lucre, but tend to have a higher regard for logic, even if they reject it when they can get away with it.

Comment Why Linux? First Look in the Vault. (Score 1) 195

Systems that account for physical possession of gold, whether allocated and stored under individuals' identities, or unallocated and used in other transactions (as banks do with money) do not rely upon any specific accounting or transaction system. There are many ways of keeping track of gold accounts, including purely manual records on paper. They all work, if that is the intent. A gold trader that touts its linux system of accounting and trading as somehow essential, or as giving it some sort of advantage in the world gold market, is suspicious. The key point of this article is that apparently no one is allowed to confirm that the gold actually exists. Good luck.

Comment Isn't payment due? (Score 2, Interesting) 1123

The fifth amendment to the constitution provides that government taking of property, including temporary taking, requires fair market compensation to the owner. The routine examination for explosives at an airport security check would not require payment, but an extended taking of an electronic device, without individual suspicion, should require a payment of fair market rental value.

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