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Comment Re:2016 marks the end of Apple brand loyalty (Score 1) 128

I was ready to buy the 15" model sight unseen, but now I'm reconsidering. The fact that they put only USB-C ports in the machine, and then have the balls to charge $19 - $25 for each adapter cable, is what pisses me off the most, because they know full well that none of their previous products shipped with a USB-C cable. So Apple is basically giving their most loyal users a big "fuck you": $3000 for a 15" MacBook Pro, and they want to nickel-and-dime us for $40 worth of adapters that should have shipped WITH the machine because they decided to not make it backward compatible with their own products. Yeah. Fuck you Apple.

Comment Re:Positive development (Score 1) 123

The abundance of one species does not a healthy ecosystem make. I have a friend whose family owns a 1700 acre island off the coast of New England. It used to support an enormous white tail deer population -- and not coincidentally it had a plague of ticks, because everything in nature is food for something else. You would not have wanted to visit there back in the 1970s because the tick problem was insane. Everyone in his family has had Lyme disease, which also feasted on the swollen deer population.

Then in the 1980s the Western Coyote made it to New England, and a pack swam out to the island. In a single season they took down most of the deer herd, and now the island is a pleasant and sanitary place to live. And this is not some kind of odd aberration; this is how ecology works. If you disturb an ecosystem (say by killing off all the native timber wolves), weed species take over and they end up riddled with disease.

Weed species the ones who by sheer luck can live in conjunction with or off of large human populations. In a healthy ecosystem they may be cute, but an ecosystem dominated by weed animals can be nightmarish. I know lots of natural science geeks, and for the most part animals don't scare them. I once went for a walk with a girl who picked up a rotting coyote head and put it in her jacket pocket. She was TA'ing an anatomy course and wanted to show it to her students. But even she wouldn't go near a racoon, because unchecked by predation suburban raccoons are chock full of leptospirosis, salmonella and roundworm -- not to mention rabies. Those diseases can and do cripple, even kill people.

A world dominated by weed species would be quite horrible to live in.

Comment Re:More condoms less climate change (Score 1) 123

People per se have almost no impact on climate. It's what people do and how much in aggregate they do it.

Environmentalists are often stereotyped as pessimists, but really most of the people I know who've dedicated their careers are optimistic that technology can address many environmental problems. Sure, they'd like to see the global population stabilized, or even somewhat reduced, because that makes the job of preserving the environment much easier. But they actually believe the sustainability problem can be licked, even without reducing the global population by much.

I'll give you one example of how an actual environmentalist thinks. I was at a meeting with the sustainability director of a major sportswear manufacturer, and he was describing the research they were doing into improving the recyclability of polyester fleece clothing. He made the point that scale is critical to assessing the environmental impact. For a small band of hunter-gatherers, wild animal pelts would be the source of clothing with the least impact; wool would have intermediate impact; a chemical plant that reprocesses coke bottles into polyester resins would have a ridiculously large impact. But if you are making hundreds of thousands of garments, the impacts are actually reversed: the chemical plant has the least environmental impact. Once you turn those bottles into fleece you can continually recycle those molecules into more fleece. He describes recycling as "living off your environmental income instead of your capital."

Environmentalists -- by which I mean the people who are actually working on solutions to environmental problems -- generally believe that even with a large population we can make use of the products of ecosystems without disturbing the equilibria that sustain those systems. As one civil engineering environmentalist I know put it: I = P*S/T ; impact is proportional to population and standard of living but inversely proportional to technology. You can reduce the environmental impact of home heating by reducing the number of people; or you could do it by people getting used to being colder. But you can get the same result by insulating your house and heating it with renewable energy.

It's actually the anti-environmentalists who are the pessimists; they don't believe in people's ability to adapt, and they anticipate nothing but suffering from trying to do anything about problems. Their version of "optimism" is to discount any evidence that problems exist, or to convincing themselves if we do nothing everything will work out for the best.

Comment Re:FINALLY (Score 4, Informative) 82

Depends on the technology. The failure mode for a lot of aircraft is that they simply glide to the ground. Even helicopters / autogyros do something similar - there's still a lot of momentum in the rotors and you sycamore down to the ground. It's not like the antigravity suddenly fails and you're back to having weight again.

When I was learning to fly, engine failure was one of the things that I had to practice a lot. Engine failure immediately after takeoff is potentially dangerous, because you don't have an engine and you don't have enough speed or altitude to go very far. You typically have to land in a field (or, if you don't want to damage your aircraft in a training exercise, you throttle the engine back and feather the prop, then line up your emergency landing and turn the engine back to maximum late in the approach so that you stay in the air).

Comment Re:More condoms less climate change (Score 1) 123

It's not just poverty. People in Orlando wouldn't be constantly having their dogs eaten by bears if they weren't developing into the Ocala National Forest. Florida is a post-automobile state and high-rise residences are the exception, not the rule. Pair that with the American Dream of owning your own detached home and you end up crowding the critters. You end up with alligators in your garage and bears in the garbage bins.

Some critters respond to encroachment by going extinct. Others respond by trying to eat you.

Comment Re:More condoms less climate change (Score 2) 123

Actually, I think it's probably about the time they realize that they could afford another kid or they could afford a big-screen TV. IMHO a big-screen TV is the ultimate birth-control device.

Leaving aside the usual mindless cant about "government-subsidized litters" and other duckspeak assertions that are either no longer true or never were, there was actually a reverse baby-boom during the Reagan years to the extent that there are something like 3 million fewer people in the 19-40 age bracket right now than there was a decade ago or something along those lines.

In fact, if Trump builds his wall, the current US population growth rate would suffer the same fate as countries such as Japan, Italy and Russia, where the population is shrinking at a rate that they find alarming. Only the immigrants have kept the overall US population growing.

Comment Re:More condoms less climate change (Score 1, Interesting) 123

Actually, a lot of religions DON'T promote fucking like rabbits. The Medieval Church, for one. You were simply supposed to go without UNLESS you were specifically attempting to conceive children. In fact, in some cases, even things like the rhythm method were condemned.

Fortunately back then, peasants needed lots of strong sons to work the farm and nobles have always been better at promoting "morality" than actually practicing it.

Comment Re:Why didn't it blow up in the heteros? (Score 1) 299

Female to male spread is much harder than the other direction. And male to female spread via vaginal intercourse is much harder than male to male or female spread via anal intercourse. Condom use for casual sex is also a lot more common when there's a risk of pregnancy.

Comment Re:Hydroelectric (Score 1) 301

Green is a bit of a flexible term - many things are green in some ways and not in others. By some measures plastics are green - deforestation would be a LOT further along if plastics hadn't provided a cheaper replacement for wood, on the other hand it is very not green because it isn't biodegradable and kills animals.

In the case of woodburning generators - they are green from a climate change perspective as they are carbon neutral, the carbon they burn are already part of the short-term carbon cycle and if you didn't burn it the bacteria that ate the wood after it died would have released the same amount of CO2, which is exactly balanced with the O2 the tree produced in it's lifetime.
It is less green in some other respects (like particulate polution) - though it is much, much greener than coal in those regards.

Comment Re:Title is misleading... (Score 1) 301

>Renewables are still mostly more costly than coal,

This is not even generally true anymore. Here in South Africa we have two big coal plants being built (both now several years late and way over budget), and the government is trying hard to get a 15-Billion rand nuclear deal passed (because the president's son owns the biggest local uranium mine - and that's just the start of the corruption). If it goes ahead- that will be 15 years minimum to get any power from, and likely far more overbudget (nuclear always is).

There was a study done here - which compared the cost per kw/h of those plants with wind and solar (our climate is among the best for solar with well over 300 sunny days a year and lots of coastal wind too). At the original quoted prices - with the expected costs of coal/uranium factored in the coal plants came in at around R1.20 per kw/h over their lifetime. Nuclear at about R1.90 - Solar - 75c, wind slightly worse at 95c. Oh and a solar plant with the same capacity as those coal plants can be up in 2 years, to match the nuclear you only need to add another 3 months - and they are usually under-budget.

We don't have much hydro possibility and we're already using what we can (mostly imported from our neighbours), the area is completely geologically dead (so no geothermal) and our tides are tiny (so tidal isn't practical) but we should be investing in what we can do.

But let's assume that solar and wind wouldn't be reliable enough to supply our industrial needs without excessive investment in additional storage tech (and the nicest one - hydro-pumps aren't an option). That still leaves the obvious answer which I wish government would take: give people serious incentives for home solar. Lets get every house off the grid, we distribute the cost (and it's been shown that solar is so economical here that if you BORROW the money to do solar you will still profit because the savings exceed the the interest rates, you can pay back the loan with the savings and have money left over - and that's assuming a worst case scenario where the batteries have to be replaced in just 5 years and the panels in 7 - they've both been way beyond that for some time). If we get all the residential demand off-grid, then the grid ONLY has to worry about supplying industry - which means we no longer need to have shortfalls (coal which provides nearly all our power at the moment can't keep up. We have one active nuclear plant but that only supplies one city). And by distributing the cost so widely the price per taxpayer is hugely reduced and you can optimise the process to build high-demand first.

Then your need for the grid-plants is lower, so you can get rid of half of them and use the savings to upgrade and maintain the other half.

The idea that solar and wind is more expensive is simply not true. Now it may be MORE true in Europe and the USA where, presumably, the climate mandates a greater investment in storage - but it isn't true globally. The real market where they lose is the market for bribing politicians. Big Russian government-owned nuclear companies (whose track record includes the worst nuclear disaster of all time) can afford much bigger bribes than solar companies can.

Comment Re:We can date the jump into the U.S. in about 197 (Score 1) 299

1970s medical technology wasn't anything like what we've got now. Identifying and isolating a new virus is still a tricky undertaking. In the 1970s it was much more so. A Nobel prize was awarded for the discovery of HIV and its link to AIDS.

Comment Re:We can date the jump into the U.S. in about 197 (Score 2) 299

Medicine isn't nearly so scientific as you probably think. An average doctor might see a weird case once or twice that was actually AIDS but that's hard to separate from all the other weird cases they see on a daily basis (House: maybe it's lupus!). In the 70s there certainly weren't any good central databases for general medical records, and there still aren't, especially in the US, because of privacy and insurance concerns.

If you were a doctor in the 70s and you saw a malnourished person waste away and die, would you think "gee, it's horrible we let people starve on the street in America" or "OMG, this is the start of a plague that will sweep the world in twenty years"?

In the early 80s, when the number of patients increased, doctors, especially those who worked in gay communities, who were most at risk, DID notice unusual numbers of people dying and did report and track it.

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