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The Development of Ecologically Sound Jet Fuel

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the well-maybe-not-sound dept.

Power 210

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at Princeton University are currently working on two projects to reduce jet travel's role in global warming. The first one, a major project funded by the U.S. Air Force with $7.5 million, is focused on developing computational models that accurately simulate the burning of jet fuel, a complex process not well understood today. The second one, funded by NetJets, a company providing business jets, will help to develop new jet fuels with near-zero net greenhouse gas emissions."

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In Soviet Russia... (0, Offtopic)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068303)

Jet Fuels reduce YOUR emissions.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068333)

In Right-wing California, catalytic converters are mounted on you to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068625)

catalytic converters are mounted on you to reduce greenhouse emissions

And how exactly do catalytic converters reduce greenhouse emissions?

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21069037)

And how exactly can you just call California "right-wing" in a big sweeping statement like that?

Re:In Soviet Russia... (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069477)

How is it a sweeping statement? "right-wing California" refers to the right wing parts of California. Pretty much everything but the coast excluding Orange County and parts of San Diego.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068335)

Couldn't it be argued that your emissions make up a small part of the jet's emissions?

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068783)

LOL look at the OT Troll. Most popular meme my anonymous ass!

sage (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068305)

Sage for Roland Piquepaille ;___;

Re:sage (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068443)

You realize you can't sage threads on slashdot, right?

Re:sage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21069271)

sage goes in the email field

global dimming (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068331)

as long as they keep creating all those contrails that help keep the temperature down. we don't want to get rid of that.

Re:global dimming (2, Interesting)

rustalot42684 (1055008) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068473)

You're wrong. According to wikipedia [] , contrails have a negative effect. Anyways, the effect of the contrails is vastly outweighed by the carbon emissions. I remember hearing about a study that was saying that after the 9/11 attacks, when there was no air traffic, the temperature dropped. Of course, it's a small sample size, but you can't shut down all air traffic for a month to do a science experiment.

Re:global dimming (4, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068535)

You're wrong. According to wikipedia [] contrails have a positive effect. Anyways, I'm not saying that the carbon emissions are good so that is irrelevant. If all they do is switch fuels, but the engines operate under the same principles as they do now, then I imagine contrails will continue to exist as engines will continue to put out water vapor.
I don't think anybody has nearly as clear a picture of how our planet's weather as we would like. It sure would be nice. I could plan my days at the beach better and we could quit guessing about what is best for the environment and maybe get a little more consensus and action, though I doubt too much more. So are contrails in and of themselves good or bad? I don't think anyone can say.

Re:global dimming (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068617)

I know the beach comment is just some throw-away sarcasm, but it is important to distinguish between climate and weather. Modeling the local weather in the short term is exceptionally difficult, but climate (which deals in large-scale averages) is much more tractable. One helps you decide where to go on vacation, and the other helps you decide where to build a permanent home.

Re:global dimming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068705)

So are contrails in and of themselves good or bad? I don't think anyone can say.
I know people who can and will tell you that contrails are "bad": astronomers in Europe and the US southwest. Every day (and night) they watch the contrails from the thousands of aircraft passing overhead become a layer of cloud above their telescopes.

Re:global dimming (1)

some damn guy (564195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069165)

Is it funny that both of you used the same source but made completely opposite statements about the same phenomena?

I mean it IS wikipedia, but still...

At any rate, I can settle this: PBS's Nova said they have a cooling effect and the temp went up after 9/11. THAT makes it true.

Re:global dimming (4, Informative)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068543)

Actually, the difference between low temperatures and high temperatures increased by two degrees [] . Whether the net result would be warming or cooling, we don't know for sure, because as you say it's too small a sample size.

You should read about global dimming [] .

Re:global dimming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068741)

Anyone who believes any of the figures coming out of the Anthropic Global Warming team may be a concerned human being, but they sure aren't a scientist. Look at for the mess that is our temperature recording system, or Climate Audit for the cheating that is going on with proxy temperature estimates..... lightbulbs in the Stevenson Screens, for god's sake!

Hopefully this works. (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068343)

Interesting...this is the first "synfuel" I've seen that claims a near-zero greenhouse gas emission (although the CO2 is still extracted and sequestered, making me wonder exactly what the heck they're planning on doing with it); even the ethanol based fuels still emit some in proportion to the gasoline content.
Still, it would be nice if they could eliminate coal usage altogether. I suppose that's the next step.

Re:Hopefully this works. (4, Informative)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068509)

this is the first "synfuel" I've seen that claims a near-zero greenhouse gas emission

Near-zero net emissions. The fuel itself releases CO2 when burned, while the plants from which the fuel is derived pull it right back out of the air for the next batch of fuel.

Re:Hopefully this works. (4, Insightful)

Conspicuous Coward (938979) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068533)

Except that what the article states makes no sense.

An "especially attractive feature" of processing coal and biomass together to make synfuels is that it requires only half the amount of biomaterial as pure biofuel production, while still making fuels with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions, Williams said.

If they're using 50% coal and 50% biomass won't the result will still be a hydrocarbon? In which case their actual CO2 emissions will be pretty much as normal, with around 50% of those emissions theoretically offset in the process of growing the biomass in the first place.
It's certainly not going to be anywhere near zero emissions unless they're proposing some way to filter the CO2 out of the jet exhaust.

Even a 50% reduction in net warming using this method seems unfeasible, because emitting greenhouse gases up in the stratosphere causes more net warming than emitting them on the ground, i forget the exact factor, I thinks it's estimated to be around 50% more. And that's still ignoring the fact that putting human beings and industry into competition for limited arable land resources is a horrible idea in the first place.

Maybe this is serious research and I'm just missing some important point, but it sounds horribly like airline industry FUD to me...

Re:Hopefully this works. (2, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068737)

I used to be pretty skeptical about sequestration but apparently it has been an oil drilling technique for years to push gas down to drive the oil out so we shouldn't dismiss it completely out of hand. I wouldn't expect the gas to stay there but there's a lot of methane etc. that has been down there for millions of years already. Note that I'm using the dictionary definition of gas and not US slang for fuel.

Re:Hopefully this works. (2, Interesting)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069133)

CO2 injection is a useful tool for oil engineers for maintaining the flow of oil within a reservoir. It is not really about keeping reservoir pressure up, but more about enhancing flow by lowering the effective crude viscosity. Having said that, what CO2 you pump into the reservior will also come up with the crude, resulting in additional CO2 handling costs.

So don't expect CO2 sequestration to be the climate change saviour. The use in oil production is still limited to certain field geologies and crude types. Straight sequestration of CO2 in old gas reservoirs will be very expensive. The current use of CO2 injection is to enhance oil production, not purely for the purpose of sequestration - i.e. there's currently a net economic benefit. It's not a technique that's used willy-nilly, just for the heck of it.

There will have to be huge penalties for CO2 emissions before any companies will bother with commercial geosequestration.

Re:Hopefully this works. (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069545)

Having said that, what CO2 you pump into the reservior will also come up with the crude

That makes sense so it's possible that I've been misled a bit on this point. I really do not understand how it can stay down there. I've got mixed feelings about huge penalties - things got extremely weird with climate change issues when economists got involved and tried to work out how to make money out of it. You don't just want to shift industry offshore to carbon tax havens or give the nuclear people so much of an unfair advantage that they can get 1960's white elephant designs to make a profit instead of developing something worth the effort to build on it's own merits.

New Computational Models? (0, Flamebait)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068349)

So they're going to reduce the greenhouse gas output of planes in a vein bid to offset the greenhouse emissions caused by running their super computer to calculate ways of reducing the greenhouse emissions caused by planes?

Why don't they better model the public transport systems in many cities and develop better ways of moving dumb people about. Who hasn't noticed the 9-5 suit wearing office junkie driving their SUV in peak hour to the city then complaining about the hour(s) travelling time, the cost of fuel and parking? I'd sure they could do something about those people (possibly involving gasses) and really make the world a better place.

Re:New Computational Models? (2, Informative)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068373)

I assume other teams are working on that other question. Given how much jet fuel is used daily, this small step towards reducing greenhouse gases is certainly welcome.

Re:New Computational Models? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21069453)

In other words the slashdot editors took a fairly random university press-release that they couldn't grasp completely and put it on the front page.

Wake me up at when the standard has improved.

Re:New Computational Models? (4, Insightful)

bucky0 (229117) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068477)

How is better public transportation going to decrease the carbon emissions when I fly from Atlanta to London in a month? The article is about improving the efficiency of Jet transportation, not cars. Those emissions effect the atmosphere much differently because they're injected at a much higher atmosphere.

Re:New Computational Models? (4, Informative)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069169)

The other point is that airplane travel is usually selected for huge travel distances, of the sort that you would avoid using your car. Quoting passenger miles per gallon or whatever (A380 is about 2.9 litres/100 passenger kilometres) and making comparisons to automobile fuel consumption (10-20 litres/100 kilometres) is a nonsense - you don't jump in your car and fly to the other side of the world quite like you do in a plane. It is quite possible to exceed your annual auto mileage with one international plane trip.

Re:New Computational Models? (1)

rustalot42684 (1055008) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068489)

I'd sure they could do something about those people (possibly involving gasses) and really make the world a better place.
Yes, but what to do with all the bodies? Burning them is no good, that just makes more greenhouse gasses... Perhaps they could be used as landfill?

Re:New Computational Models? (3, Funny)

feepness (543479) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068541)

So they're going to reduce the greenhouse gas output of planes in a vein bid to offset the greenhouse emissions caused by running their super computer to calculate ways of reducing the greenhouse emissions caused by planes?
Don't worry, another team is working on simulating the greenhouse gas output of supercomputer simulations of jet engines in a bid to better understand and reduce them.

Re:New Computational Models? (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068579)

Why don't they better model the public transport systems in many cities and develop better ways of moving dumb people about. Who hasn't noticed the 9-5 suit wearing office junkie driving their SUV in peak hour to the city then complaining about the hour(s) travelling time, the cost of fuel and parking? I'd sure they could do something about those people (possibly involving gasses) and really make the world a better place.

Judging from your comment, I have a hard time believing your own supposed superiority. Btw, that would be VAIN not VEIN Einstein.

Re:New Computational Models? (2, Insightful)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068599)

" a vein bid..."
And I raise you an artery and two lymph nodes.

Sheesh, and YOU of all people throwing out the whole "dumb people" line. Hah!

Let's not forget this Super Genius (ala Wile E. Coyote) line of yours:
"I'd sure they could do something about those people (possibly involving gasses) and really make the world a better place."

'I'd sure they..." WTF? Where did you learn Engrish? 'All your base belong to us!' style of 'Skool of Interweb Riting'?

As for the gassing these dumb people to make the world a better place-BZZZZT!! Wrong answer! You are courting Godwin's law with that- this specific thing has been tried before, and after the courts got finished with the whole War Crimes deal in the latter 1940's, the MASSAD made a huge impact on the survivors of the trials and those not actually brought to trial.

There was prior art though, so also check out the Spanish Inquisition, most Jihads, etc.- there are many, many more. ( Idi Amin just came to mind- how could we forget him!)
Genocide and massive homicide ALWAYS results in mistrust of 'The Authorities' wherever it occurs, and rightfully so. Who;s next? Me? Why? WTF is going on?

So yeh, crawl back in your Mom's basement and terrorise the spiders or something, you dull troll. Who knows, maybe you can poke around in the basement long enough to find that argoyle sock the dryer ate 4 years ago!

Also, your sig: that may work for you with your narrow point of view, but there may not be enough alcohol for the rest of us to see you as interesting.

I'm only replying because I currently don't have mod points, so I can't mod you -1 Troll. Flamebait, Asshat Clown, or whatever seemed appropriate depending on how much I had been drinking! From painful experience, I already know I can not drink enough to make your post interesting, insightful, or first thought about you and your post was actually "kill it before it can breed!"

Re:New Computational Models? (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069063)

"who;s"..."argoyle sock"... "kill it before it can breed"... If I had mod points, I'd mod you -1, Hypocrite. ;)

Re:New Computational Models? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069189)

Lost our sense of humour, have we?

I suppose you did not get much exposure to Monty Python or Second City TV.

Oh well, your loss, not mine....mod as you will, I have Karma to Burn(tm), baby! Let 'er rip!

And Totally Illegal to use. (5, Informative)

Beer_Smurf (700116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068387)

Unless this fuel meets the exact spec of existing jet fuel.
Each aircraft type will have to be tested and certificated for use with this fuel.
This is very, very costly and time consuming.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (2, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068411)

If a few large corporations can really clean up on this - it wont be a problem. You'd be amazed how fast laws can change when high profits can be tied to even the impression of environmental gain.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (3, Insightful)

Scutter (18425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068413)

This is very, very costly and time consuming.

Exactly! I agree 100%! It's hard to do, so why even try?

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068523)

If you can't justify the economics of doing so, most for-profit companies (especially the airlines, on razor-thin margins as it is) won't bother. You think any more people will fly because the jet they're traveling in makes them feel better about the environment? Think that'll offset the number who can't afford to fly anymore because their ticket price just quadrupled to afford retrofitting the entire fleet?

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

kwerle (39371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068989)

I think you'd be amazed how fast companies will bother as soon as just a few European or Asian (Japan) countries decide they won't supply dirty fuel.

I have a hard time imagining a clean jet fuel, though. Maybe I will RTFA.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068631)

Given that one of these research projects is funded by NetJets, which is owned by Warren Buffett [] and includes Bill Gates [] on the Board of Directors, I would expect that there's something to this. Neither Buffett or Gates are particularly known for throwing their own money away in pointless exercises.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068693)

While I have no real knowledge on jet fuels, I feel comfortable with most 'milspec' requirements. I could be very wrong (really!), but I always thought that JP4 was not much more than 'strict guidelines determined the final product' highly refined kerosene ('coal oil' to the greybeards- oh crap!....I'm turning grey....and BALD!!)

I can see where each type will have to test and certify this, and will be costly and time consuming. I have faith in the engineers involved to consider high altitude aircraft parameters, as not all fuels act the same at differing altitudes- old news!

Maybe they can come up with fuel that actually exceeds specs aand is a 'win-win' situation? It's a worthy hope.

This one of those instances that I think the upfront/short-term costs will be outweighed by the long view. (now to convince the stockholders...)

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069255)

Yes, you are mistaken. Jet fuel is usually straight-run kero (an unadulterated, distilled fraction of a sweet crude oil), with controls for particulates and water, plus a some additives (in ppm concentrations). Sour crudes SRK fraction obviously have to be cleaned up (by catalytic hydrotreating), but the end result is pretty much the same.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069417)

Thanks for the informative reply. I am aware that 'milspec' can be very general in cases like this, but expected performance of said milspec item is usually pretty uniform. (no pun intended-it just slipped)

"High grade kerosene' was the way JP4 was explained to me. I guess my job did not really need me to understand any more than JP4 is same-same as kerosene for anything I would use it for. (in no practical or possible scenario would I ever be involved in supporting or operating jet aircraft!)

But the Field Manual's made no difference between JP4 and kerosene for any of the Multi-Fuel engines used in almost every wheeled vehicle from the venerable duece and a half (2 1/2 ton cargo truck- a 10x10WD offroader!) on up. (if IRC, they were made by Continental for GM-the preferred fuel was #2 diesal, but could use gasoline with oil mixed in if necassary...but that was long ago)

I realise now that you mention it, they would have to work around some problems like 'waxing' and viscosity changes at the much lower temps at high speed+high altitude, plus many more factors not usually encountered in moderate climates and altitudes, much less the different g forces involved.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068707)

Each aircraft type will have to be tested and certificated for use with this fuel.

Nope, each aircraft engine type will have to be tested and certified. A PITA, sure - just do it once and your done.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

kartune85 (1153037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068773)

I can't help but think the whole global warming/emissions issue is really not that significant. After reading about the concerns of cow emissions, a completly natural animal that's been around for thousands of years, producing more emissions than cars, and bushfires (also 100% natural) producing all these harmful greenhouse gases, I can't help but think that our jet-fuels, cars, planes, things designed and built over the past 100 years or so, aren't making as much of an impact as we are led to believe.

Rather than eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, I wonder if there are more effective ways of absorbing some of those emissions. For example, putting more money into planting trees (I'm not a tree-hugger, if that's what you're thinking, it's just an example), to absorb CO2 emissions, etc.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

background image (1001510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069341)

I can't help but think the whole global warming/emissions issue is really not that significant. After reading about the concerns of cow emissions, a completly natural animal that's been around for thousands of years, producing more emissions than cars, and bushfires (also 100% natural) producing all these harmful greenhouse gases, I can't help but think that our jet-fuels, cars, planes, things designed and built over the past 100 years or so, aren't making as much of an impact as we are led to believe.

Don't be dense.

The carbon emitted by cows and brush fires was already 'in circulation' in the biosphere. Cows fart, cows die and decompose, and carbon enters the atmosphere. But that carbon was extracted from the atmosphere by the plants the cows ate in the first place.

Similarly for brush and forest fires, forests develop, locking away carbon in trees and other plants, then burn, releasing carbon back to the atmosphere which is then taken up by other plants.

In neither case does the overall amount of carbon in the system that consists of the biosphere and atmosphere actually change.

This is very, very different from spending decades pumping additional carbon (all the carbon in all that coal, oil and gas has been present in the biosphere or atmosphere for many millions of years) into the atmosphere as fast as we can dream up new ways to do it.

Re:And Totally Illegal to use. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069495)

Don't be dense

the actual % of C02 added to the atmosphere by man is TINY by comparison.

What paper you reading? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21069449)

"After reading about the concerns of cow emissions"

What a coincidence, I read about this too!!

Can't remember the title of the newspaper, but it was the one with the guy who was abducted by aliens in 52 on the front cover, with the "absolutely, dead to rights, confirmed elvis sighting" in the sidebar.

Think I must have skimmed the page on cow emissions just before I reached around and used it to wipe my butt - best possible use for it really.

Curses! (2, Funny)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068433)

Of course, you know, this means the end of the horse-drawn zeppelin!

The perfect rocket/jet fuel. (4, Funny)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068445)

But of course: it's salami.

Or in the words of Mythbuster's Jamie: "This may look like a salami, it may smell like a salami, it may even taste like a salami, but it's rocket fuel."

Close (1)

Leuf (918654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068563)

Actually the real solution is their "Border Slingshot" scaled up. Simply winch back your own slingshot and you are gently whisked off to your destination. In a few years we'll look back at how silly we were with this whole airplane thing.

One of the ingredients of Russian solid rocket fue (2, Interesting)

melted (227442) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069227)

Speaking of which, one of the ingredients of Russian solid rocket fuel (for military rockets) was rice husk - a byproduct of rice production. They actually cultivated short grain rice that would have a disproportionate amounts of husk specifically for this, and grew it in Southern Russia near Krasnodar. The grain itself was edible, of course, but it was not particularly good from the culinary point of view.

Re:One of the ingredients of Russian solid rocket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21069779)

Didn't Hitler have to use a shitload of potatoes to make fuel for his V2 rockets?

Aviation without Fuel (1)

MackTheWife (1177525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068447)

While the exercise seems quite noble it seems partly pointless considering that all the fuel will have run out long before greenhouse effect brings our civilization to its logical conclusion. Effort could be better spent devising methods of rapid transport that weren't reliant on carbon-based fuels.

Re:Aviation without Fuel (1)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069273)

Even the most optimistic estimates for Peak Oil are within our expected lifetimes (and I'm in my late 30's), so you are correct. Add to that the declining reserves of _sweet_ crude, and you can surely expect the cost of conventional jet fuels to escalate, just from a refining veiwpoint.

By all means lets go ahead and do this... (4, Interesting)

Sosarian (39969) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068457)

But haven't I read a number of stories just this week that Ocean Shipping and Cement Production are bigger CO2 emitters than airlines?

Re:By all means lets go ahead and do this... (1)

rustalot42684 (1055008) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068505)

As has been said many times; it's not the size that counts, it's how you use it (to a degree). Because the emissions are released high in the atmosphere, they do more damage.

Re:By all means lets go ahead and do this... (1)

burni (930725) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069711)

Well, it's rather not that simple, the emmision of CO2 by aircraft takes place
in the higher atmosphere, it's believed and there are hints that this CO2 emmitted there,
will take longer to reenter the CO2 cycle of woods or the ocean, than those emmitted at ground level.

Ummm.... I have an easy solution (4, Funny)

wamerocity (1106155) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068459)

It's so obvious, I don't know why they haven't done this earlier. They just need to make a HYBRID plane model! Just load it up with 5000 lbs of batteries. Silly scientists...

Re:Ummm.... I have an easy solution (3, Interesting)

tjl2015 (673427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068611)

Ask and ye shall receive!

Some guys in Japan made a piloted plane that flew on 160 AA batteries: []

Still, I'm a little more impressed by what NASA pulled off: []

Re:Ummm.... I have an easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21069221)

Look on the bright side if you throw the model off a 2,000 cliff it's fly for a least 2,000 feet. More if you throw it really really hard.

Don't get too excited (3, Interesting)

Heir Of The Mess (939658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068471)

$7.5 million is nothing to the military, especially the Airforce. They blow $100 of millions on customized database applications, billions on building single aircraft, and trillions on R&D for Airframes. $7.5 million is like some spare change they give to some college students to work on a project for 5 years that will end up being canned.

BMW have probably invested a lot more into research into alternative fuels like hydrogen and still haven't come up with something that has us all dumping our hydrocarbon ways.

What needs to be worked on is a more novel way of taking in air and forcing it out the back, past that you need to work out how to apply external forces to aircraft. We're looking at a lot more than $7.5 mil for that kind of physics lab experimentation.

Re:Don't get too excited (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068641)

7.5MM is certainly nothing to sneeze at! In fact, that will almost get you 1/4 of an F-18! []

General Characteristics, E and F models
Primary Function: Multi-role attack and fighter aircraft
Contractor: McDonnell Douglas
Unit Cost: $ 35 million
Propulsion: Two F414-GE-400 turbofan engines
Thrust: 22,000 pounds (9,977 kg) static thrust per engine
Length: 60.3 feet (18.5 meters)
Height: 16 feet (4.87 meters)
Maximum Take Off Gross Weight: 66,000 pounds (29,932 kg)
Wingspan: 44.9 feet (13.68 meters)
Ceiling: 50,000+ feet
Speed: Mach 1.8+
A,C and E models: One
B,D and F models: Two
Armament: One 20mm M-61A1 Vulcan cannon;
External payload: AIM 9 Sidewinder, AIM 7 Sparrow, AIM-120 AMRAAM, Harpoon, Harm, Shrike, SLAM, SLAM-ER, Walleye, Maverick missiles; Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW); Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM); various general purpose bombs, mines and rockets.
First Flight December 1995

Chemtrails (1)

psychicsword (1036852) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068481)

Ecologically Sound Jet Fuel
I thought that is what Chemtrails [] were for :P

Good to hear that some people are fixing at least one possible "cause" of "global warming", which doesn't seem to be happening with our fuel for cars.

This Is Ridiculous (3, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068485)

Several studies have indicated that despite the carbon emissions, the vapor trails of commercial jets actually create a net COOLING effect due to albedo. The conclusion of one research paper from a reputable institution stated that if we want to alleviate global warming due to CO2, we should actively encourage jet travel!

Jesus, people. In our zeal to protect the environment (which I share), let's concentrate on the REAL problems please! And stop all this irrelevant noise which just distracts us from those real problems.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (2, Funny)

Cecil (37810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068537)

Venus is permanently covered in cloud and has the highest albedo in the solar system. I wonder how that's working out for them... oh, that's right, it's hotter than Mercury.

Cough up these studies, please.

Nice "Straw Man" Argument! (2, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068647)

And I suppose that the thick atmosphere of Jupiter makes it warm, too?

I made a valid point. Don't be an ass.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068689)

Since the modders did not like me taking you to task in the subject line, I will answer you more seriously here.

I am not obligated to do your homework on this subject for you. I do have bookmarks to papers on the subject but I am not going to look them up for you just for a silly slashdot argument. Do your own homework and research your own subjects.

I will anticipate you and state that I fully expect you to reply with "nice excuse" or some such. Balderdash. No excuses, just reasons.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068769)

Do your own homework and research your own subjects.

I've [] already [] done [] so [] .

You're the one spewing empirically disproved ideas. The last link in particular is extremely pointed, direct and concise in its destruction of your blatantly false assertion.

And you have the audacity to accuse me of posing strawmen. Go back under your bridge, troll.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (0, Troll)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068823)

Pardon the hell out of me, but bringing up Venus was in fact just that: a straw man argument. It has absolutely no bearing on contrails in Earth's atmosphere, and you reasonably should have known that.

I stand by that. As for the other, if you want to believe that your sources are better than mine, fine. But you don't even know what they are, because as I have already stated, I am not going to do your homework for you. The point is simply that it is not worth bothering to argue with you about it.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069173)

Venus is permanently covered in cloud and has the highest albedo in the solar system. I wonder how that's working out for them... oh, that's right, it's hotter than Mercury.

Cough up these studies, please.

Eh? Venus has a much, much, much thicker atmosphere that's almost pure CO2, clouds made of sulfuric acid, and a surface that periodically erupts into huge masses of magma (no tectonic plates... it has to vent all that internal heat somehow).

By contrast, you have a planet (Earth) with a Nitrogen/Oxygen atmosphere, regular heat venting via tectonics (and vulcanism), and mostly water vapor clouds with a much lighter air pressure overall.

Methinks the albedo is the only thing keeping Venus from becoming even hotter than it is (Mercury gets a pass because it's airless and smaller - a lot smaller. Oh, and with no air, there's no heat retention, nor heat convection, etc etc etc).

Cripes - forget apples and oranges - this is an apples and granite countertops argument.


Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068613)

There's much more to environmentalism than global warming.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068651)

Yes. But according to the post TFA was about carbon emissions and global warming. Please try to follow the topic. Thanks.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (2, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068619)

Global warming is one such distraction. you all realise C02 isn't what creates the green house effect right?

there's various holes in the global warming C02 theory.

1. other planets are also warming

2. C02 lags temp. increases

3. The hottest years on record predate industrialisation.

The idea that jet travel is a green house problem is pure, undiluted bullcrap. infact it's reading on my bullshit meter cracked the guage.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068663)

I am certainly aware of this. In fact, the best evidence shows that historically, CO2 lags temperature increases by a full 800 years!

But I was not the one making a big deal out of something that, according to their own arguments, is a net benefit, not a problem. Go figure.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068767)

It's a Roland article - the science does not have to make sense. At least it isn't perpetual motion this time.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

ypps (1106881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068795)

That's fascinating! I would love to skim through some of those studies. I suspect that they are either very new and ground-breaking, or very old and already proven wrong by newer studies. Care to post any references?

I love flying by the way - so don't take this sarcastically. I would truly love to hear that flying is good for the environment.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (0, Troll)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068837)

I have references, but not at hand. If I have the spare time to look them up, I will be happy to put them here in reply. I suspect that you might find some mention on Google. But of course, as with any such, consider the sources.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069083)

Several studies have indicated that despite the carbon emissions, the vapor trails of commercial jets actually create a net COOLING effect due to albedo.
And with a greener fuel, the net cooling effect will be bigger per plane. What's your point? In a cumulative system, a bigger minus is still a plus, if you'll forgive the choice of phrasing. It's not like the effects of the jet stop once it crosses the zero line.

The conclusion of one research paper from a reputable institution
Oh honestly.

In our zeal to protect the environment (which I share), let's concentrate on the REAL problems please!
Believe it or not, this one project does not actually exclude all other projects from progress. It's a small budget project to take a swing at a small benefit. SlashDot posted it because it's interesting. Have a valium.

noise which just distracts us from those real problems.
And do you have a suggestion about what those real problems are, or are you just histrionic and looking for attention?

What about when the oil runs out? (1)

tjl2015 (673427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068585)

Now, regardless of whether jets contribute to global warming, (once the contrail effect is taken into account), another problem still remains. With ever-increasing demand and peaking supplies, eventually the cost of jet fuel will become to high to be economically practical. With the scale of defense budgets and not having to operate at a profit, the military can probably hold out a lot longer than the passenger airlines. Still, eventually a point will be reached when jet fuel is too expensive to be practical for all large-scale use, both civilian and military. The question is then, what is the state of aviation beyond jet fuel?

I think certain batteries/fuel cells/electrical systems could be used. However, these would likely be extremely slow prop planes with limited capacity. The type of large-scale, cheap, and rapid air transport brought about in the 'jet' age would seem to be impossible.

What I've often wondered is if it's possible to modify a jet engine to directly burn hydrogen, producing thrust directly rather than through a fuel cell -> electric ->propeller based system. The energy obviously wouldn't be free; the hydrogen would have to be produced from nuclear, solar, or some other power source. It would be expensive, but it might still let us keep our planes in the air.

Re:What about when the oil runs out? (1)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068761)

Kerosene. Vegetable oil. Etc.

You know, what planes used to run on. Of course, we will have to stop using jets...

That'll mean taking longer to get from point A to point B, using less people etc. But I'm sure none of us will mind, what with the development of remote communications devices, soon all that pesky business travellers will be able to stay at home! (And go yachting remotely as well, sham that...)

Planes were in the air before jet fuel was created, and I'm sure they can keep going after the rock oil is all gone.

Re:What about when the oil runs out? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068781)

The think about fuel for aviation is that you realy do need high energy density in both volume and mass. Hydrogen is a good fuel in terms of energy per unit mass, but it is difficult to get teh volume down. In current engine designs you want to watch the flash point as well as low temperature behavior. This is a big question alternative fuels. Developing alternatives is considered to be a military necessity owing to potential supply disruptions. This group is looking at synthetic fuel production form a mix of coal and biomass.
Soar away from rising prices with solar: []

Re:What about when the oil runs out? (1)

tylernt (581794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068869)

What I've often wondered is if it's possible to modify a jet engine to directly burn hydrogen, producing thrust directly rather than through a fuel cell -> electric ->propeller based system. The energy obviously wouldn't be free; the hydrogen would have to be produced from nuclear, solar, or some other power source. It would be expensive, but it might still let us keep our planes in the air.
Jet fuel has an energy density of 40 to 50 MJ/kg, hydrogen has 120 to 140, so I think you're on to something there. Google thinks so too: []

I don't know if you can easily store enough hydrogen for a DC-10's transoceanic voyage in a dense enough manner though -- you might need some pretty large and heavy pressure vessels to contain it.

Hydrogen, lots of potential and a pain in the ass (2, Informative)

Shihar (153932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069129)

The energy/mass ratio is not and never really has been the issue with hydrogen. The issue with hydrogen is the energy energy/volume ratio. Hydrogen's big problem is that it takes a lot of energy to squeeze into a small enough space to be worth while. Even if you are willing to burn the energy to compress hydrogen down into something that is tolerably dense, you are now talking about either A) a very heavy and expensive cooling system that is keeping it in liquid form or B) an extremely heavy, expensive, and marginally dangerous high pressure tank or C) both.

There are some potential tricks around this dilemma, but the truth is that we are still a fair ways off. The path towards hydrogen as a fuel source is less than obvious. Hydrogen has a lot of potential, but as it stands, it is a pain in the ass and expensive to make, it is a pain in the ass and expensive to store, and it really while shifts the environmental issues onto the grid where they are perhaps more easily tackled, it is not a silver bullet.

I am not poo-pooing hydrogen. Hell, I WORK for a hydrogen fuel cell company. I am just pointing out that the problem is much harder than it appears, and the golden future much further off than you might think. On top of that, there are lots of competing alternatives to hydrogen that might very well prove to be more utilitarian.

Quit Today! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068653)

Quit Today!

Slashdot-free since Leap Day 2000

Welcome to the home of the Quit Slashdot movement. (Well, it's a small movement.) Anyway, here's my humble list of materials to help you quit Slashdot:

Update 14 April 2004

Update 28 Oct 2001:

  • 3000+ hits this week due to [] listing.
  • As several visitors noticed, We're Number 1 [] .

Update 20 May 2001: 14,000+ hits last week, due to memepool [] and the inevitable fan-out effect. Notes:

  • Thanks to all who wrote with positive comments (surprisingly, not one flame!). Unfortunately I'm really busy with end-of-quarter work right now (hey, work is the whole reason I quit Slashdot), so I can't reply/link to everyone. But, best wishes, and I hope quitting Slashdot brings the same benefits to your life that it has to mine.
  • Weblogs reveal that this page has been submitted to Slashdot several times. Please do not do this. I have no desire to get a firestorm of screeching Slashdotter mail in my inbox. I have real work to do.
  • Does anyone else suspect that the death of Eazel [] may have been partly due to employees reading Slashdot instead of coding? Save open source now! Quit Slashdot today!

Update 15 May 2001: Moving up! This page is now number 4 on Google searches for the phrase "Jon Katz idiot" [] . Additionally, [] has decided to link here as a public service. Welcome memepool readers! Pro-/. flames will be piped to /dev/null. Also, please note this e-mail [] , edited to deter spam-bots; (hey, they've got a sense of humor).

Update 11 Feb 2001: This page is number 13 on Google search for the phrase "Jon Katz idiot" [] .

Top Nine Reasons to Quit
#9. Slashdot is a plot by Microsoft to destroy the productivity of Linux users.
I have friends who were once tremendously productive programmers, until they started reading Slashdot. Then, the endless stream of links, updated a dozen times a day no less (so you don't go once a day to get your fix; instead, you keep a window open and hit reload every twenty minutes or so), steadily seduced them, until they eventually became babbling idiots, dribbling saliva from the corners of their mouths, ranting on the forums about the relative merits of Karma Whores and Anonymous Cowards. Can there be any doubt that this website is anything other than a nefarious ploy to destroy Linux by undermining the productivity of its developers? And is there any organization that would like to destroy Linux more than Microsoft? (Well, maybe the Santa Cruz Operation [] ...) Is it any coincidence that just as the Feds were working out Microsoft's sentence, Microsoft sued Slashdot, resulting in a firestorm of geek ire that totally overshadowed the monopoly ruling?
#8. Screaming 14-year-old boys attempting to prove to each other that they are more 3133t than j00.
Need I say more?
#7. Technical opinions refereed by popular vote means lousy technical opinions.
Before the Internet, a certain breed of deconstructionists had a lot of fun telling everybody that "privileging of dominant paradigms" was wrecking the world. The Internet has taught us that privileging certain views is absolutely crucial to avoid drowning in the ravings of idiots. On Slashdot, many articles discuss technical issues---but comments are refereed by popular vote, and even though the populace of Slashdot readers knows somewhat more than your average set of people off the street, they still tend to promote (as in "moderate up") a lot of technical nonsense. Reading Slashdot can therefore often be worse than useless, especially to young and budding programmers: it can give you exactly the wrong idea about the technical issues it raises.

The pre-Internet publishing world had magazines, newspapers, and journals with editors. Respectable publications hired qualified editors. Those qualified editors were educated enough to make intelligent decisions about the quality of content. The Slashdot model removes the editors and substitutes popular vote, and the result (unfortunately) is that the quality level becomes incredibly inconsistent. It was an interesting experiment; it didn't work, not for Slashdot (though it might work in some other population of users). Too bad. Now, it's time to quit.
#6. Community myth that Linux is technically superior to any other operating system in the known universe.
People who do operating systems research [] , of course, think this is a joke. Dissent from this view in Slashdot, however, and you'd better be wearing your asbestos fatigues.
#5. Butt-ugly visual design.
Of course, this one's a matter of taste. However, in my analysis, the visual elements of the Slashdot site are basically hopelessly confused and wrong. From the cryptic links in the left margin, to the drop-shadowed graphics (hello, digital design cliche circa 1994?), to the offensively lousy color scheme (let's use circuit board green, because it's "News for Nerds", right?) I can't find much to like about the design of Slashdot.
#4. Gullible editorial staff continues to post links to any and all articles that vaguely criticize Linux in any way.
Blowhards (like the flock of irresponsible columnists over at the Windows-boosterism rag InfoWorld [] ) have had tons of fun taking advantage of this tendency to drive hits to their site. On any given day, Slashdot readers are treated to another link to another column by another self-proclaimed pundit declaring that Linux is (pick one) unreliable, not scalable, not user-friendly, doomed, piracy-inducing, foul-smelling, or un-American. And irony was that the editors of Slashdot are falling right into the pundits' trap: inciting the Slashdot community is the one surefire way to drive up your hit count and hence your revenue from ad banners. Did the Slashdot editors ever wise up? Not that I ever saw. Given how tiresome the endless pro-Linux jihad had become by the time I quit, I have very little desire to go back and find out whether that's changed.
#3. Gullible editorial staff continues to post links to bogus pseudoscience articles by crackpots.
At the time I quit, the editors were posting links to theories of alternate consciousness, unified theories of the universe made up by people in their garages, and the like at a rate of two or three a week. And the number was only increasing. If I want to read articles that promote totally bogus pseudoscience, I'll open up the Village Voice [] . We don't need another webzine filling that role.
#2. Editorial/comment system pretends to be democratic but in reality most content remains firmly in the iron clasp of the editors.
The above problems with editorial could be solved if stories could be moderated as well as comments, or if editors paid attention to negative feedback about the posting of certain articles. However, the editorial staff, while pretending to be ideology-free selectors of any "interesting" content, in fact exert tremendous power over the content of the site, because they are the only ones who can select top-level links. They have furthermore demonstrated, for all the reasons above, that they cannot use this power wisely.

In fact, if you think about it, the links on Slashdot are easily an order of magnitude less interesting, on average, than those of Suck [] , Hotwired [] , or FEED [] ---all of which are run by smart editors with good taste (and two of which are dead---thus proving that only the good die young). If you've read any of these webzines, you'll probably agree. Rob and Hemos simply don't compare, as editors, to Stephen Johnson or Joey Anuff.

So, really, it's time to ask yourself: why should I read Slashdot? Because it targets my demographic? That's a silly reason. So why not quit today?
#1. Two words: Jon Katz.
Every community has its resident gasbag. The difference between Slashdot and other communities is that they have the means to kick their village idiot off his soapbox, but they lack the will. If Jon Katz is not the single worst writer for any webzine, anywhere on the planet, alive today, then I am a penguin. His writing manages to be endlessly meandering and verbose, and simultaneously utterly content-free.

Notice, by the way, that I have not said a word about his technical acumen. It's not necessary to. Katz (who, like all opportunists, likes to paint himself as an innocent victim whenever he's criticized) makes a big deal about how there are "technical snobs" in the Linux user population who blast him for not being a technical genius. To tell the truth, Katz's inability to install even recent Linux distributions (which are arguably as easy to install as MacOS or Windows) on a run-of-the-mill x86 PC does testify to his general cluelessness. However, Katz is not a programmer or sysadmin; he's a writer. He must stand or fall based on the quality of his writing. And his writing is totally the pits. He would never have gotten published anywhere but Slashdot; even WIRED, cheerleaders of all things "digital" and "decentralized", finally got tired of his babbling and let him go. The cheesiest, most blatantly pandering "Hookers Who Read Proust" article on [] displays more literary skill than the finest Katz screed ever to see the light of day.

To make things worse, Katz is also a shameless opportunist who regularly uses Slashdot to promote his books. And the Slashdot admins go right along with it. You can't criticize someone for their taste in friends, but you can criticize them for continuing in a relentless and blind nepotism that destroys the quality of the site.

No single factor was more pivotal in driving me away from Slashdot than Jon Katz. Even when I registered for an account and filtered Katz out, still he made it into news items not labeled Jon Katz---presumably to promote sales of his book. What other webzine displays such a blatant disrespect for its readers?

But then again, Katz's pandering, one-note "Ich bin ein Geek" spiel may be exactly what the Slashdot audience deserves.

Simply put, it's time to quit Slashdot, once and for all.

Alternatives to Slashdot

You may be wondering, "Where will I get the links and news that I've been getting from Slashdot?" I'll admit that Slashdot does post some nice links once in a while---however poorly edited and poorly moderated the site as a whole is. However, I've found that for all useful content on Slashdot, there exists another source that will point me to it.

Reading other sites decreases your need for a Slashdot fix, and also makes the quality deficit at Slashdot all the more obvious. My suggestions follow.


  • This list is a work in progress. For example, the Register used to be here; now, after further investigation, I've moved it to the "just as bad" [] list.)
  • This is not a list for alternative Slashdots; it is a list of alternatives to Slashdot. Sites on this list are those that I have found consistently superior to Slashdot; usually these sites focus on a particular mission and keep the signal-to-noise ratio high. If you have a random bulletin board site with links on the front page, then I am probably not interested in linking it up here.
Science/Technology news

This depends on what kind of news you're interested in, of course. Here's a sampling of sites that will give you more targeted, more carefully selected news:

Ars Technica []
An amateur (in the best sense of the word) PC user news site. The editors have a broad grasp of technical issues that is rare to find in an enthusiast site; as a result, their takes on tech tend to be uncannily on the money.
bottomquark []
When Quit Slashdot! got posted to memepool [] , somebody (whose name I omit, to protect him from Slashdot groupthink flames) suggested bottomquark for science news. A brief skim suggests that bottomquark provides decent links for lay science enthusiasts, with no screaming 14-year-old boys.
Science Now []
Daily news edited by the people who bring you Science [] , the premier all-sciences academic journal. Requires a (non-free) subscription, but your institution may already have one.
Wired News []

Wired has its own annoying preoccupations, such as its obsession with tech stocks and Napster, but it tends to get the stories off the wires promptly and give a more clueful interpretation than, say, CNN. On the other hand, you should definitely not trust Wired News's reportage of political issues. The entire Wired organization is deeply steeped in libertarian groupthink [] and feels no qualms about distorting stories and quotes to advance their right-wing agenda [] . Caveat lector.

(Note, however, that I do subscribe to the Politech [] moderated mailing list run by Declan McCullough, Wired News's former Washington D.C. correspondent. Declan's annoyingly right-libertarian, but his list's consistently illuminating nonetheless.)

NewsForge []
All open source news, all the time.
"Slashdot" []
Yes, even "Slashdot" is better than Slashdot.
Electronic Frontier Foundation []
If you really care about your political rights on the Internet, the EFF is one of the few organizations actually doing something to protect them. Join and support them; it's much better than whining in an online forum. Read the dispatches from the press room [] or subscribe to the EFFector [] newsletter for news updates.
TAPPED: The American Prospect's weblog []
The American Prospect [] used to be one of those wonky think-tank-ish policy journals that came out every two months. A while back, they had a makeover as a more mainstream progressive political rag. They've become one of the few liberal political magazines that's neither shrill nor boring, and their smart weblog is one of the best sources for non-right-wing political coverage on the net.
The Baffler []
Simply the best, angriest, and most coherent political writing in American journalism today. Unfortunately, their web offerings are a bit sparse.
Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email []
Is anyone not against unsolicited commercial e-mail?
memepool []
Tons of links. Witty writeups. Relatively little repetitive editorial b.s. (i.e., no "This is an interesting link! Check it out!"). If you want to check out the weirder side of the web, there's no better source. WARNING: this site can be as big a time-waster as Slashdot---though the pleasure-to-pain ratio is far higher. Proceed with caution. []
A new site that uses the Slash code, but tries to attract a different community. Apparently a joint venture by the former editors of Feed and Suck, two of my favorite webzines. Worth checking out; let's see if this works out better than Slashdot did.
FEED [] , R.I.P.
Back when FEED was alive, it had the most consistently even-handed and well-written articles on the web. They got a bit out of their depth when talking about technology---they never did hire a really qualified science writer---but not too annoyingly so. Their old articles are still archived, although they're not writing anything new as far as I can tell.., R.I.P.
Feed had the best writing, but Word had the most innovative total package on the web. The tricks they pulled off with their design, always pushing the boundaries of what's possible on the web, were a wonder to behold. (And the pages worked with my Netscape 4 browser on Linux!) Alas, is dead, and their domain appears to have been bought up by a corporation that will not be named, to avoid giving them publicity. Luckily,'s column "Work" (of which Keith Gessen of Feed [] wrote a stellar review [] , also covering Saunders's Pastoralia, that's entertainment in itself) has been archived in a print book, Gig:
[ Barnes & Noble [] | Borders [] | Fatbrain [] | Powells [] ] []
Pronounced "corrosion" (it's a long story [] ), this site does seem marginally better than Slashdot because it subjects story submissions to a public moderation process (if you're going to be democratic, go all the way). Additionally, the editors are trying to encourage a culture of thoughtful commentary, not raging flames (succeeding is another matter, but you have to start somewhere).
Sites just as bad as Slashdot

Unfortunately, Slashdot is not an isolated phenomenon; there are many sites out there that, in attempting to be alternatives to Slashdot, have become mere imitators, as bad as (or even worse than) the original. I'm still trying to figure out what factors lead a site down that path (a population of vocal libertarians appears to be a major factor) but here they are:

Although the Register has a ton of technology-related links, their reporting is simply crap. Case in point: the secret RIAA meeting hoax [] .

Nor are the Register's problems limited to falling for hoaxes. Consider this Register article [] , which claims that IBM's trading bots took on "half a dozen of New York's sharpest operators", said operators being "Wall Street traders". Their source is The New Scientist [] . But let's take a look at the original New Scientist article [] . Does it say who the people in the experiment are? Are they "Wall Street's sharpest", or are they volunteer test subjects at IBM? In fact, the quotations in the article imply specifically that the test subjects were not the "Gary Kasparov of trade", and the BBC reports [] that "none of the humans were investment professionals"! Furthermore, the Register's article states that some of the project team members worked on Deep Blue. This implication is found nowhere in the New Scientist article. In fact, the key members of the Deep Blue project team [] were Feng-Hsiung Hsu, Murray Campbell, Joe Hoane, Jerry Brody, and C.J. Tan. These names are conspicuously absent from the Information Economies Project [] roster, led by Kephart et al. Actually, if you had any technical clue, you would know that this makes perfect sense: the key technical challenge of Deep Blue was optimized minimax search algorithms, and hardware support for these algorithms. Minimax search is practically as ancient as AI itself. By contrast, an intelligent trading agent, which must adapt to a changing environment, and whose success depends in large part on how it interacts with other agents, is a totally different kind of AI problem.

So, basically, nearly everything in the Register article is wrong, except the very vaguest outlines. It is not wrong in trivial or incidental ways: it is wrong in ways that fundamentally distort the reader's understanding of the facts being reported. Furthermore, this shoddy reportage is more insidious than simply printing news of hoaxes: hoaxes may be uncovered, and the discovery widely publicized, but inaccuracies in reporting usually go unnoticed.

Furthermore, there's something else you notice about the New Scientist article, by contrast: there's actually substantive information. For example, in the New Scientist you learn that the experiment involved commodity auctions, not stocks, bonds, or futures; you learn the flavor of the strategies used by the bots; you learn the name of the bidding algorithms' inventor. Basically, the New Scientist article reads as though it comes from a real publication. The Register, on the other hand, is written by clueless geeks who don't know what journalism is. Compare the Red Herring's article on the same topic [] , or the BBC article linked above, and you see that the Register really is the pits. Reading the Register is not only a waste of time, it is actively dangerous: you will be misinformed.

The British have a long tradition of trashy tabloid journalism. I submit that The Register is the geek equivalent of British tabloids, with wildly inaccurate tech gossip substituting for wildly inaccurate celebrity gossip. Stop reading the Register today; you won't regret it.

P.S.: if you find the intelligent economic agents project interesting, you should really go to the source [] and read some papers. If I may digress a bit: most non-scientists are sadly unaware of how much cutting-edge scientific knowledge is available on the web in the form of published research papers. These papers have all the gory details you could want, with none of the lay media's distortions and mis-simplifications (of course, they have intrinsic distortion due to the opinions of the scientists, but that's unavoidable). Now, they're not always accessible to laypeople, but sometimes they are, and you should give them a try. In computer science, many peer-reviewed papers have at least introductions and conclusions that are understandable to anyone with a technical background, scientist or not.
Purporting to be "news for grown-ups", this site's banner calls it "the most controversial site on the web". In fact, this purely a troll site, started by ex-Slashdot and ex-Kuro5hin trolls who wanted more time and space to scream at each other like idiots (and draw people into screaming like idiots at them). I came across this site as a referrer in my weblogs; apparently there's a fanatical Microsoft devotee who links to this page religiously as a rejoinder to Linux advocates. I wonder if he's got any clue that
  • I use Linux (and other Unix flavors) almost exclusively whenever I need to get work done
  • The University of Washington lives in Microsoft's backyard, and our computer science department has strong ties to Microsoft Research. Yet we run most of our important systems (this web server, for example) on Unix.
Let me be quite clear: I do not hate Slashdot because I hate Linux. I hate Slashdot because I hate inanity. manages the remarkable feat of beating Slashdot's record on that count.

Maglev (4, Interesting)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068709)

For flights that don't cross the oceans it seems to me that Maglev trains is the way to go. They can actually reach higher speeds than a commercial airliner, and if you want to be really sci-fi you could operate them inside an evacuated tube, effectively eliminating air-resistance, and thus allowing velocities far above the speed of sound. Power would of course come from nuclear reactors, because as we all know, nuclear reactors cure cancer... ( no, really ).

Airport Security (2, Insightful)

Airw0lf (795770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068813)

Some people would actively seek out the trains given how much of a hassle airport security is. Everything would of course be fine until some nutjob figured out a way to blow up a maglev train...

Re:Maglev (1)

Heir Of The Mess (939658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068887)

One of the articles was about a jet engine research project funded by the airforce, but after reading your comment I can see clearly that they are wasting their money looking at this flying thing. Obviously what they should be doing is researching how they can lay maglev track at Mach 2.0, and have the bombs flying down the track just behind the head of construction.

It's genius! You send down the bombs, then you send down the troops to go in and secure what's left of the place and then you can send supplies in by the same track. Maglev capability is obviously a serious military advantage. With the Japanese, Germans, and Chinese vying for top spot with this tech we could see a new world Military leader emerge.

There could even be some possiblities there for commercial applications too, except that the infrastructure costs exceed what you would make back on such a project.

I can think of some problems (4, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068925)

Seems likely to me this suffers from several serious problems:

(1) I can't easily believe it's more efficient. Granted, you use a fair amount of energy raising a jetliner to 40,000 feet, but it can't be that much, compared to what you need to use to keep it levitated and push air out of the way at 600 knots for hours and hours -- and a maglev train needs to do that, too. Indeed, air resistance is surely much higher on the maglev train, which has to operate near sea level instead of at the significantly lower air pressures in the stratosphere.

(2) You've got an incredible infrastructure problem. Essentially, you've got to build the entire Interstate highway system over again -- only this time it can't be just smooth concrete, it's got to be ultrasmooth, ultrastraight rails kept in alignment to the nearest micrometer along thousands of miles, in rain or shine, snow or mud or hurricane or flood, and with marvelous superconducting magnet windings all along them that have to be kept in absolutely perfect working order all the time, because you can't afford one small booboo in your levitation when you're flying along near the speed of sound 1.5 inches off the ground. I can't even imagine how you're going to switch maglev trains from one track to another while they're blistering along at 600 MPH. Those are going to be some very, very expensive switches.

Thing is, with airplanes you only need to build airports, and that's really only just laying down a big long strip of concrete and installing radar. You don't need to build much stuff between destination cities. You also don't need to lay down power along the entire route of every route they fly, because the motor goes along with the carriage.

(3) You've got an amazing safety issue. In the stratosphere there's not much you can run into at jet speeds, fortunately. But on the ground? Say a 50 pound rock falls off a rock face and dings the marvelous superconducting track, so that when the maglev train comes along 20 minutes later it hits a "dry spot" and the carriage dips down 3 inches and hits the ground at 600 knots. BOOM. You'd have to identify the passengers by DNA analysis of tiny bone fragments.

(4) Noise? I live next to a major rail line, and those things are noisy enough at 60-80 MPH. If they came by at 600, it wouldn't be possible to live within half a mile of the track. How does that square with the fact that most of the travel would be to and through major urban areas? Thing about airplanes is, except for within a few miles of the airport, you can't hear them because they fly two miles or more above us.

Re:I can think of some problems (1)

tylernt (581794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069097)

Subterranean evacuated tubes address issues 1, 3, and 4.

Re:I can think of some problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21069663)

While you have some good points, they are mutually contradictory. Infrastructure and safety are related, and solving one of them will solve the other. Once we decide to blow half our GNP (ass-sourced statistical metric) on infrastructure, we can deal with the efficiency aspect at the same time ("can" does not equal "will" but...).

If the train levitates, there is no interaction between rail and train, and thus no noise except for the wind.

As the sibling points out, using tunnels that are evacuated of air (probably in segments so that parts can be shut down and maintained without breaking the system as a whole) and located below ground (at least in cities) we can eliminate most of the problems that you mention at the cost of... well... increasing costs. Massively. Subterrenean infrastructure usually costs a magnitude (if that is enough) more than surface infrastructure, but adds the convenience of using a larger chunk of old Terra.

There are of course other benefits to a maglev system:
Transport of goods can now be eliminated from the surface transporting system to an even greater extent.
It will require distributed power generation (not just power distribution) so we will be forced to accept powerplants in all of our backyards. The powerplants in question will most likely be nuclear in nature, and will drive down costs of household energy (it will not be economical to drive the maglev using current power generation levels) as well as decrease carbon-based power generation dependency.
Public transport will be cool again (if only for a little while) and we may (will) be able to track our citizens easier (definitely a plus for all wanna-be Big Brothers). ...and finally, we'll be one step closer to that glorious sci-fi future some of us read about, even though we are still lacking on the personal jetpack and flying car capabilities. Levitating trains? Cross that one off from the list!

I bet these engines would emit water vapor (2, Interesting)

The New Stan Price (909151) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068797)

Which is the giant greenhouse elephant in the room, but nobody pays attention to it because it doesn't help the world socialist cause.

Infoporn Fact (1)

Knoglinger (1078223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068879)

Currently the average MPG for airline passengers is: 60 miles per gallon per passenger. This is from a Lufthansa brochure. ~~~~

Re:Infoporn Fact (1)

Knoglinger (1078223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068909)

And for the rest of the world (where I am from) it is 4l/100km. ~~~~

Re:Infoporn Fact (1)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069309)

A foolish argument though. You wouldn't consider drivng your car the sort of distances that you fly. You should consider the average consumption per passenger trip.

Re:Infoporn Fact (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069277)

That's just a fancy way of telling the truth: a commercial airliner gets about 1/3 of a mile to the "gallon" (when converted from the proper "pounds" to "gallons at sea level and standard temperature").

Alternatively, one could say that my car gets 125 miles per gallon per passenger when carrying four passengers. It just makes planes sound better (they're only off by half this way, instead of an order of magnitude).

It's still quite a feat, given the power requirements of flying and the HUGE savings as opposed to using multiple cars and/or buses.

Good ideas (1)

blindseer (891256) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068897)

... but not because of global warming.

First off, I am not convinced that global warming is caused by human activity. I think it is caused by solar activity, which should be proven correct or not in the next decade if the predictions of less solar activity comes true.

I think the idea of getting our fuels from local sources is going to become increasingly important for our national security and standard of living. The government, especially the Department of Defense, is quite aware of this. Synthesized hydrocarbons is not a new idea. It's been done. The claim of a net zero effect on the environment just sounds so incredible to me. As long as one is burning hydrocarbons there is still going to be CO2 and, more importantly, water coming out of the tail pipe. I emphasize water because that is a more powerful, plentiful, and seemingly invisible greenhouse gas than CO2. I say invisible because no one is talking about it. I doubt anyone will because as preposterous as it may sound to call CO2 a "pollutant" it would be even more so to claim that water is a pollutant.

While the article mentions that the carbon emissions will be offset by the biomass from which the fuel is derived there is no mention of where the energy is coming from to produce this fuel. What this syhtetic fuel process does is take molecules from a low potential energy state (water, biomass) and turn it into a higher potential energy state (jet fuel). That energy has to come from somewhere. There just is not enough energy density in traditional "green" energy sources (wind, water, solar, biomass) to match what one can get from burning coal, petroleum, or natural gas. The only place to get enough energy for this process to fuel the planes at a price even close to what we have come to expect is to burn that coal to fire that jet fuel plant. All they are doing is shifting the CO2 emissions from the plane in the air to the fuel plant on the ground.

The only way this process is going to meet the claims of net zero carbon into the air (and still be economically viable) is to power this by nuclear energy. I find it quite aggravating that articles such as these do not make that connection. I guess it is because of the audience they are speaking to, or that the scientists themselves are so caught up in their work (and their funding) that they fail to make a mention of that fact, or are themselves oblivious to where the energy will come from.

If we want to reduce the amount of CO2 going into the air we need nuclear power. We need it now and it great quantities. That is the only solution that I see. All this talk about hydrogen this, solar that, and energy efficient what-cha-ma-call-its only distracts from that very important detail. We need more nuclear power plants.

SPIN Translation = Synthetic Fuel from COAL !!! (4, Informative)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068977)

Jet turbine power plants have have 2 SIGNIFICANT advantages:
(1)They can operate with just about any type of chemically and thermally stable combustible fluid with a sufficient energy density having consistent and reliable combustion properties.
(2) They are not hampered by the well-known significant inefficiencies introduced by exhaust emissions systems such as mufflers, catalytic converters, EGR systems, etc..

NOTE: Modern Jet fuels are hydrocarbon BLENDS. []
These blends are created as cheaply as possible to meet specific fuel properties and standards, including their energy content, and intended use: []
There have been many well-intentioned pushes for "replacement" Jet fuels, including a "safer" version which was intended to reduce fire balls when Jets crashed, but it was a flop as it introduced safety concerns as the 'safety' additive increased the possibility of a flame-out (it basically made the flash point of the fuel higher and reduced the flammability of jet fuel mist) and it cost way too much for little if any margin of safety it would have introduced. (Most people in jet crashes do not die from a fireball of jet fuel, but from actually hitting the mountain, crashing into the ground/ocean, or basically some form of 'Aortic Dissection' [] )

I say that this is really a SPIN and a PR campaign.

Everyone looks good waving the environmental flag, but when compared to boats, trains, and trucking, jets are NEVER environmentally friendly. (Jets have to fight gravity continuously when moving goods and people = INEFFICIENT)
TFA ( [] ) is a Press Release about research into processing "Biomass" into Jet fuel And, oh ya BYW, COAL!! THAT'S RIGHT, COAL!
We are talking about fuel from "other than" OIL Sources = SYNTHETIC FUEL (AKA SynFuel), specifically SYNTHETIC "JET" FUEL. []

This really has EVERYTHING to do with the price of oil being SKY HIGH (pun intended): []
Everyone knows that Aviation drinks fuel of any kind faster than other transportation types (when you realize the efficiency ratio of Distance traveled with quantity of cargo compared to actual fuel used per unit cargo (person, metric ton, etc..) for that given distance)
We are talking about stirring up money to get more research into the conversion of Coal into Synthetic Jet fuel (and other fuels) and we'll get to work with biomass too.
Oil is so expensive these days it is becoming just as cheap to chemically engineer/create (from scratch!) synthetic Jet Fuels from Coal. (which the US still has hundreds of years worth)
Why expensively pump it out of the deep ocean, or the middle east, and then transport around the planet (BYW, they use ships for this because of their efficiency, not jet aircraft) when you can just dig up some local Coal or Bitumen Tar Sand deposit [] and make your own synthetic fuel.
(Now observe the pollutants released and the energy required during the "upgrading" of Coal/Bitumen into the new Synthetic Jet Fuel [] )
FYI: The Germans made Synthetic Jet Fuel during WWII because they had Coal but not so much oil... []

While Chemical Process Engineers are MAKING the new price-competitive synthetic fuels from COAL (and a little biomass), they will engineer them to have optimum energy densities and to combust more completely and efficiently.
-->Now you can claim that the new Jet fuel is more environmentally friendly! When in reality you were having to synthesize it from scratch (from Coal/Tar) and *now* it happens to be cleaner and better. = SYNTHETIC.

Flying planes on snake oil and magic beans.... (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 6 years ago | (#21069909)

From the article:

Coal, a relatively cheap and readily available source of energy, has an emissions profile at least as harmful as petroleum.

An "especially attractive feature" of processing coal and biomass together to make synfuels is that it requires only half the amount of biomaterial as pure biofuel production, while still making fuels with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions, Williams said.
Right, so coal is "at least as harmful" as oil. But it's OK, because using it in a 50:50 mix with biofuels will magically reduce it's carbon footprint to zero.

Yes, I do understand the net zero of the biomass, but I've yet to see a biomass crop that absorbs twice the amount of CO2 it emits.

What sort of science is this?


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