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Comments

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Betelgeuse To Blow Up Soon — Or Not

RobVB Re:Even if it does explode with the full brightnes (312 comments)

Betelgeuse has a declination of 7 24.5' which barely varies at all, meaning it's visible from the North Pole all the way down to 75 South of the equator at least at one point during any 24 hour period. Most populated areas will get to see it at least 30 degrees above the horizon (the closer you are to 7 North, the higher up in the sky you'll see it, and the longer it will be visible each day).

So if it happens, you can watch it at home unless you live on Antarctica. If you have preferences as to seeing it at sunset, midnight, sunrise or midday, you might need to travel East or West.

more than 3 years ago
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Greenland Ice Sheet Melts At Record Rate In 2010

RobVB Re:The meaning of random (654 comments)

Not really. Many goods have a density higher than that of seawater. The addition of extra fresh water from melting ice caps will help reduce the density of seawater. This will increase the range of products that can be thrown overboard to be delivered to underwater wastelands.

Also, higher sea levels will make it easier for bigger ships to sail right into the heart of sunken cities. This will further increase the efficiency of shipping, and reduce the need for secondary transport systems.

Now please, stop crashing the "glass half full"-party.

more than 3 years ago
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Greenland Ice Sheet Melts At Record Rate In 2010

RobVB Re:The meaning of random (654 comments)

I love how some people can be so determined in saying humanity has hardly any impact on our planet. Consider the changes in human lifestyle over the last 100 years. Consider population growth. Consider consumption or natural resources. Consider how much of the Earth is changed by human development. Consider the combined effect of those, and then tell me it's a good idea to keep doing what we're doing.

It feels to me like some people are giving in to the fact that we did in fact evolve from monkeys, and they've found another noble cause to hang on to.

more than 3 years ago
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Greenland Ice Sheet Melts At Record Rate In 2010

RobVB Re:The meaning of random (654 comments)

How can you be so sure that there is little we can do to stop it? The fact that we can't prove that we're responsible for global warming doesn't prove that we're not. And if you do a proper risk assessment, like this guy does in his series of videos that are very much worth viewing despite his silly hats, you'll find that the smart thing to do is to try and do something about it.

Your line of thought sounds like "the Earth is going to hell but we might not be responsible so let's just see where this goes". Consider the possibility that we are responsible, and/or (they don't even have to be connected) the possibility that we can do something about it.

more than 3 years ago
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Greenland Ice Sheet Melts At Record Rate In 2010

RobVB Re:The meaning of random (654 comments)

Also, much shorter shipping routes from China and Japan to the U.S. East Coast and Europe.

more than 3 years ago
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I'd rather my paycheck be denominated in ...

RobVB Re:Watts (868 comments)

As long as you're not the one doing the converting, someone will try to squeeze you for another joule.

It is a valid thought experiment, though. It raises some interesting questions. I think the main danger would be the practical application of fusion power. In your economy of energy credits, fusion power would cause hyperinflation and crash the worldwide economy. In the world as we know it, it would probably only crash the oil and gas markets, which have no real long term future anyway.

more than 3 years ago
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I'd rather my paycheck be denominated in ...

RobVB Re:Watts (868 comments)

Trading 2kW for 1kW or less is being done on a massive scale everywhere in the world. Thermal power stations convert heat to electrical energy with an efficiency of 33-50%, meaning they're trading 2kW of heat for (at best) 1kW of electrical energy.

Side note: you should be talking about either watt-hours or joules as a unit of energy. Watt is a unit of power, or energy per unit of time.

more than 3 years ago
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The Continued Censorship of Huckleberry Finn

RobVB Marketing campaign (1073 comments)

Let all those kids know the book is in the public domain and they can legally download the original version with the bad words and sex scenes in it.

In case you're wondering, mentioning the sex scenes is to make sure they'll actually read the book.

more than 3 years ago
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Foodtubes Proposes Underground, Physical Internet

RobVB Re:That's a really great idea but... (431 comments)

Tunneling really isn't that hard in most places. All you need is a deep hole on each side to assemble tunnel boring machines. You might run into problems with pipelines, wires and other tunnels, but you can always go deeper.

more than 3 years ago
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Foodtubes Proposes Underground, Physical Internet

RobVB Not the first with this idea (431 comments)

In the '90s, a feasibility study was done in the Netherlands for an Underground Logistics System. It involved little carts that could drive themselves, and carry a variety of cargo pallets. The idea was to connect Amsterdam's Schiphol airport to a nearby train station and a flower market. They never built it because the financial risks were too big.

More recently, a Belgian engineering firm proposed an Underground Container Mover for the port of Antwerp, which is basically a large underground conveyor belt for containers. It would run in a circle connecting container terminals with other terminals and highways on the other side of the river. This could remove a lot of trucks from the busy highways, especially the tunnels.

The basic idea is that as ground is becoming more and more rare, we shouldn't waste it on cargo transport. Moving most of it underground makes a lot of sense. And we've actually managed to move a lot of it (up to 90% in some areas) underground already, in terms of tonne-miles of goods transported. Just think of drinkable water, gas and sewage, but also oil and a lot of chemicals in industrial zones. Pipelines are transporting more than most people can imagine, and they're great. Trying to move boxed goods in a similar fashion is the logical next step, there are just a few problems we haven't figured out yet.

more than 3 years ago
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BP Ignored Safety Modeling Software To Save Time

RobVB Re:Seriously (203 comments)

they do have a pretty well oiled Lobby and PR machine.

Almost as well oiled as the Mexican Gulf!

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:Proportions seem to be missed (595 comments)

You can't disconnect fuel efficiency from pollution efficiency, because you can't disconnect internal combustion engines from exhaust gases.

ICEs need something to burn, and it doesn't matter much what that something is. It can be carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, or in this case, all of the above. You'll always have oxides as exhaust, and most of those are harmful to the environment. The exception here is hydrogen gas which forms water (steam) when burned. Unfortunately hydrogen gas has to be man-made, which requires energy. That energy usually means exhaust gases of some sort.

You should also consider the fact that fuel oil is around 80% carbon and around 2% sulfur. That means you're emitting 40 times more carbon dioxide than sulfur oxides. With cars, you're emitting 84000 times more CO2 than SOx.

Another fun fact is that the reason "car fuel" (gasoline and diesel oil) have so little sulfur in them is that all the sulfur in crude oil is left in there while valuable "clean" oils are extracted, and what's left is the fuel they use on ships. So basically, ships are burning the sulfur that would otherwise be burned in cars.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:Could be a problem (595 comments)

It does, but the added cost is insignificant. Say a 300,000t ship uses 300t fuel per day, and carries enough fuel for a month. That's 9000t, or 3% of the entire mass of the ship (numbers roughly based on the Emma Maersk). Fuel consumption increases slower than total displacement (weight), so you'll use at most 3% more fuel.

So all you need to make it worthwhile is a price difference of 3%. I recently saw a price difference in fuel oil of around 80$/t between Saint Petersburg (Russia) and Antwerp (Belgium), on a price of around 500$/t. That's a 16% difference, and that's by no means extraordinary.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:Could be a problem (595 comments)

making it illegal to sell high sulfur fuel in US ports would be a huge step forward.

Most ships have enough fuel on board to cross a few oceans, so they could just bunker up somewhere else. It might be an improvement for US coastal shipping, but that's not a very big part of the shipping industry.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:Could be a problem (595 comments)

except for the externalized costs.

Unfortunately, in the business world, there's no such thing as externalized costs.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:Could be a problem (595 comments)

The British needed 5000 to 6000 trees to build a single (large) warship, back in the day. That's quite a lot of wood if you ask me. In fact, that's a pretty big forest.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:One can dream... (595 comments)

Ships' funnels are generally placed aft, and their speed means you've got a nice headwind blowing your exhaust gases away from the ship - you're just out of luck if the wind is in your back and going slightly faster than your ship.

The air you breathe standing outside on a ship is quite clean, probably a lot cleaner than the air most of us are breathing right now.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:Which is worse? (595 comments)

Now, what I wonder is, would a cargo vessel be less polluting if it used a multi-hull design to reduce drag and was fitted with more advanced filtration system to mitigate the worst of its exhaust?

Multi-hull designs actually increase drag because they have a larger wet surface. They are also much more expensive to build and to maintain.

Filtering out the worst of the exhaust gases, specifically the sulfur oxides they're referring to in the article, isn't feasible on board ships. It's much easier to remove the sulfur in a refinery, but this simply doesn't happen because refineries don't want giant mountains of sulfur in their backyard. Leaving it in and burning it up is just the most economic thing to do.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Already exists (595 comments)

This has been developed and put into use by a German company: SkySails. They report fuel savings of up to 30% in some conditions.

And yes, cutting speeds by about 10% reduces fuel use for the same distance by about 20%. This happens all the time in economy dips. Since fuel is the largest cost in shipping and its share in total costs keeps rising, it's an easy way to save a lot of money by offering up a little time. Maersk, the big container line, has reduced the operating speed on its ships from 22 to 20 knots because of the global economic recession. This is a pretty hard thing to do for them, because their ships operate on a schedule and have to stick to it, so changing operating speed means changing the schedule worldwide.

In other types of shipping such as bulk carriers and tankers, this practice is much more common. When there is little demand, ships can go slower to save money so they make more profit per job. When the economy is doing well and demand is high, shipping prices can suddenly skyrocket. In this case, sailing a little faster is the best way to transport more cargo in the same time, and thus complete more jobs. In fact, increasing speed is the short-term version of building new ships: it virtually creates more carrying capacity instantly. Building a ship takes months or years, so it can't be used to respond to sudden changes in demand.

more than 3 years ago
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One Giant Cargo Ship Pollutes As Much As 50M Cars

RobVB Re:Proportions seem to be missed (595 comments)

I'll quote some math I did about a year ago in this post.

While the amounts of HFO burned by, say, the Emma Maersk are enormous (about 300 metric tonnes per day at full operation), this is almost nothing when compared to trucks. Assuming 300mt/day at a cruise speed of 25 knots (over 45km/h), that equates to roughly 30 tonnes per 100 km. A semi-trailer truck pulling two TEU containers runs at around 30 liter per 100 km (that's around 8 mpg). This means the Emma Maersk, carrying 14000 TEU, uses 1000 times as much fuel as a truck carrying 2 TEU, which makes this ship about 7 times as fuel efficient as trucks.

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Belgium expands private copying levy to more media

RobVB RobVB writes  |  more than 4 years ago

RobVB (1566105) writes "Tweakers.net (Google Translation, original link in Dutch here) is reporting on a decision by the Belgian government to expand Belgian private copying levies, effective starting February 1st 2010. Copying levies will now be charged on MP3 players (3 euro for an MP3 player with 16 GB of flash memory), set-top boxes (10.75 euro for one with a hard drive of 500 GB) external hard drives (9 euro for hard drives larger than 1 TB, which cost around 80 euro without the levy) and other media.

The report of a speech about these levies on a conference about DRM in 2003 mentions some of the reasoning behind these levies. It also shows high hopes for DRM systems "in the future". Since it's "the future" now, is it safe to say politicians understand that DRM systems aren't all-powerful, or is this just another victory of copyright lobbyists?"

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