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Group Tries To Open Source Seeds

XNormal Re:Monsanto (100 comments)

I think people may be confusing hybrid seeds with terminator seeds.

Most modern seeds are a cross between two parent lines. They are not stable and the next generation of seeds will not have the same carefully selected properties. This is not done on purpose to prevent them from being reused - it's just a property of the most effective method of generating seeds with targeted properties.

High quality open source seeds will most likely be hybrids, too. You will not be able to reuse their seeds. But the parent lines will not be kept as a guarded secret and multiple seed producers will be able to make generic versions at reasonable prices.

about a month ago

Only Two States Have Rules To Prevent Cheating On Computerized Tests

XNormal Prevent? (95 comments)

Rules may prohibit cheating and possibly reduce it. They definitely can't prevent it.

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do After Digitizing VHS Tapes?

XNormal Re:Burn to M-Disc (268 comments)

A blu-ray M-Disc is now available. Put them in a fire safe (e.g. this one.

Even with just a single copy, I think this has a better chance of surviving the next 25 years than assuming that you will never fail to copy the data to the next hard disks before the old ones die over that entire period. Or that the cloud storage provider you choose will not go out of business.

And you should be able to find readers for this. For some applications there is good reason to have some kind of storage medium that is completely passive and has no electronics as part of it. And unless something changes in the laws of physics it will probably be optical. While they may shrink is size over time, for archival use a 12cm disc seems like a convenient form factor, doesn't it? So I think these holographic nanodispersion dense wavelength multiplexing diffraction-limit beating wonders will still be be backward compatible with the ancient "blue ray" format.

about 3 months ago

Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

XNormal Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (442 comments)

Shaving some of the *predictable* daily peaks is nice. It brings you closer to the base load demand and saves a bit at the margin.

Responding to a sudden and *unpredictable* loss of a good fraction of your power generation capacity is no longer about shaving. I think the right term would be "amputation". The cost at which a large fraction of consumers would plan and respond by reducing their power demand is about the same as their losses from a blackout. This is no longer about optimization of resource use - it's about spreading the inevitable damage to those for whom it is slightly less painful (or those who simply have no choice because they cannot pay).

This is way past the point of diminishing returns on overall benefit to society - unless you ascribe some value approaching infinity to your religious devotion to "renewable" energy and make everyone share this valuation by force.

about 4 months ago

Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

XNormal Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (442 comments)

Large business consumers make very effective use of these incentives right now.

The "incentives" required to produce such extreme changes in demand as required to meet the fluctuations in renewable energy production would have to be very harsh. Yes, you would probably turn off your air conditioner if it cost you $20 per hour. And some might consider it an effective use of incentives to manipulate demand. I'm not so sure how you would feel about such manipulations, though.

about 4 months ago

Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

XNormal "Dance" = rolling blackouts (442 comments)

This is about as valid as the claim that "the wind always blows somewhere". Actual power generation data shows that weather is a very large scale phenomenon and the wind most definitely slows to a tiny fraction of its average power over an entire continent.

about 4 months ago

Mozilla Doubles Down on JPEG Encoding with mozjpeg 2.0

XNormal How does it compare to JPEGmini? (129 comments)

JPEGmini is a proprietary implementation of the same concept : fully compatible implementation of a JPEG compressor that does better than libjpeg at the cost of much higher CPU use.

about 5 months ago

Harvard Study Links Neonicotinoid Pesticide To Colony Collapse Disorder

XNormal Actual nicotine is also used as a pesticide (217 comments)

Actual nicotine is also used as a pesticide - in "organic" agriculture. I wouldn't be surprised if it has exactly the same effect if used at large scale.

about 7 months ago

Toyota Describes Combustion Engine That Generates Electricity Directly

XNormal Re:Efficiency? (234 comments)

The conventional piston-and-crankshaft engine forces the variation of cylinder volume over time to follow a specific sinusoidal curve. This is not the most efficient way to convert the energy of a hot expanding gas to motion. Look at the third picture in the slideshow to see the power-over-time graph of the free piston engine to get an idea of how differently this engine runs.

This fundamental difference in thermodynamic cycle performance makes the biggest improvement to the efficiency of this engine. It more than makes up for the inherent inefficiencies in converting the mechanical motion to electricity and back. Using electricity lets you use capacitors and batteries to smooth that spiky but efficient power production to a a smooth supply for the electric motors.

about 8 months ago

WHO: Air Pollution 'Killed 7 Million People' In 2012

XNormal Nucular power (97 comments)

Take a look at this graph: Nuclear Electricity Production. It's quite easy to spot 1986 on this graph (Chernobyl). That's where the trend of acceleration in nuclear power growth has reversed into deceleration. No such reversal has occured in demand for electric power, of course. The shortfall has been largely picked up by coal.

The number of people that have been killed by air pollution from coal as an indirect result of the nuclear stagnation after the Chernobyl accident is well into the millions.

about 9 months ago

Sulfur Polymers Could Enable Long-Lasting, High-Capacity Batteries

XNormal Sulfur-based polymer? (131 comments)

In the 1960s there was research into sulfur-based polymers but apparently ran into some problems:

"Recently we found ourselves with an odour problem beyond our worst expectations. During early experiments, a stopper jumped from a bottle of residues, and, although replaced at once, resulted in an immediate complaint of nausea and sickness from colleagues working in a building two hundred yards away. Two of our chemists who had done no more than investigate the cracking of minute amounts of trithioacetone found themselves the object of hostile stares in a restaurant and suffered the humiliation of having a waitress spray the area around them with a deodorant."


about 9 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Legal Advice Or Loopholes Needed For Manned Space Program

XNormal Re:IANL (201 comments)

... and the easiest way for your government to comply with the treaty article about non-government entities is to simply to put in place a law disallowing it. Without a powerful lobby there will be no incentive for your government to set up the regulatory apparatus for legally enabling such activity. Any such regulation is likely to be tailored to the needs of the members of such a lobby, not to a small organization like yours. And if you are thinking of jurisdiction shopping (i.e. finding some government more friendly to such activities) remember that your government may decide that you are under their jurisdiction by being a citizen, regardless of where in the world you happen to be. Also, other countries (most notably the US) are likely to decide that if you are building anything with a range capable of reaching their territory in ballistic flight that makes it their business, too. They will find many creative ways to put pressure on other governments to stop you (see this for example).

Good luck.

about a year ago

Royal Navy Deployed Laser Weapons During the Falklands War

XNormal Hardly news (139 comments)

"The pity was that Plymouth had not had time to turn right around, because she was fitted with the new laser equipment known locally to us as "Flasher" - which could well have stopped the attack in its tracks, because it literally forces any incoming pilot to pull up sharply during the forty-second period in which he cannot see."

from One Hundred Days by Admiral Sandy Woodward (1992)

about a year ago

OmniCam360 Camera Cluster Lets You Choose the Viewing Angle

XNormal I've seen this demonstrated 15 years ago. (66 comments)

The application was a video conferencing system. The omnidirectional camera had the exact same arrangement of mirrors and black baffles between them. It was placed in the middle of a conference table and the display was steered automatically by a microphone array that determined the direction of the speaker. This way you always got a nice framing of the speaker's head. It was essential for getting any kind of usable picture in a conference with multiple people back when bandwidth was limited and video compression was crappy. It would still be very useful today but I haven't seen this anywhere.


about a year ago

Eben Upton Muses on the Raspberry Pi, Scratch and, His Love For Parallela

XNormal What's next? (71 comments)

In the back of your mind, you havenâ(TM)t got Raspberry Pi 2?

No, not Pi 2. It must obviously be named 2 Pi.

about a year and a half ago


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