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Comments

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Is the Tesla Model 3 Actually Going To Cost $50,000?

catchblue22 Re:Maybe 40k (332 comments)

Except that these cars ARE CO2-emitting cars, unless you have arranged to get the power for your charger from renewable sources (difficult and expensive in most parts of the country). Here in Texas, these actually become a combination of coal, natural gas and nuclear burning cars.

I addessed this issue in this post. Short answer: even if the electricity is produced by coal, the large efficiency of electric motors, thermal power plants, and the electricity transmission system will ensure less emissions caused by an electric car than from a gasoline powered car. And my calculations didn't even take into account the emissions from processing oil into gasoline, which are especially high if the source is from tar sands. My calculations are referenced and I believe them to be reasonable.

13 hours ago
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SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

catchblue22 Re:Decisions, Decisions... (123 comments)

As an astronaut, I wonder which would appeal to me more? The "Exciting Choice" or the "Safe Choice?" On one hand, I'll be strapped to it as it launches it (and me) into space. On the other hand...I'm an astronaut! My choice of car is probably NOT a fucking Volvo.

How about the tested choice. Space X has a built capsule, whose first version has returned from the space station several times. They are quite close to flying...they just need to test the launch abort system and the capsule will be almost ready to fly. From what I understand, Boeing hasn't built a capsule yet. They only have a paper/electronic design and a few "mock ups". Given the capsules are supposed to fly in 2016, I think the capsule that has actually been tested is the "safe choice". The article seems to me to be Boeing propaganda.

about a week ago
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SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

catchblue22 Is contributor Loren Thompson trustworthy? (123 comments)

From the article:

“Boeing is the safe choice, SpaceX is the exciting choice and Sierra Nevada the interesting choice,” Loren Thompson, an analyst with Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Virginia-based research group, said in a phone interview.

Loren Thompson, as the COO of the Lexington group has a notorious history of "advocacy" for big air force contractors according to this article from Harpers Magazine. The title of the article is "Mad Men: Introducing the defense industry's pay-to-play ad agency". Here is a quote from the article:

Lexington claims to "shape the public debate" on a wide array of policies (including "the unnecessary intrusion of the federal government into the commerce and culture of the nation"), but its priority is clearly defense. "By promoting America's ability to project power around the globe", reads its mission statement, "we not only defend the homeland of democracy, but also sustain the international stability in which other free-market democracies can thrive", Lexington does not publicly disclose its donors, but much of its funding - about $2.5 million in 2008 - comes from defense giants, including at least three whose prospects are evaluated in this brief. Lexington's free-market pabulum, then, is underwritten by an industry that is beholden to government planning, direction, and money, and that operates entirely outside the constraints of supply and demand.

Loren Thompson, Lexington's chief operating officer and the author of this report, played a supporting role in a 2003 scandal involving Boeing's attempt to secure a lease-to-buy agreement with the Air Force for one hundred aerial-refueling tankers. The contract - which at $24 billion would have cost the Air Force significantly more than simply buying a new fleet outright - was canceled when Senator John McCain discovered that an Air Force procurement official had fixed the deal for Boeing while negotiating a job for herself with the company. McCain also unearthed emails showing that the Air Force had used Thompson to help sell the deal to the press. As a senior aide to Air Force Secretary James Roche put it in one of the messages: "We've got Loren doing the Lord's work again. '3rd Party' support at its best."

about a week ago
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After Weeks of Delay, SpaceX Falcon Launches Communications Satellite Payload

catchblue22 Re:Hooray for Space-X (32 comments)

Some days, I honestly think the MBA must have been a Soviet plot to destroy the West.

Amen. I have been thinking something like that for years. MBA programs are like pernicious cults. So many failures and yet MBA's just keep on hiring clones of themselves.

The idea that a company can be run by someone who knows nothing about what the company does is a prime example of MBA delusion. I know of a food manufacturing plant who hired an MBA whose previous experience was in running a train assembly plant. All he could do was to sit upstairs and stair at graphs. Meanwhile the plant function decayed and profitability disappeared. The person he replaced had started his career from the plant floor, and had run the plant profitably for many years. Bring in an MBA and within two years, the damage was done. He was fired.

The other obvious examples: Apple - started by Steve Jobs (not an MBA). Makes Schully (an MBA) CEO. Almost goes bankrupt. Rehires Steve Jobs and becomes one of the world's most successful companies.

Space X, Solar City, Tesla, Paypal started by Elon Musk (not an MBA). All four are remarkably successful and disruptive businesses.

The lesson: People who actually understand the nuts and bolts of the businesses they run make far better leaders than those who don't have a clue what their businesses do. Surprise, surprise.

about two weeks ago
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Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed

catchblue22 Re:You could just use Salt... (245 comments)

Does anyone know if this ever got off the ground?

To quote the wikipedia page on molten salt batteries

Magnesium–antimony cells

In 2009, Donald Sadoway and his team proposed a very low cost molten salt battery originally[20] based on magnesium and antimony separated by a salt[21] that could be potentially used in Grid energy storage systems.[22] Research on this concept is being funded by ARPA-E,[23] Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and Total S.A.[24] Experimental data showed 69% storage efficiency, it had good storage capacity (over 1000mAh/cm2) and relatively low leakage (

about two weeks ago
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Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine

catchblue22 Re:Send in the drones! (848 comments)

My original comment referred to war between the Soviet Union and the US. I didn't say Russia.

about three weeks ago
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Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine

catchblue22 Re:Send in the drones! (848 comments)

Both in Korea and in Vietnam, there were plenty of Soviet advisors in the communist forces, and in some cases they were troops actively engaged in fighting - in particular, fighter pilots were often Soviets. So yes, US and Soviet troops did actually shoot directly at each other as part of Cold War.

But it was not a formalized declared "shooting war" in which Americans explicitly targeted Soviets and Soviets explicitly targeted Americans. What we saw were undeclared skirmishes. There was no fanning of Soviet public opinion that Americans were killing thousands of Soviets and that Soviet citizens had to enlist to revenge those killings. If Americans were explicitly and publically killing Russians today (or the reverse), it would be the beginning of World War III. Any policy that puts us unnecessarily close to such an incident is reckless.

about three weeks ago
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Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine

catchblue22 Re:Send in the drones! (848 comments)

Im not 100% clear why we wouldnt want to get involved here, if ever there were a time to get involved.

Ukraine disarmed itself in 2006 at our urging, with the understanding that we would come to their aid if ever it were needed. At the same time, having a superpower like Russia going into full imperialism mode is good for noone but Russia. A tepid response like the one theyve been given will only encourage further aggression.

Assuming that you are implying American boots/bombs on the ground in the Ukraine, are you crazy? I mean seriously. Are you? There is in my opinion a dangerous detachment from reality in some circles of American political discussion about confronting Russia. Perhaps you may feel my language is inflamatory. But I get kind of disturbed when so many people, including those in power, put forward actions which would likely lead to thermonuclear war.

Looking back at history, there has never been a shooting war between the Soviet Union and the US. Never. The Cold War? It was always fought between proxies of the great powers. We would sell arms to pro-US or anti-Soviet interests (like in 1980's Afghanistan), or we would directly confront pro-Soviet interests (like in Vietnam). We came close to a shooting war with the Soviets more than once (the Bay of Pigs in Cuba). But such a war never happened, because those in power knew that such a war would inevitably decay into a thermonuclear war that would likely end western civilization with the press of a button.

The proper response to this is to strengthen military forces in new NATO member states surrounding Russia, including US boots on the ground. This will make a clear line that Russia knows it cannot cross without provoking all-out war. Unfortunately Ukraine is not part of NATO. We might be able to sell arms to Ukraine, but there are risks and limitations to this. What must be made clear to Russia is that if it enters Ukraine, it will face profound economic isolation. If it goes further it must be clear that it will result in WWIII. Thus we end in a stalemate. Not unlike the Cold War.

about three weeks ago
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Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again

catchblue22 Re: Public cynicism about fusion (147 comments)

Here is the PhD thesis of Thomas J. McGuire who is designing the compact fusion device mentioned in the parent comment. This 2007 thesis argues for the need to build compact fusion devices and surveys some options with their strengths and flaws. I don't think it describes in detail the high beta reactor he is currently designing at Lockheed Martin. Still, it shows the idea of him designing this reactor is plausible.

about three weeks ago
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Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again

catchblue22 Re: Public cynicism about fusion (147 comments)

The Skunkworks high beta fusion reactor seems very interesting. 100MW reactor the size of a semi trailer and the complexity of a jet engine. Uses radio waves to heat the plasma (like a microwave oven). Confines plasma in a cylinder as opposed to a torus. In a tokamak reactor the confining magnetic field is created by the motion of the plasma. Thus the strength of the field decreases further from the plasma, creating an inherent instability. This creates a negative stability feedback because if the tokamak plasma expands the confining field gets weaker. I believe this is one of the reasons tokamaks need to be so huge to function.

The high beta reactor has a confining field that increases in strength as you move farther from the plasma, making confinement inherently stable. The machine was designed by Dr. Thomas McGuire who did his PhD thesis on fusors at MIT. It may be possible to build a full reactor by as soon as 2017 for a cost measured in millions, NOT billions.

about three weeks ago
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Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

catchblue22 Re:Makers! (108 comments)

What "rocket engine" is 3D printed?

The nozzle for the Superdraco engine is 3d printed. The alloy is too hard to machine, so 3D printing is the only practical way of manufacturing them. It will be the landing thruster for the propulsive landing Dragonfly crew vehicle. It will land with the accuracy of a helicopter. Here is a video of it being cycled through its various thrust levels. Very cool.

about three weeks ago
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NASA's Space Launch System Searches For a Mission

catchblue22 Problems with SLS (53 comments)

Aside from the horrific cost of the SLS (18 billion dollars) it is worth considering the fundamental flaws of it. If you use it to launch astronauts with the Orion spacecraft, you are using somewhere around a quarter of the SLS's lift capacity. If you want to use it to send things to Mars, you will need to add another stage, which is non-trivial. Overall, this seems like a giant corporate welfare program for NASA's contractors.

about a month ago
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3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX

catchblue22 Re:What? (393 comments)

Thank you. That was an excellent article.

about a month ago
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3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX

catchblue22 Watch out for ULA Propaganda (393 comments)

I have posted before that there is evidence that ULA has initiated a propaganda campaign against Space X. From what I have read, Shockey Scofield Solutions, which is a PR firm hired by ULA is tightly linked with congressional lobbyist culture...they know how to pull particular strings in Washington. This seems to have their fingerprints all over it.

We should really be aware of the reason why ULA was formed in the first place. A few years ago the government decided to bring competition into launch procurement, by creating a bidding process. The dominant/only American players, Boeing and Lockheed responded by merging their launch products into the United Launch Alliance so that in almost all cases there would be only one bidder for American launches. This resulted in an increase in launch costs.

Enter SpaceX, which looks to be a real competitor. ULA can't absorb Space X, so they seem to be doing everything they can to sabotage them instead. From proposing financial rules on bidding companies that are biased against smaller players, to focussing on trivial "anomolies" that put uncertainty in the (simple) minds of Congressional lawmakers, to floating fanciful speculative stories about future vaporware "Space Planes" that will leapfrog SpaceX's cheaper launch platforms, to calling Elon Musk a corporate welfare bum (as if ULA wasn't the queen of queens of welfare queens).

The simple fact is that Space X has taken older proven technology and molded it into what promises to be a robust and reliable launch platform. ULA knows this, and the only thing they know how to do is to make this a gutter fight. They are despicable.

about a month ago
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Elon Musk Promises 100,000 Electric Cars Per Year

catchblue22 Re:What about a coal powered Tesla? (122 comments)

Don't forget the processing and distribution costs associated with liquid fuels... including the ethanol.

Yes. I think my calculations are conservative. Especially if we are relying on fuel from the tar sands, which are MASSIVELY inefficient in terms of CO2 emissions. They have to melt the tar in order to separate from the sand and refine it. They use natural gas and a large amount of fresh water. Think about that water, Californians. Now much of that wonderful fresh water is languishing in huge pools, mixed with a toxic slew of organic chemicals and heavy metals.

The tar sands are madness. When I think of Alberta tar sands, I think of Mordor.

about a month and a half ago
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Elon Musk Promises 100,000 Electric Cars Per Year

catchblue22 What about a coal powered Tesla? (122 comments)

So... not to stir up a hornets nest... but everyones aware that electric cars produce more pollution than gas right?

Let's look at some facts here. First off, the efficiency of a thermal power plant is somewhere around 33% to 48%, at least according to wikipedia. Let's split the difference and say 41% for a thermal plant. The typical thermal efficiency of a a gasoline engine is about 18% to 20%. Let's split the difference and say 19%. Thus, a thermal power plant is more than twice as efficient as a gasoline engine in terms of changing chemical potential energy to useful output.

But there are some caveats. Firstly, the electricity needs to be transmitted. High voltage power lines are extremely efficient, about 94% according to this article. That means that the chemical energy (lets assume from coal) reaching the charging station is 41% x 94% = 38.5%. And then there is the charging process. According to this article, the charge efficiency of a Li-Ion battery is about 97%, which makes sense to me, as batteries usually don't run too hot. The charging devices however probably are responsible for some loss. Let's assume they are 80% efficient. That gives us 38.5% x 80.0% x 97% = 30%. Thus, according to this, 30% of the coal chemical potential energy makes it to the engine.

But what about engine efficiency? Well electric motors run very cool, and have very high efficiencies, typically around 90%. I wouldn't be surprised if Tesla's motor is better. This means that if a coal power plant powered a Tesla, 30% x 90% = 27% of the energy would reach the wheels of the car, compared with a gasoline powered car, where 19% of the gasoline's potential energy comes out of the engine, never mind the losses in the transmission lines. Thus, a coal powered Tesla is 40% more energy efficient than a gasoline powered car.

However, there is one problem. Generating energy by coal produces more CO2 than generating it by gasoline. According to this article, coal generates about 215 pounds CO2 per btu of energy, while gasoline generates 157 pounds CO2 per btu. However, even with this, by my calculations, an equivalent gas powered car still emits 3.8% more CO2 than our coal powered Tesla.

Elon Musk made this claim in an interview, that even if a coal power plant generates the electricity, a Tesla still emits less CO2. My referenced back of a napkin calculations above support this assertion.

about a month and a half ago
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SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget

catchblue22 Anti-SpaceX Propaganda Campaign (114 comments)

As this article indicates, United Launch Alliance, the principle competitor to SpaceX has hired Shockey Scofield Solutions to initiate a propaganda campaign against SpaceX. You can see ULA listed as a client in the website listed above. The campaign is indirectly mentioned in the following very informative article, just past the halfway point in the article. You will also notice another client to Shockey Scofield Solutions as Koch Industries, which is a company notorious for its deceptive propaganda campaigns against action on global warming.

Given this fact, I would tend to suspect many of the anti SpaceX comments as being part of an astroturfing campaign. To be honest, I really don't understand why an actual thinking person would have any problem with SpaceX. They build reliable rockets quickly and cheaply. What on Earth is the problem with that?

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

catchblue22 Re:How Many Employees are Required? (272 comments)

Actually Windows XP was based on the Windows NT architecture. Windows 95, was based on the DOS architecture.

Windows 95 was decades ago, it wasn't up to modern standards but it was certainly better than Mac OS 7 or Linux 1.0. It's time to move on.

OSX in fact precedes windows 95, let alone Windows NT. That's right, because the best parts of OSX originate in NeXT, which was sold as a product in 1988, six years or more before windows 95. And the reason why NeXT/OSX were so great so early was because they were based on the decades old Unix architecture. And don't talk about Mac OS 7. It was dead end garbage. Only the most superficial structures from Mac OS made it into OSX.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

catchblue22 How Many Employees are Required? (272 comments)

Consider the history of major software projects, and how many employees were required. BSD unix was a university project, developed by faculty and students. Linux was developed initially by one person, and then a relatively small team. NeXT was developed by a fairly small team over a relatively small amount of time. Mac OSX was basically the NeXT system ported over to the Mac platform; at the time, Apple had about a tenth of the employees of Microsoft, and was under significant financial stress. iOS and the iPhone were developed by a very small team within Apple (20+ employees if I am not mistaken). The interesting thing is that all of these systems have displayed remarkable stability and security. This likely has something to do with the fact that these OS's are all unix derived. However I find it interesting that such excellent products did not require large numbers of programmers to develop.

Contrast the above with the offerings of Microsoft over recent years. Most especially consider Vista, Win7 and Win8. During the development of these systems, Microsoft had a huge number of excellent programmers. Why did it take them so long to develop these operating system versions? Why has MS had such difficulty porting over to different processor architectures, such as ARM? Apple has had no such difficulty, porting OSX/ iOS from PowerPC to Intel to ARM. I believe that a fundamental cause of the difficulties that MS has experience with Windows lies in the early stages of operating system development. Whereas the systems based on Unix were built on a solid and proven foundation from their earliest versions, Microsoft has from a very early stage shown a tendency to build its own early versions on its own unproven architecture, with the intention of fixing the significant problems later.

Early versions of Windows 95 had very limited networking protocols, that were intended for home networking only. Wide area networking was added as an afterthought. Contrast this with unix variants, which are based on an architecture that grew up in an environment of university main-frames with hostile tinkering computer science students vying to break the system.

Anyone who worked with Windows 95 can attest to the buggy mess that it was. I supported people using it, and I remember the problems. User says, "my system crashed so I rebooted it. It still didn't work so I rebooted it again. It still didn't solve the problem." Tech guy responds, "well there's your problem. Tap the computer twice, pray to the god of your choice, and reboot it a third time, and it should be fixed."

Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 all originate from that same architecture, right down to the fact that they all share the engineering disaster that is "the registry". How can Windows ever be truly solid when it is built on such a bad foundation. I believe that the reason why Microsoft has had such difficulty building a solid OS stems from this weak foundation. It explains why it took MS many years and a staff 10x that of Apple to build the marvel that was Vista. As Mythbusters showed, it is possible to polish a turd. However it takes a lot of effort. And in the end, you still only finish with a polished turd.

about a month ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

catchblue22 Re: Catching the big choices (710 comments)

Not to mention that I cook more at home than average. In my place, cooking is responsible for the largest part of the electric bill. Cooking at home puts me slightly above average on electricity usage, even if I have all led/fluorescent lights. I don't even use my electric heat 95% of the time.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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The Gods Strike Back: Wall Street's Risky Hubris

catchblue22 catchblue22 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

catchblue22 (1004569) writes "The Economist has an interesting essay that gives some perspective on our economic situation. From the article,

THE revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more than a whim of the gods and that men and women are not passive before nature. So wrote Peter Bernstein in his seminal history of risk,"Against the Gods".

Wall Street quants have claimed over the past decade that they had the ability to quantify financial risk down to several decimal places. The Great Recession has shown their claims to be absurd. Wall Street's supposed mastery of risk allowed financial institutions to package risky loans as derivatives that ostensibly had definite and identifiable risk profiles. Our recent financial collapse shows the limits of our beautiful and elegant mathematical models of the economy."
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