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Fusion Reactor Concept Could Be Cheaper Than Coal

stevelinton Re:The $50,000 question... more energy out than in (315 comments)

In fact we do. If you look at the corona of the sun, little bits of plasma get trapped in magnetic fields and heated to hot that fusion happens. Since the magnetic fields are shifting, they are not contained for long, but they are. By controlling the fields, we can get longer containment.

about two weeks ago
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Fusion Reactor Concept Could Be Cheaper Than Coal

stevelinton Re:The $50,000 question... more energy out than in (315 comments)

You're confusing magnetic and inertial confinement fusion. The tiny gold capsules are inertial confinement -- you zap the capsule with a short and very intense burst of energy, compressing it and getting fusion until it flies apart. Essentially a very very tiny H-bomb.

In magnetic confinement you hold the a much less compressed but very very hot gas in place with magnetic fields while it fuses relatively slowly. Current experimental designs tend to run in pulses of a few seconds or minutes, but engineering refinements should lead to ones that burn continuously, with more fuel being added and "ash" (helium) removed.

As you make tokamaks bigger they get more efficient, because there is less surface for the energy to leak out of, compared to the volume of plasma. ITER is designed to achieve scientific break-even -- more power out of the reaction than is used to run the magnets etc. The next stage will be a reactor that achieves actual power generation -- more electricity out the whole plant than goes in. This is harder because or turbine inefficiency etc. Because of the scaling up thing, if these do produce useful power it will be gigawatts.

What UW have is a variation of the magnetic confinement setup, generating the magnetic fields in a different way. Their calculations suggest that it will scale up cheaper and efficient than the current favourite design (a tokamak), but this remains to be demonstrated.

about two weeks ago
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Solar Could Lead In Power Production By 2050

stevelinton Re:Electricity from Oil? (167 comments)

Depends where you look. The atmosphere hasn't warmed, but the oceans have. All the models and evidence suggest that this shift is cyclical and will reverse.

about three weeks ago
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WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

stevelinton Re:When can we stop selling party balloons (296 comments)

Interesting. The last sentence on the Wikipedia page for helium:

"Helium is a finite resource and is one of the few elements with escape velocity, meaning that once released into the atmosphere, it escapes into space."

So how does that work?

At a given temperature the typical velocity of a gas molecule depends on its mass. The lighter, the faster.
Helium is the only gas molecule that is stable in the atmosphere and has a typical velocity near the top of the atmosphere that is faster than Earth's escape velocity, so it slowly diffuses up to the top and then is gradually lost to space.

about a month and a half ago
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The Star That Exploded At the Dawn of Time

stevelinton Re:Why can't hydrogen cool? (55 comments)

Basically the conditions (temperature, density, amount of ionizing radiation around) thought to apply, the gas would be made up of atoms that tend to simply bounce off one another when they collide. This doesn't change the total energy in random motion of the cloud, ie the temperature.

More complex atoms or molecules can interact in more complicated ways when they collide, so that part of the energy ends up as vibration in a molecule, or extra energy of an electron in an excited state. These vibrating molecules or excited atoms then relax back to their ground state releasing a photon and so actually cooling the cloud.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Do 4G World Phones Exist?

stevelinton 4G only in big cities (259 comments)

There's no 4G outside Edinburgh & Glasgow at the moment I believe, but there is good 3G covering pretty much all the Universities and their surroundings and good wifi in the university buildings. If she's coming to St Andrews (statistically likely) there is definitely no 4G.

about 5 months ago
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The Rise and Fall of Supersymmetry

stevelinton Re:is there an xkcd comic for this? (138 comments)

. For one thing, string theory will probably need to be scrapped.

Not because of this. Supersymmetry and string theory address different problems and are more or less independent.

about 8 months ago
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A Glimpse of a Truly Elastic Cloud

stevelinton Re:A real server OS. (201 comments)

They're called blades

about a year and a half ago
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British Skylon Engine Passes Its Tests

stevelinton Re:250 million just to design it. No prototype (172 comments)

I wonder if the engines could be useful even without the plane?

Strap a bunch of them, some disposable LH2 tanks and a parachute onto the side of a Falcon and drop them when you hit Mach 5. Should improve the mass ration no end.

about 2 years ago
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NASA Discovers Most Distant Galaxy In Known Universe

stevelinton Re:Ummm, (105 comments)

Assuming the astronomers are right, the way it happened is this:

About 420 million years after the Big Bang, this clump of gas formed into a small galaxy and emited a lot of light. At that time, about 1 billion light years away, and moving away at close to the speed of light was another clump of gas.

13 billion years later according to clocks on that other clump of gas, the light "overhauls" the other clump of gas, and is seen by Hubble.

There are other points of view that assign different numbers to some bits of this, but they all agree on the actual facts.

about 2 years ago
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Brainstorming Ways To Protect NYC From Real Storms

stevelinton Spindizzies (203 comments)

James Blish had the solution in his "Cities in Flight" books fifty years ago. Fit a suitable number of spindizzies and fly New York off into the galaxy to look for work.

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Fight Copyright Violations With DMCA?

stevelinton Re:That's the way the cookie crumbles (455 comments)

You tube however is in your country. Can you get seek an injunction on them to takedown the video based on the fact you can prove the other side is perjuring itself.

more than 2 years ago
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Election Tech: In Canada, They Actually Count the Votes

stevelinton Re:Proportional representation (500 comments)

PR works well where this is a substantial centre party (eg Germany) and badly where there isn't (eg Israel). Most systems also have a lower cutoff, so you have to get 5 or 10% of the vote before you get any seats, which excludes the real loonies.

more than 2 years ago
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Florida Researchers Create Shortest Light Pulse Ever Recorded

stevelinton Re:How do they measure this? (76 comments)

It is EASY to create the world's shortest laser pulse: emit a single photon. It is monochromatic, coherent (so it meets the laser defninition), and has the shortest possible pulse. .

No, by cleverly combining multiple photons of different frequencies you can produce a pulse that concentrates its energy in a shorter timespan. Calling it a laser pulse is actually stretching a point a bit, it is triggered by laser light, but the pulse itself is not monochromatic.

more than 2 years ago
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How Technology Might Avert an Apocalypse

stevelinton True, but obvious (201 comments)

It's true, of course, that there are many more apparent imminent catastrophes (AICs) than actual catastrophes, especially as we are still here to argue about it.
Some AICs arise from incomplete understanding, some from politically motivated woolly thinking and will go away if ignored. Some are real risks and we just get lucky. Others are partially mitigated by actions taken in response to the apparent threat (Y2K for instance). Some may be fully genuine threats averted by prompt action. Nuclear war between NATO and Warsaw pact in the 60s or 70s might be argued to fall into this category. CND and others successfully undermined the notion of "winnable nuclear war" and made sure that no Western politicians would risk nuclear war.

However, NONE OF THIS MEANS THAT THE NEXT ONE WILL NOT BE REAL. Probably it won't, but we can't just assume it isn't a real threat because the last one wasn't. We have to study each plausible threat, do our best to estimate the risk and where the risk appears significant, do what we can to mitigate it. The universe does not owe us continued existence, let alone continued civilization.

more than 2 years ago
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How To Line a Thermonuclear Reactor

stevelinton Re:Beryllium, that's inconvenience (184 comments)

Quantities needed are tiny. It's a surface coating on a few square meters of first wall per gigawatt scale power plant. Not a problem.

more than 2 years ago
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Quantum Experiment Shows Effect Before Cause

stevelinton Re:Time delay - info from the future? (465 comments)

No, Victor's machine makes a random choice of whether to entangle or not and makes it AFTER Alice & Bob make their measurements.

more than 2 years ago
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Google Earns $2 Per Handset; Apple, $575

stevelinton Re:0 bars (366 comments)

I'm talking 10 years out, as I have said a couple of times. I doubt there will be zero bars anywhere in Europe or North America except perhaps national parks by then. Anyway, the JS could probably support most of your work locally and resync when it gets a chance.

Plugging hardware in is the equivalent of installing an app. Standardized interfaces and pre-approved standardized products. My guess is that compiling and installing software IN 5-10 YEARS will feel like installing a PCI card or DIMMs now -- not impossible, or unheard of, but a bit scary, voids your warranty and not something most people do.

more than 2 years ago
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Google Earns $2 Per Handset; Apple, $575

stevelinton Re:My 10" laptop fits in a handbag (366 comments)

Software development will form just as negligible a part of the personal computing market in 10 years as it does now.

That said, my best guess: the IDE will be running partly in Javascript on your browser and partly on a server. Installing software on the thing you hold
will be about as strange as installing hardware on it is now. Not unheard of, but old-fashioned and unusual.

more than 2 years ago
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Google Earns $2 Per Handset; Apple, $575

stevelinton Re:My 10" laptop fits in a handbag (366 comments)

It's my understanding that any device for creating, as opposed to a device primarily for viewing, will require some sort of "special training or experience."

This is often true, but the handful of exceptions have been HUGE hits -- mobile phone cameras with facebook integration, for instance. The content created is mostly not very interesting to anyone except the creator and a few friends, of course, but that's hardly new.

There will always be niche markets. My personal guess is that in ten years they will basically all be presented as peripherals for your phone/tablet. They may, in fact, be many times more powerful, and essentially take over when you are using them, but the experience will be a continuation of the "smartphone" experience, in the sense that your preferences/identity/data/etc. will all be the same.

more than 2 years ago

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