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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

taiwanjohn Re:Power Source (349 comments)

Good point. I wonder what the trade is like between acres of cooling vanes vs. acres of solar panels. I guess it would depend on the efficiency of both. Mars's atmosphere is thin, but the temperature is very cold... seems like there ought to be a way to take advantage of that.

about a week ago
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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

taiwanjohn Re:Power Source (349 comments)

Thank you. Makes sense. OTOH, on Mars you've got an atmosphere, so this wouldn't be a problem anyway. But eventually large-scale power will be needed in the outer solar system. I suppose by then we'll have figured out fusion or something like that.

about a week ago
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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

taiwanjohn Re:Power Source (349 comments)

So it'll be a fair while before we need nukes, better to focus available funding on something else.

Something I've always wondered about nukes in space: where does the heat go? In order to extract work from a nuclear reactor you need a heat gradient. But vacuum is an excellent insulator.

I can understand if you're using the nuke to heat a propellant, because then the propellant carries away the heat. But as a constant, reliable power source, you wouldn't want it to be limited by an expendable resource, you'd want it to be a more solid-state or closed-loop design. TOPAZ seems to fit the bill, but I've never seen a discussion of how it deals with the heat dissipation issue. Is thermionic conversion so efficient that there's not much waste heat to get rid of?

about a week ago
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KDE Releases Plasma 5.1

taiwanjohn Convergence...? (58 comments)

Are the KDE/Gnome wars winding down yet? It seems like both have made a lot of progress in recent years, to the point where both are pretty solid and flexible. Is there really a "difference" anymore for the average user?

about a week ago
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Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

taiwanjohn Re: For those who said "No need to panic" (421 comments)

Highly trained workers are getting infected.

Exactly as happened with SARS. Most of the infections were among health workers.

the rate of transmission is phenomenal. The death rate upon infection is phenomenal.

Yes, the death rate is high, but the transmission rate is low. The common flu is far more transmissible. And even though its death rate is much lower, the flu kills many times more people each year than Ebola will ever affect in the USA.

about two weeks ago
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Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

taiwanjohn Re:For those who said "No need to panic" (421 comments)

As someone who lived through the SARS panic in Asia, I would say no, we're not "there" yet. Apparently it has taken a bit longer than it should have for the rank-and-file health workers in the USA to get clued in on this, but I would venture to say that the number of them who remain unaware of this threat today is approximately zero. If anything, I'd expect to see a lot more "false alarms" than actual infections in the next few weeks.

Once the public is aware, the infection rate will plummet. Because of SARS, I still avoid doorknobs and elevator buttons whenever possible (use your keys, lighter, sleeve, etc. to buffer such contact), it just makes sense to do so. Once the protocols for avoiding Ebola become widely known, this so-called "epidemic" will quickly dissipate.

about two weeks ago
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China Bans "Human Flesh Searching"

taiwanjohn Re: s/Fresh/Flesh/ (109 comments)

In my experience, it varies from region to region. Some have trouble with V, some don't; some mix up L and R, some don't; most have trouble with terminal consonants. Even when speaking their so-called "common" language, Mandarin, the regional accents can be almost incomprehensible (the way a Texan might have trouble in Ireland, or a Welshman in Wyoming). A perfect example of this was Deng Xiaoping, who was notoriously hard to understand.

This is why Chinese language TV stations (incl. Taiwan, HK, etc) tend to have Chinese subtitles for their Chinese content. A lot of folks, especially in the older generation, just don't speak Mandarin all that well.

about two weeks ago
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Tesla Announces Dual Motors, 'Autopilot' For the Model S

taiwanjohn Re:the event (283 comments)

Found this video on YouTube...

about two weeks ago
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Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity

taiwanjohn Re: uhh (549 comments)

Your logic is sound, but it doesn't address the question of whether Musk is a "con man" as the GP suggests. The parent poster rebuts the "con man" argument with an appeal to Musk's sincerity, but as you point out, good intentions are not sufficient. (A con man could have very "sincere" motives for taking your money -- to feed his kids, for example.)

For me the deciding factor is the quality of Musk's work. He delivers excellent products at a reasonable price. Even if he did so for "greedy" motives, the fairness of the deal would disqualify him as a "con" man.

about three weeks ago
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On Independence for Scotland:

taiwanjohn Re:Probably a bad idea, but... (192 comments)

many voting Yes today in Scotland are doing so with the understanding that they can still use the same currency

And with good reason... After all, it would take a while to come up with their own currency, so people would just continue using whatever they have. This vote is just a simple yes/no on independence; all those pesky details like currency and Trident submarines will have to be dealt with in the aftermath.

As for the currency, I think the real test will be the degree of "buy-in" among the Scots population. If a majority of Scots "invest" the majority of their savings in the new currency, it will succeed in the long run.

about a month ago
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On Independence for Scotland:

taiwanjohn Re:Probably a bad idea, but... (192 comments)

Of course I've heard of it, but I thought it would be clear enough that I was talking about the British Pound (since the Scots Pund and the Irish Punt are no longer in use).

Anyway, it doesn't matter what name you call it, as long as the currency is controlled by Scotland, and not by some other entity.

about a month ago
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Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

taiwanjohn Re:Does HFCS count? (294 comments)

Sorry, no citations,

Dr. Robert Lustig has a pretty detailed discussion of the differences between glucose and fructose metabolism about halfway through this lecture. You've got the big picture about right. I would just add that fructose translates (via the liver) into VLDL cholesterol, which is a "prime suspect" in the increase in atherosclerosis.

about a month ago
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On Independence for Scotland:

taiwanjohn Re:Probably a bad idea, but... (192 comments)

The only way to make it worthwhile is if they end up controlling their own currency. If they remain dependent on the Pound or the Euro, what would be the point?

about a month ago
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How Japan Lost Track of 640kg of Plutonium

taiwanjohn Re:Come now. (104 comments)

According to another post this plutonium could not be used to make a bomb, and the explanation makes sense to me. So even if they change the constitution they won't be making any bombs, at least not with this plutonium.

about 3 months ago
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How Japan Lost Track of 640kg of Plutonium

taiwanjohn Re:Come now. (104 comments)

I was thinking some hardliners in Japan's military might have stashed it somewhere, "just in case" it's ever needed.

about 3 months ago
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Making an Autonomous Car On a Budget

taiwanjohn Re:Oh Joy! (61 comments)

Fully automated vehicles, that is.

I don't think "full auto" is required. This is more like Tesla's "autopilot" concept than Google's "driverless" car. This would get used most often on the interstate, not so much in cities, and it's a pretty good fit for that application. I can do some work (or take a nap) between cities and take the wheel a few minutes before the exit ramp. (Or I could program certain conditions such as weather or traffic to trigger an alarm.) But even this level of automation would dramatically reduce highway casualties.

What I'm curious about is how they sense certain road conditions, such as "black ice" that can fool even the most experienced human driver. OTOH, with a broad range of sensing like RADAR and echolocation, you could plow through pea-soup fog without much worry.

cabs are too expensive for everyday use

I'm lucky to live in a place (Taipei) where public transportation is cheap and ubiquitous. Even taxis are plentiful and cheap here. I don't even own a single motorized vehicle. Why bother, when I can get to anyplace I want with less than 20min walking and $2 in fees, and I can get home from anywhere in the city for less than $10, anytime, day or night?

This is where "full auto" is required: bringing this kind of convenience to the broad, "midwestern" spaces of America. When you can make the round-trip to/from your local watering hole for less than 15 bucks, why would anyone take the risk of driving drunk?

I think Google is smart to be investing so heavily in this tech, because once we pass that tipping point, this is going to be the biggest "killer app" of all time. And in the meantime, Tesla is also smart to be pursuing their autopilot tech, because it will be a huge selling point.

about 4 months ago
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'Godfather of Ecstasy,' Chemist Sasha Shulgin Dies Aged 88

taiwanjohn Re:And for those that weren't aware (164 comments)

I read somewhere, years ago, that Shulgin had an "informal understanding" with the authorities: he would keep his "recipes" obscure enough to prevent casual duplication by anyone without a PhD in organic chemistry, and in return "they" would leave him alone to do his work -- and they would also reap the benefits of his research via his copious and detailed lab notes and trip reports.

I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds nice.

In any case, well played, Sasha... RIP.

about 5 months ago
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Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

taiwanjohn Re:180 satellites... (170 comments)

Based on past satellite ventures, costs could rise.

Based on recent developments, costs could plummet. IMHO, the only reason Google is even talking about this now is because SpaceX recently flew a (theoretically) reusable first stage. Of course, "practical" reusability is still in the works, but Musk is tight with the gurus of Google, and it doesn't cost them much in the short run to flog their "visionary" quest to bring broadband to the masses. And if Musk succeeds with reusability (which seems likely) they'll be able to deploy this constellation at a fraction of the currently advertised cost.

Sounds like a win-win for all concerned...

about 5 months ago
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SpaceX To Present Manned Dragon Capsule

taiwanjohn Re:Excellent! (128 comments)

> SpaceX want to remove the parachutes, too?

No, they are not removing the parachutes, they'll be kept as a backup system in case the landing thrusters fail.

about 5 months ago

Submissions

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Nate Silver's new site stirs climate controversy

taiwanjohn taiwanjohn writes  |  about 7 months ago

taiwanjohn (103839) writes "One of the first articles on Nate Silver’s highly anticipated data-driven news site used flawed data to make its conclusions, according to some of the nation’s top climate scientists.
Silver’s FiveThirtyEight published its first article about climate change on Wednesday, entitled “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change.” But climate scientists are condemning the article and its author, Roger Pielke Jr., saying he ignored critical data to produce a “deeply misleading” result.
The crux of Pielke’s article is this: Extreme weather events are costing us more and more money, but that is not because climate change is making extreme weather more frequent or intense. The reason we are losing more money, rather, is because we have more money to lose. Pielke came to this conclusion by measuring rising disaster damage costs alongside the rising global Gross Domestic Product. He also cited a U.N. climate report, along with his own research, to assert that extreme weather events have not been increasing in frequency or intensity."

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