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Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

tragedy Re:Something wrong at the foundation - (451 comments)

There are differences, but the crucial similarity is that both involve vying for effectively finite resources. Labor, food, land, water, air, etc. are all tied together. There are limiting factors to growth. True, you can work around some limits with technological development, but technological development is not guaranteed. Eventually you run out of resources (more accurately you saturate their potential for usage, or, probably even more accurately, you super-saturate their potential for usage and that supersaturation catches up with you catastrophically).

Come to think of it, the difference between those situations is really that one can basically be a superset of the other. More humans born means more humans needing to buy IP addresses with the additional money being printed. The trouble is, the actual supply is fundamentally limited. Still, there is a critical difference. A new ip address paradigm can basically be waved into existence. The resources that limit overall growth are a lot harder to magically either make more of or make more available.

yesterday
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Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

tragedy Re:Something wrong at the foundation - (451 comments)

That kind of sounds like the argument that ipv4 addresses will never run out because new computers are always being made and new networks created.

2 days ago
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Why Portland Should Have Kept Its Water, Urine and All

tragedy Re:Guard (330 comments)

I mixed up some poisons in my first post, but I did look at ricin. It would be more like nearly ten tons of ricin since oral exposure is far less dangerous than inhalation. If you had a lot of ricin, it would seem to be more effective to actually gas attack a large populated area.

3 days ago
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Why Portland Should Have Kept Its Water, Urine and All

tragedy Re:Guard (330 comments)

Whoops. I feel a bit foolish. I seem to have mixed up something. I looked at a bunch of poisons and I must have mixed up the numbers for cyanide (which comes out to about 15 tons) and Batrachotoxin. Not sure now which one was the 228 tons. In any case, batrachotoxin is still not very realistic. I brought it up because it was the deadliest poison by mass I could find. 15 tons was an absolutely ridiculous amount of the poison. 15 kilograms is still an unrealistic amount to obtain considering that you have to get it from wild-captured frogs in tiny amounts. Aside from that, I don't think it's actually water soluble, and I'm not sure whether it's as lethal taken orally. Then there's the fact that the vast majority of people don't drink a liter of water all at once. They take a sip and, if there's a potent, instantaneous poison, they notice it instantaneously. It's still a serious potential health issue, as you say, but far less than a lethal dose, at which point they call emergency services. After a few such calls, someone hopefully realizes what's going on and has the city water supply shut down and sends out a warning through every available emergency channel. That's a fatal flaw with many possible poisons.

Someone suggested Ricin in another post but, taken orally, that would require nearly ten tons in the water supply to be lethal. Overall, the poisoning plan seems to be less effective than getting a bunch of henchmen to just shoot up the town with conventional weapons.

3 days ago
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Why Portland Should Have Kept Its Water, Urine and All

tragedy Re:Guard (330 comments)

"Easily" poison 38 million gallons of water? See, this is exactly the same problem from the original article. A typical person drinks a lot less than 1 liter of water at a time, but we'll be generous to your poisoning idea and base our required dose of poison on 1 liter of water. Probably the most deadly known poison by unit mass is Batrachotoxin. In order to poison 38 million gallons of water so that every liter contains a fatal dose, you would need about 15 tons of it. 15 tons of poison produced by a particular species of frog, and then only when they eat a particular species of beetle, is pretty hard to come by. If you went with something more generally available, such as some form of cyanide, you'd need about 228 tons.

So, your plan to poison the water supply is dastardly, evil, possibly even insidious... but not remotely practical. Sure, you could do it, but the expense would be high and the effictiveness would be relatively low since the water can be shut off centrally. You'd have a lot more luck just getting your henchmen to go on a rampage through the main street with conventional weapons.

3 days ago
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Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project

tragedy Re:Stop Now (174 comments)

It started life as a status project.

I was unaware of that facility being a status project. It was built during the height of the Apollo program, which was, in some ways, a prestige project. Is that what you're thinking of?

It means that the sponsor isn't particularly concerned about cost which is a strong bias upward in cost estimates for such projects.

The point there though was that other types of projects can also have strong upward biases in cost. Large scale scientific experiments where exacting standards need to be met, for example.

Once again, I really do hope that the money will be put forward for alternative methods. This hatchet job of an article suggests that it's going to be really hard to get any sort of funding for any alternatives, however.

5 days ago
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5-Year Suspended Sentence For S. Africa's First Online Pirate

tragedy Re:Bad Summary (45 comments)

People have tried to get away with that sort of thing in "compression" algorithms before. For example, create a thousand 0 byte files and stuff all the data in the filenames and you can claim to have just achieved an infinite (or undefined) compression ratio. That sort of thing is rightly considered to be cheating when it comes to compression algorithms.

about a week ago
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5-Year Suspended Sentence For S. Africa's First Online Pirate

tragedy Re:Go after the people who write the software (45 comments)

The highest speed limit in the US is 85 MPH. Pretty much every new car sold in the US can go at least 100 MPH. So, the cars are being sold with functionality that will clearly break laws if used. By your argument, the car manufacturers should be locked up.

about a week ago
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GoPro Project Claims Technology Is Making People Lose Empathy For Homeless

tragedy Re:perception (320 comments)

Charities are more direct and people know that it is being done because people actually care, not because their funds have been confiscated under threat of imprisonment.

The problem with relying on "more direct" charities is that far too many people fall through the cracks of a heterogenous crazy paving of such organizations. Conversely, it also tends to be easier for con-artists to prey on such scattered organizations.

about a week ago
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'Thermoelectrics' Could One Day Power Cars

tragedy Re:power cars? technically no (174 comments)

A detonation doesn't neccessarily release more power than a deflagration. That's apples to oranges. It's more a matter of intensity. For example, ANFO detonates, and has a specific energy of something like 3.7 MJ/kg whereas a gasoline/oxygen mixture in an engine typically deflagrates (although it can also detonate under the right conditions, which isn't good for the engine, as you point out) and has a specific energey of something like 9.7 MJ/kg (counting the gasoline plus the oxygen needed for combustion). Clearly averaged over time you can get more power out of an equivalent mass of gasoline/oxygen than from ANFO. Although, if you slice time thinly enough you can say that you get more instantaneous power out of the ANFO because you can get all of the power out of it faster than you can from deflagrating the gasoline/oxygen mixture.

about a week ago
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'Thermoelectrics' Could One Day Power Cars

tragedy Re:power cars? technically no (174 comments)

2. Supply isn't as big a problem as the incredible safety issues. I acknowledge in my post that the idea is totally insane, which is why I doubt that, even with a big improvement in efficiency, you'd probably never see RTGs used outside of military applications.

The safety issues aren't really that bad. You could put 60 kilos inside a casing that would easily block the radiation down to negligible levels and would be effectively indestructable in the worst conceivable accident. Worries about "dirty bombs" are ridiculous considering the large array of easily available substances that would be much more dangerous (not very) in such a bomb. As for a nuclear weapon, I'm not exactly sure how fissionable it is, but I do know that you would need a massively powerful nuclear weapon in the first place in order to actually induce fission in it, so it's not dangerous in that respect either.

So, right now, the supply probably is the biggest problem. At the rate the US is currently producing it, it would take 40 years to get enough for one car. Not that the rate of production couldn't be ramped up considerably, but it would still be so expensive it would only be useful for powering things in space or at the bottom of the ocean, or deep under the earth, etc. Places where power is otherwise impossible or incredibly expensive to obtain.

about a week ago
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'Thermoelectrics' Could One Day Power Cars

tragedy Re:power cars? technically no (174 comments)

1. Current TEs are no where close to 50% efficient. More like about 5%.

The article was about new, higher-efficiency materials. Still not high enough, and not near 50% efficiency, but certainly getting up there. Good enough so that, if you could get hold of the material, you could at least use it to charge your electric cars batteries currently, even if you couldn't power the car directly. Of course, at present, you'd be better off with a Stirling engine.

3. You can't "turn-off" an RTG. They have to run continuously.

Presumably, you could plug them into the power grid in most places you park them

about a week ago
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Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project

tragedy Re:Stop Now (174 comments)

And my point is that these are essentially status projects. Well, the NASA one is a reused status project. Spending a lot more money than you have to is part of the project.

Which NASA project? Are you talking about the Space Power Facility? That's not a prestige project, that's a giant bell jar with really good vacuum pumps. Even though it looks cool enough to be used as a movie prop/set, it's very utilitarian. As for those giant tents, they may be prestige projects, but that doesn't really mean anything. Large utilitarian projects intended as nuclear experiment stations also are built at a premium because they're meant to be built to very high standards.

For example, I believe an inflatable structure of the appropriate scale with a medium vacuum in the center and properly anchored to the ground (or perhaps rather the inside of an abandoned open copper mine) could be had for low tens of millions of dollars (the inflatable components of the outer shell would be moderately over-pressurized cone-shaped wedges which would need to resist one atmosphere of pressure and wind loading with appropriate factor of safety). That includes building of smaller structures to get the many design issues worked out. That's not quite good enough a vacuum, but it's getting there.

If you're going to build a truly massive vacuum chamber on the cheap, then you can probably build it somewhere like Fall River Pass in Colorado so that you only have to hold off .65 Atmospheres of pressure, although I don't know if there are any suitable pre-existing depressions around there that you can use. Honestly, your plan sounds pretty neat and is probably practical. The problem is that inflatable vacuum chambers are still a pretty novel technology. So, you would be basing one highly experimental project on another highly experimental project.

The space experiment is also an interesting idea. I personally wish we lived in an environment where this kind of research could be done, with the recognition that the potential returns are vast. That's not what we get however. We're lucky to get ITER and they're already grumbling about the cost and fudging the numbers to try to kill support. After all, this whole article is a sensationalist bit trying to claim that the actual cost of ITER has gone way up when, if you read it, it's evident that what's really happening is that the long-term cost is going up because they're not shelling out the money in the short term.

about a week ago
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Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty

tragedy Re:more pseudo science (864 comments)

See. This is the sort of thing I find really strange. I remember taking a geology course where the professor explained all about the various layers to be found in dirt that develop naturally over thousands of years... then pointed out that we would be very unlikely to ever actually experience those layers in the real world because there's so little dirt in the world that hasn't been turned over by human beings. There's only about 5 acres of land per person on the planet. That's just the people, consider how how much manufacturing waste and resource use and pollution there is for every one of those humans. Consider how long it persists compared to a human lifespan. It's truly baffling how anyone could think that our ability to change the world with our activities would be small.

about two weeks ago
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Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty

tragedy Re:more pseudo science (864 comments)

That's really, really missing the point. It's not as if we've studied _every single_ mouse birth that has ever occurred to make sure that not a single one of them spontaneously popped from a donkey hide or something like that. The point is that of the two groups: denialists and actual climate scientists, the climate scientists actually practice real science, continuously researching and experimenting and challenging their own ideas and the denialists tend to just be sophists. As I said, I'm probably going to bet on the side of the legitimate researchers rather than a bunch of people who tend to scoff indignantly at the very idea that man can alter the environment despite the massive evidence that we really, really can.

about two weeks ago
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Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project

tragedy Re:Stop Now (174 comments)

A prototype would only be a portion of the development costs. The private world would foot most of the bill, assuming that economically viable fusion reactors were demonstrated.

Which is what ITER is supposed to do. Demonstrate that it's possible to make a commercially viable fusion reactor and work out the problems involved in actually doing that.

These are prestige projects. They wouldn't build them, if the design were cheap. Another example, is the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center [wikipedia.org] in Astana, Kazakhstan. It's a 150m high tent structure which supposedly cost $400 million to produce.

But the point is that these structures are essentially _tents_ and they're a small fraction of the size of the "very large Farnsworth fusor or polywell device, say hundreds of meters in diameter and a few modest free-electron lasers to illuminate portions of the fusing plasma" that you suggested and are still very, very expensive. The construction methods for a device such as you suggest would need to be a lot more robust and would be an order of magnitude more expensive. Since they would also be a _lot_ bigger, it's hard imagining such a project not being in the same budget neighborhood as ITER.

I agree with you on some of the other points. The miracle right now is that any money is being spent on fusion research. Frankly, looking back on the long history of ITER, it's amazing it's moving forward. It's clear that it couldn't have gotten anywhere with just one country supporting it. Not the United States, anyway, which keeps running hot and cold on the project.

about two weeks ago
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Obama Says He May Or May Not Let the NSA Exploit the Next Heartbleed

tragedy Re:The President doesn't micro-manage this stuff (134 comments)

That depends heavily on what you mean by an advantage in cyber war. If you're after mutually assured destruction, then maybe patching holes in everyone's defenses doesn't help. If you don't want your own side to be completely destroyed, it's aterrible idea.

about two weeks ago
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How Cochlear Implants Are Being Blamed For Killing Deaf Culture

tragedy Re:Let it die (510 comments)

Titanium isn't so risky because it's not ferromagnetic. Anything ferromagnetic is going to be about as bad as a magnet, so surgical steel items are out. Drug pumps, pacemakers, etc. are just as much of a problem and as tricky or more tricky to remove for an MRI.

about two weeks ago
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Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project

tragedy Re:Stop Now (174 comments)

Obviously I should have said: "working fusion reactor highly into the net positive side". I thought it was understood in context.

So we're going to make a hundred thousand fusion reactors?

No, but that doesn't magically make the development costs cheaper than a well-understood consumer machine of which literally billions have been mass-produced.

They could have done that with a very large Farnsworth fusor or polywell device, say hundreds of meters in diameter and a few modest free-electron lasers to illuminate portions of the fusing plasma.

The millenium dome is 52 meters high on the inside and cost a more than a billion dollars and it's basically a giant tent. NASA's Space Power Facility is more the sort of thing you would need for a giant Farnsworth fusor. It's still only about forty meters high. I can't find exact costs for it, but I can guaranty it wasn't cheap and it's only a small fraction of the scale you're talking about.

Maybe your approach would be better. Who am I to say. This is what they're already building. I personally think it would be great if they could find the budget for a few different approaches.

about two weeks ago

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