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November 10th, 2008 - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Nov. 10th, 2008

02:16 am - Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes

Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes

Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.

The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.

The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. ‘Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,’ said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. ‘They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.’

Deal claims to have more than 100 firm orders, largely from the oil and electricity industries, but says the company is also targeting developing countries and isolated communities. ‘It’s leapfrog technology,’ he said.

Original: craschworks - comments

03:10 am - Privately Owned Fisheries May Help Shore Up Stocks

Privately Owned Fisheries May Help Shore Up Stocks

Giving people ownership rights in marine fisheries can halt or even reverse catastrophic declines in commercial stocks, researchers in California and Hawaii are reporting.

The idea goes against the grain among people who believe that anyone with grit and skill should be able to get in a boat, put to sea and make a living fishing. But that approach, even with licensing requirements and other restrictions, has produced fishing efforts so intense that by some estimates, the world’s commercial stocks will collapse in a few decades.

By contrast, the researchers write in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, allocating ownership shares of a particular fishery to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities gives them a reason to nurture the stock. In this arrangement, scientists set acceptable catch levels, and other authorities allocate shares, species by species, region by region.

As a local stock grows, shares in it — called catch shares or individual transferable quotas — become more valuable, just as shares of a company’s stock become more valuable as the business prospers. Those who have shares in a catch have a powerful incentive for doing everything they can to protect the stock.

Original: craschworks - comments

03:22 am - Myth Of US Invincibility Floats In The Persian Gulf

Myth of U.S. Invincibility Floats in the Persian Gulf

The war game was described as “free play,” meaning that both sides were unconstrained, free to pursue any tactic in the book of war in the service of victory. As Gen. Kernan put it: “The OPFOR (Force Red) has the ability to win here.” Much of the action was computer-generated. But representative military units in the field also acted out the various moves and countermoves. The comparison to a chess match is not inaccurate. The vastly superior US armada consisted of the standard carrier battle group with its full supporting cast of ships and planes. Van Riper had at his disposal a much weaker flotilla of smaller vessels, many of them civilian craft, and numerous assets typical of a Third World country.

But Van Riper made the most of weakness. Instead of trying to compete directly with Force Blue, he utilized ingenious low-tech alternatives. Crucially, he prevented the stronger US force from eavesdropping on his communications by foregoing the use of radio transmissions. Van Riper relied on couriers instead to stay in touch with his field officers. He also employed novel tactics such as coded signals broadcast from the minarets of mosques during the Muslim call to prayer, a tactic weirdly reminiscent of Paul Revere and the shot heard round the world. At every turn, the wily Van Riper did the unexpected. And in the process he managed to achieve an asymmetric advantage: the new buzzword in military parlance.

Astutely and very covertly, Van Riper armed his civilian marine craft and deployed them near the US fleet, which never expected an attack from small pleasure boats. Faced with a blunt US ultimatum to surrender, Force Red suddenly went on the offensive: and achieved complete tactical surprise. Force Red’s prop-driven aircraft suddenly were swarming around the US warships, making Kamikaze dives. Some of the pleasure boats made suicide attacks. Others fired Silkworm cruise missiles from close range, and sunk a carrier, the largest ship in the US fleet, along with two helicopter-carriers loaded with marines. The sudden strike was reminiscent of the Al Qaeda sneak attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Yet, the Navy was unprepared. When it was over, most of the US fleet had been destroyed. Sixteen US warships lay on the bottom, and the rest were in disarray. Thousands of American sailors were dead, dying, or wounded.

If the games had been real, it would have been the worst US naval defeat since Pearl Harbor.

What happened next became controversial. Instead of declaring Force Red the victor, JOINTFOR Command raised the sunken ships from the muck, brought the dead sailors back to life, and resumed the games as if nothing unusual had happened. The US invasion of the rogue state proceeded according to schedule. Force Red continued to harass Force Blue, until an increasingly frustrated Gen. Van Riper discovered that his orders to his troops were being countermanded, at which point he withdrew in disgust. In his after-action report, the general charged that the games had been scripted to produce the desired outcome.

Original: craschworks - comments

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