It’s an even more eclectic week here at Soapbox World HQ than usual.
Lead Story: Magnetized Target Fusion is awesome
- Fusion with pistons: General Fusion gets Bezos backing – If I were a billionaire, I’d definitely fund cool Future Technology projects, too.
- Here’s the 2007 paper describing General Fusion’s concept – Start with a steel sphere two meters across, studded with steam-powered pistons. Fill it with a liquid lead-lithium alloy. Use equatorial pumps to turn it into a vortex, and polar pumps to pull it out the top and bottom, so you get a vertical cavity. Inject plasma into that cavity. Fire the pistons, which all impact the steel sphere at the same time and make a compression wave in the lead-lithium. That compression wave ignites the plasma, heating the lead-lithium. Run the hot lead-lithium from the polar pumps through a heat exchanger, which generates steam for turbines and the pistons. Repeat once per second. Neutron activation turns the lithium into tritium, and the use of liquid lead as a working fluid means you don’t need to worry about neutron bombardment turning your steel sphere into Swiss cheese.
- Here’s a video, if my description isn’t clear – Obviously, General Fusion is invested in saying it’ll work, but the math seems to check out, and this particular approach to fusion seems to have a number of advantages over pure magnetic confinement and pure inertial confinement. The biggest one, as I see it, is that it operates on principles broadly familiar to today’s industrial equipment: it has some pumps, and it has some steam-powered pistons (with some electronics to control impact timing), neither of which is all that complicated. The devices to generate the plasma are a bit more esoteric, but well-understood.
All told, a nifty system, and one with a number of seeming practical advantages. Also, I love the idea of a fusion power plant being bulky, spiky, and loud. (All those pistons hitting a steel sphere…)
- Leaked photos of the XM907 on the XM1299 prototype – 58 calibers sure is a long gun.
- China’s next economic gambit: export surveillance technology now being tested in Xinjiang – I don’t think there are a great many buyers for that sort of thing—not because people don’t want it, but because most places rich enough to become surveillance states have an inkling that maybe letting someone else make your surveillance hardware is a bad idea.
- Advanced Powertrain Demonstrator now installed in a Bradley for testing – Parvusimperator notes that it appears to the be fruit of the Cummins-Achates opposed-piston partnership.
- Russia shows off a light carrier with a semi-catamaran hull – It’s only a model. Still, the semi-catamaran hullform has a lot to recommend itself for carrier designs. High stability and a wide beam for a given displacement? Sign me up.
Science and Technology
- Gameanalytics: increasing the efficiency of your web API the good way – “For each byte we save on this endpoint’s response which gets five billion hits per day, we save $7.50 per month.” They manage to cut nearly three kilobytes.
- Plaid: increasing the efficiency of your web API the bad, wrong way – “So, we run 4,000 Node.js workers, each of which only processes a single [web] request at a time…” Not only do they lose points for having an awful, awful, awful pre-existing system, they lose points for their solution being, “Well, we can bandage this up!” rather than “Kill it with fire!”. Also, they lose points for the silly Silicon Valley affectation of using ’30x’ (pronounced thirty-ex) as a verb1. It boggles the mind that they posted this look at their architecture on their own website as a way to brag. The only thing it’s done for me is ensure that I recommend nobody ever use Plaid under any circumstances.
- QuadrigaCX investors/currency-holders demanding exhumation of definitely-for-sure-dead-in-India-of-a-typically-non-fatal-disease CEO Gerry Cotten – Fun fact: Cotten, in high school, was active in online Ponzi scheme communities. Also, Simpsons quote!
- Google debated leaving the cloud computing realm altogether, but instead decided to try to become a top-two player by 2023 – …and if they aren’t? Will they abandon the market then?
- From the Slashdot comment thread above, a telling description from an insider: “A perfect example is Google’s HQ in Mountain View. While the grounds are maintained, all the lawn art and furniture, all outside decorations are decaying and rotting away. All the Android statues except the latest one are tilted, broken and missing chunks. And each new version of Android has a smaller statue that the previous one. And of course, the official Google Visitor Center is permanently closed and the Google Gift Shop is open only 10-6 on work days – dealing with customers was never Google’s strong point.”
- On the White Island volcano tourism tragedy – Predicting when a volcano is going to do its thing is hard even when it isn’t the sort of volcano White Island is.
- A long list of comic book lettering and dialog tropes – Like all art forms, it has its own particular conventions which differ from standard written English.
- Bloomberg is kind of an awful guy – But hey, if you spend all your time throwing money at anti-gun causes, you can get away with a lot on today’s American left.
- Discovery Networks asks composers to take an 80% pay cut – Composers seem more or less settled on saying, “Screw you guys,” and taking 100% pay cuts. This story divides Soapbox HQ: parvusimperator thinks it’s A-OK; I think Discovery is within its rights but kind of being a jerk.
- When the Patriots have lost the Boston Globe…
- I can’t get over how stupid an architectural choice they made here. Let’s say the average request to the Gameanalytics service in the previous bullet point takes 0.1 second to handle each request, which is likely faster than the real figure. Even then, it’s handling around 5800 requests simultaneously, more than Plaid’s ↩