809 The What Now?

The power went out when I got home last night and stayed out till 4 or so in the morning, so I lost a day essentially.  It’s really aggravating.  I could have gotten ahead a little bit, bu no.

The power out here is so unreliable I’d really like to see about getting a backup generator or something.  I saw a report once about a company that’s offering to make personal nuclear power stations.  They cost a ton, but they can power way more than just one home and a group of people can sell that power back to the power company.  That would be pretty sweet.  Once you got one of those things you’d never have to pay for power again…  for like 100 generations of your kids.  Assuming they live around your power station anyway.

In any case some kind of backup power thing would be really useful out here.  All kinds of stuff can go wrong though.  I’ve heard so many horror stories about people randomly dying because of personal generators.  Whoever wired this house was also less than a genius.  Things are not done…  normally.  At least in so far as I understand that sort of thing.  The phone lines are also all jacked up.  Which I suppose must be unrelated.


Nina has such a facial expression, in the first panel, that just screams ” I want to end something”

on the topic of Ms.Graves, she looks to have some bad posture to me, which is odd because iremeber he being ramrod straight most comics

The personal nuclear station thing is very interesting stuff. when people say/hear “nuclear” they tend to be thinking “fission”, but there are other kinds of nuclear power generation that are starting to get closer to production level. If I had to guess I’d say this is probably decay-based rather than fission based. Decay-based nuclear batteries work by sandwiching small amounts of non-volitile radioactives between layers of circuit materials designed to catch and convert radiation directly into electrical energy (kind of like solar panels in a very very broad sense- that part of the EM spectrum is harder to catch than the part we call “light”, so the actual tech is very different). A battery the size of an outhouse could in theory power your whole house and even unshielded would be only about as radioactive as crate of bananas. An AA size battery could power whatever you put it in for decades, and would be safer and less toxic then a chemical battery.

That stuff exists in R&D labs right now, but last I read the technology wasn’t quite mass producible yet. I do seem to remember seeing a news story on a prototype/demo system being used to power the developing tech company’s office building in pretty much exactly the scheme you describe, so it’s possible we’re remembering the same story.

Fusion is getting interesting too in some ares. Tokamak containment based projects are still the most high profile and well funded- those are the ones people are thinking of when they say fusion is “perpetually 50 years away”, but they’re neither the only nor the most promising. Polywell containment, which the US Navy is currently funding, is starting to look like it might get there first, possibly in less than ten years. Very exciting. That won’t ever be small enough for a backyard generator though.

Cool about the nuclear battery.

I thought he was talking about radiothermal generatos. We send dozens of ’em into space – no moving parts, provide x-amount of power uninterupted for about 14 years, then 1/2 x for another 14 yrs, etc (half-life). Since there’s no moving parts, you can cube ’em up in a concrete block that would take a nuke to crack.

There are places out there that sell old rocket parts (NASA issue), I wonder if any RTG’s are available?

I know exactly what Nina is talking about. I just don’t think I would be so erudite trying to say it. Anyone else think Nina and Carol have about the best working relationship of the bunch? I mean, Tom and John banter, but there’s the usual male tension between them (that never gets old — or at least, its practitioners never grow up). Jo doesn’t seem to relate to the other employees except at a sort of a tangent, and don’t even get me started on Reggie and Wesley. Maybe Ed and Tom might develop a rapport, if Ed loses his defensive issues.

Yes, a radioisotope-fired fuel cell thingy would be marvelous (pardon the techie jargon, I just don’t know how to express thingy in layman terms — like the Monty Python skit). Fusion energy is problematic. You need to refuel the things every 18 to 36 months, and the old fuel doesn’t just burn up — it hangs around doing nasty, dangerous things for up to 10,000 years. And there’s a lot more to radioactive waste than spent fuel.

My Parent’s house was built in 1930 of used lumber and demolition scrabblings. It was refurbished as an apartment house around 1950-’55. The wiring ran the gamut from knob-and-tube (think, Edison era) to spiral-armored BX cable (the latest thing in mid-20th Century wiring). The phone system was either hard-wired, like the wall phone in the kitchen, or had a big, clunky four-pin 1-inch cubical plug, like the upstairs desk phone. So, yeah, I sympathize with your wiring issues. In my house, the wiring was done and redone by my brother, who has an electrician’s license. That doesn’t help the flaky line or drop wiring, but at least inside, it works.

I’d argue for Nina and Jo having the best working relationship, if perhaps a little strange. Also, Thomas and John don’t really have male “tension”, since at least Thomas is aware it’s intentional… they’re not actually fighting for a prize, but rather fighting because fighting feels good, afaict.

The fact there’s any argument at all means that this comic is well written ^__^

Big fan of living in modern city dwellings… had three outages in the past year, two for maybe 1-2 minutes each (during reset-periods after work was done on our part of the ‘grid), and one for a half-hour because of a pretty hellish snow/windstorm that took down something or other, and they downed our grid because there was a problem while they were fixing it and it was for safety, or somesuch.

Also, @Nina’s comment, I did that a lot while I was discovering who and what I was in highschool. Now all my friends know everything, and I can be honest and geeky and oggle both sexes and everyone knows it’s just me… and that makes everything so much easier.

I’m a bit like Mal and Inara: I hate complications~

The worst one of all being secrecy.

The phone lines being messed up could easily be part of the wiring problem in your house. Not sure what the code is out there, but here a licensed electrician is supposed to install the lines and then they are supposed to be inspected by the city/state inspector for that sort of thing. of course, there are all sorts of loopholes (primarily post construction wiring within certain limits). Add to that various voltage steppers (one to bring house voltage down from 220 to the common use 110. Another for every low voltage source. Proper cable shielding. Pests gnawing on cables and wires, etc…) and you have a horde of potential problems. ‘Course most of them probably aren’t the cause. Were I looking into it, I’d start by checking the breaker panel/fuse box for issues. If it’s a neighborhood thing… Well, be glad you aren’t in California.

As for personal generator deaths… Most of them are from stupidity. Improper ventilation. Spilling gas and starting the generator immediately instead of waiting for it to clear. Filling a running generator. I lived in the country for a few years and had to run a generator every winter for about a month at a time. Not ideal (or cost effective if there is ANY alternative), but doable. personally I recommend some of the newer solar panels. Some are more shatter resistant than others, and even as a supplemental electric source they cut back on bills a lot. Of course they also tend to be expensive, can be rather fragile (mostly I’m thinking hail, but also anything else what might hit them), and your house might need a complete rewire to get up to code before the panels and batteries can be installed…

Also: Can’t count how many times I’ve answered with yes as a question. I approve of said near-statement.

“You need to refuel the things every 18 to 36 months, and the old fuel doesn’t just burn up — it hangs around doing nasty, dangerous things for up to 10,000 years. And there’s a lot more to radioactive waste than spent fuel.”

From what I’ve read, most current fusion concepts would produce helium and tritium as waste. Helium is non-toxic and non-radioactive (and has commercial/industrial value), and waste tritium can just be distilled and fed right back into the system as fuel. Tritium also has a half life of only twelve years, does not accumulate in organic tissue, and given the amount available any potential spill the danger zone would be measured in meters rather than kilometers.

The high level contaminants would be scrapped reactor materials, which would be more radioactive than similar materials from a fission plant, but would have a one to three orders of magnitude shorter half life. Plus the total volume produced would be much, much less than with fission systems.

The fuel would be deuterium refined from water and tritium obtained from a first stage deuterium reaction. You’d need fresh water, and an outside power source to kick start things, but once you got the reactor on line it would power the refinement process, so in theory you’d only need a fresh water source. If you have enough power leftover for a desalination plant, you’d just need a water source period, and you’d get the added bonus of a boost to you city’s fresh water supply.

Seems like it’d still be a lot cheaper & cleaner than what we’ve got now (fission and coal) in the long run, even taking into account the newer waste-burning fission designs, and potential trash-to-hydrocarbon refining operations. I’m no expert though.


Right, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, I was thinking fission as I keyed fusion. Fusion is inherently cleaner, but it’s just not practicable yet. I spent seven or eight years working at a (fission) nuclear power station, and trust me, I’m less confident having it 25 miles down the road than I was thirty years ago when I started there.


Explain why the bottle has a happy face on it’s bottom in panel three!
It made me laugh.
That is ONE HAPPY BOTTLE of soda!

@Gran Sorceror Davidicus–

That is a Rictus of Glee caused by proximity to Carol’s chest.


Just wanted to point this out, I saw some people making a mistake, not everyone but a few. Fusion and Fisson are different things. Fission is the breaking apart of heavy atoms to create heat & energy and Fusion is forcing light atoms together to create heavier atoms. Fission is the one that creates harmful waste (aka unstable atoms). Fusion on the other hand doesn’t make anything near heavy enough to unstable. But we really haven’t found an efficient way to do fusion yet.

^loves physics :)

The thing on the internet now (which probably indicates how bad an idea it can be) is to take an old UPS with a dead battery and connect a car battery to it. You’d probably have to charge the car battery first as the trickle charge from a UPS would probably never charge a discharged battery. Then you’d only have to worry about explosive hydrogen outgassing and possible hydrochloric acid spills. Everything’s a tradeoff.

I’m completely sure I wouldn’t understand (at least for the first time), if someone in real life said Nina’s utterance to me.

I’m surprised nobody mentioned kinetic batteries yet. It’s not power generation per se, but it can store a huge amount of power with a pretty good storage efficiency over time. It wouldn’t keep you powered indefinitely, but having a few days of power (assuming minimal usage, like refrigerator + computer + internet) would be pretty nice. Of course, economically speaking, it’s about as pie in the sky as nuclear, as they’re not cheap, at least not at the ‘power for a house for a few days’ size.

Or you could go with a smaller unit and put solar cells on your house to supply it with power during the day, so it only has to have enough storage for over night… and we’re still probably talking unfeasibly expensive, but at least *part* of that will pay for itself directly, rather than only reducing your power outage – caused food wastage.

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