Living in San Francisco with fifty or sixty leopards loose in the city

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Mencius Moldbug notes that living with our current level of crime — indeed, with armed gangs ruling the inner-city streets — would be unthinkable a few short generations ago. But, then again, he couldn’t imagine living in San Francisco if there were fifty or sixty leopards loose in the city either:

But I can see how people would get used to it. Leopards are nocturnal, so you stay in at night. They hide in trees, so you cut down the trees. They tend to hunt in certain areas, so you avoid those areas. And the situation could develop gradually — the first leopard is a huge news story, the second is a smaller story, and they build up over time. After a while, the experience of walking down the street while checking for leopards would strike you as completely normal and unremarkable. If one day the leopards were removed, however, you would definitely notice it.

I’ve Seen the Future, and It Has a Kill Switch

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I’ve Seen the Future, and It Has a Kill Switch, says Bruce Schneier:

OnStar will soon include the ability for the police to shut off your engine remotely. Buses are getting the same capability, in case terrorists want to re-enact the movie Speed. The Pentagon wants a kill switch installed on airplanes, and is worried about potential enemies installing kill switches on their own equipment.

Microsoft is doing some of the most creative thinking along these lines, with something it’s calling “Digital Manners Policies.” According to its patent application, DMP-enabled devices would accept broadcast “orders” limiting capabilities. Cellphones could be remotely set to vibrate mode in restaurants and concert halls, and be turned off on airplanes and in hospitals. Cameras could be prohibited from taking pictures in locker rooms and museums, and recording equipment could be disabled in theaters. Professors finally could prevent students from texting one another during class.

The possibilities are endless, and very dangerous. Making this work involves building a nearly flawless hierarchical system of authority. That’s a difficult security problem even in its simplest form. Distributing that system among a variety of different devices — computers, phones, PDAs, cameras, recorders — with different firmware and manufacturers, is even more difficult. Not to mention delegating different levels of authority to various agencies, enterprises, industries and individuals, and then enforcing the necessary safeguards.

His conclusion:

“Digital Manners Policies” is a marketing term. Let’s call this what it really is: Selective Device Jamming. It’s not polite, it’s dangerous. It won’t make anyone more secure — or more polite.

Glory Days

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Joel Spolsky looks back at his time at Microsoft, during its glory days in the early 90s, when Bill Gates himself would read a spec and grill the designer:

He was flipping through my spec! (Calm down; what are you, a teenager?) And there were notes in all the margins! On every page! He had read the Whole Darn Thing!

As the conversation went on, Bill’s questions got harder and more detailed. And they seemed a little bit random. But I didn’t care. By now I was used to thinking of Bill as my buddy — a nice guy who had read my spec. In my head, I was already thinking of how I would address his comments, pronto.

Finally, the killer question. “I don’t know, you guys,” Bill said. “Is anyone really looking into all the details of how to do this? Like, all those date and time functions. Excel has so many date and time functions. Is BASIC going to have the same functions? Will they all work the same way?”

This was exactly the question I had spent the previous day investigating. And as I had discovered, there was a discrepancy. In both Excel and BASIC, each date was assigned a numeric code. The code for any day in 1992 that I looked up was the same in both. But when I looked up a date around the turn of the last century, Excel and BASIC were one digit apart. Huh?

When I went to find someone who might be able to help, I was directed to Ed Fries, a longtime Excel programmer famous for inventing those screen savers with the swimming fish. I hadn’t had much contact with Ed, but I used to see him every Friday afternoon as he played miniature golf in the hallways outside my office.

“Check out February 28, 1900,” he told me.

Its number in the Excel code was 59.

“Now try March 1.”

Its number was 61.

“What happened to 60?” Ed asked.

“It’s February 29!” I said proudly. “1900 was a leap year!”

“Nope,” Ed said, and left me pondering the problem for a little while longer. I eventually figured out, with some more guidance from Ed, that a group of programmers at Lotus had skipped a day in 1900 because it created a mathematical shortcut for them, and they probably figured that nobody would care about a mistake buried in the software’s internal calendar more than 90 years in the past. The people who made Excel hadn’t cared at all and built the bug into the code that the spreadsheets ran on. But the people who had written the code for BASIC had apparently been offended by the shortcut, so they set the start of their internal calendar a day earlier. That way, it would accurately reflect the actual calendar, but the solution was also practical. Because BASIC started its count a day earlier, the number that BASIC assigned to March 1, 1900, was also 61, and from that point on its date and time functions were aligned with Excel’s.

So were the date and time functions compatible?

“Yes,” I told Bill. “The dates are exactly the same, except for January and February 1900.”

Silence. The F Counter and my boss exchanged astonished glances. How did I know that?

“OK. Well, good work,” said Bill. He took his marked-up copy of the spec…wait! I wanted that…and left.

“Four,” announced the F Counter, and someone said, “Wow, that’s the lowest I can remember. Bill is getting mellow in his old age.” He was, at the time, 36. Later, I had it all explained to me. “Bill doesn’t really want to review your spec,” a colleague told me. “He just wants to make sure you’ve got it under control. His standard MO is to ask harder and harder questions until you admit that you don’t know, and then he can yell at you for being unprepared. Nobody was really sure what happens if you answer the hardest question he can come up with, because it’s never happened before.”

What did I take from all this? Bill Gates was amazingly technical, and he knew more about the details of his company’s software than most of the people who worked on those details day in and day out. He understood Variants and COM objects and IDispatch and why Automation is different than vtables — and why this might lead to dual interfaces. He worried about date and time functions. He didn’t meddle in software if he trusted the people who were working on it, but you couldn’t bullshit him for a minute because he was a programmer. A real, actual programmer.

Watching nonprogrammers trying to run software companies is like watching someone who doesn’t know how to surf trying to surf. Even if he has great advisers standing on the shore telling him what to do, he still falls off the board again and again. The cult of the M.B.A. likes to believe that you can run organizations that do things that you don’t understand. But often, you can’t.

Dark Knight Director Shuns Digital Effects for the Real Thing

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Dark Knight Director Shuns Digital Effects for the Real Thing — but not totally:

“So we got an Imax shot of Christian Bale as Batman standing on top of the Sears Tower,” Pfister says. “Here we are with our principal actor standing on the edge of one of the tallest buildings in the world. I think a lot of people will assume that’s CGI.” Perhaps, but when you see the shot (featured in the first trailer), your eye instinctively detects something different, something thrilling and rare: photographic reality.

Settling for anything less, Nolan feared, would send the Batman franchise back into camp and mummery. That’s why he transported his hero to the very real city of Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the real world has its drawbacks. “The Chinese government was a nightmare in terms of filming stuff,” Pfister sighs. “They wanted to limit the amount of helicopter activity over the city.”

And Nolan needed helicopters. He especially wanted to minimize digital meddling in those high-altitude Imax sequences. His reasons were both aesthetic and practical: Imax film stock is enormous, roughly 10 times the size of 35-mm celluloid, and it soaks up a vast amount of visual information. Those dimensions are what make the image so rich and sharp, even spread over a screen the size of a blimp hangar. While conventional films are digitized at 2K resolution (2,000 pixels across), or 4K at most, adding visual effects to Imax footage requires digitizing each frame at up to 8K. In other words, the difficulty and expense of doing f/x rise exponentially with the size of the negative.

If I may geek out here for a moment — math-geek out, that is — the expense of doing f/x should rise polynomiallyquadratically, in fact — with the (linear) size of the negative. An image with twice as many pixels across should have four times as many pixels total — two squared.

What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Big Paycheck or Service? Students Are Put to Test

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Mencius Moldbug likes to call the university system — and the mainstream media, which is full of journalists trained within the system — the Cathedral, because it controls public opinion as effectively as the medieval clerisy.

He also likes to note that NGOs have to put non-governmental in the name; otherwise we’d forget, because they wield plenty of power.

A recent NY Times piece — Big Paycheck or Service? Students Are Put to Test — inadvertently makes it clear how much the university system wants its believers to move into positions of not-quite-governmental power:

A prominent education professor at Harvard has begun leading “reflection” seminars at three highly selective colleges, which he hopes will push undergraduates to think more deeply about the connection between their educations and aspirations.

The professor, Howard Gardner, hopes the seminars will encourage more students to consider public service and other careers beyond the consulting and financial jobs that he says are almost the automatic next step for so many graduates of top colleges.

“Is this what a Harvard education is for?” asked Professor Gardner, who is teaching the seminars at Harvard, Amherst and Colby with colleagues. “Are Ivy League schools simply becoming selecting mechanisms for Wall Street?”

Although others have expressed similar concerns in recent years, his views have gained support on the Harvard campus with students, faculty and even the new president, Drew Gilpin Faust, who made the topic the cornerstone of her address to seniors during commencement week. Dr. Faust noted that in the past year, whenever she has met with students, their first question has always been the same: “Why are so many of us going to Wall Street?”

On other campuses as well, officials are questioning with new vigor whether too many top students who might otherwise turn their talents to a broader array of fields are being lured by high-paying corporate jobs, and whether colleges should do more to encourage students to consider other careers, especially public service.

Don’t forget, wielding public power is public service.

Bulking Up: Japan’s Drugmakers

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

When I saw the headline — Bulking Up: Japan’s Drugmakers — I was expecting a story linking performance-enhancing drugs to Japan, but the story is about M&A:

On June 11 midsize Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo announced it would pay $4.6 billion for control of Ranbaxy Laboratories, India’s largest maker of generic drugs. In doing so, Daiichi seems to have beat Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline to the punch, gaining instant access to double-digit growth in India, China, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico. If the deal goes forward, it will be a coup for the little-known Japanese company. “All the big pharmaceutical companies are talking about emerging markets as the next growth opportunities,” says Stewart Adkins, head of London-based consultancy Stewart Adkins Advisors.

It looks like they’ll have to get used to a more competitive field. The Ranbaxy deal is the third multibillion-dollar overseas acquisition by a Japanese drugmaker in the past seven months. Eisai paid $3.9 billion in December for MGI Pharma of Bloomington, Minn. And Takeda shelled out a hefty $8.8 billion for Cambridge (Mass.)-based biotech Millennium Pharmaceuticals in early April.

The regulatory environment is shifting in Japan, and that is prompting the change in behavior:

Coming regulatory changes in Japan’s universal health-care system may further fuel the trend. For years, policymakers have protected the domestic drug industry. By setting medication prices relatively high and erecting clinical trial hurdles for foreign drug products, the government set the stage for one of the world’s most crowded, least international markets. At last count, there were 1,200 drugmakers.

The government also has failed to encourage patients to enroll in clinical trials or to increase its number of drug reviewers. Getting a new drug approved often takes up to 22 months, vs. an average of 10 months in the U.S.

Regulatory reforms would allow more low-cost generic drugs into the market and make it easier for foreign drugmakers to get their products cleared. But that means Japan’s domestic companies will have to work a lot harder—and for that, they will need some bulk. Takeda, the biggest in the group, ranked 17th in global sales last year, according to researcher IMS Health. Each of the world’s Big Three—Pfizer, Glaxo, and Novartis—posted revenues that were more than double Takeda’s. And all the Japanese drug companies combined account for just 10% of the $700 billion global industry. Ranbaxy won’t level the field. But it won’t be the last deal.

Technology: It’s Where the Jobs Are

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The technology sector is where the jobs are:

The highest concentration of technology workers — 286 for every 1,000 workers — was in, no surprise, Silicon Valley. Boulder, Colo., came in second, with 230, and Huntsville, Ala.; Durham, N.C.; and Washington rounded out the top five in density.

Now for the answer to the question on everyone’s mind: Where are the highest salaries? That would be Silicon Valley, where the average tech worker is paid $144,000 a year. That’s nearly double the $80,000 national average for tech jobs. Runners up included San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. Austin, Tex., home of Dell came in fourth, and Seattle was fifth. San Juan, Puerto Rico, had the lowest salaries, with an average of $38,000 a year, but living expenses there are also considerably lower.

The Strident Hermit King of Comics

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

In reviewing Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger — about the artist-creator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange — Geoff Boucher declares Steve Ditko the strident hermit king of comics:

For students of comics history, there are few names that strike the ear and the imagination quite like Ditko’s. In a field defined by brilliant oddballs, embittered journeymen, penniless geniuses and colorful hacks, Ditko is the strident hermit king. He gave the world Spider-Man but then more or less bugged out, deciding in 1969 to stop doing interviews and making public appearances. Now 80, Ditko lives in New York City, and although you can track down his studio, nobody I know who’s done so has gotten past the front step. It’s not that Ditko is unfriendly — he’s willing to talk, apparently (in one case, for more than an hour), but only while standing in his doorway, blocking any view into his home and his life.

If you’re a journalist, however, it’s a different story. Last year, the BBC aired a documentary, “In Search of Steve Ditko,” in which reporter Jonathan Ross, accompanied by Neil Gaiman, sought an audience with Ditko. He refused to speak on camera, which only reinforces the idea of him as the J.D. Salinger of super-hero comics. This, I suppose, makes Peter Parker a wall-crawling Holden Caulfield.

When Ditko drew Peter Parker, he drew him as a nerd — a proto-nerd, I suppose — which made perfect sense for the character, but later artists drew him as just another idealized male. Boucher gives this description of Ditko’s style:

Although Ditko grew up loving the art of Jerry Robinson and Will Eisner, for much of his career, he had a spindly and off-kilter style that rubbed the heroic off the page and replaced it with an odd, anxious ballet of the surreal and the grotesque.

The recent Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme DVD played down Ditko’s “anxious ballet of the surreal and the grotesque” as well as Stan Lee’s impressive-sounding mystic mumbo-jumbo, which always alluded to otherworldly things you assumed someone understood.

Ditko is also famous for creating the Question — and infamous for creating Mr. A — which both inspired Alan Moore‘s Rorschach, from The Watchmen.

A simple sovereign bankruptcy procedure

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Mencius Moldbug lays out a simple sovereign bankruptcy procedure — I’m not sure I’d call it simple, by the way — for restoring modern political states to the way they were a century ago, during the Belle Époque:

This implies that in two years, (a) all systematic criminal activity will terminate; (b) anyone of any skin color will be able to walk anywhere in any city, at any time of day or night; (c) no graffiti, litter, or other evidence of institutional lawlessness will be visible; and (d) all 20th-century buildings of a socialist, brutalist, or other antidecorative character will be demolished.

Wake up, First Sun Warrior of the Morning!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I can’t say I was an early bird as a child — and I certainly wasn’t as a teenager — but orders from my secret superhero commander would definitely have launched me into action at any hour. Wake up, First Sun Warrior of the Morning!

Japanese toy company People has released a new age alarm clock that supposedly helps kids wake up by turning them into Ultraman. It’s called the Okiro! Asa Ichiban Taiyou Senshi — Charenjaa Kitto (Wake Up! First Sun Warrior of the Morning — Challenger Kit) and was manufactured for the Japanese Ministry of Education “early to bed early to rise” program. The $38 kit comes with the extravagant eye shield and helmet; a series of talismans and message cards (no doubt world-saving secret missions); and a 27-day program that will involve your child taking orders from “the commander.”

The commander wakes the child up at 6 a.m., and prompts players to put on the helmet and hit a “roger” button to acknowledge their wakefulness. Then, they are ordered to count to 10 in five different languages: English, Japanese, German, Swahili and Malagasy. At that point, the player is “allowed to take off the equipment and start the day.”

(Hat tip to Tyler Cowen.)

Choosing Wisely

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Laura Vanderkam reviews Nudge and the idea of “libertarian paternalism” — a way of helping people choose wisely:

The classic example is saving for retirement. Most of us know that we should be saving more—but fully 30 percent of eligible employees fail to enroll in company-sponsored 401(k) retirement plans, even though employers tend to match employee deposits up to a point. Is this because the employees are too strapped to make contributions, even with the employer match? Apparently not, the authors say, citing data from the United Kingdom, where a handful of defined-benefit plans don’t require any employee contribution at all. They do, however, require employees to sign up. Scarcely half of eligible people do. “This is equivalent to not bothering to cash your paycheck,” they write—something that no rational economic actor would ever choose.

A better solution? Rather than requiring employees to opt in, require them to opt out. This changes the numbers dramatically. One 2001 study found that under opt-in 401(k) rules, barely 20 percent of employees had enrolled after three months of employment, and 65 percent had done so after 36 months. With automatic enrollment, 90 percent of new employees were participating shortly after joining their firms. “Never underestimate the power of inertia,” Thaler and Sunstein write. Drop-out rates are modest, suggesting that “workers are not suddenly discovering, to their dismay, that they are saving more than they had wanted.” In other words, on some level, people appreciate the nudge.

The examples of nudge-worthy situations abound. School cafeteria managers, rather than banning junk food, can put the apples at eye level and the Twinkies a little farther away. Utilities pushing conservation can put smiley or frowny faces on power bills, indicating whether a customer is using more or less energy than his neighbors. Universities, rather than getting hysterical about underage drinking, can put up signs noting that most students either don’t drink, or do so moderately. These nudges all recognize that human beings—as opposed to rational economic actors—are systematically biased about their choices. We are biased toward the status quo, toward things that are easy, and toward our notions of what everyone else thinks. “The picture that emerges is one of busy people trying to cope in a complex world in which they cannot afford to think deeply about every choice they have to make,” Thaler and Sunstein write. We are free to ignore the frown on the power bill, but if it gets us to turn off the lights, is it really a bad thing?

Signs don’t sort

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Drewbot mentions that TSA recently introduced an initiative ripe for gaming:

The Transportation Security Administration is trying to speed up airport screening by asking passengers to choose a line based on their familiarity with checkpoint procedures. But human nature being what it is, this approach may hit its own snags: people typically opt for the shortest line, and all think they are experts.

The signs don’t sort properly, Drewbot notes, for the obvious reason that people don’t want to sort themselves into the slow line, but the signs do change behavior:

However, by reading the signs, they were aware of what steps they would have to take to pass as experts. Seriously: I have NEVER seen people with their ID and boarding pass in hand so consistently throughout the line. Experts don’t behave like this, only people worried of being discovered (being identified as being non-expert) behave in such a prepared fashion.

Kermit Love, Co-Creator of Big Bird, Dies at 91

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

It’s hard to believe that Big Bird and Snuffleupagus were created by a costume designer named Kermit Love. He also worked for some of ballet’s most renowned choreographers. He just passed away, at age 91 — which the New York Times reported with some not-so-subtle subtext:

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Christopher Lyall, Mr. Love’s partner of 50 years.

Mr. Love played Willy the Hot Dog Man on the show — a character I do not remember — and helped design Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster, but he insisted he was not the namesake of the famous frog.

Peak Phosphorus?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Are we facing Peak Phosphorus?

In the past 14 months, the price of the raw material — phosphate rock — has surged by more than 700 per cent to more than $367 (£185) per tonne. As well as putting pressure on food prices, some researchers believe that the risk of a future phosphorus shortage blows a hole in the concept of biofuels as a “renewable” source of energy. Ethanol is not truly renewable if the essential fundamental element is, in reality, growing more scarce, researchers say. Within a few decades, according to forecasts used by scientists at Linköping University, in Sweden, a “peak phosphorus” crunch could represent a serious threat to agriculture as global reserves of high-quality phosphate rock go into terminal decline.

Because supplies of phosphates suitable for mining are so limited, a new geopolitical map may be drawn around the remaining reserves — a dynamic that would give a sudden boost to the global importance of Morocco, which holds 32 per cent of the world’s proven reserves. Beyond Morocco, the world’s chief phosphorus reserves for export are concentrated in Western Sahara, South Africa, Jordan, Syria and Russia.

Natural distribution of phosphorus could create a small number of new “resource superpowers” with a pricing control over fertilisers that some suspect could end up rivalling Opec’s control over crude oil. The economic battle to secure phosphorus supply may already have begun. China, according to US Geological Survey estimates, has 13 billion tonnes of phosphate rock reserves and has started to guard them more carefully. Beijing has just imposed a 135 per cent tariff on phosphate rock exports to try to secure enough for its own farmers, alarming the fertiliser industry, as well as Western Europe and India, which are both entirely reliant on phosphorus imports. With America’s own phosphorus production down 20 per cent over the past three years, it has begun to ship phosphorus in from Morocco.

American projections suggest that global phosphorus demand could grow at 2.3 per cent annually just to feed the growing world population, an estimate that was made before the growth of biofuels.

Few observers hold out hope of a discovery of phosphorus large enough to meet the continued growth in demand. The ore itself takes millions of years to form, and the prospect of extracting phosphorus from the sea bed presents massive technological and financial challenges.

The answer, say crop scienctists, lies in better husbandry of phosphorus reserves: an effort that may require the creation of an international body to monitor the use and recycling of phosphorus.

I love the naked power grab in recommending an “international body” to “monitor” the use and recycling of phosphorus. Price signals should handle that job just fine — as long as governments don’t nationalize reserves, put up export tariffs, etc. Sigh.

(Hat tip to Erik.)

What a Difference a Day Makes

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I had a colleague who briefly worked with a mad scientist intent on bringing a “trash laser beam” — that’s what we called the plasma furnace — to market. In What a Difference a Day Makes, Robert X. Cringely describes the technology and its potential:

Until the late 1960s most American cities burned their trash, which was highly efficient at reducing the trash volume by more than 90 percent, yielding ash that was relatively small and easy to dispose of under the prevalent rules of that time. Then came the Clean Air Act, which made burning asbestos and DDT and PCBs and various heavy metals a no-no, so we started burying our trash in landfills, which requires a lot more effort and a lot more land — so much land that many large cities are running out of places to stash their trash. Recycling helps reduce the volume of trash, but it requires labor, costs more than it earns, and most of the stuff that could be recycled is missed. We need something better than burying our trash in landfills.

As an aside, many products that were designed in the 1960s for easy incineration are designed today for easier digestion in landfills. Disposable diapers are a good example of such a product.

Eric and Andrew Day propose going back to burning our trash, but instead of using open-air incinerators or even high-temperature Basic Oxygen furnaces, they like the idea of burning our crap in electric plasma furnaces at temperatures in excess of 15,000 degrees Celsius. Take everything that would have gone to the landfill, add to it, if you like, everything that would have been recycled, and even leave in the really bad stuff like medical waste, toxic waste, heavy metals, and radioactive waste. Grind it all up into little chunks, some of which could be in a chemical or water slurry, and pump it into the plasma furnace.

Plasma furnaces have been around for decades and are already used for disposing of medical waste in Japan. Most such furnaces are fairly small, though the Days have found one manufacturer that can make a plasma furnace capable of burning 100 tons of trash per day.

The plasma furnace, operating in a closed loop, generates a form of synthetic gas that can be burned as a fuel as well as a glasslike inert material that can be used as aggregate in concrete. That’s what happens when you run your Pampers and plutonium and anthrax and last Sunday’s chicken dinner through a 30,000-degree Fahrenheit flame that breaks everything down to single atoms. The manufacturer of the plasma furnace (it’s in this week’s links) says the syngas can be burned to generate more power than the furnace uses, making it self-sufficient.

The Days propose building not just a plasma furnace but a chemical plant around it:

The purpose of the system is to simultaneously produce hydrogen, electricity, oxygen, biofuels/biomass, syngas, and other useful products from waste.

Now, with one of the heroic oversimplifications I am known for, I’ll explain that the rest of the Day Cycle involves injecting steam into the syngas to create even more hydrogen along with lots of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide can be used to grow algae, yielding both biomass and oxygen in copious amounts. The final outputs of the plant are whatever can be made from the algae (biodiesel, ethanol, or — what the heck — SwiftFuel). All heat is recycled, no carbon dioxide is released (that’s the theory) and all that gets pumped out of the plant is some excess electricity (not sure how much of that), hydrogen, all those algae products, and of course oxygen.

Their claimed net production from each ton of municipal solid waste:

112 pounds of hydrogen
55 gallons of biodiesel
a little electricity
926 pounds of oxygen

One of the commenters, an Ed Underwood, notes that there’s nothing new here:

There have been companies selling plasma incinerators for years. They do a good job of greatly reducing a trash pile but they will not normally generate much energy. The water content of trash greatly reduces the efficiency of the system. Even if you break it into oxygen and hydrogen and burn it — you still dump a huge amount of energy into it to do that and you don’t get energy back to make up for that loss. Also when dealing with toxic trash , no matter how many times you feed the exhaust gases back into the system — you will still have to have a scrubber for exhaust — those require a lot of energy and are expensive to maintain.

In his opinion, you can reduce the volume of trash, but you won’t produce an energy surplus in the process.