Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Japan Tragedy, nukes, maturity, uplift and more...

There are so many levels I want to write about, in responding to the horrible tragedy in Japan. I'll offer just two that come to my stunned mind, and follow up later.

First of all, this is breathtaking in its transfixing horror. The images and video footage show both how technologically advanced and well prepared the Japanese were... and how woefully lacking any preparations can be, in the face of such overpowering natural force. We live on a planet that has allowed our numbers to swell into seven billions, largely because it’s been so calm and predictable throughout the holocene epoch (since the ice ages ended). Nowadays, we fret over tiny atmospheric wobbles like snowstorms or tornadoes or piddling hurricanes, while taking for granted the glassy smoothness of oceans, around whose rim we’ve perched most of our cities, utterly depending on them not to vary height even to a hundredth of a percent! A degree that would be imperceptible in your bathtub.

While our hearts and prayers -- and urgent aid -- must go out to the people of Japan (which also happens to be one of the most future-and-SF-oriented nations in the world), let’s also ponder what we can all do to enhance the resilience and robustness of our own homes, communities and civilization. (One of my frequent themes.) You’ve heard me promote CERT training, for example, but there are so many other things, all the way down to keeping a vegetable garden. And helping reverse the trend toward absurd grouchy nostalgia that’s sweeping both right and left. Seriously.

Point two -- the news from Japan is clearly a setback for those of us pushing for a gradual, prudent resumption of US endeavors in nuclear power. (This movement includes many of the “tech-liberals" like Stewart Brand, helping turn it into a bipartisan movement.) In fact, the negligence of the operating company -- Tokyo Power, which has been cited for violations frequently in the past -- is appalling!


“The central problem arises from a series of failures that began after the tsunami. It easily overcame the sea walls surrounding the Fukushima plant. It swamped the diesel generators, which were placed in a low-lying area, apparently because of misplaced confidence that the sea walls would protect them.” (From the NY Times.)

This was supremely bad management and the whole world will suffer, because of new suspicion of nuclear power. This was so avoidable. Such a blatantly stupid failure mode would never happen here, where there are backups to backups to backups... and we have other stupidities, all our own.

On the other hand, it slaps the face of all those who said that US nuclear regulations have been “obviously” absurd.

There is no single direction to the lessons here. It has long been obvious that some streamlining and fast-tracking of a return to nuclear in the US is called for. In fact, Obama pushed through the first speedup and simplification of nuclear licensing in the US in 50 years, though tepidly according to some of the zealots. (It will still take years.) Nevertheless. This is something we must process, meticulously. And Fukushima illustrates that there is a place for nitpicking and quadrupled precautions.

The New York Times has a wonderful interactive graphic: How a Nuclear Reactor shuts down and What Happens in a Meltdown. For accurate info on the nuclear aspects of this disaster, try the IAEA site.


=== KINDLE YOUR INTELLECT! ===

Announcing the availability of The Transparent Society on Kindle!
 Called one of the most important works on freedom and privacy in the last three decades and winner of the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association.

Also new on e-books - Contacting Aliens too, and Star Wars on Trial! And the Uplift novels as well.


=== HOW SHOULD ADULTS REMAIN CHILD-LIKE? ===

I was asked by the editors of Psychology Today to join with other notables in answering a very specific question: “What smart move comes naturally to kids, but not so much to grown-ups?”

My reply: I would choose the childhood habit of seeing the world as filled with possibility for dramatic change. Children know that their future will be different than their present. Change may bring instability and pain -- youth can be a fearful time. But there is often an accompanying sense that the changing future will be theirs to engage with a personal power that increases, gradually, day-by-day. The dawning of ambition to "become" an adult of substance in the world to come.

This is seen in childrens' storytelling tastes -- the fantasy and science fiction that are sometimes dismally dismissed as "childrens' literature" by minds that have lost all flexibility and that cling desperately to an illusion of static "eternal verities." Young people know less, but they are certain that change will come. And they are much more courageous about facing it.


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This amazing pictorial chronology of Science Fiction, by Ward Shelly, charts the genre’s rise from fear and wonder, legends and mythology, on to Space Opera, the Golden Age, New Wave, and Cyber Punk, with side branches toward Gothic Novels, fantasy and horror. Click on the high resolution image to see details.

=== FOR THE PREDICTIONS REGISTRY! ===

2001Someone file this in the predictions wiki! ”I think that may be the most important thing to notice, as we turn away from the past and face the future. The road ahead remains long, hard and murky. Our achievements often seem dim compared to imperfections that are left unsolved. But at this rate, who will bet me that a woman or a person of color won't preside in the White House long before the first human being steps on Mars?”

That is from my year 2000 essay about “2001 and the real milestones of progress.” I had forgotten about that! Gee willikers! What does it take to get some cred around here!

And while we’re at it... one more for the predictions registry! This appears to validate the notion of my “probationers in my novel SUNDIVER. ”The latest neuroscience research is presenting intriguing evidence that the brains of certain kinds of criminals are different from those of the rest of the population.” (Someone please go post these!)

=== ALL SORTS OF NEWS AND INTERESTING ITEMS ===

“Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences.”

Though I don't always trust the Atlantic -- (their war against science fiction goes back decades and reflects an inherent hatred of the future, proving that the left can (on occasion) be almost as bad as the right) -- I do find this topic fascinating. The potential obsolescence of the human male, who seems very good at inventing civilization but less suited to living in it, was explored in my novel GLORY SEASON.

Man-down-abramsSee also Man Down by Dan Abrams: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else.

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A research team at Georgia Tech hopes to make augmented reality (AR) on smart phones more useful by developing an open standard for it.

Alien Planet is a 94-minute docufiction, originally airing on the Discovery Channel, about two internationally built robot probes searching for alien life on the fictional planet Darwin IV. It was based on the book Expedition, by sci-fi/fantasy artist and writer Wayne Douglas Barlowe, who was also executive producer on the special. It premiered on May 14, 2005.

An absolutely stunning virtual walk through of the Lascaux caves and their prehistoric artwork. You’ll feel like you’re there. In fact, since they are closed to the public. This may be as close as you'll ever get… Alas. Try to imagine them doing all this by torchlight. Imagine their lives and thoughts. This was part of the first great awakening.

The other day I was in Palo Alto, at a workshop held by the Institute for the Future about “open fabrication” -- the future of “desktop factories” that will empower pwople to design components or items by computer and then print them out, much as they print a document today. (I was poking at this field as long ago as 1979!) There I met Scott Summit, a young guy whose small company makes stylish and cool outer "farings" for artificial limbs. This slide show is worth seeing. But he brought samples of others that were even cooler. One woman client of his has ordered a dozen different limb covers in different styles and now she wears skirts!

See some cool goin’s-on in this area! e.g. Welcome to the Thingiverse. “This is a place to share digital designs that can be made into real, physical objects.”

Perhaps you thought the four-legged BigDog robot wasn’t eerily lifelike enough. That’ll change soon. BigDog’s makers are working on a new quadruped that moves faster than any human and is agile enough to “chase and evade.”

Physicists have built the world's first device that can cancel out a laser beam - a so-called anti-laser. The device, created by a team from Yale University, is capable of absorbing an incoming laser beam entirely. But this is not intended as a defense against high-power laser weapons, the researchers said. Instead they think it could be used in next-generation supercomputers which will be built with components that use light rather than electrons.

What would YOU spend a billion dollars on? The question is posed to a number of scientists by Scientific American.

“Life” observed in another meteorite? Ah. As I wrote, the very day the story broke, the telltale is the source journal with a hifalutin name - the "Journal of Cosmology." I've dealt with these people before. They are champions of the Panspermia Theories of interstellar life-transmission promoted by Chandra Wickramasinghe and are far from unbiased on the matter. Indeed, I find this "journal" to border on the amateurish. Articles that appear there may be credible... but should be viewed tentatively, contingently and with caution.

heartofthecometThat is not to say that comets or asteroids won't ever show signs of lifel! Wickramasinghe's speculations, while a bit wild, are not entirely implausible. In HEART OF THE COMET (1984) I forecast exactly this kind of discovery! I just feel we should exercise care when judging "science articles" and always consider the source.

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Dr. Anthony Atala, a regenerative medicine specialist at Wake Forest University, is pioneering the use of printing techniques to reconstruct and repair human flesh and organs. The basis is a combination of cultured human cells and scaffolding built or woven from organic material. In one staggering setup, a patient lies on a table and a flatbed scanner literally scans her wound, followed by a printer that adds just the right types of tissues back on at the right depth. The next evolving step is the use of 3-D printers, which I wrote about on Tuesday, to rebuild human organs.

An important shift in transparency law! Read all of this posting by the federal trade commission regarding truth in advertising, which is undergoing important changes. It’s all interesting and important. But four paragraphs down you’ll find that even amateur blogger must make some kind of disclosure if they are pushing a word-of-mouth campaign for a product, and they have a pertinent, substantial relationship with the company making or offering the product!

Do not expect the endorsement police to come crashing in on you. This is mostly for celebrities or the new generation of “super-shopper” folks who spread viral fads on purpose and for profit. Still, it is worth keeping up to date on this trend. A trend that is good, overall, but that bears some caution, agility, and ongoing awareness.

See a blog that lists some of the best blogs written by... authors!

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Eek! Creepy! Way into the Uncanny valley. "The Geminoid family, a series of ultra-realistic androids, each a copy of a real person, has a new member: Geminoid DK, a . The robot has lifelike facial features and movements, blinking, smiling, frowning with incredible realism. The Danish researcher, Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University, teamed up with Japanese animatronics firm Kokoro and roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro to create his robot twin, which he plans to use to study human-robot interaction and cultural differences in the perception of robots. This is the first Geminoid that is not based on a Japanese person; it's also the first bearded one."

Home chemistry: making luminol., You ought to find this cool, even if you don't understand it!

At a joint press conference Monday with Virgin Galactic at the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, XCOR, SwRI, and others, Astronauts for Hire Inc. announced the selection of its third class of commercial scientist-astronaut candidates to conduct experiments on suborbital flights. Among those selected was Singularity University inaugural program faculty advisor, teaching fellow, and track chair Christopher Altman, a facebook friend, BTW. http://www.kurzweilai.net/astronaut-scientists-for-hire-open-new-research frontier-in-space

Spike-driven uplift? Oy! "Sex would be a very different proposition for humans if -- like some animals including chimpanzees, macaques and mice -- men had penises studded with small, hard spines....

"Published in Nature, the research also suggests a molecular mechanism for how we evolved bigger brains than chimpanzees and lost the small sensory whiskers that the apes -- who are amongst our closest relatives and with whom it has been estimated we share 96% of our DNA -- have on their face.

"Inserting the chimpanzee sequences into mouse embryos revealed that the former sequence produced both the hard penile spines and sensory whiskers present in some animals. The latter sequence acted as a kind of brake on the growth of specific brain regions -- with the removal of its function appearing to have paved the way for the evolution of the larger human brain."


Okay, now this is starting to look scary-like uplift...

---- And finally ---

Cute look at a japanese exoskeleton at work: Skeletronics.

Check out SMBC Comics. Har!

Fave intellectual jokes.

And finally. The future we could’ve had! These retro-futuristic images date back to 1910. Flying firemen. Mechanical barbers. Wiring books directly into student’s brains – powered by a handcrank! A home fireplace heated by radium.

209 comments:

1 – 200 of 209   Newer›   Newest»
Dave Rickey said...

Bad link for the criminal brain article. try this one.

http://www.livescience.com/13083-criminals-brain-neuroscience-ethics.html

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin,

I have a copy of the transparent Society but I am still interested in an E copy - Amazon say "not available in my region" ???
Why are there regions for books?

On the subject of E books the Amazon DRM is a pain when I am trying to organize and manage my books
How future proof is it?
When I have a lot of my money sunk in Amazon books - what happens if they go bust?
I would pay extra for a book like the BAEN ones without the DRM

BCRion said...

Something few people seem to be saying about the type of nuclear plants we would build today lost in the story. Any modern design has something called "passive safety" systems equipped. These work on natural forces such as gravity, convection, pressure gradients, etc. to handle such events and require no offsite power or human intervention. While engineering analysis needs to be done to confirm, it does appear that modern designs would not suffer from this same fate.

My objection to the regulatory system is that it stymies all innovation. It is set up to manage behemoth light-water reactors and nothing else. Many suspect this is so in part because the nuclear power industry wanted it this way to keep out unwanted competition. Under the current system, for instance, certifying a small modular reactor is not economical. There are solutions to these manmade barriers such as pegging fees to power output, which makes sense because smaller power reduces risk of human consequences.

In response to Ian's question, I don't think I have enough information to provide a definite answer. I would be careful from drawing too many conclusions since we know the system has space and time dependent components. You do not want to pump in too much water into a saturated system or else too much pressure could build up. Further, it is not entirely clear where the water levels are being measured versus where the water is being inserted. In other words, no one here is in a position to answer your question at this point, which is admittedly frustrating.

foundonweb said...

WRT nuclear safety, Bob Cringely's blog makes the point that "nobody back in the 1960s designed nuclear plants to run for 40 years then go through an 8.9 earthquake"

David Brin said...

Duncan I have no answers. I suspect there will be freeware translation programs...

Zjar Uruluzu said...

David Brin writes "This was supremely bad management and the whole world will suffer, because of new suspicion of nuclear power. This was so avoidable. Such a blatantly stupid failure mode [ ]... and we have other stupidities, all our own."

The Exxon Valdez oil spill came from bad management of people on duty (put back on shift without the mandatory rest period), autopilot (even though Shipmaster Hazelwood was going out through the in lane with Coast Guard permission because of vagrant icebergs,), and happened even though a tanker ship is not a fixed location structure like Fukushima nuclear plant. The runaway sludge in the Gulf of Mexico, which far more than 7 billion engineered hyrdocarbon-munching microbes aren't well containing, is another case of both human assignment and fundamental design, contingency likelihood assessment, and shoddy maintenance of an installation which like Fukushima or Three Mile Island or Bhopal has an inherent, continuous danger factor greater than say a typical large automobile factory when beset by natural disaster, human, mechanical or electronic error, or accidental strikage, even before considering coming under intentional attack or mere vandalism. Major fuel and energy source tapping facilities call, even in the casual public mind, for care as well as a minimum critical mass of ready response resources, especially when their operation and improvements are a cutting edge of our technological and even fundamental scientific progress as in the case of nuclear plants.

Yet we are a recalcitrant species, and these are just some examples of how even those with greater awareness of the issues and in positions of responsibility ignore not only their own ordinary sense but also their educated grasp of what's at stake, what can go wrong (predictable on a population statical basis), what can be applied from existing knowledge and resources to craft a decent management regime, and what needs to be explored.

Is a top-level organizational approach useful? Beyond UN and international response organizations which so far are mainly ad hoc? And which in the US are mirrorred by the way FEMA comes after most crises while both regulations and governmental executive initiatives are part and parcel of each cabinet Department and bureau's purview. Of course we have mine safety, food safety commissions and often detailed bureaucracies. Yet if the US has been often only reactive to crisis in subsequently creating Drug Czars and other plenipotent officials and their staff, would a new National/ International Disaster Avoidance chief be effective, if able to draw attention to unmanaged risks across industries and fields? Whether a new, forward planning FEMA subchief beyond FEMA's existing org chart, or a cabinet level Disaster Avoidance/ Security/ Safety Advisor?

Jonathan S. said...

I think a commenter at another site had the best comment I've seen yet about the nuclear plant in Japan:

"What this tells me is that a Nuclear Plant that was old enough to be ready for decommissioning can withstand a magnitude 8.9 earthquake without irradiating a city. If that's not safe enough then nothing is."

me2atneuralfibre said...

Hi David - why is your book on Kindle restricted to the US? Tech works here in Australia too. I have 7 of your works sitting on my shelf and would love digial versions. PirateBay it'll have to be again I guess.

Paul

rewinn said...

@Jonathan - it has yet to be determined whether, in fact, there will be cities irradiated. "So far", said the man falling down the elevator shaft, "I'm doing o.k.".

BTW the dust from the Gobi can make for lovely sunsets on the west coast of the USA.

Anonymous said...

Brin checking in anonymously from the road, in Phoenix to give a speech.

Zjar good post.

Paul, I haven't clue why they did that!

david brin

Tony Fisk said...

"What this tells me is that a Nuclear Plant that was old enough to be ready for decommissioning can withstand a magnitude 8.9 [upgraded to 9.0] earthquake without irradiating a city. If that's not safe enough then nothing is."

Corollary, nothing is safe.

It may not be logical, but it will be the way people react to it. Rather like flying (although, as Steffen points out, flying doesn't stay dangerous for 1000 years)

Oddly enough, while I experienced the 'nuclear dangerous' gut reaction with Chernobyl, it isn't nearly as strong this time. I fully appreciate that others *will* experience it, though.

It may well be that inherently safer designs are available. The real issue emerging here is that people are not.

What to do about it? Not coal: that would be like backing round a corner to escape the monsters...

loflotea: a cleansing beverage, with chelating compounds.

Tony Fisk said...

Meanwhile, my heart fair bleeds for all those poor underachieving millionaires

(Mind you, median house prices in Australia are getting on for a million)

Robert said...

Don't forget, they've come out with some fascinating new advances in solar technology utilizing quantum dots and once they decide on the proper materials to use in this, you'll have a material that will be better (and far cleaner) at producing power than coal. Utilizing molten salt technology to store energy and release during the nights, we could easily see within ten years the majority of our power from solar... and with old man coal suddenly unnecessary.

There is also the hybrid fusion/fission system that is being developed. If enough resources get pushed into that, then we can start eliminating most of our nuclear waste while producing some extra power as well.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Stay tuned for some interesting developments in wind power technology as well!

I am thinking, too, that Japan's plight will put the resilience of a JIT-based society to the test.

iangould said...

I think the one of the first consequences of the earthquake will be to revive plans to link the Japanese powergrid to South Korea's via Tsushima and to the Russian Far East's via Sakhalin.

Tony Fisk said...

Another daft thing I heard was that Japan has different power grids (50 and 60 Hz).

Sounds like a WWII relic.

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Anonymous said...

Tony the way things go, a m\'mere' millionaire is not immune from the pressures of daily life, nor worries about bills, orthodontia, lessons, huge health insurance....

Sure, they "share" these worries at a level the poor achingly envy. But a million dollars in assets is what a decent wage engineer will have, after twenty years. A restaurant owner whose family slaves all year may accumulate that.

What's crucial, however is the distinction between that level and those whose wealth starts to empower them to cheat, arm-twist, influence, connive and undermine the ability of people who educate and work hard to get ahead.

That's not a "millionaire" anymore. You start entering that league at maybe 50 million. (though 5 is all anybody ought to need, on any reasonable planet).

Ian said...

Tony, I THINK that dates back to the early days of elctrification in Japan where the private companias servicing the Kato (Tokyo) and Kansai (Kyoto) areas adopted different standards.

Tony Fisk said...

While 'Millionaire' is not that unusual a label these days, it still tends to be thought of as the wealth divide.

The study did target those who had a million to invest (base capital like home excluded)

Another study from earlier suggested that everyone wants about 30% more than what they have at present. If so, then I must be a bit weird.

Paul said...

David,
"What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?"

But what if this isn't the society we want? There's something... male... about capital-P Progress. If that's true, then once women make our society more... sensible, there won't be any reason (or ability) to move past that.

Re: Panspermia and Chandra Wickramasinghe

It bugs me how much the loons have ruined this subject. It's always seemed perfectly reasonable to me that life would form in space. In amongst the nebula where the sun formed. Lots of time, lots of raw material. A variety of environments, from cold, deep space to warm, nearer the coalescing stars, a wide variety of organic ices and dust, colliding and re-colliding. A few inherently self-forming or self-catalysing systems coming together...

And it's easy to test. A single, tightly sterilised, comet lander. Where even a failed result will still produce gallons of other science.

But there have been no "life tests" since Viking. I wonder if it is because of the Chandra Wickramasinghe's of the world making agencies (particularly NASA) cringe whenever anyone mentions it.

Re: Millionaires.
Does anyone know what percentile "people who have a US$million (or more) to invest" fall into in the US?

(andant: Mannish.)

Ian said...

Here's a sobering thought: in a country with negative population growth, where suburbs of major cities such as Hiroshima are being abandoned as the young move to Tokyo and the old die off, much of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami may go unrepaired.

The Japanese government may simply decide its cheaper and easier to relocate people to other parts of the country.

rewinn said...

Where would be a very bad place to store spent fuel rods?

Fuel rods ( it must be noted ) that must be kept cool so they don't start burning and releasing clouds of radioactive particulates?

How about directly above the reactor, so that if you have a problem with the reactor, the pools will fail as well?

Fukushima's Spent Fuel Rods Pose Grave Danger

Jonathan S. said...

Re: the intellectual jokes:

I was disappointed to see that the list didn't include one of my favorites -

The tachyon leaves. The bartender says, "We don't serve your kind here." A tachyon goes into a bar.

Robert said...

It's no wonder that immigrants are more likely to vote Democrat with dumbass comments like the "shoot illegal immigrants like feral swine" statement from Republican lawmaker Virgil Peck from Kansas. Let's see... it is believed to be only a matter of time before Caucasians are supplanted as the dominant race in the U.S., white men are maybe 25% of the populace, and Republicans are busy trying to disenfranchise women by cutting programs for them that would either provide birth control or medical examinations for them once they become pregnant.

Are Republicans deliberately trying to go extinct? oO

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Are Republicans deliberately trying to go extinct? oO


I can only hope they accomplish that goal soon.

Paul:

"What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?"

But what if this isn't the society we want? There's something... male... about capital-P Progress. If that's true, then once women make our society more... sensible, there won't be any reason (or ability) to move past that.


I've been involved a similar argument on a different board devoted to the work of Canadian comic-book writer/artist Dave Sim. He's firmly on the side of "Men are superior to women" to the point of beliving that to be a self-evident statement. I tend toward "Both genders have their own strengths and weaknesses that they bring to humanity as a whole, and when we try to masculinize OR feminize society, we do so at our peril".

To your specific question, I can (big surprise knowing my politics, huh?) see both sides. I'm not sure if this is accepted fact, but I'm going by the belief that humanity or proto-humanity was female-ruled for hundreds of thousands of years until about 6000 to 7000 years ago when men became ascendant. Most of what we know of "history" is the male side of things.

Now, to my detractors on the Dave Sim board, this proves his point. Humans huddled in caves for eons under female domination, and in only 7000 years of masculinization, look what we've accomplished! Everything from the US Constitution to the moon launch to Saran Wrap. How can one NOT agree with the superiority of the male half?

And I don't deny the power of that argument.

But when you also consider the "despoil our own home" side of the same coin? We existed in harmony with the world around us for eons, and now in only 7000 years, we're about to use it all up? It says something for the old "female" way, doesn't it?

Corey said...

Oh boy (no pun intended), more male inferiority nonsense.

I can't speak too much to the rulership claim, though it's not something I've personally seen any evidence for.

Whatever the reason though, the specific rulers guiding early agrarian society have little blame in what happened to the planet. Humans started pummeling nature pretty much as soon as our numbers of technology came far enough. At first, it probably only would have affected the most vulnerable of species (those with small numbers and small ranges), but as our technology as numbers grew, so did our destructive power, culminating in the past 1,000 years or so (Europe's natural ecology is basically just gone...).



As for credit for steering our society in the right direction, honestly, I think credit goes both ways. Women certainly didn't take as prominent a role in society advancement, mostly because anyone who tried to influence the social side of things was ignored, and any woman scientist or mathematician who ever discovered anything was burned as a witch. Even in later years, as recent as the mid 20th century, the best you saw were people like Rosalind Franklin, who did all the work getting the X-Ray diffraction image for the DNA double-helix, which was then taken by Watson and Crick and made into a 3d model which won them a Nobel prize for her work, while she got no credit. It's only today that biologists recognize that she did most of the work by far.

Still, women have managed to make contributions that credit should be given for it through history, whether it's Rosalind's work getting the shape of DNA, or notable works like Oroonoko, Aphra Behn's brilliant back-door attack on slavery that largely began the sway of opinion against the institution in the 1600s (and dozens of important people in between).



Still, oppressed or not, it's not like Woman would have overshadowed the work done by men in society for the past 5000-10000 years.

I say that first, because in truth, there's honestly no so much difference, in my experience, between men and women. Women can be just as aggressive, just as stubborn, they can be smart or dumb, technical or artistic, just like any guy. Sure, there are differences in how we approach things, but I think they're honestly far more subtle than either side likes to think.


There have also been no shortage of brilliant males throughout history, and even where our approach has differed, it has hardly always been to the detriment of society. Taking even the most extreme examples of the "male" way of doing things, would anyone here honestly argue that the world would be a better place if Leonidas hadn't successfully played a crucial role in saving Greek society from the armies of Xerxes, or if George Patton hadn't given such a brilliantly aggressive performance against the Nazis in WWII (ironically, I'm no fan of Patton, not in general)?

Okay, so those are both wartime examples, but how many times can you honestly look at anything in history, anywhere, and say "gee, if that had been a woman instead of a man, then by virtue of that fact, history would have been RADICALLY different"? I'm guessing not many.

Corey said...

I also find the evidence “against men” (or for women, however you prefer it) to be rather bad in most of these so-called “studies”. I reading these so called points that women are better than men, and almost every single one rings the classic “correlation does not mean causation” alarm bell.

For instance, they assert that because economies are more successful in nations with more empowered women, out of 162 studied, that therefore women must be vastly better managers of nations. But hold on a second, here. 162 nations almost encompasses the whole planet, which means you have the entire range from brutal barely-governed killing zones to first world bastions of civilization. Nations that are more advanced, your “first world” nations, as we sometimes call them, are going to treat women better. They have more advanced societies. This is Europe, and the US, and Australia, and so fourth. The more progressive, the better women probably do, but advanced societies also just naturally have better economies. The US, for instance, has a vastly better economy than Nigeria. The US also treat woman vastly better.

So, in a nut shell, this laughable point of evidence basically says “the US has a better economy than Nigeria... therefore women run nations vastly better than men”. I'm sorry, but that's basically an undistributed middle fallacy. Industrialized nations tend to treat women better, and they tend to have better economies, but that's no evidence, of any kind, that empowering women, in and of itself, makes your economy a US economy instead of Nigeria economy.


They talk about college degree rates as another point. Well no wonder! How many women only colleges and women-only scholarships are there? Probably far too many to count. It's not like I, as a male, get to go out and apply for a “guy scholarship”. Women have a completely unfair educational advantage in that sense, and while I really don't care enough to yell “they shouldn't have that” (at least not too loudly), let's not throw money and schools and women to push them through college, and then given then credit for being pushed through college. That's just silly.


Women are said to be less apt to go “risk-taking”, but honestly, I'm not going to count that as an advantage. Taking risks can be just as much of an asset as a detriment. As far as pushing society, it has also been the risk-takers, by far, who have done more for humanity than the “play it safe” types. Would any of us truly be better off if Galileo hadn't been a reckless, stupid, risk-taking male and gone up against the Church's position of Geocentrism without much of a second thought? How about with Darwin? How about scientific mavericks like Alfred Wegener and Guy Stewart Callendar, who, being the reckless testosterone-infused males (the words of the women-superiorists, not my words), took risks by staking their scientific careers on the at-the-time poorly accepted ideas of continental drift and anthropogenic global warming? Is anyone honestly going to claim that this supposed male tendency to take risks didn't serve these men and humanity?

Corey said...

I don't even think I agree with the assertion about men and risks. Still, if men really are so much more apt to take risks and women aren't, as these people claim, then I'm just going to come out and say it: Women must be piss-poor scientists. Why? Because it TAKES risk to be a scientist who comes up with a genuinely novel idea, and then sticks with it, staking their entire career on being able to put it up against decades of scientific skepticism. If men are really that much better at doing that, then I'd say we have a huge advantage over women in today's society, because while risk-takers may get burned, they're also the true innovators, the progressors of society.

The sole advantage that anyone in these articles seems to be able to come up with is corruptibility. Maybe men are inherently more corruptible, or are they? Maybe it's just difference in up-bringing and socialization? If it is, then that's an easy fix.



What if it isn't though? Well, like these articles have pointed out, ours is a Darwinian society, and this is where men out-do women by a long-shot. Far from the withered, near-vestigial artifact of our evolution that many people think the Y-Chromosome is, the truth is that it's actually our greatest asset. Why? For the same reason HIV is such a robust virus: both mutate quickly, and mutation is the basis for evolution. New research has shown that the Y-Chromosome is not shrinking into nothingness, as was once thought; in fact, it's the fastest evolving chromosome there is.


So even if there is some huge inherent genetic disadvantage for males, we'll shed it, because we're the superior gender from an evolutionary stand point.



I don't think guys are better than girls at all. I've been put in my place, athletically, and intellectually, more than a few times by females. Nevertheless, I have no fear of becoming obsolete. I'm just a person like any other, and so far as I can see, people aren't going to be trending towards obsolescence anytime soon.

Tony Fisk said...

On a less fraught topic than gender warfare.

An interesting (if a little biased) article in praise of Thorium reactors

(I've heard good things about this in the past, but can't recall the arguments offhand. I would like to know what the catches are as well. I suspect that being non-fissile wouldn't have been a selling point during the cold war era; then nuclear went out of fashion, and we were left with the surplus stock.)

ovana: nirvana for girls. Sometimes packaged as a xocolatl beverage.

Corey said...

The concept is interesting, but because they're still in the experimental stage, they'd require significant development.

If that money's to be spent anyways, wouldn't it be better to try to develop better confinement techniques for fusion?


Now, it could be that thorium reactors would be a lot simpler, but at the same time, I can't ignore the fact that EMC2 appears to be going forward very quickly with their Polywell fusion research, thanks to renewed contracts with the US Navy, and are still talking about a commercial reactor by the end of this decade (for a price of only one fifth of one billion dollars, I might add).

Of course, there's something to be said for not putting all of one's eggs in one basket, but I think fusion should get the majority of the attention.

Robert said...

A couple of science-based articles here.

First, it is believed that the Lost City of Atlantis has been found in Spanish mudflats. It's believed that a tsunami was responsible for "sinking" the ancient city and that survivors went on to create memorial cities in Spain that have been found.

Next, on an Uplift angle, elephants have been shown capable of using teamwork to solve puzzles. Further, some elephants have even been shown to be capable of slacking off and having the other elephant do all the work while still ensuring the puzzle could be solved. ;)

Because any animal can solve problems. It takes the truly intelligent ones to slack off. ;)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Paul said...

Seismic activity in Japan, set to music. (Not as gauche as that sounds. It's... sad.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xylDxj6-9dY

David Brin said...

Back from Phoenix. Went well.

re masculine vs feminine worlds, see THE DISAPPEARANCE... the classic by Phillip Wylie. GET IT! It is fabulous. Men and women wake separated on parallel worlds. (women pregnant with male fetuses are empty... their husbands wake up in bed with yuck!)

It's the 1950s. Fires rage in the female world and power goes out and trucks don't move. (they'd do better today!) At first, the male world hums along...

... but five years later....

You all saw my take on this in The Postman. Men are necessary and useful... but they'd be better off without a third of us.

Paul said...

Robert,
Re: Uplifting elephants.

Elephants might be easier than 'fins. Natural tool-users and all that. Perhaps start with a dwarf species, to keep things manageable.

(specosat: Earth observation satellite belonging to the Institutes of the Five Galaxies.)

colon cleanse said...

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Tim H. said...

One of the more interesting books I've read is Ryan & Jethá's "Sex at Dawn", not nearly as prurient as the title implies. Using largely physiological evidence and studying contemporary hunter-gatherers, they suggest that the gender relationship we're evolved for is one that looks a lot like a Heinlein marriage (Not their words.), and go on to speculate that monogamy had a lot to do with simplifying inheritance. I suspect I'd find a "Heinlein marriage" stressful, but possibly much better for children. BTW, if any of you out there are fond of gender generalizations, do yourselves a favor, and forget them, they'll only embarrass you.

Robert said...

They upgraded the earthquake to a magnitude 9.0 from the older estimate of 8.9. I'm not quite sure why they keep adjusting the magnitude; you'd think they already had the information on the power of the earthquake from seismologic records. But I suppose new information is being recovered.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Paul: There's something... male... about capital-P Progress.

Progress is not heroic. It's difficult, complex, and collaborative if not always collegial. Unless you're living in an Ayn Rand novel, there's certainly nothing stereotypically "male" about it. Hell, did you see how many Nobel Prize laureates were women last year? Imagine what the landscape will look like in thirty years, when today's young researchers are up for their work!

In fact, you might want to read the Dezso and Ross article discussed in the linked piece: "Using a firm’s disclosure of R&D expenditures as a proxy for having an innovation intensive strategy, we find that it is only firms pursuing such a strategy that benefit from the female participation effect. ... . In other words, female participation and an innovation intensive strategy may be a good fit between managerial characteristics and firm strategy[.]"

Rob said...

The Moment Magnitude Scale is a simplistic way to look at an earthquake, so it's not surprising that they adjust the numbers after further analysis. Most likely they're incorporating data from seismometers they didn't have access to the day of the earthquake.

This quake rang the earth like a child ringing a big gong. For all the desperate tragedy it has inflicted, geologists the world over are certainly collecting data they never would have dared to experiment for.

@Tim -- Heinlein depicted all kinds of marriages in his books, from sight-unseen two-hour contracts to perfect monogamies to orgiastic group arrangements. He was particularly interested in tweaking the Midwest's nose. Which of all those did you mean?

Tim H. said...

Rob,the group marriage depicted in "Time Enough For Love" is the one, I'd thought "Heinlein Marriage" was all but synonymous with that. If you haven't read that, put it on your list, but be aware RAH wrote to make people think about their assumptions.

ell said...

You've probably heard this one before:

Men make history; women make civilization.



ninging: What your brain is doing when you're in a big earthquake.

Rob said...

@Tim -- I've read Time Enough For Love four times, along with most of his "juveniles", Stranger in a Strange Land twice, Starship Troopers at least six times, and all but two or three of his others.

All three of the examples I listed are depicted in Time Enough For Love, along with a mirror-twin incest-monogamy, and his other depictions of (to him) scientifically acceptable incest, including relationships the main character had with his own mother, thanks to a bit of time travel. The man was incorrigible that way.

If I need to be told that Heinlein wrote to challenge assumptions by now, then I haven't been paying much attention, have I?

David Brin said...

No. Heinleins PRESCRIPTIVE description of alternate marriage is in THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS.

His denunciation of rigid marriage is in STRANGER.

Rob said...

David, there you go, getting all preemptively orthogonal.

Of course his prescriptive depictions were in Mistress, and his most bitter denunciation of rigid dogmatic thought around marriage in Stranger, No argument there. But we hadn't gotten so far into a discussion about it to contradict that point!

(You won't see me arguing with the fundies on this subject anyway. I happen to think Brigham Young was right!)

David Brin said...

Polygyny may be rooted in human nature...we are all descended from the guys who managed it.

But the only form that is even remotely just is when it is run BY, FOR and OF wome.

It was rare. Apparently the CHerokee managed it. A great chief could have 2+ wives. But his 1st wife was the one who chose them! At most he got to say "make her pretty, please?"

They made a home together, like lionesses, and he was the rooster who could strut about and monopolize wombs. But he had to sleep where they, by consensus told him to. Including the wood shed, if he was bad.

Been meaning to write a novel updating that.....

Tim H. said...

From my point of view, "Right" can be very subjective. A big hurdle society has to get over is letting folks live "Right" as they see it, if they do it without injuring others, and stop trying to shove square pegs into round holes. And Rob, I didn't mean to offend, I thought you might've been unexposed to RAH, Tim.

Sociotard said...

I'm not entirely sure how much of Heinlein's views on marriage we can glean from his books. Yes, there's lots of way-out-there marriage situations in his books. And yet, he never claimed to engage in any of them himself. Really? All those impressionable fangirls at scifi conventions, and a man who allegedly believes in polyamory never took advantage of any of them?

IMHO, his books were just his books. They contain entertaining thoughts on "hey, what if", not "we should all".

Rob said...

@Tim -- no offense taken; just clarifying that I used to be a fan of RAH. I've transcended his stuff somewhat, but not so much that I didn't hand my son Rocket Ship Galileo the other week.

@David -- An awful lot of Mormon polygyny is simply and monstrously misunderstood; historical documents are so full of hyperbole and polemic (on all sides) on the subject that there can be no clear picture if all the historical sources are weighed equally.

But what I meant by Brigham Young's opinions have more to do with the government role in regulating marriage arrangements; the feds should have no role, the states should only have a limited state-interest role. Young meant to establish a full-fledged State for Mormons at the time, but Congress wouldn't have it for reasons we no longer hold common.

In any case, hear hear; nominally, Mormon polygyny required the 1st wife to ratify. In practice, once that was combined with authoritarian 19th century attitudes towards women, well, let's just say the outcome is raids on certain Texas compounds and jail sentences for those who abuse and oppress the women there, and good riddance until we all have better angels in our nature.

I don't know that you've ever *not* written novels with women depicted as choosing their men. Even your dolphins and chimps are that way.

Rob said...

@sociotard -- IMHO, his books were just his books. They contain entertaining thoughts on "hey, what if", not "we should all".

I don't disagree... about the subject of marriage. I think he was being subversive on the subject just to be subversive; no other motive except to shock. I'd have to reread some of his essays about it to remember exactly what, but I can't find 'em right off the cuff.

On other subjects, he was absolutely in earnest about some of his other subversive stuff.

Tim H. said...

Sociotard, yes & no, do read "Learning Curve", BTW, anyone know when part 2 of the Heinlein biography is coming?

Patricia Mathews said...

Anonymous said "Hell, did you see how many Nobel Prize laureates were women last year?"

Hmmm... I do notice the absence of Rosalind Franklin from the list of Nobel winners in the DNA department. Guess she simply had the wrong DNA.

Tony Fisk said...

A lot of male selection pressures arise from ladies' tastes (eg peacocks)

I can't help thinking that this might be what happened to those penile spines (can't say I blame them either!)

Tony Fisk said...

So, what are female selection pressures?

David Brin said...

Interesting you should ask. I published a scientific (journaled) paper on PRECISELY that subject. Pointing out that human females are the ones who have obviously gone through as much or more sexual selection as males. Very rare in nature and part of what made us what we are.

http://www.davidbrin.com/neoteny1.htm

Greg Kirkendall said...

Hi David,

As another longtime fan living in Australia, would love to see your Kindle books available to the non-US market.

Cheers.

David Brin said...

I just asked the publisher (himself) of Perseus Books to look into it today.

His editor will call tamale to look into my nonfiction book ideas.

Tim H. said...

Thanks for the neoteny essay. Ever thought that a hallmark of an uplifted species would be orderliness?

"Forida", lispy crackers?

Ian said...

An interesting approach to improving computer chip performance:

"An international team of computing experts from the United States, Switzerland and Singapore has created a breakthrough technique for doubling the efficiency of computer chips simply by trimming away the portions that are rarely used.

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"I believe this is the first time someone has taken an integrated circuit and said, 'Let's get rid of the part that we don't need,'" said principal investigator Krishna Palem, the Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of Computing at Rice University in Houston, who holds a joint appointment at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. "What we've shown is that we can boost performance and cut energy use simultaneously if we prune the unnecessary portions of the digital application-specific integrated circuits that are typically used in hearing aids, cameras and other multimedia devices."

Palem, who heads the Rice-NTU Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID), and his collaborators at Switzerland's Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) are unveiling the new pruning technique this week in Grenoble, France, at DATE11, the premier European conference on the design, automation and testing of microelectronics.

Pruning is the latest example of "inexact hardware," the key approach that ISAID is exploring with CSEM to produce the next generation of energy-stingy microchips.

The probabilistic concept is deceptively simple: Slash power demands on microprocessors by allowing them to make mistakes. By cleverly managing the probability of errors and by limiting which calculations produce errors, the designers have found they can simultaneously cut energy demands and boost performance.

At DATE11, Rice graduate student Avinash Lingamneni will describe "probabilistic pruning," the novel technique the team created for trimming away the least-used portions of integrated circuits. Lingamneni used the method to create prototype chips at CSEM. The test prototypes contain both traditional circuits and pruned circuits that were produced side by side on the same silicon chip.

"Our initial tests indicate that the pruned circuits will be at least two times faster, consume about half the energy and take up about half the space of the traditional circuits," Lingamneni said. He said he hopes that the system performs even better in the final tests, which are still under way."

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-pruned-microchips-faster-smaller-energy-efficient.html

Corey said...

"Hmmm... I do notice the absence of Rosalind Franklin from the list of Nobel winners in the DNA department. Guess she simply had the wrong DNA."

Rosalind Franklin was an amazing scientist who simply got the shaft.

That said, she may not have a Nobel Prize in title, but like Gregor Mendel, she's still recognized by the biological community for her enormous contribution, and most bio professors I have these days make a note of giving her more credit than Watson and Crick by far.

The sad thing is that she's also like Mendel in that she never saw that credit for her work. She died of cancer in the late 50s, and just like Gregor Mendel, basically died with no reason to consider herself any kind of a scientific success.

Tacitus2 said...

Scifi seems to have its fair share of feuds, so I am not sure how our host feels about Scalzi, but on another site I note a comment on how the current reactor crisis in Japan is life imitating Old Man's War....older workers are volunteering to stay on site since they are by virtue of lesser life span remaining less likely to die of radiation related illness.

Good for them, they are probably the more seasoned, mature and level headed staffers in any case.

grey but resolute

Tacitus

Robert said...

Here's an interesting YouTube video on if the Internet helps or hinders Democratic movements by Evgeny Morozov (it's around 10 minutes long).

It's something to think about. And it's also interesting seeing that recently the news media reported on the use of dating websites for activists to stay in touch while remaining under the radar of repressive governments (which of course killed that venue for activism).

Rob H.

David Brin said...

In refugee crises, it is often the old men who stay in the family village to protect their property... if the invaders turn out to be decent... or to die trying, since they slow down the young people getting away if the invaders are monsters.

LarryHart said...

Y'know, we just recently spent some time discussing Asimov's Robot series and the later tie-ins to the Foundation universe.

Back in the 1950s, Asimov presented a future earth that was radioactive, presumably because of atomic war, and presumably taking for granted that such a thing would happen.

In the 1980s, he spent a lot of effort retconning a different reason for the radioactivity, presumably because atomic war no longer looked like the sure bet that it did in the 50s. Instead, a character had to introduce the radioactivity on purpose.

Cut to 2011. Perhaps Asimov was more right than not the first time. Even in the 50s, he never SAID it was because of a war--it just made sense to presume so. Maybe nuclear power-plant meltdowns are the mechanism for giving us the radioactive earth of "The Stars Like Dust" and "Pebble in the Sky" after all?

SteveO said...

I have, and was disappointed by, Barlowe's Expedition - sooo many science errors that would have been easy to fix that it became distracting.

Like if vision never evolved, why do the blind things display such pretty, rippling colors?

And yes, I am sometimes insufferable watching sci-fi movies...

:)

I wonder if there is such a thing as "science editor" for science fiction. If not, there should be.

Corey said...

@Larryhart

What's often seldom realized is that if you're worried about radiation being released into the environment, it's not nuclear power you have to worry about; it's coal power

In generating electricity, coal plants emit 100 times as much radioactivity into the surrounding environment as nuclear plants.


Now, obviously a major nuclear accident overshadows this, but it takes a rare set of circumstances to cause such an event. Had Japan's reactors not been so obsolete, and not had so many corners cut by the owning utility, for example, then even the absolutely extraordinary natural disaster that hit them wouldn't have caused major problems at the affected nuclear plants. It took both extraordinary wrath from nature, and extraordinary negligence from Japanese power utilities, both at once, to create any kind of problem.

Coal plants, meanwhile, just concentrate and toss out radioactive material as a matter of normal operation.


Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste&page=2

Tony Fisk said...

Late call for anyone wanting to play powergrid 2025

Robert said...

A no fly zone has been declared by the U.N. Security Council, with China, Russia, Germany, and a couple other nations abstaining. Air strikes may be starting up tonight, launched by the French and British. Qaddafi is refusing to acknowledge the U.N. at this point and said he's going to match the U.N.'s insanity.

We will undoubtedly see jets shot down and the pilots tortured and worse by Libyan forces, which will result in an invasion by NATO forces to recover the pilots and/or take out Qaddafi.

Rob H.

polesser: an inferior form of polyester

Tony Fisk said...

No fly zone?

We now have a spacecraft in orbit around Mercury!

(OK, a little off-topic)

Corey said...

@Robert

That's my understanding of the situation as well, though I'd be pretty embarrassed as a European pilot if I got shot down by an outdated Libyan MiG while flying a Eurofighter or a Tornado with modern avionics and weapons (and actual good maintenance :D)

Ian said...

"We will undoubtedly see jets shot down and the pilots tortured and worse by Libyan forces, which will result in an invasion by NATO forces to recover the pilots and/or take out Qaddafi."

Care to put money on it?

The Libyans are flying 1950's-era Russian aircraft.

They'll be lucky if they even make it into the air once the British and French deploy.

Tony Fisk said...

It's been known.

I wonder if artillery pieces might count as 'air defence' (consider the history of the WWII 88mm gun)

vetspace: It's a zoo in there!

Robert said...

They don't need to be shot down by another jet. All you need is one lucky shot by a SAM or an AA cannon.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

It [UN] approved a resolution permitting "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on Mr Gaddafi's military.

'imposing a ceasefire' sounds like open season. Still, it will depend on how many 'measures' can be bought to bear.

WatchfulBabbler said...

The Libyans are flying 1950's-era Russian aircraft.

Technically (and I'm being pedantic here), most of their air systems are from their 1975 arms deal with the Soviets, so the airframes are generally '60s-era designs. In any case, the LAR AF, like the rest of the Libyan military, does not have a distinguished service record against regular military opponents (Chad, Egypt, USN, etc.). More than enough to crush a disorganized rebel force, given time, but hardly a threat in a real furball.

Their air defense system consists of S-200s and lesser systems, which have significant standoff capability but are well within Western capabilities of knocking out. Their locations are well-known, and a not-insignificant number are within rebel-held (for the moment) territory, so really the threat is minimal.

What's more worrisome is that simply establishing a no-fly zone isn't enough; once NATO and the UN draw a line in the sand, someone will have to provide real support to the rebels to at least keep them viable against Qadhdhafi.

Hopefully (the best war being one fought on your behalf) this would be Egypt deciding to take the lead rather than NATO, but failing that the US and Europe will have to make some very hard decisions. And if you thought Iraq and Afghanistan weren't ready for self-governance, just wait until you see what four decades of life in the Green Book Republic hath wrought....

Stefan Jones said...

Alex Steffan fr Worldchanging fame has started a new Kickstarter project to fun publication of a book, Carbon Zero: A Short Tour of Your City's Future


Linky

'bruxtonf': Elegant typeface used on the cover of Uplift: Final Stage

Tony Fisk said...

NetNanny says no ('streaming media')

btw the WC book has been upgraded. Come over to the bright side: we have bees!

chocytic: situation arising in a multi-player version of 'social chocolate' (it would make 'Twister' look tame!)

David Brin said...

Larry, in his later books Isaac said it was NOT a war that caused the radioactivity, but a device created to force Earthlings to emigrate.

Rob H I disagree. Our military wants no boots on that ground. They are fed up. The open Libyan desert is perfect territory for advanced western air forces to pick off Muamar's boys and their fancy tanks.

I had worried about Obama. Now he looks smart, getting the UN and Arab League behind it and Ghaddafi's forces stretched out and in the open. Also, the rebels had been big-mouthed arrogant braggarts. Getting saved by the West will do them good.

Jeez I hope it goes that way.

Mercury Messenger? Yay!

BCRion said...

LarryHart,

Radioactive releases from nuclear power reactors would be far too short-lived and diffuse to produce the Pebble in the Sky type scenario. The only way this could even be close to believable is if these were happening on a continual basis around the world at the time the story occurred. I would find this latter scenario to be highly unlikely.

On Fukushima, I haven't said too much yet because there is still a lot of conflicting information out there and I'm not physically at the site to get information. First, JEPCO did much early on that did not help the scenario. As for Dr. Brin's comment about the tsunami wall being inadequate and this being easily preventable, I'm not sure I agree after hearing from some expert geophysicists. They were expecting an earthquake in this region, but not one even close to this large to cause a tsunami that high. The best science a few weeks ago had underestimated the risk by a lot.

In either case, we must revise our risk models accordingly and evaluate the safety basis for each facility.

I'll repeat one thing to keep in mind is that this is a 40 year old plant. The issue was the tsunami removing backup active power to keep the reactor cool. Modern designs do not require active backup power, so this scenario would not have happened had this been a newer design. Not saying newer designs are perfect, but this is evidence that they should be more robust.

Ian said...

"Also, the rebels had been big-mouthed arrogant braggarts. "

With respect, David, peopel riskign their lvies to overthrow a tyrant are entitled to a little bragging.

And somehow, if they're the ones logging it out on the ground while westerners fly around over head in relaive safety, I doubt their attitude will change much.

Oh and those "westerners" will very likely include a substantial contingent from other Arab states.

David Brin said...

I don't deny their heroism. I want us to help them! I am EAGER to help them and eliminate that asshole.

But it is poor preparation for statecraft to go yammering about, wasting ammo with endless, premature celebrations, and screaming fuck you at the foreigners whose help you want.

We opposed Khaddafi a long time so he's not our fault. Ultimately, he is the fault of the people who let him be their master for so long. If they are rebelling now, great. Glad to help. What took you so long.

If - after bragging and then having their butts kicked -- they are chastened and maybe grateful, when Khaddafi's armor evaporates under smart missiles, then they ,ight (maybe) be more likely to govern like adults.

David Brin said...

Oh, if Khaddafi falls, we can hope for Algeria, and momentum will be restored.

Paul said...

BCRion,
"As for Dr. Brin's comment about the tsunami wall being inadequate and this being easily preventable, I'm not sure I agree after hearing from some expert geophysicists. They were expecting an earthquake in this region, but not one even close to this large to cause a tsunami that high. The best science a few weeks ago had underestimated the risk by a lot."

OTOH, the story doing the rounds yesterday and today has Wikileaked cables from 2008/2009 warning of a culture of cover-ups in Tokya Electric. And the IAEA recommending plants be sited more than 50km from an ocean shore, more than 1km from a lake, and more than 50m above sea-level. Almost all of Japan's plants are on the shore-line.

Other experts (mostly from the US) have been saying that "blackout" has been a fear in the industry for decades. (Ie, the sustained loss of power to a plant.)

Reading between the lines, I don't think this stuff was that unforeseeable to the insiders, it just wasn't said in public because of the industry wide trend to playing down nuclear risks.

Google: wikileaks cables japan nuclear

Examples: http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/WikiLeaks-cable-revealed-Japan-nuclear-concerns-pd20110317-F2FXW?opendocument&src=rss

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/fukushima-nuclear-plant-owner-falsified-inspection-records/story-fn84naht-1226023073141

Paul said...

Anonymous,
"Progress is not heroic."

I didn't use that word. I said "male".

"It's difficult, complex, and collaborative if not always collegial. Unless you're living in an Ayn Rand novel, there's certainly nothing stereotypically "male" about it."

I wasn't referring to social/political progress. Nor Rand's psychopathic alphas. But the isolated obsessive monomania that you need to spend your entire life doing something that no one else in the world thinks is worthwhile. Not to improve or reform something, but to go completely fundamentally against it.

Note the mental health disorders that occur predominantly in men. Autism, schizophrenia, and yes, psychopathy. There's got to be something behind that.

(patingba: The onomatopoeic sound your brain makes when you find a place for your Word-Of-The-Day.)

Robert said...

Libya has declared a ceasefire now that the U.N. No Fly Zone has been declared. Whether or not this will actually happen or if it's the Libyan government's attempt to lull the West into a state of complacency before going in and wiping out the remaining rebels remains to be seen, especially given the threats and defiance Qaddafi was announcing just hours earlier. (You almost have to wonder if he had a little... meeting with his Generals, much like Bush did.)

And I must say, if this does turn into a genuine ceasefire, then it'll be a feather in the international cap of Obama as fighting ceased upon the declaration of action by the United Nations Security Council - an action that Russia, China and Germany (among others) opposed.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8390550/Libya-ceasefire-declared-in-wake-of-UN-resolution.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8390550/
Libya-ceasefire-declared-in-wake-of-UN-resolution.html

Rob H.

trusts - something the West (and the Libyan people) should not give Qaddafi

BCRion said...

Paul,

You can't simply "read between the lines" based on blanket recommendations such as what the IAEA puts out and connect the dots to necessarily get at the truth. Applying hindsight is always 20/20.

You quantify risk in specific ways and determine what is acceptable. Of course, your models can only be informed with existing data. Each situation is unique and you evaluate the risks for each site individually. The geophysicists looked at historical data and determined that while earthquakes are likely, the magnitude they were predicting as the likely maximum would produce a tsunami much smaller. This risk was quantified and determined to be acceptable at the time. We now know the models significantly underpredicted the risk (this is a classic case of "kutosis risk").

I'm not going to defend the actions of TEPCO. I think they've done things that are not very helpful like delaying the injection of seawater too long and not being helpful in informing the scientific community of what was going on early.

This one specific issue of not adequately protecting from this tsunami is not entirely the company's fault, as the decisions were based on bad data. Offsite power loss is a big risk, and that's why there are redundant systems. The catastrophic event where all systems would be destroyed simultaneously by a tsunami considered too unlikely because of misinformed geophysical models.

Robert said...

Here's an interesting article talking about the Hispanicization of the United States, and how Hispanics are moving to regions not normally considered Hispanic (ie, not Southern Border States). It also comments on the fears of Whites about the Hispanic population and on the cultural and political response.

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/03/18/navarrette.hispanic.census/

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/03/18/
navarrette.hispanic.census/

Rob H.

Robert said...

As an aside to a previous post, Libyan rebels have stated there is no ceasefire and that Libyan forces are still shelling their cities and attacking the populace.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Corey:

What's often seldom realized is that if you're worried about radiation being released into the environment, it's not nuclear power you have to worry about; it's coal power

In generating electricity, coal plants emit 100 times as much radioactivity into the surrounding environment as nuclear plants.


Well, you don't need to convince me that the Koch brothers are evil. :)

But in fairness (and you address this as well), the psychological problem with nuclear plants is not how much radiation they create in normal operation. It's what happens in a disaster. More rationally, it's also what to do with nuclear waste so that there won't inevitably BE disasters later on.

LarryHart said...

On Lybia...

It occurs to me that if President Obama's ambition and character were as petty as the Republicans and FOX try to pretend, all he would have to do to insure re-election in 2012 with an overwhelming mandate would be to take out Khadaffi.

LarryHart said...

Dr. Brin:

Larry, in his later books Isaac said it was NOT a war that caused the radioactivity, but a device created to force Earthlings to emigrate.


I realize that. And I can see why he did that in the 1980s. The 1950s presumption of a near-future nuclear disaster no longer seemed plausible.

I was speculating that, given what we see happening in 2011, perhaps he was too quick to retcon away the idea that a nuclear disaster (rather than a Batman-villain plot). A few Japan/Chernobyl type accidents might explain the background of those novels more elegantly than the whole evil superviallain/robot thing did.

ell said...

Whenever I encounter jubilation over military superiority, I remember the Arthur C. Clarke story, "Superiority." Are these NATO arms battle tested? And like any form of evolution, the question is: superior over what, where, and when? I suppose this also applies to tsunami seawalls.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superiority_(short_story)

David Brin said...

Friday, March 18, 4:50 p.m. ET, Tokyo Press conference: One week after the earthquake. This afternoon, 50 tons of water from special fire trucks was poured on the unit 3 pool. It is confirmed that water was successfully poured, but its effectiveness is not known yet. Efforts to restore power is still underway. Radiation monitoring data is showing steady decline in most places; this is good news.

I don't feel it was the tsunami that caused this crisis. If they had proper redundancies, the trucked in diesels should have restored power with hours. The Tokyo Power officials were horrors.

One thing. I never knew spent power rods were so dangerous. We need Yucca Mountain!

Now that Khaddafi has retaken the oil ports, he can live with a "cease fire." No deal.

Robert said...

In the light of your comments on "Star Wars" you might like this link:
http://youaughttoremember.blogspot.com/2009/11/44-star-wars-and-indiana-jones-nuked.html

Also, thanks for being fair to Tolkien - he is indeed smart and honest, and at least somewhat nuanced, like the best of the Romantics.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry

"A few Japan/Chernobyl type accidents might explain the background of those novels more elegantly than the whole evil superviallain/robot thing did."

A few MILLION could not even come close to the Asimov scenario

With Chernobyl the radiation was dispersed because the rods were embedded in a graphite core which burned like a demon

What is there to burn at a PWR?
Concrete? Steel? Zircalloy? Uranium dioxide?

A MAGNOX uses graphite as a moderator,
A PWR uses water as a moderator
- not known for its flammability is water!

The used fuel rods while unpleasantly radioactive were never going to go critical - the main reason they are "used" is because the fissile products are neutron absorbers and it becomes difficult to maintain criticality with these in the core.

I have seen somebody say a used rod gives 4 megawatts of heat - NONSENSE if it gave that much heat you would leave it in the reactor to generate electricity
A used rod gives out heat in the kilowatts for a few months

If the fuel rods had been left completely alone it would have been unpleasant in their immediate vicinity but it would not have spread very far.

At Chernobyl the radiation levels in some of the area that has been "abandoned" is less than 1% of the natural background radiation levels in some parts of India

Robert said...

Aaaand I just found out there's real-life killer catfish in India that have been hunting and devouring humans and water buffalo. And the reason the catfish in question got so big? It's a tradition among the people to burn their dead and then dump the half-cremated remains in the Kali river. Meaning they fed the thing until it got a taste for human flesh.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Last night, Ann Coulter came on to The O'Reilly Factor and said this:
"There is a growing body of evidence that radiation in excess of what the government says are the minimum amounts we should be exposed to are actually good for you and reduce cases of cancer."
Yes, you read that correctly. According to Ann Coulter, radiation is actually the cure for cancer, and, no, she was not talking about chemo levels of radiation. She meant living in the shadow of Chernobyl.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/ann-coulter-radiation-oreilly-video-2011-3#ixzz1H0h2rxft

Corey said...

@David Brin

I looked at the author being cited in the one "study" Ann Coulter actually bothers to give us enough information to track down, and looking up "Radon" under the author Bernard Cohen shows a 2005 study citing the very study she's claiming shows a dose-response relationship between radon exposure and lung cancer where increased radon exposure appears to decrease lung cancer.


However, that 2005 paper specifically says, of the very study she's citing, "Before proceeding, it is important to understand that [Cohen 1995] should
not be interpreted to be a dose-response relationship between radon exposure and lung cancer".

The actual point of Cohen's papers was to compare threshold and linear no-threshold models (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model), not to suggest that increasing Radon levels decrease cancer risk. That is in fact antithesis to everything Cohen is publishing (his 2005 paper discusses the need to find data discrepancies that appear to show that, and never suggests this is a real interpretation of the data).



I know we don't need to actually look into anything Ann Coulter says to know she's a liar and a lunatic, or that she's way off base here (to put it kindly), but it's still interesting to go and look at what these people who misrepresent science actually think they're citing when they cite supposed sources, because it's always fun to see what new way the drop the ball in.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

Coulter is a loonie but there is some evidence that people living in areas with higher background radiation (India, Iran)suffer less cancers,

Just as we are finding that keeping our children too clean may be making them more vulnerable to infection as adults it is possible that a little radiation does you good

I noted that there was almost panic in Tokyo when somebody said the background radiation level had doubled - to almost half the average background radiation level in the UK

Corey said...

Radiation is not quite something like a biological pathogen. Gamma rays and neutron emissions incite direct chemical changes that cause genetic degradation.

A certain amount of background radiation isn't going to matter too much, because you probably need to cause a certain amount of loss of genetic integrity before there's a statistically significant rise in cancer from it (remember, it takes a specific sequence of events to trigger cancer, including the normal mechanisms of programmed cell death failing).


That said, there's also no real way you could directly benefit from increased radiation levels either, health wise, not that I'm aware of. The only way it would make people more robust is if it triggered the evolution of further genetic error-correcting mechanisms. That would, however, require a large group of people (thousands?), a lot of time (at least a few centuries, probably more), would require this group to be totally isolated from populations in lower-radiation areas, and would require levels of radiation so high, that they created a significant chance of death before giving birth to offspring, or just increased sterilization.


I suppose I can appreciate the the sentiment for people to be reasonable though. A doubling of background radiation, for instance, has zero chance of causing any harm.

Robert said...

That doesn't explain, however, why birds are able to nest in the reactor core at Chernobyl and not die of radiation poisoning or the like. In fact, a number of rare and endangered animals have migrated to the exclusion zone due to the minimal human presence in the region and are doing quite well despite the radiation. Something is allowing these animals to flourish in that environment. And I must admit I would love to know what.

Rob H.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Corey

I don't think I agree,
A lot of our inbuilt systems require "practice" to operate
I would expect any inbuilt repair systems to come with a biological "cost", an organism that is not exposed will have no incentive to "grow" such mechanisms

If you look at a tree in a low wind area it will grow a small root system - its biological clone (cutting)in a high wind area will develop a large root system

The root system is a "cost" which will develop to an optimum related to the environment

The tree does not need to evolve a larger root - just develop something that is already inside it potential growth parameters

Our internal systems to detect and destroy cancers may operate in a similar manner

Paul said...

Larry,
"A few Japan/Chernobyl type accidents might explain the background of those novels more elegantly than the whole evil superviallain/robot thing did."

As others have said, not big enough. But Asimov's non-WWIII solution was magic technology, so there's no reason why magic-technology nuclear power couldn't amplify a disaster.

(Like the dinosaurs and their Iridium Reactors.)

Duncan Cairncross,
"A PWR uses water as a moderator - not known for its flammability is water!"

I don't know, that Japanese water has proven amazingly flamable.

Paul said...

Early suggestion of superconductivity above 20C (68F).

Fingers crossed.

http://www.superconductors.org/20C.htm

Paul said...

Oops, sorry, below 20C. Transition at 18.5C.

(uritinoc: The unfortunate brand name of (Tl5Pb2)Ba2MgCu10O17.)

David Brin said...

alternative. Low doses of radiation kill our pathogens preferentially over our cells, hence more health?

Silly but logical.

Animals have much shorter lifespans.

Corey said...

"Hi Corey

I don't think I agree,
A lot of our inbuilt systems require "practice" to operate"

I think you're confusing two different systems, so let me see if I can help out a little here.


The only automated system in the body that requires "practice", outside of an evolutionary sense and on an individual-by-individual basis is the immune system.


The reason for this isn't so much that the immune system is getting practice, as it is a case of it building a pathogen database to educate itself.


Let me explain. When you first encounter a pathogen, your body takes time to react. When it recognizes it as a pathogen, it takes a bit of time to craft a lymphocyte for that organism. Your body does have limited fighting ability before that happens because of what are called natural killer cells; they're non-pathogen-specific cells that, when activated by a number of stress mechanisms, attack ANYTHING not recognized as part of you. They're actually what largely combat cancer. They're kept in a tight leash, however.

Aside from NK cells, your body has others kinds of antibody cells with more specific response-types. I won't go into all of them (partly because I'd hit the wall of my knowledge quickly anyways ^_^;); what's important in this context are B-lymphocytes, or just "B-cells" (I'm sure you've heard of T-cells; same kind of thing). These cells are basically giant anti-body factories. The reason they need to recognize the specific pathogen to go after is so that they don't start running amok all over everything with anti-bodies. These are very powerful proteins that need to only be attacking the right thing. Again, this takes time to really create enough B-lymphocytes to be able to effectively combat a pathogen.


Now we get to where you immune system has memory. Again, it's like a pathogen database in your blood. What happens is that when the pathogen is killed, a special type of B-cell stays around, called a memory B-cell. These cell are specific to that pathogen, and like countless other flavours of memory B-cells for countless other pathogens, remain in your blood after the initial infection, and they stay there for years, often decades. When you contract that pathogen again, these memory B-cells don't wait for anything. They recognize and begin making anti-bodies against that pathogen immediately, spearheading your body's attack while your body undergoes the time to make normal B-cells to assist. That allows your anti-body count for that pathogen to reach an effective number in, say, a day or two instead of days or weeks, and for that day or two, your symptoms are milder because the pathogen never gets a good foothold.


It's not that your body requires practice; it's that your body requires a robust pathogen database because of the specific nature of the immune system. That said, no other system works in this fashion.


Your error-filtering mechanisms in mitosis are not like this. They just follow a specific set of directions, that they can carry out instantaneously. They're just like a small computer program, and they function in exactly the same way, no matter how many times they're activated (again, unless maybe we're talking entire populations and evolutionary time scales).

The only thing high radiation levels should get you here would be more mutations, and increase the chance of something going wrong that those mechanisms couldn't correct.

Robert said...

Which is of course why we have a vaccination program, to show our body which pathogens it should be targeting. Unfortunately, enough people fear vaccines due to the unfortunate side effects of some earlier vaccines that a growing number of people are running around without that database and thus risk creating conditions where the pathogens can overwhelm (or grow and mutate to the point that they aren't recognized) even those who are vaccinated.

-----------

Okay. I like to think of myself as pro-Nuclear. But I think that if we want to start building new nuclear plants, Republicans should promise to fund (and never de-fund) inspections to existing plants seeing that we've a growing number of near-incidents, and that's just a dozen or so.

Seriously. Skimping on building repairs so you can make more of a profit? Considering the effect that a meltdown would have? What the fuck, business leaders? What the fuck?!?

We should enact a new law: Any CEO who was in charge during a period of time where damages accrued and did nothing to rectify should be required to pay damages from their golden parachutes and retirement plans and whatnot should something go wrong. Let's force through lawsuits these bastards to remain liable after the fact.

Rob H.

BCRion said...

On radiation exposure, it's a difficult question to answer with absolute certainty. So much of what we know is derived from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These are atomic blasts where the dose is received instantaneously. At the high levels, we know that the negative response is linear and we assume, with no hard evidence, that this extrapolates to zero dose. Unfortunately, this leads to the meme that "all radiation is harmful", which, in turn, leads to exaggeration of the actual risks. We have far less information on how chronic exposure affects human health, but it is probably different from that received in an atomic blast.

Talking to people who look at epidemiological records, the linear, no-threshold hypothesis is really not supportable, but not necessarily 100% solid either because of the error bars. The evidence actually suggests a small benefit for low doses, possibly from activation of cellular repair mechanisms or killing off unhealthy cells.

What is rational and fairly clear from evidence is that there is some level of radiation exposure that our biological repair mechanisms evolved to deal with. We cannot pin down the exact dividing line of where negative health effects appear in a population, but it is probably fairly high relative to what most people get for natural background.

ell said...

Duncan, Paul: Several years ago a serial arsonist (in Seattle?) was using an accelerant that burned so hot it vaporized water. Though water is not exactly flammable, under some conditions it is useless against fire.

The higher-level radiation argument reminds me of the high-fiber diet theory. It was reported that people in countries that consume a lot of fiber do not get much colon cancer. That could be because the average life expectancy in those countries is 29 and colon cancer is a disease of a long life and a rich diet.

Robert, David: Those animals thriving near Chernobyl may have lost their predators (including pathogens, as David suggested). Also, their naturally short lifetimes may not allow cancer time to develop (as David suggested). But what about animals that eat the Chernobyl critters when those critters migrate? (Plenty of birds migrate.) Will these predators suffer radiation poisoning? Will any such radiation be diluted (through a chain of predation [e.g., wolves, hyenas, vultures])or be concentrated in those predators? Some animals are reputedly resistant to radiation (cockroaches, scorpions). Maybe a few birds and mammals are also resistant to radiation while their predators are not.

Corey said...

@BCRion

That's essentially also how I understand the situation as far as radiation doses go (and as far as what we do and don't know). Of course, it should also be noted that I'm as far from an expert as it gets.

ell said...
"Maybe a few birds and mammals are also resistant to radiation while their predators are not."

I wouldn't be surprised if you were onto something here.

Even if high resistance wasn't innate to a species initially, a species with more tolerance than its predators would naturally have reason to move to such an area, and once that became the case, the members of the population with more resistance than average would be better-suited to that environment. That would create a clear selective pressure towards creating populations that could best thrive away from said predators.

Of course, if that's the case, it wouldn't last forever, even the radiation did, because that selective pressure could also work on their predators, given enough time.

David Brin said...

"Practice" immune modalities? Read HEART OF THE COMET! I was one of the first to say it!

(Or PRACTICE EFFECT? ;-)

see:
http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/see-the-first-photo-of-adrianne-palicki-as-wonder-woman--2569
Yipe!

Corey said...

In what I understand to be a primarily US missile attack, 110 Tomahawk missiles were fired in Qaddafi's air defense network, striking 20 sites.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/africa/20libya.html?hp

I'm guessing this is primarily to neutralize his S-200 long-range SAMs.


As an aside, I do believe this is the first conflict to utilize the Eurofighter Typhoon (the RAF is deploying them). This is an absolutely enormously advanced aircraft, even the tranche 1 (gen 1) versions. Panavia Tornadoes are already lightyears ahead of Qaddafi's outdated Mig-23s, but Eurofighters? From what I know of them, a single 4-plane CAP flight could probably take on half his air force :D

Rob said...

A 4-plane flight would need re-arming too often.

http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/see-the-first-photo-of-adrianne-palicki-as-wonder-woman--2569

...because what you want for high-strain physical activity and crime fighting... is a corset. Riiiiiight.

Charlotte P. Gilman is turning in her grave.

Robert said...

To be honest, that's sort of what she normally wore. Except for having long pants instead of shorts (or a leotard-type bottom).

They're going for the semi-traditional audience I see. I kind of like her more recent outfit that had the leather jacket.

Rob H.

Robert said...

I stumbled across a rather interesting story that some of you might enjoy - it involves an English airship crew where airships are apparently used in actual warfare. And there's nods to Lovecraft and the like in here too. But it seems well-written so far, and it enjoyable enough.

http://airships.paulgazis.com/001/FlyingCloud001.htm

It's got something like 110 chapters in it (I'm not sure if it's complete or not as I'm about 10 chapters in so far).

Rob H.

David Brin said...

See HG Wells THE WAR IN THE AIR

David Brin said...

On another list I've been discussing how Rupert can make tons of money at Fox News, despite being hated by a majority of people.

---
Blue america retains diversity and divides its attention in all sorts of directions, catering to diverse news sources. Red America is cloned from the Olde Confederacy, where a single message was and remains the tribal motif. By radicalizing the message to ever-greater extremes, Rupert can demonize ALL other competing outlets and keep his base suckling at one and only one teat.

Fantastic business model... until the rumblings of a "Boycott Fox Advertisers!" campaign start gaining traction. (It is one of several reasons I monthly get a dose of Beck. First, to stare in awe... and second to learn what products NOT to buy.)

Someday, as happened in 1861, Blue America will awaken. And boycotting Fox advertisers will be the simplest way to end this.

http://foxnewsboycott.com/
and
http://foxnewsboycott.com/fox-news-sponsors/glenn-beck-sponsors/

You'll note that Beck is already immune. Many of his "sponsors" are other Murdoch-owned businesses. Murdoch wants him on the air, period.

But Fox& Friends is another matter:
http://foxnewsboycott.com/fox-news-sponsors/fox-friends-sponsors/

When you finally get fed up enough, start contacting everybody on the list.

David Brin said...

On another list I've been discussing how Rupert can make tons of money at Fox News, despite being hated by a majority of people.

---
Blue america retains diversity and divides its attention in all sorts of directions, catering to diverse news sources. Red America is cloned from the Olde Confederacy, where a single message was and remains the tribal motif. By radicalizing the message to ever-greater extremes, Rupert can demonize ALL other competing outlets and keep his base suckling at one and only one teat.

Fantastic business model... until the rumblings of a "Boycott Fox Advertisers!" campaign start gaining traction. (It is one of several reasons I monthly get a dose of Beck. First, to stare in awe... and second to learn what products NOT to buy.)

Someday, as happened in 1861, Blue America will awaken. And boycotting Fox advertisers will be the simplest way to end this.

http://foxnewsboycott.com/
and
http://foxnewsboycott.com/fox-news-sponsors/glenn-beck-sponsors/

You'll note that Beck is already immune. Many of his "sponsors" are other Murdoch-owned businesses. Murdoch wants him on the air, period.

But Fox& Friends is another matter:
http://foxnewsboycott.com/fox-news-sponsors/fox-friends-sponsors/

When you finally get fed up enough, start contacting everybody on the list.

ASterling said...

Cred . . . I will give you cred, David! For heaven's sake - you are darn closed to the smartest man I've ever known, and more importantly - good. And wise.

Patricia Mathews said...

"http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/see-the-first-photo-of-adrianne-palicki-as-wonder-woman--2569

...because what you want for high-strain physical activity and crime fighting... is a corset. Riiiiiight.

Charlotte P. Gilman is turning in her grave."

Ask any SCA'er about the value of a corset - or a boned waistcoat - as back support. Our ancestors weren't the fools the 20th Century thought they were.

rewinn said...

In the Department Of Is-It-Real-Or-Is-It-The-Onion, the Moonie Times printed a letter disproving global warming, on the grounds that CO2 can't form a roof holding in heat, because CO2 is heavier than air!

In a month that (as some say) has had enough news to justify a remake of "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", isn't it nice to see such subtle humor in the corporate media!

Stefan Jones said...

RE antimatter propulsion tweet:

While at CMU I took advantage of the engineering library to read actual papers and proposals on advanced fission, fusion, and antimatter propulsion methods.

Intriguing . . . but also sobering! I'd grown up reading SF stories where it was so easy to travel the solar system. Crank up the drive to 1 g and you're in the money. Surely can't be that hard. DC-3 of Space, yadda-yadda!

It turns out that physics imposes some harsh parameters on these exotic-but-possible systems. Like the need for RADIATORS! And huge "combustion chambers" to allow the energetic particles resulting from fusion to interact with the reaction mass.

And antimatter . . . I know Forward proposed shooting antiparticles into a reaction chamber full of water, but it turns out that the particles coming out of the annihilation reaction just whiz right through the water. The energy transfer is very inefficient. Once concept I read about suggested a thermal rocket very much like the old NERVA fission rocket. Instead of hydrogen being heated as it passes through a reactor core, it passes through a block of tungsten alloy which is heated white-hot via bombardment with antiparticles. Ten times the exhaust velocity of a liquid chemical rocket . . . but peanuts compared to proposed advanced fusion rockets, some of which use antimatter to trigger fusion bomblets.

Nothing about space travel is easy!

Robert said...

Okay. Has the Democratic party been spiking the Koolaid that Republicans drink from or something? Seriously, this is just getting TOO fucked up.

http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/war-poor-minnesota-republicans-want-b

The premise: Republicans want to make it illegal for poor people to carry large amounts of cash.

"House File 171 would make it so that families on MFIP - and disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid - could not have their cash grants in cash or put into a checking account. Rather, they could only use a state-issued debit card at special terminals in certain businesses that are set up to accept the card.

The bill also calls for unconstitutional residency requirements, not allowing the debit card to be used across state lines and other provisions that the Welfare Rights Committee and others consider unacceptable."

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Heh, thanks Stefan, Ain't easy.

Anne Coulter. Guffaws and tears. But here's the article on radiation hormesis:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis

And she's still some kind of bizarre alien pod-person sent to do us in.

Robert said...

On a positive note, it looks like things may be coming under control in Japan. Electricity is slowly being restored to the plant which is helping keep the remaining pools from going critical and they're working to establish power to the more damaged sections.

I do have to admit curiosity as to why robots were not used in this situation. Remotes could have been used to investigate the pools and even go in and separate fuel rods if they fell together. Perhaps the robots just couldn't be trusted to maneuver through that region.

This does make me also wonder if we'll see shielded exo-suits built to work in these environments in the future. A fully self-contained suit using remote sensing could have a pilot encased in enough lead that they could function for hours in that environment without concern. The suit might be unusable afterward but when you consider the suit should only be used in emergency situations... it makes some sense.

Rob H.

Robert said...

Interestingly enough, I'm not the only one asking where's the Japanese Robots for dealing with this situation:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20044970-1.html

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Japan has worked hard on robotics because they expect an elderly population... and they LOVE that stuff.

Given that, though... where are the giant transformer dudes who shoulda come stomping in to save the day? I agree that you solve the control problem with giant mother exoskele-suits with lead-shielded inner liners!

rewinn said...

About robots: I would have guessed that a remote-piloted Chinook would've been much more effective at dumping water onto the cooling ponds, than the human-piloted ones, whose efforts seemed seriously hampered by the need to stay too high and move too fast. I appreciate that copters are hard to fly, but we've been flying 747s by wire for decades.

About the Minnesota proposal to criminalize the possession of cash by poor people: the obvious goal is to increase the fees that banks collect from processing the card transactions. When a poor person uses cash to by fruit at a Farmer's Market, the banks miss out on a value profit opportunity.
The proposal may seem crazy, but so what? the banks are hungry and must feed!

Tacitus2 said...

So now we are fighting on a third front.

Well, my default mode is to support the President in matters of war and peace, and Khadaffi is just about the definition of an unlovable mutt who will be missed by nobody.

Its all still a bit surreal.

Charlie Rangle has intelligent things to say about the lack of consultation with Congress. The French armed forces take the field for the first time since (hope nobody else notices) the Suez crisis. The UN actually seems to function and the Arab League appears to want the US to attack a member state. Protestors against the Iraq war, now pretty much pacified, sometimes fail to mention the latest optional venture. (in fairness, some consistent souls were upset about both).

All pretty odd.

I give the Administration mixed grades on style. I think it is wise to have our Euro allies take the lead, this being their back yard. But I have to question why we can get a carrier group to Japan in a couple of days yet still have no similar force in the Med. And Obama would look a bit more presidential if he cancelled what looks like an optional trip to S. America and banned all discussion of his NCAA picks while this new venture was unfolding.

Its not christian to wish for the death of another human being, but the overall suffering of the world would be reduced by a bit if the colonel with the bad hair had an unfortunate event in the next few days.

Otherwise it will eventually come down to Egyptian ground invasion. They would have the support and the means, but that is quite a burden to place on such a new government.

Hoping for the best.

Tacitus

verification code for the day trypoi
no thank you

LarryHart said...

Not to beat this dead horse TOO much further, but...

To everyone who keeps saying that the radioactive earth of Asimov's "Pebble in the Sky" and "The Stars Like Dist" could not have been caused by nuclear power plants...

Are you taking into account a build-up of spent fuel rods over time when you make that "It can't happen that way" claim? Everything I read lately about the potential danger from spent fuel rods brings me back to the image of Asimov's radioactive earth.

Corey said...

rewinn said...

"In the Department Of Is-It-Real-Or-Is-It-The-Onion, the Moonie Times printed a letter disproving global warming, on the grounds that CO2 can't form a roof holding in heat, because CO2 is heavier than air!"

Rewinn, that is amazing. That is absolutely amazing. I was actually in a Skype call last night with a physicist and physics major in college, and we laughed over this for about five straight minutes.

It's so dumb, that I'm almost at a loss to express just how dumb it is. Needless to say it's going in my bookmarks; I just can't figure out whether to file it under Climate, or Humor :D

Tim H. said...

"Its not christian to wish for the death of another human being"
Certainly not Christ-like, but in these sad days, not un-christian. Somehow, I don't think fundies would be the way they are if they spent more time with the first 5 books of the New Testament.
'rescurg" FAIL

BCRion said...

LarryHart,

Even with spent fuel pools the scenario is simply not possible. The reasoning is that you get a tradeoff between radioactivity and half-life. It was quite clear in Asimov's world the disasters happened a long time ago by Pebble in the Sky. This pretty much leaves only some actinides as potential causes; however, since their half-lives are long, you need a lot to turn a large area uninhabitable.

Spread over the land area of the entire planet would require billions of kilograms of actinides somehow released into the environment in a uniform way. I don't see a credible way for nuclear accidents to do that considering nuclear fuel is mostly relatively non-radioative uranium-238. The only way the Asimov scenario would be possible without invoking magic (as Asimov effectively did) is if some entity actively did that with painstaking effort.

That said, there is some debate as to how much risk spent fuel pools actually pose. The worst case scenario of a zirconium fire aerosolizing the spent fuel into the atmosphere cannot be ruled out, but it has not been shown to be possible either. I suspect we will learn more about this scenario once we get more information about the pools at Fukushima. I also suspect that while zirconium can ignite, the likelihood of aerosolizing a large fraction of the spent fuel is small.

Tim H. said...

Larry, dug up my copy of "Robots and Empire", Asimov had his bit of "handwavium" activated at the site of Three Mile Island. Note that this took place on a future earth powered by space based solar.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, what is consistent is this:

Democratic presidents dither and delay while consulting the top minds of the military and getting all the facts. Then they come in with overwhelming air support but rely on loval forces to put boots on the ground.

Republican presidents lie and lie and lie and then commit us to trillion dollar land wars of attrition in Asia.

Remember that I had always wanted ot put down Saddam Insane. One o the worst stains on American honor was when Bush Sr told the Shiite's of southern Iraq to "rise up! We're on our way!" Then left them in the lurch for 12 years of hell. But there were dozens of better ways to off the pig than to commit us to trillion dollar land wars of attrition in Asia.

We do have a carrier group within 2 days sail, in the gulf of suez. I do not know why it is not in the gulf of sidra. Perhaps there is some symbolism argument I don't grok But with Italian airbases more than close enough, I am not sure it is needed.

I am nervous because Ghadafi's forces made it INTO Bnghazi and hence are harder to pick off from the air. At this point it is up to the rebels to ensure that the govt guys don't find supplies. If that happens, then Ghadafi will learn what happened to Rommel.

==

Guys all is explained in FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH! ;-)

David Brin said...

Hm... latest reports appear to indicate -- tentatively -- that Benghazi has been cleared and Ghadafi forces are in retreat. If so, it is a "phew" moment...

...and I honestly pity the poor men trying to flee all the way to Sirte. That open territory is not where I would want to be driving a tank, right now.

Next prediction/worry. Will Ghadafi set fires in Brega and Ras Lanuf to destroy the oil facilities? That'd be bad all around.

rewinn said...

"...French armed forces take the field for the first time since (hope nobody else notices) the Suez crisis..."
At the risk of spoiling an otherwise good point, the French spearheaded the assault into Kuwait City in 1991; have served bravely as allies in Afghanistan; intervened in Zaire in 1978 and the Central African Republic in 1979, 1996 and 2006; and fought in various other operations, often called "peacekeeping".

None-the-less, "Coalition" forces would be wise to keep in mind the tarnished history of French forces in North Africa, especially the "Battle of Algiers".

Tacitus2 said...

rewinn
you are correct, I was oversimplifying. It was the image of joint French-British attacks that put Suez in mind. Although I do not recall the French being involved in much serious fighting in most of the places you correctly listed.
Tacitus

David Brin said...

See frequent news updates about the nuclear crisis in Japan via the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist: http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/tatsujiro-suzuki/daily-update-japan

David Brin said...

Those who doubt the doughty courage of the French should read up about their engagement as our partners in Afghanistan, a truly difficult task.

http://www.stripes.com/news/french-military-effort-in-afghanistan-earning-respect-of-u-s-troops-1.96007

Paul said...

Scott Adams (Dibert) has speculated on/joked about a Transparent city. Everyone gives up their privacy in return for savings, such as reduced crime.

http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/noprivacyville/

Paul said...

I don't know if David or anyone has posted this before. Efforts by Denise Herzing, and the Wild Dolphin project, to create a human/dolphin pigeon. Err, that is, a simple language mutually created and understood by humans and dolphins.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/sciencenotfiction/2011/02/18/learning-the-alien-language-of-dolphins

(chmismon: Formal Trinary apology for unnecessary repetition.)

Tony Fisk said...

Paul, the word you want is 'pidgin'. Still, if Earthclan is ever allowed a bit of breathing space to establish it's own uplift program, maybe crows and African Grays will be on the list (to cock a snook at the Gubru!)

Paul said...

Tony,
"the word you want is 'pidgin'"

How would that be funny?

Abilard said...

Interesting TED Talk about role of running in human evolution and how the lifestyle of the Tarahumara might echo that of our tribal ancestors:

Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run? - Christopher McDougall (2010)

In The Uplift War when Robert Oneagle goes through his physical transformation from playboy to warrior isn't the same line of reasoning about running's role elaborated? I'll have to reread it (it has been 20 years?), but the talk reminded me that I had heard the idea before and I think that was the source.

rewinn said...

@Tacitus2 wrote: "...I was oversimplifying. It was the image of joint French-British attacks that put Suez in mind..."

That's surely a fair connection, and if your larger point is that the violent history of France in Africa may require caution in intervention, then it is well taken ... I'd be willing to bet North Africans remember not just Suez, but Bizerte affair and the battle of Algiers.

France's motivations may be complex. It may just be that Libya is only a short boat-ride away from France and they're worried about a flood of refugees. Or perhaps an unpopular French government would like a foreign distraction. Or maybe there's genuine sympathy for rebels against a tyrant.

Or maybe it's all of the above ... Human affairs usually have mixed motives.

An interesting distinction between the attack on Libya and the Bush attack on Iraq is that there is an actual basis in law for the former, in the form of an actual UNSC resolution, and there was not for the latter (UNSCR 1441 explicitly incorporated all previous resolutions and did not authorize force).

The legal basis in American law is more complicated, since there is no preliminary Authorization to Use Military Force (... which BTW Bush violated in 2003; AUMF/Iraq required an certification that all peaceful means had been exhuasted, and the certification to Congress was clearly knowledingly counterfactual, in violation of 18 USC 1001 ... but I digress...). Under the War Powers Act, Obama has something like 60 days to seek an o.k. from Congress or withdraw. It will be interesting to see if the Battle of the House of Representatives is bloody.

Robert said...

Found an interesting article that verifies experiments creating amino acids from the late 1950s were not the result of biological contamination due to their possessing right-handed amino acids, which Earth-born microorganisms cannot create.

Here's the article in question - interestingly, Fox News seems to be getting a lot of love from Google News, and also seems to know just how to create a news title to attract readers.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Predictions are made about every disaster -- that once the lid of a tightly policed civilization is knocked off for a second, humans will become beasts. But the opposite is the case. The evidence gathered over centuries of disasters, natural and man-made, is overwhelming. The vast majority of people, when a disaster hits, behave in the aftermath as altruists. They organize spontaneously to save their fellow human beings, to share what they have, and to show kindness. They reveal themselves to be better people than they ever expected.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-myth-of-the-panicking_b_837440.html

In fact, I have said this for decades! One of my ongoing themes has been a 21st Century struggle to empower citizens, after the 20th Century's relentless trend toward the "professionalization of everything." But this may be about to change. For example, an overlooked aspect of the9/11 tragedy was that citizens themselves were most effective in our civilization's defense, reacting with resiliency and initiative while armed with new technologies:

http://www.futurist.com/archives/society-and-culture/value-and-empowerment/

Abilard said...

"Predictions are made about every disaster -- that once the lid of a tightly policed civilization is knocked off for a second, humans will become beasts"

Yes, the same is said about how people act after slipping the bonds of religion, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Robert said...

The Liberal faction of the Democratic Party is talking about impeaching President Obama. They feel they should have been consulted before dropping bombs on Libya and that the failure to consult Congress is in fact an impeachable offense. Ironically, I could very well see Republicans jumping on the bandwagon to impeach Obama just to get him out of office, or to damage him politically so he loses the 2012 election.

When you get down to it, Liberals aren't protesting because of the action. Reagan did the same and there was no impeachment attempt. Bush did this and no impeachment. No. This is a protest because Obama isn't the Liberal Bastion they want him to be. So they're trying to force him to back down and be a "good little liberal."

Rob H.

David Brin said...

re news about the Japanese reactors: here is the best poop-line I can find:

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/tatsujiro-suzuki/daily-update-japan


http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/
then
tatsujiro-suzuki/daily-update-japan

Tacitus2 said...

Rewinn (and others)

The best writing I have encountered on France in the modern era comes from Alistair Horne. His Trilogy (Siege of Paris, Price of Glory, To Lose a Battle) is not just excellent history, its good writing. And of course, A Savage War of Peace on the subject of Algeria.

Close to 90 he is still writing, although his recent Seven Ages of Paris was not up to his earlier standards.

And I am happy to have the French on our side. They have had a difficult role to adapt to, that of a once great power in reduced circumstances.

Tacitus

Sociotard said...

To be fair, that's not a large faction of the Democratic Party. That is Dennis Kucinich. He's . . . unique. Honestly, I agree with him on a lot of things. I want the US to pull back from all its military endeavors and reduce the military itself drastically. It'd certainly help balance the budget, and it would hinder future George Bushes from seeking out military adventurism.

But it is just Dennis Kucinich. He doesn't represent his party, and no republican except maybe Ron Paul would be caught dead associating with him. Nothing will come of this.

Robert said...

Looking at the current brouhaha concerning the attack on Libya, I think Obama was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. If he sat back and let a massacre happen then he would be painted in the media as a heartless bastard who let women and children get slaughtered. If he sent in troops he'd be cursed for getting our boys in harm's way. Just launching missiles and doing a limited war to knock out air elements in Libya is getting cursed for a waste of money AND the fact the U.S. is looking weak because it's not at the forefront of the military leadership for the engagement but instead wants to cede leadership to NATO or to Britain and France.

Really, if Obama had an opportunity to launch a missile into Qaddafi's compound knowing it would kill the man, I could see him being solely tempted by the thought because of the grief the man has put Obama through. (Seriously. If he let the protests continue but ignored them or even gave some minor reforms, then things might have blown over. By going to route of the bullet, he turned this into a civil war, which forced Obama's hand.)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Disasters show flaws in just-in-time production
'Earliest impact will be felt with high-cost, low-weight products'

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42198101/from/RSS/

Scroll down for the article.

Raise your hands if you remember me railing about this. Anybody?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

I remember some conversation about JIT

Yes - JIT is causing a problem now

How much of a problem would an old traditional low quality with safety stock be having now?

The difference would be stopping now or in two days

JIT in some ways is a bit like the survival practice and preparation you mention

If you are running a JIT operation you have been making your supply chains as robust as possible and you have been rehearsing your actions if supply fails
(and probably practicing)

As a lean mean operation you will be much better fitted for a disaster than if you have been using safety stock and getting all fat and complacent

Slightly tongue in cheek - but a little bit seriously

And I'm saving this on Word as my last comment about nuclear energy seemed to appear on the comments then disappeared

Ian said...

"In the Department Of Is-It-Real-Or-Is-It-The-Onion, the Moonie Times printed a letter disproving global warming, on the grounds that CO2 can't form a roof holding in heat, because CO2 is heavier than air!"

Since water vapor is also heavier than air, they've also disproven the existence of rain.

I wonder if we could convince these people to invest in a plan to tap the reserves of Neon, Xenon and Krypton to be found at the bottom of coal mines.

Ian said...

Roughly 48 hours after the attack on Libya began, the bulk of theYemeni army has deserted the embattled President and joined the opposition protesters.

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/middle-east/yemen-live-blog-march-22

LarryHart said...


Since water vapor is also heavier than air, they've also disproven the existence of rain.


Over 30 years ago when I first started college, my girlfriend's roommate was from a tiny town in Iowa and had never seen a big city. I remember her insisting that traffic jams on interstate-style highways were impossible because there were no places where cars had to stop. And she was an engineer!

I used to wonder what the point was of trying to "prove" the impossibility of something that self-evidently DOES indeed happen. But then, I also remember all the supposed proofs that bumblebees can't fly.

Paul said...

Sociotard,
"and reduce the military itself drastically [...] it would hinder future George Bushes from seeking out military adventurism."

Your version of starve the beast?

(sefecies: Doctrine of Security Through Disinformation.)

David Brin said...

Bah. a strong Pax Americana saved the world. Its crimes were real, but the proof is all around us. Six out of seven billion people have never known war and Five out of sever have entered some kind of middle class life, amid peaceful trade and rapid progress.

Further proof. No empire is ever loved. But beyond any doubt the US is the LEAST-HATED empire of all time. In part because people sense we're uncomfortable with the role, giving in to its temptations then cursing ourselves for doing so.

No, what fascinates me is the difference in STYLE between Republican and Democratic wars. If Libya plays out....

Paul said...

David,
Re: Citizens in crises. (News at 11)

There have been a bunch of sociology experiments (and segments on lite current affairs shows) about the "Bystander Effect", where you ignore obvious suffering because it's Somebody Else's Problem.(**)

I've wondered for some time if the constant pre-9/11 refrain from officials/police, and sometimes employers, not to resist robbery ("It's only money/a car" "It's not your money" "It's not worth risking your life") has worsened crime. Because it's not just money/car. It's your society, your civilisation.

But combining that with the bystander effect, does the professionalisation of emergency responders reduce the psychological ability of citizens to respond? Does it make them physically unable to act?

(** Apparently the way to break that mindset, if you're in need, is to pick out one person and say "Can you help me?" not "Can someone help me?" You immediately switch them from observer to participant. Which also gives others the message that it's okay to get involved.
Humans... fascinating species.)

ell said...

RE: Using robots at the Japanese nuclear plants

Would a local atmosphere thick with radiation interfere with radio waves, cutting off communication with a robot or a person in a lead-lined suit?

ell said...

David: Yes, I thought of your JIT informatrion when I heard that the Japanese cupboards and stores were empty. It was explained that Japanese homes are small and have no room for an extensive pantry. Home design in Japan may be in for some serious enlargement in cupboard space.

Tony Fisk said...

I think I commented about the quake being a test for JIT. Previously, it's been hypothesised that something like a 'Carrington Event' (a direct hit from a large Coronal Mass Ejection, such as happened in 1859) would cause massive grid power surges and blow a lot of *very* expensive and not easily replaced transformers (FWIW the sun is currently being more closely and continuously studied than ever before. There should be enough warning time for the grid to be battened down. Then again, nuclear reactors shouldn't melt down because of a bit of misapplied seawater.).

Against that is news of an Earthquake Ravaged Japanese Highway Rebuilt in Three Days

Robert said...

CNN took umbrage at Fox News claiming reporters were used as human shields. They called Fox News deceitful and mentioned that Fox News DID send someone out with a camera, and that the chap was surprised as normally he wasn't sent out with cameras or the like. (In short, the cowards at Fox News in Libya sent out a sacrificial goat expecting someone to die.)

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

To which said Fox reporter responds with ad hom. attacks on CNN.

Meanwhile, in case you hadn't yet figured this out, a report on why conservatives are climate change skeptics

noutiol: an analgesic to relieve symptoms induced by strenuous denialism

Stefan Jones said...

Whoops, that was me right above.

RE heavy CO2 not causing the greenhouse effect:

I lost all respect for the Cato Institute when, after a decade of denying the Ozone Hole, they put one of their flacks into a debate about pollution controls during a particularly bad smog season in L.A.

Paraphrasing: "I'm angry! These curbs on ozone pollution are counterproductive! Haven't you heard about the damage to the ozone layer? We NEED that ozone to protect ourselves against ultraviolet radiation!"

David Brin said...

good article re climate change... but wrong in many details. Neocons don't diss science in order to deny climate change. They deny climate change in order to help diss science.

Cato is wholly owned by the oligarchy. The pundits and "scholars" there are either knowing whores, or else too stupid to notice that they have been suborned into full scale support of a putsch by exactly the worst enemy of freedom and markets, as proclaimed by Adam Smith.

Corey said...

It's a pretty good article with some good observations, though observations that don't completely fit the entire world.

For instance, while the far left in Australia really does oppose any sort of nuclear technologies almost reflexively, in Germany and France it supplies an enormous portion of electrical power (earlier today, a friend quoted 75% as the figure for Germany, but it could well be very wrong).

In the US, many people on the "left" (by which I guess I mean the center, as opposed to the right) advocate nuclear power. Many of us also don't have a reflexive hatred of GM crops, though it's worth noting that they aren't without their own issues, preferably as those issues are to global food shortages.


He's also too rigid in how he presents things. For instance, AGW's implications do not necessarily suggest that our hard work industrializing is a bad thing, merely that we need to slightly modify our means of doing things if we're to continue that hard work. It's not like industrialization didn't have its problems before AGW cropped up. Mass pollution of the air we breath, enormous wealth disparity and the rise of corporate oligarchies, lapses in worker safety that would make one cringe (think The Jungle), these things have been problems for centuries, yet at no point (insofar as I know) did Upton Sinclair or Theodore Roosevelt stand up and condemn industrial technology as evil.

We already know industrialization has consequences, of which AGW is just part of a long list. Having to fix these problems doesn't mean it's a bad thing. In a sense, it's just the opposite. The very fact that we CAN fix these problems means that we get to have the benefits of industrialization, and outgrow the need to suffer the trade-offs. We get to have our cake AND eat it. If you ask me, that says a lot for our civilization's hard work in advancing.

Abilard said...

It would seem that this whole global warming thing has happened before:

Chavez says capitalism may have ended life on Mars

Global warming there turned the place into an ice box too... or is it global wetting that we should be concerned about?

I forget. ;-)

Tony Fisk said...

Maybe he was referring to the TV show?

Abilard said...

He's wrong in any case. We Martians survived! As microbes:

Are you a Martian?
We all could be, scientists say — and an MIT-developed instrument might someday provide the proof


And now capitalism is back. Take that pinkos!

Gilmoure said...

Krugman said... ...the underlying problem is that anyone with actual expertise and any kind of public profile — in short, anyone who is actually qualified to hold a position — is bound to have said something, somewhere that can be taken out of context to make him or her sound like Pol Pot.

And others are talking about the war on professionalism.

Gilmoure said...

Ell said... Would a local atmosphere thick with radiation interfere with radio waves, cutting off communication with a robot or a person in a lead-lined suit?

Nope, Sandia Lab has a range of robots they've developed for internal reactor work. Is likely we won't see robot madness like H. Beam Piper wrote about in Cosmic Computer.

Gilmoure said...

Edit on my previous post: Ok, radiation can interfere with electronics in robots (I read through the whole story) but shielding can keep things working for awhile. I'd heard the story of how one our 'bots had fixed things but didn't have all the details before.

Tony Fisk said...

Yes, we are all martians. I've seen Five Million Years to Earth as well!

brinha: an expression of contemptuous dismissal. To cast aside. Often applied to a fully functioning boomerang.

rewinn said...

"...I used to wonder what the point was of trying to "prove" the impossibility of something that self-evidently DOES indeed happen..."

Perhaps it's a group identifier. Like believing in Transubstantiation, Creationism, that The Party is the Vanguard of the Masses That Will Wither Away, or that The Seahawks Will One Day Win A Superbowl, the key point to these beliefs is not that they affect day-to-day living (...who ever made a moral decision based upon the True Prescence? ...) but that they distinguish Us from Them.

Indeed, the stranger the belief, the more clearly they may function to distinguish Our Tribe from Your Tribe.

--------

Obviously it wasn't capitalism that ended life on Mars, but the excesses of the revoluntionary vanguard that turned it into the RED PLANET.

(And my kudos to y'all for refraining from the obvious quips about only men are from Mars ... a clear case of xynogenesis!)

--------

Libya's certainly a messy situation, and there may be some reason to the questions about why intervention in Libya and not in Darfur or Yemen. However if the Libyan intervention is "good", or at least neutral, it doesn't become "bad" just because some other intervention is not taken. People and nations must be free to choose which good they may persue, although a certain cynicism may be allowed in analyzing their choices.

One difference between Libya and Bahrain is that there is an actual revolt in the former that has occupied territory. It would be theoretically possible to partition the nation, putting peacekeepers between East and West Libya. UN peacekeepers have worked pretty well in Cyrus for decades (although there are scandals in some other places). While not as ideal as a palace coup followed by elections, this would achieve the limited goal of stabilizing the situation, which is better than Gadafi wreaking the revenge he promised upon Benghazi or introducing American troops into yet another ground war. My limited understanding is that the rebel forces lack the organization to oust Gadhafi even if they were given the weapons, and neither Egypt nor Algeria may be in shape to do for Libya what Tanzania did for Uganda. American policy may be faulty but it's hard to imagine what a perfect policy may be, other than to try believing in our ideals about elections and stuff.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me, modern politics have come down to two sides who take their tribal identity from a collection of single issue positions.
So true liberals all endorse and fight for basket A, all true conservatives for basket B.
And the moderates are those who pick issues out of both baskets. This means that no matter how nutty the collection is, if it draws from both baskets it has to be moderate.

So where on the political spectrum do the folks like me fit? Ya know the people who's automatic response to pontificating is to say "Ya, but......"

Anonymous said...

David: " I never knew spent power rods were so dangerous."

You're kidding, right? Decades of supporting nuclear power, and you never knew that? It has been the single biggest (and best) argument the anti-nuc crowd has been shouting for the last 40+ years.

BTW: Every one who posts that the Japan reactors were "40-years old", and therefore not as safe as the ones today, should remember that virtually ALL US reactors are also, 40+ years old.

Harry said...

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Paul said...

Story doing the rounds in Aus at the moment. Australian rescuer in Japan claiming to be part of an independent rescue not-for-profit but has no credentials, no training, and no other rescue organisation have heard of him/them. (Suspicion is that it is something like those guys who pretended to be vietnam vets.)

The nasty side of citizen responders.

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

"...I used to wonder what the point was of trying to "prove" the impossibility of something that self-evidently DOES indeed happen..."

Perhaps it's a group identifier. Like believing in Transubstantiation, Creationism, that The Party is the Vanguard of the Masses ...


While I understand your point, that doesn't explain my old girlfriend's roommate's refusal to believe in traffic jams, nor does it explain "proofs" that bees can't fly.


(...who ever made a moral decision based upon the True Prescence? ...)


Now, THAT's a point I find very interesting. As a religious skeptic, I've wondered many times if there are any moral decisions that DEPEND upon the existence of God.

I'm not talking about the sort of thing where a Believer might do the right thing out of love of God or fear of Hell, and a non-believer might cheat and do the wrong thing because he neither loves nor fears God. I mean something more along the lines of...can you imagine a situation where IF God exists, then the moral thing to do is X, but if God does NOT exist, then the moral thing to do is Y? Where the notion of "What is the morally correct thing to do?" actually DIFFERS depending on whether or not God exists?

LarryHart said...


Obviously it wasn't capitalism that ended life on Mars, but the excesses of the revoluntionary vanguard that turned it into the RED PLANET.


I loved the bit in the "Watchmen" comic (maybe the movie too, but I never saw it) when Dr Manhattan leaves earth to go to Mars and suddenly the Russians threaten nucelar war. "If he had wanted to live on a red planet, he could have stayed on this one!"

Paul said...

LarryHart,
"nor does it explain "proofs" that bees can't fly."

Errr, do you mean "it doesn't explain why people persist in believing the myth that 'science proved bumblebees can't fly' when a two second google search would show it's an urban legend", or are you saying you believe the myth?

Paul said...

LarryHart,
"can you imagine a situation where IF God exists, then the moral thing to do is X, but if God does NOT exist, then the moral thing to do is Y?"

Wouldn't the answer be obeying religious law? While some of the laws reflect innate human notions, and perhaps others related to practical matters of specific times and places (**), others are not just stupid but downright evil (by modern standards).

(** I imagine a lot of our own dumb laws had very local origins. "It's illegal to marry a mule" created specifically to counter one particular smart-arse or loon.)

Sociotard said...

I'm not talking about the sort of thing where a Believer might do the right thing out of love of God or fear of Hell, and a non-believer might cheat and do the wrong thing because he neither loves nor fears God. I mean something more along the lines of...can you imagine a situation where IF God exists, then the moral thing to do is X, but if God does NOT exist, then the moral thing to do is Y? Where the notion of "What is the morally correct thing to do?" actually DIFFERS depending on whether or not God exists?

That does seem to come up for a few different religious groups. For example, the Jehovah's Witness proscription against blood transfusion.

ell said...

Or whether it's moral to have multiple spouses or eat pork.

David Brin said...

Larryhart asks the most interesting questions:
".can you imagine a situation where IF God exists, then the moral thing to do is X, but if God does NOT exist, then the moral thing to do is Y? Where the notion of "What is the morally correct thing to do?" actually DIFFERS depending on whether or not God exists?"

The answer is simple. WHICH "God"? And which morality?

Jonathan Haidt found that most morality boils down to five things: Fairness, Equality, Purity, Authority and Group Bonding.

Conservatives (Haidt says) feel that all five are hugely important, while liberals tend to emphasize the first two above all else.

Thus, a conservative's fierce enforcement of "moral codes" relating to the last three would seem immoral to a liberal. And the liberal's laxity on those three would seem immoral to the conservative. Of course the conservative also loathes the Purity, Authority and Group measures taken by those in OTHER belief systems.

Comments:

1) The final three seem based upon group self-reinforcement and meme-tending, and above-all fear. When fear levels are low and group-tending less important, naturally, the first pair will rise in importance.

2) For liberals (especially leftists) to claim not to partake in the latter three AT ALL is specious. Purity? There are tons of left-wing purity sanctimonies, and references to authority (though less explicit).

Paul said...

NewSci has an article about the amount of salt believed to have built up in the Japanese reactors as the heat evaporates the water. They estimate 26 tonnes of salt in unit one, 50 tonnes each in units 2 & 3.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20283-sea-salt-may-be-hampering-japan-nuclear-recovery.html

Paul said...

Oh, NewSci also have a suggestion for changing democracy so that people are ruled by the party they vote for. Multiple independently operating governments. Like state/council governments, but demographic instead of geographic.

Tony Fisk said...

I have aired a couple of notions for democratic procedure:

- a form of twitter based democracy forum 'Rook Parliament'

- an election every month, one seat at a time.

Ian said...

Tony,

I like the idea of participatory democracy.

Briefly, anyone can nominate to run for Parliament, if they pass a certain number of votes, they get to be seated - and they cast as many votes as they received.

(You'd still have geographic electorates so you didn't end up with a Parliament consisting of two people.)

Every 3 or 6 months, people could shift their vote to a different candidate.

If a representative lsot too much support, they'd lose their seat and there'd be a new elecction in their district.

Stefan Jones said...

A post which I'd accidentally posted as Anonymous got reaped.

A must-read essay for anyone interested in disaster preparedness and citizen volunteering:

Learning From The Earthquake by Stewart Brand

Warning: The above is short on bravado and feel-good bullshit. It is Brand's account of helping out in the aftermath of the '89 San Francisco quote. It involves death and tragedy.

'eurvirboe': I like it, but I'm having trouble coming up with a meaning.

Ian said...

http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2011/Wilkinson.pdf


I haven't read this tight through yet but the thesis is interesting - more equal societies produce better outcoems not just for those at the bottom but for everyone.

Ian said...

Re. the training of Saudi air force pilots in the US:

Back during the Suharto dictatorship I asked one of my lecturers if he thoguht it was wise to train Indonesian army officer in australia.

His response: "How else are we going to recruit them to spy for us?"

Duncan Cairncross said...

Onto a separate - topic
I have just submitted to Parliament on the proposed "Road Users Charges Bill"

Here in NZ proposed bills and acts have to be published online and we all get to submit our documents or complaints - we can even opt to attend a hearing

Now this does not mean the politicians do as we ask (!!!!!!) - but we do get to read the bills in advance and comment on them

Bills and Acts are all single purpose units - and start with a description of what they intend to do
I have found them to be very clearly written

I gather you don't have this in the USA - IMHO this is one of the most important things your Coffee Party or other grass roots organisations should be working for -

LarryHart said...

Paul:

LarryHart,
"nor does it explain "proofs" that bees can't fly."

Errr, do you mean "it doesn't explain why people persist in believing the myth that 'science proved bumblebees can't fly' when a two second google search would show it's an urban legend", or are you saying you believe the myth?


No, I'm questioning why people spend time "proving" that something is impossible when the something is seen to occur by billions of people every day.

I suppose I can understand the supposed bumblebee proof having some humor value.


LarryHart,
"can you imagine a situation where IF God exists, then the moral thing to do is X, but if God does NOT exist, then the moral thing to do is Y?"

Wouldn't the answer be obeying religious law?


If any PARICULAR religious laws could be said to logically follow from the existence of God, then yes. But that ends up being the rub, doesn't it?


(I imagine a lot of our own dumb laws had very local origins. "It's illegal to marry a mule" created specifically to counter one particular smart-arse or loon.)


I'm not an avid Bible reader, but my wife and I read througn it looking for passages to read at our wedding. We absolutely cracked up over a passage in...Leviticus, was it?...asserting that a woman seeing her husband attacked by another man could NOT come to his aid by grabbing the other man's testicles and stretching them in different directions.

There HAD to be a specific incident prompting that one.

LarryHart said...

suggestions for laws dependent on God's existence:

That does seem to come up for a few different religious groups. For example, the Jehovah's Witness proscription against blood transfusion.

Or whether it's moral to have multiple spouses or eat pork.


Those are examples where the laws don't apply if God doesn't exist. However, God's existence doesn't make any of those things NECESSARILY moral--you also have to believe in the specific communications from God that said those were actual laws. Also, none of them seem morally WRONG if God DOESN'T exist. You could play it safe and obey those laws just in case God actually asserted them, and no harm done if He's not there. Kinda like Dr Brin's "Things we should do anyway."

What I was wondering if there is a real moral CHOICE to be made where before making the correct decision you would NEED to know whether or not God exists as part of your moral calculus.

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