Friday, March 10, 2017

Inconvenient facts: The future of news.. and "otherness" has been stolen!

I recently spoke (via Beam robot) at a conference on “The Future of News Media” hosted by the Institute For The Future (IFTF), in San Francisco. An erudite gathering of concerned men and women from around the world discussed problems of Fake News, declining advertising revenues, state interference, self-censorship, and the web’s tendency to corral individuals into self-isolated pocket universes that reinforce their prejudices. In the short time allocated to me as kickoff speaker, I tried to give (ahem) ‘unusual perspectives’ on each of these topics.


Make no mistake, the survival of independent and professionally trained news media is vital to our civilization, just as undermining such experts is essential to the agenda of our rising caste of would-be masters.

I always have lots of unconventional things to say, but one stands out and you will see it repeated forever, till it’s tried on a large scale. Wagers.  Dares! Bets. Putting money on actual verification or disproof.

It is the only approach that will work, in an era when romantics have declared that all is subjective. That incantation works for macho guys… till something tangible is on the table. Then? Recall that most of these fake-news slathering fellows are also sports fans. And they know, deep down, that there comes a time when you can no longer talk your way out of comparing actual facts.

They grasp the idea that a wager has to be resolved. And it will turn on what can be proved. And now machismo becomes our friend, since it over-rules subjectivity!  If you flee from a bet, you are shamed. And if you refuse to pay-up, you are un-manned, period.

I broached this at the conference, as one of many observations and speculations about the future of news. It only got blinks of confusion from those erudite folks, showing how alien is their elite, mature, fact-loving world from that of the Confederacy that gave us this tsunami of fake-news. But give it time. Experiment with it. Because something has to be done. And this approach will go to the root, the heart of the problem.

== "Otherness"... redefined by monsters! ==

Ouch! Do we never get to keep nice things? Way back around 1990 I coined a term that later became the title of my 2nd story collection: OTHERNESS. It stood for the trend - in our recent, enlightenment renaissance - to be fascinated with horizons. To look beyond the immediate and near and familiar. And, yes, this manifests in many of us - those with some confidence - in a willingness to expand our boundaries of inclusion, to encompass "others."

Extending my essay "The Dogma of Otherness" (in OTHERNESS), I later showed how this process is inversely proportionate to fear, and has been, across most (maybe all) human cultures. It explains why the calmly confident society crafted by the Greatest Generation became one obsessed with expanding horizons.

Alas, all that has been sabotaged. Instead of rising in confidence - as Americans and all advanced and advancing nations should be doing now, amid very good times - we are letting ourselves be talked into quaking, quivering terror.

That I find upsetting. But want to see me really pissed off? Now my optimistic and brave term - "otherness" - has been stolen! Appropriated not only without credit or provenance, but given diametrically opposite meaning!

It's like the way they took the term "fake news" - which stood for their tactic to rile up an unsapient confederacy - and grabbed it as one more polemical weapon to use - in stunning irony - against real news media.

Alas, even those writing cogently against the madness keep falling for these traps, as with this fellow, who blithely accepts the alt-right definition of "otherness," ceding ground, even while whining about it. We can do so much better.


== Teaching the young – and old farts ==

Stanford professor Sam Wineburg lays out the steps educators need to take to help students discern what is fake news or not. “The tools we’ve invented are handling us,“ he says, “not the other way around.”  

A commenter suggested that the way to counter “alternative-facts may be to use their own s### against them: “When Trump says that 3 million illegals voted in the last election, tell them it doesn't matter because a majority of them voted for Trump! If he asks where you got the information, just say it was from the same source that he did. Or that it is common sense. Or that you "heard it on the internet." Or all the other lame excuses they use.

“When they make up stuff, make up stuff about their stuff. Be truthful about our stuff, but for their stuff, let you imagination run wild. Without facts to back up their claims, there is no way they can disprove any claim you make.”

It is a very, very dumb proposal.  We have other ways to win.

== The fact people ==

Evonomics is the place for erudite and fact-rich proof that inequality and huge wealth disparities are NOT healthy or faithful to fair-competitive market enterprise or even capitalism. 

An article online about cheating in economics explains how we are rediscovering the wisdom of Adam Smith and how parasite “rentiers” are not the friends of capitalism. Monopolists, “finance wizards” and passive lease-collectors create nothing and certainly do not compete. See both how Smith denounced the vampire effects on markets… and how it’s played out - to Dracula proportions - today.  

The Real "Takers" in America: Michael Lind’s article in Evonomics shows the kind of rooseveltean thinking that the oligarchs deeply fear might take hold.An Anti-Rentier movement would oppose unproductive, ill-begotten wealth, not the rich in general. Wealthy individuals who get richer by investing in start-up companies or funding long-lived, creative blue-chip firms provide a valuable benefit to society, even as they risk losing their own money. Such risk-taking investors are the opposites of financial sector rentiers who seek to bribe policymakers into letting them privatize their gains while socializing their losses.”

Radical? A bit, sure. But what’s the alternative? Do the rentier-oligarchs actually believe they can crush us back into inherited-nobility and feudalism?  If the coming re-set is not a moderate-pragmatic, rooseveltean one - as instituted by the Greatest Generation - then it will be something much more radical. Already, search results for Karl Marx” have skyrocketed, in recent years.

Finally, someone else is pointing out that "Obamacare" was always the Republicans' own plan, all along! This young, democratic Congressman lays it out so clearly that even a Fox-watcher would understand… and perhaps start scratching his head, asking: "So what was all the screaming about? And why did I ever watch Fox?" 

Oh, I am gonna keep my eye on this Rep. Brendan Boyle fellah.

== Other things that got (a lot) better ==

Expect a new section in these missives: Bad News/GoodNews.

The Bad News: Obama’s Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is an example of the brainpower and expertise that we lose. He’s a nuclear physicist for MIT who has been involved in government energy projects for two decades. His designated successor, former Texas governor Rick Perry, has no comparable educational or business background that would equip him for the job.

(To be clear, I am miffed that our present situation leaves me delighted to see Perry in the cabinet. For all his faults and awful limitations, RP seems at least to be an American of normal IQ and no cultist. Such a low bar.)

The Good News:  Read how Moniz says that our accomplishments in developing efficient, sustainable and non-carbon technologies are irreversible. Despite treasonous obstruction by The Cult, these techs have now taken off, reaching beyond break-even, drawing every utility and energy-using entity away from carbon sources. “Smart government policies have encouraged and reinforced this evolution, but it now has a life of its own, studies suggest.”

Filthy coal has collapsed as U.S. supplies of much cleaner natural gas burgeoned, with America attaining effective energy independence under Obama, for the first time in 40 years.  The Energy Department estimates that 61 percent of the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector from 2006 to 2014 came from switching from coal-fired plants to gas-fired ones. (A side effect no one seems to have reported: even with our troops helping governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no longer a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Middle East. We just don’t need that region for our own survival, anymore.)

Gas is a stopgap. “Continuing declines in the costs of alternative energy sources are making them increasingly competitive. Since 2008, costs have fallen 41 percent for land-based wind power and 64 percent for utility-scale solar power. The cost of efficient LED light bulbs has fallen 94 percent since 2008. The cost of battery storage has declined 70 percent over that period, making electric vehicles more affordable. As of last August, there were 490,000 electric vehicles on the road.”

Want another? Chart some national statistics and how they did across the Obama administration. In only one case was there not a huge improvement… the national debt.  But the size of the debt is a huge lagging indicator.  Far more significant is the rate of change of the rate of change of debt. By that metric, any fiscal conservative can see on a single chart (that I provide) how they would be insane ever to trust a republican with a burnt match.

Ah, but PrezDon screamed that all favorable statistics under Obama were lies... but now that the momentum on jobs is continuing... it's all real!  

The ultimate answer to government is useless: Evonomics chose my essay as ideal to cap off a tumultuous year, and to welcome one that might be much better. That is, if we choose to remember where all our good stuff came from. It came from a civilization that (once) encouraged negotiation based on facts. One that benefited from educating millions. One that developed the fantastic tool known as science.

One of you wrote in to comment about how intense public reaction stopped Paul Ryan’s reavers from: 1- neutering the Congressional Ethics Office, 2- rushing Trump’s confirmations before ethics reports come in, and 3- canceling the ACA before a new health plan is ready.  Sayeth Stefan: “Calling and emailing your representative and senators WORKS.  You look up their contact information here. 

And if you want to get involved in organized resistance, you read the Indivisible guide and join one of their local groups.”

And yet, while I will write letters and even sometimes march... that is not how we'll win.  It's yummy and satisfying, but only entrenches civil war. This sumo is what they want. It's necessary, but if we only do sumo, we lose.

Victory will only come via Judo.

== The expert on despotism ==

Populism and Totalitarianism: Roger Berkowitz Sheds light on probably the greatest expert on despotic regimes, Hannah Arendt. In her chapter on “The Totalitarian Movement” in The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt notes that the leaders of movements are marked by their “extreme contempt for facts as such.” The reason for this contempt for facts is that the world is complicated and uncertain. For the masses of people who are suffering dislocation, instability, and meaninglessness in their lives, “movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations.”

The great danger in all movements is that they can have no firm goal; as movements, they continually need to stir up their supporters who drive them forward. If any goal is met, a new one must be contrived. So movements are motivated less by a firm end than by a promise to fulfill a deep spiritual need. That is why movements mobilize masses who are longing for a “completely consistent, comprehensible, and predictable world.” There is a “desire to escape from reality because in [the mass of the people’s] essential homelessness they can no longer bear its accidental, incomprehensible aspects…

135 comments:

Brother Doug said...

Excellent writing Dr. Brin!

Anonymous said...

If the erudite audience is confused, it mayhap be because someone has wandered off into the magical rose-tinted-blinkers Brinlandia where, among other things, America has

> "effective energy independence"

What exactly is "effective"? You keep on trotting out (and flogging) this line sans evidence. One definition of "effective" might be zero Carbon imports (nope!) or perhaps with a stretch and fuzzy math declining Carbon imports (nope!) so what's your definition and where's the data to support this claim?

David Brin said...

Yammering dope. "Effective energy independence" means we are steadily rising in sustainables *and* local petro production so that there are no security reasons to fret over access to overseas supplies. It does not (imbecile) mean buying ZERO oil overseas, when good prices let us keep some of our own supplies in the ground.

It means no longer keeping a carrier group in the Persian Gulf. And taking oil off the top compelling reasons to flail about in the Middle East. Rather, judiciously trying to decide better strategies and tactics there based on calm appraisal, rather than panic. At least that was the situation under Obama. Until hysterical coward shrieker-panickers took charge, under the Bannon-banner "let's precipitate the existential crisis that will make America a Christian bastion!"

dope.

Daniel Duffy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Duffy said...

Don't kid yourself about solar energy being unstoppable. Any technology can be banned by a sufficiently repressive state. See the banning of firearms by the Tokugawa Shogonate.

Daniel Duffy said...

Dear Dr. Brin - Your comments section could really use a simple editing function instead of a clumsy deletion option. Just a suggestion.

Daniel Duffy said...

First, let's examine WHY solar energy has become so cheap, it's not for the reason you think. No doubt solar has hit a tipping point and is looking at potentially exponential growth. But this is not the result of advanced photo-voltaic cell design. Rather its the result of boring, mundane things like over production, creative financing that allows Joe Homeowner to see immediate positive cash flow from his roof top solar installation and cheap less labor intensive installation methods:

http://foresternetwork.com/distributed-energy-magazine/be-energy/be-solar-energy/why-solar-why-now/

And the market has been glutted with an overproduction of solar panels. How did this happen? Capitalism actually benefitted from poor economic planning on the part of the Chinese Communist Party’s central bureaucracy. Instead of China once again figuring out how to make something cheaper, the strategic economic planners in Beijing wanted to dominate the solar panel market through sheer size. Their government established subsidized loans, which in turn resulted in Chinese companies building a huge number of factories....Still, the solar panel market became dominated by China, which produces 63% of the world’s solar panels as well as wind turbines. But the strategy has fallen apart as Chinese production capacity continued to exceed the rapidly growing global demand. And now, the Chinese are staring at financial disaster for both the state run banks that issued $18 billion in subsidized loans to solar panel manufacturers and the local governments that provided loan guarantees and sold land to the manufacturers at cut-rate prices. As a result of their self-generated price war, China’s largest PVC manufacturers lose $1 for every $3 of sales. And the loans will be coming due soon. Meanwhile, consumers around the world benefit from falling prices.

When a homeowner or business buys a roof top solar panel array from SolarCity, the customer pays nothing. The upfront capital costs are usually beyond the reach of a typical homeowner. Instead, a customer contracts with SolarCity for a monthly bill for up to 20 years, greatly reducing the cash flow requirements for the homeowner. A potential buyer can then rationally compare the monthly saving from the eclectic bill with the monthly payments for the solar array and decide if installing solar panels makes financial sense. How does SolarCity (or its competitors who use the same business model) afford this since they have to incur the large initial capital costs of manufacturing? They got Wall Street banks to invest in the solar panels in the same way they invest in bonds and stocks, only this investment has much lower risk. So, in effect, these banks own pieces of solar panels across the country and will receive steady cash flow from these investments for the next two decades.

Labor for installation could cost as much as the solar panels themselves. But installation has gotten cheap because installation has gotten faster and easier. The framework, struts, and supports for solar panels are now designed for easy, snap-together installation. Each panel fits into the adjacent panel like the pieces of a puzzle....A study conducted by the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Georgia Tech Research Institute found that US solar panel installation labor costs can be decreased by over 40%, from $0.49 per watt to $0.29 per watt, by utilizing installation best practices. This can be achieved by the further adoption of a simple, safe, standardized base installation process. This approach, pioneered by German installers, allows for reliable installation at labor costs that are three and a half times cheaper. Faster installation can be achieved with specialized crews, each with a different assigned tasked (setting up scaffolding, racking, and module installation, etc.) working in sequence.

So what will keep solar from dominating the future energy market? The cost of storing peak energy production for later use when the wind stops blow and the sun isn't shining. I'll address that in my next post.

Dave Trowbridge said...

I think Jacques Lacan would be surprised at either of you claiming the term "otherness." Although I certainly prefer the idea behind your definition over that of the alt-right.

Daniel Duffy said...

Energy storage for renewables is a serious problem. All sorts of technological fixes are being tried:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/super-battery.html

... including: Mechanical Fly Wheels (compact but expensive and can only store energy for short periods)

Simple Heat Sinks (basic system heating a working fluid or box of rocks),

Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage (underground mines, porous strata, and reservoirs - where available),

Molten Salt Thermal Energy Storage (the way to go with concentrated solar power, but not very practical for systems smaller than utility scale),

Inflatable balloons filled by a solar powered air pump located at the bottom of a lake, uses natural water pressure to blow the stored air back out through a turbine,

Pumped Hydro Storage (pumped from a lower reservoir to a higher one and back down again through a turbine - still the cheapest and most efficient means of storing renewable energy, 98% of the world's stored renewable energy capacity is actually pumped hydro),

Electrical Batteries (like Tesla's Powerwall, extremely expensive but the only practical option for residential and commercial scale solar),

electrolysis and artificial leafs (that turn solar into hydrogen for fuel cells),

biofuels and the "internet of things" (more on both below).

Li-Ion batteries have made amazing strides in the past few years in terms of weight, charge, cost and lifetime (with 600 to 1000 charge cycles before needing replacement) but still have a ways to go before they can be as commonplace as a refrigerator or dish washer. Right now they are not practical for most consumers, and at the larger utility scale bulk heat storage systems are best. Even the best rechargeables wear out. And when batteries wear out they become toxic waste. Which is why I personally would prefer CNG vehicles to EVs. Think about how many cars get scrapped annually. Imagine the toxic waste disposal problems from millions of junked EVs every year. And millions more of Tesla Powerwalls. Maybe these new glass li-ion batteries will solve these problems:

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/245490-new-solid-state-battery-chemistry-glass-electrolyte-same-guy-pioneered-lithium-ion-cells

The best approach to solar energy storage may be biological, not mechanical:

http://foresternetwork.com/weekly/energy-storage-solutions-weekly/natures-own/

Genetically engineered microbes that convert raw sewage to methanol, algae genetically engineered to excrete biodiesel, exotic bacteria that makes biobutenal, yeast modified to make diesel as easily as it makes beer. The possibilities are endless.

Then there is the use of the internet of things to create a power storage swarm and hive mind capability of storing energy for later use in EV batteries or even appliances for later use. But this would require not just a smart grid but a genius grid. Research goes on.

But even a real breakthrough in renewable energy storage simply means an additional cost to the overall system. When people talk about the very real improvements in PVC costs and increased efficiency, that's only part of the story. Solar needs to be examined holistically as a complete system, not just the solar cells.

And holistically, solar energy is just not very efficient.

Daniel Duffy said...

My advice: if you live in a location where it makes financial sense then by all means put PVC arrays on your roof.

But don't bother with any energy storage system in your garage. Unless there is a major breakthrough in battery technology you are better off remaining hooked to the grid, saving money on your utility bills and selling the excess back to the grid.

Hybrid system and hybrid approaches, messy as they are, tend to be the best way to go.

Daniel Duffy said...

Fully committing to solar power for 100% of our energy needs requires massive installations. And they will need to be huge even if we cover all of our rooftops with PVC arrays. If we seriously try to achieve a carbon free energy base:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/02/solar-power-is-it-for-you/

"If we assume that 10 percent of this incident solar energy could be converted to electricity, supplying the energy used by the United States would require covering roughly two percent of the land in the US with solar cells—that's roughly the area of North Dakota. Since this is about 30 times our available roof space, supplying the grid with electricity from the Sun means building large solar farms."

An area the size of North Dakota means an awful lot of destroyed habitat.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Several points: Unfortunately "otherness" has always been a synonym for alien. I much prefer your usage, but the term wasn't stolen.

Wagers: I saw today that Elon Musk told the head of the Australian Energy Department that he could install 100mw in lithium ion batteries in South Australia, solving their power shortage, and do so within 100 days of signing the contract--or Australia would get the system for free! Now there's a wager that gets things done!

Repression of solar energy (Daniel Duffy's point): Nevada is making a mighty effort to suppress solar energy in what is the sunniest state in the union. (Detailed in "Years of Living Dangerously'). Given that they are (sort of) sandwiched between California and Arizona, two states that are aggressively pursuing development of solar power, this seems like a doomed venture. I'm sure you can guess what entities are underwriting Nevada's quixotic efforts to turn back the clock. Elon Musk has his gigafactory there, and the state is knowing for being fond of wagers. Hmmmmm....

Combining solar panels and fake news, I had a friend, an otherwise intelligent man who watches Faux News, tell me solar would never make it in California because deserts, where the panels needed to be, would quickly destroy them. So I fired up the 'pewter and showed him pictures of the two big facilities in the Mojave. He stared for a couple of seconds and declared, "It's a doomed venture. They'll never last." Despite appearances, this is an intelligent man, educated and well-read. But such is the power of fake news, or was we old-timers call it, "propaganda."

Jumper said...

I think I can run a deep freezer off nothing but solar. That's sort of like a battery. A half pound of salt in a gallon jug of water. Have to find the exact salinity, but if you get a partial freeze it will keep at 0 F. (-18 C.) until it melts. Maybe a good science project. A/C with a polyethylene 4'x4' cube frozen in the day by solar power, then melted at night to keep the house cool.

Ed Seedhouse said...

I urge you to look up "Modern Money Theory" for a view of the economy based on actual facts of how the money system actually works.

Without the "National Debt" there would be no money in the private sector. The money in the domestic private sector plus the money held in other countries *must*, as a matter of simple accounting, exactly equal, to the penny, the "National Debt".

How can a government that creates it's own money out of nothing ever run out of it? It obviously can't.

It can run out of resources and talent, but it can never run out of money. That doesn't mean it should create money without limitation, it shouldn't. But not because it will "go broke". Yes, you can have too much money in the economy, but you can also have too little. You can die of thirst or you can die of drowning.

Modern "mainstream" economists don't understand how money works, or they won't tell you if they do know. I urge you to look for yourself and use your own mind to see who is actually right about money.

Jumper said...

You have stumbled into a bunch who generally are enthused by Alexander Hamilton, who knew these truths well, Ed. He insisted on establishing a line of credit immediately.

David Brin said...

Daniel thanks for your exegesis on solar. Though there are also looming tech improvements in the efficiency of panels. No one is calling for fully committing to 100% solar.

My own complaint is not that we need power-battery pacs in our homes. It is that our solar roof systems shut DOWN during a blackout, because the power companies insist. A million solar homes in the US, and almost none of them will operate when we need them most. This needs to be reformed.

Existence reader said...

@ David Brin

The power company does not allow you to disconnect the main breaker, and run your castle as you see fit during a blackout?

David Brin said...

It would take a simple switch, that flicks during an outage, to let your solar power your house during daylight hours, even without storage. That switch is forbidden.

David Brin said...

Re: brain differences -- Links:
https://www.amazon.com/Republican-Brain-Science-Science-Reality/dp/1118094514

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201104/conservatives-big-fear-brain-study-finds

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/29/secrets_of_the_right_wing_brain_new_study_proves_it_conservatives_see_a_different_hostile_world/

TheMadLibrarian said...

We were lucky with our solar array; it was installed just in time to take advantage of a local loophole that let us sell surplus power during daylight, when we're not home and only a few appliances (refrigerator, freezer, server farm) need to run. Then we buy it back at night, for a lower price. These days, people here don't get that benefit; first their buybacks were nerfed, then the power company put a yuge surcharge on people who supply most of their own power. BTW, we own our panels, and are mostly on the way to paying off our investment 2 years after installation. The power company is screeching about dirty power from solar panels and doing everything it can to keep people from adding their own rooftop systems, but it's just peachy if they want to set up their own solar farms.

opit said...

" Instead of rising in confidence - as Americans and all advanced and advancing nations should be doing now, amid very good times - we are letting ourselves be talked into quaking, quivering terror." I don't know how much of that is actual fact and how much is propaganda in support of the lying "Patriot Act" which steals freedom under the mock risk from Islamists who live overseas. Meanwhile young American Muslims are being radicalized because of systemic abuse and abandonment by what is supposedly 'their' government. Lovely. I remember Obama - nominally a Christian - taking his oath of office using Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Qu'ran. It didn't take long before he was mocked for that instead of people noting he was leading by example.

David Ivory said...

The link to David's Evonomics article is broken - it should be this: -

http://evonomics.com/david-brin-ultimate-answer-government-useless/

Duncan Cairncross said...

RE Daniel- energy storage
600 - 1000 charge cycles
That would be two years! - electric cars commonly last 5 times as long - end even after that they still have 80% of capacity
5000 cycles would be a normal life - more if not fully charged/discharged
If your household storage battery is not cutting the mustard you would not biff it - you would get a new one and run them together
That would increase the live of both batteries

The Nissan Leaf has been getting less than this - but that is because they let the battery get too hot - the Chevy Volt has battery refrigeration for hot places like Arizona

When the battery is finally stuffed it won't go to landfill - there is simply too much copper in a battery - well worth recycling

My car (my icon) has a Chevy Volt battery - if I hadn't needed it for the car it would have gone in my house to store power from my solar panels - or it could have been used to enable me to use "night rate" power all day

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin - There is a reason for the shutdown during blackout. It's a safety feature that avoids the danger of "islanding". Significant dangers and even potential damage to the local grid can result if the grid experiences a power outage the and renewable energy source does not safely isolate (aka "island") itself from the down grid.

One of the most important issues in renewable energy design is the issue of islanding. This refers to what happens to the local recipients of power from a renewable energy source when electric power from the local grid fails. Under these conditions, unless prevented from doing so, the local distributed energy source will continue to provide electrical power for its customers. In the case of a solar panel array, it will continue to provide power so long as the sun is shining sufficiently. It in effects creates a local "island" of electrical power.

While this is good for the solar energy system's customer, who continues to have the lights on while surrounded by neighbors left in the dark, it can be extremely dangerous for utility line workers trying to restore power who don't realize that the power line is still charged, and in general can complicate the power restoration operation. This issue will only become more serious as solar energy and other renewables obtain a larger share of the electrical power market and are integrated into exiting grid systems. If not addressed, islanding can threaten the stability of entire grid systems.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Grid-tied systems without islanding capability should never have been developed, and no individual should ever buy one.

All that it takes to protect utility workers from electricity being backfed into the power grid is a switch that disconnects the home from the power grid before islanding is enabled. There are many well-known ways to do this.

The standard automatic transfer switch (that has been used with ordinary standby generator systems for many decades) has circuits that monitor the status of grid power at all times, while safely disconnecting the residence from the grid whenever the generator is supplying power to the residence. A similar technique could have been used in solar photovoltaic systems. The fact that this wasn't done was one of the stupidest blunders in electrical engineering history and was a major step backward in electrical system design.

There is a robust market in retrofits to give islanding capability to grid-tied systems. Many homeowners are horrified to learn that they have spent thousands of dollars and don't even have a backup power system, so they start looking for retrofits to fix their mess.

Most of these retrofits work quite safely, but the stupid design of the conventional grid-tied systems, and the multitude of ways they are connected (plus the multitude of DC battery voltages now in use) make any kind of retrofit inherently risky for the installer doing the retrofitting.


Daniel Duffy said...

Jerry - truth. Which is why even at residential scale its best to create micro-grids consisting of multiple homes (or entire neighborhoods) bundled together, and sharing their renewable energy sources. And the design and construction of these micro-grids has to be done in coordination with the baseline grid energy provider.

So the dream of true, off the grid, self reliant, sustainable energy is pipe dream.

Not that this dream was ever based on technology, economics or even the environment. The motivation behind the desire for off grid solar/wind power is basically political. It goes back the the basic divide int he American political psyche - the never ending argument between Hamilton (who favored large urban, industrial organizations, including strong central government) and Jefferson (who favored small rural, agrarian living, with a weak central government).

So those "tree-hugging hippies" wanting off the grid, sustainable solar are firmly in the Jeffersonian camp. They don't want to be beholden to and dependent on a powerful central agency like a power company. OTOH those that favor nuclear power as a means to fight climate change (as I do) would be Hamiltonians.

The Jeffersonian strain can express itself in many ways, from Confederate soldiers to modern Tea Party anti-government types - as well as those "tree hugging hippies". While Hamilton's vision includes both a strong central government with extensive regulation as well as the primacy of big banks and Wall Street trying to avoid said regulation.

Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows.

Daniel Duffy said...

So the current GOP is Jeffersonian in opposition to big government, Hamiltonian in support of big business/banks and Hamiltonian in regards to supporting government interference in private morality.

The current Democratic party is Hamiltonian in support of big government, Jeffersonian in opposition to big business/banks and Jeffersonian in opposition to government interference in private morality.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Ah, but PrezDon screamed that all favorable statistics under Obama were lies... but now that the momentum on jobs is continuing... it's all real!


That sort of blatant "We have always been at war with Eastasia" dissembling is a feature, not a bug. It's similar to what someone on an earlier post described as "Calling a donkey a horse".

There are two types of people here. When you and I hear an assertion so insultingly at odds with reason and fact, we scoff; we dismiss the speaker as so unreliable as to be not worth the time to listen to; we even wonder if we're being tested and we're supposed to point out the hypocrisy because no one could be expected to take this at face value.

The Trump supporter, OTOH, hears the same assertion and goes, "Ok, I've been given my marching orders. I've been told what to believe and defend until the next signal. Message received!"

The intent is to metaphorically "separate the men from the boys". To the supporters, it further separates them from objective reality, making them dependent on Herr Gropenfehurer to inform them what is and what is not. It also probably functions as a sort of German Enigma code. The surface text is meaningless. There's a message contained within subtly tuned so that Trump's supporters "understand" the communication emotionally: something along the lines of "Everything sucked under Obama. Now, I'm here, so it's all great!"

Yes, there's a certain humor in listening to Sean Spicer and company spout drivel, but never forget that This sophont is dangerous!






Daniel Duffy said...

If we want to limit CO2 emissions (an yes, climate change is real, we are causing it, and it will get worse if we don't do anything) our resource may be better spent on developing such things as the Allam cycle. In this system, natural gas and coal gas are used to run a standard combined cycle turbine generator - but with one crucial exception. The system burns the gas in a pure oxygen environment and then uses the CO2 itself as a super-critical fluid to drive the turbine. This makes it very easy to collect the CO2 in storage tanks, recycling it to drive the system, sequestering it, or selling it. Net Power's proposed Allam cycle facility in LaPorte, Texas anticipate a significant revenue stream from the sale of pressurized CO2 to oil and gas fields that will use it to force out more fuel while permanently sequestering the CO2 itself underground in the oil and gas fields. I see that as a win-win.

http://www.vox.com/2016/4/5/11347962/net-power

LarryHart said...

Daniel Duffy:

So the current GOP is Jeffersonian in opposition to big government, Hamiltonian in support of big business/banks and Hamiltonian in regards to supporting government interference in private morality.


Trump is anti-Hamiltonian because the case of "Hamilton" attempted discourse with Mike Pence. Also, he's not too big on immigrants.

OTOH,Trump is Hamiltonian because...

He knows nothing of loyalty,
Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty.
Desperate to rise above his station.
Everything he does betrays the ideals of our nation!


Strange bedfellows indeed, but then Trump sounds like a strange bedfellow in the first place.

:)

Jumper said...

Meters that turn power on or off remotely are in wide use. The power company could easily install one which disallows reconnection to their grid until they are ready. I smell the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity!

Daniel Duffy said...

Larry:

The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body — but, above all, over the mind. Power over matter — external reality, as you would call it — is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute.’

For a moment Winston ignored the dial. He made a violent effort to raise himself into a sitting position, and merely succeeded in wrenching his body painfully.

‘But how can you control matter?’ he burst out. ‘You don’t even control the climate or the law of gravity. And there are disease, pain, death ——’

O’Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand. ‘We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation — anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature.’

‘But you do not! You are not even masters of this planet. What about Eurasia and Eastasia? You have not conquered them yet.’

‘Unimportant. We shall conquer them when it suits us. And if we did not, what difference would it make? We can shut them out of existence. Oceania is the world.’

‘But the world itself is only a speck of dust. And man is tiny — helpless! How long has he been in existence? For millions of years the earth was uninhabited.’

‘Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.’

‘But the rocks are full of the bones of extinct animals — mammoths and mastodons and enormous reptiles which lived here long before man was ever heard of.’

‘Have you ever seen those bones, Winston? Of course not. Nineteenth-century biologists invented them. Before man there was nothing. After man, if he could come to an end, there would be nothing. Outside man there is nothing.’

‘But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.’

‘What are the stars?’ said O’Brien indifferently. ‘They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.’

Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O’Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection:

‘For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?’

Winston shrank back upon the bed. Whatever he said, the swift answer crushed him like a bludgeon. And yet he knew, he KNEW, that he was in the right. The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind — surely there must be some way of demonstrating that it was false? Had it not been exposed long ago as a fallacy? There was even a name for it, which he had forgotten. A faint smile twitched the corners of O’Brien’s mouth as he looked down at him.

‘I told you, Winston,’ he said, ‘that metaphysics is not your strong point. The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like."

Daniel Duffy said...

IMHO the degradation of American political discourse isn't so much the result of some Murdochian cabal as to advances in broadcasting technology.

Before the internet and cable there were only three main TV networks (and maybe the UHF station if you held the round antenna in the back of the TV just right). In such a market a thoughtful, sober and serious Walter Cronkite could still command up to half of the viewing audience.

Nowadays, with dozens of cable news outlets and thousands of internet news sites there is a need to stand out and get noticed. You can only do that by becoming freakish shrill or outrageously biased.

Hence we have InfoWars and Fox News - neither of which is deliberately trying to undermine democracy so much as establishing market share by pandering to ore-existing prejudices of old White Americans and/or fleecing the paranoid conspiracy minded rubes.

LarryHart said...

@Daniel Duffy,

Having gone that far quoting "1984", you couldn't keep going into my favorite line to quote?


But that's a different thing; in fact, the opposite thing.

LarryHart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Nowadays, with dozens of cable news outlets and thousands of internet news sites there is a need to stand out and get noticed. You can only do that by becoming freakish shrill or outrageously biased.


Y'know, I'm not sure the problem is multiple outlets so much as a business model for each outlet that wants viewers to be watching their particular outlet all of the time.

In the Walter Cronkite days, there were certain times of day when news was "published", and people would tend to tune in (or read the newspaper) at those times and feel themselves informed. At other times of day, they'd be watching or doing other things.

When cable tv came along and 24-hour news and weather stations appeared, my thought was "Great. Now I don't have to wait for the 6:00 or 10:00 news. Whenever I want to see what's going on, I can turn on the news station." I didn't envision watching more news than before--just that I could do it on my own schedule.

That's not how the news stations look at it, though. If they're running 24 hours, they don't want people watching an hour a day all throughout the day. They want to keep your eyeballs glued to their station. They're competing with other television stations for viewership at all hours.

The need for sensationalism does not come from competition between news stations so much as news stations competing with entertainment. Think of a 24-hour diner which doesn't simply want customers strolling in when they happen to be hungry, but tries to encourage them to eat instead of doing other things like working, playing, reading, or sleeping.

Paul SB said...

You guys might do well to read the articles Dr. Brin referenced above, about fear motivation, particularly the last one by Paul Rosenberg. It's quite long, but it is long because it is well nuanced. I only have a couple quibbles with it, but those are quibbles for future research. Anyway, it adds another dimension to the discussion of news networks, energy and pollution, and Hamiltonian vs. Jeffersonian thinking.

I realized almost as soon as I left yesterday that I had missed an opportunity to use the old Samuel Clemens "Rumors of Death" line ... even though it is semi-apocryphal. See:

http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/06/reports-of-my-death-are-greatly.html

Hippocampal atrophy sucks!

Dave Trowbridge said...

BTW, on another subject, I love, love, love the idea of using the Code Duello to expunge fake facts.

"Wagers. Dares! Bets. Putting money on actual verification or disproof [of fake news/alternative facts]....

"If you flee from a bet, you are shamed. And if you refuse to pay-up, you are un-manned, period."

So, how do we begin institutionalizing this? Late night TV is one place, I should think. Perhaps we could get a deep-pockets investor (Buffet?) to put up a pool of money to back reputable truth-tellers.

LarryHart said...

re: Samuel Clemens death line...

Holy crap. I always thought that was a line from his fiction. Specifically, from "Tom Sawyer".

LarryHart said...

Dave Trowbridge:

BTW, on another subject, I love, love, love the idea of using the Code Duello to expunge fake facts.

"Wagers. Dares! Bets. Putting money on actual verification or disproof [of fake news/alternative facts]....


I think we need to revive actually dueling. How else should President Obama respond to #SoCalledPresident's unfounded accusations of a felony other than:


Careful how you proceed, good man.
Intemperate indeed, good man.
Answer for the accusations I lay at your feet, or
Prepare to bleed, good man.

Dave Trowbridge said...

LH: As a joke, that gives rise to some amusing images, esp. given that Trump is an obvious coward. A good example: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/11/29/the-draft-dodging-bastard-and-the-five-old-marines.html

As a serious suggestion, well, I'm a Quaker. Enough said.

locumranch said...



As the concept of Otherness requires distinction, exclusion & dichotomy in order to exist, Otherness is DEAD because diversity acceptance cultists have killed it. Per Zygmunt Bauman:

"Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend (insomuch as) Social identities are relational; groups typically define themselves in relation to others; (and) identity has little meaning without the other”.

This definitional conflict is IRREDUCIBLE in the sense that it cannot be reconciled. As in the case of 'Black & White', we can attempt to eliminate this dichotomous category by arguing that this is a false non-exclusive distinction in the fashion of 'All Lives Matter', but NOT while simultaneously reinforcing the identity divisive argument that Black & White represent distinct, exclusive & dichotomous groups in the category-specific fashion of 'Black Lives Matter'.

It is Logical Fallacy, David's tendency to argue otherwise, yet he does so in an infuriatingly repetitious manner. He is Master of the Inherent Contradiction: (1) He glories in 'otherness' while arguing commonality; (2) he crows about off-grid energy 'independence' while insisting on interdependent grid-based infrastructure; (3) he exalts the amateur (populism) who he then subordinates to the expert (elitism); and (4) he lip-services decentralised libertarian individualism while demanding centralised hierarchical collectivism.

None of you are 'just whistling dixie' when you note that the Orwellian Nightmare has arrived in our lives because, according to David, (1) Difference is Sameness, (2) Independence is Interdependence, (3) Populism is Elitism and (4) Individual Freedom is Collective Servitude.

I now suspect that it is this very 'irreducibility' that makes David's Science Fiction "pop": The Inherent Contradictions that arise when he posits that the exotic is the ordinary, the usual is the exception, the individual is the collective and the aberrant is the norm.


Best

donzelion said...

Ack, step away for a few days and the debate moves on. Yet this was an old point on a personal matter...

Locumranch: an old point, on "It's clear that Donzelion is something of an Arabic language scholar"
Not in the slightest. But I read a few people who are scholars, and pay attention (Bernard Lewis is hardly one of the scholars I like - yet where he is scholarly, I pay attention).

"Be that as it may, the study of etymology is fraught with frequent translation & transliteration error"
Which is why it is best to rely upon the scholars. Amateur etymology is a frequently misleading habit. One injects superstition and 'maybe/possibly' hypothesis, where a scholar spends the years scrutinizing ancient texts to understand them and avoid armchair theorizing.

it behooves us to note that our resident Arabic language scholar is something of an 'a priori' Muslim Apologist
In a twisted, deluded bizarro universe where up is down and down is up and Muslims perpetrated a massacre at Bowling Green that the media refused to cover - perhaps you are correct. Yet while sometimes, I enjoy alternative realities, generally, I prefer this universe, where words have certain meanings independent of our preferences and fantasies.

"[Donzelion] must ASSUME that Islamophobia (no matter how well-reasoned & supported) represents either bigotry or delusion"
Indeed, I do assume any 'phobia' is backed by human fears, rather than rational understanding of what one is looking at. In that vein, I vigorously challenge inaccurate assertions (e.g., the Saudis controlled Murdoch and unleashed FoxNews upon America), sometimes presenting facts, sometimes merely focusing on the logic. End of the day, Muslims are very much a concern of mine - for a simple reason: there are nearly as many of them as there are Jewish Americans, the one group has been a target of persecution in America while the other is so now - and I tolerate no threats against any group in America.

If you recall, that included you, Locumranch, when you felt threatened by a surging Hillary and expected to be locked up and persecuted for your views not all that long ago.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re Republicans and Global Warming

I wrote, sardonically, "Scott Pruitt is hardly alone in shrugging aside causes of global warming, which are quite unlikely to drown Kansas any time soon "

Your response, in good faith, was: "Not from rising oceans, no. But Kansas is already subject to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, which will become worse over time. More drenching rain on very flat land is "a kind of drowning, Your Honor."

To which, my sardonic frame would respond: the folks who drown tend to be the 'rabble' that Pruitt and his ilk would happily see removed from Kansas. Folks living in trailers are the worst hit by tornadoes, simply because trailers offer little protection: if they are forced out, well, they don't vote 'true Red' anyway. If Miami drowns, the Miamians will disperse much like the Orleanians and Detroitians (Orleaners? Detroiters?). Most likely, they will make a few blue states a tad bluer, without disturbing the balance in red states.

It is in that subtle, unstated disdain "so what if the city burns" that the ugliest poison against America can be located. "So what if a couple dozen kids die of asthma? The EPA can't get away with these silly standards!" The war against science is in very large part an act of resistance against the cold, humorless question "how many children must die for your (a) smokestacks, (b) whatever other commercial pursuit.." Questions like that are painful. People of good faith try to answer that pain, and find a balance. People of bad faith reject the ones who present the evidence, and the science underpinning the questions.

Particularly when they benefit from such denunciations.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re virtue ethics and whether traders might be virtuous

I was responding to Alfred's point about the absence of virtue in trade typical of the 'old' ethics that predated (largely) and predominated before the rise of the bourgeoisie. In an ancient system (one borrowing from Aristotlian tradition, which became Catholic and early Protestant ethics) - even in the early Renaissance, 'traders' (or bankers) could be regarded as 'virtuous' if they used their works for the public good. Later, esp. in Protestant systems, various apologists determined that "God loves the poor and the rich alike (and might even love the rich more than the poor since God showered blessings upon them...)" - mingling religious with ethical formulas that see wealth as a possible good in itself.

The modern American "Christian wealth" theory is a rather unique fixture though, as it repudiates so many Biblical texts about wealth. Because the Bible itself is to inconvenient to these groups, they fixate upon the punitive fringe texts - particularly when they deal with minorities - e.g., the Levitical texts about sodomy are constantly reiterated, and the hundreds of passages about the plight of the wealthy man, reinterpreted, with facts and funny etymologies invented to limit their literal meaning. Having done that to the faith, which they revere, they can do it to anything and anyone - and will do so toward those they do not revere. Bullying has long been a fast means of amassing power, and the natural targets of bullying are any who lack the means to fight back.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Donzelion and LarryHart:

While Kansas has produced its fair share of unspeakable political morons, they can't be gigged for producing Pruitt. He's from Oklahoma.

dennisd said...

@donzelion
I'm giving a workshop/talk on Media Literacy & Fake News at my local library.
While discussing the notion of truth, facts and norms may I have permission to crib a phrase from a recent comment of yours.

"Words have certain meanings independent of our preferences and fantasies."

Thanks.

LarryHart said...

Dave Trowbridge:

LH: As a joke, that gives rise to some amusing images, esp. given that Trump is an obvious coward.
...
As a serious suggestion, well, I'm a Quaker. Enough said.


Trump is such a coward that he would never agree to a duel. He'd always weasel out and prove himself a coward. And the line of potential challengers would circle city blocks. The point is that, as Dr Brin pointed out, the manly Confederates would soon stop crediting the lies which he refuses to defend and which an unlimited number of challengers are all to willing to risk attacking.

donzelion said...

Daniel Duffy: re solar and the Chinese Communist Party - my take is a bit different, and more geostrategic than economic. As China dramatically advanced, from about 2003 onward, energy costs also dramatically increased (Iraq war, among other factors). Russian production increased in that initial period more than anyone else's - then American production from new fossil fuel sources. None of those countries are exactly sympathetic to China, which remains a decade or three away from establishing a blue water fleet capable of power projection to the regions where their critical energy would originate.

So: solar. Initially billed as a 'get rich quick' scheme in a country chock full of them ($18 billion in subsidized loans is the tip of the ice berg), predicated on German and other European subsidies, but ultimately blessed as in the geo-strategic interests of the state. The state of China's solar market was comparable to the dot-com boom in '99 - that will end as it must, but solar itself will move on.

That said, modern PV miracles are a contributing factor. I concur that more mundane factors are more important for the 2000-2015ish period, but in the next era? These things take a good decade or more to take hold (the keys to horizontal drilling that have revolutionized American fossil fuels production were laid in the late '80s-mid-'90s) and then prove themselves - but almost certainly will be the key factor in the next act.

Jumper said...

It bothers me that so many people who criticize "the media" seem to forget print media altogether and focus exclusively on TV. TV is geared to a substantial population of illiterates, or "aliterates" who know how to read but won't.

donzelion said...

Zepp - re solar power in the deserts

Perhaps your friend wasn't entirely wrong. Solar power in any of its forms costs a lot more than coal, oil, or natural gas to maintain at the plant level: panels break, burn up, etc. I do not know anyone who has shown that the maintenance side will ever be reduced to an amount comparable to a coal/oil plant. The thing is, your friend is probably only 'right' if myopia displaces a complete picture - fixating on the cost of the plant alone, rather than factoring in the total costs of the whole distribution chain (from the ground through the pipe through the refinery and then to the plant, not to mention geopolitical reality).

That said, I can picture a world in which the 'horrible job' of the future consists of installing and maintaining panels, rather than delivering calories through fast food outlets or disposable clothes through retail outlets. I cannot say it will be better or worse, but there are reasons to be a little optimistic.

donzelion said...

DennisD: I'm flattered, and of course, I suppose you can use anyone who posts here as you please - though there are far better quotes on that subject than mine.

Hope you have an excellent presentation, and form a group of people who will stick it to all the fakers! (Not just the Faux News and Breitbart crowds...I'm seeing these same tactics on the Left - and it annoys me every time...though the former have financiers behind them, and the latter seem to be primarily ad-driven. There is no parity between Murdoch/Mercer on the one hand, and Huffington on the other.)

donzelion said...

Zepp: re Pruitt - d'oh! LOL, stand corrected, and thanks: correction appreciated.

David Brin said...

Wow... lots of discussion.

Daniel D I well understand why the power companies don’t want spurious currents lashing out at their repair crews. But the islands could be switched to “self-maintenance” mode instead of just shut down. A million solar roofed homes could be islands of civilization to their neighbors. A place to bring their insulin and frozen food and recharge their batteries by day. The Shut Down instead of Switch to Isolation is so stupid it is tantamount to treason.

Jerry E… this retrofit should be CHEAP! Know of any in Southern CA?

Dave T: "If you flee from a bet, you are shamed. And if you refuse to pay-up, you are un-manned, period." So, how do we begin institutionalizing this?

VERY CAREFULLY! If you just offer a $10,000 wager like Romney did, reds will whine “you rich oligarchs are using money to bully!”

We need meetings and focus groups to parse the best way to lead confeds out onto a limb with craziness and then make the wagers unavoidable without blatant cowardice. I have some polemics that could work… starting with a dare to help form a genuine fact-checking service! But it is the best weapon and so must be developed with care.

David Brin said...


locumranch! Whatever meds you have taken, keep at it! You are on a roll. Not that a single thing you just said was true! Not even one item was. But the following was fascinating:

“It is Logical Fallacy, David's tendency to argue otherwise, yet he does so in an infuriatingly repetitious manner. He is Master of the Inherent Contradiction: (1) He glories in 'otherness' while arguing commonality; (2) he crows about off-grid energy 'independence' while insisting on interdependent grid-based infrastructure; (3) he exalts the amateur (populism) who he then subordinates to the expert (elitism); and (4) he lip-services decentralised libertarian individualism while demanding centralised hierarchical collectivism.”

Yes, this is your bad old habit of strawmanning. But you are parsing logical statements that MIGHT be true… in a totally Zero-Sum world that you live in.

Alas, what that paragraph shows us all is a near perfect exemplification of how zero-sum minds are incapable of even glancingly grasping positive sum notions. Not a single “contradiction” that you pose actually exists! But You THINK they do!

Guys, seriously, look it over and try to imagine an inhabitant of Flatland who screams the impossibility of there being anything called “up and down.”

“If you recall, that included you, Locumranch, when you felt threatened by a surging Hillary and expected to be locked up and persecuted for your views not all that long ago.”

Yep. We need to throw in their faces all the paranoid fantasies about Obama… not One of which came close to ever being true, even slightly. Ever. Even one. At all.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
"I do not know anyone who has shown that the maintenance side will ever be reduced to an amount comparable to a coal/oil plant"

Nobody has done a study relating the two maintenance costs because they are oceans apart!
I would be surprised if the maintenance cost of a solar farm were more than 1% of the maintenance costs of a coal plant producing the same amount of power

A coal power plant consts of a lot buildings and machinery that take up about 1/6th the area of a solar plant giving the same outfit
When you add the transport and mining requirements that ratio gets worse

But each square meter of solar plant consists of solar panels - which need an occasional wash and will continue to operate without attention for 30+ years

Whereas the coal plant is complex machinery needing continual maintenance - the main furnace is lined with refractory material that lasts a year or so and then needs to be relined

The maintenance requirements are chalk and cheese

Treebeard said...

This is a crazy society we live in, where well-funded, high-level media disinformation campaigns and propaganda wars are raging non-stop, but the topics change from week to week depending on who is winning the latest battle. Nor is it clear who the combatants even are or what their agendas are, which is probably why "conspiracy theories" are so rampant and widely believed. This could be a fatal bug in this kind of "Illuminated" society: by disconnecting itself so radically from all traditions and relying on mass media manipulation to steer the ship, America risks falling apart into chaos if the media/political system itself collapses (as it is now). There may be no need for military conquest to defeat America; simply destroy its system of propaganda and watch it turn it into an incoherent society and tear itself apart.

But don't blame the Russians, Murdoch or whoever; blame a mad, inorganic, merchant-dominated society that encourages this sort of thing. Everyone plays this game, from the beer merchant to the vote merchant to the ideology merchant. Your posts are full of suggestions about how to more expertly manipulate people into buying what you're selling. More meetings and focus groups by credentialed and concerned people, that's the ticket! As if those people haven't had their asses handed to them recently. That whole mentality is the problem. Trump says "here's your focus group expert opinion: you're fired!" and people love it.

To understand the current craziness, maybe try leaving your Enlightenment safe spaces and high horses and going into the darkness where human motivations are formed. This knowledge was encoded into every successful tradition and religion; when that was thrown out by revolutionaries and technocrats who thought ideology, analytics and focus groups could replace all traditions, they lost the plot and haven't been able to rediscover it. No amount of PC google-doodles is going to save this clueless class. The article you linked to about the appeal of medievalism and traditionalism may contain some clues; instead of know-it-all dismissals, maybe go study some of the deprecated thinkers who operated outside the technocratic expert focus group paradigm and rediscover some powerful currents that could be just what the doctor ordered right about now? Just some crazy thoughts from a madman.

Dave Trowbridge said...

Larry Hart:

"Trump is such a coward that he would never agree to a duel."

That was exactly my point.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Donzelion wrote: "Solar power in any of its forms costs a lot more than coal, oil, or natural gas to maintain at the plant level: panels break, burn up, etc."

That's perfectly true, although solar is still a developing technology and I expect to see those issues addressed over time.

The impression my friend had gotten was that solar was not at all viable in desert regions, and that it was why there were no solar plants in such areas. He isn't the sort of person to invent such theories, so I assume it was fed to him; Alex Jones, Townhall. CNS. There's a long list of paid liars out there who cheerfully dole out corporate propaganda.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Regarding our rooftop solar panels, I would have no objection whatsoever to a cutoff switch that would disable our connection to grid power should a storm knock out a connection or a transformer nearby blow. I'd even be okay with the switch being under the control of the power company; who better to know if they are working in the area and don't want or need an unexpected backlash? As long as they remember to restart it after work is done. All we need, during a blackout, is enough power during the day to run a few appliances and keep the freezer cold. I believe the new inverter we just got a couple of months ago has that capacity, but it's not as easy to disconnect from the grid as pushing a button, and reconnecting is just as tricky.

LarryHart said...

@Treebeard,

Your rant is the very definition of strawmanning. Just who is it you are arguing against on this blog who professes love or admiration for focus groups?

David Brin said...

Duncan, in fact there are complex moving parts and caustic fluids in Solar… if we talk about solar thermal. These p[roblems are inherently salvable and are indeed, VASTLY more inherently solvable than fossil fuel plants, with their far greater numbers of moving parts and corrosive flows. But carbon power plants have had almost exactly 200 years to work out kinks (and still explode or fail.) There have been only a few dozen major solar thermal plants.

They were mocked when the first one, under Jimmy Carter, had problems. Asses! They are already far better. And physicists like my old Caltech housemate Steven Koonin think the prospects for solar thermal are gigantic.

Which is of course exactly WHY the oligarchs inveigh so much propaganda against them.

Zepp, ask your solar-hating friend to admit he guzzled propaganda and ask him what the vested insterests are, that WANT him to think that?

Mad Librarian: “All we need, during a blackout, is enough power during the day to run a few appliances and keep the freezer cold. I believe the new inverter we just got a couple of months ago has that capacity…”

Really? My 3 year old system doesn’t. Running a few appliances and a fridge and some chargers would make you a lord and benefactor to your neighborhood. THAT is how feudalism might return….

David Brin said...

Treebeard gives us the final refuge line of the mad right. “I know my side is utterly jibbering insane and evil liars! But… but… EVERYBODY DOES IT! Blame capitalism AND socialism! Yeah, that’s the ticket. And consumers. And average folks and fools who even imagine things could ever be better than feudalism!

“And oh, yes, they think *I* am the deluded fool! Which proves how deluded they are!”

So sayeth the spoiled brat, wallowing in his comfy, well-lit domain, slurping snacks and entertainments while grumbling indignant contempt for all those fools out there — fools! — who slurp their snacks and entertainments, while grumbling ABOUT THE WRONG THINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pathetic. Your cult knows it will lose if we just keep moving forward, making sure all children get enough protein for myelinated brains, enough education to ask impudent questions and enough freedom for the curious - maybe 20% (that’s enough!) — to be creative and irrepressible. What could stop it, when all trend lines move that way?

What could stop it? The … Crisis… that Steve Bannon has openly declared himself determined to provoke. It can only be stopped deliberately. Pure, unadulterated evil.

Oh, but couch boy thinks that when the Crisis kills 6 billion and we return to feudalism and everything is worse in every conceivable way, there will be one silver lining. A FEW great men will get harems again! And in his masturbatory dreams, he is so sure he’ll be one of the top dogs.

Kibble.

Paul SB said...

Totally on board with your critique of our faux ent, but one little quibble:

"... making sure all children get enough protein for myelinated brains ..."

Myelin is made from omega 3 fatty acids, which is why dietitians have been going on and on about it for some time. True, humans need a fair bit of protein for a healthy brain, too, but not so much from meat, as most meats have very little omega 3 and a whole lot of omega 6, the kind of fat that plugs up arteries. Go for fish, which gets more digestible protein than other meats as well as a lot of omega 3. Vegetable sources of omega have much less omega 3 than fish sources.

Sorry, don't mean to be picky.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Converting from a conventional grid-tied system to a system that supplies backup power nearly always requires replacing the inverter, so it isn't cheap.

Here's the problem:

The switch that disconnects from the power grid must interact directly with the circuits that allow the inverter to begin producing AC power. Because this direct interaction is so important, the U.S. National Electrical Codes require that the inverter and the disconnect switch be part of the same unit.

There are inverters made for this kind of replacement. The Schneider Electric Conext XW inverter/charger is one such device. Another is the OutBack Power Radian series of inverter/chargers. (I don't have any personal experience with either of these units, so I'm just going on what I've read about them.)

Two or three years ago, a few companies like OutBack seemed to be specializing in doing the retrofits. Now, it appears that they've found it more profitable (and probably easier to insure compliance with electrical codes) to just manufacture replacement inverters that any licensed solar installer can use as a replacement for the more primitive conventional grid-tied unit.

Most solar installers can install the inverters that will stay on during a power outage. (Some other wiring changes may be required as well.)

You often have to talk to an installation supervisor at any company to find someone who really knows how to do this. Many low-level solar installers won't know what you're talking about. It is the supervisor back in the office who takes the calls from angry solar customers who are sitting in the cold and dark during a power outage who will understand exactly what you want.

(One clarification: External disconnect and transfer switches that are not a part of the inverter are allowed. For example, you can have a standby generator with an automatic transfer switch. It is just that one of the AC disconnect switches must be built in to the inverter for the solar power system.)


David Brin said...

Paul amen to Omega 3s! But this is the nutrition news everyone should glance at:
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/11/519443324/eating-more-or-less-of-10-foods-may-cut-risk-of-death-from-heart-disease

Jerry Emanuelson said...

There are a lot of small Community Solar Farms around the country (sometimes called "Solar Gardens") that are also suffering from an absence of standby capability.

These Solar Gardens are currently just feeding power into the grid and paying a small monthly dividend to those in the community who have voluntarily invested in the project. In a power outage, these Solar Gardens instantly become useless. These Solar Gardens should only be built with grid-independent capability; and they should be near buildings that they can power with refrigerators, freezers, moderate year-around climate control (so that people who are freezing or sweltering in their homes, especially the elderly, will have a place to go) and AC outlets especially for critical equipment such as home medical devices.

Like all solar power systems, these Community Solar Farms need to be functional in a crisis.

Duncan Cairncross said...

The grid tied or stand alone invertors issue is a pain
I have a grid tied invertor at my house - getting one capable of independent operation was simply too costly - especially as I have not had a single power outage in the 16 years I have been in NZ

PV invertors are one of the things that are massively overpriced just now - my 5Kw invertor cost over $3000

The 75Kw invertor I built for my car cost $600 !! - they are not exactly the same thing but the "cost" of an invertor - even a stand alone one is less than $100

Dr Brin
I was referring to a Solar Panel farm - like the one that Musk is going to supply storage units for in Australia

Solar Thermal may well end up being cheaper - but panel price is still falling

David Brin said...

Jerry E... . Just last week I yammered about it during a talk on "fragilities" at the Naval Postgraduate School.

This is actually something that should be a movement, perhaps with an NGO. I'd be willing to be a figurehead for it.

Would you and one or two others be willing to write up something?

Could do a 3 minute music backed video, like one of my book trailers.

donzelion said...

Duncan: I would ordinarily defer to you, as this is your area of expertise, not mine, but I do recall having the numbers explained by an engineer during a financiers presentation - one whose firm built both solar and nat gas/oil plants in several countries (his specific focus was desal power/water plants). I don't recall what metrics he was using, but he was adamant that the costs on maintaining solar would exceed a similar oil or coal plant on a per kilowatt hour basis over 10 years.

Then again, (1) that was in 2010, and much may have changed (or his may have been speaking about a very specific set of problems unique to that environment), and (2) the audience included a number of people from a pretty significant oil ministry, and might have had multiple purposes of which I wasn't aware (that country was not my focus of work at the time, and I really wasn't there for the conference anyway).

donzelion said...

Zepp: I'm pretty sure there are already several solar plants in the Mojave Desert (I've driven past the signs anyway). I do hope Duncan and others aren't regarding my questions and quibbles as a condemnation of the enterprise: long-term, I see great promise in this path, but short-term, I see steps.

I fear the cynics and paid panderers of falsehood. Because I fear them, I am extremely cautious as to the evangelists. The Solyndra debacle marred significant investment into the technologies in America, and fallout from it really hampered a great deal of useful investment Obama might otherwise have signed off on. Missteps are inevitable in every relatively new industry, but the power and incentive of today's faux news bullhorns to exploit the missteps is novel.

Duncan: please read the above in that light. No, I am not questioning what you know. Just cautious. Can't help myself. ;-)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
It goes back to "depends"

A solar thermal plant uses moving mirrors to focus the suns rays on a hot point with turbines pipes generators and a big tank of hot salt

Especially for the first couple of decades until we get to grips with all of the problems it will have significant maintenance cost - maybe about the same as a coal plant

The next state is a solar concentration farm which uses moving mirrors to focus the sun on smaller PV panels
Moving parts (mirrors) - but a lot less maintenance that the solar thermal

After that you get simple solar farms - fixed panels - no moving parts - very low maintenance

The solar thermal is good because you can store the heat and get power at night

The concentration farm will get more power out of the same area - quite a lot more - about 3 times as much and will need less of the costly PV panels

The simple farm has probably the highest capital requirement (depending on the cost of the panels) and will use the most area but will cost almost nothing to maintain

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin asked, "Zepp, ask your solar-hating friend to admit he guzzled propaganda and ask him what the vested insterests are, that WANT him to think that?"

I asked him why they might have pushed a narrative at him that was, on the face of it, untrue. He's not a dishonest person, and he's still working on a reply.

He was helping another friend to move a fridge the day before yesterday and slipped, and experienced a sudden sharp pain under his short ribs. Most likely he pulled a muscle, but (naturally) he had a quick montage of really horrible injuries he might have just experienced, up to and including a ruptured spleen. I couldn't resist telling him that if he had been forced to go to the ER, thank heavens he had Trumpcare. THAT got me a Look...

Zepp Jamieson said...

Donzelion: To be sure there are huge solar arrays in desert areas--not just California, but Arizona, Utah, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. There's a big solar farm off SR46, the California highway that goes from Paso Robles to Kettleman City and traverses some of the dustiest and most windswept terrain in California.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor Brin wrote: "This is actually something that should be a movement, perhaps with an NGO."

Excellent idea. If it turns out to be viable and scalable, that new battery Dr. Goodenough says he's developed might be the catalyst such a movement needs. Three times the storage density of lithium-ion, charges in minutes instead of hours, and purportedly doesn't overheat and catch fire.

George Carty said...

@Daniel Duffy, LarryHart

I'm not sure how much technological changes in the news media were entirely responsible. After all, while Trump's campaign was propelled to victory by electronic propaganda: Fox News, right-wing talk radio, and far-right websites such as Breitbart and InfoWars, the Brexit campaign in the UK was propelled to victory mainly by propaganda in traditional printed newspapers.

The Sun, the Express and the Daily Mail were the main disseminators of pro-Brexit propaganda in Britain. Perhaps the US situation is different from the UK's because the USA is a hugely larger country, and therefore never developed truly nationwide newspapers to the extent that the UK did?

Paul SB said...

Thanks for pointing out that article, Dr. Brin. I saw it the other day and while looking for something else and wanted to read it but forgot. Hippocampal atrophy again. A couple points about it: notice that the foods that are under consumed in the typical American diet include both nuts and seafood, both of which are high in omega 3, which we need for peak brain health. Fruits and veggies, of course, mainly for critical micronutrients. But there is another huge issue with diet - social inequality.

"Dietary habits also track with socio-economic status. So, people with lower incomes are more likely to have poorer diets compared with wealthier people."

Rich people have better access to high-quality foods, and typically better health education, too. Here's a study from the NIH about relationships between dietary health and socio-economic standing (SES for short). It also includes race as a variable, but only examines Caucasian and African "races."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4597887/

It's kind of long, but it has some very interesting findings. While the relationship between diet and inequality, as well as diet and race, have been examined by more studies than you can shake a stick at, this one combines the two. It turns out that when you control for SES and education, there is only a very small difference between the dietary habits of Caucasians and Africans. But education has a stronger effect than SES, which is good news, because education is easier to fix than social inequality. Both have to happen, though, for the US to continue on a path of improvement - which is not going to happen as long as we keep vacillating between extreme right and left. Another factor is more obviously cultural - the Southern diet pattern. Of course, the Convenience diet pattern is much more widespread and just as bad as the Southern, for all the same reasons, so there's no North/South bias in the study.

Here's a statement that I thought was especially interesting:

"Additionally, participants in the highest v. lowest tiers of both individual education and community-level SES, but not household income, were more likely to adhere to the convenience dietary pattern."

The interesting part is the "... but not household income...." In other words, the norms of the community have more power over people's dietary choices than individual SES. Humans are social animals and it is sociocultural factors that have the most influence over their behavior.

One important thing the study does not address is heart disease deaths that are not related to diet. It states that around half of all heart disease deaths (1000 people per day in the US) are due to poor diet. What about the other half? It would be very important to separate the number of deaths attributable to genetic defects vs the high stress environments of low- to middle-SES in an excessively competitive culture. High-stress environments are a huge contributing factor in all of the top ten causes of death. And, of course, the kill-or-be-killed worldview of the political right is a primary source of epidemic stress. I don't consider myself a leftist by any stretch, but left-wing ideas are much more conducive to stress relief than right-wing notions of cutthroat competitiveness. The weight of all that preventable death will hopefully mellow out the general population. Fully 50% of the general population has some sort form of clinical depression. 15% of men and 25% of women at some time in their lives have a depressive/anxiety episode that results in medication, hospitalization or, more often, both. This is among the huge reasons that politics matters, as much as I disdain the many blood-sucking parasites.

Smurphs said...

Serious question here. Feeding power back into the grid is extremely complicated, I get that. But systems with Automatic Transfer Switch, UPS/Inverter/Battery Backup (to smooth the transition), and Diesel/Propane Generator is not exactly immature technology. Literally tens of millions of installations world-wide, everything from a 100W Public Safety UHF repeater to entire City Hospitals, buildings and factories are on similar systems. What is it about PVC that makes it so hard? Is it just cost? Costs are important, especially if you want overnight power (i.e. a massive amount of batteries). The discussion here seems to be saying there is a large technological hurdle to overcome in temporarily disconnecting from the grid, and I just don't see it. I'm not an expert in power systems, so what am I missing?

Catfish N. Cod said...

Much needs to be discussed. For instance, I did not know that any power companies / local governments were banning switches to isolate from the grid. Also, 100% solar cannot exist as long as the battery issue is unsolved, or else massive amounts of orbiting grids free us from the day/night cycle. I am fine with a solar/wind/nuke/methane mix for the medium term, with some legacy oil at a decreasing fraction.

More thoughts on Hamilton/Jefferson later.

Opit, it was Keith Ellison, now deputy DNC chair, that swore in on TJ's Quran. But that was okay, because he WAS Muslim.

Dr. Brin, I am actually going to experience the planet-famous San Diego Zoo for the first time today. (An annual cruise for sci-fi and geek culture fans that I take switched to San Diego for its home port this year.) You have a lovely metro area. I will be back next year, as well. Either at a con/signing or at a SD meet up, I would be honored to meet you someday.

TCB said...

Said Donzelion: "The Solyndra debacle marred significant investment into the technologies in America, and fallout from it really hampered a great deal of useful investment Obama might otherwise have signed off on. Missteps are inevitable in every relatively new industry, but the power and incentive of today's faux news bullhorns to exploit the missteps is novel."

Yeah, so Solyndra lost half a billion dollars.

Pets.com lost $300 million and that's just one non-solar energy tech bust I can think of off the top of my head. God knows how many other tech companies have burned through their capital and gone poof in the last couple of decades.

Obvious lesson: nobody should ever invest in any tech company of any sort ever EVER ever. Because nothing ever works. In fact, everything since the steam engine is just a mass hallucination, probably.

Seriously though, what Donzelion said.

David Brin said...

Catfish n’ Cod… tell us more about your “annual cruise for sci-fi and geek culture fans”.

I once headlined a cruise of skeptics and astronomers who stood on a Mayan temple the very day - in 2012 - when the world was supposed to end. We chanted the skeptics’ mantra: “nah!” and saved the world! You’re all welcome.

Yeah, our zoo is amazing. Also have a look at the events schedule for UCSD's new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, where the sciences and arts come together to explore humanity's most unique gift. (http://imagination.ucsd.edu -- get on the mailing list by emailing: pcoleman@ucsd.edu) We also have local cons and Comicon. Hope to see you some time.

Bon voyage!

Jerry Emanuelson said...

David: I could probably write up something about fragilities and electricity.

Were you looking for a write-up that you could read on the video or a separate stand-alone write up?

We need ideas on what to say.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) is very concerned that people think of power outages only as a short-term occurrence. There are many things that could cause a long-term power outage. DTRA is beginning to study how to make micro-grids highly resilient. DTRA is initially concerned with micro-grids on military bases, but they have explictly extended their concern to critical civilian facilities such as hospitals. With a little help, the DTRA effort could become contagious. I have some occasional contacts with the people working on the DTRA contracts in this resilient micro-grids effort.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Smurphs: I don't think that you're missing any technical issues at all. If you don't want to sell excess power back to the grid, you can connect a solar power system up just like a standby generator. You can even use a standard automatic transfer switch designed for generator use. In such a system, though, you can't use a conventional grid-tie solar inverter in this configuration - or else the inverter will shut down when it senses loss of grid power.

As long as you have an inverter that is one of two types, you will be fine: Either (1) A plain old sine-wave inverter with the proper voltage and current ratings and no "grid-tie" provision; or (2) a solar inverter with the proper interlock switch that has both grid-tie and off-grid modes and automatic switching between the two modes.

There are a lot of inverters of the second type on the market, but most people aren't buying them. Since most people aren't buying those inverters, they have to be greatly overpriced to make any money.

The problem appears to come from how solar power systems are marketed. They have traditionally been marketed only as a way to earn money by selling power to the electric utility (effectively reducing one's electric bill), and reducing one's personal carbon footprint at the same time.

Most people have this subconscious belief that the electric power rarely goes out, and when it does go out, it always will come back on very soon. They also have the subconscious belief that electricity is just a modern convenience, and not something that is necessary to sustain their life and health. Electricity changed from a convenience to a necessity so slowly that few people noticed the change. So they don't worry about having a resilient backup source of electric power.

So most people who purchase a solar power system get sold a system that won't work as a backup system just because that's the way that it has been done for years. The worst thing is that most of those people think that they have a backup electrical system on their roof. When they finally discover that they don't, they have to spend a lot of extra money to buy the right type of inverter or else just settle for very expensive solar power system that is completely useless when you need it most.

donzelion said...

TCB: "Obvious lesson: nobody should ever invest in any tech company of any sort ever EVER ever. Because nothing ever works. In fact, everything since the steam engine is just a mass hallucination, probably."

Whoa, cynicism much?

For a good venture capitalist firm, out of a portfolio of 20 major investments, they expect 10-20% of those companies to fail, 50-70% to break even or become moderately profitable, 10% to be pretty successful, and 10% to be home runs yielding the bulk of their profit. They can't know which will be which, but they apply strict scrutiny in every instance to pick winners, get it wrong quite often, but still do quite well. Nobody profits from pointing out their many losers.

Government doesn't work that way. Candidates tout 'war zones' in Chicago, and the public believes the economy collapsed and crime is increasing - even as facts show the opposite. Entire industries and media echosystems operate purely to tout the failures and block steps to continue the investment into risky ventures (except for risky ventures that are financially lucrative for that cluster).

In a way, my point follows the money side of Dr. Brin's point about faux news: these idiots cost us opportunities, and will use the Solyndras that naturally occur in any field of investment as platforms to block anything that could threaten their wealth. If that lot succeeds, those investments and opportunities, if they occur at all, will occur elsewhere.

Jon S. said...

Re: operations & maintenance costs for various power plants:

According to this site (http://www.power-technology.com/features/featurepower-plant-om-how-does-the-industry-stack-up-on-cost-4417756/), large-scale solar is cheaper to maintain than coal in most circumstances. (While searching, I also ran across an Indian website pointing out that the major costs include manpower and clean, salt-free water for washing the cells.)

Least expensive per kW/hr is gas turbine; most expensive is of course nuclear, due mostly to the potential for disaster if anything goes wrong (so there's absolutely no corner-cutting possible; you might skip rinsing off the third quadrant of the solar array under certain circumstances, but you are not going to skip any least aspect of maintenance of your device that could potentially kill everything for miles around if things go badly wrong).

Thanks for the heads-up about home solar-power inverters, guys. We can't afford to install such a system yet, but we'd like to one day, and should that happen I now know to ensure the correct inverter is installed so we don't lose power when the grid goes down.

Incidentally, I think Catfish is referring to the JoCoCruise Crazy, originated by fans of Jonathan Coulton (the name refers to his song "Tom Cruise Crazy"). Several of my favorite SF and comics people go on that cruise every year; I learned they were landing in San Diego this year when Gail Simone was looking for advice on where to have lunch after arrival (the first response she got was, "You're in SD? Get in line for Hall H now!", to which she replied, "But I don't like 'Twilight'!").

Paul SB said...

Donzelion, where you said, "Whoa, cynicism much?" I thought TCB was being sarcastic.

I seem to have walked into the wrong conversation. While I support solar as a general rule, I doubt I will have the income to afford it this side of reincarnation, and I definitely don't have the kind of technical knowledge flashing around here.

I just remembered that I forgot one of the things I was going to say about the longer article Dr. Brin referred to, on increased fear among conservatives. While I thought it was pretty balanced and nuanced, it asked the chicken/egg question: do conservative practices lead to abnormally large amygdalas (the fear processing center of the brain) or are people with amygdala hypertrophy attracted to conservative ideas? The article leaves it at 'the jury is out' but I thought there is one fact that makes the former hypothesis more likely than the latter - regionalization. The latter hypothesis rests in the assumption that the brain responds mainly to genetic factors, while the former more correctly recognizes that the primary characteristic of brains is its flexibility (neuroplasticity). Thus the regionalism suggests that conservative views are products of the environments in which children are raised, rather than some posited genes for conservatism.

raito said...

donzelion,

Your percentages for investments look a bit like science, don't they? Some research fails, a bunch is successful but may not lead to much (economically, anyway. There's always success in being used as a citation). Some has decent results in the world outside science. And some makes an impact everywhere. But some don't seem to grasp the parallel.

As far as 'renewable' (sorry, I believe in thermodynamics) power goes, I often wonder whether anyone has ever studied the various impacts if we were to move very substantially to wind and solar. What happens if we turn a significant portion of wind energy to electricity (which seems like it would reduce the amount of energy in the winds)? What happens if we stop a bunch of sunlight from hitting the ground? I'm equipped to understand the results, but not to do the research.

On a similar note, what happens if we do mine the asteroids? So far, we keep sending mass away from the Earth. What happens if we increase it's mass (or more properly, the Earth-Moon system's mass. I guess)? Looks like for the same velocity, the distance from the sun would get larger. Larger enough to make a difference? Again, not exactly my field.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

TCB: "Obvious lesson: nobody should ever invest in any tech company of any sort ever EVER ever. Because nothing ever works. In fact, everything since the steam engine is just a mass hallucination, probably."

Whoa, cynicism much?


I think your sarcasm-sense failed to go off.

Either that, or mine is oversensitive.

:)

LarryHart said...

raito:

As far as 'renewable' (sorry, I believe in thermodynamics)


Well, of course no energy source will survive the universe. We're always talking percentages. A resource which is used up at a rate that will last eons is different from one that will be used up in a human lifetime or so, even though--strictly speaking--neither one is 100% "renewable".

Animal life uses up oxygen, but we survive because oxygen is a renewable resource. That doesn't violate Newton's Laws.

On unintended consequences, though, I do have to agree with you. It's hard to see the downside to using wind or solar energy, but that doesn't mean there's not a problem we haven't thought of. There are some theories that continuous proximity to cell-phones causes physiological problems, but it's already too late to say "Let's not do that."


David Brin said...

Jerry, regarding the energy island problem, we could go in three different ways.

1. A blog entry

2. A youTube rant by me. I’ve done lots.

3. a brief illustrated missive with text against backgrounds, like the one minute version my wife created here
https://youtu.be/iY4-WVXbgDE

or the 3-minute video trailer for Existence http://www.tinyurl.com/exist-trailer

donzelion said...

LarryHart: I think I just wasn't certain of TCB's intent. I am a friend of solar energy, love renewables, and believe strongly in them. Because I am a friend, I am wary of exaggerated claims, and intensely concerned about those who are hostile and who either think this a field for making a quick buck (and to hell with the planet), or who are innocent and think it is going to happen easily.

That said, I'm not a very good friend, and am mostly ill-informed. Hence, I quibble, but not from a position of trying to attack. But there's a difference between quibbling with the intent of doing so constructively, and sneering from the sidelines at the efforts of others.

The sad fact in my field is that while perhaps 90% of the lawyers looking to do something good for the environment when they launch upon this field of action will ultimately either change course, or wind up working for the other side. Solar hasn't exactly been a field that lawyers are rushing into, whereas other growing fields that had legs quickly found lots of demand. (I've done a little more than look at the signs driving by them...but not much more, and very little work with the companies involved save at the investor level.)

Jumper said...

I've been pondering a world with incredible energy resources that get curtailed at night. I am not so sure this is an unlivable world.

Factories will close and the employees go home, and processes mostly complete at days end. Freight handling very cheap in daytime. At night, longer processes, hospitals, fire departments, ambulances, etc. will be on duty. At night, hydro, nuclear,wind, and a modest assortment of battery stations, a nation full of fully charged electric cars, some hydrogen fuel cells. Coal powered A/C gone; no more. Geothermal everywhere practical.

Robert said...

Concerning the mining of asteroids and increasing the Earth's mass as a result:

The amount of mass that a mined asteroid could bring to the Earth's mass is probably a percentage of the daily amount of increased mass that falls through the Earth's atmosphere on a daily basis. The Earth continues to scoop up interplanetary dust. The larger pieces flare up as meteorites. The smaller ones never warm up enough and just accumulate, falling into the oceans, onto roofs, onto the soil... the Earth is literally increasing its mass daily.

The percentage of that increase compared to the current mass of the planet is a rounding error even over a 100-year-span

So mining asteroids and returning those metals to the Earth won't hurt anything but the Earth-bound mineral industries.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Note to Treebeard: further out of the safe spaces than you'll ever be, and I view your philosophy as puling and repulsive, like watching a cripple's sad, somehow obscene attempts to walk.

Tony Fisk said...

One irony about the energy islanding issue is that it has been the mesh of solar powered roofs that has kept the Australian power grid struggling through at least two recent crises:
1. during the power demands of the insane heat wave experienced by NSW and Queensland last summer (Melbourne dodged that event. In fact, it was relatively cool down here).
2. the 2014 Hazelwood power station shut down when the open pit caught fire.

Tony Fisk said...

One problem with inverters for rooftop solar panels has been shade.
The issue is that the panels are usually arranged in a a string handled by a single inverter and, for reasons I'm a bit hazy on, it produces an output waveform that is limited by the lowest input voltage. This is fine so long as all panels have full sunlight but, as soon as the shadow of a tree falls on one panel, it's as if the shadow falls on all.

This situation is changing as 'micro-inverters' that handle the output from each panel become economically feasible. Even better, one Australian company has a product that matches the panel DC input with the AC waveform output. A shaded panel can be paced so that it need only contribute to the waveform peak.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion; Magnanimity. Yes. That behavior set that helped confuse the boundary between Bourgeois and Noble. Want to be virtuous? Behave more like the Nobles. We still do this a bit today when we expect philanthropic behavior from our richest people. Give back what you took from us and we will provide the back scratching and attention your oxytocin fix requires. Heh.

I'm not knocking magnanimity as a virtue, though. I parse it as a combination of the others described by Acquinas who extended Aristotle for the Catholics. It is a bit of love, faith, and courage. Maybe even some justice. All good things... when there is no expectation of quid pro quo from the masses.

Never liked the Christian Wealth theory much. It strikes me as un-Christian as well as a rationalization for treating a vice as a virtue. I'm not a Christian believer, so I accept that some will discount my first opinion, but I DID grow up among them and incorporated many of their transcendent/sacred ideals (short of the in-the-limit one) into my self. That is enough to give me sufficient grounds to argue the wealth theory is monstrous. It is also enough to support me when I argue that the bourgeoisie DO have an ethic similar to the one Acquinas described. They've revalued a few of the seven, but they haven't wandered far from tradition.

Those small differences have had profound effects, though. Abandoning the notion that trade is inherently zero-sum is a stunning event when considered in historical context. I'm inclined to see it as a bigger deal than EVERY other idea we've come across. The people who did it were absolutely out of their minds. Now we have a civilization that has Moon rocks, pretty pictures of Pluto, and the extermination of Small Pox.

Alfred Differ said...

aw man. I'm word mangling tonight. Better take my hands off the keyboard. 8)

The bourgeoisie have an ethical system similar to Aquinas. Revalue some of original virtues (Courage and Justice mostly) described by Aristotle and loosen Faith and Hope enough to tolerate non-believers and different belief systems and you get the one in use by us. You also get reasonable explanations for what economists argue are irrational behaviors by market participants who fail to optimize on Prudence along. Duh. Prudence is just one of the seven virtues in the system.

I'm intentionally not distinguishing between virtues and graces. Non-believers aren't likely to care about such hair-splitting. 8)

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Dr. Brin: "Catfish n’ Cod… tell us more about your “annual cruise for sci-fi and geek culture fans”. "

My pleasure! The website is here for JoCoCruise, an annual week-long cruise that this year upgraded to a whole-boat charter. The organizers are musicians (Jonathan Coulton and Paul & Storm), so the largest segment of headline names for segments are also musicians, but another strong strain includes science fiction and fantasy authors: John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, Mary Robinette Kowal, N. K. Jemisin, and Wil Wheaton were booked for this year, for instance. (Ms. Jemisin had to bail but the rest were wonderful folks.)

The next departure is February, 2018. I endorse wholeheartedly: book early, book often. O:)

David Brin said...

Thanks Catfish, I left them a message. We'll see!

Kal Kallevig said...

"One problem with inverters for rooftop solar panels has been shade."

Micro inverters are one solution, another is per panel electronics. See www.TigoEnergy.com for one such that we have used, they work. Retrofits are possible but may not be cost effective.

LarryHart said...

Another institution weighs in in wagers. From today's www.electoral-vote.com :

As we have noted several times, European sports books take bets on American politics. The book Paddy Power is now offering over a hundred Trump-related bets for interested gamblers. Here are some of the more interesting ones, in order of lowest to highest odds:

+ Jeff Sessions to resign or get fired in 2017: 4/6 (equates to a 60% chance)
+ Trump to be impeached during his first term: 6/4 (40%)
+ Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the U.N.: 7/1 (12.5%)
+ Trump to ban the wearing of hijabs: 12/1 (7.7%)
+ Trump sex tape to leak in 2017: 14/1 (6.6%)
+ Steve Bannon to succeed Trump in 2020: 20/1 (4.8%)
+ Trump to be banned from the U.K.: 20/1 (4.8%)
+ Mexico to fund construction of wall: 25/1 (3.9%)
+ Trump to announce plans to open a hotel in Mexico: 25/1 (3.9%)
+ Trump to outlaw teaching the theory of evolution: 50/1 (2%)
+ Trump to have a Russian airport named after him: 66/1 (1.5%)
+ Joe Biden to punch Trump in the face before 2020: 100/1 (1%)
+ France to request the Statue of Liberty be returned: 100/1 (1%)
+ Trump to grow a Hitler mustache: 150/1 (0.66%)
+ Trump to ban Irish immigration: 500/1 (0.2%)

Anything with odds above 30/1 or so is wildly speculative, and is largely meant for entertainment purposes. But the lower odds are going to be more precise, because they could attract some actual money and create an actual risk for the book. Further, the list certainly gives a sense of how realistic certain developments are relative to others (for example, it seems pretty fair to say that Jeff Sessions is about 15 times more likely to lose his job than Mexico is to pay for the wall).

Alfred Differ said...

My years growing up in Vegas taught me to treat 25/1 odds as entertainment too. It was fun to watch people bet on their NFL teams winning the Super Bowl at those odds. 8)

donzelion said...

Jumper: with respect to our Ent, sometimes, I see his missives less as a "cripple trying to walk" and more as a bystander, mocking the cripple (with myself, too often, crippled but 'obscenely' trying to stand...for something). That's me taking it personally, and projecting Trump onto the Tree (and it is fair to take it personally, as I do live in this world, where such obscenities change the daily balance).

To quote the Ent: "Trump says "here's your focus group expert opinion: you're fired!" and people love it."

Some people do love a bonfire. A forest fire can be beautiful. It can even be healthy for a forest. Some people love watching a witch-hunt and a stake burning. They love seeing witches, knowing that those feisty, smart, nasty women are put in their place by big strong men. For a few minutes, anyway, it makes them feel bigger.

Then they return to their farms and realize that the witch-hunt bought them nothing whatsoever. The folks who conducted it are still raising the prices on their rent. Still extracting their wealth and squeezing them. The witch-hunters didn't liberate them from anything at all, but merely entertained them for a few minutes.

One cannot compel such folk to reject their spectator entertainment. Only when there are other things they authentically value - as opposed to the joy of watching 'their' team beat another team in a silly, pointless game - can they be induced to leave childish rants for adult action. Much of the rage in this world fades when one contemplates how to raise a child - whether to feed it a steady diet of rage, and thereby rear it to become a feral beast - or whether to feed it love.

The Ent is annoyed at 'know-it-all dismissals.' Perhaps he misses the underpinning love and hope motivating certain dismissals of dead-end posturing. If so, then he's enjoying the bonfire of the witches. However, these days, the witches have power sufficient to refuse the stake: the dark world where certain motivations are borne is checked by a world of light, cooperation, and hope - a world far more powerful and enduring than the ugly gladiatorial world of faux gamesmanship.

donzelion said...

Alfred: I'm not truly embracing "magnanimity" either - just positing the 'ancient system' as it operated: my purpose is to fairly and accurately describe, not to defend.

At best, the magnanimity of the ancient system could build or endow a handful of edifices - e.g., endowing a university - a Harvard or a Stanford (or these days, a hall at a university bearing the name of a benefactor). The 'magnanimity' of the modern system, by contrast, can erect university SYSTEMS - increasing the beneficiaries of knowledge and the power of the entire state by orders of magnitude. But the modern approach is impersonal: few feel great pride in the university system, or the infrastructure system, or health delivery system that they create (indeed, they feel like its creation was an act of theft!).

Never liked the Christian Wealth theory much.
Me neither, but largely for corollaries to the above: if 'God confers wealth on his chosen, personally choosing who prospers and who is impoverished based on God's judgment of their merit' - then the system that created the wealth can be treated as the 'enemy' - the 'world' - interfering with and muddying God's decisions.

"It strikes me as un-Christian as well as a rationalization for treating a vice as a virtue."
Agreed. But as 'vice becomes virtue,' as 'knowledge becomes ignorance' - the effort to resurrect archaic notions of virtue as symbolic reference points displaces the effort to alter affairs in the real world for the better. Unmoored from textual bases, religion is used by whoever has greatest wealth and power to achieve whatever ends they find most convenient (which is typically to amass still greater wealth and power).

"Abandoning the notion that trade is inherently zero-sum is a stunning event when considered in historical context."
In deference to that position, I favor placing the burden of proof upon anyone who says a form of conduct is 'evil' - rather than placing it upon those practicing that conduct to prove that they are 'good.' It is not an insurmountable burden (e.g., strong evidence suggests several forms of trade are in fact 'evil' - or 'parasitic' to use Dr. Brin's preferred term), but it is a burden that must be met, and fairly done.

The classical standards still have value. "By your own measure shall ye be judged" (hence, Trump's team should all go to jail immediately - almost every one of them who continued using private email servers even after claiming this was some form of criminal offense). When one rejects the conventions that we have adopted (and I include us both, even where you and I disagree on particulars) - they must be held fully to what standards they claimed to adopt as a substitute rule. Only then can the bourgeoisie adopt a better rule, a better system built on those rules, rather than simply cycling through the names of various oppressors via a ballot box.

It is systems that brought us pretty Moon rocks, clean water that didn't kill us (usually), and so very much more. They are worth respecting, even if they sometimes frustrate us, and always feel so impersonal.

Ioan said...

Here's a contrarian view towards the idea that demographics favor Democrats.
http://www.businessinsider.com/the-democratic-party-is-facing-a-demographic-crisis-2017-3

Personally, I think the author puts too much emphasis on voter turnout, which gets him the increasing percentage results for Republicans. However, I think he is right on the money in noting that "irregular voters" needing an inspirational candidate to show up to the polls is a huge weakness for Democrats.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

I see his missives less as a "cripple trying to walk" and more as a bystander, mocking the cripple ...


I think you're hitting the nail on the head here. Much of the resentment against the establishment that Trump voters express boils down to "I'm tired of being shamed for good old fashioned fun at someone else's expense." Or as Stephanie Miller put it on her radio show, "The only principle Republicans seem to stand for these days is needless cruelty."

David Brin said...

donzelion, you were writing on high octane there, for a bit.

TCB said...

@donzelion, of course I was being sarcastic. Alas that it can be hard to tell sarcasm from cynicism (q.v. Poe's Law), but what is the alternative? Be like Mr. Spock and simply say what I mean without any subtext at all (if that is even possible)? Again, the pitfall: a member of Devo once said "We just tell the truth and people think we're joking." Can't win!

For clarity: I support renewable energy in all its forms. The Solyndra mess was just one more goddam cynical right-wing faux scandal, like Benghazi and the House of Representatives bank (remember that one? I sure do!) designed to slur the good and draw attention away from the foul. As usual it worked... it should NOT work...an educated public wouldn't listen to these right-wing feudalist charlatans, pretty much ever. But what we have is largely a miseducated public.

And watching the feudalists play the same cheap tricks, over and over, successfully, has made me cynical and sarcastic too. I confess I am looking forward to seeing the Republicans steal health care from millions of their own fool voters. Fuck 'em. Let them suffer, if that is the only path to wisdom!

Let me pause to shed a sigh for the premature death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Had he hung on for another year, maybe two, he had ambitious plans for the postwar period, as he laid out in his Second Bill of Rights speech of January 11, 1944:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.”[3] People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.


Once the war was ended, Roosevelt probably could have passed anything he wanted, and much of what he had in mind is what Bernie Sanders is still, over seventy years later, trying to do. We probably would have had single-payer health care if Roosevelt had lived another couple of years (Canada passed theirs about the same time!)

Anyway... I'm a little drunk and I guess I'm just fucking tired of the locums and the treebeards and their ugly, ugly little medieval hate-dreams.

TCB said...

On the other hand, maybe Trump voters can be salvaged, after all...

LarryHart said...

TCB:

Alas that it can be hard to tell sarcasm from cynicism (q.v. Poe's Law), but what is the alternative? Be like Mr. Spock and simply say what I mean without any subtext at all (if that is even possible)?


Even the TOS version of Mr Spock was not without his humorous lines, deadpan and all. "He simply could not believe his ears."

LarryHart said...

TCB:

Anyway... I'm a little drunk and I guess I'm just fucking tired of the locums and the treebeards and their ugly, ugly little medieval hate-dreams.


Hey, I'm perfectly sober and I'm fucking tired of that as well.

And I don't say "fuck".

Paul SB said...

I'll second that, though I'm frogging tired from sleep deprivation anyway...

I think there are a lot of people who will third and fourth and so on, especially because of the utterly heartless diatribes they spew during media-shark frenzies after terrorist attacks. That kind of sick manipulation goes to the pit of your stomach, dredging up the green specter of disgust. Truly the opposite of the better angels of our nature, but I suppose I can be like Dr. Brin and pity their amygdala hypertrophy. I can never decide if it is better to revile such creatures or to pity them. Maybe the solution is to do both - pity them for their pain but revile them for their witless, adolescent reaction to it.

Sorry I can't come up with anything better.

Beast

Tim H. said...

TCB, thanks for the FDR post, HST tried to get FDR's program through, and was remembered when LBJ signed the medicare bill. The Bernie link was also very welcome, a break from the dark comedy of these days.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

That kind of sick manipulation goes to the pit of your stomach, dredging up the green specter of disgust. Truly the opposite of the better angels of our nature,


When TB rants about the biological appeal of authoritarian feudalism, he doesn't realize he is speaking for a subset of humanity, not the entirety. There are just as many (if not more) of us who feel just as emotionally drawn to compassion as they are to bullying. There are certainly those who feel as he does, but he's just as mistaken in universalizing the human condition as we are.


I can never decide if it is better to revile such creatures or to pity them


Oh, pity certainly. They hate that.

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

TCB, thanks for the FDR post, HST tried to get FDR's program through, and was remembered when LBJ


Heh. Sorry, I'm flashing on an old Simpsons episode where Homer was explaining to Bart:

"That's BTO. They're Canada's answer to ELP. Their big hit was TCB.

That's how we talked in the 70s."


BTW (heh), when did we start referring to all presidents by three-letter initials. Sure, we always had FDR, JFK, and LBJ, but for most of my life, those were the only ones. I don't once remember anyone using HST, RMN, GRF, JEC, or RWR as ways to refer to those presidents. There were a few GWB references, but mostly to distinguish W from his poppy.

Was during the 2008 Democratic primaries when people started throwing around the initials BHO and HRC (neither of whom was using their middle name in the campaign, but both middle names were nonetheless famous) that it just caught on universally?

Paul SB said...

Larry,

While overgeneralization is a huge problem for hominids - exacerbated especially by religions, all of which deny individuality - every bully knows that there are people who are not like them. In their minds, those are their victims, people who they despise as weak.

Remember about a year ago when Chuckie Noris was ranting about the "wussification" of America? Obviously anyone who even uses the term /wuss/ seriously demonstrates what they are, and loses all credibility as a sapient human being. Way adolescent boys like Chuck Noris can never comprehend is that as humans you sometimes need a shoulder to cry on and other times you need to be the shoulder. Bullies are incapable of either, which is what makes them such miserable creatures. The old misery loves company shows why they get kicks out of ranting here. They no they aren't going to win any converts to the troglodyte cause. They are just adapting their pathology to the age of the internet.

So yes, pity is appropriate. At the deepest, most fundamental level they are pitiable creatures. But we must also revile their words, because their words are among the things that turn normal children into pitiful creatures like themselves. Brains work in ways that are pretty uniform across the species, but the way they work is to slowly adapt to the conditions in which they grow. Bullies create bullies - mostly of their own children but the cultural spillover goes way beyond the individual household - through their consistently abusive behavior. That is what well-balanced, sane individuals have to fight if the species is ever going to graduate from the cave-man stage.

Beast

Paul SB said...

"Why adolescent boys..." not "Way adolescent boys..." Damn these fickle fingers!

Tim H. said...

Just now, it's more long night at work, fingers sore and typing HST was just quicker than "Harry S Truman". And BTO was fun, but a different fun than ELP.

TCB said...

For several long seconds, I stared at my computer screen, thinking: "Hunter S. Thompson tried to get FDR's program passed?"

Tim H. said...

Good one. Hunter S. Thompson, yet another who would've been better than what we got...

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

Just now, it's more long night at work, fingers sore and typing HST was just quicker than "Harry S Truman".


But it's not just you. BHO and HRC were very commonly used as referents in the elections since 2008. I believe it had something to do with the fact that both had somewhat-infamous middle names, even though neither was referring to him/herself by those middle names. True, I don't see a lot of DJT mentions, so maybe it was just a phase.

It got me thinking about how many presidents' middle names I actually know. Without resorting to Google or Wikipedia:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Harry S Truman*
Dwight D. Eisenhower (is it David? Not sure)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Lyndon Baines Jonhson
Richard Milhous Nixon
Gerald R. Ford (I don't think I ever knew what the R. stood for)
James (Jimmy) Earl Carter
Ronald Wilson Reagan (666)
George Herbert Walker Bush (and running mate J. Danforth Quayle)
William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton
George Walker Bush (W)
Barack Hussein Obama
Hillary Rodham Clinton ( #AlternativeFacts :) )

The weird thing is that I don't think I know any presidential middle names--or even middle initials--prior to FDR, with the single exception of John Quincy Adams.

* And is it true that "S" is actually Harry S Truman's full middle name--that the letter doesn't stand for anything else? I remember hearing that, and don't remember if it was debunked or not. I know that a comic book story riffed on it by establishing that Richie Rich's middle initial was "$".




LarryHart said...

...okay, there's also William Henry Harrison and James K. Polk.

Still, FDR seems to be some sort of demarcation point after which middle initials/names became more common in referring to presidents.

LarryHart said...

...ok, Warren G. Harding too.

Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as...

LarryHart said...

Rutherford B. Hayes.

$#!@@#!

"And they keep the streets safe. You remember what this place used to be like."

Zepp Jamieson said...

If I recall correctly, they began referring to Roosevelt as FDR to avoid confusion with his cousin, the other "President Roosevelt." While Teddy had been dead for nearly 15 years, his presidency was still well within the range of living memory. It was unique until JFK, and he was also referred to by his initials to differentiate from other family members who were in the political arena.

I don't know why it was expanded to include all the presidents since FDR. I remember the first time I saw "DDE" some five years ago, I had to pause for a moment to figure out who the hell they were talking about.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

LBJ was also commonly used. I remember newspaper headlines from my childhood which referred to the president that way. Maybe in a sort of nostalgia for JFK?

You know where other such presidential initials are used? Crossword puzzles. Now that I think about it, that's where I've seen DDE and HST used before.


Tim H. said...

As I understand it, Harry Truman's Parents wished the middle name to honor a Grandparent, and there were two with a name that began with "S", they found a way to please both. And Eisenhower's middle name was David.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LarryHart said, "Even the TOS version of Mr Spock was not without his humorous lines, deadpan and all. 'He simply could not believe his ears.'"

Nimoy for certain had a sense of humour. He had to.

One time my wife was watching TOS on the telly when I walked past. She asked why I had no particular interest in the show. I told her that aside from the fact that I religiously watched all of them when they first aired (in black and white, at that) they hadn't aged well and the dialogue was sometimes ridiculously bad, along with the silly aliens. The word I used was "hokey".
At that very moment, Spock pulled his head back from some console scanning device and intoned, "Captain, it appears to be some sort of space flu."
"Space flu!" I whooped while my wife glowered. She never asked me to watch it again.
Yes, it's seminal, and yes, it's better than "Star Wars". But this was an era of Ellison and Niven, Dick, Ballard and Vonnegut. Heinlein, Asimov and Clark were still at or near their creative peaks. Even back then it was pretty weak tea. And it hasn't aged well.

TCB said...

Harlan Ellison once did a column of TV reviews and essays and published them as a collection called The Glass Teat. His boundless anger was largely justified.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

When watching re-runs of old favorites, a bit of the flavor from when the show was new adheres to the experience. It's not something that can be explained or translated to people watching the same re-runs for the first time.

I myself retain an incredible fondness for the 1960s Batman tv show, even though I can't possibly explain the appeal to a modern audience.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart:
At the time I thought ST was brilliant. It was by far the best SF show on TV, but it was an era when expectations of television were incredibly low. "My Favorite Martian" (which I also loved at the time) was considered the premier SF show before ST. Oh, there was "Outer Limits" and "Twilight Zone" but this was an era where if it didn't involve outer space, it wasn't SF -- it was horror.

David Brin said...

Hey, we are binge watching our way through John Lithgow's "3rd rock from the sun" TV series, with a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It is still marvelously cringeworthy, witty and hilarious.

onward to higher level sci fi.

onward

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