Saturday, April 15, 2017

Space: near and long-term plans

Back from travels and giving speeches about our risk-filled future world. And so, feeling a need to share some optimism, I'll post some cool space and science news...

...only first a reminder: do find a way to get involved in the Earth Day (April 22) Marches for Science, somewhere near you. This shouldn't be about left or right. It's about our children's survival in a civilization that pays attention to fact-centered professions, evidence and being vigorously knowing-engaged citizens.

Oh, and note a week later, Independent Bookstore Day marks its third year on Saturday, April 29, with literary parties around the country.  Mysterious Galaxy is my favorite nearby one!


Look around. Surrounding you are the marvels (and half our GDP) that we owe to science. (And to science fiction!) This know-nothing carnage-of-minds must stop. Now.


== Space looms before us! ==


I serve on the External Council of NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program — our daring venture that invests small amounts in brilliant (though maybe sometimes slightly strange) notions just this side of plausibly useful. Have a look at this year’s latest Phase One grants.

Want to play while doing science? With the EVE Online multiplayer game, you can help look for new exoplanets from your computer. In a game called Project Discovery, players can search for exoplanets while receiving real-world astronomical data.  One more example of the kind of crowd-sourced smart-mobbing I described in both EARTH and EXISTENCE.

Are humans heading to Mars? Regarding D. Trump's recently proposed NASA legislation, Elon Musk comments, "This bill changes almost nothing." No substance. No funding to back it up. Though it does appear to shift many efforts away from Earth-sensing and asteroidal resources back to putting more dusty footprints on the (for now) useless Moon. Come on. Couldn't space have been the one place where we could find consensus and do what's scientifically supported? Logical?

The use of contests to spur creative solutions has really taken off, in part thanks to the XPrize Foundation, headed by Peter Diamandis. (I'm on the board of advisers.)  During the Obama Administration, every government agency was told to set up a prize contest, aiming to draw inventive proposals for each agency’s most vexing problem, and results were promising, especially since the prizes themselves amounted to little more than petty cash.

In the latest example, NASA appears quite pleased with winners of the $15,000 Space Poop Challenge prize, for ways to collect human waste emitted by astronauts wearing spacesuits.

Only now late breaking news!  Winners have been announced for the Tricorder X Prize!  "Imagine a portable, wireless device in the palm of your hand that monitors and diagnoses your health conditions. That’s the technology envisioned by this competition, and it will allow unprecedented access to personal health metrics. The end result: Radical innovation in healthcare that will give individuals far greater choices in when, where, and how they receive care."  The lead medical evaluator is Dr. Erik Viirre, co-director of UCSD's new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, where the sciences and arts come together to explore humanity's most unique gift.  

== Our emissaries in the solar system ==

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has spotted organic molecules on Ceres, which some believe may have a subsurface ocean. This opens the possibility that primitive life could have developed on (or under) Ceres itself. Ceres shows clear signatures of pervasive hydrothermal activity and aqueous alteration. "We see compounds on the surface of Ceres like the ones detected in the plume of Enceladus," said a researcher.

Which leads us to NASA’s recently released overall plan to study Europa and then the eight other candidates for “ocean world” status. (I coined and prefer the terms “roofed ocean worlds” or “roofed worlds.)  “By this definition, bodies like Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Enceladus would all be viable targets for exploration. These worlds are all known to have subsurface oceans, and there has been compelling evidence in the past few decades that point towards the presence of organic molecules and prebiotic chemistry there as well. Triton, Pluto, Ceres and Dione are all mentioned as candidate ocean worlds based on what we know of them. (See the planned "Enceladus Life Finder" or ELF mission.)

"Titan also received special mention in the course of the presentation. In addition to having an interior water ocean, it has even been ventured that extremophile methanogenic lifeforms could exist on its surface….”  Wax beings lapping along methane rivers, high above "magma" made of liquid water?  Yipe!

NASA's Juno mission currently orbiting Jupiter.  And sending back amazing images.

What might a final approach to Mars feel like? Unbelievably gorgeous high-resolution images of the topography of Mars.

The Rosetta mission's closeups of Comet 67P showed shifting dunes on the comet.

== Back on Earth ==

In a new study, scientists say they have found evidence along the New Jersey coast that an extraterrestrial object hit the earth at the same time a mysterious release of carbon dioxide suddenly warmed the planet, some 55.6 million years ago. The warm period, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), is often cited as the closest analog to today's rapid human-induced climate change. The study does not explicitly say that an impact triggered the PETM, but the implication is consistent with the authors' previous work suggesting such an abrupt trigger. By contrast, mainstream theory says that the carbon came from volcanism or some other earthly cause, over thousands of years.

Most scientists say that the carbon release at the start of the PETM took anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 years. Many suspect it came from a surge of massive volcanism. The resultant warming may have been abetted by a sudden release of frozen methane from the seafloor, due to warming from the carbon, changes in the earth's orbit or shifts in ocean circulation. Temperatures ascended 5 to 9 degrees Centigrade (about 9 to 16 Fahrenheit), during a nearly simultaneous warm period that lasted some 200,000 years. The planet was essentially ice free, and sea levels drastically higher than now. Many small, single-celled ocean-bottom creatures went extinct.

In 2013 Schaller and James Wright of Rutgers University (also a coauthor of the new paper) published a study asserting that the PETM carbon release was virtually instantaneous. Their evidence: extremely high levels of carbon isotopes that appear in a narrow band of the Marlboro clay representing just about a dozen years. This band, it turns out, is near the newly found impact ejecta layer.

Oh, but then, we're not allowed to look at the planet called Earth, anymore.

== Bold Plans ==

Image: Popular Mechanics
Might we create an artificial magnetosphere to protect Mars and its atmosphere from the solar wind? It turns out that by setting up a dipole at the Mars L1 point, it’s not as crazy-implausible as it first sounds.  

Congress told NASA to develop a Europa orbiter and lander, to dispatch on the space agency’s future rocket, the Space Launch System, sometime in the 2020s.

Footage from a Cubesat experiment shows potato plants budding in weightlessness, in Mars-like soils, suggesting that a certain movie may have been on target in its optimism about growing food on the red planet. Providing you can wash out perchlorates and all that. We’ll see. 

Okay, the latest of many informative articles about something NASA claims has never happened – sex in space. Riiiiight.

Similar to what I proposed in my novel Sundiver, a recently proposed quantum cascade laser system is powered strictly by heat, with no electrical input; it produces a cooling effect by emitting light. 

== Striking the Gaia Balance, or why humans can alter the climate ==


Our world skates the very inner edge of our star’s Goldilocks Zone or CHZ. Earth can only afford the barest minimum of CO2 in the atmosphere, just enough to feed plants. We have to eliminate heat, which is why even a little carbon added to the atmosphere wreaks big effects.

The CHZ extends way out past Mars! Had Mars been bigger, it would today have oceans and a very dense CO2 atmosphere as part of its Gaia Balance. That balance is struck between greenhouse gases spewed from, volcanoes and CO2 removal cause by the weathering of mountains adding calcium, silicon etc to ocean waters, which pull carbon out of the air.
Earth may be exceptionally dry for an ocean world, because we are hot (and getting hotter.) But a world without any continents to weather away would lack the ability to scrub CO2 and hence keep getting hotter as volcanoes added carbon to the air. I suppose that heat would evaporate the oceans until continents appeared that could restore the balance. Get it?

== Science is political now ==

Sorry but all this great stuff is in danger.  Have of our wealth and GDP came from science. And from the increased wisdom and fact-centered policies that science engendered.

Steep cuts to Earth science imaging: Ultimate proof of lying hypocrisy. All you denialist cultists who said "we need more data before deciding what to do about climate change!" or "The jury is still out!" At least under the Bushites, science was sabotaged less spectacularly and openly. Now the pretense is dropped.  Science is the enemy, openly declared. Your solution is that of a 3 year old: "If we don't look at it, the problem doesn't exist!"

And finally... Winston Churchill once - in 1939 as war clouds loomed -- wrote a long essay on what would later become SETIthe question of other worlds and other life in the universe. Churchill was a devoted fan of H.G. Wells and began his essay shortly after the 1938 U.S. radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, which whipped up Mars fever in the media. He reasoned that Venus and Mars were the only places in the solar system other than Earth that could harbour life.”

March on April 22.  Get out there and let it be seen that microcephalic troglodytes will not be allowed to assassinate our civilization or our children.

75 comments:

TheMadLibrarian said...

The 'tricorder' could be very useful in emergency rooms or MASH units on battlefields, for quick triaging and finding concealed damage. It relies on a sensor suite the size of a computer mouse to collect data; I wonder if 'Feinberger' for the term for the sensor packet will catch on (Trekkies will probably catch the referent)?

Boy is Captcha being a problem child today. I've gone through a dozen image panels without pleasing it.

Winter7 said...

Yes. A magnetic field dipole of 20,000 Gauss. But NASA wants to use an inflatable structure. That works. But if they want that great apparatus to last a long time, it would be advisable to spray it with resins that harden with catalyst and fibers. In that way, if the big balloon is struck, the structure will maintain its shape. And if they add titanium dioxide to the resin to reflect the sunlight; That would make the structure last longer.
I suppose it is possible to use the energy of the sun to power the device.

LarryHart said...

TheMadLibrarian:

I wonder if 'Feinberger' for the term for the sensor packet will catch on (Trekkies will probably catch the referent)?


That sounds like something I would have known at one time, but those brain cells have died.

Boy is Captcha being a problem child today. I've gone through a dozen image panels without pleasing it.


Captcha is trying harder to trick me. I've been automatically clicking on the road signs, only to notice that it's asking for squares with vehicles. Also, when just a tiny corner of the road sign creeps over into the next square, it apparently does not want you to click on that square after all.

I think Captcha is learning from Sean Spicer. The correct squares are "whatever we say they are." Never mind your lying eyes or fake logic.

Winter7 said...

Are you a XPRIZE? Why is not there a prize for ideas to avoid the very next mass extinction in the oceans? And I mean a contest in which everyone can participate. Not just students; work teams; And university students. That is, a competition open to all

Winter7 said...

Sorry. I mispronounce my idea. again:
Are you a councilor, XPRIZE? Why is not there a prize for ideas to avoid the very next mass extinction in the oceans? And I mean a contest in which everyone can participate. Not just students; work teams; And university students. That is, a competition open to all ..
Of course, it is good to convert CO2 into useful things. But that effort to convert CO2 into fuels will only work if we abandon the use of fossil fuels. (Something that Trump sabotaged) with those circumstances, is like wanting to light all new york with a match.
We need something that will neutralize millions of tons of Co2 every day in the ocean. Even very low cost.

Hans said...

Since we made it back to science, I'd like to ask my question from another post again. I've read that the three body problem essentially produces a chaotic system. In the case of the newly discovered solar system, with 5 planets in the Goldilocks zone, why isn't that a chaotic system? It doesn't seem like it would be stable (or long lived) to me.

Thanks.

David Brin said...

Hans, our solar system has nine planets and maybe 50 + moons, yet it is fairly stable. Because one body dominates the system and cannot be bullied by the others. Guess which it is?

Winter7 such breakthroughs will take a lot more investment and research than a $10 million prize can stimulate. But read my novel EARTH.

Jon S. said...

"That sounds like something I would have known at one time, but those brain cells have died."

Irving Feinberg was the property master for Star Trek. He had acquired a large number of futuristic-looking salt shakers for an early episode, "The Man Trap", featuring a shapeshifting alien attacker whose nature would be betrayed by its unnatural hunger for salt during a meal scene; however, the director found that unless someone baldly stated, "This is a salt shaker," nobody could tell what they were. He finally wound up using salt shakers from the NBC commissary, and Feinberg repurposed the other shakers as Dr. McCoy's medical instruments. The handheld scanner McCoy used with his medical tricorder was referred to (unofficially and offscreen) as a Feinberger device.

LarryHart said...

@Jon S,

Ok, I had heard the story about the salt shakers, but not to that level of detail. Back in the day, I was Trekkie enough to know what "Jefferies Tubes" were and to get references to the "Great Bird of the Galaxy", but somehow, "Feinberger device" never made it into my head.

Paul SB said...

The poop in space article made no mention of how the waste materials would be disposed of after astronaut rescue (or routine use, for that matter). It might be good to create a system of "space baggies" in which these can be stored for future use as fertilizers. Even if there are no current plans for colony missions, the material would represent potential fertilizer for agriculture experiments in space that would not have to be launched into space specifically for that purpose. The baggies could be suspended on the outside of the ISS or other vehicles for access when needed, so it doesn't use up internal storage.

Dr. Brin, thinking about Winter 7's comments, is there are place where non-experts can submit ideas like this for professionals to consider. It's easy to assume that the professional aerospace engineers would have already thought of anything amateurs come up with, but you never know. The X Prizes and those DARPA challenges have shown that amateurs can come up with good ideas sometimes. But many people don't have the time or technical knowledge to knock out a prototype they could enter into a contest. There is plenty of good research from behavioral economics, though (I am currently trying to read Paul Zak's "The Moral Molecule") that shows that huge numbers of humans are more motivated by their sense of participation (that hominid need for meaning) than they are by monetary gain - believe it or not.

locumranch said...


Cool stuff overall, followed by a few minor quibbles:

(1) In reference to David's Quora question, the Earth WAS a 'waterworld' (largely lifeless) about 2.5 billion years ago, according to Dr. Nicholas Flament (University of Sydney), but land masses are NOT currently necessary for 'CO2 scrubbing' if & when we acknowledge that 70% of CO2 uptake & O2 production comes from oceanic plankton.

(2) The Schaller & Wright study asserting that the PETM carbon release was virtually instantaneous, occurring over a dozen years, should give even the most hardened AGW Cultist pause by indicating that humanity should forget all about being a good long-term environmental steward & concentrate instead on 'getting the Hell off this rock'.

(3) There is no prize for saving the Earth's oceans because (without a single unified World Government AND drastic human depopulation) the Earth's oceans can't be saved & consumed simultaneously.

(4) “We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” says Stephen Hawking, “I don’t think we will survive another 1000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

Unless we can RISE to this occasion, either through technical acts of desperation (the acceptance of 'unacceptable' risk & high casualty rates) or intervention by a human-mediated 'deus ex machina' messiah, most experts agree that it's doom & gloom all the way down

Happy Easter, folks.


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Jumper said...
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Jumper said...

If a supernova spews out heavy elements and the the cloud is exposed over eons to another star's stellar wind, does a sort of fractional distillation occur? How striking can that effect be under unusual rare circumstances? Is it likely that of all asteroidal bodies in the solar system some have much higher concentrations of elements than normally found? Brin has mentioned similar effects produced by core formation of standard bodies followed by massive catastrophic collisions (likely the origin of nickel iron asteroids or minor planet Psyche, for instance) But I'm asking about other mechanisms such as my posited "solar still."

David Brin said...

See, it’s not the complete inaccuracy of the following that makes it dumb: “land masses are NOT currently necessary for 'CO2 scrubbing' if & when we acknowledge that 70% of CO2 uptake & O2 production comes from oceanic plankton.”

No, it is the CONFIDENCE with which such ravings are shouted. As an incantation to prove: “see? I know some science words too and they cancel anything “real” scientists might say!

But, um, locumranch fellah, where does the plankton get the calcium, iron and other ingredients that it uses to combine with CO2 and pull it from the air? Some comes from upwelling currents. But by far most of it comes from the weathering of continents by rainfall etc. In fact, plankton only speed up what already happens without life… weathered rock from continents combines with CO2 to lower greenhouse levels. This fall was so steep two billion years ago that there was an “Iceball Earth.”

In other words, you shout incantations without even showing the glimmer of curiosity as to whether they might (maybe) be true.)

The real was jibbering-drooling nonsense, of course. It is only a scientific and hence enlightenment civilization that ever took us off this planet. Nearly all the folks who are working to make humans interplanetary despise your politics and everything associated with them. Your feudal masters won’t get us out there.

“The Schaller & Wright study asserting that the PETM carbon release was virtually instantaneous, occurring over a dozen years, should give even the most hardened AGW Cultist pause by indicating that humanity should forget all about being a good long-term environmental steward & concentrate instead on 'getting the Hell off this rock'. “

Utter imbecility. Have you actually ever looked into Controlled Ecological Life Support (CELS) systems we will need out there? We will only master that art if we study how it works down here. The more we learn about better eco managements on Earth the better we can do it out there. Your zero sum thinking isn’t even remotely rational. We do both or (as you masters want) we do neither.

David Brin said...

Jumper various factors fractionate and separate elements and even isotopes from each other. On Earth it's been mineralization and leaching and deposition by water, as element-rich streams percolate through rock. Other fractionation separations happened because of meteorite strikes, volcanism etc.

In space, sunlight and solar wind certainly drove water outward. Earth got a lot of it back from comet strikes in the Late Heavy Bombardment.

A proto planet started forming out there and iron sank to the center, as on Earth... then that planet was busted up and hence the most metal-rich asteroids.

Jumper said...

I erred in understanding the high use of silica vs calcium by diatoms. Here's edited comment:

Some plankton (coccolithophores and foraminifera) accumulate free calcium and silicates from the water, which is restored by continental erosion. Diatoms can form silicon carrbonates. The plankton do not utilize magic. Eventually deep ocean bottom strata are subducted or re-exposed by uplift. Internal heat eventually frees the deep CO2 emitted in volcanoes. Mountain-building later returns the carbonates, but the newly-exposed primordial basalts do the heavy lifting, as the calcium in them are not carburated to the same extent as the recycled carbonates, and so have a greater potential for carbon resorption (or absorption.)

Long term deposition of silicon carbonates by plankton in meaningful amounts is disputed. Free uncarburized calcium is much better but must be massive to affect current levels for instance in proposed geoengineering plans.

David, I was schooled on fractionalization of elements by interrupted planet forming by --- you! And not long ago. I was interested to acquire hope for some neat discoveries soon in the further analysis of our asteroids. Also just now I learn how water is moved faster by stellar wind. Very interesting. So double thanks.

locumranch said...


Frankly, I do not understand David's continued hostility to the non-mechanistic biochemical sciences which, frankly speaking, have a much better chance of solving our current futurological challenges than his mechanistic Physics fetish does.

The problem of CO2 sequestration has already been largely solved by the biological life sciences, as CO2 fixation is greatly facilitated by the Carbonic Anhydrase enzyme which increases the CO2 sequestration rate by 10 to 7th power, which is all we really need to construct a functioning atmospheric recycling system (with the remainder of the CELS System functions being supplied by simple vat-grown organisms).

"Where does the plankton get the calcium, iron and other ingredients that it uses to combine with CO2 and pull it from the air?", David asks, insisting that almost all of raw materials that stimulate phytoplankton growth must come from land mass weathering. But, what is 'weathering' besides environmental agitation as also provided by "upwelling currents (his words)", non-landmass based weather systems, tides & vulcanism.

Phytoplankton growth, followed by its deposition in the high-pressure environment of the ocean floor, has been well-documented as the primary means of petroleum production, much in the same way that coal has been proven to result from plant-based cellulose being subject to tremendous pressure over time, prompting me to say "Pssst!!" to arguments that phytoplankton growth cannot 'fix' our atmospheric CO2 problems (especially in association with some human intervention).

Either way, the risk of a PETM-like carbon release and/or other Black Swan environmental catastrophe is judged to be quite significant by our smartest scientists (Hawking), meaning that our enlightened 'Apex Culture' may not have as much time as we believe we have, forcing us to rethink our 'needs further study' approach & concentrate on 'getting off this rock' ASAP at any cost.

Most likely though, our Apex Culture won't do what it SAYS it should do because (deep down) it believes that it will ALWAYS be 'On Top' (much like Babylon, Pompeii & the USSR) despite obvious socio-economic instabilities, depleted fisheries & various climate change Chicken Littleisms,

After all, things don't change until they do.

And, after they change? It's too damn late.


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Twominds said...

@Jumper

Your comment about fractionating reminds me of a speculation I made once, about water ice with some deuterium in it, sitting in a mountain formation at the edge of the atmosphere (or more probable, at the surface of a dwarf planet or asteroid with little or no atmosphere). I postulated that differential sublimation or a strong solar wind would leave a deuterium-rich "ice-ore" that could be mined for its deuterium.

Could that be possible at all, let alone plausible?

David Brin said...

How cute. He actually thinks that using polysyllabic words that take a whole, inhaled breath to utter, makes up for a complete lack of logic or factual basis. Dear locum, you declared that water worlds don’t need continents in order to draw CO2 from the atmosphere and thus maintain a Gaia balance. That showed that you know nothing about these processes. Yet you lecture ME about not understanding biochemical balance?

And yet, ironically, he does want us to become a spacefaring culture! Which puts strain in the brain since his loyalties are to an insanely lunatic cult that wants to re-institute brutally stupid governance methods that never took us toward space, and he would serve his masters by ransacking and destroying the only clades of humans who CAN take us into space.

Dig it, fellah. If a black swan kills 5 billion people, they will drag the other 2 billion with them. YOU will not be among the survivors. And if you are, you’ll be a lackey or kibble. In any event, there goes space-faring.

How about this? You actually join the folks who have actual operating prefrontal lobes? All of them. Your side has almost none.

Jumper said...

Actually I needed to do some reading on carbon sequestration via biologic action so I learned some stuff on the internet. Unfortunately I conclude that calcium has to be available in surplus for any iron experiments to succeed in geoengineering. Silicate shells don't trap carbon and the carbon from the organisms quickly becomes just more CO2 dissolved in the deep. There might be a few exceptions such as the Gulf of Mexico where silts are deposited quickly enough to trap what will become kerogen. The literature indicates kerogen-trapping is inefficient for our standards.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Twominds said...

So it wouldn't happen to any detectable amount.

No matter. This speculation was part of a Star Trek inspired game, where a likely story was more important than actual scientific plausibility.

I just wondered.

Jumper said...

Even deuterium and deuterium water is lighter than all the other >common< gases except hydrogen and regular water. I realized a while ago that regular H2O would make a great lighter-than-air lifting gas for balloons, except it has a propensity to condense!

Jumper said...

Centrifuges would work.

Once I posited the "212-degree H2O balloon" Venus missions came to mind. What to use for the envelope? Aluminum would succumb to sulfur. HDPE would fail at elevated temps. Chrome nickel foil is heavy, as is gold foil. Extreme volume could defeat that, but the budget goes to fairyland. Diamond foil might withstand it.
The average temperature on Venus is 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius). We should ask a metallurgist.

Brendan said...

While creating an artificial magnetosphere for Mars sounds like a great idea, shouldn't we be thinking of something similar for Earth? Wouldn't this would protect us from a Carrington Event magnitude solar storm that would otherwise devastate our land and LEO electronics?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

How about this? You actually join the folks who have actual operating prefrontal lobes? All of them. Your side has almost none.


Naaaah, locum is set on withholding his services in righteous indignation, "Going Galt" as it were. He fancies himself Rorschach from "Watchmen" with humanity looking up at him and crying "Save us!" so he can answer, "No!"

Tony Fisk said...

Mysterious new crack forms in one of Greenland's largest glaciers

Bad, ba-ad NASA! Clearly didn't receive the decree about not looking down. Maybe someone's gabblerdictum ate it?

Unknown said...

Potatoes have no protein in them. I think the answer to foodstuffs 'abroad' will be hydro-organsisms and insects.

Also, one-gee must be available to travelers at least...mmm.....30 percent of the time. Regardless, rotating the craft is easy; a rotating cabin not much harder.

Unknown said...

By the way, that laser article isn't recent. It's four and a half years old, yo.

Twominds said...

@Tony Fisk

WP has a longer article on it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/business/2016/12/30/with-enough-evidence-even-skepticism-will-thaw/?utm_term=.b8b8b6186fad">

I found it very interesting.

Twominds said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/business/2016/12/30/with-enough-evidence-even-skepticism-will-thaw/?utm_term=.b8b8b6186fad

Without the added characters that may foul up the linking.

LarryHart said...

Unknown:

Also, one-gee must be available to travelers at least...mmm.....30 percent of the time. Regardless, rotating the craft is easy; a rotating cabin not much harder.


Apologies in advance for the "Hamilton" voice in my head that immediately went to:


Rotation's easy, young man,
Gravity's harder.

LarryHart said...

Speaking of gravity, I finally looked up that bit from James Blish's "Cities in Flight" that I've been paraphrasing for ages here. It's in the prologue to the "Earthmen Come Home" section of the collection, which I believe is itself a collection of short stories repurposed as a novel. The line as written has a bit more ominous implications given the state of our nation:


The invention of Muir's tape-mass engine carried early explorers out as far as Jupiter; and gravity was discovered--though it had been postulated centuries before--by the 2018 Jovian expedition, the last flight with Muir engines which was completed on behalf of the West before that culture's final extinction.


LarryHart said...

appropos nothing here except that this audience is at least passingly familiar with Ayn Rand.

I practically worship Paul Krugman, and yet I wanted to say "Et Tu, Paul?" when he repeated this piece of generally-accepted wisdom about the former Sears CEO:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/opinion/why-dont-all-jobs-matter.html


By contrast, it’s really hard to blame either liberals or foreigners for, say, the decline of Sears. (The chain’s asset-stripping, Ayn Rand-loving owner is another story, but one that probably doesn’t resonate in the heartland.)


The CEO in question (Eddie Lampert?) may have styled himself as a Rand follower, but that particular bit of horrible management--pitting different internal departments against each other in "competition" for profitability--doesn't sound like something Ayn Rand herself would have advocated. In fact, it sounds a lot like the operation of the Starnesville factory--which John Galt left in disgust--managed by some of the villains of "Atlas Shrugged".

If he really ran a company into the ground in this manner thinking he was implementing Rand's philosophy, he must have badly misread the book, and Ayn Rand is spinning in her grave, which would be the only good thing to come of the episode.

Paul SB said...

Unknown,

Potatoes have protein in them, but most of it is in the skin, which you are getting if you eat fries or chips. A typical potato has around 4 grams of protein, which is about 10% of the lower end RDA for protein (40-60 grams/day), so a smaller person could get all their protein needs from 10 potatoes a day (actually, they would not be getting all the amino acids and would have to supplement with other sources, so it's not quite that simple). The interest in potatoes is not just an artifact of a popular movie, they grow the second highest number of calories per acre of land of all Earth cultivars, after wheat. Any space colony is likely to rely on potatoes as a primary calorie source, especially since potatoes are much easier to process into food than wheat. Humans need a lot of calories.

Marine sources (seaweeds) would be plausible only if on a huge scale. Your typical kelp has only 0.1 gram/tablespoon of protein. Animal sources, of course, have a lot more, but that is only if they are fed sufficiently. Animal protein is far too inefficient to be of any use in long-term space use (and likely will have to be phased out completely here on Earth once human population goes over 12 billion). Besides, marine sources require huge amounts of water, which may be available in a number of places "out there" as ice, but would require some big facilities to melt and contain in liquid form for marine food sources to grow in. And obviously water is far too heavy to lift from Earth in any great quantities, unless someone figures out cheap antigravity.

locumranch said...


My prefrontal lobes are fine, thank you.

You would have to be deaf, asensate & living in a cave to accept a gross over-simplification like "a world without any continents to weather away would lack the ability to scrub CO2 and hence keep getting hotter as volcanoes added carbon to the air", especially with a 40-year host of ecologists, environmentalists & marine biologists screaming about TOO MUCH continental run-off leading to a chemically-dependent eutrophication process credited for creating "dead zones" of oceanic lifelessness & underwater oxygen level depletion.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ocean-dead-zones/

As David touches on, the truth is NOT 'either-or' but much more complex, requiring "balance" (not too much, not too little) to achieve the kind of Gaian Ecological Equilibrium that he assumes to be 'normal' and 'desirable'. Of course, he neglects to mention that even WITHOUT continents (as in the case of an exclusive 'waterworld') there could still be some different kind of Ecological Equilibrium, one capable of supporting life, though such an equilibrium would not necessarily be either Earth-like or 'Gaian', similar perhaps to exclusive 'waterworlds' like the Jovian Moons mentioned above, or even very 'Earth-like' assuming a different order of orbital preconditions.

It is hard to condemn a Science Fiction writer for 'over-simplification', however, as this tradition (of writing at a 5th grade elementary school intellectual level) dates back to the brilliant & prolific Isaac Asimov, so much so that one can argue that David's 'raison d'etre' as a science fiction writer is this very tendency towards 'over-simplification' mentioned above.


Best
_____

https://www.e-education.psu.edu/astro801/content/l12_p4.html

The size of the habitable zone clearly depends on the luminosity of the star, which determines the equilibrium temperature of the planet. However, modern models for the range of the habitable zone take into account more subtle effects, such as the effect of the carbonate-silicate cycle in regulating carbon dioxide in a planet's atmosphere. Work on this particular process by Penn State scientists, including Professor James Kasting (link is external), has shown that the habitable zone extends farther from a star than originally assumed. In the case of the Solar System, the Earth is inside of this revised HZ near its inner edge, and Mars is just outside of the outer edge. Our colleague Ravi Kopparapu maintains an up to date visualization of the habitable zone that includes all of the known exoplanets that lie inside their parent's HZ (link is external).

When we studied stellar evolution, you saw the evolutionary tracks for stars in the HR diagram: stars do not maintain the same color and luminosity over their entire lifetimes. When the star begins stable hydrogen fusion on the Main Sequence, it will lie in one particular location in the HR diagram, known as the Zero Age Main Sequence, or ZAMS. As the star ages, though, it will, in general, cool off a bit and become more luminous. As its luminosity changes, the location of its habitable zone will change, too. You can define a continuously habitable zone (or CHZ) as the region in which liquid water can exist over the entire Main Sequence lifetime of a star.

One last note about the CHZ. Recall that, in our Solar System, the moons Europa and Titan are considered locations where life may exist. Both moons are far outside of the CHZ around our Sun, though. So, although the CHZ is an interesting location to survey for planets around other stars that might support life, it is not the only location in a planetary system that might support life.

LarryHart said...

For locumranch, without further comment:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/problem-thinking-know-experts/


...
Increasingly, however, laypeople don’t care about expert views. Instead, many Americans have become insufferable know-it-alls, locked in constant conflict with each other, while knowing almost nothing about the subject they are debating.

How did this happen? How is it that people now not only doubt expert advice, but believe themselves to be as smart, or even smarter, than experienced professionals? Parents who refuse to vaccinate a child, for example, aren’t really questioning their doctors. They’re replacing their doctors. They have decided that attending the university of Google, as one anti-vaccine activist put it, is the same as going to medical school.

People who have no idea how much the United States spends on foreign aid think that they’re the peers of experienced diplomats. Experts in almost every field can tell similar stories.
...


The funnier part of that same article:

TOM NICHOLS, Author, “The Death of Expertise”: A few years ago, a mischievous group of pollsters asked American voters whether they would support bombing the country of Agrabah.

As you might expect, Republicans tended to support military action, while Democrats were more reluctant.

There’s only one problem: Agrabah doesn’t exist. It’s from the animated Disney film “Aladdin.” Only about half the people surveyed figured this out, and liberals and conservatives gleefully pointed fingers at each other.

For experts in foreign affairs, however, there was no way around the alarming reality that so many Americans had a well-defined view on bombing a cartoon.
...


David Brin said...

“even WITHOUT continents (as in the case of an exclusive 'waterworld') there could still be some different kind of Ecological Equilibrium, one capable of supporting life” — except that repeating something, over and over again does not make it so. As declaring that you do understand something does not make that true.

For you to cite Kim Kasting (who is a friend and with whom I’ve had many fruitful discussions) is ironic and weird.

What appears likely on a water world without continents is that either (1) some unknown process vastly accelerates upwelling to a scale that let’s a Gaia Balance to be struck or (2) a steam greenhouse takes off, horrendously hot but accelerating H20 loss until continents finally emerge, allowing weathering and Gaia Balance to take hole.

But no, son, you have no prefrontals. Proclaiming them to be present does not make it so.

You side with short-sighted, fact-hating, world-raping, insatiable cheaters against all the people who want to save the world and who know how to do it… and who know how to and want to get us off the planet.

No, there’s no sapience there.

locumranch said...



"Increasingly, however, laypeople don’t care about expert views. Instead, many Americans have become insufferable know-it-alls, locked in constant conflict with each other, while knowing almost nothing about the subject they are debating".

I agree with you completely, Larry_H. The article is spot-on, describing the flip-slide consequence of what David describes as 'The Age of the Amateur' wherein the amateur & expert devalue each other by identical methodology, giving simultaneous rise to the amateur who uses less-than-special information to make loving/caring judgements about topics that concern him & the expert who use specialised knowledge to make uncaring/unloving judgements about things that do not concern him.

There is NO difference, really, between the science-savvy Astrophysicist who LOVES to make sweeping unexpert judgements about politics, economics, morality, biology & climate science and the social-savvy Amateur who LOVES to make similarly sweeping unexpert judgments about logic, astrophysics, technology, economics & climate science.

Outside of their chosen disciplines, every expert is an amateur & every amateur is an expert.

David proves this point quite eloquently.


Best :p

TheMadLibrarian said...

Jumper, how do carbon nanotubes handle extreme temperatures and sulfur, or something woven from buckyballs? All the articles I can get to talk about carbon as a tempering agent for something like stainless steel.

Winter7 said...

From a contest; Gravitational waves and variation of a solution.
Regarding the idea of ​​using a magnetic dipole at a LaGrange point to protect the planet Mars from radiation. I wonder if that solution would serve to protect a spacecraft traveling to Mars. I suppose it is a question of experimenting with scaled models in an almost empty container containing a simulated solar wind with helium plasma. (And a small cyclotron to simulate the high-energy particles being thrown against the ship, which would be filled with radiation sensors and passage would contain sections with different kinds of solid shields)
Regarding the subject of my previous message that I did not translate correctly (sorry) In summary I meant:
A) Dr. Brin is on the board of advisors to the XPrize Foundation.
B) It would be appropriate for Dr. Brin to suggest to the XPrize Foundation that it would be convenient to offer dozens of "little prizes" to the best ideas to stop mass extinction in the oceans. That they accept only ideas, without the need for proposals to include work teams with systems in operation (But at least the video of an experiment that demonstrates that the theory works)
They already made a contest with the objective of creating sensors to detect the level of Co2 in the seas. That is great. But now we need ideas to stop massive extinction in the oceans. And with tons of methane escaping from the tundra and oceanic sites, practical solutions are urgently needed.
Either we solve the problem, or we start to get many kilos of coins in the banks to give alms to the endless rows of climate refugees who will knock on the doors of our houses. (Assuming that climate refugees are patient and harmless people after losing everything) (assuming that climate refugees will simply sit and starve without complaining)

C) Doctor Brin. I saw an interesting article about something you mentioned about cooling atoms with lasers. I attach the link and comment that perhaps it is possible to use three Bose-Einstein condensates, with sensors connected to a computer, to detect gravitational waves. The Bose-Einstein condensate could be; Perhaps, an excellent gravitational wave detector. (An assumption)
Dr. Brin, thank you for your untiring personal effort to stop global warming even under the difficult circumstances and despite the huge army of negationist trolls who want to drag us to the bottom of the abyss.
Here is the link to the Bose-Einstein condensate:
https://phys.org/news/2017-04-physicists-negative-mass.html

LarryHart said...

@locumranch,

revisiting
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/problem-thinking-know-experts/

Maybe this bit is more appropriate:


We need to find our way back from this ego-driven wilderness. Historically, people return to valuing expert views in times of trouble or distress. We’re all willing to argue with our doctors until our fever is out of control.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But that’s where we’re headed. And unless we start accepting the limitations of our own knowledge, then each of us is failing in our obligation to participate in our democracy as involved, but informed citizens.

David Brin said...

" flip-slide consequence of what David describes as 'The Age of the Amateur' wherein the amateur & expert devalue each other by identical methodology, giving simultaneous rise to the amateur who uses less-than-special information to make loving/caring judgements about topics that concern him & the expert who use specialized knowledge to make uncaring/unloving judgements about things that do not concern him."

Dizzyingly stunning-stupid drooling drivel! I love this! We are such a diverse species!

A.F. Rey said...

FiveThirtyEight has an interesting comparison of the upcoming March for Science with previous farmers' marches: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/marching-scientists-will-have-a-lot-in-common-with-angry-70s-farmers/

Their conclusion: The marches of scientists and the tractorcades of farmers are consistent with the symbolism that protests on Washington’s National Mall are all about, said Lisa Benton-Short, a geography professor at George Washington University... The Mall, she told me, is where Americans go when they want to change the national identity, or remind other Americans of values they believe we should all share...

Starting national conversations by protesting on the Mall is a longstanding tradition, and it’s important, Benton-Short said. But change doesn’t usually happen quickly afterwards, she said, citing early 20th century women’s suffrage marches as an example. The goal is really to make it clear to politicians that this is something people care about, and to start the process of creating political pressure... “But what will be interesting is to also see the reaction to that. How congressmen, senators and Republicans interpret the day and the messages they walk away with.”


Hopefully, this is will be more effective than the previous farmers' marches, or at least more memorable. (How many people remember the farmers' marches? Except, of course, for the tractor motorcade because, well, there were tractors. :))

See you on the March in downtown San Diego (unless I need to work overtime that day).

LarryHart said...

There's a qualitative difference between decisions like "How do we best get from point A to point B?" and "Is point B really where we want to go?" You can make loving/caring judgments about the latter, but judgments about the former work out better if one takes advice from people who know how things work.

Gravity causes many beautiful children to fall and hurt themselves. You can make loving/caring judgments about how mean old gravity should just go away, but doing so will not help one child that you care about.

How things work is not a matter of opinion. For example, when I first learned to play chess, it didn't immediately occur to me that a bishop, which can only move diagonally, was forever "stuck" on either black squares or on white squares, but could not move from one color to another. Once that was explained, I could see how obvious it was in hindsight. There's no hidden method that just hasn't been discovered yet by which a bishop can trancend this fact. Some other newcomer to chess might not know this fact yet, but his opinion that maybe a bishop can move from black to white squares is not "every bit as valid" as the certain knowledge that it can't be done. If not being able to cover more than half the board with a chess piece "hurts your feelings", that's too bad.

That's a trivial example, but the same is true in areas that matter greatly. An uncaring/unloving assessment informs you what reality really looks like. Ignoring or avoiding such judgement doesn't make reality more loving/caring. It just leaves you open to surprise and failure that could easily have been avoided.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart, (from last thread)

You are probably right about the general lack of education among Americans about the Electoral College prior to the 2000 election. Even afterward, it was probably still high among those who feel they won. I’m doubtful there is a consensus, though, that the Electoral College is not fair, but I suspect there is NO consensus that it IS fair. It a lack of consensus that should drive us to drop certain rules, but it will simultaneously prevent us from replacing them with what should be.

As for the bandwagon you jumped on board, don’t think I’m singling you out. You just happen to be here saying what you say. When you are among them, you are part of their pack. When you are among others, you lead the bandwagon’s idea like the leading point of a spear. Be aware of your surroundings and your potential to influence. You speak well and display your passion in your writing, so I’m simply avoiding the error of underestimating your potential impact. 8)

…he was preparing the way for treating Hillary as an illegitimate president…

Yah. So? You want to follow his example here? I didn’t think so.

That the FBI sat on that information…

It wasn’t just the FBI. Obama did too. They really AREN’T supposed to talk about classified information. In Obama’s case, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He probably thought the election would swing her way and help him avoid setting a terrible precedent of a sitting President using the powers of his office against a Presidential candidate before an election. A large fraction of the voters wouldn’t have believed he had any other motive than to help Clinton. From that we get another Constitution Crisis. All things considered, I’m inclined to believe the best possible outcome is the one we are facing. Let the election go as it will and then investigate all involved. Perhaps the American People will learn something from it. Perhaps not.

Alfred Differ said...

@raito | People have peed in my Wheaties. Continually.

I’m sorry to hear that. You aren’t alone (not that this will offer consolation), but I do know a few people who feel the same way. Sometimes I offer sympathy and really mean it. Other times I wonder about it being so constant and the possibility that the Wheaties actually belong to someone else. Of course they’d pee on yours if you were taking theirs, right? That’s just part of how we all play the Ultimatum Game. Then there are guys like how Captain America was depicted in the first movie. It was like he enjoyed getting beaten up. Principles come before all else with them. Yah. They get pissed on continually because their sanctimonious asses piss off everyone around them.

I don’t know you well enough to know what keeps you motivated through all this, but I believe you when you say it is continuous. Are you asking for it, though? I used to until late in high school when I earned my epiphany. My smart ass got me into serious social trouble and earned me a lump on the inside of my lower lip where I barely managed to avoid having my teeth knocked out through that lip. I realized I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was and years later I realized I WAS intruding on the turf of others. I was peeing in THEIR Wheaties. The kid I used to be would never have believed it, though. I was right. They were wrong. My epiphany was the recognition of myself as the barbarian I was.

I’m not trying to get you to relive all this online, though. It’s quite possible you’ve been victimized AND unlucky. If so, I feel for you while freely admitting I have no idea what to offer you except part of my attention. If not, well… I feel for you too. I wouldn’t suggest learning my lesson the way I did, but better late than never.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Mistakes will be made, they always are whether you are using science to make those mistakes or witchdoctoring. Your point, please?

1. Collect the data we will all need to determine whether a proposed solution makes for a better world. That means each proposal must be accompanied by a plan for how it can be proven to be in error.
2. Face the possibility that a tradition might be the result of an evolutionary process that solved a real problem we’d rather not face again. Face the possibility that an illiberal tradition might produce better results than a liberal proposal and revert to tradition with humility when it happens.
3. ALWAYS keep a reserve among the social experiments where we allow some to keep their old ways. We need them as control groups.

Yes. Mistakes happen. Social science isn’t really science in the sense of theory falsifications, so mistakes are even harder to accept. We can’t sit by and require more data before anything is done, though, right? No problem. As long as we are approaching this all with some humility, we can build large enough majorities to get traction. These rules are hard, though. Someone is going to be blamed in #1 when an idea fails. Someone is going to have to admit they don’t know enough in #2. Someone is going to get hurt in #3 no matter which way it comes out.

Jumper said...

I'm planting tomatoes and I won't have all the information before I do.

Carbon is way more resistant to fire in many cases than some realize. Graphite is hard to light. But hot CO2 is a strong oxidizer itself.

Alfred Differ said...

If we are going to make magnetic shields for planets, I'd like to make one for us to mitigate CME's. Sounds like a worthy project. Oh? Yah. We aren't allowed to look at the Earth anymore. 8/

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

You are probably right about the general lack of education among Americans about the Electoral College prior to the 2000 election. Even afterward, it was probably still high among those who feel they won. I’m doubtful there is a consensus, though, that the Electoral College is not fair, but I suspect there is NO consensus that it IS fair.


Not so much that it isn't fair as that it isn't fair when it repudiates the popular vote. There's something that feels unfair about Hillary losing by negative-three million votes. Even Trump supporters who are glad he won seem to have to resort to claiming that he really won the popular vote as well (except for those darned illegal aliens).

Part of the reason the electoral college has become such a thing lately is because our elections are all nail-biters, with differences like 50.1% vs 49.9 %. When the winner has something more like the upper 50s or even 60s, then the same sort of total is likely to play out among many states. IIRC, both Nixon and Reagan in their second terms had that sort of popular vote advantage, and won so many states that the outcome was never in doubt. Both Bush and Trump owe their squeakers of victory to what is essentially the margin of error in particular states that could have just as easily gone the other way if someone else was doing the counting (or the cheating).

When I say people think the electoral college system is unfair, I mean they think something is not right when the electoral college result is different from the popular vote result.


"That the FBI sat on that information…"

It wasn’t just the FBI. Obama did too. They really AREN’T supposed to talk about classified information.


Sitting on an ongoing investigation makes sense. Except for what they did to Hillary at the same time. It's the juxtaposition of the two cases which smacks of intentional cheating to me.


All things considered, I’m inclined to believe the best possible outcome is the one we are facing. Let the election go as it will and then investigate all involved.


Hey, you're the one who's going to be hit with a missile from Kim Jung Un, not me.

Since we're already going back to Trumpian politics, let me just add that if it turns out that he really did act in ways not just friendly to Russia, but in ways that help Russia counter our offensive capability (see Dr Brin's final remarks last post)--that is if he is really acting as a de-facto agent of a hostile foreign power against American interests--I'd say that makes him an illegitimate president no matter whether the election rules were followed. At the very least, it would imply fraud on a grand scale, since he didn't campaign on "If elected, I'll help Vladimir Putin weaken us in world affairs."

Jumper said...

A Constitutional amendment would have the heft to displace Trump.

Unknown said...

@Alfred (and whomever else): a Resource-based Economy is THE solution. But humans tend to want to take it in the ass. Well, who am I to stop them?

((( I am Valentine Michael Smith, of course, and am similarly feared, desired, and scorned. I wait.... )))


@Paul: 40 grams of protein a day? What yoga hipster skinny-ass motherfucker are you? I'd hafta eat people if I didn't get my 40 per MEAL. Cos I'm a protein type, yo. Again, bugs: loads of nutrients, breed like hell, take little resources. And I didn't mean sea creatures, but engineered algae. Bugs are probably the best bet, though. Ya all fools ain't squeamish is ya??

donzelion said...

Gosh, I go away for a week, and this is the sort of debate?

"Frankly, I do not understand David's continued hostility to the non-mechanistic biochemical sciences which, frankly speaking, have a much better chance of solving our current futurological challenges than his mechanistic Physics fetish does."

I'm laughing out loud - first, because the rigorous study of earth-bound systems endorsed by our host can hardly support a mechanistic physics fetish - and second, because in what other forum, anywhere, would anyone ever dream of accusing another person of being a physics fetishist and believe that to be an insult?

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart,

Look up the history of attempted amendments to our Constitution that didn’t work and then cross-reference them to the sections where the changes were attempted. You’ll find the most heavily hit portion involves the Electoral College. We’ve tried and tried and tried and tried which suggests to me at least a small fraction of Americans through history has understood that there is a problem. Back in the early days before the expansion of the franchise, I’m not sure the average American would have given it much thought, but someone did often enough to set quite a record for amendment attempts.

The popular explanation for the EC is the one that says it is designed to create wide margins of victory where slim margins actually exist. I’ve always thought of that explanation as a fraud, though. The EC exists because the Framers wouldn’t have been able to entice the smaller states to sign on to the Constitution when big states like New York could simply out vote them at the national level. Signing on to a kind of federalism where your voice can’t be heard much is almost an abandonment of sovereignty. That stuff mattered a great deal back then. These United States VS The United States. Since this same risk is still present today, the explanation is still valid. You’d have to believe that the most recent EC outcome in FL, MI, PA, and OH will become the norm to not see a heavy blue bias in the current list of 13 states with the largest populations. During a more typical election, only a couple of them consistently vote red, so that bias is at least +100. Strictly by popular votes, the story is rather similar. Ignore PA and MI this time since they almost didn’t express a preference and you’ll see that only two of the top 13 populated states voted strongly for Trump (GA and NC were weakly for him). You’ll also see the surplus blue vote here in CA made up for all of them. NY almost did. As long as NY and CA vote in similar directions, therefore, EVERY red state should feel they will have no voice for President without an EC. Of course they would, but the weighting would be different. It is the job of the EC to weight votes in an unfair way to hold the Union together. THAT is the ugliness that keeps another Civil War at bay.

Sitting on an ongoing investigation makes sense. Except for what they did to Hillary at the same time. It's the juxtaposition of the two cases which smacks of intentional cheating to me.

Comey was screwed no matter what. He’s an institution guy more than a partisan. Sure he hurt Clinton. Now he is in a position to hurt Trump too.

Hey, you're the one who's going to be hit with a missile from Kim Jung Un, not me.

Heh. Grab a globe and look at shortest arcs. I’m about as easy to hit as you are. I’m in southern California. NK plays the role of Crazy SOB to scare off stronger opponents. The Iranians were doing the same thing a few years ago before Obama changed the board, thus changed the game we were playing with them. A Crazy SOB is actually weak, but he isn’t stupid. Threat and Bluster, but no follow-through. It will be interesting to see how the game with NK changes now that we’ve installed our own Crazy SOB as President.

… if he is really acting as a de-facto agent of a hostile foreign power…

Yah. I’d agree with you in that case and so would the vast majority of our Armed Forces. You won’t have to lift a finger. Dealing with him will be a race between everyone loyal to America no matter how they express that loyalty.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The popular explanation for the EC is the one that says it is designed to create wide margins of victory where slim margins actually exist.


There's a bit of sense to that, at least in some cases. As mentioned earlier, I was surprised when Nixon's win in 1972 was considered a "landslide" when he had something like 58% of the vote. I understand now that anything over 53% or so is considered a huge win, but back then it didn't seem like it should be. But as my dad pointed out, he won almost every state, so it was a landslide in that sense. Reagan did the same thing in 1984, even more so.


I’ve always thought of that explanation as a fraud, though. The EC exists because the Framers wouldn’t have been able to entice the smaller states to sign on to the Constitution when big states like New York could simply out vote them at the national level. Signing on to a kind of federalism where your voice can’t be heard much is almost an abandonment of sovereignty. That stuff mattered a great deal back then. These United States VS The United States. Since this same risk is still present today, the explanation is still valid


In 1789, there was still a major division between slave states and free states, which might be similar to today's Red/Blue divide, but even more explicit. The system had to be engineered so that the rural Slave States couldn't be dictated to by the more populous Free States of the North. The EC not only skews power in the direction of smaller states (because every state has 3 electors no matter how small), but also gives Slave States representation equal to 3/5 of their non-voting slave population. Before universal manhood suffrage, the notion of a "popular vote" for the presidency would have been meaningless.


Comey was screwed no matter what. He’s an institution guy more than a partisan. Sure he hurt Clinton. Now he is in a position to hurt Trump too.


I couldn't care less which politicians he hurt. I care that he hurt the country. That damage isn't so easily repaired. Even if Trump is impeached, we've still got Pence and Ryan next in line, and Gorsuch is on the bench for life. There's no way to balance that out.


NK plays the role of Crazy SOB to scare off stronger opponents. ... A Crazy SOB is actually weak


Yeah, but now we've got our own crazy SOB contending for the prize.


"… if he is really acting as a de-facto agent of a hostile foreign power…"

Yah. I’d agree with you in that case and so would the vast majority of our Armed Forces. You won’t have to lift a finger. Dealing with him will be a race between everyone loyal to America no matter how they express that loyalty.


Well, some are expressing their loyalty by standing by their man and their party. I'm looking at Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in particular. And right-wing talk shows and columnists. The only one I've noticed who isn't playing that game is Jonah Goldberg. Of all the right-wing media, he alone seems to have noticed that "This sophont is dangerous!"

Still, if it plays out like that, I'll be happy to point out that I told you so all along.
:)

Alfred Differ said...

Well... there is a physics fetish and there is an astrophysics fetish. One of them is rather useful when pondering how planets evolve. The other is a start. David is a tad guilty of the useful one. One just has to know how to look up his other writings to see this. 8)

I imagine there are special cases where plate tectonics occurs, but no part of the lithosphere rises high enough to be exposed to the CO2 in the atmosphere. That would be enough to drive sediment under for future volcanoes, but wouldn't speak much to what is in the sediment or how much of it there would be. I'm guilty of the not-so-useful one, though. Haven't given this much thought.

One thing that always bugged me about Waterworld (the movie) is where the water came from. It just ain't here. Landing it on Earth (somehow) would have made for a spectacular light show too. Everyone dies. Little things like this catch my attention and ruin my suspension of belief. All it takes is a fraction of a second. In Edge of Tomorrow, there is a scene with our Moon in fragments. My eyes went wide with a quick physics calculation and my suspension crashed. My inner voice said “Everyone dies.” Argh. They could have dodged that easily.

Putting aside the difficulties of entertaining physics fetishists (or the astrophysics variety), they are rather handy to have around when you want to detect the entertaining fabrications of policy makers. Those who want to be entertained might wish we weren’t in the room so they could avoid hearing us groan in our special misery, but I’ll only accept a muzzle in the movie theater. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart,

Even among the more populous northern states, a number of them were wary of NY. It was big. It was rich. It had the Capitol. Who could say ‘No’ to what NY wanted?

I’m not convinced Comey damaged the country. We did. Every Democrat and Republican who thought it was a good idea to put up two of the most hated candidates in recent history did the damage. Comey was doing what he thought best for the FBI. THAT is the kind of person he is. The election was our concern… not his. Yes… I know which way he leans politically, but he is an institution guy at heart.

Well, some are expressing their loyalty by standing by their man and their party.

So far, but we haven’t proven the top dog is a de-facto agent of a hostile foreign power yet, have we?

My suspicion is he is a dupe too thick to realize he is being played. He cares more about his image as a billionaire and got captured as a Russian asset. Some of his people might be more willing agents, though. That’s bad enough.

Unknown said...

Waterworld I didn't bother seeing. I haven't bothered seeing the majority of movies since the 90s - and it ain't gettin better. Besides, dysoptian themes are for fags.

There are two movies that come to mind when I say SF, and they are 2010, and Contact. Everything else can be forgotten. All the scifi can totally be forgotten. ALL the Fantasy CAN TOTALLY BE FORGOTTEN.

An you thought Dave was hardcore......

Tony Fisk said...

@Unknown, It's all a matter of taste, and all SF is just fantasy when you get down to it. Still, there have been some excellent SF films since the 90s.
I think 'The Arrival' would fit into your shortlist very nicely.

Unknown said...

Nope. No alien flicks. (Illuminatus! is a lot of fun that way, though....)

Fiction is fantasy. Fantasy and scifi are ridiculous regions of it. At twelve I conceived myself nearly omnipotent and having the ability to travel eight billion light-years per second....because you know two seconds to traverse the known universe is pretty fast. But why did I stop there?......

Taste and quality are different things. I ain't gotta like it for it to be good. It does need craft, which means I can't just pull it out of my ass.

Nobody needs to be or feel sheepish for liking tripe. Just admit that it is.

((Oh-oh. I'm getting the sign captchas now......))

Duncan Cairncross said...

Tripe is delicious - tripe and onions!
But it does need to be cooked properly

What do you guys think about the snap election in the UK?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:
Little things like this catch my attention and ruin my suspension of belief. All it takes is a fraction of a second. In Edge of Tomorrow, there is a scene with our Moon in fragments. My eyes went wide with a quick physics calculation and my suspension crashed. My inner voice said “Everyone dies.” Argh. They could have dodged that easily.


In the late 1980s, DC comics did a re-imagining of Superman's history to try to make it more plausible and easier to follow. In one story, he returns to the location in space where Krypton used to be and for the first time we see that there's still a planet there, but it's made up of Kryptonite fragments which have (of course) been pulled back together by mutual gravity.

That was different from the depiction in the previous 50 years in which Krypton exploded into Kryptonite fragments which had been flung across the universe (with an inordinate number ending up on Earth). In the new history, the only such fragment on earth was one which hitched a ride on baby-Superman's earthbound spaceship.

LarryHart said...

Unknown:

Nope. No alien flicks.


???

Just a few posts above, the only two sci-fi movies you like are alien flicks.

Paul SB said...

Hi Alfred,

Your points 1 &3 are both just basic science. #3 has been why ethnographers have been so interested in not only documenting everything they can about the smallest scale human societies, which are going extinct as fast as the K/T Event, but also advocating for them in legal battles to preserve their life ways. Right-wing fools and totalizing idiots of all stripes never get that we need cultural diversity just in case - you never know what might happen, and what set of customs might be the ones that allow the species to survive the next population bottleneck. I grew up (as did most of us) being fed a steady diet of nuclear holocaust stories. What cultural practices would pull the species through that level bottleneck? Sure as hell not any of our industrial or agricultural traditions. Even life-long homesteaders would be fertilizer. The survivors will be people who can live off of wild resources and adapt to radical changes - hunter/gatherers, not anyone around here who goes to polling stations to vent their rage against circumstances they are clueless about.

Point #2 is a basic tenet of anthropology. Once again, you seem to be forgetting who you are writing to. Sorry if I sound a little terse, here, but I'm not some illiterate church marm. Of course all of these things will be accounted for. But on the other side of the ledger, when humans discover that we have been doing things very, very badly, or that the circumstances have dramatically changed so that old customs that made sense centuries go have become failure modes today, we have to be willing to change and not just cling to traditions because they feel comfortable. It takes rational analysis, not knee-jerk reactions in either direction, to steer away from extinction. Everything in moderation, including moderation itself (The Middle Path).

Paul SB said...

Oh great Unknown,

Anyone who has known me for more than about 15 minutes would guffaw their gizzards to Gimli at the idea that I might be some kind of hipster. You could guffaw them clean out of the Milky Way, out the other side of the Virgo Supercluster, go two (bakers’) dozen more superclusters over and get lost in the nearest Void and still not be as far from hipster as me. No yoga pants, either, the the back end is not a huge issue (pun intended). I only just recently managed to get down to under 200 lbs.

And at 40 g/meal, your local funeral home director must be licking his chops.

Paul SB said...

Rob H. (from the previous thread, sorry it took awhile...),

There is also a story where a man is swallowed by a Taotie but comes out unharmed on the other side, because it has no body. The image is widely thought to represent the threat of the state, as in, this is what you are compared to the Celestial Emperor - just a beast who looks frightening but really amounts to nothing. Plenty of stories, and as to portraying our Taotie’s in art, I’m sure any number of us could with the art of lampoon (though these guys almost lampoon themselves). But I get you. Not many of us here get off without being the targets of their emetic festivals. Isn’t it really a badge of honor to have these guys insult you? It means that you are both smart and a decent human being. But we are in a war of words against these turds. Am I not doing my part?

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

Because it could be me and my actions, I've occasionally asked other people. Their opinion is that it's not me. And if I feel victimized, it's really only because it happened to me and not someone else. Mostly, it's happened because there's a lot of uncaring people out there who simply can't be bothered to understand the consequences of their actions on others, even when it's explicitly a part of their role in things. Sure, there's been times where it has been personal. For example, I have no idea why the internship director disliked me to the point of explicitly not following the buidelines for internship placement (and thereby not performing his job), other than the fact that I had the temerity to continue my education at the local university. His bosses reaction I understand. He just didn't care that I wouldn't graduate without the internship. So that one was perwsonal (and led to other wheatie pissing, but that's another story).

People's outlooks are so massively colored by their experiences. I assume my wheaties will be pissed in, because it happens so often. The friend I mentioned before assumes his will get sugared, because they have been before. Both of us get surprised when the other happens. The big difference is that I try to implement urine defense, and he does not. So I minimize bad outcomes, but suffer more angst.

It's rather like our outlooks on jobs. His first professional job was truly awful (wanna work for a PhD who did not author his own dissertation and inists on beind addressed by title?). Mine was wonderful. So in his world, every job not as bad as his first is great. In mine, every job not as good as my first sucks. Not reslistic at all, but that's how minds tend to work.

As for luck, I've had mostly bad, if you count instances. The good luck I've had didn't happen often, but sure seems to ahve been a lot more effective than the bad, and came along usually when I really needed something more than I could do on my own.

On a more germane topic...

The 'blue' states do have a lot of population. And it's been stated here that the 'red' states lose population because their young leave the nest. But it also appears to be true that the 'red' states have lower cost of living. With the boomers retiring, do you think that many/enough of them will move to lower-cost 'red' states to make any difference in elections?

LarryHart said...

raito:

As for luck, I've had mostly bad, if you count instances. The good luck I've had didn't happen often, but sure seems to ahve been a lot more effective than the bad, and came along usually when I really needed something more than I could do on my own.


Sounds a lot like my own life. I was unlucky at love, at friendships, and at finding anything useful to do with my life for much of my under-30 lifetime. Spent way too much time feeling sorry for myself (though the reasons were real) until Dave Sim taught me to cut that out. But I somehow managed to find a wife who made up for all of that and then some, and despite my terror at having children, now have a treasure of a high-schooler.

I used to think that Joe Walsh lyric, "I can't complain but sometimes I still do." should be my catch phrase.

David Brin said...

Unknown are you a hater of time travel? Because PRIMER and PREDESTINATION were logical, low-budget, and good for thinkers.


Jumper said...

Here's a good examination of the future and present of U.S. flooding costs:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/magazine/when-rising-seas-transform-risk-into-certainty.html

David Brin said...

onward
onward

Unknown said...

@Larry: they aren't. There are non-terrestrial characters, but they aren't 'alien' flicks - which are mostly dystopian of some sort, or pseudo-psychadelic. Notice there hasn't been A Stranger in a Strange Land flick yet. Maybe the queer/trans lot will have to do it......of course then it'll be REALLY weird....though probably juvenile just the same. Kids today.


re - Supe, et al: the problem with all that stuff is IT VIOLATES THERMODYNAMICS TO EXIST. Not to mention, panspermia aside, the likelihood of a humanoid race far and away.... And, since the humanistic element got introduced, Supe goes through all the basic human (read - American) male child tribulations and all. Why? He's genetically different, hence it's conceivable he'd be emotionally different. I am, an ah was boan hea......


@Paul: no honorific necessary (think RDJ face). Nah, dude, Metabolic Typing. As I said, I'm a protein type, and have enjoyed (to most) spell-binding health and vitality via that and the correct physical training for the last sixteen years. I was, for me, just before that over-mass in fat and cutting carbs and re-establishing an animal flesh and fat diet took it off - with less physical training than I'd been doing. Biology, yo.

As for survivalism, talk to Jerry Pournelle. I've had my decent share of training, let's say.


@Dave: hater? Hater?? I'm wondering whether that's humour or you've let yourself be seduced by popcul. (Hater is not in my working vocabulary.) I don't know those, and am looking them up. I'll get back to you on those. There are some second-tier examples I think are relevant: Solaris (Clooney - it's a love story mainly, but it is SF), Vanilla Sky, some others.... The condition is whether it offers something novel in an emotionally evolutionary sense. Popcul is barely catching up to the 60s.....

Unknown said...

--- Error in my entry to Lar: not juvenile - infantile. ((No editing is kinda a drag....))

Unknown said...

re - gravity: after reading the above quote, I vaguely recalled that a spinning shuttle, for example, wouldn't be viable to achieve full gee. Apparently a couple/few hundreded meters is necessary. So, a ring of modules, that can be loose during boost, and fixed during travel and orbit for rotation, the thruster section aimed inward to pull the assembly.

I think Mars is a retarded idea. Asteroids or bust. Might be better for humanity to get its shit together, and focus on technological development. Again, a Resource-based Economy would provide a better route.