Sunday, March 10, 2019

Looking ahead... Science news, predictions and more... including lasers!


NBC News has web-featured "19 bold predictions for science and technology in 2019": Here's what thought leaders in innovation expect to see in the coming year." Nearly all the sages and experts made interesting but short-term forecasts about their own fields... with one or two exceptions. I took a risk... but then, I can afford to.

Possibly the most important thing I wrote or said in 2018 is this interview for Thomson-Reuters on the topic of Artificial Intelligence. Expertly edited by Paul Thies, it manages to convey – in a very brief space -- some important concepts currently ignored by AI researchers, societies and citizens.

In the science-related political news: As we celebrate amazing discoveries… and NASA recovers from the shut-down… there’s this. The U.S. Senate confirmed extreme-weather specialist Kelvin Droegemeier as President Donald Trump's top science and technology adviser, after a two year vacancy, the longest ever. His office (OSTP) has plummeted to just 35 staffers. What’s unclear is what it all means. He’s a meteorologist and expert on weather disruptions and not a denialist cultist. So what gives? Did someone apply leverage? 

Maybe a younger/smarter Koch who doesn't want to be rich in a world that is driven into radical revolution?

Here's an interesting survey-essay by Nobelist Charles Townes.  His 1997 perspectives on the big issues -- where the universe (and we) came from and where life (and we) may be going -- make for fascinating reading, especially from twenty years later. Among the things that have changed since then -- from pocket supercomputers to AIDS semi-cures to genomics and the stunning plummet in electorate-IQ -- few discoveries change the essence. But one of the biggest is our picture of the origin of life on Earth. Back then, Townes thought that up to a billion years passed between the Earth's formation and the first known evidence of living systems. We now know that life appears in the fossil record (or at least probable signs of it) within only a couple of hundred million years after the planet was molten and probably earlier. This puts a much higher supposition that life will emerge almost automatically, as soon as conditions are right. This, in turn, has huge implications for our mental image of Life in The Universe and questions like the Fermi Paradox. 

But overall a fascinating read. We need big perspectives, from time to time. (Some of us try to provide ;-)

== Intelligence Wonders ==

This Clever AI Hid Data From Its Creators To Cheat At Its Appointed Task.  Using tricks akin to steganography, a Machine Learning program embedded into images subtle color cues that it could later use to cheat at an image processing task.  In fact, the computer is so good at slipping these details into the street maps that it had learned to encode any aerial map into any street map. It doesn’t even have to pay attention to the “real” street map’ — all the data needed for reconstructing the aerial photo can be superimposed harmlessly on a completely different street map.  “A machine learning agent might even find ways to transmit information to itself, imperceptible to the human eye, in the interest of solving a problem more easily and efficiently. This doesn’t mean AIs are outmaneuvering us per se, but rather that AI scientists need robust measures to validate AI output at each stage of a program's process. Only then can we ensure that neural networks solve problems in the ways we intend them to do so.”

And now- Deep Squeak - computer visualization-learning systems  are being used to “translate” high-pitch vocalizations of lab mice. Perhaps helping ask the ultimate question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Researchers at the MIT-IBM Watson Lab are using General Adversarial Networks, or GANs, to help explain how artificial intelligence systems “think.” GANs are a form of AI that pits two neural networks against each other to achieve a larger goal, such as creating new pictures of dogs, human faces or swapping heads in photos. And this approach to using adversarial sub-intelligences to make the macros intelligence smarter is exactly what I talk about in “Disputation Arenas,” and in my novel EARTH.

== Defense… zappers? ==

We’ve entered the era of hypersonic missiles – Putin claims to have them and the U.S. almost certainly does. Is this the end of “strategic defense”? Well, there is a twist to SDI that no one mentions, except it hearkens back to 1967. But I won’t go there. Not here. Suffice it to say that I do not deem that money to be totally wasted. Still…

Some of you may want to get up to date on lasers and beams and such. They have been “the future” for so long that – for many of you – they may have faded into the background. Correct that with "Lasers,Death Rays, and the Long, Strange Quest for the Ultimate Weapon," by my old Caltech classmate Jeff Hecht.  You'll get up to date on what's NOT top secret... and that will help you have perspective about what's still under wraps. (I suspect - and there had better be - a lot.)

== Solar Wonders ==

First see this wonderful innovation.  Refugee tents that can collect rainwater & store solar power

As Russ Daggatt aptly put it: "China's development of its solar industry - both panels and power - may be "unfair" and violate free market fundamentalism. But it's the right thing to do for China - and the global environment. I wish our government was acting with comparable vigor. (Instead, we're promoting coal.)" The one swallowing a "hoax" is a puppet employed in the White House. The puppeteer is perfectly happy with melting tundra and an ice-free arctic.

Fascinating counterpoints! Says Venture pundit Mark Anderson: "China got its monopoly by dumping and thereby destroying the global leaders in the U.S. and Germany."  

To which Asia expert Scott Foster replied: "When I was sustainability analyst at BNP Paribas, our Chinese economist put it to me this way: 'It takes a lot of energy to make solar panels, which only reach energy break-even after one or two years of operation. In China, most of that energy comes from coal, which pollutes the air, which in turn makes solar panels less efficient. China produces more and more solar panels, driving down prices and profit margins. It floods the world market, of course, but you Americans get very cheap solar panels and make higher margins installing them. America gets cheap clean energy and clean service jobs. China gets low paid manual labor and pollution. And you Americans are complaining about it.'

Interesting way of viewing it. Donald Trump thinks solar panel imports should be taxed and solar subsidies cut so that this dynamic can be reversed. What a deal.

Wow, complicated. The crux? Yay, panel prices plummet! Boo to unfair trade practices and IP theft, Solution, let's make an allowance "for development" and then play fair.




68 comments:

Daniel Duffy said...

The heat storage molecule sounds like a game changer because it avoids many of the problems with standard lithium-ion batteries. Even the best rechargeable battery wears out over time and will not take another charge. At that time, the battery has to be thrown away and replaced. Assuming that there is no technical advance that makes recycling li-ion batteries economical, that presents us with a serious waste disposal problem (made worse by throwing away the batteries from EVs like Tesla).

Mike Will said...

Life emerges almost automatically. Some will say that this makes the Fermi Paradox all the more indicative of no ETIs. I say that it makes this scenario even more likely: we're missing something.

BTW, why isn't life considered a state of matter?
Solid, liquid, gas, plasma, then exotic states like BEC, quark-gluon plasma, degenerate matter, ... we seem to be skipping a big step.

Daniel Duffy said...

Speaking of solar heat applications, can anyone give me a concise reason why photo-voltaic cells (PVCs) beat out Stirling engines driven by solar heat reflected by parabolic mirrors?

See development at Sandia National Labs:

https://share-ng.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2004/renew-energy-batt/Stirling.html

Unlike PVCs that produce DC, requiring the use of an expensive inverter/converter to change it into AC (at greatly increased inefficiencies), a solar Stirling is a reciprocating engine that naturally produces AC.

So where do PVCs have the advantage?

Is this another case of VHS beating out betamax?

TCB said...

@ Mike Will, I've read that life can be considered a dissipative structure. What that means, in a nutshell, is that living organisms are matter structured in a way that extracts energy from their surroundings, uses that energy for work and growth, and dissipates it in the form of heat. In principle we can tell if something is alive under this definition because it is much better at doing this than a lump of rock would be.

What we call states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma, etc.) may or may not have a structure. Gas famously does not; the word literally means chaos, from Greek by way of Dutch. Crystals are a solid with a structure, and it can grow, but doesn't actively seek energy. Living thing do, getting energy from chemical reactions (at deep-sea vents), from sunlight (plants and algae) or from eating a living thing that already captured that energy.

Given that, I think we can choose to call life a separate state of matter, or choose not to. Question is, does it seem to gain us any new insight either way?

David Brin said...

DD, my old Caltech housemate Steve Koonin was Deputy Energy Secretary. He showed that solar-concentration heat engines were energetically the way to go, outclassing all other sustainables. But that was a while ago. And it's hard for these plants to get enviro permits. And the moving parts are problematic. Still, the ground beneath the mirrors can be more "natrual" than the permanently shadowed ground beneath static PVs.

Larry Hart said...

Mike Will:

Life emerges almost automatically. Some will say that this makes the Fermi Paradox all the more indicative of no ETIs. I say that it makes this scenario even more likely: we're missing something.


That's kind of where I am too. An exhibit at Disney's EPCOT made a big impression on me as a teenager. It showed how living things inhabited the darkest parts of the ocean, making use of geothermal energy because there was no light for photosynthesis at those depths. It convinced me that life--at least self-sustaining, self-perpetuating systems--can form in any conditions where there is usable energy. I went on a dime from believing that life on earth was a one-of-a-kind deal to believing that life is to be found pretty much everywhere.


BTW, why isn't life considered a state of matter?


Well, the matter itself isn't going to be alive. I mean, elements and compounds like water go from solid to liquid to gas depending on ambient conditions. The water itself isn't going to go into "alive" state. You need combinations of matter and energy to create living systems.

Mike Will said...

I once took a course on physical chemistry. Most of the lecture time was spent on phase transitions. A lot of science happens at boundaries. The boundary of non-life and life looks an awful lot like a phase transition to me. I don't want to get too deep into the semantic weeds here, but individual components (eg water, carbon) don't need to be all in one state. The collective 'system' is what changes state. Excuse me, I need to go and fetch more ice for my (liquid) drink.

Daniel Duffy said...

I wonder if we can combine the new heat storage molecule with a solar Stirling engine to keep it running after the sun sets (it just needs some sort of external heat source).

Larry Hart said...

Mike Will:

individual components (eg water, carbon) don't need to be all in one state. The collective 'system' is what changes state.


I don't dispute that a system can transition from non-living to living (or vice versa). I just didn't think that was what you originally said. I think of a "state of matter" as a characteristic of individual molecules of matter.


Excuse me, I need to go and fetch more ice for my (liquid) drink.


Well, your drink as a whole doesn't "change state" when you add ice to it, does it? "Water" changes state from liquid to solid when it freezes. "Lake Michigan" contains both at the same time. The lake as a whole isn't said to be in a particular state of matter, is it?

Mike Will said...

Larry Hart:
I think of a "state of matter" as a characteristic of individual molecules of matter.


It's the term molecules that trips me up. Matter is not just molecules (esp when you go beyond the first 3 states). I'm thinking of 'matter' in the broadest sense - 'stuff' (even including energy maybe).

Larry Hart said...

@Mike Will,

It wasn't meant to be taken literally. :)

Any piece of matter will do.

My point is, an amount of water can freeze from liquid to solid or evaporate into gas. When a piece of a larger system does so (ice forming on Lake Michigan, or evaporation off of the same lake), you don't attribute that change of state to the entire Great Lake.

To me, it would be the same with a non-living system becoming alive (or vice versa). I agree there is value to thinking of that as a change of state of some sort. Just not sure "state of matter" is appropriate.

Duncan Cairncross said...

The "Life emerged early" data actually makes the chances of intelligent life WORSE!

The fossil data appears to show that simple life appeared very early - but it then took over 2 Billion years to go to "complex life" - Cells with a nucleus

The conditions to produce "life" would only occur on a tiny percentage of the planets surface - but once life was established it would spread over a lot of the available area

So a LOT of early life took a LONG time before the dice landed on the next stage

This means that planets that only have environments for a small amount of life will not make the next step before their stars die

A planet would have to have a lot of early life before there would be any chance of complex life at all

If simple life had taken a long time to develop then the next stage would have been much easier and the number of planets with complex life much greater

yana said...


Duncan Cairncross thought:

"So a LOT of early life took a LONG time before the dice landed on the next stage"

That too, but not only that. There is a weaker headwind against life, but one persistent over the past aeons. Einstein was right in one sense, god does not play dice, but on the other hand, Einstein had to invent a cosmological constant to make the elephant's tail (almost) meet its trunk. There is another cos-con which really bothered Enrico Fermi, and i don't blame him. He didn't have the data we have now.

The host here once mentioned that there are 110-something contestants to answer Fermi's Paradox. Is there a repository somewhere on the web? Is there somewhere to go and read them all, is anyone keeping track? Don't want to spit one out, if someone else has gone and done the same thing already.

yana said...

(previously) Bob Neinast thought:

"Our host refers to Guy Deutscher and Through the Language Glass. Let me also recommend his earlier book, The Unfolding of Language"

That was me, not ser Brin, don't want him blamed for my tangential insertion. Had heard years before, that people do not recognize the color blue until they are told that it exists, and there it was, the explanation was right there in Deutscher's book: the etymology of color names follows a striking pattern across cultures.

One of the other amazing things learned last year was that a small portion of people have a fourth type of cone receptor on the retina, one tuned to yellow. Suddenly, the past two decades made sense to me. This is a bizarre story, but bear with me...

A few months after Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the sky looked yellow to me. I said so to many people, but they all told me, basically, "yer nuts." It was a different kind of yellow. Normally when you mix blue and yellow you get green, but the sky did not look green to me, it looked like blue and yellow, intermingled but distinct. Blue bits co-existing with yellow bits, but not affecting each other. Like mixing blue and yellow beads, not like blending blue paint with yellow paint. It was the weirdest thing. But nobody else saw it.

Then one day about 2010, noticed that the sky was real blue again, the sky i remembered from childhood. Again, mentioned this to several people and they had no idea what i was talking about. Recall walking into work that day and saying "hey, the sky's back to normal!" Nobody believed me, some were not even born by 1991.

Then 2018 rolled around, and learned that a few percent of people have this extra yellow cone in the retina. It can be detected by a genetic test, and the research on 4-cone equipped people is... almost none of them can see extra yellows. The theory is that the optical cortex in the brain just isn't wired to make use of the info an extra set of cones provides, so the physical ability remains largely vestigial, unrealized. Yet there was one test subject who could.

As Deutscher notes, it is much more crucial to survival, to recognize red and green, than to tell between a daffodil and a goldenrod. Heck, to the mantis shrimp, a rainbow isn't just ROYGBIV, it's 18 colors. But does the shrimp really need all 18 colors to thwack a fingerling? Nobody yet knows, whether the mantis shrimp can actually use all 18 colors. We only know that physically, it could see them all, if it has a brain that can also see them all.... [cont'd]

yana said...

... [cont]

Now to the bizarre part. I am a "supertaster" too, and don't know the term for it, but there are people with an extra-keen sense of smell who get recruited into the perfume biz, and i can do that too. So last year it got me to wondering. All of the hi-sense things can't be purely physical. The thing with seeing yellow, ok maybe. But all people are born with far more cranial neurons than they need at the moment of birth, and the areas for smell and taste are naturally underdeveloped.

So (hate it when other people start a sentence with "so" but can't stop myself from doing it), anyway so, there must have been something in natal development which spurred all of the sensory extras at once, part and parcel, supertasting and aroma awareness and the extra visual yellow. It would be even more bizarre if all three of those things arose in isolation, wouldn't it?

The explanation must be in natal brain development, gut tells me that there must have been an environmental stimulus which convinced the nascent subconscious to spend more neural expansion on the senses. But by all accounts it was a normal regular childhood. I think most would agree that the classic argument about nurture vs. nature is a tie, the answer a co-mingling of the two.

What i'm left with is a struggle to refine the question. Did extra taste and smell discernment tag-a-long with extra neurons devoted to the variant retinal cones, or did some early sensory stimulus 'unlock' the use of yellow cones alongside other senses? I will probably never know, but that's what a wow-moment that Guy Deutscher book was for me.

ps: Enormous thanks for the pointer on the Lexicon Valley podcast, that stuff is truly catnip to me. Will likely rip through that juicy podcast like a gatherer who just learned to hunt.

Mike Will said...

The AI interview was good. I agree about the competing AIs model. I've had an agent-based model of AGI in mind since 1992, based on, you guessed it, Forth. It's the only language small enough to run as 144 independent computers on a single chip (Chuck Moore made this over a decade ago). It also has a weird and wonderful capacity for these machines to exchange code/data snippets almost analogously to horizontal gene transfer. The theory of mind stuff is what I struggle with mostly.

Here's a fun piece on the flood of AI wannabees and pretenders in Europe:
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/03/05/eu_startups_no_ai/

Somebody on Reddit quipped that if it's machine learning, it's probably written in Python. If it's AI, it's probably written in PowerPoint. I'd add that if it's myriad agents evolving along a selection gradient, it's probably written in Forth.

David Brin said...

yana fascinating. Get yourself tested!

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"Get yourself tested!"

Ha, not something the local clinic seems equipped for. Just a curiosity, and the only scientific interest would be a minutia, whether the availability of sensory input spurs neural development to exploit it, or whether an animal brain is trained to regard and disregard some inputs via experience?

If it's the latter, then what are we willfully, culturally blind to? People without sight use their otherwise-dormant chunks of brain to smell and hear better. x-Plegic people getting controllable prosthetics learn to control them using not only the parts of brain which operated the now-missing limb, but also the visual cortex and locations in the mysterious autonomic region.

Biohackers are learning the rudiments of cybernetics, and under study, their brains light up in unexpected places. Feel uncomfortable saying it, but it's starting to seem like we are, physically, capable of much more than five senses. And far sooner than Mother Nature would have liked to grant us them.

progressbot said...

>> Larry Hart said...
\\And I do, irrespective of any theories or attempted proofs to the contrary.

Then your claim is just that roof without basement. Well, I'm sure that there is basement... you just fear to look into it. No problem. Thank you for this dialog.


>> Mike Will said...
\\we're missing something.

And I was pointing it out here -- if we capable to see premises of BB with Hubble, just imagine what can see that E.T.s with their super-telescopes? And twice as that -- simulate in their super-comps? ;)

\\BTW, why isn't life considered a state of matter?

Thank you for rising *such* topics. Here.
It only makes me sorrow, that you are not seeing me as opponent. Mea culpa... probably. :(

Well, there is Cyc. And Lenat claims it entered into maturity. ;)

"Theory of mind" yes, but theory of motivation is even more important. ;)


>> Larry Hart said...
\\You need combinations of matter and energy to create living systems.

And you need combination of matter and energy to make plasma. ;) (well, energy it's also is type of matter... as was written in my books)

Yeah, and to Mike too. Actually. Such "state of matter" already exist and have proper name. Polimers. And organic chemistry which study it.


>> TCB said...

It's called "synergetica"(dunno how in English). Science that study dissipative structures. It's basically about non-linear processes.
No, it is not "extract energy". Because it is impossible in physics. Per se.

Well, locum said that his issue is correctness of words. Then my issue is correctness of logic and sci terminology(and semantic). Feel free to despise me for that. :P

progressbot said...

Once upon a time, there was two cowboys.

Mr. First, who started from just a couple: cow and bull, and steadily raised number of heads in his herd to good round 1000. And not only that, he also built quite a funcy ranch house and other stuff around it. And leaved it all to second(s?).

Mr. Second took that 1000 head herd and rised it into staggering 1.000.000. Isn't he is great?!! But also, that enormous herd eated out all grass and flooded all vicinity with bullshit. And that make that herd only closer and closer. Not to mere shrinkage back to 1000. But to total extinction.

Question: What might do Mr. Third? Or... as mr.Second eloquently saying -- third is not needed and it is all first to blame. And continue his contradictory job.

Can we allow it? No, can we afford it, for our Future sake? Giving a slack to that mr.Second and admitting that he is perfectly right in his claims: about first's legacy, about results of his own work and about future prospects...

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

Speaking of lasers and death rays, you might be interested in a series I wrote for a war-gaming magazine on the technology of a Martian tripod war machine. You can reverse engineer the Martian heat ray by examining its encounter with HMS Thunderchild:

https://www.wargamer.com/articles/war-theory-a-technical-analysis-of-war-of-the-worlds-part-1/

HMS Thunder Child was an ironclad torpedo ram, based on the very real HMS Polyphemus. This was the only ship of this class commissioned by the Royal Navy (1882, two other ships were ordered but never built). An ironclad torpedo ram such as HMS Polyphemus was a rather odd hybrid vessel whose tactical use on the open sea was never quite figured out by the admiralty. Unlike HMS Thunder Child, it had no deck guns, relying on five torpedo tubes and 18 torpedoes with a maximum range of 600 yards. Its class of ship, and the tactic of ramming itself, was soon rendered obsolete by the introduction of quick traversing and quick fire guns (ramming only proved effective against ships already dead in the water, in any case). Its design specifications and construction plans describe its steel plate armor as “deck 3 inches’ compound armor, hatch coamings 4 inches, conning tower 8 inches”. The Martian heat ray is described as penetrating this like a “white hot poker through paper”.

So, what can this information tell us about the Martian heat ray?

Begin first with metallurgy. Carbon steel has a temperature of vaporization (the temperature at which steel boils) of approximately 3000 degrees C. By comparison, the surface of the sun is approximately 5,500 degrees C. Carbon steel also has a specific heat value (the amount of energy needed to raise one kilogram of steel by one degree C) of 502.4 Joules / (kg * deg C).

Assuming the heat ray was of a relatively large diameter (up to a 1 foot - based on description of the heat ray’s large camera-like projector and its effects on troops in the field) it would have to vaporize 905 cubic inches of carbon steel to punch through its thickest 8" armor plating. This is equivalent to 257 lbs of steel or 116.6 kg.

To reach this vaporization point, the heat ray would have to deliver 175 million joules = [502.4 Joules / (kg * deg C)] * 116.6 Kg * 3000 deg C. Assuming vaporization can occur in one second or less (“white hot poker through paper”), this is equivalent to 175 megawatts minimum. So, we can assume that a Martian tripod was equipped with an approximately 200 MW power plant.

Assuming the Martians did not use any exotic physics, this puts the Martian tripod's power plant in the range of currently available small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), which are classified as reactors that generate 10 MW to 300 MW. The dimensions of these reactors vary with design and output, with some requiring housing as small as 6m x 6m x 30m. Assuming continued advances in reactor design, even smaller and more compact reactors will soon be available. Certainly, it is feasible for such an advanced compact reactor to fit in the cowling at the top of a Martian tripod (described as being 10 stories high with a cowling described as being the size of a small house or large boiler on top of its three legs). We can further assume that the tripods are not powered by extreme power sources like fusion or anti-matter. A tokamak fusion reactor may be more efficient than a fission reactor, but its need for confining magnetic fields and associated super structure makes it impractically large compared to a compact SMR whose power output would be more than sufficient.

Tony Fisk said...

@daniel energy and power demands would be reduced if Martians could focus their heat ray.

Mike Will said...

Porohobot:
It only makes me sorrow, that you are not seeing me as opponent. Mea culpa... probably. :(

I don't label or even categorize people, I just don't want to be separated from the group, that's all. I'm neither qualified nor motivated to take offense at others' thoughts. Anybody who engages in sincere discussion has my respect and good wishes.

The one and only Trumpism that I've ever agreed with: "The buck stops everywhere"
(although he was using it as a shameful dodge, not as kind camaraderie)


Calculemus!


Larry Hart said...

yana:

One of the other amazing things learned last year was that a small portion of people have a fourth type of cone receptor on the retina, one tuned to yellow. Suddenly, the past two decades made sense to me. This is a bizarre story, but bear with me...

A few months after Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the sky looked yellow to me. I said so to many people, but they all told me, basically, "yer nuts." It was a different kind of yellow. Normally when you mix blue and yellow you get green, but the sky did not look green to me, it looked like blue and yellow, intermingled but distinct. Blue bits co-existing with yellow bits, but not affecting each other. Like mixing blue and yellow beads, not like blending blue paint with yellow paint. It was the weirdest thing. But nobody else saw it.


I suppose this sort of thing accounts for those internet memes where some people see a blue dress while others swear it it yellow?

dav said...

A 200MW power source is a bit much for a tripod to carry. Why not carry a lighter power source and have energy banks to fire the beam for a few minutes. Something like superconducting loops or something like that that can discharge a lot of power in a short time.

A.F. Rey said...

And now- Deep Squeak - computer visualization-learning systems are being used to “translate” high-pitch vocalizations of lab mice. Perhaps helping ask the ultimate question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Excellent! And then we can sell the answer to the highest bidder! Bwahahaha!

(Hope they won't expect a refund if not satisfied.) :)

jim said...

PV works fine when the sky is cloudy.
Concentrating mirrors or lenses don't work well when it is cloudy.

that is why PV is typically better at producing electricity over the course of a year in most locations.

Jon S. said...

"And now- Deep Squeak - computer visualization-learning systems are being used to “translate” high-pitch vocalizations of lab mice. Perhaps helping ask the ultimate question of Life, The Universe, and Everything."

Except the mice are the ones seeking the question. And they're still going to get the wrong question, because the Golgafrinchan B Ark messed up the system and replaced the species that was supposed to become humanity.

(Just as well, one supposes, given what's said to happen if the Question and the Answer are both known at the same time...)

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

(from last time)

We'd probably agree more than we'd disagree. In my world, proxies can function independently but sometimes can fail to return a result if such a result was not accessed prior to disconnection.

progressbot:

There's a lot of us still out here. And the religious wars have mostly dies down. The Lisp machines are dead and that's probably a good thing. These days, SBCL + SWANK + whatever front end you like (yes, I use EMACS + SLIME) will get you where you want.

Writing anything The Right Way is an entirely useless exercise outside of academia.

And no, I don't comprehend reality in a object-based manner. At least not the way most define any of those terms. I don't have to glue my data and code together. I can use one set of data with entirely different code or vice versa. It's called imagination.

Mike Will:

Though I don't know FORTH well, I'd never laugh at it. I would laugh with an APL guy, especially if he had the IBM selectric ball with the glyphs.

And I have solved some problems on my own with my own version of Lisp. Which I wrote mostly to see how close I could get to Common Lisp using only McCarthy's original axioms.

I have currently 3 posted on the wall in my office. The first is McCarthy "Programming. You're doing it completely wrong." The second is Djikstra "Quick And Dirty. I would not like it." The third is XKCD "These are your father's parentheses. Elegant weapons for a more... civilized age."

I never got into the FIRST stuff. I'm engineer enough, but not salesman enough.

I'd say there's a lot of AI out there written in Prolog on top of Common Lisp, because of Norvig's book. And Lisp can exchange S-expressions with the ease of Forth. It also makes genetic programming pretty easy.

I'm currently about equal discrete components, chips, and programmables at home.

TheMadLibrarian said...

PV's selling point currently is that it can be a distributed source of electricity. Using mirrors to concentrate sunlight to fire a reactor or melt salt or whathaveyou requires a significant dedicated area and investment -- not sure of the price, but major. PV can be slapped on a rooftop or used to shade parking lots (generate electricity plus provide shade for vehicles in hot areas -- double win!) If the need is sufficient, it can be put on almost any piece of unused ground too. 5 years ago, putting enough PV on our roof to power most of our household needs cost $15k; it's probably cheaper now, and the cells will last what, 30 years? PV is, for lack of a better term, the "people's renewable energy source", accessible to almost anyone with a house for the price of a compact car, and with a very fast ROI. Not so much more exotic power generating systems, unless someone has indeed developed a Mr. Fusion :)

TheMadLibrarian said...

Actually, should have said 'accessible to anyone with a structure', not just a house. Even the local megachurch has gotten into PV and covered their roof with cells, as has Costco and at least half of the area businesses that own their own building. Not sure about options for renters or people living rough; I know there are small solar cells for charging phones and whatnot.

Mike Will said...

Re: Life

Remember that the rate of evolution is far from constant. Climate stability slows down the rate by letting an adaptation maintain its advantage thus squelching evolution by natural selection. Mass extinctions greatly accelerate this rate by creating new and expansive niches that throw equilibria in the bin. So, an unstable (even dying) star might actually speed up evolution, not hinder it.

Once complex (even intelligent) life arrives, it might then work on its own behalf to find or prolong stability. I'm sure someone has written about a super-species that is happy as a clam on a near-timeless rogue planet.

I find SETI to be a difficult discussion because it tends to leap back and forth between terrestrial and galactic frames. "But where are they?" and "But on Earth..." are alternately used to completely change the subject and thwart the current analysis. I'm guilty of this myself on occasion. There's even a third group, which is solely concerned with the technology of SETI (eg signal acquisition analysis). SETI might be similar to cancer in that respect - many separate threads/questions that get lumped into one name.

progressbot said...

>> Mike Will said...

So do I. Well, I even talkd with vatniks. And it is they who tryed to cease communication first. :)

Well... Evolution *need* that long periods of "calm sea" too...


>> Larry Hart said...
\\I suppose this sort of thing accounts for those internet memes where some people see a blue dress while others swear it it yellow?

It is not. People just have different levels of luminosity set on their monitors. ;)


>>Jon S. said...
\\Golgafrinchan B Ark messed up the system and replaced the species that was supposed to become humanity.

Looks like you don't know, don't remember Canon well. Because Adams actually used that twist himself. ;) That real people to deliever answer was neandertals... but current infabitants of Earth is from survivals of galactic cruise liner crash. ;)


>> raito said...

Thank you for your feedback.

Problem with our in-brain proxies is that they tend to provide "result" even if there is no connections, and provide no means to detect such errorneous behaviour. :(
That's why we need logic, science,.. AI.

\\Writing anything The Right Way is an entirely useless exercise outside of academia.

I'd believe you... if I'd not have countless brawls with actual Haskel/Scala purists, doing their "dirty job" on their commercial workplaces. ;)
When they countless times tryed to redicule me, because I was asking "what that damn monads is? and how they can be used in *my* code? in c++". ;)
And was unable to answer my other question "if FP so great, as you constantly bragging, why you still didn't have your purely functional... IDE, brawser, OS". ;)


\\And no, I don't comprehend reality in a object-based manner. ... It's called imagination.

Well. Not everyone have one. Just google "aphantasia". ;)

And. I bet, you not doing dialog, Rich UI stuff... with collaboration with other people and extensive use of third-party libs, isn't it?

Mike Will said...

The best stuff happens at the edges. If one can hold both the Stratos-dwelling art of Haskell/Scala and the RNA-crunching machinery of Forth together in their mind...

"Aphantasia" - worst Disney movie ever.

Tim Wolter said...

For a variety of reasons SciFi aliens are generally depicted as having advanced far beyond us in the realm of interstellar travel...while being either impractical and/or nowhere near our abilities regards weaponry.

The classic examples of course are any ray guns in the Star Wars, Stargate, Star Trek genre that you can see coming at you and duck. Or parry with a light saber. Try that against any functional automatic weapon of the past 100 years.

The Martian Heat Ray sounds impressive but is another variety of stupid. Overkill. You could sink the Thunderchild by picking up the nearest chunk of the cliffs of Dover and pitching it on or near the ship.

Truly feasible weapons for alien invasion are sometimes depicted but not often. I suppose they don't give protagonists - classically these were often bare chested men rescuing damsels in diaphanous nighties - enough chance to look heroic.

Anybody want to nominate the most plausible alien take over weaponry?

TW/Tacitus

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman tells us what we already know:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/11/opinion/captain-marvel-republican-rage.html

...

The point is that demented anger is a significant factor in modern American political life — and overwhelmingly on one side. All that talk about liberal “snowflakes” is projection; if you really want to see people driven wild by tiny perceived slights and insults, you’ll generally find them on the right. Nor is it just about racism and misogyny. Although these are big components of the phenomenon, I don’t see the obvious connection to hamburger paranoia.

Just to be clear: To paraphrase John Stuart Mill, I’m not saying that most conservatives are filled with rage over petty things. What I’m saying instead is that most of those filled with such rage are conservatives, and they supply much of the movement’s energy. Not to put too fine a point on it, pathological pettiness almost surely put Donald Trump over the top in the 2016 election.

...

Tim Wolter said...

Larry

An alternate take from a cantankerous conservative source:

http://www.gormogons.com/index.php/2019/03/the-czar-reviews-captain-marvel/

He makes the argument that several recent movies of variable quality have tried to gin up controversy - cough, Ghostbusters, cough - as a marketing strategy.

As conventional movie making is an industry in decline, and one in which illusion is their stock and trade, I find it a plausible scenario.

I'm just not that into superhero movies enough to care.

TW/Tacitus

Mike Will said...

The breaking college admission scandal makes me proud to have supported open, honest, public-involving citizen science for years, despite the sometimes harsh criticism I and others have been subjected to.

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

He makes the argument that several recent movies of variable quality have tried to gin up controversy - cough, Ghostbusters, cough - as a marketing strategy.


You get that from the right too. Ann Coulter and MILO whatshisface, right off the top of my head.

Krugman's point, which I have been making ad nauseum, is that all those "own the libs" types like to claim that liberals are "snowflakes" who melt at the slightest provocation. And yet, in real life, conservatives exhibit that behavior much more than they'd like to pretend.

The difference seems to be that conservatives feel entitled to their outrage, as if theirs is a natural reaction to an offense that anyone would share, whereas liberals are being childish when they exhibit the same sort of outrage.

Larry Hart said...

Mike Will:

The breaking college admission scandal...


It occurs to me that that sort of thing should just be made legal. If someone wants to pay millions of dollars to a college to accept her kid, that should be on the up-and-up, as long as that kid goes through a separate admissions track (i.e., doesn't bump someone else from consideration) by virtue of the fact that the bribe more than pays the cost to the institution of carrying the additional student. It could be a win-win.

Tim Wolter said...

I dunno Larry. I think you get outraged more often than I do. But then, I'm retired and don't have to live in Chicago!

While on the topic I have to say that phrases like "owned" bother me. As does "schooled" as we've discussed on past occasions. They conjure up images of slavery, dominance, bullying. I don't find these wholesome.

"Snowflakes" is slightly better as it conveys multiple meanings. Fragile but unique...albeit with an exaggerated sense of how important your crystalline uniqueness is on a cosmic scale.

In the end we are all transient.

TW/T

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

I dunno Larry. I think you get outraged more often than I do.


Maybe that's because your side is winning?

Ok, but there's outrage and then there's outrage. I'd at least like to think I don't go apoplectic over the smallest of provocations. I certainly don't send death threats over them.


But then, I'm retired and don't have to live in Chicago!


I don't have to live here. I'm privileged to do so.


While on the topic I have to say that phrases like "owned" bother me. As does "schooled" as we've discussed on past occasions.


Snowflake. :)

Ok, I couldn't resist that joke, but seriously, "own the libs" isn't a term I use unless I'm describing the fact that others use the term. That's not an insult that liberals throw at conservatives, it's something that (some) conservatives are proud to claim for themselves.


They conjure up images of slavery, dominance, bullying. I don't find these wholesome.


Ok, seriously, I think you're reading too much in. You're reminding me of when my brother mentioned that he hated the term "letting someone off the hook" because he was imagining a medieval torture chamber. I told him truthfully that I had always thought of the phrase as a fishing reference.


"Snowflakes" is slightly better as it conveys multiple meanings. Fragile but unique...albeit with an exaggerated sense of how important your crystalline uniqueness is on a cosmic scale.


And the real snowflakes, are cold, and white, and if you get enough of them together, they'll shut down the public schools.

Treebeard said...

The easiest way to defeat the outrage industry, the culture, language and meme engineers, the product pushers, and other assorted pathologies that pass for mass culture in Ozmerica, is simply to tune them all out. Don't let the Wizard get a vector into your mind. That means no TV, no movies, no news, no facebook, and restrict your internet use to a few high quality blogs and youtube channels. Read books, spend time outside, and create your own culture instead of being a passive consumer of other people's fake culture. The Treebeard Challenge is to try this for six months, and see if your mental state improves, and if you feel you are missing out on anything, compared to what you have gained.

Larry Hart said...

No snark, but the Treebeard Challenge is how I live anyway.

A.F. Rey said...

What I find worrisome about the Treebeard Challenge is that if I had started it in Mid-May of 2016, I would have come back to find Donald Trump president! :o

I'm not sure we can spare 6 months these days.

Jon S. said...

"Anybody want to nominate the most plausible alien take over weaponry?"

If we're still Earth-bound, rocks. Nothing like the Dinosaur Killer, just a few dozen tons dropped from space onto major targets like national capitols, then an announcement that unless we capitulate pretty doggone chop-chop (the aliens were watching old movies from Earth on the way in) the strikes will continue.

As for lightsabers, my personal favorite weapon to defeat a Force-wielder is an automatic shotgun loaded with buckshot. Lots of luck deflecting all those pellets, my space-wizard friend!

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

I would have come back to find Donald Trump president!


The secret is not coming back. Just as the cure for hangovers is "not sobering up".

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

If we're still Earth-bound, rocks. Nothing like the Dinosaur Killer, just a few dozen tons dropped from space onto major targets like national capitols,


You're old enough to remember "Space Invaders", right?

Twominds said...

Footfall!

With the Unlikely Elephants ;-)

I think the impact of the Foot was very underplayed in the novel, it should have been much worse.

And I couldn't keep my disbelief suspended for the aliens. Their society was reasonably interesting, with internal tensions, but it didn't get more than two-dimensional for me.

I liked the flight of the Orion best in the whole book.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

Anybody want to nominate the most plausible alien take over weaponry?

If I get to assume the enemy has had time to research us and intends take over instead of genocide, I'd argue for a biological editor like a virus. The result should be something we like, though, along with something that enables easily putting us to sleep or makes us temporarily docile. If the leading edge experience involved heightened orgasms, we'd probably self-infect enough of the population to make the hold-outs rather powerless when our masters actually showed up. Something as simple as enabling a guy to go multiple rounds each night would probably do the trick too, so I imagine something that messed with us hormonally.

If genocide is the plan, but they want to keep the world and most of its biosphere, the 'viral' agent should obviously attack our domesticated crops. What should be equally obvious is that we shouldn't be writing a bunch of how-to material for people to use to make this happen. 8)

Tony Fisk said...

Plausible alien take over weaponry?

John Christopher (aka Sam Youd) got a bit nettled by Brian Aldiss' critique of his YA Tripod books. Yes, he said, of *course* the tripods were no match for earth-based weaponry. The Masters' strategy was a lot more subtle. Christopher alluded to it in "The City of Gold and Lead, but later decided to give it the full treatment in a prequel "When the Tripods Came".

There is a schoolyard game (I call it "Rover") where a mass of children race from one end of the yard to the other. The single catcher is joined by one, then two, and so on until, quite suddenly, the mass of runners is reduced to a a couple of holdouts.

It started with "the Tripod Show", a seemingly innocuous parody of the ridiculous aliens who had recently attempted to conquer the Earth with three ludicrous craft. It proved to be a runaway success, with thousands, hundreds of thousands, glued to their afternoon TVs. Clubs formed. Movements. Cults dedicated to the simpler lifestyle advocated in the show.

By the time it was realised that "Hailing the Tripod" was more sinister than a mere Doctor Who fad, a sizable fraction of the population from all walks had fallen under its sway. Masses flocked to protect the tripods when they next appeared. Governments and the military were compromised. The issue of the hallmark baseball "caps" provided the Masters with a more powerful and nuanced control than the crude subliminal techniques employed up until then. The capped could also be more proactive in subjugating the rest of Humanity. Thus the world fell.

For an admittedly whimisical bit of sci-fi, I have to say this all sounds eerily like current affairs (even the name is uncomfortably close to the mark! Hail the Trumpod?).

It's basically the SF version of zombie apocalypse, and there are plenty of other SF tales that use the idea (eg The Puppet Masters). I think the weakest aspect of mass mind control is how aliens manage to obtain a detailed understanding of the human psyche. (Is this evidence that Putin is not an alien? ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

Raito,

Ah. Got it. The caching capability of proxies looks a lot like what I was imagining even with null results. I’d still be tempted to stick to ‘instance’ as a term, though, because it’s implemented on the same hardware and if the person doing it dislikes themselves enough, there is a risk of personality bifurcation. What was once a copy could potentially take over? There is also the question of just how much of a person a toddler is before they’ve had a chance to aggregate low-fidelity copies of friends. I’ve seen an interesting argument that a toddler’s personality IS the aggregate and this continues until the rate of accretion cannot swamp the aggregate… roughly age seven but maybe earlier. Think about when children develop a sense of ‘others like me’. That’s the guess expressed in the argument. Anyway, I thought the OOP terminology was sorta useful if not taken to religious extremes, much like the ‘brain as computer’ analogy is. The brain computes, but not like a machine with registers and such.

I found OOP stuff to be more useful when doing physics, though it is a pain to find and encode all the assumed behaviors of particles. Physicists are awful lazy at times. Our papers look mathematical, but most of the meaning to encode isn’t written in the mathematics language. The written and unwritten natural language text nearby matters a great deal. It’s bugged me for ages that software developers have to acquire too much of a physics education to use OOP safely. Physicists should have written this stuff out already and keep up the libraries. What I’ve seen is weak and disjointed because the problems and theories are written in a disjointed, multi-language manner.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re-The aliens come and take over

The only one that has humans with a "plausible" chance of winning is David Webers "Out of the Dark"

And that "plausible" chance is NOT very Plausible! - In this case a spoiler would really work to spoil the book

Any situation where the aliens own the high orbitals humans are sunk - a single unarmed freighter from Star Wars could conquer the earth

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

For an admittedly whimisical bit of sci-fi, I have to say this all sounds eerily like current affairs (even the name is uncomfortably close to the mark! Hail the Trumpod?).


I can totally believe that MAGA hats perpetrate mind control. Maybe they work like Asimov's visi-sonor, amplifying Benedict Donald's "Mule" powers.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

I think the weakest aspect of mass mind control is how aliens manage to obtain a detailed understanding of the human psyche.


These days, the answer is painfully obvious. They visit on-line sites like this one and take careful notes. They obviously have some trouble with the local languages and customs, but that can be passed off by pretending to be from a non-English-speaking country.

Maybe they even try to undermine our confidence by convincing us that we don't exist. :)

Tony Fisk said...

The Centauri's use of mass drivers against the Narn homeworld (Babylon 5: "Long, Twilight Struggle") was portrayed as a war crime, although nothing much came of that.

David Brin said...

Actually, a good version of the ent's absurd troglodytism is to only "do" e-stuff the first half hour of every hour. And the 3rd quarter hour you can work at the computer but have no interactions. And the 4th quarter to stand up and do real world things. I find it hard to believe anyone would be that disciplines, but it is probably the ratio that makes sense and that will be healthy and that PROVES you have some discipline.

And despite the snarkiness, who are you and what have you done with that terminally loony-traitor grouch we normally see here?

progressbot said...

>> Mike Will said...
\\If one can hold both the Stratos-dwelling art of Haskell/Scala and the RNA-crunching machinery of Forth together in their mind...

Problem is... that "stratos-dwelling art" tend to remain in stratos only (and I'm not about clouds here ;)). Like that soup of sand salmon. :))
And "machinery" have big problems when someone tries to scale it up.

\\"Aphantasia" - worst Disney movie ever.

Is it pun? Joke? As I recall that was "Fantasia".


>> Tim Wolter said...
\\The classic examples of course are any ray guns in the Star Wars, Stargate, Star Trek genre...

Well. Stargate have plausibility denial, properly verbalized in one of series. That weapon of goaulds... is for show, and for terror.

While, yep, blaster with 3 barrels can kill any jedi... even Joda. :) If he'd try to block instead of evade.
Well, except if the whole SW Universe is 2D one. :)))

\\Anybody want to nominate the most plausible alien take over weaponry?

By no means. It's vanity. Like in that serial where nasty reptiloids came disgusted as proper white men...


>> Tony Fisk said...
\\The Centauri's use of mass drivers against the Narn homeworld (Babylon 5: "Long, Twilight Struggle") was portrayed as a war crime, although nothing much came of that.

Genocidal level of kills and making all planet desert... well, yeah, nothing much.(like that Syria bombing... for reference)

And yeah, that comment about tripds... looks awefully like our ukrainian story of Crimea and DLNR takeout.


>> Larry Hart said...
\\Maybe they even try to undermine our confidence by convincing us that we don't exist. :)

That one was hillarious. But it is very sad killarity.

Well. Let me show some of XXI thinking here.
We can understand/remember nothing, except in its relations to other things.
And when you start to understand that relations matter, you start to care that they'd be as correct as possible.

And on the contrary. The fewer things you know, the more tend to concentrate on That One Thing. That way, beliefs in "absolute truthes" emerges.


>> Treebeard said...

TiBi, its just fallback mechanism for "old true" stuff.
Why do you think novice memes are bad, while old ones... good??? :)
It's like proposal to exchange nowadays "bad-bad,ugly" AIDS... for "old good" bubonic plague. ;)

\\And despite the snarkiness, who are you and what have you done with that terminally loony-traitor grouch we normally see here?

And why you didn't feel that smell... :) t-s-s, that is the big secret.

Mike Will said...

Re: Aphantasia
There have been many #jokelists on Twitter/FB over the years such as #WorstDisneyMovieEver, #WorstBookEver, #WorstBookTitleEver, etc, etc.
My two contributions to #MostDisappointingBook were: "Aye, Rowboat" and "Neuromincer"

Re: Haskell & Forth
The problems of too much in the clouds and not scaling up are only issues if one tries to proceed to the middle. Maintaining the duality is more interesting.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Actually, a good version of the ent's absurd troglodytism is to only "do" e-stuff the first half hour of every hour. And the 3rd quarter hour you can work at the computer but have no interactions. And the 4th quarter to stand up and do real world things. I find it hard to believe anyone would be that disciplines, but it is probably the ratio that makes sense and that will be healthy and that PROVES you have some discipline.


I don't want to sound like one of those people who proudly announces "I never watch television (except for my appointment viewing of "American Idol" or "Game of Thrones"). But the fact is, while I was a television addict in the 70s, nothing on tv tempts me any more. And while, like most people now, I have a smartphone, I don't walk around all day checking apps. The app I use the most is the one for viewing the weather forecast. Otherwise, I call or text people when I need to contact them, and that's about it. I'm not on Facebook or Twitter because I don't trust those platforms with personal information, and luckily, my name is so common that if you Google me, you'll likely not be finding me, but someone else of that name. :)

I'm not out of touch. I do follow news on tv, newspapers, and yes, on-line. I wouldn't have awakened six months after the fact to be surprised by the travesty in the White House. But I always do find it amusing when someone pontificates about how we really should wean ourselves from our tech addictions, but of course no one ever will do so, because how could you live without Facebook? It's not that hard.

jim said...

I looked into the heat storing molecule.
It is very interesting in terms of chemistry, but I don't see how it will be a useful technology for handling the enormous problem of seasonal variability for solar (at higher latitudes).

You can store 155 Watt hours per kilo with this material.
That means you would need about 6.5 kilos of this stuff to store 0.10$ worth of electricity (a kilowatt hour). 6.5 kilos of that stuff today will cost you probably a lot more that 100$ but with a lot of optimization and a huge volume for the material you might be able to get that cost down to ~10 dollars for the 6.5 kilos. So (at best) it is ~ 10 dollars chemicals to store 10 cents worth of energy.

That would just be a really expensive way to store heat. I am sure I can do way better with big well insulated box of wet sand and gravel.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

It seems that the development if children is to first play with parents, then play with themselves, then play parallel to others. Then finally to play with others. This is a bit separate from their preference for playing where other people are.

The current curriculum for US Soccer also has those sorts of phases. At the youngest, it's 'me and my ball'. Then, 'me and my friend and my ball'. Well before 'me and my team and my ball'.

As for people disliking themselves, isn't that part of what drives improvement?

As for 'others like me', I've never really bought that one, but then I was an introverted nerd. I didn't consider even what few friends I had to be 'like me'. As well, I've always found very funny the idea of having to have teachers who look like their students to be any indicator of success. My elementary school teachers were uniformly unmarried old women. I didn't know anyone like that at all and it never seemed to affect my ability to learn.

And I'm pretty sure from direct observation that my children were themselves before they even interacted with peers. And continue to be so.

One thing that shows some maturity in children is when they start updating their mental model of someone in absentia of personal contact with that person.

Any methodology taken to religious extremes fails. There Is No Silver Bullet.

jim,

So you only have to be able to charge/discharge 100 times to get your money back? Cool.

As for takeover weaponry, I assume takeover is different than exterminate. Therefore, the most effective is being able to look and act like us combined with enough intelligence to figure out how to get to the top of the heap. That's been used several times.

I do recall a story where the aliens attempted to infiltrate humanity. They wanted to stay anonymous, so they made their agent as least likely to be noticed as possible. Therefore female. Therefore looking exactly as the statistical averages indicates. Unfortunately for the aliens, such a construct was considered to be the height of beauty in pretty much every culture, which kind of blew the anonymous part.

And in the Art Linkletter department, I was walking my daughter to the school bus stop today, and remarked on the current snow level. I said we might have a lot of mosquitoes this year because of the amount of water. She said that people would then buy a lot of bug spray and that might drive the price of bug spray up. Remember, she's in 4th grade. I need to keep moving to stay ahead of her! Fortunately for me, as I'm unlikely to be able to buy my way into good test scores or athletic resumes. Or buy buildings or professors.

jim said...

Ratio,
With one charge/ discharge cycle per year, it will take more than the average life span (100 years) to reach the point in which the cost of the raw materials for the guts of heat battery is equal to the cost of the energy it is storing.

I can get a ~500 kilos of sand for 10 dollars and if I bring that material up to 95C I am storing about 10,000 Watt hours worth of energy.

(Sure, you loose some energy form heat conduction but insulation is cheep, a big well insulated box is much simpler, way cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than a giant tank of expensive (maybe dangerous) chemicals.)

David Brin said...

With Facebook collapse, I need your help publicizing that it is onward time!

onward.

Duncan Cairncross said...

The problem with storing energy as heat - especially low temperature heat - is that the energy is not very useful
Storing as electricity gives a much much more useful energy

At 100C if I convert to electricity I will get less than 15% efficiency - so I need to store 6 times as much electricity

Also a modern lithium battery has little or no self discharge - unlike a heat store which will always leak heat

Batteries are more expensive just now but I am expecting them to be getting close to the materials cost in a few more years and that is about $10/kWh

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