Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Peering ahead - human evolution. Living in a simulation? And some interesting sci fi.

With Facebook in a state of collapse (long predicted) I could use your help publicizing this here Contrary Brin blog!  Just look at the cool and interesting featured items, below!

== Human evolution ==

I take pride that this blogmunity - weblog community - is one of the oldest and most erudite on the Web. One of you wrote in comments: 

I'm not sure this qualifies for the Predictions Registry, but this article in today's Chicago Tribune addresses a subject that you weighed in on a while back. Humans have managed to separate sex from reproduction, and while this is most often thought of in the context of getting to have sex without worrying about the consequences, there are those going in the opposite direction as well--people who want children without the bother of romance. And as the second group passes on their genes while the first group does not, will "industrial reproduction" become more the norm over time?”

One of the flukes of human nature that might explain the Fermi Paradox is that we are polar opposites to the 'Moties,' in The Mote In God’s Eye. They are ultimate creatures of Malthus, doomed always to overpopulate as quickly as possible. We appear to have been saved – or at least have a chance – because human women are satiable, whenever they feel their children are truly safe and healthy, and seem to prefer having an average of about two. Yes, this happened in part because we can adaptably switch from High-R to High-K reproductive psychology, swiftly emphasizing care of high investment offspring, rather than pushing out numbers. But another factor is the separation of the thing nature evolved us to seek desperately – sex – from actual reproduction. Both of these drivers resulted in a species that appears capable of giving the finger to old Malthus.

For now. I’ve long said we have a narrow window… perhaps three generations… before those who zealously want to have lots of kids start filling our gene pool with that compulsive trait, replacing sex as the nexus of avidity and making us more Malthusian... more like Moties.  We can deal with this either by spreading to the stars, as a plague, or becoming super-High-K and far-seeing-wise.  Anything other than those two will lead to the Motie catastrophe, and Malthus getting the last laugh.

Noteworthy, today's worldwide attempted mafia-oligarch putsch would re-establish dumbass feudalism and knock out either of those survival possibilities.

== A simulation? ==

Talin offers a fascinating argument for why we are not living in a simulation – essentially that it would take at least 1000 atoms in a big computer to calculate the details of a single atom in the simulation. Well, well. There’s an answer or two. At the high end, you can try to explore the arcane calculations of computability contained within Frank Tipler’s brilliant book The Physics of Immortality, which asserts that our godlike descendants will have infinite (actually infinite) computational power available to them at the end of time, when the Big Crunch brings all the matter of the universe back together again. Okay, okay, it now appears that there will be no Big Crunch. Still, TPOI is essential reading for any truly deep discussion of computability of simulations. (And Roger Penrose appears to have offered at least a tentative way we might have a cyclical universe even under conditions of endless expansion.)

At the other end is the science fictional answer from The Universe Makers or The World of Tiersor several novels by Greg Egan, or the movie The 13th Floor… that the simulation is only high fidelity near the “protagonist” and just probabilistic farther away or where he/she (actually, you) aren’t looking. Which does sound eerily like Quantum Observer stuff.

Still, this is a pretty good counter argument to the standard “we have to be in a simulation!” nostrum.  Have fun.



== Some recent novels! ==

For bold galaxy-spanning science fiction, try Alex White, whose titles are terrific! “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe,” has been followed by “A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy.” But then there’s Mira Grant’s “Kingdom of Needle and Bone.”  Oooooh.

Mary Branscombe’s way-fun new novel is “The Vampires of Silicon Valley.” The hook? You're a thousand-year-old vampire who has to save the world just to have somewhere to live, but you happen to look like a teenage girl. What else can you do except go to silicon valley and take a bite at VC funding?

J. Neil Schulman is a very different kind of libertarian (quasi-Randian) than my liberal-Smithian variety. I poke hard at the naïveté of believing civil servants are more of a threat to liberty than the feudal lords who oppressed 99% of our ancestors and who are right now striving to bring a return to dismal-horrid mafia-oligarch rule. The branch of libertarianism that worships property and government-hatred over competition, which only thrives when regulated to prevent cheating, is kinda jibbering loony.

Still, Neil can write. And while his new novel — The Fractal Man — has some tendentious and self-indulgent qualities, it does offer up some finely-meshed fun with parallel and alternate worlds, kind of like Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice.

Not related is Matt Ginsberg’s recent novel The Factor Man, about a fellow who develops an algorithm that can factor any multiple of prime numbers, and hence break most of the world’s encryption. A bit light on the implications of such a discovery, it is still a compelling thriller, well-written and thought-provoking.

Sundiver is still available on Audible. We'll be releasing a new e-version soon.

Okay, everybody’s a sucker for top ten lists.  I’ve got plenty.  Here’s this one approach to “30 best sci-fi films that explore the fluidity of time.”

Another 2018 Best SF Novels list. Some amazing stuff - with new titles from Mary Robinette Kowal, Cixin Liu, Becky Chambers, the terrific Emily Devenport (Medusa Uploaded) and much more!

And an anthology of 17 short stories by Israeli science fiction authors has been gathered in a new collection titled “Zion’s Fiction” along with an introduction by Robert Silverberg.  Or Zi-Fi.  

An interesting premise for the eco-driven but scientifically grounded (and western-like) Melt Trilogy by K. E. Lanning “After catastrophic global warming melts the ice caps, humans desperate for land colonize a de-iced Antarctica.



== The “Self-Published” World Contains some (Rough) Gems!

Amid interesting transitions in art, you have the world of self-published fiction (SPF).

My colleague in the SETI/METI community – retired senior U.S. diplomat Michael Michaud – has published a short novel, EASTERN WIND, about discovery of an ancient shipwreck suggesting early contact between Asia and North America. “Behind this story lie the growing power of China, climate change and a rising world ocean, and the political assault on science.If you have inflexible standards about the nuts and gears of polished fiction writing, then you deny yourself the world of self-published stories that sometimes offer compensation with romance and big ideas.

Gary Dejean, PhD has an SPF all about our transformation into cyborgs and possibly a “plussed” version of humanity, in H+ INCORPORATED. An orphaned child getting slowly used to his full-body prosthetic befriends a young journalist who herself hopes to one day be fitted with similar implants. Meanwhile, a secretive military contractor tests combat exoskeletons for a corrupt government. Hard-science anticipation with a strong dose of cyberpunk.”

== For the Predictions Registry ==

For two decades some fans have kept a Wiki tracking my predictions, especially from EARTH. Already listed is my 1989 forseeing of a worldwide wave of Chinese tourism, illustrated in several scenes set in New Zealand. Well, what could be more specific than this news item:

The boom is only expected to continue. In February, New Zealand will introduce a yearlong Chinese tourism initiative; China is the country’s second-largest source of tourists after Australia, and the fastest growing… But Mr. Milne, the tourism professor, said not enough had been done to prepare New Zealand communities for an expected doubling in the number of Chinese visitors. He added that New Zealand had a history of overlooking local residents’ concerns as it sought to aggressively increase tourism.”


== Finding Solutions ==

It’s important to reinforce that most modernists are not dogmatists and are capable of diversity of opinion and even changing our minds when strong evidence demands it. One example is nuclear power. Yes it is problematic! So. Give every Nevadan who voted a $500 rebate and open the damn Yucca Mountain repository, already, to get the waste away from our cities! And research better designs that would ease the huge costs of regulatory management for safety.  

Still, a swathe of “liberal” leaders, like Stewart Brand – the world’s top “techno-hippie” – have long said we need to look again at nuclear’s carbon free benefits. James Lovelock, founder of the Gaia Hypothesis, if 100% correct: nuclear power is the only green solution.

As Daniel Duffy puts it: “Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. (And pushed hard by propaganda subsidized by oil and coal interests.) These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen. If we fail to concentrate our minds on the real danger, which is global warming, we may die even sooner, as did more than 20,000 unfortunates from overheating in Europe last summer.”

I don't go that far. But I have the advantage of having seen some of the new designs that cannot melt down and that offer a nightmare scenario primarily to carbon lords, coal kings, petro-sheiks and their ringleader in the Kremlin




125 comments:

Anonymous said...

One way to slow the compulsive reproductive trait: close the borders.

That way, those who over reproduce will pay the price sooner and reconsider.

David Brin said...

Dumbass stuff. The thing that matters is spreading the enlightenment and its attitudes. Only idiots are self-defeating racists.

They are incapable of noticing the big news, that very few of those trying to cross illegally are Mexican, anymore and net immigration with Mexico is NEGATIVE! What did that? Smart earlier policies that helped Mexico build a rising middle class with jobs at home. NAFTA helped do that and fortunately Two Scoops left NAFTA almost entirely in place, crowing over a few minor cosmetic changes.

Even racists should back this trend, helping Mexico defend and police its southern (much smaller) border... and intervening to liberate folks and do the same in Guatemala and Honduras.

But Trumpists are Putin-loving whores.

country mouse said...

Regarding your nuclear power comment, I really think we should keep Yucca Mountain closed and push forward on at least a small set of the molten salt reactors to burn up the waste products to something much less toxic. I haven't done a deep dive into the new generation of nuclear reactor technology but the molten salt folks make it fairly convincing case at least from a safety and lower toxicity waste byproducts

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- Malthus

The idea that a few short generations will change us from a limited reproduction to a malthusian species

If the desire for more kids was a simple single gene - like blue eyes - then that could happen - if (as I suspect) it is much much more complex and involving dozens if not hundreds of separately inheritable factors then it will take a LOT longer as in hundreds of generations if it can change at all

As far as I can see all of our complex human behaviour is complex - with lots and lots of variables
I would reference "Behave" by Sapolsky -

While I believe that we are NOT going to move to being a Malthusian species - it is definitely the "worst case" and we do need to plan for that worst case

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- Nuclear power

Today's issue is still that while the other "Green" technologies have spent the last 50 years following the usual path of reducing costs and are now something like 1/10th (or less) than their 1970's cost Nuclear has managed to avoid the normal path and now costs the same (or more)

Nuclear NOW costs MORE money than it's Green rivals

Why build 10 GW of Nuclear when the same amount of money can give you 20 GW of Wind/Solar/Storage?

Alan Kellogg said...

Nuclear power has a great advantage over "green" power, that being reliability. Winds don't always blow, sunlight doesn't always reach the grid, but given competent handling fission keeps going.

Why 10GW of nuclear power over 20GW of Wind/Solar/Storage? Because the nuclear you can rely on. Besides, the more we work with fission the lower the price will get.

Chris Heinz said...

Re: a simulation?

The secret sauce of the multiverse is compression algorithms. Intuitively you think, it would take more than a universe to simulate a universe, but ... compression algorithms.

One odd thought I have had is that maybe the whole quantum weirdness with observers collapsing superimposed states is that the simulation doesn't waste cycles and leaves things indeterminate when no one is looking.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alan
That is why the unholy triumvirate is Wind, Solar and STORAGE

Besides, the more we work with fission the lower the price will get.

There is the rub - for the last 40 or 50 years it has NOT gone down! - if it had we would not be having this discussion!

In 1978 when I left University there were NO "modern" wind turbines that had lasted more than 2 years - now they are the cheapest form of power generation

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Closing the border might have the unintended consequence of driving up the birth rate on OUR side of the border. The 'child per woman' number is believed to correlate with the young woman's fear for her children's survival and prosperity. 8)


Malthus isn't an issue in the New World IF we can avoid scaring ourselves into doing something stupid.

Tony Fisk said...

Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. (And pushed hard by propaganda subsidized by oil and coal interests.)

Not quite. My observation is that the nuclear lobby are among the most vociferous opponents of renewables. One might almost think they're... shilling for someone. (I think the tension here is central v distributed)

Not against nuclear in principle, but I think the economics are against it now. By all means open Yucca Mountain up.
And get stuff embedded in synroc, already.

progressbot said...

On simulation.
Main part of if it is simulation -- it is deliberate. So there is "god". And so, there is his reasons to simulate. ;) Or... someone can show me argument that simulation can emerge randomly?

On nuclear.
Well, Ok. Wouldn't it be great to have cyanide, alongside sugar and solt on your kithen table? Why not?


>> Mike Will said...
\\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.

Criptic comment. I cannot dechifer it. :(
What is "proceed to the middle", what is "maintaining the duality"?


>> Alfred Differ said...
\\Malthus isn't an issue in the New World IF we can avoid scaring ourselves into doing something stupid.

Probability of which aproaching zero. :)

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"I could use your help publicizing this here Contrary Brin blog"

Recipes!

Nothing gets the 'sphere churning shares and links and likes more than something tasty which 98% of readers will never attempt, yet makes them feel good about themselves thinking that they MIGHT. Someday.

I'll start:

Big Egg Thing

Start with a big frypan. Lay down a tablespoon of butter, a tblsp of bacon drippin's, and a tblsp of olive oil. Turn heat on low to just melt them. Add marjoram, thyme, savory, sage, white pepper, black pepper, rosemary, parsley, basil, oregano and a splash of tabasco. Either add a couple minced garlic cloves, or some garlic powder.

Chop up a portabella cap, a green pepper, half a spanish onion, and a handful of green onions. Toss 'em in. Raise the heat to medium. Once the 'shroom reduces in size (they're like 98% water), add jalapeno rings and quartered black olives.

Once it's going good, add pepperoni slices, sausage crumbles and diced ham. Oddly, chicken does not go well with eggs, who knew?Crack open a half dozen eggs into a bowl, fork them up, add milk and turmeric, fork it all up well. Wash your hands!

Once the ham starts to snap, add the eggs. Stir once, let it set. Reduce heat to below medium, give it a couple more minutes, then use a big spatula to turn it over chunk by chunk. Cover with quarter pound shredded mild cheddar, then put the lid on. Reduce heat to med-lo. A few minutes later, it's done. Sprinkle chives on top, slide it out onto a platter, cut slices like a pie. MMmmmm.

I started doing this to use up odds 'n ends in the refrigerator, the list of things you can throw in there is endless. Artichoke hearts, last weekend's takeaway lo mein, a cup of Wendy's chili, garbanzos... endless. Have half a pint of leftover sour cream or chip dip? Dollop it on top. Only two things i never add: chicken or salt.

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased to see a positive mention of Factor Man here. Matt Ginsberg was my PhD advisor and my name makes it into the book, so it has some personal meaning for me.

The plot hook is a little more general than implied by the brief blurb: the protagonist finds an efficient algorithm for solving NP-complete problems. This not only renders encryption (both RSA and other kinds) moot, but also has a whole bunch of other world-changing consequences.

Writing a well-paced general-audience thriller (of all things) around computational complexity is pretty cool, I think.

George Carty said...

The Nazis rode to power on the back of a three-part coalition of supporters:

* Big industrialists (who wanted to crush the labor movement and/or benefit from military spending, and in the longer term crush their French and British competitors),
* Lower-middle-class Germans (who feared competition from Jews), and
* Poor farmers (who hungered for Lebensraum) – chapter 6 ("Saving the Peasants") of Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction is a good source of information on this.

Similarly, the anti-nuclear-power movement was made up of three parts:

* The brains came from misanthropic nature-lovers: many of the first anti-nuclear-power activists were Californians who feared that population growth would ruin the scenic beauty of their state.
* The funding came from fossil fuel interests: for example Friends of the Earth was founded in 1969 with $200,000 from oil tycoon Robert O Anderson, and
* The masses of warm bodies came from liberals terrified of nuclear war, and who lashed out in fury at nuclear power plants in frustration at their inability to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

This latter point is why I'm so depressed that current Democratic superstar AOC seems to have embraced a Green New Deal which excludes nuclear power: I blame the bad influences of Bernie Sanders (whose anti-nuclearism probably comes from the fact that he was of the age to have done duck-and-cover drills at school) and of Ed Markey (who became one of America's most powerful enemies of nuclear energy as a result of the LNG terminal in his Congressional district).

While I can empathize with Bernie Sanders (and with baby boomer Democrats) who were turned against nuclear energy by Cold War fears, I regard anti-nuclearism among millennials (who either weren't born or were small children when the USSR fell) as far more unforgivable.

yana said...


Alan Kellogg thought:

"Winds don't always blow, sunlight doesn't always reach the grid"

When is the sunlight weaker? When it's stormy, thus peak wind energy time. Solar and wind fit together so well, it's eerie. And here's the kicker: both energy sources will become more efficient in the future. The way we're affecting the atmosphere will lead to more sunlight and higher winds. Eerie, how we're almost forcing ourselves into renewable energy.

At root, it's the law of partial pressures of gases in a closed system. In a mixture of gases, the pressure exerted by each gas is not just dependent on how much of it there is, but also on it's molecular weight. I don't know why this isn't the first thing they teach in high school chemistry. Yes our atmo is not a closed system, but the equilibrium between gravity and vacuum is tight enough to make it behave so, tight enough to keep life going for 3 billion years.

So what are we doing? We are taking oxygen, which weighs 16 per molecule, and replacing it with carbon dioxide, which weighs 22 per molecule. Obviously, we get increased total pressure. So even though the temperature may rise, evaporation of water may decline. More sunshine with less moisture in the air. An airborne water molecule weighs only 10, weighting the total atmosphere even heavier towards the extra carbon dioxide.

What does heavier air do? It carries more momentum per cubic whatever. So when the wind blows, it blows harder. Burning stuff has been a godsend for us, for half a million years. It tripled our food sources, it quintupled our species range, and it let us run gearwheels far faster. But, burning stuff on the scale we're doing it now is making this into a sunnier planet with higher winds.

There are real and truly safe designs and prototypes for new nuclear reactors, but why bother gouging out half a mountain range with diesel behemoths, when we are already terraforming (atmoforming?) the earth to gain more sun and wind?

All those trees we chopped down? We removed baffles which keep surface-level winds lower. It's like we're trying to make the planet into the best possible place to generate electricity from the sun and the wind.

Jon S. said...

"All those trees we chopped down? We removed baffles which keep surface-level winds lower. It's like we're trying to make the planet into the best possible place to generate electricity from the sun and the wind."

Unfortunately, that process also turns the atmosphere of this world into one our species can't breathe without assistance. It doesn't help to "atmoform" Earth if in the process we turn it into Venus.

Larry Hart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

If the desire for more kids was a simple single gene - like blue eyes - then that could happen - if (as I suspect) it is much much more complex and involving dozens if not hundreds of separately inheritable factors then it will take a LOT longer as in hundreds of generations if it can change at all


The pertinent question is not whether it is a single gene, or even if nature or nurture has more to do with the outcome.

The fact is that people who are motivated to have kids will reproduce more than people who are not so motivated. The question then becomes whether or not that motivation is something that gets passed along to the next generation. If it is a single gene that determines a person's Malthusian tendencies, then the answer becomes easy, but if it is not that simple, there could still be a mechanism by which the children learn to emulate their parents' values. After all, there is no gene by which religion is passed from parent to child, and yet we typically think of Catholic parents or Jewish parents as respectively having Catholic or Jewish kids (all exceptions duly noted). Malthusianism (to coin a term) might be passed along in a similar way.

A counterargument, of course, is that supporters of abortion rights are offspring of parents who didn't have abortions. Also, gay people are offspring of parents who reproduced heterosexually (again, all exceptions duly noted). So self-evidently, parents don't pass all of their tendencies down to their children. But just as self-evidently, they do pass some of them down.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Malthus isn't an issue in the New World IF we can avoid scaring ourselves into doing something stupid.


Unfortunately, the Trump election and subsequent presidency pretty much proves that we can't avoid that behavior.

Larry Hart said...

George Carty:

While I can empathize with Bernie Sanders (and with baby boomer Democrats) who were turned against nuclear energy by Cold War fears, I regard anti-nuclearism among millennials (who either weren't born or were small children when the USSR fell) as far more unforgivable.


I'm a boomer, although probably among the youngest of that cohort.

My gut anti-nuclear feeling is not about nuclear weapons. It is rather the reaction to incidents like those at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukishima. And it's not about those sorts of problems being common, but about how catastrophic they are when they do occur. People buy lottery tickets because even though they won't likely win, the cost is trivial and the payoff if you do happen to win is so humongous. My phobia about nuclear power is the equal and opposite of that.

I know several people here have argued that none of those disasters are as bad as advertised. That's a debate we can have. But my point here is that blaming it on an emotional conflation of nuclear power with nuclear weapons is a red herring. At least in my case.

Darrell E said...

It seems to me that the reason nuclear has not progressed, either in technology or reduced costs, is because progress was effectively stopped due to anti-nuclear sentiment. That is certainly true in the US. It was stopped decades ago. All plants operating in the US are Gen II plants the design of which dates from the 1960s, basically the first generation of nuclear power plant after the prototypes. Even the latest plant completed in 2016 is a Gen II design. It seems obvious to me that if the evolution of nuclear power plants had continued continuously as, for example, solar power, that the nuclear power industry would be quite different today. Given the facts of nuclear power's history it seem disingenuous to me to argue against nuclear power because it hasn't progressed but solar and wind have.

Darrell E said...

Three Mile Island, notwithstanding the movie, was the opposite of catastrophic.

Larry Hart said...

@Darrell E,

Yes, Three Mile Island was scarier about what could have happened rather than what did.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

Given the facts of nuclear power's history it seem disingenuous to me to argue against nuclear power because it hasn't progressed but solar and wind have.


From a certain point of view, yes, of course that's right.

From another point of view, it seems disingenuous to argue that Hillary was a bad candidate because the other party demonized her for thirty years. And yet, here we are. Perception becomes reality.

One might also ask why solar and wind haven't been able to be demonized the way nuclear has. Or why Republicans favor nuclear power and Democrats favor solar and wind.

Tim H. said...

I want nuclear power in addition to solar & wind, not instead of. Possibly something to do with being a boomer who grew up an hour's drive or less from several facilities the USSR might think worth a warhead or two, by comparison, a meltdown would've been small potatoes.

Mike Will said...

Re: Simulated Reality

1) I'm not at all sure about the 1000 atoms in the simulator for every 1 atom in the simulation. Compression (see Chris Heinz above), quantum computing [superposition and entanglement], and Heisenberg all come into it. Fractal compression alone reduces the infinitely complex Mandelbrot set to the algorithm Z->Z*Z+c. That algorithm alone could probably be encoded with 1000 atoms.
2) The 'if a tree falls in the forest' method (again, see Chris Heinz above). In the game Minecraft (which is bigger than the entire surface of the Earth, and near-infinite in later versions), the terrain isn't instantiated (generated) until the avatar actually moves into it.
3) Universality (eg of physical laws). Either the universe objectively exists (or is entirely and accurately simulated) and things happen in distant galaxies the exact same way they happen here, or everything is relative, virtual, and arbitrary (perhaps even manipulated by a super-being). You can't have it both ways, which strangely seems to be what many very intelligent philosophy types want.
4) The 'who cares' argument that I've covered earlier in here. The fear of this universe being a simulation seems too anthropocentric to me. It's like the silly question, "Well, smarty, what is the universe expanding into?" Tautologies give me a headache.

Mike Will said...

PS
It's Pi day, so Calculemus!

Darrell E said...

No Larry. Republicans aren't the only ones who favor nuclear power. Next it will be only Trumpsters favor nuclear power. And solar and wind have been demonized plenty, though granted not to the degree nuclear has been. So how come fossil fuels haven't been demonized to a similar degree as nuclear has? Because the devastation is so much larger? A Single Death is a Tragedy; a Million Deaths is a Statistic? How does this fit into your Republicans are behind all things you don't like theory?

Larry Hart said...

@Darell E,

Whoa, didn't mean to push a hot button.

I perceive that solar and wind are pooh-poohed as impractical or pie in the sky, but not "demonized" as something scary the way nuclear is.

It's not a matter of "Republicans are behind all things bad." Again, my perception is that Republicans like things that hurt the environment. Not just "are willing to put up with because of the benefit", but actually "prefer". So I take Republican support for nuclear power as an indication that it is harmful and Democratic support for solar/wind as indications that they are not. With the caveat that both sides might be misinformed and might eventually see things differently from how they do today.

Fossil fuels have been deomonized plenty. That industry has just been able to more successfully portray themselves as a necessary evil.


A Single Death is a Tragedy; a Million Deaths is a Statistic?


More like A large number of deaths from a single incident is horrifying. More deaths caused indirectly over a long period of times don't scare us as much. I'm not claiming the position to be rational--just that it drives human behavior anyway.

I'm open to listening to pro-nuclear positions. Some here have already convinced me that it's not as bad as I once thought. My original point in posting here is that my concerns never had to do with confusing nuclear power with nuclear weapons.

A.F. Rey said...

The 'who cares' argument that I've covered earlier in here. The fear of this universe being a simulation seems too anthropocentric to me.

Reminds me of a dialogue from an old movie I once saw (don't ask me which one), where two guys are discussing some counterfeit money:

"It's almost perfect."
"You mean it isn't perfect?"
"If it were perfect, it would be real." :)

The only reason to worry about whether we live in the real world or a simulation is if there is some difference between the two. If there is no difference, or none that matters to us, then we might as well consider it real.

Andy said...

Prediction Registry looking rather rough... it hasn't been updated in years, there's many dead links, and it's confusing to navigate.

David Brin said...

George C ANY movement can be divided into its rich supporters, its intellectual rationalizers and its lumpenproletariat masses. Which is more “Nazi-like”? Anti-nuke liberals, or today’s confederate Putin-puppets? If you say the former, um, what weird planet are you from? The chief distinguishing trait of Democrats is their unreliability when it comes to dogma.

Last night I had dinner with Rusty Schweickart, at the gala celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 9 mission that tested every technology needed for the first lunar landing, just 4 months later. (David Scott and Jim McDivitt had their own entourages at a different table. Only two Apollo missions still have all three alive and these guys are as sharp as lasers.) Rusty was the "token liberal" on that mission. He became advisor to CA governor Jerry Brown, along with Stewart Brand and other techno-hippies... who have always favored cautiously step-by-step advances in nuclear power.

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

The only reason to worry about whether we live in the real world or a simulation is if there is some difference between the two. If there is no difference, or none that matters to us, then we might as well consider it real.


I tend to agree with that sentiment. The only caveat I'd include is that the concern about it being a simulation is, "It could all change or disappear in a moment."

A.F. Rey said...

Well, that would be a significant difference, wouldn't it? ;)

A.F. Rey said...

A piece of good news: worldwide generation of wind and solar electricity exceeded 1 Terawatt last year.

https://about.bnef.com/blog/world-reaches-1000gw-wind-solar-keeps-going/

Deuxglass said...

Yes we maybe be living in a simulation but if that is true then that means that we have Creators or Overlords to whom we owe our existence and who have total control over our lives. They are outside our notions of physics and so they are metaphysical and that is the ultimate definition of God or Gods. If you believe that this or these supreme beings exist then you have to concede that they determine your existence and your fate so religion is right. There are beings above you, that you cannot understand their motives or objectives, and They govern our lives completely. Blaise Pascal was right. You may believe or not believe but if you are wrong, and that the Supreme Beings do insist that you behave in a certain way and you do not do as He says, then you will die in eternal torment. Evidently even though the chance that these Beings actually exist is exceedingly unlikely one should still believe in them because the risk of eternal damnation, which I assume is very unpleasant, is still something to void at all costs. Now if the Gods exists then then can we influence them in any way? That I cannot know but Pascal says it’s worth a try because what else can you do?


Forty-five years ago when I was a graduate student studying bacterial growth and finding ways for viruses to destroy them, a curious event happened. I was working with two petri dishes with identical bacterial colonies. I was going to infect one with a bacteriophage which would destroy it, and the other would be left intact. I had to choose which colony would die. I was their God. At the time I used intuition to decide which would die and when my hand hovered over one, I felt something indescribable. I felt one had a wish to live so I kept alive.


The events that followed are burned in my memory as if it had happened yesterday. I let the petri dish colony live and put back into the incubator for two weeks which, in bacterial time, is equivalent to several thousands of years. At the end of those two weeks I came in to the lab early Sunday morning to finish a project. I had been out to party the night before and I was still feeling the effects but I had to finish the work not matter what. I got the Petri dish out of the incubator and set it on the table. To my surprise the Petri dish levitated off the table and flew out the window. I rushed over and had just enough time to see it accelerate upward and disappear into the sky. I rubbed my aching hungover head and promised myself, one more time to cut back on the partying.


I am older and wiser now. What I once saw as a hallucination brought on by too much college life I now see the Truth. The bacteria, seeing me as their God, prayed to me and by doing so stayed my hand and I did not destroy them. That two weeks gave the bacterial colony, which in their time constituted thousands of years, the time to build a technological civilization allowing them to discover levitation and perhaps Warp Drive and go out into the galaxy. Somewhere out there in planet covered in green oozy gloop there are untold quatillions of bacteria singing praises to my Glory. It is a comforting feeling being a god. You should try it.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Unfortunately, the Trump election and subsequent presidency pretty much proves that we can't avoid that behavior.

You and our bot friend have a lower opinion of our resilience than I do. I would point out that many are angry more than they are scared. 8)


I asked my mother once why she chose to have four kids. At the time I asked it was much more common for women in the US to have two or three. She shrugged and said that was just the way it was back then, but then pointed out she got exactly what she wanted. Two boys, two girls, all before age 30. That was her early plan.

In later years after I learned a bit more biology, I understood the 'before age 30' part of her plan. It makes good sense if you want to reduce the odds of long term heartbreak. The choice of four was still a mystery.

Many years later after reading an article about the population bomb fizzling out and the statistical correlation between fertility rates in women and child mortality I could see the impact on population growth elsewhere, but child mortality didn't take a big hit in the US around when my mother was making her choices. If anything, things were improving rapidly. Polio was being driven out. Smallpox was vanishing from the Earth. Starvations were happening elsewhere, but not close to home. She had recently improved her station in life by marrying and emigrating. I didn't get it.

... then one day it hit me. Cold War. I was born a few months before the Cuban missile crisis. We were engaged in tit-for-tat above ground thermonuclear bomb testing. Big bombs too. What was a young mother supposed to think, hmm? People spoke about WWIII and every single person on Earth dying. I smacked my head against my palm a few times and considered the mystery solved. Of course I had a few more siblings. 8)


Today's events involving Trump don't come anywhere close to that kind of fear. Not even remotely in the same neighborhood. On Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Trump and the Confederates are messing with higher order concerns of ours. Not the highest concerns, but not the lowest either. So... the concerns Malthus raised won't return.

Alfred Differ said...

Duexglass,

I think you gave those critters in the dish long enough to simulate YOU.
Definitely an act worthy of godhood. 8)

Deuxglass said...

Alfred,

And God made Man in His image. I was just keeping up the tradition of Godhood.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Trump and the Confederates are messing with higher order concerns of ours. Not the highest concerns, but not the lowest either. So... the concerns Malthus raised won't return.


I realize that when you said "scare ourselves into doing something stupid", you were talking specifically about over-reproducing. I was snarking at a more general interpretation. By virtue of irrational concerns about Mexican rapists and gun confiscations (among others), We (The People) have already scared ourselves into something stupid--electing Donald Trump. One might also say we scared ourselves into doing something stupid when we invaded Iraq. It just seems that we do that an awful lot.

Incidentally, FOX's entire business model revolves around scaring viewers into doing something stupid. And they're pretty successful.

A.F. Rey said...

If you believe that this or these supreme beings exist then you have to concede that they determine your existence and your fate so religion is right. There are beings above you, that you cannot understand their motives or objectives, and They govern our lives completely. Blaise Pascal was right. You may believe or not believe but if you are wrong, and that the Supreme Beings do insist that you behave in a certain way and you do not do as He says, then you will die in eternal torment. Evidently even though the chance that these Beings actually exist is exceedingly unlikely one should still believe in them because the risk of eternal damnation, which I assume is very unpleasant, is still something to (a)void at all costs.

Except why would we imagine God or Gods would subject us to eternal torment, especially if we can't understand their motives or objectives?

And if we can't understand them, what makes anyone think they know what behaviors They approve or disapprove of? How do we know that worshiping a god won't subject us to eternal torment?

Pascal's wager is all well and good, but if you don't know the rules of the game, you can't calculate the odds, much less guess which horse you should bet on. :)

Deuxglass said...

A.F. Rey,

Because we can't know the rules of the game Pascal's Wager according to Pascal Blaise is the best you could ever hope for so you make do with it and believe because if you don't because of pride of whatever other reason and you are wrong, then you are screwed forever. It just makes sense to believe then because the downside of not believing is really really bad. If you do believe that we are in a simulation and that you have no idea what the Overlords what then Pascal's Wager makes very much sense. Pascal Blaise was a very sharp man, a mathematician of the first order, and figured out that what we see is not the totality of existence. I am not a religious person but I admit that he has a point here especially if we are in a simulation.

Larry Hart said...

@Deuxglass on Pascal's Wager,

But what makes you think that you know what behaviors will ingratiate you with the hypothetical God and which will, infuriate Him? In Homer Simpson's words, "But what if we're going to the wrong church? Every week, we're just making God madder and madder."

Given the possibilities raised almost literally to the power of infinity, I see no point in picking one and saying "Well, if this one is right, I'd better be on its good side." Mixing up the allusions here, I think Dave Sim's "Cerebus" had it best that in this sort of situation, the only thing to do is "whatever you were going to do already, no matter what Lord Julius might do."

A.F. Rey said...

My point still stands. What would make you (or Pascal) believe that not worshiping a god would prevent you from eternal punishment? What would prevent God from punishing you for worshiping a god, any god, even Him? If you don't know His will, then you can't determine which behaviors (or lack thereof) would set Him off. Even in a simulation.

Deuxglass said...

A.F. Rey,

if we are like bacteria to them then there is no way we could know what they want so the only thing left to us is to try to guess what they want and then do it fully knowing that the gods are capricious to the extreme. There is an outside chance that a God could send a messenger to tell us what He want but there again we run in to Pascal's Wager. If you kill the messenger then you will be in big shit so what is one to do?

Larry Hart said...

@Deuxglass on Pascal's Wager,

But what makes you think that you know what behaviors will ingratiate you with the hypothetical God and which will, infuriate Him? In Homer Simpson's words, "But what if we're going to the wrong church? Every week, we're just making God madder and madder."

Given the possibilities raised almost literally to the power of infinity, I see no point in picking one and saying "Well, if this one is right, I'd better be on its good side." Mixing up the allusions here, I think Dave Sim's "Cerebus" had it best that in this sort of situation, the only thing to do is "whatever you were going to do already, no matter what Lord Julius might do."

A.F. Rey said...

... fully knowing that the gods are capricious to the extreme...

How do you even know this? ;)

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

You can never know which is why there are so many religions with different methods to escape which for lack of any other word would be eternal damnation. Maybe one of them will work. Maybe all will work or maybe none will work. It's about putting even so slight odds in your favor. If a sabretooth tiger is about to pounce on you and you have no way of escaping, you will still run like hell because there just might be a slight chance that the beast will trip on a rock allowing you to escape. You run anyway because you have hope.

Deuxglass said...

A.F. Rey,

How do we know the gods are capricious? Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people and good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people but one must admit that the pattern seems obscure at the best.

Deuxglass said...

A.F. Rey,

Taking my experience from being a god to a petri dish of bacteria, I can say that I don't care about them at all unless for some reason they worship me. I get a kick out of that.

David Brin said...

Some story, Deuxglass! I've heard enough such stories that something's weird either about the cosmos or about us. I say this as literally millions of tiny, painted lady butterflies are flowing past almost every home or office in Southern california.

And again, anyone know what happened to Catfish?

With Facebook down, I realize I need another place to publish short blips and blog announcements. And G+ expires in two weeks. Coincidence?

Kal Kallevig said...

"Malthus isn't an issue in the New World "

If overpopulation destroys the livability of the planet, those borders separating the New World won't mean much.

David Brin said...

And the White House proposes cutting NASA's budget by half a billion $.

http://support.planetary.org/site/R?i=nhwUrl9cA3q4T5Arnxn6AA

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

I myself concentrate on the butterflies in life and leave the big theological questions to others except when having bit of fun. Right now I have a field of prancing horses feeling the joy of springtime outside my window.

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

If a sabretooth tiger is about to pounce on you and you have no way of escaping, you will still run like hell because there just might be a slight chance that the beast will trip on a rock allowing you to escape. You run anyway because you have hope.


True, but you don't run right at the mouth of a lion or a velociraptor in the process.

In the analogy to religion, what reason would I have to suspect that (say) believing in Jesus is "escaping" when billions of religious people believe some different belief is required to "escape"?

Larry Hart said...

@Deuxglass,

As a separate issue, I mentioned this a little while ago in a different context, but I simply cannot make myself believe something just because it would benefit me if I did believe that thing. My brain doesn't work that way. Leo McGarry in West Wing described what it's like to be an alcoholic as "I don't leave a glass half full. I don't understand people who can leave a glass half full." I literally can't understand people who can "choose to believe" something at will, even though I know that such people do exist.

Since Christianity requires not only that I worship Jesus, but that I believe Him to be the Son of God and the only way to reach God, it doesn't matter whether I have hope or not. I just can't meet the criteria. As I once put it on the Cerebus list, Christianity requires that "I have to believe that I have to believe in Jesus in order to get into Heaven in order to get into Heaven." And no, that's not a typo. And no, I can't believe that, even if I want to. So for me, the wager becomes "If Christianity is correct, I'm screwed no matter what. I might as well live my life as if Christianity is not correct and hope for the best." Which is kind of the opposite thing of Pascal's wager, but there you are.

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

Taking my experience from being a god to a petri dish of bacteria, I can say that I don't care about them at all unless for some reason they worship me. I get a kick out of that.


Well, you didn't create the bacteria--you just stumbled upon a position of power over them. Suppose you had created something for a specific purpose--for example, an AI which is supposed to solve some real-world problem. And instead, you found that after 10,000 years (subjective time), all the AI wanted to do was bow down and worship its creator (you). Wouldn't you feel like screaming, "You're missing the point!" at it?

That's kind of what religion looks like to me.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

With Facebook down, I realize I need another place to publish short blips and blog announcements.


Snapchat?

It's the only platform I can think of not consumed by Facebook.

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

You can never know which is why there are so many religions with different methods to escape which for lack of any other word would be eternal damnation. Maybe one of them will work. Maybe all will work or maybe none will work. It's about putting even so slight odds in your favor.


We agree on the premise and yet come to diametric opposite conclusions.

You seem to be saying, "Pick one religion out of the many and hope that you've chosen correctly. The odds are slim but better than none."

That assumes that "doing something" is better at getting you right with the afterlife than nothing at all. Maybe believing no religion at all is "neutral" in God's esteem, but believing the wrong religion offends Him. That possibility turns the wager around. Atheism gives you the slight advantage over the almost-certainty that you'd pick the wrong religion and really honk Him off.

David Brin said...

The thing I find so bizarre about most religions is the incredible self-centeredness they encourage. The be all and end all goal is your own personal salvation. Even going forth and "saving" others is about this. Even the self-abnegation of Buddhism is about perfecting the soul's detachment in order to escape The Wheel. The "saints" suffer an hour's torment gladly in exchange for eons of pleasure and influence. It's a basic business deal and an unfair one, since the requisite trait is not goodness but will power not to scream and give into pain - for an hour.

A Super Saint would do good on Earth and then - dying - commit one mortal sin in order to go to hell and minister to the damned.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

It just seems that we do that an awful lot.

Heh. Okay. THAT I get.
My best defense is we are a young civilization.
Young and foolish at times. 8)

FOX's entire business model

Yah. Fear delivered by pretty people much of the time. Beauty=Truth at some biological level in us, so it's difficult to resist. I think they've even managed to change the child mortality rate in a few places (yes... I'm inclined to blame them) so a fertility pop might happen where they have.

Alfred Differ said...

Deuxglass,

I'm not so impressed with Pascal's wager. It has always struck me as bizarre what people assumed when they learn it.

1. The biggest weirdness is the assumption of infinity. Eternal bliss or eternal punishment. Seriously? Where does that come from? Why would I, as the bacteria in the petri dish, even consider eternity? Where would that come from? I’d have to suspect it came from my rival bacteria trying to scare me into some particular decision or behavior. Wouldn’t that be more plausible than something that seems designed to get me to kill myself a particular way that actually rewards me in an afterlife? Eternal bliss? Sounds like Transcendent Death Wish.

2. The second issue I have is the ignored opportunity cost associated with belief in a world where it can't matter. The payoff on that part of the wager is zero according to Pascal, but I argue it is negative because of opportunities avoided. Think of the questions not researched by people who have no reason to believe there is anything interesting to learn in a particular direction taken by someone who has no such belief. If the planets travel through the sky pushed by angels, who discovers gravity? Who did in our case? Heretics!

Pascal’s wager strikes me as a bit of sophistication designed to justify the choice he made and help others do something similar. It’s not even all that sophisticated, though it is a nice little example of early game theory.

I don’t want to ruin the fun, though. I imagine your story is a decent explanation for everyone who avoids cleaning out their fridge too, but it’s the molds that transcend. 8)

David Brin said...

The War on Science isn’t just about climate change, or Trump’s slashing of the federally supported R&D that boosted half our wealth. The “deep state” treason incantation aims to suppress the millions of men and women who stand in the way of a return to feudal oligarchy, but there are also a millions smaller cuts, described by Michael Lewis in “The Fifth Risk.”
https://www.npr.org/2018/10/02/652563904/the-fifth-risk-paints-a-portrait-of-a-government-led-by-the-uninterested

"In The Fifth Risk (the risk posed by incompetent government leaders), Lewis turns his attention to government data collection, including weather information and the census (which, as we rapidly approach the 2020 decennial census, also lacks a permanent director).

“Smart government scientists and techs have been mining this data to protect Americans. But Lewis reports (as have others), a lot of government data is now disappearing from government websites, data on climate change at the EPA, on animal abuse at the Department of Agriculture, on violent crime at the Department of Justice. "Under each act of data suppression," Lewis writes, "usually lay a narrow commercial motive: a gun lobbyist, a coal company, a poultry company.""

In order to get away with this, the confederate cabal must rile up tens of millions of dullard ingrates to resent all the nerds who at-least partly understand this new world… and alas, this includes the men and women who saved us from Hitler and Stalin and bin Laden, ended plagues like polio and smallpox, got us to the moon and Mars and designed safe-cheap-luxurious cars than can last half a million miles. And who might, perhaps, if listened-to, yet save the world.

The Greatest Generation - who ‘made America great’ - respected expertise. They knew the danger posed by aristocrats and cheater-lords. Too bad a majority of their children are such saps.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Too bad a majority of their children are such saps.

Or badly brain damaged by lead in petrol

David Brin said...

I don't get it. How does the model Y seat 7? How is it an SUV? Looking at it, at first sight, I didn't even see the rear doors and I thought it was a coupe! An upgraded roadster! Then I adjusted scale. Still, I am confused.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Model Y - three rows of seats - it's still quite a big car by non American standards

I will be disappointed if they lose the Falcon doors - I thought that they were silly but since then I have been having to lift my wife into the car and falcon doors would make that so much much easier

I can see a time when every old peoples home has a Tesla X !

progressbot said...

>> Deuxglass said...
\\They are outside our notions of physics and so they are metaphysical and that is the ultimate definition of God or Gods.

Outside of physics (as we know it, contemporary). But not out of Chains of Determinism (yep, if they created us, our universe, they are bound by cause-action rule and not (that) gods :P )

\\That I cannot know but Pascal says it’s worth a try because what else can you do?

Learn Rules of Physics? To become god on your own? ;) Well... it seems you know that concept yourself. :))


>> Larry Hart said...

You forgot to mention crossingover. ;)

\\Snapchat?

Or some standalone website. As many pundits do. ;) With some nitty-gritty gimmicks and Q&A, etc facilities. I can say it is not that costly and hard to make option. ;)


>> Darrell E said...

You didn't have built nuclear subs and carriers? Or they was with "Nautilus" style reactors? ;)


>> Mike Will said...
\\You can't have it both ways...

That is the point. It can have.
As in "social practice truth", as in any conceivable by us logic, as in reality... probably. :\


>> Alfred Differ said...
\\You and our bot friend have a lower opinion of our resilience than I do.

It's not belief. It's just observation. People do not learn from experience of others. (as our host, who continuenly proposing very the same we "celebrated" in USSR: no hereditary wealth, no "SW parasites", wars against alcoholism and etc)
So, we are doomed to learn from errors of our own. Humanum errare est. :(

\\1. ...Why would I, as the bacteria in the petri dish, even consider eternity? Where would that come from?

Not from modern understanding of infinity for sure. But from ancient, peasant-like... not infinity per se, but more like "eternal summer\autumn" where this peasant have more free time, enjoy warmth and plenty of fruits. Etc.
Ordinary human's desire of "stop the moment you are beautiful". ;)

2. Yep. In his times idea "not to come to church"... have subtle negative cost. :)


\\My best defense is we are a young civilization.

Evolution do not regard youth. Well, in wild nature to be young mean to be dead/eaten.
So, by prooved missing "guarding angels" of any kind -- we need to grow up. And fast.
While it is not too late. :(

But still, process going in straightly opposite direction -- ever growing age of becoming grown-up and "neotenia" even in 60+.

Well, maybe Evolution know what it doing. Dunno. :\

David Brin said...

Duncan blessings and good luck.

George Carty said...

David Brin: ANY movement can be divided into its rich supporters, its intellectual rationalizers and its lumpenproletariat masses.

Yup, I was just looking at how different groups within a movement can have very different motivations.

Which is more "Nazi-like"? Anti-nuke liberals, or today's confederate Putin-puppets?

The latter obviously as they are the ones who often view the world through a prism of racial struggle (the fundament of the Nazi worldview). I suspect the vast majority of anti-nuke liberals aren't even aware that two-thirds of humanity can only survive thanks to the Haber-Bosch process.

Larry Hart: One might also ask why solar and wind haven't been able to be demonized the way nuclear has. Or why Republicans favor nuclear power and Democrats favor solar and wind.

Nuclear power was able to be demonized because it was linked with nuclear weapons in the eyes of so many people, and because if a culture of secrecy (inherited from its military links: note that PWRs were originally developed for submarine propulsion rather than electricity generation) which bred mistrust.

It's ironic that right-wingers accuse anti-nuclear environmentalists of being socialists when nuclear power has actually been most successful under public ownership (as in France), and also given that the economic beliefs of anti-nuclear environmentalists (at least in my view) tend more towards the distributist than to the socialist.

As for the intersection of energy with partisan US politics, the problem as I see it is that both sides of the US political spectrum have been corrupted by fossil fuel money (the Republicans by coal money, and both sides by oil/gas money).

Republicans feign support for nuclear power (because they know it pisses of the hippies) but in deference to their fossil fuel backers don't support it in reality (no new nuclear power plants were approved during Dubya's eight years in office).

Democrats feign opposition to fossil fuels (because their supporters actually care about the environment) but in deference to their backers in the gas industry support wind and solar (which need gas backup) against nuclear (which doesn't).

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin,

Thank you for the reference but I was quoting James Lovelock when I said:

“Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. (And pushed hard by propaganda subsidized by oil and coal interests.) These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen. If we fail to concentrate our minds on the real danger, which is global warming, we may die even sooner, as did more than 20,000 unfortunates from overheating in Europe last summer.”

Though I do agree with him completely.

The only thing that will save us is nuclear power

Daniel Duffy said...

Re: the excessive costs of nuclear power

Only true for the classic large scale multi-megawatt nuclear power plants/

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) don't have this problem, being factory made modules that can be installed like light bulbs into a regional or micro power grid.

They are small, flexible and can grow organically just lie any wind farm or solar array - while having a much smaller physical and ecological footprint.

As for safety, just look at any submarine, aircraft carrier and ship in the US navy - all of which use the equivalents of SMRs - with a record of perfect safety.

When the fuel is consumed, SMRs "un-plugged" like a light bulb, repleced by a new plug in module and trucked back to the factory to remove the spent fuel (to be recycled), refueled and reused.

Daniel Duffy said...

What the world needs to survive are more people who are "nuclear hippies".

People who love the planet yet don't fear technology like it was witchcraft.

Tim H. said...

I fear the Tesla "Y" will have conventional doors, the Falcon doors aren't cheap. Consider something with a sliding door?

Tim H. said...

Solar, wind & hydro plus storage has the potential to be a complete solution, except hydro is the only one where the details of storage are worked out. Potentially, and it'll be longer before the smokestacks go cold and it'll probably cost more and have it's very own environmental issues.

Larry Hart said...

If I seemed unduly harsh yesterday saying that Republicans prefer harmful policies, I'm not the only one noticing. At least in the province of harm to the environment.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2019/Pres/Maps/Mar15.html#item-4

It is clear that the Green New Deal, and more broadly the environment and global warming, will be a big part of the 2020 campaign. Thus far, the GOP has had a great deal of success selling their denialism and using it to rally rural voters and get them to the polls. Maybe it will work again in 2020, but polls make clear that the number of voters who take global warming seriously is rising almost as fast as temperatures are. Meanwhile, it may be instructive that no other major political party in the world denies the existence of global warming, or takes the staunchly anti-environment stance that the Republicans do.

(Emphasis my own)

Tim H. said...

LH, I believe the ultimate goal of contemporary conservatism is that the wealthiest people in the world should never be held accountable by any power, if they have fossil energy holdings, they resent being told they should divest, even to the point of turning away from opportunities in other energy areas.

David Brin said...

"Democrats feign opposition to fossil fuels (because their supporters actually care about the environment) but in deference to their backers in the gas industry support wind and solar (which need gas backup) against nuclear (which doesn't)."

A bizarre exaggeration. Dems in Colorado etc force gas producers not to flare or vent, and would end it nationally. How is that “in pocket?”

Larry Hart said...

Someone on this list recently pointed us to the fascinating Lexicon Valley podcast about language.

In a bit of synchronicity, this particular instance describes Hillary's "basket of deplorables" comment, suggesting that the visceral reaction against that comment is not so much about "deplorables" as it is about "basket". He doesn't make this comparison explicitly, but I read that as comparing Hillary's remark to Romney's "binders full of women".

Like any good story, it explains a lot.

https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/09/clintons-basket-of-deplorables-and-the-rise-of-the-metaphorical-container.html

...
Sure, calling a group of voters deplorables is politically problematic, in spite of the bigotry the comment was trying to highlight. But what we could be reacting to, on that more covert, subliminal level, is the metaphor itself. Though our government is polarized, our communities segregated, our everyday behaviors broken out into discrete data points for advertisers, in this era of identity politics, gender fluidity, and millennial self-invention, we no longer accept other people defining who we think we are. Only we get to decide which basket we belong in—or so we like to posture when we’re not busy categorizing everyone else. Clinton’s basket of deplorables doesn’t commit any crimes we don’t all do. It’s the reminder of this state of affairs that we find so deplorable.

Larry Hart said...

I've read and/or listened to several of the posts on that Lexicon Valley podcast (above), and one aspect I find fascinating is that the guy describes a lot of how we are affected subconsciously by various uses of language, without even noticing why.

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

Running towards a sabretooth tiger is just plain stupid unless you are a demi-god like Hercules. He can get away with it.

The way I see it is that the god of the Christians, the Muslims, and the Jews are just amalgamations of the gods of the polytheists all wrapped up in an easier to understand package. There are less incantations to remember and the consolidated god is more portable. You save on building and personnel costs by having everything under one roof instead of each god having to have their own proper priests and temples. So you see that it doesn’t matter to which god one prays because it all goes back to the same extended celestial family who then divvy it up among themselves. There is nothing that says that each religion cannot give the afterlife in which each follower believes. One thing all religions abhor are what they call “godless people”, those who do not believe in any Supreme Being or Beings because believers believe that what hold things together is belief so those who do not believe are benefiting from the believer’s efforts of “holding things together” without having to put in the work that believers do. The godless people are then seen as being “free riders”, a term that is popular these days. Pascal made his wager not to convince those who already believe. He made it for people like him who have a highly rational mind and who cannot believe just by believing. He needed a rational, mathematic reason why to believe. You LarryHart and many here are like that too. I am the same way. I don’t have the religious bone. The “take Jesus into your heart” thing just doesn’t work for me. I am a sceptic and I see religion as irrational but I must admit that Pascal’s Wager does give me pause.

Deuxglass said...

Alfred,

1) The gods could just put your deceased soul in a time loop where you would have endless cycling bliss or torment in a perpetual Groundhog’s Day. It doesn’t have to be infinite. It just has to feel like it. Of course it is not logical to us but that has no bearing as to if it is true or not.

2) Opportunity cost is a tricky one. I think it is all about the length of missed opportunity. I could rob a bank tomorrow and spend all my proceeds on wine, women games within one week. I would have a great time and be proud of having done exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately I would probably be caught and thrown in jail for a lot longer than a week so it’s a judgement call as to whether it was worth it. Some would say yes it was worth it. Myself I probably would say no. Pascal in this situation would say calculate the odds and then take responsibility for your actions because if god does exist, you will. He is saying that there is no free lunch.

Way before I was married, sometimes I would look into my refrigerator and see a gross mold growing there. I swear I could feel Evil emanating from it.

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...
"If I seemed unduly harsh yesterday saying that Republicans prefer harmful policies, I'm not the only one noticing. At least in the province of harm to the environment."

I agree, but awareness of this and people pointing it out is not a new or rare thing. Pointing this out was one of the defining aspects of hippie sub-culture, for one example.

I can't speak for Republicans, but what I found disagreeable about your comment(s) was the false claim, or at least strong implication, that conservatives are the only ones that support nuclear power and the implication that all people that support nuclear power are people who don't mind hurting the environment.

Deuxglass said...

I support nuclear power and I put my money where my mouth is. I bought a nice chunk of Électricité de France a couple of years ago. Most of it is nuclear but it is also has one of the largest parks of renewables in the world. it's a real yoyo.

A.F. Rey said...

So you see that it doesn’t matter to which god one prays because it all goes back to the same extended celestial family who then divvy it up among themselves.

How do you know this? What makes you think it is so?

You obviously don't know this, because all the religions you referred to do not acknowledge "other gods" to divvy up the devotion. You're speculating, creating a scenario that just might be true to justify worship. But it is as likely as there being only one god who will punish anyone who doesn't worship him (traditional God), or will punish everyone regardless of what they do (Cthulhu), or not punish anyone (non-traditional God or an uncaring God), or simply doesn't exist.

Pascal's wager doesn't work because we don't know which of the many (if not infinite) number of scenarios is true, or even close to being true. We have no idea which is more likely. So worshiping a god may seem to have a better payoff than not worshiping, as you explain, it is just as likely that worshiping the wrong god, or even worshiping any god, will get you the opposite payoff instead.

Sure, you can guess what God would do by extrapolating what you would do, but what makes you think God thinks like you? ;) You're not God, and you don't even know if He had anything to do with your creation. He may have made you the opposite of what He is. When you're dealing with pure speculation, literally anything is possible.

You, like Pascal, lean toward the benevolent but vengeful God of your culture. But there is no reason to believe your culture has any better a guess at this God person than any other, or than a culture that doesn't exist. We just don't know. And without that knowledge, there is no way to weigh the right course of action.

Darrell E said...

From first glance I thought Pascal's Wager was completely unconvincing. I think it really boils down to issue of absolute certainty vs probability. The idea that we can have absolute proof of things, or need absolute proof to justify a belief is pretty common but it doesn't map to reality at all. In reality it is impossible, or at least extremely improbable that we can have absolute proof of even very simple things, let alone more complex ones.

Pretty much everyone uses a much more realistic metric for determining whether they should believe the myriad mundane things they must make a belief judgement about going about their business throughout an ordinary day. Even believers. That more realistic metric is apportioning their degree of belief regarding a thing based on a pragmatic assessment of the amount and quality of the evidence they have about the thing. It is only about matters that people decide are of very high importance to their self-image that people abandon this eminently reasonable metric for the much less reasonable one of simply believing what they will and demanding absolute proof, which is not possible, that their belief is wrong in order to change their mind.

Pascal's Wager includes too many assumptions, too many premises that must be taken for granted to be the least bit convincing. You can literally make up any shit you want and Pascal's Wager will prove that your best choice is to believe it. That alone demonstrates that it is completely useless.

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

So you see that it doesn’t matter to which god one prays because it all goes back to the same extended celestial family who then divvy it up among themselves. There is nothing that says that each religion cannot give the afterlife in which each follower believes.


Have you listened to any fundamentalists actually preach? They don't truck with the notion that Jews or Muslims or even less radical Christians can escape Hell. They take "and none shall come to the Father except through Me" both seriously and literally. So if their religion is correct, it doesn't help you or me to simply not be an atheist. We're required to believe.

I'm let to believe that fundamentalist Muslims would have a similarly narrow-minded view of what counts toward salvation.

So Pascal's Wager as "Picking a religion gives you a better chance than not picking any religion" doesn't help to the extent that any religion suffices. It only gives you the infinitesimal chance that you might happen upon the correct religion. Which might be better than zero, but not much so.


One thing all religions abhor are what they call “godless people”, those who do not believe in any Supreme Being or Beings because believers believe that what hold things together is belief so those who do not believe are benefiting from the believer’s efforts of “holding things together” without having to put in the work that believers do. The godless people are then seen as being “free riders”, a term that is popular these days.


Ok, several points here.

One: To the extent that you are correct, it points out how atheism is not itself a religion.

Two: Believers are (factually) wrong to believe that "what hold[s] things together is belief." Belief in (and fear of) an authority figure might play a role in keeping people civilized, but it's not the end-all.

Three: Many believers who do believe that are hypocrites, because they'll support (say) a Donald Trump who is obviously not constrained by religious beliefs.

Four: Believers who believe that belief involves "hard work" that non-believers are benefiting from demonstrate that they don't really believe what they're peddling. To me, it would be like saying that people who don't like chocolate are "free riders" because they enjoy their lives without having to buy all of the chocolate that I have to. It makes no sense. If what they're claiming about religion is true, belief itself should be a joy that non-believers are missing out on, not a drudgery that non-believers are shirking.


Pascal made his wager not to convince those who already believe. He made it for people like him who have a highly rational mind and who cannot believe just by believing. He needed a rational, mathematic reason why to believe.


He conconcted a mathematical reason why one is better off believing than not believing. As I said yesterday, that's not the same thing as a conviction that the belief is correct on its own merits. More like a reason to pretend really hard that you believe and that no one (especially including God) sees through your duplicity. Sounds like a mug's game, to me.


I am a sceptic and I see religion as irrational but I must admit that Pascal’s Wager does give me pause.


I guess I just have so many disconnects between the concepts of God, religion, and afterlife that the possibility that a particular made up story is correct about all of them just doesn't bother me. Just because God exists (if He does) doesn't imply to me that we have an afterlife, or that the condition of that afterlife depends upon our belief in Him. So even if you convince me that I'm "better off" believing in God, that still doesn't tell me what to do about it.

I always come back to "Better to do what you were going to do without worrying about what Lord Julius thinks."

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

I can't speak for Republicans, but what I found disagreeable about your comment(s) was the false claim, or at least strong implication, that conservatives are the only ones that support nuclear power and the implication that all people that support nuclear power are people who don't mind hurting the environment.


First of all, I believe I started out with accepting your stance that nuclear power shouldn't be perceived as dangerous, and then only added some incidental comments about why the fears do persist anyway. One of those was (paraphrasing) "Republicans favor nuclear power and they like dangerous things." I could have added "all exceptions duly noted". It's not a question of whether all Republicans or only Republicans believe in something. The point I was getting at is that if the people who enjoy "rolling coal" and such are for a thing, that's evidence (not proof but evidence) that the thing might be harmful. I meant that as one entry in the "negative" column, not a slam dunk proof all by itself.

Deuxglass said...

A. F. Rey,

It could be there is only one god, or that there are many, or more likely that we are like blind men feeling different parts of an elephant. Since we do not know the safest course would be to worship all of them but that is impossible unless one can consolidate them all together. Perhaps monotheism is an effort toward that goal. It's still in the development stage and has several kinks that have to be worked out. If this is true then the monotheisms need not be mutually exclusive from the worshipers point of view and hopefully from the deity's also.

Sure I don't know what is in god's mind but that brings up an interesting alternate carrer move for me if I am worthy! Profit or, excuse me, Prophet for the new inclusive religion. I really must set up crowd funding website. I will need disciples. An accountant, a media expert, an fund-raiser, a lawyer(scruples not necessary), a crowd manager, a logistics expert and others will have to be recruited.

Treebeard said...

The wager comes down to whether you will be punished more severely for believing or not believing in god, right? Pascal's wager assumes a sane or comprehensible god. Lovecraft's Wager would be that since god may be insane, we don't know if he will punish us more, less or the same for believing in it. So flip a coin and let Azathoth decide. Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

to Deuxglass
Human's mind is FSM so it impossible to us to covceive infinite or seemingly infinite torment. Or pleasure.
So. Any picture of either haven or hell that not answer that FSM thing is a scam. Fair and square.
But if it allow real eternal life for a human, it need to provide means to learn more and more things.
And human who can learn for eternity (my claim) is indestinguishable from gods.
And our Universe actually allow it.

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

You bring up a lot good points so let me bring up what I suppose could be the central tenet of what I am saying. If we use quantum mechanics as an example, a particle going from A to B has an infinite number of paths it could take to reach its destination but of course the direct path is the optimal path and the particle takes that one. That does not mean that that the other paths are wrong. It just means that the other paths are suboptimal but if taken, would still reach to point B. Religion could be the same principle. The only difference is that one path is the quickest to Paradise, Nirvana or whatever you want to call it is. It does not mean the other paths are false at all and sometimes taking the scenic route has its merits also. What I mean is that it could all lead to the same result or destination and that the difference between the religions are superficial and artificial. The deep belief in “Something Out There” is quasi-universal. Spiritual people perceive it and interpret it in their myriad ways as a Supreme Being or Beings and the scientist perceive it and interpret it as the something like the Ultimate Truth that can be discoverable by inquiry. Both sides are believers and not only believers but passionate in their beliefs but they are different sides of the same coin, yin and yang, positive and negative. Neither one can exist without the other.

I never expected that a petri dish of bacteria would bring about such an interesting discussion on religion.

Deuxglass said...

Treebeard,

Eternal life for humans is the goal à la mode these days but think of what type of person that would create. Science fiction stories aside which are just fiction, a person living so long would be risk-adverse personally and ruthless to those younger than him. he would be Stalin on steroids doing anything and I mean anything to keep his position. Extreme longevity in nature vs a vis the young is almost universality absent in nature and one must ask why has evolution in just about every species managed that after a certain time the old die off. There is no reason why aging exists except that for some reason evolution cause just about all individuals to age and die. There must be reason that favors the species. I am over 65 and aging sucks big time but would I want to live to 500? I think I would be so bored with a life so long and I hope I would be.

Treebeard said...

Oh I agree. Immortality in this world would be hellish. Life would lose its value without death. Fortunately it's not something we have to worry about down here. ¡Viva la Muerte!

Deuxglass said...

Treebeard,

A kindred spirit! Viva la Muerte! (but please give me a few more years!)

David Brin said...

Deuxglass, one of the major grudges of the protestant reformation was veneration of saints = essentially polytheism.

Pascal’s Wager only works if you solipsistically deem your own self to be the most important thing. I don’t get it. How can anyone who was ever a parent feel that way? Even before parenthood… and yes, even with an ego THIS big (!)… I know there are things way more important than me. Like perhaps a Galaxy that might only light up if we grow up a bit and then head out to rescue others.

And yes, that’s a form of egotism — it’s not my only theory. But it means I can serve and that’s more important than “salvation.”

A.F. Rey said...

Now here's an answer to the Fermi Paradox that I bet isn't on Dr. Brin's list:

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/03/15/a-new-answer-to-the-fermi-paradox-which-is-not-a-paradox-and-doesnt-need-an-answer-anyway/

8)

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

As a parent of two wonderful girls and the grandfather of three and soon to be four fantastic grandchildren (all girls) I have to say respectfully that I don't see why a personal belief that touches only myself and what I feel about religion and whatever has anything to do with the dubious need to proselytize which contrary to my previous comments which were made in gest and does not describe what I feel or believe. I believe that you are taking my speculations and musings too seriously. I say things to provoke discussion and exchange of ideas and yes, to have fun and perhaps learn something new. I don't see how you can see Pascal's Wager as something egoist. Many people have big egos and that is not what is important to the individual. What is paramount is once you realize that you have an ego you must be able to control it or it will control you and eventually destroy you. Generally I am modest but sometimes, in the appropriate forum, I let my ego range free for while before I rein it in.

For some people religion is about ego. For some it is about submission. For others it is about adherence to strict practices. Some crave salvation. For me religion is about wonder and adventure. Science exists and religion exists because they are both methods or paths to what is true. In the end they both will get to the same place. Cannot one behold the Universe and appreciate its grandeur and majesty and still work hard and lovingly to discovering its secrets? The two are not incapable.

Mike Will said...

"Science exists and religion exists because they are both methods or paths to what is true."

If that's the case, then religion is delusional, and science is greatly diminished. Paths to truth are wholly (holy?) human concepts.

Deuxglass said...

Mike Will,

Human concepts are the only concepts we have because we are human. It is our only frame of reference.

Bob Neinast said...

Deuxglass,

"If we use quantum mechanics as an example, a particle going from A to B has an infinite number of paths it could take to reach its destination but of course the direct path is the optimal path and the particle takes that one."

Um. No.

In classic mechanics you are correct (the "Action").

In quantum mechanics the "particle" takes all paths, interfering with itself like a wave with a complex amplitude, the "square" of which at a point gives the probability of the particle being observed there.

Deuxglass said...

Bob,

Oh thanks for that. I knew someone would bring it up and I thank you. Let see, if I understand what you say then there is only one best path but that path destroys the others but in destroying the others it may invalidate their existence but does it invalidate the fact that the other paths do, in effect, lead to point B if the best path had not destroyed them by interference? Correct me if I am wrong but the best path is just the most efficient path and even though it destroyed the others paths by interference that does not imply that the other paths were wrong. They were just less efficient.

Bob Neinast said...

Deuxglass,

Urg. I don't think you have it right, but words trying to describe it are generally so inadequate . . .

Think of the double slit experiment. The particle takes both slits simultaneously (and getting to and from the slits they are taking all paths, but with the slits are limited to just those), but for some paths there is constructive interference and in others destructive.

For just a general A to B with maybe a few forces, in the classical world the action is optimized, and that's the path the particle takes. In the quantum world, the paths just off the optimized action almost assuredly have destructive interference, so that is "preferred". And the bigger the particle, the more classical it looks because of less destructive interference. But as you get more and more quantum (as in the 2-slit) the more spread out the wave gets following the action, and the more possibilities you get for high-probability results far from the optimal classical one (but with a typical interference pattern).

Deuxglass said...

Bob,

Words in describing quantum mechanics or anything in advanced physics for that matter are often inadequate but we make do. I am familiar with the double-slit experiments so I see what you mean. A question for you. If you interfere with the "preferred path" does another path become "preferred" and if that is true then what can one say about the "truthfulness" of one path over another except to say that under certain conditions one path can prevail not because it is more valide than another but only because certain conditions favored it?

P.S. Hocking Hills brings back memories. I know them well.

Douglas Fenton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deuxglass said...

Time to go to bed now. Thanks for the discussions. I enjoyed them immensely.

Larry Hart said...

The closest I've been to real-life quantum mechanics is when my wife was pregnant with our child, and we purposely didn't learn the baby's gender, so "it" was both boy and girl until she was born, thereby collapsing the waveform.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass congrats and enjoy the hugs! I don't think anything I said belittled you. But you are having the greatest fun of all.

AFR that one is funny!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Daniel Duffy

The problem with your small modular reactors is that they don't exist - they may well be feasible - but at the moment they are vapourware

The reactors used in nuclear ships cannot be cheaper than the ones used in power stations or else power stations would use them

If not in the USA then in France or China or somewhere

Duncan Cairncross said...

Tim H

Sliding doors have the same issue that normal doors do - the top of the doorframe means that you cannot lift somebody into the car

And before that stage - when you are just a bit old and stiff you need to fold yourself below the doorframe and above the seat

I thought the Falcon doors were silly - until I was struggling and I saw one close up

progressbot said...

>> Deuxglass said...
\\If we use quantum mechanics as an example, a particle going from A to B has an infinite number of paths it could take to reach its destination but of course the direct path is the optimal path and the particle takes that one.

Read something about Feynman's integral, dammit. (and I only started to think that you are somewhat more intereting...)

About longetivity... its just lamentation of weak and scared mind. :(

\\Science exists and religion exists because they are both methods or paths to what is true.

Well... such view is possible too. Smirk.


>> Mike Will said...
\\If that's the case, then religion is delusional, and science is greatly diminished. Paths to truth are wholly (holy?) human concepts.

And what about geodesics? ;)

Anonymous said...

Well, it seems here need to be someone to explain quantum mechanics trivia. And it seems that to be me. (or here is some other option? Hey! show yourself, with flying colors... for once)

QM is not that complex thing. Really. ;)

It just need a good guide (like Feynman) and curiosity, and not to be scared of mumbo-jumbo like "its too complex! it's unbelevable!! it's not possible to comprehend it with mere human mind!!! except if you are student of Cambridge/MIT for tens of years and have blood of Dirak and Einstein (well, that one was slowpok in QM too) in your veins". :)))

Imagine that once upon a time you'd have sudden urge to come to the near bar.

For this journey to became QM one, you just need to forgot all about notions of direction, distances, asimuts, etc. And look at it from standpoint of the smalltalks. ;)
Why, you said?

Because though between your house and the bar is just straight line of about kilometer . It is all along the street where your best buddies, pals and all-freindly neighbours live (imagine all street of Flanderses, yep). :)

So. Every time when you do embark on your journey, there is no or very little possibility, that by the way you'd not be stopped by one, two... or just any number of your best freinds. To smalltalk for a little, to be proposed for a tea/cofe, or just to rise your hat (you do not have a hat to rise to them, from your circle/bubble? shame on you).

Well... they say that there is particles -- photons, that are too hipsterish for smalltalks, and commute only in bunch with its own kin. Undisturbed. And so their paths we call geodesic ones.

But really, we do not know (and have no means to find... except for LHC hacking) is it really undisturbed, or there just some minimal default level of disturbance...


Well, I gone out of steam here. Though there could be tons of yet more good stuff said. Anyway, presumably, there would not be anybody to support such conversation, and to spot on my noobism, and yet more to enlight me futher. :( And even to read/comment. :((

yana said...


Larry Hart thought:

"on that Lexicon Valley podcast, one aspect I find fascinating is that the guy describes a lot of how we are affected subconsciously by various uses of language"

If you haven't read it, you'd be glad to have done so afterwards: Through The Language Glass by Guy Deutscher. The word for "blue" evolves last in every single culture's etymo evolution. It's not because there's no blue food, it's because language itself arises from the subconscious. Think about it, how many words fly around your head, compared to how many actually leave your mouth? That proportion is vastly tilted inward.

yana said...


Deuxglass thought:

"I am familiar with the double-slit experiments so I see what you mean. A question for you. If you interfere with the "preferred path" does another path become "preferred" and if that is true then what can one say about the "truthfulness" of one path over another except to say that under certain conditions one path can prevail not because it is more valide than another but only because certain conditions favored it?"

Answered your own question, that's just what the 2-slit experiment does: it makes "certain conditions favored". The lesson isn't the apparatus, it's learning that there is an event which expresses itself as a particle, and by manipulating "certain conditions" we can briefly put a collar on that beast.

The 101 lesson is that particles have a dual nature. 102 is that particles reside on a scale from more-mass to more-energy, thus the 2-slit experiment gets different results with other particles. 201 teaches that there is no such thing as a duality in 3 physical dimensions. At 4-oh-something the lessons are that the entire universe winks in and out of existence about 4 quadrillion times a second, and there's no guarantee that anything which winks out will wink back in as the same thing.

Obviously, this answers Pascal's Wager. The mug you're slurping off has an incredibly small chance of disappearing at any moment, leaving you with a lapful of hot beverage, or soup if you're that way. Odds against that are creditably high, but the odds for it are non-zero. Pascal's Wager is a false duality. It's not either-or, but a pole with a certainty on one end and a binary possibility on the other.

Think it through, this does not mean there are 3 possible outcomes, even if there are now three nodes in the system, it's recursive. Pascal's false duality resolves when we recall that the impermanency of all matter and energy implies a non-zero chance that one or more gods might wink into existence at any time. Literally at any time, and we all know our Clarke: every magic is undiscovered science.

yana said...


yana: "All those trees we chopped down? We removed baffles which keep surface-level winds lower. It's like we're trying to make the planet into the best possible place to generate electricity from the sun and the wind."

Jon S. thought:

"Unfortunately, that process also turns the atmosphere of this world into one our species can't breathe without assistance. It doesn't help to "atmoform" Earth if in the process we turn it into Venus."

Not entirely true. Forested land captures about 5 tons of CO2 per year, per hectare.

The older the forest, the less free CO2 it captures, as decay at ground level feeds more and more energetic strata of fauna, which exhale CO2. A hectare of tomatoes captures almost 9 tons of CO2 per year. Lettuce captures about 7 tons per hectare, in a year. Cauliflower? 10 tons of CO2 per year, per hectare.

Fruit orchards are in the range of 5-7 tons per year, and even cereal crops, barley and wheat and oats, eat up 3.5 tons of CO2 per year, per hectare. Corn and sugar cane are twice as effective as cereals, for scrubbing CO2 out of the atmosphere.

We are not going to turn into Venus, not ever.

A month ago, the idea that rapid depopulation among Native Americans led to global cooling was floated in this very blog. The above is just one of the reasons that postulate is absurd.

It's obvious that uptake of CO2 is better among faster-growing plants, and that does not mean trees. Fast growers do not thrive on shady forest floors. A very good reason to support smart logging, not the knee-jerk reaction of no harvesting of forests at all.

On the other hand, cutting all the trees would make the wind whistle like it had a sure bet in Camptown. I'm an activist against lawns, planting trees instead of fighting weeds and grubs is the smartest thing for us, as a species. It was tongue-in-cheek above, the more baffles we have, trees, the happier we'll be later on, but not because they absorb CO2, we will really appreciate them as physical barriers to moderate the wind.

But if we're going to have less moisture in the atmosphere and higher winds, then we'll have to manage forests more carefully. Too much brush = higher risk of fires, and bigger ones. Our best bet is more forests, but with sparser trees, inbetween which more fast-growers can flourish. This answer gets us more baffles and more CO2 scrubbed out of the air.

Tony Fisk said...

Talk about the double split experiment and interfering with the paths reminds me of a speculative proposal (in NS or SciAm) for an X-ray machine that used the principle to reduce dosage.

Bob Neinast said...

Deuxglass,

To (try to) answer your question, "one" path does not prevail, only one outcome. Because the particle traversed all paths. And all those paths added up in a special way, interfering with each other to create the probability distribution of the outcome. And then the particular outcome was just "luck".

Let me try with another (toy) example.

Take a half-pipe, with a particle getting from one end to the other. Where on the other end does the particle appear? (And "where" means what is the probability distribution.) It takes all paths. One path goes straight down the middle. Another climbs high up the wall. Yet others criss-cross back and forth through the middle. You really add up all of them.

How do you add them up? You add up waves that interfere with each other. The ones that take just a slightly longer path get slightly out of sync, and take a bit away, but not much. The ones that go much farther get get completely out of sync, and cancel out the original. But what really happens (generally( is that all the ones that go far out of the way (an infinite number, obviously) cancel each other out, which means that the ones down the middle tend to dominate. The larger the particle the more that middle path dominates (and they we recover the classical case).

But there is something else. Waves that climb the walls lose energy (it's a half pipe in a gravitational field, remember?). So their wavelengths change along their paths that go up and down the walls. This obviously changes the interference pattern at the back end.

This method uses what are called "path integrals". You really do integrate over all paths. For simple particles/waves in empty space, this is just an infinite-dimension gaussian integral (though you have to do a rotation in complex space to do it). Then, to actually get a number out, you can add forces (EM for instance) that are perturbations on the empty space. This is exactly what Feynman diagrams do--they are mnemonics (actually isomorphisms) to the calculations of perturbations on that gaussian integral. Because the fine structure constant is so small, these perturbative calculations give really accurate results that agree very nicely with experiment. (For the strong force, that doesn't work and other techniques have to be used. One of the things my thesis advisor did was use lattice gauge theory to do the integrals using a Monte Carlo method to basically estimate a value under a curve.)

And as for the Anonymous one who says that "QM is not that complex thing. Really.", I'd say that if you cannot calculate it, you don't really understand it. That applies not just to esoteric things like QM, but even things like engineering buildings. You can understand in general what you need to do to build a building that remains standing, but if you cannot do the calculations, then you don't really understand it.

"Hocking Hills". I guess you must have googled me. It is a fine place to go hiking.

Mike Will said...

Bob Neinast: That applies not just to esoteric things like QM, but even things like engineering buildings. You can understand in general what you need to do to build a building that remains standing, but if you cannot do the calculations, then you don't really understand it.

I'm always happy to encounter a fellow Leibnizian. Calculemus!
- or Asimovian. I once had a good discussion about how something like Feynman diagrams might be applicable to psychohistory and the Prime Radiant.

Anonymous said...

Well, then let it be second part.

Truth is, that we themself are quantum particles. And not because of weird reasons like De Broglie wavelength, but just by default and in our everyday life.

How that could be?
For that let's return to our previous example. And remake it into detective.

Once upon a time, police found corpse behind that bar. Who is culprit?
Suspect is obvious. It's Mr. Wave. Because it is known that he likes to prowl everywhere and around (and in) that bar in pariculary.

But how detectives can prove it? Just ask him directly?
As the matter of genre, suspects are not talkative and like to do it via their lawyers (and who are we to blame them for that?). And anyway, who'd believe to the murderer?

So. Detective starts his foot job. By going to each of inhabitants of that street with obvious questions. And that way, step by step, finding out: that our suspect have had a short chat in the beggining of his way to bar, than he was barked at and chased by stray dog in the middle, and closer to the bar he was spotted by numerous his usual mug pals and just around needed time.

So, it's time to take Puirot (or Dick Tracy?) stance and conclude: "It's you are culprit, Mr. Particle". ;)

CP said...

Yana:

No, we're not going to "become Venus" overnight. If I remember correctly that would require boosting atmospheric CO2 to something like 30000 parts per million which isn't a realistic scenario.

But, switching to faster growing plants at the expense of forests isn't going to help with global warming. The rate at which different plant communities pull carbon out of the atmosphere is largely irrelevant for that. What matters is standing crop, not the amount of carbon extracted on a year-to-year basis.

A food crop may exceed a mature forest on the amount of year-to-year extraction (I'm not going to debate the numbers). But, the real issue is storage. As soon as the crop is eaten, most of the carbon is exhaled as CO2 and put back into the atmosphere. If the straw is allowed to decay in the field it does so fairly rapidly with the same result. No-till practices improve soil quality and reduce erosion but don't have much impact on net carbon storage. Again, for that, you need to have a high standing crop.

Crops and other fast growing species have a relatively low standing crop, so are not good for storage over more than a few years. A growing forest takes carbon out of circulation for centuries (until the standing crop maxes out, then it becomes more or less neutral). Carbon rich sediments that form when acidity, low oxygen or low temperature restrict decay (peat bogs, silt layers in eel grass flats, permafrost...) take carbon out of circulation for millennia (with the potential for longer storage if buried and compressed).

To remove carbon from the atmosphere more or less permanently we would need to plant large areas in fast growing species, then "harvest, compress and bury" the crop--essentially creating new coal to replace the coal we've burned. But, that takes energy so we would have to increase energy supplies enough to support it on a large scale while maintaining a reasonable level of prosperity for the world's population and feeding everyone.

Which, brings up another problem. If we "harvest, compress and bury" we also take essential nutrients such as phosphorus out of circulation. So, we'd probably need to process the biomass before burial to recover such nutrients, then reapply them as fertilizer to maintain growth rates on our "biomass lands"(yet, more energy use...) And, we couldn't bury 100% of the vegetative crop each year since leaving some organic fiber in the field is essential for maintaining microbial communities in the soil...


Deuxglass said...

Progressbot,

I am devastated by the fact that you found my example wanting because I crave so very much to have your approval. Your saying that you no longer find me interesting just breaks my heart.

Please let me apologize to you for my weak and feeble mind which you so rightly pointed out that I possess. I bow to your superior intellect and since you could not comprehend what I was saying because of a flaw in my example I propose that you furnish a better example and we can discuss that. Originally I wanted to use as an example the fascinating ways Slime Molds find new sources of food. It would have been a much better description but you would need to have a solid understanding of molecular biology which most people here do not have. I would had had to dumb it down too much so I went with the quantum example

Deuxglass said...

yana,

You are giving much food for thought and thanks for explaining very clearly. I am still thinking it through.
Could you elaborate on this statement please? I would appreciate it if you could.
“Pascal's Wager is a false duality. It's not either-or, but a pole with a certainty on one end and a binary possibility on the other.”
Thanks again.

Deuxglass said...

Bob Neinast,

Thanks for the insights into QM. Some more food for thought! I did not google you but I did clic on your name which brought up your google+ and I saw Hocking Hills. I grew up in Ohio so I knew what you were talking about.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass please do not use sarcasm on a non-English-speaking native. Progressbot has been trying hard to do better.

yana, another way to put it: “Our digital laws are crude for God’s analog world.” Biggest example, fetal rights & abortion.

“We are not going to turn into Venus, not ever.”
In roughly 100 million years the inner edge of Earth’s Goldilocks Zone will expand to a point where any CO2 at all will commence a wet greenhouse runaway. Sorry.

And yes, YOUNG trees take up lots of carbon.

Tony! Welcome back. Folks have asked about the Predictions Registry. Got an update?

Bob Neinast, thanks for the pro’s take on QM! We have one of the best, smartest and oldest communities online.

“anonymous” please sign your work. Monickers are okay.

RIP Janet Asimov, age 91.

Deuxglass said...

You are right Dr. Brin. I shouldn't have done, I gave into my ego, that but I dislike being called names.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - Carbon Sequestration

We don't need very long term storage - renewables are taking over from fossil fuels - if we can bury the carbon for 100 years that should be more than long enough for us to get over the "hump"
So if we were going to do it forever then burying the phosphorous would be a major problem but if we are just doing the growing and burying for a few decades then it may not be an issue

With modern landfills - designed so they don't contaminate groundwater and sealed on top to feed the methane to be used - it may be best to simply grow a lot and then landfill it rather than the more expensive if also more long term burial techniques

From a CO2 perspective composting it is a BAD idea

We need to get over the fossil fuel "hump" - and any thing that reduces the size of the hump is also a good idea!

David Brin said...

ONWARD

onward