=== From a Scarcity Society to a Gift-based One? ===
Will we transform ourselves from an archaic Scarcity Economy to a "Gift Economy" - much as portrayed in Star Trek? Is philanthropy a crucial recycling direction for wealth to take? I participate in round tables on philanthropy theory. Here is an important one.
Philosopher Fed Turner has some interesting insights: ”There is a myth that we as a species have moved from having an edenic and arcadian gift exchange economy to a cold and corrupt market economy. As a myth it has its uses; as a fact it will not fly. Archaeologists and physical anthropologists now find trading practices among the earliest humans nearly 200,000 years ago; we were always buying, selling, hiring, trucking and bartering. And economists tell us that even in today’s advanced industrial economies the amount of value that is transferred by gift is greater than the amount transferred by market exchanges. This may sound counter-intuitive until we reflect that gift includes the free services rendered by parents to their children, husbands and wives to each other, friends to friends, hobbyists to their community, and the bequests of the dying to their heirs.
“We have plenty of theory about markets, since Locke and Smith and their ilk. There is some theory about gift exchange in traditional tribal societies (Marcel Mauss, for instance), but very little until now about the economic, moral, social, political, ecological, aesthetic, and spiritual implications of today’s gift economy in advanced societies like the United States.”
Finally, there's a fun item -- EON: the Eye of the Needle Foundation -- my own article that stimulated discussion in philanthropic circles, about an entirely new kind of charitable institution, one that might help dramatically enlarge the pot of modern generosity by offering the super-wealthy (and many of the rest of us, too) some unique incentives. Something for the man or woman who has everything.
Can We Learn Useful Things About Society/Security From Fiction & Magic?
Is fiction a security issue? DARPA wants to know how stories influence our thoughts and actions. And what form of literature can be more radical than science fiction – which teaches that the future can be different than the past – that humans might stop making the same mistakes over and over again.... and hence, that it will be our fault, if we choose not to stop.
Recording Police Abuse Could Get You ARRESTED! Magician, supertainer and paladin of freedom Penn Jillette recorded this episode of Penn Point back in June. I highly recommend Penn's rants; they are uniformly smart, vivid and informative. Even when I disagree, I feel glad he is out there, fighting for us, and proud to know him. (I have an ulterior motive in this case; Penn repeatedly touts my nonfiction book The Transparent Society.
I especially like one of Penn's aphorisms: "Always look for the solution that's for more freedom." I say something almost identical in The Transparent Society. Alas, in the info age, people point to problems and all-too often suggest solving them with LESS information flow.
Take recent arguments over renewing the Patriot Act. I despise the damned thing. See where I predicted it - as well as terror-doom for the WTC towers - in The Transparent Society on page 206 (shown above).
But I don't waste my time writhing over the parts of the Patriot Act that let government see more. That trend is inevitable and unstoppable and freedom knights who rail against those parts are just foolish. It is the OTHER portions of the Patriot Act that are demonic, hateful and downright dangerous... the sections that remove oversight and allow government to operate more in secret and less under our supervision. Those are the parts we should be fighting to eliminate. But political reflexes tend to be dumb, and liberals are no exception, even when they are on the right side of an issue.
== Symptoms of Sickness... Signs of Health ==
Want to perk up? Here are 25 minutes worth watching: Kevin Kelly on the future of book publishing, speaking about how value will be generated in a free copy world: “The internet is the world’s largest copy machine.” We can’t stop books from being copied, so we need to make it easier to pay for immediate, interactive, personalized content. Kevin is very smart and always worth-heeding. It happens I think he's wrong here in several ways. But tune in!
Caltech basketball team just won its first victory since 1986! A 310 game losing streak... done!
The team controlling the Kepler planet-hunter telescope has released a small part of its 1st 4 months of data recently. It revealed more than 1200 potential extrasolar planets. If a reasonable percentage of these worlds turn out to be independently verified, this treasure trove will yield more results in 4 months (1200+) than astronomy had found in the past 15+ years (550+ objects). (Um, than astronomy had found in the last 5,000 years.)
Kepler uses the transit or partial eclipse method to identify new planets. It keeps a constant vigil on 156,000 stars that are up to 3000 light-years away in a region close to the star dense galactic plane in the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra.... Since other planetary systems can exist at all different angles, we would only expect that a small percentage of extrasolar systems (1-10%) would be edge on to us. That means that Kepler is really only sampling 1,500 to 15,000 systems. That makes the fact that they have found 1200 potential planets all the more impressive!
Findings. Neptune-type worlds seem dominant. The large number of Super Earths (23.3%) that may be determined to be rocky after further study, combined with the significant percentage of Earth sized bodies (5.5%) suggests that a sizable percentage of stars that could show evidence of Earths seem to have them.
But note, Kepler’s results are so-far weighted toward finding planets with quick orbital “years.” Later data must gather to find those orbiting farther out. “There were 54 planets detected in the water-possible zone. Five (5) of those were Earth sized or smaller. This is where things really get interesting. These are the gems in the group.”
Those who have read (and enjoyed) STAR WARS ON TRIAL... or the original Salon article that first accused the Lucasian universe of nostalgic-romantic hatred of the future... might enjoy an hour-long podcast discussion that assesses the article, from the perspective of several british and australian writer-fans. They try hard. They are very silly, but they do try hard. (Someone tell them about STAR WARS ON TRIAL, in which George Lucas’s defenders have their chance... and come up wanting.
=== Unabashedly Political -- Be Afraid! ===
“Spending cuts approved by the House would end America's reign as a scientific leader if they are enacted into law, a former Bush administration Energy Department official said yesterday. "Left intact, the massive cuts in research contained in the bill passed on 19 February would effectively end America's legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community," Raymond Orbach wrote in an editorial published online by the journal Science.
I guess the Saudis haven't changed their plans for us, after all. Their lackeys are still trying to end Pax Americana from within. This is war.
Speaking of mouthpieces for the real, behind-the-scenes instigators of Culture War... try this Glenn Beck conspiracy generator.
See this: How Rich are the Super rich?
If you spread nothing else this year, spread that one link.
I consider myself a libertarian who believes in competition as THE great creative human force. Objecting to the rise of a dominant oligarchy is not a SOCIALIST issue! It is an issue to anyone who wants the enlightenment... including its competitive markets and small businesses... to survive.
I hated the soviets and commies as dangerous ignoramuses and threats to the enlightenment, markets and freedom.
I hate the new oligarchy for exactly the same reasons -- both bands of would be aristocratic lords think they can "allocate" wisely in secret cabals. Both communists and oligarchs believe that history and justice back up their monopoly of power. Both replicate EXACTLY the failure mode that ruined every other brief renaissance of openness and market freedom. The oligarchs try to hide this by relentlessly claiming to favor market competition -- without ever showing a single example of a competition-enhancing action on their parts.
I’ve said it again and again. The people who should be angriest at the neocons aren’t the liberals or even the pinko socialists (two very different things). The ones who should despise the neocons most of all - with red-hot livid hatred - should be the libertarians. And fools like the Pauls, who think that the GOP is a hold-your-nose choice that’s better than the democrats, are all profoundly stupid fools.
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I'm going to beg people's indulgence for a thought experiment.
Take a neutron star, accelerate it to relativistic speed.
To an observer on a planet in a nearby star system, it appears that the mass of the neutron star has increased sufficiently for it to pass it's Shwartzchild radius causing it to form a black hole.
Famously no information cen be recovered from a black hole.
Now let's imagine an artificial satellite orbiting close enough to the neutron star to be within the Shwartzchild radius as perceived by the observer on the planet.
since the satelltie is moving at the same speed as the satr it percvies no increase in mass and therefore no event horizon.
what's to stop the satellite transmittimg information to an observer on the planet?
It seems that this question (or variations thereof) has been asked before.
My best guess is that the neutron star would not appear to collapse, and astronomers on earth would scratch their heads and wonder why.
Is this the relevant clause?
since the satelltie is moving at the same speed as the satr it percvies no increase in mass and therefore no event horizon.
If the star is somehow accelerated to relativistic speeds, the orbiting satelite would also have to be similarly accelerated. Would this not produce some different effect on the satellite which would affect how that satellite is observed from the nearby star or earth or whatever?
This isn't my area of expertise or anything, but it seems to me that the need to also accelerate the satelite is the "gotcha" in the problem statement.
You could just as easily have the satellite orbite a normal, heavy neutron star, then have a relativistic observer zip by.
(Blogger ate my first attempt, so I'll move the link...)
Ian's relativistic neutron star...
"what's to stop the satellite transmittimg information to an observer on the planet?"
I'm no theoretical physicist, but I think relativistic velocity dicks with those information light-cone things, as does gravity. I assume the effect would be that any object that perceives the neutron star as a blackhole mass would be outside the satellite's light-cone.
You know those things that Dr. Brin says we "should be doing anyway"? Efficiency and so forth. NYT has an article on how that backfires and can actually be worse for the environment. (I'm not sure I'm convinced, but it is an interesting read)
Is that akin to planned obsolescence, where things that we used to rely on to last at least a decade now break in 2-3 years? I'm thinking of the fact that most large appliances only have a 90 day warranty at most, unless you spend extra and buy the store warranty (another fairly useless investment). I have a problem with tossing things out unless they are well and truly useless, but for so many of our things these days, it's cheaper to buy new than repair the old. A good example of this are printers, where the cartridges cost more than the cheaply made printer themselves -- guess where the companies make the money! Aftermarket car parts is another sore point; if car manufacturers coud encase the engine compartment in a block of Lucite, with no owner serviceable parts except for adding fluids, I think they would!
prinsoca -- a royal coming-out party
Michigan is posed to enact a law giving the governor the power to appoint an Emergency Financial Manager for any town, with the power to re-write any contract written by any local government, dis-incorporate towns and school districts (thus firing elected officials), so long as he first declares there is a financial emergency.
By most amazing coincedence, Michigan has also passed a number of tax cuts that are very likely to create a financial emergency in many of Michican's towns.
Text of bill - note that it REQUIRES that a majority of the "Michigan Emergency Financial Commission" be executives of for-profit corporations.
On the plus side, this means that town residents may have their town's taxes spent not by their democratically elected mayors and so forth, but persons who are not only not elected by anyone but not even residents of their towns. This is classic "Disaster Capitalism" (Rachel Maddow discusses the details with Naomi Klein)
Didnt this sort of thing end up with tea in Boston Harbor?
Sounds like the vast right-wing conspiracy seeks to break up the country and remake it closer to their heart, problem is they're really only united in negatives, so good luck with the remaking part.
The only benefit I can see is that after Michigan is completely raped by this policy, Democrats will pull it out every single time a Republican runs for any office including county dog catcher and ask "Do you want the people who destroyed our education system, town finances, and state finances to be in this position?" Michigan will be so solidly Blue that the Smurfs will feel at home there.
It has shades of that US directive 51(?) allowing the POTUS to rule in the event of an emergency.
Oh, there'd be a backlash, but do bleedin' heart liburls get to vote in an emergency?
Speaking of TWODA, Dan Cass notes, in a message to Jules, that the US is doing what it oughta thanks to Stephen Chiu:
Interesting article here on the godless nature of the U.S. Constitution and how it was deliberately written as such. Though I wonder - have we had any atheists as President? I think we're about due. ;)
Though I will be truly proud of my nation when we elect a moderate Muslim to the Presidency. At that moment, we'll have stepped away from the fear and hysteria that bin Ladin unleashed on 9/11, and become a reasonable and decent nation who looks at who a person is, not what his beliefs are, to determine if he or she is a worthwhile President.
Rob H., who's mostly agnostic himself
P.S. - Dr. Brin, one of my friends was ridiculing you the other day because you commented that you believe in reincarnation and that he heard it in some radio show or the like. Is that true? Or were you joking? (Ironically, this is my Republican friend, who would be reviled by his fellow Republicans because he's Atheist.)
There are some who claim you already have elected a muslim to the presidency...
(this is clearly nonsensical, everyone know he's a Sith lord's apprentice... or was that the last guy?)*
* You have to admit that it would enliven Congressional proceedings no end! Obama gets the purple light sabre!
emozzyme: pharmaceuticals delivered by insect.
"A nation that cuts education, cuts its own throat."
--- my newest entry in the world of bumper-sticker politics, offered in memory of the former states of Florida and Michigan (soon to be called after whichever health insurer buys naming rights)
It looks like Wisconsin is about to get *real* ugly.
prosces: when a process goes septic.
And here's a couple science-based articles:
A Laysan albatross known to be at least 60 years old was spotted rearing a new chick at Midway Atoll recently. She was initially banded by a U.S. Geological Survey scientist in 1956 and has since worn out five bird bands, and has likely raised a least 30 chicks during her life.
Next, we've an interesting article on a tower design inspired by the hydra sea animal that utilizes graphene to capture lightning bolts and utilize that power to break water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, which would help create a source of clean hydrogen for hydrogen power.
On a somewhat more ominous note, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at a faster rate than expected. It is believed sea levels could reach predicted heights 50 years sooner than initially believed by experts, with 32 (one foot) centimeters of sea level rise by 2050, 15 centimeters attributed from just the melting from arctic regions.
This is a very interesting item from the NY Times:
It's an AI for playing rock-paper-scissors that gets pretty good at judging your strategies against it after 20-30 rounds (I prefer to start from scratch to see how it learns rather than using the veteran computer that has already learned).
It's cool because you can examine it's logic as you go.
I played against the veteran and played 18 rounds making my choice based upon each successive digit of pi (modulo 3). After 18 rounds, the box score was the number of the beast: 6 wins, 6 ties, 6 losses.
Which seems to confirm my own sense that a computer may be able to guess a reasoned strategy in the way you play, but is helpless against a random strategy.
I'm nonplussed at the amount of random vitriol against unions, teachers, public employees, Democrats, and anything purported to be leftist in every news blog I've read. OTOH, many of the privately held blogs (like this one) are shocked and appalled at the way things are going in WI. Is it because the smaller blogs use weedkiller on obvious Astroturfing efforts?
odome -- "original dirty old man" containment device
You might wanna check this out:
It's a map of the history of science fiction.
Follow the money. Despite the canard of the "leftist media", most major news outlets these days are owned by huge conglomerates. Their agenda is not all that much different from that of the Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch.
That's why 50,000 or 100,000 protestors in Wisconsin are virtually ignored (or mischaracterized as violent extremists) whereas a gathering of 50 Tea Partiers would have national wall-to-wall coverage.
Voters in Massachusetts can now register their political party as "Pirate"
Actually, they look like one Brin might almost like. At least some of their views.
US Pirates may like to consider a new flag!
Here's another interesting bit from the girl who's making some nice money selling e-books:
"I don’t think people really grasp how much work I do. I think there is this very big misconception that I was like, “Hey, paranormal is pretty hot right now,” and then I spent a weekend smashing out some words, threw it up online, and woke up the next day with a million dollars in my bank account.
This is literally years of work you’re seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me."
I have to admit, my metaphorical hat is off to her.
Here's an article concerning the use of quantum dots to triple the efficiency of solar cells. However, the cadmium sulfide quantum dots the researchers were using aren’t ideal for solar cells, so the group plans to try other molecules for the organic layer, while also tinkering with the solar cell increase light absorption.
Carbon tax revolutions, State legislature sit-ins, Middle East uprisings.
Nothing like an 8.4-9 earthquake to put things in perspective.
Tsunami warning for North Pacific rim, but I don't think this is the place to be learning about that.
I would hate to think of just how devastating the tsunamis from that earthquake would be if sea levels were one foot higher thanks to the melting of arctic ice.
Here's a video (in Japanese) of a massive whirlpool that formed after the earthquake. Please note the good-sized boat that is caught up in the swirl - while I doubt it could pull the boat under... that is still something spectacular and scary to behold.
minds: something more Tea Party activists need to use when considering who benefits from their anti-regulation and anti-government rhetoric
Utah Republicans pass their own state-based immigration policy, and it is actually very pragmatic.
Just found this in an article I'm abstracting (found the online version so people don't have to rush out and buy the magazine):
So. Due to the shortage of qualified and trained employees in India, companies are offering significant benefits to women, including childcare and the like. But in the United States, women who have children often see their careers come to an end and there is little effort to work with employees. In fact, American employees are often treated like cattle ready for the slaughter.
What gives? Seriously. What the frak?
torop: a news article painting matadors in a good light
David might want to comment on how ham radio operators helped out in the tsunami (before some of them were evacuated to higher ground).
"David might want to comment on how ham radio operators helped out in the tsunami"
And plans in the US to sell off the bulk of the amateur ham radio bands in order to fund a new First Responders network. The irony.
One of Japan's nuclear plants (Fukushima No 1) may have just gone pop.
Not as bad as Chernobyl, but any bad day for nuclear is a good day for King coal.
From what is currently available, the reactor building was destroyed by a hydrogen explosion. Hydrogen buildup results from a high-temperature chemical reaction of steam with the zirconium tubes surrounding the fuel.
Good news is that there are several layers keeping radioactive byproducts from the environment. It seems the "bottle" holding the reactor remains intact and radiation levels from the gaseous fission byproducts is dropping, and appears to be no public health threat judging by readings at the plant boundary. Seawater is being pumped in to keep the fuel cool to prevent further damage.
If the information we have is accurate (a big "if" in such an event), there will be zero adverse health impacts outside the plant, similar to Three Mile Island. Of course, this is only a slight ray of hope when there will likely be thousands of deaths from collapsed buildings, fires, etc.
Sadly, the nuclear industry is so financially entrenched with designs based upon a fundamental concept ideal for naval applications, when ones less susceptible to these sorts of things have been known for about half a century. Even worse, all of this is probably irrelevant when it comes to policy. As Tim H. said, this is a good day for king coal.
According to everything I've seen so far, what we're watching is a nuclear power plant whose catastrophic safety features are working. You'll get more radiation exposure from your next CT Scan or airplane flight than you would standing next to the outside of the containment vessel wall for the same amount of time.
Further news reports indicate that radioactive cesium was detected, which would indicate that the fuel did partially melt, releasing some fission products. I would speculate this accident was very similar to that of Three Mile Island. From what I've read, the radiation release at the plant boundaries has been very small compared to routine medical uses from chest X-rays.
On the international scale of nuclear incidents they are rated 0-7. As of right now, the rating is "4" which is an "accident with local consequences". For perspective, Three Mile Island was a 5 and Chernobyl was a 7. So yes, like Three Mile Island, now 40-year old engineering appeared to work and contain most of the radioactive material.
Actually, one other thing to consider is this: this nuclear reactor just suffered from an 8.9 Earthquake and then being flooded by a tsunami. And all that happened was a relatively minor meltdown that was mostly contained.
Oh, I can hear the complaints. But imagine if an 8.9 happened near one of the coal plants with those huge pools of ash waste. We'd have had a tsunami of waste flooding the region, the coal plant destroyed, and a massive coverup by the coal industry.
bigness: the subjective size of a catastrophe
First of all...yes, this might turn out to be a GOOD advertisement for nuclear power. Some bad publicity, sure, but look at how LITTLE fallout (litaral or figurative) there was from just about the worst nature could dish out.
Now, I don't want to seem as if I believe what I'm about to insinuate, but when I FIRST heard about the quake Friday morning, my initial thought was "How did the Koch brothers engineer this so that Wisconsin would be pushed off the front pages?" Now, two posters here say the nuclear problem is "A good day for King Coal." Could it be? No, I don't believe it for real, but only because I don't think the opportunity for that sort of fakery is there.
Sometimes I just don't like people.
Around 10,000 people from a single Japanese port (Minamisanriku) are unaccounted for. Pre-quake population 17000, 7000 made it to known shelters (which even helicopters can't reach because of debris.)
Also, "Separately to the official death toll, police in Sendai, also in Miyagi prefecture, said that at least 200 and up to 300 bodies had been found on the shore.
Japan's military says troops have also found 300 to 400 bodies in the tsunami-hit coastal city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture."
Expect the official death toll to rise rapidly.
(fushe: I don't feel like making a Japanese pun.)
Given that the annual amount of radioactive fallout from fly ash is comparable to Chernobyl (and continuous), I don't think any day is a good day for King Coal.
In Australia, at least, the nuclear lobby is pitching its darts rather vehemently at the renewable sector. Can't provide baseload power, or so they say (incorrectly, as it happens)
Why you can't go with both is a bit beyond me...
wrt Japan: death tolls after earthquakes *always* rise dramatically after a day or two. Initial reports for the 2003 tsunami were a couple of hundred...
Still not a lot of very good information on the happenings in Japan. It is very frustrating with all the conflicting pieces of information, but I guess with the situation there, it's difficult to blame them too much.
Mainly why I say it's a good day for King Coal (and more so its hip cousin natural gas) is from a public perception standpoint. Historically and almost without exception, shutting down or not building nuclear power plants has been replaced by fossil fuels. Even if no one outside the plant is hurt by the partial meltdown(s) in Japan, I would bet that it will slow the deployment of additional nuclear assets worldwide.
This is rather sad because the problems we see at the Fukushima reactors have largely been solved by passive safety measures in any design that would be built today. Unlike what we see here where offsite or backup power is necessary to run emergency safety systems, passive safety mechanisms work on natural forces such as gravity and pressure gradients. I cannot say with 100% certainty they would have worked in this extreme event, but having some chance of not needing backup power is better than none at all.
"Why you can't go with both is a bit beyond me..."
As I've noted before, portraying nuclear power as a panacea for the world's energy supply and global warming problems is just as unrealistic as claiming those problems can be fixed without using nuclear power.
Prof. Brian Barry has a good assessment of the Fukushima power plant here.
He might be a one-eyed nuclear proponent, but I regard him as a relatively honest one-eyed nuclear proponent.
Ian, complete agreement in this corner. I would rather have small modular reactors, which should be easier to load follow, doing the backup electricity generation for wind and solar than natural gas.
Here is another article explaining the partial meltdown and expected consequences. Pretty much everything I've read on what happens if a light-water reactor melts repeats the research in the 1960s and the last test at Three Mile Island in 1979. If nothing else dramatic happens, it looks like we will have more confirmation that the health impact of a properly managed reactor fuel melt is the negligible.
"Ian, complete agreement in this corner. I would rather have small modular reactors, which should be easier to load follow, doing the backup electricity generation for wind and solar than natural gas."
I actually have much more hope for the small, standardized 20-meg nuclear plants (I forget the company that makes them) than for breeders, Thorium reactors or travelling wave reactors.
Apart from anything else, we're going to need hundreds of new reactors if we want to completely replace coal.
No financial institution is going to kick in $5-10 billion per unit on an untested design.
So allow a decade or more for the first operational plant to be built (most likely with government money) and tested; then allow another decade or so for the first wave of 5-10 reactors to come on line and then ANOTHER decade for widespread adoption.
The small modularized plants are well into the field-testing phase.
Update. Two reactors in Japan appear to have experienced a partial meltdown from the 5th largest quake in recorded history. Recently, a hydrogen explosion was reported at unit 3 (there was one at unit 1 earlier), and like before, from what we know, the reactor containment appears to be intact. As of now, it appears that there will still be no public health impact from these events. Let's keep hoping.
Ian, in the short term, you are correct. Anything that uses existing light-water reactor technology scaled down is probably going to be first to market. I just wished we did not have such a paralytic regulatory system geared toward the behemoths that are standard today, where many things in the SMR designs do not apply.
Eventually, we will need to move away from light-water technology if we want systems that are inherently safe. As of yet, I do not know of anyone who has proposed a meltdown proof version of one, except for low power, low temperature applications such as research reactors. Fortunately, there are designs like the ones you are less hopeful on that are better in this respect.
"...from what we know, the reactor containment appears to be intact."
What's worrying me is reports that they're pumping sea-water into the reactor core to cool it but the water level isn't rising.
That suggests there's a leak and quite possibly an unforeseen failure mode.
New York Times has some before and after satellite images of Japan.
Drag the blue handles right to see the original pic, drag it left to see post-tsunami. Clever+horrifying.
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