Tuesday, April 10, 2012

From The Brick Moon to Telstar

It's well known that in 1865, Jules Verne published his novel, De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon), which includes the concept of human spaceflight. And yet, Verne never discussed the far more practical notion of of an artificial satellite orbiting Earth.

For that it took an American, Edward Everett Hale (author of The Man Without a Country).  The Brick Moon was published serially in Atlantic Monthly starting in 1869.  And it is absolutely amazing.  Almost every other paragraph you are either chortling over some bit of what we’d now call scientific naivet√©... or else staring at the page in disbelief that some folks back then had such clear notions as geo-stationary navigation satellites. 

The entire book is available on Project Gutenberg -- where you can download for free much of our literary heritage.

The Brick Moon, 200 feet in diameter, was a polar-orbiting satellite (built from 12 million bricks) intended to establish a space meridian to assist with navigation—to help ships determine longitude. Hale called it "the blessing of all seamen." And how was it launched? With two massive flywheels:

Then, before we began even to build the moon, before we even began to make the brick, we would build two gigantic fly-wheels, the diameter of each should be ever so great, the circumference heavy beyond all precedent, and thundering strong, so that no temptation might burst it. They should revolve, their edges nearly touching, in opposite directions, for years, if it were necessary, to accumulate power, driven by some waterfall now wasted to the world. One should be a little heavier than the other. When the Brick Moon was finished, and all was ready, IT should be gently rolled down a gigantic groove provided for it, till it lighted on the edge of both wheels at the same instant. Of course it would not rest there, not the ten-thousandth part of a second. It would be snapped upward, as a drop of water from a grindstone. Upward and upward; but the heavier wheel would have deflected it a little from the vertical. Upward and northward it would rise, therefore, till it had passed the axis of the world. 

It would, of course, feel the world's attraction all the time, which would bend its flight gently, but still it would leave the world more and more behind. Upward still, but now southward, till it had traversed more than one hundred and eighty degrees of a circle. Little resistance, indeed, after it had cleared the forty or fifty miles of visible atmosphere. "Now let it fall," said Q., inspired with the vision. "Let it fall, and the sooner the better! The curve it is now on will forever clear the world; and over the meridian of that lonely waterfall,—if only we have rightly adjusted the gigantic flies,—will forever revolve, in its obedient orbit, the—BRICK MOON, the blessing of all seamen,—as constant in all change as its older sister has been fickle.

One complication ensues:  the satellite is accidentally launched, with people aboard… and yet more mixtures of hilarity and awed respect proceed to unfold.

In 1945, Arthur C. Clarke published an article, Extra-Terrestrial Relays, in Wireless World magazine envisioning a global communications network, using satellites in geosynchronous orbit. This was twelve years before the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, setting off the Space Race to the moon. A time of enthusiasm and innovation that is sorely lacking today.

Twenty years later, Intelsat I Early Bird, the first commercial geostationary communication satellite was launched. Since then, satellites have become essential to our daily life, as we rely upon them for telecommunications, weather prediction, geolocation and defense imaging.

See this interactive History of Satellites Timeline, ranging from Jules Verne to Telstar to DIRECTV and beyond.

==Miscellaneous Items==

See a collection of my articles: Speculations on Science Fiction. As well as resources for using science fiction in the classroom to teach and illustrate science.

Humans have created a vast population of robotic workers to take on the tasks that they no longer want to carry out themselves, resulting in a disenchanted robot underclass that that takes over the Brixton area of South London. This is the premise of an incredible short film called ‘Robots of Brixton’ by Factory Fifteen, a collective of six animators based in London.

A cool, quasi-classical piece inspired by my characters and stories is available on iTunes.  “Tytlal Wave” has both beauty and whimsey - by Maestro Siderious.

 == Fund science & explore the world with renowned researchers == 

So far, science has been funded by gracious-rich patrons, or by governments or universities... so how about crowd sourcing to help fund science research: Choose your own projects through Petridish: a crowdfunding site, where scientists  can showcase their research to the public. In exchange, you will receive updates, acknowledgement and/or various rewards (photographs, DVD, field samples, journal acknowledgment, or invitations to talks/dinner), plus the satisfaction of assisting scientists trying to understand our world. (Donations are not currently tax deductible.)  Way cool.

A cute and zealously enthusiastic (and much too blithe) essay on the coming singularity.

And a brief - but more broad and cautious - essay of mine (tangentially related to my latest novel, Existence) appeared on the site of the TechCast virtual think tank, tracking the technical revolution: “Is there such a thing as human destiny?”


LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

A cool, quasi-classical piece inspired by my characters and stories is available on iTunes. “Tytlal Wave” has both beauty and whimsey - by Maestro Siderious.

"Tytlal Wave"? Is "Tytlal" pronounced as if it rhymes with "tidal"?

While I'm thinking of it (and before I re-read "Brightness Reef" this summer), what is the correct pronunciation of the planet's name, "Jijo"?

bobsandiego said...

Thanks for the pointer. I love reading these early treatments of idea we now take for granted. Last year while doing research for a werewolve story I read Wganer the Were-Wolf, reportedly the first werewofl novel. When I get a nook next month for my birthday this will be on my reading list.
We need to understand where we have come from to know where we are going. Its true for reality and for fiction.

sociotard said...

Mexican illegal immigration hits net zero

David Brin said...

net-zero immigration...

Use this. Get your crazy uncle to make bets. Don't let him weasel. Corner him and say "Put money on it!"

In fact... HERE IS AN OPEN CALL! Offer your favorite crazy uncle bets, parsed to go to the heart of a right wing "frame" and yet easily disproved (and provide a citation.)

I will post the top ten on CONTRARY BRIN.

sociotard said...

I predict the crazy uncles would expound about either
A) This reflects on increased enforcement efforts by certain states to regulate immigration on their own.
B) This is just because the economy tanked, and the illegals will surge back in once it improves.

(of course it is improving, if slowly, and only one border state really did much with immigration, which I wouldn't expect to have much effect)

Ian Gould said...

One element of the US' rapid economic growth from ca. 1993 to ca. 2008 was relatively rapid population growth which added to the workforce and blunted the impact of an ageing population on government budgets.

Around half that population increase was due to illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration is unlikely to return to pre-GFC levels even when the US economy recovers.

For one thing, Mexico and Latin America more generally are undergoing a demographic transition of their own meaning fewer young desperate people willing to take the trek north.

At the same time, economic growth in much of Latin America, especially Mexico has radcially reduced the incentives to enter the US illegally.

Moving to,say, Sonora for work doesn't have the same level of potential reward as moving to Texas put it also doesn't involve paying thousands of dollars to people who might simply rob and kill you and dump your body in the desert.

10 years from now, the US may well be begging for more (legal) immigrants from Mexico and points south,

David Brin said...

Damien said about sustainability that we need government. "And there's a basic conflict with market libertarianism, as you have to make sure externalities are accounted for with taxes and regulation -- and be able to cope with your probable failure to get them all up front -- as well as to counteract our tendency to discount the future. You can still have markets -- heck, my first act as dictator would be raising fossil carbon and water and pollution taxes while relaxing the more onerous regulations about specific usage -- but you need a government."

I will concede this in the near term. The next 2-4 generations. But I must get all ornery and contrary now. There's a core Heinleinian libertarian in me who reminds you that the Star Trek universe seldom mentions ANY law that governs individual behavior within the context of your planetary nation. For all we know, it may be largely a matter of those two ideal Heinleinian laws:

"Thou shalt not offend others."


"Thou shalt not be offended too easily."

One can squint and envision a society in which long-lived and wise/smart and far-seeing humans ascribe to a belief that long term externalities AR part of transaction economics.

If I am offended that you're not paying enough attention to downstream effects, then an adhoc jury of six random citizens will decide if I've been too easily offended. If so, I apologize. If not, then you must correct your unsustainable practice. Or else appeal to ever wider/larger random juries, at your expense.

One can envision it. In fact, my post-singularity story "Stones of Significance" portrays a world a bit like that.

Envision yes. But the only way we'll GET there is through smart use of both private and govt/consensus action.

Ian Gould said...

A thought abotu the future of government and the antion state.

The big philanthropic foundations - from the Pew Centres to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - have been growing faster than the overall global economy for generations.

That's likely to contineu sicne new foudnatiosn are beign set up and because most ofb the existing ones are requried by their charters to maintain or increase their capital.

So what happens if that continues for another 2-4 generations?

At what point does the Bill & Meelinda foundation or its spiritual desendant shift from funding anti-malaria campaigns or putting cmputers in class rooms in poor districts to simply taking over entire health and education systems?

Tony Fisk said...

Love the brick ads that are appearing with this post!

Some interesting stuff here but, Jumping back to salvaging Avatar for a sec...

Having enjoyed Paul451's ideas, here are my thoughts on where it could go(in between the spectacle, of course!).

I start from the novel body type of the Na'vi. When all other animals have a 6 limb structure, the Na'vi have a (more humanoid) 4. Cinematic sensibilities and hot, blue babe appreciation (#JohnCarterFail) aside, why is this?

Movie 2 has to cover Sully's (and others: not everyone got shipped out) increasing understanding of Na'vi culture. A few mysteries become apparent, such as: the first surveying expedition made no note of the Na'vi. It was assumed they kept out of sight. Grace reappears (having taken a 'better offer' to explore the intricacies of the Ey-wah system). She fills in Jake that Ey-wah is sentient but unfocussed: child-like. It observed the initial human explorers and (Solaris-like) sought to copy them, creating the Na'vi, and filling in their background with some information it received from ship memories. High tech baffled it, but older references it could understand...like stories of 'Pocahontas?;-) Interesting to see how the Na'vi respond to learning their past is make believe. (Eye-wah...lied to us?) Some opportunities for children exceeding their parent's reach here ('are we really just playthings?'). Outrage, alienation and reconciliation between Na'vi and Ey-wah could be a theme in second and third movies.

Movie 3 deals with the pending return of the Corporation. It becomes a race between the bad guys finishing the job and Augustine/Sully/Neytiri trying to contact a remote Earth government, and making their case for recognition and diplomatic protection (this is the premise of 'Monument', where a stranded earthmen on an idyllic planet belatedly realises he owes it to his adopted people to educate them about their rights when they inevitably do come into contact with Earth culture.)

Remember that I mentioned how an Amazon elder criticised the original film on grounds that the people reacted more with violence than diplomacy? That's a story Cameron tells against himself. I have some hope that he took it to heart. We will see.

(NB: separating corporation from society, I don't think the backing civilisation is necessarily defunct, but that isn't what Cameron portrayed up front, so I think David's thesis on left-wing cynicism holds)

rewinn said...

1. Thanks for the Brick Moon link - I'm forwarding it widely!

2. Arizona appears ready to define life as beginning BEFORE conception !
A few months back, we discussed the gathering War On Women, there was disbelief that the anti-abortionists would go after contraception (on the grounds that The Pill and the IUD prevents implantation), but we now understand this is indeed the case. But even I had thought that was the limit - silly me! Arizona's about to start the clock on an embryo's age at the START of the menses before conception!

It would take Nehemiah Scudder working with George Orwell to have predicted this!

sociotard said...

Gah! Just read the most recent update to HP:MoR . . . I don't even know what to say! Just . . . wow.

The whole thing is so far from canon at this point that it might as well be a whole new book.

I really wish some of my friends would read it so I'd have somebody to talk about it with.

sociotard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rewinn said...

"...There's a core Heinleinian libertarian in me who reminds you that the Star Trek universe seldom mentions ANY law that governs individual behavior within the context of your planetary nation. ..."

The notable exceptions lead to interesting stories. I recall in particular a planet where ST:TNG Ryker fell in mutual, passionate, gloriously consummated (...one assumes ... ) love with a female visitor. However, on that planet heterosexual love was considered a mental illness so the authorities detained her. Ryker and Worf launch a secret and highly illegal rescue party but by then she had been "cured" so she renounces him. It was a pretty good story making a pretty strong point.

Perhaps the Federation's general-purpose live-and-let-live attitude is sometimes overcome by the Law Of Plot.

David Brin said...

oooog... do NOT rent the film IMMORTALS. I knew the plot and acting would suck, but there was a promise of special effects...

...which turned out to suck. while the rest uber-uber-uber sucked.

DOn't go near it.

David Brin said...

Rewinn the ulitmate hypocrisy about the backdating of pregnancy timing bill in AZ is actually subtle. It aims to REDUCE the rate of abortion rather than ban it. But that is the democrats position... using methods that work, like sex education. The rightists' stance has long been that any reduction is just temporizing with evil.

Sociotard, I am reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and enjoying it thoroughly. Anybody else here doing that? Highly recommended.

Stefan Jones said...

I recently finished reading Lev Grossman's "The Magicians." A kind of Harry Potter for grownups. Everyone going to the magic school is bright and special . . . but there's not the slightest bit of Chosen One wish-fulfillment mysticism. Magic doesn't seem to make anyone especially happy. The Narnia-like magic world they eventually visit is dour and troubled.

Stefan Jones said...

RE Brick Moon and Project Gutenberg:

DB, I just finished jamming Project Gutenberg, WikiPepdia, and three or four other references onto your WikiReader.

What an odd little toy! A significant chunk of the world's knowledge and literature on a plastic gadget a rung above something you'd get for three Frosted Flakes boxtops.

David Brin said...

SEJ... I look fwd to seeing it. Hope it isn't too hard to navigate, with all that crammed inside?

I'll bring the hardcover with me to Portland.


Tim H. said...

Rick Santorum has bowed out of the presidential campaign, I'd say because he's accomplished the goal of making a corporate looter seem tolerable compared to him.

Damien Sullivan said...

David: I'm afraid socioeconomic argument by appeal to Star Trek is completely unconvincing to me.

Note that while the quote you selected ends in "need government", my set-up context earlier referred to governance (thank you Vinge), which I cashed out as strong formal government OR very strong social norms. The latter can substitute (or precede) the former, and information technology may increase the scale that norms can operate on, but I have trouble seeing them as very libertarian in spirit[1]. They can be as coercive and deadly as any government, and as or more inflexible: a stable norm needs to be a meta-norm, punishing not just first-order defectors but also those who do not engage in punishing defectors. It's every stereotype of nosy and conservative small town or village life.

Either way, sustainability will require much curbing of short-term individual choice, and riding roughly over cognitive biases like "out of sight out of mind" and "discount the future". I mentioned CFCs, I think, but realized just now that after all no one really cared about CFCs per se, and the only cost has been a mild increase in the price of refrigerators and air conditioners (if even that; I only assume that a change in coolant had some cost.) If saving the ozone layer had required giving up A/C and fridges, I pessimistically suspect that our grandchildren would be looking at 15 minute skin cancer times and a collapsing ecosystem, just as they'll likely be looking at global warming and a crash in cheap energy availability so that we can continue to burn our natural capital.

[1] In much the same way that absolute monarchy is perfectly 'libertarian', if you stipulate that the monarch owns all the land...

Damien Sullivan said...

HP:MoR has been amusing. Veers between cleverness and Gary Stu, but I'm still reading. I'm impressed by the breadth of SF/fantasy references, like the old witch named Dorotea Senjak; I didn't know Yudkowsky was so wide-read in SF.

Acacia H. said...

Oh dear. We're treading in very dangerous waters now. If you thought that the political discussions that were happening were getting ugly, that is nothing like the flamewars that erupt between different Star Trek fans. ^^;;

Rob H.

locumranch said...

Although I admire your 'ever ascending spiral' style of cultural optimism, I still say that many of you are making the traditional error when you neglect the cyclic nature of human biology, including its related effects on human technology, civilization and history.

Sure, we can all imagine a linear non-cyclic period of human intellectual, social and technological expansion assuming some type of functional human immortality shared by all, but that type of immortality does not yet exist and Western Society is already in decline, a fact that you would notice if you stopped admiring your politically 'Blue' umbilicus long enough to see the cracks appearing in society's 'Red' margin or periphery.

Like the citizens of Silverberg's 'The World Inside', Lang's 'Metropolis' and the social backstory of H G Well's Moorlocks, you forget how much your complacent comforts, modern gadgets & technological optimism depend on the undervalued labour of the little people who clean your toilets, make your footwear, fight your wars, assemble your I-pads and grow your food, a little people who do not share the benefits that you reap and outnumber any elite (intellectual or otherwise) by 10 to 1.

You also exercise a form of intellectual purblind-ness by neglecting the importance of both religion and myth, not because of what they tell us about our external reality -- they have absolutely no relationship to the empiric world we live in -- but because of what they tell us about our human selves and how we subconsciously want the world to end, much along the lines of the child who overturns the chess board when he realizes he is losing.

Unlike most of you, I live in the Red periphery and I deal with inevitable social decay on a daily basis. I still entertain the Middle Class technological fantasy; I still hope we can still build the Shiny New Future; I still want my children to be better off than we are; and I realize that the Blue 'we" are losing this largely unrecognised battle because we continue to ignore the lessons of history and the 'fertilizer' that is our social foundation . So, instead of putting on my Google Unreality glasses, I sometimes wish for the pending 'renaissance', especially when I'm reality tired, hoping that my children will be able to build something better from our pending social ashes.

The King is Dead; Long live the King.


Acacia H. said...

You do know what a self-fulfilling prophecy is, don't you?

If enough people buy into the "decline of the West" idiocy, it will occur because people will sabotage the West and make it happen. It's why a number of people are so concerned with allowing a radical Christian into the White House, lest the politician decides to hasten the End Times and launch nukes to burn the world. If the nukes aren't launched, the End Times don't begin. So... why work to bring it about?

The West is still growing. It's just that the South and East are growing faster and catching up. This is not decline. Decline assumes a Zero Sum game. I see a Positive Sum game where all can benefit.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


...we subconsciously want the world to end, much along the lines of the child who overturns the chess board when he realizes he is losing.

More appropriately, when he realizes his opponent is cheating.

Aside from that, I'll just ask what makes you think the rest of us aren't concerned about the very things you mention? It looks to me as if it's conservative America who lives with blinders on, thinking that its way of life is infinitely sustainable, and that it deserves an ever-increasing piece of the pie.

It's a difficult balancing act, to see the probable pessimistic outcomes and yet hold onto some reason to get through each day as it comes. A certain amount of compartmentalization seems to be required for the task. "In the long run, we're all dead," may be a truism, but it's an irrelevant one. It helps not at all with immediate-term planning.

David Brin said...

It is amusing to watch folks look in a mirror and then denounce others for having traits they are looking at, in themselves. Our most unscientific member accusing the rest of us of being unscientific, for example.

Living in the parts of the country experiencing moral decline, he accuses the rest of us of moral decline. While his portion grows obese, smokes tobacco, rails at science, wallows in spirals of superstition and experiences far worse rates of alcoholism, addiction, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, STDs, murder etc, somehow we are the delusional ones.

I love especially the "I hope we can build the SHiny Future"... while spreading doom-pessimism and cynical despair... WHILE dissing those who warn of specific dangers that might be solved via pragmatic negotiation.

shrug shrug shrug shrug

Go read Spengler. Seriously. 1920s. Decline of the West.

Guys it is time.

Order this:

infanttyrone said...

Nice hat there...but both colors are out of stock.

Maybe when that slow boat from China arrives...

David Brin said...

Huh... anyone know a site that actually fulfills orders of union kepis?

Preferably a variety of sizes. As you might expect from my ego, I find it hard to find hats that fit!

sociotard said...

If HP:MoR is Gary Stu, at least the Gary Stu is often wrong and loses.

Tacitus said...

If it's all the same to you folks I will continue my moratorium on politics a while.

I don't seem to be missing much.

But kudos to D.Brin whose recent Contrary Brin post got linked to that dreadful reactionary Instapundit site!

And now for something completely different.

For years now we have been seeing a very aggressive, very resistant strain of staph called cMRSA. This stands for community acquired Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus.

cMRSA has for years been nearly the ultimate infectious disease. It can knife staight through intact skin, usually causing abscesses in deeper soft tissues. In this it differs from the more passive nursing home acquired MRSA that needs help to cause mischief, usually in the form of catheters or surgical procedures.

cMRSA turns up often in daycares, jails, tattoo parlors, athetic teams. You can get colonized with it and have repeated outbreaks either in one person or family members.

But up until yesterday we at least had an effective treatment. I just saw my first sensitivity report with cMRSA resistant to the drug of choice, clindamicin.

Damn. The remaining options are problematic due to expense (linezolid), can't use in children (quinolones) or frequent allergies (sulfa).

We stand on the brink of the post antibiotic era, where the treatment of this condition is just surgical drainage. And if it picks up one more bit of genetic info from some place and becomes say, bloodstream invasive, we are screwed.

The bug has been an interest of mine for years. I feel about it kind of like the android Ash in Alien when he was speaking of another nasty life form.

"I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality."


alanuk said...

I cant help feel that the problems we have today is because we are ruled by foolish leaders. Democracy was developed to protect against tranny, but not from fools. A remedy for snake oil salesmen is the scientific methodology.

Should democratic rules be upgraded so politicians and the press have to adhere to basic scientific principles?

I can think of a lot of advantages, what would be the downside?

Rob said...

The remaining options are problematic due to expense (linezolid), can't use in children (quinolones) or frequent allergies (sulfa).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears that one of these things is not like the other.

Although, my sense is that if the patent holder for linezolid were to reduce its cost (or have it reduced by governments) it would merely be a stopgap for this particular superbug, no? (Wikipedia documents resistance reports to linezolid as well.)

locumranch said...

Self-fulfilling prophecy v. cautionary tale, the Golden Conformity v. base slavery, compartmentalized idealism v. magical thinking: These are just different names for the same thing.

Likewise, the current ecological crisis has nothing to do with 'moral bankruptcy,' it has to do with moral stability, a mutual world-wide dependence on fossil-fuels that has an evangelical President W Bush holding hands with a Wahhabist Saudi Prince.

You can't separate one thing (a representative image) from another (its mirror image). If you really want to save the world from the coming CO2 apocalypse, then you need to kill the current moral (and/or social) order. It doesn't necessarily have to be a big all-inclusive death, but it does have to be at least 'la petie mort'.

You have to be willing to admit that our current form of technological moralism (TM) has failed us. And then, instead of adopting an altered form of this same TM that will only 'fail us worse', we have adopt an admittedly temporary or disposable form of TM that has the potential of 'failing us better'.

Unfortunately, it doesn't sound as if many of you are willing to think outside the box. So, don your Blue Union Kepis, declare 'War on Non-Science' and defend a dead old future, all while singing "Glory, glory, hallelujah!", just like those right-wing wackos that you condemn.

Defend your beloved old scientific industrial order even though its preservation means death to the new.



Don't get your shorts in a twist. MRSA, including the community-acquired version, is still sensitive to Sulfa and Tetracycline.

Both have been around for twenty years, and neither would exist if the sick in our society would have been willing to forgo treatment for an easily treated bacterial infection, 'take one for the team' and die for our the sake of our children's future.

Note to all those climate change enthusiasts: The same approach could save the world. Just give up your TVs, cars, homes and fossil-fuel industrial-farmed meals and 'take one for the team.

Save the Future!

Damien Sullivan said...

sociotard: Yeah, it's not a perfect criticism, and I do give him credit for Harry's flaws. (I really liked when Hermione had asked for tactical help, and for different reasons Draco and Harry wouldn't have even thought of that.) But his Harry is still an idealized Authorial Self-Insert, wildly implausible even by the standards of precocios well-read youngsters. I keep going "you know, I could buy this if he were 15". But that would mean a different DADA prof (though his Quirell doesn't have much to do with the canon one anyway) plus horrible, horrible, puberty.

Acacia H. said...

*eyes locumranch*

Wow. You really are an idiot. And here I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. Did you ever think that maybe Tacitus has a significantly greater level of knowledge concerning this bug than you? No, I doubt you ever think first.

Rob H.

Tacitus said...

Well, its a fair question.

Tetracyclines are bacteriostatic and so of less help for aggressive infections. Sulfa, or technically trimethoprim sulfa does not work in the presence of abscess but that is less of an issue as you are supposed to drain those.

Sulfa drugs are also notorious for the severity of allergic reactions. It is the best available option at the moment, but I see no reason that resitance will not turn up shortly.

cMRSA has been documented as causing invasive disease by fomite spread at 72 hours!

Yes, I do know more about cMRSA than locumranch. But that does not make his questions invalid.


btw cMRSA has really only been common for about ten years. It has little relationship to the health care associated version that has been around for decades.

and always, in vivo and in vitro sensitivity.....

Anonymous said...

locumranch, I hope that I'm misunderstanding the tenor of your last post completely, and there should be a /contrary or /sarcasm tag I missed. Otherwise, your hapless hopelessness gives me nothing but a sour stomach. I refuse to curl up in a ball and whine (or die) because things are going to crap. I'm going to do something positive about it.

ativerl poteen: Sci-fi liquor

bobsandiego said...

Alanuk said I cant help feel that the problems we have today is because we are ruled by foolish leaders. Democracy was developed to protect against tranny, but not from fools. A remedy for snake oil salesmen is the scientific methodology.
Should democratic rules be upgraded so politicians and the press have to adhere to basic scientific principles?
I can think of a lot of advantages, what would be the downside?

In my opinion an essential problem in all political systems the the selection process. Humans require leaders. How do you select for those leaders? representative democracy works best because there is a better chance of eliminating those who are drawn to the position for self's sake and not public service, but as the self-centered gain power they can distort the process and then I think a runaway effect of worse and worse leaders can occur. your idea is sort of a platonic ideal os testing the applicants and only admited those who have passed the test with the proper mindset. Problem, who designs the test? who gives it? Who judges the results? Who enforces it? hese are all failure points that can leave your system captured my entrenched elites and locking ou entrance by reformers.
I do see a possible solution, and of course it is an SF one. Once data mining techniques are advanced enough, data mine the population for the skill and ethical set desired for political leadership, then have election from that pool. The entire things could be administered by unbribable AIs, greatly reducing corruption in the sysem. (it's an idea that's in the background of a novel in the works on my computer.)

David Brin said...

How often do I have to say that our political divide is about personality, not the surface specifics. It will never, ever occur to locumranch that people who know lots more than he does should have any precedence over vague, arm-waved assertions.

Now, in another vague, armwaved assertion, he blames ALL of us and our entire civilization for the recent undermining of science and negotiation and the can-do, problem-solving spirit. Anything, anything at all, rather that face the blatant fact that his side is responsible for (almost) every last bit of it, top to bottom, inside and out.

If I were still hopeful for him, I would offer fact-wagers. Having done that three times, I have officially given up.

Tacitus... I use the word "fomite" extensively in EXISTENCE!

David Brin said...

Bobsandiego, you know that I have long believed one criteria for choosing leaders should be offered to voters...

...scores of who's been RIGHT a lot!


Acacia H. said...

Here's an interesting thought experiment: what form of government would exist under a Three (or Four) Laws of Robotics Technocracy, in which laws are decided upon and tried in court by artificial intelligences? Would it become a tyranny? Or would it have the potential of being a fairer and more just form of government than the ones we currently have?

I can't help but think of Daniel and the Robots of Asimov and wonder if they considered being the impartial judges and lawmakers of humanity... the ultimate public servants and helping the largest number of people possible with the least amount of harm inflicted upon humanity. And might this eventually be the form of government humanity embraces? An impartial technocracy that rules on the principles of preventing harm and service to humanity?

Though I must admit, I'm rather partial to Dr. Brin's concept of raising intelligent robots to be humanity's children... and eventually even having human mind-transference to machine minds so that the boundary of humanity and machine ultimately blurs.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Went to an interesting talk yesterday by someone who equates cynicism to smoking. The smoker thinks it makes him look cool. Others think it makes him look like an idiot.

Tacitus, any thoughts on the use of bacteriophages on cMRSA?

David Brin said...

Rob, the robot Daneel is the archetype Court Eunuch who takes over the empire "for our good." Precisely the same logic as in the Will Smith movie I ROBOT.

His decisions... especially to never consult us about his plans, ever... are extremely suspect, as I lay out in FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH and only can be forgivable if humanity has a very very serious mental ailment.

Mind you it is the secrecy that I object to, above all. There are AI arbiters in sci fi who aren't like that. Those in Iain Banks's Culture. Or in my short story "The Fourth Vocation of George Gustaf."

Ian said...

"Sure, we can all imagine a linear non-cyclic period of human intellectual, social and technological expansion assuming some type of functional human immortality shared by all, but that type of immortality does not yet exist and Western Society is already in decline, a fact that you would notice if you stopped admiring your politically 'Blue' umbilicus long enough to see the cracks appearing in society's 'Red' margin or periphery."

I live in Australia.

Just out of curiosity where is Australia's "blue umbilicus" and "red periphery" located?

For about the dozenth time: "Western Civlization" is not the same thing as The United States.

Western Civlization survived the spectacular fratricide of World Wars I & II so I doubt it's goign anywhere any tiem soon.

Ian said...

To return to Avatar for a second, I wonder how the movie would have been received if the script were exactly the same but the Na'avi looked like the Prawns from District 9?

Jumper said...

For a good novel about the robot who runs the world, there is Walter Tevis's "Mockingbird." A very good book overall. That robot does not particularly like his heavy mantle of responsibility.

David Brin said...

Ian I am not only aware that the US is not the all of Western Civilization... we may all soon be absolutely counting on that. Time is ticking on Pax Americana. It was by far the least thuggish and least stupid imperium of all time, having done lots more good than harm...

...but it certainly is in a self-destructive civil war that has damaged the pax severely and may end it. In which case... over to you mates!

All told, the world would be much better off with another 30 years of benign PA health and very gradual letting-go. By then, perhaps young folks in China will be sufficiently individualist that the enlightenment meme could stick.


District 9 was a lovely counter riff to ALIEN NATION which all, all, all should see. One of the few contact flicks showing us behaving 60% well... and lots of adventure despite that. Dsitrict 9 says... "Yeah? But what if they are UGLY? And land in a place less welcoming than L.A.?"

Fair enough.

Damien Sullivan said...

Rob: the Culture actually looks a lot like a democracy-Three Laws society. People tend to think it's a benign despotism of the Minds but there's repeated mention of voting, from "where does the monorail go" to "should we go to war with the Idirans?"

Expand the First Law into a general bill of rights, or civil rights and welfare model, and break up the "do no harm"/"do not allow to come to harm" clauses. Orient the Second Law to obey not individuals but democratic majorities. Voila, you've got a government-suitable Three-ish Laws robot. Or something like a Mind.

Oh, Minds and drones don't have simplistic Laws. And they have as much free will -- whatever that is -- as a human. They just happen to be made and raised such that they respect human autonomy and really like making humans happy.

But if you read Asimov carefully, that's what the Laws *are*. They're not external censor circuits overriding other desires, as in Sladek's _Tik-tok_, they're descriptions of how Asimovian robots think and feel. The First Law says that a robot wants nothing more than to protect and avoid harming humans. The Second Law defines that a robot wants to obey and fulfill human wishes. There's nothing a robot wants more in existence than those things.


Of course Culture AI have some randomness to them, for diversity, and if one doesn't want to hang around humans, its disarmed and let go, not reprogrammed like a commercial robot might be. And they have lots of free time and room for other desires, and they don't obey orders rigidly.

But in the end most of them make people happy, and will be self-sacrificing if need be to protect them, and how does that differ from the Three Laws in essence?

Ian Gould said...

David, my comments about confusing The West with the US were directed entirely at locumranch.

Your comment about assessing past performance makes me ask: who rates the ratings agencies?

Why are S&P et cetera still taken seriously after they gave AIG and Lehmann Brothers AAA ratings

locumranch said...

Thanks all. I accept "the benefit of the doubt" and return it.

Tacitus should know then that 70% of outpatient acquired skin infections are now due to MRSA, that the distinction between cMRSA & hMRSA is purely genomic, that my peers & I are responsible for developing both strains, that fluoroquinolones haven't been effective against most skin infections, including staph (MSSA & MRSA) and strep, since the late 90's, that most labs don't test for clindomycin resistance but assume it based on tested in vitro erythromycin resistance, that good old vancomycin is still both dirt cheap and effective against MRSA, and that all abcesses require surgical drainage regardless.

The Doctor should know that politically partisan terms, including radical and conservative, reflect "emotional attitudes, not sociological opinions" (says Heinlein), that the phrase 'pragmatic negotiation' implies bilateral rather than unilateral compromise, and that I blame all of us, myself & present company included, for global warming, overfishing and antibiotic resistance, but I & most reasonable individuals refuse to stop trucking, eating, treating illness or living because of what has happened or may happen.

TheMadLibrarian should know that the label "contrary/sarcastic/skeptical/cynical/tongue-in-cheek/gallows humour" should ALWAYS be attached to my posts ('South Park' references are appreciated); Ian should make a sign declaring Australia (population 22 million) the 'Center of Western Civilisation' with the subtext reading '240 million Indonesians can't be wrong' or 'All mineral rights the property of PRC'; and Robert and all can continue to assume indefinitely.

Truth is almost always to unpleasant as science is to politically-incorrect.


Alan said...

I second Tony Fisk's question: how about bacteriophages with regards to cMRSA?

In fact, why haven't we heard more about phages in general? I would think we should have several of them in widespread use by now in the West.

Tony Fisk said...

...and cynicism is obedience to the status quo (like the hip smoker is obedient to the puff).

The 'good doctor' is probably familiar with exponential growth curves as well, hence his concern about emergent properties like cMRSA.

The talk I went to yesterday (by a chap called Mark Stevenson) covered other things, such as carbon neutral oil refineries(!), and how pastures can be dramatically improved by techniques like holistic farming. (aka 'crop' rotation) Whose driving this? Pension funds. Why aren't such simple ideas taken up more? The visuals of the boundaries between farms can be dramatic, and labelled 'idea-proof fence'.

Yes indeed, it's hip to be a cynic.

Tony Fisk said...

I realise phage treatment was pioneered, and is more prevalent in Eastern Europe than the US, but I am interested to hear T2's professional opinion. Is there another idea proof fence in the way?.

Ian Gould said...

"Ian should make a sign declaring Australia (population 22 million) the 'Center of Western Civilisation' with the subtext reading '240 million Indonesians can't be wrong' or 'All mineral rights the property of PRC'; and Robert and all can continue to assume indefinitely."

You know what, as the holder of a degree in Asian Studies who probably knows far more about both the PRC and Indonesia than you, can I suggest you take your Yellow Peril racism and shove it up you arse?

Rob said...

Speak for yourself, locumranch. My family of 7 is as fuel and energy efficient as our culture lets us be. (One should consider the CO2 footprint of having to work two jobs to unload crushing money debts, for example...)

David Brin said...

In fairness, locumranch's most recent was at least cogent and entertaining. Wrongheaded, but at least with a point.

Ian said...

Anyone who thinks that either the PRC or Indonesia poses any sort of a military threat to Australia is some combination of a damn fool, profoundly ignorant or delusional.

1. Indonesia has proven itself incapable of imposing a military solution on either Aceh or EAst Timor and struggles to keep control of East Timor.

Every year Australia runs the "Kangaroo" miltiary exercise simulating an invasion of Australia by "Orangeland" (AKA Not-Indonesia). The assumed Orangeland military capabilites are significantly in advance of Indonesia's (e.g. they're assumed to have guidded missile frigates capable of denying the RAAF air superiority). (I should mention too that we have an excellent idea of Indonesia's military capabilities since we trained most of their officer corps and it's an open secret that a good few of them spy for us.)

Every year it ends in a rout - so much so that the Australians have been known to do things like "un-sink" Orangeland transports to increase their landed forces and gvie them a fighting chance.

I should also mention that we had a pretty extensive ground-truthing exercise testing Australian versus Indonesian military capabilities in East Timor where the Indonesian military backed anti-independence militias (with guns, comms, training and at least some personnel) and Australian troops backed the East Timorese government.

If you want to know how that turned out: look at a map.

Furthermore: there's little to no rational reason for Indoensia to invade Australia. They already proved pretty comprehensively with the failure of Transmigrasi that they can't solve the population problem in the Sundas by shipping people out.

Furthermore, if they did decide to revisit that massibvely failed and hugely unpopular policy, the logical first places would be West Timor, Papua, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Borneo. If they were to decide to try to send masses of peopel to another country, they'd probably choose Malaysia since (de facto) Malaysia has a policy of actively encoruaging Indoensian immigration. (Since the Indonesians are ethnic Malays and shift the population balance within the country towards the Malays and away from the Chinese).

Tony Fisk said...

I believe the RAAF have sunk the odd US aircraft carrier as well (all in good fun, of course... and yes, I've heard of a few counter-attacks as well!)

Yellow peril...

Australia had its 'Tea Party' phase about fifteen years ago, when Pauline Hanson took to the stage.

Movin' on...

Ian said...

2. China

First off, the bit that applies equally to Indonesia and any other potential invader of Australia: since the 1940's, Australia has had a detailed comprehensuve plan to fight a scorched earth war in the event of foreign invasion.

We have plans to destroy every key piece of infrastrcuture and to fight a protracted guerilla campaign. (A campaign led BTW by the same SAS froces that have been fighting the Taliban for the past decade. The Taliban pay a $100 bounty for every dead American soldier. They pay a $1,000 bounty for every dead Australian soldier. There's a reason for that.)

For at least a year, and probably for several years, any invader isn't goign to see a ton of coal or copper or grain or meat out of Australia. (For a country like China that depends on Australian coal to keep the lights on and on Austalian wheat to keep their livestock fed that might, you know, present something of a problem.)

Secondly, China doesn't have and is unlikely to have for decades, the sealift capacity to mount an aremd invasion of Taiwan which is far, far, closer. (Their plan for the invasion of Taiwan involves conscripting every single ocean-going vessel of any description in China down to passenger ferreis and private cabin cruisers.)

Invading Australia would be a logistical task on the scale of the D-Day invasions or of the proposed US ivasion of Japan in 1945. It would be effectively impossible without major staging areas within a few hundred miles of Australia.

To get that close, China would have to fight at least one war and probably a series of wars with other countries. In fact, thaey'd probably find themselves at war with all of ASEAN - and quite possibly India.

But why an I wasting my time pointing out facts to a racist troll?

Tony Fisk said...

Why indeed, Ian? I think you could have stopped at the mention of your Asian studies. An interesting rant, nonetheless.

Jumper said...

I bet everyone has seen this but it is always worth reexamination. And it's more recent than the last version I saw a while back.

Tacitus said...


Those of us "in the trenches" do respect researchers. But my patients live, and on occasion, die in the world of the practical.

My point, intended for the non medical, was that we are entering an era where treating this bug is getting harder. It's easy to invoke vancomycin, but that's an iv drug. It's easy to blithely propose more extensive drainage but, for instance, the one year old whose culture report I referenced was none too happy about having his rear end incised.

Hope you guys have some good stuff "in the pipeline" we humble drudges of the ER world.


and of phage treatments I can only say that while interesting they are not likely to come along before I hang up the stethoscope.

LarryHart said...

Ian Gould:

Why are S&P et cetera still taken seriously after they gave AIG and Lehmann Brothers AAA ratings?

Probably the same reason that economists who have been predicting imminent hyperinflation and soaring T-bill rates since Obama's inauguration are still being taken seriously.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

In the hope that you just missed my earleir question, I'll ask once more if you'd care to describe your personally-imagined pronunciations of "Tyltal" and "Jijo".

In deference to the possibility that you'd rather not answer, I won't ask again.

rewinn said...

"...Just give up your TVs, cars, homes and fossil-fuel industrial-farmed meals and 'take one for the team. ..."

Why so sad?

Today we are installing solar cells on top of a new metal roof (the latter saving lots of energy in the long run since it won't have to be replaced ... possibly ever ...).

Optimists look at the gigantic challenges of AGW etc and say, "Wow, what a challenge!"

Tim H. said...

Just listened to the teaser for "Tytlal Wave" at the iTunes store, could easily imagine it as a hymn "In the name of the trickster".

ell said...

Science fiction weapons that are real:


TheMadLibrarian said...

Tony Fisk, I believe you're talking about RIMPAC, the annual wargames held on and around Hawaii by members of the US Armed Forces and allied friendly nations. There have been a few spectacular upsets, and a few WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot moments. I direct you to the sub commander who for several days running, managed to 'sink' his target, even though after the first couple days even declared the TIME he would be targeting his objective!

Rewinn, good on you! If we could afford it, we would be redoing our own roof and installing solar panels on it as well. As it is, even though it is the long run cost effective and green thing to do, the initial outlay has us stumped. As long as the economy is so poor and there is a reasonable chance either of us might be put out of work, we don't want to spend our savings on a major project like that. It may come down to having to replace the roof within the next few years anyway, so it will be revisited at that time.

schniese layaymm: German method of making a bed

David Brin said...

Ianthere is one reason why Australia might be invaded, to distract from home political problems. It was the reason the Argentinian military junta did the astonishingly insane thing of invading the Falklands.

LarryHart: ""tit-lol" and "jee-joe"... though it certainly is tempting to try using "Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho..."

MadLibrarian, we found the dropping price of solar panels met the innovative pre-paid lease plan offered by Sunpower (much less than outright purchase, for a 20 year lease with zero monthly payments) made this the no-brainer year for us.

You should check if your community uses the newest method (not available in my town) to finance the solar at low interest by assigning the debt to be paid right inside your property tax bill, devolving automatically to the next owner if you sell. A great program.

Rob said...

David, I could really, really use some links for that financing method. My HOA explicitly permits solar installations without the need for an approval.

(Yet another point of interest, don't you think, Locumranch?)

Jumper said...

I thought I should bring the attention of the good folks here to this fine site I read often. The Knight Science Journalism Tracker. There are some new stories up about Korea, with links to the best coverage of the upcoming launch. And many more stories.

Anonymous said...

Yes, interesting comments, thanks. It also explains a fact about the Australian Army which has always puzzled me, namely why unlike other armies, about half of it is composed of unconventional troops.

Regarding "invasions", I recall reading that people were surprised that the defense white paper that came a few years ago recommended that the number of Collins class submarines built be tripled and that more F-35 jets be obtained. Was this because of any anticipation of possible future conflict ?

David Brin said...

Bets whether the NKorean rocket was shot down? During launch phase?

My sense of tech advancement rates... the US is capable of doing it and might want to make the point..

Tim H. said...

This amused me:

Stefan Jones said...

I really doubt the DPRK rocket was shot down.

They may CLAIM it was to save face, but the fact is that this sort of project isn't easy, even with Russian and Chinese designs to work from. The last couple of launches failed too . . . spectacularly so, if they were really trying for orbital insertion as they claimed.

Stefan Jones said...

RE the truly strange science story of the week about intelligent dinosaurs from other worlds:

This article starts off talking about chirality, a property of molecules, including sugars. We, and all terrestrial life as far as I know, uses "right handed" chirality. It is theoretically possible that things could go the other way, and there have been SF stories in which this plays a role. (Including a whole novel, The Right Hand of Dextra.)

There's a suggestion that the components of life could have come from other worlds. This is just fine.

Then, suddenly, in the last paragraph, there's this weird ass speculation about intelligent dinosaurs from worlds that avoided a comet collision!

This is nuts. It is actually an idea that circulated, briefly, in the time after the comet / asteroid collision theory of dinosaur extinction was popularized. Briefly: "On other worlds, the dinosaurs wouldn't have been wiped out and might have evolved intelligence! We might be the only intelligent mammals in the galaxy!"

The hitch here is that the probability of anything remotely like a dinosaur evolving on another planet is tiny. As Loren Eiseley put it:

"Darwin saw clearly that the succession of life on this planet was not a formal pattern imposed from without, or moving exclusively in one direction. Whatever else life might be, it was adjustable and not fixed. It worked its way through difficult environments. It modified and then, if necessary, it modified again, along roads which would never be retraced. Every creature alive is the product of a unique history. The statistical probability of its precise reduplication on another planet is so small as to be meaningless. Life, even cellular life, may exist out yonder in the dark. But high or low in nature, it will not wear the shape of man. That shape is the evolutionary product of a strange, long wandering through the attics of the forest roof, and so great are the chances of failure, that nothing precisely and indentically human is ever to come that way again."

rewinn said...

@TheMadLibrarian - we minimized our cash outlay (didn't get it to zero ... probably not a good idea to do that anyway) by locating a credit union that would finance the solar cells - Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union. Their logic is that it's a secured loan; unlike many other energy improvements (e.g. insulation), it's relatively easy to repo solar cells if the loan goes bad.

THEN our solar-and-roofing guy made the pitch, a very truthful one, that we had to replace the roof to do a proper solar installation. This is where we were "lucky" --- our roof really was past its expiration date, and I'd already been up on top with the bucket of sticky stuff to plug leaks. The CU more-or-less said, "OK, we'll finance the roof as part of the solar installation, most of which is secured by the cells".

Perhaps one of your local CU's may do the same. This seems to be a pretty solid loan for them, from a business standpoint, and it let us minimize the tap against our limited savings.

David Brin said...

Tim H - glad to see someone else despises MS Word as much as I do... well, not quite as much. I still write original work in 1997 Word Perfect for Macintosh and I will mourn when I must stop... as appears increasingly likely. Some things do not get better.

Ian Gould said...

"Regarding "invasions", I recall reading that people were surprised that the defense white paper that came a few years ago recommended that the number of Collins class submarines built be tripled and that more F-35 jets be obtained. Was this because of any anticipation of possible future conflict ?"

It's more to do with what's euphemistically referred to as "forward defense" where "forward" means "Taiwan and South Korea".

Australia's more or less unspoken defense doctrine is based on three premises:

1. Keep the US as engaged in the region as possible and be prepared to support any US action to deter aggression by China or North Korea.

2. Build an unstated and implicit regional defense agreement with the likes of Singapore, Thailand and the Philipines so that any aggressor (don't say China) that isn't dete3rred by the US alliance can be confronted well away from Australia.

3. Sink any invasion force before they can get within 100 miles of the Australian coast.

The other point about the Australian military is it's designed to be rapidly expandable in any combat situation.

The regular military is heavily oriented towards front-line roles and the reserve is intended to mainly fill the support roles.

To put it another way, the US has front-line soldeirs, truck drivers and cooks, the Australian military has front-line soldiers who are also trained as truck drivers and cooks.

This is why a good proportion of the Australian service personnel in Afghanistan are serving in front lien combat roles within British units.

(The drawback of this is it makes it very difficult for us to mount large-scale unilateral offshore deployments.

Even in East Timor and the Solomons we had support from other countries.)

Ian Gould said...

Two roughly Earth-sized planets have been identified orbiting Formalhaut "only" 26 light years away.

They're likley as cold as Pluto so no potential for life but they were detected by their influence on the dust cloud aroudn formalhaut which is a whole new way of spotting exoplanets.

So, have any SF writers used actual exoplanets in their stories yet?

Matt G said...

Oklahoma has a bill similar to Arizona. One of the senators tried to add an amendment that would level the playing field w.r.t. affecting male rights as well as female

Tony Fisk said...

@TimH Here's why the Microsoft product won't die: Wordzz! Wordzz!

(I also thought the unfolding standards saga read a bit like theparrot sketch.)

Ian Gould said...

This should go down well with the Contrarians: there's a new proposal to prevent Carbon Dioxide emissions from fossil fuel deposits - by buying them and not extracting them.


The idea is that as well as the direct impact of taking some fossil fuels out of the equation, this sequestration would push out global prices, discoraging consumption.

My support for this proposal is, of course, completely unrelated to the fact I live in a state with about a trillion tonnes of coal.

ACtuallym it might make sense rather than buying the deposits outright to eter into an agreement for an annual payment for countries to not extract fossil fuel deposits. (Fro one thing, it'd cut down the risk of default by countries that take the money then turn around and extract theri resoruces anyway.)

Tim H. said...

Concerning WordPerfect, why not update whatever might be ailing your old mac, or even buy a spare, the resale value of PPC macs is pretty low these days, just blow out the dust bunnies, max out the RAM and do a fresh install of an OS that does classic. I still use an '01 iMac as a kitchen computer, fairly useable if you don't try to watch video.

David Brin said...

MY PPC Mac is working fine. Max'd memory and all that. Maybe I should get a spare.

Still, Tiger is barely supported anymore and a day will come. grrr

Jumper said...

I'm in the same boat. I think you can put Leopard on the machine, though. Another couple of years lifetime, maybe. I'm so broke I've been putting it off for my own machine. Soon.

Jumper said...

Re: Ian's line of thinking, with more evidence of "orphan" planets being more abundant than previously thought, (planets without suns, moving unanchored through the vast depths of space) I thought a fictional exploration of a frozen orphan planet could be spooky.

Atomsmith said...

I don't know about its exoplanets, but Fomalhaut stars in many Sci-Fi plots.

Dinosaur people? Doctor Who already did it. Though his "Silurians" were Paleozoic, older than the Mesozoic dinosaurs.

Hmm, I wonder if a left-handed bacon cheeseburger would be zero calories...

locumranch said...

Actually, Ian's idea of buying up fossil fuel resources to prevent their use is a great idea.

The Gas & Oil industry has been using a variant of this approach for years to create artificial shortages when prices are too low. They cap productive wells, making then unproductive, which allows them to justify higher prices, necessitate further O & G exploration and force additional relaxation of environmental regulations.

But why stop there?

We could implement Ian's 'modest proposal' with all resources whose use could exacerbate climate change, including agriculture and the mineral extraction (mining) industry, which would allow us to shut down the economies of world's greatest polluters, especially the PRC & USA. Personally, I thinking of doing the same thing with childhood vaccines.

Of course, there may be some transient negative consequences to this approach, including sudden escalations of world-wide commodity prices, political chaos, global famine and epidemic disease, including the collapse of the Australian economic engine, but I'm sure the average global citizen wouldn't have any problem with this, assuming that we explained to them that it was all for their own good.

Also, we could all make a global killing in more than one sense, assuming that the established multinational players are willing to cut us all in for a piece of the action.

I'm joking, of course, but only sort of.

Change -- even beneficial change -- is never easy, especially if you're thinking along the lines of such massive global 'Meiji Restoration' like change.

On a side note:

Making a numerical population and/or cultural comparison between Australia & Indonesia, or commenting on Australia's intimate economic (mining) relationship with the PRC, does not make me a 'racist'.

This is just another example of how our educational background, cultural interests & preconceptions colour and distort our intellectual processes.

Asian Studies (in this case), but the same principle applies to all specialties.

"If all you have is a hammer, then every thing looks like a nail".

I could tell you some stories.


LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Glad to hear that I correctly pronounced "Jijo" as "Jee-jo". That last time I read the books, I did get to your pun toward the end of book #2 which suggested it was called "Hi-ho" instead, but by then it was too late to change in my head.

I plan to begin re-reading that trilogy again this summer, and didn't want to waste energy vacillating over the correct name.

LarryHart said...

Concerning previous questions about qualifications for public office, such as scientific expertese or correctness of predictions...

I think a problem with any such litumus test for qualification is "Who watches the watchmen?" We already see this with the USSC able to strike down "unconstitutional" laws, deciding that anything they don't personally want is "unconstitutional". Since they are the arbiters of what is "unconstitutional", that power amounts to a veto at will. Anyone empanneled to decide which candidates are "unscientific" or "malpredictive" (heh--I like that word I just made up) would have a similar veto over anyone they wanted out of the running for any reason.

In fact, don't many of our current electoral woes in the United States amount to "regulatory capture" of the voting public by corporate interests, who have a stranglehold on the media by which that voting public is informed? Voters already have the power to penalize "bad" politicians for any reason or whim that strikes them. But if those reasons/whims are manipulated and controlled by external entities, then those entities have exercised "regulatory capture" over the entire voting process.

Jumper said...

Perhaps we should store ingots of carbon in Ft. Knox. Their value is undisputed and people acquiring carbon ingots would remove it from the environment.

sociotard said...

"You won't like me when I'm angry. Because I always back up my rage with facts and documented sources."
-- The Credible Hulk

Acacia H. said...

To be honest? A 100% pure carbon ingot would be fairly valuable as a fairly clean energy source. Coal, for instance, is fairly dirty, with uranium, sulfur, and other compounds mixed into it. Pure carbon, on the other hand, would burn clean... and would probably be even more valuable as a source of graphite which is usable on many levels.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

"But why stop there?"

Because we refuse to indulge imbecilic straw man arguments.

"Making a numerical population and/or cultural comparison between Australia & Indonesia, or commenting on Australia's intimate economic (mining) relationship with the PRC, does not make me a 'racist'.

This is just another example of how our educational background, cultural interests & preconceptions colour and distort our intellectual processes."

No, im,plying that the Asian hordes are going to sweep down and invade Australiaat the first opportunity makes you racist.

Amongst white supremacists here (and I've had the misfortune to know a few) the Indoensian invasion holds much the same place in their mythology as RaHoWa or The Day of The Rope do for their American counterparts.

In the unlikely event that you want to educate yourself, I suggest you start by looking up the term "Brisbane Line"

TwinBeam said...

The article on net zero mexican illegal immigration is interesting - but sociotard and DBrin's gleeful reactions are a bit puzzling.

From the article:
"The trend began with a weaker economy in the US. But even if a stronger one were to pull many Mexicans back to the US, the new pattern could persist. Migrants – and the experts who study them – say they are deterred by state laws in the US that have fueled anti-immigrant sentiment, tougher US-border enforcement, and border violence."

I.e. - PRECISELY what Sociotard says DBrin's "crazy uncle" would claim. So...who is crazy?

locumranch said...

That's just my point.

I lack an Australian cultural upbringing; I lack an education in Asian Studies; and apparently, I lack certain Lensman-like English language skills.

But now that I stand corrected, I will try to remember that the phrases '240 million Indonesians can't be wrong' and 'All mineral rights the property of PRC' really means that 'the Asian hordes (aka the 'Yellow Peril') are going to sweep down and invade Australia at the first opportunity".

Can anyone enroll in this Australian psychic university, or do such skills take generations of selective breeding like Edward Elmer "Doc" Smith's 'Children of the Lens' ??


Damien Sullivan said...

AIUI Australian rainfall would support half it's population. I doubt the massive hordes seeking to come steal Australia. Lots of space, but not much habitat.

In all seriousness, buying up carbon to not be used seems like a good idea to me. Though the article was depressing. Carbon tax and a public committment to not further pollute would be even better measures, but private pre-sequestering could work too. And if buying rights isn't secure enough, one could take delivery of the coal or oil and stockpile it, though of course that's far more expensive.

It's also a way to arbitrage between cheap prices today and anticipated future prices, and to slow down consumption.

Not sure what one can do with futures and options.

rewinn said...

@Jumper said...
Perhaps we should store ingots of carbon in Ft. Knox.

At a recent party I asked a Boeing engineer whether, in calculating the carbon impact of the 777, they included the several tons of carbon fibers sequestered in its structure.

The true answer is "probably not" because the source of that carbon is probably not capture from the atmosphere. But if we were serious about carbon sequestration, we wouldn't really need pure blocks of carbon; impurities are fine and indeed a good thing if they contribute to the incidental usefulness of the store.

Why not solve several problems by building the Great Anti-Immigration Wall Around America out of knotty pine?

David Brin said...

Sorry about the glitch, posting my next two blogs in the wrong order.

Rob may need to post his interesting anecdote again, in comments.


Hank Roberts said...

One observation -- re petridish, but many others:


This may be the "Citizens United" for the securities regulation process -- can't you see the spammers and online fake gambling sites calling what they do 'crowdsourcing' and funding much that's anticompetitive and anti-transparent?