Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Science-tech updates - young blood for old? And much more.

Did we dodge a sci fi scenario of unparalleled potential nastiness? Already around the world, rich old struldbrugs are buying “fresh young blood” from healthy donors in their 20s… and on a very limited scale there’s no reason yet to get upset from a two way beneficial business arrangement. But it was easy to extrapolate that into a nightmare, if the fast rising world mafia-feudal oligarchy really sank their vampire teeth in, taking advantage of vast wealth disparities their cheating created. 

Now possible good news, evading that one (of many) nightmare. “In 2005, the same team demonstrated that connecting the blood of young and old mice (essentially making them conjoined twins) resulted in rejuvenation. Yet the present study showed equal or greater enhancements by solely diluting the blood of the old mice, eliminating the need for young mice entirely.” The Peter Diamandis site concludes: “This discovery shifts our attention away from young blood and towards the importance of age-related harmful proteins in old blood. Rather than focusing on specific protein therapeutics, age reversal is more likely linked to a host of proteins that can be naturally triggered by dilution processes such as this study’s approach.”

Might I add that similar effects may come from blood DONATION  several times a year? It certainly feels that way to me!
(I donated my 94th pint a couple of weeks ago and got a free covid test, along with an apple juice and chexmix.) And yes, this segues into several scenes in Existence. And especially… “The Giving Plague.”  (Free on my website.)

Meanwhile, though few news articles refer to Uplift: “Scientists have grown larger monkey brains by giving marmoset fetuses a gene that's unique to humans.”  

== Science Miscellany? ==

Way kewl science experiment! An Inverted tornado ignited inside of a bubble.

How Heisenberg became uncertain: An amusing story about how a young Heisenberg (not the Breaking Bad version) – embarrassed by a barely-passed exam – studied the ultimate limits of microscopes and thereby derived his famous uncertainty principle… 100% correctly, if for some wrong reasons!

A well-produced rap about climate change… is responded by a pretty cool and uber-nerdy rap about carbon-sequestration and “air-mining” — concluding and coolly summarizing the zoom conference I just attended. Uber-nerdy? Super-ooper-dooper-nerdy-cool! Problem solvers. My kind of people.

== More tech news! ==

Hydraloop unveiled a wastewater management solution. About the size of a refrigerator, Hydraloop’s system purifies wastewater and returns it for use in washing, gardening and plumbing.

AWG in the news: An Israeli water-from-air system that taps into atmospheric water using patented heat-exchange technology. 

Pretty important actually: researchers say they have designed a laser diode that emits the shortest-wavelength ultraviolet light to-date, with potential applications in disinfection, dermatology, and DNA analyses.  This could make a huge difference also in the growth of vertical/urban farms.

What appear to be super high energy neutrinos shooting UP to hit a balloon-carried detector above Antarctica have unsettling implications for the Standard Model of Physics.

Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC) are collections of atoms coaxed into sharing a common quantum state. They are very fragile.  BECs in terrestrial labs typically last a handful of milliseconds before dissipating. But in space they feel no gravitational net force and can be suspended much easier. Aboard the ISS the BECs lasted more than a second, offering the team an unprecedented chance to study their properties. Previous studies trying to emulate the effect of weightlessness on BECs used airplanes in free fall, rockets and even apparatus dropped from various heights. But these experiments are… cool.

Analysis of seismic waves reveal “echoes from the boundary between Earth's molten core and the solid mantle layer above it. The echoes revealed more widespread, heterogenous structures—areas of unusually dense, hot rock—at the core-mantle boundary than previously known.” A region very much involved in the plot of my novel EARTH.

Instead of cooling things down near absolute zero, to preserve fragile entanglement, these researchers took the opposite approach, heating atoms to millions of times hotter than a typical quantum experiment – the temperature of a kitchen oven - to see if entanglement could persist in a hot and chaotic environment. “The surprising thing is that these random collisions didn't destroy entanglement." Unlikely to be useful for computation, this may lead to new kinds of sensitive detectors.

== Bioscience updates ==

If verified, this is actually a pretty big deal! Abstract: “Biological molecules chose one of two structurally chiral systems which are related by reflection in a mirror. It is proposed that this choice was made, causally, by cosmic rays, which are known to play a major role in mutagenesis. It is shown that magnetically polarized cosmic rays that dominate at ground level today can impose a small, but persistent, chiral bias in the rate at which they induce structural changes in simple, chiral monomers that are the building blocks of biopolymers.”

When the squid hunt, they communicate with each other via patterns of light and dark pigment on their skin. Even in the ocean depths, these patterns can be detected because the squids’ bodies glow in the dark, revealing patterns that are backlit like words on an e-reader screen.

More life weirdness. Last time I talked about insects with tooth-gears in their leg joints. Now something I referred to speculatively in EARTH and even earlier in THE UPLIFT WAR…  Cable bacteria grows on a mat on and under the sea floors and what makes it interesting is that they power themselves by electricity and send that electricity over long distances using biological cables that have similar efficiency to that of copper wire. Apparently the bacteria is widespread on sea bottoms around the world and could possibly like fungi form a single organism of unknown size. 

They estimate that a cubic meter of the seafloor mud containing Cable bacteria contains hundreds of thousands of kilometers of bio-electric cables that transmits electricity as efficiently as what we can do today. If it transmits electricity it can also transmit signals. If we extrapolate that out to the size of the Earth’s ocean floors then we’re talking about a potential nervous system component for a living Gaia that doesn’t require the mantle superconductors of EARTH. Though, it could also be “angry” as in Greg Bear’s disturbing book VITALS.


Tony Fisk said...

So the insanely wealthy have no need for the capital of youth? That may not be the relief you think it is...

The angry side of Gaia is often referred to as 'Medea'. Another model posits two entities, Gaia and ... Pontus?, caught in a perpetual contest for the world's thermostat. Maybe those mantle interface structures also have a third use, and maybe Ra takes some instruction from magnetic fields.

Who can tell? Who can tell?

Larry Hart said...

Institutionalized cheating in plain sight. Seen on Stonekettle's Twitter feed:

Proposed Texas GOP platform plank, advanced by temporary committee, calling for State Electoral College system for electing statewide officials.

State Electoral College: Be it resolved that the state legislature shall cause to be enacted a State Constitutional Amendment creating an electoral college consisting of electors selected by the popular votes cast within each state senatorial district, who shall then elect all statewide officeholders.

So instead of a state-wide majority, a majority of districts will decide who is elected to state offices.

A problem the founding fathers probably never envisioned--in sports, the team who wins the championship doesn't get to pick the umpires or re-write the rule book for the next season. In politics, they do.

jim said...

What do you pay for with your electric bill?
From a customer perspective I would say basically two things.
First, you pay for a system that can give you a good amount of electrical power at any moment on any day of the year. It does not matter if the sun is shining or the wind is blowing or what other people are doing, with a flip of a switch you can get several kilowatts of electrical power.
Secondly the size of your bill is related to how much energy you use, the more energy you use the bigger your bill.

(of course you can divide that up a lot finer and talk about regulatory compliance, capital cost, maintenance, etc. etc. – but that might really bore everyone.)

In other news
The Arctic Sea Ice will likely end this melt season with a new record low. There has been a high pressure system stuck over the central arctic for a couple of weeks and looks to continue for another week maybe more. A high pressure system typically comes with sunny days – June and July are the two months of peak sunshine for the arctic. The lack of airplane flights and their contrails over the arctic may have made the situation worse.

It looks like war has a chance of breaking out in Libya and a low intensity war against Iran has begun but the conflict between China and India seems to be cooling down.

And the flooding in China is putting a great deal of stress on the 3 gorges dam.

Larry Hart said...

As long as I've paid for Disney+ to see Hamilton, I've been reviewing some of the Marvel Movies as well (though I wonder why they don't have the two Spider-Man films).

Anyway--Thanos's plan was to relieve stress on the universe's resources by removing half of the population (in the comics, it was one tenth of the population), thus leaving a paradise for the survivors. He thought all along that he was the good guy who did what needed to be done and who should be thanked by the remaining living beings.

Maybe Trump's video of himself as Thanos wasn't too far off, because this sounds to me like the Republican "strategy" for dealing with COVID-19. "Let it kill who it's going to kill. There'll be more stuff left for us."

Larry Hart said...

This is what we're up against.

This guy used to be a not-as-clever-as-he-thinks conservative columnist for the Chicago Tribune. A few years back, he semi-retired to Florida and proudly proclaimed himself one of the multitudes of people fleeing Chicago and Illinois because taxes.

Now that Illinois is one of the few states keeping COVID under control, while Florida cases are exploding, you'd think we'd see some humility, or at least wry acknowledgement that we don't do everything wrong. But no, the outbreaks in Florida are apparently the fault of blind faith in science...excuse me, "science"...and possibly (though he doesn't know, but still...) tourists bringing it in from Chicago and New York. And Illinois had more deaths back in April and May, so our cumulative totals are still higher. Florida wins!

Florida’s population of 21.48 million is almost double of Illinois’ 12.67 million. Yet Illinois has suffered 2,809 more deaths than Florida. Maybe Florida has been doing something right.
I could say that Miami’s troubling increase in new cases is the result of all those Democrats from New York and Chicago who fled their own epicenters and brought the disease (and their woke politics) with them. But I can’t; I don’t know. Certainly, the hypothesis that interstate travel was as significant as the arrival of infected travelers from China and Europe deserves study.
Even worse is the assumption that “infallible science” can’t be challenged by or balanced with other policy considerations. Most notably missing in this equation is the impact of the pandemic lockdown on jobs and the economy. A truly scientific approach would weigh the epidemiologists’ policies as compared with rigorous scholarship about their negative, even dangerous, impacts on the economy. What is the calculus, for example, on whether the psychological and learning damage from keeping children out of school is more destructive than their transmission of the virus? Sadly, asking this question will get you assigned as a Trump supporter who cares only about the stock market.

David Brin said...

"So instead of a state-wide majority, a majority of districts will decide who is elected to state offices."

And then Austin, Houston and the entire Rio Grande Valley secede from Texas.

"Let it kill who it's going to kill. There'll be more stuff left for us."

But yipe could the actual plan be to kill off MAGATs?

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...
"Anyway--Thanos's plan was to relieve stress on the universe's resources by removing half of the population . . ."

In general I enjoyed the Marvel films as fun entertainment, but this was one of those things that is so stupid it sort of ruined it for me. Thanos's plan was stupid and considering his resources of knowledge it's so stupid that it's completely unbelievable. In but an eye blink on the scale of the universe populations would have rebounded and surpassed what they were when Thanos snapped. It's one of the worst plot faults ever.

matthew said...

Israel is trying to start their own "October Surprise" to help out Trump. They are trying to start a war with Iran (again).

Trump needs to distract from his record of being awful at everything. Most especially he needs cover regarding the Russian bounties on US troops and his non-response to Putin (other than sharing more classified info, that is). Oh, and 139k Americans dead from COVID, 100k of which were preventable.

Israel *needs* Trump to stay in power for as long as possible to hide their actions in ratfucking the US election to get him in office. The Israeli-Russian-Turkey-UAE-Saudi conspiracy to elect Trump by any means, including *lots* of criminal actions on US soil is very well documented by US and foreign media.

So. War it will be, then.
Having the US be hit by hostile action in mid-October is certainly one way to bump Trump and GOP polling the ten percentage points or so so that the rest of the voter suppression, hacking, and other dirty GOP tricks can finish the job.

Watch for Trump ordering even more carriers into the Persian Gulf in, say, early September, where they can be hit by Iranian missiles or speedboats. He'll send them in and then he and Israel will do something to entice the attack.

We're seeing the steps to do this, happening right now.

David Brin said...

While the Israel emphasis is over-wrought and a bit hysterical, yes, the overall picture is plausible. Except that our entire "deepstate" is out of DT's control now, so...

Alfred Differ said...


On the quiz from last post, I got 8 of 9. I had a leg up, though, from paying attention to Hans Rosling's TED talks. He used to offer some of these questions in a kind of contest. "Can you beat the Monkey" or something like that. He tried to point out that our understanding of the world was worse than random error. When the monkey can guess randomly and do better than you on a multiple choice test, assumptions about the world have to be rebuilt instead of tinkered with.

The one I got wrong was because I didn't read the age brackets carefully enough to see where they drew the line on question #6. I tend to think of 70 as 'old' instead of 'adult', but not so old that it requires taking up fishing and a love of rocking chairs.

For more material like this, check out That's where Rosling's tools wound up along with a community of like minded people.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"Let it kill who it's going to kill. There'll be more stuff left for us."

But yipe could the actual plan be to kill off MAGATs?

I get the impression that the MAGAts think they're somehow immune. Even the columnist I quoted above from Florida has to rationalize that it must be Democrats from Chicago or New York who brought the plague down to Florida. A pandemic couldn't possibly affect conservatives without help.

If by "actual plan" you mean what Trump and McConnell and Roberts are aiming for without telling their supporters who they're sacrificing--to what end?

Alfred Differ said...


Okay. That's actually a fair answer. I was looking for something that spoke to risk and reliability regarding the power supply and that's where you went.

The second part tying usage to cost isn't as correct. That's more a matter of how they make the costs palatable to the voting public. Dig deeper, though, and you'll find it is only partially true. Most of them have cost tiers and a KWhr rate, but there are exceptions for certain customers and communities that resulted from earlier political decisions. Still… approximately true, but not because of any real market forces.

Since you realize that we buy RELIABLE power, you'll understand that utilities tend to build reliability through diversity. Fossil fuel generation stations aren't all the same. Coal is different from natural gas when it comes to quick starts and load changes, so they don't arrive at the utility with the same 'cost' to them.

I'm not sure where you live, but I live in a region of the US where there is a wholesale market for electricity. Our state set up an ISO to manage the transmission grid and 'make' the wholesale market. My former employer was that ISO. They went to a lot of trouble to teach us the kinds of things sold in that market because those differences explain why diversity creates reliability. Next question for you is this. What types of generated electricity are sold in wholesale markets? You don't have to get exact names because there isn't a common standard yet.

I ask this because IF you know, you are far more studied on this topic than most Americans. More than 99% I'd say. IF you know them, you'll likely know why I react poorly to some of your over-simplifications. You see… it doesn't really matter how dense the fuel is for stationary generation. The the transportation fleet? Sure. If coal was light like helium? Sure. The difference between nat gas and coal and oil, though, is pretty trivial. Reliability depends more on stability of transport and supply.

Alfred Differ said...


to what end?

Dead martyrs are always useful, but it's kinda important that they actually die. Zombies are more annoying.

David Smelser said...

"Let it kill who it's going to kill. There'll be more stuff left for us."

"But yipe could the actual plan be to kill off MAGATs?"

"I get the impression that the MAGAts think they're somehow immune."

While not immune, they suffer less than BIPOC. From

"Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some members of racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, regardless of age. Among some racial and ethnic minority groups, including non-Hispanic black persons, Hispanics and Latinos, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, evidence points to higher rates of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 than among non-Hispanic white persons....

* Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons have a rate approximately 5 times that of non-Hispanic white persons,

* non-Hispanic black persons have a rate approximately 5 times that of non-Hispanic white persons,

* Hispanic or Latino persons have a rate approximately 4 times that of non-Hispanic white persons.

duncan cairncross said...

Dave Smelser

While "whites" do not suffer as badly there is still the age issue

So while on average whites suffer less the old suffer MORE - and the MAGATs tend also to be the old fogeys

Larry Hart said...

Irony, gallows humor, and a touch of schadenfreude...

Oh, and when it comes to getting some solace, and some "insight" on COVID-19, Trump won't have Chuck Woolery's Twitter feed to rely upon anymore. Just days after proclaiming the pandemic to be a fraud, the game-show-host-turned-right-wing-conspiracist announced that his son has been diagnosed with the disease, and then deleted his Twitter account. Maybe the President can find another game show host to consult. Pat Sajak has a Twitter account, so that's a possibility, but the problem is he'll only tell you what you want to know a few letters at a time. Alex Trebek might be available by phone, but he only answers in the form of a question. Groucho Marx might be reached via Ouija Board or séance, but he'll want to know "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" first, and Trump probably doesn't know. Oh, well.

And speaking of irony...

Specifically, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) wants to investigate Hunter Biden, so he is asking various officials on Biden's campaign, along with former government officials, to testify. They are not playing ball, so Johnson is threatening to subpoena them. It would be ironic, of course, if the targets of the subpoenas refused and said that the Supreme Court just ruled that Congress has no subpoena power. This could lead to more court cases and handing the whole matter back to the Supreme Court in 2021 or 2022.

Larry Hart said...

And is anyone really surprised?...

Not only does voter fraud sometimes happen, but Republicans are doing an excellent job of proving that. Not through sham investigations, like the one conducted by would-be Kansas governor/senator Kris Kobach. No, by getting caught doing it themselves. There was, of course, the fiasco in North Carolina, where Republican chicanery forced a re-run of the 2018 election in NC-09. And now, Donald Trump-endorsed Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) has been charged with three felony counts of voter fraud, related to having registered to vote using a mailbox at a UPS store.

Larry Hart said...

Oh, and that column I posted yesterday about "Illinois has more cumulative total deaths than Florida despite smaller population, so Florida must be doing something right"? Dennis Byrne can suck on this:

At this point Florida alone has an average daily death toll roughly equal to that of the whole European Union, which has 20 times its population.

Tim H. said...

The GOP seems to be wagering they'll kill more Democrats than FOX-poisoned, can't make an omelet without breaking eggs and all that.

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

...can't make an omelet without breaking eggs and all that.

You also can't make an omelet without mixing the white part of the egg with the colored part and then letting many non-egg entities immigrate into the mix. But no one ever seems to remember that part. :)

Larry Hart said...

I don't get how the right-wing can credibly oppose "cancel culture" as a leftist thing without ever acknowledging the likes of Colin Kaepernick or the Dixie Chicks, let alone the entire McCarthy era. They may sometimes disagree with who is on the receiving end, but their ability to practice the same tactic while simultaneously evading any responsibility for it is amazing.

An acquaintance came to me a few weeks ago with the rough draft of a letter about free speech and asked me to sign. I declined, in part because it denounced “cancel culture.” As I wrote in an email, the phrase “‘cancel culture,’ while it describes something real, has been rendered sort of useless because it’s so often used by right-wing whiners like Ivanka Trump who think protests against them violate their free speech.”
In a much-discussed essay on what he called “reactionary liberalism,” The New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu wrote, “In practice, workers of all stripes often lack the means and opportunity to defend themselves from unjust firings⁠ — all the more reason for those preoccupied with ‘cancel culture’ and social media-driven dismissals to support just-cause provisions and an end to at-will employment.”

Robert said...

You also can't make an omelet without mixing the white part of the egg with the colored part and then letting many non-egg entities immigrate into the mix. But no one ever seems to remember that part. :)

Never thought if it that way before. Thanks. I'm borrowing this…

Also, don't right-wing Americans have a hate on for the French? If so, why are they so obsessed with making a French dish?

jim said...

I live in the Midwest so the mix is mostly natural gas and coal with some nuclear and wind in the mix. (Very little solar at the wholesale level.)

And I agree with you that there is not much difference for electrical power suppliers between coal, oil and natural gas (a big difference in actual engineering of the power plants, of course). Each one of them stores the energy until you need to convert it from chemical potential to electrical potential.

But wind and solar are not stores of energy, they are energy flows that you do not control. So to build that reliable electrical grid with solar and wind power you have to tap into the energy flows while they are happening and then store that energy for later use. That later time might be anywhere from a few minutes to several months. And the amount of seasonal storage needed (for anyplace that has a winter) is super expensive. Duncan pointed out that solar panels and wind turbines have cost of energy that is not too bad, but when you include the storage needed to make the energy reliable the energy cost is much higher. Fossil fuels can be stored will little trouble (almost free) wind and solar have to pay a lot for energy storage.

Larry Hart said...

A few days ago, someone said the federal troops in Portland, Oregon weren't being covered in the media. That might be changing.


On Thursday night and into Friday morning — the 50th straight day of demonstrations — a line of federal officers in gas masks walked down Portland’s Third Avenue. They filled downtown corridors with tear gas, which a federal judge has barred the Portland police from using except in the case of a safety risk, and they also shot less-lethal munitions, which left people limping in pain.

Larry Hart said...

Mary Trump's book explains the Trump sycophants...

But as it became clear that Donald had no real business acumen—as his Atlantic City casinos cratered and his father unlawfully poured secret funds into saving them—Mary realized that Fred also depended on the glittery tabloid success at which Donald excelled. Fred continued to prop up his son’s smoke-and-mirrors empire because, as Mary writes, “Fred had become so invested in the fantasy of Donald’s success that he and Donald were inextricably linked. Facing reality would have required acknowledging his own responsibility, which he would never do. He had gone all in, and although any rational person would have folded, Fred was determined to double down.”

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...

"I don't get how the right-wing can credibly oppose "cancel culture" as a leftist thing without ever acknowledging the likes of Colin Kaepernick or the Dixie Chicks, let alone the entire McCarthy era.

I agree completely. "Cancel culture" is simply a relatively new term coined identify a relatively new instantiation of a very old human behavior. A behavior that has been and is very well represented by right-wing conservative folks.

But the Harper letter is hardly right-wing. Not even remotely. In previous decades it would have been labeled "Commie-Pinko-Scumbag!" Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood, Rebecca Goldstein, and Salman Rushdie, just to name a few who have endorsed it, should clarify that.

The Harper letter also does not include the term "Cancel Culture," not once. I have found it very interesting that so many of the people criticizing the letter, and I do not mean you here, talk about it as if it does use the term and in fact that is often their main point of contention. I find that quite telling.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

The Harper letter also does not include the term "Cancel Culture," not once. I have found it very interesting that so many of the people criticizing the letter, and I do not mean you here, talk about it as if it does use the term and in fact that is often their main point of contention. I find that quite telling.

In light of your comment, you might take a look at this part of the same article I linked to. Telling in its own way.

An acquaintance came to me a few weeks ago with the rough draft of a letter about free speech and asked me to sign. I declined, in part because it denounced “cancel culture.” As I wrote in an email, the phrase “‘cancel culture,’ while it describes something real, has been rendered sort of useless because it’s so often used by right-wing whiners like Ivanka Trump who think protests against them violate their free speech.”

A little later my acquaintance came back to me with a new version, which didn’t mention “cancel culture.” Like the people who wrote the letter, I think left-wing illiberalism is a problem, though I’ve mostly stopped writing about it since Donald Trump was elected, because it seems like complaining about a bee sting when you have Stage IV cancer.

So I signed. The statement, published in Harper’s Magazine as “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” spawned takes and countertakes, most of them, despite my modest effort, about “cancel culture.”

Larry Hart said...

If I quoted every line of interest in this review of Mary Trump's book, I would be a troll and this blog would be unreadable. I do recommend the article. Fascinating stuff. Not just another tell-all about Donald's proclivities, but a professional evaluation of his enablers.

But the most interesting assessments she offers are reserved for those inside the “institutions,” the people who might have saved us and certainly have not, from the nuclear family, to the Trump businesses, to New York’s bankers and powerful elites, to Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, and Jared Kushner. They all knew and know that the emperor has no clothes, even as they devote their last shreds of dignity to effusive praise of his ermine trim and jaunty crown.

Alfred Differ said...


Okay. I am going to adjust my impression of you up a notch or two. From now on when we talk about energy and power grids and such, I shall endeavor not to treat you as ignorant as most Americans are. My apologies for doing so earlier.

Solar and wind are definitely NOT like the others. You are quite right in that they are flows instead of stores. When they are available, we tap them. When not, we can't. Where I'll challenge you, though, is your belief that we have to store them to make them valuable. We don't have to do that. In fact, the cost of doing so is astronomically huge right now.

One of the first things drilled into us in our ISO training class was a simple economic fact about storage. If anyone could figure out how to store renewable energy (wind and solar mostly), they could print their own money. The patents would be that valuable. Set for life. Statues erected in cities around the world in appreciation for the hero who did it. Big, big deal. Trainer went into why in the next hour by showing just how much power gets used by people in an hour and how much water that would push uphill. A simple calculation shows that there aren't enough dams with capacity (let alone currents) to hold even a small fraction of it. Gravitational potential energy is easy to manipulate, but not dense enough.

That's where this ties into what you go on about in many of your posts. Energy density DOES matter when dealing with stores of energy. It doesn't matter as much, though, when dealing with flows which is what we actually buy. Reliable flows. Dense storage is just one way to improve reliability. It's not the only one, but if we treat it as if it is, we should be going nuclear for practically all of our base load. Our instructor showed this wouldn't work either and not because of the political costs. Some dense storage methods are less flexible to demand changes than other. Coal plants can't be ramped up and down as fast as nat gas. It's even worse for nukes. Still, they'd be in the mix providing a large fraction of base load that we can predict as being required all day. (The one source that was both dense and flexible was hydro, but there is only just so much of that available. We've captured practically all of it and climate change is going to make a hash of our long range plans.)

You are wrong about the need for storage of renewables here in the West and Southwest. The flows from wind and solar are more predictable than people realize. Making sure reliability is high is mostly a matter of over-building generation sources. Storage isn't the issue out here. Cost for the infrastructure is. How much do we overbuild? All utilities do that if they are both generators and distributors. What YOU buy is reliable power. What THEY sell is an obligation upon you to pay their bond holders the revenue stream creditors expect for helping to build all that infrastructure. PUC's get into the mix because utilities have monopoly power, thus this all gets very political. How much can a utility overbuild and load on its rate payers? That's what we fight about most of the time.

For your region, I understand that solar is less reliable. I used to live on the Plains, though, and now darn well that wind power should be used and transferred to your region. I don't recall if you are covered by an ISO or another related entity, but if you aren't, that's one thing you could fix (politically of course) to get control of your future away from dominating utilities. I seem to recall most of our cousin entities were on the east coast and eastern Great Lakes region, so you might have quite a bit of work in front of you. Depends on just where you are in the midwest.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred, Jim
Hydro Generation is just about maxed out - its effectively "rain power" and requires a huge catchment area

Pumped Hydro Storage however has barely been tapped - all that needs is two lakes at different levels - and until recently has not been viable because wind and solar were not sufficiently (if at all) cheaper than fossil fuels
Today they are cheaper - today pumped hydro starts to make sense

Batteries are cheap for short term storage - minutes/hours - the huge Australian one paid for itself in months
Pumped hydro for longer term - hours/days
Possibly hydrogen or a designer liquid fuel for seasonal differences
Aluminium is also a good "electricity storage medium" for seasonal differences

Here NZ we have screwed the pooch - with a massive amount of hydro the right wing party set out to privatise the power systems the state had paid for and set up a stupid "market system" where instead of the hydro generators acting as storage they compete with wind and solar on a short term basis

I'm not against markets as such but the DESIGN of the market place is critical to making it work properly

matthew said...

More on the unmarked Federal officers kidnapping citizens off the streets of Portland in unlawful arrests:

My congressional delegation has written to the DoJ and HHS demanding answers and an end the the practice.


The US Attorney for Oregon has weighed in as well:

This is a trial run for more unmarked Federal Officers making unlawful arrests. There is no other explanation than the creation of secret police in America.

Please contact your Congressional delegation to insist that unlawful detention by unmarked Federal Officers cease immediately and that hearings are swiftly convened to hold the ordering authority responsible for the violations of our constitution.


David Brin said...

The Portland thing must be shoved before MAGAT faces: "The stuff you thought Obama might do... and never came close, is what your KGB-run heroes are doing now.

Solar and Wind don't have to store if we use them first for base load. I've never opposed near term natural gas surge capacity, in order to kill coal dead. Can anyone report what Biden said about nuclear?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The Portland thing must be shoved before MAGAT faces: "The stuff you thought Obama might do... and never came close, is what your KGB-run heroes are doing now.

But see, they were afraid Obama would do that to white people. That would be unconstitutional.

Larry Hart said...

From that Guardian article above:

The president said he would make an announcement next week “with the attorney general, the FBI and others concerning our cities, because the leftwing group of people that are running our cities are not doing the job that they’re supposed to be doing, and it’s not a very tough job to do if they knew what they were doing”.

When in the course of human events...

Trump specifically cited recent protests against racism and police brutality in Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis, before pivoting to discuss the recent gun violence in Chicago.

Citizens exercising their constitutional rights and petitioning their government for redress. Can't have that, now can we?

A German Nurse said...

A question:
Could a state or community go to the courts to force the federal agencies to withdraw?
Could they arrest federal agents for committing crimes locally, or would that have to be dealt with on a federal level?

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

The correct way to do it for a local or state police force is to deploy themselves so the Feds have to go through them to get to the protesters. The permission to pass through local lines can be denied or just delayed a long time. If conflict actually occurs, it is between the Feds and the State and then the State can take the issue to court.

Challenging federal presence probably won't work by itself.
Challenging federal interference just might.

Alfred Differ said...

jim and others on the energy topic,

Hydro IS just about maxed out, but it's worse than that. With climate change, rainfall predictions are changing making placement of old dams less than optimal. Take a peek at what's going on at Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Dams are VERY LONG range investments in energy infrastructure, so they contribute to costs faced by utilities for ages. State and Federal investments are involved in the US, so the deals are usually decades long interstate 'treaties' that utilities are bound to through politics. Climate change is making a hash of these deals, but the real problem is world wide.

Pumping water back uphill IS being done. I haven't been in the industry in a decade, but last I remember the French were providing a big chuck of their base load via nukes which can't be throttled quickly. When load was smaller than supply, they gave it away to the Norwegians who pumped water uphill. The French found this give-away to be cheaper than building peakers while the Norwegians had the water and were under no obligation to sell it back cheap. I don't know that this is still happening, but it shows the scale of the infrastructure needed to efficiently provide reliable power.

So… I took at peek at the CAISO site today (about lunchtime for me) for a quick snapshot of things. On a typical summer day for California, we were demanding about 32 GW with an expected peak around 36 GW. We were providing about 46% of that via renewables. Looking again (just after sunset) our demand is currently 34 GW and we are providing 49% of it via nat gas and 13% of it via renewables. Most of renewables comes from wind with the next biggest slice being geothermal. The batteries on the grid were charging between noon and 3 pm.

Which brings up the biggest change since I left that industry. THERE ARE BATTERIES ON THE GRID. What? Really says I? When did that happen? Oh look. They have a plan to knock carbon fuels off the grid by 2045. How? OMG. The batteries are getting cheap enough!

At present, batteries are being used to soak up over-supply from renewables like solar and wind. The power is sold back onto the grid later in the afternoon when prices are a little higher… usually. They can supply up to 216 MW right now (kinda small, but not a pittance) on a full charge and plan to be at 923 MW by the end of the year. (Covid-19 could change that of course.) The long range plan is for 15 GW with large purchases between here and 2023.

Umm. Hrmm.

Solar output tends to peak long before demand does. The worst periods in the summer are generally late afternoons when air temps soar inland. Serving that with solar has always been a challenge. That's what they are going after with the batteries, but that's not where this will stop. That late-day load is currently served by nat gas peaking units. Displace those… and we use less fossil carbon. We still have to build an over-supply of solar to do that and install lots of big batteries, but… well damn… they are actually doing it now.

Did I mention that I liked my old job? I got laid off in 2009 and it's the only job I left with regret for not being able to participate in their vision of the future.

TCB said...

Adding to what Alfred Differ says about renewable energy sources, you can look at maps of US renewable energy potential and see that most parts of the US can support one form of renewable generation or another. Some areas get enough sunlight to be useful, but not much wind; others get lots of wind but little solar energy; most of the West is good geothermal country; the high plains are especially rich in all but biomass. Only Alaska and a few scattered regions in the lower 48 are really bereft of good renewable energy flows.

As for the print-your-own-money breakthrough storage invention, a horde of the planet's smartest people are, of course, looking for it. The funny thing about any really dense energy storage medium is, the better it is, the more dangerous it is if it fails. My car will hold about 14 gallons of gasoline and go about 330 miles burning it. If it all burned at once it would make a cinder of the car and me in it. If a rubber band could hold the same energy, it'd be just as bad for my health if it snapped. There's a reason I can't mail lithium batteries! ...and lithium batteries aren't even good enough to be the big breakthrough.

I wonder if the Battery of the Future could be nothing more than a compressed-air (or hydrogen) tank made from a big lab-grown hollow diamond. Of course, you'd need a valve that could stand deep-Jovian atmosphere pressures, and the compression system too, and it would need to be efficient, not too expensive to make, and if any bit of it failed, it would fail BIG...

TCB said...

@ Larry Hart, remember that the Gore-Bush vote recount in Miami at Thanksgiving 2000 was halted by rioting Republican congressional aides flown in on the GOP's dime. A hundred angry leftists, in the right place at the right time, could have saved us all a lot of grief.

Or, you know, the Miami police could have cracked some Republican rioters' heads.

Go ahead, try to imagine a world where cops don't play favorites.

Alfred Differ said...


a horde of the planet's smartest people are, of course, looking for it

Apparently, my state thinks we are close enough now with existing tech that they are buying it and placing it on the grid. My former employer is usually quite conservative about what gets added to the grid, so I'm sure the politics for this must be amusing. I sincerely doubt the actual companies owning batteries are any of the city-owned utilities. 8)

It's not hard to imagine who is going to be printing his own money from this.

In hindsight, I can see how we got here. I left the industry in 2009. Back then we talked about adding a bit more capacity to hybrid cars so they could store some of the cheaply priced base supply when they were charged overnight... and then sell it back during the day through aggregation utilities. It was an idea being tried by PJM.

Today, though... there is Tesla. And Tesla's battery factory. And ubiquitous cell phones with their huge capacity batteries. I've got a lithium battery on the shelf sitting next to me right now that I could use to jump start my car. Cost me almost nothing because I won it in a Christmas raffle. It was a low-end prize. @#%@!

The world has changed in the last decade.
I think I'll go re-work my IRA/401K investment plans now.
I SOOOOO want in on this.

DP said...
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DP said...

I highly recommend Vaclav Smil's "Energy and Civilization"

Summary: The history of mankind's energy use has been one of ever increasing concentration of energy per unit of fuel (in terms of calorie per weight of fuel)

Fossil Fuels
Fission (we got side tracked)
Fusion (someday)

Renewables, which are inherently low density and dispersed (rough equivalent to the energy density of farming), are counter to the overall historical trend of ever more concentrated energy sources. This alone argues against their widespread adoption, not to mention that in real terms renewables will always remain more expensive (in terms of their EROEI) and less useful than fossil fuels.

Adopting renewables wholesale will save the planet from global warming but will also increase the real cost of energy (this is a conspiracy of physics, not of the oil companies), and causing a real drop in overall wealth and standards of living for everyone (not just oil sheikhs and oligarchs).

Barring any major breakthrough that allows us to leap frog to fusion, what we should be doing is maximizing fission energy sources (especially new developments like thorium and small modular reactors), utilizing off peak kWh to hydrolyze water to create a hydrogen fuel economy (whenever somebody compares fuel cell cars to EVs remember to include the massive cost of disposal for worn out li-ion batteries, fuel cells OTOH never wear out).

Renewables will remain useful as niche energy sources as determined by the individual purchasing decision of users (residential and commercial) - not by a nationally enforced program.

Jon S. said...

"So we can either be a great nation or a White nation. There is no third option."

Have more faith in Americans, Daniel. Of course there's a third option. We can cease to be a White nation, but still screw it all up.

I mean, yeah, there's no option where Whites stay the majority and we don't become a third-world country - hell, in Portland, OR, the supremacists are giving us a taste of their banana-republic wet dreams - but there are lots of ways to just completely blow the entire project...

Tim H. said...

Even if renewables are niche, I don't see it as unimportant, a small step in a good direction. At this time, higher density energy sources aren't seen as worth the risk in the United States, as much industry has been off-shored, for a variety of reasons. I suspect safe reliable nuclear fission power is possible, technically, but less than feasible politically. Thinking of the shuttle tether experiment and the long ago microwave power transmission experiments, it might be possible to beam power from the planet's magnetic field usefully, though a large scale device might need to wait until we could exploit building material we found off-planet. And have a thought about the long term expense of deferred maintenance, for instance, a pumped hydro facility in Missouri failed a few years ago, necessitating the restoration of Johnson's shut ins State park (Have a look if you're out that way, they did a great job!) and that was just water.

David Brin said...

TCB flywheels!. Compsite armor in case of the worst.

I have no fear of a population catastrophe. Women who choose to have more kids will start to dominate the population. Tapering toward 5 billion would save so much but still leave us with a vast technological/educated/creative base to build a solar system civilization.

There has always been a sustainable and low density energy source more important than any other... plants and agriculture and forests ans such. If houses and towns become self-sustaining with diffuse sources, and more local manufacture replaces vast fleets of freighters and tankers, then that frees up high density sources for industry and transportation.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

hell, in Portland, OR, the supremacists are giving us a taste of their banana-republic wet dreams

I was just thinking today that the response to this should be to get some ads onto local right-wing radio and tv and social media showing footage of the stormTrumpers arresting white people and make it seem like this is the deep-state, Obama-appointed federal guv'mint coming after them. Which would cause the Bundy types to show up armed and itching for a fight against federal troops.

I'm not sure who would win (or who to root for).

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I have no fear of a population catastrophe. Women who choose to have more kids will start to dominate the population. Tapering toward 5 billion would save so much but still leave us with a vast technological/educated/creative base to build a solar system civilization

Which achieves Thanos's objective without the murder and resentment.

(Of course, to the right-wingers, the murder and resentment is the whole point of the exercise)

DP said...
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Alfred Differ said...

It is an error to optimize energy production on a fuel density metric. We don't buy energy flows. We buy reliable energy flows. Since the environment is the primary cause of uncertainty, that makes this a multi-variable optimization problem with at least one stochastic variable. I'd bet more than one.

The real cost of energy for any new technology is always high to begin. After a generation passes and good engineers have had a crack at improving things, the real cost usually comes down. Fission designs haven't been allowed to iterate through the hands and minds of engineers, so we are a little stuck with that tech. That won't last forever, though. It really IS the high density option that should be included in a generation portfolio. [Besides... we need it for space travel. It's dark and cold out there among the asteroids.]

gregory byshenk said...

Regarding the population article (which I haven't studied), I think the global data may be of some value (bearing in mind the difficulty of modelling this sort of thing over the time scale involved), I am extremely skeptical of the individual country data. The problem here is that such modeling cannot take into account potential changes over such a time scale.

As an example, the study predicts that the population of Italy, Spain, and Portugal will plummet, presumably on the basis of birthrate. Yet in all three countries we see significant change in immigration over the last 30 years. All three experienced very low immigration prior to 1990, but since then immigration has increased significantly in all three. I see no reason to expect that this will change (but also cannot predict that it will not).

As another data point, a study commissioned by the Dutch parliament was just released, and it contains a range of predictions for population in 2050: from 18 million (only slightly more than today) to 22 million, depending on various different social and economic factors.

So, in order to predict what will happen in Italy (for example), one must attempt to predict whether Italy will continue with its immigration patterns of the 21st century, return to those of the 20th, or do something completely different. So one can model various different scenarios (as did the Dutch CBS), but a conclusion (even based on a good model) that "the result will be X" seems impossible to be well-founded.

Larry Hart said...

gregory byshenk:

I am extremely skeptical of the individual country data. The problem here is that such modeling cannot take into account potential changes over such a time scale.

Well, psychohistory isn't designed to work for individuals.

scidata said...

Re: psychohistory

Linear regression will be the death of us all. It's the way spreadsheet-oriented bureaucrats think. LR leads to models that are significantly revised weekly or even daily as the pandemic predictions have shown us. Nigh on useless. Way too much mathiness.

Think AI. Think Bayes. Read "Origin of Species". Or even "Foundation's Triumph".

duncan cairncross said...

Re- the women who want children will outbreed the rest

Two problems with that
(1) I suspect that is the type of thing that is effectively spread across several genes and as a result is only mildly inheritable
(2) - The big one - we invented Cultural Evolution about 70,000 years ago since then biological evolution has taken the back seat - it's just so damn slow! - about a million times slower
AND with our current knowledge we are just about to start using "Intelligent Design" - which will effectively supplant Darwinian Evolution

Daniel Duffy
Renewables today have an EROEI Energy Return on Energy Invested that is far GREATER than fossil fuels
Solar has a total cost repayment of about 30:1 - that is the energy produced is greater than the cost of the energy used + cost of the materials + cost of the labour
and wind is about 60:1
The best of the fossil fuels used to be about 30:1 - but there is not much of that left and some of today's fossil fuels are getting down towards ONE!

As far as demographics are concerned the big change is a reduction in the number of kids - the number of productive adults (15 to 75) does not change

AND progress does NOT NOT NOT come from numbers of people - it comes from engineers and the like continuing to work out how to do MORE with LESS

Batteries - as in EV batteries
In a few years there will be millions of EV's - all with a range several times the expected daily use - so with Grid to Grid technology each will earn its owner a bit of cash by acting as an energy store
ASSUMING that all charges/discharges are equal in consuming battery life
If a vehicle has a battery life of 300,000 miles as Teslas appear to have - then using that surplus capacity will eat the vehicle's battery life

Which is where I believe Musk's "Million Mile Batteries" will come in
With a battery with such a long life an owner will be able to sell a lot of that life to the grid and still have a battery that will outlast 99% of cars


Larry Hart said...

It would be the world's longest bumper sticker, but here's the one I want wrapped around to my fenders:

You don't have to tell me All Lives Matter. I already know that. I DO have to tell you Black Lives Matter. Because you don't believe it.

Larry Hart said...

For better or worse, the stormTrumpers in Portland are not being ignored by the news media any longer...

According to recent reports from Oregon Public Broadcasting and other outlets, federal agents dressed in fatigues have been patrolling the city in unmarked vans, grabbing and detaining protesters, often with no indication of whether they’ve been charged with any crime. “This is an attack on our democracy,” Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, said.

PORTLAND, ORE. — Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, Oregon, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.

Larry Hart said...

From memory, but I'm pretty sure this is the gist of a quote from Star Trek TNG:

"There comes a point in every father's life when he looks into his little girl's eyes and realizes...he must change the world for her."

Larry Hart said...

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany set off the new round of vitriol with the Chicago Democrat at her news briefing earlier in the day. McEnany called Lightfoot “the derelict mayor of Chicago” and accused her of not doing enough to resolve the city’s gun violence.

I'm confused. Democrats are allowed to do something about the Second Amendment rights of gun-owners?

The war of words between the White House and Chicago City Hall continued as Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a Thursday tweet called President Donald Trump’s press secretary a “Karen” and told her to watch her mouth.


"There are parts of Chicago that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."

David Brin said...

"Karen" isn't nice to a million nice ladies named Karen.

But there's likely only one Ivanka.

And why is no one making anything of the "Ivan" part?

David Brin said...



duncan cairncross said...

Onward - but no new post?

Larry Hart said...

onward to...?

(If you published a new post, I'm not seeing it, even with multiple browser refreshes. Just sayin')

Robert said...

Democrats are allowed to do something about the Second Amendment rights of gun-owners?

Your Second Amendment only applies to white folks. De facto if not de jure.

David Brin said...

onward now!

Tera said...

"So we can either be a great nation or a White nation. There is no third option."