Friday, February 19, 2021

Quasars, supermassive black holes... and Perseverance(!) and more!

Still riding a high from watching Perseverance land on Mars! (Aren't you?)  Okay, Curiosity might have just been a miracle. But this is something far, far better. Repeatable competence!  Putting again into stark contrast those propagandists (and their moron followers) who spread reflexive hate toward all the skilled professions -- the folks who know stuff, or know how to do stuff. 

No, it's not zero sum. Boffins who can do these things or who know a lot haven't paid for it by sacrificing realness, or common sense, or wisdom... or even art or necessarily faith. On average they are more wise about other things, as well. That's how it works. And the wise among us know it.

So how about now let's share even more examples of how skilled folks are opening to our caveman-dazzled eyes ever more wonders of a fantastic universe! And shedding light upon the wonder that is ourselves. Starting with...

== Put this in perspective, hm? ==

Hot news about where and when we are! Earth just got 7 km/s faster and about 2000 light-years closer to the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, according to a better model of the Milky Way Galaxy based on new observation data, including a catalog of objects observed over the course of more than 15 years by the Japanese radio astronomy project VERA.   

The new map suggests that the center of the Galaxy, and the supermassive black hole which resides there, is located 25800 light-years from Earth. This is closer than the official value of 27700 light-years adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985. The velocity component of the map indicates that Earth is traveling at 227 km/s as it orbits around the Galactic Center. This is faster than the official value of 220 km/s. So… not quite as far into the boonies as we thought.

Recently discovered, that the farthest known quasar -  about 13.03 billion light-years from Earth can be dated back to just 670 million years after the Big Bang (the universe at this time was a mere 5% of its current age), making it the most distant and earliest quasar ever found. This quasar also hosts a giga-supermassive black hole that has a mass equal to 1.6 billion of our suns. It produced a wind of super-heated gas flowing from around the galaxy's supermassive black hole, with this gas traveling at one fifth the speed of light. Fascinating. Beyond its intrinsic interest, including wonder over how a black hole could get so incredibly massive, so fast, there’s the fact that remnant giga-black holes left over from that era may be near us, now quiescent since the epoch we reside in is – naturally – much older. 

Oh, but let's take that thought farther! If some astronomers have recently observed supermassive Black Holes, others have proposed that a few might measure up to a QUINTILLION solar masses. Um... gulp?

SLABS would be  "Stupendously LArge Black holeS". “at the heart of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*, at 4 million solar masses, and the most photogenic SMBH in the Universe, M87*, at 6.5 billion solar masses. The chonkiest black holes we've detected are ultramassive, more than 10 billion (but less than 100 billion) solar masses. These include an absolute beast clocking in at 40 billion solar masses in the centre of a galaxy named Holmberg 15A.” Based on the primordial black hole model, the team calculated exactly how stupendously large these black holes could be, between 100 billion and 1 quintillion (that's 18 zeroes) solar masses.

Okay do I get predictive cred here? Again, while some astronomers are speculating humungous black holes somewhere in the cosmos that are vastly, vastly bigger than the biggest at the cores of galaxies... see my short story “Bubbles.”

== More mundane? Just... galaxies...==

Scientists Say There Are Likely Fewer Galaxies in Space Than They Previously Thought . While NASA previously determined that there were around two trillion galaxies in the universe, new findings say the number is more likely hundreds of billions. 

More modest densities in the news. Astronomers have found the spectra of calcium and other metals at the surfaces of some white dwarf stellar remnants in the same rations as continental crust, suggesting that these thin coatings came from former planets...a concept you can find eerily similar to a plot element in Heaven’s Reach.

TESS is taking up where Kepler left off, and wonders continue!  “Using observations from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an international team of astronomers has discovered a trio of hot worlds larger than Earth orbiting a much younger version of our Sun called TOI 451. The system resides in the recently discovered Pisces-Eridanus stream, a collection of stars less than 3% the age of our solar system that stretches across one-third of the sky.” Actually, this article offers FIVE  ways this system is really interesting. 

== A new era for visual astronomy? ==

It’s a bit abstract and complicated… but a recent discovery using the fastest ever atomic clocks and the newly coined time measure – a Zeptosecond (sounds like a Marx Brother!) – enabled researchers to prove that “the electron shell in a molecule does not react to light everywhere at the same time. The time delay (247 zs = 2.47e-18 s --GDN) occurs because information within the molecule only spreads at the speed of light.”  This means that the phased arrival of visible light rays can be measured , the way radio astronomers have long done it with long radio waves, letting them do Very Long Baseline Interferometry.

My very first job as a Caltech undergraduate, the summer of 1969, was as assistant to Professor Marshall Cohen, hauling and setting up big ol’ reels of computer tape for VLBI post-analysis, using the recorded phase timings at dishes widely separated across the planet to do interferometry… turning those far-apart radio telescopes into essentially one instrument, able to parse sky-angles of incredibly small width, distinguishing objects both small and very far away. This new discovery might – perhaps – let us do this with much shorter wavelengths of visible light, possibly with baselines that span the inner solar system!

“While the Goethe work is technologically still far from an operational interferometer wavefront time-tagging capability, this seems about 100 million times better than would be needed for the optical wavelength Event Horizon Telescope that recently gave us the first image of an active black hole!” The article also speculates that aliens might be able to see us from a distance better than we thought possible.

I have to wonder how this might augment or replace the notion that I wrote about in EXISTENCE… and that we’re now funding at NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC)… to send missions to the solar gravitational lens distance (starting at 550AU), where the sun’s gravity focuses convoluted images from very far away. Fascinating…

…especially since it suggests advanced aliens might have excellent images of past eras of Earth that they might share with us, solving many mysteries. And we might start collecting such libraries, too.


Uncle Levi said...

Exciting to be living today!
Thanks for condensing the evidence that we are future people.

Send this post to a friend who is depressive. It'll cheer them up.

frabjoustheelder said...

Ok, I've often wondered but never asked: What is the maximum possible resolution from light years away? I've wondered about this both optically and for gravity waves.

(I'm still buzzing about Percy landing safely)

Alfred Differ said...


Heh. Astor certainly was ambitious. Claiming the west coast of North America back when we couldn't even defend DC from the British. Heh.

His story helps make my point, though. His claim was largely about establishing a fur monopoly. Since the British also showed up in the region, one could be reasonably certain of access to markets without having to ship furs across land to NY? Maybe? He had a fort built and all that, right? Then… a little later… his interests there were sold off to his Canadian competitors.

I could quibble about it being a US colony. I don't think of it as such anymore than any other fur station was for the British or French. Economic base? Sure. Those count in important ways, but not as colonies. They are more like factories. Maybe it's just word choice, but a settlement that is going to last brought farmers. Lots of them. Oregon did eventually, but later. Mostly in wagons into the Willamette River region. Lovely valley.

Still… the timing. 'Americans' were trickling across the Appalachians into the back country before the revolution. North and South. The back country was being settled. That made a huge difference during the revolution because it was our version of what the Russians do when invaded from the west. The Russians can retreat toward the Urals. We could retreat from the British into the Appalachians. Hugely geopolitically important. Without earlier settlements, the revolutionaries would have been retreating into hostile regions with little local support.

I'll give you a 'fur trader' analogy for space economic exploitation. They WILL jump out to wherever it makes sense. The probably won't bring along a settling force, though. Expensive. Set up a fort? Sure. Set up a K-12 education system? Nah.

It WILL be people like Astor voicing early wild claims that attract historical attention, though. Definitely.

Alfred Differ said...

I watched the usual JPL scene a few hours late on a youtube channel doing replays interspersed with flight animations made before the landing. One of them had the usual chat panel running along the side with typical gibberish offered by people watching the video. When I ignored the trolls and provocateurs, though, I found an interesting trend. As the hours went by, people of different time zones around the world piled in, asked their confusing questions, and worked out what was going on. What was neat was how some of them reacted to the diverse faces behind those JPL consoles. They didn't see a bunch of white Americans. They mostly knew they WERE Americans, but they weren't all white stereotypical Americans. Some of the viewers 'claimed' them in terms of heritage. It was especially obvious with the engineer who relayed a lot of the last few minutes info in a hushed voice. SHE got noticed much like the fellow with the blue mohawk a while back.

The world isn't just watching us explore space. Some of the viewers from India were imagining it could be them. For some… It WOULD be them… and they verbalized it. Forcefully.

I get quite a kick out of space exploration, but I'm liking how this century is shaping up even more for how it is making it all more broadly applicable to the world.

David Brin said...

Yes Alfred. While Putin's crew have steadily tried to demolish America's moral high ground... and fellows like Jim express utter loathing of that very notion... scenes like that one at JPL fight back overwhelmingly.

Re Oregon etc... don't forget the Russians, who claimed everything down to just short of SF bay!

frabjous, resoltion depends upon the size and light collecting power of your aperture. Advanced societies might make antennas the size of Connecticut. But read EXISTENCE for how to get a REALLY big telescope going.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin: Thanks for the interesting astronomy stuff.

Black holes (of various sizes):
Here's a thought- (probably already used elsewhere):
*K2 civs convert (or use) IM(and larger mass)BH to (as) traversable wormholes (less tidal stress) and industrial parks.

"Caveman-dazzled eyes"- clever metaphor. What does it mean?

"...reels of computer tape"- What're those?

"The new map suggests that the center of the Galaxy, and the supermassive black hole which resides there, is located 25800 light-years from Earth.
This is closer than the official value of 27700 light-years adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985."-
One could interpret this as the Solar System is approaching Sag A at Warp 3.75, but I wouldn't expect that to be accurate.

Happy Weekend to One and All,


*BTW, has anyone ever tried to figure out what K-level Foundation's Galactic Empire is? I'm guesstimating K1.6-1.8. Also, what about OGH's "5 Gals"? We know they're not K3...

Keith Halperin said...

@Everybody: Re: Early Oregon:
Very fine recent movie about it- "First Cow"

Re: *Percy the Rover coverage:
Going forward, maybe NASA should handle it like PBS and use it as a fundraiser with OGH and NGT providing commentary.

Re: big 'scopes:
IMSM, Charles Sheffield OBM mentioned a "Distributed Telescope Array" with oodles of 'scopes throughout the Solar System, where you could see Luna-sized objects in the Virgo Cluster. (Not quite that, but he talked about something like that here:
What resolution would that require?

*Sounds like the title of a folktale or a fantasy novel.

Der Oger said...

"While Putin's crew have steadily tried to demolish America's moral high ground..."

No, doctor. He certainly took advantage of America and helped to exazerbate things, but he isn't personally responsible for the Invasion of Iraq*, Guantanamo and the "War on Terror", the Banking Crisis, capital punishment and the unequal criminal justice system/industry, lack of social security and corporate media propaganda, and the current energy problems in Texas (which contrast Perseverance nicely, I think). And that is just the last 20 years.

The US managed to demolished their "moral high ground" all on their own.

*One of the reasons of the divisiveness we suffer in Europe today goes back to the Bush administration ... "Old" and "New" Europe and the total chaos created in the Middle East...

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Don't forget the time factor! Light collecting power increases with exposure as well as with cross-sectional area of aperture, as long as you can maintain tracking and station-keeping that keeps the target's apparent angular motion below the intended resolution.

Easy to do for targets billions of light-years away -- that's how the Hubble Deep Fields were done, stating at precisely the same spot for weeks or months. Trying to do the same for a rotating, revolving planet, in a distant star system with its own proper motion relative to Sol... 'tis a larger challenge, 'tis, 'tis. But not impossible, just a LOT of work. Our seedships to colonize other systems may well start with maps of their target worlds before they ever pass the Kuiper Belt.

On Oregon and Alaska: that's why Alaska has that tail down the coastline; it was the forward edge of actual infrastructure in "Russian America" prior to Seward's Deal of the Century (fka Folly). Meanwhile, the Anglo-American codominium of the Oregon Country was designed to forestall the Russian advance long enough for the British and Americans to put down their stakes.

The British placed their own stake at Drake's Bay, Point Reyes, Marin County, CA waaaaay back in 1572. That's the reason (which confused me in grade school) that all British colonial charters extended west to the Pacific coast: the British claim theory was that Drake's landing placed an English flag for the entire Pacific coast north of New Spain, which would have then included everything from the Aleutians to Baja.

The British claim was pure vaporware for centuries, and by the 19th century there was grudging recognition that at least some of the claim to the Pacific was inherited by the rebellious colonies dba "The United States of America". Spanish California's construction pushed "north of New Spain" up next to Drake's Bay, and the Russians were building south. Be darned if the British were going to give that claim up entirely, though. Hence the Oregon Country deal, placing a marker down on the territories eventually divvied up to become Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

Astor was just following in a looooooong tradition of making claims far in advance of the actual ability to do anything at all. That experience eventually led to the Antarctic and Outer Space Treaties, in which you have to actually have hardware in place to make any claims at all -- and those claims extend only to what you can actually do, not to "territory" at all.

David Brin said...

Warp 3.7 to Sag A? Yipe! That IS one way to interpret the result!

Double Yipe, are people out there already calling the Mars bot "Percy the Rover"?

Der Oger your list isn't identical to mine but yes, Bushes made dumb wars and goppers stopped B.O from closing Guantanamo... and much else... and still we aren't hated (much) It shows how deeply many out there know the fundamentals. That Pax Americana has been the best time for humanity, by far, despite all that. And that all other nations tempted by great power used it far worse. And we're still the sourse of most of the good ideas. ANd, um 'diverse" stars, leaders and um presidents?

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin: Re: "Percy, the Rover":
Our esteemed colleague frabjoustheelder called it "Percy" and I took it from there. If there's a free-floating silly meme be-bopping around in E-level hyperspace, it'll attach itself to me, e.g. Proxima b = "Peanut Butter".
An earlier example: if anyone around here remembers "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda" from the early 'Oughts, the ship itself was called "Andromeda Ascendant" but I came up with the nickname (apologies to Lexa Doig) of "Andi's Ass"...

But back to Perseverance, our Quaker go-bot:
Wouldn't "Percy, the Martian Rover" be a good title for a young children's book in the spirit of "Thomas the Tank Engine," "The Little Engine that Could," and maybe "The Runaway Robot"? Or, maybe a mecha anime series? Also, has anybody mentioned the "merch" opportunities: t-shirts, hoodies, caps, mugs, water bottles, magnets, mouse pads, toys (big and small)? Finally, there are the less "family-friendly" possibilities: "Oh Percy! You can sample my regolith ANYTIME!" (Think I'll stop now...)

scidata said...

All this spectacular technological progress could be lost if there's a catastrophe or even a simple collapse of the global supply chain. I'm no Collapsenik, but I've read FOUNDATION enough times to grasp the premise. This is a hidden value in "Why Johnny Can't Code" and my own Forth advocacy. A stable 'floor' to such a collapse could be established with a widespread adoption of my tagline "computation from first principles". Johnny should most definitely be able to code, in addition to tying his own shoelaces and the ability to boil water. I penned a shorter but like-minded story about Forth some years ago, with Arkady instead of Johnny.

I watched Dr. Brin's recent Google video and greatly enjoyed the face-palms. I must say, asking Google/Apple/etc to create a universal, embedded, tiny BASIC is like asking Rube Goldberg to come up with a Minimum Viable Product. Wrong bark, wrong tree, wrong orchard.

Der Oger said...

Re : Perseverance:
Just thought that if Mars ever is settled by humanity and develops an own culture, we'll have a lot of childs christened "Perseverance" or "Curiosity", and perhaps a few named Elon.
Also, what if we start to colonize Mars with AI driven drones and bots ... only to discover that they form an independent collective that decides they own the planet now.

Re: Pax Americana:
While I would agree with you, Doctor, that the US are one of the most beneficial empires ever having risen on Earth, the point is, most people would prefer some form of sovereignty and freedom of their country. Like, having no tumor is preferable to having a tumor that is benign and will not kill you. I have no illusions that we, the humanity, are anywhere near this point that we don't need an empire to protect us from other empires and bullies, but shouldn't we start to dream of a society that makes empires unnecessary and perhaps impossible?

One important step in that direction are multilateral treaties and reciprocal accountability, in many areas. International Criminal Court, anyone?

And then there is the question, if it is an "American" Empire anymore - as in, for the people, by the people, or if multinational corporations like Amazon, Black Rock and Facebook are becoming the true rulers and tour western governments are just there to protect shareholder value. (I sometimes think that cyberpunk has become more and more a contemporary genre, that some of the predictions of the eighties and nineties have become true.)

David Brin said...

Good questions Der Oger. Only what transition would you expect to get to that better world? Had the Great Powers listened to Wilson in 1919, the Nazis would never have happened. The world order imposed after 45 was deeply flawed... except compared to any other across all of time.

matthew said...

Kieth, thanks for the "First Cow" suggestion. I watched the trailer and I'm stoked to add it to my watchlist, near the top. Looks great.

Alfred Differ said...

Catfish 'n Cod makes the point I struggled to articulate. The early Oregon claims were really about national interests. They aren't much related to my concerns about colonization and settlement by large numbers of human beings. This started as a discussion of 'The Expanse' and some of their oddities in the story foundations. A few billion humans in space IS fundamentally different from Astor's claim in Oregon let alone Drakes' at Point Reyes.

All claims can be vaporware up until a large number of people show up to work a claim. In Oregon, that happened with wagons full of Americans streaming into the Willamette River valley. Whatever the deal was between the British and American governments before that, the arrive of huge numbers of settlers changed the reality on the ground. Polk's deal with the British simply resolved that dissonance. His war with Mexico created another that was obviously going to happen anyway because Americans were pouring into Alta California too before 1849. Our rebellion and short-lived Bear Republic is the evidence of American numbers in the region.

Wagon travel into Oregon was stunningly dangerous in terms of disease and accident risks. Stunning by today's standards anyway, but apparently worth it if you survived. That won't happen quickly for belt asteroids. Tech on Earth will advance FAR faster than we imagine, though. People doing things analogous to fur trading WILL go outward sooner rather than later, but colonization will occur when millions can go.

Ask yourselves what conditions did NOT exist in Oregon near the mouth of the Columbia in 1811 that DID exist along the Willamette 25 years later. Think hard on it and I think you'll find it had nothing to do with Oregon. It had to do with what was happening along the Ohio River and down stream along the Mississippi. Those places used to be far frontier, but they rapidly became near frontier and then 'incorporated'. This was especially true along the Ohio and shores of the Great Lakes. The North was filling… and then spilling. In that context, Polk's war with Mexico makes sense as a means to ensure the South had somewhere to spill too, though they didn't have the population to do it as much.

Remember, though, that the belt asteroids don't fill from spill unless we move A LOT of people. Birth won't give you 2 billion out there in 200 years even with peak reproduction levels (~2%/year) unless you move 40 million out there, convince women to keep up a high birth rate for TWO CENTURIES, and keep their babies alive. Strangeness happens when those babies survive, though. Women choose not to have so many. That's not consistent with a slave culture out there.

Then there is the phosphorus problem. Heh. Where is it out there? You'll need a lot of it if you want billions of humans producing live babies. Bring it from Earth you say? Ha! No doubt Terran residents will have something to say about that.

Alfred Differ said...

There is a Twitter account for Percy started last July with about 56K followers. It's not the official rover account that has a little over 2M followers, but people are obviously having some fun with it.

The 'copter account is Ginny.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

You raise an interesting point regarding tumors, so let's personalize this a bit. What exactly does the US do that potentially harms your nation? You don't have to write them down here, but try it as an exercise before reading what I offer below. Be specific.

From where I sit, the one single thing we consistently do that impacts your nation is be unwilling to have you conquer the people around you and/or form a hegemony* with the peoples along the northern plains of Europe… basically from Brest to the Urals east of Moscow. The ONE consistent foreign policy from the US with respect to you and your neighbors is to prevent that at all costs. Literally. ALL COSTS.

Everything else is fluff.

We want you in world markets and will bend a lot of rules to ensure it. We'll even get pushy and demand that you participate in them, though that hasn't been necessary. Annoy the Greeks all you want, but we need you all in world markets. NEED.

How we go about this is, of course, a combination of craft, luck, bumbling error, and barbarism.

Is that the behavior of a tumor? I don't think so. It's more like the behavior of a child who knows just enough to be dangerous.

* [The EU isn't a hegemony. You all are way to fractured by national budgets. That IS what we want in terms of US geopolitical interests. No hegemony in Europe to compete with us.]

David Brin said...

What Alfred said... in both cases.

Bill Clinton gets no cred for the most successful "war" in US history. In the Balkans. Following DEMOCRAT doctrine... lots of surgical strikes to achieve outcomes swiftly. And the result? Europe's first peace in 4000 years. Later? It's not even listed among our 'wars.'

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Clinton's Balkan war is a wonderful example of craft, luck, bumbling error, and barbarism.

It's the kind of fight we imagined we could accomplish in Vietnam where we; got our asses kicked by locals FAR more dedicated to winning than we were, got smacked hard at night when we couldn't see the enemy who knew their terrain, and lacked the information needed to know the ground truth.

It's the only kind of fight we could have fought against the Soviets on land because the US is really a sea power. Land wars in Asia are utter stupidity for us, yet we fight them and pay enormous costs to win through force multipliers.

It's the moral fight Clinton later wished we could have fought in Rwanda where we lack strategic interests to drive involvement.

Bush Sr's Gulf war demonstrated that we had defeated the night. We kinda knew it before, but not by a clear win in front of the public eye. No night blindness and very little fog of war on our side. Our grasp on ground truth was still a little weak, though? Maybe? Our planners expected more of a fight.

Clinton's Kosovo fight tied the pieces together so well no one on our side died in combat. Just two when you count non-combat actions. Two aircraft shot down and three damaged. No military planner in any nation on Earth could fail to understand that message. It even had the moral imperative associated with the abuse and displacement of over 1M Kosovo Albanians. [chef's kiss]

As with all Balkan conflicts, they are historically messy. NATO acted, but there were unintended consequences. Lots of them good and bad depending upon with which ethnic group you identify. From a US perspective, though, we got precisely what we needed. The appearance of saving refugees, division of power blocs maintained, demonstration of our NATO role, AND a proving ground for our hard power.

Not a tumor. Just a barbaric/idealistic youngster flexing his muscle.

Alfred Differ said...

At the risk of blah-blah'ing too much tonight, I want to describe a fundamental problem for colonizing the solar system. This is a science thread though... so I don't feel too bad about it. 8)

If you imagine a future where the asteroids and planets are heavily populated (meaning more people out there than on Earth), you should consider resource constraints.

"Life as we know it" relies upon biochemical processes that we are still learning, but we know the basic sketches. At the root of it all are six commonly used atoms and then a variety of others used more rarely.


Five of those six aren't hard to find out there on planets and planetesimals. The sixth is a little more difficult and plays a terribly important role in DNA. Where is the phosphorus?

The nature of the problem is simple. If we don't find lots of it out there, there will BE no "Life as we know it" out there, let alone lots more of it than on Earth.

On Earth most of our phosphorus probably sank inwards long ago. However, Earth is pretty good at concentrating whats left near the top of the crust in ways that help life get at it. Did Mars? Did Ceres?

If you want to help "Life as we know it" colonize our solar system, think less about cows and computers and more about finding phosphorus and then refinement methods for when we do. If you can do that you'll prove why platinum asteroids won't be the most valuable things out there.

For an encore, consider some of the other things we need in tiny quantities and where we'll find that stuff too.

Der Oger said...

a short list of things that could be seen as harmful:

1) Climate change. Yes, the US reentered the Paris accords, yes, Biden wants a green new deal, and we Europeans are advancing to slowly or play hypocritical word games. But denialism runs strong through your politics, and it endangers us all. The next US President might leave the accords again, and then we are where we started.
2) Industrial espionage. While China may be the undisputed champion in this discipline, the US are a close second. (But to be honest, I believe we are at least in the top ten.)
3)In Middle East politics, almost everything. Except for building schools for Afghan girls.
4) Partial loss of national souvereignity when it comes to US operations conducted from our soil, especially those that constitute illegal acts or would otherwise force our federal government to act. In other words: If you commit war crimes, we are forced to assist you in it and look the other way. (The Federal Administrative Court just saved the Government from having to do anything about Ramstein Air Base and the Drone strikes coordinated there.)
5) The ongoing attacks on our socio-economic system, our special form of capitalism. Demanding the "cutting of red tape", privatizing public property, socializing lost gambles at the financial markets, fighting co-determination rights, union and works council busting, low wages in various sectors, cutting down social security. Always pointing at the US how successful anything runs ... well, until it didn't anymore.
6) Glad you said that fracturing the EU was part of the US foreign policy. The European narrative is: It was this groundwork of treaties that kept most of (western) Europe out of war for 75 years now. And I don't believe that fractured budgets are the problem; the failing of the treaty of Lisbon and the need for an unanimous vote for any major action is.

"Annoy the Greeks all you want..."
Well, guess who gave them credits to buy all this shiny warships and telecommunication services, and could, prior to 2000, use bribery money paid to Greek politicians in foreign countries to reduce taxes over here ... any German conservative and libertarian politician who "annoyed" the Greek was more than a bit hypocritical.

Jugoslavia: Well, there ARE allegations that the CIA actively helped Croatia and Slovenia to break away from the Federation.

That said, I found the reaction of the then (Conservative/Libertarian) German government despicable: Doing nothing about the war and genocide happening, and instead changing the Basic Laws Right of Asylum provision (that hurt us today with integrating newcomers into the economy.) We, and the rest of Europe, failed in these days.

scidata said...

Some interesting stuff that mentions Cohen's VLBI team at Caltech:

The 'VLBI Race' between the US and Canada is heady lore still in Canadian astronomical circles. Somewhat reminiscent of the interceptor (Avro Arrow) race in the preceding decade. Friendly competition between allies is a powerful force for innovation.

matthew said...

Alfred, you have Oregon history wrong in your comments.

When the first wagon train arrived in Oregon overland in 1841, there were *thousands* of Americans (and a bunch of Canadians) here that had arrived by ship. I grew up with the Barlow Trail literally in my backyard. I grew up in a fruit orchard that was planted *before* the first wagon got here. The Barlow Trail ended at the edge of the orchard - because the overland folks ran into the established American settlers.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Matthew: Re: "First Cow":
You're very welcome. It's not your usual Hollywood adventure story.

@ Everyone: Re: Movies and TV:
I like video and am a lazy person, so I use a couple of preference algorithms to help me find new things to watch:
1) Metacritic:
It aggregates and calculates what critics say. I use it for movies and TV, though not for music (except to find out what's new by the pop/rock/country musicians I like. Rotten Tomatoes ( fine too, I just prefer Metacritic.
2) Movielens ( This helps you figure out what to watch based on what you've indicated you already like, similar to the Amazon's book-picker. It's not perfect by any means, but after 1,369 reviews, it's usually right for me and rarely off by more than half a star (1-5 star scale).

@ Everybody: Re: Lots of people in space:
2G spacers in 2200 (The Expanse Time)? Don't think so. Here's why:

@ Der Oger: Re Amrican Foreign Policy:
I didn't know the U.S. Government was attacking the German model of market economy, which to my perception is/was a better model for running an advanced economy than the Anglo-American version (, and was instituted post-WW II by American New Dealers and implemented and maintained by conservative Christian Democratic governments as well as by the Social Democrats.

@Everybody: I previously tried posting something, which didn't go through. I'm going to try posting it again right after this...

Keith Halperin said...

Retried Posting:

@ Everybody: Re: Asteroid mining:,
(also the other papers).
From I can tell, these experts indicate that due to non-transport-cost, Earth-based factors (like commodity price volatility and market concentration) space-based metals won't be economical to mine until such time as we're able to bring back multi-kT rocks to process. HOWEVER, the earliest economical use of asteroid mining may be carbonaceous chondrites for volatiles to be used in space (

@ Alfred: Re: Slave underclass:
A slave underclass makes no economic sense when...1. devices can do similar tasks AFFORDABLY.
You have little incentive to use devices if labor is cheap/plentiful/docile and technology is expensive/scarce/unreliable.

Re: EML2:
I agree. I believe that perhaps the best "space plan" would be to go after the 4,700 ± 1,500 PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids), drag 'em back to the L2 Industrial Park & Space Truck Stop ( and make useful shit out of whatever we can...

@Duncan C, Der Oger, Jon S: Re: negative effects of mining:
Indeed. It may have been discussed elsewhere, but I've seen little mention of the “Resource Curse” ( as applied to possible space mining. Or study of this indicates that (as above) the volatility in commodity prices, rather than abundance per se, that drives the resource curse paradox. As an example, in one of the papers Dahl mentioned that South Africa is a major producer of Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) and is in a position to drop the commodity price below which it's economical to mine in space. As mentioned above, it looks like space metal-mining investors will need to be prepared to take ongoing losses until such time as we can bring back multi-ktonne rocks back to be processed.

@ Catfish'n 'Cod (may I refer to you as “CnC) Re: Why build stuff with flimsy cheap materials when excellent materials have become equally cheap? Goodbye trash-pine prefab housing, hello titanium-steel prefab housing with gold wiring!
What space-to-ground building materials do you believe will be so profitable and so cheap to use that they'll replace earth-based ones? Also, assuming we come through the Slowpocalypse fairly well, by the time we're likely to have a major space-based industry (see above) we'll likely have genegineered bamboo perhaps growing with internal carbon nanotube bracing. Finally, according to one of the Dahl papers, gold isn't that abundant in asteroids.
Re: Not diminishing the socioeconomic upheaval factor here -- could be quite rough -- but it's not going to...
When you have millions of (mainly) young men, not destitute or destroyed but with few prospects who are really unsuited, untrainable, or otherwise unhireable for the new jobs, you end up getting a very rough situation indeed. My solution: an ongoing public works project with jobs for anyone who wants one with a living wage and benefits (perhaps with a UBI component) to upgrade the infrastructure, build lots of infill housing, have a teacher's aid for every classroom (where needed), develop energy conservation, convert to as sustainable an energy mix as is possible, and restore the American biosphere (a la “Plant a Trillion Trees” from Earth, IMSM). The latter will likely take us until Expanse Time... It may have been covered in the books or elsewhere, but how does the UN keep massive uprisings/riots from occurring all the time in "The Expanse"?
Re: VERY crude (psychohistory) right now.
Yes, but in 2016- it worked (and it will continue to improve, for good and for ill)!

matthew said...

Let me draw the Oregon territory settlement / space settlement economic simile a little further.

Let's look at mass flow of tools / goods to and from the Pacific Northwest in the early-mid 1800s.

The first mass flow was by sea. Around the horn, and mostly consisted of planting a flag and claiming land. The Russians, English, Americans, and Canadians all did this. Not much mass flow to the west and very little mass flow path back east.

The second mass flow was by canoe, overland. Guns, trade beads, needles came west via canoe and furs / maps flowed back to the east. This was the era of the voyager, dominated by the French-Canadians and Americans. Trade limited to what could be carried on a canoe.

The third mass flow was again by sea and overlapped the second. This was the time of tree seedlings, grinding wheels, wool blankets, and the guts of steamships (sent from England!) sent around the Horn, that were assembled in situ at Fort Vancouver. There was a steam sternwheeler on the Columbia River in 1841, right at the same time that the first wagons went west over the Oregon Trail. Long lead times, and the return mass was blocks of compressed furs, used to fuel a fashion trend in London and Paris. John McLaughlin had an entire library sent to him around the Horn and paid it back with beaver pelts. Paying customers took a year to travel the long route to settle. Investments had to pay back to the shipping headquarters in the eastern US and Canada.

Finally, the wagon trains took the direct route west. They carried a much smaller load (~1 ton) as compared to the sea route but had the efficiency of a five month as compared to a year-long sea voyage, and they were an economical trip. Mostly carried planting seed, fruit starts, and hard steel / iron goods. The classic "homesteader" mode of economic transport. They were not concerned with a return flow of mass / trade goods, but were interested in building trade at the end of the journey, not selling goods back to the east.

Now to space - the first mass-information flow is the claim of land and information about the destination.
The second wave is high-value tools and precious resource in trade back.
The third wave is brute-force, high-mass, slow route, with the payment back at the headquarters.
The fourth wave is back to small mass but with the payoff in terms of trade *at the destination*, primarily. Oregon had become its own economy, rather than an offshoot of the eastern economy.

David Brin said...

Interesting Matthew.

Alfred Differ said...


Thank you. I'll update my Oregon history file now. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

That's a good list. I can't defend some of the things you've included with the obvious one being climate change. The best I can offer is our denialism isn't aimed at you. It's more about our unwillingness to think deep about it. Some who do, though, draw different conclusions than your nation is taking. Nuclear power likely WILL be needed whether we like it or not. Mostly, though, a lot of us aren't thinking deep about it.

As for Middle East politics, though, I'm going to toss that out. We can reasonably disagree on what should be done over there without it harming either one of us. We can also change opinions based on current events or persuasive arguments without harming each other. Our older dumb policy wrt Yemen (for example) doesn't harm you.

Industrial Espionage… hmm. Yah. Everyone does that. One of the things I was warned about by one of my potential intelligence customers was to keep my mouth shut regarding innovations even around allies. None of our treaties forbids any of us from pursuing national economic interests even if they are covered by patent agreements. If we are #2 at this, it's because we have a lot of money to do it. Defense turns out to be pretty straight forward, though. Keep innovating faster than your adversaries can steal things AND keep your mouth shut. [I accept that this is an attack, but it isn't personally aimed at your people. It's one of the ways in which we all are choosing not to play the positive sum game.]

As for the EU, you misunderstood me. We aren't interested in fracturing the EU. It already is. By design. We needed France and Germany to stop warring on each other, but not get so friendly that you all team up as a single power bloc. Same goes for alliances with Russia. Friendly market participants? Sure. Much more than that? No.

The reason I point at Greece is they are a tiny economy that can't absorb what you all have to offer without massive debt they can't possibly repay. That's your problem, though. We don't need to get involved. Besides, we have no moral high ground from which to preach. It's not like we don't do it too in other nations.

Finally, we aren't really attacking your flavor of capitalism. Not at a national level. Most of us are mostly fine with what you do. Some aren't and they try to puff themselves up to seem larger than they are. Don't mistake them for all of us, though. Just take them to Court. Make it expensive for them.

If the military bases bother you, kick us out. Many over here wouldn't mind. Besides, they should be located further east for the next war.

David Brin said...

I am amazed that Draghi steered the EU on a course that saved the Euro. He has huge cred.
It is pure paranoid drivel to think mainstream fact-caste USAans want to break up the EU.

You'll understand American better when you realize that subtracting our endlessly ravng confederate side... you are left with a slim majority who are as modernist and reasonable as ANY Europ or other population. What I won't accept is overmuch finger-wagging toward an "empire" that gave the world an umbrella of safety leading to the greatest era of peace and progress and advancement for women and children that the world ever saw.

Nostra culpum, we coulda done way better. Now show me any human who ever did more for the world than George Marshall.

duncan cairncross said...

Re - Greece

The Greek government was pretty bad - even awful - at collecting tax money

But that was NOT the reason it got into trouble

The problem was the Greek Banks
The banksters had massively overextended themselves - the Greek government then covered those debt
THAT was how Greece ended up so massively in debt

The correct solution was the Iceland one - Let the banks go bust and put the banksters in jail
But Iceland was completely alone in doing that

Keith Halperin said...

@Dr. Brin, Der Oger: The Biden Administration has a lot of damage to repair with America's image around the world:

Daniel Duffy said...

Se. Brin, you need to stop calling them "confederates" and start calling them what they really are "fundies".

The same people who think Covid-19 is a hoax, that the election was stolen, and obsess over Qanon are the same people reading the Left Behind books, denying evolution, and collecting Jack Chick religious pamphlets.

The exact same people, the exact same mind set.

Daniel Duffy said...

Matthew, I kept trying to get to Oregon.

But I kept dying of dysentery along the trail.

Der Oger said...

Alfred, Dr. Brin:
To be clear: The benefits of being part of this empire outweigh the disadvantages, in my eyes. And it would be hypocritical for us to point the finger at you, because we are benefiting from it in various ways:

- Lower defense spending allows us to invest more in other areas, such as infrastructure, education and social programs. We can afford to do so because we rely on you in this matter. Same goes for the intelligence services.
- Let's not forget that if not for NATO, most of western Europeans would speak Russian as their first foreign language, not English.
- Our export surplus, made possible by our common market rules, hurts others.
- Military bases bring extra cash to the cities and counties they are in. (Though I assume, since they are in the wealthier states, they could cope with the loss financially.)
- In foreign politics, having "them" hate "you" can be an advantageous position, to be perceived as the "honest broker" and which more often than not benefits our economy. This is especially true with Iran and China.
- During most of the worst civil rights excesses in the "War on Terror", we were willing partners in crime. We let you do the dirty work, providing intelligence and ressources to do it, and look the other way.
- We are not without our own kind of "raving confederates", and systemic suppression of and discrimination against minorities is still a thing in many areas (especially in the eastern states, a bit in the South and in law enforcement generally).

That said, whenever a discussion comes up that I deem a bit too one-sided, I feel tempted to bring up a different point of view. Yes, I am aware that you are a "House Divided" as a nation, and that a majority (including those who deem the Democrats not progressive enough) are on the side of systemic change. But in as much as the history of the American Empire is a success story, it is also a cautionary tale that helps some people winning elections over here.

Der Oger said...

@Asteroid Mining / Space Colonization:

As Keith already mentioned the "Ressource Curse", I'll try to pick it up and spin some possible questions from it.

What if the run to the asteroids and space colonies would become the main driving factor of the economy? Politically, there surely would be a division between Spacers and Groundpounders. Magnates, Tech Companies, Scientists and Engineers could form the elite of the former, whereas populist politicians, sects and the working poor the core of the latter. Year by year, more money is directed away from keeping up actual infrastructure and the society to space shipyards and colonies, and ultimately, to the trust funds of a few ten thousand people on this earth. And since these jobs pay better, there is a drain on the pool of recruits for any other type of engineering, in many countries around the world. Same goes for sciences and teachers: while they actively forward progress in some areas, their scarcity in others increases the power of those who look backward. Which tend to generate more migration etc.

Some Groundpounder demands might be reasonable, but be ignored, "there is not enough money for it". For example, building better dykes in areas threatened by flooding due to global warming. Perhaps, some kind of a reverse "Rider on the White Horse" novella depicting a construction engineer fighting with authorities to get that damn dyke done before the next winter season.

Or perhaps, what if the current metaplot element in the Cyberpunk game becomes a thing? There, space workers were recruited primarily from the African nations, who, when the corporations went to war with each other, seized their opportunity and declared themselves independent ... and now, a union of states in Africa is the rising new hegemon, with all that wealth generated by the ores and goods produced in orbital factories.

jim said...

Der Oger
You are making a common mistake thinking that climate change is the problem rather than a symptom of the deeper predicament.

After WWII the US pursued a policy of rapid economic growth based on the on the completely unsustainable, exponentially increasing use of fossil fuels. This vast unearned bounty of energy has enabled the vast majority of the world’s human population to far exceed the carrying capacity of the earths ecosystems. The limited and declining availability of fossil fuels (with a high ERORI) now ensures that the global economy can not continue to grow, even though our population and problems continue to grow.

The US has led the world deep into human ecological overshoot, (climate change is just a symptom of the deeper problem) and now the jaws of resource constraints are starting to bite. But the leaders in the US (and most other places) are in complete denial of the horrible predicament we face and just want to return to the unstainable growth of the past.

I see the US and rest of the industrial world living out the classic Greek tragedy. “the protagonist’s acts of hubris create his own nemesis that led to his own downfall.” Our vast success at growing the economy based on an unsustainable energy source has led us to the most horrible predicament mankind has ever faced.

duncan cairncross said...

Jim falls (again) into the zero sum mentality

Real progress is to "Do More With Less"

Which is what we have been doing

Fossil fuels have been very very useful - but we are past the take off point where they are useful but no longer essential

A well situated wind turbine pays the "energy cost" of its construction and materials in just a few months

We can do this - and we will

David Brin said...

Indeed, while Jim is not prone to spectacularly delusional personal strawmanning hysterics, like poor locum or pyrotechnic rudeness, he is perfectly described by zero-sum; I've never once seen him express anything in positive sum terms.

In this case, one and only one thing might save us and the planet, and that is general, planet-wide consensus to grow up and simultaneously practice some appetite restraint with tons of innovation. BOTH appetite-restraint and innovation are NOT by starving or ignorant masses, who have much nearer term concerns.

The record shows clearly that humans can be satiable and turn toward longer-term horizons (such as saving the world for their grandchildren) but ONLY when their immediate needs are met, when they are educated enough to see a bigger picture AND when their cultural memes include horizons as a legitimate topic.

Hence, bringing the world's masses into some degree of satiated comfort was not contradictory to more far-seeing support for environmental protection... but rather an utterly necessary pre-condition! It needed to happen rapidly and that's what Marshallian globalism and anti mercantilist trade did. And consensus toward environmental action has coalesced everywhere that experienced satiation, education and Hollywood memes.

Which is why our biggest danger now is the all out effort by the worl'd oligarchies to stymie the spread of those memes.

jim said...

Duncan, thanks for showing how strong the reflex of denial is.

Fossil fuels account for ~85% of total energy use in the world. And the other major sources of energy are made using fossil fuels (wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower) and are better thought of as fossil fuel extenders.

And if you look at the extraction of minerals from the earth we are not doing more with less, it is just the opposite. We have been rapidly using up the best ores on the planet and have moved on to ever more dilute ores that require more energy, time, and machinery to extract the same amount of useful material. This is true not just for things like metals, but also the fossil fuels that are needed to extract all the other materials from the earth. And hence, our current economic model has ever increasing material flowing from the mine to the dump (with a short stop over in some persons house or business lol)

I would not characterize our current situation as zero sum, we have now entered a situation in which many activities are negative sum. By that I mean if we continue doing things as we have been doing, we shrink the viable options for action in the future. (keep burning fossil fuels – change the climate and then good luck feeding everyone.) There is a rapidly declining amount of fossil fuels that still has a high EROEI and if they are used on mindless economic growth that makes the predicament worse and they will not be able to be used to build solar panels, wind turbines, or nuclear plants. (you can still use low EROI fossil fuels but the environmental impact will be much larger)

duncan cairncross said...

Jim Jim Jim
You need to get up to date - its not 1970 anymore

Todays wind turbines have an "energy return" of about 40:1 solar panel are over 20:1

Its 2021 NOT 1970 - please try and keep up

David Brin said...

While Jim is just about always wrong in re the big picture and NEVER adjusts in the face of fact nor tries to understand what other say... nevertheless, he often puts forward erudite specific and poses questions worth answering. For example, is there some multiplier by which a solar panel or windmill supplants more carbon fuel than it took to make it... including all elements of the parts and supply chain, so that the results are inarguably net super positive?

As it happens - and as Jim knows very well - those calculations are made all the time, and always come out with huge thumbs up for sustainables. Especially now that their lifespans have been hugely extended.

I am no polyanna. In EXISTENCE I raised the alarm over phosphorus, which we waste prodigiously - I pose a law that all males must pee either into their garden or into a recycling pot. The situation re rare earths is deeply worrisom, as is deforestation to grow palm oil. OTOH no development since the white LED has boded so well for the world more than the surpisingly swift production and acceptance of meat substitutes. I expected the trend to BEGIN in 2030 but it is well underway.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everybody: We just hit 500k US COVID-19 deaths.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everybody: Re: "Slowpocalypse," aka, "Climate Change Crisis," aka "The Great Collapse 2050-2100" (Uplift Universe):
What policies/proposals(general and/or specific) do you have to minimize the number of human deaths and damage to the overall biosphere?

Daniel Duffy said...

"Fossil fuels have been very very useful - but we are past the take off point where they are useful but no longer essential"

Sorry duncan, but the true levelized cost of energy (LCOE - factoring in all up front construction and operational lifetime costs) which allows for apples to apples economic comparison says otherwise. Renewable energy costs have fallen, but nowhere near enough. In fact, LCOE says natural gas is still the cheapest and coal is still king according to this brutally honest video (you can see the disappointment on the narrators face - he really wanted renewables to be economically viable, but the harsh facts say otherwise):

Note: Oil is almost exclusively for transport, only rarely for energy production, so it is not included.

LCOEs costs per kWh are:

Natural Gas: $0.02 to $0.08
Coal: $0.04 to $0.15 (mature tech, not much room for improvement)
Hydroelectric: $0.01 to $0.28 (relatively few locations to build dams, and they've all been built on)

On Land Wind: $0.04 to $0.12
Off Shore Wind: $0.10 t0 $0.21 (much bigger up front costs than on-land wind)
Solar PV: $0.06 to $0.56

Concentrated Solar: $0.06 to $0.25
Nuclear: $0.05 to $0.13
Geothermal: $0.05 to $0.15 (new advances in deep drilling and applying fracking techniques could be game changers)

OTEC: $0.10 to $0.17
Tidal: $0.15 to $0.40 (even fewer possible locations than hydro)

Summary chart shown on the video at 16.27.

The apparent winners are wind, hydro, natural gas, coal and nuclear.

But none of the LCOEs sited for renewables include their necessary energy storage facilities (li-ion batteries, air batteries, pumped hydro, etc.) so total system LCOEs are even higher. So scratch wind.

Hydro power can't be expanded because all of the practical places to put hydro dams have already been built on. So scratch hydro.

Coal is dirty, deadly and causes global warming. So scratch coal.

Nuclear is almost impossible to build and permit these days (much as I would have it otherwise). So scratch nuclear - unless we see a serious development in easy to install plug and play small modular reactors (SMR).

So that leaves natural gas, which creates less than half the GHGs that coal does per kWh and is so insanely cheap due to fracking advances it's almost free. And it is the reason America is going to become the second largest fossil fuel EXPORTER after Saudi Arabia later this year.

My ideal solution would be to go balls to the wall with nuclear, especially new advanced and inherently safe technologies like pebble bed reactors and SMRs, and use the off peak kWhs to electrolyze as much hydrogen as you would want for a true hydrogen economy with hydrogen fuel cells for transportation.

Alas, we don't live in an ideal world.

So my realistic solution is to frack natural gas until it comes out of our ears, with side bets on deep geothermal (made possible by fracking and drilling technology advances) and SMRs. What's left of GHGs are to be dealt with by other means (planting forests, fertilize the oceans, sequestration underground, etc.)

The harsh truth is that if we continue to use fossil fuels, global warming will kill billions.

A harsher truth is that if we go fully renewable, real energy costs will increase and billions (not just oil oligarchs) will be thrown into poverty.

The harshest truth is that humans will choose to avoid immediate poverty even if it ensures death decades or generations hence.

duncan cairncross said...

Keith - I think you will find that the USA is well over the 500K if you compare a "normal" year to last year

Last time I looked the excess mortality was nearly double the official COVID-19 deaths

duncan cairncross said...


(1) Tax the very very rich and use the money to directly help the poor African Nations
If we can eliminate extreme poverty then the population will stop growing
Give the money directly to the people - $1000 a year for four years - in 40 $100 lumps

(2) A Substantial Carbon tax

(3) Spent the money from the carbon tax on

Landfills - a modern landfill is an excellent carbon sequestration device

Ocean Fertilisation

Planting trees

Planting "junk crops" for landfill

Kal Kallevig said...

@ Duncan,

Even if your very optimistic numbers are right and the dense energy needed for cement and steel can be made practical with solar and wind, the western world is barely started down the path of phasing out fossil fuel. At least 85% of the energy we consume is still from fossils.

Meanwhile, consumption of fossils continues at the same extravagant pace. I don't know how to calculate the additional energy needed to build the replacement green alternatives, but say it is roughly equal to what we now largely waste. That would mean doubling fossil fuel use while we build out the green new deal. Any idea how to go about doing that? I don't even see a start.

Meanwhile, we are still building small all electric houses with solar panels on the roof in Montana. It is better than nothing, but not clear it is enough to prevent a climate disaster.

smitpa said...

This just showed up on you tube Still needs megawatts but is low carbon. I'm thinking Elon might just start thinking about this for when his Mars colony grows up. Maybe it could run as another process adjacent to his fuel cycle on Mars since one would be splitting water for hydrogen anyway.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Kal

the additional energy needed to build the replacement green alternatives

This is incorporated in the "cost" - when you buy something you pay for the required energy

And its not really "additional" - just operating the fossil fuel plants now costs more than building and operating the Wind and Solar

So its not an additional cost its a diversion of the current energy consumption from use once and throw away to use to produce energy sources that provide 20 or 40 times the return that can then be used to replace themselves many times over

The Carbon Tax is the incentive to stop using the fossil fuels - the higher it is set the faster the changeover

I am less worried about a "climate disaster" than about a slow death
If we get a climate disaster then we CAN fix it
We may have to do the spending that Britain did in WW2 - but we can do it
The slow heating that kills the frog - is more dangerous

David Brin said...

Important to fight this war in a series of tactical battles. Natural gas is a huge win, short term, because it is not only by far the cleanest carbon fuel... if governments do their job and fiercely police against deliberate or careless venting... but also because it will kill coal dead. Above all, it will destroy the POLITICAL power of oil producing nations, who have used it to devastating effects. Likewise oil states. When their influence declines, there should be more peace deals, less corruption, and much less financing of climate denialist lies and obstruction of sustainables.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Daniel

NOT according to the figures I have

This report from last year of the LCOE costs
Natural Gas - #85 per Mwh - $120 -- $0.12 per kwh
Offshore Wind #55 per Mwh - $77 - $0.077 per kwh
Onshore Wind #46 per Mwh - $64 - $0.064 per kwh

Nuclear ------#150 per Mwh - $211 - $0.211 per kwh

Remember that fracked natural gas today is being sold at BELOW cost and they are going bust at a rate of knots

Coal is more expensive again - to the extent that with an existing coal plant the operating costs (forget capital) are higher than the cost of BUILDING Wind and Solar

Nuclear - The latest cost for Nuclear is #150 per Mwh - and that does NOT include the decommissioning costs

Der Oger said...

We have a law that whenever a new patch of land is used for construction, another one of equal ecological value must be designated as an hands-off protected area. Maybe something similar can be done for cars, or newly constructed buildings based on their estimated carbon emission.
Reforestation. Plant as much trees as you can in the remaining time.
Speed up research of fusion reactors.
Higher efficiency in energy consumption.
Making communities more resilient against emergencies (such as power outages, storms, floodings, food shortages etc.)
Compressing the ground in Siberia (so that less methane is emitted into the atmosphere).

Tony Fisk said...

Gas is certainly cleaner to burn than other fossil fuels, and produces less CO2, but the real problem with it are the leaks. It only takes about 0.5% leakage (as methane*) to lose the cleaner burn benefit. And no-one is monitoring the leakage. It might only be 0.1%. The cynic in me suggests it's more like 5-10%, simply because it isn't being monitored.

In Australia, the Government might be pounding the table for a gas led recovery, post-Covid, but nobody else is! And I'm not just talking about a few tree hugging lefties, either. Nobody is willing to invest in additional fossil fuel powered stations here.

re: the LCOE arguments that Daniel is referring to. I'm very dubious of sources that quote such ranges as 0.05-0.56c/kWhr for solar PV. Why the variation? Furthermore, the figures alone don't indicate the *speed* at which renewable costs are reducing (they only just became competitive with gas in the last 6 months, and the trend is continuing) This is important because it takes much less time to build a 1GW solar farm than it does a gas or coal station.

* Until it breaks down, methane is 70 times more potent than CO2. That's heat stored up front.

Kel Kellavig said...

About post itself.

""An assertion that has that "I'm saying something surprising, so it MUST be true! And that makes me cool!" addictive redolence to it.

Daniel Duffy said...

Duncan, excellent research- the report was very interesting.

The costs appear to be in the same range as mine with 2 exceptions, possibly due to it being a British study skewed toward local conditions.

Your off-shore wind power cost may reflect local large scale (and very successful) projects off the British Isles that take advantage of extremes economies of scale - and offsetting the per unit high construction costs.

As for nuclear, I'm not an expert, but my general impression is that the UK and EU may in general have more stringent permitting costs than the US.

(For example, I'm a big fan of Grand Designs with Kevin McCloud and I am always amazed at the expensive and extensive regulatory hoops that Brits have to jump through to get a home remodeled or built. The show has also taught me that apparently nobody in Britain builds with a proper design plan or solid financing. And for some crazy reason Brits don't mind spending millions of pounds on a home that looks like an ugly parking garage.)

If I had to put all my chips on one bet, it would be deep geothermal. This has the potential to be a real game changer allowing us to tap the heat of the Earth anywhere, not just Iceland. It's facilities would be small and compact, not destroying dozens of square miles of habitat like solar arrays and wind farms. Unlike NG it would have zero CO2 emissions. Unlike nuclear its inherently safe.

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr Brin: "Natural gas is a huge win"

If I could wave a magic wand and cut our GHG emissions in half, everyone would consider that to be a major win for the environment. Natural gas is that magic wand.

However, the more extreme environmentalists would still be upset, wanting the whole loaf of a perfectly green economy (an economic fantasy) instead of half a loaf augmented with carbon sequestration efforts. Hybrid approaches are often messy and don't lend themselves well to planning and control, but they tend to be far more effective than purist approaches.

And that's the problem with the Greens, they are always "making the prefect the enemy of the good enough". Natural gas plus sequestration is good enough.

gregory byshenk said...

David Brin said...
LIt is pure paranoid drivel to think mainstream fact-caste USAans want to break up the EU.

But, as -- was it Adlai Stevenson? -- said: "we need a majority".

More seriously, one of the things that pretty much everyone in the USA accepts - and doesn't seem to understand how it would be a problem for anyone else - is the idea of US superiority. And by this I don't mean so much the common idea that "America is the best country in the world", but instead the idea (also very common, including among your politicians and military leaders) that the USA must be superior or dominant in international relations.

Do these folks want to "break up the EU"? No. But they do want to ensure that the EU cannot become an equal (military, economic, etc.) to the USA. And they attempt to push the EU (and European states) to enforce US policy goals, such as hobbling China, or enforcing US trade restrictions that the EU does not support.

Very few Europeans think that the EU (or Europe) should dominate the rest of the world (though naturally many think that at least some of our social or political choices are superior to those of others), but the idea that the USA should dominate sits less well (as it does with much of the world).

David Brin said...

Good point DD about geothermal. Maybe drain away some of the heat building under Yellowstone?


KK while yes, I am guilty of that same psychology - springing 'surprise' concepts on folks, I do like to think my other traits, e.g. welcoming surprise and sapient crit kinda make it... um... true? Else why are you here?


Gregory B... sorry I call utter bullshit. You are struggling to retain an absolute falsehood. Generally, when the US sane-side is up at the plate, the attitude toward EU has been totally encouraging... except toward its absolute reflex toward bureaucratic regulation in stead of ever seeking competitive methods of regulation.

I have seen this personally for 25 years. NO European engaged in discussions of info age issues will ever, ever remotely grasp what I am talking about, when I discuss open transparency and reciprocal accountability. My words go in one ear and completely vanish. Then they "paraphrase' that I am an American cowboy with thinks we should all shoot each other on main street.

ALWAYS the people must be protected by bureaucrats.

This is not to say that their outcomes have not been better, while we writhed in 20 years of civil war and resulting legislative rigor mortis. Many of us have known and said that Europe MUST be strong because they may be the last outpost of the Enlightenment Experiment!


"And that's the problem with the Greens, they are always "making the prefect the enemy of the good enough". Natural gas plus sequestration is good enough."

Like utter refusal to allow experiments in geoengineering we may need in order to reduce warming enough to survive till sustainables fully kick in.

gregory byshenk said...

Daniel Duffy said...
Dr Brin: "Natural gas is a huge win"

If I could wave a magic wand and cut our GHG emissions in half, everyone would consider that to be a major win for the environment. Natural gas is that magic wand.

If it were a magic wand, then it would be a fine thing. Unfortunately, it is not "magic", but requires resources.

An important point is that any decarbonization plans for the near future should be mileposts on the way to the further future. If we build natural gas facilities during the coming ten years, then we will need to throw them away in the years after that if we want to truly decarbonize. This may not be a good use of resources. Better, if possible, to push ahead on carbon-neutral as fast as we can. In other words, even if gas is better than coal, we really should not now be bulding new carbon-emitting powerplants.

I believe that Bill Gates makes this point in relation to 2030/2050 carbon goals in his book - at least he said this in an interview from last week.

David Brin said...

Natural Gas power plants are very cheap to make, reqire none of the vast surrounding infrastructure of coal or nuclear... so little that they tuck them in small places and that came back and bit Texas. I'm not worried about the capital sunk costs of methane plants. the generators can be sent to geothermal sites and the pipelines can feedstock into chemical plants.

I do think the methane venthers must be drone hunted down. the Biden admin must seek-and-fine them as a revenue source.

jim said...

David you are an almost an endless source of amusement.
It is quite clear that you have not adjusted your “big picture” to account for reality.

In the year 2000 fossil fuels represented ~86% of total energy use, and in 2019 it was 83.3% of total energy use, but the total amount of fossil fuels burned increased almost every year (except for the great recession and the pandemic).
Now if I would have told David Brin 20 years ago that fossil fuel use would be substantially greater in 2020 than 2000 and that fossil fuels would still be providing more than 80% of primary energy, and that climate change would be having serious negative consequences all over the globe, you would have laughed and said I lacked a positive sum understanding.

And then there is David’s idea that wealth lets you love the ecosystem more. I think that totally ignores indigenous people all over the world (or people like the Amish, hippy communes and some small farmers). But even more importantly, even though wealthy people may be more willing to say the love the environment, they still have the lifestyles that cause most of the problem. The lifestyles of top 10 % in wealth are responsible for more than 50 % of the environmental problem.

Now onto the “renewables are fossil fuel extenders”. Until you actually make the concrete, the steel, and all the other raw materials that go into say a wind turbine with renewable energy they are fossil fuel extenders. It is clearly not impossible to do that but there is a problem of the size of the problem and the limited time (and other resources) we have for a change over to renewable energy.

And then there is David’s confusion about being satiated. Yes, there are plenty of individuals who are willing to get off the endless greed loop, but the same can not be said for governments, companies, banks, insurance companies, real estate agencies, etc. The undying hunger for ever more (the demon Wendigo) still sits at the center of economy and is its central organizing principle. We can never be sustainable if economic growth is our central concern.

gregory byshenk said...

David, I disagree that it is a "falsehood".

Perhaps a small part of the population would be happy with Europe as a true equal to the USA, but it is (I think) a small part. The rest - including your leaders, whether Trumpian crazies or sane - want Europe to be strong, but not as strong as the USA; strong enough to support the USA, but not strong enough to choose its own course. USAans want the USA to be in control, and mostly seem to believe that the USA should be in control.

This is economic as much as military. A few things close to home for me, from the last year...

The USA is one of a handful of states that taxes non-resident "citizens". The 'citizens' is in scare quotes because the USA has an expansive definition of citizenship, which means that some people have been determined to be 'citizens' even if they have never set foot on US territory. A not-insignificant number of Europeans have had to jump through a series of hoops in order to file paperwork to keep their bank accounts, as the USA has threatened to block access to the USA for banks that do not provide information on US "citizens" with accounts.

The USA no longer leads in semiconductor production, and has thus pressured our government to block sales of manufacturing equipment to Chinese companies, in order to ensure that the Chinese manufacturers cannot produce the highest quality chips.

The USA has pressured European countries to block use of Chinese hardware in telecommunications, on "security" grounds - despite never being able to provide any evidence of misuse of that hardware. (And despite the fact that the USA has, in fact, used US telecom hardware to spy on other countries. Some have argued that the real reason for the US opposition to Chinese computer hardware is that such hardware cannot easily be misused by US intelligence services.)

David Brin said...

Sorry Greg, you are still wrong. Yes the empire throws its weight around. But we have no fear of the EU being a rival in any near term scenario. We still need them to become MORE influential in the world, not less. To pick up MORE of the burdens, not fewer. Ask me again when there's real rivalry afoot. As of now, that's just laughable.

Jim's notion that the naturalist folk tales of indigenous peoples makes them sophisticated gloabal-thinkin environmentalists is likewise laughable. Jim's own smug, highly educated and extremely dour (the Earth needs 5 billion humans to just die, Die, DIE!) version of environmentalism merits a good long look in the mirror.

duncan cairncross said...

Daniel - re-Nuclear
I used to think that the problem with Nuclear was all of the regulations and the public relations nightmare of "radiation death cooties"
Then China put a lot of resources into Nuclear - a very pragmatic government
Then after 20 years or so China de-emphasised nuclear in favour of Wind and Solar
This is China so they did not go "cold turkey" just moved the main emphasis

So what IS the problem?

In my career I have done a huge amount of improvements in industry - they have included some large "steps" - but the actual benefits have come from the "death of a thousand cuts"
literally tens of thousands of small steps that add up to halving the costs in 20 years

I think THAT is the problem with Nuclear
The tiny cuts do NOT pass the Risk/Benefit analysis - so they don't happen
As a result Nuclear is still the same cost as it was 50 years ago - while its competition is now less than a quarter of the cost

jim said...

David you are so unintentionally hilarious.
I am pretty sure it is you who needs a good long look in the mirror, you are the one denying that we are deep into ecological overshoot. The consequence of being in ecological overshoot is a mass die-off of the species that was in overshoot. That is what is in store if we do not take the problem seriously and change our behavior. It is not something I want to happen. Now the situation with humans is potentially a little different, because some humans consume far more than most. If those who are consuming vast resources, substantially reduce their consumption there will be more for others. Again 10% of the wealthiest consume 50% of the resources. A substantial reduction in the consumption by the wealthy followed by a gradual reduction in the size of the population (by keeping the birth rate below the death rate for many decades) is a non horrible way to deal with overshoot.

But that will not happen as long as we have economic growth as the central organizing principle for the economy. (you can’t green the Wendigo, you must abandon him)

David Brin said...

Again and agin. "David you're hilarious!" Never a single step toward acknowledgement of matters raised by others. A truly sick puppy. But within bearable range. But now far too boring to actually read.

jim said...


In the 1970's Ivan Illich thought of one rule that would have massive systemic effects.

A global speed limit of 25-30 mph for all people and goods.

have some fun and start to think about how that would change society, treat it like a Science fiction thought experiment.

gregory byshenk said...

David Brin said...
Sorry Greg, you are still wrong. Yes the empire throws its weight around. But we have no fear of the EU being a rival in any near term scenario. We still need them to become MORE influential in the world, not less. To pick up MORE of the burdens, not fewer. Ask me again when there's real rivalry afoot. As of now, that's just laughable.
True as written, but doesn't address my point.

Yes, the USA does not see the EU as a rival - mostly. And yes, the USA wants the EU to become "more influential" - but in support of the goals and interests of the USA. Whenever the EU (or any European state) has interests that are not aligned with the USA, the USA "throws its weight around" to change that. And if the USA sees any possibility of an equal arising, it throws its weight around still more.

And that is the nature of the problem, and why I noted that USAans don't even see this is a problem: because the USA tends to see its goals and interests as the obvious goals and interests of all right-thinking people and states, and most USAans find it difficult even to imagine that others might legitimately have different goals and interests. In some cases this blind spot is worse for the "sane", "fact-case" USAans, because their conclusions are the "sane", "fact"-based ones - which means that anyone thinking differently must be deluded or disingenuous.

David Brin said...

Sorry Greg. I see your repeated (even when refuted) plaint of US bullying... while supported by individual event anecdotes ... to be a whine that's is essentially untrue.

Moreover anyone who asserts that sane USAans think the USA is currently "sane" is exercising truly insane delusion. (Parse THAT one out eh?)

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

But in as much as the history of the American Empire is a success story, it is also a cautionary tale that helps some people winning elections over here.

Heh. Very true. That means you and I are more likely to quibble about details than fundamentals. That means negotiation is QUITE possible.

Let me wrap up by saying this. Many of us know we need you all… and by that I mean all the member nations of 'The West'. It isn't so much a US empire as it is a West-ern empire. Yah. We are big. Our navy outnumbers all of the rest of you combined. That misses the softer point that most of what gets done is with soft power and at least partial consent of other members of the empire.

So, when we are being stupid… say so.
When we harm you… say so.
Persuade and Compete.
We will grumble, but we will all be better off for it.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

For the asteroid topic, I want a separate post. I'm MUCH more enthusiastic about this topic than empires and politics… and (to be honest) much more inclined to alter my opinions.

There will eventually be a run to the asteroids. Probably a few of them depending on what gets found and the evolution of technology both for extraction and consumption. Much like there were multiple gold rushes in North America and gold was found.

Our gold rushes are instructive in subtle ways, though. One happened around Charlotte in North Carolina in the late 1830's. The history is interesting because there was a short time when one of the US Mints was located there even though there was a big one in Philadelphia. Why? Well… it wasn't easy to ship gold from around Charlotte to Philadelphia. The delay mattered enough to affect the value of the gold. The next rush in California helped spawn the San Francisco mint to which CA gold and NV silver could be shipped. BUT… gold mining comes in more than one form. Lots of people now about the folks panning for it, but the later folks washed away entire hillsides and sifted through the dirt using elemental mercury. The second technique would not have been available except for an Hg discover in CA a few years earlier. Shipping Hg around the Horn would have had quite an impact on the value of the gold produced.

History tends to focus on the production side, but demand was heavily politicized. For example, Ag production in the western states quickly outstripped US needs for silver coinage. There were periods when the mints didn't not produce silver dollars because they weren't needed. What was a silver mine owner to do? Hmm. Buy a congress critter of course and force the Mint to buy.

The point of this is to suggest that all resource extraction becomes a combination of economics and politics. Doesn't matter if it is gold, silver, or oil. The same will be true for asteroid resources. We know the general shape of the history that will likely emerge, but don't assume we will know the details. Without local Hg in CA, our gold rush period would have been quite different after the streams were panned out. If the discover around Charlotte had occurred a little later when more roads and rails existed, their history would have been quite different. Small-seeming side resources make huge differences in extraction techniques AND in what politics might develop around it all. This affects both the history of extraction and what consumers will fund as possible substitutions.

Economics around resources is really a study in substitutions. Cu wires instead of Au wires unless Ag is cheap.

Politics around resources is really a study in uses of human capital. Robotic devices instead of Human ones unless telepresence centaurs (Laggy human & real-time AI) are sufficient.

None of it is simple even when the broad sketches can be known. What we do know is it won't be a single, multi-faction elite. Elite alliances of smart people pursuing $$ tend to be fluid.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everyone: Thanks for your ideas. Re: "nukes vs. no nukes"- much as I enjoy watching people argue about things a they may/may not know about, I'm not going there, because I don't know enough.

I agree with Jim in that we are in ecological overshoot (
"A widely discussed[15] study published in January 2021 in Frontiers in Conservation Science, emphasizes the significance of overshoot stating that "simultaneous with population growth, humanity's consumption as a fraction of Earth's regenerative capacity has grown from ~ 73% in 1960 to 170% in 2016, with substantially greater per-person consumption in countries with highest income."[16] These numbers are based on recent Ecological Footprint studies.[17] The Frontiers in Conservation Science publication explains that "[t]his massive ecological overshoot is largely enabled by the increasing use of fossil fuels. These convenient fuels have allowed us to decouple human demand from biological regeneration: 85% of commercial energy, 65% of fibers, and most plastics are now produced from fossil fuels.[16]"
and that based on biocapacity" (, Terra can sustainably support ~3G people (1960's world population) at an Italian/Spanish standard of living (0.9 HDI), and we can get there by ~ST:OS/B5 time- 2300 CE (
"A global move to the fertility levels seen in a number of Chinese urban centres (around 0.75) over the coming 40 years would result in a peaking of global population before 2050 and a decline to only 3.6 billion in 2100 and 150 million people by 2200.
But even the more realistic range of long term fertility levels of 1.5-1.75 (higher than it has been in much of Europe for the past decades) would lead to declines in global population size of 2.6-5.6 billion by 2200 and even 0.9-3.2 billion by 2300",
and make good progress by 2100 (
"Global population is likely to peak well before the end of the century. Given that we forecasted that societies tend towards a TFR lower than 1·5, once global population decline begins, it will probably continue inexorably. Within the declining total world population some countries will sustain their populations through liberal immigration policies and social policies more supportive of females working and achieving their desired family size. These countries are likely to have larger overall GDP than other countries, with the various economic, social, and geopolitical benefits that come with stable working-age populations. Our UIs and scenario analysis showed that for no country or territory is the demographic future cast in stone. Policies that countries pursue today can alter the trajectory for fertility, mortality, and migration. Population size and composition are not exogenous factors for countries to account for in their planning, but rather outcomes that they can help direct." without gigadeaths.

Alfred Differ said...

I think David and Gregory are talking past each other a bit.

David argues that Europe being stronger isn't a near-term risk to the US. Quite true. Probably not for the remainder of this century. Maybe we will wind up in a war with Russia before 2040, but that is looking less likely now.

Gregory argues that we keep them that way by throwing our weight around. Quite true lately, but it usually takes a softer form. Big exceptions exist, though. Look at the Suez conflict in the late 50's and how we threatened the UK to get what we wanted for example.

David argues we need Europe to be stronger than they are now. Mostly true I think, but I'd argue against the stronger nations being the anti-immigrants ones. We don't need their small-horizons attitudes dominating in Europe.

Gregory argues (I think) that the US should be less of a bully. I'd translate that as 'less of a barbarian.' Well… that's a moral judgement mostly. Barbarians have their place on the world stage. Our inclination to be one has stopped essentially every war where the combatants need to convoy forces across the sea. We COULD have stopped the UK action in the Falklands, but chose not to do it. There IS a place for us to be what we are, but we CAN go too far.

I don't mind Gregory's admonition that we should be more mature, but I don't think that likely in this century. We've got an internal fight with our Confederates to hold our attention right now, so the rest of the world WILL have respite. Not for long, though. Our attention will turn outward occasionally when someone surprises us and provokes a disproportionate response. Stronger ties among EU member nations can help reduce the chance that those surprises will originate in Europe. It would behoove them to make plans accordingly.

David Brin said...

Right now Europe should concentrate 1st on its own health and cohesion and 2nd on ensuring Ukraine gets enough help to stay free along with the Baltics.

For that the EU needs US help. But we should not lead on that. Get free of Russian gas and their blackmail rings. If the US has lost the high moral ground then Europe needs to take it up... which is hard because in fact the Union "America" side of our civl war is actually LESS racist than most continentals. Just sayin'...

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everybody: Re: US foreign power:
When we say "the U.S.", aren't we talking about the foreign policy of a particular administration?

@ Alfred: As usual, you make a great deal of sense. I wonder if we'll start to see water (or other resource-caused) wars in the "the Roaring '40s" or later.

Here're a couple of gloomy techno-thriller scenarios (if they haven't already been done to death):
* An unidentifiable cyber-attack on the Three Gorges Dam, leading to a massive flood killing thousands of people.
* Simultaneous worldwide assassinations carried out by hordes of slaughterbots
( as a false-flag operation.

The "Long Game":
* Create new and particularly addicting social media platforms which renders large segments of users (primarily younger people) unable to function well in non-digital society
* Develop (through inside moles) and distribute various types of genetically-modified grains or plants which go into meat substitutes, some of which over time cause severe allergic reactions and/or mental problems- retardation, autism ("the Autism Plague"), lessened impulse control and increased anger (like lead ingestion) to large segments of the population. The strains cease being distributed prior to the damage taking effect.
* A nation-(and Western world)wide search, training, creation, and support for hundreds or thousands of Trump/Bolsonaro/Berlusconi/Orban/Duterte 2.0-types of right-wing authoritarian demagogues and organizations ("America's Got Fascists!) AND create (apparently) as a reaction similar left-wing authoritarian demagogues and organizations.
* Start a "War on Tolerance", "War on Compromise", "War on Moderation", etc. with the value "Not only must I win, but you must also lose." These would not just be in politics but in all social interactions, and "Truth Warriors" believe these "so-called 'values"" are dangerous and those who hold them are enemies who must be eliminated...

gregory byshenk said...

David Brin said...
Sorry Greg. I see your repeated (even when refuted) plaint of US bullying... while supported by individual event anecdotes ... to be a whine that's is essentially untrue.

From my point of view, you haven't "refuted" - you are just saying that demonstrated examples of bullying don't really count, because they are only "individual event anecdotes".

The thing is, Europe tends to be more or less aligned with the USA on most things. And in this sort of case nothing needs to be done: we already agree. The question is: what about the cases where we do not? It is these cases where the USA resorts to bullying.

Again: perhaps the most troubling is that USAans don't even recognize that this occurs, or wave away obvious examples as "anecdotes". It is easy to say "X never happens" if one is willing to claim that all the examples of X happening don't count.

Alfred Differ said...


aren't we talking about the foreign policy of a particular administration?

Some might, but I don't. The US is a kind of organism with objectives of its own. Other nations have their own too. The problem is that some 'sovereign states' are composed of multiple 'nations'. That can make for quite a mess. The US is at least two parts like this. Maybe ten but many of them get along well enough that we can approximate it as Union vs Confederacy.

This notion underlies a field known as 'geopolitics'. Nations as organisms of a sort. Not very smart, but with a will to survive and an inclination that causes their objectives to be fairly consistently worked upon by those who lead.

Whether people believe all this or not, it does offer an interesting explanation for the strength of Trump's support and his opposition. The two large blocs within the US are fighting over national objectives. We've been at it for quite some time.

I wonder if we'll start to see water (or other resource-caused) wars in the "the Roaring '40s" or later.

You don't have to wait. They are already under way. We've only fought about water since the ice sheets melted back. We've only been in ecological overshoot since the ice melted too. Who knew climate change could have such a huge impact on us, hmm? 8)

The autism plague has a special attraction to me since my son is solidly on that spectrum. He's almost 22 now and I've learned quite a few things. I've ridden the roller coaster of hope and despair and noticed a things things that aren't true. It's not lead, or mercury, or weak-willed mothers. It's probably an injury to the brain that occurs to the fetus when the mother's immune system activity provokes a fetal response. It doesn't take much damage to a fetal nervous system to have long term impacts. There isn't much to be done about it later either except love them and help them try to make it in a world that tends to overload them.

We are riding the ragged edge of big intelligence. Neurons about as tiny as they go instead of skulls with volumes larger than can fit through our mother's pelvis. Ragged edge. Kinda fragile at times.

TCB said...

* Create new and particularly addicting social media platforms which renders large segments of users (primarily younger people) unable to function well in non-digital society

Hmmm. If I were Zuckerberg/Mercer/etc. and I wanted to make Facebook even more destructive, it'd go something like this:
1. Develop the Oculus technology to include direct neural interface. Add wireheading/pleasure stimulant and fun virtual neural experiences that literally can't be done physically.
2. Always online, just like your cellphone is when it's on.
3. Meeting your friends in headspace.
4. Now add bot "friends". Programmed to deceive the users however Zuck and Co. choose.
At this point users don't always know what is real or even WHO is real.

Larry Hart said...


At this point users don't always know what is real or even WHO is real.

There was an Fantastic Four story in which the FF go back in time and prevent the accident which gave them their powers in order to allow The Thing to not be a monster. When they return to the present, the world has changed. The Skrulls are seemingly benevolent, and have given humans a drug of some kind which gives everybody super powers. Except Ben (formerly The Thing) who senses somehow that he's just happier without powers.

I feel like that regarding Facebook and Twitter. Everybody else is doing them, including my wife, and I'm just, "Naw, I don't need that in my life."

In the comic story, it served Ben well when the powers turned out to be part of a trap set by the Skrulls. Hopefully, it will serve me well in like manner.

David Brin said...

Greg B you keep missing the point. YOU are accusing the United States of America... as an organized institution, as a nation in general, of committing a systematic strategy that would under many lights be considered a campaign of repression against allies. YOU are the one bearing burden of proof for such a calumny, that runs against all stated policies and treaties and could be interpreted as a series of acts of war. And as proof of such a deliberate campaign of repression, anecdotes do not suffice.

Given how implausible that sickly-sweet alluring meme is, with its voluptuous sense of outrage toward a purported Big Bully, my own anecdotes - while not DISproof - are vastly more valid because they weaigh against an assertion that is patently absurd in its own right.

Larry Hart said...

Remember all the tongue-wagging about how you can't accuse someone of treason unless there's an ongoing war with an enemy for him to aid? I guess that's one of those things that only applies to accusations against Republicans.

Also, remember the pearl-clutching about how if one accused (say) Benedict Donald of treason, you were implicitly arguing that he should face the death penalty? And how egregious it would be to make such a claim against one's political opponents? Again, I guess that's one of those things that only applies to accusations against Republicans.

[Marjorie Taylor] Greene has won a peculiar kind of fame with her pre-election declarations that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was guilty of treason.

Greene suggested Pelosi could be executed, CNN reported. “She’s a traitor to our country,” Greene declared in a video posted on Facebook.

"She took an oath to protect American citizens and uphold our laws. And she gives aid and comfort to our enemies who illegally invade our land. That’s what treason is. And by our law representatives and senators can be kicked out and no longer serve in our government. And it’s, uh, it’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason."

Keith Halperin said...

@ Greg & Dr. Brin: RE: USA "bully/not bully":
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution (published by the University of Maryland) analyzing U.S. military interventions in the period 1981–2005 found that the U.S. "is likely to engage in military campaigns for humanitarian reasons that focus on human rights protection rather than for its own security interests such as democracy promotion or terrorism reduction."[97]

The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere
"While the days of its worst behavior are long behind it, the United States does have a well-documented history of interfering and sometimes interrupting the workings of democracies elsewhere. It has occupied and intervened militarily in a whole swath of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and fomented coups against democratically elected populists.

The most infamous episodes include the ousting of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 — whose government was replaced by an authoritarian monarchy favorable to Washington — the removal and assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961, and the violent toppling of socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende, whose government was swept aside in 1973 by a military coup led by the ruthless Gen. Augusto Pinochet."

One study indicated that the country intervening in most foreign elections is the United States with 81 interventions, followed by Russia (including the former Soviet Union) with 36 interventions from 1946 to 2000—an average of once in every nine competitive elections.[2][3][4][5]

David Brin said...