Sunday, June 20, 2021

Political tactics the Democrats and their sane allies need.

The recent Republican blockage of the new Voting Rights Bill (along with infrastructure and every other need)... and the plausibly acceptable compromise offered by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin... has raised some very important thoughts some of you have seen here, before. But that now seem more redolent and relevant than ever.

----

As I predicted in Polemical Judo, the Foxite-putinists who are ramming through new voter-suppression 'election reform laws' in many states are painting it as the responsible, accountable thing. 

"Why shouldn't voters prove who they are at the polling station?" And we know that at some level there is merit to that raw question. Alas, Democrats are responding in exactly the wrong ways, giving an impression nursed on Fox that "you just want ways to cheat!"

In fact there is a judo answer that demolishes their entire argument. And it is one that not a single democrat pol or pundit has voiced (to my knowledge).

It would devastate. And no one says it.


"You claim that Voter ID would make elections more secure? Fine! Then help poor folks, minorities, divorced women, the homeless and others smoothly and easily get their ID problems cleared up. Lack of clear ID is one of the problems helping to keep many of them poor! Even those born here."


It's called COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE and hammer the hypocrisy here! Republicans always demand government helps pay big companies to cover costs of complying with new regulations. So remind voters of that largesse for the rich and make clear this big test of GOPper sincerity:


"Did you accompany these onerous new Voter ID rules with appropriations for major efforts to reach out to your state's poorest citizens and HELP THEM GET ID? Expanding DMV offices and hours? Sending door-to-door outreach workers? Actually NOTIFYING voters purged from rolls for missing an election? 


"If so, then maybe you are sincere about your motives."


In fact, all the GOP's aggressive political cheat-bills are accompanied with reductions in compliance aid! DMV office closures in minority communities. Disallowing motor-voter and so on. 


Yeah, you are shrugging now and saying "Sure, we already knew that, Brin." But I am telling you that it matters how it is parsed! This isn't just blaring hypocrisy that can be attacked as such.


 While it sounds dry and legalistic "compliance assistance" is also a powerful legal argument for court cases against these very bills. So powerful that it might corner John Roberts with the 14th Amendment.


Again, this is explained in detail here... And also in Polemical Judo.


Again, the "Manchin Compromise" is totally acceptable! And thus, McConnell and co. will fight it to the end, knowing that if people can vote, their mad-confederate cult will soon be toast. Just 3 provisions - auto-registration via DMV, 15 days early voting, and ending gerrymandering - would restore US democracy! And 'campaign money' is already less a factor in politics than it used to be, so give way on that one as a sop to "moderates."


But much depends on whether Joe B and Joe M are choreographing a way to end the filibuster (or conversion to the old talk-kind) when they can maximally make it it clearly McConnell's fault... 


...or if it's all just a lot of posturing hooey. I won't take bets either way. I've had my hopes for dem cleverness dashed before. But you are just as wrong to assume the negative.


I do know if Manchin added Compliance Assistance to the Voter ID thing, it would be harder to oppose. And there are ways to end gerrymandering too


== Political miscellany ==


First an announcement-reminder!  My general political essay in four parts - about  the insipid/lobotomizing left-right "axis"- how history betrayed competitive creativity, and what libertarianism might look like, if it ever grew up, is now safely reposted here.


Political Metaphors: Part 1

Political Metaphors: Part 2

Political Metaphors: Part 3

Political Metaphors: Part 4


Re: The Republican Party's open war against every fact-using profession: 

“One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.” 

      ― Hannah Arendt


Yay this!  According to The Washington PostRep. Pressley makes case for postal banking to raise revenue and advance ‘economic justice’.” (You’ll have to scroll down past the deJoy nonsense.)  I lived in the UK and in France, where even the poorest citizens had simple accounts at the Post office, enabling them to save and build credit, customers who commercial banks not only have ignored but actively spurned and drove off, despite their promises in the 1960s, when ‘reforms’ ended postal banking in the US. 


As AOC has said, also championing this reform: This would not only help millions of the poor to uplift themselves, but would decisively be a money maker for the struggling USPS.  And yes. Restoring the US Post Office Bank was one of my 31 consensus goals that ALL democrats could agree on and that should be done together (with a few sane Republicans) ASAP. 


== Favoring the Rich for much too long ==


One, simple chart shows the difference in percent income change between the Trump 2017 "Supply Side IV" tax cut for the rich and the expected effects of the new covid relief bill, both of which cost the Treasury roughly the same. The article goes on to show not percentages but in DOLLARS and shows the uber rich did even spectacularly better under SS-IV.... while sending the economy and main street into hell. 


(Not one prediction ever made by "supply side theory" ever, ever came remotely close to coming true. Ever and bet me on it! Cash awaits.)


So how did Trump's tax cuts compare with the expected coronavirus relief bill? The change in after-tax incomes (including all provisions of the 2017 law) looks like this: 



== Again, can we try some 'judo' tactics, please? ==

I’ve long questioned why no one on the “Union side” of this phase of the American Civil War seems willing to try what would likely be devastating tactics against a treasonous-revived Confederacy and its foreign masters. 

It was the basis of my book: Polemical Judo. There are so many! 

But hot in the news is the flaming hypocrisy of Foxite yammerings about morality. Now there is infamous Putin-mouthpiece, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, apparently caught is spectacular webs of lies and hypocrisy and turpitude. Fox News host Tucker Carlson was angered after Congressman Matt Gaetz attempted to rope him into a scandal involving allegations related to sex trafficking of a minor

Every time something like this happens- say that another former 'great guy' 'betrays' Trump, or another gopper is caught molesting children, or committing felonies or yowling incoherently, the Foxite-Putinists spin that it's an individual/unfortunate case! And reliably, good-but-clunky democrats go 'duuuuh' and never, ever answer with statistical proof that stuff like this is actually typical of today's Republican Party. (And my offer of high stakes wagers on this still stands.) 


And so... Here is the 20th installment in a running list of – now 500+! - Republican sexual predators, abusers, and enablers who contribute to rape culture. These are people who abused their power or defended abuse of power, not folks caught in consensual scandals such as being gay, having an affair, or soliciting adult prostitutes.


Again, there are ways to hammer this and a myriad other chinks in the Putinists’ armor. And here's one that could happen tomorrow, at a pen stroke!


Biden's AG Merrick Garland should announce that the Justice Department will defend anyone who violates an NDA, if it results in criminal charges. 


Or else, some decent zillionaire could offer to pay NDA penalties, if revelations have that effect.


And yes, this would edge us toward the real thing America and the world needs. The one thing that would shatter the Oligarchist Cabal.  Biden must declare a Truth Commission that will recommend clemency to the first 20 (or 200) highly placed blackmail victims who step up and turn the tables on their blackmailers.


Some dems will get caught up. But the RATIO will be clear and will make 2022 a cake walk. Nothing short of all of that will even begin to clean up (or 'drain') that swampy town.


59 comments:

TCB said...

Although I agree with Dr. Brin's objection to talk of the left-right political axis, I really, really really REALLY wish I could get him and others to think more in terms of the open-closed political axis.

It's not hard to explain to our peers what we mean by open and closed societies. What we celebrate in a nation like the United States is that it's so much more open than most past societies: we have (at least in theory) freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion; we have the freedom to travel through the nation without showing papers or asking permission, and there are only the most basic limits on our travel outside it. We can live where we want, make our living how we want, marry whom we want, cuss the President and the Church without consequence... we have the right to vote and have it mean something. There are limitations on our freedoms, sure, often having to do with money. But, for now, the US is still a pretty open society.

So are Scandinavian countries, indeed most of Europe, also places like Japan, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Australia and New Zealand.

Then you have closed societies. North Korea is the poster child for modern closed societies. If you're not in the ruling clique, you are ill fed, ill housed, unfree to speak against the Leader, unfree to leave the country. All you hear in North Korea is what the Leader wants you to hear: pure censored propaganda and nothing else. North Korea is closed in almost every way a society can be closed.

There are some fascinating Youtube videos of NK defectors finding out what it's really like in an open society. Needless to say, it's not what they've been told. For instance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVu7Yow1XUY

China, Russia, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Myanmar, all these and more are societies that we can put nearer the North Korean pole of closed society, even if they are closed in different ways. In China it's an atheistic hypercapitalist one-party surveillance state, which still calls itself communist; in Saudi Arabia, it's a theocracy yoked to an ultrawealthy oligarchy; in Russia, oligarchy and mafia in one; in Myanmar, it's a military rule. In places like Poland, Hungary, and Brazil, we have saboteurs of democracy, rewriting the rules so they can't be removed by elections. These saboteurs take open societies and gradually close them. And maybe the United States in heading there too...

What all closed societies have in common is an oligarchy that has stolen the freedoms of the many, hoarding wealth and liberty to the ruling clique. It doesn't matter if the ruling clique calls itself communist or capitalist, religious or not. The closed society is always a pyramid. The open/closed axis neatly sorts free societies from unfree ones.

What do open societies do to make themselves open, and stay that way?

Open societies have free and fair elections. Real democracy. Suffrage is widespread, voting is easy, the count is honest. There are no real limits on who can run and win. Closed societies have elections, but they are shams on all levels.

Open societies have a free and independent media. It is not all controlled by the government, the church, OR by a handful of corporate oligarchs. reporters are not treated as 'enemies of the people'. The journalist is not a soldier in an ideological war, not a pawn nor a target. Open societies have independent, critical reporters who don't need a bodyguard.

Open societies do NOT have one political party with all the real power, nor a church with the power to outlaw the others.

Open societies don't let their wealthy citizens become more powerful than the government itself, nor powerful enough to choose the government.

I guess I could come up with more, but I may be over the word limit already...

TCB said...

Adding to my previous comment on open societies, I realize the following quote is a bit applicable:

All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, 1878)

There are many ways for a closed, oligarchic society to get that way, but open societies are much alike: personal and civil rights are respected, authorities are accountable to the people they govern, extremes of wealth and power are limited in some way, the leaders have few secrets, and so on. Open societies have some sort of democracy, even if they never heard of that word.

David Brin said...

TCB if you have a blog and post a refined version of that, I will link folks to it. I love the Karenina link.

Problem is that if an open society goes bad, it is very hard - given modern technologies - to go back.
Unless the Great Power of the era is on the Periclean side. And even then.

Brian Bohmueller said...

Manchin's proposal will never garner 10 Republicans. Voter ID with free ID for all citizens could be ok. Still the only likely hope is judo from within. Manchin must be convinced to support an end to the filibuster to support fair voting regs. Check out The Opening Arguments podcast for a deeper dive.

duncan cairncross said...

Open v Closed Societies

One of the measures that is easiest to see - most difficult to hide - and which reveals which society is closed

Political Dynasties

If you see children of a King/President/Leader taking up that position then that society is at least partially closed

The UK used to have those back in the 1700's and 1800's - not since then

The USA still has its political dynasties

China - oddly enough does NOT have them - at least not yet

TCB said...

Thanks, I don't have a blog. But I am trying to refine my thoughts anyway!

Blowfish said...

TCB says at one point in his very interesting piece that te USA MAYBE on its way to becoming a closed society . I would like to add that not only the USA is at risk but much of the liberal capiltalistic world . A few weeks ago the website Politico Europe had an article describing how many western goverments are using the Covid crisis to ramp up surveillance of their populations . The use of facial recognition software is slowly being introduced using the usual salami tactics ( slice by slice ) , much of this software has been developed by spinoffs from the Technion Technical University in Tel Aviv and the Chinese . One of the worlds biggest companies suplying video and facial recognition systems is HIKVISION ( Chinese ) . If I am correct this company is on a U.S. sanctions list because of its ties to the Chinese military .
The hard and software of this company is still allowed in Europe and until a few weeks ago was still used in the European Parliment building , it has now been removed .
Here in the Netherlands the AIVD ( that is the Dutch version of a combination of the FBI and The CIA ) has the right to download all the metadata from users of the internet in the Netherlands . This law was passed last year using the usual excuses of combatting terrorism
In the last few years the AIVD has been nailed to the cross for incorrectly interpreting this data law but that never seems to stop them doing it , now they have another excuse to carry on with their nefarious practices and that is right wing terror groups . These are not so bad here yet as in the USA but they are rising rapidly .
Just like Mr. Brin says " once populations have allowed goverments to accumulate overweaning power it is nearly impossible to remove it from them " , they will always find a reason to hold on to it .
p.s Sorry for the incoreect use of the wonderful english language .

Howard Brazee said...

A voting rights bill should include the provision that any community that requires IDs is responsible for making sure all eligible voters have those IDs.

Larry Hart said...

Charles Blow tells it like it is (and agrees with me) ...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/20/opinion/republicans-democrats-manchin-filibuster.html

...
I say dispense with the phony, wish-driven narrative Democrats are selling. Go down screaming and fighting. Much of the Democratic agenda may be stalled, but never stop reminding voters why it is: not because Democrats haven’t compromised enough, but because they could never compromise enough.

The current status quo is an unwinnable negotiation, because it isn’t a negotiation. This is a war. And in it, all is fair. Republicans have embraced a liar and racist in Donald Trump because their voters embraced him. They have excused and multiplied, in fantastical ways, the insurrection at the Capitol. They are rushing to write voter restrictions that also give them more say over how results are verified.

In the face of all this, Democrats need to stop talking about reaching across the aisle, compromise and common ground.

They need to go on the record and speak plainly: The Republican Party has given up on the idea of a true and full democracy. They are attempting to tear it down and erect in its place a system that reduces voter rolls and skews the will of the American people.

For the Republican Party, the success of democracy — that growing numbers of people could participate — is its failure.

Larry Hart said...

Blowfish:

TCB says at one point in his very interesting piece that te USA MAYBE on its way to becoming a closed society . I would like to add that not only the USA is at risk but much of the liberal capiltalistic world .


I was recently wondering if there is a psychohistorical theorem making clear that once a civilization becomes prosperous enough, its wealth and power are captured by an elite clade which buys off a populist demagogue and his followers. Or as with Hitler, who thinks they've bought off the demagogue, but he doesn't stay bought.


The use of facial recognition software is slowly being introduced using the usual salami tactics ( slice by slice ) , much of this software has been developed by spinoffs from the Technion Technical University in Tel Aviv and the Chinese . One of the worlds biggest companies suplying video and facial recognition systems is HIKVISION ( Chinese ) .


(I'm going to betray my liberal credentials for the sake a punchline.)

How does facial recognition software work when they all look alike?

Larry Hart said...

Howard Brazee:

A voting rights bill should include the provision that any community that requires IDs is responsible for making sure all eligible voters have those IDs.


Next, you'll be demanding that the community is responsible for making sure all hungry people have food and all homeless people have homes.

Alfred Differ said...

duncan,

Regarding dynasties, I think that definition is a little too narrow. History shows that family arranged for political appointments for children in a variety of offices and not just the top post. Whether it is mafia family or royal family, the practice is to arrange a better future for their kids by using power of various forms... not just coerce behaviors.

In this broader sense all of us do it, but some cultures make it a tad harder. Barriers to this natural inclination are what distinguishes us.

David Brin said...

LarryHart, you are a bright fellow and we are on the same side of history. But I despair of ever getting you to actually LOOK at human history.

"I was recently wondering if there is a psychohistorical theorem making clear that once a civilization becomes prosperous enough, its wealth and power are captured by an elite clade which buys off a populist demagogue and his followers. Or as with Hitler, who thinks they've bought off the demagogue, but he doesn't stay bought."

Cripes, this was typical in almost ALL human cultures and far MORE so in those less-prosperous. It is prosperous ones that have bourgeoise revolutions in the first place! Unleashing a middle class to do its thing. Marx described this pretty well... till he utterly failed when describing NEXT steps, which he thought would involve a re-crushing of the working classes and middle classes back into penury and revolution. A noting that made no sense, then or now.

The FDR-GG generation in the US showed how to co-opt the working class INTO the middle classes and it was working very well... till the oligarchs realized what was happening and have financed exactly the scenario Marx predicted.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"I was recently wondering if there is a psychohistorical theorem making clear that once a civilization becomes prosperous enough, its wealth and power are captured by an elite clade which buys off a populist demagogue and his followers. Or as with Hitler, who thinks they've bought off the demagogue, but he doesn't stay bought."

Cripes, this was typical in almost ALL human cultures and far MORE so in those less-prosperous.


I should have said "once a democracy becomes prosperous enough", but I do take your point.

One of the few things Ayn Rand got right was her observation that a tyrant could attain vast wealth by forcibly squeezing as little of a few grains of rice apiece from millions of poor subjects.

Blowfish said...

I do'nt know if anybody here ever visits the website of phys.org it is a site that gathers together scientific articles and publishes simplified synopsisis ( hope thats correct ) of them . When ever there are articles about climate change you can bet your bottom dollar that a
very vitriolic exchange of views will start in the comment section . The applies to articles on cosmology it gets extremely heated at times. You would have that people visiting such sites would be more rational but apparently raw emotion beats rationality most of the time .
There is much raw emotion in he republicans and their followers . They are slowly but shurely seeing their white Christian way of life being superceded by a multicultural one . This means that their grip on power wil also become less and less and this frightens them . Sometime ago I read a demographic report that stated that the white anglo saxon ( WASP ) would become just one of the many minorities in the USA between 2040 and 2045 , the GOP politicians and movers and shakers know this as well and they are using all the tricks in the political book ( fair means or foul ) to retain power for as long as possible .

Blowfish said...

I have a question for Dr. Brin he being a scientist I expect an honest answer .
Does he see any future for nuclear fusion research and does he think we will ever master it enough to be able to safely generate electric power with it .
You can e-mail me your answer I am very curious as to what it wil be
Yours Truly
Blowfish .

scidata said...

Marx got it 70% right. Asimov got it 80% right. Brin got it 90% right.
Perhaps more a measure of their times than of their relative insight.

In 2015, there was an article in "Communications of the ACM" that described a computational thinking program at Scottish schools. It reminded me of "Why Johnny Can't Code" which I had just recently read at that time (though it was originally published in 2006 I think). The key idea was that humans are not just tool users, but tool makers.

There are examples of animals using tools, and even applying basic principles of physics (eg Archimedes). But they don't make tools. Chimps come close, thinning down twigs and shoots to craft ant-catchers. However, flint axes, knives, and spearheads are very different. They require multi-generational technological progress, which requires communication of detailed knowlege. Obsidian flake composite tools, bows, and throwing levers like the atlatl are way beyond crows and chimps or even inventive individual humans. History is a story of toolmaking, and raw intelligence is a bit player compared to the leading character: chit-chat.

If the Johnnies of this world could just achieve a modest programming fluency, it would be such a huge step forward, not merely technologically, but sociologically. Khan in ST TOS: "Oh, there has been technical advancement, but how little man himself has changed."

David Brin said...

Blowfish, yes, the confederate masses fear losing dominance of their 'kind'... but their masters... the world oligarchy ... fears a locking-in of transparent rule of law and accountability to a fact-using caste of nerds. Hence it is the latter that is railed at on Fax... at least FIFTY times as often as Foxites attack faces and such.

Yes, fusion is being solved. glacially and is several misguided ways. But it'll happen.

Scidata sorry, Kahn was an ass. See my 2001 Space odyssey essay. We are accopliching vast amounts socially and psychically. That is why the oligarchy is crazy with fear.

David Brin said...

I need just 499 more FB followers to crest 25,000! I think they award you a sticker or lollipop!

scidata said...

Dr. Brin Scidata sorry, Kahn was an ass.

That was the point of that episode. But like any good writing, TOS imbued their villains with 3D intellect instead of cartoonishness. And the fact that we are accomplishing vast amounts is no reason not to pick up the pace. Sugary-smug self-congratulation on the left is soooo counterproductive.

Also, the real prize is not Artificial Intelligence (AI), it's Intelligence Amplification (IA). As I said before, they screech, we launch satellites.

David Brin said...

An incisive, perceptive and fair-minded Locus review of my new nonfiction book VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood - http://www.davidbrin.com/vividtomorrows.html

https://locusmag.com/2021/06/alvaro-zinos-amaro-reviews-vivid-tomorrows-on-science-fiction-and-hollywood-by-david-brin/

Don Gisselbeck said...

If you live in the US and are affected by the decisions of its government, why shouldn't you have a say in the makeup of that government?

Pappenheimer said...

Commercial Fusion Power - the wave of the future that never reaches the shore!

Seriously, I've been waiting around since the 80's for it. I hope you are right, but at this point I'll be good if a Lawson criterion - meeting prototype shows up before the Black Camel kneels at my door.

Did read a good point online that with renewables becoming more and more efficient, actual fusion reactors may turn out to be "base load" units. rather than unitary sources.

Alfred Differ said...

Fission or fusion... they belong in base load generation categories.

There will never be a single source flexible, stable, and reliable enough to meet our collective needs.

The real irony in all this is the tech involved mostly reduces to simple things at the energy production end.
1. Gravitational potential energy storage.
2. Steam pressure (thermodynamic phase changes) because Man is a fire user.
3. Move electrons by moving a magnetic field, probably done using 1) or 2).
4. Move electrons using photons.

Fission and fusion are about 2).
Mother Nature drives 1).

duncan cairncross said...

Re Fusion

From an engineers POV its a long long way off
My understanding is that we are still working towards the point where the fusion generated energy is greater than the energy that we have to put into the reaction

But from an engineering POV all energy is not equal
We will need "high grade" energy to put into the reaction and will get "heat" back out

As a result the "break even point" will only occur when we get about four times as much energy out as we put in
And that still does not allow any "profit" that we can put onto the grid

We need to be getting ten or twenty times as much energy out as we put in before it will be worth while

Blowfish said...

That does not sound to good . I am now nearly 70 years old and I have been following fusion
research since I was about 16 years old and reading you comment does not make it seem like I will see a working commercial fusion reactor in my lifetime . I always thought that a fusion reactor would be used to baseload the grid .

Paul451 said...

Re: Fusion.

There's several "break-even" points depending on what you want to count.

1) Creating as much energy, in all forms, as was put into the system to create that reaction. Physics break-even. The larger programs have been creeping closer to this over the last decade.

2) Capturing as much useful energy from fusion as was put in. Engineering break-even. This requires a significant bump in energy-out/energy-in compared to #1 due to the difficulty in capturing/converting the output energy.

3) Generating more electrical energy from that captured fusion energy than is used to power the whole machine. Electrical break-even. This roughly triples the ratio of energy-out/energy-in compared to #2.

4) Generating a large enough excess of electrical energy than required to run it, that the facility earns enough to cover its operating costs. Financial break-even.

5) Earning enough money above the operating costs to cover the "cost of money" of the cost of building the facility. Investment break-even.

We're might reach #1 in our lifetimes.

-----

The window might be tightening on #4 and #5 ever being possible, however. $/kW and $/kWhr of renewable energy and energy storage are decreasing exponentially.

No other energy source is declining in costs in the same way, and only natural gas has declined in costs at all. Inevitably, distributed solar+battery will become the lowest cost power source.

(Okay, the current trend might just be the early part of a development s-curve, but even if it is, it's early enough in the curve that the plateau isn't visible yet, so there's a long way to go. It isn't likely to plateau higher than coal or nuclear, even factoring in storage.)

There's not much room for fusion power to ever be financially viable, even if it becomes physically viable.

But I'm still hoping that one of the smaller concepts proves at least physically viable, because I want something that could become a viable fusion drive for fast space missions.

Anonymous said...

North Carolina had such provisions for ID. Still got thrown out by an Antidemocrat judge.


And in other news, Carl Sagan's grave is ready to be harnessed as a new alternative energy source.

https://classes.cornell.edu/browse/roster/SP21/class/ASTRO/2034

Larry Hart said...

Heard on Stephanie Miller's radio show...


Every time Mike Pence gets booed, an angel gets an abortion and a pack of cigarettes.

scidata said...

Re: Boca Chica Starbase

I was mistaken a while back when I said SpaceX was planning two orbital launches per day.

They're planning three.

Robert said...

When I was in engineering collage in the early 80s fusion the general opinion was fusion was thirty years on the future. That's remained true all my life…

duncan cairncross said...

Fusion for a space "drive" could well become viable - and for energy when you are a long way from the sun

David Brin said...

We do some fusion concepts at NIAC. Speculative, of course. But space drives skip the practical problems of energy conversion and wastes that will hamper fusion power for a decade, down here.

Tony Fisk said...

There were some interesting reports that muon fusion might actually prove feasible* at about the same time that palladium was getting everyone excited. Died with it.

* replacing electrons in hydrogen with heavier muons reduces the atomic radius, and also electrostatic repulsion. Makes fusion *much* more easy . I think it was Alvarez who said he thought he'd solved the world's energy problems, for about fifteen minutes, after which he realised that muon half life was far too short to make the process sustainable. The later excitement arose from reports that Alvarez might have been too pessimistic in his calculations.

Der Oger said...

The politically interesting question is: If fusion technology was researched on a level of governmental devotion equal to the Manhattan project, against all resistance of the oil, nuclear and coal industry, would it be much more in range?

Since it is not, I still believe one way to satisfy our hunger for electricity by making us more energy efficient, not by building more power plants.

scidata said...

Fusion, astrophysics, gravitational collapse, supercomputing, and even citizen science - all roads lead to Hans Bethe. The one time I was ever in his presence (a lecture I was woefully unqualified to attend), I really wanted to ask him about the similarities between 'collapse math' (he was the best ever at it) and psychohistory. I would have been murdalized for such audacity of course (and rightfully so). Anyway, fusion cries out for alternate history SF. (that's a cue for other CB'ers to list even more books that I haven't read :)

David Brin said...

I’m a bit skeptical, but a food-from-air system that uses solar energy panels to make electricity to react carbon dioxide from the air produces food for microbes grown in a bioreactor. The protein the microbes produce is then treated to remove nucleic acids and then dried to produce a powder suitable for consumption by humans and animals. Of course we are still hoping for the sweet spot from algae farms that would combine over-fertilized agricultural runoff and bio waste with CO2 from major sources like cement plants with sunlight to do much the same thing. https://phys.org/news/2021-06-food-air-solar-power-efficient.html

Acacia H. said...

The thing is, hybrid fission-fusion is far easier to achieve and will also eliminate the problem with most nuclear waste. Yet there is little interest in it.

David Brin said...

Too bad if you missed the opportunity to get the ENTIRE Uplift Storm Trilogy (on Kindle) for $2.99! But the sale is concluding with *Startide Rising* on June 25, for $1.99!

Here's the Amazon page ... But see also the catalogue Friday at... https://earlybirdbooks.com
And see if you can get the same deal from your indie bookstore! Like Mysterious Galaxy!

And SUNDIVER (book #1 of my career) is sold separately by me at davidbrin dot com...

Daniel Duffy said...

Thorium is better than fusion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74iiaXIVtZI

Der Oger said...

@Daniel Duffy:
Thorium is better than fusion
Why?

That said, I don't know who produces worse propaganda ads: nuclear energy corporations or the CCP.

Oh, and a dissenting voice on the thorium hype.

Daniel Duffy said...

DO - thorium is better than fusion because fusion will never work (as in be technically feasible and economically profitable and competitive with other energy sources):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrUWoywZRt8

Der Oger said...

@Daniel Duffy:
Fusion technology might be far away, though I believe it might work one day. It won't help us battling climate change or other environmental problems, but it is fundamental research that has to be done for the development of humanity itself.

From the comments section:
Finally, the views and opinions of Daniel Jassby are those of one person. There are thousands upon thousands of plasma physicists and fusion scientists who have been working with fusion for 25, 30, 40, 50 or even 70 years and agree that it's worth pursuing. Even though they know they are planting a tree, under which shade they shall never sit. But 'tis for us, or our children, to enjoy.

Plus, my bullshit propaganda radar ticks loud when I see the Tech Luddite clips ... who finances them? I have seen too much stories of cozy relationships between nuclear corporations (or any other type of coal, oil and energy company) and governments not to suspect something fishy here.

It is also a question of commitment. Overall spending on fusion energy is far behind that on nuclear energy over the course of the last 60 years or so. In addition, I'd not be surprised if some universities and key researchers have received donations to pursue certain other projects and not those related to fusion.

scidata said...

29 potentially habitable exoplanets planets could have already heard us.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/exolanets-signals-earth-1.6078841

David Brin said...

That article isn't about having 'heard' us but something else... being lined up with our ecliptic plane so Earth would pass across the sun making it easy for them to study our atmosphere.

Pappenheimer said...

The future used to be brighter. The Traveller role-playing system developed in 1977 had early fusion, experimental interstellar jump drive and limited anti-gravity being developed somewhere around 1990-2000. Of course, Heinlein's graph of maximum human vehicle velocity as a steepening curve had us breaking light speed this century, IIRC.
I suspect that the MASSIVE tech changes of the 20th century conditioned a lot of people to expect even more change in the 21st. And...we've got some, but it looks more and more like a lot of the low hanging fruit has been taken.

(not discounting cell phones with translator or medscanner apps, but they aren't hoverboards)

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer:

The future used to be brighter...


My brother teaches history in high school, and he used to do a unit he called "My how the future has changed", comparing sci-fi speculations of different eras.

Robert said...

(not discounting cell phones with translator or medscanner apps, but they aren't hoverboards)

Tricorders and communicators rolled into one :-)

David Brin said...

When will the future arrive? It's waiting on the wings, with citizen-empowerment apps and attachments for cell phones, like the medical diagnostic tools developed for the Tricorder XPrize.

https://www.xprize.org/prizes/tricorder

Alfred Differ said...

"My how the future has changed"

Yah. It's not at all like I expected, but what I expected changed with each decade as a grew up.

As far as I'm concerned, though, the future is here. I seriously did not expect AI structures like Google built. Language translation was suppose to require the impossible AI (generalized intelligence) that was always as far off in the future as fusion. Then BAM! it was here. They aren't perfect at it, but the approach they use isn't really all that different from what flesh-n-blood humans use.

Oh. And mRNA vaccines. Seriously. The future is already here.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Seriously. The future is already here.


Cynical response: Republicans are probably thinking the same thing.

"In my wildest dreams, I never imagined using captured state legislatures to rig all future presidential and congressional elections in our favor. Or making it legal to run down anyone who protests with our trucks. And our very own tv and radio stations, warping reality into whatever we decide to say it is.

That was always as far off in the future as fusion. Then BAM! it was here."

Der Oger said...

@Pappenheimer:

While the original game (also called LBB, the Little Black Books) of 1977 had no explicit setting and made optimistic assumptions about technology, it had an implicit one expressed through things like the Social Status characteristic (which includes ranks of nobility) and the subsector/world generation system (which assumes that worlds become more politically oppressive the more populated they are; and, "it is the economy, stupid.")

So, no utopia here; later on, it is clearly described that while technology might have developed to near-magical levels, people are still people, with all traits, faults and desires also found in contemporary humanity. For a game, this is fine, since it is hard to be heroic or adventurous in a true age of enlightenment.

David Brin said...

onward!

scidata said...

I complain a lot about Apollo 11 being followed by 50 years of low-earth orbit. However, it ushered in the microprocessor age. Some say that Turing moved the world ahead 50 years. I'd say it's more like 100. Tricky turns. Like the bombing of Francis Crick's physics lab that caused him to switch to biology.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

GMT -5 said...

So, in order to protect the country from Republicans, the Democrats must change the rules to make certain the Republicans never gain the majority in Congress or elect a president again. And what happens when a political party effectively abolishes all opposing parties? Look at what is happening in our major cities. We have total control by so-called Democratic party mayors and city councils that govern as if they were the worst form of Republicans.

Blowfish said...

This is another question for David Brin and anyone else who thinks they can answer it .
Some years ago I read in a book about cosmology that there were certain PHYSICAL LAWS en CONSTANTS that were valid throughout the universe that forbade any form of biological life not based on carbon . Is this true ?
I ask this because at the moment I'm having an e-mail discussion with a friend of mijn on the likelihood that intelligent life kan or would contact us taking into account the huge distances involved and the short length of time that a civilisation in relation to the distance that has to be travelled would most likely would continue to exist . I state this because I have also read that a biological life form most likely has a maximum length of time that it is likely to exist . I stated to him that even if this life form sent out robots to contact us the length of time that it would tAke for the collected data to arrive back at the sender would be so long that it would no longer be interesting or the life form would have stopped existing .

David Brin said...

Hey Grand "Moff"... I answer you in the next comment thred. We leave old ones after the onward.

onward.

Blowfish said...

Concerning Davids latest Tweet about police unions and the fact that they seem to be more as one tweet replier said more fraternal organisations than real unions , looking at what is going on in the US from de viewpoint of Europe it would seems that a significant part of US society has a John Wayne mentality . A society of around 330 million people that has 300 million guns in circulation and multiple mass shootings every week would seem to have something wrong with it .
Every time a white policeman shoots a member of a minority group I ask myself could this happen on such a scale in the Netherlands where I live and I have to conclude that it is very unlikely . Of course we have our bad appels in the police force but they are much rarer than in the US . I'm not sure what the length of training a US policeman/woman gets but a Dutch policeman/woman gets 2 years at a police academy and after that one year on the force with a mentor. They are also trained that when they have to use their weapon they try for a none lethal shot. It is very rare for a Dutch policeman to kill someone . Also the police unions are real unions and not the defenders of bad appels that they appear to be in the US .
I would have replied on Twitter to Davids Tweet if I could have written at such length and I am very grateful to David for giving the opportunity to so many to reply at such length .