Friday, October 01, 2021

Seeking solutions - not sanctimony

Today's theme is seeking solutions - technological, social, personal - in a pragmatic spirit that seems all-too lost, these days. One Place where you find that spirit flowing as vigorously as ever is the X-Prize Foundation led by Peter Diamandis.

The theme of the latest XPrize challenge seeks methods of agricultural carbon sequestrationWhat if there is an efficient way to capture carbon from the air and safely store it for 1000 years or more?

What if the cost of capturing the carbon is near zero - with no new technology needed?

What if the cost of storing (sequestering) the carbon is low?

What if the cost will go down as EV transportation ramps up?

What if this can be done on a massive scale promptly and globally?

And - preemptively countering the tech-hating prudes who denounce every technological contribution to problem-solving - what if this can be done morally to not encourage more carbon being added to the air?

Now I am a big supporter of X-Prize and have participated in several endeavors. In this case I’m a bit skeptical, but...

... here's 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. Now do this along the south-facing sides of tall buildings, so cities can feed themselves, and you have a sci fi optimist's trifecta.

== Carbon capture vs. Geo-Engineering... vs puritanism and denialism? ==

What’s the Least Bad Way to Cool the Planet?  Yes it's controversial, as it should be. But many of those who oppose even researching or talking about ‘geo-engineering’ seem almost as fanatical as the Earth-killers of the Denialist Cult. Puritans vehemently denounce any talk of “palliative remedies” will distract from our need to cut carbon!

Which is simply false. Oh, we must develop sustainables and conservation as our primary and relentlessly determined goal! I have been in that fight ever since helping run the Clean Air Car Race in 1970 and later writing EARTH. Find me anyone you know with a longer track record. Still, we must also have backups to help bridge a time of spreading deserts, flooding cities, malaria and possible starvation. We are a people capable of many things, in parallel! And to that end I lent some help to this effort, led by Pro. David Keith, to study the tradeoffs now, before panic sets in.

Keith is a professor of applied physics and of public policy at Harvard, where he led the development of the university’s solar engineering research program. He founded a company doing big things in carbon capture. He is also a co-host of the podcast “Energy vs Climate”. 

Consulting a bit for that effort, I spoke up for a version of geoengineering that seems the most ‘natural’ and least likely to have bad side effects… and one that I portrayed in my 1990 novel EARTH - ocean fertilization. Not the crude way performed in a few experiments so far, dropping iron dust into fast currents… though those experiments did seem to have only positive effects, spurring increased fish abundance, but apparently removing only a little carbon. 

In EARTH I describe instead fertilizing some of the vast stretches of ocean that are deserts, virtually void of macroscopic life, doing it exactly the same way that nature does, off the rich fisheries of Labrador and Chile and South Africa — by stirring bottom mud to send nutrients into fast currents. (Only fast ones, for reasons I’ll explain in comments.)

Just keep an open mind, okay? We're going to need a lot of solutions, both long term and temporary, in parallel. That is, if we can ever overcome the insanity of many neighbors who reflexively hate all the solution-creating castes.

 == And more solutions... ==

And now we see... a 3D-printed neighborhood using robotic automation. Located in Rancho Mirage, California in Coachella Valley, the community will feature 15 homes on a 5-acre parcel of land. The homes will feature solar panels, weather-resistant materials and minimally invasive environmental impacts for eco-friendly homeowners. One hopes.

Okay this is interesting and … what’s the catch?  Apparently extracting geothermal energy from a region reduces geological stresses, like earthquake activity.Caltech researchers have discovered that the operations related to geothermal energy production at Coso over the last 30 years have de-stressed the region, making the area less prone to earthquakes. These findings could indicate ways to systematically de-stress high-risk earthquake regions, while simultaneously building clean energy infrastructure.” 

Well well. Makes sense, but again, the catch? Not just California. We should use the magma under Yellowstone to power the nation! Lest we get a bad ‘burp” (see my novel Existence) or something much worse.  Oh, and these geothermal plants also could locally source rare earths.

And while I'm offering click bait... a Caltech Professor analyzed the Hindenburg disaster and offered – for a NOVA episode – a highly plausible and well worked-out theory for how it happened.

Paul Shoemaker’s newly released book interviews many futurists and managerial types, with an eye toward guiding principles that can help make capitalism positive-sum. Take a look at: Taking Charge of Change: How Rebuilders Solve Hard Problems.

== Revisiting SARS-Cov-2 origins ==

I can’t count the number of folks – including likely some of you reading this now – who hammered on me for saying, half a year or so ago, that acknowledged gain-of-function research into increased virulence of SARS-type coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)… which had had lab slip-ups in the past… might have played a role in the sudden emergence of Covid19 in the very same city. Might… have. All I asserted was that it could not yet be ruled out. “Paranoia!” came the common (and rather mob-like) rejoinder, along with “shame on you for spreading hateful propaganda without any basis!”

Well, as it happens, there’s plenty of basis. And this article dispassionately delineates the pros and cons in an eye-opening way… e.g. how the original letter proclaiming an ‘obvious wet market source” was orchestrated by the very fellow who financed WIV’s gain-of-function research. If you want an eye-opening tour of the actual scientific situation and what’s known, start here.

Sure, that then opens a minefield of diplomatic and scientific ramifications that would have been much simpler, had we been able to shrug off dark possibilities as "paranoid." I'm not afraid of minefields, just cautious. It's called the Future?

== Suddenly Sanctimony Addiction is In The News! ==

Professor James Kimmel (Yale) recently got press attention for pushing the notion that: “your brain on grievance looks a lot like your brain on drugs. In fact, brain imaging studies show that harboring a grievance (a perceived wrong or injustice, real or imagined) activates the same neural reward circuitry as narcotics.” He has developed role play interventions for healing from victimization and controlling revenge cravings. 

Of course this is related to my own longstanding argument that it is a huge mistake to call all 'addiction' evil, as a reflex. These reinforcement mechanisms had good evolutionary reasons… e.g. becoming “addicted to love” or to our kids or to the sublime pleasure of developing and applying a skill. The fact that such triggers can be hijacked by later means, from alcohol and drugs to video games, just redoubles our need to study the underlying reason we developed such triggers, in the first place.  And, as Dr. Kimmel so cogently points out, the most destructive such 'hijacking' is grudge-sanctimony — because it causes us to lash out, drive off allies, ignore opportunities for negotiation and generally turn positive sum situations into zero… or even negative sum… ones.

Here’s my TED talk on “The addictive plague of getting mad as hell."  ...And the much earlier - more detailed - background paper I once presented at the Centers for Drugs and Addiction: Addicted to Self-Righteousness?

And yes, this applies even if your ‘side’ in politics or culture wars happens to be right! The rightness of the cause is arguably orthogonal to the deepness of this addiction to the sick-sweet pleasures of sanctimony and grievance and rage. Indeed, many of those on the side of enlightenment and progress are (alas) so stoked on these reinforcement rage chemicals that they become counter-productive the the very cause we share.


Tony Fisk said...

At this moment, drawing down carbon is of secondary consideration to not putting carbon out there in the first place. Still, it will become a greater priority in due course, and it does no harm to start trials.

Systems are *complicated*. While the obvious objective is to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, doing so directly is unlikely to show any immediate benefit because the carbon dissolved into the oceans will be given back.

A better approach may be to look at the oceans. That way emissions reductions, and ocean drawdown will serve to reduce the atmospheric gases quicker.

Growing kelp in the open ocean has been suggested. Kelp grows prolifically and takes carbon from sea water (where it is more concentrated than air)

And you've probably heard about the work being done on seaweed extracts that eliminate methane production in livestock.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Speaking of sanctimony, there wasa vocal group of environmentalists who thought it would be better for the California condor to become extinct than for humans to captive breed it.

David Brin said...

Dong G I remember that. It helped inspire the arguments in Earth over the Life Arks.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, for everybody who snarked at me when I last discussed this subject, "scientists" agree with me. So there! :),space%20organisations%20are%20not%20ready.%E2%80%9D

Sex in space would be heavenly, say scientists

Sorry, I didn't pay to read the full article.

David Brin said...

Does anyone know if there's been follow up on this covid vs IQ thing?

Alfred Differ said...

Not sure about the IQ thing, but I wouldn't be shocked if it correlates with the strongest reactions. Overactive immune responses do all sorts of damage.

However, I'd wait a few years to see if it is acute or chronic.

Robert said...

Being on a ventilator often leads to 'brain fog', sometimes permanent.

Larry Hart said...

Yeah, this is me. Sadly.

But our polity is not healthy, and the mood today is, obviously, nothing like it was in 2009. Then, success bred complacency. People set out to make Obama president, and they did, so they felt they could relax. I know of no one who cares about politics who feels relaxed now. The problem, rather, is a sort of numb despair. “People are getting fatalistic,” said Michael Podhorzer, a political strategist at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “Maybe that’s a better word than fatigue.”

Part of the issue is that it’s increasingly hard to imagine that American life will get better anytime soon. During the last five years, it was at least possible to identify dates at which things might turn around. The midterms offered an opportunity to curb Trump. The 2020 election was a chance to get rid of him. The depredations of the pandemic had to be endured until vaccines were widely available.

But now? The Republican Party is as deranged and authoritarian as ever. Biden’s agenda is stuck in a congressional standoff that’s at once frustrating, terrifying and extremely boring. The pandemic is dragging on, without an obvious offramp. We’re completely incapable of addressing the onrushing calamity of climate change. Burnout is marked by feelings of futility, and there’s a lot of that going around.

Larry Hart said...

I think I may have posted the wrong NY Times link above.

Just in case, this is the real one.

David Brin said...

LH that editorial paragraph you shared unintentionally illustrated the problem, which is sourpuss sanctimony. The author of that piece might as well be in the pay of the Kremlin.

David Brin said...

This one offers some interesting insights.
The South’s Resistance to Vaccination Is Not As Incomprehensible As It Seems
The psychological forces driving “red COVID” have deep historical roots.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Guys
This is a look at the history of public health in the South - makes worrying reading

From a "political orphan" somebody who was left behind by the GOP

Larry Hart said...

The "money shot" from duncan's pellagra article linked above. Emphasis mine:

One might imagine that the wealthy would have as much interest in public health as anyone else. What good is it to be rich if you have to live in a disease-ridden backwater? However, there’s another dimension to consider. Not all industries need a healthy public for success. Some paths to wealth and power hinge on a divided and impoverished public, unable to organize to promote their interests. Extractive businesses that profit from wringing money from an asset, like cash-crop farming, mining and oil gain far more from keeping their costs down than they would from any form of improvement in the world around them. The economy in the South remains defined today by the prominence of extractive capital over innovation or knowledge industries.

Larry Hart said...

I should have read the whole thing before posting. Here's an even "money-er" shot:

Powerful government entities, under the influence of a liberal democracy, provide a gateway to badly needed organization for workers and the poor. The more powerful a democratic government becomes, the more leverage that government carries against the wealthy. Living in a disease-ridden environment is of little concern to many wealthy families if it secures their relative power against the emergence of real democratic organization. For many influential Southerners, the spread of COVID is less worrying than the spread of democracy.

David Brin said...

The great science author and scientist William Calvin opined under a previous posting. I moved his comment to this current thread:
William H Calvin said...
Hi David--back again.
A late comment on pseudonyms and transparency: consider the two-hat problem, where one person has two reputations--say, as a scientist analyzing facts but also as a political commentator analyzing opinions. Examples like Noam Chomsky, David Brin, Paul Krugman, etc.

There are others, say climate scientists, who might seek to protect their scientific credibility (or their institution's reputation in the state legislature) by adopting a pseudonym. The pseudonym need not be a secret, erecting a firewall. Even if well known who it really was, the semi-pseudonym would at least keep the media from providing a "Harvard professor" preface to one's name when referencing their politics. For example, "the scientist William Calvin" could become "the commentator Calvin Williams" were there not a famous NFL player by that name.

Call it "just sufficient transparency," something like lightly frosted window panes.


--- Always great to hear from you, Bill.

And yes, you get the flexibility offered by the process of vetted-pseudonymity. Presumably, the person renting a pseudonym from her or his or their fiduciary (and they should cost just pennies) could say "Supply this one with only my credibility scores for "biologist" and "Decent Person." (The latter is required in all cases.) That label would be enough to give William Calvin high entry to bio-discussion sites, but not as high an entry score at sites about best-selling book authors. He might choose to rent a different pseudonym for that site.

And yes, folks will guess ID from the cred scores themselves, plus linguistic cues. But the latter can be made fuzzier with automatic rephrasing software. And you can pay a little more (pennies) for "extra ID secure" or less for shruggable "I don't really care if someone eager and curious figures out this is me" sites.

I truly think this would be a great biz for some credit union or other fiduciary to pioneer.

Paradoctor said...

There exist what are called "proven technologies": methods definitely known to work. There also exist what I call "refuted technologies": methods definitely known to fail. For instance, hydrogen-filled airships, leaded gasoline, and light-water reactors. To these I add, if reports are correct, gain-of-function experiments. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Daniel Duffy said...

OK so what is happening ion Britain where they can't get milk or gas, and China where 2/3 of the country is experiencing blackouts along with the Evergande financial crisis that could take down 1/3 of their economy in an Enron/2008 collapse?

Totally separate or somehow related to wider trends?

David Brin said...

The domestic shortfall of coal has been exacerbated by an unofficial Chinese ban on imports of coal from Australia, previously a major supplier, since late last year over Canberra’s call for an independent global inquiry into the origins of Covid-19. Imports from Australia and other countries generally account for up to 10% of Chinese coal consumption.

Okay. My big question - about which I know nothing - is whether and to what degree the ramping up of Mexican maquiladora production (to replace Chinese factories) is being strategically pushed by this administration. It's a long-needed win-win-win.

And make Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador compete (via human rights) for textile mills. Angain, a win-win.

Finally, I predict one area of liberal desire that Biden will "betray" is natural gas. Yes mehtane is a greenhouse gas... and we need to be sending drones all across the plains and Texas to detect and fine venters! (ASSIGNMENT: one of you look into that?)
But Methane is also the 'cleanest' carbon and ideal for transitioning away from dependence on - and subsidizing of - overseas carbon barons. Especially LNG is strategic to give Europe safety from Putin extortion in winter. And jobs for latinos in Texas and in Louisiana.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Finally, I predict one area of liberal desire that Biden will "betray" is natural gas.

I think you're saying that he won't stop using natural gas. And as a resident of Illinois, I'm perfectly ok with that.

I've got enough liberal cred to take the hit on that one. :)

Robert said...

Totally separate or somehow related to wider trends?

Given that both appear to be related to slowdowns/stoppages in international trade, I'm going with related to the same wider trend.

The global economy is currently based on global supply chains with predictable (and cheap) shipping, and favours efficiency over resilience. Between Covid and various international disagreements we're seeing the value of resilience but you can't transform an economy overnight.

(We saw this last year in toilet paper shortages — there was enough paper, but the 'wrong form', and somehow no supplier was able to break up institutional lots and sell them retail.)

I will also, cynically, wonder how much the shortages are affecting the great and the good who run our countries. Covid travel restrictions don't appear to have stopped them visiting their vacation homes. I doubt they even noticed the toilet paper shortages, and I rather doubt that the average British banker is lacking petrol for his Range Rover or Bentley.

Someone here posted a study (years ago) that showed that private charters becoming common among the wealthy coincided with the general fall in aviation comfort for the rest of us — including treatment at the terminal. There's something to be said for making management eat at the same canteen as the workers, rather than a private dining room…

Daniel Duffy said...

Get a cup of coffee and let Peter Zeihan explain why Mexican demographics make Mexico and the US perfect partners (and why Canada is no NAFTA's third wheel)...

... and why China is a dead man walking.

"Demographics are destiny"

duncan cairncross said...

Demographics AGAIN

This is a failed hypothesis

The truth is that the increase in the numbers of pensioners is offset almost completely by a reduction in the number of kids

The two "costs" are damn near the same!

Saying that the US situation is slightly different due to the massive spending on the last two months of somebodies life
This is a US problem - caused by the "for profit" system and is nowhere near the issue everywhere each where spending a fortune to be in pain or helpless for an extra month is NOT considered to be a good idea!

Also the over 65 - pensioners - are capable of and DO contribute to society
The next stage - that Japan is leading with - is automated "home help" - which will reduce the costs even further

TCB said...

@ Paradoctor, ALL airships are a disproven technology, at least for actual transport. Reason: they are much too vulnerable to high winds and storms, therefore only make sense for fair weather service and short trips (since any really long flight usually encounters some rough patches).

Another aviation story that intersects with toilet-paper hoarding behavior is the insane 1981 Tupolev jet crash that killed 16 Soviet Pacific Fleet admirals and 34 other souls, leaving a conference near Leningrad (they only lost four admirals in World War 2!) Turned out the officers had gone on shopping sprees for goods they couldn't get back in the far end of Russia, and massively overloaded the aircraft. Dumb, arrogant, and nobody dared tell them no.

Tim H. said...

CH4 is so much less problematic than H2, methane can be adequately handled with readily available plumbing supplies, hydrogen... not really. If we never stop burning methane, it's still an improvement over coal. And Texas has always been ... interesting, but negligently leaking methane that they could sell... Chevy Chase could add that to his list of signs of mental illness.

Alfred Differ said...

The airship problem isn't H2. It's the thick atmosphere through which they fly near the ground. Might as well fly a wall through sea water. Air is really thick near the ground and pushes them around.

My team was trying to deal with this. Our design was intended to operate about 30 kms up and stay up there for long periods. You'd bring it down when ground winds weren't so bad. You'd send them up quickly. Much easier to get them aloft than get them secured on the ground.

Everyone thinks H2 is a problem. It isn't if you are careful. Helium is MUCH harder to manage. Damn stuff leaks away at quite a clip. Hard to get it back.

Oh... and don't make your airship skin flammable. Duh.

Three things.

1. Be very careful about H2 dilution.
2. Be aware you are flying a huge capacitor.
3. Know that your ground infrastructure will be huge, thus expensive.

What killed our effort was actually #3. Good luck finding facilities where you can run engineering tests.

David Brin said...

In EXISTENCE I posit dirigibles that use 75% Hydrogen in vertical cells than can belch-eliminate the gas upward and out in the event of any emergency... which of course happens. The other 25% of the cells are helium-filled separators to ensure no air or oxygen gets near the H2 cells.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

n EXISTENCE I posit dirigibles that use 75% Hydrogen in vertical cells than can belch-eliminate the gas upward and out in the event of any emergency... which of course happens. The other 25% of the cells are helium-filled separators to ensure no air or oxygen gets near the H2 cells.

Which of course also happens. :)

* * *

Alfred Differ:

Oh... and don't make your airship skin flammable.

A tangent to be sure, but you reminded me.

It's so hip these days to be outraged that the words "flammable" and "inflammable" mean the same thing, and yet no one bats an eyelash at "habitable" and "inhabitable". Why is that? Seriously.

Tony Fisk said...

I've idly contemplated 'vubbles'* for lighter than air transport. Di Lana couldn't make his evacuated copper spheres thin enough, and later studies concluded that no material existed that could be made thin enough, yet still withstand the pressure.** Still, that's for a hollow sphere. Some internal bracing strategies might work with a bit of fractal thinking...

David, pure nitrogen would probably suffice for your insulation. Much easier to obtain and handle and pretty unreactive. Downside is the lift loss.

* A concept I originated... about four hundred years after Francesco Di Lana! Well, I get there eventually.
** Mind you, the pressure at 20km is only about 10%.

Larry Hart said...

Just sayin'. Emphasis mine. Remind you of anyone?

For now, we'll say that it wasn't just American Christians that the troll farms targeted. They also ran popular pages for Black Americans, Native Americans, and women. "My Baby Daddy Aint S**t," the #1 page for Black Facebook users, was run by a troll farm. So were "Native Americans" and "Native Americans Cherokee," two of the five most popular Native American pages. Oh, and of the 20 most popular Christian pages, the number run by trolls? That would be 19.

Tim H. said...

Alfred, I was thinking about the issues of H2 as a replacement for methane fuel and was unaware of any contemporary use of H2 as a lifting gas.

GMT -5 said...

Today marks another successful (more or less) survival of being on this planet for one more orbit around the sun. I will reward myself by listening to Professor Brin's TED talk the addictive plague. I think I mentioned this topic in a comment in the last few weeks.

I had cake with some family members last night. I will be going out to California in November to spend Thanksgiving with family I have not seen in almost 40 years. By some weird coincidence, they live in...Rancho Mirage. After seeing the cousins, we will go to Disneyland and the Disney California Adventure (I had no idea that second park even existed...last time I was in that area was in 2006 and the area was still mostly parking lot).

Where did SARS-Cov-2 come from? I am a lawyer with no science expertise and I did not spend last night in a Holiday Inn Express (I have not seen that commercial for a long time so it is probably no longer aired), but I take find the lab leak hypothesis to be very compelling. I will read the article that David linked to with great interest.

scidata said...

Re: dirigibles
Getting heavier-than-air flight working on Mars pretty much closes the book on our old balloon dreams. It's too late to go back, we're closer to the other shore (GATTACA reference); warp engines would give anti-grav as a freebie.

re: pragmatic efforts
For me, a polemics dunce, it comes down to these three:
1) prepare for, mitigate, and shorten the darkness - CollapseOS (Forth) is a good project
2) spread computer literacy (from transistors to social media to AI) - WJCC is a good project
3) spread appreciation of reason and evidence - citizen science is a good catalyst

Jim Lund said...

David, opposition to geo-engineering is primarily opposition to a do-nothing stalling tactic not opposition to long-shot engineering research. Polluters aren't saying let's end CO2 releases and also fund long shot research, they are saying the lets keep burning coal while funding 'green coal' research to explore carbon capture. Or they are saying, limiting CO2 emissions is impossible, what we really need to do is explore ocean seeding and space based shade. They are disrupting prudent action by throwing all the chaff they can find into the public discussion.

The world is complicated. There are eager researchers who thing geo-engineering is an exciting pure research question. There are pragmatic researchers who figure that the fossil fuel industries will win all the fights, and sensible thing is to work on solutions to +4C planetary warming.

The best course today is to reduce CO2 emissions sharply immediately.

Jim Lund said...

If your neighbor sets up a small lead battery recycling business in his driveway, cracking batteries open with an angle grinder and sending lead dust over the fence, you would complain stridently. Would you be happy if he responded by saying, "Have you explored bioremediation?" and "What about autonomous dust scavenging nanobots, I saw a paper with a prototype?"

If a house guest poured a can of tar on your kitchen floor and started to track it around your house, you would not be happy if he responded to your irritation with, "It's a natural product, it will break down in decades!" or "A layer of straw is effective bioremediation."

Larry Hart said...

Yeah, we already knew this. Emphasis mine...

The Reagan revolution pitted itself against “activist” judges who were seen as following personal whims by altering the law and creating rights not found in the Constitution. Through interpretive tools like textualism and originalism, the Reagan lawyers sought to make the law more predictable and steady — as articulated by John Roberts, the job of justices was “to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat.”

That revolution, however, has morphed into what it was meant to curtail, as the expanding right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has relied on an array of innovative constitutional rights to undermine traditional governmental actions while discarding longstanding precedents with which they disagree.

David Brin said...

"Former White House strategist Steve Bannon on Monday dug in on this threat that Donald Trump-loyal “shock troops” will move to “deconstruct” the federal government the minute a Republican takes over the Oval Office again.

“We need to get ready now,” he said on his “War Room” podcast. “We control the country. We’ve got to start acting like it. And one way we’re going to act like it, we’re not going to have 4,000 [shock troops] ready to go, we’re going to have 20,000 ready to go.""

David Brin said...

Happy birthday GMT-5! Mine is this week, too. And I wish you all, (including lurkers) joy and health.

Scidata, quickly improving weather analysis (disrupted by climate change) can make lighter than air feasible for certain uses. In EXISTENCE I envision trains of them tethered to ground locomotives speeding medium-valuable cargo across the continent. Easy to reel in, when a storm looms.

Jim Lund you repeat the same old puritan denunciation of geoengineering - and it is valid in some cases... until it is not. And when it is not valid, it is execrably insulting and dumb. Yes some try the ploy that you describe. Should we let such monsters control our agenda, making zero-sum or negative-sum things that are inherently positive sum?

The momentum favoring sustainables is now huge and geopolitically it makes sense to smash Russian and OPEC oil/gas power in the best way, by laughing at their threats and making their product obsolete.

MEANWHILE we have a BILLION people under threat for their very lives by climate change and NO reduction in carbon load is going to prevent decades of pai and death... while it is possible that some form of geoengineered slight dimming - or restoring Earth's diminishing albedo - might allow them to keep their farms and homes.

How about you ask THEM whether we should look into doing things in parallel?

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle engages in some science...

There's a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, this thing is a ravening gravitational monster that pulls in goddamn stars by the millions and eats them whole and even it doesn't suck as hard as a Republican who actually tried to cheat in Arizona of all places and ended up losing even more.

Jim Lund said...

The biggest challenge today is same one we've faced for 50 years--the owners of fossil fuels have tremendous political power and block efforts to reduce use of fossil fuels. I think the reduction of $/watt for renewables over the last 15 years has been a real shock to them.

Geo-engineering research is useful, and may payoff by 2100-2200. It won't help anyone any time in the coming decades. Let's think optimistically about how much and when these things will contribute to slowing global warming.

Reducing fossil fuel use could start today and reduce emissions by 80% in 20 years. Net cost is fairly low (<1% global GDP), but it would cost the owners of fossil fuels a lot. Without political support, the reduction might be half that as the use of renewables grows.

Fossil fuel carbon capture--minor effect, might reduce CO2 emissions by < 2% in 20 years. Costs are high.

Capture of atmospheric CO2. Several ways of doing this are already known, but aren't being done at scale because of high cost. Effect on net CO2 emissions in 20 years < 1%. Basic equation is energy + CO2 -> mineralized or buried CO2.

Ocean seeding--say 10 years of research, then full speed ahead, the oceans are seriously screwed up anyway. Then 1% reduction in net CO2 emissions in 30 years. Costs are likely low.

Reforestation / plant capture of carbon. Seems unlikely to contribute much on a global scale. Competes with other land uses--crops, sprawl, etc.

Some sort of upper atmosphere dust seeding to reduce insolation. 30+ years of research (we don't know what to do, how effective it will be, or how to carry it out today). High potential, high cost, requires ongoing effort because CO2 levels stay high. Will require ongoing spread of megatons of stuff in high atmosphere.

Space-based solar shield: 40+ years of research to develop tech and space capability, 20 years to build? High potential, high cost. Requires ongoing efforts because CO2 level stay high.

By 2050, less than 5%, maybe < 1%, of the reduction of CO2 emissions will be due to carbon capture or geo-engineering. And this would be the case even if there were no political barriers to implementing them.

What it looks like is that the government investment put into renewables research over the last 30 years has paid off, and most of the reduction of fossil fuel use from 2000-2040 will be due to renewables becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. Government incentives have sped this up by 5-10 years already. A big effort to replace fossil fuels with renewables offers the best prospect of reducing atmospheric CO2 by 2050.

After we reduce human-caused CO2 emissions to a low level, reducing global warming by going to net negative CO2 or lowering Earth insolation will require one of the mentioned technologies, they will probably be better than trying to adapt as the planet continues to warm.

The ways of reducing global warming after CO2 is released are what--10X, 100X more expensive than the cost of preventing the CO2 pollution up front?

duncan cairncross said...

I think that Jim is correct

The main opposition from environmentalists is not to "Geoengineering" so much as to the fossil fuel lot who USE the concept of geoengineering as an excuse

Which is a prime case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater

Hopefully the balance of power is shifting and we will be able to move forwards with geoengineering without giving the fossil fuel lot a green light

A carbon tariff would be excellent

David Brin said...

Stonekettle is great. But the galaxy's central black hole hasn't eaten a single star since we discovered it. Several dozen play orbital tag and someday will fall in. But the millions were long ago i Quasar days.

Jim L thanks for the summary. I disagree on several point, like the amount of research that "has" already been done on these possibilitiies. In fact it is virtually nil and the puritans are at fault for that, raving that any such studies will only encourage more carbon spewing. But it does not have to be zero sum and assuming that it is manifestly is insane and murderous of hope for a billion or more who WILL otherwise be displaced.

No rational person would want anything but full throttle efforts in PARALLEL.

BTWthe one major ocean fertilization experiment, off British Columbia did not seem to pull out very much carbon... but it did correlate with the best Salmon harvest in decades and had zero perceived bad effects. And effects were rapid. So why no repeat? Puritanism.

I am very skeptical of Carbon capture except for very promising placement of algae farms next to farms (for the runoff) and Cement factories (for the concentrated CO2).

A 90% reduction in meat eating is probably the best option short term, allowing reforestation and fewer farts.

But yes, the sulfur dioxide experiments should carefully proceed.

David Brin said...

I am fine with carbon tariffs! ETC!! And yet show me the actual cases of the fossil lobby doing that... except the utter lie of carbon capture. Yes, there are examples. And we should consign a billion people to hell because a general concept is seized upon by some bastards?

Bob Neinast said...

Tim H is concerned about H2 to power a vehicle. Take a look at Nikola Trucks: . And Edmunds, reviewing hydrogen powered fuel cell cars says that "After extensive testing, researchers say they are as safe to drive as gasoline cars." See .

To my eye, the major problem is producing enough hydrogen. Yes, you can split water (using some renewable for the energy), but from my understanding the process is pretty inefficient, due to a lack of good catalysts. But it seems to me that we just need more research (don't forget the leaps and bounds in solar once we really got going on it).

You also might take a look at this youtube video from "Physics Girl" on the Toyota Mirai: . And there are plenty more videos on it there.

duncan cairncross said...

Bob Neinast

The problem with hydrogen as a fuel is that its either dirty hydrogen from fossil fuels or "Green Hydrogen" made using renewable energy

Using electricity to
make hydrogen - compress it - cool it - and turn it back into electricity is very inefficient

Using the same energy in a battery car will take you well over three times as far!

And the inefficiencies are not "engineering" (we have a chance of fixing them) but "Physics" and we can't fix them

Its important to distinguish between the things that we have a chance of fixing - and the things we don't

Hydrogen for cars was possibly a good idea 20 years ago - today its either a scam or just some old fogeys who have got a bee in their bonnet (and are in charge of Toyota)

David Brin said...

And there's an infrastructure for distributing electricity and methane and gasoline. There's none for hydrogen (or very little) and it leaks like mad.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Using electricity to
make hydrogen - compress it - cool it - and turn it back into electricity is very inefficient

A few years back, someone on this list suggested--probably tongue in cheek--using solar power to provide electricity to mine bitcoin during the day and then converting the bitcoin back to electricity at night. Assuming that "converting bitcoin to electricity" means buying the power, that's so stupid it might work.

Alfred Differ said...

Tim H,

Ah. Okay. I can't think of good contemporary uses either.

I used to be a hydrogen fan, but not anymore. I'm not so worried about things that go boom, though. It really does have some physics problems for anything related to our ground fleet. Its energy density really, really sucks.

If really pushed to use hydrogen, I'd be most tempted to use it to make methane and then use that. The reverse of what others are trying to do... I know. Energy density matters, though.


I thought long and hard about the helium layers in those airships. Best I could imagine was a relatively low flyer like our current blimps. Very thick skinned because He leaks into and out of anything it seems. Never asks for permission either. 8)

I wound up settling on warm N2. Pretty inert. Pretty abundant. Lots of ways to remove the O2 from air. Not hard to react H2 outside cells before concentrations get too high to be a problem. Good sparky fun.

Tim H. said...

A small step towards more efficient living might apartments in underground limestone mines, 55℉ 24X7X365, so electricity's only needed for ventilation and lights and the sprawl's out of sight, except for parking/transit stop. For added goodness, have on-site waste treatment/methane digester to augment the power budget, and if one could guarantee no interesting things down the drain, the residue could be composted and used for agriculture (Strictly for biomass if not.). Even though underground, it'd still be nicer digs than anything the (Hypothetical) subjects of the would-be God Emperor of Mars would have.

GMT -5 said...

Happy birthday to you, David.

Regarding geo-thermal energy, I remember a movie where they tried it and it almost destroyed the Earth: CRACK IN THE EARTH.

Reason to be careful about this new technology.

Okay...let me stop laughing. In truth, I would love it if we could have geo-thermal energy to power our homes as well as heat and cool them. My dream house would have a large bank of solar cells, a large bank of batteries, a backup generator, and geo-thermal heating and cooling for the house.

Larry Hart said...

Heard on Stephanie Miller's radio show:

"Kyrsten Sinema is the Susan Sarandon of Tulsi Gabbards"

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I thought long and hard about the helium layers in those airships.
I wound up settling on warm N2. Pretty inert. Pretty abundant. Lots of ways to remove the O2 from air.

Wasn't the reason for using helium as a buffer the fact that helium is also light enough to provide its own lift? If you're going to use nitrogen instead, why not just buffers filled with regular air?

Paradoctor said...

Regular air is not inert.

Jim Lund said...

The most likely origin of SARS-CoV-2 is the same as all the other zoonotic viruses, natural crossover. It has happened repeatedly and recently with other SARs family viruses in Asia. Other theories, like 'lab escape', and the one Wade is touting, 'engineered virus + lab escape' need strong evidence. Today all the evidence points away from engineered virus + lab escape. The best Wade can offer are a few coincidences and an attempt to previous analysis that concluded it was likely that SARS-CoV-2 arose naturally.

Nicholas Wade's SARS-CoV-2 origins article is very weak. Every time I engage with the lab leak theories, they look less likely. Wade explores the idea that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in the Wuhan lab and then escaped. Early on, Wade writes, "Virologists like Daszak... In their laboratories they routinely created viruses more dangerous than those that exist in nature." This is provocative and misleading. There are methods to do genetic engineering that don't leave extra sequences from cloning vectors or linkers, and don't involve swapping in standard lab genes, but these methods are cumbersome and slow. Also, a virus cultured in the lab will commonly pick up mutations that adapt it to lab culture and can be recognized.

As Wade describes, the techniques being used in the Wuhan lab created chimeric mixed origin viruses that would make their lab origin obvious, but more importantly create a virus that would grow poorly (if at all) outside the lab. Also, the Wuhan lab was sequencing the viruses they found and making the sequences public. So any lab origin theory must posit a short time frame: the virus was brought to the Wuhan lab, engineered, and escaped in a short time, before the virus had time to evolve in the lab or sequence data on it got released. Today, there is no evidence SARS-CoV-2 was ever in the Wuhan lab. Now that this has become a political issue, China is unlikely to release more info on what went on in the Wuhan lab.

The best opportunities for gaining understanding is 1) collecting more wild SARs viruses and sequencing them to find out the what animals harbor close relatives of SARS-CoV-2 and where they live, and 2) sequencing clinical samples from China and other Asian countries going back a few years before 2020 to see if SARS-CoV-2 or a close relative showed up earlier and where this was.

scidata said...

I see that NASA is investing heavily (thru partners) in electric planes.

A.F. Rey said...

I remember a movie where they tried it and it almost destroyed the Earth: CRACK IN THE EARTH.

Yeah, but at least they got another moon out it. :)

Although they never explained why the new moon didn't one day fall back and take out all life on Earth. :(

Bob Neinast said...

OK. I admit I haven't carefully studied hydrogen fuel cell transportation. But the comments do lead me to some questions:

If technology has not solved a leakage problem, why is Toyota selling the Mirai, Honda is selling the Clarity, Hyundai makes the Nexo, and BMV and Audi are betting billions on developing their own ( )? (I also found a Google Scholar study that said, in pipeline situations, hydrogen is no worse than methane.)

And if fuel density is such a problem, why is the range of the very best Tesla 315 miles, but the range of the Mirai is about 450 miles (and the Nikola Truck is about 900 miles--bigger tanks, obviously)? And when you need a refill, you don't have to wait for your battery to recharge. (This is a big one for me personally--I regularly take long trips.)

I get that the infrastructure is not there right now--but that was the argument against batteries 10-20 years ago.

So what am I missing?

scidata said...

I can see how the FOUNDATION series will work as 1,000 years in a TV series, and it's not just reliance on the spectacular rendering of the Time Vault. The focus is more and more on Demerzel, the only persistent character in the whole long story, and the rock-solid link between Foundation and Empire. Imagine my glee when she and Cleon 1 discuss 'systems programmers'. I almost expected things to get Forthy :)


duncan cairncross said...

Hi Bob
You are missing the efficiency problem - you need three times the energy to go each mile

Then there is the fueling problem - the Hydrogen needs to be at -60C if you want to fill in your five minutes
And filling an inflammable gas at 700 Bar is not trivial
A Hydrogen re-fueling station will cost several million dollars
The long range Tesla has a range of 400 miles - and you get another 200 miles in 20 minutes

400 miles is about six hours driving - I need a 20 minute break after that!

Refueling in general
Petrol car - or Hydrogen
At least 10 minutes every 2 weeks plus four ten minute fills on vacation
300 minutes

Electric car
10 seconds to plug in and unplug 300 times a year plus eight 20 minute fills on vacation
210 minutes - And I have been very very conservative with the eight times and 20 minutes

The Tesla truck will have about 500 miles and another 250 miles in 20 minutes - which is more hours than a truck driver is permitted to drive
That will be at the cost of about 5% in payload

Toyota and Honda are run by old guys who have bet on the wrong horse and do not want to admit their mistake

If you had ever worked in industry then you would realize just how common THAT is - and the Japanese are much more respectful of their elders than we are

Larry Hart said...


The focus is more and more on Demerzel, the only persistent character in the whole long story, and the rock-solid link between Foundation and Empire. Imagine my glee when she and Cleon 1 discuss 'systems programmers'.

Demerzel? Cleon I? Have they messed with the backstory that much. Because in the books, Cleon I was dead before the original trilogy began.

And is there any suggestion that Demerzel is in the prequel novels?

Larry Hart said...

I've wondered this very thing myself. Why do the American people (largely) support programs that Republicans obstruct, but also support Republicans? Or why do they think that it's a good idea to punish Democrats for not getting their agenda passed by relegating those same Democrats to minority status?

Sometimes (maybe often) the public wants things that are inherently contradictory. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that support for the hard, bipartisan infrastructure bill is very strong, with 62% for it and 34% against it. Fine. That's a policy choice. You can be for it or against it. Americans also support the soft, reconciliation infrastructure bill, albeit not by quite as large a margin. Still 57% to 40% is pretty strong. Both are consistent with the fact that 33% of Americans want the federal government to do a lot more to help Americans and 40% want it to do more. Only 24% say it shouldn't do more to help people. So far, so good.

Now here's the inconsistency. On the generic ballot question, 46% want to see Republicans control the House and 43% want to see Democrats control the House. But many Republicans don't support the hard infrastructure bill and no Republicans support the soft infrastructure bill. So people want Republicans to run the show but they want them to carry out the Democrats' program. Ain't gonna happen.

Are people stupid? It doesn't make a lot of sense to support Republicans but also support programs that the Republicans are strongly opposed to. From our point of view, if you like the infrastructure bills, you should support the party that wants to pass them. If you oppose the bills, then you should support the party that is lukewarm to ice cold about them. Mix and match doesn't strike us as a great combination here. But maybe the American people as a whole know something that we haven't discovered yet. Must be the new math, or something.

David Brin said...

Because of gerrymandering, Republican lawmakers only care about Republican voters in the primary and can ignore public opinion polls that massively support Biden's program... indeed railing against democracy, itself, in now core GQP cant. Moreover, with Foxism radicalizing more than half of Republicans who have not fled the party (all fact professional already have fled) that means Foxites can control close to have of all state and national legislature seats with a riled-up minority of as low as 25% of local adults. Especially in off years when many democratic voters find excuses not to vote at all.

This can change if even one of the anti gerrymandering concepts I have put forward were vigorously tried.

1- A movement for democrats to re-register as republicans in GOP gerrymandered districts, as I did, back when CA was gerried. It's simple logic! You then get to vote in the GOP primary and either support a moderate or at least mess up their calculations. In most such districts it is the only vote that matters and YOU could have it just by signing a change slip! (It also really weirds out your MAGA uncle to say "I am a registered republican! But -")

2- The "Minimal Overlap" solution to gerrymandering is one that even John Roberts might find it had to rationalize ignoring, for reasons described.

3- GQPpers have to be terrified that the kind of turnout we saw in Georgia and mail in ballots might lead to loss of their calculated advantages in gerried districts.

This & much more in Polemical Judo... including the "Compliance Assistance" legal argument that could smash most of the current GQP cheat strategies.

Treebeard said...

OK so what is happening ion Britain where they can't get milk or gas, and China where 2/3 of the country is experiencing blackouts along with the Evergande financial crisis that could take down 1/3 of their economy in an Enron/2008 collapse?

Totally separate or somehow related to wider trends?

Daniel Duffy, there are also many shortages in the USA. Maybe it’s the slow collapse of civilization as it hits limits to growth and globalism and its supply chains start to break down?

It’s not necessarily bad news though; civilational retreat will have many benefits. For example, there’s an area not far from me where a dam was removed to allow salmon to return to their spawning grounds, which caused a road to be washed out and the whole area to be abandoned. Apparently the forces of civilization lack the resources or will to repair it, so now it’s a fun post-apocalypse hiking and biking destination, where you can watch nature reclaiming the land and see all kinds of interesting sights: destroyed roads, guys walking with pack lamas, abandoned buildings, cars and campgrounds, lots of people on foot, flora and fauna returning to the former lake bed, a free-flowing river with new fish. I’ll take that over an ugly old dam any day. I think a lot of those post-apocalyptic stories are propaganda; the retreat of this (massively destructive, ugly and short-sighted) civilization should turn out to be rather pleasant in many respects.

scidata said...

@Larry Hart re: Demerzel

Yes, they've largely done a rewrite of the original trilogy. However, so far, it's working quite well. As I said a while back, my hope is not for fidelity to Asimov's plot, but rather for a great boost in popularity of Asimov's ideals. So far, A+ from me. Looking forward to Jared Harris reappearing (this time in holographic form).

Hints of R Daneel Olivaw are being sprinkled, such as Cleon referring to Demerzel's "kind". It's shaping up to be a lot like the final chapter of FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH. Oh-oh, I hope I haven't triggered a POSTMAN-like furor again.

Paradoctor said...

OT, but here's a curious historical note:

"Why weathermen were illegal wizards for 75 years."

Robert FitzRoy was one of the first to use telegraphic data to make real-time weather maps, which made weather prediction possible. But the law had not caught up to the science, so by a still-standing anti-witchcraft law, FitzRoy was technically an illegal wizard.

Robert FitzRoy also was the captain of the Beagle, which took Charles Darwin to the Galapagos, where Darwin deduced the theory of evolution by natural selection.

So a weather wizard was involved in the discovery of evolution by natural selection. How curious!

I'm sending this email also to John Michael Greer.

Robert said...

Could some kind soul give me (or point me to) a simply explanation of what being a "registered Republican" means? I understand registering voters, but why is it important for the government to know which party a voter supports? Up here membership in a political party is separate from the election process (and party races are run by parties, not any kind of election commission).

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Because of gerrymandering, Republican lawmakers only care about Republican voters in the primary and can ignore public opinion polls that massively support Biden's program.

Of course, but that still requires a good number of reliable Republican votes in the state. I mean, even here in Blue Illinois, Republicans generally get about 40% of the vote. I'm rhetorically wondering why they're so brand-loyal when Republicans in congress vote so much against the things they--the voters--want.

Are they really that scared of "socialism"?

David Brin said...

Bunch of needful responses:
LH: Republicans in full tilt Mark Twain mode, unable to bear the pain of admitting they’ve been fooled, they doubt, quadruple, milliontuple-down on nerd-hating rationalizations fed to them by AT&T… oops, OAN… and Fox.

Robert, in UK & Canada you join a party and participate as a dues paying member of an explicit organization whose party conference is a private affair. Our parties are public institutions and free to join… but actually voting for the conference delegates and committee folks is so obscure that hardly anyone does. In many states, you can vote in whichever primary you choose or the best system… CA, has virtually eliminated primaries as establishers of which two people are chosen in the general election.
But in those states that still make you declare a party, dems who stupidly register dem in a GOP gerried district are just declaring: “I’m an idiot who won’t vote in the only election that counts.

Robert FitzRow… huh!
Yeah, watching Foundation with some hopes.

Treebeard… yeah I can tell it’s the real ent and the spam filter is set to let him though. In this case, again, actually pretty interesting!.... Followed by a conclusion of typical misanthropy. Want more of these retreats in favor of nature fellah? WITHOUT the accompanying mass death apocalypse in which YOU will likely be killed? Simple. Replace meat eating. Advance other technologies.

Larry Hart said...


my hope is not for fidelity to Asimov's plot...

I wouldn't care about fidelity to the "extended universe" plot either. I would hope for some fidelity to the chain of events of the original trilogy, even if some specific story elements are altered. "Cleon I" perked up my radar because IIRC, in the original book, there was a pliable "child emperor at the time of Seldon's trial, and the whatever of public safety was running the show, which did seem important to the sweep of history.

Tony Fisk said...

Given FitzRoy's devout nature, I don't think being referred to as an 'illegal wizard' would have sat well!

Robert said...

Our parties are public institutions and free to join…

Public as in governmental? So does that mean that access to information and anti-discrimination laws apply to them? Federal/state civil service hiring standards?

(Up here "public service" is a synonym for "civil service" ie. the bureaucracy that runs the government. If you work for a public institution such as a public school you are considered a government employee, even if you are not directly paid by the government, and subject to all government policies that relate to public servants.)

scidata said...

@Larry Hart re: Cleons

The TV series has modified the Clions bigly. They exist as 3 stages simultaneously: Brother Dawn (juvenile future emperor), Brother Day (adult current emperor), and Brother Dusk (aged previous emperor), plus perhaps a newborn and a soon-to-be erased very old one. All of them, in all generations, are clones of Cleon I. More interestingly, they're not dullards or figureheads, but rather active, vengeful, scary, and evil, which makes the story more compelling in some ways than the original IMHO.

I do have some rising concerns about Salvor Hardin. She's becoming a bit too Bene Gesserit for my liking. Mentalics is at the outer edge of psychohistory. It has flummoxed me and others for many years (maybe even Asimov). And mentalic robots are several derivatives or integrals beyond that. However, I remain in the Clarke camp regarding magic. A TV series requires the use of shortcuts and metaphors, so I'm giving them a bit of slack at present. If things go all Gaia-y in the end, then I'll lament the lost opportunity accordingly.

scidata said...

Re: "Clions"

Of course I meant Cleons. I'm a programming geek -- CLion is a C/C++ IDE. Yup, C. Just because I adore Forth doesn't mean that I'm ignorant of mainstream languages. I was a professional Java teacher a quarter century ago, and a pro BASIC teacher long before that. It's like the scene at the end of QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER where Quigley guns down the bad guy with the Colt-45 the bad guy had just given him in a rigged duel. The dying bad guy is bewildered because Quigley had previously eschewed revolvers in favour of his extremely rifled long range weapon. Quigley says, "I said I had no use for them, I never said I didn't know how to use one."

Larry Hart said...


All of them, in all generations, are clones of Cleon I. More interestingly, they're not dullards or figureheads, but rather active, vengeful, scary, and evil, which makes the story more compelling in some ways than the original IMHO.

Cleon II (Foundation and Earth) was no dullard. The novel described him as the Empire's last strong emperor. Which was the psychohistorical reason why General Bel Riose set his sights on outward conquest instead of inward intrigue.

The "child emperor" in the time of Ling Chen and Hari Seldon was not a Cleon (IIRC).

Also based on my recollection, Cleon I only appeared in the later prequel stories, in the time of young Hari Seldon.

David Brin said...

Misspelling only made me realize "CLION" refers to the muse of history?

Pappenheimer said...

Bel Riose = Belisarius; that makes Cleon II a stand in for Justinian

David Brin said...

Yeah the Belisarius was clear. WHat I assert is that his empire has characteristice more like China than Rome, esp. when you include powerful eunchs (robots.)

Pappenheimer said...

not disagreeing, but the rise of eunuchs in government was also noted in late Roman (i.e. Byzantine) times, probably due to increased Eastern Mediterranean influence. cf Narses and others - Wiki says the custom was introduced "after the adoption of the oriental royal court model by the Emperors Diocletian...and Constantine"

scimyth said...

...which makes the story more compelling in some ways than the original IMHO.

Yeah. Propaganda of Return of the King.

If things go all Gaia-y in the end, then I'll lament the lost opportunity accordingly.

But Gaia it's avtentic Asimov's concept. One he favoured himself.

NoOne said...

@scidata (who said) "If things go all Gaia-y in the end, then I'll lament the lost opportunity accordingly."

Well, things will go Gaia-y in the end and that's to be expected right? But, I take your point. I'm very worried about the show for two reasons: (i) the science aspect is like reading a math article in the New Yorker. In other words, awful; (ii) Am really concerned that the mentalics aspect will go into faith and belief (and religion in general) which would be all kinds of awful. There's a clear opportunity for the show to advance the idea that human evolution can proceed and this can allow us to become post-Cartesian (i.e. not trapped in isolated organisms). But this would have to be done very, very carefully by basically connecting the second Foundation psychologists with Gaia as Asimov himself did via Daneel. With Demerzel being shown as religious on the show (gag) though, I really worry. But, what can we expect, in these degenerate times (grin).

Robert said...

Quick questions for those of you who obviously have Apple TV+ accounts:

Do programmes disappear like they do on Netflix, or are they there for rewatching as desired?

Is "For All Mankind" good? The trailers looked intriguing and the first episode was decent, but I know how deceptive trailers can be.

Is what I see on the interface all the programming available? Is there a better way to navigate once you subscribe?

Reason for questions: I'm debating subscribing. I've never subscribed to cable TV or a streaming service before, so this feels like a big step. I've got a last-generation Apple TV that I bought to play my iTunes library in my living room. It seems to mostly work with Apple TV but sometimes restarts unexpectedly when too many layers deep into a menu.

David Brin said...



In order for Foundation's Triumph to be part of it, Hari must be alive.

A MAJOR plot emlement they could have and should have exploites - that I include in FT - is making the Foundation colonists less a Cult of Seldon and more the best minds in the Galaxy and hence many of them deeply resentful over forced exile.

Also arguments over water clocks and sundials? Are you kidding me? SHould argue over what kind of Tutorial Obelisks to land on planets.

In Asimov's day, The Foundation had retained "atomic power." So... the surrounding kingdoms used spaceships driven by... coal?
Only now....

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer to Dr Brin:

not disagreeing, but the rise of eunuchs in government was also noted in late Roman (i.e. Byzantine) times

Also, robots were not part of the empire when Asimov was writing original trilogy.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In Asimov's day, The Foundation had retained "atomic power." So... the surrounding kingdoms used spaceships driven by... coal?

Wasn't there a mention in the original novel about what sort of power the Four Kingdoms had been relegated to? I seem to remember a throwaway line which confirms Hardin's suspicions that the kingdoms have lost the knowledge base for atomics.

scidata said...

Re: AppleTV+ - nothing has disappeared so far, hoping it's like iTunes, which keeps your content purchases list forever (well at least 5 years in my case). I've only watched GREYHOUND, some comedy, and FOUNDATION so far. I don't work or shill for Apple, and I'm still bummed at Jobs over the Lisa :)

Re: I have no personal loyalty to Asimov, I just liked the humanism and friendly computer (Tandy) efforts. Never even read Tolkien, if that's what the Return of the King reference was about. "Foundation" enabled me to escape a life of delusional romanticism - forever grateful.

Re: Gaia - I'm a computational psychohistory guy for anyone who cares. I like to think Asimov was headed in that direction too before he died. Gaia, mentalics, magic, supermen, even the word 'belief' all give me peptic distress. OGH largely has a somewhat similar view (I think), and this is his blog, so yeah.

Re: water clocks and sundials - methinks one of the writers liked AGORA, the Hypatia movie. I'm really hoping that one or more of them read FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH, or at least LOST HORIZON, or even THE LITTLE PRINCE.

NoOne said...

SPOILERS for Apple TV's Foundation below.

David Brin said "In Asimov's day, The Foundation had retained "atomic power." So... the surrounding kingdoms used spaceships driven by... coal?"

Wondered how this would be updated in the show. Perhaps the Anacreons will no longer have the Jump drive powered by a spaceship's miniature black hole? But, it appears that they may have never had it in the first place. The other alternative: perhaps the Empire runs on nuclear fusion? And this technology could be lost?

@Robert: For all mankind is FANTASTIC. Two words: Moon colonies. And women astronauts in the 1970s.

Pappenheimer said...

Re: coal-powered spacecraft:

I had to go looking - is the ST:TOS blooper reel, at the 6:40 mark it shows how the Enterprise REALLY ran.

David Brin said...



tvindy said...


I think you gave the wrong timestamp. It's actually at 0:50 and 5:44.