Ken Fabian

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About Ken Fabian

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    Climate Science: Climate Politics: Energy technologies: Human Evolution

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  1. I think those in positions of trust, responsibility, power and influence throwing this issue back onto the public is responsibility avoidance written large. Making it a matter of individual lifestyle and purchasing choices or a matter of popular public opinion and voter choice to address (or not) collectively through our society's institutions - whilst being active participants in misinformation to influence that opinion and choice is doubly problematic; rejecting the mainstream advice may be an individual's "free" choice but it is textbook negligence for those with broader fiduciary duties of care. But to actively misinform ("educate") the community or use their reach and influence to endorse and give respectability to campaigns of disinformation is a much more serious kind of negligence. And we are going to continue to struggle to get Joe Public well informed enough to make rational and ethical choices. And still the widespread ability to know better but do things that are not in our longer term best interests anyway (personal experience here) makes personal choices an unreliable means of addressing this, whether by our individual actions or our voting choices. Especially if the voting options themselves are skewed.
  2. I disagree. Responsibility and accountability, especially on the really big things, where there are big vested interests, only really get dealt with through legal precedent and regulation - making it a personal choice whether to act responsibly never really works. Especially when a lot of people with power and influence really, truly don't want to be held responsible on this; we may all be shareholders in this mess but we are not, individually, the majority shareholders. A lot of the big decisions that need to be made are institutional ones, not individual ones, and our institutions of government, law, engineering and commerce have heavy investments in doing things the way we have been, without counting the externalised costs of fossil fuels, which turn out to be very large; the lengths they have been going to to avoid being held responsibility should not be underestimated. Nor the effectiveness of the techniques available to well resourced opponents of climate responsibility to influence the thinking of the Right People as well as Enough People, to sway voting options as well as voting choices. It is a toolkit that includes Lobbying, Strategic Donating, Tactical Lawfare, Post-Politics Payoffs, Advertising, PR and Tankthink. Also I think a lot of people are too engaged in living their lives within the opportunities, obligations and constraints of their individual circumstances to be able to push past what their preferred news and current affairs programs might tell them about these issues. It isn't only scientists and elected or appointed officials that have an obligation to act responsibly - news editors and journalists have repeatedly shown themselves to be active participants in those efforts to influence public opinion on climate change - which ought not be a surprise when their biggest commercial customers tend to be strongly opposed to climate responsibility adding any burden of costs on their activities. Doing the Advertising and PR and Paid-for Opinion on the issue is a big commercial opportunity for media companies. ( A "campaign" by a leading Australian newspaper is currently active, slandering the Bureau of Meteorology over how they process temperature records, despite unprocessed data shows the warming trend as clearly as the processed. Plus other persistent misinformation continues to be prominent - all more shrilly than previous campaigns; exposure to extremes of drought, heat, fire and flood are exacerbating the growing trend towards community acceptance of it's reality - and to a more limited extent, it's urgency - their influence and persuasion is losing effectiveness).
  3. I think it may have more immediacy but I think not more urgency. Not necessarily less urgency - and these are connected, but whilst better efforts at preserving natural areas won't have a major impact on the climate problem, the climate problem will have a major impact on those efforts at conservation. Reforestation can help with climate but isn't capable of significantly compensating for ongoing, unconstrained emissions - although maybe important carbon draw down after we approach zero emissions. Global warming will drastically alter the climates for natural ecosystems and be a long running cause of effective habitat loss even in well protected and managed areas, through change in vegetation types, spread of pests and diseases - and vulnerability to fire. If we haven't fixed the climate problem the fundamental requirements for saving or recovering existing remnant natural ecosystems won't be in place.
  4. I'm in a "Watch and Act" fire warning situation as I type - conditions eased a bit today but without substantial rain (we've had less than 10mm since mid-December, with a lot of very high temperatures in that time) any reprieve is going to be temporary. Having blackened leaves falling from the sky - from a fire 20km away - is sobering; ember fires have started many kilometres ahead of large fire fronts. Another fire is much closer, but that other one is probably the bigger threat, given the inevitable return of hot conditions and being West of us - where the hottest winds come from. Even well prepared homes will be in danger (6 homes confirmed lost around here in the past 2 days) - we know we will have to leave and hope the volunteer firefighters have the resources to defend individual homes; they do try wherever they can. Beyond the call of duty very often. The thought of these circumstance but with another 3-5 C of warming is genuinely terrifying; those who live in cold climates may imagine that as an improvement but a large portion of the world's population live in places that already get extremely hot in summer.
  5. We make more waste CO2 than all other waste combined - really staggering amounts of it. As far as big things we are not doing well at go, I think global warming is the biggest of the lot. We are profoundly changing the climate of the whole planet in ways that are cumulative and very long lasting. And not readily reversible without enough abundant clean energy to do that, as well as take over all the energy services we've been getting burning fossil fuels. It isn't the only problem we have that is extremely serious - but many have a lot more immediacy. Which induces complacency on climate - which presents a test for humanity in how good we are at foreseeing consequences and responding to them pre-emptively - bearing in mind inaction means the problem gets worse the longer it is allowed to continue unchecked. Action versus inaction is inverted in this, so that failure to take action is actually the allowing of the continuation of serious, planet altering actions, of a scale that is truly unprecedented. It requires levels of competency and good management that test our institutions even more than individuals - our institutions of science, of government, of law, of business. Not just competency but ethics - because if we choose to perpetuate ongoing avoidance of responsibility through self-interested rejection of expert advice, ie cheating/corruption, we allow the problem to grow and the burden of consequences to pass to those who did not make the problem or directly benefit. Of course the same ethical and competency issues impact how we manage all our serious environmental and social issues. I don't see climate change as being about socialism or capitalism - much as many wish to make it about those - but about responsibility and accountability. Cheating by decree in authoritarian regimes or cheating by fixing the rules of the game, by capture of regulators by powerful interests in democratic ones - either way avoids that responsibility. It is a profound test of our ability to sustain civilised behaviour in the face of selfishness and short-sightedness.
  6. Ken Fabian

    Why is war morally wrong?

    My own view is that offensive warfare is morally wrong but defensive warfare - depending on how it is conducted - may not be. For war to occur a moral and ethical breakdown of some sort is almost always involved - and when there is deliberate cultivation of resentments and hatred then even defensive warfare can turn unethical fast. One of humankind's most problematic behavioural issues is that, if we think someone is bad then we can get a powerful kick out of treating them cruelly - and thinking someone is bad and deserves harsh treatment doesn't require us to carefully weigh evidence; just being told they are bad can be good enough. Or that their nation is bad or their religion or their ethnicity is bad. And, having our friends and relatives and others we sympathise with treated cruelly - by people who, by the same measures, think we are bad, or our nation is or our religion or our race - will encourage us to dish out harsh treatment in turn. Beware the righteous, for they can be extremely cruel - and enjoy it, without shame or guilt. I think that independent courts, that at least try to base their judgements on the evidence, without fear or favour - irrespective of ethnicity or allegiences or social class - have been pivotal institutions within 'free' democracies. I do wonder if we could even have achieved the (still flawed) successful democracies we know and benefit from without the rise of Common Law or other traditions of independent courts. Until international courts are given the resources and authority - and there is willingness of nations to defer to them - we will likely continue to see nations and other groupings turning on each other and intefering in each other's affairs in unethical ways.
  7. Plenty of room for being intelligent enough to make things better in the short term and not intelligent enough to realise they are making things worse in the long term. Like a herbivore being intelligent enough to realise they can eat the bark of shrubs and trees when all their preferred grass and herbage has been eaten but not intelligent enough to realise that killing the shrubs and trees means different kinds of vegetation will come to dominate, that may not favour or include their most important food sources...
  8. Ken Fabian

    Will A.I destroy more jobs than it creates?

    Huckleberry - I disagree on a couple of points, neither the subject of the thread. Global warming is real and serious - every mainstream expert report and study, whether commissioned by Conservatives or Progressives (or however you prefer to categorise the 'sides') is clear on that. People do get scared of nonsense, like fear of Green conspiracies to force World Government on everyone by making up global warming scares - after subverting hundreds of leading science institutions. Or scared that committing to regaining climate stability will be economically ruinous (whilst believing not fixing the problem won't be or cannot be ruinous). If you want to debate this, start another discussion in appropriate category - or join an existing discussion. (I'm mostly okay with discussions going wherever they go, but Moderators mostly are not; they like people to stick to the subject). I also disagree on the nature of Progress. I think progress is not exponential, it is an S-curve; it just looks a lot like exponential when you are riding the steep part. Again, I'm happy to debate this, in an appropriate thread (and on this subject you might find more people here agreeing with you than me). AI - I'm not sure how that will play out. But I don't think anyone does. Automation still comes at a price; robotics, doing and making physical things add a level of complexity that can add to energy and resource use. On the other hand it can greatly improve efficiencies of energy and resource use. The social costs of high unemployment and poverty tend not to remain restricted to the poor - keeping prosperous and safe amongst large populations of desperate people can be more expensive than providing welfare; automation with AI could reduce the costs of providing basic welfare at the same time as it creates the unemployment welfare has to deal with. And perhaps provide the circuses as well as the bread - virtual mansions for the indulgent, virtual jobs for those who can't tolerate idleness.
  9. Ken Fabian

    You think you've got problems America...

    Maybe it should have been the best out of 3 elections, just to be sure. Too important for a single, simple majority vote, especially when the campaigning was so devoid of substance on what the likely consequences would be - and was almost entirely based on hype rather than substance. No-one knew what they were really voting for. It will upset the Brexiters who think they are still getting what they want, but not those who realise they aren't - and whichever way it goes there will be a significant lot of unhappiness and resentment. I can't imagine voting for something I think is bad for my nation, just to make a point about a prior vote. As for Vlad - if his nation's cyberwar efforts made the difference between Leave and Stay, and left the UK with intractable internal problems he certainly got his money's worth. I tend to view politicians turning up the nationalistic foreigner blaming as an indicator of lack of policy depth and political desperation - pressing peoples hot-issue buttons in order to short-circuit their thinking things through; if the UK is anything like Australia they can reliably count on a quarter to a third of voters to unthinkingly choose nationalistic hype over well thought out policy. Having another vote on something this important - when the initial choice was in ignorance, with results have been so problematic - seems better than pushing ahead with it and not allowing any opportunity to reconsider. It's not like Britons can't still blame the EU for all their problems, whether they Leave or Stay.
  10. My maths skill are not great but what I don't understand is your choice to treat the flow as from a constant surface area of (3 sides of) an arbitrary box 1m x 1m around the pipe - ie treated like a column with that effective cross section - rather than dealing with a volume and effective surface area which increases as the distance increases. The ground above does behave differently but probably should not be left out, and trench layout may make it effectively a sheet-like flattened pipe rather than a pipe; I don't expect the calculations to be within my abilities - but I don't think these will make seasonal heat storage ineffective or involve large, ongoing heat losses. I am not convinced of the applicability of your calculations and I disagree that the conclusion that storing heat in uninsulated earth cannot work is demonstrated by them. I suppose I am going off the fact that borehole heat storage is being used and the claims for it's effectiveness seem sound. Also there is effective summer to winter heat storage in earth at the depths used for trench type GSHP's or they would not work. Systems like this often do operate in both directions so they do pump heat into the ground in summer - and if more heat is added, a significant amount of that heat will be available in winter and heating will be more efficient. I do think these kinds of energy technologies will be increasingly important in a world where fossil fuel burning is being curtailed.
  11. Moontanman - I am not. What I've been talking about would have sealed pipework and would be unsuited to places with groundwater flows. There are examples of heat storage that utilise static underground aquifers, some using the natural water and others with separate fluid, usually glycol mix . But it does sound like flowing groundwater has it's own advantages for ground source heating and cooling if you have it. --------------------------------- Studiot - seasonal ground storage of heat (without insulation) is being done, although references I've found are to deeper boreholes rather than the near surface type systems I had been thinking about. There are larger installations, but they do seem to be marketing towards individual households also. These appear to be systems designed and managed for a net zero exchange of heat over each year; they can freeze the ground they are in if too much heat is taken out. Long running imbalances will accumulate. The descriptions I found were with boreholes at varying depths - mostly below 150m and as deep as 500m, with holes between 4 and 5 metres apart, so each effectively operates within a heat mass within 2 - 3m from the heat exchanger. That is not a lot more than trench type GSHP systems. It looks like your calculations are based on unidirectional flow of heat in a column of earth. I think the volume of material with boreholes - radially outwards from linear borehole - would increase at pi squared of the distance. Near surface trench type systems might be more sheetlike, so volume doubles with distance, plus the sides. Either way I would expect the temperature gradient - and flow rates - to drop off as distance increases - (but not stop entirely). Nor is the flow in one direction - what happens when the flow is reversed? Whilst any underground heat store with significantly raised working temperatures loses heat, I expect the rate it loses it should slow over time within the most utilised volume and (I think) may involve some 'pre-heating' that remains unrecoverable. I think the nature of these systems is that they do successfully - and efficiently - store heat seasonally, but they need to be designed and managed according to their characteristics. I don't know what design changes might occur if lots of added heat were factored in; deeper trenches maybe? A secondary set of pipework at a different depth? I just don't see problems with technical feasibility of 'enhanced' heating being incorporated into these systems. ------------------------------ (not necessarily the most current or best sources - better ones would be welcome) -
  12. None of those appeared to be precisely what I had in mind, despite many elements in common. I was just thinking some GSHP systems - even pre-existing ones - look suitable to be used as heat storage. The advantages I see would be in making do with less pipework and excavations, but it does sound like there are a lot more ways of doing ground source heating and seasonal energy storage than I first thought.
  13. Ken Fabian

    Why is it hard to whistle with a dry mouth?

    Enthalpy - I was just curious and had hoped you might be aware of an existing explanation; I didn't expect you to take on the problem as a personal project! Or that you would have an existing interest in a related question of the affects of moisture films on the inner surfaces of woodwind instruments. Thank you for your replies.
  14. We seem to be talking about different things and I may not have been clear enough. I am talking about the kind of GSHP's where pipework is buried in the ground nearby (1 or 2 metres under) and relies on seasonal ground warming to replenish the heat. I had thought it was the most common sort of GSHP but I could be wrong there. The British Geological Survey link supports what I said about this type of system - that efficiency declines if heat is not replenished quickly enough, which I (legitimately I think) take to mean GSHP's use lowers the temperature of the ground being used as thermal mass (when used to extract heat). I don't see how drawing heat out could have no affect on local ground temperatures radiating out from the pipework. This kind of buried pipework - Yes, there are variants that make use of geothermal heat that have nothing to do with seasonal ground warming - heat replenishment by local volcanic/hydrothermal sources, hot rock (heat from natural radioactive decay) or underground water, but for those relying on that seasonal warming of the ground the potential to deliberately add more heat over summer for use in winter is there. I think it might reduce the overall size and extent of underground pipework, reducing construction costs, to have seasonal warming supplemented this way. Note I am asking about inclusion of diverted energy to this type of thermal storage being done and if it would be beneficial - not insisting it is.
  15. Ken Fabian

    Why is it hard to whistle with a dry mouth?

    Brass and woodwind players talk about their instrument playing better after being warmed up by the breath, but it also adds condensation inside the instruments, ie wetting the inside surfaces. Related perhaps? Koti, Phi for All, those could be contributing factors but it is such a distinct difference that I doubt they are the main reason - I don't think my mouth shape is a lot different dry to wet but perhaps tiny changes due to stiffer skin or lip creases may be enough. Would it make much difference in airflow for brass/woodwind players? The seal between lips and mouthpiece should be good and tight either way although for brass the lips touch each other in "blowing raspberries" style and being dry would affect that. Recollecting vaguely my childhood encounters with a soprano cornet, playing with a dry mouth could give me sore lips but I'm not sure I was discerning enough to tell if the sound quality was much affected.