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. Woodworking: Amateurs, Craftsmen, & In-Between

    One addition to my tool selection that I now use all the time - and wonder how I ever did without - is my Triton Superjaws - It is foot operated, portable and can clamp items up to 950mm (over 3 ft) . I am seriously considering getting a second one to use paired instead of using saw-horses.
  2. 'World's largest' solar and wind hydrogen plant

    A lot of interesting energy related goings on in South Australia, although I think less driven by an overarching desire to address emissions and climate change than making the best of circumstances, including a broader enduring failure within Australia to have a clear energy policy direction. Very high uptake of wind plus solar was probably not the intended outcome of intermittent policies that enabled them - policies that I think were intended more to appease community concerns about future climate through gestures, some with an underlying 'give them enough rope' element - than inducing significant underlying changes to address them. Innovative international businesses with foresight can sense opportunity in the way the wind, so to speak, is blowing in a part of Australia that is sunnier and windier and more lacking in coal than most. A government that is under constant attack from cashed up pro-fossil fuels climate science denying obstructionists - who, by their nature, rely on misinformation and economic alarmist fears - is very welcoming of the kind of affirmation proposals like this or others (such as purchase of the Whyalla steelworks by a company with plans to power it largely with RE + storage). I doubt the current government foresaw that they would find themselves committing to the ongoing energy transition in such an unequivocal way; putting these issues into the too hard basket and avoiding any clear commitments is more usual. With an imminent state election in South Australia it is possible the pro-fossil fuel obstructionists - who have strong support from elements within the mainstream media - can use economic fears to oust the current pro-RE government and derail RE growth for another election cycle or two, yet I don't see any clear alternative energy policies being articulated. Ultimately there can be none of the much desired "policy certainty" for Australia's electricity sector with anything less than energy policy that takes the advice about climate stability seriously and has an ongoing commitment to a ramping transition away from fossil fuels built into it; if it doesn't then it will be subject to legitimate criticism, including potential legal challenges as well as ongoing calls for change.
  3. The Beast from the east:

    I wouldn't say contradictory - they appear to be linked phenomena - from an article at (by scientists from Norwegian Polar Institute)
  4. Energy, Cost and Subsidy in Power Production

    I noticed in that other thread that you like to apply a particular, narrow definition to something as a way to justify rejecting information you don't agree with. Greenhouse gas driven climate change resulting in for example, permanent loss of economically valuable low lying lands are an economic cost to those living or owning low lying land - benefits from burning those fossil fuels are enjoyed by some that put a burden of costs onto others; I call that a form of subsidy irrespective of how you think "subsidy" should be defined. You may not accept that there is any direct link between enjoying the benefits of burning coal for people now and the harms of land inundation in the future - but the best advice available says that there is clear evidence of sea level rise along with direct effects of global warming and phenomena like ocean water expansion and ice sheet melt that have affects on sea levels.
  5. Energy, Cost and Subsidy in Power Production

    Accept the science on climate and you will find that you must accept that the largest "subsidy" of all is the climate costs of excessive fossil fuel use, costs that will emerge and be sustained over time. Don't accept the science on climate and that "subsidy" can be made to appear exaggerated or non-existent. "Appear" is the important word here; global warming doesn't go away by refusing to believe it. But for people holding positions of trust and responsibility the choice to dismiss and ignore the consistent and persistent expert advice is negligence; to do so knowingly can make that criminal negligence. I think that is why 'maverick' climate scientists are so highly prized in this - they are an essential ingredient to running "the experts disagree" defence in the event that these matters ever face serious legal action.
  6. Scientific Method in climate science

    I know that I am willing to accept that the assessments of the validity of climate science by eminent scientists within the worlds most prestigious and scientifically conservative institutions like the US National Academy of sciences on trust. That is not a matter of faith but of trust. I have trust - not faith - in the systems, institutions and methodologies and by default and in the absence of credible scientific doubt - which I don't believe NortonH has provided - the science based conclusions of experts working within those systems and institutions should be taken seriously. It is exactly the right way of it that those conclusions be accepted as the default position, even by other scientists who may both have the expertise and resources to genuinely seek to review and critique those conclusions; they can submit their criticisms and alternative conclusions - which, if substantive, will be welcomed and disseminated for reviewed and critiqued in turn as science circles closer to what is actually true. Norton is not "just asking legitimate questions", he is refusing to accept the answers he gets and that others have gotten before him to essentially the same questions. None of the questions are new or have gone unanswered. I see spurious appeals to purity of scientific methods and the importance of ongoing, active scepticism concealing a lack of willingness to accept the use of scientific methods that don't fit his narrow preconceptions along with unwillingness to actively apply scepticism to them. I am not prepared to accept NortonH as having any kind of relevant expertise or special insight - none is evident. Goodbye NortonH.
  7. Scientific Method in climate science

    NortonH - If your unwillingness to accept that the mainstream expert advice from climate science is valid is grounds for you supporting opposition and delay of actions based on that advice, then your position becomes a practical and political one. Do you want emissions reductions efforts stopped, limited or delayed while you wait for climate science to provide conclusions that can be accepted by you? I would be very interested to get an answer to this question. Do you want or expect people in positions of trust, responsibility and power to stop or delay actions based on that same basis? Ordinary citizens can choose as they like but for people in positions of power and influence I don't think that is reasonable; on the contrary I think such people will be negligent in their duties if they fail to apply due diligence and take the consistent expert advice in matters where they have no personal expertise seriously, especially where potential for enduring harms to persons and property is at issue. After more than 3 decades of intense, modern, scientific inquiry giving essentially the same answers again and again - a convergence of evidence from multiple independent lines of enquiry - I don't think fence sitting can be a justified any longer as some kind of legitimate holding out for greater certainty ahead of precipitous actions. Action and inaction are inverted in most discussions of this; delaying action to address excess emissions is actually the continuation of strong climate changing actions (unconstrained continuation of emissions) that make delay a serious choice with serious consequences. GHG driven climate change is cumulative and it's impacts are effectively irreversible so that means delaying for more certainty - or entirely different scientific conclusions - is not a reasonable, sensible, risk averse course. It has become a choice that embodies significant known risks - risks that are at levels considered highly likely and are approaching that unreachable certainty that many people seek. Not a mere possibility but a strong likelihood. Ordinary people can accept the expert advice or not and believe or not believe the consequences are serious as they choose - that is freedom. People holding positions of trust have an obligation to take expert advice of high likelihood of serious, irreversible harms seriously - that is responsibility.
  8. Scientific Method in climate science

    NortonH - Sorry to hear you feel like you are unfairly being piled on. Whilst an idealised application of scientific methodology could look like this - - it does not always have to look like that in practice. Failure to do it like that does not make it invalid. Popper, along Popper's thinking on empirical falsification, which this looks like, did not yet exist when people like John Tyndall explored - measured - the properties of various atmospheric gases and how they passed visible and blocked infrared light, from which Arhennius calculated the significance to global climate of CO2 - and doubling CO2. A lot of good science was and still is done without overt application of that kind of methodology, yet even if not set out in such terms, scientists and their peers were and are serious about seeking ways that they might be wrong and their conclusions can be found to be false. That was and still is basic quality control procedure in science, and whilst there is the embarrassment of retractions as motivation - it will all be documented and disseminated - most of all, in every way that counts, most scientist know that getting it right is what matters most. One of the fundamental things about the practical engagement in science is the extent of documentation - the peer reviewed and published papers and the responses and critiques and debates as well. Mistakes do get noticed. Mistakes are corrected or it's a fast descent into archived irrelevance. Or perhaps can live on in the forums and blogs. If a teacher is trying to manoeuvre students - your son - into concluding climate science is wrong, because they will struggle to neatly fit it into such a format then that teacher is setting the students up to misunderstand actual climate science and reach a false conclusion. Raising CO2 levels warms the world is the null hypothesis. Better people than any of us here - people with true skills and expertise - have tried to falsify it's fundamentals. And failed. It gets to be counted as accepted, mainstream science fair and square. It surprises some people that I think the scientists trying hardest and doing their best to find flaws in climate science are it's leading scientists, but it should not be a surprise; that people who excel in their fields have got to where they are by honest striving to get it right - and have done so within a system where everything gets documented and disseminated, dissected and discussed - should be the default assumption. Not accepting the CO2 and climate connection requires rejection of a rock solid understanding of the basic the properties of atmospheric gases. Science that goes back to the early and mid 1800's and that has been affirmed and reaffirmed since is rejected and ignored. How that fundamental climate connection change plays out year to year, decade to decade, century to century with human CO2 concentrations, within such a complex system, with other phenomena in play, interrelations and feedbacks in play - making projections and predictions out of it as scientists are being asked to do - are active areas of research with plenty to argue about. No-one should be surprised that smart, hardworking people should have made serious inroads at getting it right.
  9. Gun control, which side wins?

    Looking from outside, I don't expect gun control to be introduced in the USA in any meaningful way. Rebellion as a last resort is always implicit, irrespective of legality, but I've never thought an explicit right to overthrow tyrannical governments has ever been a necessity - most democratic nations with high levels of personal freedom do quite well at avoiding tyranny without it, which suggests the essential ingredient for avoiding tyranny isn't an armed populace but relies on things like an independent judiciary and honest and courageous news services. But it seems like it's a widely held belief that US democracy depends on ordinary people being armed - and for many of them the prospect of access to arms being restricted is sufficient evidence of tyranny to prompt a call to arms. Not a good circumstance for attempting to introduce gun control. I'm not sure a repetition of the War of Independence, with similar, clear goals, clear enemy and potential for decisive and ultimately positive outcomes is reasonable; even if it worked once those who put this 'safeguard' in could not foresee the full range of consequences. I doubt a rebellion could be carried out effectively in a modern USA without making things worse and would have a high risk of replacing it with a different kind of tyrannical government. Empirically - looking around at examples - armed freedom fighters (where they are not acting as the tools of outside interests) leave horrendous, intractable messes from their battles with tyranny in their wake. It makes me think armed insurrection is less than ideal solution; rebellions rarely win decisive victories against professional armed forces and it is usually when those armed forces change sides that resolution becomes possible. With a high likelihood that military dictatorship - differently flavoured tyranny - will be the result. I think an armed populace as the essential bulwark against tyranny is illusory but a lot of Americans appear to take it seriously.
  10. The sense of touch

    Touch is a mixture of different sensations felt by different means - pressure, vibration, heat, cold etc. As is too often the case the sensory function of hairs get no specific mention in the "map" of relative skin sensitivity - yet W.Montagna ("Evolution of Human Skin", 1985) pointed out that in humans their nerve rich follicles make them "the principle anatomical unit of skin sensibility". Sensitivity of skin has most often been measured by means like poking the skin with thin rods - but the poking method tends to bypass the hairs. My own experience tells me bugs small enough to not be felt on truly glabrous (hairless) skin can often be easily felt via hairs as they bump the hair shafts. ie hairs provide a lower minimum threshold for detection than direct contact with skin. (sorry, this is a bit off-topic but the "body hair is a useless evolutionary leftover" claim is a commonplace myth that irritates me, most especially when it quietly makes it's way into scientific studies as an underlying assumption, such as when assessing and measuring skin sensitivity. I'd be interested to know how they did the measuring behind this graphic, but I strongly suspect it was by means that did not assess the hairs/follicles contribution. As another example - this school level experiment for assessing skin sensitivity actually begins by removing the hairs!) How old is the sense of touch? I don't know but it seems to have arisen very early within early animals, so as long as that. The ability to respond to touch doesn't appear to require a nervous system; micro-organisms of various kinds that lack nerves seem to, as do some plants such as Venus Fly Traps. The pathways in microorganisms may be biochemical - perhaps they are a combination of touch and taste.
  11. Colonising another planetary system

    The technological capabilities that would get humans to the planets of other stars ought to be sufficient to be capable of building space habitats independent of planets. Such colonising would not be about securing the long term survival of humanity, it would be based on more base human motivations. The only thing a planet would have that cannot be produced artificially is the alien life such a world would contain - and for breathable atmosphere there must be life. That uncontaminated alien biology - I think - would be the most valuable resource the planet could have. The ethical issues I see are not so much about the long term survivability of humans on such a planet - the ability to reach such a world implies the ability to leave again, although a seed population (which I think still needs to be a large population) will be easier than a whole planet's worth - but about the ethics around shorter term survivability of native, alien life with the enduring presence of humans - with their surprising combination of shortsightedness and ability to find justifications for whatever activities they find desirable. Like replacing useless and nuisancy alien lifeforms with something more familiar, useful and in keeping with a fashionable colonial lifestyle. If terrestrial life is compatible with life on a planet within human reach then it seems to me it is more - not less - at risk of displacement and extinction than alien life with incompatible biochemistry. I don't think ensuring long term human survival via seeded colonies is a viable motivation - self reliant colonies will be an emergent outcome of enduring, economically viable space based commercial activities occurring within a larger Earth based trading economy. I think the minimum threshold for true self reliance, wherever high levels of technology are essential for basic survival, is a very large population and broadly capable, advanced industrial economy.
  12. Climate Change

    The link between Maunder Minimum and large changes to global and even regional temperatures is tenuous - the correlation is there, but so is the correlation with the volcanic activity preceding that cooling. Changes to solar intensity can and will have an influence on global temperatures but, on close examination it doesn't have enough to change global temperature evolution by enough to explain that European cool period on it's own. The volcanic activity hypothesis - ejection of aerosols from more than one eruption, in close succession, sufficient for some decades long cooling feedbacks to come into play does have appear to enough influence and looks more compelling to me; low solar intensity probably made it just a little bit cooler than it otherwise would have been.
  13. Alternative to space suits

    Being able to work safely without holding on - and without a permanent tether - seems like a necessary threshold for serious construction work in space; much too limiting of work potential otherwise. I don't see that booted feet are that much use for holding on anyway. NASA added them to space suits (Manned Manoeuvring Units) , although they discontinued using them, because of that drifting off issue I suppose. I don't think the issues are insurmountable, whether with single person "capsules" or space suits. I still think that anything less than independent movement will limit a space worker's efficiency and effectiveness - and given the high costs of getting them there as well as the innate difficulties of working in zero gee anything that improved their effectiveness is surely important. Easily avoided - use soft jawed grabbers. Although I do wonder if serious in-space construction work would be best done within some kind of enclosed safety barrier, to prevent both workers and materials drifting away.
  14. Alternative to space suits

    I don't think an astronaut would use feet as well as hands on a ladder (why a ladder at all?) in zero gee - and I'm not suggesting a capsule that is much more massive than a space suit, that could not be pulled around by hands. But would much movement be done physically like that? I would think micro jets would handle most movements and do so more easily than clambering around. I read somewhere that most manual tasks in zero gee take about 2.5 times as long as in gravity - just on the basis of efficiency of movement jetting around would beat clambering.
  15. Alternative to space suits

    Swansont - I was thinking gyroscopic stabilisers for maintaining orientation - I would expect space suits to have those too - as well as grabbers of some kind to anchor with and give resistance to work against. I don't doubt there would be situations where booted feet would work or spaces would be too tight for even a smallish capsule - not that suits aren't bulky and awkward too - but wondered if it may be a requirement for being able to operate inside a space vessel, if only for emergencies, that has a real necessity for legs. Yet most outside work wouldn't need legs and working for long periods ought be easier and more comfortable in a "pod" or capsule, even if it's only just enough room to pull arms back in and deal with body's needs.