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. Ken Fabian

    The inconvenient truth about genetics

    DanielBoyd - you are not going to get much joy (from people rushing to agree with you) by claiming the mainstream science based understanding of DNA's role is so wrong as to be unworkable. Not here anyway, and especially not objections based on some personal insight into theoretical constraints that somehow make what is happening in your body right now impossible.You've dropped a whole lot of arguments all together on us, each capable of inducing people with varying degrees of understanding of it to disagree with you. Seems like the objections you have are mostly those of incredulity - your not understanding how DNA could perform a particular function seems to be taken to be evidence that it cannot. I suggest that analogies, as useful as they can be to aid understanding, can be misleading and suggest something that can be shown to occur is not possible; DNA is not a blueprint or design as we usually think of them but the parts life is made of - even to individuals and different species as well as specialised cells and organs - are made of multifunctional components; they share more in common than they have differences. Perhaps DNA and associated biochemistry is akin to recipe (which you do mention) or perhaps a string of coded instructions, with a lot of "if-then" branches but it not a recipe either. I don't think every biochemical step along the way is anywhere close to being understood - and for abiogenesis and early evolution, may never be known with certainty - but currently some of the questions you ask (differently framed) are on the way to getting answered. If you are not seeing divine intervention, do you have any better alternatives for how living biochemistry does what it does? Or are you saying that not only do you not know, it is not possible for anyone to know?
  2. Less winter frosts here are getting hard to ignore - the longer term average is (was) about 40 frosty mornings a year and we have been getting fewer than 10 over recent winters, 2 so far this winter. Highly variable from year to year but when winter temperatures - both minimums and maximums - are breaking records in an upward direction it is hard to ignore. Those extra cold mornings, with a 'hard' frost are becoming quite rare. This has real significance; frost vulnerable perennial weeds that were previously held in check are becoming rampant, adding a burden of time and costs for weed control. Winter heatwaves - not necessarily 'hot' but much warmer than usual - have limited the opportunities for safe cool weather hazard reduction fires through the past several winters; burning off grass and leaf litter in order to reduce hot season fire intensity is becoming more difficult to do without risk of escaping past firebreaks. It used to be common to have cool overnight conditions slow and stop fires. Now we cannot rely on that and must be more vigilant and have more equipment and manpower to do the same job.
  3. Yet lots of homosexual people - identifying as gay - do have children. Some may find it impossible to have hetero sex but I think the majority find, perhaps using some imagination, that they can want to have children and can perform the required act. No homosexual gene, perhaps, but they still have a lot more than zero chance of replicating and even if there were a 'gay' gene unless it has a much more reliable effect that prevents hetero sex it is not going to be selected out of the gene pool, and either way homosexuality will persist. I can envisage circumstances where there are a shortage of available mates - alpha males laying claim to multiple women for example is likely to have been commonplace. Outlets for sexual urges in such circumstance, that are not socially disruptive - avoiding fights and injuries - aid the reproductive success rate of the whole group, and more so when they are useful contributors to group survival. In 'selfish gene' style, the childless will share most of their genes with most of the group; aiding their nieces and nephews and cousins along the way will ensure the genes they share will continue.
  4. Ken Fabian

    Climate change and global warming

    I think at heart it is a hard nosed and short sighted business decision. A widespread desire by business owners and operators and broader commercial and industrial interests to not be held responsible and accountable for anything climate related is at the core of climate science denial - which I think is effect not cause; climate responsibility denial requires some kind of justification and denying the science is true is the most basic kind. Framing those who advocate for climate action as extremists with anti-capitalist ideological agendas and solutions as incompatible with free market democracy and prosperity have been powerful messages and the understandable concerns of political environmentalists and their being loud and standing tall on the issue - whilst the mainstream 'leadership' has avoided strong commitment of any kind but to the status-quo - made it easier to make that 'led by extremists' fear appear credible to the uninformed. I think this desire to avoid responsibility and accountability and ultimately to avoid liability flows downward through their companies to their employees, as fear for job security and lower pay - potent near term fears that tend to override any longer term concerns - and upwards to politicians and political parties as business leaders and associations lobby them hard to keep an enduring amnesty and de-facto subsidy on the externalised costs of emissions. Given how solid the science is, it takes something extraordinary to get people to distrust it, so framing it as about free market democracy versus extremist socialist ideology and prosperity vs poverty with so much pre-existing strong feeling and innate support for the former allowed them to bypass that trust in science by using alarmist fears. It has been extraordinarily successful. Pro- business politicians and parties (which tend to include all centrist as well as conservative right ones) put aside their greater obligations of trust and responsibility to their nations as a whole in order to act as advocates for those narrower interests - and those interests have developed a variety of techniques for inducing and influencing politicians, government policy and community opinion. PR, Advertising, Strategic Donations, Tactical Lawfare, Post politics career inducements, Lobbying and Tankthink are all used ruthlessly and with only minimal regard for the truth or ethics. The validity of the decades of science based expert advice governments have commissioned and received barely enters into their decision making.
  5. It is not erring on the side of exaggeration to take those IPCC reports - and the numerous studies and reports that are summarised and referenced within them - very seriously. And those are consistently telling us that it is very serious and the consequences highly likely to take the world into dangerous territory ie more towards the 'alarmist' end of media reporting and climate advocacy; the proper balance is not between those who are saying it is serious and dangerous and those who say it isn't but between serious and dangerous and more serious and more dangerous. What the media says and what advocates say may or may not mirror that. 12 years to "save the Earth" or 12 years to stay below CO2 levels beyond which avoiding more serious and irreversible climate consequences becomes unavoidable? I'm not sure 'save the Earth' in this context is even truly exaggeration - losing the Earth as we know it and large parts of the remnant ecosystems still surviving looks highly likely, whilst interpreting it as 'no more Earth' certainly is exaggeration. But it looks like that claim it is alarmist exaggeration is as likely or more likely to be made as a criticism of those saying things like that than be the meaning intended. Certainly at the politcal advocacy level being succinct and impactful will continue to have priority over being precise - but those expert reports and studies are the bottom line here - not what advocates say or the slogans they use.
  6. I have similar opinions on this. I'm not sure what the minumum population would need to be but, yes, self-sufficiency requires a colony to be a working, advanced, industrial economy with a large population - likely more advanced than any nation we have on Earth. It needs thousands of technical specialties to support such a technology dependent economy - and I think the availability of resources will be a serious problem; every bit of equipment for mining and refining on Mars will be an exercise in serious innovation, even if the full range of mineral resources such an economy needs are even available as usable ore bodies. And I see advanced, high tech innovation as a luxury that only successful economies - Earth economies - can support. An economy where absolutely everything is very expensive and every activity is more difficult than anything we deal with on Earth is an economy that is in trouble - and whilst AI may help, robotics are another layer of advanced technological requirements that a remote colony will struggle to support and sustain - I don't see robotics so much reducing the technology requirements but increasing the requirements for technology to be developed and supplied by Earth. Unless we are talking about AI - rather than humans - colonising Mars. Can such an economy exist independently - and safely - on Mars? I'm doubtful but suppose it is probably possible. The biggest problem I see is that there is no sound economic underpinnings for the long process of such a colony's establishment - that between getting a base on the surface (or under it) and establishing mines and factories and farms and all the supporting infrastructure there are accumulating cost but an absence of means to repay the enormous Earthside investments needed in any form of material trade.
  7. Yes, the anthropogenic part is our responsibility. Seems to me the very susceptibility of our world's climate system to change is why adding lots of CO2 (our most abundant waste product by far) can cause a significant climate shift - it would take a climate system that resists change for it to not matter. et pet - whether or not some glaciers survive or the world still subject to future glacial periods does not change the seriousness of the climate changes we are inducing. Like the susceptibility to change, the extent of uncertainty about how it will play it is not a basis for complacency. Rather it is cause to be very concerned for unforeseen or unlikely consequences
  8. Some glaciers will still be glaciers. Some will be in deep valleys at high latitudes that never get direct sunlight - and would take more warming than we are expecting to melt. A bit like 'ice free Arctic Ocean' will still have some ice in inlets that never see the sun ("ice free" being a term that includes the presence of such ice). Predictions from leading glaciologists and specialist science agencies (rather than secondary re-interpretations and media reports) of how rapidly global warming causes glaciers to retreat and when they ultimately stop being glaciers have never been precise and have included a lot of clearly stated uncertainty. And considering a 'worst case' scenario will always give a very different answer to 'most likely' - and worst case outcomes are more likely to get the attention once the discussion moves outside the realms of experts talking with experts.
  9. Ken Fabian

    The end of gasoline/diesel powered cars?

    It is an interesting question - the extent to which competing new technologies are bought out in order to prevent their use rather than to fully develop and commercialise them. Good ideas can be lost because of that as well as to inadequate funding and various forms of mismanagement. I once naively thought patent law was for making inventions and innovations widely available to others, with royalties ensuring a means for the inventors to be justly rewarded where it happens. It appear to be used more to prevent others using them - despite the potential for earnings from others succeeding at perfecting and commercialising them. It does appear that patents are for the big players - that without financial and legal resources the smaller players cannot defend against their theft of intellectual property.
  10. Ken Fabian

    Vehicle brakes...

    Externet - I don't think it it works like that - the overall braking force aligns with the road surface, where the tires contact the road - not through the centre of gravity. Applying the brakes applies a torque between those tire/road contact points, which are lower than the centre of gravity, and the rest of the vehicle. All of the vehicle mass is above the line of braking force. That torque from the brakes will try and rotate the vehicle around the axles - but because of the rigidity of the body the combined result is a single torque lifting the load from the rear wheels and transferring it to the front - effectively the front tire/road contact points become the pivot point. As that happens the braking ability of the front brakes is increased and the rear brakes is reduced. (As MigL points out, they have the means to balance the difference between front and rear brakes - less braking to the rear, so the rear wheels don't lock up). Having the centre of gravity lower than the axles does reduce that tendency of the torque from braking to force the vehicle nose down, by placing it closer to the road surface and the line of braking force, but does not eliminate it.
  11. Ken Fabian

    Hair Length

    I think the cases of very long hair are from people whose follicles don't go through the usual catagen (shedding) and telogen (resting) phases - they are stuck in the anagen phase (growth).
  12. Ken Fabian

    The end of gasoline/diesel powered cars?

    FlyerDave - I disagree. The (getting old) "solar and wind can't work at large scale" claims are collapsing in the face of real world evidence to the contrary. Not suited to everywhere of course but most of the world's population lives in places where it can. Most new electricity generation being deployed in the world is now solar and wind. Long running electricity generators are investing in them in preference to coal or gas or nuclear for sound economic reasons, and because they do work - and to some extent to avoid potential liability for emissions in the future. Including in France. They are not stand alone technologies - not sure any technologies are - and backup based on various kinds of storage as well as network interconnections and demand management will increasingly be a feature of grid networks that have growing amounts of them. Being based around energy storage, EV's can be a useful complementary technology that moderates demand variability within such a grid and better aligns it with variable energy availability. It is not uncommon for current EV owners to charge them using their own rooftop solar. Obviously this has limitations - yet I can foresee having an electricity supply contract that accommodates EV charging elsewhere within a nation's electricity grid, effectively allowing me to use my home PV contributions (with some surcharge) wherever I am. Car parking with EV charging I expect. It is likely to be a source of reserve storage for PV fitted homes - and vice versa. And home and EV storage may well be an emergency reserve for grid management to draw upon, under suitable contractual arrangements. What a climate responsible low to below zero emissions grid will look like is still uncertain but for a number of sound reasons wind and solar look likely to be prominent. Some nuclear is likely to be a feature but closer examination shows it is not the simple or effective or low cost emissions solution it is so often presumed to be.
  13. Ken Fabian

    The end of gasoline/diesel powered cars?

    Most current infrastructure will be replaced over that time as well as a lot more built - no matter which energy and emissions choices we make or fail to make. It is almost a given that whatever we do will be much more, at scales never seen before. Markets will reveal our limits as we approach them (even if foresight doesn't work) - if some important resources can't supply demand then the price goes up and other options will look better. Market forces (even without the conflicted politics) are against massive growth of nuclear - it is now cheaper to build solar and wind in most places; without clear overriding long range government policy plus lots of subsidy support it won't happen. The World Nuclear Association thinks we could reach 25% of global electricity with nuclear by 2050 - with strong US and other government backing for emissions reductions and strong carbon pricing to make it competitive with coal and gas; neither look likely and the same people who continue to claim we should build nuclear rather than Renewables tend to be the same ones who oppose strong climate policies like carbon pricing and policies that make fossil fuels less competitive. And even with strong government support, it is not the best and cheapest solution that advocates seem to believe. Wind and solar will reach that 25% target within the next decade, even with conflicted climate and energy politics. Electrification of transport - based around energy storage - complements intermittent and variable wind and solar supply, with charging cheapest when power is cheapest and an increasing ability to use smart management systems to take advantage of that.
  14. I suppose some people think grapefruit are delicious but I am tempted to call you strange for that! Not that I eat lemons, except mixed with other things - perhaps mixed with other things I would like grapefruit too. Only needed perhaps twice a week, so effectiveness is not an issue. More surmising here, that enough bacteria are killed from the acidity to have a lasting affect. Jona173 - I suspect finding appropriate chemicals was more trial and error than any understanding of the chemistry and physiology of how antiperspirants work. I hadn't realised they cause sweat ducts to be physically blocked. I would have thought sweat would push past a gel blockage. Whether the sweating itself is impeded by the higher pressure or it is reabsorbed by the sweat duct is a question that comes to my mind next - and those would be different for eccrine sweat glands and apocrine. And I wonder whether that is a potential trigger for skin irritation.
  15. The vinegar smell dissipates very quickly, but probably lemon juice would work as well. But why would anyone have grapefruit on hand?