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. How would you Create a Utopia?

    Absence of poverty does look like a key element of any quest for utopia but I have long thought independent courts and Common Law type systems have been important to the success of modern "western" nation states. As messy and subject to corruption these often are in practice they do there does seem to be a self-correcting, corruption resisting element in them and they don't get as messy and corrupt as nations that do not have them. If their partial success makes such a difference, maybe better legal systems are going to be a key ingredient for a healthier society. Just as access to basic living needs would need to be universal, I suggest affordable access to not-corrupt courts, justice and legal redress would also need to be universal.
  2. @ John Cuthber - that was the potential difference of significance that occurred to me too. I suspect a lot of the time there was not a choice, but where there was a choice it may have included a preference for cool water over warm, but to what extent our hunter gatherer ancestors suspected a connection between warm water and illness is hard to say. But if it's cloudy or discoloured, that is easy to see and could lead to clear water being preferred despite temperature. I expect aroma and taste might still take precedence over other considerations - but it may be that cool water will have less aroma and is likely to taste better.
  3. When Rejection Seems "Out of Hand"

    I try to avoid the insults, to the extent of politely explaining what I think and why I think they are wrong. For some people just telling them they are wrong will be taken as an insult - if there is no great interest in the subject at hand I will usually give it one more try, politely, to be sure then leave others to it and move on. If I do have a particular interest I might persist further, sometimes consciously making it an exercise in better educating myself and in communicating clearly. And if they lower their bar I make an effort to not lower mine - just not 100% successfully. Worst of all in my experience (elsewhere) when unprincipled moderators are the principle offenders.
  4. Unitive mystic, either way these are not serious problems that I think would lead to migrations - more akin to the health risks populations would face regardless of location. I think rereading my posts will tell you why I think that - and the reasons others give support that conclusion also. Unless you have something new to add I'll leave it at that.
  5. If I were one of them I wouldn't migrate for that reason, even knowing my risk of skin cancers to be greater than people with a similar skin type to mine living in other places - I'd be too concerned with staying alive where I am. Sunburn risks might rate as a reason to get kids to wear hats but not for the arduous task of migrating great distances on foot or in bark canoes.
  6. Plenty of reasons given to think this kind of preferential migration will not happen. I haven't seen any arguments that change my view that it would not.
  7. Unitive Mystic - I don't see any obvious mechanism or motivation that would induce the kind of preferential migration patterns you suggest - ie would send pale skinned people to high latitudes and dark skinned people to the equatorial regions - they wouldn't know that would be a long term solution or even any kind of solution, even if they have the means. Getting sunburned can prompt changes to behaviour - make hats or other kinds of clothing (especially parents doing so for vulnerable youngsters), have shade in and around camps, change time of day for some activities - but I doubt migration would occur to people as a rational response; within walking distance there would be no apparent differences in sun exposure except by changes to vegetation or perhaps deep valleys vs highlands rather than latitude. It's clearly possible for populations to do well enough for other reasons that sun exposure or vitamin D deficiencies is not going to stop them. Migrations tend to either be motivated by belief that the destination offers opportunities, or motivated by desperate need and will lack clear direction. Raised levels of dangerous cancers later in life may or may not be understood as being related to sun exposure, but I don't see that we can assume they would know that or know that North/South migration would help - and, all things considered probably won't. Rather than migration changing what mix of skin types in different geographic/climatic regions the real mechanism that looks most relevant would be evolutionary - but we then need to assume that civilisation and long distance travel doesn't arise again over evolutionary time frames and I doubt that would be the case. Assuming it doesn't it is certainly possible that some populations would divide across skin colour lines and intermarriage would be uncommon but the notion that pale skins belong on one side of an imaginary line and all the rest (the "one drop" rule) on the other has always been false. To me it looks like the easiest way to a permanent solution to vulnerability to sun exposure in pale skinned people in hot and sunny climates/dark skinned in sun poor climates would be intermarriage (gene flow), not migration, and this is very likely to happen, even with racist, isolationist societies given enough time; ie those that 'successfully' prevented intermarriage would be less fit than populations that allow or encourage it. Given that the genetics for more melanin rich skins has already evolved, gene flow can introduce it rapidly (in evolutionary terms) to populations that don't have it, and vice versa. No need to migrate.
  8. With civilisation gone the means to relocate (easily) will be also. Lack of civilisation does not mean no tools or technology - especially since knowledge and remnants will mean people know a lot is possible. A whole lot of basic technologies will still be within reach, even if it's back to knapping knives out of stone. Whether those living in less than ideal climate will be displaced over multi-generations by those who (from here) look better suited could depend on how long before civilisations develop again. Most places now tend to have mixed populations - the genes for dark skins and light skins will co-exist and mix in populations in all kinds of climates. I think most humans will continue to have the capability of surviving in most locations, that the idea that there is an ideal climate or geography may not strictly apply, that ingenuity if not plain human stubborness that worked in our past will keep work in the future, regardless of location. I doubt we would see any significant evolution any time soon - and the mixing of genetic heritages may make it less obvious. Or make it necessary for new traits to emerge. I suppose the most significant kind of evolution might be ongoing genetic flow - genetics from one population type to another - as mixed populations mix even further, perhaps (if isolated long enough) into a more homogenous population.
  9. Renewable Energy

    We've come a long way in all aspects of renewable energy and we make a lot of good use of intermittent solar and wind. You can add a lot of solar to existing electricity networks without problems. More importantly adding wind and solar now sets things up for the next stages, which will include adding some on-demand backup or equivalent. It is a progression in stages, not an all at once change. At small scale - my PV fitted home for example - a relatively small amount of battery storage is enough to go from drawing power from the grid every night to (my estimate to date) about one night out of 50. And overall, we send four times the total power we use ourselves back into the grid. This will happen at larger scale - apparent already in the usefulness of the (still relatively small) Big Battery in South Australia (aka Hornsdale Power Reserve); it has exceeded expectations for it's role in system fast voltage regulation and fast, short term backup - and helping keep wholesale power prices constrained when gas or other "reliable" supply fails, and they do, surprisingly often if you look. We don't know how the last stages of transition to low emission will play out - fast start gas, batteries, pumped hydro, demand shifting - likely a combination of these will be used. Nuclear will struggle to find opportunity for profit outside the periods when solar owns the daytimes and wind, the windy times. Investment in serious storage will be resisted until the proportions of wind and solar grow to where they become needed (eg South Australia approaching this threshold), then viable proposals start coming. At this point in this transition adding as much wind and solar as the market demands (and it is now demand driven) makes good sense.
  10. Renewable Energy

    Phi for All - Australia previously had government owned electricity - selling it off to private enterprise has not resulted in better reliability, lower costs or improved investment practices. It's been something of a disaster for consumers and long term energy policy implementation - and because those selloffs and the consequent raised electricity costs overlapped in time with rising concerns about climate and support for renewable energy, it was popular and effective amongst climate science deniers to conflate the two and blame the largest part of rising costs on renewable energy subsidies (when the largest component was overbuilding within rules that made that possible and financially rewarding). In part things went worse with private ownership in this is because there isn't a market large enough to support genuine, efficiency inducing competition and in part because the conditions under which they were sold included government backed guarantees ie was not and never was actually a free market - although the rhetoric of "free enterprise will do it better and cheaper" was the selling point. Whilst nationalising them now would be problematic I disagree that government ownership of what is unlikely ever to be a free and open competitive market is intrinsically problematic, at least in Australia's case. Bazzy - Underpinning distrust and rejection of RE is usually distrust and rejection of climate science - as is continuing support for coal fired power. Politically in Australia arguing that coal is better than renewable energy tends to be a proxy for climate science denial - the main culprits preferring not to argue about the science directly, thus avoiding arguments that they can't win and that tend to make them look foolish. I don't know that it's possible to win arguments about the merits of low emissions energy with people who reject climate change science - who reject that there is any responsibility for climate change; their opinions are not based on good information and rational arguments. Depending on who they get their news and commentary and energy politics from - the current LNP govenment and large elements of News media for example - the idea that RE will be costly and unreliable will be something they hear all the time. They may be won over by cost savings alone - and solar for homes and businesses is winning them over at the local level - but this takes at least some pro-active research. In this, we are at a turning point, and we are seeing things shifting, with major energy companies choosing RE investments over coal (on the basis of ended RE subsidies and with an enduring amnesty for fossil fuels for their externalised costs) and facing criticisms by the pro-markets government for disagreeing with their "coal is good" mantra. I think the continuing growth of solar and wind, and increasingly, storage, will accelerate and attempts to shape opinion against them will fail. Even more than the (still mostly limited) emissions reductions, the near term impacts of the solar and wind success story is changing minds by showing as false the fears of economic disaster that opponents of strong climate action have pushed hard and made into their most powerful tool of persuasion. The political implications of that will be more fundamentally important for building support for a transition to low emissions than the emissions reductions themselves - emissions that won't come down significantly until the levels of RE mean everything we make or use will have a big RE component.
  11. You could do that - and you will have to pedal harder. A lot harder. Whoever told you about energy losses was right - you'd be better saving that effort for making the e-bike go when it needs pedalling. The energy losses in pedalling to make motion are small, but energy losses converting crank power to electricity via an altenator, to charge a battery, back to an electric motor to turn the crank to make motion are much higher. Running the alternator on down hill runs in place of braking will result in a gain, but if you have to pedal where otherwise you didn't, you'll be working harder for very little (no) gain. More exercise and better health outcomes maybe, but you'd get that by using an ordinary bicycle, not an e-bike.
  12. Einstein was a racist?

    In a world without chairs, everyone will squat. Not the best of observations to assign that to any specific nation or race; white anglo old timers mustering cattle would squat around their campfires here in Australia, and probably a lot still do. And Darwin probably distractedly swiped at flies without noticing that he was feeling them through small body hairs - the hairs he was convinced served no useful function in man. Even highly skilled observers can get things wrong. I don't know about Einstein, however I expect racist sentiments, mixed with interpretations and misinterpretations of Darwin's work, were so widespread and unchallenged as to be seen as normal - even whilst, as a jew in Germany - he would have been subjected to ones he knew to be unwarranted. Sound like he may have spent time thinking about issues arising. Meanwhile his contributions to physics remain immense and beyond dispute.
  13. As my post says I just wanted to give a sense of perspective to what the odds of "unlikely" chemistry look like at the scale of a planetary ocean and hundreds of millions of years - take that view and it looks not all so unlikely after all. Not anywhere near so unlikely as to be impossible - which is what is suggested by the "but it's so unlikely it must need godly intervention" arguments. I don't claim any expertise, so I don't know what specific chemical precursors. From my reading, a lot of what I would call complex organic chemicals are formed in vast quantities from non-biological processes - in space (precursor material to the Earth) and the waters of this planet - and these can and will react and interact in various ways under conditions that, whilst not universal, are still widespread and of long duration. Those conditions won't all apply to every ml of water (and when they do reactions may be occurring at much higher frequencies) but take a dozen zeros off my numbers and they are still enormous numbers. Wikipedia is always a good start, for a general overview, with attention to the sources listed recommended if you are serious about it.
  14. Is it possible we can conquer a Disease with use of Psychology?

    I find placebo effects and the effects of patient attitude interesting. It does appear like these are real effects. I doubt that these work purely by psychological means and expect there will be biochemical processes at work.
  15. The North Korea Problem

    I seriously doubt there has ever been any likelihood of NK giving up their nuclear weapons program - not for US threats, not for inducements. Having the biggest arsenal gives the illusion of overwhelming power to remake things the way you want but I think that's always been illusory. I