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Ken Fabian

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Ken Fabian last won the day on August 19 2021

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    Climate Science: Climate Politics: Energy technologies: Human Evolution

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  1. This did mess with my head - mostly I kept getting to what I named the "wind barrier" - the point at which the speed of the yacht equals speed of the wind - and thinking it can't be right; how can it accelerate through the wind lull? The explanations i read tended to leave me more bewildered, not less. Even now I'm not sure I really understand, although Genady's bike video example helped - with me mentally converting the rising "deflector" into a rotating vane; at "wind barrier" speed it still interacts with the (moving) vane - okay - but in my own head I'm not quite there. In a more vague, intellectual sense I see that there can be different ways to tap the energy from two bodies with momentum moving past each other, As for "seeing is believing" - up to a point, sure, but I note that that is what illusionists rely upon to have people believe what isn't true, or else we'd all be pulling coins out of our kid's ears for them to spend instead of our wallets. Many a scam has worked because appearances can be deceptive, like the chess playing "Mechanical Turk" as an historical example. I note there were demos of this long before Blackbird - but I'm surprised I wasn't aware of it. I think we may yet see practical applications - some boats are using these kinds of rotors, more experimental and novelty so far but decarbonising shipping is a real issue. There are the vertical turbine types but... how about Flettner Rotors? DWFTTW messes with my head but so do Flettner Rotors; how does spinning a tube make it move sideways in the wind?
  2. Perhaps that would be limitless storage space near a space station? Still could be a LOT of room towards the core if the principle living and working spaces are near the circumference for pseudo-gravity. I don't know how heavy the construction can get with materials like nickel-iron and hold together when spun up but it seems clear that to dodge the cosmic rays/solar wind it needs to be a lot thicker walled than we usually think of for space construction.
  3. I'd go for an asteroid/space station combination or perhaps spinning habitats within asteroids - constructed using refined iron and steels (byproduct of refining Nickel and mixed Platinum Group Metals for export) as well as unrefined nickel-iron that is available in extraordinary abundance. I'm not sure the Moon or Mars will have anything that a well chosen asteroid or perhaps a Mars moon wouldn't. Earth however, will be the source of much that is essential.
  4. Mostly citizen science is about collecting data (or specimens) rather than doing anything with that data - sometimes tedious and uninspiring work, sometimes not going to happen at all unless volunteers do it. What is made of that data is what is going to take the scientific expertise.
  5. Regulars will know I remain unconvinced of pretty much everything about Mars colonies, from the economics to the fundamental reasons for doing it. I'm sure low gravity would present problems - not all would be deal breaking scale problems except if viability of a colony is already doubtful (which I do;) you don't want any unresolved issues like that. Problems from low gravity? Some kinds of physical labour will be more difficult; we rely a lot on friction from being held down by gravity to get traction and leverage when we engage in physical activities. But some kinds will be easier - if you have a good grip on something (and traction) it will be lighter to lift. But outdoors you'll be wearing a spacesuit - more weight, so better traction but more dead weight... err, dead mass (momentum/inertia) to carry, plus the restrictive movement and thick gloves, so dexterity will be difficult. Indoors - very high or padded ceilings? I recall seeing estimates of "ordinary" manual tasks taking about 3x longer in a spacesuit, I suppose in zero-gee - I'm not sure if that included getting in and out of them and time spent on suit maintenance. Maybe the suits can have power assist - but cost more, weigh more, have more things to maintain and to wear out and replace and fail. But if they need to become, in effect, robots with people in them to work efficiently, it may be better to leave out the people. We don't know how Mars gravity might affect long term health, or how gestation and childhood growth and development might be affected. Like some other commenters I think it will be better to figure that out before committing to any colonisation attempts. If it comes down to it some kind of centrifuge habitat arrangement might be needed to enable colonisation, which would make habitat construction under exceptionally difficult conditions a lot more difficult. I think there is a LOT of basic preliminary work that hasn't been done but needs to be to even know enough to judge if colonisation of Mars can be viable. I haven't even seen so much as a comprehensive list of the essential minerals a colony would require, let alone any decent mineral surveys mapping their locations, the extent of reserves in them or what will be required to exploit them. The "bootstraps" approach - just go there and then figure things out as you go - isn't really an option; it seems like the worst possible kind of planning and management for safety and success in such extreme circumstances.
  6. On the other hand (and more recently) NASA also says, contradicting https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/nasa-study-mass-gains-of-antarctic-ice-sheet-greater-than-losses - from Grace Satellite gravimetric data - And - I am not sure how the different data is reconciled. I would note that data based on ice and snow surface elevations have innate potential to be misleading about mass changes - I'm inclined to think the gravimetric data has less room to mislead.
  7. My source - Sanchez and McInnes - were looking at blocking the amount estimated to be needed - about 1.7% of sunlight. As much mass as Three Gorges Dam, but in space. I suppose the grand space dreamers will suggest we "just" mine the moon or asteroids. I didn't see any estimates of how long the hardware would last or how much ongoing maintenance; given how speculative it is that might look like a minor detail. I think that without extraordinary advances in space capabilities (and even then) this isn't a climate solution we can use.
  8. For L1 positioning most of the light pressure may be compensated for by placement closer to the Sun - ie Sunward of L1. I hadn't considered that. I don't think that will work for anything in low orbit - and it would still not be stable near L1, ie still requires the means to align and move, but with less fuel. Doing a bit of reading reveals that it is hypothetically possible to have some active control over the relative dimming regionally as well as tropics vs poles - via paired occulting discs (iiuc) and that ability to move and align. I wasn't aware of that. These issues are a long way from solved and it still leaves us with ocean pH change - maybe more so if space shades are used as the excuse to allow ongoing and unconstrained emissions. Those aside we are still talking about (according to that source) about 107 - 108 metric tons for the array itself. The array will not be the entirety of what needs to be launched. So far there has been around 20,000 metric tons total launched into space - with much of that to low orbits and expected to return to Earth as orbits degrade. At US$1m per ton to launch 10's and 100's of millions of tons gets extremely expensive - and still extremely expensive even if we see costs reduced by another order of magnitude, ie US$1,000,000,000,000 - $10,000,000,000,000 . I don't think it is possible to grow space launch capabilities that much or in time for it to be much help on our climate problem, especially for a major project that doesn't generate any income directly. Aside from the technical matters... who pays for it?
  9. No unpowered objects will stay where they are put; the light pressure and solar wind will blow the foil away. Any mirrors/shades in space need to be able to do station keeping - ie move about with drives to keep them in place and aligned. There will be more mass than just foil. My understanding is these approaches also are likely to result in regional climate changes above and beyond simply being overall cooler. If emissions continue the ocean pH impacts will not be resolved. I don't think there are any "just do x" solutions that are better or cheaper or quicker or easier or more compelling than a primary solution of "just build an an abundance of clean energy". I suppose it has value to explore the feasibility of all options but not at the expense of the options we already have or are close to viability. My impression is that the space based ones are championed principally by the grand space dreamers for whom greatly expanding space capabilities and getting lots of humans into space - often with the express intention of being able to leave Earth and it's problems behind - are their priority. It won't go well to abuse and misuse the legitimate concerns about climate change to advance quite different goals and ambitions.
  10. I think Hydrogen's greatest downside is it is difficult to store. That includes being bulky compared to other kinds of rocket fuel. It is challenging to use when all the infrastructure is on Earth and most of it gets used within minutes of launch; producing Hydrogen on Mars and using it for launching return journeys for example would be a lot more difficult. As would any long range missions, where the storage duration becomes an issue. I don't know if carbonaceous asteroid material could be used to produce hydrocarbon liquid fuels - it seems likely it could.
  11. I like the idea of an intelligent, tool using octopoidal form, which would, of course, have to differ in many ways to octopuses as we know them. Evolve from an octopus or evolve differently, from a common cephalapod ancestor? Convergent evolution in the ocean of a distant exoplanet, that bear resemblance in form to octopuses? They wouldn't be octopuses.
  12. I don't think we can assume that if German Greens had just supported nuclear then EnergieWende and emissions reductions would be more successful and more advanced. We can decry the historic and ideological baggage that makes most Environmentalist orgs anti-nuclear and free market capitalists anti-climate action; both left nuclear hanging in the breeze just when the winds of change blew through. But I believe it was the latter that was pivotal; it wouldn't have been up to Greens except mainstream politics handed the issue, the podium, the microphone to them. I am cynical enough to think wind and solar got mainstream support over nuclear because they were expected to make no difference. In an alt-history timeline Greens divided on nuclear may well have led to overall weaker action on climate and clean energy; certainly the German coal and gas interests would have taken advantage of internal disagreement, without supporting nuclear. Reduced early support for wind and solar - EnergieWende being a driving force for making them globally mainstream - could easily have been a consequence, leaving us all further behind at this point. Greens expect longer term RE growth to displace the gas as well as the nuclear; I am not prepared to declare they were or are wrong to make RE their focus and distrust nuclear and the "just use nuclear" arguments. Germany is a major industrial nation and despite the economic alarmist fear of being economically ruined by RE, it has grown whilst significantly reducing both emissions intensity and total emissions. Even after nuclear closures (past the short term reverberations) Germany's economy has grown and emissions have gone down. The leadership has changed so we will need to see how they proceed. To establish itself as a primary clean energy option nuclear now it needs those low cost, fast to build, ultra safe modular nuclear power plants - but they are decades overdue and look unlikely to ever be low cost - perhaps they are not so simple and easy and reliable and safe as the optimistic advocates like to make out. I suggest that whilst support from "green" advocacy might help nuclear it isn't essential; the essential support base nuclear absolutely has to have is still supporting fossil fuels and opposing the shift to clean energy. In any encounter with a nuclear supporter I put the odds above even that they will dispute the validity of climate science; with friends like that... Above even for the commenters at sites like atomicinsights.com - I suspect that thread of climate science denial running through nuclear advocacy is there in Germany too, despite appearances that climate science denial is not widespread there.
  13. Given plastic waste can be turned into liquid hydrocarbons and those can be used as rocket fuel - yes. It doesn't look like an efficient means of either reducing plastic pollution or producing rocket fuel. Ultimately we need to shift to recyclable/decomposable plastics and make rocket fuels using low emissions methods.
  14. In the sense that extremists imposing their will on everyone else - veganism would be a hindrance. But I think true of pretty much every kind of extreme ideology that is uncompromising. The best outcomes look to be in the compromises - the reduced meat eating for health, supply chains that are more environmentally sustainable, minimising animal suffering . I haven't been impressed enough to want to learn more - I rarely eat meat because I don't like it much and I don't like cruel animal husbandry but I eat eggs and milk products regularly. I don't think food proscriptions work - and I am personally familiar with a common human failing; knowing better but doing it anyway. I don't know much about the practicalities of proposed Vegan food production and have tended to be tolerant of Vegan activism that exposes cruel farming practices and promotes eating plant based diets, without any in-depth understanding of their deeper beliefs and aims. Studiot makes a good point that it isn't possible to grow food naturally and exclude animal life. I am more familiar with Permaculture ideas, that use animals and incorporates them systematically. I once heard a then unknown Bill Mollison speak about incorporating chickens into gardening systems around the time the first Permaculture books were published; the final tally of potential useful functions was impressive, as were the practical means of designing gardens, pens and runs to support those uses. It all seemed very practical - a synthesis of existing ideas being the principle "out of the box" idea. He didn't strike me as unthinking and uncompromising (although there are now Permaculture extremists too) and use of the products of science and industry were not rejected - their use was minimised but not excluded. I agree with Peterkin that Vegans are not a major influence; even the promoting of plant based foods doesn't depend on them.
  15. You sure you want to derail the thread with a German nuclear vs renewables sidetrack? In answer to the question, no, I think that is oversimplistic - it may play some part in short term demand driven volatility but there is too much else going on, including Russia playing games with supply availability. How much German supply comes via long term contracts at fixed prices and how much is vulnerable to short term variability? How well did they anticipate Covid would impact economic activity - declines and rebounds - as well as anticipate how nuclear closures would affect demand? How well does Germany manage gas reserves? Gas prices have been and are very volatile all around the world quite independently of German policy to phase out of nuclear - which is a tiny portion of global demand. My hope is they will double down on renewables as a response to price volatility and gas market games as well as continue to push ahead with a transition away from fossil fuels, but I don't know how post-Merkel Germany will manage Energiewende into the longer term. On the face of it, I would have favored keeping the nuclear plants for their working life, for the low emissions, but my understanding of the in's and out's of German energy and climate politics is limited. But I do think failure of large parts of German politics to fight for nuclear is down to the same kinds of apathy and hostility to strong climate policies we see everywhere - handing the issue to others in "you care so much, you fix it" style, whilst supporting coal and gas. "Not like that" isn't alternative policy. So far the alarmist economic doomist fears of renewable energy have failed to eventuate although short term volatility still gets treated like evidence of fundamental failure. Germany is still the biggest and most successful industrial nation of Europe.
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