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Ken Fabian

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Everything posted by Ken Fabian

  1. From that site, it looks like Thorium has been identified by remote sensing at up to 12ppm. Monzanite is the principle mineral ore on Earth at 2.5% Thorium content ie 25,000 ppm. Even so, the Thorium is produced as a byproduct and is not usually economic to mine by or for itself. On Earth the ores are mostly found as sands and placer deposits, which the Moon will not have, ie relatively easy to mine on Earth. It is not clear what mineral form Lunar Thorium is, as mapped at that blog, but a few sites at 12 ppm does not sound like viable ore bodies to me. Mars could have better Thorium resources but they have not been identified. Then there is the refining - which is going to require an extensive variety of other mined and refined and manufactured materials. Then there is manufacture of thorium reactors and associated plant - which looks like requiring very exacting standards. Self sufficiency is a seriously complex business. This is an issue that I think gets overlooked in the optimism - advanced technologies involve the intersection of multiple, complex specialised activities. Thousands of specialties? Tens of thousands? I don't know, but I think that extent of specialisation cannot be sustained by anything short of a very large, advanced industrialised economy - and it probably needs an economy with a sustained history of consistent excess. That is very different to a colony that begins at (well below?) the borderline for viability in an extreme environment with high technological requirements, where small mistakes and problems kill people. I think the advanced economies we do have were built from an existing base of abundance of resources, including abundance of basic things like food, water, biological and mineral materials that were cheap and easy to move around and trade. Prolonged economic abundance made the advances possible and each advance depended upon advances elsewhere. I was thinking more generally, for a reliable power supply given Mars gets dust storms that can go for weeks at a time; solar power alone will be inadequate without serious, high capacity energy storage. I expect solar furnaces would work most days, when the sky is clear of dust, although I think they will still need some precision technology - and need serious dust protection. On the Moon? Better solar furnace opportunities there - during the two weeks daytimes - however I think the Moon is going to miss out on a lot of minerals and ore bodies that require a prolonged planetary history of geological activity to form.
  2. I suspect when the word Habitable gets used most people think it means "planet suitable for colonising". Finding evidence of life beyond Earth is a big deal but it is not going to give humanity a new planet to occupy. A lot of space related hype taps into a primitive human urge to look to new horizons and open up new opportunities but I think it is too often gratuitously misleading to present these kinds of discoveries as opportunities for anything beyond a better understanding of the universe around us.
  3. I was mostly going by a Space.com and a PhysicsWorld article, the latter featuring Brad Singer discussing the recent Singer et al paper "Synchronizing volcanic, sedimentary, and ice core records of Earth’s last magnetic polarity reversal" (2019). A 5% or 7% per century decline in magnetic field strength is mentioned, is significant and might be indicative of impending pole flip. Or it might not. From Physics World - I interpreted this as 2,000 years for the actual reversal and that is considered rapid - whilst the period of instability is considered long. The Space article suggests any flip of polarity would be thousands of years away according to Monika Korte, head of GFZ Potsdam's working group on geomagnetic field evolution in Germany and - On that basis I think ongoing study is indicated but I see no cause for alarm. Whereas for climate change, the US National Academy of Sciences is saying -
  4. Studiot - Climate change is what we facing right now - an ongoing, cumulative and irreversible change to the global environment we depend on, with serious consequences for people now living. Geomagnetic pole reversal - if increased movement of the pole is in fact a precursor to pole reversal - does not present a clear and immediate danger. If I understand correctly, these reversals take thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. If our economy and environment are messed up from climate change we will be less capable of coping with other things; it is quite reasonable - imperative - that we take climate very seriously and give it priority. As for destruction of arable land, it is quite closely linked to climate change, both causative and as a consequence as well as being significant in direct, economic and environmental terms; rather than being something that is neglected because of the focus on climate change I think it reinforces the overarching significance of climate change. Seeking a better understanding and modelling of our planet's internal workings to should continue but I see no equivalency or even real relevance to efforts to better understand and address the climate problem
  5. Carbon pricing will change the investments choices energy producing and energy using companies make - those behavioral choices are more critical in this than what end consumers choose. In many ways those will define what end consumers choose. Where the money goes is less important than the value of that price signal, which favours investment in low emissions options over high. In a lot of places the cost difference is not that large or can already tilt towards firmed wind and solar. My own view is that taxation should, like expenditure, be public knowledge and subject to ongoing oversight. I have no special problem with taxes on emissions going into general government revenue - and considered as one element amongst many. Whether it goes to assisting the poor with power costs or aids more R&D or just reduces tax burdens elsewhere, a carbon tax revenue is not anything that is so special that it cannot be managed - and when it works the revenue stream should diminish, as companies choose the low emissions options in order to not have to pay. Proposals to tie carbon tax revenues to specific uses are more about marketing, to make it appear more palatable. Ideally carbon pricing should reflect the best estimates of the cumulative costs of emissions - but accurate estimates are probably going to elude us; I will settle for carbon pricing sufficient to favour specific low emissions projects over high emisions ones. Fortunately those look both easier to quantify and are probably much less than the costs will turn out being; we will endure significant climate costs, like it or not. I don't think we can skip the doomsaying - to fail to make clear how deathly serious the consequences are (the top level expert reports and studies, note, not activist interpretations) is to allow complacency to persist. Complacency may be a bigger impediment in this than all the denial and opposition obstruction added together. Making clear how serious is not the same as promoting helplessness; I see that latter more often as part of obstructionist activism, ie that taking action is pointless or counterproductive. We are better placed now to deal with this than every before; even 1 decade ago who would believe we would be adding more new solar capacity than new coal and gas and nuclear combined, because that is cheaper? The doomsaying we need most to be countering is that shifting to low emissions will destroy prosperity.
  6. I don't think personal emissions purity is even possible as a viable lifestyle choice within the societies and economies we are part of; zero emissions cannot be achieved and still be a functional member of society. It will take economy wide change for that to be a genuine option and it needs to be attractive enough to become the default choice. I know that personal choices - even if I were not the type susceptible to knowing better but doing things anyway - are insufficient; we use regulation because, given a choice humans so often will choose immediate gratification over thoughtful, ethical choices. No-one should have their personal lifestyle examined and judged to have the right to call on governments to take climate change seriously - governments that have stacks of reports and studies telling them about the climate problem and already know how serious it is. In any "knowing better but doing it anyway" competition, those holding positions of high trust and responsibility who ignore all the expert reports and studies on this are grand champions; climate activists can't compare. Refusing to listen because climate activists drive cars or fly would be like in the face of an invasion, the government insisting they will only listen to your calls for a national response if you are on the front line, making personal sacrifices. But in this case they still deny it even when you are and you do ... and further, call you a danger to the nation, even a traitor for alarming people as well. Any surprise I see the problem as one of poor governance and of governments failing to apply guiding principles like ethics and integrity, responsibility and accountability? I think it is a profound test of the moral fundamentals of our systems of governance as much as a test of our technical abilities and efficient management, more a test of collective, institutional ethics than as a test of individual morals and commitment. The religious might see that as a test set by God; the scale is certainly Biblical but I see it as an inevitable consequence of living within a finite world and coming up against it's limits. Either way those guiding principles ought to be something we can agree on. It so happens that I want my cake and I want to eat it too; I support chasing technology based prosperity with zero emissions through a technology transition, not enforced technological poverty. I'm not convinced it is helpful to promote personal emissions choices as the principle response; it reinforces the "take the world back to the stone age" outcomes the stereotyped climate activist are alleged by opponents of action to be seeking. Those who don't care feel no obligation, no matter they are as responsible for their emissions as any climate activist is. I don't even have a serious issue with the outspoken wealthy having high personal emissions if their business and investment decisions support emissions reductions; those are much more significant in the greater scheme of things and can advance the economy wide changes that make everyone's choices low emissions ones in ways their sacrificing personal jet travel cannot. The limits I want placed on our extravagant wastefulness are not arbitrary or ideological except in the sense that long running principles around accountability and responsibility impose are ideological; including the full costs, including the externalities we currently don't pay (ie cheat on) in the prices we pay is not socialism and dodging them is not capitalism. I don't even want to stop people from choosing to engage in high emissions activities - so long as equivalent negative emissions are part of the costing of them. If high octane motorsport is your thing, go ahead, but you pay for negative emissions to compensate for the emissions you are responsible for. I can be a techno-optimist who thinks we have all we need to take emissions down a lot and with a reserve of improvements still in the pipeline - when I am not despairing for the enduring failures of governance. For all the reasons I have to feel pessimistic I think that a political tipping point is possible, where Doubt, Denial and Delay becomes untenable, the Conservative-Right Wall of Denial comes down and those on the mainstream Right apply themselves to solutions instead of preventing them. The lengths opponents of strong climate action have gone to to mislead and confuse the public says to me they know that they can lose this fight and effective policies are possible through democratic processes and applications of the rule of law, all supporting responsible free enterprise to make and profit from low emissions technologies.
  7. I would expect many of the heavier elements to be rare on the moon or in asteroids - or, rather, only found mixed in with other minerals at low concentrations; on Earth there have been active geological processes that lead to concentrated ores and many of these are absent in the places we are looking to for space resources.The moon for example has an abundance of lighter element - Silicon, Aluminium, Calcium, Magnesium, Titanium but you will struggle to find elements like Lead or Thorium or Uranium at anything but very low concentrations. Nuclear fuels will be difficult to supply except from Earth. Mars would have had the kinds of geological processes needed to make better ore concentrations in it's distant past but fissionable elements are radioactive and will have undergone radioactive decay and may not still be viable. Mars, like all space locations, presents serious difficulties for mining and refining. I suspect nuclear power would be a minimum requirement for a Mars colony but I don't see how any colony could build and fuel one from local materials without an industrial economic base that is more comprehensive and advanced than an advanced industrial nation on Earth. It seems to me any colonisation of space will require a lot of advanced technology, which will depend on a wide range of materials made to exacting standards. Producing each of them tends to be an advanced specialty that is itself dependent on other advanced, specialised materials and products. Making life in space simpler looks needed. How much can be done with crude nickel-iron? It is one of the materials that exists in great abundance and could be a basic building material but I cannot imagine building a nuclear reactor or rocket motor out of it.
  8. I think these will be people who claim to be sceptics but are not sceptical - they are not going to search out and examine the evidence.
  9. Trust is not the same as faith. Trust in the institutions, practices and ethics of science is not religion. Given that the work of scientists is documented and widely accessible it is available for sceptical review and critique - but this takes knowledge and expertise. Being wrong is bad for a scientist's reputation - and when they are wrong it is documented. There are sound reasons to have trust in the error correcting nature of those practices and - because it is so thoroughly documented, misconduct or conspiracy is difficult to sustain. If, as a sceptic, you don't actually engage in actually doing the work of critiquing - which involves studying, in this case, climate science - any conclusion that it is wrong is a mere personal preference, a belief that lacks any sound basis. It is not up to people who trust science based advice to convince the doubters, nor the scientists either; it is within the body of their works that scientists present the evidence and reasoning. Meanwhile, as the initial post notes, we are experiencing weather events that are in keeping with a world with AGW. I suggest that when examined closely these are within the range of what climate model based projections have "predicted" - the middle of the spread outcomes may be being exceeded. That doesn't make it wrong any more than outcomes that are at the high end of the range not occurring - the worst case ones that, rightly and wrongly get extra public interest and attention - makes climate science wrong.
  10. This sounds like faux scepticism rather than any kind of genuine and appropriate application of scientific scepticism. In effect you are saying the conclusions of the world's climate scientists including, in this case, panels of accomplished experts picked for their appropriate skills and their scientific integrity by world leading institutions like the US National Academy of Sciences and UK's Royal Society to review climate science, are wrong until and unless you, personally are convinced otherwise. Surely scientific scepticism starts with the position that you don't know, not that no-one else knows or that entire bodies of established and accepted scientific knowledge are wrong. Not even as you check to be sure. It is a very useful error checking technique but one that requires a degree of actual expertise - and I suspect is most of all used by working scientists to avoid embarrassing themselves. It is the armchair sceptic that holds that anything you do not, cannot or choose not to understand is wrong until personally convinced; which makes it a way to reject absolutely anything you choose to reject; it is as far from being sound science as it gets. You can - of course - disbelieve anything you like, however I think people holding positions of responsibility and trust to have no such "right". In their case it is, at best negligence. At worst it is a result of corruption. Either way it is dangerously irresponsible.
  11. Thanks CharonY. I had thought the term was more widely applicable than that. That answer leads me to ask what the correct term is for a trait that is unique to - and shared by all members of - a species? I would expect such traits to come down from a common ancestor.
  12. I've managed to get confused about terminology around evolution and am not sure I have it correct. Is a trait Homologous if all descendants from a common ancestor have it? Or do all members of the species have to have this trait? For the example I have in mind - human "hairlessness" (this misleading term referring to smaller hairs than related apes, not actual absence). All juvenile humans are "hairless" before puberty (except for head hair, which they also share in common) but adults vary from male to female (dimorphism) as well as vary across different populations. The hairless juvenile trait is universal within our species and is therefore homologous? But patterns of hairiness in adults are not all the same so is not homologous within the species, though it may be homologous within a sub-population? Whilst dimorphism may have predated the hairlessness, the extent of variability should be evidence of genetic changes that came after the change that made juveniles "hairless" and adult overall less hairy?
  13. Witness accounts that agree very closely can get viewed with suspicion by investigators, without being firm grounds for rejecting them - but it can and should be cause to investigate further... although perhaps not always done if the accounts support police suspicions and a case they are making for prosecution. I'm not sure about courts; a jury might be more inclined to accept close agreement as indicative of being true, whilst a judge/magistrate that makes a judgement without a jury may be more suspicious. Eyewitness testimony has always had it's problems but we have no option but to use it and deal with it's limitations. Some of the issues are known - like asking "is this the person?" rather a witness having to pick one out of similar looking people. Or if a witness has seen the suspect previously they may misidentify them simply because of their familiarity; there were cases where police "innocently" walked a suspect past a potential witness who would then be more likely to pick that person out of photos or a line-up. Clearly the circumstances around how eyewitness testimony is obtained is crucial to assessing it's credibility; explicitly examining those circumstances has to be part of the process.
  14. But if you want to retain any abort or return capability then Mars requires much more equipment and fuel than Deimos or Phobos. As a staging base they may provide resources (eg water for cracking to H2/O2 fuel for powered descent and return) that can be useful - although I remain unconvinced that, absent the hype and fiction, Mars is a desirable let alone a viable place for colonisation and think asteroid mining and space habitats, (whilst still not viable either) make more hypothetical sense to prioritise. As far as Mars as an object of scientific study goes remote controlled and autonomous equipment will probably continue to be more cost effective and I can see a human presence on a base orbiting Mars - or dug into one of those moons - as more achievable than any base on the planet itself. Including the capability of launching small payloads of samples from the surface to that base - which could turn out better with re-usable rockets fueled with the resources from those moons rather than attempting to do that by mining and refining on Mars. 24/7... err, 30.3/7 or 7.4/7 solar might be quite viable by siting tracking panels at or near their poles. Any base or colony on Mars will find that extended dust storms will make solar and overnight storage unviable - nuclear will probably be required. If there is continuing interest in asteroid mining (and at least it offers the potential of a genuine economic base to build on) it seems likely to be an interest in bases/space stations for servicing them, ie there will be continuing efforts to resolve the issues that apply to Deimos or Phobos. Or conversely, solving them for Mars' moons can apply to asteroid mining elsewhere.
  15. I'm still (not) waiting for Lockheed-Martin's "Fit in a shipping container" fusion reactors - solar and wind and storage have moved further in the time since the first announcements than Skunk Works Fusion has. I am cynically skeptical of Johnson's announcement and cannot help but suspect it is part of a "don't worry, we don't need climate policy or low emissions energy plans" position on global warming.
  16. I wasn't really thinking Science Fiction, although I may have subconsciously been influenced by some; we can find examples of genetic modification for zero gee dwellers - it was Lois McMaster Bujold's four armed "Quaddies" (Falling Free and other stories) that came first to my mind but I recall others, including where they don't look much like humans at all. I do think working and living in a zero gee environment must involve rethinking how we use our bodies - and our habits and prejudices should be explicitly examined. I posed this question of using feet on Quora and an astronaut with experience aboard the ISS responded with "Gross!" Which seemed a bit narrow minded to me. It may be they can function well enough to see no great advantage in more deliberate use of feet, but I do think it is a lost opportunity to dismiss it out of hand.
  17. Off topic but ... that is not a story I could recommend to anyone - mostly for it's major inconsistencies between how the peculiar environment is described as working and how it didn't work like that at all within the storyline; eg how many times does (vs should) that "tree" orbit past Goldblatt's world before breaking up? I wanted very much for it to all hang together enough to set aside my disbelief, although clearly he managed with many readers - which is credit to Niven's ability to evoke a sense of wonder, I suppose.
  18. The hypocrisy of demanding climate activists go all stone age or else they have no right to call for change is another kind of rhetoric that should be called out for the misleading nonsense it is. No-one should have to go stone age to expect their governments to take seriously a problem they already know is serious. And would these same critics take anyone who uses no modern technology and does go 100% emissions free any more seriously because of it? I seriously doubt that - because, quite frankly, those critics are hypocrites! As an analogy it is like a nation being invaded but the government will not take calls for nationwide responses seriously - won't even accept that there is any invasion - except from people fighting on the front line, using their own resources. But just as governments have Intelligence and other agencies to tell them if an invasion is real they have science agencies telling them the climate problem is real; it's seriousness is not based on how we think concerned people should act in response, it should be based on the expert advice, directly. If we take the self appointed hypocrisy police seriously we could end up thinking that by the simple expedient of not caring people are magically absolved of all responsibility for their emissions. I think that in any knowing better but doing it anyway stakes, climate activists using electricity and driving cars and using air travel whilst advocating for the kinds of change that lead to zero emissions electricity, cars and air travel are not worse than those who don't care. And a lot less worse than those who seek to undermine public confidence in climate science in order to prevent those kinds of changes or to advance the very activities that make global warming worse. I'm not convinced that Environmental advocacy has done us any great favours by making personal lifestyle choices and voluntarily going without stuff the principle response to the climate problem. Whilst reducing emission by every possible means, including voluntary sacrifices, is desirable and arguably, may ultimately be essential, I don't believe that advocating going without stuff is going to win the necessary levels of support - or properly reflects what that advocacy is trying to achieve. Ultimately the whole point of addressing the causes of climate change is to prevent enduring and irreversible loss of economic prosperity; forcing people to go without stuff is a false and misleading caricature of what mainstream climate activism is about. No-one should have to dress up their activism with personal sacrifices - even though most people who do take it seriously do make some personal efforts, if only for the sake of their own self esteem and sanity.
  19. I think the lengths climate action opponents and obstructionists have been going to to undermine trust and confidence in science based expert advice - including attack anyone that can cut through their interfering noise is indicative of how vulnerable they are to growing popular opinion that does have confidence in it being capable of turning government policy. I do think that we will either see good policy overwhelmed by misinformation and ignorance and serious climate action made ineffective, with all the downsides that will haunt humanity beyond the lives of people now living, or else we will see the issue treated with a lot more seriousness - even enough seriousness that people will accept that some sacrifice, rather than holding to "no regrets" policy that depend on taking action being cheaper than not taking action to be supported. I think the issue is approaching a political tipping point; I would like to think that when the tide turns the Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking will cease to have potency and, without that constant source of misinformation and doubt we will see a level of popular support grow strong enough to make a real difference. Whilst I think leaders throwing it back to the voting public was a means of delaying decisions and avoiding responsibility - an unforgivable abrogation - the same people are showing they are not above claiming unthinking populism driven by extremists (anything but the science) is behind that continuing growth of public concern, concern that is on the cusp of forcing them to action - and turn to claiming that therefore they should not base policy on what the public thinks it wants. Any surprise people, young and old, who do take the expert advice seriously are getting angry? But the young do have more to lose and more to endure. I don't think Greta was necessarily especially insightful in choosing to keep calling for world leaders to have policy consistent with that advice - it is kind of basic and obvious. But it is a simple, direct message that is difficult to argue against - which is why there is so much effort to make the argument about something else. Her youth for example. Her associations with Environmental Activists or anyone deemed "extremist" for example. Whatever her personal views on what appropriate policy should look like they will be used offensively against her, and by implication, the whole climate "movement". Doesn't like nuclear? We don't need to look beyond this forum for how that argument degenerates into deadlock by re-framing the debate along entrenched Left vs Right lines - although I understand Greta has not expressed outright opposition to nuclear or claimed it has no place. Which won't matter; just look at how her calls for policy consistent with the science degenerate into claims her taking the science seriously is evidence of being influenced by partisan extremists! Getting angry that policy is not consistent with the science (that is advising us of a problem of extreme, real world seriousness) looks like righteous and appropriate emotion to me. I think that the absence of clear commitment to solving the problem and not any specific policy and technology options are the fundamental cause of anxiety - that is turning to legitimate anger.
  20. I did mean barefoot inside, for example the ISS - I'm inclined towards Outside spacesuits that have no legs at all, to free those feet and toes for foot operated controls inside the space "suit". That is also because I think it is appropriate to make best use of feet in an environment where they are freed up for other uses than standing and walking. I can't see hygiene as a serious issue - where would feet be used on the ISS that gets them dirty? The "gross" response to bare feet is, in my view, unnecessary and inappropriate, but if people do find the sight of naked feet a problem there are such things as foot gloves. Or they can get used to them. There are apparently issues with dead skin on feet peeling and flaking from lack of use - a legitimate hygiene issue - so wearing socks can be more than an issue with nakedness. But foot gloves are equally able to deal with it. They apparently use bars they can slip feet behind, to anchor themselves, but mostly socks are worn. That is certainly a reasonable use of feet which being barefoot doesn't change - but they could be used in other ways, for which feet and toes would be entirely appropriate. I could reach for small items that are out of reach of (occupied) hands and arms. I could get a (light) steadying grip without any dedicated foot bar . Or, if I have been keeping my body flexible - a lot more flexible than I am now - I could possibly hold something I am working on with one or both feet so both hands can still be used. Ultimately we could and probably should develop foot specific tools and aids.
  21. Which is one of the reasons Greta Thunberg has been successful with her message that climate policies should be consistent with the science based expert advice. It is not brimstone and fire, but sea level rise, extreme weather, more extreme droughts, refugees, based on mainstream expert advice, not myths - plus all the extra problems that mismanagement will add.
  22. It seems to me that whilst feet and toes are not as dexterous or strong as hands they are still capable of gripping and holding - and that would be useful in zero gravity. Those with no choice but rely on feet show how versatile feet and toes can be with practice. Down here on Earth I will use my toes to pick things up off the floor and pass them to my hands when I am barefoot, usually without conscious thought. I think not using feet in space is a wasted opportunity. Should astronauts be training to use their feet and toes to maximise their body's versatility?
  23. I think this is reality, as it actually is. Politicians using emotion based arguments to engage the public with the truth is fine with me - it is not the use of emotion to engage with the public that makes the examples you give problematic, but that they are promoting false fears. That is not reality, as it actually is.
  24. I disagree - and with extra added emotion. Greta's anger is well grounded in facts and it is effective - as, I believe, mine is well grounded. Not nearly so effective, but perhaps it takes someone who has no power besides their voice - a child whom adults should feel obligated to protect and offer hope of a better future to - to induce a modicum of shame in those sitting in the very Offices where decisions with far more weight than personal lifestyle choices are made. I don't see how getting well informed can, let alone should result in an emotionless response; the fears about our future are justified, based on non-emotional assessments of the state of our climate system and engaging with that emotion is how to engage with a complacent (due to ignorance and misinformation) public. People who are, for the most part, ill equipped to assess the science directly. There is a big difference between promoting falsehoods by preying on emotional and intellectual vulnerabilities and using emotion based appeals based on true and scientifically verifiable concerns. I don't see how we can move the masses without engaging emotionally with their hopes and fears. Getting that engagement is a different task to developing policy. But is nothing new or unique to the climate problem.
  25. That world leaders and mainstream political figures, faced with this most serious global problem fail to feel or show any real concern - expressed with emotion - and fail to engage the public using it just demonstrates a lack of concern that is deeply disturbing. That so many have no apparent difficulty with raising alarmist fears of extremist politics and economic disaster from taking the climate problem seriously - using emotion to engage the masses in the cause of opposing strong climate action - is doubly disturbing. There is nothing wrong with politics and advocacy using emotion to engage with the public - but the assessments of the problem's seriousness that concern is grounded upon still needs to be based in science based expert advice that is not emotion based.
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