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Ken Fabian

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Posts posted by Ken Fabian

  1. Big yes, but to me, not so scary. That doesn't mean I would try to pick a spider like that up, although I did once encourage one to walk onto my hand to get it off someone who was freaking out. It did. I stepped outside and it stepped off to the post I offered it as a way off me, all done peacefully, almost politely, without violence on it's part or mine. Frankly I think spiders are not nearly so scary as some people are.

  2. Spiders don't bother me because the ones I mostly encounter are not dangerous.

    Anyone with a fear of snakes would not like living where I do - although again, they are mostly not dangerous, but some care is needed around them, especially the venomous ones.

    There are a pair of carpet pythons in our roof space as I type - they come out to sun themselves, snuggling together contentedly between their amorous exploits. Another time we had a female python "in heat" she attracted males from far and wide - I counted 5 different males sniffing about and they were less timid than usual, ignoring people and going places they normally wouldn't. And there were some fights - which were more like arm (neck?) wrestles that seemed quite civilised; no-one gets injured and the loser accepts defeat and moves on. It was a bit alarming but not panic inducing; we had to watch our steps. They aren't aggressive but like any wild animal you have to be careful.

    Carpet pythons are not usually considered dangerous but they are capable predators always on the lookout for an easy meal; I suspect large ones could target unattended babies or toddlers. I would be a lot less apathetic about their presence if we had little kids here and the snake had ready access.

    My video of two male pythons arguing over a girl - sorry, the dialogue is a bit... disjointed -


  3. Shining the critical spotlight on the extremist fringe and claiming they are all like that looks like disappointingly normal political pointscoring.

    A minority of "leftists" were (and are) back to nature/alternative medicine/hippie types. They brought that with them when they identified as Left but it wasn't ever a mainstream Left policy. Most of the anti-vaxxers on the Right are on the  fringe; I would like to think they are atypical and the overwhelming majority are pleased to support and use vaccination to prevent disease.

  4. 3 hours ago, Michael McMahon said:

    Maybe there are traces of critical periods where being familiar with such insects from a young age can lessen fear.

    Encountering spiders without previous experience of them probably does trigger significant alarm - encountering most animal species without experience of them would do that and modern lifestyles tend to limit such encounters. When they go on to encounter a kind of animal they believe to be potentially dangerous the fear and aversion is probably reinforced. Tangentially I read a book on dog training that claimed whether dogs take to some activities like swimming can depend on the age they are when they are first introduced to them; there probably are age ranges where negative encounters can imprint long running aversion but at other ages will tolerate the new and unusual.

    I think that familiarity breeds... apathy; they are around and they don't attack anyone so people living around them can get quite casual about them. There are only a very few species of spider in Australia that are genuinely dangerous.

    Perhaps if the spiders you first encounter are these ones, you might not develop any arachnophobia -


  5. On 7/23/2021 at 8:23 AM, TheVat said:

     I have to wonder to what degree the "creepiness" is culturally learned. 

    I think most of it is learned, that without observing the aversion in others in combination with being warned to avoid them or kill them because they are dangerous most children would not develop that response. I did learn that response but have mostly gotten over it with attempts to put reason ahead of learned fear responses. That is distinct from personal experience of painful bites and stings, which can make a big impression especially when young. I avoid bee hives and paper wasp nests- they hurt - and won't make pets of them but I suspect many beekeepers quite like their bees.

    The only bite from a spider I got that I am aware of was (lots of stings and itches have been mysteries) was from an Australian Huntsman spider that had hidden in the sleeve of a raincoat; it drew blood but must not have used venom. No sting or reaction; they do have venom and it can be painful (I've read) but not usually dangerous unless there is unusual sensitivity or allergy. It made me wary of poking my hands through sleeves of my raincoat for a time but hasn't caused a fear of Huntsman spiders.

    Because only some spiders are dangerous to humans but most people will not know which are and which are not, the warnings - and the subsequent fear of them - is applied across the board. In a similar way to some Muslims being terrorists has resulted in many people who have little first hand experience of them being suspicious and fearful of all Muslims.

  6. Getting a view of space would have to wait until instruments that can deal with other bands than visible - or aircraft/rockets to lift instruments or observers above the cloud layer - but I don't know to what extent such technology would be dependent on astronomy. Seems like we should be able to do those things without an understanding of what is out there and still get there in the end.

    I don't think being unable to see the stars would prevent a sense of wonder or curiosity - and I seriously doubt the evolution of those traits was ever dependent on it; they evolved and developed and got naturally selected for other, more prosaic, down to Earth reasons.

  7. There is the question - what if there were no stars at all. That would leave us without a Sun. What if there was only one star - the Sun; that would leave Earth without the elements that came from other stars. But I think the question may be about if they exist but could not be seen and whether we could feel similar awe and wonder for other objects.

    It seems obvious to me that we can... because humans do feel that about other things than the night sky and celestial objects; the vast oceans, their reaches, their mysterious depths. Mountain ranges, giant forest trees. Caves and deep underground. Volcanoes. Living things. I recently watched visualisations of biomolecular processes - mitosis, DNA replication, transcription, the kinetochore - wow!

    I have to say I had only limited interest in stars as a child; shooting stars, sure and the first visible stars after sunset (for making wishes, which I quickly realised weren't coming true). There was the "saucepan" - Orion's Belt and other stars, because it looked like a join the dot drawing of a saucepan with a handle and the Southern Cross, that is on Australia's (and other nation's) flags, that we were told could help give a guide to the direction South. But they were all kinda static and not that exciting; the wonder has come from other people getting all passionate about them and learning what is out there.

  8. I do think major growth of nuclear energy in the absence of opposition would have resulted in more accidents as well as nuclear weapons proliferation and potentially incidents of use of them; those were and remain real, not imaginary issues and those concerns gained a deal of mainstream tolerance and support for anti-nuclear activism. The drive to build reactors that cannot melt down came in part as response to safety concerns raised mostly by activists.

    I also suspect the desire of major powers to limit weapons proliferation was a significant factor (after cost and difficulty) in why that major uptake did not happen - the attraction of nuclear weapons was and remains a significant factor in the decisions of many nations to adopt nuclear and there were efforts to limit that, with nuclear energy growth a casualty.

    In Australia's case - where I live - I suspect it was the decision to NOT develop an Australian nuclear weapons capability that meant we abandoned nuclear energy ambitions and that choice would likely have been urged on us by powers like the US and UK, to keep a lid on WMD's. On the basis of energy costs it was never a good deal - especially not for a nation that floats on deep beds of coal... in an absence of climate considerations. The energy industry in Australia may not have opposed nuclear but it had no good reason to develop it, until global warming... and then the energy industry chose climate science denial, not nuclear.

    Climate concerns would probably have been delayed but not eliminated by large scale take-up of nuclear energy. From producers and transport and industrial users of fossil fuels there would still have been strong opposition to climate accountability so we could have ended up with the same kind of conflicted politics we have been seeing, but without the illusion that people who like fossil fuels and people who like nuclear - united in their dislike of anti-nuclear and environmental activism - are on the same page.

  9. Well, a whole lot of things would need to have been different and not just absence of anti-nuclear activism, which I think has been amongst the least of nuclear's problems. I suspect nuclear technology itself would have to have been different - more like the still yet to be achieved mass manufactured, ultra-safe, foolproof, tamper-proof, ultra-reliable, low maintenance modular power plant. And cheaper than coal or gas or oil.

    I am not sure it is going to provide much illumination to run through possible alternative histories: the impacts of no protesters and subsequently more relaxed shit happens approach to accidents and to nuclear weapons proliferation: when or even if global warming concerns sufficient to demand action on transport and industry and land use emissions would have reached critical mass: whether the development of wind and solar, EV's and batteries - successful, useful, working technologies now - would have been proceeded anyway or been delayed.

    We have to start from where we are and nuclear is still yet to achieve its promise, despite at the time of the emergence of mainstream global warming concerns nuclear standing alone as credible replacement for fossil fuels.

    The way I see it mainstream politics balked at emerging evidence of global warming from the world's number one waste product - CO2 - and nuclear energy has been a casualty of an unfortunate failure to show leadership. Enviro types got worked up about it - to be expected - but I don't really think they expected to get handed the podium in "you care so much, tell us how you'll fix it" style. They distrusted nuclear and preferred alternative, clean energy technologies - solar and wind mostly, which didn't work, mostly. Which mainstream politicians still funded in what I suspect was a cynical mix of empty gesture politics and give em enough rope. Fortunately others besides enviro protester types took up the challenges of climate change and clean energy - scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs - and they made solar and wind and batteries and EV's and etc cost effective despite the doubts and the derision and fossil fuels getting the biggest energy subsidy of all, the enduring amnesty on externalised climate and health costs.

    Unfortunately when large parts of mainstream politics fled the field on climate and clean energy they took most of the existing support for nuclear solutions with them; if there is no climate problem there is no need. As I see it most of the latent support for nuclear energy as principle clean energy option has been rendered ineffectual, behind a Wall of Denial. Climate science denial has no redeeming features - it's proponents appear to have no compunction about nuclear as collateral damage in the fight to prevent fossil fuels being accountable for climate change.

    Not strength of opposition but weakness of support meant the nuclear industry was unable to take full advantage of the unparalleled opportunity it has to save the world from global warming. In the world we have now nuclear energy faces the problem that when the Conservative Right's Wall of Denial comes down and Right politics commits to clean energy for real... those voters can no longer be presumed to support nuclear over renewables; just as wind and solar was opposed on the basis of cost back when they got started with Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking, they could oppose nuclear now... on the basis of cost.

  10. Without any evidence people who make medicines and study viruses and develop policies to reduce and eliminate harm from infectious diseases are accused of deliberately making and releasing serious viral sicknesses. All the virologists and immunologists and other health experts are either incompetent or in on it?

    I went to school with someone who's ambition was medical research - never cheated on tests and never had to and would have been appalled at the idea of making diseases so some companies and shareholders make money. Frankly I think anonymous pseudo-experts casually passing around such toxic accusations is appalling - and the evidence of that is in our faces.

  11. 21 hours ago, TheVat said:

    As I see it,  one of the unfortunate feedback aspects happens when you have people using more fossil fuels to power their AC systems in extreme heat,  which in turns puts more GHGs into the atmosphere.  Longterm,  we should look at not only alternative energy sources but also architecture which allows homes to handle hot weather events better with passive modifications.  There may be, for example, parts of the globe where it will make more sense to have berm houses and other underground living spaces that are naturally cooler,  and not just air condition massively.  

    Energy efficient homes help but I don't have a problem with growing AC use, just with any growth of fossil fuel consumption to run them. And heat pump (including AC) technologies are amongst our most efficient. Building an abundance of clean energy helps whether homes are efficient or not - and that shift to clean energy is already happening, just not quickly enough. Similarly for Electric Vehicles; they are not a solution without a shift to clean energy sources to both build them and run them.

    It is not enough that people who care enough to voluntarily reduce their carbon footprint at personal cost, we need solutions that will work equally well with people who are extravagantly wasteful and don't care, ie our primary sources of energy all need to be shifted to very low/zero emissions so that everything flowing from that, including manufacturing and running AC and EV's, is very low/zero emissions. There will be real limits on overall economic prosperity but I don't see the shift to zero emissions as a primary limiting factor; on the contrary, failure to adopt clean energy will be a major factor that hurts our continuing prosperity as climate impacts become more pronounced.

  12. I am not so interested in whether bioreactors and biofuels can work on the moon or Mars as whether it can help meet our near term and critical requirements for abundant clean energy here on Earth - but any technology to be used in space will have to be developed and proven on Earth first, so that isn't a conflict of interest.

    The advantage of PV is you just expose it to sunlight and it makes electricity. No moving parts, can be plug and play, is low cost and exceptionally reliable, and likewise for associated equipment. Available solar area isn't usually the limiting constraint, so energy yield per m2 is not a deal breaker; by all measures the yield from PV in most places is very good right now. There are biofuel successes but they tend to rely on the natural advantages of being on Earth - crops that grow readily in existing soils with natural rainfall, open ponds for algae cultures, availability of power and other supply. The concentrator type and other closed bioreactors are not as efficient and effective as claimed; the first link noted that getting tubular bioreactors from energy negative to energy positive is an ongoing challenge. Just the energy requirement for keeping the fluids well mixed seems to be a major hurdle. Failure to be energy positive is a big problem here on Earth, but would be a bigger problem on Mars. That doesn't sound like something that will make 5 times the energy production than PV to me.

    PV is demonstrably energy positive but biofuels from tubular bioreactors are not, which makes the claims of superior energy delivery look wrong. Not clear what nutrients would be required but sources will be essential. It doesn't look like any kind of plug and play kind of technology, but would need constant attention, ie farming. It is also not clear what the steps and requirements are between biomass or ethanol gain in a ferment fluid and usable fuels ie dry burnable biomass, diesel grade oil or distilled ethanol of purity suited to fuel cells but they will be there - at a cost to overall efficiency and energy output. In space you will need the Oxygen if you burn anything or use fuel cells; it may be from CO2 recycled, possibly by bioreactor, but in a closed system it will add yet more associated equipment and energy use.

    I like the enthusiasm for biofuels but it is a long way from being a replacement - let alone clearly superior replacement -for PV. Not on Earth, not in space.


  13. I think people are making it more complicated than it needs to be. I think the "solution" to surviving past the death of the sun is developing the capability to make and sustain self supporting artificial habitats, using just the raw materials from asteroids, comets and similar that will give homo sapiens (and/or later homo speciations) the means.

    I suspect if we succeed in inhabiting anywhere off Earth it will be because we have are capable of most of that, but initially with the advantage of solar power. To be self sufficient without solar power - to have reliable fusion energy I suppose - looks like an important threshold to cross. A whole lot of technological capabilities are needed that we don't have and I think maintaining a healthy, wealthy Earth will determine if we get the opportunities to develop them.

    If we can be self sustaining with those kinds of primordial space resources... it's more than just a big solar system. It has a Kuiper Belt. Before we even get started on the Oort. The Oort of the next door stars after that?

  14. Not any kind of expert here but I note that bread and booze are yeast based and whilst they can be interchangeable the bread yeasts are selected for high CO2 production, so bread rises, whilst brewer's yeast is selected for alcohol production as well as some CO2 for the fizz. Even so, some bacterial fermentation appears to be involved as well. Mostly they are considered a problem - including by turning alcohol into vinegar.

    Yoghurt is bacterial and whilst it produces CO2 the cultures used don't appear great for making alcohol, so maybe not so good for making booze. Some bacteria do make alcohol but I am not aware of any beverages that are primarily fermented with bacteria.

    Kombucha is apparently a combination of both yeasts and bacteria. Some fermented foods make do with natural bacteria and yeasts, without adding any specific starter.

  15. 3 hours ago, MigL said:

    That doesn't mean it resists compounding.
    Every respirator with organic filtering cartridges has activated carbon pellets in it.
    They filter the organics by bonding them to the carbon and letting only 'air' through.

    Sodium BiCarbonate has similar odour trapping properties.

    If it is lasting centuries to millennia in soil it has to be resisting chemical compounding that consumes carbon.

    Activated carbon filters chemically combine with organic compounds by adsorption (making a film over the surface). My understanding is any reactivity is confined to the surface and becomes self limiting, which leaves the carbon beneath unchanged. Charcoal is activated by grinding it finely to make more surface area, for adsorption, which creates a protective barrier for the internal material - fine ground because it resists compounding once an adsorptive film is formed.

  16. 21 hours ago, MigL said:

    Carbon compounds readily with a large number of elements.
    It is, in fact, one of the most 'compoundable' elements, and is the basis for its own branch of chemistry, Organic Chemistry.

    True, yet in the form of charcoal in soil it is quite stable and resistant to microbial breakdown. In boreal forest soils that can be hundreds to thousands of years. I doubt it lasts so long in tropical conditions but I only did a brief lookaround for relevant info.

    From "Charcoal ecology: Its function as a hub for plant succession and soil nutrient cycling in boreal forests"


    Charcoal is highly resistant to microbial decomposition and thus remains in soil for thousands of years, providing recalcitrant carbon to boreal forest soils. The abundant pores in and on charcoal surfaces have powerful adsorption abilities that can influence biogeochemical cycles and plant succession after fire. Our review details the influence of charcoal on plant and soil systems and explains the complex direct and indirect pathways of these influences that occur during succession after fires in boreal ecosystems. Among these pathways, the most important pathway through which charcoal influences plant and soil systems relates to the element composition and nutrient availability in soils and to the abundance of phenolics released from Ericaceae plants in the understory of boreal forests.

    Sounds like it is more like a catalyst than a chemical "feedstock" in soil; it promotes biogeochemical processes without being used up. Porous, high surface area and adsorptive ie attracts and holds surface coatings of other materials and microorganisms. It's role appears very significant and complex, including promoting nutrient mineralisation .

  17. Incomplete combustion leaves an abundance of charcoal and partially burned materials. Fires will reduce the amount of leaf and other organic material but increase the amount of charcoal in soils - so the premise that it is lost due to fires is actually the reverse of what happens in practice. Intense fires can eliminate most charcoal and burn with little carbon residue but that is localised. Charcoal has beneficial effects in soil, providing a framework that microorganisms take advantage of.

  18. All individual humans are different... therefore we don't have an absolutely precise definition of a human there is no such thing as a group of humans - just one and all the rest are flawed imitations...

    No, this discussion looks like a problem with words and their definitions - and the aspects shared are the unifying characteristics that make "human"; the differences between individuals (even identical twins) don't negate what is shared.

    The potential for abiogenesis in the universe isn't going to go away with a redefinition of what "abiogenesis" means.


  19. Turn it the other way around - if healthcare workers refuse vaccination and they become a vector for Covid transmission, should they be legally liable for medical/funeral/other expenses of those who get sick as a result? Should their employers face legal sanctions for failure to insist on vaccination?

    Seems to me there are duties of care that override any personal "free" choice.

  20. 10 hours ago, dimreepr said:

    A piston requires a push...

    Push or pull, pressure or suction, either way can do that - the earliest steam engines sucked (from steam condensing in the chamber) rather than blew; depends on the design whether such a piston would push or pull. It would work either way. I note that my bicycle pump pumps air both pushing and pulling.

    But what is the piston connected to? A crankshaft like a reciprocating engine? Or will it pump air, say, through a turbine? The first example above ditches the piston and uses the water column itself as the piston to pump air past a turbine - much simpler.

    The second example could have wave motion pull up some kind of piston in a cylinder in place of the reeling of cable in and out - closest to the OP suggestion that way - with the same question of what then? It could pull up a piston in a cylinder but it looks like there is no advantage; a whole lot of engineering issues are sidestepped by not using pistons.

    I also note that hypothetically such things could be driven by tide rise and fall - just very slowly and delivering very little power.

  21. 11 hours ago, Some dude said:

    This is not my idea, but one of my friend thought of it, and it sounds like it would work.

    The idea is you have some massive metal tube stretching from the sea floor. A metal pole would be inside the tube, and the pole would be strapped to a buoyant object. As the tide rises/lowers, it would move the pole like a piston.

    This would be a wave generator, not a tidal generator.

    Rather than a piston but working along these lines... I've encountered - systems where air is drawn in and pushed back out past a turbine as waves pass.

    Uniwave King Island

    Also the use of the cables of a buoyant object aka a buoy, reeling in and out and driving a generator.



  22. I suspect humans are innately - or initially - "weak-wired" sexually; the potential for attraction and arousal is broad. I note that arousal does not even require the participation of anyone else, let alone specific pheromones or specific seasons; fantasizing alone can do it. I also suspect that absence of seasonality made a strong but non-specific sex drive more important.

    I think the power of the plasticity of the developing pubescent human brain is able to reinforce the triggers and responses humans experience - creating (usually lifelong) "hard-wiring". A wide variety of them. And we are a social animal where sex is both bonding and cause of rivalry and conflict; rules and customs around it have probably always been essential for the group's health.

    Most preferences will arise from observation and mimicry and experiences. And varying levels of enforcement of conformity within the group can determine what those will be. Those that are missing out on early sexual experiences - perhaps denied them by tribal rules and/or polygamy from power - just guessing - may result in higher incidence of homosexuality.

  23. 9 hours ago, MigL said:

    This reads as "Let's put all out money into breeding faster horses, because electric cars will never be as cheap. They, and the infrastructure needed to support them, may be forever out of reach."
    The biggest rewards come from the biggest risks.

    I don't think what I said does read like that - assuming you mean the "faster horses" are the other options and nuclear fusion is the "electric car", (I think). Analogies don't always work - I don't think yours does.

    I never said pull the money out of fusion, I said give more money to other options that have potential. My optical rectenna example was just that, one example - like fusion I think it is looks very difficult but has potential for big rewards. I thought my point was that plenty of other kinds of clean energy are also deserving of being well funded, including existing ones that do already work - breeding better batteries and lower cost solar and tidal and geothermal and nuclear fission, because we don't know that fusion will ever be as cheap. Betting on it being a big contributor to emissions reductions in the time frames we are dealing with for climate change looks... overly optimistic. We need those other technologies - much more certainly than we need fusion.

    Truisms, like analogies, don't always work either; the greatest losses can also come from taking the greatest risks - I suspect risk taking more reliably results in losses than in big rewards. But wealthy nations aren't really risking much, even with 10's of $billions thrown at fusion that fails to realise it's promise; even if these efforts don't work there is usually a lot of new knowledge built that has value. That may be a truism too, but I think a better, truer one.

    However, where the R&D funding pool is limited (and it always has limits) we do pick and choose what gets support and what doesn't; I don't see that fusion development that isn't working should get special treatment forever if other R&D is being sacrificed to fund it. But even pulling back levels of funding support doesn't mean we cannot come back to it later - where ongoing R&D in other areas will continue to come up with new techniques and technologies that can be applied to the problems controlled fusion pose.

    I think the entirety of R&D is as essential to success of fusion in the long term as the specific programs currently working.

  24. Beecee, there is the possibility costs just do not come down enough, even that it will be made to work but be too expensive to be our clean energy solution. Worst might be to forever be just out of reach.

    All our clean possibilities come with problems and doing R&D is about identifying and solving them. I wouldn't want to cut fusion energy funding prematurely, I'd like more overall funding that supports some things I think deserve to be better funded.

    With a US$20 Billion budget could optical rectennas aka nantennas - that ought to be an innately superior clean energy solution even to fusion - be made to work? I'd be surprised if this is something, that despite the potential for something that can harvest thermal energy from the environment and waste heat and turn it to electricity, has ever gotten single digit millions.

    I suspect we will increasingly be able to model the things we want to do before we do them and know a lot before we try them. I suspect what ITER is building is in part the product of that kind of process. Is that something only their kind of budget can afford or is that something that others can tap into?

  25. 1 hour ago, beecee said:

    "Fusion energy is carbon-free, safe and economic".

    - from the quote, not said by beecee.

    Safe maybe; the fusion reaction isn't self sustaining so most things that might go wrong will result in cessation of fusion energy production, unlike fission where it keeps making heat for years after the control rods bring it below critical. Which doesn't mean fission has stopped, just been reduced. Fusion will stop.

    Still some radioactive waste to deal with but potentially less waste than almost any other energy option. How much waste we will tolerate is not always rational; heavy metals contaminated coal ash for example is not usually classed as a toxic waste... mostly because the industries involved have fiercely resisted it, to avoid the costs of safe disposal, and those industries are deemed essential by lawmakers. The potential for serious disasters with fusion is probably still there - lots of energy there that might be released in unwanted ways, like explosions and fires, with possible releases of toxic materials (eg coolants?) but they seem more likely to be localised. If they are large, few in number and whole nations depend exclusively on them the economic consequences of failures may exceed the direct damage.

    Carbon-free? In the same sense that renewables must initially rely on energy and materials with carbon footprints to get established and will not be zero emissions until their use fully replaces fossil fuel energy and inputs across manufacturing and transport - zero emissions potential, using fossil fuels as the starter fluid.

    Economic? No. Current price of power from fusion power stations is approaching infinity - you need to be making power that can be sold to even assess if it is economic. It may be fair to socialise the development costs of technologies deemed important and not expect them to be repaid by those building them if commercial plants are built - but whether that is taxpayer money well spent is a real question; there are lots of potential clean energy technologies that could use levels of R&D funding ITER gets. Seems to me if it is this hard to do fusion at all  it is unlikely to be easy to make it low cost as well.


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