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Ken Fabian

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Everything posted by Ken Fabian

  1. We are not currently under imminent threat of extinction; other kinds of serious problems can and do rate as more urgent and in combination they represent a significant risk to long term efforts to exploit and colonise space - economics you know. Attempting to read into my doubts about the viability of space enterprises some kind of callous willingness to sacrifice the human race is not addressing the issues I've raised. I don't like the attempts to shame me into agreeing with you. As a motivation, going to space as an extinction prevention measure is both premature and I think has a high risk of being ineffective without some remarkable technological advancements - the same problems that impact the viability of space activities with more immediate goals and motivations. Achieving those goals appear to be necessary precursors to any capability for self supporting space colonies capable of being an off world backup for mankind. I'm willing to discuss why I think that.
  2. No-one has convincingly demonstrated that it is inevitable, just expressed extraordinary optimism that it is. A point you may be avoiding. Without favourable economics it's not inevitable. Nor is technology inevitably going to advance sufficiently to achieve those favourable economics. It may but it may not; greater capabilities may come with greater expense and with diminishing returns on R&D investments. Vanity projects I can see; populism within wealthy nations can achieve that and space ventures do have a solid body of popular support so a presence in space is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. That isn't the same as economically viable or self supporting or inevitably going to expand or lead to a future of favourable economics. A functional, enduring, healthy and wealthy Earth economy is, itself, not an inevitability but it looks essential to these optimistic scenarios. A sustained history of failing to be profitable (outside the communications and Earth sensing satellites) is cause to believe that just trying a bit harder for a bit longer won't be enough - and whilst a whole lot of tax dollars spent on space R&D delivered useful and marketable inventions from the US moon program there is nothing intrinsically superior about space R&D; similar scale R&D spending with different focus would also deliver useful and marketable inventions, just not the same ones.
  3. Using materials found in space in situ sounds great - but in my opinion people are grossly exaggerating how readily that can be done and downplay the costs and difficulties of doing so, the inverse of BeeCee's view of my position. Recalling a doco on doing repairs to Hubble, dealing with a handful of screws presented a team of leading engineers with a year of planning and preparation; sure, some of that would be once off (designing a power screwdriver that didn't twirl the operator around each screw for example) but those are a long way from being the mass produced, off the shelf items that in situ mining, refining and high tech manufacturing require. I think it is in fact very difficult, requiring technology that doesn't exist, using infrastructure that hasn't been built - and I believe it is not economically sound to develop and build such expensive infrastructure in such hostile conditions so far ahead of any reasonable expectation of financial returns; rather, the infrastructure is the necessary prerequisite to any such expectations. Yet building in space for other purposes, where those are not expected to deliver significant returns, seems unlikely to deliver the infrastructure such projects need. There is no real reason to expect any inevitability to any of it. Not even inevitability of continuing subsidy and popular support space ventures have previously enjoyed. Hype abounds here - and that, like the various motivations cited - is inadequate to achieve the extraordinary expectations being expressed. Economics as much as physics and technology is a difficult to surmount limiting factor so I am not surprised that it is those more ephemeral and idealistic motivations that are looked to keep things moving in a spacewards direction in the absence of any economically compelling ones. Comparing to military - or any other large scale spendings that have difficult to quantify benefits - is as dubious a comparison as comparisons to colonisations using sailing ships. I'm not convinced that the optimism is warranted. What minimum infrastructure to mine an asteroid? How much industrial capability in space is needed - starting from a base of zero - before such an operation can be undertaken and how far between that and delivering in quantity to customers who pay? It looks like a huge gulf. What minimum capabilities are needed for a space colony to be self supporting? Much more than any attempts at remote mining I would expect. More crucially, how big does a high tech dependent economy and populations have to be to support just the ability to reliably reproduce the basic, essential infrastructure for enduring survival, without reliance upon Earth's economy?
  4. I'm saying exploring and exploiting space resources are so unlike historic explorations and colonisations that any similarities are superficial and very misleading; those historic "new" world colonies died or thrived according to their ability to participate in the existing sailing ship enabled trading economy. They were "discovered" and established using long proven, widely used technologies, very often the cheap run down vessels that were no longer economically viable, a step short of being stripped of salvage and scuttled; any explorations and colonisations of space requires at the minimum the most advanced technologies, much improved and at far greater scale than currently exist - the low cost versions of these are a necessary prerequisite, to start with, not a hoped for benefit that might emerge along the way. A huge pre-investment is needed that has no historic equivalent that I'm aware of. The not-imaginary technologies currently in play remain far short of what is needed to be financially viable - and the hypothetical improved and enlarged iterations remain hypothetical and unproven, no matter that they may appear, as a schematic on a screen, technically viable. The economic benefits are not obvious; (leaving aside the near value of near Earth satellites for purely Earth based reasons, where the benefits are clear) as soon as we move our sights beyond Earth orbit the costs escalate ahead of the potential for economic returns. Vast resources yes but the costs and difficulties are extreme. It requires such a huge pre-investment necessary to exploit even the most accessible space mineral resources that break even look - pardon the pun - astronomical. There is no starting small to mine asteroids or the moon or Mars and investments on that scale don't happen without far greater certainty of lucrative payoff on bank approved time scales than can possibly be given ahead of those projects going ahead - a catch 22 that I've only seen addressed by proposing vastly more government subsidy of space programs - and those aren't even aimed at delivering what is needed. The urge to seek better pastures well suited early homo sapiens - pushing past that mountain range or beyond that desert really could and did deliver them abundant resources and opportunities as well as distance between intractable problems they left behind, and they could do it with what they carried on their backs and with the skills within a few individuals - because even the high rocky places and harsh deserts are far more habitable and their resources more readily exploitable, than anything in space. Whilst the appeals to that primitive urge to seek better pastures make good PR and induce continuing popular support, they can't and won't deliver the opportunities wished for and in that sense it's a kind of false advertising.
  5. The primitive urge to seek new and better horizons and leave intractable problems behind rather than face them. The popularity of science fiction that tends to downplay or completely bypass - by some imaginary tech brilliancy - the extraordinary costs and difficulties. The illusion that it would be a lot like the successful historic colonisations that happened on Earth. The false expectation that ingenuity can overcome all limitation. The belief that it will be not just economically viable to do so, but deliver enormous economic benefits. The belief that space colonies can provide enduring security and defence from existential threats. The unlikely expectation that humans in space will enjoy greater freedom from regulation or societal constraints.
  6. Mostly the common examples given of science being badly wrong are ancient history - and long since corrected. The example of "don't know" tend to have competing schools of thought and acknowledge the ongoing uncertainty. Climate change science doesn't even genuinely figure as one of the examples of either; Arrhennius had the fundamentals of the climate role of CO2 worked out not long after the IR absorption and re-radiation properties were documented. Even the 1970's global cooling hype was unrepresentative of the state of climate science at the time, something that a National Academy of Sciences report "Understanding Climatic Change" in 1975 made very clear.
  7. GeniusIsDisruptive - you haven't said what you think of climate science - or at least not within this thread. The kinds of points you make are strongly suggestive of rejecting the mainstream science on climate. Any attempts to evaluate the relative costs and benefits of our energy and emissions choices will be skewed if starting with assumptions that the science is wrong and presumptions that there are no serious downsides to releasing gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. The impacts of climate change itself - not only the impacts of climate change avoidance policies and choices - on the capability of billions to have a decent living can't be simply set aside. "WHAT IF you are wrong" also applies to the Conservative Right's position - and given the abundance of persistent, clear expert advice supported by every peak science body, all that contradicts it, it's a far more credible case that it's them that are wrong. The contributions of that politicking to the inadequacies and compromises - to lack of emissions reductions and displacement of fossil fuels - of efforts to date shouldn't be underestimated. It prevents the depth of support renewable options need to achieve their full potential, just as it prevents the largest body of ongoing support for use of nuclear for climate (within Right Conservative politics) from being mobilised effectively. I have a lot of trust in science, it's methods, institutions and professional standards. Those have served us well and still do - people like Giaever in the video Tim88 presented above are not prevented from doing any alternative climate science but object that low quality science will be rejected by publishers and subject to strong criticism; it's a conspiracy to maintain high professional standards the climate science deniers face, not a conspiracy to exaggerate the influence of GHG's on climate or exclude science that might show otherwise. When even a layperson like me can see the gaping holes in Giaever's arguments it's no surprise that he gets criticism and even derision from the actual working professionals he disparages and slanders. The climate problem is a global economy-wide one that can't be fixed purely by voluntary emissions reductions efforts of concerned individual - and those extremists that live frugally with zero emissions will get dismissed as loony extremists and ignored, without raising their credibility with people like "Genius" and Tim88 at all. Those favouring strong climate action that aren't so extreme will be accused of hypocrisy instead of lunacy so there will be no satisfying the critics. My household for example, self supplies electricity 95% of the time and exports 4 to 5 times as much low emissions energy to the grid as it imports. I minimise vehicle use and unnecessary travel and look forward to affordable electric vehicles that I can charge at home but that takes organised efforts by others, including at the government policy level; I haven't achieved net zero emissions but I don't think that is hypocrisy, it is recognition of the socio-economic as well as technological constraints within which I live. I don't hate fossil fuels, but the expected, deferred costs of the consequences of their excessive use must be acknowledged and faced squarely. I recognise that it must be a transition away from excessive fossil fuel use, where ongoing emissions must be accepted in order that the transition be orderly, to minimise economic disruption - and that simply ceasing emissions is not appropriate. It is not a transition aimed at stopping people being rich or having vacations or driving vehicles or having prosperity, no matter that there are fringe extremists who appear to have such aims; the extremists aren't driving this or where it looks like they are that is almost certainly a case of lack of direction and competence from those who do hold authoritative positions of trust and responsibility. It's aimed at sustaining prosperity by avoiding irreversible harms from climate instability. It's not about depriving anyone of prosperity, it's about having our cake and eating it too.
  8. Paul - A lot more real physics - and far beyond the basic stuff that you aren't yet on top of - will be needed to advance space propulsion. There are some proposed methods that don't involve launching reaction mass out the rear but those involve outside forces like sunlight or solar wind. Unless that piston gets shot out the back, never to be used again, the stopping and moving it back to it's original position will use as much energy as it took to push it back in the first case - and a bit more, given there will be efficiency losses.
  9. GeniusIsDispruptive - Before attempting any reply to any of the multiple points you have made I want to know if you accept the mainstream science based advice on climate change. If this possibility is based on you having expectations that the economic costs of a destabilised, warming climate are going to be minimal or non-existent you need to make that clear. Nor have you showed that proposed spending by governments to induce a shift away from high emissions energy choices would be directly causal in depriving billions of people of a decent living - but let's start with the fundamental issue of whether global warming is a consequence of rising GHG in the atmosphere, which in turn is a consequence of unprecedented burning fossil fuels.
  10. I think my incredulity is reasonable - assuming the activities of White House staff is on behalf of the President doesn't seem like an unreasonable working assumption. Yet I am not sure the sentence you are objecting to - or the one Swansont did - implied clear certainty on my part, rather, it reflects that working assumption. Sounds like you don't appreciate the rhetorical style of my comment? You could try addressing the real content, that establishing a means of covert communications - covert from the POV of the US Intelligence Community - with a foreign government that has a long and distinguished history of hostility to the USA appears to have been attempted and that it looks to me (but what do I know?) like potential breach of White House communications security protocols. The President may well have the necessary authority to do that; I'm not sure that Kushner would have.
  11. It just seems unlikely that Kushner would attempt this without Presidential knowledge or direction, or do so for purposes other than the White House's purposes. It may be Kushner's mistake or Trump's mistake but, if it's outside the knowledge and cooperation of US Intelligence Community I have trouble seeing such a communications channel as anything but a mistake - an error of judgement at best and possibly a breach of communications security requirements for White House staff. But I agree that independent investigation for establishing the facts seems warranted.
  12. Kushner would not be establishing it for his own personal use, surely. If it's an unofficial, unacknowledged line - whether direct between heads of state or between their staff on their behalf - that is outside the knowledge or scrutiny of the Intelligence agencies it could be called a "back channel". If they aren't involved how would anyone be confident that it is secure? Perhaps it's more correctly called a communications security breach?
  13. There are proposals like "Breakthrough Starshot" - Postage stamp sized probes launched in large numbers by large laser arrays; I suspect optimism is the special magic ingredient that is expected to overcome all obstacles to make it actually work. I don't believe in magic. That unshakeable optimism is an almost universal characteristic of proposals to send manned or unmanned missions to other stars. This particular one would probably require the launch of a continuous series of probes that can act as communications relays; postage stamp sized probes are not likely to be able to transmit strongly enough to reach all the way. The energy requirement to launch even a <1g probe fast enough to reach Alpha or Proxima in 20 years is enormous; it better not be coal or gas plants providing it. We better have sorted out our emissions and energy and sustainability problems sorted out first - but the impacts on projects like this seem almost an irrelevance in the greater scheme of things. I'm very dubious that any interstellar mission will be undertaken let alone succeed. I'm actually extremely dubious that any direct, non-stop mission will be capable of crossing between stars and still be functional at the end. Whilst still extremely unlikely and difficult in other ways, but I think potentially possible, is humans reaching other stars very, very slowly - self supporting colonisation of deep space objects would allow human expansion that leap frogs from one to another, perhaps preferentially on a tangent towards another star, ultimately to see far distant descendants get within reach. Given that I don't think we will see self supporting colonies in space except as the unintended consequence of long lasting, large scale, economically successful exploitation of space resources by a wealthy, healthy Earth based economy - which can't happen without some extraordinary technological leaps that can make what is hugely difficult and expensive cheap and easy - I see nothing inevitable or even likely about it. There is no reason to expect technological leaps like that to be possible let alone count on it as inevitable.
  14. A back channel to another nation's leaders is okay, even a good thing for a President to have. A back channel established without the knowledge and cooperation of Intelligence services is not.
  15. There was a PBS documentary that included the assertion that the conflict in Syria - and others - have been exacerbated by climate change consequences, ie record drought conditions. It featured former US Chiefs of Staff and other military figures. The idea that it will be a threat multiplier has been around a while within Intelligence circles. http://pbsinternational.org/programs/the-age-of-consequences/
  16. I think we will see parking spaces increasingly fitted with charging facilities, potentially by induction, without any plugs or leads. I don't know how feasible but perhaps a kind of mobile electricity account could be used; you deal with your own power company wherever you charge your EV and possibly do an exchange of what your PV fitted home is feeding to the network for what you use elsewhere.
  17. Flow batteries like Vanadium Redox store energy in liquid electrolytes - draining and replacing electrolyte would recharge the battery. You wouldn't be able to re-purpose hydrocarbon fuel infrastructure to do it though. But currently Li-Ion performs better and yes, recharge times are an issue. A quick battery swap system might be possible, as Bender says.
  18. I think that depends on the specific lottery - the NSW government authorised Jackpot lotteries popular here are won by single tickets, a two draw system where the jackpot ticket number is drawn from all tickets (200,000 at $5.50 per ticket or 270,000 at $2.20, for the two common offerings if I recall correctly), but only wins if that ticket was also a winner of an ordinary prize (1 in 17 or 1 in 24 wins a prize) If you buy in as part of a syndicate, then yes, you share with other syndicate members and it won't be cheap to buy every ticket. I don't think it would work under the gaming regulations here, but in theory that would be $AU1.1M at $5.50 a ticket or $AU594K for the $2.20 version. But the jackpot prize has reached $16M for the latter, much more than the cost of all tickets.
  19. If there is statistical evidence that the draw is not getting random results that may be circumstantial evidence of fraud or faulty methodology - which may be legally actionable against the operators of the lottery. Unless some kind of insider knowledge is involved those who won under those arrangements should be immune from legal action.The statistical evidence will not be proof by itself, rather, it would be cause to investigate and small numbers of small draws may not be a large enough number to apply statistics to unless the fraud or fault is major. The only proven method of winning with genuine "fair" lotteries that I am aware of is with accumulating jackpot type lotteries that end up with prize money exceeding the costs of all the tickets, by attempting to buy them all (or as close to all as possible). I'm not sure but I think rules often work to prevent that happening, by preventing mass purchases at the scales that needs and by allocations to over the counter type sales that would can't easily be bought in bulk. I have heard of syndicates set up to take advantage of large jackpots in jurisdictions with rules that enable it.
  20. I think we'll do a lot more than nothing but far less than is needed. For some people to try - and there are actually a lot of people trying - and still failing is still better than no-one trying. It's a cumulative problem and the affects can be lessened or made worse by what we do so achieving a reduction in the worst case is still better than the worst case. I sometimes wonder if ultimately the direct climate impacts will be less damaging than the bad decisions in response to those impacts; using more fossil fuels as part of climate adaptations, repairing and hardening infrastructure or using more to power more air conditioners or to build dykes and power flood pumps. Or breakdowns in international agreements, isolationism that could see nations that imagine benefits to themselves or (more disturbingly) harm to their enemies and rivals from a warming climate welcoming the early stage changes whilst failing to look beyond that to the later stage ones, made worse. And there is the raised potential for conflict, in a world where there will be more WMD's than ever before in more hands than ever before. Ultimately serious underlying issues around sustainable resource use and population are not solved by a transition to low emissions - yet I think that transition is what we can do and so we should. On the positive side the advances in renewable energy should not be underestimated; it's continued growth and being preferred over coal and gas look likely to accelerate and older analyses of costs and benefits, based on earlier, higher costs, will keep getting rewritten. The largest part of new energy generation being built is wind and solar and the well of innovation underpinning their future growth looks a long way from running dry. Also I suspect that one of the most important more near term benefits of the renewable energy success story will be a breakdown of the economic alarmist "too hard, too expensive" position that has united so much of commerce and industry in opposition to strong climate and emissions policy. I'd like to think Trump and the doubt, deny, delay attempts are a last doomed effort to pretend their way out of the climate problem and not the beginning of an every nation for themselves collapse of co-operation. With lessening political obstruction policies can be developed and enacted that are not so full of inadequate goals, loopholes, exceptions and compromises. Who knows, even nuclear would benefit from a political shift away from denial and obstruction - given that the largest base existing political support for nuclear (in "Western" developed nations) is currently being rendered ineffective because it is within the same political groupings that have preventing and delaying strong climate action as a higher priority. Up ramps that take them into space? Unless they not merely achieve orbit but escape Earth's gravitational field altogether the planetary orbit won't get changed but having less fossil fuel burners would be a net gain.
  21. Of course the net effect would be zero - and not because the amount of force is so small compared to Earth's mass as to be almost insignificant but because when the vehicles decelerate and stop the forces from that would be equal and opposite to the initial accelerations. Rolling the vehicles to a stop rather than braking merely spreads the same total transfer of momentum out as wind and road resistance with zero change to Earth's orbit. No, the solution to ongoing global warming is to stop pumping GHG's into the atmosphere - less fossil fuel powered motor vehicles, not more, no matter which direction we point them - only unlike the proposal under discussion the net result when we stop will not be the same as when we began. Reversion to pre GHG driven climate would require pulling CO2 (and methane etc) out of the atmosphere - and even then we would never truly get back to how it was.
  22. It's always misleading to generalise, yet without generalising a lot of issues are difficult to make sense of. Do I have serious environmental concerns? Yes. Am I an Environmentalist? I suspect, invoking generalisation, that lots of people would see me that way. But there are no minimum standards or set of rules. It's a very broad grouping that includes a wide range of views, some of which are contradictory. I can accept that, with respect to climate change, hydro is much less damaging than coal whilst retaining concerns for the local impacts on rivers and dependent ecoysystems. Like lots of real world people with climate and other environmental concerns I recognise the necessity for compromise whilst retaining a commitment to push for more and better policy responses. "Hydro is evil" - not sure that it's about good or evil, rather about costs vs benefits, but it's not a requirement for "environmentalists" to hold the view that hydro is evil. There are people who identify as pro-nuclear simultaneously with environmentalism. Some are more concerned with protection of remnant ecosystems, some are involved locally on local land use issues - those tend to be strongly opposed to hydro. Me, I see the climate/emissions/energy conundrum as fundamental, both as an environmental issue affecting precious remnant ecosystems and as an economic issue affecting long term human prosperity and security ie that failure to manage that overarching problem will ultimatel undermine the efforts of people wanting to protect what's left of Earth's wilderness. It should be no surprise that those with strong environmental concerns saw AGW's consequences as a serious environmental issue. What is surprising is the extent that commerce, industry, economists and policy makers have resisted seeing AGW as a serious economic and security concern and have gone to great lengths to encourage economic alarmist fear of actions to limit and avoid climate disruption. If "evil" has any appropriate application I suggest it applies best to those in positions of trust and responsibility who willfully reject expert advice and promote climate science denial and other obstructionist actions, doing so knowing that the science is almost certainly fundamentally sound and the problem is real, serious and urgent, with consequences that are effectively irreversible.
  23. Given Trump's rhetoric it isn't a surprise that climate science deniers are being appointed to run the departments doing climate change relevant work. I'm Australian and we currently have a conservative government that applies a gloss of acceptance of climate science over a firm commitment to oppose and obstruct policies that limit the use of fossil fuels or facilitate an enduring transition to low emissions - a kind of entrenched dishonesty that is deeply disturbing. It sounds like the UK and Canada also have strong climate obstructionist political parties - a problem within, mostly, English speaking nations it seems, perhaps due to the reach of partisan English language news services? The obstructionist agenda is (my opinion) not a consequence of the alleged poor quality of climate science - that claim looks manufactured to order as justification and excuse for those in positions of trust and responsibility to willfully fail in that trust and continue actions that are irresponsible. It's about climate responsibility avoidance in order to avoid the costs that responsibility potentially burdens them with - and the principle theme of this campaigning is of economic alarmist fear. It's a potent and immediate fear that flows through from captains of commerce across to their political advocates - Presidents and Prime Ministers, politicians and appointees. It flows down to their employees who - with encouragement - will put work and economic security ("for their families", to give it extra potency) ahead of "external" and "disputed" long term concerns. And this fear feeds through to those further down, in the gutters of ethics free public opinion shaping for hire - advertising, paid opinionators, PR, and tankthink. Slick FUD provides justifications that assuage any sense of shame for an unwillingness to make even small sacrifices for the sake of long term climate stability - encouraging the "proper" response of outrage (principally amongst people who, by any historical standards live lives of extravagant indulgence and wasteful excess) that they should have to pay anything for something that would appear to benefit someone else. If the diving costs of renewables can persist perhaps the "free" market will favour low emissions enough to keep this transition going ahead in the presence of hostile politics and outlast it. The most optimistic thought I've had is that low cost renewables - even if currently limited to intermittently low cost - can entice the greater part of the commercially self interested company owners and execs to break ranks within the collective advocacy of major business associations and commerce "friendly" conservative and mainstream politics. These look to me to be increasingly playing that game of applying a "yes we have to do something in principle" gloss over continuing opposition and obstruction of all effective policy options in practice. I suspect a large part of that "in principle" rhetoric is aimed at limiting the influence of "warmist traitors" in their own ranks from effectively ending the obstruction - but I am (don't know why) - a bit cynical.
  24. Perhaps the robots should pay taxes on their relative "earnings" rather than be a deductable expense for those that purchase and use them in place of people.
  25. Low lands vs high - big differences to minimum and average temperatures can exist in close geographic proximity. Grazing or hunting the high country in summer could extend, with more dense fur, to become wintering in the high country. I'm not convinced that large differences to fur density are much less likely than small ones - small genetic changes might cause a growth process to switch on or off earlier or later with big impacts. Big impacts would exaggerate the survival differences compared to those without such mutations of course and most often those would be negative. The survival impacts would probably be more immediate. But mostly is not always. Unlikely perhaps, but evolution is a product of the unlikely; millions of years and generations across vast and varied geographic areas and populations leave room for the rare and unlikely.
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