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Ken Fabian

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Everything posted by Ken Fabian

  1. I suspect a complex construction like a 3D manufacturing facility require a lot of components that can't be made using 3D manufacturing. As will many products such a factory might be set up to produce. And will that type of manufacturing successfully compete with other production methods for the components that it can make? Injection moulding and extrusion for example, will probably be able to deliver parts cheaper for some time yet - and those techniques are still open to innovative improvements that could still outpace improvements in 3D printing. One application that I do find promising is in some kinds of building construction in concrete - which may be able to use less of it and without steel reinforcement by employing clever, internally strong "honeycomb" structures.
  2. The Australian experience is of politicians and political organisations making in-principle statements of acceptance of climate science and the importance of emissions reduction policy whilst their actions say they don't accept it at all. In some ways hiding opposition and obstruction behind a facade of accepting and supporting climate action - given journalists and media show little interest in calling them to account - appears to allow them to neatly sidestep closer examination of where they really stand and what their energy policy goals really are. Energy supply reliability as an unassailable priority and excuse has become the preferred angle for attacking Renewable Energy and supporting fossil fuels. Policy to make energy networks RE ready, despite the near certainty that it will continue to grow rapidly with or without policy support, is not part of that agenda. I'm not sure which is worse for holding back effective policy - overt or covert denial. Being misleading and deceptive may be an essential skill and requirement for political success - those who don't or won't are fighting with hands tied and are headed for defeat. Whilst I think truth should be valued I suspect that either way there will be political players who will be open about their climate science denial but still include being misleading and deceptive in their MO in order to achieve their goals. So I will not be surprised if there are some effectively meaningless concessions to climate action from a Trump administration finding outright denial isn't working for them. Meaningful ones? No. Even those who claim to support strong climate action appear to struggle with meaningful policy. Whilst support for RE has, in my view, tended to be done as appeasement of (Political Environmentalist led or at least framed by media that way) community concern - it's transmutation into credible low emissions option being totally unexpected - I do wonder if rhetoric about nuclear from climate action obstructive conservatives serves as a different kind of appeasement, for those conservatives who do accept the science; even if "we could fix the problem easy if only those Environmentalists would let us" statements contain no actual commitment to either climate policy or nuclear to displace fossil fuels they probably reinforce the political divide that enables successful climate action obstruction by muting such concerns within and limiting defections of climate policy "traitors".
  3. I suspect that as President, Mr Trump can choose not to accept the advice put before him. Where I live it's a bit different but as I understand it he appoints the department heads of his choosing so those presenting unwanted advice - such as that climate change is real, serious and will increasingly have economic and global security implications - can be replaced. I'm not sure to what extent those in such positions are legally bound to present the reports and advice from their department, but there are ways and means - budgetary, administrative and legislative - to render many unwanted advisory bodies toothless. US Intelligence and Military communities may be more difficult to directly influence that way and as I understand it, they do take climate change seriously; they may prove persuasive in expressing that view in the face of reluctance of a President to accept it. It does seem like elected politicians have extraordinary immunity from the kinds of legal requirements to take expert advice into consideration in their decisions. Even so I would expect a President would have the means to order backgrounding investigations or demand reports from relevant agencies about the veracity of something like climate science; the kind of widespread conspiring that the caricature version of climate as hoax would necessitate would surely be accompanied by consistent trails of evidence and whilst absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, the scale of such a conspiracy combined with the investigative capabilities available is very suggestive that such lack of evidence shows an absence of a climate science conspiracy. I'm not so sure it works the other way - as another commenter above suggests, climate science denial looks a lot more like a working conspiracy than climate science does and investigation of those links could be very revealing.
  4. EdEarl, I think exploitation of space resources requires a lot, lot more than better automation with AI - and automation that can mine, refine, manufacture and replicate the most advanced technologies, including itself, in such a hostile environment are a long way off. Accessible resources are either deep in gravity wells or so far out from the sun that nuclear power is the only viable energy option. Fissionable ores in concentrations that are usable tend to arise as a consequence of hydrogeothermal processes and are going to be scarce in asteroids - the tech as well as fuel for that will be an Earth export for a long time to come. Fusion that is reliable and usable remains a significant technological challenge, let alone fusion that an automated, self assembling factory can produce fusion power plants on demand. And your faith in the enduring ability of the US military industrial complex to drive the innovation that successful, economically viable exploitation of space resources requires could well end up looking like wishful thinking if not hubris in a changing world well on the way to ecological disaster. I think if we fail to rise to the near term challenges of living sustainably within the limits of world as resource rich as our own we will fail to lay the foundations for successfully extending human civilisation beyond Earth. Rather than the resources of space being what saves civilisation on Earth, an enduring, prosperous and well managed global economy on Earth is the only thing that can realise hopes and dreams of colonising space. And I think that we are running out of time whilst collectively refusing to face our near term, Earthly problems head on with our eyes open.
  5. That we are creating and experiencing a cumulative ecological disaster appears well documented and that will impact humanity, but humans remain tough and resourceful so it's not likely to lead to human extinction. EdEarl, I'm not convinced about Post Scarcity and even less convinced Space can provide it - not without some extraordinary technological advances. Whilst improved technologies can squeeze more from finite resources on a finite world they remain finite - and the technologies themselves rely upon can be highly dependent on availability, at reasonable cost, of those finite resources in turn, but there are high costs involved in exploiting resources that are in abundance in space. I would say extreme costs; it takes a lot of technological capital to become independent of natural systems here on Earth and space resources currently exceed the capabilities of the most technologically advanced economies on Earth to exploit even in small ways; that may change but I suspect a continuing, healthy global economy down here on Earth is essential for any serious attempts to do - and I don't think we have ever had, or are likely to achieve a healthy, sustainable global economy. Looks a lot like we are already overshooting boundaries in ways that have serious, irrevocable consequences. My own view is there is a very large - excessively large - pre-investment in hypothetical, difficult to achieve and unproven technologies needed to do anything at scale in space - unlike past colonisations that were done with existing, economically proven and widely available technologies, often using the leftover, destined for scrap stuff on shoestring budgets by the marginalised and desperate. With destinations that were rich in readily exploitable resources. Even though more food than ever is grown in controlled, technology dependent environments most global food supply is still reliant on soils made but no longer sustained by natural processes, including biological ones that are interupted by deforestation and conversion to agriculture, on water reliably falling from the sky, on climatic conditions that remain within usable bounds. Failure of those nature dependent systems will tend to destabilise nations and economies and desperate people can be less inclined to engage productively, with long range forethought in building the kinds of sustainable systems that can support those high tech solutions.
  6. I would say it's extremely unlikely we can make this planet uninhabitable without some serious intent to do so involved. With climate change I think it's not a matter of going past the point of no return, but that there is a progression of tipping points that could be seen as points of no return, each with consequences that are effectively irreversible; a lot of change is already unstoppable but we can still make more.
  7. I'm not convinced Mutually Assured Destruction was ever an intrinsically stable deterrence - and my understanding is there were some close calls besides the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not that it wasn't a real deterrence, but it doesn't apply so well when there is confidence that the enemy will be unable to retaliate after extreme force is used. Between well armed protagonists even a small possibility of a retaliatory strike is likely to remain as a serious doubt, but when the enemy is seen to be incapable of retaliation the confidence of a Commander in Chief that a nuclear strike can win a war without endangering his/her own forces is going to be stronger. Clearly there are other considerations that have acted as restraints or we would have seen them used before now even though I doubt there is any innate abhorrence of such extreme force by military commanders. There can be international as well as internal condemnation and retaliation - not necessarily nuclear or even 'conventional' military reprisal - to be feared and even small nukes applied with precision are going to have collateral damage; I've often wondered if the rise of Islamic terrorism is in large part a consequence of repeated interventions in their nations by outsiders employing what appeared to be overwhelming force, by superior military forces that saw themselves as beyond the reach of effective retaliation. Short of genocide there will always be survivors, most of whom had no say in the triggering events, who can be left with enduring, unreasoning and unyielding hatred - which can be exploited along with religious differences by extremist organisations.
  8. I wonder if solar technology has been changing too rapidly for solar roofing to take off in a large way - a big commitment to a production facility when PV costs for competing "add-on" systems can halve in a few years can be risky. That the PV technology still has so much potential for improvement may see this kind of integration deferred but I think we will eventually see some form that's an enduring winner, superior enough that it becomes the standard that is emulated . Others have tried and many have fallen by the wayside but I think it's inevitable that it does get successfully integrated into building materials - roofing of course, but also, depending on how cheap the PV components and integration can get, wall cladding and paving. It's functional life expectancy is a crucial element. Musk apparently is claiming 50 years which, if this can be relied on, going to change the economics; most solar panels can be expected to last 20-30 years and aren't functional roofing. Ultimately it may become a standard 'sweetener' for roofing products. The complimentary energy storage systems are highly significant to solar fitted homes and businesses and to the whole solar PV market - what Tesla and others manage there is probably more worth watching than solar roof tiles.
  9. I suspect that as long as some nations feel entitled and even obliged to keep them as their weapon of last resort they will be sought by others to be theirs. They do seem to be highly prized status objects for a lot of nations, even ones with well equipped "conventional" militaries. Given the prevalence of "maximum force" style of military logic - more prevalent I suspect than Sun Tzu inspired "winning without engaging the enemy in battle" style - it's difficult to believe someone won't use them. Perhaps when faced with losing a war by other means. It chills me to know that Kennedy was being advised to use them - by people who really should have known better - during the Cuban crisis; I'm not convinced some other US Presidents and Presidential hopefuls would have been able to say no. I do think it's hubris to think these things can't be developed independently, using novel pathways, by nations with a solid foundation of civilian nuclear technologies.
  10. HB of CJ certainly ticks many of the standard boxes when it comes to rejecting what science tells us about messing with the concentrations of greenhouse gases of our atmosphere. Follow the money? I think the bedrock foundation of high level mainstream political support for climate science denial and obstruction is about avoiding the perceived economic costs that flow from acceptance of climate responsibility. To what extent politics leads or follows is probably irrelevant but I think the most politically influential sector of modern nations is commerce and industry and the larger parts of those have decided where they stand based on how it affects their bottom lines in the near term; that desire to avoid the burden of costs by rejecting responsibility flows upwards from affected businesses as political lobbying, downward to their workforce as fears about job security and further downward into the gutters of PR, advertising, tankthink and other forms of ethics deficient opinion for hire. Economic Alarmism tends to trump Environmental concerns - except that climate change is definitely a serious economic issue that will affect prosperity and international security on unprecedented scales. But the latter concerns are about timescales of multi-decades, centuries and millennia whereas the former impacts people and their choices much more immediately. It doesn't appear to much matter that solutions are within our reach and are unlikely to result in widespread economic disaster - for those sectors that are most directly affected, the burden of climate responsibility is indeed a financial disaster. Yet, unlike the more usual case for an activity that is shown to have serious harmful consequences, the opportunities for (unofficial) amnesty for past actions and an orderly transition that allows major investors to avoid major losses and liabilities are intrinsic to the policy responses proposed. Science is conducted within institutions, conventions and practices that are bound by professional ethical standards - practices that are reinforced by accurate and open record keeping that allows and encourages independent expert review and critique. And then there are institutions like the National Academy of Sciences and Royal Society that call on the very best of scientific expertise to provide independent advice to policy makers.
  11. I suppose we should add safe deconstruction and disposal to the essential project specifications.
  12. I think this kind of engineering needs to have large safety margins built into it - so if the currently available materials are only just sufficient for the structure to support itself that won't be nearly good enough. I doubt static charge or heat conduction are likely to be real problems. I don't know if carbon nano-tubes are tolerant of heat and cold - certainly they are good heat conductors - but whatever is proposed needs to consider the heat differences between full sun and Earth shadow which are, by ordinary standards, extreme. Exceptional heat conductivity may be an asset. Vacuum diffusion and erosion from charged particles may be issues. Weather will affect the parts in the lower atmosphere and add sideways stresses that may be severe during extreme weather events. It may be that there won't be any solid materials good enough, but perhaps some kind of chained electromagnets that achieve greater tension than a physical material? (I don't even know if that is even theoretically possible - probably not, if the electromagnets themselves get torn apart by the tension!) That then introduces a whole new set of problems, including power supply that absolutely cannot ever fail. Then there is the actual construction and installation - during which there may be additional stresses, such as if the bottom end were dropped down (flown?) from orbit and anchored. As a thought experiment it's interesting. As an engineering project it's not feasible and it may well prove to be forever unachievable - unless we see some extraordinary technological advances of course. And I suspect that technological advancement, despite the achievements I've seen in my nearing 60 years, ultimately will approach physical limits that aren't going to be amenable to techological workarounds or allow exceptions.
  13. my thoughts? These 'free' energy devices sound like a version of a perpetual motion machine, but there are good reasons why they don't ever run continously or produce more energy than was initially put into them. The output of an alternator or generator will be equal to the energy the motor driving it uses minus the waste heat from friction and other inefficiencies. The output of the generator will not be enough to power the motor under load and the combination will run down and stop. I suggest looking up the law of Conservation of Energy or First Law of Thermodynamics. The best "free" energy devices are things like photovoltaics that turn an existing abundant energy source that we don't use into a form of energy we can - and even those will never be entirely free and don't ever make more energy than was there in the first place.
  14. I saw that - perhaps one of the best graphic representations of historic global temperature so far. Maybe the IPCC could learn a thing or two.
  15. EdEarl; actually I've been impressed by how many new battery options are becoming available, the rate of improvements and price improvements. Still a long way to go but compare to even a decade ago, when a home PV solar installation had the option of Lead-Acid or none - and those were almost exclusively for remote area off-grid applications. Hybrid grid connected systems that included storage were not even on offer, whilst now almost every installer offers it - I think we have come a long way quite quickly.
  16. Motorcycles are more dangerous. Yet every situation can be different. Recalling a terrifying close call whilst riding - I spotted a job vacancy sign on a factory front and was looking at it as I approached the top of a rise and returned my attention too late; traffic was backed up and I was going way too fast to stop behind it. Only hard braking and swerving just in time - still travelling quite fast - to pass just on the verge side saved me from serious injury and possibly death. But had that happened driving a car I could not have swerved around like that. The consequences might not have been so deadly in a car but it would have almost certainly been a serious collision.
  17. I suppose that is true - and the willingness of commercial enterprises to invest in battery development suggests results are seen as achievable. Interestingly most of Tesla's batteries appear to be based on a type of Li-Ion that isn't cutting edge; it sounds like economies of scale and optimising the production of them has been how they've reduced costs. Still, I think the fundamental research that tends to be more reliant upon taxpayer funds is probably still crucial to making the big leaps possible and I'm not convinced energy storage has been strongly supported - not relative to the scale and importance of the climate/emissions/energy problem.
  18. The combined resources of the most technologically advanced nations hasn't built a single working fusion power plant. Being optimistic is okay with me but improving energy storage looks far more likely to have significant and tangible impacts on our energy systems. Whilst I would not like to see such efforts to develop working fusion cease I would like to see advanced energy storage research - which looks to have enormous potential for viable results on shorter time scales - get more support.
  19. I think we are better positioned to invent, improve and produce better batteries than ever and the motivation to do so has never been stronger. Stationary storage and transport suitable storage are different enough that they may be done by very different means, however any EV suitable battery that is low cost enough will - as Lithium in several forms is already doing - be potentially able to compete as stationary storage. I think flow batteries - still have a lot of potential in stationary applications, with it's expandability of storage capacity independent from charge and discharge capacities. Vanadium redox, for example, can offer endless re-use of it's electrolytes. True recycling at as good a quality as the first time use, rather than the 'down-cycling' that we are more familiar with - that puts a few steps at best between first use and becoming waste that is degraded beyond all re-use - is an important consideration. I think the capability for true recycling is important for everything we produce and use - but that kind of technological optimisation may take far greater community awareness and concern as well as far more political maturity than we currently have and perhaps only after squandering what appears plentiful and facing the costs of scarcity will that become a routine design consideration. Demand for Lithium may well prove a significant barrier but it is not the only chemistry that will be used and I think there is still room for some big surprises. Certainly if there isn't enough of it - sending lithium prices soaring - that may drive the market towards alternatives. I don't expect transmutation of elements to ever become a source for battery materials.
  20. EE - it's not clear from the map Sensei included what sort of geothermal it shows. I suspect it may be or include hot rock geothermal, which is not hot because of heat from magma, but from long term internal low level radioactivity.
  21. Maybe they have greater choice, but perhaps they suffer more harassment, greater likelihood of rape or be more at the mercy of macho competitiveness, where the alpha male gets - by intimidation of other men, the women and their family - the girl he wants.
  22. Agree there is a strong correlation with education. Availability of affordable contraception, especially to women independent of husbandly permission would be a big factor. Dramatic change to birthrate can have awkward consequences down the line though. re China, the skewing towards boys over girls seems likely to create an enduring influence towards lower birth rates, even though the one child rule looks like it's being relaxed. Has that imbalance been advantageous to the girls or made them more vulnerable? How high populations, raised on unsustainable foundations, interacts with the upcoming impacts of global climate change, with it's high potential for exacerbating droughts, floods, coastal inundation looks very worrisome. I suspect refugee issues will only grow - and they won't only be about crossing international borders; movements within nations will raise tensions.
  23. EE - there are different types but the most readily usable is in volcanically active areas. It can range from using the hot water that wells up for heating, to drilling down to where the water is at higher than surface boiling point - kept liquid by being under pressure. It boils from it's own heat once the pressure is removed, ie raised to the surface. Usually doesn't require pumping. More geographically available is what we would call Hot Rock Geothermal - or Enhanced Geothermal. It makes use of geological hot zones, often deep granites that are heated over eons by their own natural low level radioactivity; fracking allows water to be pumped down and through shattered hot rock, to return from a nearby second well heated at above surface boiling point, like the tapping of natural deep hot water mentioned above. Ultimately the heat is used up. Another kind of geothermal is heat pumps, that are used for small scale heating, using a variant of Refrigeration or Air Conditioner type technology, that absorbs heat from buried pipes at relatively low temperatures - by cooling the fluid first, pumping it down where it's cooler than the ground, where it absorbs heat - then allowing it to be released at higher temperatures. Usually the piping is buried at a depth that allows seasonal reheating, ie over summer, and deep enough that it remains available through winter. It works the same way a fridge pulls heat from food and the heat is released at above room temperature in a radiator at the back. It's advantage is that the process doesn't use as much energy as it picks up from the ground and releases where needed, making it an attactive home heating method.
  24. Interesting idea to have each mirror independent and mobile. It would get down to relative costs and on the face of it they would be more complex and likely to be less reliable which may eat away at any advantage in site preparation and maintenance. Autonomous robotics may be put to better use ... in site preparation and the manufacture and maintenance of permanently placed mirror assemblies.
  25. From afar it does look like religion has a powerful influence within US politics and also like those religious views that tend towards climate science denial lending weight to denial by many politicians. This may not be an accurate reflection, despite some of the Presidential candidates making utterances I took that way. Australian politicians are less likely to express their religious views so openly but they are certainly there. And I suspect for some it verges on being a crusade kind of war, where being misleading and deceptive and even outright lying about their true views and intentions is viewed as something forced upon them by a creeping evil of Political Correctness. The Archbishop Pell example I used looked to me like a mixture of seeing human progress built on fossil fuel use as reducing human suffering and therefore unquestionably good - thus those calling them bad and demanding their use be restricted and replaced must be dangerously misguided. That, combined with aversion to 'alternative', hippy style embrace of non christian, paganistic beliefs, widened to include anti industrialisation style environmentalism such people often espouse. To me it looks like he took the willingness of those demographics to loudly promote the climate issue as evidence of them being it's source - which in turn looks like accepting the framing by early opponents of climate action of climate change being an issue driven and led by a ratbag, irrational fringe. They may have been some of the loudest voices but only because the mainstream was keeping heads down and mouths closed. That framing was, I think, largely political expediency, aided by the failure of mainstream politics - their silence or criticism of the science - to take the scientific advice seriously, cementing the view that such people and their unwelcome solutions were at the issue's foundations. Wjhilst Pell himself felt quite entitled to pronounce on the falseness of climate science, his main criticism of The Pope's position was that The Church shouldn't be doing science or pronouncing on the truth of climate science. I don't know how theology sees human prosperity and suffering - whether God sees it in relative terms or absolute? Because there are more people today living malnourished and in poverty than the entire global population back when The Industrial Revolution was gaining momentum, even if more are prosperous and relieved of sufferring in proportion to total population.
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