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Ken Fabian

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Everything posted by Ken Fabian

  1. @Moreno With EV's nudging 5% of new passenger vehicle sales - and the strongest growing section of the market - they are well ahead of MHD powered vehicles at 0%. This would not be the case if battery powered vehicles did not work satisfactorily now - and they will almost certainly work even better and be cheaper in 10 years time, let alone 50. Battery technology is still improving and does not need to approach the energy densities of hydrocarbon fuels to work more than well enough. EV's also complement growing levels of Renewable Energy very well and are likely to become fully integrated into home energy systems as well as electricity grids; a single connected EV can be backup power to a home but a million connected EV's can be backup power for a city. Just responsive, smart scheduling of charging makes them a means of load levelling for stability for electricity networks. If it is to be zero emissions MHD needs fuels that are zero emissions - renewable Hydrogen or bio-ethanol? Synthetic fuels made with RE? Higher efficiencies for fossil fuel use has serious limits with respect to emissions reductions - it can be a transitional option but is not a solution. I'm not convinced bio-ethanol is going to be a significant fuel replacement and Hydrogen (if/when MHD beats fuel cells, that are also subject to continuing improvement) as transport fuel is struggling to gain traction. Our transport technology choices cannot be independent of the need to reduce emissions - and that requirement is running on a shorter time frame than 50 years.
  2. What do the proposed MHD devices use as fuel/energy? The Wikipedia description fails to say where the energy required is coming from; they must be powered with something. I admit I don't really understand how these are expected to work as automobile "engines". In any case I think it is not ICE vehicles that it must prove significantly better than; MHD will struggle to compete with battery electric - which, for all the well known limitations, appears well capable of delivering enough range for most practical purposes, with fast charge stations becoming common enough and fast enough that long trips are not being found to be problematic. Everyday commuter use charging is mostly a matter of plugging in when garaged, saving time, not adding to it - and added up, most ICE vehicle users spend more time refueling than EV users spend waiting at charge stations. 300 - 500 km range is common (not far short of range with many ICE cars) and over 600 km (390 miles) is already commercially available; any significant improvements in battery energy density (and I think we will see improvements) will extend that. I think the range "problem" for EV's, like the related battery energy density issue, is getting overstated. It does seem likely that most Tesla EV's will manage more than 500,000 miles/800,000km with reduced but still useful range without battery replacement - longer than we could expect an ICE drive train to last. Tesla is claiming improved batteries are being developed - not greater range if I understand it, but longer life, up to 1,000,000 miles/1,600,000 km. Any competing technology has a high - and continually rising - bar to get over.
  3. Punishment is more popular than rehabilitation because lots of humans get a sense of satisfaction and pleasure from knowing people they believe are bad being made to suffer. And conversely, the idea that someone who commits crimes should be treated humanely and helped to become a more capable and productive citizen is unpopular. Rehabilitation can be perceived as about the best for the offender, despite preventing further crime, and that offends sensibilities of those who have been victims. I think popular opinion - often deliberately encouraged, through dramatic entertainment and political debate - has more to do with supporting punishment over rehabilitation than studies about recidivism; the good cop beats a confession out of someone bad or the nasty sex offender gets put in a cell with the biggest, nastiest sex offender of all. How satisfying! But our society's institutions and systems can put the issues into a context where it is not about how it makes people feel; facts are sought, wider consequences are considered, including genuine efforts to rehabilitate offenders and prevent recidivism. The ability to feel good about something bad happening to someone, so long as we believe they are bad and therefore deserve it is one of humanity's most problematic traits. It doesn't require investigation and weighing of evidence to believe someone is bad and deserves harsh treatment; just being told they are bad can be enough. Worse, just sharing the religion, ethnicity, political ideology or just appearance as people deemed bad can be enough. It means brutal treatment is not automatically and intrinsically considered bad, but is dependent on what we think of the victims. What we think of the victims may have nothing to do with any direct or actual knowledge. I suspect that in evolutionary terms this protected homo sapiens sensibilities in the face of recurring violence and conflict; we can support and participate in brutal acts but not have our sanity destroyed by it.
  4. Promoting less taxes through not having "socialist" welfare makes a voter winning slogan but is not a good way to run a nation. Some nations do have political parties and governments that manage to look further than simplistic ideas about presence of welfare/health/education programs being an unnecessary burden on the productive people, meaning them not paying makes them - and the economy as a whole - better off. I don't think that is true. My own view is the presence of an underclass of unemployed poor that gets none of those kinds of support comes with costs that may be difficult to predict and quantify but don't stay neatly confined to society's losers and, on the contrary, impact the whole society and economy in costly ways. Those costs can be as simple as more policing and enforcement to prevent beggars and homeless camps messing up the streets and more security measures to prevent petty and not so petty theft. Not having such programs becomes an absence that can lead to costs that can blow out spectacularly, when social discontent becoming social disruption; social disruptions can be incredibly destructive. Extremist ideology as well as criminal gangs can thrive amongst people who have few options to better themselves. People who get little or no access to education or health services may never become productive employees, let alone paying consumers of products and services that grow the economy; they represent lost opportunities at least as much as they represent a drag on an economy.
  5. I am not aware of any actual program to teach climate science denial in Australian schools. If that is not the case I would like to see a link. Perhaps within the non-government private schools sector? The disgraced Cardinal George Pell certainly encouraged climate science denial within the Catholic school system, despite the current Pope's position - he consistently portrayed concern about climate change as a kind of paganistic false belief and pricing on emissions as false offerings to false heathen Gods. The idea that toxic stuff from the bowels of the Earth, that burn fiercely with a notable brimstone fragrance, that offers wealth and power beyond all prior imagination might come with a catch was apparently as outside his reckoning of how the world works as the idea that thousands of scientists could be conducting their studies honestly and presenting the conclusions that observation and data and reason led them to without bias or ulterior motives. There has been a proposal by Senator Pauline Hanson - one of those "I'll fight for what I believe in and fight for the right to not examine or think deeply about what I believe in" nationalistic jingoistic populist type politicians - to introduce such an "education" program in Australian schools (with a strong anti gay rights component) but, despite the current Australian government being dominated by climate science deniers who would probably wholeheartedly approve, the Morrison led government prefers to maintain an outward pretense of taking climate seriously, to avoid having to debate the issue and look stupid; I suspect they find obstructing climate and emissions actions easier that way. Which position supporting Hanson's bill openly in parliament would jeopardise. It is currently unlikely such a program would get sufficient support to get introduced.
  6. It is becoming common in Australia for homes to divert "grey" water (pretty much all waste water barring that with faeces and urine) to storage for garden use and sometimes toilet/bathroom flushing, with separate pipework. It does come with potential health risks. I don't expect community infrastructure for that to be widely deployed but I am sure there are people proposing it. Reducing demand for water, especially during periods of drought, makes it worth doing; municipal water supply usage can be tightly capped during dry periods. Although such restrictions can be lifted during times of water abundance. Salt water would have limited uses and is likely to present difficulties - any that gets into soils will contaminate them and kill plants and soil life and cause corrosion to anything metal; in effect it would need to be managed as if it were toxic. Which, for practical purposes, outside of ocean and salt rich environments, it is.
  7. Thylacyne skulls are quite distinct from Canine - competent experts won't have any trouble telling them apart. Especially the teeth, which for a Thylacine, are distinctly marsupial. Thylacine teeth are not well evolved for crunching bones. It is worth keeping in mind that marsupials and mammals do share much in common; evolution will make variations around what already exists and works.
  8. Bluntly, I think these are the conclusions you start with and the facile sciency sounding but substanceless arguments are chosen to fit the narrative. You need to try them on an audience that has poor comprehension of climate science and are more inclined to take those arguments as true without checking. Alarmist economic fear of the costs of acting appropriately in response to decades of consistent top level science advice has been one the most potent Doubt, Deny, Delay arguments of all. Which works best if doubt is thrown on that science based advice - allowing the economic costs of not acting appropriately to be left out entirely.
  9. What incoming IR that can reach the surface directly will be mostly short or "near" IR, which is less absorbed by greenhouse gases than long IR. A lot of the re-radiation from sun warmed earth back upwards is long IR. Any short IR that is absorbed along with long IR (which is more strongly effected and doesn't penetrate all the way through, going up or coming down) is absorbed in the atmosphere and will be retained within the climate system, not lost. Bulk air movement will carry it around and mix it. So, no it isn't going to offset the warming from raised CO2.
  10. Not sure my attempted explanation will be better than all the other explanations out there but I think that many of the attempts to keep it simple result in passing over important aspects... IR coming in can be reflected back to space or absorbed by the atmosphere, with about half of that absorbed to be re-radiated up and half down and none of that is changed much by changing greenhouse gas concentrations. Swansont's linked schematic is quite good. If it showed before and after changed CO2 it would be that "Radiated to space from clouds and atmosphere" figure that changes the most. It is only when high in the troposphere and into the stratosphere that long IR will make it directly back to space. It can get there by the radiating up and being absorbed and re-emitted - about half going up and half down each time and of what makes it that high (and stays up their long enough) about half of that will radiate to space. But it is bulk air movement - wind and convection - that moves most of the atmospheric heat that gets to the top of the atmosphere. Swansont's linked diagram -
  11. I would begin with a ramping carbon price, that starts low but at a rate that rises consistently and predictably - slow enough to avoid immediate disruption but inexorably enough that no planning ahead can get away with ignoring it. It is not about imposing a cost on end consumers to change their choices but making a clear price signal for energy providers, that induces change in their forward investment decisions. Where that results in higher consumer costs, those costs will, I believe, still be smaller than the costs of allowing externalised climate costs to accumulate by allowing emissions to continue without counting them. Living in the midst of Australia's current fire crisis makes the prospect of 3 to 5 C hotter look utterly terrifying; not a small difference or one that makes a cold region a bit milder, but a region with extremes of heat with life threatening consequences getting more extreme - I do not see addressing the problem effectively as optional, let alone, as some in very cold regions might think, beneficial. That makes the idea of putting things off to avoid disrupting what we have now look very shortsighted. The thing about carbon pricing is that if it works no-one pays them - by energy providers choosing the low emissions energy production options that do not attract them. Such options do exist. What the revenue gets used for is not as important as having a price that induced energy providers to choose low emissions options over high - I am not a fan of tying specific taxes to specific spending but prefer governments have flexibility; reducing other taxes would be an option, or support R&D or support for those with low incomes with higher energy costs. Unlike some here I think it does not impose a cost that doesn't already exist. It just makes more explicit a cost that we have been, by tacit agreement, institutionally cheating on. CO2 is our single largest waste product - very nearly the most abundant "commodity" humans make; I think only crushed rocks is made in larger amounts - and crushing rocks doesn't make more rock although it does make more CO2! Maintaining that absence of accountability in order to not disrupt business as usual sounds like the very epitome of what must be changed. If not by pricing, then how do we induce change? Subsidy involves diverting money from elsewhere, probably unfairly burdening those with low responsibility ahead of those with high. Regulation and penalties? These all have costs, but they are more likely to be imposed on consumers rather than producers. Pricing is something economists generally agree is the most cost effective approach. As for specific technologies - policy makers picking and choosing can get perverse results, especially if they see their obligations to supporters as more important than getting an effective low energy transition. Opposition to that transition is a consequence already. I don't oppose nuclear, I just think it comes with complications that mean it will continue to struggle to compete without a lot of direct government intervention and subsidy support.The World Nuclear association thinks nuclear could do 25% of global electricity by 2050 - with strong climate policies, including carbon pricing and subsidy support. Solar and wind will exceed 25% before 2030, without it. I think solar is still a long way short of it's full potential - it will keep getting cheaper because of mass production. The intermittency is a significant issue but is not insurmountable, by geographically extended transmission, by storage of various kinds, by the presence of other energy sources and by demand management that encourages reduced demand when unavailable. One backup to solar and wind option I think may emerge as very significant is gas generation that can transition to Hydrogen produced by renewable energy. A lot of existing gas plants can take significant proportions of Hydrogen, above 90% in some cases. Gas generators sit right where electricity grids converge and on site Hydrogen production (from excess solar and wind) and on site storage sidesteps the economy wide infrastructure needed for H2 as transport fuel or H2 for transportation. Storage can be at lower pressures, with easier engineering requirements than those other uses require. I think the economy destroying potential of having high levels of intermittent energy are greatly exaggerated; besides the times of low or no output there are times of abundance; businesses that can remake the way they work to take advantage of those periods of low cost, abundant energy will find opportunity.
  12. There should be abundant carbonaceous chondrite materials in asteroids that could be a raw material for making polymers. Given carbonaceous meteorites can have significant amounts of nickel-iron - mixed in as grains or chondrules - as well as oxides and sulphides, they have hypothetical potential for asteroid mining
  13. Body temperature can be different according to diet. A lower calorie diet can cause a drop in body temperature. https://source.wustl.edu/2011/05/restricting-calories-lowers-body-temperature-may-predict-longer-lifespan/
  14. Australia's National Parks and Forestry and community Fire authorities use controlled burning and have never been prevented by "green regulation" from using it. Leading fire experts and former and current heads of fire authorities reject the claims that green regulation preventing burning off is to blame. Blaming environmentalists is a nasty political claim that has no actual substance. The forestry industry has long been antagonistic to those calling for forest protection and regulation that limits their access to State owned forest resources - hating greenies comes with the job. But I think conservative right politics has become especially antagonistic and inflaming those hatreds because those are the loudest voices on climate change, the message is cutting through and that issue is gaining popular support. Australian Greens have no policies that prevent hazard reduction burning - tending more towards promoting indigenous practices of controlled burning. They have never had enough representation to force policies on this. Livestock have been excluded from National Parks because their purpose is for native flora and fauna, not private grazing (a privilege widely abused when and where it was or is permitted); lots of Australians who are not "greenies" fully support that purpose. Reduced opportunities for burning off are more to blame for inadequate hazard reduction burning, as well as poor resourcing of National Park and Forestry management, that have to have teams and equipment on the ground to do it. Record and near record warm winters are making what was previously a relatively predictable and relatively safe activity - hazard reduction burning - unpredictable and dangerous. Fire authorities have always had all the authority needed, to conduct burning off but they also have authority to call a halt to burning off when conditions are making it too dangerous.They decide, not The Australian Greens. My own observation and speculation is that one of the crucial things that is changing with climate change warmer winters is lack of dew; my own observation was that previously, winter burning was often self limiting because cool conditions caused dew to form late in the night or early morning. Fires were lit in the previous afternoon or evening with a reasonable expectation they would go out. With warmer conditions there can be no such expectation; these activities are requiring ever greater vigilance, more people on the ground and more equipment. Around here - in the middle of recent fires - the last few winters would have allowed no more than 1 month of opportunity to fires to burn slowly with low likelihood of escaping containment. That is actually too short a time for large areas with high fuel loads; six weeks can be considered the minimum for a fire to burn out sufficiently to be declared "out" and slow burning trees and tree roots can still restart fires for longer periods than that. When I consider warming of 3C (at best I think) and possibly more than 5C (with the minimum levels of climate action that would be welcomed by Australia's current government) - it is properly terrifying.
  15. Welcome to the test tube! Personally I would rather we used physical data and understanding of physical processes to model what we can expect to happen, before they happen. Even imperfectly. It isn't up to you. You are entitled to your opinion - unless you are a scientist, operating within professional codes of conduct, which makes misrepresenting the work of your peer or yourself an ethical breach. Or you hold a position of trust and responsibility, which makes ignoring expert advice negligence. Real science skeptics say "I don't know". They do not say "everyone else doesn't know". Not even while the take the effort to check to be sure. If you don't know, how would you know the experts are wrong? You are doing faux skepticism, not genuine scientific skepticism. Presuming the mainstream body of knowledge on climate is false unless your are personally convinced is not scientific skepticism - it is just a sciency sounding way to reject anything you don't, can't or choose not to understand. It is because climate has changed dramatically in the past that makes adding CO2 emissions such a big deal; it would take a climate system that does not change for it to not matter. The very opposite conclusion to it meaning emissions won't matter. It is the vehicle that will not steer a straight line that is most likely to run off the road and crash. I will trust the world's leading science bodies ahead of a pseudonymous internet faux expert. The US National Academy of Sciences for example -
  16. Darwin did speculate about questions that could not be answered definitively but I'm not aware of him claiming certainty for the hypotheses he mentioned or even favoured. His speculations on any specific matter being wrong does not detract from the central thesis he is famous for being right. I do think that lesser thinkers that came after have made too much of those speculations - from both directions; some extending their defense of everything he said further than warranted and others making too much of the things he got wrong, as if that proved evolution through natural selection must be wrong. I have had a long running interest in how humans came to be furless - initially aroused because I found assumptions or claims that appeared quite wrong to me, assumptions that seemed to originate with speculation by Charles Darwin, that were taken as definitive when they were speculative. Tracking down specific mentions of "nakedness" (as the "human hairless" trait was referred to) did not lead me to conclude Darwin was wrong about everything else or diminish my respect for his contributions to science.
  17. To be fair, many would have been unaware of the full extent of the risk - some of which has grown as a climate change consequence. That does happen. Just as hazard reduction burning is a priority around the edges of vulnerable towns and cities. Like most options it still involves costs - acquistion as well as maintenance; cleared areas don't get that way or stay like that by themselves. Bare dirt is welcome when a fire is approaching but at other times it invites erosion and environmental degradation. Forests and parks have positive values in their own right and widescale elimination of vegetation has significant downsides, even leaving aside conserving natural biology and ecosystems. And I do not think we should leave those aside. Firebreaks - including wide ones around the interface of towns and forests are one element of mitigation but they are not ever going to be an absolute protection. It is hard to overstate how flammable the bush in Eastern Australia has been - not just lighting fires is prohibited, but so is outdoor welding, grinding, using tractor grass slashers. Metal bulldozer tracks have started fires. Even mechanical grain harvester cannot be used in extremes of heat and low humidity. The sight of a cigarette lighter becomes as alarming as someone waving an assault rifle around.
  18. It is more a case of people building homes in fire prone locations then expecting the environment to be made safe around them afterwards, ie prioritising human choice over the environment - mostly it is choice not need in nations like the USA or Australia. Active hazard reduction measures require funding, equipping and organising - and citizens can be complacent at the personal level and can vote against giving governments the authority or capabilities or funding needed at larger levels. Climate change is increasing the dangers and the challenges and the costs. I think this overestimates how effective fire breaks are. Under mild conditions and for cool weather hazard reduction fires they help contain fires with good levels of success. During dangerous conditions with major fires they are used where possible to fight fire with fire by 'backburning' back towards oncoming fires, but with only limited success - even when heavily resourced with firefighting personnel and equipment to prevent the fire jumping. Australia's fires are dropping burning embers that start new fires many kilometres ahead of fire fronts. There is no simple let alone low cost preventative measure. Eradication of vegetation is neither feasible nor desirable. Management involves government and statutory authorities that need to be resourced. On the ground individual landowners are going to have some of what they consider their "rights" overridden to reduce the broader risks.
  19. That is interesting. I had thought green wasn't used at all. I'm not convinced it means evolution of full spectrum for efficient photosynthesis is inevitable, that the chemistry that will support it can be presumed to be possible or that biological evolution can produce it.
  20. Depends on the chemistry that is capable of doing it. It is complex enough that having it happen at all looks remarkable. My understanding is that not all wavelengths of light are capable of supporting photosynthesis - or at least the kinds of chemistry around chlorophyll cannot. For all that life has been around for billions of years, we still do not get photosynthesis using green light. Life elsewhere may develop other photosynthetic chemistry but assuming it will do it better than what Earth biology can do is a stretch. Perhaps the kinds of photosynthesis we know - using blue and red light - are approaching as good as it gets.
  21. We are not so much defying as deferring natural selection. The exceptional survivability of humans under current conditions is allowing more genetic variability to become part of our gene pool. Much of that will not add to survival and will, under harsher circumstances, be selected out, yet we do not know what will survive best in the future and there could be surprises. For humans that survival is often less about individual fitness than group fitness; having allergies but belonging to a group that manages itself better may still be better than having no allergies but belonging to a group that fights amongst itself.
  22. Most solar panels are made to cope with some hail - ours have survived numerous storms with hail, occasionally large enough to damage vehicles. Very large hail can still damage them - but we need to put that in perspective; very large hail damages all manner of things and replacing a few solar panels is not so common or such a big deal as to require a rethink of how solar power is done. My understanding is that solar installers did a lot of removal of panels after serious hailstorms in Brisbane Australia in order that roofers could fix damaged roofs - only to put the same panels back. Very few were damaged. Interesting to note that heat pump hot water systems are now similar in cost to passive solar hot water systems, have very low power usage and are reliable. Homes with solar electricity would probably not need extra solar power if they are used; our home already sends several times more power back to the grid than we consume and hot water systems are well suited to scheduled operation during the middle of each day or whenever solar electricity supply is exceeding usage.
  23. When you have a successful way of life in a harsh and unforgiving landscape making fundamental changes to how things are done is neither necessary nor especially attractive. It is not a matter of resisting progress or lacking intelligence. Most people even now are not inventors or innovators; sit someone in front of chunks of flint, with a finished stone blade for an example and they probably still will not make the connection. Observing food plants growing where food scraps are discarded is more likely to prompt hunter gatherers to return to those places and/or engage in re-planting seeds/roots/shoots to make those plants more likely to grow and be productive the next time they visit than to prompt people to stay there permanently and become gardener/farmers. This occurred in Australia and in some places where more reliable harvests could be obtained more sedentary lifestyles arose but more often it was supplementing nomadic hunting and gathering than the other way around. Incorrect assumptions were made, mostly after those practices were disrupted - despite early observations of cultivation practices - about primitives who grew no crops, that flattered European settlers. https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/archived/bushtelegraph/rethinking-indigenous-australias-agricultural-past/5452454
  24. I'm not sure pebbles on a beach would be the best example of nature separating things by size or density - often they do appear well mixed although I have observed differentiation. Dawkins may have seen something like this -
  25. There are some serious attempts to do so - Australian company 1414 Degrees is developing energy storage based on molten silicon. Time will tell if their projects will prove cost effective. These include a plant using bio-gas from wastewater treatment to heat the silicon, then use that for heat provision and electricity generation (see quote below) and have bought a failed solar thermal project, intending to bring it to completion and include their molten silicon storage.
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