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What are the big issues of 2013 going to be?

Over on The WELL, John Lebkowski and Bruce Sterling are doing their usual open-ended review of the state of the world in 2013; it's a fascinating read, as always (they do this every year), but I can't help thinking we'd get a different result if we chewed the fat on that topic over here. So consider this an invitation to discuss the Big Issues we can expect to be faced with in the new year ...

What do you think they're going to be? And what, in particular, do you think our major media outlets are overlooking?

430 Comments

1:

Incidentally, I have a list of stuff, some of which is probably obvious, some of which is less so ...

* Gender politics (and notably sexual violence and the oppression of women) in India is suddenly coming front-and-centre as a big issue in a country with around 20% of the planetary population

* The Chinese economy: will it continue to grow? If not, what are the implications of Chinese instability for the world?

* In-sourcing: there are signs of some large western corporations finally beginning to slow the out-sourcing of jobs to the developing world

* The growing scandal of legitimacy in the big pharmaceutical sector as the true scope of selective reporting of clinical trials finally comes into public view

* Transparency in banking: western governments are finally beginning to crack down on trans-national tax avoidance schemes, demanding accounts from offshore banks. What are the implications when this banking transparency move runs into the personal offshore accounts of, for example, African, former-Soviet, and Chinese politicians and oligarchs?

* The Arab Spring continues (and thanks to western efforts to suppress communism in the Middle East from the 1940s onwards by propping up dictatorships, the main legitimate source of opposition continues to be islamicism). Is the precedent for the middle east going to turn out to be Iran, Iraq, or Lebanon?

* The year of Linux finally arrives -- on the smartphone! More than 40% of mobile devices now run Linux in some shape or other (note that Android runs atop a Linux kernel). Apple's iOS is based on Mach/BSD. With Blackberry and Symbian waning and Windows 8 Phone facing a huge up-hill struggle, does this mean that the future of ubiquitous computing has been won by Linux or UNIX on ARM?

2:

End of the World Part 2 as a huge comet dominates the November skies.

3:

The Queen dies

4:

Global warming goes from being something scientists (and insurance companies because of expenditures, and mining companies and oil companies because of newly opened exploration areas)worry about, to being something farmers worry about, as the arctic ice cap melts down and the Beaufort gyre spins up, causing the ocean currents to speed up erratically, causing the upwind ocean temperature to vary erratically, causing the rainfall to vary erratically.
I mean, 25 inches you grow wheat, 50 inches you grow corn, 75 inches, you grow rice.
If you don't know what your climate is this year, what do you plant?
Come to think of it, if the farmers worry, shouldn't we?

5:

Either Iran is attacked by Israel and/or the USA, or they acquire nuclear weapon capability. Either is a big story.

6:

EU shatters in ongoing financial crisis - first Greece, then Spain, Portugal etc., then a domino effect. Fiscal events worsen, including (potentially) conflict in the Med, with shipping issues, piracy and so on in the ascendant.

More and more "contracted out" security services, perhaps not police (in '13) but definitely more private military contractors.

7:

* The austerity crisis will be visibly closer to a resolution. The EU will either have a deal, or the Euro will be fracturing. Across the Atlantic, the US will still be struggling with debt limits; that can will be kicked down the road, so more of the same complete with brinkmanship to make N. Korea proud.

* Meaningful regulation directed at 3D printing will start to make its way across the western legal landscape.

* Microsoft in the Enterprise will continue to be relegated to niche markets (much like NetWare was 15 years ago), forcing The Big Blue Father in Redmond to earn most of its profit from non-enterprise sectors (a trick Novell never managed). Linux geeks will continue to malign Microsofties even though they've won.

8:

Stating the obvious is, that the consequences of the appropriation of modern technology by developing countries from the stagnating countries will continue to baffle the media - namely continued economic growth in Asia, particularly China.

The same will broadly be true for Africa, mainly down to Chinese purely utilitarian investments (and the reaction of western countries to those), that come without political demands. This lack of political demands from the outside strengthens the sovereignty of those countries, which is a good thing in the long run. Why should you trust your government, if it is constantly pushed around by European/American powers, who are the ones doing all the investments, brandishing their flags?

The middle east will continue to be the usual mess - whatever happens in Syria will determine the future of the whole area. Meanwhile the pressure on Israel will keep building to stop its illegal occupation of Palestine, especially now that it is officially recognized as a political entity.

In terms of technology, well, count the craters at the test facility of SpaceX ... Elon Musk promised several of them during the testing of Grasshopper. We'll see the Falcon 9 v1.1 being introduced and Falcon Heavy reaching a state of significant completeness.

We'll see more nuclear reactors being approved in Western Europe and the USA, after this year saw the first new approvals for reactors in the USA since 1979 and since 1986 in the UK. The most important stories there will happen outside of the regular media, of course.

Watch Russia, they have several fast metal cooled reactors in development (BREST-300, SVBR-100, BN-800) - and actually being FUNDED ... for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, there is actually money in Russia (ever since the price of oil permanently surpassed $50 per barrel in 2005). As well as several very advanced designs of passively cooled pressure water reactors (which the Soviets pioneered in 1988).

Meanwhile, in the USA, making do with a fraction of the Russian R&D budget, several firms are developing smaller reactors in various states of technological readiness. The most advanced being integral PWRs like mPower and NuScale, as well as the downscaled version of the passively cooled AP1000 - SMR Westinghouse.

The solar power bubble will continue to deflate, for lack of funding. Germany will continue to have record levels of lignite being mined and burned, while further increasing its reliance on Russia to deliver more natural gas, hard coal and oil than ever before, while shifting the pork-barrel spending to off-shore wind in order to get yet-another-bubble going (after the on-shore wind and PV bubbles have mostly burst, and biogas is still running), although they will face serious opposition in those plans for the first time in decades, as electricity prices finally hit the highest levels in Europe, surpassing even Danemark (which has Europe's highest share of electricity generated by coal power plants).

The technological decline of the ability to manufacture anything that hasn't been state-of-the-art in the 1980ies on an industrial scale in the USA or Europe will largely continue, although there are some signs out on the horizon that this might change some time in the future.

As in previous years, there will be even fewer surprises in newly developed computer technology, as Moore's law is petering out along the sigmoid curve.

Given recent developments, we may finally see some first steps towards banning bio-ethanol and bio-diesel as fuels by the UN, after yet another terrible year concludes with about 18 million having died from malnutrition - it used to be 15 million about 5-6 years ago. It remains to be seen, whether media will finally collectively understand, that those famines are not related in any way to climate change, but to useless waste of food that used to be exported, depressing food prices on international markets to levels consistent with developing countries incomes. (They will adapt to higher levels in the long run, but how many more million dead will that take?)

9:

In the local area (ie. first Ireland and then probably the UK and anywhere else where journalism was long ago replaced by commercial concerns, murdock-style), the Statutory Instrument signed by Sean Sherlock in Ireland allowing copyright law on the internet to be basicly "something we just make up as we go along" (I wish this was hyperbole, I really do, but that's the gist of the SI - it says that we won't have statute law, but we'll go off case law) is going to make for interesting watching.

First notable case has been every newspaper in Ireland (well, all the successful ones most people have heard of anyway, broadsheet and tabloid alike) sending threatening letters from debt collection agencies to a women's domestic violence charity for thousands of euros for having links to their websites on the charity's website.

Not content. Just links.

McGarrs (their solicitors and a fairly good representative of the bleeding edge in Irish legal life in this area) have blogged the case here:
http://www.mcgarrsolicitors.ie/2012/12/30/2012-the-year-irish-newspapers-tried-to-destroy-the-web/

10:

Manufacturing starts to return to the West because robots cost the same everywhere. Very few new jobs created.

11:

Insourcing has been quietly happening for some time in the US, but it is starting to attract more attention in the media. Same with manufacturing.

Turns out businesses underestimated the cost of offshoring -- less quality control, difficulty coordinating things, different cultural baggage. And for manufacturing, small companies are finding they get better service from domestic manufacturers, and it is easier to coordinate things. Chinese manufacturers tend to give preference to big companies with big orders, pushing small companies to the side.

12:

I personally think that the big issues in the coming year is :

Financial stability : USA will not jump off the fiscal cliff, both parties will agree to something (otherwise Obama wins per default)

Eurozone financial consolidation or allowing the collapse? Hard to tell, Greece will be the weatherwane for Spain.

Growth in China and other Asian economies (apart from Japan), but how will this further affect internal pressures in China.

With the arctic ice finally melting viable shipping routes through Northwest Passage means decline of piracy throughout Somalia (and perhaps rise of Russian/Aleutean?), at least in the summertime on northern hemisphere.

I think that Iran vs. Israel/USA will remain a hot potato, but I don't think anyone really wants to make THAT move, on either side. Lots of hot air and convenient "plausible deniability" will lead to much public posturing, very little actual action - although I expect both sides to be prepared.

Will also be interesting to see if the flow of the financial wave of early Noughties that brought Rightwing/Liberalism to the forefront of most European governments will flow back into more leftwing/social democrat seats (and with equal force).
As a proof on Concept - Denmark had elections in late 2010 and canned the Right/Liberal government, but the Left/Social Democrats ended up with too few seats to actually do anything with the mess left in their hands (kindda like 1st term Obama)

13:

In the US there is a possibility that death or health issues could open a seat on the Supreme Court. This would certain set off a major political battle with the Republicans trying to block any nomination from Obama with filibuster threats. It could lead to a recess appointment, which hasn't been done for a Justice since Eisenhower.

14:

I suspect it'll be the continuing failure of the European economies (including the UK) to get back into steady growth that's going to be the big ongoing story that will affect us the most.

Now we seem to be in a mutual suicide pact of sucking demand out of the economy and hammering the poorest the hardest I wouldn't be surprised if this resulted in more civil unrest and the continued rise of some of the less palatable political parties across Europe. The UK won't escape, unlike 2012, we won't have any bread and circuses to distract the public from their troubles.

15:

OhGodOhGodOhGod ...

That's when I unplug the TV and go on vacation overseas for a month. Preferably somewhere non-English-speaking, because there will be no escape from the news orgy even in the US.

16:

Dirk, Bibi began banging the drum about Iran and the A-bomb back in 1992. It's old news. Basically just a pretext to rally the right-wing base in the Knesset and keep the USA's choke-chain tight.

17:

Something I'd like to see be a big issue (though I don't have a lot of confidence that it will): The General Pharmaceutical Council at present has a "conscience clause" for pharmacists who do not want to provide women with emergency contraception on the grounds that it is an abortifacient.

When the morning-after pill was originally developed tests in mice indicated that it might prevent implantation as well as preventing ovulation, but considerable further research has established that there is no reason to suppose that the various emergency-contraception drugs have any effect on implantation at all.

So if a pharmacist says they won't provide the morning-after pill because they believe it to be an abortifacient, it seems to me that the only appropriate response from the General Pharmaceutical Council ought to be "Then you need to go to a continuing professional development seminar to explain to you how emergency contraception works, and if you won't go or if you continue to refuse to provide emergency contraception, then we will not allow you to practice as a pharmacist."

This is not a matter of conscience: it's a matter of scientific fact. Emergency contraception has no abortifacient effect. No ovulation, no conception, no unwanted pregnancy, no abortion.

Further, if pharmacists are allowed to refuse to provide emergency contraception, this only increases the delay, increases the likelihood that the emergency contraception won't work, and increases the likelihood of unwanted pregnancy/abortion.

The General Pharmaceutical Council really needs to revise its code of conduct in line with science rather than religion. If it won't, this should be a big issue.

...I wish.

18:

I stopped paying my dues to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in 1990, but I agree completely: when I saw that the GPC was allowing that bullshit my head nearly exploded. I believe denying medication to a patient in need is a serious ethics failure[*], and it's not the pharmacist's job to decide the patient's best interests for them, only to protect them from actual harm. What next, denying strong analgesics to those in agony because the pharmacist believes in the sanctity of suffering?

[*] Yes, this includes prescription-only items: the emergency sale and supply regulations apply.

19:

My guesses:

-Between the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling, I'd give a 70% chance of a completely self-made financial disaster in the US. Contagion could easily cross the Atlantic, after which Greece, Spain, and Italy might be out of the Eurozone.

-Longshot (estimated 20% chance) that some nutjob shoots Obama.

20:

I was just at a party and two different arrivals started talking about 3D printing, the second had no idea that the first had been talking about it. Neither were what I would call nerds, they were both interested in the possibility of using them to start small businesses etc.

So my prediction is that there is going to be some movement on this front, one of the major players (e.g. HP) will launch a cheap small 3D printer, probably not wonderfully good and the feed stock will be horribly expensive, but a starting point.

21:

I visited MakerBot labs in Brooklyn in July. They'd expanded three times in the previous six months, increased their staff by 200%, and were working two 8 hour shifts 7 days a week to meet demand for their 3D printers.

That time in 2013 I expect them to either have gone bust due to growth-induced cash flow stress, or to be working out of a huge and shiny new factory.

22:

The thing with the 3D printers is that right now, they're the internet pre-iPhone; walled gardens are passe and obviously wrong, everyone's focused on open standards, we're all going to be printing spare parts and making and sharing nifty gadgets and you have people just waiting for everyone else to figure out that these things are cool and to get on board.

The phase change that the iPhone represented in the internet (and the mobile sector) hasn't hit 3D printers yet. We still have open databases like thingiverse. Wait until someone decides to do an iCrafter (or other name that sounds nothing like preceding 3D printers) along with locked-in software, closed object databases, limited but slightly more debugged (and granny-friendly) software, and a shiny, oh-so-shiny interface.

At that point, boom go the numbers and splat goes the ideas of everyone in the field as to where the field was headed; whether things get more interesting or more bland from that point on is a matter of perspective, I suspect.

23:

The new right-wing government in Japan is banging the sovereignty drum over disputed rocks in the south China Sea. It's also talking about amending or bypassing Article 9 of the Constitution, the one that bars Japan from exerting military force outside its borders "forever". In other news Abe the new (recycled) PM is preparing the way for restarting most if not all of Japan's functional nuclear power stations and a "nuclear free by 2040" pledge by the previous PM is in the wastebin. The yen nosedived in currency trading markets just after Abe's election.

24:

Charlie @ 1
India – male violence….
They have a female:male population ratio of 0.94 :1 as opposed to the usual stable ratio of 1.02:1 This is automatically asking for trouble (& war) the same problem exists, of course in some “muslim” countries.
Oh dear.
“Arab spring” – except large sections, especially in “educated countries” of their populations already recognise that Islamism is just another crock of shit, just like the previous ones, that they have been saddled with. Also, of course, “islamism” comes with its’ own internecine feuds, notably Sunni_vs_Shi’a & the certainty of extreme internal violence – see Pakistan, right now.

Generally, without reading “The Well” … we haven’t got a bleeding clue.
Sorry, but my incomplete reading of Taleb & the realisation that log/log scaling affects all events, means we really cannot predict what is going to happen, outside normal technical progress already in play. See also my remark @ the end.

Dirk @ 2
More than one “big” comet, according to some media.
@ 3
VERY unlikely - & I hope not – I would prefer our next monarch to be William V …

Wkwillis @ 4
FIRST you still have to convince large parts of the media that it is real, at all
See this arrogant and stupid little twerp for a start!

Aggray @ 11
Agree – see my comment on London Taxis & outsouced *CRAP* steering-boxes, elsewhere ….

AND, of course.
We really cannot predict at all, what is going to happen, because of the 1% wild-cards.

Talking of which & strictly speaking off-topic.
I think I’ve just spotted a major fallacy in the “singularity” meme…
“One can make it brighter/more intelligent by upping the clock speed”
WRONG
Faster thinking is not necessarily better thinking – remember the early days of computerisation, where all you did by going over to computer-system was to speed up the chaos?
Ditto for AI – you just get bigger, faster mistakes.
Oops.
And why has no-one (AFAIK) not spotted this before?????

25:

#21 :
It might be a question of interface, but that has been the case ever since the birth of computing.
Right now 3D printers is in the ackward "Okies, this has unlimited potential, but gosh it's so complex for non-CAD/CAM geeks to do something with it" phase.
This is the same phase personal computers were in around late 70's, lots of potential, but not a lot of actual applications that mattered to the average joe.
With VisiCalc (and other programs) there was suddenly a reason for a mom-n-pop business to have a computer (Apple, in this case) since it made things easier.
It'll only be a matter of time before all small convinience stores have a 3D printer and you buy a "print" of an object from iTunes (Yes, I've read William Gibson and OGH, tyvm).

I'm not saying this is necessarily a good thing, I just see that with a few features added and a good sales pitch to (insert name of commonplace storechain) there could be a 3D printer running in a corner/backroom and you could just come pick up the object once you get a mail that it's done.

Of course, there remains the whole grey copyright discussion of such things, and with their large footprints big corps like GoldenDelicious & VastRiver have an easier time cutting through the inevitable red tape by offering them on their walled garden stores.

26:

Charlie, why do you think our (Western) major media outlets are overlooking important stories? For example, of the seven items you've listed, five of them are receiving coverage here in Australia.

Pharmaceutical trials aren't, and that would be important.

But the year of Linux on ARM? If you're not a reader or potential reader of this blog, who cares what the underlying OS technology is? There's far more important issues about privacy, tracking, advertising, map accuracy, ... and those do get covered.

The Western media may sensationalize and over-simplify, but the important stories do get out.

27:

Big 3D printer story - kid prints plastic knife which cannot be detected by metal detectors and stabs another kid at school. "Will Nobody Think Of The Children?!"
Cue outrage and legislation.

28:

"I think I’ve just spotted a major fallacy in the “singularity” meme…
“One can make it brighter/more intelligent by upping the clock speed”
WRONG"

Depends. Copy Einstein a million times, give all his versions separate tasks, and give them all 50 years to work through the answers. Which are delivered a couple of minutes later in realtime. Think that wouldn't change the world?

29:

Surely universal surveillance is on the agenda: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/29/fbi-coordinated-crackdown-occupy

More climate disasters seem likely.

Maybe more thoughts, later.

30:

Conflict in the Middle East and Central Asia, of course. Lots of food for corvids.

Croak!

31:

The media continues to pursue sensationalist-but-unimportant stories over things that matter, and as a result of this cultural conditioning, people's predictions of the future tend to be spectacular and apocalyptic. Meanwhile, the actual future is a blend of slow, productive graft and conspiracies of systematic incompetence, giving us a continuing string of spectacular failures for which nobody is clearly to blame, and small successes which add up to a lot but are individually unexciting and hence ignored.

Events change. Technologies change. Human nature doesn't.

32:

Beat me to it - I really applaud the open source model, but I think that the big market penetration breakthroughs for 3D printing will come when you can buy a proprietary off-the-shelf printer for a relatively low price and either use it as-is or do the equivalent of jailbreaking it.

33:

Here are four easy ones:

1) Guns in the US

2) Syria

3) Mali

4) the weather

The chancier ones:

5) 50% chance that we get Eric Cantor replacing Boehner as Speaker of da House.

6) The Princelings of China face their very own bolshevik revolution (less probable).

To expand:

1)Guns in the US. I expect a lot of Sturm and Drang in the next six months. Whether it amounts to anything is the open question, and I'm cynical enough to think it won't. Or (next to won't) we'll get an assault weapons ban, which I don't think will help all that much, but we'll see.

2) Syria endgame. I'm pretty sure this won't stretch another year. What comes next is the ugly part, and I'm sad to say I don't know what will happen. I hope some moderates survive.

3) Mali is going up in flames, and I think we will see it join the failed nation club soon. We might even see an open US deployment there, especially if there's a Malian connection to a terrorist incident that kills Americans.

4) The weather. Global warming will cause more extreme weather in a lot of places, and that will be news.

Most of these are high probability events, sadly. I feel for the people of Aleppo and Timbuktu.

Now for the more off the wall predictions:

5) Cantor replacing Boehner. I'm not hopeful about the fiscal cliff or raising the debt ceiling. I'm betting the House of Representatives will screw up badly on both fronts. What I do suspect will happen (probably before this thread is even closed) is that someone to the right of Boehner will challenge him for the position of Speaker of the House, and my bet is on Eric Cantor. The reason I'm betting this way is that so far, the GOP have decided that failure of their ideology means that they weren't trying hard enough, so I expect them to keep pushing ideological purity until they're no longer in power.

This has some interesting follow-ons. If Congress goes from totally dysfunctional to an OMG where's-the-intervention horror show, wealthy republicans will have to start making choices between supporting their ideology or supporting their money. I suspect they'll ultimately support their money, which will drastically erode support for the neoconservatives, such as Cantor. Right now, the worst thing that can happen to the GOP is that they keep trying to be ideologically pure, and that seems to be the way they're going so far.

6) China and the grandchildren of the Eight Immortals. China has even more income inequality than does the US, to the point where they're routinely putting down political unrest. All it takes is one more fabulous screwup, and the whole situation is going to get really, really ugly. I don't know whether it will happen next year or not, but I'm pretty sure there are going to be massive work strikes, probably massive unionization, and we may see a resurgence of something like communism in a radical labor movement, rather than what we saw under Mao. I don't know what will happen to Apple if their suppliers are forced to unionize after wild strikes, but bet on electronics getting suddenly more expensive.

34:

* Here in the US, the Democrats will propose a piece of sensible if flawed gun control legislation. The GOP will freak out, especially their mouthpieces in the RWM, causing the Dems to sabotage their own legislation, making it weaker. This cycle will repeat two or three times until the proposed bill is just some warmed over sop to the gun lobby (based loosely on a Republican bill form X years ago). The GOP will still throw a fit but it will pass, and we will have incremental movement on the gun control front, but not enough to stop another few thousand people from getting randomly shot.

* Sometime between July and October the Eastern Seaboard of the US will have at least one more Sandy-level to Katrina-level storm take a bite out of it. Either 2 days before or 2 days after, some Republican will mention how useless FEMA is and that Global Warming is a hoax.

* The Arab Spring will adapt slightly, becoming 'Islamism Lite'.

* The Occupy Movement (or a splinter of) will become slightly more radicalized, becoming 'Weather Underground Lite'.

* Most people will continue to say, "3D printer what now?" because it has no obvious impact or application on their daily life.

* Apple will open a new manufacturing plant in the US but still get flack because they had to bring in 1000 Chinese skilled laborers to train their American counterparts.

35:

Charlie: As someone who was asthmatic at the time, I had occasion to avail myself of the provisions of the emergency sale and supply regulations, when I lived in the UK.

I had never read them, however, having been introduced to them anecdotally. The exclusion for prescriptions issued outside the UK, the EEA or Switzerland surprises me, though it (together with tit-for-tat) might explain the difficulties that I had one time in Canada.

Is it really the case that a pharmacist in the UK, faced with an American or Canadian (or Botswanan for that matter) suffering an asthma attack can only dial 999 if he wishes to remain within the law?

36:

1. Chinese growth slows down to the 5-6% range. They have one big environmental disaster, and a whole ton of labor riots that we won't hear about. This won't be enough to seriously force change in the regime, although they'll make noises about "rooting out corruption" and "enforcing laws".

On the other hand, if the China Skeptics turned out to be right, and China went through a massive property/investment bust, then it's much more volatile. I still don't think it would be enough to actually force the regime to make serious changes, but you might see massive labor rioting and turmoil in the top echelons of the Chinese leadership.

2. Somebody uses a 3D Printer to print a new organ. Lab-grown skin and blood vessels get out of trials and on to the open market, starting the process of replacing grafts of skin from elsewhere with grown skin from your own cells.

3. At least three promising cancer drugs will fail to pan out in the clinical trials.

4. One of the HIV vaccine efforts will show some success, although it won't be released for sale and public use yet.

5. The Assad regime in Syria will finally collapse in bloodshed, with thousands of Alawites fleeing into the hills and neighboring countries.

6. Nothing happens on the Israel-Palestine front, except more vocal outrage from the Egyptian government over it. Israel maybe pulls its ambassador in Egypt and Jordan out for a while, but sends them back.

7. The Japanese do not do anything meaningful in terms of monetary stimulus. Things just muddle on while Shinzo Abe makes a fool of himself on cultural politics issues.

8. Net migration from Mexico to the US grows slightly, but stays extremely low compared to the past decade even with improved growth.

9. We get another "hottest year on record" year in 2013.

37:

In Australia, we're looking forward to a Federal Election (sotto voce: yay?), and here in Western Australia, we have a state election to look forward to as well. So, I'd predict a lot more political bullshit, and a lot more photos of Tony Abbott being manly in public (at this point, I think his main election strategy is going to be to hope that the rather ingrained misogyny of the Australian public wins out, and that he can get elected as Prime Minister on a platform of "I may not have any policies, but at least I don't have ovaries!"). The Gillard government, meanwhile, will continue on with getting things passed through parliament.

On a state level, we're still dealing with a bit of a mining boom (and yes, it is continuing even though people won't work for Gina Rinehart for a dollar a day) and this means our state government is pleading poor. This apparently makes sense somewhere along the line, I just haven't bothered to pull hard at that particular thread to unravel it.

So, my predictions for the outcomes: either the ALP will be returned federally (with an increased majority) or else we'll see another minority government, this time on the Coalition side, pushed mainly by the Mainstream (Murdoch) media. Given the Liberal party in particular doesn't appear to have any policies at present which don't consist of "find out what the ALP is doing and insist they're Doing It Rong!" I suspect their policy positions will mainly be pushed by Rupert Murdoch's twitter account (or the editor of The Australian). Expect another election within twelve to twenty-four months, since the Libs don't have it in them to hold onto a narrow margin, and the ALP have shown rather consistently in this term of government that they have people willing to make deals and talk turkey to get things done.

In Western Australia, the Liberals will be returned, but mainly out of intertia and lack of creditable alternatives.

Party to watch in both elections: the Greens. They're building up a considerable following, and they've staked out some territory on the political left where the ALP has long since given up treading. What kills a lot of minor parties here in Australia is that they don't offer much of an alternative to the Big Two. The Greens appear to be working around that by picking up the discarded mantle of the leftward alternative that the ALP abandoned as they chased the Overton window to the right. If nothing else, I suspect in a couple more election cycles, there'll be a cosy coalition formed between the ALP and the Greens (with the Greens acting as the ALP's "conscience" in good Jiminy Cricket fashion) rather like the existing coalition between the Liberals and the Nationals on the conservative side of Australian politics (although the role of the Nationals is more to remind the Liberals that people exist outside the business towers of Sydney and Melbourne).

If the US economy continues to have its regular hiccups, I predict there's going to be a gradual uncoupling of the linkage between the Australian economy and that of the USA (at present, we're still stuck in "good little colonial lapdog" mode with regard to the USA; meanwhile, our economy has been outperforming theirs since approximately the beginning of 2007). This will mainly take place fairly quietly at the private sector level; don't expect our politicians to alter their tune until the job is very close to done and the big firms are pointing out that the USA doesn't actually DO anything here any more.

38:

Mainstream media seems to be ignoring that the weather has reached a range of unpredictability and aridity where famine isn't an impossibility in the developed world.

This emphatically applies to China as well as the US; failed monsoons instead of the Midwest bread basket going arid, but more or less the same risk; finding out what a nuclear power with steep social stratification does during a major famine.

We're getting very, very close to in-situ adult somatic cell genetic modification as a medical technology; the recently announced leukemia cures lack only the "in-situ" part, and they lack that solely in the spirit of prudence. The cures get reported; the prospect of one of the modification viruses getting loose (an eventual inevitability) doesn't.

It's profoundly unlikely we won't get some sort of global economic collapse; maybe not in 2013, but none of the actual problems have been getting fixed because pretty much all of them are a function of having an oligarchical class at all. Hanging on by the fingernails will eventually fail, and once if fails anywhere it fails everywhere.

3D printing isn't really interesting until it can produce machinery wear parts; it's not quite there yet. It's not likely that the systems able to do that will be inexpensive home setups; those are likely to be a continuation of the laser or electron-beam sintered metal-powder feedstock systems, but once you can get usable helical gears for a tractor transmission out of one of those, things get very interesting indeed. How close is that? No one seems to be reporting on this question...

There are a couple of fusion research projects that ought to be reporting results in 2013. It's not guaranteed that these will be negative results. Mainstream media doesn't mention this, nor the relative size of the oil exploration subsidies versus the physics research into fusion budget.

39:

Ha ha no.

Liquid-metal nuclear reactors continue to be expensive and prone to difficult corrosion problems. Nuclear reactors in Russia continue to be uneconomic as Russia expands their gas-fueled electricity generation.

In other news, the price of solar panels drops by 20-30% again, as it has done for on average every year for the past thirty. Solar continues to head towards grid parity. Equally, wind turbines continue to get larger and cheaper and the equipment to install them becomes larger and more specialised, reducing installation costs. Subsidies for solar and wind renewables fall as renewables continue to become cost competitive.

Now, whether this happens fast enough to match the ongoing increase in demand for power is a different question and depends highly upon the expected long-term price of gas and coal.

40:

I kind of doubt 3D printing will ever take off for home users.

I've had parts fabricated by a couple of 3D printing techniques, and they're useful for prototyping. How many prototypes does the average person use? Most people do well with standard off-the-shelf items made with cheaper methods. Why download ten thousand templates to make widgets onsite when Wal-Mart already sells ten thousand widgets from stock, more cheaply, no waiting?

I'd expect that in 20 years, having a 3D printer at home is about as common as having a small metalworking shop in your garage is now. In other words, it may become a hobby for some and even briefly a fad, but I can't see it becoming mainstream.

41:

Conservative politicians in India introduce 'modesty' legislation in order to combat rape. Riots, gang rapes, and back tracking ensue.

The labor party in Australia stuns all by winning a narrow majority over the coalition. Tony Abbott tries to avert the dark cloud hanging over his leadership, by doing more of the same haranguing.

The Katter party survives by taking some seats off the National party. Independents wiped out and the Greens take a hit.

Moral entrepreneurs jump on the social media ban wagon. Facebook somehow linked to gun massacres and satanism.

42:

The big issue in 2013 will be the same as the big issue in '12: a global political and wealth elite that has collectively decided that the world is zero-sum, and has set out to get as much as it can for itself.

The various facets of this will come into sharper focus: rising inequality and hardship in advanced countries, (and an increased pace of shifting risk onto households,) increasingly blatant corruption and increasingly violent repression of dissent elsewhere, and in more and more countries (such as Mali and Kazakhstan, bothering less and less with making any kind of pretence of governing. There will be increasing resource grabs and increasing use of military force to enforce them.

European and UK elites may well get tired of spouting the rhetoric of growth through austerity, and begin just nakedly stripping public assets, following their Russian fellows. In Europe, it's likely that part of this will be engineering another bank almost-failure and bailout.

There will be plenty of smoke to provide a screen for this, though. Geek economists such as Krugman will obsess about technologically induced unemployment, which--if it exists--is very much secondary to the main action. There will be manufactured international crises and humanitarian crises. There will be droughts and heatwaves and, yes, forest fires providing distraction too. Ice will melt. Coral will die.

Other issues, one big and one trivial:-

Women the world over will continue to suffer, those in "short Africa" (south of the Sahara and north of Durban) the most.

And commenters here will still reverentially name-drop fusion, as though it were some kind of silver bullet technology rather than being the expensive, uncertain, and futile potential method of boiling water that it is.

43:

In-sourcing: there are signs of some large western corporations finally beginning to slow the out-sourcing of jobs to the developing world

The big story not reported much (as I saw it) was the GM started ending outsourcing for IT workers in 2012.

http://www.zdnet.com/gm-to-hire-10k-it-workers-cut-outsourcing-7000003957/

What's really big about this is that "way back when" GM thought outsourcing was so great they signed a deal to outsource all IT to EDS then bought the company. Well 28 years later it's hard to to conclude the entire things was a fiasco that if not a cause of GM's long term slide was a major indicator.

I've had a ring side seat of outsourcing in other industries. While it might be OK for banking where much of what a bank does is the same as other banks, in other industries like for Airlines there just aren't enough companies for the pool of IT staff that knows the business inside and out for outsourcing to be anything but an illusionary savings. IT costs are lower but the entire company suffers as a result. What always seems to happen is at the outsourcing firm as people learn the business they are supporting they get moved up and out and the outsourced company always had to deal with the newbies and stuck in a rut folks.

44:

Farms already deal with global warming. Want to see a US fundamentalist Christian that is paying attention to global warming? Find one that's a farmer making money.

45:

Actually, global warming is a major problem for mineral extraction in the high Arctic: they are heavily dependent on 'ice bridges' - trucking routes overland across the lakes and swamps of the Northern wastes which are closing down earlier and earlier each year, as the ice melts.

Some years, this happens suddenly: I'd place an outside bet on a sudden and unprecedentedly-rapid thaw in March 2013 leaving trucks stranded in the country-sized swamps, and mining sites with only half their fuel and heavy equipment for the year.

Your other predictions? The hold up fairly well, although I'm not sure I'd bet money for them in a specific year.

46:

Energy storage. Generation of renewable electricity is now a done deal -- improvements already in the pipeline will brings the costs of photovoltaic solar and probably onshore wind down to lower than grid levels within the next decade. But you need to be able to store it, and our technologies for bulk electricity storage are no good. Anyone who cracks this one will get to build the foundations of the 21st century energy grid, and people are going to start to have a go at it.

47:

dirk @ 27
Already been done in literature, @ any rate.
By Orson Scott Card, of all people.
Using wooden knoves IIRC.
& @ 28
Ah, but that involves parallel processing, or better still interconnected processing ... which probably is the route to AI. But that isn't what (most) people are talking about.

raven @ 29
You missed the even more evil (but of course, bebeficial-in-public) surveillance, quietly leading to a universal DNA database, being done for the chiiiiilldren! of course.
Which will also result, as an unintended consequence, in an increase in child mortality ....
See HERE masquerading as a "safty improvement" of course.
Bastards.

graydonish @ 38
Worse than that - I already pointed to a regular correspondent in the "Daily Tellytubbygraph" who rants on & ON about GW being a lying con-trick ....
Disagree about general economic failure, though the US going down would affect everyone. Look how Britain is not doing as badly as almost everyone else in "Europe", because (in spite of our present guvmint/because of them) we are steering, largely by accident, a middle course. This is luck, not judgement, mark you!

@ 42Women the world over will continue to suffer, those in "short Africa" (south of the Sahara and north of Durban) the most.
Yes/No
Women will suffer, but it is those in islamic or islamic-huge-minority populations that suffer most.
The "Polio is a western plot to make you infertile" lie being spread in Nigeria & Afghanistan & Pakistan that is the wind-straw here.

48:

Solar will no doubt continue to get cheaper, but not because it's fundamentally getting cheaper to produce them in 2013. It will get cheaper because the heavily-subsidized, grossly oversaturated field of Chinese solar panel production companies will continue desperately trying to gain market producing at lower and lower prices, while the Chinese financial system continues to pump money into them at loss.

49:

Charlie, why do you think our (Western) major media outlets are overlooking important stories?

Because that's what they do. Just go check out Project Censored (warning: annoying pop-up) if you want some examples.

Not all media outlets ignore all inconvenient truths, but if enough of them do so then potentially big stories never gain traction. The pharmaceutical clinical trials mangling story is a classic example; it took Ben Goldacre, writing in The Guardian and publishing a best-selling book, to drag it under the spotlight -- it's actually been a festering dirty little not-really-a-secret of the industry for about two decades now, unacknowledged but all the information out there for anyone with an interest to stumble over.

As Chomsky noted, democracies with a public ideology requiring lip service to be paid to free speech need to evolve much more subtle tools of propaganda and social controlthan dictatorships with censorship regimes. So that's what we've got.

50:

> Liquid-metal nuclear reactors continue to be expensive and prone to difficult corrosion problems.

Existing reactors continue to have cost the price they cost at the time they were build and continue to have had the problems they had in the past.

That's not a new insight.

The point is that problems tend to get solved - and they have been solved, especially when you have 30-40 years to solve them.

> Nuclear reactors in Russia continue to be uneconomic as Russia expands their gas-fueled electricity generation.

Then please explain why there are new reactors in Volgodonsk (finished in 2001 and 2009) and Kalininskaya (2004 and 2011), Kalinin (2011) and Novovoronezh (2012). And more are being build in Leningrad, Volgodonsk and Belyarsk.

Russians know that their gas is running out in 30 years and they do something about it. You are ignorant of any facts and don't do anything about it, like doing your research before writing your bullshit.

51:

I believe Salbutamol (Ventolin™) aerosol inhalers just got reclassified to P (Pharmacy-only) from POM (Prescription-Only) status, so that pharmacists can sell them without a prescription.

However, if you're having a severe asthma attack it would be normal procedure to call an ambulance anyway -- they've got access to (much stronger) nebulizers and oxygen. A pharmacist confronted by a patient having an asthma attack might reasonably be worried that the attack is going to get much worse (possibly leading to status asthmaticus) and will want to send them to an A&E unit for stabilization and treatment rather than risking them keeling over and dying, because asthma is deadly -- it kills a quarter of a million people a year, world-wide!

52:

tp1024 @ 50
What is this "Leningrad" of which you speak? Surely it's name is "Sankt-Peterburg" [Санкт-Петербург] or so I thought?

53:

I suspect another financial crisis.

I can see a few ways we might get there which are not necessarily completely separate. One is the fiscal cliff, dragging the US into recession which, given some of the inherent issues there, gets deeper than expected fast. I think that's around 50%.

If that doesn't pan out, there's the splintering of the Euro zone. Some variation on this is probably 75% likely. It will be a race to see if Spain, Portugal or Greece crashes and burns first. Greece has all the attention, but Portugal is in a really bad way according to friends who live there, and Spain not much better. If Greece gets another helping hand, a much cheaper and more sensible help to Iberia might not happen and boom. This I think is pretty likely but I'm not sure which way the rubble will fall. We might see the EU shrink dramatically (with England definitely on the outside), or we might see a move to a more federalised superstate and I can see Germany, France and the UK leading that. Even if it's not called that. Cameron will say something about "strongly renegotiating our relationship with Europe to ensure our sovereignty."

And if that doesn't pan out, China's economic growth is slowing and it slows more rapidly than expected. In an effort to refloat it and keep a lot of people happy, China forecloses on loans looking for quick cash. First world economies tank. Worse than last time.

More happily - various campaigns for women's right start to gain more traction. More protection in India, China and the like come along. In the first world, there is more and more support for anti-bullying campaigns and the like, online and RL. I suspect at least one high profile arrest to really drive this. Richard Dawkins scale high profile, although not necessarily him.

On a national level, I think this year will be the end of the coalition. I can see a few ways that might happen.

First, the newspapers come up with a proposed replacement for the Press Complaints Commission that is just as crap as that proved to be. Cameron says "Oh yes, that will do nicely." Clegg finds a backbone and demands primary legislation, supported by Milliband. Boom!

Alternatively, the liberal agenda, perhaps gay marriage, finally drives a significant right-wing Tory MP to join UKIP. In a flood not unlike the formation of the SDP, or lemmings, scores follow. In one of those ironies of the current parliamentary system, the looney right combine with Labour to defeat the government. Clegg pulls out and there's a vote of no confidence.

I think some form of gun control legislation will appear in the US. My storyline instinct would dearly love the NRA to repeat the "plucked from my cold dead hand!" speech and have the speaker tasered and his gun go off and shoot someone important and then be plucked from his warm, living hand. I suspect, more likely a political stalemate until there's another massacre, this one hitting someone from the GOP in the children/grandchildren. Money flows from ideology to family and republicans in the house suddenly support the NRA less. An alternative that has adults dying is that someone decides to take the NRA at their word, attacks their national conference with a small team and assault rifles. Contrary to the public statements, NRA members don't shoot back, die in droves, and their rhetoric is shown to be somewhat empty. Support for their really hard-line vanishes rather rapidly.

Global warming leads to more wild extremes (by our current standards) of droughts and floods. Not just in the UK. Son of Sandy causes even more devastation. The Pacific North-West has droughts and massive loss of life in huge forest fires. People still say anthrogenic global warming is a lie, but pragmatic solutions to the actual problems start to appear. Some where along this axis a major financial centre (London, New York, Tokyo, the German one, or similar) floods really, really badly and the buildings are declared unusable for weeks or months. The necessary movement of trading and the like causes international problems but locally helps one economy.

Fun times!

On a much lighter note, I get my migraines sorted out for once and all.

54:

1) Europe-wide crop problems like the UK had this year, leading to...

2) Massive food price inflation.

3) Several UK county councils go bankrupt.

4) Religious civil war in Egypt, and across north Africa & the Middle East in general.

5) Assassination (attempted or successful) of Obama, as predicted by Jay above.

6) Would love to comment on the ARM/Intel/Microsoft etc. thing, but I work for ARM.

7) Major terrorism attack on the UK "foiled", and then another major round of surveillance and civil-rights removal legislation.

55:

2013: The year we stop trusting computers with our secrets ?

I've spotted a trend amongst really froody dudes: Not trusting your computing devices with secrets any more.

People who used to keep everything in their portable computing devices have become clued, scared or both about malware, and have stopped using their computers for the really hot stuff.

Not quite Angleton level of paranoia, but rumours of the death of the little leather-bound private notebook are clearly premature.

The interesting point is how defenceless "normal" people are in this matter: In the cross-roads between the police state and your identity being the real commodity, if you want a trustworthy, tight-lipped computing platform, you have to build it yourself.

(See also our gracious hosts point about Linux)

56:

In America, the new Congress will be slightly less stalemated than the old. Plans to get rid of the
philibuster by changing the rules on the very first day of the session, a loophole allowing it to get
done without itself getting philibustered, will come to nothing. "I was so busy with the fiscal cliff
that I just forgot," explains Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell smirking in the background. Alternatively,
the rules are changed to allow the Vice President to call the question are scheduled to take effect in 2017, and that move is repealed before then. However, a decent solution to the fiscal cliff actually passes the senate early in January, uncontested. John Boehner is reelected speaker since the tea party lost a few seats. Unable to compromise on anything else, taxes are lowered and expensive programs maintained. Big Ag and Big Oil continue to be subsidized. Full unemployment insurance is extended again.

As the affordable health care act phases in the cost of medical care continues to rise because now everybody is insured. Actual efforts to examine these costs are lambasted as government micromanagement. Old people continue to get free medical care, amounting to fortunes per year of life, just for being old and the media continues to tie this
to Social Security, a completely different program, and dying children. Efforts to examine the bona fides of extravagant medicare claims are lambasted as government micromanagement and interventionist economics.

In February, all efforts to raise the debt cieling are stymied in both houses. This leads to a major stock market correction. Once this really takes hold, an agreement to allow a small raising is reached, but only after another credit downgrade. Free to borrow again, Treasury prints Bonds and the Fed prints money to buy them. This leads to inflation, but the unemployment rate means wages have no chance to go up, so purchasing power continues
to decline. Eventually, after a slide into hyper inflationary depression, so many people are selling gold that the price of gold collapses.

Cash strapped local governments start to levy confiscatory property taxes. Insiders whose own homes are located in special exempted areas buy up all the property and turn former owners into renters as houses are confiscated for back taxes, then sold off for pennies in ill advertised auctions. Then the budget problems get better and taxes go back down, though rents go up. A great many doomsday bunkers are legally acquired this way by pillars of the community who are grateful for the stocking up of so many goodies for them.

The federal gun legislation bill that passes Congress restricts sale of new large capacity magazines, but grandfathers in old ones. Measures to limit person to person gun sales to those involving licensed dealers who will be doing background checks are watered down with loopholes in committee. Gun manufacturers remain fully in business. The makers of the Bushmaster switch the New York plant to parts production only, and do assembly in another state. Owners of quasi antique WW2 guns are forced to turn them in to be melted down in great displays of ferocity at these insane monsters.

Sustained fusion will be attained in at least one test facility. Nobody cares, fusion plants would be even more expensive to build than fission plants,
would still create radioactive waste, and would consume lots of lithium. Besides, with fracking and
oil shale technologies there's no urgency. Plenty of fuel for now.

Weather instabilities and arctic melts continue to prove the reality of global warming. Everybody moans and groans and calculates that no matter what is done it will not significantly change anything in their own individual lifetime. The most extreme global measures would really take effect after decades. Total reckless carbon burn would mainly take a long time also. So lots of cute feelgood gizmos get sold, China keeps burning coal and Brazil keeps burning rain forest. Eventually big tech fixes are applied, like seeding the ocean with iron to take up carbon in massive blooms. This puts paid to most sea life and does no good. The effects of global warming are just accepted, and a new normal is reached when all the carbon is actually gone and everybody is too poor to do damage anyway.

North Korea provokes South Korea, demands an apology, gets a payoff. Rinse wash repeat. The North Korean economy actually starts to improve, but all gains go into the military.

The Castros eventually die and Cuba opens up in some ways but not others. Still under oppressive control to the populace, it is much nicer to wealthy people from other countries.

Europe's unification efforts gradually decay. Major countries default on all debt, issue new currencies. Economies crash. Great Britain, starving, introduces food synthesizers and, for the poor, food recyclers. Efforts to keep cuisine basically the same succeed.

Under the benevolent dicatatorship of Putin, Russia slowly builds strength and stays above most of the problems of the rest of the world, at a cost. No longevity treatments come out there either, but Putin does live an awfully long time, and a successor is succeeded by someone who looks an awfull lot like him. By this time things are so crazy nobody notices. However, Russia is the one that builds the expolanet imaging space telescope and the first fusion driven starship.

It turns out relativity restricts acceleration to Near Light Speed from outside, as in a mass driver. Proton beam propelled rockets still suffer the time dilation, so they can never actually exceed the speed of light, but don't gain mass within their own frame of reference. Or something. The Russians did it.

Terrorists get a nuke, probably from Pakistan, possibly from NK. They make this known to US authorities. Due to budget issues, the US leaves Afghanistan in haste and suddenly becomes very unsupportive of Israel. Israel continues with its long term plan of making Palestinians so uncomfortable they just go away. After all, what's a few decades after thousands of years. This does happen, but it takes more like a century. The Palestinians continue with a long term plan of making Israelis so uncomfortable they just go away. This fails, and they eventually just get crowded out rather than absorbed. Egypt and the eventually Turkey dominated Syria are too weak to help seriously, despite offering to take over the occupied territories in one of the proposed "odd state" solutions.

In Saudi Arabia, the death of the King leads to opportunistic social unrest which is deftly but ruthlessly put down. The declining oil reserves, however, lead to declining importance for the rich arab states over time. Empty wonder cities gleam in the desert.

Key life extension treatments will be developed throughout the world, then the developers will either disappear or else suddenly become wealthy and take an interest in some completely different area of research. The elderly rich and famous will continue to make themselves progressively more unrecognizable with plastic surgery, then to "die." Inexplicably wealthy young people will continue to show up here and there around the world explaining that they "won the lottery." Unfortunately, the global slide into permenant depression means research will get more and more unaffordable, and these promising breakthroughs will get less and less common.

The Mars rover will discover tantalizing clues such as complex organic chemicals, but nothing conclusive. Additional missions will be called for, but the economics just won't be there.

Exoplanets will come into better focus. Some pretty nearby ones will be strongly suspected of having liquid water and plant life. Really good space telescopes will be called for, but the economics just won't be there in the public sector.

Evil genetic modification will lead to botanical crop plagues that create horrible famines. This makes the US terribly unpopular with China and India, since the US was mainly where GM was big. Despite protests that the link to standard US GM practices are weak, somebody gets a nuke and blows up central Washington DC during a congressional recess while the Vice President is on an overseas tour. Tens of thousands of tourists die. President Biden gets to appoint an entire supreme court, but the senate gives him hell on confirmations. The US defaults on its debt, simply writes it all off, and the Treasury cuts the Fed out and simply starts printing fiat money on its own. A far right republican is elected to the presidency under suspicious circumstances due to electronic vote rigging, and begins to rule by executive order. There is no supreme court to say no. The regular military, gutted by budget cuts, cannot prevent presidentially approved Reactionary Militias from taking over bases. Some governors attempt to call up the National Guard to stop this, but it is under federal control.

The economics are just not there for 3D printers on Earth. However, they are just the thing for space colonists.

I think I went over one year.

57:

Yes the gender politics thing is really big. Gay rights are important but impinge on from 1-6% of our UK community but approximately 50% of most populations are women.
Whilst many if us are embarrassed by rampant feminism and wonder why feminists got hung up on some rather esoteric or sometimes silly arguments it has always worried me that so many wars worth fighting were left un-fought .
So, yes the abuse of women in many cultures has been ignored for too long.
Despite the jokes about women drivers in Arab countries not being able to drive yourself out of danger and control is a vital issue. The alerting of a husband or father when a woman's mobile phone moves out of a home domain is a shocking abuse of technology. So why do we continue to support countries which implement policies such as these?
My experience of India as an IT practitioner has involved management and mentoring of
both men and women. Helping them to scope their work within limitations ( can take up to 5 hours to get to work because of floods say) demand better power resilience and network facilities and highlight to to me (and then to their bosses) the impossibility of working on 4 customer (me and other teams in my company )projects. So I know that there is very little respect for underlings by some Indian bosses (men and women ) and that there is a growing chasm between haves and have-nots and a terror of losing your precious place in a very rigid socio-economic hierarchy. This country which is a powerhouse of energy and Can-do is straining at the seams because of class struggle and hatred.Revenge is meted out in ingenious and sometimes tortuously subtle sabotage - a sloppily folded flashing festoons your house in sewage, a lazy or unqualified electrician gets a job because his family bought him in, a sub-station sparks all night and exploded plunging a whole area into darkness. Into this wonderful mix where multiple cultures and technologies flourish at the same time : the Stone Age and the Space Age come western ideals and equal pay. Economic freedom for some women who then wear western clothing and try to lead their own lives . QED

58:

A number of resource-exporting nations (Iran, Nigeria, Bahrain etc.) are looking hard at or are in the process of starting to build nuclear reactors because they are very cost-effective electricity generators on a 50-year timescale and they'd rather sell their increasingly expensive gas, oil etc. to folks who don't have it than burn it themselves to generate electricity.

The liquid-metal reactors and other fast-spectrum designs are a solution looking for a problem, basically, like commercial breeders were thirty years ago when it was thought uranium was scarce and going to get very expensive due to increasing demand as more and more reactors were built. There's not enough spent fuel around for more than a handful of these IFRs to burn at a competitive price unless a large number of PWRs and BWRs keep getting built. The same thing applies to thorium, either in modified PWRs or the paper-exercise liquid fluorine reactor designs.

The small modular super-safe reactors that keep on getting publicity will continue to be the Next Big Thing and none will ever get built or go on commercial sale, a bit like Linux on the Desktop.

Storage for renewable energy to make them effectively dispatchable producers won't happen unless the generators are forced to spend the money to build it and there are no magical cheap solutions to storage on the horizon. Pumped storage, the only proven mass energy storage technology costs about two billion dollars to supply a GW for a day (24GWhr) and twice that pricetag will buy you a 1.4GWe nuclear reactor with 90% uptime as a primary generator and fewer geographical limitations where it can be built.

59:

China - yes .... and Japan.
A frightening melee of competitiveness,poisonous wars and economic revolution against a backdrop of violent climactic and geological catastrophe.
The old spirit of rivalry exaggerated by a change in recent fortunes the moribund became dynamic and vice versa.
The chutzpah which copied , tooled and produced cheap merchandise, which fed babies ersatz toxic milk powder and which has polluted ground water with rare earths, heavy metals and pcbs is chasing India now in a services price war may win out (supported by better infrastructure) provided that the underclass can be wooed and placated.
In China as in India, life is 2-tier and the gulf between rich and poor increasingly sickening.
Escape from slavery is illusory. Swap the farm for the sweat shop, the sweat shop for the brothel and what you have is bound to be snatched from you by someone who can.
Again the westerner's role here is colonial and exploitative. I worked for
a rich man from Richmond who could have creamed $650,000,000 off a nascent rare-earth market nearly 20 yrs ago and he ( in at the beginning and rich enough to have morals and principles ) was followed by others who had to be 1 billion times more ruthless to con their dollars out of an increasingly savvie band of local governmental "intra-preneurs".
So.... Xi now has to rein in the colonial entrepreneurs and local "intra-preneurs" making them submit to an integrated economic development plan for the federation. He has to do this to placate the exploited seething underclass. But the forces of discontent from both the upper and lower levels of society are so powerful that the attempt to quash them may backfire in a series of Riots and violent suppression.
How tempting therefore to try to galvanise society against the outsider, the west, the Japanese. .....

60:

Bullet 1 - Also true of Pakistan, even if the population isn't as large.

Bullet 3 - This effectively started happening a few years ago, as it became clear that all BScs world over do not confer equal levels of subject knowledge or linguistic ability.

61:

In-sourcing !!!! Yes I hope so too!
Recently our company has been swollen by graduates and also the tech-savvie who were treated like idiots ( in a way quite similar to the anathema in Stephenson's Anathem) I fell out with my line manager when she refused me permission to go on a course saying ( I haven't done anything technical for 10 years ....to which I replied ambiguously that I was sorry to hear that).
So there may be a turn for the better - since now people are realising that a lower rate does not imply necessarily better value (and the converse) Thus a turnaround - suddenly it is okay again for the tech and knowledge hungry to work on pet projects on our own time and escape the daleks chasing billable utilisation by taking sabbaticals. The move from products to services has been followed by a hunger for solutions and we are responding avidly.
However why ignore the resources we have onshore ( kids and older people)
Why bother with the mad economics of intra-organisation transfer pricing if the tax authorities start asking you for ACTUAL costs and revenues rather than skewed
Standards?
And why why why is it so popular to bring in a weak-chinned know-nothing with no "investment in the status quo"? Why is it smart to bring in a short-termer with no appetite for common sense ? Small businesses don't invite complete strangers in to turn their business upside down ( although the banks have notoriously done so ) so why do big businesses do it?
So yes .... Lets see every business make more if its internal resources and those if the community within which it is embedded! Lets bring in apprentices of all ages, let them learn let them work

62:

Banking is still a biggie. One of my brothers (UK based) us currently in a war to the death with the banks who keep trying to put him into default by devaluing his assets and thus claiming that the percentage equity to current valuation has breached a pre-agreed limit . His reaction is to work around the clock, expand and pay down the loans until he is within the limit. He has never missed a payment but the bank is more interested in getting more out of him( at best 30 times more interest at worst his whole portfolio)
They do in fact seem to be out to ruin him and he is not alone.
If David Cameron wants to encourage entrepreneurs then he needs to stop the banks persecuting and smothering them.
Contrastingly my sister works for an investment bank which is struggling to do the right thing but in a world which is so full of double-talk and missions impossible.
Everyone is sooooo scared of litigation and fiscal punishment that it is almost impossible to articulate what should be done.If it cannot be articulated , it cannot be actioned - it is absolutely ridiculous.
Yes we need more professional bankers and less snake-oil salesmen
Yes there needs to be more accountability but in both these cases I have mentioned these behaviours were caused by government intervention.
I don't know what the answer is because its not my industry but god help us all next year

63:

1.
Commonwealth disbands just a few months after the coronation of King Charles.

2.
Noted UK author relocates "temporarily" to the outskirts of Paris.

(Bienvenue, monsieur Stross)

64:

I've worked on two nuclear energy projects in the US, spending about three years total on them. Over here, the regulatory burdens are just prohibitive. For example, I was once tasked with getting NRC approval of a certain device as a sealed radiation source. The NRC guide to the sealed source registration process is about 150 pages, much of which refers to other hundred-page documents you have to comply with. In addition to the direct effects of the regulation, my experience has been that the technical capabilities of most American nuclear physics institutions suffer greatly from lack of practice in anything but paperwork.

65:

Greg:

The Leningrad Nuclear Power Station didn't move away when the city was renamed St. Petersburg (and wasn't renamed either).

Nojay @58:

Metal cooled reactors are the answer to several problems such as evaporating coolants that leave fuel rods no chance but to melt down, increased temperature margins that allow negative (temperature and power) feedbacks to shut down the reactor without needing an immediate scram to prevent major accidents - even after major screw-ups. They also allow passive cooling and heat removal without the need for pumps, especially without the need for high-pressure pumps as those reactors have no need for high internal pressure.

Metals are also happy to form alloys with small amounts of other metals such as Cesium that consequently won't form aerosols (and lead in particular also forms lead iodine compounds), which leads to much more benign consequences of accidents, including those where fuel rods have molten.

And all that is before any consideration regarding the disposal of transuranics by burning them in such reactors.

Jay @64:

I've read some of those myself, unfortunately the NRC (and just about any administration or lobbyist group ever) seems think that "better regulation" has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of criteria they set and everything to do with the amount of criteria.

Leaving the US in a situation in which most nuclear power plants don't comply with current regulation for newly build power plants at all, because they were grandfathered in and never had to comply with them. On the other hand, existing regulation hasn't been updated in terms of quality and still have lousy safety standards, compared to Europe. Filtered containment vents are still not required or installed in American BWR plants (same as in Fukushima) nor are passive hydrogen recombiners. (Admittedly, redundancy of emergency power supply is ensured and emergency training for station blackouts is also required, so far as I can tell.)

The Americanized versions of the EPR is not being required to have redundant residual heat removal systems and heat sinks, because they are not a "safety system" (although just about everything depends on them working in an emergency).

But that is a matter of regulation being made by incompetent jerks either trying to prevent new nuclear power plants from being build or trying to prevent old nuclear power stations from needing expensive upgrades and coming up with an unholy pile of crapfuck that actually manages to achieve both.

66:

Para2 - A bit like how I've not actually used the last 2 3rd party courses I've been on:-
1) VB.Net: It turns out that I'm not actually a very good VB programmer (but I'm brilliant in Ada and Pascal, and probably good in Fortran if we ever needed it), and anyway the course was more of a 5-day "what's new in VB.Net seminar", but there was no way of knowing that without spending the money.
2) Structured Methodologies: Good course, but the methodology is mostly applicable to operator-led transaction processing, and our work is mostly batch runs or true real-time with operator interupts. Again, it wasn't until we spent the money that we knew that.

67:

Triggered by Republicans forcing the US over the financial cliff, world economy does its long awaited belly flopper. Europe tries to pull out of recession by printing money but fails. Worldwide CO2 emissions sink by 70% compared to 2012. Increased food prices cause another round of revolutions in Arab, African, SE Asian and S American countries, also in one or two industrial nations. Local wars start around the poorest countries. Casualties of famine, wars and natural disasters raise to over 100 million.

68:

Eh.. If the US falls over due to politically induced idiocy, and that causes the EU to run the printing presses... Then that will darn well work. And make the US government look unspeakably bad. "2nd US republic incoming" bad.

The risk is the US falling over due to political idiocy causing even more idiocy on this side of the pond, at which point we are truely fucked.

In fact, I will generalize this: In a shocking turn of events, a major player will resolve a fiscal crisis in a sensible way - Burning the bankers, monetizing debt, in general, governing in the interest of the governed.
And it will be an obvious, undeniable, "cannot be kept out of the news" success.

And everyone who has been governing in the interests of the masters of the universe will look like the paid lackeys they are.

Other things: The Tesla S design philosophy gets copied by everyone else, and the high end of the car market goes overwhelmingly electric very quickly. This will not move downmarket until someone manages to drop the pricetag on high capacity batteries.

Iron fertilization schemes get underway with the intent of increasing primary productivity and ultimately the sizes of fisheries. Some of these work, and some fail. Much panic about messing with the ocean biosphere in the press, none of which stops anything - the successes are worth too much money. Some actual research gets done on ecosystem intervention. As a minor side effect, some carbon gets sequestered, and noone cares.

69:

What solar bubble? The US is in a natural gas bubble at the moment.

Solar production prices (as noted above) continue to drop at 20-30% per year. Usually, when you get this kind of Moore's Law behavior, it's considered a good thing.

What's going on? Well, you have to look at who's backing the reports of the death of solar. All too often, they're pushing hard for natural gas. It's not disinterested reporting.

Now, let's look at a 2015 prediction, offered to me by a republican factory owner who's a friend of mine. He's expecting natural gas prices to explode by 2015, for the following reasons:
1. The US is building a number of natural gas export facilities around Louisiana, including pipelines to reach these facilities (such as the Keystone pipeline).
2. Worldwide demand for natural gas is going up sharply. It's cleaner than coal, and it has a bit more energy density. There's increasing demand for natural gas in the US, but there's increasing demand in China and India as well. And elsewhere.
3. Reserves of natural gas almost certainly aren't as big as stated by the optimists. This has been a standard problem for most oil fields, and there's no reason to think this is wrong here.
4. Oh yeah, global warming. Let's ignore that one, unless another superstorm hits Wall Street again next fall.

Anyway, bubble or not, solar production costs are dropping, and since this isn't really driven by the US consumer market, I'm willing to bet these costs will keep dropping for a while.

Natural gas prices, conversely, are at a historical low, and they are going to go up. Were I investing, I sure wouldn't invest in natural gas getting much cheaper than it is now.

70:

Solar costs are at this point dominated by balance-of-system costs. - The cost of the panels themselves is no longer the only thing that matter. This has consequences:

1: retrofit solar rooftop installations are a dead end. The labor costs are much too high for this ever to be an economical power source. Roof tiles with integrated solar panels and wiring put up as a part of new build or unavoidable roof replacements make more sense, but that is an extremely slow roll out.

2: Ground installation solar : Going to be concentrated in deserts by economic forces. Maximal annual insulation and minimal land costs outweigh the costs of HVDC lines to move the power by a lot.

3: This means most of the players in the solar market are barking up trees that are not only wrong - they are in the next forest over. And they will go bankrupt. Free advice, worth what you paid: The thing to invest in are minimal-maintenance, minimal waterload, solar park designs. - the plant that can keep running in a desert with only minimal staffing and no washing will be the one that wins.

4: Solar is never going to be dirt cheap. Not ever. Economically, it is going to look a heck of a lot like nukes. - high capital, low running costs.

71:

The income inequality in the US is not that different from China:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality

72:

Para 3 - Weren't you paying attention over the last decade or so? Monetizing debt was exactly what the junk bonds secured on a housing bubble that got us into this recession did!

Para 5 - The Tesla is still an irrelevance here in Scotland, where owners of high performance sports cars want to, can, and do make several hundred miles per day trips. You need a breakthrough in accumulator life as well as cost to make electric more than a "second car" or a greenwash.

73:

The market for most solar power in the terawatts is not the developed world but everyone else. I would be willing to bet that by 2020 solar power installation is running at greater than 200GW per year.

74:

Except that it's hard to keep a solar plant without washing it in the desert. I live in a sunny city, and I'm seeing a lot of these panels going up in big parking lots around companies that own their own land and buildings.

The next big innovation will be when someone figures out the legal (primarily) and economic paperwork needed to make it economical for mall owners to cover the roofs of big box stores with solar panels.

A big part of this problem is that local energy companies don't want to deal with distributed energy production. They'd rather buy from a few big individual power suppliers. This is the bugbear that's tripping up linking up rooftop solar to the local power grid in a big way. Some municipalities are experimenting with ways to do this, and if one of these experiments work, I suspect we'll see an explosion of rooftop solar.

Malls make a natural intermediate, because they have a lot of flat space, so I'm guessing that we'll know solar is here to stay when the malls go (mostly) solar.

75:

2 billion people without electricity is the solar market.

76:

I'm with you on this. The current generations of the US are too accustomed to large amounts of cheap energy to make a transition to solar easily. For everyone else, even a bit of electricity is a good step up.

As William Gibson noted, the future is already here, it's just distributed unevenly. Right now, that future looks a bit like cell phones and solar panels, does it not?

77:

The Pacific North-West has droughts and massive loss of life in huge forest fires.

Um, no. I live in the Portland area and we've had one of the wettest years on record. A lot of our moisture is captured in snowfall in the mountains. Global Warming will likely cause those to melt faster and earlier, eventually. But it's flooding we'll have to worry about not drought and fires. I think you have us confused with Southern California.

78:

Large flat roofs are vastly better for this kind of thing - But even if it happens, this does not imply that residential solar will follow. It is the difference between work that can be done at normal builders rates and tempo, and work that requires safety harnesses. Much slower, much more expensive.

By "monetizing" I mean "Nationalize the banks, burn the shares, pay off bad loans with the printing press, ect" - Basically, end the fiscalization of the economy. Not "issue more complex instruments".

79:

Japan will continue to be controlled by America, China and Korea.

80:

I'd say even more the midwest and southeast. In southern California, we're looking at (I think) a normal rain year. In contrast, there have been droughts all over the Midwest and southeast, with the Mississippi falling to record low levels.

We'll see. I'll note again that the problem with global warming isn't really that things get hotter, it's that extremes get more extreme and less predictable. The current pattern in the upper Midwest, of a nasty drought followed by massive storms, is going to cause problems, because the region doesn't have the reservoirs to capture massive pulses of winter moisture. Getting a year's worth of water in a single storm means you've got a flooding problem, along with everything else you are worrying about.

81:

Slightly bizarro-world predictions:-

Apple TV turns out to be a flop - who watches TV or films any more? Aren't there enough cat videos on YouTube?

The smash hit, though, is Apple iMoney: Apple figures out how to do phone-based money properly.

People start expecting Apple to sort out the US's medical records and health insurance mess.

82:

PV has a perfectly unsustainable business model. Almost none of the capacity pays for itself, neither in the short run, nor in the long run.

Nuclear power was cheap from the outset, it was just a matter of financing the large sums of money to be provided up-front. Given financing, it was a perfectly worthwhile investment. When financing faltered during the intentional downturn in the late 1970ies/early 1980ies, so did construction of nuclear power plants, oil refineries and all sorts of infrastructure in the USA.

PV is not a viable business proposition, with few isolated exceptions. All sales of PV depend entirely on state regulation guaranteeing excessively high prices and mandatory feed-in irrespective of demand. (I'm from a country where this was the usual case all over the industry ... Eastern Germany.)

Once PV actually has to be sold according to demand, the folly of those policies will become obvious. Suddenly there are the cost and waste of energy storage, the lacking and extensive necessary infrastructure to put that into place, the price of real estate and the work necessary to install them (already approaching the price of the cells), the extremely low prices during peak generation and soon enough the bubble will burst - no matter how supposedly cheap the cells are.

83:

The human race has nearly two hundred years experience of using pressurised water and steam to produce power and we're really quite good at it now. Molten metal is another thing, as the Monju incident and others showed...

The International Panel on Fissile Materials says, "A large fraction of the liquid-sodium cooled reactors that have been built have been shut down for long periods by sodium fires. Russia's BN-350 had a huge sodium fire. The follow-on BN-600 reactor was designed with its steam generators in separate bunkers to contain sodium-water fires and with an extra steam generator so a firedamaged steam generator can be repaired while the reactor continues to operate using the extra steam generator. Between 1980 and 1997, the BN-600 had 27 sodium leaks, 14 of which resulted in sodium fires... Leaks from pipes into the air have also resulted in serious fires. In 1995, Japan's prototype fast reactor, Monju, experienced a major sodium/air fire. Restart has been repeatedly delayed, and, as of the end of 2009, the reactor was still shut down.

France's Rapsodie, Phenix and Superphenix breeder reactors and the UK's Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) and Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) all suffered significant sodium leaks, some of which resulted in serious fires."

BWR and PWR reactors leak too on occasion (steam generator tubing is famous for it) but at least the working fluid doesn't catch fire. I admire the Soviet/Russian idea of accepting there would be sodium fires in their BN-600 and building redundant steam plant to keep it running while the fire-damaged equipment was being replaced...

84:

@Heteromeles

Right now, that future looks a bit like cell phones and solar panels, does it not?

Sounds good for Africa, amongst other places. There was a good article in (I think) the NYT times last year about a Palestinian neighborhood that had a solar panel to provide electrical power, since they couldn't get grid power without a legal building permit.

The problem is, how much of the recent drops in solar cell costs is due to better technology and manufacturing, and how much is due to the giant horde of heavily subsidized Chinese manufacturers that are churning these things out at a loss because the financial system there will keep lending them money?

@gvp.myopenid.com

Apple TV turns out to be a flop - who watches TV or films any more? Aren't there enough cat videos on YouTube?

You'll get the Apple zombies buying a few of them, but I think it will struggle overall for the same reason that all "smart TVs" are struggling: it's cheaper to just get an attachable device to stick on your TV, or to use a tablet while laying on the couch.

85:

The drought/flooding boom bust problem is definitely one I'm familiar with, having lived in Georgia* for 12 years before we fled to the Pacific Northwest. My folks moved to Louisiana last summer and were wholly unprepared for a dry summer followed by flooding.


________
* One of the problems we had in Savannah, GA was that even a casual summer thunderstorm would flood certain parts of town and cause a brownout for half the city. There are parts of the electrical grid in the Southeast US that are original to the Depression-era WPA project infrastructure, with just a few "new" (built in the 60s) additions grafted onto them. There's also a nuclear plant upriver with a dodgy safety record. One Sandy-level storm in the right place, and we could very well have our own Southern Fukashima.

86:

I could be wrong, obviously, but I do not see 2013 being a very notable year. At least, not compared to 2015. Greece defaulting will begin a long process that will take years to culminate. 2013 will be a year in which all the notable stuff is being set up on stage.

87:

No, I chose the Pacific North-West deliberately. Droughts are inside your climate, at one extreme. And it seems the weather is going more to the extremes - the UK had a drought, bad enough to appoint a minister to co-ordinate the response at about Easter. We ended up with the wettest year on record despite a drought for the first four-five months.

So what happens if the PNW gets the equivalent of our first four months for a year? It's unlikely, granted, but it's a headline-grabbing weather story.

88:

I agree that China appears to be flooding the market. The very odd part about the global solar market, though, is that the US supplies most of the raw materials needed for those so-cheap Chinese panels, so we could, theoretically, mess with them if we wanted. Oddly enough, we don't seem to want to mess with Chinese production, even if it's bad for our own panel production. Very odd, which makes me wonder about the politics.

We've been in this position with China for decades, and I strongly suspect that some clever negotiators on both sides are deliberately entangling the US and China very thoroughly in a so-far successful attempt to avoid WWIII over the South China Sea. If so, there may be another side project of helping the world to go green in spite of its own greed.

Aside from that, China has a huge, unmet need for solar, and as with things like brownfield remediation and soil crust preservation, I suspect they're leading the way because this is one of those problems that a technocracy can actually solve.

89:

The Pacific North-West has droughts and massive loss of life in huge forest fires.

Drought? We might get less rain; it probably won't look like you're imagining. A story:

Some years back I was at a small convention in Portland, in late March or early April, and in the hospitality suite on Sunday afternoon this came up. We were short on rainfall that year and another local was telling a visitor from out of town how worried we were about the drought. He looked out the window - where rain was pouring down, just as it had been raining nonstop all weekend. I said, "Yeah, that's what a drought looks like in Oregon."

90:

The solar PV market is a reprise of what happened in the semiconductor memory market 20 years ago.

91:

The problem is that steel, concrete, copper cabling, ect - all the things that turn a photovoltaic cell into a power source, as opposed to a stack of black tiles in a warehouse, do not get 20% price reductions year on year. This puts a floor under how cheap solar can get, and it is a pretty darn high floor. Not prohibitive, in good locations. But not cheap, either. And your roof is not a good location.

92:

The established parties in Germany do something offensively stupid in the area of copyright and/or surveillance/Internet censorship. (duh)

This happens in time for the Pirate party to gain 10% and thus, seats in the Bundestag at the next election of that body in autumn of 2013.
The FDP is out (duh).

CDU/CSU and SPD (and possibly also the Greens) have a major panic attack, in the course thereof they actually institute a minimum wage, and lapse on keeping wage increases low.
As a result, a) the Euro gets inflation, which helps all the Euro countries under debt pressure b) inland demand in Germany picks up in a major way, giving all the Euro countries a market to sell to. Instead of fizzling, the global economy starts running again.

In totally unrelated news, more Chinese become netizens; China turning from a "black box" country and culture behind a mask to actual names and faces to the rest of the developed world (which has long term impact on the political viability of wars).

93:

> The human race has nearly two hundred years experience of using pressurised water and steam to produce power and we're really quite good at it now.

After tens of thousands of people died in accidents, whereas nobody ever died in a sodium fire in a nuclear power station. Plus, there won't be any sodium fires associated with lead cooled reactors.

Is it too much to ask not to deliberately misread my comments?

94:

"This puts a floor under how cheap solar can get, and it is a pretty darn high floor."

Depends what you consider high. Right now in S Europe domestic PV electricity is cheaper than mains. I would expect that to fall to a quarter of its present price within 20 years. That alone will put huge pressure on traditional utilities.

95:

Gender politics (and notably sexual violence and the oppression of women) in India is suddenly coming front-and-centre as a big issue in a country with around 20% of the planetary population.

Having read up on why this went so viral (in short, the only way the victim could have been more obviously blameless would have been if she'd been in the company of her husband instead of her husband-to-be; in all other cases - even those where the woman or child was murdered - the victim is on trial instead of the aggressor. And what was done to her was particularly grisly too.) I'd say that at present, at least in Delhi, female foeticide was an act of compassion.

96:

Insourcing causes anti-globalisation protestors to slow shift across to neo-Luddism due to all the third world jobs losses caused by the automatic tee-shirt making machine. (See the recent defence of Waterstones and HMV in the Guardian after they've spend the better part of a decade attacking them for eliminating the high street independents...).

Western governments run the numbers on what is actually necessary to stabilise the environment, decide that if they tried to implement the quality of life cuts necessary to do so they would be quickly out on their arses.

Rising meat costs cause more involuntary vegetarianism. A 'Chicken in every pot' is successfully used as an election slogan in one or more poorer nations.

One or more developing nations implement exit visas for trained nurses (and similar) to try and stem their brain drain.

Twitter peaks, start's it slow path to becoming the Live Journal of the 2010's.

Several governments start a fight with amazon/apple/google et al over compulsory ebook depositation. This starts a slow rethink on how digital-only cultural assets are preserved in the long term. The biggest fight turns out to be over the raw Google Street View data.

97:

Tens of thousands of people have died in accidents from water leaks in reactor systems? Where? When?

It's more that the very poor uptime of sodium-cooled reactors and return on capital expenditure (Monju has cost about $12 billion and has generated very little electricity onto the Japanese grid) makes them a bad bet for the future unless a lot of engineering time and effort goes into preventing the coolant from escaping at all, and it is very clear that the current family of liquid-metal-cooled FBR and fast-spectrum prototypes are not up to the job.

The only lead-cooled reactors I know of are Soviet-era submarine units which used a lead-bismuth alloy with its own operational peculiarities. It was not a fast-spectrum reactor design and definitely not commercially viable as a general-purpose electrical power generating plant. AFAIK sodium is the only metal currently in use in existing FBRs and the proposed new-build BN-600s.

98:

nojay @ 93
Much longer than that.
Even assuming James Watt/separate condenser as the start of steam power, you ar looking at 235 years' practice & experience.
If you are talking Newcomen, you need to add another 66 years to that - making 113, assuming we are in 2013(!)

dirl @ 94
ASSUMING that the existing suppliers' cartel is prised out of their corrupt hold on the market, which is currently making it deliberately disadvantageous for small producers, even with readily available solid-state equipment making phase-adjustment & voltage-matching easy.

99:

I've been reading the original post and the comments. They all, as usual, are stimulating and entertaining and sometimes both.

Unfortunately, at 68, I can only say "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" (please excuse the lack of proper accents).

Oh, how I wish it weren't so.

And, I am not a cynic, just a geezer geek.

Let's hope the New Year is Happy.

100:

Like I said, what is happening in PV is what happened in semiconductor memory 20 years ago. Massive price fluctuations, too many suppliers and a determination by some Asian nations to corner the future market. I suspect that now almost all memory production is in Asia.
I think the Chinese will retain their dominant position, not least because in the medium term they will likely be the biggest consumers.

101:

What Scott said. "Drought" in Oregon is not what you think it is. Maybe in Eastern Oregon, but that's geographically more like Idaho and the Widwest.

Most of the Pacific Northwest, unlike England, consists of a massive valley in between two mountain ranges. Not only do we get tons of rain and snow form low pressure systems hitting those mountains, we also have 2 of the largest river systems in North America feeding into the valley.

It would take years of extreme drought, to the point where we had lost all the snow on the mountains before we got to where we'd have forest fires that threatened massive loss of life (the majority of the forests in Oregon and Washington are also in national parks, managed to prevent such things as well). This is years or decades away from happening, if at all.

The threats from global warming on the Pacific Northwest are mostly flooding due to warmer temperatures forcing early snow melt.

102:

"This puts a floor under how cheap solar can get, and it is a pretty darn high floor."

Depends what you consider high. Right now in S Europe domestic PV electricity is cheaper than mains. I would expect that to fall to a quarter of its present price within 20 years. That alone will put huge pressure on traditional utilities.

But domestic PV costs are not the same as mains costs. Mains have the distribution and load balancing and base load costs all factored in. Domestic PV just has the cost of the panels and an inverter plus a meter hookup.

All the math I've seen about domestic PV seems to assume a "free" distribution system. And it just isn't so.

103:

"But domestic PV costs are not the same as mains costs. Mains have the distribution and load balancing and base load costs all factored in. Domestic PV just has the cost of the panels and an inverter plus a meter hookup."

Exactly - it's going to seriously hurt conventional power generation

104:

But that is a matter of regulation being made by incompetent jerks

As a rule of thumb, one person misbehaving is a jerk, but a hundred people misbehaving indicates a problem with their incentives. The nuclear establishment is funded by and answerable to (ultimately) Congress, and Congress wants to fund something called nuclear research but absolutely will not tolerate nuclear accidents of any magnitude. Given those incentives, the labs have little choice but to concentrate on endless simulations and risk analysis, with little to no physical implementation.

105:

Hey, maybe my prediction that we'll go over the fiscal cliff will be wrong. That'll be, um, great.

Yeah.

Actually, I was wondering what would happen if the US finally realized it could live with a smaller military? Where oh where would all that money and innovation go?

This is in the same camp as the idea that natural disasters are a great source of employment rebuilding stuff. This is true. Trouble is, all that money would have been used for something else, had it not been used for the disaster. Military spending is all about consumption (of money, supplies, lives), and it would get weird indeed if we actually invested more of that money back home, like we did in, oh, the late 1990s.

Just sayin'.

106:

"Hey, maybe my prediction that we'll go over the fiscal cliff will be wrong. That'll be, um, great."

Don't worry. According to the news, the House has already gone home and won't reconvene until midday tomorrow.

So, regardless of what happens in the Senate, over the "cliff" we go.

Also, since it's that time over there, Happy New Year to those in the UK.

107:

Aren't they going to use their magical time traveling powers to pass something tomorrow at, oh, 11 pm EST, and retroactively date it to 12/31/12?

Too bad we can't harness the magical power of 300,000,000 eyes rolling in unison to get more movement on out of Congressional fundaments.

108:

Mains parity is meaningless - mains cost includes a lot of taxes, and the upkeep on the grid. Not taxing solar kwh's is tax avoidance, and given that distributed production absolutely requires an even stronger and more complex grid than we currently use, not counting grid costs is just false accounting. The price that needs beating es the cost of production inclusive of externalities - And that is not going to happen with the rooftop plan.
Desertec? perhaps - it is honestly hard to say until some real experience with building in the Sahara is available.

109:

Nojay:

1) You're putting words into my mouth. I HATE PEOPLE DOING THAT. Read what you wrote and what I responded to.

"The human race has nearly two hundred years experience of using pressurised water and steam to produce power"

Not a word about nuclear reactors there. Not an indication that you could have meant nuclear reactor in any way whatsoever, just by the time frame. Yet, you respond in a way is if I had written about nuclear reactors.

"Tens of thousands of people have died in accidents from water leaks in reactor systems? Where? When?"

2) You knowledge is outdated by about three decades. I suggest you brush it up.

110:

I'd like to address Charlie's point about the India rape protests, from a tangent.

So I think I've worked out why I like reading Charlie Stross and Peter Watt's books. It's the dark background, the cold and uncaring universe. Anything good is merely a human construction. I find I can't get into fiction that doesn't acknowledge this reality... Ok, so look at all the survival horror stuff that is popular now. There's this weird new broad appeal for this view of the universe.

The relevance of this is: if the universe is a good place, victims deserve what they get. This gets called things like karma (in the case or India), or the will of God. This why we victim-blame. If the universe is cold and uncaring, we don't need to victim-blame, and we can change how the world works.

This is a slow burning, decades long, shift. These weirdly macabre obsessions people have now with horror scenarios can be seen as a hopeful thing. Ideas that haven't been able to gain traction in the past may suddenly become viable.

111:

"Not taxing solar kwh's is tax avoidance"

PV panels are taxed in Europe at least. The idea of taxing them according to energy output is ludicrous and unworkable. They are going to have a serious impact on the whole electricity industry.

112:

Maybe not in 2013, but soon:

H5N1 flu finally crosses the species boundary, probably in a rural part of Africa or S.E. Asia, but spreading rapidly to nearby population centers and within weeks to all continents (even Antarctica).

Global Flu pandemic ensues. Ubiquitous and affordable international travel means it is impossible to contain its spread. Current generation anti-flu drugs are shown to be ineffective, and production of a specific vaccine is too slow to contain the outbreak.

Worst case scenario: mortality rate from the flu is about 30%, and something like 50% of the global population is exposed. Hundreds of millions of people die directly from the disease. However disruption to essential services, particularly transport of fuel and food, and power distribution leads to local shortages, blackouts, political unrest, rioting and economic collapse. Health services are completely overwhelmed. Many more people die, of cold, hunger, other disease or violence, even in the richest countries in the world.

On the plus side: the Eurovision song contest is cancelled.


113:

david l @ 102
NOT in Britain
The big leccy ditributors have a cosy cartel, where small (like domestic) suppliers are overcharged for connection & underpaid for production, with no sign of it changing.
That is why PV has not taken off here, nothing to do with us being less tech-savvy than the Germans.
"It's the money, stupid!" so to speak - curiously, the press carefully never mention this little quirk.

M S @ 112
30% (!) - oh, you mean world-wide?
Possibly.
"The Death" of 1346-9 killed between 30 & 40% ...
So, in poor, rural, underdeveloped areas, yes/maybe.
NOT in first-world countries, I think.
It also helps if your ancestors had/suffered from the 1918/9 pandemic, I suspect. If it's like that one, it will also take the younger people, in preference to the hardened oldies .... who have built up resistance to all sorts of things in their longer lives.

114:

This set of bollocks worth the web-space it's printed on?

115:

This article by John Lanchester might prove to be relevant, especially the following passage:

In the October edition of its regular World Economic Outlook, the IMF studied the question and announced that governments had been basing their calculations on the effects of austerity using a multiplier of 0.5. So for every £1 billion removed from government spending, GDP would contract by £500 million. The IMF looked at the relevant historical data, and concluded that the real multiplier for austerity-related cuts was higher, in the range of 0.9 to 1.7. So that same package of £1 billion in fact removes as much as £1.7 billion of output. This was a jaw-dropping thing to discover, not just because it was surprising in itself, and because it explained the surprising-to-governments economic damage being done by austerity packages, but also because the people saying so were the IMF. The very same IMF whose off-the-shelf policy recommendations for indebted governments and struggling economies always, but always, involves swingeing packages of spending cuts.

If the IMF revise their estimate of the economic multiplier based on evidence from the effect of "austerity" measures in response to the ongoing financial crisis, the change will (or at least should) affect how the IMF and other bodies respond to financial crises in the future. It may also have more immediate political implications, but these will probably take a little while to seep into the wider public consciousness.

This "multiplier" seems to be analogous to the "sensitivity" factor in climate models. Both have major impacts on the outcome of forecasts and both have to be based on detailed analysis of data. I like to think that climate science is more secure than economics but there is always a chance that current estimates of climate sensitivity will turn out to be inaccurate.

116:

The USA sells Alaska to China.

117:

I'd like to address Charlie's point about the India rape protests, from a tangent.

[...]

The relevance of this is: if the universe is a good place, victims deserve what they get.

Yet, victims of burglary, theft and robbery do not get tried. They are not scrutinized to determine what they did that made the poor poor hapless perpetrator commit a crime against them.

It's not purely an Indian thing either, remember the case where the New York Times felt the need to explore what the 11 year old victim of a gang rape did (I kid you not) to cause that crime. Being female and weaker than her attackers, is the short summary, but that never gets presented because people do shy away from outright saying that being female is just cause for abuse, and it being the responsibility of the girl or woman to be ingratiating and meek etc enough so no boy or man would want to harm her.

How good the "be meek and no bully will hurt you" works should be sufficiently well known.

118:

On the plus side: the Eurovision song contest is cancelled.

:)

are you in Sweden? do you need temporary asylum? ,)

119:

Actually, I was wondering what would happen if the US finally realized it could live with a smaller military? Where oh where would all that money and innovation go?

Let's postulate that the Peace Fairy From Alpha Centauri™ arrives tomorrow and waves her magic wand, abolishing aggression, war, and conflict in perpetuity.

I submit that the USA -- and other nations -- will still need something between 20% and 80% of the capability currently provided by their militaries.

Stuff they won't need, thanks to the PFFAC™: bullets, bombs, stabby implements. Stealth technology, missiles, almost all nuclear weapons, almost all submarines, anti-missile systems, tanks, and so on.

Stuff they will still need:

Military airlift command. Naval sealift command. Lots and lots of heavy all-terrain vehicles. Cargo helicopters. Mine clearance equipment. Field hospitals. Logistics logistics logistics ...

Because a big chunk of the current military mission throughout the developed world is civil defense and disaster relief. Because military forces that expect to throw huge amounts of metal and energy at one another at the drop of a hat are among our most sophisticated logistical delivery systems, especially when it comes to delivering food, water and medical supplies into areas rendered inaccessible to ordinary supply chains. The PFFAC™ waving her anti-aggression magic wand isn't going to stop the Big Quake hitting the San Andreas fault line, or the next Boxing Day Tsunami, or catastrophic bush fires in Australia, or flooding in South-West England.

(We may even need to keep a nuclear explosive device production plant running, just in case of near-earth asteroids. Who knows?)

On the other hand:

The military capabilities I'm mentioning above are genuinely useful. They contribute economically to the common good insofar as they save lives and get societies up and running again in the wake of disasters. A good chunk of today's military spending is basically junk, insofar as there is no conceivable argument for creatively launching a wing of Minuteman missiles, and the only economic value they create is churn for the corporations who maintain them.

120:

Greg, the reason younger people were hit by the 1918 flu was because they had stronger immune systems, not weaker; the flu triggered a cytokine storm, in which the immune system's own processes turn on the surrounding tissue around the infection site, causing massive lung inflammation and oedema. Older people with weaker immune systems were paradoxically less likely to succumb to this failure mode.

Note: I think we'd survive a plague that only killed around 15% of us. Things would be very hairy during the first months, and it'd trigger a severe global recession due to decreased demand, but I suspect we'd recover within a decade. Despite the apparent fragility of many of our just-in-time supply chains, we actually have far more bodies on hand than we need to actually keep things running.

A 30% or 50% die-back might well be another matter. But a flu pandemic, even at the upper end of the scale? I don't see that as likely to cause a global collapse (even if, individually, we might not survive).

121:

The proportion of junk (weapons) to useful stuff (logistics) varies greatly from one industrial country to another.

You can't easily re-purpose most ICBM rockets and most nuclear warheads. And you can't repurpose at all the other missiles, and the big guns, and the small arms and all their ammo.

But this leaves an enormous amount of logistical and non-logistical stuff. And we just can't get rid of it because we need it for the civilian missions filled by the military.

Mach 2 fighter jets have a search and rescue side that is often ignored.

And then you have all those soldiers. What happens if you tell them they're "free", er, hum,, laid off. They can't all become troubadours and fresco painters. In fact they're needed to operate all those emergency supply trucks when the emergency comes along, like firemen in fires. You'd need to re-hire them and keep them on a salary all year long, like firemen.

That's why I always laugh when I read about a "peace dividend" that will come from disarming. Outside of the nuclear powers it would be very tiny.

So there's no economic incentive to disarm in 2013,or in any year nearby outside of the US and other members of the nuclear club.

122:

>>>You can't easily re-purpose most ICBM rockets and most nuclear warheads.

This is actually stuff you can easily re-purpose, to launch vehicles and nuclear fuel.

123:

Depends on the type of rocket. The Russians are using their old SS-18 and SS-N-18 ICBM and SLBM boosters as satellite launchers, but some smaller vehicles turn out to be pretty useless -- I'm fairly sure that if Minuteman or Trident boosters were adaptable there'd have been some move to convert them for civilian use by now (they're produced in large numbers).

Military jet fighters are ignored as search and rescue platforms because they're useless; one set of eyeballs, horrendous fuel-guzzling behaviour, limited range and endurance. For S&R you need frugal maritime reconnaissance aircraft, most of which are converted airliners.

124:

Orbital's Minotaur rockets are based on old Minuteman and Peacekeeper stages. They're only used to launch government payloads, and my understanding is that there are some rules in place which prevent the use of ex-US-military hardware to launch civilian payloads.

I imagine there's a fair degree of technology sharing between ICBM stages and the small strap-on solids used by Atlas and Delta.

125:

Some 10% of US military spending is pensions. The breakdown is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States#By_title

126:

Actually, Orbital Sciences does field several satellite launchers that use refurbished ICBMs as some of the stages: their Minotaur has some Minuteman stages, and the Taurus first stage is refurbed from the MX "Peacekeeper". (It's not an entirely trouble-free program; they lost a couple of payloads on the Taurus due to trouble with, of all things, the fairing encasing the payload, which wouldn't let go once the spacecraft was out of the atmosphere. But I don't believe the engines were part of the problem...)

127:

2 billion people without electricity is the solar market.

An acquaintance tried out that theory: he was trying to sell electric equipment to farms in India. The problem was that farms without reliable power did reliably have abundant shade trees, which made it really hard to find a place where the panels would get adequate sun. (Things would be easier, of course, in cities where you've got a lot of flat roofs above the local plant life, but that doesn't help folks in the countryside much.)

The same probably applies in large swaths of Africa.

Someone may well find an acceptably cheap way to deploy PV in rural third world villages and farms, and there's almost certainly a large market if they do, but imported first world kit doesn't seem to go smoothly yet.

128:

"Some 10% of US military spending is pensions. The breakdown is here:"

The purpose of military retired pay (either disabled or length-of-service) is to motivate the active duty personnel. You will be more brave in combat if you know that (1) if you die, your family gets a huge payoff (2) if you are disabled, you will be paid for life. Also, you will be more likely to reenlist, and do what you must to continue to qualify to reenlist, if you know you will have a pension eventually.

If there were no need for soldiers to be brave and committed then the pensions would serve no purpose. Other than common decency and fairness.

Also, I don't know if the fairy gets rid of crime or just international wars, but if just the latter there will have to be guards to keep all that military hardware secure from regular criminals.

The Clinton administration cut military spending only about 30 percent

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2008/jan/24/rudy-giuliani/the-peace-dividend-began-with-a-bush/

and that balanced the budget.

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=13414

Admittedly it also coincided with other major transitions going on that meant lots of investment that took the place of military spending as an economic stimulus, but I suspect most military spending is an economic stimulus like you can drive a car by continuously usng the starter motor to turn the engine over. Policies that complement the blind spots and weaknesses of market forces do much more than throwing money, if the fairy can arrange for someone to focus on those.

Looking at the budget you linked to, simply ceasing the the wear and tear of operations and the cost of procuring of new types of equipment (as opposed to simply replacing existing stuff as it wears out) would save much more than the 90s peace dividend.
A tech lead could still be kept pretty economically just by keeping up the research without actually tooling up for mass production until necessary.

The problem is ideology. Military spending is OK in conservative ideology, so its the only way they can actually do guilt free stimulus spending. Infrastructure work would be good, but that is supposed to be local--Eisenhower even justified the Interstate Highway System as a military expenditure so troops could move around the country quickly. (Now THAT was a double miles investment that did more than just put money in the economy.) And of course donor portfolios and crony relationships follow the ideology so there's that too.

I was looking at the website of a conservative think tank and they were bemoaning the fact that Clinton gutted the military, but it was this gutted military that won two wars for Bush, one completely optional, which victories were squandered afterward by poor top level decisions. They didn't seem too gutted for that.

As for all the stuff some were saying about the military as a logistical force, most of the logistics is done by civilian contractors now and the military logistical types are redundant. I think that comes under Procurement and Operations and numerous boondoggles. But beureaucracies never downsize and genies never go back in the bottle.

In summary, we could do a peace dividend now, theoritically, with little damage to real military competitiveness (as long as somebody benevolent AND powerfull, such as the fairy, keeps an eye on developments) but there's suffient political opposition to make that highly unlikely, short of the fiscal cliff actually happening. (Incidently military retired pay is protected from the cliff).

129:

What about harnessing ocean currents? I mean, think of the Gulf Steam. You could anchor a huge turbine, and all the heavy moving water beats ANY mere river or wind current. Europe wouldn't mind.

And geothermal. I bought some stock in that. Sure hope they DON'T develop cheap fusion power any time soon.

130:

#123 Para2 - That's just the obvious stuff Charlie; Other than the few types purpose designed for medium level attack on targets of opportunity, most fast jets have radars which are purpose-designed to actively ignore terrain detail (like road vehicles and shipping, never mind crash sites and people). They can literally fly right over the rescue site and never see it.

Hence why labels like "Search And Rescue" are most often applied to helicopters, and why in the final phase of the "Vietnamese War of Independence" (used advisedly) the aggressor used helicopters with aerial support from a WW2 designed piston-engined propeller-driven type to recover downed aircrew from free Vietnamese territory.

131:

What about harnessing ocean currents? I mean, think of the Gulf Steam. You could anchor a huge turbine, and all the heavy moving water beats ANY mere river or wind current. Europe wouldn't mind.

At least not unless there's a really cold snap for a while within a few years of it starting up. Then folks in Europe would howl. Loudly. No matter if cause and effect were totally unrelated.

132:

The kid could just as easily bring his parent's ceramic kitchen knife. Why print a knife?
A plastic gun (that works), that would be a different matter.

133:

The Clinton administration cut military spending only about 30 percent
...link...
and that balanced the budget.
...
Admittedly it also coincided with other major transitions going on that meant lots of investment that took the place of military spending as an economic stimulus,
...
I was looking at the website of a conservative think tank and they were bemoaning the fact that Clinton gutted the military, but it was this gutted military that won two wars for Bush, one completely optional, which victories were squandered afterward by poor top level decisions. They didn't seem too gutted for that.

Most of those cutbacks from Bush I and Clinton were in terms of logistics. The various services got rid of things that were not needed to directly fight. Cooks on US bases went away to civilians. Cooks on ships stayed sailors. The intent was we would only need the armed services for short term fights and would pay the civilian contractors for logistics that were not kept idling in uniform when not fighting. Of course Afghanistan and Iraq were/are not short term fights. So the plan to save money turned into a huge money sink as you now had to recruit volunteers to be army cooks for a year or more at a time in a war zone. Which is not cheap in any way shape or form. And carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, street sweepers, etc...

As to Clinton balancing the budget, yes he did. But it was never going to last. The demographic shifts in the US made it a certainty that government spending was going to go up faster than the economy WAS growing or was falsely projected to grow in "budgets" that were passed when one was actually passed. So even if Bush had done nothing on spending and taxes but keep things at a steady state we'd have record deficits. He didn't. O hasn't. And things are incredibly worse than the would have been.

134:

It's only 10%? I don't know the real number, but I've heard complaints that the DoD is threatening to turn into an insurance company that fights wars as a sideline (true or not).

I happen to agree with Charlie that the Clinton-style military, which kept the massive air- and sealift capability perfectly intact. The US military does a great job on rapid disaster relief.

Thing is, you don't need a stealth fighter for that. Or Star Wars. Or the MISTY satellite (yes, I know that was CIA). Just on an ideological basis, I'd do most of my cutting in black programs, not because we don't need secret innovation, but because black programs lack the budget controls of white programs, and as a result tend to attract a lot of needless waste, fraud, and other abuse.

The other thing I'd like to get rid of is things like the Republican's old-style Iraq war, where they attempt to finance it by looting the country. In Iraq, that was to be Iraqi oil coming under American control, but the Iraqis effectively prevented that by trashing their oil facilities and destroying the information and samples needed to understand the oil fields. Yes, invaders have been running this particular war model (profiting from invasions) for millennia, but these days, I'm not sure it's a good way to run a war.

This is especially true if you conceive of wars as police actions. Most police actions don't pay for themselves by confiscating and selling property, and those that do are typically a) widely despised, and b) justified as "wars" (on drugs, terrorists, illegal immigrants, etc.).

135:

The big leccy ditributors have a cosy cartel, where small (like domestic) suppliers are overcharged for connection & underpaid for production, with no sign of it changing.
That is why PV has not taken off here, nothing to do with us being less tech-savvy than the Germans.
"It's the money, stupid!" so to speak - curiously, the press carefully never mention this little quirk.

No matter. Until we start removing distribution and overhead costs from the mains side of the equation the comparisons are false. Now we can have a very valid debate about how mains costs are calculated but that's not the same debate.

136:

In Iraq, that was to be Iraqi oil coming under American control,

I've heard this claim for decades. But never seen any evidence other than strong belief that it was true.

137:

Given the volume of US bonds that China holds I'd guess that it already owns Alaska...

138:

Well, the Iraqis certainly did destroy their oil infrastructure. Since the Bush family got rich through oil, it's kind of a natural assumption that they'd look at where the oil is.

139:

For the disaster theorists, we're apparently coming up on a solar maximum early this year. I believe that means there is a non-zero possibility for a Carrington Event in 2013.

Speaking of which, I wonder whether tin-foil hats are a good idea during a Carrington Event?

140:

I was quite encouraged with the UK's response to the lack of corporate taxes paid by foreign entities. Maybe, just maybe, something similar might just happen in the US, putting corporations in the spotlight on their actual taxes paid, vs. the tax rate red herring.

141:

Para 3 - The defence would like to offer into evidence the U-2, SR-71, B-1 and B-2 programmes.

Para 4 - Cite needed.

Para 5 - Items 2 & 3 - Cites needed.

142:

The relevance of this is: if the universe is a good place, victims deserve what they get. This gets called things like karma (in the case or India), or the will of God. This why we victim-blame. If the universe is cold and uncaring, we don't need to victim-blame, and we can change how the world works.

I don't think victim-blame can be explained as a rational decision. It's more likely it has purely psychological reasons. If identifying with the victim is too emotionally disturbing, victim-blame is an easy escape.

143:

While most people seem to want to follow geo-politics, it is the small seeds that interest me.

I think we may see the first truly synthetic organism created. But the bigger stories will be engineered organisms to produce high value products )outside of Big Pharma) and low value products (e.g. increasingly economic algal biofuels). Despite the gloom and doom of pandemics, we will see a true pandemic headed of due to rapid sequencing and analysis of a new vector with the appropriate treatment to follow it.

I think that we will see some significant progress in brain simulation. I also think that a new class of cheap neural chips will provide the first, high profile, examples of impressive AI that do not need vast numbers of conventional computers.

3-D printing might reach break-out. I don't expect a 3-D printer on every desk (just yet) but I know I will be experimenting with services this year. I also expect that manufacturers will start to follow the record industry's model, and try to enforce copy restrictions on parts.

The big picture stuff I expect to continue to unfold without any Black Swan events (which are by definition unpredictable). The US will continue to experience adverse effects of AGH and we will still do nothing. Geo-engineering will gain traction as another example of the "corporate milking the taxpayer" model.

144:

heteromeles @ 134
black programs lack the budget controls of white programs, and as a result tend to attract a lot of needless waste, fraud, and other abuse.
Like the, erm, LAUNDRY, you mean?
*cough*

145:

Cool. I'll accept that the U-2 was a good value. SR-71 is questionable, but then again, I'm not sure if they're still flying them or not, so I'll leave that one in limbo where it belongs.

The bombers are a different story. The numbers below are from Wikipedia.

B-1. Original mission: nuclear bomber from 1986. Never used for intended mission. Unit cost $283 million in 1998. 104 planes built ($29.4 billion dollar production cost, not counting operations). Current role: loitering overwatch with guided bombs to back up ground operations, something we also use $20 million drones for.

B-2. Original mission: nuclear bomber. Never used for intended mission. Unit cost $737 million, 21 built, (program cost $44.75 billion through 2004). While they have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan (especially in the early days of the war) and to destroy Libyan airfields as part of their no-fly zone, they have no day-to-day job.

Compared with the B-52, the B-1 and B-2 are prestige programs designed to put stars on collars and please constituents in Congressional districts, not to fight today's wars.

Now, if you'd picked the black programs that resulted in drones, I'd suggest that's somewhat more value for money.

As for the 2nd Iraq war, the fundamental point is that Congress failed to budget any money for the war. This strategy has been used since before Alexander the Great (ref: Graeber's Debt), and the classic way to pay for such wars is with booty taken from and taxes imposed on the conquered. Given that both Cheney and Bush were oil-men, and Cheney apparently believed in Peak Oil, the best rationale for going into Iraq was to secure American oil supplies for as long as possible. This was actually a logical (if morally repugnant) reason to go to war, if the costs could be kept down, and note that the Bush administration attempted precisely that tactic at first. Of course, the Iraqis destroyed their oil infrastructure early on (as I said, it was logical), and the Bushies both failed to stay on mission with cost-cutting, and ignored Powell's "you break it, you bought it" advice.

We're still paying on that debt, incidentally. That $7 trillion hole is about the amount we could have used to avoid another recession, incidentally.

As for the last, I'm primarily thinking of the old War on Drugs property seizure laws, which are (at least where I live) widely seen as both onerous and which promote police corruption, since they profit from how much they can seize. Additionally, one could cite the various ludicrous purchases made in the name of the War on Terror. While the TSA is not a police body, it certainly comes under this mantle of a) being despised, and b) being part of a "war."

146:

it's kind of a natural assumption

Sorry but that's kind of a very thin thread. About the only real thread you might find is Cheney and his ties to Halliburton as they are big in oil field services and that's what Iraq needed. But Cheney was 99% out of them by the time he became VP.

But I've seen no credible analysis where the Bush family would profit from the Iraqi invasion.

Now a debate about how the US armed services messed up with private contractors in general is a very legitimate debate. Especially after the changes during Bush I and Clinton. But that's a broader issue.

147:

"Victim blame"
There is another factor.
A friend of mine had a rather crazy Doberman. One day she took it for a walk and it met one of those tiny yappy little verminous dogs that picked a fight with it, possibly believing its owner/pack leader would step in. Anyway, Doberdog killed it instantly.

148:

Might I suggest that you're being even lazier than I am.

Go google "Iraq Invasion Oil" and you'll find that a good chunk of the Wikipedia article "Rationale for the Iraq War was about oil. To be fair, it also includes denials from some people (Blair and John McCain, notably not Bush or Cheney) that this is the case. Greenspan, however, did say it was about oil, writing in his memoir, "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Go have fun reading.

149:

I fail to see how an anecdote where one crazy dog kills another one sheds any light on the phenomenon where humans blame against all rational sense victims for their suffering.

150:

Although I went for big stories, I'd like to see all of your suggestions come true. I just doubt most of them.

I think we'll start to see better virtual organisms, but not truly synthetic ones yet. I'm sure there's a lot of research into it but I think we'll find a pretty long string of problems to be overcome.

I'm pretty sure we're a way away from convincing strong AI and brain simulation. Research will continue, but without an Einstein moment I'd be surprised if it's within 20 years.

The 3D printer one... that will be interesting. I think we'll see them penetrate something like Office World so there's a place in every town and city that can do the job this year rather than on every desktop - money's too tight and the use cases I see in this year too limited for every household to free up the cash necessary at the moment. Obviously a number of small and many medium and large companies will have them too. What I think will happen over the next year or two is we'll see a lot of 3D design apps appearing (for iPads and other tablets if they start to get market penetration) so as well as $_KID's pictures on your table, you can sensibly make $_KID's model houses or whatever.

And, ultimately, that might be a huge change. 3D modelling at the time is a nightmare for uninitiated (unless there's a new app I've missed in the last 3 months or so) and making it usefully accessible for all will be interesting.

151:

Sometimes the "victim" really does start the fight

152:

dirk @ 151
Like BEING JEWISH, do you mean?
Or being Protestant in France in 1685 ... ?
Or not following Stalin's directions EXACTLY?
Or not answering an aggressive question?

I know you are often very good at coat-trailling, but if this is a sample of your "real" thoughts, &/or those of "Zero State", then I'm beginning to really wonder if we should shop you to the security services ....
[ SNARK/]

153:

Even within this statement there's a shred of victim blaming mentality; the idea that if a victim did "start the fight" they deserved to end up how they did. Regardless the idea behind the term victim blaming is to highlight unfair situations wherein the victim has been blamed for their suffering. A poingant example being recent (disgusting) comments by certain catholic priests regarding rape victims as engaging in provocative behaviour

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1723242/Women-bring-violence-on-themselves-priest

154:

I'm not particularly liking the direction this is going. So please stop it.

That includes you, Dick. You are very close to trolling, if not past it.

155:

Using the original para numbers.

Para 3 - The point was that the U-2 and SR-71 were both black programmes that came in on time and on or under the original budget. One of them famously so much so that the Skunk Works returned some of the original funds they'd been paid to the the Government.
The B-1 and B-2 OTOH are white programmes, and neither of them came anywhere near "on-time or on budget": So much so that the B-1A was not "fit for purpose".

Para 4 - That's hardly a clear cite that, say, Bush Snr, (or indeed Shrub, who's probably that daft) said "We need to secure our oil supplies; let's invade Iraq".

Para 5 - And your cites for property confiscations in the claimed "war on terror" or "war on illegal immigration" are? I never claimed that property confiscation wasn't being used as a tactic in the "war on drugs" (largely because I'm well aware that it is, both sides of the Ditch).

156:

The security services are already well aware of me even pre-911

157:

You mean like if I got staggering drunk in a bad area of town at night with my wallet bulging from my back pocket and shouting "who's up for it cocksuckers?" I would be blameless victim if I got beaten and robbed?

158:

I'm sorry, this topic is a trigger when it comes to the uncomfortable peace people come to with the world. Maybe that's why India has gone so long as a society without confronting it, and why we've not confronted other similar things or turned out to be oddly weak when we tried. I'm sure we all have our own "Doberdog".


(Bruce Sterling at #96 has a different interpretation, and offers characteristically practical advice for young Indian protesters.)

159:

Um, no, the B-2 was one of the classic black projects (to the point where it's an example cited by Wikipedia for "black project," and the flight testing of the B-2 is the standard candidate for the so-called Aurora project).

I can't speak to the B-1, the modern references don't list the classification of the development process, so I'll assume you are correct.

Your point is well-taken, though, that white projects can be every bit as pork-laden as black projects.

While some classification is necessary, it's also a convenient cover for waste. My dad (who worked in aerospace a *long* time ago), talked about classified projects such as physics textbooks (copied and marked classified so that they didn't have to pay royalties), and a whole shipment of expensive gyroscopes that sat on a hot loading dock for too long and fried (classified to avoid embarrassment). Modern day cleanup of the formerly secret Rocketdyne facility near LA (site of the second worst nuclear accident in America to date) shows another problem with black sites: cleanup. There's been an enormous cost just characterizing the site, since so much of the work done was classified. Cleaning up the radioactives is proving to be a real challenge, since they would have to be trucked through winding suburban streets for disposal. The suburbs are, of course, more recent than the nuclear accident that no one really knew of when they were built...

And then there's MISTY, which was carried and launched as a black program even after Congress repeatedly cancelled it. It's not clear what it does, but it was (is?) one very expensive satellite.

160:

As long as society has predators then it's just foolish to make yourself look like prey. That applies equally to men and women.

161:

There are also several Hubble capability telescopes in space looking down on behalf of the CIA/NSA

162:

Yes, Dirk, you would be a blameless victim. Possibly ignorant, foolhardy, or stupid, but still a blameless victim. [ An earlier version thinko'd his name. I apologise for that. ]

I have already asked this particular direction to be reigned in.

163:

The thing is, domestic PV costs doesn't free you from mains cost, unless battery prices come WAY down...which they don't appear to be doing.

So, subject to sensible regulations, domestic PV isn't a threat to mains distribution. But it *is* a threat to stable generation of power. If domestic photo-voltaic generation becomes common (or any sporadic generation capability, like wind) then storing excess power becomes the real problem. I haven't heard of any good answers to that one yet.

164:

@Heteromeles

Go google "Iraq Invasion Oil" and you'll find that a good chunk of the Wikipedia article "Rationale for the Iraq War was about oil. To be fair, it also includes denials from some people (Blair and John McCain, notably not Bush or Cheney) that this is the case. Greenspan, however, did say it was about oil, writing in his memoir, "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Who cares what Greenspan thinks? He didn't sit in on any of the meetings in the Bush Administration that ultimately led to the war. Meanwhile, we've got multiple accounts from people (disgruntled and otherwise) who were involved in the decision-making, plus accounts like Bob Woodwards - all of which point out that yes, they really did believe that they could invade Iraq and easily turn it into a democratic, US- and Israel-Friendly partner in the Middle East.

It's not hard to believe when you consider that their intelligence on Iraq was garbage, and the people feeding them info were Iraqi ex-Pats like Ahmed Chalabi.

@Dirk.Bruere

You mean like if I got staggering drunk in a bad area of town at night with my wallet bulging from my back pocket and shouting "who's up for it cocksuckers?" I would be blameless victim if I got beaten and robbed?

Yes. You might be an asshole, but nobody forced the people beating you to do it. They chose to take that provocation as cause to beat you up, and so they're entirely responsible.

There's a difference between taking practical precautions, and believing that if you don't, it's your fault if you get beat up. It's not.

165:

But battery costs WILL come way down, because what is needed for cars has far greater capacity than most domestic PV users will need.

166:

The Arab Spring continues

I was reading a book published a few years ago, and it mentioned that Syria was likely to become a net oil importer by 2010. I've done a few quick searches, but have been unable to verify that this happened.

It may be that the "Arab Spring" is simply the collapse of regimes that depend on oil revenues to keep the population quiescent, for reasons ultimately rooted in resource exhaustion. If that's the case, then the future of the region probably looks rather like Haiti.

167:

The type of battery that would be rather good for domestic PV:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc-bromine_flow_battery

168:

Or that's what they said to the interviewers. I agree that their intelligence was crap, but I was one of many people who predicted Bush would go back into Iraq when his poll numbers slipped, and oddly enough, that was precisely what he did. It was pretty obvious from the outset of his presidency that it would happen, and lo, it did.

A bit over 100 years ago, the Arabian Peninsula was a backwater, important only because of the Suez Canal. It has become important in the world not because of its lack of democracy, but because of its oil.

It's naive in the extreme to assume that we invaded simply to foment democracy. It does, however, make for a convenient excuse to tell the reporters and book writers that your intentions were better than that.

169:

OK. I started this little debate. I totally agree that most politics in the middle east and the Iraqi (and Afgan ) war is about oil. Without middle east oil there would not be an Arab Spring. Things would be very different in this area of the world. I figured that out in the 70s during the Carter admin and figured out then we needed to reduce our (US/EU) dependency on oil.

But I disagreed with the claims that the Bush admin expected the Iraqi oil fields to pay for the war. This I've not seen evidence of this. Except "of course" type claims by rabid Bush haters.

170:

"Military jet fighters are ignored as search and rescue platforms because they're useless; one set of eyeballs, horrendous fuel-guzzling behaviour, limited range and endurance. "

Well, yes, if you're a small European country with no kind of oceanic responsibility, yes.

But if you're a large country with a low population density or any country with a large expanse of Ocean to look after, you nee a fast plane to get there first.

That's why Canadian CF-18s have a really big spotlight/searchlight on their port side:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/richarddumoulin/4305349878/

Officially it's to illuminate intercepted planes (Russian bombers) at night but in practice it serves to illuminate any people needing to be rescued on the surface. A CF-18 can fly incredibly slow as well as being able to reach Mach 2. It can just poke along gently near the ground, orbiting a spot at an angle, to see if the things moving down there are bears or stranded explorers. And after that they call in bigger craft with rafts/supplies.

171:

But battery costs WILL come way down, because what is needed for ...

Wishful thinking. It may happen. It may not. But there's a lot of money that has been spent on this to date and batteries still are on a incremental path, not a step function. Not to say there will not be a big moment but so far there's no obvious path to one. Just a lot of weak complicated maybes.

172:

Battery costs for PV are around $400 per kWh. How many kWh are needed?

173:

It was less about stealing their oil than about guaranteeing security of supply. Having a major military presence in the heart of the ME being the decisive factor.

174:

It's really very simple Dirk. Up to the point you commit a crime you are blameless and not guilty of anything to do in the attack (of whatever kind) of which you are a victim. Conveniently we have a word that combines both of these things - you're innocent.

Contrary to some sayings and the assumption behind the (often funny, I must admit) Darwin Awards, foolhardiness and stupidity are not crimes. You may not be surprised if you become the victim of a crime when you do something foolhardy and stupid (although if you were both, you might be surprised of course) but you're still not to blame for it.

If you tip over into provocative criminal behaviour - behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace, causing a breach of the peace, incitement to riot, racial hate speech, whatever - some of the blame becomes yours as you give up being an innocent in the situation. However, they still have a share of the blame too. However provocative you are in your criminal acts that incite them, they still have a choice. They may not have a good choice of course but they still have a choice about committing the crime or not. The justice system, if it works properly, arrives at a considered, fair and just apportioning of the blame.

And, in the ultimate, it becomes your fault entirely, all the blame falls to you, if you assault them and (in this country anyway) they use reasonable force to defend themselves. That can, in exceptional circumstances, include them killing you I believe. Of course, in that situation, they're the victim, even if you're the one that ends up dead.

Given our assumption of innocence until proven guilty, and the fact that most victims are not criminally provocative or worse, the working assumption is that the victim is blameless - at least until proof emerges that they broke the law and may have some share of the blame.

What I wear, where I go, how I act, what I say - provided I stay within the law - never give another a right to attack me in any way.

175:

Please stop abusing the deceased equine.

176:

@Heteromeles

Or that's what they said to the interviewers.

All of these people had huge bones to pick with the Bush Administration (and often with each other). Moreover, many of the details match up. This is not a situation conducive to any sort of conspiracy to cover up that it was All About Oil, especially when there's a huge incentive for them to say so if that's what came up.

A bit over 100 years ago, the Arabian Peninsula was a backwater, important only because of the Suez Canal. It has become important in the world not because of its lack of democracy, but because of its oil.

Saudi Arabia was a backwater, not the Middle East. Egypt was important enough that the British turned it into a puppet state.

It's naive in the extreme to assume that we invaded simply to foment democracy. It does, however, make for a convenient excuse to tell the reporters and book writers that your intentions were better than that.

Yet that was the rationale that underpinned the conflict for the policymakers in the Bush Administration, from multiple accounts from insiders who have no incentive to agree with each other and cover up anything that might make the Bush Administration's decision look bad. Especially guys like Richard Clarke (whom the Bush Administration mounted a full-front assault upon in terms of credibility when he testified to the 9/11 Commission).

177:

As I said above, "democracy" meant "a Democratic Iraq that would be friendly to the US and Israel". Many of the policymakers believed all the bullshit that Ahmed Chalabi and his crowd were feeding them, because they'd been wanting to take down Saddam since Gulf War I. They honestly thought that democratizing Iraq would just lead to the above.

178:

The naivety is astounding.
What democracy means to much of the world is the freedom to vote for the leader of your own tribe, sect or religion. And may the biggest faction win.

179:

S.E.F @ 154
I didn’t like the direction it was going, either – hence my warning flag.

Dirk @ 157
THAT is in no way similar to the rape of a young woman …
You are the re-incarnation of Chief Constable James Anderton & I claim my £5….
@ 160
Now THAT is an interesting take on policing! Never heard that one before ….
@ 165
battery costs WILL come way down Oh, really, by what mechanism, as-yet-unknown/undiscovered which will re-write the known parameters of Elctrochemistry?….
Ah I see you posit the Zn/Br battery @ 167.
How much do these cost? (now) How much is the price likely to drop, & err … safety – they have erm, Bromine in them – not a nice substance – we had a Br leak at work, once, many moons ago.

David L @ 169
No, the Afghan war is NOT about Oil. Though Iraq was …
If the Taliban had handed over Os_bin_L, that would have been it.
But they didn’t - & now we have the Taliban, who really should not be allowed to walk the planet – killing any lone woman, destroying schools & Polio vaccinators cancels their right to exist, in my book.

El @ 174
Hate to disagree, but, sometimes, stupidity is a capital crime - & it often kills people other (or as well as) the perpetrator of the original stupidity. Think Great Heck, or Upton Nervett, or children infected with Polio, because there is no vaccine ….

Going back to the original subject (shock, horror!)
Big for 2013 … & some people have said you can’t predict “Black Swans” … but some BS’s are outcomes of linear log/log lines, which, of course do NOT plot out straight (or Gaussian probability, either) in linear space.
Any thoughts?
Asteroid impact – v. unlikely – people are watching out.
Complete collapse of international banking/monetary system – again unlikely, though partial implosions in some areas (Greece / Spain / Portugal) are possible, with very unpleasant side/after-effects.
Nuclear weapon use? I would guess not THIS year, but soon is only too possible, though reading the tea-leaves from N.Korea suggests that that particular risk is dropping. However, what is the likelihood of a religious fundie eschatological nutter using one on Tel Aviv? NOT a good prospect - & what happens after that?
Runaway non-linear GW effects – not before (about) 2017 I suspect – any better opinions on that one?
A solution to the QM/Relativity renormalisation anomaly – PLEASE, pretty please?
Any others?

180:

I very much fear we're going to see state-organised violence against LGBT people in at least one country this year, and possibly more.

181:

I think you're actually a couple of years late on that projection; Russia, Greece, Poland, Serbia, have all had instances of right-wing violence against LGBT people endorsed tacitly by police and/or right-wing politicians in the past year. In some of these cases (Greece: Golden Dawn) it's not actually the government, just a significant political party -- in others (Russia) it is the governing party.

182:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: Sean speaks for me on this issue.

Victim-blaming in the context of discussions of violence, especially sexual violence, is grounds for an automatic yellow card. Hint: 50-60% of my readers are non-male, and even though they're in a minority among the active commenters, I want my blog to be safe space for them.

183:

"Classified" =/= "black" - A typical classified programme will have budget oversight (at least to a point) but will require overseers to be capable of being security cleared to the level of the project, eg "Atomic Secret" in the case of fission bombs or nuclear-powered submarines, or "Top Secret" in the case of a novel defence technology like the early stealth aircraft designs. This can have negative effects on the managerial competence and the partisan "project fandom" of overseers.
OTOH a black project will be off the books, and try to avoid generating a paper trial.
Hopefully, it is now clear why the B-2 is not a black project. In any event, claims that it is in any way "project Aurora" are positively laughable, since you would not replace an aircraft capable of cruising at about M3 with one that can not reach M1!

In Para 4, you identify 2 misuses of the classification system, but that does not make either case a "black project".

184:

Ok, I'll bite.

In what way does a "night sun" (unsure of capitalisation) with a linear range of maybe 3 miles outperform an Orion's radar with an omni-directional range of maybe 20 miles (P-3 picked as the best SAR control bird in the Canadian OrBat)? Never mind the recently (and highly stupidly, if not actually criminally) decommissioned BAe Nimrod with a radar range of over 200 miles, and up to 14 pairs of eyeballs for close-in work rather than one pair?

The (C)F/A-18 makes a just about acceptable combat Sandy, although it would be better if it could haul twice the quantity of air to ground munitions.

I need some of this stuff as part of my job!

185:

@ 180
I very much fear we're going to see state-organised violence against LGBT people in at least one country this year, and possibly more.
I nominate Uganda & the RC church as perpetrators of this one ...
See This repulsive news
O.K. - Charlie @ 181 - I still think Uganda could be even worse ....

186:

Hopefully, it is now clear why the B-2 is not a black project. In any event, claims that it is in any way "project Aurora" are positively laughable, since you would not replace an aircraft capable of cruising at about M3 with one that can not reach M1!

Not actually true.

The theory you're alluding to is that "Aurora" was a replacement for the SR-71.

The SR-71 was required to cruise at Mach 3 or higher, and at high altitude, because its primary mission was photorecon over hostile territory -- after a U-2 was shot down over the USSR in 1961, it became clear that the recon role over Warsaw Pact countries required high altitude and speed, and indeed, during its operation life SR-71s were fired on over a thousand times by SAM batteries (with a zero kill rate).

However, an adversary might not be able to kill an SR-71, but they could often see one coming in time to get vital equipment under cover. And the same goes for spy sats in stable orbits. (The more maneuvers a spysat makes, the shorter its useful lifespan: you can't refuel one in flight, and they're horrendously expensive.)

Since 1989, there has been a massively diminished need for a near-hypersonic recon aircraft that can survive being shot at by leading-edge Soviet missiles, due to, er, a slight lack of a Soviet Union to do the shooting. For the sort of adversaries the USAF has had to take photographs of since 1990, the SR-71 was gold-plated overkill; much better to go with a lower, slower and importantly much bigger and cheaper platform. Moreover, imaging is a less important component of recon these days than electronic interception.

So I'm pretty certain the main replacement for the SR-71 is a combination of high-altitude subsonic drones (effectively a U-2 the USAF can afford to lose from time to time) and big electronic intelligence aircraft such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint.

187:

As long as society has predators then it's just foolish to make yourself look like prey. That applies equally to men and women.

So if instead of your yappy dog a toddler walked up to your friend's doberman to play, and maybe pulled its ears or tail, and got killed, it would be the toddlers fault for being stupid? Or the parents fault for not putting their toddler on a leash when it's clear that there's an unleashed doberman running around?

Seriously, if you are doing philosophy for this zero state thing you should read up on the categorical imperative and on the pars-pro-toto-fallacy.

188:

Note on Nimrod: the MRA.4 was cancelled because in the process of upgrading the MRA.3 airframes to MRA.4 spec, it became apparent that they were basically 1950s prototypes -- every single Nimrod was a hand-crafted bodge based on a Comet Mk.3, and there was so little parts commonality that the entire MRA.4 program turned into a nightmare.

Remember, the MRA.4 program included complete wing rebuilds with new high bypass turbofan engines to replace the original turbojets. And the engines in the Comet airframe are built inside the wing roots, not in convenient and accessible under-wing pods. Sticking a new wing on an old aircraft is bad enough to begin with; having to hand-tailor every single plane because no two of them are identical is a project planning nightmare on stilts!

A sensible alternative would have been to have taken the electronic guts of the MRA.4 program and shoe-horn them into a converted Airbus A319, or just buy off-the-shelf Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime recon aircraft.

189:

Andreas, drop this subject.

(For the record, I agree with you. But I'm trying to keep this discussion from turning into a flame war.)

190:

heteromeles @ 139 re Carrington event
You put a foil wrapped laptop in the basement in a steel box with all software and important data backed up on pits on CDs and DVDs. And have a wood stove and kerosene heater with plenty of fuel. And 6 months of food and water. And a gun.

andreasvox@142 Re blaming the victim.
Part of the reasoning of these perpetrators, at least what they say, is that they are defending civilization--women with exposed faces and no escorts make all this temptation that causes social breakdown, see? I think a lot of times when people move from those kinds of societies to the west they see that actually civilization is where women can walk around naked and everybody behaves. Civilization rules. Furthermore, if everybody in India had guns this kind of stuff wouldn't happen, would it?

el @150 re "3D printer one... that will be interesting"

Yeah, plastic junk is so expensive and the available selection is too small. And you can't make guns out of plastic. Wish I had kept the link to a story I saw about how somebody printed a plastic gun and it worked, but wore out after a few shots. What if you are attacked by a large gang?

brett @164 re blaming the victim
People who do things they shouldn't are responsible for those things. If you rob a fool you are a criminal and you should go to jail. If you are a fool and you get robbed, you are a fool and too bad for you, nobody will feel sorry and don't sue the city for failing to maintain security in bad areas. You should have had a gun.

dirkbruere @165 re battery cost coming down
Room temperature superconductors would help with that. Just run a bunch of current in a loop, or suspend a tiny flywheel spinning at a huge speed. But when batteries get THAT good they are little bombs holding so much energy they are dangerous. Then you put it in an automobile and drive it in traffic? But they'de be great for laser rifles.


davidl@169 re bush haters
That stuff WAS exceptional and somewhat irrationl. Bush 2 was just a typical republican: suspect motives, scary methods, bad ideology. Other than on guns.

brett @176 re "it was All About Oil"
I don't think it was ALL about anything. Oil related factors were a bonus. WMD fears were a bonus. Finishing up unfinished business was a bonus. Taking out an enemy of Israel was a bonus. Saddam was Hitler was a bonus. Keeping the military in practice was a bonus. Hopefully starting a wave of mideast reforms was a bonus. "Nobody says no to a UN mandate" was a bonus. But what about this: if everybody in Iraq had a gun, could Saddam have pulled off what he did?

dirkbruere @ 178 re democracy & gerrymandering
Democracies are fair in societies with one basic ethnic group, like Sweden. Eventually, though, all democracies BECOME one basic ethic group because everybody accepts the existing mix and getting to choose within it, like the USA.
Assimilation. More guns helps.

gregtingey @ 179 re Tel Aviv getting nuked.
Mecca next? Seriously, its inevitable. Terrorists will get nukes and use them in major cities. Good reason not to live in a major city. I suspect that's exactly what they were thinking when US leaders created Suburbia back during the cold war. Can't work guns into this one. It's got nukes though.

murphieslawyer @180 re anti LGBT violence
(aren't we supposed to put more intitials in there for people who don't like how their genotype manifested phenotype?) Change always has pushback. A lot of the assinine things people do is because they don't have anything real to worry about. Once again, more guns needed.

me @ all times
Libertarians say "The market system always does the right thing magically." What they don't connect for you is that in their ideology "the right thing" is defined as what the market system does. Tautology.
And a gun.

191:

el @150 re "3D printer one... that will be interesting"


Yeah, plastic junk is so expensive and the available selection is too small.

I want to expand on that: 3D printing has several limitations that will stop it from getting widespread DIY tools:
- limited choice of materials
- limited quality of materials
- next to no support for mixing materials
- you still need to purchase materials from big factories
- only one color (or two)

So to get anything useful, you still need to assemble and paint it.
And you can't even print clothes, which are by far the largest class of things humans use on a daily basis.

192:

I agree with your analysis, except for the coverage gap between the out of service date of the SR-71 and the in service date of the high altitude drones.

193:

Ok, I'm guilty of being a Nimrod fan, but so is everyone who's ever flown in the type, worked knowingly with the type, or knows that the type had a hand in their rescue.

I would love to see the sensor suite (and weapons bay) adopted to a newer airframe, but that could just be a different bear since we now need a new fuselage rather than different wing mounts. In any event, it hardly addresses the point that the Orion is a poor second best to the Nimrod MRA3 as a SAR type, and the Orion is good enough to kick the F/A-18 out of the park!

194:

I didn't say anything about printing guns, and although I think people will try and partially succeed I don't see it as a big use. If you read the whole comment, what I think will be interesting is having a load of people apply their minds to making 3D modelling software accessible to the masses.

And while the raw materials may (or may not) be cheap - I'm willing to bet they'll remain more expensive than paper and ink - the capital outlay is, I think more than most people are willing to find for such devices, at least during 2013. By 2015 or so, that will probably have changed.

195:

Germany is using 600TWh per year, that's 600bn kWh. One billion kWh will last for about 16 hours. This is enough to smooth out nights and weather through moderate spells of bad weather, but there's no way you'll get through the winter like that.

Lead batteries have to be replaced in a 5 year cycle when used like that, resulting in an annual cost of $80bn (about twice the German expenditure on military) ... without even getting close to solving the problem or considering the fact that lead supplies are limited and such an extraordinary demand would send prices to the stratosphere.

196:

(whistles and tries to look innocent)

So, um, there's a mob called D-Wave that will sell you a 128 qubit quantum adiabatic computer if you have the cash for it. Ten to one it quietly fizzles, but if they're onto something it will be big in some hard problems, like machine learning. I will in any case be looking out for some seriously creepy applications of conventional computing by google, facebook, etc. Google this year had an impressive demo in which they fed a cluster a huge number of images from the internet and it spontaneously came up with quite an accurate concept of what a cat looks like.

Also, it's robot-time. Watch as they invade the service sector! (Re: making guns, CNC-milling is boring but effective, but lost-PLA casting might be interesting enough to create a stir.)

These are interesting technical developments that I'm sure will be in the news this year.

197:

The robots-taking-our-jobs thing has a paradoxical corollary, noted by some futurists (I'm thinking of Jamais Cascio here): the jobs least likely to be automated or robotized out of existence are "pink collar" jobs -- carers, nurses, hair stylists, and general personal services that require a developed sense of empathy and the ability to relate to other people. These are jobs which aren't automatable, short of achieving human-equivalent artificial intelligence with a decent theory of mind and some equivalent of mirror neurons.

In short: the future of work is sensitive. And, on current showing, female.

198:

"A sensible alternative would have been to have taken the electronic guts of the MRA.4 program and shoe-horn them into a converted Airbus A319, or just buy off-the-shelf Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime recon aircraft."

In short: No. You must never contract out your airborne radar systems to any other country ever. (Especially not the United States.)

Airframes, engines, even actual weapons such as the Tomahawk and even Trident, but the radar system is the only system that you must never let anyone else see as it represents your entire capability to see an enemy. If your Radar system is a "Bought In" design like the Erieye, it is invariably a de-rated version of what the design is really capable of that you then modify to the best of your air force's ability and budget.

Every other parameter of an aircraft can eventually be guessed at by simple analysis of it's shape, or known state of the art in engine performance, which is pretty simple to find out about as the majority of the innovations in jet engine design originate in or wind up being used in civilian aviation to make money. When a "military" engine is claimed to develop more power than a civilian version, it is usually done by burning more fuel and trashing the engine life in terms of hours between overhaul, which for the military is not a problem but for an airline represents money.

The Airbus A319 is a bit useless in the role you envisage as it is waaaay too large: A better idea is a business jet or regional airliner platform:

Hence, we see aircraft like the Embraer R-99 with a Radar module bodged on the roof. (That isn't from the US, by the way, and that is why countries like Pakistan like it.)

199:

"4: Solar is never going to be dirt cheap. Not ever. Economically, it is going to look a heck of a lot like nukes. - high capital, low running costs."

Which factors makes solar (and wind and, to a lesser extent, nukes) a price-taker in the sort of liberalised energy markets that have been en vogue for the last few decades.

This difference is a large part of why commercial operators don't want anything to do with them - who cares about fuel costs if those costs can be passed downstream because the characteristics of your generation plant (gas fired peaking plant - I'm looking at you) means that you are a price maker?

As a corollary to this, most of the benefit of energy production technologies which have a marginal unit price of near-as-dammit-zero (eg nukes, wind, solar) is a general reduction in the price that the wider economy pays for its energy inputs. Very little of this value is captured by the owner of the energy production facility. Consequentially you have a special interest group who are strongly motivated to push for anything that keeps (cheap to build, expensive to run) fossil plants as a dominant feature of the energy production landscape and no countervailing push from the (expensive to build, cheap to run) wind/solar/nuke side of the argument.

Regards
Luke

200:

RD South @ 190
Very funny ... "& a gun" is obviously a (mild) trolling attempt.
Might work in the USSA, but erm, not in Europe, where we don't have (many) guns .....
"Mecca next" - not it's not inevitable, especially if it becomes rapidly obvious that the nuking-group is Shi'a & therefore nothng to do with Wahabi Sunnism. Erm, err .....
[ See NOTE ]

Andreas @ 191
You forgot the worst problem of all with 3-D printing:
Cumulative dimensional error(s) building up in successive scans/lay-downs. This is one of the fundamental problems of Measurement at any significant degree of accuracy, particularly if you want either your measurement &/or your construction to be PRECISE as well as ACCURATE ( NO, they are NOT the same!)

p-f-h @ 196
Very interesting. That really is a positive Black Swan, isn't it? I note D-wave are based in Canada, not the USSA, also v. interesting.

[ NOTE: Can someone please take a stab at my other points in #179??
What is/are the unlikely-but-need-watching for prognostications for next year (& the very near future). This is what our GH actually asked, after all!

Meantime, we are still circling around a couple of the usual suspects, in the form of the same-old attractors in this discussion ... guns / military hardware / future conflicts - very much "boys toys-boring". Elsewhere, social policing is an interesting one, but the discussion is getting a little fraught there.

201:

The SR-71 and U-2 had differing use profiles; the U-2 was intended for long overflights deep into hostile territory at very high altitude, often going from one side of a country to another to land in a friendly US airbase several thousand miles from where it took off. The SR-71 was a fuel-hog at speed and altitude; it didn't cruise at Mach 3, it sprinted in and out across hostile borders limiting its intelligence-gathering range to places like naval bases and border airfields. A typical SR-71 operation involving 8 to 12 hours in the air with two or three intelligence-gathering incursions required a fleet of tankers orbiting in safe airspace and as many as eight refuelling operations per flight. The financial cost of a single SR-71 operation was probably a significant fraction of the price of a Keyhole satellite build and launch.

202:

You forgot the worst problem of all with 3-D printing:
Cumulative dimensional error(s) building up in successive scans/lay-downs.

I don't think successive scans/lay-downs will be the main mode of 3d printing. Most 3d blueprints will be created as designs, not as scans. Even if you base your blueprint on a scan, you would scan an original and not a copy.

203:

I'm going to risk a card and pick up your response to mine. Promise I'll be polite dear moderators and I'm sorry if this is over the line!

Situations such as those you're cherry picking where you're causing deaths of others strike me as criminal negligence, negligent manslaughter that kind of thing. Causing the death of another, through stupidity or otherwise, can certainly be a crime - but it's already an existing crime.

The problem with "stupidity is a capital offence" as a statement IMO is that it is nearly always interpreted in a way that suggests dying is a crime - which is wrong anywhere that I know about. Dying, however you die, isn't a crime on your part - if you are killed by another doing the killing is (usually) a crime. And stupidity is not a defence.

As for runaway global warming effects not happening this year - I think that's a semantic argument as presented. Is a year with 10% more rainfall (in the UK) that 2012 a non-linear runaway effect? Does it have to be 100% more rainfall? How about if we flip-flop and have the driest year on record by the same margin over the previous record that 2012 between the wettest record by? My guess is, as in my original statement, that we'll see more extreme weather again. But whether that will meet your definition I don't know. And honestly I don't know if we'll be able to tell for a decade or two when we can sensibly plot short-term climate histories and say "that's the point it really went berserk."

204:

#194 - In earlier threads IIRC and IIUC (I should since I was a contributor) the idea was more using 3D printing to get round issues with legislative bans on large box magazines.

#198 - Seconded, except that a Comet III would be at least 50% bigger physically than an Embraer 145 (probably more like twice the size, based on flying in the 145 and the Comet at East Fortune). Also, the Nimrod was not just a surveillance platform, but an all-round anti-submarine and anti-ship (particularly in the stillborn MR4A guise) aircraft hauling radars, MAD, several hundred sonobouys, torpedoes, depth charges, Harpoon, Sidewinder (or more likely ASRAAM now, and possibly getting an in-service conversion for Meteor BVRAAM)... Leave the radar and MAD at home, and Embraer still don't offer anything as capable.

#201 - I think Charlie and I are both using a military value of "cruise" in reference to the SR-71. Also, guess what type holds the record for the fastest trans-Atlantic flight, at under 2 hours from "clear for take-off" to "weight on wheels"!? My maths makes that an average of about 1500mph including the take-off run, climb to altitude, and having to be back subsonic in the Western Approaches.

205:

Nuclear weapon use? I would guess not THIS year, but soon is only too possible, though reading the tea-leaves from N.Korea suggests that that particular risk is dropping.
I'd like to hope so, and note that today's Glasgow Herald quotes Kim Jung-un as having used the "P word" in relation to the Korean War (Note to USians; a holding ceasefire is not the same as a formal end to hostilities).

However, what is the likelihood of a religious fundie eschatological nutter using one on Tel Aviv? NOT a good prospect - & what happens after that?
I think lower than the prospect of one of the relevant heresy (used advisedly, and yes I do know Muslims who would at least not argue the word's use here) actually getting one and having the wherewithal to get it into Israel in the first place.
If not that they mercifully don't do that sort of thing, I'd think a Hasidic going nuclear on Tehran or Mecca during the Hajj would be more possible.

206:

Um, not so much. You have a specialized understanding of black that comes up against illegal. That's not how it works.

As for the Aurora, what's going on with that are persistent observations of some bizarre aero(space)planes, thought to be high-speed successors to the SR-71. In 1985, there was a $455 budget line item for "black aircraft production" termed "aurora." (Reference.

The black plane community conflated the name and the sightings.

According to Bob Rich, formerly head of Skunk Works, "Aurora" was the budget code for the flyoff that resulted in the contract for the B-2 bomber. I was wrong that it wasn't the B-2 flight test, it was a call for prototypes to land the contract. They did the same with the F-117.

The is no Aurora plane, per se. It's simply a convenient label for outsiders to use on a plane that (if it even or still exists) is still in the black projects list.

207:

Apparently the first ever flight of a plane powered by a revolutionary pulse detonation engine is this:
http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123099095
That is, it achieved 120mph at 100 feet altitude for the first time in history in 2008.
Obviously no Black project using PDEs ever flew before this

208:

It's not clear that the SR-71 ever flew over the Soviet Union; the D-21 was developed for reconnaissance in the interior of China, which suggests that SR-71 wasn't cleared to fly there either.

SR-71 was definitely used over Vietnam and its neighbours, out of Okinawa, and over the Warsaw Pact out of Lakenheath, but it wasn't allowed to go up against the Voyska PVO.

209:

I did not mean that there was no accounting; I meant that very few people "off project" would know what codeword MACH5 JOHNSON actually referred to. If you believe that to be illegal, then you have a different understanding of illegal to me.

And of course I'd take Bob Rich's word as to where codeword Aurora came from; in fact I'd be suspicious about the knowledge of anyone who wouldn't.

210:

I've always wondered if there was an SR-71 out there decked out for very fast small package/key personnel delivery.

211:

Yay! One prediction proven wrong! We're not going over that fiscal cliff thingie (well, technically, we did, but Congress retonned it last night). Anyone want to start a pool on how close to midnight each of the subsequent fiscal cliffs will be avoided? And how much every pol's approval rating will drop each time they pull this stunt?

212:

The SR-71 was a bear to get into the air and after landing. 4 or more hours of prep before takeoff and a lot of work after landing. Much of it fueling related.

And the crew basically wore space suits. And had very little room to move in their seats.

And the plane was designed to operate at speed. The skin had to expand from heat before the airframe became fully flight ready.

And there was no cargo or empty space anywhere. Unless you removed the cameras.

Package/personnel pickup seems a bit of a stretch.

To Charlie's comment about it being gold plated. From what I've read it had a very low head count requirement per plane for operations compared to most any other military jet. Which was one reason no one in the USAF wanted to run the squadrons. You don't get ahead commanding small groups of people plus you can't tell anyone what you are doing.

The SR-71 had a mission. It worked at well it. It was relatively cheap. It was retired in favor of sats once and brought back when it became obvious that sats can't be tasked to do certain things on a moments notice. It finally went away when drones got "real". Then the economics made sense. You could afford to loose a few drones and still beat the price of ST-71 missions.

213:

the U-2 was intended for long overflights deep into hostile territory at very high altitude, often going from one side of a country to another to land in a friendly US airbase several thousand miles from where it took off.

It is my understanding that until the U-2 shoot down all flights over the USSR were in and out circular loops. Mostly along the southern border.

The Powers flight was the first one where they decided it was OK to risk in on the south and out on the north so they could get some pics of some areas deep in the SU.

Once the USSR air defenses saw the nearly straight line flight path they were able to set up a better shot. And it hit.

214:

Anyone want to start a pool on how close to midnight each of the subsequent fiscal cliffs will be avoided?

I'll take all bets on times after midnight. All sides think their way or the highway. Thus until the edge is reached all sides are waiting for the others to "see the light".

I had "both sides" in my initial typing but realized there are really multiple sides in this debate. D's in the house have 1. R's in the house have 2. Then there are the D's and R' in the Senate for 2 more. Then the WH for 1 more makes 6. In very broad terms the can be thought of as 2 sides but during negotiations all six tend to come out and stake their ground.

215:

One of these days when OGH decides to allow the discussion I'll drop my opinions on the entire rape/victim issue. My wife having served on the board of a local rape crisis center for 5 years or so gave us some interesting insights into the issue.

216:

That's not how I read it, but whichever. That's what classified is about in any case--the details aren't outside. Highly classified ("black") simply means the vehicle's existence itself is classified, while other programs (like the Joint Strike Fighter) are known, but their internal anatomy is classified.

Still, this is the truth about "Aurora." There isn't a plane with that name. It was simply a line-item in the 1985 budget. When they declassify whatever those planes are (assuming they exist), we'll find out the proper name for them.

217:

I don't get why Obama doesn't just exile all Tea Party members to Guantanamo Bay and be done with them...

Seriously, how is the US government supposed to spread the benefits of democracy in the world while they have such ridiculous charades going on in congress?

218:

Obama can't exile the Tea Party, any more than Bush could exile the democrats. Remember that this silliness is far preferable to a non-functional dictatorship.

My personal grumble about Obama is that he's obviously never studied judo. I'd be happier if he added to their self-destructive momentum by strategic compromise, instead of giving them yet another chance.

To be fair, the tea party has a good point about cutting spending in the longer term. When and how they want to do it is beyond stupid, but we do need to get the budget under control.

Sad to say, some public radio pundit was saying Boehner will likely keep his chair tomorrow. So sad.

219:

And on the other side if we just increase taxes on "pick your group" we can pay for all this stuff. Because inside the belt line 2+2 can really equal 8 or 10 or 20 or whatever number we pick.

We're spending more than we're willing to pay in taxes. Nearly everyone has that position. The TP just vocalizes it more loudly than others.

Not that I agree with TP tactics or all the motives and/or goals of many of its adherents. Many of their idea will put most of us in the poor house. Just along a different path than some of the other groups.

That farm bill extension that was just passed as a part of this deal. It makes sure the price of milk doesn't double by keeping dairy farmer subsidies intact. So we pay $3.50 for a gallon of milk at the store. That should cost $7.00 except for federal subsidies. But we only pay $2.50 in taxes for the subsidy that costs us $3.50. And we do this everywhere in our economy. At some point the house of cards will fall down.

220:

If Obama simply spends the next 4 years blocking Republican looniness it will be sufficient.

221:

Sad to say, some public radio pundit was saying Boehner will likely keep his chair tomorrow. So sad.

Just who would you like to take it from him?

As much as I dislike his leadership I'm not so sure that anyone else can run this school yard recess simulation any better.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recess_%28TV_series%29

Note that Pelosi has stated that she will not cooperate with the R's on much of anything. Although this last vote was a break with that. But then again I'm not sure she talked to any R's before the vote.

222:

The SR-71 Blue Riband run included a refuelling "stop" halfway across the Atlantic where the SR-71 dropped speed and altitude to rendezvous with a tanker. It also topped up after takeoff as the SR-71 was too heavy and the engines not powerful at sea level for it to take off with full tanks and I believed it tanked up again as a precaution after it reached the British coast, a total of three tankers to support one aircraft flight in a straight line. That's why its average speed point to point was so slow, not much faster than Concorde.

As for the cost of operation of the SR-71 I remember reading that the specially-formulated JP-7 fuel for the SR-71 cost about as much as single-malt Scotch. A fuelling accident with a tanker mistakenly loaded with regular JP-4 brought one SR-71 down.

223:

The bigger problem with the SR-71 is that it leaked fuel on the ground. That whole plane was designed to fly at just under melting temperature (caused by air friction at high speed). While the fuel system was sealed at that temperature, metal shrinks when it cools, and as a result, fuel was leaking from the plane when it took off. I recall seeing the leakage filmed by a TV crew back in the late 80s/early 90s.

If I recall right, the SR-71 took off partially fueled and leaking, topped off early once the system sealed up better, then took off, refueling repeatedly. It was (is?) a thirsty bird.

I may be wrong, but I also thought the SR-71 overflew the Soviet Union repeatedly. The Soviets hated it, but it was flying so high and so fast that the few missiles they could get to lock onto it burned out trying to catch up with it. I've been trying to find the article that said this (an old Smithsonian Air and Space article which isn't online). Apparently MIG pilots kept trying crazy maneuvers to get within missile range of the SR-71, and all failed.

224:

Not a big issue, but I predict that we'll be hearing more about the CIA's Global Response Staff in coming months, especially in regards to Benghazi.

We may also here more about Guam being used increasingly as a US air base, especially for advanced fighters and B-2 bombers, as part of the chess game with China.

225:

@218+219

Do you really believe that austerity will help? It will mainly cut down social expenditures, that is redistribution from wealthy to poor. Meanwhile the really rich sit on their money and enjoy the low inflation rate.

The problem with this is that redistribution from poor to wealthy is built into the capitalist system (the rich getting richer due to interest on debts). If the government doesn't counter that, the system just runs faster to its final crisis.

226:

The "final crisis" may well be that "the economy" does not need 95% of the population.

227:

Exactly; take it from someone who actually knows - Intercepting something moving at 2_000mph ground speed at 70_000 feet is a non-trivial exercise whatever more or less current technologies you have.

Incidentally, the SR-71 programme resulted in the USSR building 1186 MiG-25 Foxbats and about 400 MiG-31 Foxhounds, and still achieving no kills!

228:

I said:
Not that I agree with TP tactics or all the motives and/or goals of many of its adherents. Many of their idea will put most of us in the poor house. Just along a different path than some of the other groups.

To which you asked:
Do you really believe that austerity will help?

How does this question apply to my statement?

229:

You think that an economy running for just 5% of the population is sustainable?

230:

You said:
We're spending more than we're willing to pay in taxes. Nearly everyone has that position.

Sorry if I misinterpreted that as a call for austerity.

231:

The problem is we do need austerity, once the economy has picked up. The better way to do it seems to be to spend to grow the economy, harvest back that spending from increased taxes on the new growth (not necessarily increased tax rates) once the economy is going again, and get rid of the incentive spending once it has served its purpose.

This is, effectively, an austerity--spend relatively less in good times, relatively more in bad. The problem we've had is that when times are good, spending goes up, and incentives are rarely cancelled.

Trying to use austerity during a down-time doesn't work so well. Keynes figured that out a long time ago, and unfortunately, the TP doesn't seem to believe him.

232:

Getting back to the original question, I just realized that one thing we won't see from the major media is connections.

The particular connections I never see raised are between development and water or other infrastructure. There is this general notion in the among politicians and in the media that, once homes or businesses are built, the water will somehow show up. It's a neat trick, and while I give a lot of credit to water managers for being really clever, they're also up against some massive stupidity--consumers like me who like long showers, to give one sad example.

While I'm happy that the media are finally seeing connections between weird weather and global warming, it may be a while before they're comfortable talking about food prices and political instability, or oil and politics (see discussion above), and many others.

What other obvious connections won't get reported?

233:

Over here, we're getting the same issues from "Call me Dave", aka "Posh Boy" or "Lord Snooty".(expn for USians http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Snooty )

234:

You said:
We're spending more than we're willing to pay in taxes. Nearly everyone has that position.

Sorry if I misinterpreted that as a call for austerity.

My call is for everyone to wake up and realize that you can't get $1.25 in government benefits while paying only $.75 in taxes. And after soaking the rich you're still short.

People who think that cutting welfare will balance the budget are wrong.

People who think that soaking the rich will balance it are wrong.

And as the other commenter noted, we (the electorate and politicians) want simple one time fixes.

And don't even bring up my distain for people who want to not pay the government bonds as they were against the spending at the time. Welfare was the issue, not military. Or reverse it if you like.

235:

The implication being that the Valkyrie would have made a fine nuclear bomber.

236:

"You think that an economy running for just 5% of the population is sustainable?"

Not now, but with a good series of AIs and full automation, then yes. All production would be owned by the 0.1% and everyone else would be on minimum wage or unemployed.

237:

The RAF flew Canberra missions over the Soviet Union from the summer of 1952 until 1956 when the U-2 took over.

The Canberra made the first non-stop unrefuelled transatlantic crossing by a jet in 1951, and was used to deliver film of the Coronation to the USA in 1953. The MiG-15 could fly slightly higher, and rather faster but couldn't quite make successful interceptions.

It was in 1956-57 that first Soviet SAMs came into service. Both the recce Canberras and the U-2 could fly high enough to be a difficult target. The U-2 could fly higher, but was slower, which gave the missile system more warning time.

238:

you can't get $1.25 in government benefits while paying only $.75 in taxes.

I take your point but question the language. We're not talking about "benefits" as if it's only welfare or such like. It's the entire apparatus of the public sector. The statement also ignores huge sections of economic theory. Not least because it also says nothing about timescales or borrowing from the future to pay for the present.

239:

All production would be owned by the 0.1% and everyone else would be on minimum wage or unemployed.

And where are the incentives for the unemployed not to hang the 0.1% from the next tree? Or poison the food that the minimum-wage people prepare for the 0.1%? Or sabotage any machinery they can get their hands on?

240:

The Soviet Union could have intercepted SR-71 overflights of the Rodina if they had been willing to pay the price by using nuclear-armed interceptor missiles, either ground-launched or air-launched. From what I understand though most SR-71 missions involving the Soviet sphere of influence were flown over Warsaw Pact territories where the use of high-altitude nukes would have been a very different matter.

As for building lots of fast jets like the MiG-25, they weren't built primarily to intercept the SR-71 but to defend the Motherland against the Western capitalist forces that surrounded and threatened it, and they succeeded in that role quite well.

241:

The answer is a state where the biggest employment sector is security services of various sorts. Plus total surveillance.

242:

My call is for everyone to wake up and realize that you can't get $1.25 in government benefits while paying only $.75 in taxes. And after soaking the rich you're still short.

I don't see any problem in receiving $1.25 from the government while you and heteromeles each pay $.75 in taxes. ;-)

Anyway, governments have more than one way to balance their expenditures:
- income taxes
- indirect taxes
- credit
- money press

Each has different effects for the distribution of wealth.

243:

Wont work. Even if robots and AI do most of the surveillance, some people will appropriate some of those for the resistance. You get a hi-tech asymmetric civil war, but no sustainable form of government.

Hint: how many stories do you know where the hero uses superior technology to suppress the people and stop revolutionaries from achieving liberté, égalité and fraternité?

244:

#235 - Yes, certainly. In fact, were it not for ICBMs, cancelling the Valkyrie would have been the USA's biggest strategic arms mistake.

#237 Para 2 - All true, with the note that the MiG-15 was a point interceptor, and had to launch at the right time to achieve a climb to altitude to make the intercept, so it was effectively a very slow SAM.

#240 Para 2 - A bit like how that mixture of milk and rhubarb you pour over your gateposts keeps the elephants away? ;-)

245:

"You get a hi-tech asymmetric civil war, but no sustainable form of government."

No, there is no civil war. There is crime, and big prison populations but people are still left with something to lose. Nobody will starve, everyone will have their entertainment and if you annoy the govt it might fuck up what crappy credit rating you have. So the revolution is postponed, forever.

246:

you can't get $1.25 in government benefits while paying only $.75 in taxes.

I take your point but question the language. We're not talking about "benefits" as if it's only welfare or such like. It's the entire apparatus of the public sector.

OK. Since you didn't ask but assumed I'll clarify. To me "benefits" include, welfare, roads, post office, schools, charity deductions, mortgage interest deduction (I'm a big user of that one), police, arm forces, judicial systems, records (deeds and such), disaster aid for uninsured for big disasters (sorry if that tornado that wiped you out wasn't big enough, you're screwed) and on and on and on. I think I'm realistic in what I call a benefit. And yes I do like the ones I personally get. And yes I do understand this personally as I get to deal with public officials second had as much of my income comes from architects, many of which do public works buildings. And first hand as I re-arrange the dirt in my yard and get to have conversations with the erosion control police till I'm done. (Actually the lady I deal with is very nice and reasonable. It's my neighbors who seem to not understand that my yard has to drain SOMEWHERE. And where it has been draining for over 50 years gets to be the default. But that's another story.)

The statement also ignores huge sections of economic theory. Not least because it also says nothing about timescales or borrowing from the future to pay for the present.

That works as long as economic growth deals with the gap. But when the gap gets too wide big problems occur down the road. And we're working on making the gap plain ole freaking huge. At least in the US.

247:

There seems to be a conversation starting (continuing, really) about deficit spending.
I speak here of the US, which I am most familiar with.

Conservatives are ideologically opposed to effective government. They think it is a slippery slope to socialism, so they say they believe government is inherantly inefficient and then prove it by making sure it is. The liberals also believe active government is a slippery slope to socialism, and they are happy about it, but they are happy for it to be inefficent as long as it is getting big. Ideology again.

Effective government does more with less because it is practical not ideological. Much of the inefficiency comes from quasi-governmental institutions. The idea seems to be that it is somehow a nod to market forces to make these horrible hybrids. Food stamps for instance. Instead of leveraging its economy of scale and opening a chain of free soup kitchens, available to anybody desperate enough to go there, the government essentially hands out money that you can theoretically only spend on food. This supposedly is a getting the market involved and keeping it from being socialism. Same things with health care. Just running free clinics would probably be cheaper than the medicare system.

But really,the best example is the USPS. Conservatives purposely hobble the post office

http://www.salon.com/2012/03/14/congresss_war_on_the_post_office/singleton/

then point at what they undermined and say, "see, inefficient government." And why didn't the liberals fix it when they could?

248:

No, there is no civil war. There is crime, and big prison populations but people are still left with something to lose. Nobody will starve, everyone will have their entertainment and if you annoy the govt it might fuck up what credit rating you have. So the revolution is postponed, forever.

Noone starves? That would be a new one. Still, for that inequality you describe (0.1% owning everything, 99,9% just get bread and entertainment), you need some compelling stories to justify it. To sustain a rule, you need cultural hegemony, otherwise the discontent will erode your power no matter how many weapons you have.

249:

Noone starves? That would be a new one

I think Dirk is referring to some hypothetical post-scarcity dystopia where the vast majority of labour is automated and the few unautomated jobs belong to the people who own the robots. In this scenario I'm guessing the prison and starvation comment was hinting at the idea that because the majority of people have no employment prospects they slide into poverty which (for some reason) gets them moved into a five star prison where they are guarded by robots who cook their gourmet food and generally keep them alive but out of the way of the rich.

I'm beginning to think I've heard this story before...
http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

250:

No, I am referring to a "post scarcity" society where there is a wealth disparity that is vast beyond anything we have now, but the plebs still live like fat Westerners. We can have any cheap crappy toys we want, as much entertainment as we can suck up, and nothing else. The dominant cultural theme being fear of losing it, so we better secure everything. Rocking the boat gets your subsistence state money cut off because you are an ungrateful workshy parasite leaching off your hard working "betters" who pay all the taxes so you can live a life of idle luxury.

251:

So pretty much Kuwait, except with robots instead of oil?

252:

Generally: or anything?

El @ 203
Nice one! You noticed! Does anyone else "get" the argument?

253:

It's simple to deploy PV so that it doesn't put additional burdens on the grid. Size the installation so that 90% (or 95%, 99%...) of the time, production is less than local consumption, and don't even try to do net metering, feed in tariffs, or storage. You're simply shaving consumption, and the utility company needs/deserves compensation for reduced demand no more than if you installed more efficient appliances. It should be possible to scale PV to hundreds of terawatt hours annually on this basis if it's distributed globally.

Manufacturers of wafers, cells, and modules continue to face low or negative margins, but the rest of the solar industry seems to be doing pretty well, and it's still setting wattage records each year.

254:

I'm not convinced. If the situation is so bad for the average member of the unemployed public then at least some of the democratic nations will remedy the situation by voting in legislation to protect the basic income guarantee (or variation thereof) and regulate the negative consequences of the wealth disparity (a prominent example being how to allocate specific rather than generic items when most people have the same wealth e.g. Luxury homes might be cheap as chips to build but who gets one by the Thames?).

If any of the x%ers object strongly simply replace them with some of the unemployed masses. So long as some nations form a model like this others can follow.

255:

The big issue with solar and affecting the existing grid is what happens when a large number of people get their sunlight blocked for whatever reason? Since that can happen fairly quickly (cloud, eclipse, Mr Burns), it means a sudden, and large, increase in draw. And that tends to cause problems.

That's the current situation in at least some of the Hawaiian islands, where PV installation is hampered by new installations having to pay for an inspection to ensure that it wouldn't result in such problems (being paid for by the customer, not the electric company). (This on top of them recently raising their rates due to solar.)

(Solar water heating is everywhere, as well.)

256:

I don't have a list, but I wouldn't be too suprised to hear a lot more about ukip. The uk might even leave the european union, as polls increasingly support. Who wants to be associated with failure?

257:

That doesn't sound any more compelling than what Ceausescu told his fellow Romanians and look how he ended.

258:

Yes, just like any American can be president of the USA. Doesn't take money, does it? And who has all the money?

259:

Hawaii has a feed in tariff for solar, so there's an incentive to size installations larger than if all production had to be used where it's made. Electricity pricing may well get more complicated to reflect the costs of different actions, like doubling demand without advance warning. But I will be very annoyed if new pricing rules specifically target solar users instead of anyone whose grid demand changes rapidly (using an arc welder, starting a clothes dryer, quick-charging an electric car...).

260:

You sort of fell into my trap there, I was careful to clarify that this wont necessarily happen in every democracy and I deliberately didn't mention the USA which I consider a good example of the worst aspects of modern democracies.

261:

Even if it's very unlikely, the story "anyone can become president of the US" is one of the stories that stabilize the US political system. To justify inequality you either need some kind of religion or the - however improbable - possibility for anyone to cross the line from poor + helpless to wealthy + powerful.

262:

That's what sport, talent shows and the lottery is for.

263:

The response of conventional electricity suppliers will likely be to vastly increase standing charges designed to cover infrastructure, and use these to subsidize the price of the first X kWh of electricity bought in. So any connection to the grid at all will cost a fortune.

264:

Yes, but lotteries wouldn't work in a 99,9% / 0,1% system, would they? Unless the 0,1% give up some of their property as a price for the lottery.

265:

Lotteries would work like they do now. The poor buy the tickets and the rich keep a percentage.

266:

The numbers don't add up. In a 99.9 / 0.1 society the poor don't have enough money to promote someone to wealthy status.

267:

Errr.... No.

The Nimrod MRA.4 mission avionics have AIUI been largely reused in the P-8A Poseidon that is the US next-generation ASW aircraft; it's based on the Boeing 737. The mission system was built by Boeing in both cases; you never know, there may be a P-8 buy for the RAF at some point if the money ever becomes available (which seems somewhat unlikely).

Note that airborne radar is not necessarily a "never reveal, always downgrade" thing - one of the big arguments over the UK purchase of F-35 (for the big flat-tops currently being assembled a few miles NW of OGH) was over access to the original source code. Now agreed, AIUI. Similarly, the RAF is soon to take on some RC-135 RIVET JOINT aircraft to replace the Nimrod R.1; the first foreign customer for the type. Given UK knowledge of existing capabilities, and of US systems (including RAF exchange aircrew) any unsubtle down-tuning would likely be noticed.

Unfortunately "having the source code" is not the same as "having access to the system models, integration rigs, and test harnesses that allow you to modify the software with confidence" - having worked on the radar for the Eurofighter Typhoon, that level of access was made available to all of the contributing countries. But it's not something you just let your local enthusiasts loose on - programming the thing was tricky (hard real-time embedded systems are not easy) and we had engineers from partner nations working on site.

268:

"Ok, I'll bite.

In what way does a "night sun" (unsure of capitalisation) with a linear range of maybe 3 miles outperform an Orion's radar with an omni-directional range of maybe 20 miles (P-3 picked as the best SAR control bird in the Canadian "

I should have made it much more clear that I didn't see different types of aircraft (supersonic, subsonic, rotary wing) as mutually exclusive in the rather complex and endlessly varied search and rescue missions done over our sparsely populated Canadian lands and ocean bits.

When we get a distress radiobeacon signal through Cospas-Sarsat indicating a crash somewhere in the Canadian Arcitc (or even a bit South of the line) this is when it's useful to get a CF-18 as fast as possible to the source. All our special purpose SAR aircaft (CP-140 and CP-140a Aurora and Arcturus) are stationed way down South at CFB Comox and CFB Greenwood and it will take a very, very long time to get those propeller planes up in the Arctic. It's more likely that one of our multi-purpose CC-130s will get there first to drop emergency supplies because one of them will probably be on a mission in the North even though they are officially based way down South at CFB Trenton. And finally a rescue will probably be done by a third or fourth type of craft such as an helicopter, or a bush plane capable of landing on a lake or a tiny clearing.

So, I wasn't saying that a CF-18 (and its handy spotlight) was mainly a SAR craft, but that it was considered here as part of long-range SAR missions involving several craft.

And I was trying to point out that, unlike a rifle or a missile it wasn't "junk" useful only for combat missions, and thus useless if the magic peace fairy waved her wand in 2013.

269:

Or, make a dozen copies of cstross, run them in realtime, and get a new novel every month :)

270:

Here's a random, low probability prediction to make Charlie happy:

Katla,
Hekla, or
Laki

Take your pick.

271:

Andreas @ 261
Like Barack Obama, do you mean?
And look how the Tea-Partiers HATE that sucess!

dirk @ 263
OUT OF DATE
That is, effectively, the set-up we alrady have in the UK, or weren't you paying attention, earlier?

272:

Why does everyone assume the Magic Peace Fairy is female? That's anthropomorphic sexism.

Or even human?

I think of it as more like Loki. Or Coyote.

So I worry about the peace dividend.

Enjoy!

Frank.

273:

you can't get $1.25 in government benefits while paying only $.75 in taxes.

I take your point but question the language. We're not talking about "benefits" as if it's only welfare or such like. It's the entire apparatus of the public sector.

    OK. Since you didn't ask but assumed I'll clarify. To me "benefits" include, welfare, roads, post office, schools, charity deductions, mortgage interest deduction (I'm a big user of that one), police, arm forces, judicial systems, records (deeds and such), disaster aid for uninsured for big disasters (sorry if that tornado that wiped you out wasn't big enough, you're screwed) and on and on and on. I think I'm realistic in what I call a benefit.

I think you're pulling a despicable semantic stunt by calling all that "benefits". Your basic contention that tax revenue is inadequate to cover expenditure, I don't have a problem with. Calling it all "benefits" is ignoring British English usage, which applies the term almost exclusively to welfare payments. Even if you were not aware of that, using the word as you did was misleading, when "expenditure" is a clear and unambiguous term.

274:

I think you're pulling a despicable semantic stunt by calling all that "benefits". ... Calling it all "benefits" is ignoring British English usage, which applies the term almost exclusively to welfare payments. Even if you were not aware of that, using the word as you did was misleading, when "expenditure" is a clear and unambiguous term.

A bit harsh in my opinion. Especially as that's what it is being called by many of the news analysts and commentators. And no I don't follow Fox News. And I made it clear I was talking about the US situation so my usage wasn't following British English. Sorry if that offends you.

But over here in the US a benefit is something that conveys an advantage. My getting to take my mortgage interest deduction certainly give me an advantage. Having a functioning road system gives me an advantage or not. Ditto police, and most any other government service. And yes AIDC, Medicare, Medicaid, SSDI, etc... are all also benefits. Just not to all groups of people.

Which circles back to my point. Here in the US we all want our "benefits" from government at various levels. And we all get benefits of some sort from our governments. But in general we don't want to pay for them and/or we have no idea how much they really cost.

And the Tea Party, in it's origins, is just one reaction to that cognitive dissonance. Tax the rich is another. Cut out waste and fat is another. Cut military spending (except near me) is another.

275:

when "expenditure" is a clear and unambiguous term.

Expenditure is what the government does.

Benefit is what accrues to the citizen. From their point of view it is NOT an expenditure.

276:

So why did you include armed forces as a "benefit"? Blowing shit up in Afghanistan doesn't do anything for Americans.

277:

"how many stories do you know where the hero uses superior technology to suppress the people and stop revolutionaries from achieving liberté, égalité and fraternité?"

Apologies for picking up on a rhetorical point, but this is an SF-authors blog and there *are* a bunch of these in SF.

Just off the top of my head there are the Retief stories, 'Star Viking' by H. Beam Piper, the Falkenberg novels by Jerry Pournelle and then Stephen Stirling, the Honor Harrington books, *yn R*nd's corpus of work... doubtless other posters could extend the list.

Regards
Luke

278:

It's simple to deploy PV so that it doesn't put additional burdens on the grid. Size the installation so that 90% (or 95%, 99%...) of the time, production is less than local consumption

That's a complete non-starter anywhere north of the 60th parallel -- like where I live. (At this time of year we're down to 7 hours of daylight, and the main power draw would be for heating during the long nights, not air conditioning during daytime hours.)

Solar simply isn't a good solution for domestic power at any latitude where domestic heating is required in winter. Yes, we can insulate our homes better -- but that isn't enough if you live somewhere where ambient air temperatures average out below freezing for entire consecutive months at a time.

We've been here before. The real problem is energy storage, rather than energy production.

279:

Yep. There's a strong sub-thread of romantic authoritarianism in SF that frequently goes unexamined but has some really unpleasant implications when you start looking into it. From the classic British cosy catastrophes of John Wyndham or the edgy but misogynistic futures of Edmund Cooper (both English male SF writers of a certain age -- now dead) to their American opposite numbers, for whom aliens were a placeholder for despised non-white races (which surface explicitly in such execrable works as "Sixth Column" by Robert Heinlein -- written to an outline provided by John W. Campbell, and apparently less racist than the original outline demanded) we have a genre populated by unthinking knee-jerk quasi-fascists who pose the question, "wouldn't the world be better if ...?" and then sweep the planet clean of inconvenient obstacles to make it so.

Best parodied in "The Iron Dream" by Norman Spinrad (here reviewed by Ursula K. le Guin), best anatomized by Michael Moorcock in Starship Stormtroopers (recommended reading).

280:

It's not just storage for distributed PV and centralised windfarms, although storage is a lot more expensive than many folks realise and it is only truly essential for renewables. Grid distribution is also becoming a problem as it is required to move temporary surpluses of power to locations in deficit when required.

Existing grids are mostly based on balancing power supply and demand geographically with baseload generating stations built close to the major consumption sinks in large conurbations to reduce the power losses in long grid runs as well as the cost of building such high-capacity feeds. The exception is hydro where power is usually generated some distance from the sinks hence the British Supergrid 400kV "ladder" that runs down from the Scottish Highlands. It would be wasteful to build a nuclear power reactor complex several hundred kilometres from its main customers though.

Distributed PV and wind generation, because of their cyclic and irregular production require access to a more capable grid to move larger amounts of power over longer distances and that will mean expensive upgrades. I recently saw a paper estimating the Germans are going to have to spend between 20 and 40 billion Euros on their grid to cope with the greater penetration of renewables into their electricity generating market. This upgrade won't produce any more electricity, it just makes it possible to move what is generated to where it is needed by increasing capacity on existing routes. That cost is over and above maintaining and upgrading the existing grid facilities as would normally be carried out over time.

281:

I think some of it is a reflection of WW2. "If we can get organised, we can do anything." Britain ran a better-organised war economy than Germany. Winning the war needed some hugely complicated military operations to succeed. And all that needed an authoritarian streak in the thinking.

And then, invisible until the very end, there was the Manhattan Project.

It all sounds rather like science fiction.


And many of the writers seem to forget that central control doesn't really work when you get down to fighting. There's too much information to be transmitted for any All Highest to know enough about what is happening. Maybe "Doc" Smith hinted at it when he wrote of the Galactic Patrol building its command ship, that could control whole fleets like pieces on a chess board. But we don't have Rigellian Lensmen to translate the supreme command's orders.


I'm wary of calling it fascism, crypto- or otherwise, but there is so much that fits.

282:

OK. Fine. Call it a service. Or benefit. The point is government does things for their citizens. That stuff costs. Most US citizens don't have any idea what these benefits/services cost.

The point you've made is that in a large bureaucracy some groups will do things that a non trivial number of people will not like or agree with. And when the bureaucracy is very large it can be hard to get it to change directions. Especially if you don't want to disturb the other functions being performed by said bureaucracy. Even if you get a solid majority who wants the change.

283:

This is one of the reasons why it's been suggested that the renewables sector should be built for local over-supply, and surpluses "wasted".

I don't have a good roof-alignment for solar PV, but just dumping energy into the electric storage heaters we have would be the simplest way to use whatever is generated in winter. There's a time-switch which keeps the circuits disconnected during daytime, and it wouldn't be hard to have such a switch connecting to the solar during the day, and using what is available.

That doesn't need electricity storage.

Summer comes, and the available uses become harder. In many places outside the UK, pumping water from a well to a storage tank would give you a nano-Dinorwic. But you would have to plan that into building construction. And according to the back of this here envelope, you don't store that much energy. Electrolysis of water to get hydrogen and oxygen? Every home a Hindenburg: I don't think so.

Anyway, Register story here on the idea that renewable over-capacity is cheaper than storage. I'm not sure they can rely on their assumptions about costs, but it does suggest that a solution needs some outside-the-box thinking.

284:

Now, where did I say that?

Maybe I shouldn't have read the newspaper my father gets this morning. They're always pulling the tricks you seem to be using. I've been sensitised....

285:

I have a friend with PV on the roof (at about the same Latitude as you Charlie; the difference is certainly under 1 second), and they're still a net consumer this time of year (based on the meter mostly running forwards even in sunlight).

286:

Para 2 - Dunno either way off-hand but would trust this source; reasoning below.

Paras 3 and 4 - Agreed, with informed background including real-time software and some radar processing.

287:

Ah right; if you're doing that sort of detail only search then yes a fast mover with some loiter on site is better than a turboprop that won't be there until after the fast mover has located the site.

I'm less convinced that it's much if any better than a high subsonic jet that can manage a loiter longer than the fast mover's total sortie time.

Part of my objection was that I thought that you believed that our SAR community wanted to do helicopter-only searches. This is a mistake in the view of everyone except bean-counters!

288:

#273 and #274 - UKian, who would qualify "benefits" as "welfare benefits" if he was referring exclusively to healthcare, pensions and unemployment related payments.

In the main, I'd agree with David L that an unqualified "benefits" in the context of government expenditure means "expenditure to benefit the body politic". For instance, one of the functions of the Royal Navy and RAF helicopter squadrons is supplying airborne SAR backup to our mostly volunteer Mountain Rescue units.

289:

Great reading, thanks. Still it seems that most of these stories replace the oppressed with evil aliens or otherwise de-humanize the oppressed. I'm not sure that this would work in the 99.9 / 0.1 society that Dirk described. Those stories seem best suited to provide identity to a privileged middle-class that looks down on deviants and up to their "betters".

290:
Just running free clinics would probably be cheaper than the medicare system.

As it happens, a UK-style NHS costs the government pretty much exactly the same per capita as US-style medicare/medicaid.

Of course, NHS is free at point of use to everyone, while in the US people spend once again that much (on average, very much on average) to pay the difference.

291:

Solar simply isn't a good solution for domestic power at any latitude where domestic heating is required in winter. Yes, we can insulate our homes better -- but that isn't enough if you live somewhere where ambient air temperatures average out below freezing for entire consecutive months at a time.

This may be a bit pessimistic, it depends how cheap solar power becomes. If it really is on an exponential decrease over a short amount of time, it may become so cheap that you can use it for thermal storage heaters - storing heat is easier than storing electricity.

292:

This may be a bit pessimistic, it depends how cheap solar power becomes. If it really is on an exponential decrease over a short amount of time, it may become so cheap that you can use it for thermal storage heaters - storing heat is easier than storing electricity.
Which is neat in Winter, when the availability of insolation is lowest, but not so useful in Summer, when the availability of insolation in Scotland is typically 0.75 up to 0.99, and the requirement for heating or air conditioning is typically close to 0.00.

293:

Not out of date. The kind of "standing charge" I am talking about is not something that makes up 10% of the average household bill but 90% or higher. With the actual "cost" per kWh of the first 1000 kWh in any given quarter being (say) 2p instead of 15p.

294:

"We've been here before. The real problem is energy storage, rather than energy production."

Or transcontinental grids.

295:

The SR-71 was the X-men's vehicle of choice. Of course, for them it was roomy enough to carry the whole team, with standing room. I guess comic books about people who can shoot beams out of their eyes get a pass on accuracy.

The Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater used a SR-71 for insertion of an operative into Soviet Territory. They stuff him into a bomb sized canister with parachutes, iirc, so that's a bit more realistic. That whole game is full of 60s era sci fi tech that actually existed: The ekranoplan, the blackbird, those kooky one person flying platforms, etc.

Regarding victim blaming, it's fun when Judge Dredd arrests the victim of a mugging as well as the attackers for wearing conspicuously expensive knee pads in the wrong block, but in the context of 11 year old gang rape victims... it just doesn't scan.

Dredd is one example of repressive "hero" using high tech to keep the masses in place. There always was an interesting dynamic between the writers who wanted him to be likeable and those who wanted him to be a monster, which serendipitously ended up giving the character some real human depth in his contradictions.
Dredd is a monster, but he lives in a world where everything really is as terrible as can be.
To quote the man himself after the last crisis that killed 450 million citizens: "We didn't protect them. That was the excuse for everything we did, and we failed"

Personally, when (if) we get to a post scarcity society I doubt the rich-on-paper will be able to do more than posture with postional goods. A luxury handbag costing thousands is still, essentially a handbag. The one percent in Roman times could raise armies and conduct their own wars (And like Croesus, die losing them) but even the richest among them did not have access to the healthcare a homeless person today can obtain. I don't see that changing in the opposite direction with even more resources made available universally. If you can't threaten someone with starvation, he can always tell you to stuff it.

296:

What the super rich in a post scarcity society would have is the best houses, most industrial production, all the political power and almost all of the "spare" land.

297:

'This is one of the reasons why it's been suggested that the renewables sector should be built for local over-supply, and surpluses "wasted".'

Yeah this sort of thing has been suggested for 'stranded wind' (use it to power ammonia synthesis) and E.ON are trialling a windfarm in Germany where they route surplus-to-grid-needs energy to an on-site eloctrolysis unit to produce H2 (and ultimately CH4). On the face of it this looks like a potential alternative to doing the sort of multi-billion grid build out mentioned by Nojay, but of course the devil is in the (conversion efficiencies) detail.

Having said that doing wind-to-syngas also mitigates the price-taker issue for renewables that I mentioned upthread. So even if the setup doesn't really make sense in terms of the energetics, it might still happen given the incentives that operate in a 'marketised' energy grid.

298:

Para 1 - In the X-Men stories I've read, the aircraft is just "The Blackbird", and whilst it bears a visual similarity to an SR-71, it's clearly a much larger airframe, simply by accepting 2 abreast seating whilst having similar proportions.
Para 2 - Not played it.
Paras 3 to 6 - I always found the whole "Judge Dredd" concept sufficiently morally repugnant that I've never actually owned a copy of 2000AD, or the collected JD strips.
Para 6 - Following on from Dirk's point in #296, if you own all the agricultural land...

299:

charles stross @ 279

In the linked to article, Moorcock uses the word "libertarian" in an anachronistic way. I don't think he means the USian political party supposedly devoted to Rand's principles but actually even kookier and less honest.

http://www.cato.org/

I suspect it's easier to write from the authoritarian perspective. Writers speak to primal needs in the reader. Hero's have to win because of something special they have (preferably it comes out as a surprise and that's the moral of the tale). If it's the backing of The Man, or superiority from being a Proper Human Being there's a market for that. If it's just being able to out punch any bad guy because your love for the love interest gives you crazy strength, there's a market for it. Though getting to be a brigand and call yourself a freedom fighter is also a good cheap thrill. The real heros are people who work their asses off all life long and patiently try to make the world work better. Hard to present interestingly though. (I don't want to be a hero. When I was a young teen I saw a TV adaptation of Faust and tried to sell my soul. My price was a thermo nuclear war, after which I would be a hero and all the girls would like me. So far, my soul is still mine. But I like reading about them.) Digressing from my digressions.

davidl @ 282 "Most US citizens don't have any idea what these benefits/services cost."

Nobody ever campaigns on raising taxes and reducing benefits. Can't imagine why. But they'll sure claim we need to deal with the deficit, just not by doing anything that would put us in a recession by reducing the deficit. Deficit spending is keeping us out of recession, so we have to keep doing it, but can't we do it smart (intelligently)? No, there's no ideology for that. And also doesn't that tell you there's something else fundamentally wrong?

That's why I think the way they ought to fix the deficit is set the tax rate to have a multiplier based on the ratio between last year's tax reciepts and last year's government expenditures. So, if last year the gov took in 1 trillion and spent 2 trillion, the next year all tax rates multiply by 2/1 =2. If it were then impossible to alter the tax rates any way other than to change the deficit, people would scream for spending reductions so taxes would be lower. And discrepancies still remaining (due to this year's spending not exactly matching last years) will be made up by printing money, not selling bonds. Pipe dream though.

dirkbruerre @296
"What the super rich in a post scarcity society would have is the best houses, most industrial production, all the political power and almost all of the "spare" land."

Like ship Minds in the Culture?

But seriously, they'de have the right to write the laws and practically impose culture on everybody.
Our current super rich seem to want power over others for its own sake, not realizing it isn't power over sheer population that is of true value but power over the future. Or maybe they just want it for security.
But its the power that a lot of us don't like, even the potential power. That's OUR security heebie jeebies.

silburni @297 re storing energy in endothermic chemical reactions

Yeah, if you have enough energy there's no need to have a shortage of liquid fuels for automobiles. But, why not store energy by pumping water uphill? Don't know if it's an efficiency thing, but for huge power grids like are being talked about, just put water in a high altitude reservoir and harness it all the way down. That's the way nature stores IT'S solar power.

300:

Too much power is a good problem to have. It might even be sold off cheaply to stimulate local industry. Solar power in watts per dollar is doubling every 10 years or so article.

301:

"As for the 2nd Iraq war, the fundamental point is that Congress failed to budget any money for the war. "

Because the Bush administration took the line (internally, as well as for PR) that the war would be quick, cheap, and profitable. Later, they funded the war through various temporary measures.

302:

"Sometimes the "victim" really does start the fight"

Charlie, any chance of yellow carding Dirk?
That assumes that you don't red card him, or even better, send an organ harvesting team over to his place :)

303:

Thank you, Charlie!

304:

charles stross @ 279

In the linked to article, Moorcock uses the word "libertarian" in an anachronistic way. I don't think he means the USian political party

Just because in the US some free-market capitalists call themselves "libertarians" does not mean that the word is outdated for left/anarchist movements in the rest of the world.

305:

Must remember to wear my gang colors...

306:

"I don't get why Obama doesn't just exile all Tea Party members to Guantanamo Bay and be done with them..."

Or just the ones who supported Bush doing it. Which should be juuuuuuuust about all of them.

307:

"Yeah, if you have enough energy there's no need to have a shortage of liquid fuels for automobiles. But, why not store energy by pumping water uphill?"

Yup. Do that as well. Let a thousand flowers bloom. It is my understanding that there are topographical factors which place some fairly hard capacity limits on pumped water storage solutions, but I'd be happy to be told otherwise.

Anything that gets zero-carbon energy sources closer to being as despatchable as gas-powered plant is a win in my book, but I do worry about the conversion efficiencies of these schemes (and the consequential overbuild costs you need to factor in).

As I said before, I suspect that there are some incentives in play arising from how we (the UK that is) structure our energy markets that could make 'inefficient' solutions viable and the E.ON example suggests that they might also be a useful alternative to spending gigabux on grid capacity upgrades. Either way these are hopeful developments I think.

308:

If a significant percentage of homes had PV and short term battery backup eg 1 day then load levelling across the grid becomes very easy. The downside is that Big Business has to pay every householder for their services, which encourages more PV which undercuts their market even further.

309:

It is my understanding that there are topographical factors which place some fairly hard capacity limits on pumped water storage solutions, but I'd be happy to be told otherwise.

Yep. Here in NC, USA we have a limited watershed plus most of the state is relatively flat. Which means it doesn't take much of a rainfall shortage in the area for us to get real short of water. All of which makes pumped water for energy one of those things that only works when the weather is just right in a small percentage of the state.

310:

If a significant percentage of homes had PV and short term battery backup eg 1 day then load levelling across the grid becomes very easy.

You must live in areas where the sun doesn't go MIA for very long at a time. Here in central NC and in most other places I've lived in the US a one day battery on the house would run down 5 to 30 times per winter. Ditto the spring. Plus there's that summer we get about every 10 years where it's overcast 95 days out of 100 with drizzle and rain each of those 95 days.

311:

Pumped water is not a good energy store.
1kWh = 3.6 x 10^6J
Which is the same as 360 tonnes of water raised 1 metre.
Or 10 tonnes raised 36 metres

312:

Most of the world does not live at high latitudes.

314:

Late entry for something that will happen this year:
Scientists will take materials to temperatures below absolute zero, which will make greater than 100 percent efficient engines possible.

http://news.yahoo.com/atoms-reach-record-temperature-colder-absolute-zero-193405195.html

315:

Fascinating; "What use is it?" type questions need to be answered "it's useful, but we've not worked out exactly how to use it yet".

316:

Storage of power costs money and wastes energy. The Cruachan project, like the Dinorwig pumped-storage facility can store about 8 GWhrs of energy for the input of about 12GWhr of grid power. Dinorwig cost about a billion bucks US in today's money, Cruachan was about the same and pumped hydro is about the cheapest form of mass power storage going -- sodium-sulphur batteries are about a billion bucks per GWhr, flywheels about the same, ultracapacitors much more expensive than that.

Storing surplus energy by producing dimethyl ether or hydrogen is even lossier than pumped storage and it's a lot more complicated to make work; pumped storage is mainly concrete and geography whereas electro-chemical plant requires maintenance, repair, refurbishment as parts wear out etc. and all this expense doesn't actually generate primary energy, it only balances supply and demand over a period of time.

In contrast a nuclear power plant costs about 6 billion bucks upfront for fifty years of 1.4GW baseload capacity and operating costs of about 3 cents/kWhr with 90% uptime and no CO2 emissions.

317:

You're not supposed to like Dredd or his system, it's a satire of hard right law enforcement fantasies turned up to eleven via science fiction. In many of the classic stories like Chopper or America, Dredd is in fact the antagonist.

>Scientists will take materials to temperatures below absolute zero, which will make greater than 100 percent efficient engines possible.

Oh cool, so they've figured a way around that pesky entropy thing. About time!

318:

And, by a curious co-incidence, both Cruachan and Dinorwig were built for load balancing, particularly with respect to nuclear plants.

Similarly, the still-born Ben Lomond scheme was intended to load balance Torness.

319:

Para 1 - Back in the day, Dredd was always presented as "the hero", rather than as satire.

320:

RDS @ 314
Something really wierd & possibly wrong with that "Yahoo" science report?
Lower than absolute-zero (except not quite) Uh?
More information needed, if it isn't a hoax.

321:

Most of the world does not live at high latitudes.

I'm south of Madrid, Madrid, Rome, Beijng, Seoul, San Francisco, Chicago, NYC, etc...

Weather is my issue with this. And the big year to year variations. Averages mean nothing if every 10 years or so we get a summer that's overcast 90%+ of the time. Ditto spring.

322:

The theory has been around for a long time and I think has been realised in the lab before, too. Some quantum systems can have their entropy decrease as energy in the system increases: this negative coefficient gives rise to a negative temperature in Kelvin for the system (that is, if we want to keep a consistent definition of temperature).

I think all such systems have to use fermions, as they all rely on funky stuff with the Pauli exclusion principle to get the negative coefficient in place.

323:

I'm sorry but objecting to Dredd on ideological grounds is like saying you don't watch Stephen Colbert because you disagree with his politics.

But arguing about it is futile, if you don't see the satire then it's pointless explaining the joke.

324:

If it's a hoax it's very well done, because they managed to publish in Nature:

http://www.nature.com/news/quantum-gas-goes-below-absolute-zero-1.12146

It's all over the place, in all the Web's science or technology publications.

We're just a few days into 2013 and this is probably one of the biggest issues you could imagine in Physics. Surprise!

Other scientific commentators have noted that in this experiment some atoms don't react to gravity as they should. This gets weirder and weirder. it tops the first Bose Einstein Condensate experiment.


325:

"More information needed, if it isn't a hoax."
Yahoo (my homepage since I dumped AOL when I upgraded from dial up and later lost faith in Google plus travelled and saw how popular it is overseas and read that they actually innovated the technology that Google uses) doesn't have a link to the story any more. Also, it cites a Jan 4th article in the real science journal Science that I don't see on the Science website. I'll have to check the library. Surely the next New Scientist will have something.

326:

Here is a great article about pumped storage:
http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11/pump-up-the-storage/

Shorter version: NO.

327:

Yes, here it is.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23042-cloud-of-atoms-goes-beyond-absolute-zero.html

Don't know if you can look at it without a NS subscription or not. Actually quotes the german scientist who is doing this stuff. Says using it outside the lab might be a good long time, but it may shed light on dark energy. I was thinking dark energy was the result of matter falling into black holes and getting converted to universe stretching rather than actually arriving at the singularity. Just shows how wrong you can be when you don't know anything.

328:

COLD or "hot" states ..
I was aware of the theoretical possibility of "funny" energy-states - the actual temperature does not go below -273.15 C, obviously, it just behaves as if it did ... because of the energy/entropy levels.
I'm very suprised that, even in a lab, someone has got it to work, (so soon) but as ndgmtlcd says @ 324 ... it's even wierder than the early experiments with Bose-Einstein condensates.
A lot of people's brains are going to hurt, including mine.
But
The possibilities may be enormous, once we figure out what to do with it.
I'm reminded of that other theoreatical possibility from QM that arrived in 1960, & where the inventor was both penalised by his then employers & also cheated out of the Nobel Prize.
Theodore Maiman.
Now, of course, that invention, a solution looking for a problem, is everywhere.
VERY interesting times.

329:

Got to say I disagree - Dredd has always been satirical. More recently satire has become slap your face in it, Mock The Week style, and it's possible Dredd has entered this stage since I last read it in the 90's. (I like Mock The Week, but it's more slapstick than satire, just slapstick on topical issues.)

But although he was set up to look like the hero - and he certainly was - the whole system he represented was satirically treated and him too. Even some of the most overtly heroic Dredd times - fighting the dark judges say - are wider satires about (particularly US) policy of supporting just about any regime as long as they stood against the communists. A policy that didn't come back to bite them at all.

330:

At some point in the future (and as a biologist I'd say some time in the next decade) someone is going to work out a cheap, effective and easy way to select the sex of one's offspring. The effect of this technology on India, Pakistan and the Islamic countries (everyone who values males over females) will be devastating. Since we'll be in a Tragedy of the Commons sort of scenario, most couples will opt to have only males which will lead to huge levels of violence in the short to medium term, and to demographic/societal collapse in the long term.

As the militant Islamic cultures seem to be the major obvious threat to peace at the minute through being unable to think their way through getting rid of American soldiers the easy way (shut down all violence, greet the soldiers as old friends at every turn and deny them any semblence of a fight; not easy to carry on a war if the enemy refuses to take up arms) then it would not surprise me if there weren't a couple of US-funded biotech projects aimed at gifting the world with this particular poisoned chalice at the soonest possible moment.

331:

@ 330
MUCH TOO LATE
That "technology" is already here ...
It's called, erm... "Female Infanticide"
Why & how did you think their population ratios already got to the sort of numbers they currently are, in the first place? Couple that with dowry murder & you'r very unwell-away.

332:

To the extent the comments above focus on US politics they focus on national politics. Understandable, but I think the most interesting stuff is occurring at the state level. 47 out of 50 states are controlled by one political party. Over half have a veto-proof majority. Because of this in what Americans call "red states" (i.e. states led by the Republican Party) we will likely see a significant decrease in the quality of life for women along two axes: 1. reproductive health 2. economic well being. Someone above noted that violence against women would increase in Islamic nations/nations with large Islamic minorities...in America swap out "islamic" with "evangelical Christian".

And given conservative fear of Obama we'll likely see a significant increase in authoritarian legislation, further leading a significant portion of America down the path to a banana republic.

333:

Infanticide has been around forever but not caused the dramatic skewing seen in recent times in various part of India and other places in East Asia. It is the combo of easily available abortion and cheap ultra sound scanners that has really kicked it off.
I believe that the practise has peaked in South Korea following more opportunities in the workplace for women and government campaigns against it, but in a quick Google search , I cannot find any references that support that view, it may be my memory is at fault.

334:

"As the militant Islamic cultures seem to be the major obvious threat to peace at the minute"

That would be funny, but it's not.


"through being unable to think their way through getting rid of American soldiers the easy way (shut down all violence, greet the soldiers as old friends at every turn and deny them any semblence of a fight; not easy to carry on a war if the enemy refuses to take up arms) "

In the sense of the old saying 'it wasn't a war, it was a slaughter'.


"then it would not surprise me if there weren't a couple of US-funded biotech projects aimed at gifting the world with this particular poisoned chalice at the soonest possible moment."

Huh?

335:

Islam versus the West.
If you want a new perspective on who is causing the trouble look at the respective bodycounts. I think "we" are ahead by at least a factor 100 if not 1000.

336:

#323 - Who or what is a "Stephen Colbert" please? I'm not USian, and don't even have access to Faux News if that helps you any.

#329 - I'm only reporting how the character was originally presented back in the 1980s.

337:

Some of his core assumptions are wrong (particularly about geography), but his base argument is correct that there isn't sufficient suitable terrain in the USA to use pump storage hydro as anything more than a daily load evener.

338:

Can you tell which core assumptions are wrong? BTW, you can post it on his blog as well.

339:

I hadn't realised initially that he took comments, but the last words on that entry read "Comments are closed" anyway, and since I agree his point...

Since you ask, he appears to assume that upper reservoirs for pump storage are normally made from V-shaped valleys.

At least in Norway and the UK, most HE reservoirs are made from U-shaped valleys, or from corries. This approximately doubles your water capacity for a given size of dam and surface area. Of course, it does also depend on having a spare glaciated landscape to do your civil engineering in.

340:

Dirk @ 335.
Yes - at least 20:1, if not often 100:1 in our "favour".
Very odd; during WWII even the fanatical troops of Imperial Nippon started to surrender when the kill-rates got to that state.
So why are the islamic fundies continuing to fight, given theor horrendous casualty rates?
Or is it because it in NOT "pitched battles" but lots of small actions, so that they do not appreciate just what horrible losses they are taking?

It gets worse.
Even after all "western" troops have left Afghanistan, the Talibsn will still have to be dealt with, given their activities in Pakistan (etc), killing women, teachers & medical staff supporting the Polio programme.
If there is any other any body of people currently on this planet of whom one can say that they really are all evil, & need un-brainwashing/imprisoning/killing [as appropriate] I certainly can't think of one - not even the apparatchiks of N. Korea are quite that bad.

341:

Sorry to all of you tree hugging hippie solar energy lovers out there, but 2013 is the year where natural gas from fracking achieves total dominance in the energy market. Its cheaper than coal (with less than half the GHG per kWh generated) cheaper than nuclear, and waaaay cheaper than solar, wind, tides, PVCs or biomass.

Permiting is not much of an issue (providing we get some stricter standards for siting brine disposal wells - or require brine recycling - and improve the quality of qell casing construction). We already have an extensive infrastructure in place to transport natural gas accross the coungtry. Its so cheap American chemical companies who rely on methane as a chemical stock) are exporting chemicals competitively worldwide. It has triggered an industrial renaissance in the Rust Belt where steel mills even in blighted Youngstown, Ohio are workin three shifts to meet demand for piping.

And you can forget about electrical cars. CNG vehicles are far more efficient, cost effective and environmentally safe.

All other forms of energy will be econmically marginalized. We already see the decline of coal in the USA with coal mines shutting down and coal burning elecgtrical plants closing.

342:

"Very odd; during WWII even the fanatical troops of Imperial Nippon started to surrender when the kill-rates got to that state.
So why are the islamic fundies continuing to fight, given theor horrendous casualty rates?"

Because most of the dead we inflict are non-combatants.
For example, in the current "drone war" the US is killing 50 people for every known "terrorist" it kills. So they define any male over the age of 12 and who is in the vicinity as a legitimate target.

343:

"Its cheaper than coal", well until the "fracking causes earthquakes" science is a bit better proven anyway.

344:

I'm not USian either, or British for that matter (Actually, I might be, I gotta check with the nearest embassy, but I've not lived there for over 35 years)

Stephen Colbert is a talk show host and comedian whose schtick is to act like a typical Fox news hyper nationalist right winger*, all freedom fries and rah rah America. His show can be seen online at http://www.colbertnation.com/

* But he isn't really, which was the point I was making.

345:

How does that address my point that if you market yourself as being a hero, but are obviously a Nazi, some people will take your marketing at face value and promptly ignore you for moral repugnancy?

346:

Dredd is doing a fine job keeping the 800 million scum of Megacity 1 under control. All decent citizens should support him and his summary executions. It's a hard, thankless task.

347:

Rubbish. It isn't as if it'll last for decades, and anyway you're completely ignoring global warming and oceanic acidification, which mean that all fossil fuel use needs to be minimised.

348:

dirk @ 342
Got some justification for that awful kill-rate-of-innocents you quoted?
Remember, this is a war, so both sides will be either lying, or at best putting the most favourable rate they can on the numbers.

349:

" Its cheaper than coal (with less than half the GHG per kWh generated) cheaper than nuclear, and waaaay cheaper than solar, wind, tides, PVCs or biomass."

And do these alleged costs include groundwater contamination?

I think not, since the industry spends lots of money and effort to keep that secret.

350:

"Got some justification for that awful kill-rate-of-innocents you quoted?"

Actually, yes. When you officially have a policy that any adolescent/adult male is a comabatant, you're lying.

351:

"Very odd; during WWII even the fanatical troops of Imperial Nippon started to surrender when the kill-rates got to that state.
So why are the islamic fundies continuing to fight, given theor horrendous casualty rates?"

Perhaps you should ask youself - If I were an 'Islamic fundamentalist' in Pakistan (or Yemen, or Oman, or Somalia), just how would I go about surrendering? Wave a white flag the next time I think that a drone is passing by?

352:

You're the 3rd person to reply to Daniel Duffy saying that he's talking male bovine faeces about fracking, and so far none of his replies cover the same point(s) as anyone else raised!

353:

@350
Correct, if true.
Is it true - I mean are the US seriously, publicly claiming that in the area under "study" all males in the specified age-group are presumed enemy?
If so, I'm having difficulty believeing that level of stupid, even for US miltary at their most gung-ho.
Nasty, if true.

Meanwhile what has any of this got to do with predictions for 2013?

354:

There actually was a rumbler outside of Youngstown, Ohio which was due to improper siting of deep injection disposal wells used to get rid of the used brine from the fracking operation (not from the fracking operation itself). The deep inject well was sited in a fracture zone.

Proper siting of deep injection wells (an accepted and proven technique for liquid hazwaste disposal) or recycling the brine solves this problem.

355:

The USGS estimated last year that the eight-state Marcellus region contains some 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas, far more than its 2002 assessment of just 2 trillion. And that's just one shale play. For example, we have just begun to tap deeper formations such as the Utica.

USGS and EIA estimates place proven and likely reserves at 100 to 200 years at current usage rates, and we've only scratched the surface. These are unbiased government agencies, green hippies with ideological axes to grind or greedy megacorporations.

But if you and people like Bill Powers are right, what's the worry? We'll be out of natural gas soon enough and then we'll transiton to other energy sources.

356:

Yes, I wonder why Duffy is ignoring the issue of global warming? Do you think he has shares in some companies or is he trying the old keyword insertion?

357:

You say that like there's actually only one fracking site that has earthquakes associated with it; I'm not really bothering to keep up with the reports and know of at least 4, not all in the USA.

358:

"ignoring global warming and oceanic acidification"

Then you should hate coal, not natural gas. As a chemical reaction, burning methane creates half as much GHG per BTU generated. Furthermore, natural gas power plants are 20% to 30% more efficient than coal in terms of kWh generated per BTU.

I for one hope that fracking puts the coal industry out of business.

Coal kills people, like at the Massey mine disaster over a year ago. Coal mining chops off mountain tops and fills valleys in Appalachia with acidic mine waste.

Its also better environemntally thatn solar based renewables. To produce the same amount of electricity generated by a single natural gas power plant whiose footprint (including the employee parking lot) is only a dozen acres you would need wind farms and solar arrays covering dozens of square miles. Each component will need access roads, regraded topogrpahy, drainage structures, utility hook ups and easements, etc.

That is a lot of destroyed habitat.

Environmentlists should love fracking.

And then there are the economic impacts of solar energy. The cost of a complete conversion to renewables will make us all poorer in real terms. The operating and capital costs (especially land requirements) of equivalent solar energy sources are such that these additinal costs would throw the world economy into a major depression.

But go ahead and be a Believer if you want and ignore the numbers.

I prefer being an Engineer.

P.S. If you actually want the hard numbers instead of hippie fantasies, for an in-depth, technical and financial analysis of renewable energy potential I highly recommend "Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air" by David MacKay.

See: http://www.withouthotair.com/

359:

"And do these alleged costs include groundwater contamination?"

This issue is solved with proper design and construction of the well casings. The "methane in groundwater that flames out of the kitchen faucet" problems occur at sites that have had poorly designed or installed well casings for those segments of the well hole passing through the shallow groundwater bearing strata.

Stricter standards and tougher regulation of well casing construction will (and has) solved this problem.

Below that, the well hole and horizontal drilling occurs literally miles below intervening impermeable bedrock strata that separate the fracking zone from surficial groundwater deposits.

Then after the facking is performed, the liquids are EXTRACTED from the fracking zone to allow for unimpeded migration of the natural gas to the well head. This extracted waste water becomes brine which has to be properly managed, recycled or disposed of (the other major fracking issue).

The chemicals mixed in the water and sand (in amounts measured in PPM) do include chemicals on the 40 CFR list. But these are mostly surfactants, rust inhibitors and chemicals far less dangerous to the environment than those found in a typical oil well or machine shop. There are some proprietary chemicals to be sure, and I would also like to see them made public.

But given the thickness and low permeablity (absent major pre-exisiting natural fracture zones) - and if the well casing is properly installed - there is no physcial danger to groundwater.

To believe otherwise is to be ignorant of both hydrogeology and basic physics.

360:

"and so far none of his replies cover the same point(s) as anyone else raised!"

As of the time of your posting I had not made any replies at all.

361:

Daniel, you've picked a fight with the assembled crowd.

Right now I don't care whether you're right or wrong. I just want you to shut up before you trigger a derailing flame war.

So you may consider this your yellow card, at least on this discussion. If/when I start one titled "the future of energy" or similar, you're welcome to join in. But not here, not now.

362:

Okay, it's pretty obvious you haven't read MacKay's book, or if you have you only read the pages you believed in.

(For the uninitiated - it's a great book demonstrating how to balance the multiple variables involved in an energy supply *policy*, rather than just an approach to pushing energy technology from a biased viewpoint...)

363:

Please drop the subject.

Right now.

364:

>Dredd is doing a fine job keeping the 800 million scum of Megacity 1 under control.

Not really, there's only 50 million of 'em left nowadays. He's doing a pretty poor job, and he knows it. "Protecting the citizens was the justification for everything we did, and we failed"

365:

Well, maybe he didn't shoot enough of them first time around.

366:

Charlie wrote:
> Daniel, you've picked a fight with the assembled crowd.

This is for odd values of "picking a fight", since all replies to his comment were 2 and 3 liners, while his comments were relatively well reasoned.

However, I understand your point about this becoming an unwelcome flame war in this discussion.

But it made be itch in a place I that badly wants scratching, so I copied the discussion into my blog and invite the participants to have a merry flamewar there. Please keep the language nice and clean:

http://tp1024.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/that-fracking-issue/

P.S.: If there are any issues with this, I'll gladly remove the post.

367:

Meanwhile
WHAT ARE THE BIG ISSUES OF 2013 GOING TO BE?

We don't actually seem to have had a proper discussion on the supposed actual subject, do we?

368:

I think that the US media will be mainly pre-occupied by the increasing bitter efforts of the GOP to sabotage the working of the US government. The EU/Euroland crisis will rumble on in the background but noting much will happen. Real solutions here will be put on the long finger until after the German election.
I think the big thing is likely to be China but I don't know what from the crisis will take.
It could be s shooting war over some rocks in the Pacific as the Chinese administration tries to manufacture an external crisis to unify the home base but gets it wrong. or it could be a bloody massacre of Chinese workers on strike under the banner of a non Communist party sanctioned union.
I think the latter is more likely, but I have no idea how the Chinese establishment reacts to that though.

369:

Will the US media notice those efforts by the GOP to sabotage?
They don't appear to have done a very good job so far, or the "Dems" would have won a comfortable majority in both houses, surely?
Or is the public perception actually changing, after the cliff/non-cliff fiasco?
Agree about China, possibly.

I wonder if the locals in Afghanistan & Pakistan wil finally say that they've had enough of the Taliban, given the slow awakening to the fact that, err, women are actual people, too!
And a recent BBC interview, showing that literacy is climbing in Afgghanistan very rapidly, & modern media are making some real differences.
[ The aftershocks of the Delhi rape case will have their effects on this, as well, I suspect. ]

370:

"Will the US media notice those efforts by the GOP to sabotage?"

They did.
http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/images/blhurricanedrowngovernment.htm
The result was the 2006 sweep of Congress by the Democracts and the 2008 election of Obama. The small margin of people who remained in play (not exclusive Rush and Fox fans but not fully committed the other way regardless of some of the stupid stuff that comes with the package) were put off when the Democrats took the ball and ran with it, right into a brick wall. Leading to the 2010 tea party coup that also allowed gerrymandering that will remain in effect for years to come.*

"I wonder if the locals in Afghanistan & Pakistan will finally say that they've had enough of the Taliban"
Im speculating it will probably be a very long slow gradual process subject to setbacks, like the struggle against racism in the USA. The Klan still exists almost 150 years after the ACW and the Taliban will still exist in 2160. Or maybe I'm wrong, and the speed of modern media will accelerate things.

*To use this as a pretext to spew my own ideas, the answer to gerrymandering is to allow people to self gerrymander and vote in the races of any district in state that they can physically report to on election day, rather than just the one where they live. Constitutionally, it would have to be done state by state. And my prediction is that it won't.

371:

Please accept my sincerest apologies, that was not my intent.

But please note that between much higher mileage standards recently agreed to by the auto industry and the Obama administration and a shift to methane for energy production, America is actually on track to meeting its GHG emission limitations under the Kyoto Protocols (a treaty we never bothered to sign). Cut GHG emissions in half and global climate change becomes something that can be managed, instead of something dangerous.

Not all environmental news has to be bad news.

Furthermore, fracking is turning the US into "Saudi America". We now have cheap energy coming out of our ears. North America will soon be the new Middle East, with all sorts of positive ramifications for global economics and politics.

Not all energy news has to be bad news.

372:

A better question is whether the GOP will marginalize itself into a regional party like the old Dixiecrats (which it is a clone of).

Changing demographics almost ensure that the GOP no longer has a chance at winning the White House - unless it can win over Hispanic voters. And they can't do that without alienating their racist Tea Party base (personified by the likes of Sheriff Joe in Arizona).

The GOP is still living in the "Mad Men" when white males ruled and everyone else knew their place. The actual America is now more like "Modern Family". The real political story in America is our changing demographics.

And demographics are destiny.

373:

My apologies but I assumed energy to be a very big issue for 2013, if not the biggest, affecting economics, politics, environment, war and peace, etc.

374:

The thing about energy policy shifts is that they take a very long time. Not really germane to a discussion of 2013.

I note reports that protests over the Delhi rape case have spread outside India, including to Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is big news insofar as it affects countries that amount to 25% of the global population! In fact, if it doesn't fizzle out in the wake of the [probably inevitable] death sentences, it could be the beginning of a generational avalanche. As womens' rights affect us all, and affect half the global population very directly indeed, I'd say it's potentially huge.

Japan has elected a bumbling militarist as PM just as the Chinese communist party needs a distraction from its domestic problems -- over-rapid development bringing pollution, corruption, and a spiraling Gini coefficient. I just hope the people making foreign policy on both sides can keep the resulting aggressive puppet show low key.

India/Pakistan appear to be off the boil for now. The Arab Spring continues to unwind the political tensions in the region that have been building up since 1918, if not earlier; nothing good is going to come of it in the short term, despite early western optimism, but maybe in another generation a new Middle East will emerge. Unfortunately Israeli politics is slowly going bugfuck, with Benny Netenyahu beginning to look like a moderate compared to some of the more totalitarian right-wing/religious elements. Meanwhile Turkey has turned course away from EU membership and towards becoming a regional superpower in the ME.

Charlie-Bob says the most dangerous medium-term prognosis is for a long-term power play between Turkey and Iran (the populous industrializing well-educated nations in the region) across the carcase of Saudi Arabia (once the US demand for foreign oil dwindles -- inevitable if your fracking boom happens on schedule), with Israel supplying the match to ignite the oil spill.

375:

Well Greg, I noticed from US media outlets. In my opinion what the GOP are doing regarding the Fiscal Cliff is sabotage of the functioning of government. I really don't think there is an entire nation dumber than me so I reckon if I noticed a lot of Americans must have noticed also.
Afghanistan and Pakistan will reflect changes in the wider Muslim world, where the changes are likely to come first.
In my opinion It really takes 3 generations to really transform the cultural outlook of a place.

376:

"Israel supplying the match to ignite the oil spill."

Would a discussion of the right wing lurch in Israeli politics be applicable to 2013, or more of a long term issue?

As someone who fondly remembers the secular, socialist, kibbutz-oriented Israel of its earlier years I am saddened by its mutation into an expansionist, theocratic settler state.

I cannot help but see the Palestinians now as the ones living in the walled off ghettos.

How horribly ironic.

377:

I cannot help but see the Palestinians now as the ones living in the walled off ghettos. How horribly ironic.

Well yes, and as a secular Jew[*] I agree completely.

The underlying paradox of Zionism -- that a movement intended to protect a group of people from racism was implemented using the tools of 19th century imperialism and is consequently slowly morphing into that which it was designed to combat -- is not lost on me.


[*] Ethnicity as opposed to belief.

378:

Sadly yes. I don't have a "brilliant solution" (tm) but suspect that any such involves the Palestinians stopping shooting rockets out of Gaza.

379:

"Well yes, and as a secular Jew[*] I agree completely."

Ah. I was wondering about your German sounding name (almost strasse) and British nationality.

380:

>>>As someone who fondly remembers the secular, socialist, kibbutz-oriented Israel of its earlier years I am saddened by its mutation into an expansionist, theocratic settler state.

Congratulations! You just won the Wrongest Sentence of The Day Award! Have a free internet.

381:

I have to say from my perspective you're right - the GOP essentially sabotaged the US government, although I might also say the US electorate managed to return people in the various institutions to make this possible which seems kind of odd from my UK perspective. (Our head of government is the head of the largest party, and if he ever can't lead and loses a vote of no confidence it triggers an election so we try again.)

But I think the most important words in your bit are those critical "In my opinion" ones. Anyone who buys the Republican line hard will pretty much say something like "Obama is forcing through unreasonable, high spend, high tax, big government policies over the heroic efforts of congress." They will probably, further, mourn "If only Romney had been elected we'd have had a fair better settlement, far faster" (IMO ignoring the fact that the Senate is still very democrat as I understand it so they'd have been a brake on his attempts).

Of course they might conclude, like you, the system is broken but I suspect their fixes will not include a complete restructuring of the GOP. They're already trying to disenfranchise non-white voters, I suspect that will ramp up (and still fail, they're losing to demographics) but unless their strategists wake up and plan for the real situation and cause massive change, I suspect another 2 or more increasingly massive defeats before they can change and restructure.

That would give them, in your own words, 3 generations (well political generations anyway) for the need for cultural change to be realised and embedded.

382:

Arab-Israel
Hate to say it, but the poor suffering suckers in the West Bank & a lot of those in Gaza have only their own so-called leadership to blame ...
Israel was (until quite recently) offering them a "two-state solution", all the way from 1948 until at least 2001, if not more recently.
Every single time, it has been rejected, often with extreme violence and brutality and now, after over 65 years of this, they want to appear reasonable, just as the by now completely replaced Israeli population is saying, effectively: "To hell with these people, we've been offering them peace for well over 50 years, fuck'em all, who cares?"
Which, of course, even if understandable, does not actually make it right, or nice, & involves even more general misery.

Probably too late now to do anything about it, unless someone to the left of Benny N gets elected - & the probability of that being ... ???

383:

You just won the Wrongest Sentence of The Day Award!

Would you care to explain?

(Speaking as someone with a bunch of Israeli relatives, including folks who spent time on kibbutzim in the 1950s, I didn't see anything immediately wrong with Daniel's comment. The Kibbutz movement was very much a collective farm movement in the early days; religiosity varied between communities, but we're talking about common ownership of everything and a broadly secular ideological outlook. While the ultra-Orthodox stuck to Jerusalem, praying and avoiding military service.)

384:

Scot, with a presbyterian (Church of Scotland, if anyone actually cares about where I came from more than where I am now) upbringing tending towards agnostic or non-aligned Christian depending cynicism level of the month as I grow older.

Your description is very much how I saw Israel in general, up until the mid-1980s when I suspect electoral politics started going a bit more right-wing.

Point being that we've got very different religious backgrounds and yet agree about Israel.

385:

"Hate to say it, but the poor suffering suckers in the West Bank & a lot of those in Gaza have only their own so-called leadership to blame ..."

"The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" - Abba Eban.

If they had tried a Gandhi-like non violent resistance instead of terrorism, the Palestinians would have their own state by now.

(Sorry, way off topic)

386:

If they had tried a Gandhi-like non violent resistance instead of terrorism, the Palestinians would have their own state by now.

I'm not sure.

The hell of it is, the Palestinian state-hood movement is greatly misunderstood in the west because their biggest adversary isn't Israel -- it's the combined vector of Arab/Israeli geopolitics. The Palestinians have been [ab-]used repeatedly as a pawn in the jockeying between the traditional post-Ottoman Arab monarchies (1948) and then their Ba'athist successors (1956-79). This isn't to say that the Israelis haven't behaved abominably towards them, but so have the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Palestinians were systematically excluded from those polities -- despite having gone along with their instructions during the war of 1947-48 -- and their squalid existence in refugee camps was used as a club to batter international public opinion and as a recruiting ground for desperate teen-agers and young men to send against Israel in the on-going proxy war for control over water resources and strategic heights in the territory formerly known as Trans-Jordan.

387:

>>>Would you care to explain?

Okay.

1. Israel isn't theocratic. Yeah, you can say it isn't theocratic *yet*, BUT SO IS EVERY OTHER COUNTRY THAT ISN'T THEOCRATIC.

2. If Israel is an expansionist settler state now, then it sure as hell was an expansionist settler state throughout its history.

3. Remembering anything kibbutz-oriented fondly is just wrong. Kibbutzim failed as a new society (sure, they were the best communist experiment. best failure is still failure. communism does not work) and were never economically sound. Guess what happened when they lost government support?

388:

Another problem of the Palestinians is that they don't exist. Sure, there is a group of people defined as Palestinians, but they don't form anything coherent.

As an example, let's take Israeli Arabs. They come from more or less the same group, but unlike Palestinians they:

1. Have an opportunity to participate in a free, well organized and uncorrupted political process.

2. Don't face any restrictions the Palestinians do.

3. Are much better off economically.

And what do we see? Israeli Arabs could form a single party with about 20 mandates. This would be a heavyweight thing. Possible second or third largest party in the Knesset. They could get more money than the Orthodox.

Instead they have 3 different parties of 3-4 mandates each and their voting turnout is very low.

389:

"Meanwhile
WHAT ARE THE BIG ISSUES OF 2013 GOING TO BE?"

Well, in the domain of the Arts, and of Culture, "Oz, the Great and Powerful" is coming out in early March in the UK and in other countries of the Commonwealth.

To me, that is one big cultural event/issue.

And note that I don't live in the US or the UK and that I don't usually speak English.

390:

Guess what happened when they lost government support?

Apparently they're just fine, judging by the fact that there are still plenty of Kibbutzim.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kibbutzim

391:

>>>Apparently they're just fine, judging by the fact that there are still plenty of Kibbutzim.

This is mighty nice definition of "just fine". I suppose by your definition the Zoroastrians are just fine, too. There's still plenty of them...

The kibbutzim that are still fine are now kibbutzim in name only.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz_crisis

392:

Bien sur madame; Vours etes Quebecqois, n'est pas?

393:

I was simply pointing out that there a still more than a few Kibbutzim. Your original comment seemed to imply that "those Evil Communists" were starving without their government subisidies.

394:

1. Israel isn't theocratic. Yeah, you can say it isn't theocratic *yet*, BUT SO IS EVERY OTHER COUNTRY THAT ISN'T THEOCRATIC.

Israel is at least as much of a theocracy as Ireland was prior to 1992. You can't marry or divorce without a rabbi or imam in the loop, secularism/atheism isn't recognized by the state, "unclean" foods are in many cases flat-out illegal (try buying a bacon buttie) and the religious parties are in the governing coalition and hold the balance of power to such a degree that it's barely possible for the non-religious parties to form a government without them.

Furthermore, the proportion of ultra-orthodox to secular Jews is shifting rapidly in favour of the former. For a while the influx of Russian immigrants kept the demographics in equilibrium -- Israeli law recognizes anyone who would have faced persecution by the Nazis under the Nuremburg Laws as a Jew for immigration purposes, even though many folks covered by those rules are not Jewish per halachic law -- but the Russian emigration thing has subsided now.

Shorter version: Israel has always been an explicitly religious state and it is rapidly becoming more orthodox, both demographically and politically.

395:

NDGMTLCD = Notre-Dame de Grace, MonTreaL, CanaDa

396:

>>> "unclean" foods are in many cases flat-out illegal (try buying a bacon buttie)

Minor nitpick. This is not true. In fact, I ate pork steak yesterday, both in a legal store.

Everything else is true, and it doesn't make Israel a theocracy. Seriously, applying "theocracy" label to everything isn't helpful, same as with the "nazi" label.

397:

I'd never have assembled that lot otherwise thanks; it also tells me a fair bit (none of it bad, honest) about where you're coming from.

Also, apologies for the typo; that just means that I can do better than 100 mistakes per minute in at least 3 languages, ok? ;-)

398:

PS. Oh, and linearly extrapolating demographic trends is not wise.

399:

First thing I did when I got back from India (which has it's own problems with religion in politics) was buy a hamburger. It's a big place so I expect you can get beef there somewhere, but I never heard of any. You can get bacon but given what many local pigs eat, it's not a great idea.

400:

You also got my sex wrong, but that's not relevant.

(Ah, la belle French language, she is so hard for people coming from une culture qui does not give gender to absolutely everything)(as you can see I miss the "Let's parler Franglais" column from the 80s Punch)

The relevant thing here is the massive currents of transcultural Art moving around in 2013. In some parts of India Tintin is an unknown while in other parts, like Bengal he's part of the childhood of millions.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/15680397

It was never supposed to be that way. But it happened.

So I'm wondering what other transcultural culture thingies are slowly moving around and sometimes emerging in 2013.

Some of them, I'm really not that interested in, like how Europe and the US are turning mangas and anime upside down and bouncing them back to Asia. But I can't help notice Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim.

401:

At least I tried, which is more than I can say for some of my Canadian friends!

No idea about Tintin, but USian and European Anime and Manga are both fairly well-established trends these days.

402:

Wait, are you comparing Israel to India? 8-)

There are plenty non-kosher stores in Israel, selling pork and all kinds of stuff.

403:

There are similarities. Both are full of Israelis having terrific parties. :)

(and a quick google shows that you can get beef in many Indian states, notably Kerala.)

404:

@ 403
& Tamil Nadu .....
It's just that the butchers cann't be "good" hindus, or even hindu at all ....
But muslims, christians & some bhuddists will eat beeef, so not a problem ....

405:

@370:
The Klan still exists almost 150 years after the ACW
---
They'll probably exist in 2060 too, but as of now they've fractured into multiple competing factions, two of which are based quite near where I live.

They've essentially given up on the kind of "racism" people generally associate them with. They're more like those clubs of former British colonial administrators, sour because they aren't occupying that they consider their rightful place, and powerless to do anything about it.

The Klan's anonymity was probably a big cause of their decline. Many of the disaffected and angry chose more visible, militant groups instead, often with outlaw biker, neo-Nazi, or extreme Christian views, or combinations thereof.

There are supposed to be plenty of those, though in my more cynical moments I think of the old cartoon of the CPUSA meeting where the chairman says "Is there anyone here who is NOT an FBI agent?"

406:

Don't forget environmental activists, who are just as disaffected and angry as the others and even more visible.

407:

Wow, as one of those angry, disaffected environmental activists, I just *love* being compared with the Taliban and KKK.

Obviously, working to minimize the number of species extinctions, maximize human exposure to non-human nature in non-destructive ways, and guarantee access to clean air, clean water, and safe food for seven billion people is every bit as reprehensible as supporting white Christian supremacy or growing opium poppies to support a regime that bans their use.

408:

I didn't say or imply that groups of highly visible, disaffected and angry people are evil. Just that they consist of disaffected and angry people.

I for one prefer those disaffected and angry people who don't join violent or racist groups over those who do.

409:

I assume you would not have been a supporter of John Brown.

410:

That looks susppiciously like a notpology to me. Reading the posts in order, you drew a clear and definite comparison between the klan and other such nasty groups, and environmental activists in general. So would you like to state your case a bit more clearly?

411:

There is no point in making an apology for observing that disaffected and angry people tend to join groups of other disaffected and angry people.

Some do indeed join racist or violent groups, others join groups who are not, like religious groups, environmentalist groups or just a local group of people doing whatever - all according to their world views, sets of believes and other preferences. The more of the latter are available and accessible for joining - and especially the less a society is made up in a way that people become disaffected or angry in the first place - the better for society as a whole.

If you think that I equate all those groups, then this is your prejudice projected on my posting and certainly neither my statement nor my opinion.

412:

Personally, I'm with Guthrie on this one. I'd strongly suggest that this is both your statement and your opinion, and furthermore that you have failed to make your case.

Most of the environmentalists I know (and I know quite a few) are neither angry nor disaffected. They are simply sick and tired and trying to make the world a better place. This is literal. Many environmentalists are disabled or dealing with chronic diseases, and they still make time to volunteer to do this work, which is why so many of them are so tired.

Let's consider an acquaintance, who lost his arm last year to a highway accident while he was weeding a freeway verge. Let's compare him to the Taliban. Or there's the woman with Parkinson's who still goes to meetings to testify, even though her voice shakes, taking time off from running her own company to do so. Let's compare her to the KKK.

This is the comparison you are drawing, tp1024. You wonder why I object to such slurs?

413:

tp1024: Yellow card time.

You first paint all environmental activists as angry people and, by invidious comparison, as bad as the KKK -- then you refuse to walk it back?

Either apologize, or quit this thread.

414:

I want to apologize sincerely if my post created the impression that environmental activists bear the least resemblance to such groups as the KKK.

This would not be a sincere apology, if I would not also say, that I do indeed disapprove of some of the actions of environmental activists, such as destroying fields with GMOs. This was certainly part of the reason for writing this posting.

But this disapproval is extremely slight, in comparison with my feelings towards the aggressive, violent and misanthropic nature and actions of those other groups that were mentioned in the post I replied to or were referred to in the discussion this was part of.

Unfortunately, as a non-native English speaker, my vocabulary is not universally at the same level. And I have the feeling that the last paragraph does not do justice to my feelings. The difference is literally larger than I have words to express it.

415:

tp1024
I think you (& we) have a problem.
Since some of us really native English-Speakers &/or English residents also have a problem.
I am very much in favour of "saving the planet" & keeping unnecessary degradation of our lived-in environment in good health - for our own sakes if noone else!

But

I will never vote "Green Party"
They are insane-religiously against any & all forms of Nuclear Power.
Their more extreme variants are against ANY "genetic modification" of crops - like salt-tolerant or drougnt-tolerant or frost-tolerant varieties of foods we have been actually genetically manipulating since we started growing them, thousands of years ago.
They are sufficiently insane to try to destroy trial plots of blight-resistant potatoes & tomatoes .....
Politically, in this country they seem to combine some of the nastier elements of the hard left & Cromwell's puritans.
At the same time, do you want to trust Monsanto? No, actually, so now what?
They want to abolish The Corporation of the City of London, because it is a "rich man's corrupt clique" ... whilst ignoring the fact that said body guards huge open green spaces for the benefit of all Londoners. The head-on-crash of the then Ministry of Transport against the Corporation, whilst the M25 was under construction was very illuminating ... needless to say the MoT lost, & Epping Forest got bigger & the M-way was put in a tunnel & the cricket-pitch was put back .....
Some of them are like the "animal rights" nutters - animal rights for the Cats or the mice?
Humans have to make decisions - so that, locally we have decided that Foxes are preferable to Rats & feral pigeons ... see photo Taken by me - & yes - he was waiting for a biscuit!
Whereas some of "them" emote that feral pigeons are lovely - euw.

There is no obvious political stance for someone to take who is entirely at sympathy with the solution to problems raised long ago in "Silent Spring" & who wishes to hand on a planet in at least as good a shape as it was found in, yet who rejects the insaner puritan extremism that seems to have infected a large part of the "environmental" movement.

Incidentally, this SHOULD be a big thing for 2013 & 2014 & .....

416:

Talking of nuclear power ...
Thorium, anyone ??

417:

Other issues with the "Green Party" include them being fairly rabidly anti-oil company, but oddly I've never noticed them agreeing to do without shops, and presently, if it's in a shop, a truck running on petroleum products brought it there. Or without houses, and if it's post-WW1 odds on trucks delivered the building materials...

418:

In the US a vote for the Green Party is like a vote for the Republicans, because they function as a spoiler, taking votes from Democrats mostly. Thier old leader Ralph Nader made W president that way. Maybe the thinking is to do the sacrifice necessary to create polarization by putting bad conservatives in power. Sort of Squeeky Fromme logic (she was a former Manson follower who shot at Gerold Ford because she wanted Rockefeller being president to show everybody who was "really running the country"). If the Green Party ever actually did get power they would have to make policy decisions instead of making knee jerk negative reactions. "What's the plan?" rather than "What do you dislke?"

They should emulate the Libertarians, who are another minority party. The Libertarians are trying to win offices at all levels (to get a track record), and are non-destructively coat tailing the party closest to them (like Ron Paul).

As a side note, prior to his great disservice, Ralph Nader actually served the public interest for many years by leading lawsuits against corporate abuses that were very real. And thinking of that made me realize what it is that truly may give America a claim to exceptionalism.

A few months ago there was a heavily hyped TV show about a fictional middle of the road News Anchor who suddenly went off one day and made a speech about how America is not the first in anything, what is everybody talking about. He listed all the claims to fame and cited statistics to show America is unexceptional in each area cited.

But there is one area where America is the best in the world: Lawyers. America has the world's best ratio of Lawyers to general population. Massive effort and expense is put into getting things right and supporting our philosopher kings. The fact that anybody that does wrong can get sued into the ground, especially if they have deep pockets, and that lawyers get a cut of the huge payout that inspires them to work on speculation, means the tort courts are a real force. Individuals and institutions behave themselves, especially if they are rich. Essentially the cost of legal assistance is mitigated by having the loser pay for it and the losing lawyer work for free. But it looks like this doesn't cause the rich to run away, like the rich are running from France. Its like being asked to wipe your feet when you walk in the house, I guess. Also, mitigating factors include the protective powers of incorporation and bankruptcy (depending on state).

And that will remain in effect throughout 2013.

419:

RDS @ 418
Maybe the thinking is to do the sacrifice necessary to create polarization by putting bad conservatives in power.
Isn't this a standard Marxist technique, anyway?

420:

I voted for the Green Party candidate for president because I see Obama as basically a Rockefeller-Scranton-Romney (the father) Republican. No one who has allowed the rampant criminality leading up to (and continuing after) the financial crisis to go unpunished while persecuting whistle blowers, legitimized torture, used drone attacks against civilians, and kept economic policy firmly in the hands of Wall Street gets my vote.
Anyone in the UK to the left of New Labor probably understands what I mean.

421:

In Thailand, both this comment and the one you were responding to would land you in jail. Just to be clear, I think that is insane and socially destructive.
I have no way to know what year it will be, but currently the lese majeste laws in Thailand are being used to suppress any discussion of political reform. And Thailand has developed so much economically that political reform is desperately needed.
Unless this changes, large-scale political violence in Thailand will become a major issue whenever an important death occurs there. And the important person is aged and chronically ill and living in a hospital.

422:

That's an extremely good point.

And yes, the "political reform is desperately needed" thing could apply equally well to the UK -- the largest proportion of votes cast at the last election went to minority/none-of-the-above parties, and things are going downhill rapidly. While Queen Elizabeth is personally popular, her eldest son and heir is anything but. And the prospect of her death coinciding with the third dip in a triple-dip recession doesn't bear thinking about.

423:

The "political reform is desperately needed" applies to most of the world. How many people have to die to make it happen is the interesting question. I favor zero, but the ME has ruled out that number. It could easily be in the millions over the next two decades.

424:

This thread has brought up quite a number of topics which would be worth a thread of their own, whether for good or flamewarring.
E.g. political change in the UK
Or autopsying why more people are voting for minority parties
Or energy policy, I think it's a while since that has been covered, anything new?

425:

My personal thing to watch in 2013 is Kurdistan. I was reminded by my barber, a Syrian Kurd or Kurdish Syrian, that Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. With the conflict in Syria looking more like a full-blown civil war I can see an organised Kurdish military / political movement gaining traction in Syria as part of the opposition coalition. I think this group is likely to have good links to similarly minded Kurdish nationalists in Turkey and Iraq and should be well resourced and therefore relatively successful.

Whether they end up calling for a separatist or semi-autonomous Syrian Kurdistan or calling for a wider Kurdistan I don’t know but I think we’ll hear mention of Kurdistan more often in 2013 than in 2012.

In UK domestic politics I’ll be keeping an eye on UKIP’s preparations for the 2014 European elections.

426:

The murder of three PKK activists in Paris last Thursday would indicate that things are still bubbling under there. The Turkish government denies involvement, but the Deep State/Grey Wolves/etc. groups in that country make for a plausible scenario that it was a deniable operation.

As for UKIP, they leave a very nasty taste in my mouth. At least the BNP and EDL have such obviously repulsive thugs as leaders.

427:

I can not decide if UKIP are a libertarian party putting on the trappings of a no nonsense common sense populist right wing party for electoral purposes or the other way round.

Either way, personally, they would never attract my vote but I’d very much like it if they won a significant number of seats in the future.

428:

I would not. There's a nasty streak of homophobia running through that party alongside its xenophobia. And on the basis of 'by their friends shall you know them', their alliance with the most right-wing populist parties in the EU is disturbing.

429:

You're right, but behind the times, apparently (that article was posted last July). This means there's Kurdish autonomous zones in Iraq and Syria, and so Turkey is deeply worried - worried enouugh to reopen talks with the PKK, it seems.

430:

I can see why you would not want UKIP to win many seats and I don’t disagree with your assessement of their views on sexuality at all.

Which is one of the reasons I’d like them to win some seats. I’d like that sort of thing out in the open. And I’d like an opportunity for that sort of thinking to evaporate from parties that are likely to be leading centre right coallition governments in the UK and coalese in a minority party where I think it can be contained better. I’d actually quite like a party to run on an explicitly homophobic platform and then be defeated. (But that last bit probably requires the naunced voting of STV.)

I’d like to see the right wing populist agenda put under some level of public scrutiny and the test of actually having to vote for or against particular pieces of legislation when they are presented.

Also, they had nearly a million votes at the last election and not a single seat at Westminster.

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