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Taxonomy of story, or, why murder?

Charlie having been kind enough to hand me some blog keys, I get to talk about, not writing, since I may not know anything about writing, but about what kinds of things get written about.

So, this book—why's it got to be about a murder?

Yeah, I know, mysteries aren't everything, and sometimes the murder even in those is purely ancillary (Sayers' Gaudy Night has a murder, but the murder is in no way what the book is about), but story is pretty closely "Who do we have to kill to fix this problem and restore the natural order?" Then there's tension about whether or not it's going to happen, or happen in time, or what the cost will be. (Yes, there's variation; sometimes order doesn't get restored, sometimes it isn't what the viewpoint thinks it is, sometimes the murder is going on over there and we get people coping with the side effects, sometimes we get the main problem being keeping the corpse-pile to the smallest possible size, but the core of story, the presumptive bounds of narrative, are narrow.

Even in romance, which one might expect to have very little to do with murder, you've got a lot of tropes of conquest and surrender and whole ramifying sub-genres (paranormal romance) where the specific popularity might have something to do with the introduction of overt murder.

It's almost as though the only legitimate story is about conquest.

Now, I'm pretty sure this is an anglosphere genres thing, but in English it's pervasive. Man versus nature, man versus man, man versus self is much more about the versus than the participants. Why are—from various viewpoints and removes and angles of the light—the only real stories about conquest? There's a fight, which someone must win?

At this point someone might be inclined to point out that the first book I published was a military fantasy with an uncertain but not insignificant body count. And it was; I wanted to write the contrapositive of a Black Company novel.

Glen Cook—an underrated prose stylist—has a series about the Black Company, a group of mercenaries who are terrible people with no homes to return to and operating in a world where they wind up serving various dark lords running authoritarian polities. (The dark lords are mighty sorcerers.) So what happens if you try to write about a bunch of basically decent part-timers serving an egalitarian nation where sorcerers are forbidden political power? Where the political and social norms are against any form of conquest?

In my case, you get The March North; I also got the Commonweal. (And the idea of co-operative magical focuses, and Halt, wandered in from out of the dark.)

Once I had the Commonweal, well, sorcerers are forbidden political power. How do you arrange that while sticking to egalitarian principles and some materialist concept of abstract justice? What do you do when luck provides you with someone who will, permitted to grow into their power, become mighty indeed? How much do you trust your institutions and your mechanisms of government? How well can you avoid committing conquest out of fear?

That's A Succession of Bad Days; not so much sorcery school as an adult-learner educational cooperative for the unexpectedly talented, and a book frequently accused of being completely plotless. I think that's because there's no murder, and the lack of murder means there's a number of readers for whom it can't be a story. (Other readers report it a much-re-read comfort book. Tastes vary.)

Safely You Deliver is what happens when I try to write a love story in the style of Pamela Dean; there's some incidental murder in that one, but it really is mostly about Zora (who is in that adult-learner educational cooperative) and a unicorn, who is from the Bad Old Days outside the Commonweal and finds the whole place strange indeed.

And then there's the just-released Under One Banner where you get someone from a traditional background in the Commonweal starting to wonder if the Commonweal has persisted because the neighboring autocracies are generally incompetent at conquest and that perhaps this matters. Perhaps the Commonweal should be planning for competent opposition.

So, no, not entirely free from murder, but I hope free from the motivations of conquest. The point is the increase of knowledge and the breadth of prosperity, not getting anyone or anything to submit. And maybe, I hope, nudging toward a wider idea of story than some narrative of conquest.

The bit about why self-publishing means you can write what you want, and how sometimes those books find enough friends to seem worth writing but not to be worth the effort from a commercial publisher, and how this is generally a good thing for those as read fiction for enjoyment, and certainly a good thing for those of us who want to write decidedly non-commercial fiction, maybe that's the next post.

519 Comments

1:

On Under One Banner, I will say you get murder with a capital M - the kind you either get court martialed or promoted for.

BTW - thanks for such a thought provoking series.

What competent opposition would look like in that setting - perhaps god kings that realize you get more from sheering and milking the populace than harvesting them? (aka, dead peasants pay no taxes).

2:

Ursula K. LeGuin once ran a writing course – it may have been at Clarion – where she forbade her students conquest. I also dug up this quote from her 1987 essay "Conflict," collected in Dancing at the Edge of the World:

People are cross-grained, aggressive, and full of trouble, the storytellers tell us; people fight themselves and one another, and their stories are full of their struggles. But to say that that is the story is to use one aspect of existence, conflict, to subsume all other aspects, many of which it does not include and does not comprehend.

Romeo and Juliet is the story of the conflict between two families, and its plot involves the conflict of two individuals within those families. Is that all it involves? Isn't Romeo and Juliet about something else, and isn't it the something else that makes the otherwise trivial tale of a feud into a tragedy?

3:

Mentioning the best detective writer ever ( D L Sayers ) her probably-most-famous novel doesn't actually have a murder, though it looks very much like one.
Mind you the descriptive writing of that part of rural England in the early thities is amazingly accurate & simultaneously evocative ... it hadn't changed that much by 1950 or so, when I can first remember visiting my grandmother, about 20 miles from the putative Fenchurch Saint Paul.

4:

The main reason that I don't read modern defective fiction is that it almost all revels in the gory details of murder, sadism and psychopathy, and omits most of the puzzle aspect and sometimes even the unfolding one. Compare that with Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle - I haven't counted, but something like half of the latter don't contain any serious violence at all.

Re #2, I think that LeGuin is wrong about Romeo and Juliet there, because she is considering conflict too simplistically; the story IS all about conflict and its consequences, but the feud is only part the conflict involved. Conflict doesn't just mean two people or groups fighting, but about the struggle between two different entities (which may be external or internal) - in this, it is probably a fair translation of jihad, which is much closer to struggle than war. To use an example I gave in the last thread, consider Milton's Pilgrim. In The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Sherlock Holmes has a moral conflict at the end.

So, yes, I whole-heartedly agree with you. Plot has nothing to do with murder, and murders don't create a plot.

5:

There are, or can be, other issues created by some of the tropes of the "murder mystery" format too.

For instance, if planning a murder in "Cabot Cove" (Murder She Wrote), your first action should clearly be to murder the Jessica Fletcher character, because no-one else in the show will ever work out why she was killed or by whom, never mind that you committed the other murder(s).

6:

(There is clearly room for a Midsomer Murders tribute titled something like "Miss Marple Must Die", in which a competent psychopath realizes that before he can bump off his estranged great-aunt and present the copy of her will that he doctored, he needs to head off the investigation at the pass. Ahem.)

Incidentally, the problem with using violence as a dopamine-reward payoff trigger in fiction is that you keep having to escalate. Which leads to interesting issues in maintaining series-length works. (Again: I ran into this in the Merchant Princes series: book 6/3 ends with a nuclear war, how do you escalate from there in order to maintain dramatic tension? Especially when it's framed as a thing of horror that will emotionally and culturally scar even the winners of the very one-sided nuclear war for generations to come? Hopefully "Invisible Sun" nails it, but I won't know for sure whether my solution works for most readers until some time late next year.)

Here's another headache: actual real life-changing deliberate violence is extremely rare in modern developed-world societies. The vast majority of us die of natural causes or accidents: an even larger majority of us never kill or maim anyone, and are not worse people for it.

In fact, aside from stereotyped lit-fic of the more tedious and worthy kind, if you want realism in genre fiction you're probably best off turning to contemporary-setting romance: I mean, overcoming social barriers and falling in love is something that happens to most people at least once (and often several times), but has enough elements of conflict and resolution/emotional closure to support a huge market.

7:

I think the ability to maintain the readers interest whilst resetting or otherwise de-escalating within a series is one of the abilities that separates a master writer from the journeymen - especially in SF/F where apocalypses of one sort or another happen fairly frequently. You did it nicely in the Laundry files by moving both the basis of the story from Spies to Fantasy tropes and also changing up the protagonists.

Then you have someone like Jim Butcher whose primary draw for me is how he manages to handle Harry's level up's in such a way that he can make his life evermore shit/interesting.

Now off to order some Commonweal!

8:

I just finished and enjoyed Under One Banner. The bits at the end where "maybe we should start thinking about what happens if we run into competent opposition" were frightening and thought-provoking.

I'm now working on Cory Doctorow's Walkaway, which shows one path away from kleptocrat / oligarch rule. Lots of murder in Walkaway, though, as the kleptocrats try to keep power. There probably would have been lots of murder if Iain M. Banks had ever written a novel about the origin of the Culture.

9:

You're most welcome!

Starting with The March North left me a bit constrained on the presence of murder in the narrative. So does the distinction between defeat -- happens in someone's mind -- and destruction -- a simple physical process. With magic, you can create defeat, but the Commonweal doesn't think that's ethical and is generally horrified by the idea.

As for competent opposition, when pretty much any sorcerer can tell people what to do and be obeyed, it takes a long time to pick up the idea that maybe you can use positive incentives. The Sea People are an old, large, maritime, stratified, colonizing culture that has figured that out. Just how competent they are as opposition remains to be seen, because with magic there are many more options than boots on the ground.

10:

You're correct that there isn't a corpse in Gaudy Night, but by the tropes and customs of mystery novels there's certainly a murder, and the narrative thread of a murder.

11:

I think the best Le Guin example might be Tehanu, a book which received decidedly mixed reviews.

12:

One the great things about introducing magic is that there's the option of escalating off the material in a "Sure, we've immolated the entire populations of whole nations, but now we can do something upsetting to the world-views, cognition, descent, probability access, memory, or discrete existences of the living" way.

13:

Your para 1 - We're clearly on much the same wavelength here, beyond that I never read Agatha Christie (or watched adaptions).

Your Para 2 - My biggest issue with "Merchant Princes series: book 6/3" was that it clearly severed surface routes through the Grunmarkt, but left so many interesting characters and stories in the other 2 main inhabited timelines unresolved. Empire Games et seq picks those up in a very interesting manner, and to me proves that you can de-escalate the SFX by concentrating on the characterisation.

14:

The great thing about introducing magic is that you can go from purely physical consequences to non-physical ones; sure, we've immolated whole nations, but now we're going to do things to people's capacity for hope, emotional range, discrete cognition, or probability access.

15:

Tehanu has several murders, and plenty of conflict. What people objected to about it, when you really checked, is that it's a book about toxic masculinity and what happens to people without power in a feudal society.

It's probably not going too far to say that the essence of traditional fantasy is to have the protagonist be someone with the capacity to win, whether that's through brute strength, skill, intelligence, or plain deviousness. LeGuin wrote three books in that vein, showcasing powerful people doing the right thing in heroic circumstances; but Tehanu is the reality for much of society on a day-to-day level, where evil or amoral people get a good roll of the genetic dice, and the average person is simply powerless. After three heroic-themed Earthsea books, that wasn't the uplifting message that readers wanted. The issue wasn't a lack of plot, but rather the content of that plot. People who were expecting more high fantasy and dragons were suddenly faced with peasants trying to survive murder, rape and child abuse.

As OGH can probably testify, people read a particular author or series for more of the same. The switch from high, noble fantasy to peasants being tortured simply didn't sit well with them, although it's a vital book for illustrating the reality of Earthsea which we never get from Ged as Archmage.

16:

I can totes do that in the Laundryverse!

The MP/EG universe, being a rationalist one (albeit disguised as portal fantasy for the first couple of books) isn't amenable to that fix without introducing an Outside Context Problem (which shows up at the very end of "Dark State" and is as-yet unresolved by the end of "Invisible Sun", because it opens up the universe a lot).

17:

My general comment is that I'm sure any number of romance and mainstream literature authors would be rather annoyed at the thought that you have to have murder or even death to run the plot. And remember, not all deaths are murder, not even when a human kills a human. Otherwise, we get into a squicky little debate about self defense, abortion, and just war, among other things.

Getting back to literature, death is the cheapass way to up the stakes in the story, and so it's the go-to emotional button to mash for writers, rightly or wrongly. Fridging the girlfriend is a standard plot device for a reason, even though boiling the bunny can be just as shocking (and not murder per se).

Then you've got writers like Pratchett or Rowling, where death is ever-present (heck, he's a protagonist on occasion), but murder rarely actually drives the stories, with the notable exception being some of Pratchett's police procedurals. And notice, of course, that I'm referring to little-known authors, because all the big names use murder as a plot point.....

So I guess the challenge isn't about murder, the question is how to write a fantastic story that grabs readers' emotions without simply raising the stakes to and past murder.

For example, Charlie might get asked if it's possible in the Laundryverse for a Great Power to simply get sick of human psychopaths and idiots summoning and binding them for stupid purposes, so they decide to cure humanity of both stupidity and psychopathy, by magically giving civilization the equivalent of 400 mikes of LSD in a therapeutic setting, with a long integration session thereafter to effect a cure. Tell this from the POV of one of those magical psychopaths, who thinks this is a bad thing, but who can't kill his way out of this particular difficulty...

18:

Come to think of it, that would just be rewriting Singularity Sky in the Laundryverse. Might be a fun exercise, but it would look a bit like literary cannibalism, I suppose.

19:

Checks ...

Nope, I can't write the as-yet-untitled-Peter-Pan-Laundryverse-thing without killing at least one person, because they die on the very first page to establish the tone for the setting (life under the New Management: it's a public execution). And also because Peter Pan is basically a reckless narcissistic killer:


“Pirates!” he cried. The others came closer to him. A strange smile was playing about his face, and Wendy saw it and shuddered. While that smile was on his face no one dared address him; all they could do was to stand ready to obey. The order came sharp and incisive.
... But I can still probably write a Laundryverse novel with less actual stab-stab-stab-kill-Kill-KILL!!! in it than is implied by the original "Peter Pan and Wendy"[*]. And that's saying something.

[*] Obvs. a circa-1911 children's book couldn't have the loving descriptions of arterial spouting blood from amputated limbs that it needs if it's to be modernized. But what I really want is to see a true-to-the-book re-make directed by Quentin Tarantino. It'd be something like the second half of Kill Bill: Volume One in the gore-stakes.

20:

There's a LOT of it About? This in both Literate Bookish fiction and also the Spring board Stuff? http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2015/20-great-murder-mystery-movies-that-are-worth-your-time/3/ If you are lucky then someone who is halfway competent may take up "The Laundry Files" ..Money, Money, and Yet More MONEY!!!? ..for a decent TV /Netflix type interpretation? This may be quite good ..Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" TV series? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magicians_(U.S._TV_series)
Or it may be ..Er, Less than Good/Really Stinks ...like, say, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dresden_Files
How much are you prepared to accept in ..Er,,Filthy Lucre/Gold ...to turn your work over to the Evil Capitalists? I'd judge that you aren't up there with, say, J. K. Rowling, in terms of control of your literary OffSpring? And So? How much would it take/Cost for an Entropanarial Capitalist to buy your artistic "Soul" ?

21:

Um... The Nine Tailors ;)

22:

That sort of thing did appear in the ever so appealing to the kiddies " Pirates of the Caribbean " franchise. https://krakenlife.com/hoist-the-colours/

23:

You have your Work cut out for you here Charlie. Children's Movies ..of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise kind ..are already way out there in terms of Human Sacrifice and Public Execution of innocents.And thats without dragging in Computer Games What can you do to even equal this of Disney that is already accepted as being just harmless fun?

24:

A couple of comments:

Think that any culture whose mindset is 'winning is the only thing' vs. 'understanding the other probably' is also likely to accept as normal something along the lines of 'murders happen, what can you do'. So maybe we need to redefine 'winning' from meaning 'all other participants are losers' to 'a measurable improvement/achievement'.

About older murder mystery novels: IMO, murder often seems to be the author's way of pointing out some societal (fatal) flaw: an obstacle that cannot be overcome using then-available methods. Sometimes, but not often, the author also points out that that murder as a solution didn't work because the real underlying problem remained unresolved. In SF type fiction, I tend to think of murder as the cheater's or lazy man's short-sighted way out of an immediate problem.

25:

I don't know that you do keep having to escalate, you just have to keep fucking up something you've got the reader to care about/identify with. For instance (though it looks like you've done something different, from your hints) if the combination of internal political tensions and external French/US efforts at destabilisation end up wrecking the Commonwealth, it may not be such a big bang as the end of the Gruinmarkt - it might not even involve any large-scale military activity at all - but it's just as much of a wrench at the reader's heart-strings at the destruction of something you've grown to care about, indeed even more so as the Commonwealth has been a kind of symbol of hope all through the series.

Terry Pratchett gives us an example of de-escalating; cosmically destructive world-wrecking catastrophes, either threatened or actually happening, are quite common in the earlier books, but as the series goes on the plot drivers are more and more likely to be quite small-scale things, not world-wrecking or even magical, but still effective because the reader cares about whatever they are affecting.

Another possibility is to just keep punching people in the face again and again and again (The Silmarillion, The Grapes of Wrath), though that's probably not sustainable beyond single books.

As for violence being rare in real life, I don't see that as a problem; real life is boring until something out of the ordinary happens, so it's natural for statistically rare catastrophes to comprise a disproprtionate amount of the content both in fiction and in news reporting. Indeed the converse of that is part of the reason I so hate the genre you mention in the last paragraph - it often is realistic, and that means ordinary, and boring, and full of people doing things that would in other genres be too trivial to mention but in this case are all the action there ever is, for reasons that are equally trivial, mundane and tedious.

26:

"Think that any culture whose mindset is 'winning is the only thing' vs. 'understanding the other probably' is also likely to accept as normal something along the lines of 'murders happen, what can you do'. So maybe we need to redefine 'winning' from meaning 'all other participants are losers' to 'a measurable improvement/achievement'."

"You can't win, you can't break even, you can't get out of the game"...

27:

What I have never understood is why brutality (including murder and torture) is regarded as suitable stuff for children, but consensual sex is not.

28:

...Easy, that one. Perhaps because as the authors are adults, they're deeply uncomfortable with the idea of observing/enjoying/commenting upon sexualised children. Taboo, and all that.

Meanwhile, Roald Dahl sets the bar for casual misery. How often are his protagonists orphans? And how often is it openly discussed in the books? The kids coped with it better than I did...

29:

On the possible Peter Pan-related topic: Charlie, have you read "The NeverEnding Story"? It's full of Laundry-worthy creepiness.

30:

I think it depends on what you're looking for in a book. There are many great stories in which the struggle is against nature, a scientific challenge, a rival for the hand of your beloved, duels of wits to see who can muster the most snark, etc. etc. Jane Austen, Shakespeare's comedies, etc. etc.

Murder's kind of the easy way out when it comes to generating conflict. It does offer the advantage that in most cultures, murder is illegal because it threatens social stability (also, other reasons). Thus, it becomes a comforting form of literature if order is restored by capturing and punishing the murderer, and deliciously discomforting if order is not restored and the crime goes unpunished. In both cases, there seems an unending market for such stories.

Charlie noted: "There is clearly room for a Midsomer Murders tribute titled something like "Miss Marple Must Die", in which a competent psychopath realizes that before he can bump off his estranged great-aunt and present the copy of her will that he doctored, he needs to head off the investigation at the pass. Ahem."

I don't watch or read enough of this genre to write this kind of story for TV or print, but there is clearly much fun to be had in the elevator pitch I once wrote for the series finale of "Murder, She Wrote", but that works with minor modifications for any series of solving crimes: "Upon reviewing the case files from several years of solved crimes in the hope of learning the art of real-world detection, rising star Detective Newguy, fresh out of detective school, discovers that Jessica Fletcher was not present at so many crimes purely by coincidence -- a notion that defies plausability. Rather, she was the perpetrator of the crimes, and framed or blackmailed scores of innocent people into taking responsibility for crimes they didn't commit solely to let Jessica become rich writing a bestselling series of True Crime novels."

Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald" comes to mind, though it's not quite right for the elevator pitch.

31:

Man versus nature, man versus man, man versus self is much more about the versus than the participants. Why are — from various viewpoints and removes and angles of the light—the only real stories about conquest? There's a fight, which someone must win?

I agree with you regarding the zero-sum stuff ("there must be a loser"); and the exploitation stuff ("we have tamed the wilderness" / "wonder at my impressive Machine!" / "at last, a cure for which there is no disease!"). However, the "personal journey" stuff is far more interesting to me, because of my interest in performance psychology.

If you're results-oriented, or a seeker after external validation; then life and competition are about the awed respect of peers, adulation of preferred gender, the knowledge that you are noticeably "better" than others. You're going to love the wish-fulfilment of "Alex wins the race" / "Alex solves the murder", and the personal journeys of "Alex is the first person to the North Pole / into space", or "Alex becomes a supermodel".

If you're performance-oriented, and more about internal validation; then life is about being a bit better (at whatever) than you were yesterday. If you performed well, but didn't win? Brilliant, happy time. If you performed badly, but won? Frustrating. You'll love the growth of the character's understanding / knowledge / technique of "Sam becomes a distinctly average Jedi Knight / sets a new Personal Best"; but might not enjoy the "Sam profits by gaining the whole world but loses her soul"...

As ever, these are sweeping generalisations; biased by personal culture, gender, and history; YMMV...

...you mentioned anglosphere genres, perhaps someone from outside that bubble might comment? @sleepingroutine? Any Asian, Indian, or Middle East thread readers?

32:

Just to pitch one out, but who lost in Brin and Benford's Heart of the Comet or the Mars Trilogy? I'd suggest that non-Tolkienesque trilogies, especially those about settling a new world, don't have a single antagonist, any more than, say, a Game of Thrones does.

33:

"You can't win, you can't break even, you can't get out of the game"...

Capitalism assumes you can win.

Socialism assumes you can break even.

Mysticism assumes you can get out of the game.


(From a book I got in the 80s. No idea the original attribution.)

34:

J R @ 8
googling for "Under one Banner" just gets me SNP politcal tripe - I assue you mean something else?

36:

Generally speaking, "toxic masculinity" can be expressed as "conquest is the fount of virtue". Tehanu does have murders, but it very much departs from the "story as a mirror of conquest" pattern.

37:

My general comment is that I'm sure any number of romance and mainstream literature authors would be rather annoyed at the thought that you have to have murder or even death to run the plot.

Romance runs on the tropes of conquest, though. There usually isn't a corpse but sure as death there's a victor and a vanquished. This runs back a long way; The Taming of the Shrew is in a dialogue with those tropes. Try writing a compelling romance with a purely collaborative structure sometime. It's not easy.

38:

A deeply complicated book about salvation, and I'm fairly sure with one-to-one correspondences to a specific theological position on the subject. Quite possibly the longest parable ever.

Not obviously about conquest but (I think) entirely in dialogue with those tropes; the whole thing is set up to diminish man's worldly concerns, but to do that, it has to show the resonances of the previous iteration of the "what I desire is mine" plot. To mix theologies horridly, "love God and get off the wheel".

39:

"So, this book—why's it got to be about a murder?"

While it's true that murder is hugely attention getting by virtue of its sheer rarity in everyday existence, that doesn't mean it's necessarily contrived or manipulative if an author features it as the main theme of a story. More than showboating or playing to the grandstands, it could simply be reporting the essential nature of people as they really are under the surface, after the veneer of civilization strips away. Which sounds way dark and cynical, but only when judged by the conventional mythology of Western dualism, which says the human tragedy is one of higher spiritual beings in conflict with gross material urges in this mortal coil that encumbers us. Such a Cartesian worldview has been systematically debunked by research into brain function over recent decades.

Golding"s "Lord of the Flies" originally seemed off the deep end in its pessimism about kids freed of all restraint, but his vision has been substantially borne out by anthropological survey findings like the ones Pinker referred to in "Better Angels of our Nature" and "Enlightenment Now." Tribal life in a state of nature really is, as it turns out, nasty brutish and short, overwhelmingly so when compared to even the worst of organized modern societies. Jared Diamond commented on the same thing, saying New Guinea tribesmen who weren't incorporated into a modern polity until Australian influence reached them in the 1930s, when asked to compare their lives now with how it was before, said it's better now since they no longer fear attacks from neighboring tribes. Comedian Richard Pryor made the same point when describing an inmate met at a prison benefit performance, a lifer who'd murdered a whole family. "Why did you kill everyone in the house?" he asked, the reply being "Because they were home." His conclusion, "Thank God for penetentiaries." The political translation would be, although some leaders may be unspeakably awful there's still nothing worse than a power vacuum.

So exposing the murderous heart of darkness lurking within us one and all, could be doing the public a favor, showing why it is we should put up with social restraints, not for mythological or farfetched spiritual reasons but for reasons that are as scriptures put it, "closer than thy right hand." We've just fallen out of the murder habit because for now at least, we can. This means we may temporarily indulge in smug feelings of superiority over pack forming species like chimps, wolves, lions and meerkats that do regularly kill their own kind. Such ANIMALS!

40:

Re: ' "You can't win, you can't break even, you can't get out of the game"...'

Good quote! Looked it up: Laws of thermodynamics as applied to the human condition.

Except ... feel that the human condition is way more complex, with lots more variables than a couple of gasses mixing it up. So would probably need a few more 'laws'. Maybe Villani will be able to come up with some math insights about this after he quits politics.

About the last part of the quote: worldwide suicide rate is on the rise.

https://www.befrienders.org/suicide-statistics

'The WHO further reports that: In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.'

41:

H @ 35
Thanks

Graydon @ 37
Yes, but ....
The image of the bells of Fenchurch St Paul ringing out across the flooded fenlands is deeply evocative & I've seen something very like it, when not the main dykes had given way, but there was severe danger, as all the "washes" had filled up & people were getting worried & then the weather turned.
Or the 1953 great flood, of course. Or after a flood had subsided, & the washes had drained (ish) driving between Ely & Wisbeach (specifcally by Welney) & seeing large sheets of ice in the roadside trees, above our heads ....

keithmasterson @ 39
YouTube How I realized America values guns more than the lives of kids Euw.

SFR @ 40
Try THIS VERSION An all-time classic ....

42:

No, not at all. There has to be a conflict, but there is no reason that it should take that form - many romances end up with everyone being victors, and many tragedies with everyone losing out. It is even possible to have conflicts that end with neither victory nor vanquishment, but I accept that it is very tricky to do effectively, which is why so few authors do it.

43:

Try thinking a bit more deeply. Why should that be taboo and violence against children not be taboo?

44:

"So, this book—why's it got to be about a murder?"

I think it's helpful for this question to be asked. Books whose answers appear to be:
- "It's book six of a series about a homicide detective."
- "What else is it going to be about?"
- "It's a crime novel."

tend to be less interesting than those whose answers tie into theme, mood, setting and character.

As an example I wrote a comedy-crime novel set in the Edwardian period, and the first section is a country house murder mystery. Why a murder? We're familiar with country house murder mysteries so there are lots of places to turn the tropes on their head and make them jokes. In addition, by having a character who we've seen at dinner killed, and then inspected the bloody corpse, it adds a seriousness of the consequences on the rather silly setting.

(The setting being such that if one goes on a country house weekend and no one is killed, robbed of their fabulous jewels, elopes, is caught in a compromising position, or is accused of cheating at cards, then the hostess would deem it a failure and have to fake a haunting or similar)

45:

Proving that "nothing is original", I know several people who've independently had the thought that the "real killer" in Midsomer Murders is DCI Barnaby, or before he retired and was replaced by his cousin, either his wife (Joyce) or daughter (Cully).

46:

Romance runs on the tropes of conquest, though. There usually isn't a corpse but sure as death there's a victor and a vanquished.

Disagree: that's one of the tropes romance runs on, and a common one, but far from the only one.

You know the three basic sources of plot conflict—man vs man, man vs. nature, man vs. self? (Sometimes man vs society is added, but I'd call this a variant of man vs self insofar as society is a consensus social construct.)

I'd say that this applies to romance, too: taking purely heteronormative narratives for now, they'd break down as: man vs. woman (your case of "The Taming of the Shrew"), two lovers vs. natural obstacles (nature), two lovers vs. society (the external social imposition on their selves) or actual selves (e.g. trust issues).

You can banish conquest. What you can't banish is intrusion; as a critic of my acquaintance points out, romance is structurally isomorphic with horror — both entail an externally induced disruption of self, the only difference is perspective (in romance, the outcome of the disruption is welcomed rather than feared).

47:

My observation about Midsomer Murders is that: 1) a lot of murders happen there in the summer months and 2) you generally don't see the same people twice (except the principle cast).

I theorise that the local inhabitants know that Bad Things happen in summertime and rent their houses out cheap to unsuspecting Londoners.

48:

May I be excused a niggle> I am not convinced that society should be categorised as self - consider Romeo and Juliet - while it is a consensus social construct, it position in the plot is an external constraint. That contrasts between the plots that involve the conflict between someone's ambition and love life, where it is usually treated as internal. But there is certainly a continuum between the two.

49:

Yes to both points, with the side note that they seem to turn over police pathologists way faster than they do CID officers. Are the pathologists going somewhere with a lower murder rate, such as London? ;-)

50:

You can banish conquest. What you can't banish is intrusion; as a critic of my acquaintance points out, romance is structurally isomorphic with horror — both entail an externally induced disruption of self, the only difference is perspective (in romance, the outcome of the disruption is welcomed rather than feared).

Hrrm.

I think the modern romance in English -- as distinct from the Medieval Romance, where her cloak was random and wild -- starts with Austen and those are effectively fantasies of agency; being listened to, and having the ability to make meaningful choices for one's own self. (Compare Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.) Fantasies of agency are really tough to write, people have more trouble than usual with their disbelief[1], and tend to collapse into easier things; manners, where you affirm social norms by giving the protagonist status, or the various True Love narrative subsumption of the desired other into your story.

Which keeps me (not particularly a horror OR a romance reader) from having much of a basis for knowing what I think about the notion of both genres requiring intrusion.

[1] I think a big part of SF is to introduce enough material change in the setting to make the fantasy of agency sufficiently plausible to the audience.

51:

Just from a stats point of view, if human immortality becomes a thing, suicide and accident will be the two highest causes of death.

The problem is causes of death sum to 100% and therefore proportional, so if one cause (like dirty water) is diminished, other causes rise. The key question that few of the journalists ask is whether suicide is rising faster than other causes are falling (e.g. are death rates going up and lifespans going down for the 15-44 contingent).

Sadly, this seems to be the case for lower-income white men in the US, where their lifespans are falling to match the lifespans of other male racial categories. Some people have suggested this indirectly supports Trumpism, indirectly because the stats only came out after he was elected. The MAGA crowd may have known "something was wrong," but "I'm not going to be living longer than my perceived social inferiors" wasn't a motivation for them voting for Trump.

52:

Um. I don't see why you don't regard some of Shakespeare (and others) as including fantasy of agency, because there is plenty of making meaningful choices there. They assuredly aren't mediaeval romances.

53:

It's rising faster. Immortality is a red herring for people of that age, anyway - even if it were feasible, which it almost certainly isn't.

54:

Re: 'Try THIS VERSION An all-time classic ....'

Cute!

Hmm ... too bad the most common lay understanding of entropy is 'messiness' instead of complexity (the longer that system has been going, the more complex it gets). Would make it much easier to persuade folks that expecting simple solutions to complex problems is fundamentally 'unnatural'.

55:

Well, the whole idea of marrying for love is a WEIRD invention, and a fairly recent one at that*, so I'm not sure how you disentangle the social trends from the literary forms that follow them. After all, we're not producing new Norse sagas at the moment, although translations and fantasy ripoffs of these do on occasion sell quite well.

Also, it's quite possible to do a SF Romance, using the trappings of SF with a romantic plot. Heck, it's possible to do Romantic SF (my love interest is an alien/metahuman!). Ditto with Fantasy/paranormal romances.

I'd suggest the more fundamental point is that romance, SF, and fantasy tap into different things, which is why it's quite possible to combine them. Modern romances are love stories, not just stereotypical plots. Everybody deals with love in some form, so unlike, say, the thrill of doing 50,000 PCR reactions for your career (that would be real science fiction--the idea that it's thrilling), it's something some group of lovelorn folk can relate to in some form (even if it's a bigfoot fetish). Science fiction was really the literature of Progress and problem-solving, and because love doesn't matter for Progress, the two can be combined very nicely (conquer the planet and marry the girl). Fantasy is the literature of creativity and otherness, so it touches a bit on the whole psychedelic thing of softening the logical ego boundaries and letting other ideas in to play with them. Again, this can combine very successfully with Romance, because love isn't orthogonal to a sensawunda.

Then there's the whole question of which is the plot, which is the setting. Romance in a fantasy setting, or a fantasy set in a romantic setting. These are two different stories, really.

*Yes, I'm ignoring all those interesting love stories from Japan and China. For all I know, there are whole romantic literatures in India and the Muslim world too.

56:

Structure!

The comedy/tragedy split around succeeding or failing to restore order -- and the politics comes into what gets depicted as the proper order since while God might have decreed one, it surely was not the case that people agreed on what it was ! -- requires action. (Consider the "swap Hamlet and Othello as protagonists and neither play is a tragedy" take.) Austen has propriety, rather than theology; the question is not which action, but if (meaningful) action is accessible, and the heroine discovers that it is.

(Remember that Jane Austen had the perpetual complete rights to a book (under) sold for 25 pounds because the male relative involved didn't care and didn't negotiate and it was completely impossible for Jane to conduct their own business.)

57:

We aren't? Many of Moorcock's stories read very like Norse sagas, as do some of Anderson's Flandry ones, and many others.

While it is often claimed that marrying for love is recent, there is precious little evidence for it, and some against it. And, yes, also include Indian, Persian and Islamic, though I can't tell you when the love stories of the Thousand and One Nights date from. In historic times, the wealthier classes didn't, and they wrote the literature - but how did the poorer classes choose? We simply don't know, and we CERTAINLY don't have a clue about neolithic or earlier customs.

The evidence against is the way that 'falling in love' seems to be a feature of our biology, and there are some interesting research results why it looks likely to be evolutionary advantageous. In particular, the way that people tend to be attracted to those with a complementary set of immunological responses. But whether that meant that humans of 50K BP paired up in such a way (or at all), God alone knows.

There might be some evidence from the disappearing set of 'pre-property' cultures but, if there is, I don't know of it.

58:

I am now really baffled! Distinguishing propriety from manners strikes me as stretching things just a wee bit.

59:

Eh? Whether you choose the mathematical or physical meaning, entropy IS closer to messiness than complexity. The way that complexity often increases in biological systems is actually a counter-entropy change.

60:

Re: Increased suicide rates '... this seems to be the case for lower-income white men in the US, where their lifespans are falling to match the lifespans of other male racial categories. Some people have suggested this indirectly supports Trumpism, indirectly because the stats only came out after he was elected.'


You mean this CDC report which states that more than half of EMT/hosp/police-reported suicides did not have a diagnosed 'mental condition' which historically has been shown to be relatively common among suicides? (If you can't afford medical insurance, good chance your mental health condition remains undiagnosed.)

https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html

About the stats - agree - so here's an article showing just how suicide rates have changed since 2012 on a per 100,000 population basis: rates have increased consistently every year. That is: it's not just the ranking of cause of death that has changed. Suicide is up.

https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/Suicide/state/ALL


Alternate explanation/hypothesis:

Maybe OO-OO is trying to change the US demos to match Russia's where scarcely any white males* make it past 65. (Seriously, the Russia age chart by gender looks like lemmings running off a cliff. No way is this 'natural' or normal.)

https://www.indexmundi.com/russia/demographics_profile.html

Sex ratio at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.75 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.45 male(s)/female
total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (2016 est.)


* White males - there are some projections that show an ongoing decline in (white) 'Russians' in Russia as other ethnic groups' increase. The highest growth rate will be among groups who happen to practice Islam. BTW - there's also some data showing that Russians are also disappearing from former Soviet states. E.g., Khazakstan's population was almost 40% Russian in the 1960s, it's since dropped to below 27%.

Written in a rush ... hope it makes sense.

61:

Re: ' ... a counter-entropy change'

Okay.

So what then is the thermodynamic law that governs/describes this process?

62:

I thought I was distinguishing propriety from theology.

(Manners are how it's agreed one acts; propriety is the question of whether or not it's right action, so they can diverge, but I agree that it's unusual for their to be widespread agreement that manners and propriety differ.)

63:

EC @ 57
... we CERTAINLY don't have a clue about neolithic or earlier customs.
Don't bet on that.
Recorded in the "New Naturalist" on the Wye Valley ( number 105 in the series ), there is an account of archeological research near/at the river-mouth where it joins the Severn Estuary. There, one of the most emphemeral things in the world have been preserved - footprints in the mud. Of a neolithic family, including, from the footprintd, deduced as a youngish ( over 4 under 10 ) girl, doing what such children still do ... dancing round her parents, forward & back as they walked along the estuary.
Anyone want to use that in media res or as the start or end-point of a story?
The late Rosemary Sutcliffe would have, had she known.
[ Can you see them in your mind? I can. ]

SFR @ 60
Maybe OO-OO is trying to change the US demos
Explain please: OO-OO ??????????

64:

There isn't one, because it isn't a thermodynamic or information-theoretical process.

65:

If you can deduce from that whether the parents had joined together from love or from some other reason, you belong in the Laundryverse :-)

That's still very interesting and, as I say, it is very possible that love matches date from even earlier in Homo sapiens's evolution.

66:

Oh, why not. The Human Dress is at least saga-ish. (Though long. And generally considered a bit denser than the Commonweal books. Saga narrative convention will do that.)

67:

Re: 'Explain please: OO-OO ??????????'

Orange Orang in the Oval Office, the one that's a big ... no, make that HUGE!!! Putin fan.

68:

Elderly Cynic noted: "While it is often claimed that marrying for love is recent, there is precious little evidence for it, and some against it."

Yes. It's probably fairer to say that *the freedom* to marry for love is relatively recent. That is, familial and cultural/social pressures used to weigh more heavily against love matches that weren't also optimal in other ways (economic, political, religious) than they do now. But that's a large generalization across a wide range of cultures and eras.

I suspect you can find evidence both for and against my hypothesis if you cherrypick your examples. For example, modern North Americans can pretty much (if they're willing to walk away from a nay-saying family) marry whoever they want, but I suspect that's less true (for example) for a modern member of the Saudi Royal Family.

69:

Re: ' ... it isn't a thermodynamic or information-theoretical process.'

Did a search for complexity vs. thermodynamics right after I posted and discovered that there are scientists trying to sort this complexity vs. entropy (2nd Law of TD) thing out.

http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2012/07/18/emergent-complexity-the-fourth-law-of-thermodynamics/

Excerpt:

'This has led some researchers to suggest it may be possible to formalize a fourth law of thermodynamics that describes how complex systems arise.

Robert Hazen, a geologist at George Mason University, as well as others have hypothesized that this new law would need to encompass the following four components:

the number of units/elements/parts
the degree/strength of the interaction between the units
how energy into the system effects the units
the changes in energy input

The right combination of these variables will result in a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. The goal for researchers is to produce a model that predicts the emergent structure, given n units in x volume with a degree of interaction y and energy input z.'


How this relates to topic ...

To me, such a new law could be helpful in explaining how money works, i.e., the energy that pols say drive our current societies. Such knowledge would consequently be useful in the development of better, more humane financial and social policy. As we're often told: money and social issues are two of the most common motives for murder.

70:

Coming in somewhat late, one way to look at it might be asking yourself why murders are overrepresented in relation to theft and, err, griveous bodily harm.

One idea might be salience, e.g. we care much more for a murder than for a stolen necklace or coin.

Also, murder is something of an information destroyer; with GBH, we might ask the victim something. In the case of murder, we can't, and actually that's a trope quite a few stories depend on, e.g. reconstructing the biography of the deceased, with some interesting plot twists, though you don't need a murder for that one, see "rosebud"...

71:

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." I think that it's a stupid idea to force the effect into a thermodynamic context, and I very much doubt that there will be a simple law. Inter alia, we know that complexity can disappear in a very similar system to one in which it appears. Look at chaos theory for something that is vaguely similar to what you are describing, and the sort of results you might expect.

72:

In historical times, in the wealthier classes, yes. But people without significant property were far freer. It's not clearly documented what they DID marry for, but mutual attraction was certainly a part.

73:

I'm not sure you necessarily need a fourth law, when you've got the notion of ILya Prigogine's dissipative systems, which create systems that are really good at creating entropy. I know some ecologists think that this is the basis for life and biospheres (e.g. local increase in complexity to cause a universal increase in entropy). One could even argue that civilizations, especially our own, are massive dissipative structures that "evolved" (in the loosest sense) to maximize entropy in the Earth system, even though we look tremendously ordered. The follow-on from this argument is that we'll only be able to sustain our complexity if we can continually find the energy and highly organized materials to disorganize as thoroughly as possible. Otherwise, our systems will dissipate until they can be sustained on smaller resource and energy streams.

74:

Variations on the Murder Mystery:

- You are murdered, you are restored to an earlier backup and have to find out who killed you.

- You receive a message from the future on your future death. The indications from the message is that you were murdered. You have to find who killed you and stop it from happening.

These have become standard tropes because they have been in so many books and movies over the past century.

I have a number of open projects that use these tropes and a few others that just cry out to be published.

I mentioned the Omphalos hypothesis months ago. This is where the world could have been created last Thursday and no one could tell the difference.

- There have been a number of prophecies that the world was going to end by a certain date. The date occurs, and "apparently" nothing happened. The reality is, the world was destroyed on that date, then an unknown time later the world was recreated from before the moment of destruction.

-- I refer you to Hitchhikers Guide as example. The Earth was restored and no one was the wiser.

-- Any number of Doctor Strange comics where the world was destroyed and he restored it with no one the wiser.

I have a fun story where someone is found hideously killed in a locked room. Only the body is affected, not the rest of the room. With no possible way for secret passages, or someone sealing the room from the outside. It is a true locked room murder.

The victim is part of a society that studies End of the World Prophecies. They have proof that each time the world ends, everything is restored at a later date. The investigating officer discovers that one of the members gave the victim a talisman that blocks him being restored with everything else. He wasn't killed, he simply wasn't restored along with everything else. This would be a perfect English countryside mystery from the past century. Miss Marple, Poirot, or any British detective story I see on Masterpiece Theatre.

Feel free to use it since it is so obvious. HA!

75:

I've sat in on a few inquests, something I recommend to anyone interested in what happens after an unexpected death*. Usually the coroner outlines the questions an inquest is supposed to answer:

WHO has died
WHERE did they die
WHEN did they die, and usually the most complex one
WHAT was the cause of death

(It's sometimes phrased differently)

Who, where and when are often revealed immediately in modern** murder mysteries which gives up quite a bit of possible ground for detection. TV shows eventually get on to this, if only because once you've done the first dozen murders you're out of interesting motives.

* The forensics investigator in one was able to tell if a headlight had been on or off after a crash due to the deformation of the filament being different if it were hot or cold at the time. I thought that ought to be an important (or not) clue in a police procedural.
** Sayers, of course, likes to play with who, where and when in her stories, right from the start with the excellently named for my purposes Whose Body

76:

Science fiction adds a few wrinkles, of course :-)

Were they alive in the first place?
Does the state they were put into count as death?
Is killing one instance of a multiplicity enough to count as murder?
Can a killing that hasn't yet happened, but will, be tried today?
And so on ....

77:

allynh @ 74
Well World resettings?

Neil W @ 75
D L S was amazingly up-to-date with her writings ... one of her early ones ( NOT a Wimsey ) dealt with a murder that was finally unocvered by using a polarising spectroscope - the poison was artificial not antural & therefore didn't leavo-rotate the light beam when put under analysis.
And another depended upon a new type of dental filling, I think.

78:

Elderly Cynic @76 WHY do we consider this a death? Can the death be undone? If someone dies and no camera sees it, must it be an open verdict?

Greg @77 Sayers has some absolutely fantastic inquests. Modern coroners usually get the written reports in advance so there aren't so many surprises. However a guy I was at school with is now a coroner and only found out the night before that the death he was holding an inquest on was the half-sister of someone else we were at school with. He had to ask everybody in court if they had any objection before starting. They did not (which social services may have regretted as he had some difficult questions for them.)

79:

allynh @ 74:

Variations on the Murder Mystery:
- You are murdered, you are restored to an earlier backup and have to find out who killed you.

One of my favorites - Walter Jon Williams Voice of the Whirlwind.

80:

The filament crash thing is something I have encountered in a fictional setting - think it was a brake light rather than a headlight, but buggered if I can remember what the story was. Interesting to know it's real; I thought it sounded plausible but not as clear-cut as they made it out to be.

81:

"Can you see them..." - yes, and I love it!

82:

That was what I had in mind when I posted the quote - entropy as fundamental to narrative because it is a fundamental concern of life.

83:

Suicide/Trumpism correlation:
The realization that in terms of home ownership, career security, etc. you are a failure in comparison to your parents could be an independent cause of both.
UK folk - is there a similar cluster around Brexit?

84:

Because of what children do and don't understand themselves?

My mum is a gynaecologist and I have always had a scientific turn of mind; I can't remember whether it was before or after I started school that I learned the biological mechanism of human reproduction, but it was around that time. I do remember thinking how incredibly gross it was and that people must be really amazingly desperate to have kids if that's what you have to do to make it happen. It was not until a few years later when changes in my hormonal balance made masturbation viable that it dawned on me that ohhh, that's why men chase girls. (It also became clear why it was always that way round - girls don't have willies so of course they're not going to be interested, and no wonder men have to spend so much time giving them flowers and dinner to get them to let them do it. Being sent to all-boys schools meant that one took some more years to sort out.)

From what I can gather other people mostly exhibited a similar degree of cluelessness, if not necessarily the same kind. Which makes sense, because until the input driver modules have been loaded it's like someone born blind trying to understand colour.

The input drivers for pain, on the other hand, are built into the kernel, and the concept of someone hitting someone to hurt them is one that everyone knows about and understands from experience of both sides before they start school (or if they somehow don't, they do a couple of days after they start).

So a kid will understand what's going on if the people in a story are fighting each other, but won't have a fucking clue what's going on if they're having it off.

(Of course, this probably is not the reason, but it is a reason, and it may be a factor.)

85:

That and loss of factory work in one-mill towns, the proliferation of cheap opioids and doctors over-prescribing them, the industrialization of agriculture, Walmart killing downtowns, and so forth.

To be fair to the Trumpers, there are a lot of problems that have been brewing in small towns for decades. The democrats haven't had much of a clue what to do about it, while the Republicans have exploited it without (generally) solving the problems.

What a mess.

86:

Re: 'ILya Prigogine's dissipative systems, ...'

Thanks! This looks like what I meant. Now all I need is a plain-language description or video.

87:

Re: What counts as murder?

Recall watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and feeling very upset when the McMurphy character underwent the ECT/lobotomy. Chief, a fellow patient, seeing McMurphy's post-op scars smothers him with a pillow. This movie made me feel that Chief committed a lesser crime and that the real murder was done using the ECT/lobotomy.


88:

RvdH @ 83
Suicide/Brexit ... not yet, but if it goes badly, then there probably will be.

Imcodentally someone back up-line spoke of death rates in Ru males over 55/65 & as if it was delibearte ...
Woulsd someone care to explain/elaborate, please?

SFR @ 87
Not seen the film & don't want ot, but in answer to your question: Yes, the first.

89:

Loss of subjective continuity versus loss of metabolic function is tricky, because it looks more and more like the impression of subjective continuity isn't there in brain function.

And if you start basing the legal system on the ability to exercise choice, pretty much all of everything that happens economically now is open to challenge as a coercive conspiracy.

90:

sleepingroutine can explain the on-the-ground view, but here's my understanding of it.

Russian life expectancy cratered around 1988. The reason that male life expectancy in Russia is so much lower than the female one is due to alcoholism. Alcoholism surged as the SU structure was breaking apart. The same thing is happening now in the Rust Belt with opioids. There is a conspiracy theory that flooding the region with alcohol was a deliberate policy by **insert group** to kill off Russian civilization.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Russia#/media/File:Russian_male_and_female_life_expectancy.PNG

A similar conspiracy exists within the Rust Belt today: that opioids were deliberately introduced by liberals in order to

a. Speed up America becoming a minority-majority country
b. Narrow the differences between whites and blacks w.r.t. incarceration rates, life expectancy rates, and wealth. Oh, and to "destroy America's traditional culture".

91:

I recall watching [i]Sex, Lies and Videotape[/i] and commenting that the violence (one character punched another, IIRC) was quite shocking, much more than (say) the killings in [i]Die Hard[/i], from about the same time.

92:

allynh noted: "Variations on the Murder Mystery: - You are murdered, you are restored to an earlier backup and have to find out who killed you."

Iain M. Banks, "Feersum Endjinn", has some fun with that notion too, though it's only one part of a fascinatingly complex novel.

93:

Hm, no idea if Peter Pan the psychopomp might be a trope you want to get into.

Going through German wiki because I got reminded of "American Gods" and wanted to look up "Anansi Boys", it seems Nyarlathotep is quite close to a quite maladapted version of Anansi, since Anansi ist womewhat of a mediator between the creator deity (and maybe his father), Nyame, and the world. Where Nyame might be Azathoth or Yog-Sothoth in the Cthulhu-Mythos. There is also a psychopomp angle.

I'm somewhat unsure im Cthulhu would be a Chthonic deity or just some cult hero...

There is also this with the Ashanti, maybe cyborg PHANGS?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asanbosam

94:

While it is often claimed that marrying for love is recent, there is precious little evidence for it, and some against it.

Wild speculation:

The novel, in its modern format, is a very specific art form which was made possible by several technologies: including the printing press, cheaper/better/more standardized commercially available paper (lest we forget, the original Gutenberg Bible cost the equivalent of three years' wages for a clerk: call it a Mercedes limo or equivalent in today's money), pen nibs, ink ... and people with enough leisure time to both read and write the things for recreation.

It also required an intellectual climate in which imprimatur (prior permission from a Church or state licensed censor) wasn't required before publication.

This very specifically intersection (a recreationally literate leisured class, cheap printing, and no prior censorship regime) cropped up in the UK after 1688, and especially in the late 18th century — during the early industrial revolution, in other words.

This was a time during which the upper echelons of English (specifically English) society were extremely jittery about restless peasants and the new urban proletariat; the legal code was so punitive it was known as the bloody code for good reason: emphasis on maintaining social stability was taken to a neurotic extreme: and the legal rights of middle/upper class women were cut back to the point where they were little better than chattel slaves.

In this environment, upper-class women (those with the income to buy novels and the leisure time to consume them) aspired to marry, not so much for love, as for safety: financial safety (a husband with an income from land rents), physical safety (avoiding a brute or a whoremonger who might give them the pox), and legal safety (remember, kidnapping for forced marriage was a thing: "rape" was prosecuted as a form of theft rather than in the modern sense of sexual assault as an outrage in its own right). (Reproductive safety was out of the question: childbed mortality was 5-10% for mothers due to puerperal fever and only 50% of infants made it to five years of age, so to maintain population stability required a TFR of 4.5-5 pregnancies per woman.)

So that's what the novels of the late 18th century were preoccupied with: social survival. Again, as Farah Mendelsohn notes, a Jane Austin novel is distinguishable from a horror novel only by attitude — those women were trapped, forced into hapless dependency on a single roll of the dice for a husband who, if they got it wrong, could bankrupt them, sell them into prostitution, or kill them with one forced pregnancy after another. Finding love as well as a sufficient income must have seemed like an impossible dream outcome.

95:

One extra point
The actual lowest point for women in England (Britain?) was 1832 - 1870
The latter date was the first ( Of 2 or 3 ) Married Women's Property Acts, which - eventually removed the spendthift-husband using up all the money problem
The earlier specifically disenfranchised women in the so-called "Great Reform Act" ... before that date there would have been a tiny number of women who actually had the vote ... widows with property over the qualification limit & unmarried women, ditto. You also have to remember that pre-1832 the franchise varied from constituency to constituency, though there were about three basic tyoes, plus one or two real oddballs in there ....

96:

On continuity of brain function: I recall one space opera by Peter F. Hamilton that I disliked enough that when I got to 50 pages from the ending and realized it was the set-up for volume 2 I just gave up (after ploughing through over 1000 prior pages) ... but there was a decent 300 page murder mystery embedded in it ...

Murder mystery premise: we have memory backups and can resurrect people who've been killed. Victim has been murdered and restored from backup so has no clue why they were murdered (although the motive could have been commercial advantage or personal: I forget which). The detective investigates and ultimately fingers the killer. Unfortunately, the killer died after the murder and was also restored from backup — a backup from before the murder, so they can't remember why they did it, can't recall doing it, and indeed no mens rea is present: someone was clearly murdered but the individual who did it isn't guilty.

(Yes, it's a classic race condition implemented with blood instead of a lack of threading. And now I think about it, there's got to be something you can do with this theme in the Commonwealth setting ...)

97:

Unfortunately, the killer died after the murder and was also restored from backup — a backup from before the murder, so they can't remember why they did it

Charlie, you mis-remember a little. The killer did not die -- he deliberately had his memory erased so that he would not know he did it. He also had the victim's effects removed, to make it look like a robbery -- and because he had no recollection of any of it, he really believed some robber was the culprit. Ironically, it was the murderer himself who finally went to the police and asked for investigation to re-open, because he saw (correctly) that something did not quite add up with the robbery theory.

98:

(Yes, it's a classic race condition implemented with blood instead of a lack of threading. And now I think about it, there's got to be something you can do with this theme in the Commonwealth setting ...)

In the Commonweal setting you don't get race conditions with individuals -- resurrection is something the Power either can't or won't do, just like "manipulate the strong nuclear force" -- but you can with probability shifting weapons. If you get two (or more!) groups of sorcerers trying to alter the landscape by altering the accumulated past chances which produced it, it's quite possible for someone caught in the disaster to wind up uncertain about everything because they're now an average of things that didn't happen. (Their entire ancestry and personal history is how an average of things that didn't happen.) There is a suspicion that the Whistler ilk (that is, sophont species) came about in this way.

I've never had a story idea about this; it would fit with my tendency to start with a bewildered protagonist, but the circumstances -- you are stuck in a wizard-war AND you have no ability to know what's going on -- are extravagantly dire, even for the setting.

99:

Oh, and there's a Varley novella where the protagonist is repeatedly restored from backup after being murdered. I'll admit I didn't find it compelling because the solution of the mystery struck me as something any competent investigator would have considered.

100:

The killer did not die -- he deliberately had his memory erased so that he would not know he did it.

And if you keep thinking this over you'll realize something none of the characters states. Yes, the evidence is compelling that either A or B was responsible for what happened - but while both A and B are blamed at different points we never get conclusive proof, only the deduction that their first assumption is insufficient.

101:

I think that's a little overstated, and I dissent on details, but is one example of my point. I can't say how many marriages in Austen's time were to provide the woman safety, and how many for commercial (often land ownership) reasons, but I know the latter was common; I am pretty sure that most were arranged, in the wealthy classes.

Bu what happened among the poorer classes? And in prehistory?

102:

In England, nonconformists couldn't marry (because only Church of England clergy could perform marriages legally); ditto Jews, ditto Catholics. It didn't stop their respective clergy carrying out weddings but it mostly took until the 19th century for the state to consistently recognize them as legal.

The poor didn't officially marry at all—couldn't afford the Church fees—hence common law marriage as a thing: couples would move in together (if they could find a room), she'd take his name, they'd have kids, everyone would treat her as his wife, and so on. They could, and did, split up and form new relationships without church permission (albeit not without social sanction by their neighbours and families), much like today. Hence laws discriminating against illegitimacy — to preserve the power (and revenue) of the Church and the upper crust. Hence, later on, legislation to make legal marriage more accessible so the state had a record of who was in a family relationship (not just Church ledgers), and to extend legal recognition and control to such relationships, because leaving them officially unrecognized was actually corrosive to the upper-class control of family assets via the dowry system and subordination of their women.

103:

Not quite. Other forms of marriage were recognised by the English courts for most of that era, and the Roman Catholic church was only given that monopoly (even in theory) in 1215. I don't know when the church was established in England (Scotland being different, of course), but it can't have been before the 7th century, and may not have been until the 11th. However, my point wasn't the form that marriage took, but how did they choose?

104:

There was also the custom, very prevalent in country districts, of not getting officially married until they had had at least one child.
The folk-recognition that some people were mutually infertile, even thougn it was quite possible that both of them were fertile with ... someone else.

105:

you mentioned anglosphere genres, perhaps someone from outside that bubble might comment?

I've got friends outside the bubble, so here's some stories.

In many Chinese stories and films (possibly most), if two characters are in love one of them will die before the end. When I asked why the older generation said "because that's how it is" while my nieces said "those are old people films". Make of that what you will.

I know that the film "My Mother and Father" ("The Road Home" in the west) is excellent and well worth finding. It's a semi-biographical film about the first love match in the village — and it's actually got a happy ending!

One of my father's colleagues was Indian, with two daughters. One found her own husband, one asked her parents to find a good man. Apparently finding the right man is a lot of work for the parents and very stressful, as if there are problems in the marriage it's the parents' fault even if the final decision is the young people's. It sounded a lot more like a dating agency than a forced marriage — but that was with Canadians of Indian decent.

I've also had students who have gone 'back home' to get married and brought the new bridegroom back — and given up their education and career so they don't 'shame' the uneducated husband by being better than him. Those I would call tragedies.

No idea how that reflects in South Asian literature, although love stories are a staple of Bollywood.

106:

Yes. OGH is referring to the period 1753 to 1836, where that custom had become rare except possibly in very rural parts of England, though it might well have still been common in Scotland. That's the only period when the Church of England had a monopoly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_marriage_in_Great_Britain_and_Ireland
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_England_and_Wales

107:

RP @ 106
See also L Mc M Bujold...( On Barryar )
An "arranged" marriage is not necessarily a forced one ...
As in "Da I waint THAT ONE" - with the implication that Da then has to go out & fix/arrange it!

108:

To change the topic a bit, I realize that reporting on the progress of consumer technology has fallen out of favor since about 2016. Nevertheless, let's look at how some of these technologies have matured

1. 4K TVs. When they were launched, the hope was that the switch to 4K would have been as rapid as the switch to HD. That hasn't happened. However, a combination of the need to replace old TVs and a boom in first-time TV buyers mean that last year, around 40% of new TVs were 4K. In other words, 4K TVs are becoming more commonplace, even standard.

https://www.tvtechnology.com/news/4k-quickly-becoming-standard-for-tv-sales

The market has grown to the point where Samsung is now comfortable releasing an 8K TV

https://www.businessinsider.com/samsung-q900r-qled-8k-tv-release-date-price-2018-8

2. Genetic testing. I'm linking a very good article with exciting predictions for new applications. As such, I'll only quote the first few sentences of the intro.

"At the start of this year, the direct-to-consumer personal genomics industry surpassed 10 million genotyped consumers [1, 2], a ten-fold increase since our last comment in Genome Biology on the state of consumer genomics [3]. Between the end of 2013 and 2016 there was steady growth in consumer numbers, but after 2016 the sector began to grow exponentially (Fig. 1). Looking forward, we could project another ten-fold increase by 2021, with upwards of 100 million genotyped individuals."

https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-018-1506-1

3. Smartwatches. Tech companies were predicting that smartwatch popularity would resemble that of smartphones. Instead, their sales pattern seems to resemble that of the Ipod. I know I'm comparing apples and oranges here, but it seems that global smartwatch sales were in millions: 5 in 2014, 19 in 2015, 38 in 2016 and projected 71 million this year according to Forbes

https://www.statista.com/statistics/538237/global-smartwatch-unit-sales/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/paullamkin/2018/02/22/smartwatch-popularity-booms-with-fitness-trackers-on-the-slide/#4eefae177d96

Compare that with the chart below for ipod sales
https://www.statista.com/chart/10469/apple-ipod-sales/


109:

Smart watches lack a smooth UI - and nobody wants a computational device without a smooth UI. In order for any "Smart" device smaller than the phone rectangle to take off, you first need a display which is not limited by form factor - Smart glasses, hologram projector, laser projection onto your retina,, Something. And also an input format, but, well, voice recognition is getting better, and for something mounted on your wrist, there are hilarious options - With proper sensors, it could for example read what your hands are doing, and treat any surface as a keyboard.

110:

It's a bit early to be veering this far off topic (the topic being taxonomy of story). Ahem.

Having said that ...

4K TV uptake was IMO retarded because BluRay tops off at 1080p and there's no 4K disk media format. Media has to be distributed online, and because a 4K movie is on the order of 20-100Gb (depending on compression ratio) that wasn't going to happen until 100mbps or faster download speeds became sufficiently widespread for consumers to want a higher definition screen. (A 1mbps downlink snarfs in up to 3.6gbits (500Mb) per hour; a 10mbps downlink can maybe pull in a compressed BluRay equivalent movie in less than its running time, but for 4K you really need 40mbps minimum speed.)

Genetic testing: some time between 2020 and 2024 I expect the English and/or Scottish National Health Services—if they survive Brexit and/or Tory government cuts—to spring for universal genome sequencing of the UK population, for preventative medical treatment (on the grounds that it's cheaper to spend £100-250 on sequencing 20 people and then £10,000 on prevention than £100,000 each time treating a common preventable cancer that affects 1 in 20.)

Smartwatches: they're glorified exercise trackers with enough smarts to act as a notification relay for your phone and do a few other things (music player to bluetooth headphones). I speak as a 1st generation Apple Watch owner who used to use Fitbits (and feed them to the washing machine). Right now they're marginally useful toys for 90% of users, and essential for 10%. I reckon the killer apps for smartwatches aren't quite here yet. For example, non-invasive blood glucose monitoring would instantly sell tens of millions of the things to every diabetic who could afford one, but turns out to be a hill for medical device startups to die on. Again, Apple's choice of an eSim for the Watch 4's cellular support makes hardware sense, except most cellcos don't support eSims and Watch 4 can't sync with an iPhone unless it's on the same cell carrier, rendering it useless to many of us. (Me, for example: in the UK, only EE supports eSim, and for reasons relating to international roaming tariffs, I have to stay with Three as my network.)

111:

4k media can be distributed using a Direct Broadcast Satellite-to-cache system but I don't think anyone's testing the concept never mind operating it as a paying system. A lot of media consumption has moved to TCP/IP from ISPs but it's very asynchronous and better suits a one-to-many broadcast system. Satellites have the bandwidth to deliver lots of data to millions of customer simultaneously (several gigabits/second minimum).

The DBS-to-cache idea is that the consumer's home unit has a commodity multi-terabyte hard disk store which the satellite receiver fills with encrypted copies of the service's media catalogue transmitted to it and updated on a 24/7 basis. Anyone wanting to watch a particular program can access it if they have a suitable pass or they can pay to view an individual item via a transaction over the Web. It's instantaneous, the data is already on the disk and it can be replayed as if it was being streamed as packets from a server. Off-catalogue material can either be inserted into a sideband download from the satellite on demand or received by the consumer unit over the Internet as a buffered download -- order the program, wait half an hour while the first part is downloaded and then start watching while the rest of the download completes behind the scenes.

Japan is planning to broadcast 8k video from the 2020 Olympics, satellite only and not-on-demand. I think the Tokyo Skytree transmission tower can broadcast 4k over-the-air in the Tokyo area but again it's not on demand and that's the way the media market is heading.

112:

Scott --

I really do not understand what you wrote. Can you elaborate?

113:

"Genetic testing". Nah. I expect them to do that, but so the gummint can sell the data ....

114:

Depends whether it's NHS-as-we-know-it (especially the Scottish NHS, which is 100% devolved and moving away from public-private partnership towards 100% public sector, the way it used to be in England) or some bastardized post-Brexit brakes-off Virgin Healthcare franchise with deliberately weakened data protections and no GDPR (which is what I assume Tories like Jeremy Hunt want).

115:

Quite. But you can guess what I am expecting :-( I am still thinking about emigrating to north of the border - and I know that I would have to pay a lot more for the privilege.

116:

The greater tax burden of living in Scotland wrt. England tends to be very much exaggerated.

The most notable source of sticker shock is the Council Tax bill ... until you remember that it includes the Water Rates (in Scotland) because the water/sewage utilities remain under local government control rather than having been sold off to rapacious asset strippers the private sector. So, one bill is bigger but on the other hand you miss out the bill for the (profit-seeking) replacement service entirely. The higher bracket for income tax cuts in a little lower, but really, unless you're on more than £100,000/year, you won't notice.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if Tory England privatizes everything you'll end up paying more in tax (unless you're filthy rich) because the services will end up costing more because the outsourcing deals will have to not only pay for the services, now provided by the private sector, but for the private sector contractors' profits as well.

As for me, my Brexit emergency planning includes seeing if $WIFE is indeed eligible for a Canadian passport, and getting the paper trail in order for me to obtain a birthright Polish passport.

117:

Depends whether it's NHS-as-we-know-it...

Which, in large part (General Practice) isn’t State-owned, but are private practices (as they have been since the very beginning). The BMA isn’t the UK’s most successful, and arguably powerful, Trade Union for nothing....

https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/employment/gp-practices/service-provision/prescribing/advice-for-dispensing-gps/the-gp-practice/running-a-general-practice

118:

Genetic testing. It's amazing how uninterested I am in that, given what for-profit insurance companies would do with that information. Now, if you're quite sure that the NHS is trustworthy, I suppose it could be seen as a cost savings measure. Personally, I think it's a lovely hacker target. If, for example, you wanted to find out whether your engineered virus would target enough of the people in ($AGENCY) to be an effective bioweapon, why, those lovely people have already gone and posted their targeting information where some worthy hacker can find it. So clever of them to be such good targets! Here in the states, I suspect blackmail and insurance hikes would show up along with the targeting information.

Of course, if you happen to believe that politicians aren't always perfectly trustworthy, I'm sure that there's some half-brained geneticist out there yammering on and on about markers of racial, ethnic, or immigrant identity, and they'd surely love to sweep through the database and turn everyone with said markers into second class citizens overnight.

But then again, I'm a pessimist. I'm sure the good will always outweigh the bad. Really.

119:

Charlie
Much as I don't doubt the Rees-Thugg faction would LURVE to completely privatise the NHS for their own pockets' sake, I don't think it wil happen, if only because the current is now against them.
The existing rip-offs in water (especially) gas & 'leccy are creating slowly (but surely) an increasing cry of protest & "enough!"
But, it will have to be fought for.

120:

The Stone Boatmen is a mystical fantasy by Sarah Tolmie, published a few years ago. It is most unusual. It is about people choosing science and love and sharing over superstition and fear and division. (When I describe it that way, people say "yep, that's a fantasy, alright.") It is not without conflict. When there are changes in society, not everyone deals with it well. But it is not about the conflict. It is about a much greater mystery. This is why I tend to feel unsatisfied by genre mysteries. It may require extraordinary effort and intelligence to solve the crime, but it only restores the status quo. A science fiction or fantasy story can transcend the status quo, can transform it.

121:

I think the various touch-sensitive-crystal sport watches, particular the Tissot variant, are an interesting take on a smartwatch. Not a general purpose computing device but a watch as is smart. (And in most cases solar powered.)

Lots of obsolescent technology still making progress; Citizen has a quartz watch movement good to a second a year, demonstrated this year and expected to appear in commercial products in 2019.

122:

I really do not understand what you wrote. Can you elaborate?

Fair enough; I was trying too hard to avoid spoilers.

One bit of backstory is a character's wife's disappearance. People logically assume she packed up and left him, as both she and her stuff are missing from their house. He misses her but life goes on. Years later she's discovered to be actually dead (memory fails me about the details, I'm afraid; I'm not even sure she's ever proven to be dead or just concluded to be dead). So the deduced story changes to the husband coming up with a motive and a plan, murdering her, disposing of the body and all her stuff somehow, and wiping his memory of the whole thing. This comes as a great surprise to the husband/widower/murderer/whatever, since he was clueless about it.

But that's every bit as much an invented explanation as the first one; there are no eyewitnesses or recordings.

For all the readers ever find out, in another twenty years the characters could discover that the wife had the plan and framed her husband for the disappearance/murder/whatever.

It's been years since I read the whole series, so I have probably forgotten other details.

123:

Re: Russia death rates

Greg, I had mentioned this. First learned about this when I was reading a (for-work) multinational study which included deep dives into the demos of each participating country. The folks analyzing these findings were unable to find any 'reasonable' secondary data to explain why this was. Very uncomfortable as this inexplicable bit of data consequently put some of the other 'findings' into question. Problem is that all reliable available demo data for Russia (UN, WHO, WB, etc.) show the same. While death rates due to alcoholism, cancer, and violence are higher than in other parts of Europe, this still leaves a large number of missing males unaccounted for.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Russia#Total_fertility_rate_issue

Non-disclosed/unreported male deaths - if you're into conspiracy theories, here's mine:

Chernobyl (April 1986) - based on the Wikipedia entry, fewer than 1,000 deaths were officially directly attributed to this event. I really wonder how accurate this is. Recall watching the 2018 European-made documentary about the entombment of this reactor site. This doc specifically mentioned that about 1 million Russians (mostly military) were sent to work at this site in the first days/months of the melt-down. Pretty damned sure that the Russians did not have 1 million radiation suits on hand. Other reason this event fits is that the sharp decline in the male proportion of the population actually starts at age 55, so among males who would have been in their early 20s during Chernobyl. Plus there's no published rationale for why there was no official news of this event. (Suggests more than one catastrophe was hidden.)

Here's what the UN shows:

http://www.un.org/ha/chernobyl/history.html

'According to official reports, thirty-one people died immediately and 600,000 “liquidators,” involved in fire fighting and clean-up operations, were exposed to the high doses of radiation.'

'No reports were released until the third day after the Chernobyl explosion. Then, Swedish authorities correlated a map of enhanced radiation levels in Europe with wind direction and announced to the world that a nuclear accident had occurred somewhere in the Soviet Union. Before Sweden’s announcement, the Soviet authorities were conducting emergency fire fighting and clean-up operations but had chosen not report to the accident or its scale in full.'


Afghanistan - Wikipedia says 15,000 fatalities and 35,000 wounded. This was the war that sparked the Soviet version of the US's anti-war/anti-Viet Nam protests. Timing is actually around Chernobyl. One or more of these events had much higher body counts than officially reported.

124:

SFR
Thanks.
I suspect that the Chernobyl political/admin fuck-up ( Which is what it was ) probably killed quite few more than officaly admitted ( See futile attempt to hode a nuclear "accident" which released radiation )
But I suspect Afghanistan was the real killer ... the CCCP could NOT admit their miltary had screwed-up really big time after all, certainly not then ...

125:

As much as 100K? No, I am not there :-) I knew that it was exaggerated - and am fully prepared to pay a bit more for a more civilised government. Unfortunately, I don't have another exit option, though I haven't checked out New Zealand recently (grandfather).

126:

The Chernobyl figures vary, but even the most insane high-end estimates put it at under a million (and, more likely, the WHO figure of 43 due to direct effects and another couple of hundred having their lives shortened by a higher incidence of cancer is in line with the sort of radiation effects seen at Hiroshima and Nagasaki—once blast and fire effects of the A-bombs are excluded).

Afghanistan: yes, also clearly low-balled by the Soviet authorities. But even if you multiply by ten you "only" get 150,000 dead and 350,000 injured. Which isn't enough to show up in national-level demographics.

But there's an additional factor. Russia's GDP crashed by something like 50% during the 1990s. Entire industries flatlined, communities were wiped out—we haven't experienced anything like that in the West since the 1930s. Add a copious supply of opiates (from Afghanistan, natch) and needle sharing, and the prevalence of HIV becomes a possible issue: the Soviet authorities were in complete denial because the vectors for the spread of HIV (injecting drugs/needle sharing, prostitution, homosexuality) were not only illegal but were seen as subversive to the state ideology, so inadmissable. And when something is impossible to admit to, it becomes impossible to gather statistics and plan a treatment strategy. If wikipedia is correct, then no cases of AIDS were admitted in the USSR before 1987, and then "in 1990 the veil of ignorance was partially lifted, and the official number of registered drug users measured 300,000. Nevertheless, this number is considered to be artificially low, with Soviet police having estimated the real number of addicts to be ten times as large."

The potential existed for there to be millions of acute AIDS cases in the middle of an imploding economy without adequate antiviral drugs: that's one hell of an epidemic. And current estimates are for there to be an estimated 2 million HIV infections in 2019; the peak is among males aged 30-34 who predominantly contracted it through injecting, and there's a prevalence of 3% among men in that age group. AIDS is officially epidemic level in several regions. Current socially conservative government policies are exactly the worst environment in which to deal with a public health emergency because moral posturing tends to be substituted for evidence-based policy making (as we saw in the USA under Reagan).

And then there's alcoholism which is a whole 'nother story, and probably even more lethal (on this scale) than a full-blown AIDS epidemic.

Of course, current US policies are on course to go in the same direction: cancelling sex education in schools, crashing midwest economy, soaring opiate use (and skyrocketing overdoses), and of course a totally private healthcare system that prices many people out of being able to afford HIV medication. What could possibly go wrong?

127:

Charlie
Yes, well ... POTUS Pence scares me even more shitless than the current shitgibbon.
And, I suspect it's going to happen, because I don't actually think Herr Drumpf is going to amke it to the 2020 election, not at the rate Mr Meuller is gathering interesting data.
Unless, someone can work out how to do a Sprio on Pence, of course?

[ Sining off for almost a week - Berlin beckons ]

128:

Not the same author, but I've had similar feelings about a few other books recently.

129:

Afghanistan: yes, also clearly low-balled by the Soviet authorities. But even if you multiply by ten you "only" get 150,000 dead and 350,000 injured. Which isn't enough to show up in national-level demographics.

The Soviet Union couldn't have deployed the sort of force into Afghanistan that would have sustained six-digit losses over the few years they were there, not without gutting its other deployments such as those positioned in the Warsaw Pact. Besides, since the babushkas generally stay at home population replenishment rates would not have been affected that much -- Soviet Afghanistan was over thirty years ago now, almost two generations back.

Chernobyl, well the "million deaths" claim doesn't pass muster given the known effects of radiation when biological uptake is the main contributor rather than "shine" which causes prompt illness and death. The figure of 600,000 "liquidators" is also a bit of a cheat since that includes people working on the site decades later, on operations like the temporary containments for Chernobyl-4 when the radiation dose was a lot lower. At the same time disaster tourism in Pripyat and environs was in full swing and indeed the three other RBMK reactors on the same site were being kept in operation to provide electricity supplies -- if Chernobyl was really so deadly then those things wouldn't have been happening.

Russia is suffering from a big drugs problem, not just the signature alcoholism problem that garners the headlines and without competent handling by a government willing to face up to or acknowledge the problem that usually leads to a lot of dead bodies, many of which can be attributed to other causes such as "heart failure" == the stiff's heart stopped beating.

130:

Its not Chernobyl, because it is possible to back-calculate the fatalities for that from the known exposures, and you cannot lie about the exposures either, because fallout-plumes do not respect borders, outsiders have visited the area with geiger-counters, the liquidators have been seen by WHO staff and so forth.

- Read the WHO report, this is what they did - No real trust of soviet numbers required whatsoever, it is all health statistics, verified sources and physics. There are uncertainties to this approach, but not order of magnitude ones. Off by a factor of 3-5, tops, which puts the demograpic effects at "undetectable". (and make greenpeaces numbers a knowing lie. There is no way you get the numbers that wrong without deliberate mal-practice)

Linear No Treshhold - It does not just mean a tiny does might statistically kill you, it also means the percentage that survives any given level of exposure is a known quantity.

131:

I find the Commonwealth books enjoyable, but there's plenty about them that leave you scratching your head. Some of the bizarre things people do in it could be cool things to explore as aspects of different cultures, but they're often just taken as read.

For example: the punishment for crime in the Commonwealth is "suspension". Criminals are placed in cryogenic stasis pods for the duration of their sentence then released. From the criminal's perspective they commit a crime, get sentenced, go to sleep and wake up in the future completely free. There's no attempt at rehabilitation at all, no character ever asks if the process is effective etc.

132:

Theoretical Justification: Crime as a result of social graphs?

What the suspension actually does is extract you from your entire social network. Even if everyone in your social circle is still alive, after decades, you will not fit in.
Prison also does this, but prison replaces it with another social network made up of criminals, and is very likely to harden you, rather than make you a more socially adjusted person.
So it is somewhat less crazy than what we are currently doing. Although, in order for it to actually work, you would need substantial focus on integrating the released into a more functional place in society when time is up, and generally speaking, the governments of the expanse are not that competent.

133:

From the criminal's perspective they commit a crime, get sentenced, go to sleep and wake up in the future completely free.

Well, they can lose their connections, time, perhaps friends and family. For many people that might not be that difficult, but I think many people would think twice before time-jumping into the future. Granted, IIRC the Commonwealth had some life-prolonging techniques, so your people might still be alive after you get out of the "suspension."

There's no attempt at rehabilitation at all, no character ever asks if the process is effective etc.

This is what annoyed me with those books, and also with the Takeshi Kovacs books. However, I see that too much in the real world, too...

134:

If you're looking for a hole in the male population, it's nigh-certainly food insecurity.

There's a well-supported "wife dies, man dies shortly" thing in rich societies; dude is domestically incompetent and is not generally able to feed himself in ways that avoid malnourishment. Plus is old enough that being malnourished moves anything from "serious" to "lethal".

If you're looking at a bunch of poor men, well. They're plausible domestically incompetent; they're also poor, which means you die young already. Economic collapse can shift that up; no factory canteen (it had a menu planner!) and general shortage of all but staple foodstuffs. Combine that with a cold climate and disinterest in diet quality, and around fifty five when you have no resilience any more binge drinking that wouldn't have killed you when you're well fed does kill you.

This is boring but it fits the available data and the likelihood of under-reported food insecurity is high.

135:

Well, they can lose their connections, time, perhaps friends and family. For many people that might not be that difficult, but I think many people would think twice before time-jumping into the future. Granted, IIRC the Commonwealth had some life-prolonging techniques, so your people might still be alive after you get out of the "suspension.",

Yeah that's supposed to be the punishment/deterrent aspect of it. Missing out on cultural changes and losing touch with your social network, likely waking up to find yourself broke too. I think it's a bothering aspect of the worldbuilding because no character ever points out that maybe this isn't a great idea, even the supposed genetically engineered-supercop more than once has to deal with a former criminal coming out of suspension and going straight back to crime.

136:

Nojay has already pointed out the inaccuracy of "a million men". The WHO Report (PDF link, see page 2) suggests 240,000 over 1986 and 1987.

...Pretty damned sure that the Russians did not have 1 million radiation suits on hand.

Yes, they did - remember, any land war in Europe was expected to involve tactical nuclear and chemical weapons from the start. Every Soviet artillery piece of 122mm and over could fire chemical shells; everything over 152mm could fire nuclear shells. Pretty much every single Cold Warrior in the central European theatre would have had protective clothing, and regularly trained in its use.

Oh, and "Radiation Suits"... aren't. They're designed to protect you from alpha emitters, and to allow beta emitters to be washed off as easily as possible without ingesting either (the British Army would have issued dosimeters to give a rough measure of exposure). They aren't made of lead - if you spend too long to a strong emitter, you're screwed. the Soviet ones were rubberised canvas, AIUI, and they had a pretty efficient set of specialist troops to handle decontamination, with appropriate equipment.

It's worth thinking of those first responders - the firemen and operators who went in to fight the fire, knowing it was a death sentence; whether carrying hoses, or trying to carry out the shutdown. They deserve remembrance and respect.

137:

Don't wait to do these things or you could wind up like some people in Texas. Born in the USA, raised in the USA, no citizenship elsewhere, apply for a passport and suddenly... "Sorry! I (racist immigration officer) don't think you're a real citizen. Let's deport you!" A growing number of people become stateless as a result.

If it comes time to flee, you want to get out quickly. I don't want to believe that this would happen in the UK, but some scapegoats are going to be needed if the hard Brexit happens and everything turns to shit. Obviously the politicians are blameless. It must be the internationalist wreckers' fault. (shudder)

138:

It's worth thinking of those first responders - the firemen and operators who went in to fight the fire, knowing it was a death sentence; whether carrying hoses, or trying to carry out the shutdown. They deserve remembrance and respect.

Not exactly a "death sentence" either, radiation, even direct contact with high dosages of active material including ingestion and inhalation won't necessarily kill you, at least immediately. See for example the Lucky Dragon 5 incident back in 1954 when a Japanese fishing boat caught a large chunk of fallout from the Castle Bravo fusion test in the Pacific. In that case one crew member, the radioman, died a few weeks after exposure to the plume with classic symptoms of radiation poisoning (a crashed immune system basically). Fifty years later the Lucky Dragon 5 itself was put on display in a museum and several of the surviving crew members from the incident were present to witness the event. Most of them were in their 70s and 80s and still in reasonable health for their age despite being exposed to a lot of radioactive materials fifty years ago (and probably smoking like chimneys ever since).

Recall also the eulogies for the Fukushima Fifty, the workers who stayed on site during the reactor overheats and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi after the tsunami in 2011. They were all dead men walking, the spirits of the kamikaze pilots of WWII and the samurai ethos were invoked for these poor poor people. Who are almost all still alive today and in decent health.

139:

Think I've already mentioned two posts ago that it was definitely overestimated by illiterate persons who don't know f*** s*** about radioactivity at large and care about their own amusement more than about fates of the people. They speak of "liquidators" were dropped from the helicopters into the reactor building to shovel the radioactive slag somewhere away. I know what happens, you can trust me. I'm even surprised to see some people like Martin to know actual difference between alpha and gamma hazardous materials. I would fully expect people to start explaining the difference between evil and harmful communist radiation and good, healthy in small dozes radiation from the US reactors. (wink-wink) That was a sarcasm.

You do have right to know that USSR came very much unprepared to disaster of this scale (although you can easily say it was prepared better then anybody else). They did not have full radiation protection suits at hand in more than several thousands, so most people were working with temporary solutions - masks, water and dust resistant clothiers, filters and regular decontamination. They did not know what to expect on site really, what radioactivity and how much of it they may discover, what is happening inside the reactor, etc, it took 20 years to finish most of loose ends. They managed shifts so people would limit their exposure, and only relatively small amount of them, including first responders, management and more selfless people has encountered relatively high dose of radiation, not to say the dangerous one. That said, most of the liquidation work is connected to on and off-site work with deactivating and managing materials, medical and radiological research and monitoring of situation. If you have any time at hand, I recommend to watch following YT channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/bionerd23

At large, it was a lucky coincidence to have the incident in 1986 in Ukraine rather than 5 years later in Central Russia. USSR still had people and experience and finance to deal with the problem and even prevent some possible, even redundant risks. Has this happened in the 90s, with lack of central authority,the results would have had major political consequences. Well, we are still pretty close to nuclear war, aren't we? Modern nuclear weapons, mostly theoretically calculated and deployed, mostly have accent on more compact design and more effective yield distribution so they leave less radioactive imprint. They also vary in principles - some of them concentrate on EMP effects, some on neutron radiation or heat effects. Anyway, even if you are not dead after the initial barrage, the infrastructure crash will get to you very soon.

Part 2 coming up later

140:

The search phrase is "Mexican Repatriation"; the US deported between one and two million Hispanic persons, many of them unquestioned citizens, in the 1930s. (Japanese internment didn't come out of nowhere!)

141:

A 2018 novel that plays wonderfully with these whodunnit variations is Stu Turton's The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. A highly recommended modern manor murder mystery.

142:

I never lived in large (over a million population) cities, although I'm pretty urbanized myself. I know at least two cities well enough to judge the progress. As one can expect, it's not all shiny and straightforward. We still have steel doors everywhere, and you can find some apartments with windows behind steel bars. There are new infrastructure up and running - roads, bridges, buildings and qpartment complexes, lots of renewal in my region as well. We're getting a lot of electronic money and wireless projects recently (the public traffic is wired in GPS, it uses electronic tickets and sometimes even mobile Wi-Fi). I have a bike and regularly use it in the summer, and the latest fashion on the streets is kick scooters, some of them electric. You can just get yourself on Street View to get the impression in general, but the little details like this are also important.

15 years ago I took train to visit a small fringe resort town on the Black Sea. I takes 2 days to move all the way across the country to get there and I was met with old-looking single-story train station, and then a small guest house converted from apartments, situated right below the airport landing strip, 200 meters from the sea. Last month, I took a direct flight from my city there in this airport, and the guest house was large, new, comfortable for the price and just as close to the beach. The whole town was rebuilt for 2014 Olympics with all the new roads and complexes and doesn't show any (visible) signs of decline since then. The old train station is still there, but there's another federal-class train station behind it, 50 times the size of it. So, as you may understand, I'm very much under impression, not that I did not know anything of that, it is entirely different matter to see it in person.
https://goo.gl/maps/FbkpwA5Pmaw

The health issues have improved drastically even in 00s - but there's a question of quality and quantity still in effect. At large, I'd say, many problems were "solved" in time span of last 10-15 years, in the age of our Lord and Saviour mr. V.V.P., but solved in the sense of "managed". Alcohol consumption, addiction and HIV in normal conditions go down not because people magically get to health or change their mind, but because they die off early, leaving the surviving population more healthy. Information is contained, and the funds are being distributed, so people are not left alone. I can definitely say, for about 10 years from 2006 to 2016, these issues weren't primary concerns in the society and now they aren't either. I wonder if it will change for me by the time I will enter my middle age.

The primary concerns are, ofc, demographics and economic situation at large. The destruction of economy leaves people without future and they can't hope to get a good future for themselves or their kids. The birth rates go down, and death rates rise, and with the country coming out of demographic transition it means inevitable decline of population (most post-USSR countries still suffer from this). Now, 25 years later, and also 75 years after the Great War, this is going to bite the government in the ass again even after all the efforts. So it is time for all populist bloggers, all NGOs and media outlets, "alternative opinions" and "opposition" to go out and try to wreck as much as damage to the society as possible, because this is the only way they can make themselves useful and worthy to pay. I have not seen many publications about HIV situation for a decade before, but suddenly the "epidemics" are all over the English internet. So can be said about many other things in effort to show that "sanctions are working" and "Russia is isolated", etc. Whoever writing it, better watch what is happening in their own countries.

143:

Charlie,

Read this article. It might come in handy with your stuff.

The Women Code Breakers Who Unmasked Soviet Spies
At the height of the Cold War, America’s most secretive counterespionage effort set out to crack unbreakable ciphers

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/women-code-breakers-unmasked-soviet-spies-180970034/

144:

Venona came out in public decades ago; IIRC it's in the Bamforth books in the NSA, in Kahn on Codebreaking, and elsewhere. Basically the KGB fucked up by re-using a one-time pad (in this case, a specific edition of a book, which was easy for an agent in the field to possess/explain). OTPs are pretty much unbreakable unless you can get a copy of the pad ... or deduce what the pad is, which you can do if someone reuses it.

The Smithsonian piece looks like (I skimmed the early bits: it's long) a human interest piece on the women who did the legwork; interesting social history, but not exactly a revelation on the codebreaking side of things.

145:

Since people are talking about HIV, it would be useful to put the disease in perspective.

"At the end of 2007, it was estimated that around 800,000 people were living with HIV in Western and Central Europe. This represents 8.1% increase over the estimated 740,000 in 2006."

I'm assuming that this covers the entirety of the European Union?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV%2FAIDS_in_Europe

"According to experts, the total number of individuals with HIV (including those who are undiagnosed) was estimated in 2016 to be between 0.85 and 1.5 million"

so Charlie, I'd be very interested in learning where you got the 2 million number from?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_Russia

"The CDC estimates that 1,122,900 U.S. residents aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection as of 2015, including 162,500 (15%) who are unaware of their infection.[1] Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has declined to about 40,000 new HIV infections."

So Russia has more HIV cases than the United States, a country which either tolerates or encourages large-scale prison rape

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_the_United_States#Current_status

Here is the data for China:

"The Ministry of Health has said there are 650,000 HIV/AIDS cases...Epidemiology experts have said that 1.5 million is closer to the true figure. "

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_China#Current_numbers_affected

In other words sleepingroutine, Russia does have a larger HIV problem than equivalent countries/groupings, correcting for population. It's not the NGOs trying to spark unrest.

146:

Re: Male demographics (Russia vs. everyone else)

Very long ...

AIDS -

Okay, but there should have also been a sharp die-off among female AIDS victims in the years following (mid-90s) because that's what happened in Africa whereas the Russian female population for this age range looks fairly normal vs. the rest of the world. HepC also spiked. Life expectancy without treatment is about 10-12 years for AIDS and 20-30 for Hep C. Combined could explain some of the sharp die-off. But it's weird that the female populations were not affected.

Chernobyl & radiation suits -

(Martin) wrote: 'Yes, they did [have radiation suits] - remember, any land war in Europe was expected to involve tactical nuclear and chemical weapons from the start.'

These suits and associated cleansing products and food/water supplies might have existed on paper but considering the level of denial that occurred around this incident, still think this might have been a contributing factor.


Afghanistan (& opiates)-

Afghanistan has been at war for 40+ years yet their male/female split by age group demos actually show a better than average sex ratio favoring males than seen in most countries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Afghanistan#Age_structure

Sex ratio
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15–64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009)


Can't find the source, but recall reading that Afghanistan has the highest opiate addiction level (over 10% among males aged 15+). So addiction alone isn't enough to tilt the sex ratio by age group.

Below is a 2017 UN report on drug usage: looks like Russia is a major meth producer/trafficker these days. Meth and other synthetic opiates have a higher mortality risk - but these are 'modern/Western' drugs, aren't they, and shouldn't have been a factor in the missing 55+ year old male demo?

https://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/WDR_2017_presentation_lauch_version.pdf

Even if there was a perfect storm of many different factors, Russia still has a large unexplained demographic hole. The negative 'natural' change in Russia's population size started in 1992 (alas, data shows total population reduction and not population decline by gender). The North Korea Wikipedia article I read mentions that the gender skew usually shows up after a war or after a famine: male infants are disproportionately more affected than female infants by famine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Russia

This article shows what demographers have looked at to explain the unusually high Russian male mortality. Bottom line - demographers remain perplexed:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_Soviet_Union

'The late 1960s and the 1970s witnessed a dramatic reversal of the path of declining mortality in the Soviet Union, and was especially notable among men in working ages, and also especially in Russia and other predominantly Slavic areas of the country.[11] While not unique to the Soviet Union (Hungary in particular showed a pattern that was similar to Russia), this male mortality increase, accompanied by a noticeable increase in infant mortality rates in the early 1970s, drew the attention of Western demographers and Sovietologists at the time.[12]

An analysis of the official data from the late 1980s showed that after worsening in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, the situation for adult mortality began to improve again.[13] Referring to data for the two decades ending in 1989-1990, while noting some abatement in adult mortality rates in the Soviet republics in the 1980s, Ward Kingkade and Eduardo Arriaga characterized this situation as follows: "All of the former Soviet countries have followed the universal tendency for mortality to decline as infectious diseases are brought under control while death rates from degenerative diseases rise. What is exceptional in the former Soviet countries and some of their East European neighbors is that a subsequent increase in mortality from causes other than infectious disease has brought about overall rises in mortality from all causes combined. Another distinctive characteristic of the former Soviet case is the presence of unusually high levels of mortality from accidents and other external causes, which are typically associated with alcoholism."[14]

The rising infant mortality rates in the Soviet Union in the 1970s became the subject of much discussion and debate among Western demographers. The infant mortality rate (IMR) had increased from 24.7 in 1970 to 27.9 in 1974. Some researchers regarded the rise in infant mortality as largely real, a consequence of worsening health conditions and services.[15] Others regarded it as largely an artifact of improved reporting of infant deaths, and found the increases to be concentrated in the Central Asian republics where improvement in coverage and reporting of births and deaths might well have the greatest effect on increasing the published rates.[16]

The rising reported adult mortality and infant mortality was not explained or defended by Soviet officials at the time. Instead, they simply stopped publishing all mortality statistics for ten years. Soviet demographers and health specialists remained silent about the mortality increases until the late 1980s when the publication of mortality data resumed and researchers could delve into the real and artifactual aspects of the reported mortality increases. When these researchers began to report their findings, they accepted the increases in adult male mortality as real and focused their research on explaining its causes and finding solutions.[17] In contrast, investigations of the rise in reported infant mortality concluded that while the reported increases in the IMR were largely an artifact of improved reporting of infant deaths in the Central Asian republics, the actual levels in this region were much higher than had yet been reported officially.[18] In this sense the reported rise in infant mortality in the Soviet Union as a whole was an artifact of improved statistical reporting, but reflected the reality of a much higher actual infant mortality level than had previously been recognized in official statistics.'

147:

.. This is not a question of belief.

Read the WTO report.

Radiation exposure leaves traces in your biology, you can calculate the approximate dose someone got even if they neglected to wear a dosimeter, or it got burned by the coverup, or whatever.

The WTO did this to enough liquidators to verify that their doses were in rough line with the official numbers, and to check the exposure of the people who did fail to wear dosimeters. (the second was the purpose, because the wto is not a very conspiracy minded org, but it did conclusively prove there is no coverup.)

There is a chernobyl conspiracy, but it is a propaganda one aimed at vastly exaggerating the fatalities. It was a major industrial accident. People died and will die by the thousands. But the three extra zeroes people want to slap on the kill count? Those are a lie. Stop buying into it.

148:

Okay, but there should have also been a sharp die-off among female AIDS victims>

Sex versus needles; if the primary means of transmission is needles, no, you don't expect parallel death rates across sexes. You may not expect that even when the primary means of transmission is sexual. Also depending on how many "survived the Black Death" genes you've got in the population (effectively none in Africa) you get different outcomes.

Industrial contaminants may disproportionately affect the male population as well, and Soviet industry wasn't good at the occupational health and safety side of things. Far more men then women affected when it was discovered epoxy is not safe for skin contact, for example.

149:

Charles Stross @144 said: The Smithsonian piece looks like (I skimmed the early bits: it's long) a human interest piece on the women who did the legwork; interesting social history, but not exactly a revelation on the codebreaking side of things.

Read the whole thing, Charlie, with the right mindset. If you don't have your heartstrings tugged, and mist up a few times, then you have more problems than just needing six months off. HA!

150:

Re: Black Death, needles, epoxy, etc.

Thanks for this info!

Was also looking at post-Soviet collapse migration (mostly to other European countries) data which shows a bias in favor of males. Basically, Russian male emigres were better able to find jobs especially males with university degrees. In contrast, university educated Russian female emigres usually ended up in unskilled jobs. Good argument for Russian males to leave and Russian women to stay.

151:

At large, it was a lucky coincidence to have the incident in 1986 in Ukraine rather than 5 years later in Central Russia. USSR still had people and experience and finance to deal with the problem

I watched a documentary "Battle of Chernobyl" that had an interview with Mikhail Gorbachev in which he stated that the effort/expense of dealing with the accident was what caused the collapse of the USSR. If he's correct then without Chernobyl the (former) USSR might look very different now.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1832484/

152:

In other words sleepingroutine, Russia does have a larger HIV problem than equivalent countries/groupings, correcting for population. It's not the NGOs trying to spark unrest.
Yes it is. Not that I am that much of a flaming patriot of a country to tell everybody that it is all a blasphemy of our glorious achievements, of which there is a decent amount anyway. But I do witness sharp rise in publications of certain reports without any associated reason for it. Which means, of course, a bread and butter for negative campaigning in any area - to make something out of nothing.

to Robert Prior @151
Whichever damage the catastrophe caused to population and the government of USSR drivectly, it was only a minor cause of it's collapse. The more severe damage is done by secondary effects and maybe that is what Gorbachev, with all his incompetence, was referring to. The intensive radiophobia campaign, the attack on reputation of USSR and nuclear technology at large, all of it caused immeasurably more damage to society and economy than the incident itself, especially if you compare that to several other incidents before (there are several more exclusion zones around there). Practically, it was a start of 20 years gap in nuclear technology development.

It is enough to say that the negative effects of it eventually echoed back at US and Japan in the form of other major safety drawbacks and economical losses. What I am referring to as worst case is a possibility of similar nuclear disaster in largely impoverished country which depends on foreign financial aid and which has no means to stabilize the situation whatsoever (the Russian Federation in the 90s). That would easily spark sentiments to actually relieve the country of it's nuclear possessions and thus curb the last attempts at sovereignty under the premise of inability to manage it. This is exactly what, sort of, happened in Ukraine anyway, but some processes are still delayed for obvious reasons.

153:

A few things to remember when looking at Soviet Demographics

1. Russia wasn't the only country to emerge. If the radiation explanation is the most likely, then the effects should be more pronounced in Ukraine.

2. Russia can't be compared to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a LDC with an agrarian economy and a high TFR while the SU was an industrialized country with low TFR.

3. The closest equivalent to the late-80s SU right now is the US Rust Belt. Are we currently seeing a divergence between male and female life expectancy in that area? It would be interesting to compare/contrast the demographics.

154:

It is enough to say that the negative effects of it eventually echoed back at US and Japan in the form of other major safety drawbacks and economical losses.
I am not sure what you are saying here. From my point of view (US), the Chernobyl accident was at least 50% the result of a poor reactor design[0] (at the time, prior to subsequent remediation), and it in turn dealt a near-fatal political blow to nuclear power, mostly Light Water Reactors, in the OECD countries[1] in particular, which boosted the fossil-carbon extraction/transportation industries and states where those industries dominate(d). Fukishima's fatal flaw was that to lower pumping costs for cooling (allegedly; haven't found a source), they sited it and the backup generators too close to sea level.[2] The other accidents are noise, relatively.[3] (BTW, I'm not at all bothered by nuclear power; had a nuclear power plant evacuation warning siren 200 meters away when growing up, played with Geiger counters as a kid, visited a radioisotope reactor (pool) as a kid and got to see the blue glow of Cherenkov radiation and play with the remote manipulators. (really!))

[0] THE CHERNOBYL ACCIDENT: UPDATING OF INSAG-1 INSAG-7, section 2. Refed just because I've never looked at it until today. Plenty of other good links out there.
[1} Everyone in the OECD that cared to know knew/knows about differences in reactor design but it hasn't mattered much politically. e.g. Chernobyl: Assessment of Radiological and Health Impact 2002 Update of Chernobyl: Ten Years On.
[2] The Fukushima accident was preventable (2015)
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents_and_incidents

155:

That's exactly what we're seeing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4866586/

It looks like while being poor isn't good, believing you're poor is actively bad.

156:

JReynolds @ 137:

Don't wait to do these things or you could wind up like some people in Texas. Born in the USA, raised in the USA, no citizenship elsewhere, apply for a passport and suddenly... "Sorry! I (racist immigration officer) don't think you're a real citizen. Let's deport you!" A growing number of people become stateless as a result.

What's going on down in Texas is a bit more complicated than that. There was an earlier problem with the State Department questioning the citizenship of certain persons born during the 70s & 80s in south Texas whose births were attended by midwives who issued the certificate of birth (non-hospital births). The ACLU reached a settlement with the State Department about this questionable "birth certificate" crap back in 2009.

These are in fact people who have served in the military; served in local law enforcement & local government ... even people who are Border Patrol & ICE agents ... who do all the things Americans do, including having American Passports.

The interesting thing is it seems to be triggered by people attempting to renew their passports. US passports are good for 10 years. What may be happening is the same people who were flagged by the State Department prior to the 2009 settlement are now coming up for renewal.

I've been keeping an eye on the story, and AFAIK, no one has actually been deported due to the questionable reinterpretation of their birth certificates. As yet, it is just some people being inconvenienced.

But, it looks like the ACLU is going to have to take the State Department and Border Patrol/ICE to court again.

157:

in turn dealt a near-fatal political blow to nuclear power, mostly Light Water Reactors, in the OECD countries

There was a revival in civil nuclear power commissioning, beginning in the early 2000s: but due to the long lead time for a new reactor site, and the desire to move to new generation reactors (which, being prototypes, take twice as long and come in three times over budget — at least the first time round), they ran into first the financial crisis and then the aftermath of Fukushima, which killed it off again for another generation.

Meanwhile, photovoltaic cells were pretty much a niche until 1990, then a joke (in terms of output) until 2010 ... then began to explode. The remaining problems with solar are storage and lifecycle/recycling (of aged panels). Storage might be fixable by a combination of batteries and reworking how we use electricity at the point of delivery, in non-industrial applications that don't require constant power: I've no idea what the lifecycle costs of a permanent large-scale solar infrastructure are, but we already know that decommissioning costs for nuclear power are aggravated by market forces (nobody wants to pay more for reprocessed MOX fuel so we can't reprocess fuel economically so we end up with a pile of high level waste that needs safe management and because of political geography we can't build a single planetary-scale repository somewhere safe but have to build local/national waste repositories in inappropriate locations) ...

I suspect the future (circa 2118), assuming global technological civilization doesn't collapse, is going to see:

— Lots of small-to-medium local photovoltaic infrastructure with battery backup (cheaper, safer, with faster charge/discharge cycles and longer lifespans than current tech: graphene is a starting point, electrolyte flow cells for larger installations)
— Same, only with wind turbines (and tidal power where it's possible)
— A few big nuclear production sites with multiple operational fission reactors, on-site fuel reprocessing plant, designed for continuous commissioning/operation/decommissioning of reactors over a 500+ year lifespan: used to provide base load for heavy industry and storable synthetic fuels (methane, ammonia, longer-chain alkanes) for stuff that absolutely has to have a high density storable fuel (airliners, spacecraft, military)
— A lot of small modular nuclear reactors in the 50-200MW thermal output range, used for driving container ships: designed to be removed from one ship and installed in a new hull if/when the previous hull becomes obsolete, returned to factory for refueling/disposal.
— A very few prototype thermonuclear reactor complexes: three classes of reactor present: first generation base load power reactors running on the D-T fusion cycle to produce electricity as a stunt, first generation reactors used primarily to generate a neutron flux and transmute unwanted high-level isotopes from the fission reactor fleet into something useful or at least less toxic: and prototype aneutronic reactors running on the Boron-Boron cycle (3He is moonshine) — oh, and the bitter joke will be, "aneutronic [read: politically and economically viable without subsidy] fusion is 30 years away".

158:

I'd expect a lot of ammonia synthesis via ocean wind.

There isn't really a storage problem; the problem is building it. Nickel-iron batteries, for something you don't need to move, will work fine. Everybody wants something better, and the problem is that "better" is so clearly available and the cost of a full-scale battery plant is so high that getting money to commit prior to being certain where exactly better plateaus is really hard. (This is the sort of thing governments should do!)

I don't think we're going to have any fission reactors. We might get through to 2118 with a technological civilization, but it won't be very concentrated by current standards; the last time atmospheric carbon loading was this high, sea level was nine metres higher. Fission reactors aren't going to make the top of the priority curve anywhere. (That last time atmospheric carbon loading was as high as it's expected to get, sea level was thereabout of 45 metres higher. I would expect everyone in 2118 will be sharply aware of this point.)

159:

I agree with you in at least one aspect. If our 'civilisation' is going to survive, it is going to have to cut its power consumption by a significant factor (at least 2-3x). I have mentioned before that we could cut the UK's by that factor, without lowering living standards, and without assuming any new technology. It wouldn't even be technically hard, though getting there would be, and it would be politically impossible. I don't see it happening that way, though it might because the country's (or world's) 'civilisation' collapses, unfortunately :-(

160:

Uhm.. ocean wind is not currently very cheap, or dropping in price noticably faster than anything else.
If I were to bet on a source for bulk conversion of renewable-to-fuel, I would be guessing at the Sahara and SOnaran deserts, just due to quality of solar resource. But that depends on climate change being moderate.

Modern renewables are apex tech. Global supply chains, the finest semi conductors and mechanical engineering we have.

Reactors ? Are old school. Far lower requirements in terms of supply chain - Basically, can you do steel plumbing and concrete to good tolerances? Then you can build one.

Consider the direct impacts of climate change: Renewable energy is about extracting energy flows from the weather - Which means if the weather is changing, your entire infrastructure could easily end up being of the wrong type and in the wrong place.

A reactor? Just needs siting high enough about sea level to be safe. No extreme weather event is going to do anything to a containment dome.

Ergo: The worse climate change gets, the more likely that everyone just starts splitting atoms and not sweating the radiation concerns very much. Not having power for air-con, might, after all, kill you today.

161:

Not all renewable technologies are apex tech; the German organic semiconductor ~6% efficient solar films, for example. There's going to be a lot more of that kind of thing. But rare earth magnet wind generators, etc. certainly are.

Consider the direct impacts of climate change: Renewable energy is about extracting energy flows from the weather - Which means if the weather is changing, your entire infrastructure could easily end up being of the wrong type and in the wrong place.

Which is precisely why I expect there to be a big uptick in ocean wind. Sailing ship goes out, drags its prop -- pardon me, "employs a shaft alternator" -- and uses the generated power to synthesize something (I expect ammonia) -- comes to port/floating tankage/something and pumps ashore, restocks consumables, and goes out again.

Air-con is going to turn into passive building design right smartly because "this can't fail short of something tears the roof off"; there's a lot of work being done on this in Saudi Arabia. It looks really spiffy; you get a pleasant house, not a dank bunker. You can use heat pumps for backup/load management and so on, but there isn't any real reason to expect the kind of "throw power at the problem" aircon approach we have now to persist. (For one thing, the more energy you spend on aircon the worse your urban heat island gets.)

162:

What's going on down in Texas is a bit more complicated than that.

Vox did an explainer on the topic a few days ago:

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/30/17800410/trump-passport-birth-certificate-hispanic-denial-citizens

163:

The worse climate change gets, the more likely that everyone just starts splitting atoms

Quite serendipitously, the fine folks at MIT have just produced

https://energy.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/The-Future-of-Nuclear-Energy-in-a-Carbon-Constrained-World.pdf

Blurb: https://energy.mit.edu/research/future-nuclear-energy-carbon-constrained-world/

164:

Re; heat islands: One aspect of the imminent demise of the combustion engine for ground transport is that with unprecedented levels of clean air in urban centers, options for heat management that are currently ruled out by aesthetic concerns (That is, that white surfaces with smog residue on them look awful) become an option.

Charles has written about how the future often looks the same as the present on the surface level? Well, here is an option which will certainly not: The White City, with the Green Top. Concrete formulations that are optically white are common, and living rooftops are good for micro-climate. So the buildings and roads (Concrete road surfaces are superior to asphalt in any case) are white, and to roofs are all gardens, and everyone is wearing mirrorshades to stave of snow-blindness. ;-P

165:

Concrete is still highly carbon-positive AND pretty much useless as a road surface anywhere you get cycling around the freezing point. So probably not concrete as such, and I can't see anything staying white if used as a road, but yes. (I find myself wondering if you can pave with big slabs of alumina.)

The "solar all your windows" side of things has a lot of benefits; you avoid bird strikes, you generate some power, you avoid passive heating, and you wind up with interesting colours on the windows instead of the mass of mirrors we get now.

166:

Concrete is inherently carbon intensive, because the raw material contains a lot of carbon... but you can make lime by electrolysis, and output that carbon as graphite. It is
(given cheap power) not even any more expensive than what we are doing now. Again, this is a change that would probably have some hilariously visible consequences - imagine a future where just about everything mass produced is made of carbon composites if at all feasible, because the concrete manufacturers are desperate to get rid of megatonnes of the stuff.

167:

Gotta hope the graphene battery makers will take all they produce!

I don't think we're going to get cheap power. Power at industrial scales takes a lot of plant, and we're in effect about to lose all the plant. (Because you only need to disable about 10% of the economy's physical plant to shut down everything. The rising sea will do that even if the food supply transition is perfect. (Prince Edward Island currently has a potato shortage. Be deeply suspicious of anyone expecting the food transition to be anywhere near perfect.))

Carbon composites have three serious drawbacks; you get nasty micro-particles from any abrasion of the stuff, you get difficulties recycling (one reason to prefer sails to windmill blades; we know how to recycle sails!), and the stuff fails horribly; anything that breaks carbon composites produces a hazmat site. (special handling gear, worries about inhalation of the particles, etc.) It might be a small hazmat site but it's still a cleanup job.

Carbon sequestration is difficult. If we can get air-sourced carbon into the cement and it'll stay there for indefinite periods of time, that's a net win. Producing extra particulate carbon isn't going to help, though.

168:

I can think of several Arthur C. Clarke stories that have nothing to do with any murders. For instance, The Fountains of Paradise. (Yes, there's a very significant death towards the end, but it's not murder.)

169:

Aside from the comprehensive and so far as I can tell gratuitous ecocide in the epilogue, true!

170:

I'm thinking in terms of roads surfaced in synthetic diamondoids held together by an underlying spongy matrix of something like spider silk, only messed with to make it non-biodgradable (at least without employing artificial enzymes to cleave whatever it uses in place of a peptide backbone). Buildings that are ultra-lightweight above ground, but with thick aerogel walls (for insulation) and something like a hyphae network underground to anchor them. It'll look like traditional structures (humans are incredibly, boringly conservative when it comes to how they want their dwellings to look) but be made of utterly different stuff.

171:

Stuff that doesn't rot or rust -- that neither returns to its ores nor becomes bio-available -- is a big part of the current problem. (All that plastic in the ocean...) I suspect we're going to need synthetic spider silk as rots, but rots on a very predictable schedule.

172:

Stuff that doesn't rot or rust ... is a big part of the current problem.

I think an alternative is to consider posterity when we build things.

As I understand it, the average US house is built to last 30 years; it may survive longer with maintenance, but there's an expectation of impermanence. Ditto Japan, where if you buy a house you're expected to knock it down and build a shiny new one on the plot of land (because the structure is less than 10% of the value of the real estate anyway, and who wants a second-hand house?). Meanwhile here in the UK half our housing stock is more than 75 years old (I'm writing this in an apartment that's creeping close to its bicentennial, some time in the next decade).

We have the same problem all over, in everything from warehouses and shopping malls to sports stadia and roads, bridges and sewers. If we could design our large-scale commercial and support infrastructure like Victorian sewers (design lifespan: 150 years minimum) there'd be less of a construction industry by and by, and a lot more bespoke refitters ... but also a whole lot less waste.

Of course, the fly in this ointment pot is called "consumer capitalism", or maybe "profit seeking". But if we can wean ourselves off market-fundamentalism and get back to using markets to implement social policy rather than setting it, we might be able to achieve something good here.

173:

Diamonds and spider silk? That's expensive tastes! And a lot of protein with the silk.

I'd suggest thinking about this in terms of stoichiometry, meaning that you want stuff that's common (CHO are fine, N is a problem because it takes so much energy to get it out of N2 and into something more durable), and high entropy (the advantage of rubble--you take durable crap, pack it into place with the proper particle size distribution for things like drainage and wearability, and there you go. Note that drainage is as important as wearing surfaces.

In any case, a "rubble homogenizer" working out of a landfill (possibly with the equivalent of a biodiesel or something to cook off stuff that rots and get rid of pathogens) might be a better use: you'll need the equivalent of rubble, cobbles, sand, and so forth to make the road bed, and as long as the chunks meet their proper strength standards, I'm not sure how much it matters what they're formed from.

This is somewhat problematic as tar is pretty good crap, but it doesn't last all that long, compared with, say Roman stone roads (hence the whole Chinese wheelbarrow thing--when the Han roads broke down, it was easier to go to single-wheeling on narrowly maintained paths, rather than rebuild two wheel-wide cart roads).

If you're hell-bent on synthetics, I'd look at "carborundums" C-Si compounds. They're ridiculously durable. But a perfectly sealed hard road is also known as a skating rink, and you want it to drain, both to keep traction and to recharge groundwater.

In any case, future housing needs will need to deal with more extreme climates (bigger rains, hotter summers, and so forth), less energy available to build with (electric equipment, rather than petroleum powered), and less energy embedded in materials (like plastics). There's a lot of room for clever materials manufacturing, but not necessarily industrial diamond manufacturing.

Personally, I hope we can get mycocrete to work (that's using Ganoderma lucidulum hyphae grown into bricks and baked off to kill it). Unfortunately, it never seems to make it out of the lab/art project phase.

174:

If the future is energy constrained enough to make N prohibitive, we are all dead anyway.

Also, see earlier discussion: Nuclear reactors exist. This proves that energy poor futures with people in them cannot - because in order for that to come about, renewable energy has to conclusively fail, and in the face of the lights going out people still reject reactors. Even as brownouts are literally killing them. That is just not plausible.

General point: I see a whole lot of people say these two things;

"Renewable energy is the future, and we can run the world on them".

And then in the very next sentence:

"The future will be energy poor".

Do you not realize you are spouting a logical tautology? One of those points has to be false!

175:

Stuff that doesn't rot or rust ... is a big part of the current problem. I think an alternative is to consider posterity when we build things.

There are a couple of other issues here.

One is that long-term infrastructure supporting, say, petroleum-based car culture right now would be stoopid, because it's not clear that we can support that for another 20 years.

Ditto climate change. Less durable and more reusable isn't necessarily a bad thing, depending on what the materials are.

The countervailing argument is the idea that cities "mature" from development to redevelopment as they hit natural barriers that forces people to rework buildings individually, rather than build whole neighborhoods rapidly. This is where US cities (especially in the West and New South) are getting hung up right now. The monied interests want to keep developing, while the environmentalists see the limits looming and want to shift to redevelopment (e.g. densification, upscaling, etc.).

Redevelopment isn't a panacea, as a changing climate gets in the way of trying to make cities more complex and most people just want things to stay as they are, but car-based sprawl is an even worse solution. That's life.

176:

I am not actually sure car based sprawl is going anywhere. It is insane, because the accumulated waste of person hours sitting in traffic is a crime against humanity, but I am doubtful building a new housing stock would actually be any less resource intensive than just building enough self-driving electrics to move everyone around the existing one.

Of course, the impermanence of US housing stock might make redevelopment a cheaper option than it seems at first glance - if houses do not last, then you can rebuild denser as the mac-mansions fall apart. Slow process, however.

177:

I definitely want to consider posterity when we build things!

Right now, anything closer than ~50 m to sea level -- and I'd make that number 70m if I was approving any infrastructure -- is gone. Sometime in the next... century? maybe? we stop being able to use it. So pretty much everything connects up wrong. And even the stuff well above sea level is going to have experiences with drainage as the rainfall changes. (Every single culvert, drain, sluice, and spillway is the wrong size. Anyone arguing for lower taxes needs to explain why they think you can lower taxes when every single culvert, drain, sluice, and spillway is the wrong size.) So I think of any near-term -- next fifty years -- roads as completely temporary.

And because the roads are temporary, the housing will be, too. If we could be reasonably sure where the population centres were going to be, "the shell should be good for the next millennium" is a good criteria for buried or semi-buried structures. But I don't think we do know where the population centres are going to be, and we're not going to have a lot of margin.

178:

Uhm. World building: The proper citizens of the future abandon the burbs and move to the white towers, with the hanging gardens and the cultural life - The fringe buy huge rotting macmansions on for-closure for nominal sums an mostly earn their bread (and get the materials for maintaining the macmansion they live in) by deconstructing said mansions...

179:

The ability to manufacture nuclear reactors, outside a few naval designs, doesn't exist. It has existed; it may exist again. But it can't exist soon, and the idea that there will be lots of time margin in transitioning energy sources seems implausible under the circumstances.

Would it have been better if people had been mass-producing breeder reactors since 1980 with the aim of making oil and coal worthless? Absolutely. But we didn't, and the lead time now is quite long. (Is China, currently building lots of reactors, going to make it through the monsoons shutting off? I hope so, but I can't imagine planning on it.)

Same with fuel availability, large steel pressure vessels, and a bunch of other stuff; low-volume, highly specialized, and not actually available. The scale of industry required to produce them is... pretty big; US in 1960, or thereabouts, so a connected economy of 100 million people or so is about the minimum. I don't think we're going to keep economies on that scale, and if we don't, we're not going to keep the ability to build a reactor. I think we're headed to economies on a roughly million person scale, and that's going to present really sharp challenges to maintaining industrial culture at all.

The absolute minimum useful power reactor I can imagine is one of the SLOWPOKE-3 designs, and whups, those need enriched uranium and beryllium. Right back into the 100-million-persons scale of economy.

180:

Sea-level is a long-term problem (up to 3000 years for 7000 meters). Temperature is the short-term problem. In general, I'd limit my concern to within the storm surge levels of about +3 meters of sea level rise.

There's a good Nature Article that shows how the temperature spike and sea level rise play out in deep time.

http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~ricardaw/publications/clark_shakun16.pdf


The reason sea level rise is so long is that there's a one meter sea level rise due to thermal expansion (That's the really long term part), plus three big ice sheets (West Antarctica, Greenland, and East Antarctica) that melt at different rates due to a variety of different reasons. The three kilometer-high East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the biggest ice body (and adds most to sea level rise) and the slowest to melt (because it's big and a lot of it seems to be away from the coast). Assuming it melts entirely (and the Clark et al. paper does not), it's going to take a few thousand years to reach its maximum melt.

Anyway, the temperature spike going into 2300-2400 is the biggest threat, because it kicks us into PETM temperature territory for a few centuries, after which we fairly rapidly drop to Miocene temperature levels, and these gradually decline to current temperatures over the next 100,000-odd years (this assuming Business as Usual emissions modeling--BaU). Then, around 138,000 years on (IIRC) we'll probably enter a new ice age.

BaU, at this point, may not mean that we burn all our possible fossil fuels, because I think we'll electrify a bit more quickly than that. Unfortunately, all those climate feedbacks (Permafrost melting, forest diebacks, big fires, etc.) may well make up the difference between what we're able to not emit as a civilization and what ends up in the air by 2100 or so.

181:

I am not actually sure car based sprawl is going anywhere. It is insane...

That's the fight I'm having right now in San DIego

The general problem is that everyone having their own car causes massive congestion, regardless of what the power source is. The virtue of a bus is that you condense the traffic down--50 people in the space of four cars, for example.

Obviously, there are a lot of homes that are located in areas impossible for public transit to reach. I grew up in one, and where I'm living now isn't much better.

On the other hand, making these bad ideas more permanent flies in the face of history. To pick one early example, Minoan Crete had (IIRC) as many or more people living on it than it does now. The island is covered with ruins, but most are out in the brush, well away from where people are living now. There's no reason to think that places like the western US won't follow the same trajectory over time.

I suspect we're near or at the high water mark for sprawl, at least in the US. What this does mean is that over the coming century, and possibly over the coming decade, a lot of property is simply going to be abandoned, Detroit style, as it becomes unworkable to live there. That's one big reason I'm fighting developers trying to force people to live in distant, sprawled out, million dollar homes. The loss incurred by the families when they either get burned out by a fire or have to leave because they can't commute, will be devastating in multiple ways.

182:

Eh, Sweden built heavy water, and then boiling water reactors more or less entirely of the back of its own industrial resources in the 1960s. I mean richest nation on earth at the time, and they did have Meitner (yes. Element 109 Meitner) herself training people, but still, under ten million citizens.. Modern reactor designs are hard. If you absolutely need power, and you need it soon, there are a whole bunch of options that are perhaps not as shiny, but will absolutely produce power.

Not to mention the option of just mass producing naval reactors - Nothing about the design of those stops them from rolling of assembly lines by the thousands.

183:

While you are correct, it's more complex than that for both the US and Japan, for different reasons.

In the case of Japan, its last spate of urbanization (post-WWII) ended sometime in the 70s or 80s. If you add 30 years to that, you get 00-10s. Unless the country is going to open itself to immigration, a large portion of the housing will not be replaced with anything.

The US has a slightly different problem. The overall population is increasing, but it's not evenly distributed. For the metro and rural areas where the population is shrinking, see my explanation on Japan. For those areas that are growing, the older areas built in the 50s - 70s is getting torn down to accommodate the increased population. The largest exception to this is areas where NIMBYs are politically powerful.

184:

Naval reactors require HEU; full-on bomb-grade. Makes perfect sense for a nuclear power that wants to make the thing as compact as possible. So while the reactor might be practical to build it's got fuel issues.

Any attempt to restart production of anything is ... instructive, let's say. The material version of "unused code rots". Are there ANY raw-uranium designs in production anywhere?

185:

There are a number of "jelly baby" reactor designs being built today around the world with standardised structures and components like the Russian VVER-1200, the Chinese Hualong-1, the Korean KPR-1400 and the AP1000 which each have multiple builds underway in various places. One factor often overlooked is that these reactors are being built for an expected operating lifespan of half a century and more -- the major parts of the VVER-1200 are expected to last more than a century in operation. Every few weeks another reactor comes on line adding another GW or so of carbon-free electricity generation to the world which is a good thing.

To replace fossil carbon as an energy source for the world we'd need to build a lot more such reactors, twenty times as many as we are building today, for the next thirty or forty years or so. The good news is that any reactor built today has an expected safe operating lifespan of a century and more given modern materials, design and basic operating knowhow. All they have to do is compete in a tight electricity generating market against cheap CO2-emitting gas.

Breeder reactors -- their history is littered with problematic failures due to engineering restrictions. Everything in a breeder reactor (and the fabled thorium reactor too) happens hotter and faster in a smaller volume than a steam-kettle-simple PWR and that breaks things. The Russians have a couple of fast reactors (not quite breeders but close) which look good for the future with high fuel burnup rates plus an ability to "eat" waste fuel from simpler PWRs and the like but they're not economical compared to PWRs never mind gas or coal.

186:

Total rise is definitely a long-term problem. An Arctic amplification ~2m level increase from Greenland is not necessarily a long term problem; it could be a very bad decade. I'd really like to see some planning on the basis that we can't rule it out, because breaking all the ports at once isn't obviously recoverable.

187:

The Chinese AP1000 builds don't look to be successful in a design sense; long delays over safety concerns.

And so far as I know, they're all apex tech designs; they're not necessarily BAD designs, but I would expect the production rate is limited to something well under the factor of 20. And given the current potato shortage in PEI, I'm not thinking we've got a plausible expectation of food security into that time frame, either.

188:

Sweden had the intention of developing nuclear weapons but abandoned that idea some time in the 1970s, as I recall.

189:

Re: Russian (Soviet) demos

I'm interested in current Russian demos because they seem so bizarre. Also why I showed the Russian death rates associated with Chernobyl and the then-Soviet vs. Afghanistan war. - Not high enough to account for the weird demos.

I looked at Afghanistan because they've been at war far longer than any other country I'm aware of and because I'm of the impression that most of their fatalities were male. Yet despite this, Afghani demos look 'normal'. (Do not see why agro vs. industrialized economy would be a factor in this weird demo because the Afghan-Soviet war used up/wasted Afghani agro resources while using up/wasting industrial resources for the Soviets. Therefore each side wasted mostly whatever economic resources it produced more of. That is, each played to their own respective strengths.)

Something does not add up ... BTW, I rely on census data as part of my job and have gotten used to seeing the more-or-less same old, same old age/gender distribution curve. So I freaked when I first saw the Russian data: Damned, how did we so screw up this sample?! How do we explain that we have to re-do this entire exercise ... arggh?! (The entire team did deep dives incl. solid secondary research into/of all 'exercise' components/phases: We hadn't screwed up.) That's why this is so memorable and compelling to me.


Re: US Rust Belt -

Fortunately - for now - the US Census has good data on migration patterns. Haven't looked at the data by region (mostly work on by-country comparisons) but am aware that some experts on this subject have commented that any major changes in US immigration are likely to exacerbate whatever declines we're already seeing.

https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2017/08/changing-nation-demographic-trends.html

190:

India.

Their Advanced heavy water reactor design is instructive - Relatively small, no huge forgings, extremely flexible potential fuel cycle, and relies on convection driven cooling systems. - Which eliminates loss-of-power as a potential problem entirely.

Not that enrichment is that much of a problem - Laser methods are kind of.. terrifyingly good.

191:

Enrichment isn't a technical problem at present industrial span. It's all kinds of other problems.

If I found the right page, that India design's prototype has not started construction. So not yet in production and certainly not series production.

192:

Most important part of electricity is transmission and regulation of it. Most ambitious part of it is the idea of lossless transmission - there are several different types of it, some of them pretty complex to understand (like half- and full-wave transmission lines), but the most obvious one is superconducting transmission, which sill allow to connect all nodes in larger nets and offer infinite possibilities to regulate the production and consumption.

People who advocate production of energy from solar and wind power really don't like to tell people how much problems it causes eventually, and how much it costs to regulate both of such types. You can't just build a room full of batteries to cover the evening peak of big city, the whole nation worth of production of such batteries wouldn't be enough. For that purpose, they usually use hydroelectric power throttling or pumped-storage electricity, or just dumb backup diesel generators, and sometimes more compact and sophisticated systems for higher price. This is ignored big time when people talk about renewables.

The other thing is energy saving. Yes, many people do say that energy saving does not improve situation at all (more people just start use the same amount of energy available), but this is just a failure of regulation in general. I am not a specialist in urbanism, but considering the amount of urban integration we get (or expect to get) in modern cities, one can expect the whole new paradigm in urban construction. Not quite self-sustained arcologies from future space colonies, but complexes large enough to save both space and energy for everyone involved. More effective climate regulation, less transportation spending, more vertical and local integration, etc. I'm speaking like some crazy scientist, aren't I? If we are going to talk about times the carbon fuel is going to be a less common resource, I think these would be just the right assumptions.

to Nojay @185
As far as I know, fast breeder reactor eating spent radioactive material implies closed fuel cycle, which saves you a whole lot on utilization in general. People in the past really liked to generate problems they would solve in the future (like nuclear waste) but here we are in this future and problems still persist.
https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/186023-russia-bets-its-energy-future-on-waste-free-fast-breeder-nuclear-reactors

P.S. I remembered now, I've been reviewing the situation with HIV policies within and around Russia about 2 years ago and now I checked the information again. The situation is still as dire as usual, if anybody is interested, I may as well, write up another major rant about this state of affairs. Later on. I warn you, you may not get what you'd rather expect.

193:

Re: Russia's HIV epidemic

You mean this?

Title: 'Russia’s HIV rate continues to rise with reactionary policies'

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5026520/

Best quote/summation:

'“I think you could probably point to Russia as a worst-practice for virtually every aspect of how to respond to an HIV epidemic concentrated among drug users,” Daniel Wolfe, director of the International Harm Reduction Program at the Open Society Foundations, told The Verge.'

Basically, they're using the old NancyR strategy: Just say 'no'.

194:

The BN-600 and its modern offspring the BN-800 aren't breeder reactors, they're not designed and can't really be operated on an above-unity scale to produce surplus Pu-239 and Pu-240 for other reactor fuelling cycles. Their Big Thing is an ability to burn a lot more of a fuel load per operating cycle than an LWR which would be great if uranium was expensive or rare but it isn't. Their second Big Thing is a very high temperature primary and secondary loop which can provide process heat for a lot of industrial applications unlike PWRs which are tightly optimised to make turbine steam at only a couple of hundred deg C. Unfortunately there are knock-on effects such as them requiring or working best with metallic fuel rather than commodity enriched oxide pellet fuel structures.

The third Big Thing is their ability, thanks to a high neutron flux, to "eat" waste isotopes and cause them to fission negating the constant complaints about how nuclear waste is going to kill us all in our beds unless we sequester it for billions of years, just you wait. This is not being made a priority in the current experimental campaigns although there is some slipsteam pyroprocessing treatments of LWR waste which are intended to work with such reactors in the future. The bad news is that despite some interest no-one seems to want to build any more BN-800s or indeed the commercial BN-1200 derivative.

195:

to SFreader @193

You mean this?

Basically it is about this.
https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/eastern-europe-central-asia/russia
The continued shift away from progressive policies towards socially conservative legislation is a barrier to implementing HIV prevention and treatment.

If you are a scientist talking about HIV prevention you really should pay less attention to your ideological preferences of "progressive vs conservative" and your "international" programs with big names, and sticking your hands elbow-deep into internal affairs of other countries. Get a little more of real world.

NancyR strategy
It would be better if you could provide more context, I'm not all that educated in your political establishment.

to Nojay @194
The bad news is that despite some interest no-one seems to want to build any more BN-800s or indeed the commercial BN-1200 derivative.
Long story short. Nobody wants to have clean energy either, they only want fast money. Nuclear energy is long money, so in the trash it goes in our progressive times.

196:

"Sea-level is a long-term problem (up to 3000 years for 7000 meters)."

I am having difficulty working out what you mean by 7000 meters! The maximum possible rise is c. 60 metres (close enough to 7000 centimetres), the last I heard. Is that what you meant?

197:

The Advanced heavy water reactor is the evolution on the indian Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor, which is most certainly in active series production there. 4 under construction, 16 planned. And if PHWR sounds familiar, that is because it is basically a CANDU clone.

198:

"(Do not see why agro vs. industrialized economy would be a factor in this weird demo because the Afghan-Soviet war used up/wasted Afghani agro resources while using up/wasting industrial resources for the Soviets. Therefore each side wasted mostly whatever economic resources it produced more of. That is, each played to their own respective strengths.)"

The short answer is that it has nothing to do with the waste of resources. In an agro economy, family have more kids due to high pre-adult mortality rates, and because children are an economic asset. Looking at the casualty count of the war, it seems that around 110k fighters died and up to 2 million civilians died in a 10-year period. I'm assuming that the combatant casualties were primarily male while civilian casualties are evenly distributed between males and females. Within that time period, I doubt that 10k extra casualties per annum would significantly raise the male mortality rate.

On the other hand, an industrial society would have a lower TFR with most families having around 2 children with lower pre-adult mortality rates. Having said that, I doubt that the ~26k killed over a 10-year period made much of a difference in Soviet numbers. While that number could be off, I don't think it's off by a factor of 10. Even if Russia wanted to hide its numbers, the other former Soviet Republics would have no motivation to hide its own share of the casualties.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet%E2%80%93Afghan_War

That's why I pointed out the Rust Belt. While not as severe, the region has experienced a breakdown in healthcare and government services and a rise in substance addictions at the same time.

199:

"The general problem is that everyone having their own car causes massive congestion, regardless of what the power source is."

I have posted that sort of thing before, in the context of electric cars not being a viable solution for anywhere that is a critical constraint (like most of the UK). The claim that buses move 50 people in the space of 4 cars doesn't really hold up to careful scrutiny, actually, because that's only the best case - they are nothing like as good in practice. However, there are perfectly good solutions, even starting from the current housing stock, for almost all locations.

Yes, buses are a component of that, but the dominant one is bicycles (normal and electrically-assisted) for simple personal transport. Even places like Las Vegas are not too sprawling for that to be a viable solution for most personal commuting. Moving 100-150 Kg at under 30 KPH is FAR less resource intensive (including in road space, parking etc.) than moving 1500-2500 Kg at up to 80 KPH.

200:

White paint is probably doable. However, I don't think that green roofs are as likely as you may think. Newer buildings were designed to be as cheap as possible. Thus, I don't think that the roofs were designed to handle the weight of waterlogged soil. In some areas, the roofs may make water shortages worse.

201:

Sorry, I meant 70 meters and was multitasking when I wrote that.

In general, total melt of the ice caps raises sea level to around +70-75 meters above now, Pleistocene glacial maximum lowers sea level to around -100 meters.

202:

I wish that worked in California, but we've got 60 mile commutes now as pretty standard, and that's a bit long for a bike.

The long-term solution is mixed-use developments. Over the 20th century we got away from that, partially to separate industrial problems from the housing stock, partially because it's easier and more fun to design. That really shortens travel distance, but produces other problems.

While yes, I agree that bicycles are a good thing, they're not for everyone, and they do require longer commute times, and showers where people can clean up and change. There's no perfect solution to any of this, really. Cars are great for versatility, buses and trains are great for packing, bikes are great for energy efficiency, helicopters are great for status demonstration.

203:

"The ability to manufacture nuclear reactors ... doesn't exist."

This is a weirdly popular form of argument on here: that we haven't built X for a while, therefore we can't build X at all any more (where X may be nuclear reactors, or moon rockets, or pour-your-own hand-scraped white metal bearings although nobody's actually mentioned those...) because of {list of objections and difficulties}. Except that all those objections and difficulties applied with much more force back when we'd never built X at all, so if the argument was valid we never would have been able to build X, but we patently did build it...

It's basically the well-worn trope of the bygone golden age of lost knowledge, forgotten ancient wisdom of the Atlantean super-race and all that, particularly common in the "fantasy" colouring of the F&SF genre but not uncommon in the "SF" colouring too, and often rather unconvincing even with the genocidal catastrophes, multi-thousand-year time spans and mostly-illiterate societies that the fictional setting uses. It's even less convincing to postulate the same thing happening to current society over a time span which is often less than it took us originally to get from not even realising that X could exist to building the first X.

Even worse is the variant that says we can't build X any more because of {list of objections based on numbers that people have made up and then treated as holy writ}. The obvious response is "so stop worshipping your own fiction and just do it already", and indeed it is often the case that that's just what the builders of the original X did. (Or in some cases, such as many instances of X = railway line, did it the other way round.)

That includes the sub-variant that says we need 100 million people to support the building of X. Well, maybe we do if 95 million of them are effectively sitting around pouring water from one jug to another and back again to support the fiction that people have to be made to sit around pouring water from one jug to another and back again in order to be fed.

Another one in this class is "current designs of X use DRAM chips made in Korea, therefore without Korea we can never build any X" - even though we first built X before anyone made DRAM chips in Korea or maybe even before anyone made DRAM chips anywhere. (Eye of what species of newt? Does it matter? Does it even have to be a newt? Will a googly-eyed fish do?) The only things that have to come from certain places are certain raw materials; all the doing stuff with the materials can happen anywhere, so if Korea isn't convenient then just do it somewhere that is.

Nearly all of this is rooted in the way almost nothing that is done is actually done for its intrinsic usefulness; instead it is done in a manner optimised for making money, with any useful result being essentially a side effect - and produced in a distinctly sub-optimal way because the priorities don't support it. (An obvious if trivial example being the compulsion to use ever more powerful versions of the fucking 8086 architecture to do the same bloody things.) This is obviously a dimwitted way of going about things in any circumstances, and it's even more obviously dimwitted to cling to it fanatically while using it as an argument for not doing anything effective to avoid global catastrophe. To say it's "politically impossible" to change it just doesn't wash; it may not be easy, but it has to be made possible, otherwise we're all fucked.

It's like the "food in a coconut shell with a small hole" design of monkey trap, but unlike the monkey case, humanity has made its own trap and the coconut shell is fictional.

204:

"showers where people can clean up and change"

I see comments like this quite often, and it makes me think that the people who champion bicycles as a means of deliberately wasting energy have a lot to answer for... Sure, they can be used for that, but they don't have to be, and one of their big advantages when they are instead being used as a means of transport is that they increase biomechanical efficiency and thereby save energy: with a bicycle as transport it is possible to cover the ground with less expenditure of energy than walking, yet I've never heard anyone state a requirement for showers in the equivalent walking context.

It seems as if the wasting-energy types have somehow convinced people that the opposite end of the scale doesn't exist; that even if you're just wanting transport you have to belt along like a maniac wearing a gimp suit and sweating like a pig, that you somehow can't take it easy and arrive fresher than if you'd walked because, I dunno, tentacles will come out of the drains and pull you off your bike or something. It seems odd that people would believe this, but then I remember the chap who, when he first got a bike with a three-speed, used to change to a higher gear when going up a hill because he thought that going up hills was supposed to be difficult; and naturally if people do believe it, it'll put them off perhaps inappropriately.

I do agree with the point that cycling certainly isn't a magic cure-all and is not appropriate for many situations, but this is another place where I would contend that fanatics put ordinary people off - to illustrate: a chap complaining that he "can't" cycle from Blackburn to Preston and back every day (even though he was doing) because there isn't a dedicated cycle route, but if a dedicated cycle route was built, then everyone would do it. In fact they wouldn't, because it's 20 miles there, 20 miles back, and most of the year the weather is shite. Multiply by several thousand and the message that comes across is that you only cycle if you're some kind of nut.

It seems to me that such bizarre misconceptions began to really take hold a while after kids' bikes changed from being smaller versions of ordinary adults' bikes to being strange devices with very lossy tyres, no gears, and saddles so low you can't sit on them and pedal at the same time. I speculate that this resulted in a generation growing up "knowing" that all cycling requires much effort because on a machine like that it's true.

205:

If you have something in series production, you can ramp up production.

If you do NOT have something in production, you have to figure out how to produce it at all, and then get it into series production before you can ramp up production. There's any number of "resume production, wait, this is hard" stories out there (one need not invoke FOGBANK!) and there are a bunch of "well, obviously we can" stories such as the Allison production of Merlin engines.

If (as I expect) the perception of the need to switch off fossil carbon is going to experience an abrupt spike after agricultural productivity starts to fail in ways that cannot be ignored, the time frame for "let's go nuclear instead" is much less good if there's nothing there to ramp up. It's an extra couple-three years. I'd expect the result is not going to be a decision to put every nerve and sinew into nuclear power; I'd expect it'll be whatever seems fastest. (though much depends on which interests have control of the id-amplifier.)

The core problem in AngloNorAm is that the definition of "middle class" is "owns a house as your primary (and plausibly sole significant) asset". The entire housing stock is worthless in the context of the time of angry weather. Admitting this -- admitting the very great need to apply every-nerve-and-sinew levels of effort to getting to some other industrial toolkit, now, so we can work on the food security part of the next couple centuries without digging the hole deeper -- means admitting their primary asset is worthless. I don't think that was the plan, back post-war when suburbs and cars were the chosen mechanism of prosperity, but it's surely there now.

206:

I think you'd really enjoy reading Roads Were Not Built For Cars by Carlton Reid.

http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com

It's one of the projects I backed on Kickstarter, and one of the ones I'm happiest with.

207:

Um, can I cut off your little rant, since I actually bicycled to work and school from about 1993 to about 2004? Yes, I often arrived sweaty (school was invariably uphill from where I lived), and since there wasn't a shower, I just dealt with it.

Compare that now with my wife, who has to show up to work in good clothes, heels with closed toes, and, above all, clean and neat. She's the one I'm thinking about, and while they do have showers where she works, it would add an hour onto her commute each way, with the clothes changes.

208:

This is a weirdly popular form of argument on here: that we haven't built X for a while, therefore we can't build X at all any more (where X may be nuclear reactors, or moon rockets, or pour-your-own hand-scraped white metal bearings although nobody's actually mentioned those...) because of {list of objections and difficulties}. Except that all those objections and difficulties applied with much more force back when we'd never built X at all, so if the argument was valid we never would have been able to build X, but we patently did build it...

Well, about those nuclear reactors: there's an example of a new construction for one relatively close to me: The third unit at Olkiluoto. They've been building it since 2005 and while I don't think all of the problems with the construction are due to not having built any in years, I still think much of it is just that.

To paraphrase a friend from years ago, nuclear power might well be a good solution for many of our problems, but there are no nuclear power plant builders we could trust.

209:

Incidentally, the problem with using violence as a dopamine-reward payoff trigger in fiction is that you keep having to escalate.

Only in SF & Fantasy series. SF & Fantasy has this obsession with leveling up.

Other genres don't see this need.

Detectives in a series of novels don't get faster, stronger, better with every novel, escalating up from finding petty shoplifters to murderers, mass murderers, then international terrorism.

Unless they're a fantasy detective like Harry Dresden or Laurel K Hamilton's Anita Blake.

210:

Same with fuel availability, large steel pressure vessels, and a bunch of other stuff; low-volume, highly specialized, and not actually available. The scale of industry required to produce them is... pretty big; US in 1960, or thereabouts, so a connected economy of 100 million people or so is about the minimum.

Strongly disagree: both the UK and France in the 1950s and 1960s respectively ran substantial, rapid, large-scale nuclear power station programs rolling out on the order of 20 reactors/decade each, admittedly starting small (200MW thermal) but getting up to GW range pretty quick, both on half the population and not importing stuff other than uranium ore (because autonomy was a political imperative—there was an attached weapons program). In the 1960s-1970s Israel managed to build the Dimona plant, too. Admittedly they leveraged imported knowledge, but the book-learning side of it is now well-distributed globally.

I'll concede on the order of millions of people required for that nuclear-capable economy, but not necessarily hundreds of millions—especially if it's an emergency/war footing job and they're willing to cut corners because it's a survival requirement.

211:

Not to mention the option of just mass producing naval reactors - Nothing about the design of those stops them from rolling of assembly lines by the thousands.

The one drawback there is that they run on highly-enriched (near weapons grade) 235U, which requires an expensive enrichment line (being 60-80% 235U, rather than the 2-3% 235U of regular reactor-grade uranium, and the 0.2% 235U in naturally occurring ore.)

212:

“I wish that worked in California, but we've got 60 mile commutes now as pretty standard, and that's a bit long for a bike.‘

I’ve found that problem to be easily solved by the addition of a modestly sized (I find somewhere around 100 BHPat the rear wheel adedquate) engine. :-)

“Compare that now with my wife, who has to show up to work in good clothes, heels with closed toes, and, above all, clean and neat.”

As ever individual circumstances and requirements vary but, depending on local geography and time constraints this isn’t necessarily a show-stopper. There are lots of places (most of Holland is the obvious example) where you’ll find lots of people sedately trundling (but still fast enough to significantly extend practical commuting radius) along in smart everyday/office clothing (they may or may not change the shoes, but I’ve seen plenty of women riding in skirts and heels - god alone knows how they manage with the heels but they seem perfectly at ease with it...) without breaking enough of a sweat that a change of clothing is required at their destination - I think it’s the common assumption that if you’re not cycling fast/hard enough for it to be hard work while tucked into an uncomfortable position in special clothes on an unobtainium projectile you’re somehow not doing it properly, even for a modest commute that Pigeon is questioning. Adding even a very modest electric assist can make a huge difference as well...

213:

Until the 1960s, it was common to see people cycling to work and on work in suits in the UK, and the solicitor who arranged our house purchase in 1977 did. I have done that more than once, too. That is an easily soluble problem, though it needs rather more changes than you describe, but the details probably wouldn't interest anyone except Pigeon.

I said 'for almost all locations', but decided not to abuse Southern California directly. 60 miles is a ridiculous commute, by ANY method of personal transport (*), and any viable solution to the problem would involve cutting that to a sane value.

(*) The one reasonable case is when there is a train from the residential area to the industrial area.

214:

The trouble is that it means (say) 10^9 useful work hours per annum - see Pigeon in #203. My estimate is that, in the UK of today, at least 80% (possibly over 90%) of the national effort goes on supporting the monetarist and consumerist rituals. It's hard to estimate for 1950, but I am pretty sure that it didn't even reach 40%.

We could certainly still design and build our own nuclear reactors, if there were the political will to do so, but I am pretty sure that it would take more of our national effort than it did then. The much better knowledge and tools we have now would be counteracted by wanting much higher safety and environmental standards.

215:

Encouraging their use world-wide would go down a bomb in some quarters!

216:

Mild cognitive bias here, but I spent most of a decade cycling about 5km to and from work within Edinburgh, because I had safe-ish routes to do so, and because (being a coastal town, being physically robust, and having good outdoor kit) there were very few days per year where the weather prevented cycling. I also didn't have to deal with customers and dress smartly, so I could roll my clothes up into a backpack. Cycling gets impractical when you've got any more than a short school run / pickup to do (all very well saying they can cycle their own bikes; but throw in a hockey bag and a french horn, and things get interesting).

Home-to-work routes have varied since then in terms of distance and route safety; I won't share any more than a short fragment of road where the national speed limit applies. However, I did manage a brief period of non-winter cycling a couple of years ago (a 45 minute journey, including a half-mile of 16% slope; and exceeding your maximum heart-rate in your late 40s might not be a universally good idea. It only took 25 minutes to return, though...)

...kids' bikes changed from being smaller versions of ordinary adults' bikes to being strange devices with very lossy tyres, no gears, and saddles so low you can't sit on them and pedal at the same time

Just, wrong. If I walk into any credible bike shop around here, the vast majority of kids' bikes are scaled adult ones. Certainly, our boys both ride scaled off-road bikes, as do the other local kids. Perhaps it's because Edinburgh has countryside nearby, and a decent if incomplete cycle network, rather than being miles of continuous high-density urban area.

The "do tricks" bikes that you describe are a niche market for (harumph) long-haired skateboarding teenagers who wear the waist their trousers halfway down their buttocks, National Service, corporal punishment in schools, society is going to the dogs, Daily Mail says so... (harumph, rustles newspaper furiously, considers writing letter to editor and using green ink)

217:

Yes, many people do say that energy saving does not improve situation at all (more people just start use the same amount of energy available)

I've never been entirely convinced by this claim. Personally, if my environment starts to get "too warm" regularly I turn the heating down/off (BTW my household heating has been off for 10 weeks at time of writing).

218:

Agreed. Based on observation from my Mum's front window (bus stop opposite, half-way from town centre to large housing scheme where many residents do not have access to personal transport) peak usage tends to be more like 20 persons in a bus at peak hours, 2 to 4 in a shared car or taxi, and off-peak usage of the bus tends to be 10 or fewer persons, with fewer car/taxi journeys but a similar occupancy.

I'm less convinced by claims for cycling, because I live in an area where keen cyclists leave their bikes at home for months at a time in the dark months due to strong and dangerously gusty (their view) winds.

219:

Sorry, but that's a misreading of the actual argument.

The actual argument is not "we can't have an assembled Saturn V in the Kennedy Space Centre Vehicle Assembly Building next year so we can't build one again ever" but "we cant...next year because we have to re-engineer it and set up all the sub-contractor production lines again first".

220:

As I have said before, there are good, proven solutions. Recumbent trikes are very little affected by gusty winds - they take more parking space (though less than even a 'smart' car) but little more road space. There are also fairings, or even full enclosure (not necessarily velomobiles) for protection against rain. As there are for load carrying (trailers, or delta trikes). I am not denying the extensiveness of the changes needed, though they are both technically solved and easily affordable in the UK, and the problems are political and social. And I am claiming neither a magic wand nor a 'one size fits all' solution. But this is not the place to go into details.

221:

But nothing saves you from the increase in heat.

There used to be a joke that you could cycle eleven months of the year in Toronto (and up until 2008 it was pretty safe to cycle in Toronto) if you were willing to wash off road salt. (The peak of winter was still too cold.) Then it turned into "and the month you can't cycle is July", and now it's not a joke; when the humidex goes over 40, you really can't cycle much of anywhere. (Humidex is a system Environment Canada uses for the effective, humidity-adjusted temperature. Humans are heat engines. There's a point past which you can't go. I'd rather they reported the wet bulb temperature but it's much of a muchness in practical terms.)

This is one degree of increase. There's going to be at least three more. I've never seen careful academic expectations about what this does to the practicality of outdoor exercise, but it doesn't increase it. Cycling is going to get less and less practical everywhere in the former temperate zones.

222:

Actually, that's not all they have to do, and is why you can't have it next decade, either, as is the case with the UK building a nuclear reactor. Even when complete, detailed scientific designs and engineering plans exist (which I believe they don't, in either case), the skills and know-how to interpret and build them are mostly lost. Those are passed by personal teaching and experience, and would have to be relearnt; that takes a long time, and those people would have to build real prototypes to learn them. Going gung-ho for a production version is a sure recipe for vast cost- and time-overrun and probable failure in use.

I could give you an example in computing where I don't know anyone else still even vaguely active in the area who has EVER had the relevant skills! The result is that ALL modern software (of a certain, common, class) fails to achieve what was best practice in the 1960s and 1970s, and you couldn't commission something of that quality to deliver by 2020, for any money. The shorter timescale is because I am talking about a MUCH simpler task.

223:

This is the air-conditioning myth. Why myth? Because using large amounts of power to solve it is a certain way to make the survival of our 'civilisation' impractical. As Heteromeles has said, the ONLY short-term solution to such issues that is compatible with long-term survival of our 'civilisation' is to abandon such locations. Possibly only for some of the year, of course.

224:

"Uranium ore" is a big chunk of economy; hard rock mining and overland transport. Uranium City needed a lot of rail line! (and once you start counting the crews you're finding yourself counting the makers of dentist drills and the knitters of socks in the necessary economic span.) We don't currently know how to make rail line without burning a lot of coal, either, or how to run a rail road without diesel. (Even the heavily electrified European passenger lines have a dependency on diesel, just a smaller one.) Nor were either the UK or France independent economies in 1950 or 1960; they might have done all the primary contracting internally but there's a web of dependency on the larger population network of trade. (E.g., UK food imports count!)

Safe small-scale mass-produced reactors are clearly technically possible and obviously desirable in any quantified analysis of trade-offs. It doesn't look like anyone's got the actual systemic machinery to do it. Any attempt at building a power reactor turns into an attempt to optimize something that isn't especially useful, and it does it in China as much as it does it in the US or the UK. I suspect there's a core cultural fuck-up involved with the subject. And as the public won't magically get MORE rational as the situation we're actually in becomes more apparent

(Small-scale because you want to run a hospital or power a neighbourhood, you don't want to spend billions on something that depends on the power lines staying up to be useful. Price per serviceable kilometre of power line isn't going down in the time of angry weather!)

Trading networks matter and no one knows where they go now; you've remarked on this yourself at some length. Switching to a short supply chain with no fossil carbon in it is a big big job. (Entirely necessary, but no one is doing it.)

225:

The one drawback there is that they [naval reactors] run on highly-enriched (near weapons grade) 235U

Mostly, but not entirely. France uses LEU in its naval reactors and there are allegations that China does also. The US has considered switching to LEU, but hasn't done it.

https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2018-07/news/navy-nnsa-say-naval-leu

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/22/opinion/highly-enriched-danger.html

226:

> there are allegations that China does also


http://fissilematerials.org/blog/2017/05/chinese_naval_reactors.html

"It is possible that China has adapted its second generation naval reactor for use as a small commercial power reactor. The China National Nuclear Corporation's ACP100 reactor is said to be derived from naval reactor technology. The ACP100 reactor is described as a 310 MWt (100 MWe) small modular PWR, using 4.2% enriched LEU fuel, with the core and cooling system integrated inside the pressure vessel and a passive safety system. This may suggest China has developed a compact integrated naval reactor, similar to ones previously developed by France and Russia."

227:

Sweden - the nation which appears to exist to ruin statements about what is possible - produces somewhat in excess of 2 million tonnes of steel by electric processes every year. I mean, that needs carbon, but it needs it as an alloying element, not as a fuel. This is economic for quality steels, and it would not end industrial civilization if it was the only option available.

So.. yes, we can make rail without coal.

228:

Well, yes, but Skandinavian countries have a high proportion of hydropower. It might be somewhat problematic to scale up for the rest of the world...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Sweden

229:

From the _ore_, electrically?

Not "electric furnace for steel production from iron", but "I have iron ore of whatever grade and I've got a no-coal process that makes steel from that in however many steps"?

230:

Apparently not:

https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/innovation/building-construction/sweden-aims-for-first-place-in-carbon-free-steel-race

It's possible, though, similar to aluminium, but given iron has a much higher melting point, it's going to be an energy drain:

https://phys.org/news/2013-05-electrolysis-method-green-iron.html

231:

Not just cycling. I'm currently in a Toronto school, not air conditioned as when Toronto built its schools that wasn't done (and wasn't needed). Won't be added when there's nearly $100,000,000 backlog of repairs (leaky roofs etc).

My morning classroom had a temperature of 35° with 75% relative humidity. It will be worse after four periods of teenagers sit there. Last June the humid in my afternoon class regularly got into the 40s.

I just walked to buy lunch and in the sunshine even a slow amble had sweat dripping from me as opposed to just oozing.

232:

Re: Avert article (Russia's AIDS epidemic)

Looks much worse than I thought especially the substantial increase in new treatment-resistant HIV strains.

Just say no - Nancy Reagan (wife of former POTUS Ronald Reagan) was the spokeswoman for a US anti-drug campaign aimed at young people called 'Just say no' which is fundamentally the same strategy described in the Avert article: be a good little American/Russian, maintain orthodox religious/traditional values esp. regarding sex. Using a real-life metric of 'the importance of a program can be determined by its funding': almost zero for both the JSN and current Russian HIV epidemic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Say_No

FYI, I'm not a scientist.

As for 'big names' - based on my work and personal experience, I tend to rely on what are considered scientifically/objectively gathered, analyzed and reported data from neutral organizations such as the UN, WHO, WB, etc. These orgs also provide by-country data and analyses which help frame issues of interest within a global context.

Not sure who you directed the not 'sticking your nose into foreign countries - get to know the real world' comment at.

233:

This is another thing that's certainly possible and no one presently knows how to do for "this is a viable industrial process" values of "knows how". It goes along with "maybe titanium, which is after all not rare, will get cheaper".

There are a lot of those. (e.g., using the remarkable stuff some sea life uses for exoskeletons in place of thermoplastics. It's obviously possible, but the art has not yet sufficiently advanced.)

234:

Re: '... the ONLY short-term solution to such issues that is compatible with long-term survival of our 'civilisation' is to abandon such locations.'

Problem is, we're running out locations to go to. Plus, the hot zone seems to be moving around from year to year. Last year was cooler than usual and quite comfortable, this year's heat and humidity have been extremely uncomfortable* and expensive (A/C).

* And unhealthy - lots of days with 'heat warnings'. Older cities with higher proportions of non-A/C'ed dwellings have seen spikes in heat-related deaths.

235:

Yup. The entire housing stock is worthless. And it's on the books as an asset, usually someone's primary asset, and there's a non-trivial amount of panic about this.

An able politician willing to propose an effective collective solution to the problem could get a long way. It's not going to happen because it necessarily means pauperising a lot of landlords, and this is nigh-literally unthinkable.

236:

Pity when those areas are the primacy agricultural land, isn't it?

Cycling can be done without; agricultural labour cannot, only it looks like we're going to have to. I could wish there was much more engagement with this issue. No amount of pure-electric steel refining means anything if we can't feed ourselves.

237:

Started working my way through 200+ comments, and thought I'd make some points of my own.

Why murder? Because there's a *cause*, and someone to blame. All of human existence has been filled with crippling, maiming, and death, by accident, or for no fucking reason at all[1]. With a murder, you can *get* the reason, and make it pay for its crime.

Why conflict? It's another way of setting up an argument, and it allows the author to prove that the hero's view is the correct one, and have the readers approve and enjoy that "their side wins".

In either case, except for tragedies, you can even have a mostly happy ending, as opposed to too much of real life.

1. Say, struck by lightening, slipping into the river, eaten by bears, or just dropping dead for no fucking reason (like my ...late... wife).

238:

For a few years, after my late wife died, I picked up some of the murder mysteries she'd been reading, and followed the series for a bit. One or two, that I started on my own, I dropped fairly soon. An example, and I can't remember the title or author, was about this short, rounded woman who's a caterer in Vale, Colorado. She goes around, book after book, folks being killed around her, and she finds the killer.

Yeah, right. Oh, and the author had recipes... how the hell do you create a *bad* brownie recipe?

Two counter examples: Rosemary Edgehill's three books following a Witch in NYC's Pagan community. By the third book, have dealt with three murders, and been held hostage by one, she's FUCKING TERRIFIED, and leaves her beloved NYC for the country to get away from murder.

The other is Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles mystery series. Murders... but though she owns an herb shop in Pecan Springs, TX (no, no, it's not San Marcos or New Braunfels, no, no...) she's not misplaced. She was a former high-powered criminal defense lawyer in Houston, who got fed up with the vile scum she was defending, and cashed out. The guy who shows up some books into the series is an ex-trooper. *Both* have the education, training, and emotional background to deal with a moderately sized town's murders. I can *believe* them handling it as well as they do.

239:


Yep, it's ok for kids to see old cowboy or crime movies, people being shot left and right, but *oh, dear*, where are my pearls to clutch?!* NUDITY?! TERRIBLE!!!!

Most religions are about control, and if they can control your sexuality, they *own* you. Of course, then, something has to come out in other forms, so more violence....

Damn it, even con Masquerade costumes don't have even partial nudity any more....

240:

Ah, yes, as a late friend put it, long ago, the Three Laws of Thermodynamics, as presented by the Las Vegas College of Physics and Gambling.

Actually, it woud better be
capitalism's keeps heading out to "life is a zero-sum game", while socialism knows that it's not.

Mysticism? Sorry, *which* variety? Western esoteric schools? Mahayana Buddhism?...

241:

"Exposing the murderous heart of darkness in all of us", um, are you speaking for yourself?

a. Plenty of studies to counter what you suggest.
b. Just a story in the media in the last week about how *few* social science studies are repeatable.
c. Most primates, when there's a territorial dispute, line up facing each other, and yell insults and make threats, until one side backs down.
d. So, people giving their lives to save others doesn't happen, eh?

I consider your view of humanity bullshit.

242:

Re: 'TFR'

Agree this makes a difference in terms of impact on the resilience of total future populations of the two different economies.

Probably the only way to figure out why the Russian age/gender ratio is weird is to look at annual demographics and cause-of-death data starting at WW2. Apart from understanding why and how so many men's lives were cut short, such early deaths likely caused emotional and socioeconomic harm to their families (esp. widows & children) which then fueled the next cycle.

243:

I strongly suspect that the future of farming is going to be truely epic-scale greenhouses. With wind-baffles. And using the ocean for water sourcing.

That scene from the bladerunner sequel with the endless greenhouses? That was not cgi, that is real.

https://www.scienceabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/almeria.jpg

Used to be a desert. Now it produces a noticeable faction of all of europes vegetables, and is one massive cool island because of the very high albedo. I mean, I wish they would stop being wankers and build in glass instead of plastic, but areas like this concentrate and harden agricultural production against weather - and they can be upgraded as things get worse. Storms? Fuck-off huge windbreaks. Water shortages? Evaporation driven distillation.

Also, obviously a better setting for automating the heck out of things. You do not need pesticides or grunt labor if you have a track in the celing with little "Are you a bee? No? DIIIIIEEEEEEEE!" laser robots, and bigger robot arms for planting and harvesting.

244:

Nope, it's manioc and other crops with altered heat shock proteins. The problem with crops is that when you exceed their thermal tolerance, yield drops precipitously. Manioc is reputedly the most heat tolerant crop, although it needs a lot of water. Probably sorghum and some corn and bean varieties are the most desert tolerant. Researchers are already working hard at tweaking the heat response systems for crops, because if they don't, a few really hot days will see crop failures and starvation, and we're going to predictably see more hot days.

Greenhouses don't cool things down, they trap heat, so they're not a solution for climate change. A warehouse with LEDs will work for some things (like basil) but not for grasses.

My assumption is that the diet in the late 2090s is probably going to be a lot less wheat based, and possibly a lot less grain based, especially if we have to switch to heat resistant tubers to get a lot of calories per acre. There are whole cuisines based around these ideas, so it's not totally alien, but a lot of the mythology around wheat, rice, and barley will probably be relegated to the history books (except for high latitudes). Enjoy your beer, and talk to your local wiccans about maybe doing getting inspired to rework that mythic cycle their celebrations are based on.

245:

As Heteromeles has said, the ONLY short-term solution to such issues that is compatible with long-term survival of our 'civilisation' is to abandon such locations. Possibly only for some of the year, of course.

Not true. Since black flag weather is invariably seasonal, another solution is to live deep underground during bad weather. I call this the Tunnels and Trolls solution, because it appears that (at least in the US) the only thriving market for underground shelters caters to wealthy right-wing preppers. And then there's Beijing whose underground city leaves Montreal in the dust.

246:

Sorry about misrepresenting you. I hadn't thought of that one - stupid of me!

247:

Submarine naval reactors are usually HEU-fuelled these days since the only way to refuel a submarine is to cut it in half in a dry dock, expose the reactor room, refuel it with fresh fuel and then weld the sub back together. There are no working spaces in a sub that would allow the reactor to be accessed safely for fuel element removal without splitting the hull in two. Exposed fuel elements would be intensely radioactive due to fission products and the operation would need substantial access to at least one end of the reactor vessel regardless. A sub with HEU fuel doesn't need to be refuelled for the vessel's effective working life (25 years plus) whereas a sub with LEU fuel or even medium-enriched fuel in the 20% region would need refuelling at least once in its operational life. There are another couple of operational advantages in using HEU but the engineering designs are not as straightforward, I think.

Any Chinese Naval reactors will be similar to the Soviet-era KLT-40 PWRs used in existing and under-construction Russian icebreakers and also the floating power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov the Russians are finishing up (it has two KLT-40S reactors). These can be refuelled much more easily than sub reactors and LEU is less problematic to work with in terms of proliferation.

The smallest land-based reactor under construction is the CAREM-25 in Argentina, a one-off. The CAP-100 is still on the drawing board while most countries building smaller power reactors are aiming for 300MWe designs like the Chinese CNP-300 LWR in operation in Pakistan and China itself.

248:

One greenhouse traps heat. An entire province of them reduces reflects sunlight back into space more than it traps it. - That is observed reality, the temperature of the province has dropped while the greenhouses expanded, which is a rather marked contrast to the rest of Spain. If you were trying to do this deliberately, you obviously could do so to greater effect.

249:

Firstly, I am fully aware that there are problems that do persist in my country that should be addressed immediately, and frankly, HIV is only one of them. However, what I am talking about is that "help" we are supposedly should receive from our "foreign partners" is not help at all and would not lead to improvement of the situation and quite possibly will result in complete collapse instead.

As for 'big names' - based on my work and personal experience, I tend to rely on what are considered scientifically/objectively gathered, analyzed and reported data from neutral organizations such as the UN, WHO, WB, etc. These orgs also provide by-country data and analyses which help frame issues of interest within a global context.
As per my observations, there's way too many organizations which somehow put words like "international", "humanitarian" or "independent" in their names and goals, which are simply lobbying organizations who managed to build up this big front image to fool people into their legitimate status. The article I've linked is notable because it follows the classic guidelines of creating of information smokescreen and recursive links.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_International_Council_on_Security_and_Development
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_Consensus_for_a_Humanitarian_Drug_Policy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Narcotics_Control_Board

1. The article site contains a big credentials in the name like "professional resources" and "global information" and "education" or "knowledge" while in reality it is a small internet resource that is a bit more developed than regular run-of-the-mill internet news agency.

2. Extensive use of words like "estimated", "some experts predict", " data analysis suggests" or "we can not really trust official numbers" (even though their own estimations are never questioned) indicate a lot of term stretching, meaning variations and bootstrapping.

3. The references section in the article is a collection of links to online news sites like NYC or FT, other NGO sites and articles, and just a bit of more or less official UN organizations reports. This is a classic method of blurring of relevant information, where article A is linked to article B, then article B linked to the article C, and when you get to articles D or F you may as well discover that initial message was rather mild, if not the opposite in meaning.

4. The article constantly swerves out of main focus to describe other "related" issues like drug use, tuberculosis, sexual education, conservatism, Foreign Agents Law (which is, if nobody notices, a mild version of US Foreign Agents Registration Act), church, "gender" rights, etc. These people, you see, they are "independent", they don't ask if anybody wants to accept their "information", they just would shove it down your throat ad nauseam.

5. And this is before we actually get to the methods generally promoted among NGOs - numerous, unsystematic, completely randomized, foreign-funded, invasive and corporate-supported. They are always acting from position of power, and you should never question them or their decisions, because they are backed up by Big Money and Big Names, and all the power of science and technology they manage to squeeze into their very convincing information bombs (see above). Their methods are, apparently, expected to be so effective, that existing methods like registration, criminal prosecution, moral norms also need to be relaxed and removed since they are too conservative for their taste.

A shift towards more conservative legislation is placing significant restrictions on same-sex relationships, gender rights, sex work and drug use, which could further prevent key populations from accessing HIV information, prevention, testing and treatment services
What. The. F##k. Is this. I ask myself regularly. Well this pretty much summarizes the "progressive" idea of the foreign aid out there. Acting by providing the wide front of "aid work" in this general direction, it is guaranteed that if there should be some sort of weakness be discovered, it would be exploited to the most profitable outcome. God forbid some technique to be too effective in curbing the problem they are "fighting" - it would push people to lower or redirect the funding and thus discourages the actual activity to be successful.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/sep/03/drugs-prohibition-latin-america
https://merryjane.com/news/legalizing-all-drugs-would-raise-100-billion-for-u-s-says-harvard-economist
This is what modern "progressive policy" look like. If you can not fight them, you join them.

250:

Why conflict? It's another way of setting up an argument, and it allows the author to prove that the hero's view is the correct one, and have the readers approve and enjoy that "their side wins".

I hear you though in general I'd reverse that from the reader's perspective; it's more that the villain and their view loses. You don't have to be 100% on board with the hero to be happy when the dick they're opposing goes down. No matter your questions about the role of policing in the modern world we can all cheer when they put the cuffs on a serial killer.

Or at least I hope that's the case what with the dubious rogues I've been writing into the protagonist role.

251:

A sub with HEU fuel doesn't need to be refueled for the vessel's effective working life (25 years plus) whereas a sub with LEU fuel or even medium-enriched fuel in the 20% region would need refuelling at least once in its operational life.

I don't know about LEU-fueled submarines, but all or almost all US ones with HEU cores to date undergo a middle-of-life refueling. That is, indeed, a big deal that can last a couple of years. Though it doesn't involve cutting the submarine in half, it does mean cutting a big section of the pressure hull out over the reactor, lifting the core out and replacing it, and then welding the pressure hull section back in place. Eek!

The first life-of-boat reactors are, IIRC, intended for the next-generation SSBNs, though there may have been one-off examples in the past.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refueling_and_overhaul

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia-class_submarine#General_characteristics

252:

Pigeon noted: "This is a weirdly popular form of argument on here: that we haven't built X for a while, therefore we can't build X at all any more (where X may be nuclear reactors, or moon rockets, or pour-your-own hand-scraped white metal bearings although nobody's actually mentioned those...) because of {list of objections and difficulties}."

I agree with your overall thesis that if we built something once, it shouldn't be too hard to build it again. But there are two significant caveats:

First, a lot of the knowledge that goes into building any complex modern product is implicit knowledge that exists only in the minds of the workers and that has never been written down anywhere. Discovering this knowledge and preserving it is a formidable challenge that has not yet been solved by most industries; even ISO 9000 doesn't fully solve the problem. Often the only way to recover that knowledge once those who held it retire or die is to repeat the whole history of mistakes and solutions that led up to the final functional system. If you know that you're going to reboot a particular system, you can ask the surviving experts to run you through the whole process in tedious detail and explain why and how they do every damned step. You can then record that and ease the learning curve later. But this is rarely done, and almost never done for moribund or deceased industries.

Second, many technological products require a large and diverse community of supporting manufacturers to produce all the component parts we take for granted. Consider, for example, the number of independent parts manufacturers that supply a typical modern car manufacturing plant, or the cluster of industries and technologists that used to support Kodak's facilities in Rochester. A friend who studied photography there during Kodak's heyday told me about just how complex this system was and how well integrated all the parts were. If you wanted (for some obscure reason) to reboot a film-based photography industry, you'd have to recreate all of those support structures, integrate them, and debug them.

Neither of these caveats contradict what you said. They just mean that it's considerably more difficult to reboot a manufacturing system that no longer exists than you were suggesting -- but as you say, not nearly so difficult as others have suggested. A more correct description might be "we could do these things, but it will take longer and cost more than we expected".

253:

Yes. See #222. But, in many cases, it's not just the know-how that's gone, but the relevant skills, too. The comment I saw from a NASA person some years back was that it would take a couple of decades for the USA to put another man on the moon (and get him back alive). Whether that is less now, I can't say. I don't believe that the UK could build a nuclear reactor any faster, for exactly the same reasons.

254:

The Astute class subs currently being deployed by the Royal Navy have HEU-fuelled reactors meant to operate for the working life of the submarine without refuelling, noticeably reducing the total cost of operations over the expected operational life. They will go through a series of major and minor refits but they won't incur the years-long downtime of a reactor refuelling operation, a major operating availability bonus.

255:

It would certainly take at least a couple of decades to carry out another "boots and banners" mission to the Moon but that's in part that we wouldn't take the sorts of risks that the Apollo missions did. The really crazy thing would be to recreate the Apollo hardware nut for nut to carry out that mission, for example the LM descent computer hard-wired as magnetic cores? The execrable bodge that was the Rocketdyne F-1 rocket motor? Why?

The new Lunar astronauts would descend to the Moon's surface at a designated landing spot where a couple of unmanned ascent vehicles would be waiting for them, landed under remote control weeks or months before. On their way back home they would match orbit around the Earth with a re-entry module and use that rather than carry everything with them to the Moon and back again as Apollo had to. It would be a modern mission using modern hardware and the modern capabilities of throwing hardware up into orbit incrementally instead. There might even be a toilet for the astronauts to use.

It's the same with nuclear reactor designs, the "lost mysteries of the Ancients" of reactor constructors include welding the pressure vessel from sections on-site. We don't do that any more, the reactor vessel is forged from a single piece in a foundry, tested and verified at the point of manufacture and transported to the reactor site as a 500-tonne load. The same goes for the rest of modern engineering, we don't make cars like we did in the 1970s, we don't even make drinks cans like we did in the 1970s. The SCA has no place in modern production lines.

256:

A more correct description might be "we could do these things, but it will take longer and cost more than we expected".

And if we are not doing these things currently, it's surprisingly difficult to get an accurate estimate of how hard they are to do.

257:

Allen @ 162:

What's going on down in Texas is a bit more complicated than that.
Vox did an explainer on the topic a few days ago:
https://www.vox.com/2018/8/30/17800410/trump-passport-birth-certificate-hispanic-denial-citizens

I dunno. That Vox article seems to be trying to minimize how outrageous what Trump's administration is trying to do down there.

258:

Yes, rebuilding the ability to build nuclear reactors is a huge task. Or you could just do like Argentina, Pakistan, etc. and hire a Chinese company to build it for you.

259:

So which agencies/not-for-profits would you trust to operate in Russia where foreign agencies must register and treated as though they are spies? MSF/DWB? Red Cross/Crescent?

260:

Thomas Jørgensen @ 176:

I am not actually sure car based sprawl is going anywhere. It is insane, because the accumulated waste of person hours sitting in traffic is a crime against humanity, but I am doubtful building a new housing stock would actually be any less resource intensive than just building enough self-driving electrics to move everyone around the existing one.
Of course, the impermanence of US housing stock might make redevelopment a cheaper option than it seems at first glance - if houses do not last, then you can rebuild denser as the mac-mansions fall apart. Slow process, however.

I know that around here (Raleigh, NC) they seem to be doing a lot less sprawl. Now it seems like it's all about having everything you need within walking distance. They're building 5 - 8 story apartment/condos on top of parking garages with space for retail around the perimeter at ground level. I think it's because there ain't any cheap land left to subdivide within reasonable driving distance.

261:

As Heteromeles has said, the ONLY short-term solution to such issues that is compatible with long-term survival of our 'civilisation' is to abandon such locations. Possibly only for some of the year, of course.

I have this story idea in my head of climate refugees (which are called "EU immigrants") from the Southern Europe to Northern Finland, who go back to Spain during the winter, when it's very, very dark and stay in Finland during the summer. I'm not sure though how long the free-ish movement of people inside the EU will last after people realize they really can't live in the hottest areas.

I've been toying with ideas of something like 'When gravity fails', in that the main protagonist would be a small-time criminal and a private investigator.

262:

That is (I think) something that happens with cities anyway. The "within reasonable driving distance"part is the key I guess. Increased density (both residential and commercial) around transport corridors and hubs like train stations. Worst case is peak hours gets more broadly distributed. But it also means what was a "sprawl" suburb 50 years ago is now a more like a town from which new sprawl radiates. Ring roads emerge designed that way or not (because everyone who lives on spoke A but works on spoke B wants to drive rather than get PT into the centre and out again) and density along those increases too, till the whole region is built out.

263:

There are a couple of more interesting issues. One is that the climate for Finland, at least at peak heat (depending on model) will be more like, say, central France, even accounting for the darkness. Staying year-round will be the more attractive option, with the Arctic acting a bit like a (much larger) Mediterranean.

But you do bring up an interesting issue: migration. There's increasing evidence that a) past climates were a lot more unstable than present climates, and b) animals, plants, and people dealt with this by migrating a lot. By unstable, I'm talking about ice ages, which seem to have gone through rapid seasaws. It may be that the problem with ice ages isn't that they're cold, it's that the weather's unstable over the decades to millennia scale. Things like old growth forests would be unusual in that environment. For the last seven thousand-odd years, our climate has been unusually stable, and now we're departing that, due to our own love of entropy maximization.

Anyway, current nation-states are all about borders and boundaries, and I'd even go so far as to say that boundaries are going to be a cause of major extinctions. After all, look at the language of conservation: native plants and animals live on reserves (not reservations) where they have a "right" to live, but these areas are typically massively underfunded and often massively abused. Should the plants or animals (rattlesnakes, coyotes, lions and tigers and bears) wander off their reservations, they're often killed. Yet without being able to move, they die too. That's a huge problem in conservation, and while we try to assemble wildlife corridors, right now we're fighting to keep the billionaires from building tens of thousands of million dollar homes in those corridors.

So yes, I'd look seriously at migration, not in a "When Gravity Fails" sense, but at a world having to learn too rapidly that *everything* needs to move to survive, even though everything from culture to law to language fights against that. What new thing rises? How can you as an artist look at other ages of migration for inspiration?

264:

The climate for Finland can and will probably vary some. This is a large country, about thousand kilometers from North to South, and especially the amount of light varies a lot. In the North the Sun stays up or down for long periods, which it doesn't in the South.

That being said, during some winters I have gone two or three months without being outside and seeing the Sun in the sky. During weekdays I'm at work and it is often cloudy during the day, so it's not certain skies are clear during weekends, either. I still find the winter in Oulu (which is about 65 degrees North, about half-way up Finland) to be very dark and depressing. I'm not sure how I'd cope even more North than that, I've never been further up North in the winter.

The culture clashes are part of the idea. Even if Finland stays nice, we are bound to get more and more people wanting to live here, and there aren't that many Finns around, so it doesn't have to be a large amount of people from other places which would create large problems. We do have lots of area, though, so we probably could have a lot more people than a tad over five million.

265:

[A] tad over five million

Make that five and a half million people.

267:

Even in the UK, the dark winter causes a LOT of health problems (both physical and mental), and Finland starts where we stop. Heteromeles lives almost in the tropics, where lack of sunlight is never a problem.

268:

The other thing not considered here is that just as global average temperature rises do not translate into uniform average temperature rises around the globe at all times and in all places, likewise local average temperature increases do not predict a uniform pattern either, rather the situation for any very specific place will depend on all sorts of microclimate variables. A structure on a ridge that gets breezes and is built light, possibly elevated for airflow under, does a lot better than a low-set brick structure with a concrete roof tiles in a shallow basin surrounded by other such structures. Maybe with a lot of insulation and deep cellars it works, but airflow is really the thing you want in humid heat.

Also “air conditioning” is one relatively energy intensive means of changing temperatures in a building or a location, but it isn’t the only way to do this nor are all ways so energy intensive. Given the right conditions it is possible to build, say, houses that are very efficient at shedding heat in summer (and retaining it in winter). The mechanisms for temperature regulation can be relatively low tech and come down to discipline about things like drawing the curtains. Underground might be more attractive as an SF setting, and certainly might be more efficient for civic scale infrastructure, but passive design principles with relatively conventional structures are very amenable to interesting innovations and much more effective than is intuitively obvious.

Not to say that black flag weather won’t make some places uninhabitable - just that there are many variables, some complex.

269:

Oh, yes - but my point was that, when it is impossible to be even mildly energetic without using a lot of power for cooling, the place is uninhabitable. Attempting to resolve that either by using powered devices for ALL activity or by powered cooling merely makes the problem worse, in the long run.

270:

Well, this is/was also normal practice for the UK fleet (except the entering service Astutes).

271:

Non-uniform temperature rise doesn't help, because the problem is the peak, not the average. A place only has to go over 35 C wet-bulb temperature for a day, some years, to have questionable habitability.

The other part of the problem is that a very great many people live places that aren't going to stay habitable.

272:

It does a bit, if you use the tunnel trick or something similar. Many places (including some of the UK and USA) have to almost entirely shut down for a few days a year because of weather conditions. The problem is if that lasts too long or occurs too often.

273:

.. Also, why are you so dead set against energy use? If a place is enormously hot because it has averages north of 2000 kwh/square meter/year solar irradiation, then you can just run the air con full blast to keep the workforce maintaining the solar plant and industrial plant exploiting that resource alive.
The one thing you are never, ever going to be short on in that location, is, after all, electricity

274:

Out of production limestone mines would be an option in some areas for living space, perhaps mores these days when so much time is spent in front of video displays of one sort or another. Waste heat from refrigeration, cooking and lights should be enough for comfort, 13 degrees year round. Some of this is already used for warehouse and office space in the Kansas City area.
I suppose it's just bad luck we're looking at a major transition at the same time a fabulously wealthy clique wants a mash up future combining "Atlas Shrugged" & "Gone With The Wind".

275:

I could see limestone quarries being of use, and indeed slate quarries, and any other quarry or mine where the tunnels are into stable rock.

276:

Firstly, such "international" agencies, funds and organizations, it seems, do not operate inside country by themselves - they are using other NGOs to deploy financial support, assist, supervise and consult. That is, for what info I gathered so far, all "foreign agents" who refused to register and were barred from work are the local funds that receive funding from individuals and organisations abroad. That means, basically, that there's a whole network in effect, with money and information coming through multiple shell companies, and it severely complicates cooperation with government (to put it simply, organisations prefer to disband rather than be regulated in any way). And it might be for a good reason, because for what I gather, there were less then a dozen of such organizations that refused to register - all of them were engaging in such very questionable activities as: targeting specific social groups with their work, freely distributing drug substitute medicine (which is prohibited practice), engaging in questionable "educational" work and "human rights activism". All of that while completely unregulated, naturally.
And secondly, if anybody wants to achieve anything positive, such as dealing with epidemic, they have to make sure that government acknowledges their effort and methods and ready to cooperate. Subversion tactic and destructive practices is not a solution to such problem.

277:

Since Russia seems to have become a strange attractor recently, let me link to an article about Russia's activities in Southeast Asia.

https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-russias-making-itself-a-major-player-in-chinas-backyard-2018-9

This article gets both Russia's populati

278:

Since Russia has become a strange attractor recently, here's an article about Russia's activity:

https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-russias-making-itself-a-major-player-in-chinas-backyard-2018-9

Note that they get Russia's population completely wrong, and they use a very specific definition of the Far East that conflicts to what most Westerners think of the far East (all of Russia east of the Ural Mountains).

279:

Given time, rock heats up. You have to do the heat management, especially at high population densities.

The problem with heat is that it's got this promptly lethal threshold; cold is a lot easier to deal with. Anything which depends on mechanical reliability for habitability is going to drive a very sharp change in engineering practices. (If there are people in an industrial civilization in 2100, they're going to make nuke submariners seem lackadaisical and unconcerned about procedures.)

280:

Re: ' ... within reasonable driving distance"part'

Recall sitting in the audience during a Town hall meeting where a con$ultant urban planner addressed the town council on what the town's (largish suburb) next 5, 10, 15-year city planning strategy should include. The emphasis was on walkability (wider, treed sidewalks), mixed-use buildings (retail/biz & residential) allowing for accessing daily essentials within a 5-minute walk. What went unsaid was that this meant small visibly distinctive 'neighborhoods' with cute stores/shoppes and not the giant malls and endless strip plazas along the main drag. The emphasis on smaller/narrower streets would make a neighborhood more street-friendly, walkable and pedestrian safe because (North American) drivers typically reduce their speed on narrower streets.

All of the above sounds nice but because modern society is work-centered with some industries with large numbers of employees insisting that they're urban (e.g., financials) therefore must be located in the middle of the city, it falls apart. Could work if work-home locations were linked: folk working in large urban orgs having to live in large centrally located high rises*. The closest working example I can think of for this is university campuses & dorms. Shanghai was supposed to be such an example as per the promo piece below: (Note: Shanghai ranks about 180th out of 240 largest cities in terms of livability, therefore not meeting its design objectives. Then again - maybe the plan was okay but the execution got screwed up.)

http://www.geopolitika.hu/en/2018/02/08/shanghai-on-the-brink-of-becoming-a-global-city/

'Imagine a city in which you can get from the airport to the city within a couple of minutes after landing by a high-speed electric train running at 430 km/h; in which a metro network of almost 600 km renders cars needless, and a phone application renders cash dispensable because you can manage everything, from shopping to paying bills, with using a QR code; in which you can make appointments with your hairdresser or at your sports centre by your phone, and you do not need to spend time with shopping because you can buy everything for delivery straight to your home, saving time to spend with your family, leisure, or – as it is most expected in the modern world – work.'

* Falls apart for couples where each works in a different industry. Worsens if they have kids. But could sorta work if the urban jobs have high turnover (like unis) so that natural corporate ladder progression has most employees either getting booted out or relocated/reassigned as they climb the corp ladder by managing smaller regional (non-urban) centers.

281:

Re: ' ... all of them were engaging in such very questionable activities as: targeting specific social groups with their work, freely distributing drug substitute medicine (which is prohibited practice), ...'

Personally, the above approach makes sense when you're trying to reduce harm during an AIDS epidemic as per several specific examples in the article you linked:

a- 'specific social groups' - St. Petersburg prostitutes & needle users - makes sense because they're the highest-risk groups;

b- 'freely distributing drug substitutes' (i.e., methadone) which in every country/city that has made it part of its first-responder kit has resulted in significant decreases in drug-related (OD) death rates, therefore useful for harm reduction. So - which of these are you against, and why?

282:

US suicide rates going up. Well, gee, I did a quick google, and saw a rise in suicide, esp. among young people in the US in the eighties and into the nineties... as US industry was being destroyed, and good jobs were going overseas.

I have a few friends and family outside metropolitan areas, and there AIN'T NO JOBS. Agriculture? Other than stoop labor, that's mostly gone due to automation.

So I just can't imagine why suicide would go up, when there no jobs in site, and a promise there'll be less in the near term, esp. among males, who still have the old cultural definition internalized as "bread winner".

283:

Re: Russia - stranger attractor

Not so strange considering current US POTUS.

Comments about the article:

1- 110 million population - if Russia doesn't correct this, then maybe the 146-147 million that's currently on the books at the UN is due to demographer estimate errors. If so, then who did they lose since the last census data and how?

2- Pacific - 2018 TTIP negotiations included some language re: civil/human rights that some gov'ts didn't like. E.g., Canada used a human rights argument to cancel its deal to sell military helicopters to the Philippines. Therefore non-humane regimes probably are looking for alternatives suppliers, hence Russia.

3- Russia-China war games - pissing contest plus a convenient platform to display/sell their respective wares to interested parties. (The invite list would be of great interest.)

4- Emergence of soft power ties between the two - a few months back I posted a link to a YT video of a 20-something singer saying I'd rather watch him than one of the former USSR's republic's sons perform at the new tourist casinos that are popping up. Turns out this kid from Kazakhstan has made it big in China and is also becoming a hit in Russia. Here's a Russian political cartoon featuring Putin and Medvedev doing a song & dance referencing this kid. BTW - This kid [Dimash] has officially been awarded the title of Cultural Ambassador between Kazakhstan and China apart from picking up the Chinese equivalent of their top 'Grammy'. Tourism between China and Kazakhstan increased over 10% since that competition aired. There was also an increase in perceived warm relations between the publics despite not sharing the same language. Could be a sign to other Central Asian former USSR republics that China could be a better economic ally than Russia - and most importantly, the pols of these republics could use soft-power to get their populations to go along with this.

Here's the Russian (English sub) political cartoon:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK0Lo4LEePo

Here's the Kazakhstan singer's Russian song in a nationally televised Chinese singing contest:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXc_NSNxtdk

284:

"A similar conspiracy exists within the Rust Belt today:"

You *are* being sarcastic, or reporting that this is conspiracy theory, right?

In any case, it's equally heavy, if not heavier, in the South and Midwest, not part of the Rust Belt.

285:

Why am I reminded of the Dick Tracy wrist tv, then wrist radio?

286:

I dunno. I know what it was like in public transit growing up... and I know what it's like anywhere near a downtown in big cities, and more than 50 is not unreasonable (but some of us are standing).

That, of course, does not includes subways/els.

I've read that Caeser Julius banned chariots from Rome during daylight hours. I'd have *no* problem banning cars from city centers during the day, thus forcing folks to walk, pedal, or use public transit.

287:

Note that I read that a lot of folks, esp. millenials, are abandoning both the 'burb and cars - too expensive, too far.... Economics turns the circle again.

288:

I gave up on Anita Blake after book five or six or so. A few years later, I picked up Michael, because it said she was visiting Philly.

It was a piece of crap. First and foremost, Hamilton does not appear to have even bothered to read a tourist brochure about Philly - there was not one single word in the book that mentioned anything that made it Philly (speaking here as a Philly ex-pat).

Calling the plot "mediocre" would be giving it too much credit, and it was lousy soft-core porn. A total waste of time and money. Won't be looking at her again.

289:

Not to mention the option of just mass producing naval reactors - Nothing about the design of those stops them from rolling of assembly lines by the thousands.

Well except for the reason no one does it. The fuel for them is bomb grade. Or just on the edge of it. Not just a dirty bomb. A big bang bomb. That's how they make them so small.

290:

"Estimated", sources,

ROTFLMAO!

Cheer up. sleeper, it's not only Russia. I'm immediately reminded of the "sociological study" published in the 20's? 30's? in the US about the "Jukes and Kallikaks".

In fact, I was working as a page in a library, and came accross the actual book. The entire thing was "suspected prostitute", "presumed thief", and on and on - zip on actual evidence.

Did you find any actual clinical or public health studies, unredacted?

291:

bicycles ... Even places like Las Vegas are not too sprawling for that to be a viable solution for most personal commuting.

Just like Chicago in the winter or many US cities in the summer, bicycle riding can be a medical hazard during the day. I did some outside work one August in Las Vegas. Not very strenuous but outdoors and it was 105F or more each day. I was about 40 and drinking a few gallons of water a day with lots of rest breaks. Most people could not function on a bike in such weather.

And tack on humidity in much of the US south and it can get worse.

292:

Bullshit.

Rockwell just had a team looking at a Saturn V that had been on display. They actually got the pump engine - a 60tom(?) rocket engine of its own, firing.

Production lines, yes, that might take part of a year. Beyond that.... It took us ten fucking years from "we don't know" to "the Eagle has landed". All the rest is bullshit. We could do it if we *wanted* to spend some friggin' money. But right now, NASA's budget is about $20B, on a good year. At the height of the Space Race, in the sixties, it was...$20B. Adjusting for inflation, that means that in mid-sixties dollars, the US is currently spending *maybe* $2B.

293:

That's one big reason I'm fighting developers trying to force people to live in distant, sprawled out, million dollar homes.

For get million dollar homes. Around here the neighborhoods are fighting tooth and nail to keep out anything over 2 stories. Which means where a 5 story apartment shopping complex would work a half dozen million dollar homes will not. If you can afford it you really want a 5 acre yard, not 1/3 of an acre.

So the developers are building 1000 to 5000 unit subdivisions 20 miles out with 1500sf homes plus garage on 1/8 acre or smaller lots with a 20+ mile commute.

Oh the same people who don't want the apartment buildings also don't want the roads made wider as that will attract cars and congestion. Because the people living in the new 20 mile out homes will just teleport into the city. Yep. Sure thing. [sarcasm off]

And the NIMBY people are wining the news cycles and thus the politicians vote.

294:

Oh, bicycling. I biked a *lot* in the sixties and seventies and into the eighties. I actually spent two summers as a bike messenger in downtown Philly. Don't want to bike in sub-zero (C) weather. Don't want to bike in snow or rain. That's what public transit is for... and who knows, on public transit, you might... meet someone (horros!), and talk to them.

Cars average ONE PERSON per commute.

295:

Mixed use development. Esp. in cities....

#insert "screaming_rant_against_Robert_moses.h"

If you've never read it, or heard of it, GO READ Jane Jacob's Death and Life of Great American Cities, the bane of R. Moses....

296:

As I said, that's peak. There have been surveys and, even in places like London (where they have the phenomenon you describe), the average is nothing like that. In smaller cities (let alone rural areas), averages of under 10 are normal. Oh, yes, you can pack buses - if you are happy for the frequencies to be very low and to shaft people who can't get on and the physically handicapped, but it's not really a viable solution.

Also, the problem is NOT just about city centres, despite the claims of the electric car and pedestrian zone fanatics, and buses are a disproportionate part of the problem in many places, such as mediaeval cities, and even many Victorian developments. The cities that I have seen largely resolve the issue have approached the problem of the whole area, have a lot of cyclists, and have used buses as only one component of a solution, not packed that densely.

One size does not fit all, but the 'Los Angeles' problem is also a problem for non-sprawling smaller cities. What most people miss is that cycling on roads (and equivalent) increases the viable trip distances over walking by a factor of 4 (driving even in congested suburbia is under 8), and solves the personal transport issue in many places. On the sort of abominable psychle farcility normal in the UK, it's by a factor of only 2-2.5 - and is dangerous and infeasible for anyone with physical handicaps, to boot.

297:

Walmart killing downtowns, and so forth. ... To be fair to the Trumpers, there are a lot of problems that have been brewing in small towns for decades.

Yes. Walmart didn't kill small town down towns. Well sort of. They just drove the stake into the heart of a lot of dying towns in a very dramatic fashion.

Many towns west of the original 13 are these for the simple reason that they were 1 day horse ride from the next town of that had a general store and/or train stop. Farmers could ride into town and get home in one day.

Once that need went away there became little reason for a town to exist. Once you had cars towns (STORES) could be further apart. And once you had decent roads you could drive a lot further to a place with larger stores and more choices. Walmart was just the end game in that process.

I'm somewhat related to that process.

My mother's father and step-mother had a business delivering goods to country stores. They had a big panel truck in the 50s and 60s for rural western KY and neighboring states. Many times spending the night on longer trips. By the late 60s my step grandmother was down to making only a few runs a week in a station wagon.

My father grew up on a not so small working farm with a slaughter house and saw mill. Both were killed off by better transportation which allowed mass produced items to come into the area at cheaper prices.[1] All long before Walmart was more than a few stores in rural Arkansas.

[1] The slaughter house still exists but the regular meat is brought in 1/2 of an animal at a time. Basically they are a butcher shop for such. But if it wasn't for the hunters bringing in mostly deer they could not keep the doors open.

298:

Naval reactors need fuel enriched to about twenty percent. That is a serious enrichment effort, but not prohibitive. The US chooses to instead load them with nearly pure fissile material... Which has been poisoned.

Certain isotopes have large neutron cross sections, and when they capture a neutron, they decay into things that do not. Most famously Kryptonite does this, which is why kryptonite build-ups are bad - Kryptonite acts as a moderator that self-eliminates when bombarded with neutrons, which is one hell of a positive feedback loop.

It is not the only such material. And in a feat of madcap applied mathematics, the designers of the "bomb-grade" load naval reactor, mixed pure fissile material with a mixture of such poisons that eliminate themselves.. very slowly. (because their cross sections are smaller than kryptonites) Which means that a fresh fuel load behaves as if it was twenty percent fissile. And as the actual percentage drops, this built-in moderator is gradually destroyed, so that all along the curve the fuel keeps behaving as if it was twenty percent fissile material.

Yhea, I do not want that piece of bullshit in a civil reactor either I cannot imagine what it costs, and the consequences of getting it wrong would be pretty bad.. But you can, if you want, just load the design with 20 percent fissiles and alter it a bit so it can be refueled..

299:

That's the other half of the problem: the County General Plan (rightly, in my opinion) calls for more multi-story developments in places that are already developed, but the neighbors fight those fiercely. So instead we get unaffordable firetraps out in the boonies and more homeless in the streets.

The other part of this is that some communities that did work with the County and added dense housing are now getting forced to accept more densification to the point where the roads are too narrow for the existing residents to evacuate. And the new, dense housing development that's already getting built isn't selling very well, because the homes are too expensive. The upshot there is that no one's willing to make a deal with the County any more, if the County isn't willing to honor its previous commitments and plans (and yes, all the current supervisors are republicans. Why did you ask?).

Stupid is as stupid does, I guess. All I'm trying to do is to keep people from dying in wildfires and to keep native species from going extinct.

300:

Damian @ 262:

That is (I think) something that happens with cities anyway. The "within reasonable driving distance"part is the key I guess. Increased density (both residential and commercial) around transport corridors and hubs like train stations. Worst case is peak hours gets more broadly distributed. But it also means what was a "sprawl" suburb 50 years ago is now a more like a town from which new sprawl radiates. Ring roads emerge designed that way or not (because everyone who lives on spoke A but works on spoke B wants to drive rather than get PT into the centre and out again) and density along those increases too, till the whole region is built out.

It might depend on how Public Transit is available. You could set up your Transit system so that there are stations at the intersections of the spokes & the rings. It would then require transfers from spoke route to ring route and back to spoke route. But that's really no more inconvenient than having to go all the way in to a central Transit hub to transfer to route heading out an alternate spoke. But it has to run frequently (no more than 15 minute intervals) 24 hour per day.

The real problem with most Public Transit as far as I can tell is the limited availability. Out here in the boonies Transit only works for a few. Lots of buses (but could also apply to light rail & subway systems) at rush hour, but if you need to get somewhere in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, there just isn't any Transit available.

I ran into that when I was working out at RTP. I could drive to work in about half an hour - 45 minutes if I went in early enough to catch the tail end of rush hour out on I-40. The alternative was a 30 minute bus ride to the downtown transit hub in Raleigh; a 45 minute ride to the transit hub out at RTP and another 30 minutes on a shuttle bus to my employer's campus (plus having to walk to the other side of the campus to get to my actual work place). Add in about 15 min wait time between buses and the trip one way took 2 hours & 15 minutes. So the trade-off was 4 hours & 30 minutes Transit time every day I used Transit vs 1 hr Drive Time and I could only use Transit if I knew in advance I wouldn't have to work late.

301:

Damian @ 268:

Not to say that black flag weather won’t make some places uninhabitable - just that there are many variables, some complex.

They're all complex, even the simple ones.

302:

This is actually a more general point.

Finland won't "stay nice," because the poles are warming faster than any other place on Earth. That's one part of hothouse Earth--there's relatively less temperature gradient between the tropics and the poles. The tropics warm, but the poles warm far more, and the mean temperature goes up as the average of the two.

What you can, at best, hope for is that Finland becomes a different kind of nice, and that your heated up Finnish soils can support French and Spanish trees.

As for black flag weather, that's an extreme event, not a norm. For those who don't know, it's when the wet bulb temperature hits body temperature, so sweat won't cool you off--it's hot and humid (imagine a foggy day where the air temp is 38oC and you get the idea). Without some powered cooling mechanism, you're going to overheat and die in that weather, faster in the sun, slower in the shade, because your body's normal heat exchange system (sweat) won't work.

We haven't seen precisely these conditions on the planet yet, so we don't have a good intuition for how dangerous they are. Currently, weather is getting close to that mark especially on the shores of the Western Persian Gulf and in parts of Somalia (Red Sea) the combination of hot desert and humidity from the ocean is what's doing it. Working in a greenhouse in the summer in Wisconsin wasn't even that bad, and we had to limit our exposure to maybe ten minutes before getting out (humid and over 100oF. The guys doing the pest control in moon suits wore vests of ice blocks while spraying to stay alive).

Again, this is an extreme event, and you've got to take shelter or get away from it. The simplest shelter is far enough underground so that the thermal mass of the Earth buffers out the extreme air temperatures, and they're going to be pretty wet from the humidity. If that deep a hole isn't available, air conditioning or migration are the other options. I really kind of doubt that passive cooling and simple location tricks are going to save people on this one, especially when we're talking big flat areas like Shanghai or the western Persian Gulf.

303:

The current NASA plan for Lunar surface expeditions is for a reusable lander or three to be parked at whatever the Lunar Orbit Deep Space Gateway space station is called at the time. Cargo and crew use those to go up and down and fuel for the landers is a major component of what will need to be delivered.

Direct re-entry on return to Earth is almost certain to be used for the same reasons as Apollo did it that way. The amount of fuel needed to brake into LEO is prohibitive, far easier to use a decent heat shield instead.

304:

who knows, on public transit, you might... meet someone, and talk to them.

There are numerous London-produced comedy sketches about Northerners actually... saying hello to people, or looking them in the eye! (The horror, the horror...)

A London-based friend observed that London changed during, and maybe slightly after 2012, with the Olympics coming to town; suddenly, a very large number of tourists appeared, our family among them, and they were (hush...) friendly. People actually struck up conversations on the Tube, because they didn't know any better.

Anyway, my best man used to commute into the centre of town on the bus; he noted that once he started walking into town in the spring and summer, that he stopped catching quite so many illnesses. Public transport, a wonderful vector of infection :)

305:

to SFreader @281
So - which of these are you against, and why?
a) Apparently the legalization lobby does not seem to be minding their general lifestyle (probably it is progressive enough for them) and only sees the concept of "reducing harm". Major difference here - for government, both sides are important. It needs people who not only can exist and stay away from grave, but also participate in procreative activity.

b) Pretty much the same. Right now the usage of therapy shows rapid progress in prevention area - but I already saw enough evidence that such success is a short-lived one and it only useful for extracting money. Replacement does not even cure addiction - it substitutes it for more controllable situation. And this is before

c) "Human rights" and "sexual education" has a very obvious tendency to stray so far away, that HIV prevention becomes secondary function to implanting progressive values into society. To say that this is worriyng would be an understatement.

to whitroth @290
Did you find any actual clinical or public health studies, unredacted?
Usually they are published in small dozes by government agencies and you know what these people tell you about government statistic. I'm not a medic and do not have access to any of raw data, and even if I would, that would be difficult to parse. However, I am educated in statistics and analysis, and can find difference when the data is obviously manipulated. I've seen enough articles which have less factual and definitive errors in them and appear to be more consistent and substantial - mostly connected to UN studies and not associated with any subsidiary organizations and funds. Because UN responds to governments, too.

They do not stick to certain tendencies, numbers, patterns or opinion, and instead try to observe the whole range of possibilities. On the other hand, studies that are either influenced or simulated, almost always follow the same pattern - they start with raw data and start digging towards certain direction, without ever stopping to look out for other possibilities.

306:

Ioan @ 278:

Note that they get Russia's population completely wrong, and they use a very specific definition of the Far East that conflicts to what most Westerners think of the far East (all of Russia east of the Ural Mountains).

Since the article deals with Russia's Eastern Military District, do the population estimates conform with the Russian population within that district. I'd say they come close

The article says 6 million of Russia's 110 million live there. Wikipedia gives 144.5 million NOT INCLUDING Crimea (2017 estimate). As far as I can determine, the territorial boundary of what constitutes Russia's Eastern Military District includes Amur Oblast, Buryatia, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Kamchatka Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, Magadan Oblast, Primorsky Krai, Sakha Republic, Sakhalin Oblast & Zabaykalsky Krai and lies far, FAR to the east of the Ural Mountains.

The Eastern Military District appears to be only about 1/4 the land area of eastern Russia and adding up the populations given by "ipfs.io" for the individual districts, I get 7.9 million (based on a 2010 census).

If you take the Urals as the dividing line between European Russia and Asian Russia, there's a whole lot of west Asia between the Eastern Military District and the Urals. The Ural Mountains aren't even half-way there.

Russia stretches a lot farther east to west (or west to east) than most people realize. It's more than 4,000 miles (Rostov on Don to Vladivostock). Compare to the U.S. where it's about 2,500 miles coast to coast (Atlantic to Pacific) or to Australia 2,250 miles (Brisbane to Perth).

307:

whitroth @ 282:

US suicide rates going up. Well, gee, I did a quick google, and saw a rise in suicide, esp. among young people in the US in the eighties and into the nineties... as US industry was being destroyed, and good jobs were going overseas.
I have a few friends and family outside metropolitan areas, and there AIN'T NO JOBS. Agriculture? Other than stoop labor, that's mostly gone due to automation.
So I just can't imagine why suicide would go up, when there no jobs in site, and a promise there'll be less in the near term, esp. among males, who still have the old cultural definition internalized as "bread winner".

And those figures don't count people who just give up on living because there's no future for them, so they turn to alcohol & pain killers & junk food; self medicating themselves into an early grave. Boredom will kill you too.

308:

A few years ago I broke a wrist and couldn't drive for a few months, so walking and public transit in the GTA. Getting to work (a 1/2 hour drive) took 2-3 hours each way (I tested it out). Food shopping was just possible, with a knapsack, but shopping for a new dishwasher required getting a friend to drive me to a couple of showrooms or spending 4-7 hours on various busses (I didn't test that one out).

And we supposedly have a pretty decent transit system here.

309:

In Britain transport works like that over the whole country. Both rail and road networks are basically radial, with London as the hub; links perpendicular to the spokes are significantly less well provisioned, and are, with few exceptions, suboptimal down to pretty shite in the road case, and very shite to non-existent in the rail case. So it's comparatively easy to go towards or (more sensibly) away from London, but particularly by rail, going crossways is a monumental pain in the arse, and you find yourself having to go into London and out again to get between places that are both silly far away from it.

Your driving vs. public transport times are also just the same as what you usually find doing the same comparison on J Random Commuter's daily route. You can maybe beat the car if you live only a few minutes' walk from the station and your destination is only a few minutes' walk from the station at the other end and there is a direct service between the two stations and the times it runs at are no more than a few minutes away from the times you need to arrive/depart. Otherwise, you're fucked. Oh, and there's a black hole in your wallet as well.

The one major exception to that is London, partly because it has a much higher density of public transport (both spatially and temporally) than anywhere else, and partly because there's so much car traffic that driving is often no quicker than walking (you can pass and repass the same pedestrian over and over again as the traffic jam starts and stops) and anyway there's nowhere to park.

310:

SFreader @ 283:

Comments about the article:
1- 110 million population - if Russia doesn't correct this, then maybe the 146-147 million that's currently on the books at the UN is due to demographer estimate errors. If so, then who did they lose since the last census data and how?

Or it's out-dated data. Could be disputed figures as well. When I was trying to figure out the population of Russia's Eastern Military District, I could only find 2010 Census figures. I'm not really sure how reliable the source was for those numbers, but they weren't far off from those in the article.

Wikipedia has a 2017 "estimate" for Russia's population but they explicitly exclude the Crimea from Russia's total.

311:

whitroth @ 286:

I dunno. I know what it was like in public transit growing up... and I know what it's like anywhere near a downtown in big cities, and more than 50 is not unreasonable (but some of us are standing).
That, of course, does not includes subways/els.
I've read that Caeser Julius banned chariots from Rome during daylight hours. I'd have *no* problem banning cars from city centers during the day, thus forcing folks to walk, pedal, or use public transit.

That presupposes that you can find what you need to fulfill your basic needs within walking, pedaling or Transit distance.

The one grocery store within 2 miles of my house, walking distance if you ignore the traffic hazard because Raleigh has no sidewalks between here and there, closed down. The next closest store is twice as far away and the prices are half again higher. But I would have sidewalks most of the way between the closed store and the next closest one.

I could probably still walk the 4 miles (8 miles round trip) but I'm not as light on my feet as I used to be. Transit won't get me there, and I've seen how drivers in Raleigh act when they encounter cyclists.

312:

On the article. I'm going to be a bit cryptic or philosophical from here on.

In time when I was still a student, I've run into a very interesting character in LiveJournal (you know, it is oldest and most popular blog platform in former USSR), which talked in the language of politics so far removed from regular populist statements and red herrings. This was a very positive experience for me, however, I lost a track of him after some time. He often said, that politics was always some sort of a show with some people as actors, and others as audience, and if the audience would just look behind the scenes for once, they would be, uh, deeply impressed. And thus I took some of my time later on to do exactly the same and indeed it is a very funny feeling.

One of his theses was the concept of balancing the interest of Russia as power between West and East, so to not let it prevail in one or the other direction and make a great profit out of it. To make country equally distanced from both China and Europe - if it starts to approach to one side, you start to lure it in the opposite direction. The balance is the know-how of the method, a key to controlling a situation on the continent. Considering this, now, almost 10 years later, the balance is broken and unlikely to recover soon enough. US have managed to put so much pressure on one side of the scales that the effort (almost) resulted in collapse of that model. We are steaming full-power into Asian markets and businesses, the cooperation is growing, and I had the opportunity to witness in several distinctive cases.
Example one: https://youtu.be/2r1WqPzbydI?t=366 - the railway schedule board in Moscow is in three languages, Russian, English and Chinese. (If I ever visit Moscow any time soon, I might see more things like that)
Example two: some colleague from job gave me his business card that contains text in both Russian and Chinese.
Example three: while I have no desire to disclose info about my organization, I can safely say that in some areas there was a quick transition to Eastern cooperation in recent years, providing us with more diversified supply.

I have not decided yet, is it a good thing or bad - in short term it allows country to survive. But in the long term I still believe that Russia is, above all, culturally European, and the concept of "third way" is a European in origin. That is, if you include Slavic culture in general into European culture to begin with. Many people do not. Still, the concept of "third way" surpasses the limits of Europe just as the concept of a New World surpassed the limitations of colonized lands. So, believing in this concept is similar to early-Soviet romanticism and optimism, but with much more experience at hand.

Personally, I do not know Chinese, have never had any connection to the and have little clue what the culture is about. That makes me feel rather uncomfortable. When I think of the far future of that cooperation, I can only imagine two lumbering bureaucracies carefully stepping around each other on the sparse area somewhere around Mongolia and Central Asia, while their primary interests are concentrated elsewhere in the world.

313:

The reusable lander and Deep Space Gateway are based on the US Government spending a lot more money than a "boots and banners" mission. The prepositioned ascent stages and a number of other options are a B&B compromise that don't need the Deep Space Gateway.

Taking the re-entry vehicle all the way from Earth orbit to Lunar orbit and back again costs a chunk of fuel and mass and there should be a choice of re-entry vehicles that only cost a single Falcon 9 launch to rendezvous with the Lunar Flight Module on its return. Another Falcon 9 could carry enough hardware and fuel to refurbish and resupply the LFM for another boots and banners mission on a later date with a Heavy launch delivering another couple of fuelled-up ascent stages to the Lunar surface.

There's a roadmap from the boots and banners mission profile to the Deep Space Gateway if they want to take it and pay for it but the boots and banner missions don't depend on a lot of existing infrastructure being in place before the first new Lunar boot makes contact with Lunar soil.

314:

I think I should clarify a position. When I keep saying that Russia's future is going to be more Asian, I'm not necessarily talking about China. While I think that the future could be limited to two or three great powers, there will be a lot more rich regional powers. To use your metaphor, the scale will have to be balanced on multiple axes.

Take Indonesia. It's a middle-income developing nation. Since it's in Southeast Asia, it's unlikely to be more than a regional power. However, it has a population of 265 million. In the future, Russia might intertwine its economy with Indonesia's to avoid being too dependent on either the US or China. Likewise, I think it's likely that the Philippines or Vietnam might be useful economic partners.

While India is far behind China in development, it continues to develop. Even if it remains a developing country, I doubt it will close off its economy to foreign companies to the extent China has.

Keep in mind that the above is part of China's rationale for the One Belt One Road. If they develop multiple regions to the extent that they can serve as markets, then that makes them less dependent on the West. I mean, Xi is probably watching the pressure being applied to Putin, and is working to preemptively neutralize it with respect to China.

315:

All politics rests on a reliable food supply.

How long do you think a reliable food supply is going to last?

316:

Pigeon @ 309:

Your driving vs. public transport times are also just the same as what you usually find doing the same comparison on J Random Commuter's daily route. You can maybe beat the car if you live only a few minutes' walk from the station and your destination is only a few minutes' walk from the station at the other end and there is a direct service between the two stations and the times it runs at are no more than a few minutes away from the times you need to arrive/depart. Otherwise, you're fucked. Oh, and there's a black hole in your wallet as well.

The "funny" bit I left out was that I could actually walk from my home to the downtown hub more quickly than the bus could get me there. It's about 1.9 miles straight down the street from my stop to the hub, and I didn't have to wait that long to get across the intersections. Meanwhile the bus had to zig-zag & wait in traffic plus circle around on account of the one way streets. On more than one occasion I'd get to my stop & see the bus heading away from me down the block (driver would probably have waited if he'd seen me coming around the corner). Instead of waiting for the next bus, I'd just walk and I'd get there before the bus I missed did. Rest of the trip didn't work that way.

Using Transit did cost more than driving (comparing cost per mile of bus fare against cost per mile of gas), although there was a discount for buying monthly passes which bought the Transit cost down to only slightly more than twice what it cost me to drive. Combine that with the inconvenience and Transit just couldn't compete.

I also looked into car-pooling/Van-pooling but I just couldn't find anyone with open seats whose schedule came anywhere close to mine, nor any riders whose schedule I could accomodate.

317:

d. So, people giving their lives to save others doesn't happen, eh?

Happens all the time, in emergencies, wars, disasters, real altruistic heroism and self sacrifice aren't even that uncommon. I think it's built in to our instinctive nature, and not just humans either. You can see what look like heroic bravery and placing the good of the tribe ahead of individual welfare even in wolves, chimps and meerkats every time they voluntarily participate in gang combat.

The glaring inferiority of pre-agricultural tribal organization, as a lifestyle, only shows up in comparison with later stages of social development. But if you can cite studies that show less violent death and longer lifespans among Stone Age tribes (or their equivalents), better than even the worst examples of later social development like say Aztec, Mayan, or early 20th century European, I'd be pleasantly surprised, since that would depict human nature in a somewhat more benevolent light.

I still think it's fortunate we don't have to rely on inherent benevolence just to exist, as long as we've got our historically hard-won legal/political/social structures in place. There's no shortage of post apocalyptic horror fantasies like "The Road" or even Mad Max to imagine their disappearance.

318:

Evidence that civilization can be more destructive than stone age? Sure: Geoffrey Parker's Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century. The global population at the end of the seventeenth century was 30% lower than it was at the beginning, and almost all the loss was in civilized states. Granted, a lot of this was due to things like crop failure, but the general problem in civilization is that famine, war, plagues, and death tend to be linked and hard to disentangle.

This is the problem with farming-based cultures: when they work, they produce lots of people, and when they fail, they produce lots of famine. Hunter-gatherers have demonstrated tolerance to famine, mostly because they tend to have a few preferred foods and a few hundred things they'll eat if their preferred foods are not available, and because they live at lower densities, their alternate foods tend to be more plentiful. You can see this every time there's a famine, when people abandon failing crops and try to gather whatever they think they can eat. You never see the converse, where hunter-gatherers who are starving start intensively managing their favorite foraging plants to increase their yield and get them out of trouble. And yes, you can look up Tending the Wild or Dark Emu, among others, to find good evidence that "hunter-gatherers" were in fact tending plants and animals rather intensively in California and Australia, two places where it has been studied.

Also, that "good of the tribe" thing is possibly a little bit of imperialist BS, mostly because tribes tend to be the invention of colonizing powers so that they know who "the chief" is so they can twist his arm to get things done. Reality is a heck of a lot more complex, especially in exogamic cultures where one of the spouses has to be from another village and everyone's multilingual.

319:

What you can, at best, hope for is that Finland becomes a different kind of nice, and that your heated up Finnish soils can support French and Spanish trees.

Yes. Looking at the predictions for Southern Europe, Finland might well be nicer than that, though.

For me, personally, this summer's temperatures were a pain. It was basically too hot for much of the time to do much anything, especially outside. I don't look forward to more summers like that (and it's still about 20 C during the afternoons now in September...).

320:

he noted that once he started walking into town in the spring and summer, that he stopped catching quite so many illnesses. Public transport, a wonderful vector of infection :)

When I flew 30 or more times a year back in the early 80s (and my boss with similar travel) had a nearly constant cold. Well almost constant. Seemed like I had a runny nose 50% or more of the time. Packed in tubes with 100 other people on short flights mostly around the northeast US. We just kept catching another of the 400 or so cold viruses. I rarely get a cold now. But I fly 1 to 3 times a month. I suspect that my body has already seen most of the cold viruses in circulation in the US plus they don't smoke in the back anymore.

321:

Smart watches lack a smooth UI - and nobody wants a computational device without a smooth UI. In order for any "Smart" device smaller than the phone rectangle to take off, you first need a display which is not limited by form factor

I have an Apple watch. And it works well. For what I wanted it for nearly 10 years ago. As a remote control for my rectangle phone. Now I keep the sound turned off on both and when it vibrates a quick glance at my wrist tells me if I need to pull my actual pocket computer out of my pocket. Plus the thing on my wrist is good at telling me the date (just let me be) and what is next on my calendar in a pinch allow me to answer the phone (AKA Dick Tracy) or send a message.

But as a general purpose computer on my wrist, well, nope.

322:

I said 'for almost all locations', but decided not to abuse Southern California directly. 60 miles is a ridiculous commute, by ANY method of personal transport, and any viable solution to the problem would involve cutting that to a sane value.

I had always heard about the beast that is the 405 through the LA basin. But until this last weekend I had never actually used it.

8 lanes in each direction doing 50-70mph when they can. I got to experience what happens when it fails. Driving south about midway between LAX and SNA we say the northbound we needed to be on in an hour stopped. I figured 5 miles of cars. (And growing.)
eight lanes wide.

So we took sort of the SR 1 route. Took us 4 hours to cover what we thought would maybe an hour or so. My wife's comment was "I thought Texas was ugly."

And this thing fills up 5 days a week with commuters. Twice a day. Oy, vey.

323:

Even when complete, detailed scientific designs and engineering plans exist (which I believe they don't, in either case), the skills and know-how to interpret and build them are mostly lost. Those are passed by personal teaching and experience, and would have to be relearnt; that takes a long time, and those people would have to build real prototypes to learn them.

Yes. My father was one of the 4 production managers for one of the 3 US gaseous diffusion plants in the US for the period from the mid 70s through the mid 80s. This plant and one other were built in the early 50s. Money almost no object. Just make it work. He worked there from about 1960 staring at the bottom. By the time he was running production they were having issues with retirements taking practical knowledge out the door. The overall plant manager and the people being trained to replace my father were 15 to 20 years his junior. Just to make sure all the wizards didn't retire at once. Now that Paducah, Portsmith, Oak Ridge and most (all?) others in the world are shuttered I doubt they could build one again.

Because this time round they will not have PHDs in physics doing all the initial design and iterative refinements that were done for the Oak Ridge plant that was the basis for the rest. They built 4 more after the first one at Oak Ridge with no real concerns about budgets or danger. I'm sure each was better than the previous one. Then those results were used to build Portsmith and Paducah. Today we just would do that. Even if you threw enough money at that the PHDs of the US or world would not cooperate in similar numbers.

324:

I know that around here (Raleigh, NC) they seem to be doing a lot less sprawl. Now it seems like it's all about having everything you need within walking distance. They're building 5 - 8 story apartment/condos on top of parking garages with space for retail around the perimeter at ground level. I think it's because there ain't any cheap land left to subdivide within reasonable driving distance.

Wow. I missed this when skimming a few days ago.

You've been reading the headlines and not seeing what is happening when boots are on the ground. NIMBY is hard core against these 5 to 7 story zoning changes. Hard against. And the politicians (city council and mayor) are listening to the folks yelling loudly. So the zoning changes needed to allow this are being fought hard. I live next to N. Hills (very inside the park for this blog I know) but if you roll back the clock 15 years but let the residents know what is going to happen they would be out with pitch forks and torches daily. They are out weekly and monthly now which is enough to stop (or at least delay) a lot of this for now.

Stop by a few mid-town or Glennwood CACs and see what is what.

325:

Production lines, yes, that might take part of a year. Beyond that.... It took us ten fucking years from "we don't know" to "the Eagle has landed". All the rest is bullshit.

There was 10 years of serious work before your 10 years. With buckets of money thrown at it. Those folks didn't start from scratch. But they had 100 years of systems design that we just don't do anymore and would have to be re-created.

326:

I ran into that when I was working out at RTP.

Of course the entire point of RTP was to restrict development to light industry/high tech and only allow 10% of the land to be developed. The idea was a reasonable number of suburban white or gray (?) collar types drive out to RTP from their suburban homes. Apparently no one did the math as when RTP got really developed there were way way way too many people driving in for it all to work. No one officially admits it but it is a work place disaster in so many ways. And we're still dealing with the after effects 50+ years later.

327:

“So it's comparatively easy to go towards or (more sensibly) away from London, but particularly by rail, going crossways is a monumental pain in the arse, and you find yourself having to go into London and out again to get between places that are both silly far away from it.”

...and the closer you get to London the worse it gets. I live about 30 miles out of London and there are places 5-10 miles away which are (as far as I can tell) impossible to reach by public transport without going in and out of London with a (often non-trivial) transfer between bus/train stations in between - this does some *very* odd things to employment, shopping, and entertainment choices.

328:

I saw some historical pictures of an early gaseous diffusion line control system. It consisted of a lot of women sitting at panels watching dials and turning knobs. A LOT of women who were not Ph.D.s or system engineers, just trained to do X when they saw Y happen for a small range of see X, do Y. We don't do that sort of thing any more, and I suspect that when your father helped to run a working gaseous diffusion line it wasn't like that, the control systems and engineering was a lot better and smarter and more efficient right up until centrifuge lines ate the gaseous diffusion process' lunch.

Recreating the past in engineering is sweet and romantic, just ask any steam locomotive fan, rivets and rust and overweight and inefficient and maintenance-hungry and prone to breakdown but it's not what we do today. Killing and crippling people today is a no-no to the point we don't notice when it doesn't happen -- the much-maligned F-35, for example, has gone from CAD terminal (we don't do drawing boards any more too) to operational status with no deaths, no crashes, not even any total airframe losses in accidents or incidents during development, testing and transition to squadron status. Compare that record to any of the previous wonder-aircraft programmes that people claim are superior to the F-35 sometime. We've got better at doing this sort of thing and folks think, ho-hum, another day, another vast improvement in systems engineering and design, and refresh the page on their browser (we don't turn pages much these days...)

329:

Far more likely the regular exercise improved his immune system and infection response - it is known to do both. While the miasma theory is formally wrong, it is actually the most predictive for the common respiratory infections, because (in cities etc.) you WILL eventually get exposed. In places like Cambridge, high-contact people get the infection in September and October, when people come back from all over the world, and low-contact people get it over the next few months, as they encounter secondary carriers.

This is actually a serious point, because it is used as an argument for using private cars, but they don't reduce the infection rate above public transport. Walking and cycling do.

330:

Personal account - Nothing to do with Coe and his Chaika lanes:-

I was doing a course in London, and just outside the trainers' offices were a couple of free-sheet distributors. Starting on Monday it took til Wednesday for them to say "hello" and offer me copies because I'd said "hello" and "thank you" to both of them on Mon and Tuesday.

331:

Far more likely the regular exercise improved his immune system and infection response

While that's a reasonable response in most cases, it probably isn't true for him. The best way of describing him is "goal-oriented (severe understatement)". As in, Hereford-standard cardiovascular levels...

...disgustingly fit, intelligent, and a really sound bloke. Fate made him ginger to even things up ;)

332:

I saw some historical pictures of an early gaseous diffusion line control system. It consisted of a lot of women sitting at panels watching dials and turning knobs. A LOT of women who were not Ph.D.s or system engineers, just trained to do X when they saw Y happen for a small range of see X, do Y. We don't do that sort of thing any more, and I suspect that when your father helped to run a working gaseous diffusion line it wasn't like that, the control systems and engineering was a lot better and smarter and more efficient right up until centrifuge lines ate the gaseous diffusion process' lunch.

You're right it wasn't like that. What you are describing is the calutron process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calutron
Electromagnetic separation for uranium enrichment was abandoned in the post-war period in favor of the more complicated, but more efficient, gaseous diffusion method.

And yes centrifuges have replaced gaseous diffusion for the same reason GD replace calutrons.

333:

Re: 'Replacement does not even cure addiction - it substitutes it for more controllable situation.'

My understanding is that methadone is intended as a safer replacement and is not considered a cure for the addiction. Have read that cannabis (used in addition to the methadone) is being used to help users quit making the quitting process look like an even more complicated step-down progression. Some regimes/societies seem to think that it should be as easy to get 'cured' of drugs as it is to get hooked on them. Unfortunately, nature doesn't work that way.

Impact of Cannabis Use During Stabilization on Methadone Maintenance Treatment

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717827/


Re: 'Clinical' studies data/stats

I'm of the impression that there are 'best practices' for clinical trials from study design through to stats analysis/interpretation. There's probably even a push for greater standardization of such studies because meta-analyses are becoming more common and necessary.


334:

Re: 'One of his theses was the concept of balancing the interest of Russia as power between West and East, so to not let it prevail in one or the other direction and make a great profit out of it. To make country equally distanced from both China and Europe.'

So, Russia is insistent upon maintaining its historical/distinct identity while attempting to be equally appealing to would-be client states whose identities are generally much more 'modern' even though they run the gamut from nice to evil? The Swiss have been successful using such a strategy but I'm not sure that I would buy the idea of a neutral/non-interfering Russia anytime soon.

Seriously, it's looking more and more like Russia is a failed state. There hasn't been any good news (new science or tech) originating from it for years and the trade deal with China - well, that could go either way for Russia. (China has a long memory.)

However your comment also makes me think that this is a weird progression of events:

1- China & Russia sign a trade deal;
2- Trump publicly says that he wants NATO, the G7 and the EU to allow Russia in and when they say 'no';
3- Trump threatens China with a tariff war. (Why? - So that the US can maintain an identical distance from both? Russia has engines-of-war clout but very little economic clout, meanwhile China has both.)

What is Trump afraid of? (Assuming it is Trump who's acted/afraid ...)

335:

Two things, at least, about "at peak" on public transit: first, some cities are run by morons - they refuse to acknowledge, as, say, Chicago does, that rush hour runs from 06:30 to 09:30, and from 15:30 to 18:30.

Second: they want to "save money" by running bigger and bigger busses - I've seen the two-bus whatever they call it, that flexes in the middle... rather than running two buses. (Oh! The cost of the drivers!).

The third second thing: when I was a kid, and my mom and I would go down to Atlantic City, they had jitneys, not buses, for a lot of routes: held 10=15 people at most. And a lot of them, and a lot more frequent.

336:

David L @ 324:

Stop by a few mid-town or Glennwood CACs and see what is what.

Tell me what a "CAC" is, and I might.

337:

Well, yes, Walmart *did* kill downtowns, for smaller places. There was a story on NPR, maybe 20 years ago, of some town out in the US west, where they opened a Walmart on the outskirts of the town, and every single business in town, except for the drug store, was driven out of business.

Then, five years later, that Walmart was producing "enough" income, so they shut it, and told the folks there to drive 30 mi to the next Walmart over.

I want every damn member of the Walton family on a chain gang....

Btw, Sen Sanders just introduced a bill (unlikely to go anywhere this term) to tax big companies who have significant numbers of employees on food stamps and welfare the cost of all of that. It's being billed as "hit Jeff Bezos and Amazon".. but I'd say it targets the biggest private employer, Walmart.

338:

Oh, yes, then there's the other other issue.

Please revisit my rant in 295.

"Urban renewal".... Right. When I moved to Austin, TX, the end of '86, the buses that ran from outside town to downtown DID NOT DO THAT ON WEEKENDS, because, my late wife told me, some years before, they'd committed "urban renewal" on all of downtown, except for 6th St, where all the clubs are. The results was, other than historical stuff, there was *nothing* whatsoever downtown, and nothing was open. Housing? Not in downtown. Small stores? Ditto. *Nothing* Small businesses and not-rich people driven out.

But I'd expect you lot to be familiar with that crap.

339:

No sidewalks, Yep. And developers don't want to put them in when they build their crap.

340:

In Chicago, the el runs down the center of the Eisenhower freeway, and the Metra, commuter rail, runs down the middle or beside the Kennedy a good bit of the way into downtown. We'd almost always cruise past the traffic on the freeway.

But you know it's so much more convenient to drive, one person per car, and pay through the nose for parking, and then have to find an open space in the lot....

Hell, even when I drive to work, on days I need to go by my doc's office, it takes up to 10 or more minutes to find an empy parking space (depends if it's very full, and how far up in the garage I have to go, and how long/slow the line is in front of me*, so add that to my drive time.

* If I didn't get so infuriated, I'd walk up ahead of the idiots driving SUVs, or Big SUVs, who slow down to 2-3 mph to go over speed bumps, and point, and snicker.

341:

David L @ 326:

Of course the entire point of RTP was to restrict development to light industry/high tech and only allow 10% of the land to be developed. The idea was a reasonable number of suburban white or gray (?) collar types drive out to RTP from their suburban homes. Apparently no one did the math as when RTP got really developed there were way way way too many people driving in for it all to work. No one officially admits it but it is a work place disaster in so many ways. And we're still dealing with the after effects 50+ years later.

The entire point to the RTP was to provide employment for the graduates of Carolina, Duke & NC State science, math and engineering programs. The companies that were doing research INSIDE the park were expected build their manufacturing facilities in the surrounding communities OUTSIDE the park. Durham Tech & Wake Tech were supposed to provide a pool of skilled workers to fill those manufacturing JOBS. RTP was supposed to be a research hub surrounded by a ring of manufacturing. Most of the jobs inside the park were supposed to be (and are) support staff for the researchers.

It didn't work out as planned. The companies that established research facilities out at RTP mostly brought their own researchers with them. When they did build manufacturing facilities, they relocated their skilled workforce to the Triangle area to staff them. It was a big windfall for home-builders & real estate developers, not so much for the people already living here who didn't get the promised jobs. Most of the manufacturing jobs never materialized. Those jobs went overseas almost as soon as the textile jobs they were expected to replace.

If things had worked out as envisioned, you'd still have the large workforce out at RTP, but they wouldn't be particularly noticeable among the larger workforce in the surrounding area.

It's not that there are too many jobs out at RTP, it's that the greater number of jobs that were supposed to be attracted to Raleigh, Durham, Apex, Cary, Hillsborough and even Wake Forest didn't show up.

342:

whitroth @ 335:

... some cities are run by morons ...

My experience suggests it's ALL cities. If you get a job working in city government, they turn you into a moron if you aren't one already.

343:

whitroth @ 337:

Btw, Sen Sanders just introduced a bill (unlikely to go anywhere this term) to tax big companies who have significant numbers of employees on food stamps and welfare the cost of all of that. It's being billed as "hit Jeff Bezos and Amazon".. but I'd say it targets the biggest private employer, Walmart.

What's more likely to happen is programs like food stamps & medicaid that low wage employees have to rely on to get by will be cut AGAIN & the low wage employees will be excluded from receiving benefits.

344:

Tell me what a "CAC" is, and I might.

Sorry but you're walking into this one.

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=raleigh+cac

345:

Well, yes, Walmart *did* kill downtowns, for smaller places. There was a story on NPR, maybe 20 years ago, of some town out in the US west, where they opened a Walmart on the outskirts of the town, and every single business in town, except for the drug store, was driven out of business.

As I said, they were dying long before Walmart showed up. Walmart just sped up the end game and did it without an compassion. Sort of like pulling the plug on Grandma a year earlier than was reasonable.

Says he who grew up in an area where the process was going on for decades before Walmart was on the radar of anyone but some people in rural Arkansas.

346:

[government]... needs people who not only can exist and stay away from grave, but also participate in procreative activity.

The way you've phrased this, and other statements, suggest that you believe that foreign NGOs are attempting to normalise homosexuality; and that instead, homosexuality should be discouraged.


"Human rights" and "sexual education" has a very obvious tendency to stray so far away, that HIV prevention becomes secondary function to implanting progressive values into society.

My next question would be whether you think HIV is better prevented through denial and ignorance ("if we don't tell teenagers about sex, they won't have unprotected sex") than through education ("if we explain sex to teenagers, they'll have much less unprotected sex").

Or whether it's that you believe that HIV is mostly? spread through male homosexual activities, and that this is best prevented through denial and ignorance ("if we insist that homosexuality is unnatural, men won't have sex with other men") rather than through education ("if we explain the risks to gay men, they're less likely to have unprotected sex, and more likely to come forward for HIV testing").

I should note that Edinburgh was slightly unusual in the 1980s and 90s - the largest proportion of HIV infections came from needle-sharing among heroin users, much less from prostitution / gay sex. This was addressed at the time by pragmatism and tolerance zones (needle exchanges, "massage parlours" that provided a safer environment for sex workers); AIUI by contrast, Glasgow took a more puritanical approach; with the unintended result that sex workers are far more likely to work on the street - and less likely to be able to refuse unprotected sex.

You won't stop people being gay, or taking drugs (how is the fight against Krokodil going?), or stop teenagers having sex. What is demonstrated is that those societies who educate their youth, have far lower rates of teenage pregnancy, and far lower rates of HIV infection.

347:

Totally unrelated to anything here... sleepingroutine, you don't happen to have any decent links to the early history of Kursk, maybe information about layout and population around 1200 CE, do you? This is for a story I'm writing.

348:

to SFreader @334
So, Russia is insistent upon maintaining its historical/distinct identity while attempting to be equally appealing to would-be client states whose identities are generally much more 'modern' even though they run the gamut from nice to evil?
"Nice" and "evil" are rather shoddy concepts for relationships between nations, especially "client" ones. Less misleading definitions like "modern" or "obsolete" aren't too useful for identity of a nation, especially ones with great amount of history. Practically speaking, appeal can come from things more material, like geographical position, cultural ties or prowess in certain areas.

Seriously, it's looking more and more like Russia is a failed state.
This sort of phrasing is just a diminishing insult. If you close your eyes, plug your ears and start yelling that you can't hear anything, you can ignore whatever you want, but even then there are still people who know this wouldn't work.

What is Trump afraid of?
My guess he is afraid of economical and political collapse US-centred world is running into since the end of 90s. As a president of US, he has access to much broader picture than anybody else out there.

to Martin @346
you believe that foreign NGOs are attempting to normalise homosexuality; and that instead, homosexuality should be discouraged
There's only so much space in social norms, if you encouraging and normalizing something, the opposite views have to give a way. After decades of free and unregulated involvement of these organizations in our lives we understand that it is their involvement that, in many cases, ruined our society and led to the problems they are supposed to fight in the first place. It's not like everyone is guilty, but you know, the ones that are less effective have less chances to survive the competition for financial support.

My next question would be whether you think HIV is better prevented through denial and ignorance
I say that "progressive" methods you are defending, especially in situation of recovering demographical situation, are nihilistic and ignorant. So it usually goes like: We should explain to people that they have rights to be gay and take drugs, because it will then, uh, improve their self-esteem and drive them away from... doing wrong things, I guess?

You won't stop people being gay, or taking drugs (how is the fight against Krokodil going?), or stop teenagers having sex.
Why do you keep shaving, if your beard will grow back anyway? This is rather pointless argument. Progressives always like to insist like their practices are the only viable solutions and there are no other options, so you should submit to them unilaterally. I've read enough to know what stands behind their arguments and practices and I do not agree with their views.

to whitroth @347
No, not really, I'm not well-educated in Kievan Rus history. Googling a bit in my own language might improve the situation, especially if there are some questions to ask and misconceptions to uncover. Just first related link:
http://www.kva.kursk.ru/encyclopedia/doc/KURSKAYa%20KREPOST.php

349:

“You could set up your Transit system so that there are stations at the intersections of the spokes & the rings. It would then require transfers from spoke route to ring route and back to spoke route. But that's really no more inconvenient than having to go all the way in to a central Transit hub to transfer to route heading out an alternate spoke. But it has to run frequently (no more than 15 minute intervals) 24 hour per day.”
Aside from the “24 hours per day” part that’s a pretty good description of the Osaka rail “system”*. It’s been decades since I’ve been there, but it used to work really well.

*Comprising the recently-privatized national railway, the municipal subway, and three separate privately-owned commuter railways dating back to the 1920s, all somehow working together pretty smoothly.

350:
It needs people who not only can exist and stay away from grave, but also participate in procreative activity.

Well, yes, but procreative activity is somewhat easier if they don't have to engage in questionable behaviour to pay for their black-market opioids.

Please note "legalization" and "replacement" are not the same; the first means a drug is free to everyone, the second one means it's used on people already dependent on a drug, likely with some supervision by social services and like.

Also note opioids are quite easy to obtain even if you don't know a dealer of illegal drugs, e.g. the box of tilidine from the time somebody broke his arm or some dihydrocodeine from the time somebody's ACE inhibitors lead to coughing. Also, there is OTC loperamide, which crosses the BBB somewhat and much more if you inhibit PG glycoprotein. And let's not talk about research chemicals. Or the poppy in the garden.

Trying them once doesn't make you an addict, but usually people try them when they are bored or feeling bad, so they try them again. And again. And at some point adaptation kicks in, which leads to withdrawl effects, BTW this also happens when high dosages are used in pain relief.

So given some level of opioid addiction likely present, how are you going to deal with it?

At least according to our "Amtsapotheker" (roughly translatable as "gouvernmental pharmacist"), replacement therapy seems to work, and, err, let's just say I had some discussions with him regarding off-label immediate release stimulants, so I guess he's hardly your idea of a "progressive".

Also note the USA was instrumental in bringing about the laws concerning opioids

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Opium_Convention

so in the name of restoring souvereignty...

351:

You can justly damn some (mostly USA-based) NGOs for helping you into your mess, but

(a) by far the worst culprits in that are the (mostly USA-based) multinationals, followed by the USA/UK/etc. governments,
(b) you are blaming the wrong NGOs,
(c) and you are making the error of assuming that the reason your current methods are failing is that they aren't extreme enough.

This is exactly the same as in the USA and UK, most definitely including monetarism, 'austerity', foreign interference and Brexit.

Demonising a section of the population for natural behaviour (and homosexuality IS natural) doesn't do anything useful. And it has been proven, time and time again, that the USA/UK/Russia approach to drugs merely makes the problem worse.

352:

Re. public transit: It's obvious enough to deserve repetition, but the transit system must be well-designed to make it attractive to commuters. When I grew up in Montreal (late 1960s-1970s), public transit from the 'burbs was a disaster. I lived ca. 20 km from the nearest downtown transit hub, and it easily took 1 hour to travel that distance -- or 2 if you missed the bus and had to wait for the next one. Now, it's possible to get downtown in 0.5 hours and you typically only have to wait 10 to 15 minutes for the next bus. And the buses are generally always carrying a decent load; at rush hour, they're usually standing room only; the estimate of taking 10 cars off the road per bus seems quite reasonable (if conservative) in my experience. As a kid, I only rarely traveled downtown; as an adult, I often leave the car at home and take the bus.

Of course, getting from one place to another in the 'burbs is another thing entirely. Out here, car is the only viable option for many itineraries. Commuter rail is 10-15 minutes to get downtown, but for all practical purposes, it doesn't run outside rush hour. (They share tracks with the freight system. Who thought that was a good idea?) So when it's available, it's great. It's just not available most times when you want it. There's a new commuter rail system in the works that promises 15-minute intervals between trains. If it works as advertised, I'll spend a lot more time downtown.

David L: "I had always heard about the beast that is the 405 through the LA basin. But until this last weekend I had never actually used it."

David Gerrold has a scarily plausible story about how gridlock arises in the LA road system due to a series of cascade failures, leading to a complete shutdown of the city and abandonment of the highways (because it became prohibitively difficult to remove all the stranded cars). You have to wave your hands a bit to make it truly credible, but on the surface, it's brilliantly done and quite persuasive.

353:

I say that "progressive" methods you are defending, especially in situation of recovering demographical situation, are nihilistic and ignorant. So it usually goes like: "We should explain to people that they have rights to be gay and take drugs, because..."

EC@351 has also made this point, but there's an error in your logic.

Russia can carry on attempting to deter drug use, because drug use is a matter of choice. Legal, illegal, it's not a "right"; the argument is largely whether the methods are effective, and whether the side-effects are worth it for society (see: the 1920s Prohibition of alcohol in the USA, and resulting growth of organised crime; the 1980s growth of the Colombian cartels).

However, homosexuality is NOT a matter of choice; it's natural. Bigotry on the basis of sexuality, is no different from bigotry on the basis of race. You can't change either of them. Attempting to suppress it, won't solve demographic issues (it's only a small percentage of the population). If you're worried about demography, why not encourage gay couples to marry and have / adopt children?

The morality argument is a tricky one in Russia. If you're going to fight nihilism and ignorance at a societal level, why not start with those things that Russia has real problems with? Corruption? Organised crime? The murder of journalists and politicians? Why pick on people who want to love one another?

354:

Homosexuals having a higher family formation rate wont do anything to demograpics either, because: Small numbers.

But it does help with getting kids out of orphanages and other institutions (because the number of kids in those is also small), and the research says the kids do slightly better than average, which is presumably because no gay couple ever winds up with kids by accident.

355:

the transit system must be well-designed to make it attractive to commuters.

The legal term for doing that is "attractive nuisance". A really good public transport system attracts passengers who fill up the available seats and capacity quite quickly and then demand more capacity because what was "really good" and attractive is now not good any more. Pointing to the fact the revamped system is carrying three times more passengers each year than the old system did doesn't help because, well, it's carrying three times more passengers than it did before and it's full up. There are physical chokes on the rate at which trains or trams or buses can flow -- for Edinburgh buses that's Princes Street which during rush hour can sometimes have forty or so buses moving/stopping in either direction along its four lanes (two lanes effective due to the tram lines). There's no way on earth to push seventy buses through that street.

For trains the chokes are usually the terminus stations where trains need to stop to unload and reload passengers, using up platform space for precious minutes at a time. Extending platforms and building extra ones to increase capacity is tricky because terminal stations are usually in city centres and there's no land available nearby for that sort of construction, in part because building land close to a station commands a premium price for shops, offices etc. because, well, it's close to a station. See "attractive nuisance" again...

356:

Robert @ 349:

*Comprising the recently-privatized national railway, the municipal subway, and three separate privately-owned commuter railways dating back to the 1920s, all somehow working together pretty smoothly.

In most of the USA none of those things exist. You're lucky to have city buses where you live. Those other things would have to be built from scratch here, so they'd likely be owned/operated by a single entity.

357:

to EC @351
by far the worst culprits in that are the (mostly USA-based) multinationals
If they supply money directly to organizations based in the country, the only way to stop them is suppress influence within the country. It's not like Russia can corrupt international structures and kidnap those multinationals to extradite them and prosecute them on Russian soil, this is what US has been doing with Russian citizens all the time.

you are blaming the wrong NGO
I did not say which people or organizations I blame specifically and I did say that only some of them responsible. For example, those who refused to register and therefore were banned. Again, they weren't banned because they participated in suspicious activity (that only did put them on the list), but because they refused to bear responsibility. Not that average media consumer is smart enough to know the difference anyway...

and you are making the error of assuming that the reason your current methods are failing is that they aren't extreme enough
I never actually stated that, where did come from? You can't really improve HIV prevention by introducing "more extreme ART" or "extreme education". The government can implement more strict control over it's agencies or other participants, or it can relax regulation, but otherwise it up to those people to solve the problem.

to Martin @353
Russia can carry on attempting to deter drug use, because drug use is a matter of choice.
However, homosexuality is NOT a matter of choice; it's natural.
No, of course it is a matter of choice. There are other people who have reduced need in such matters, or those with increased demands, or those with various deviations, why isn't there specific law to address them? They simply did not pass legislation, that's why. So it is a matter of choice for society to assume such norms, nothing more. Today they chose to permit light drugs and play with gender definitions, some other day they will fall further into hedonism and degeneracy and do something more stupid.

If you're going to fight nihilism and ignorance at a societal level, why not start with those things that Russia has real problems with? Corruption? Organised crime? The murder of journalists and politicians? Why pick on people who want to love one another?
Because foreign involvement is also a part of a problem. The government does not implement laws against gay people, this is a deliberate misinformation. The government logic is that it is trying to protect them. "People who love each other" are a target social group for NGO involvement. The people are not guilty by themselves, but because they are target of activity, the progressives victimise them, indoctrinate them, use them as agents of their interests. When somebody criticizes the activity of NGO, they defend themselves by putting responsibility on those individuals ("you are against those people"). Do they even care abut those who they are supposed to defend, or they are just looking for reward?

Some organizations are specifically aimed to disrupt the society, to corrupt government, to target population, and they defend themselves by claiming their benevolence and innocence - should we believe their words or should we verify them instead? If there wouldn't be hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the country to affect it's social structure, politics and economy, there wouldn't be a reason for strict regulations. Developed countries implement same tactics, if not more severe, but nobody blames them of wrongdoing, ever wondered why this happens?

Between 2011 and 2016 there was an explosion of fraud activity I witnessed myself, and half dozen of my friends and colleagues have been affected by wave of financial pyramids, scams, networks, etc. And I suspect the only reason why this died down is financial crisis - people have less and less money and prefer to think twice before trying out. Vulnerable social groups simply do not have such choice.

to Thomas Jørgensen @354
Again, very common misconception. There are many minor groups in society, and that doesn't mean they should be left alone. Progressive lobbyists are trying to recruit as many people as possible and put them as high as possible to gain more influence. One thing is the person that should be treated with respect even though he has his own deviations, the other thing is trying to push that person into senior position BECAUSE OF THEM.

358:

Re: 'This sort of phrasing is just a diminishing insult. If you close your eyes, plug your ears and start yelling that you can't hear anything, you can ignore whatever you want, but even then there are still people who know this wouldn't work.'

Fine, so educate me: provide concrete verifiable examples that demonstrate that Russia is flourishing.

359:

I picked up an app called FlightRadar24 for tracking flights on my iPhone. (My wife and I typically fly 70 or more round trips per year so...) It allows me to find the status of a current, past, or near future flight. And it has plane numbers also. So if a flight is late I can see where the plane is NOW and see if the "late" times are fiction and make other plans.

Anyway, a feature of the app is to show all planes on earth at any time that have their transponders turned on. And my point. It provides an interesting global map where you can make rough estimates of economic activity around the world. North America, the EU, middle east, Japan, Korea and China are crowded with planes 24/7. People during the day and freight mostly at night. (Yes you can click on a plane and find out what the flight details are.) South and southeast Asia and AU are not far behind. Well AU is mostly empty except for the edges which are crowded. South America and Russia beat Africa but both are obviously way less crowded than the other parts of the world. Even if you only consider Russia from the Urals east. Dragging up the rear is Africa.

360:

to SFreader @358
Hardly anyone is flourishing these days except transnational corporations and top 1% of richest people.
Something that came up today on my radar.
https://www.urdupoint.com/en/business/russian-gas-producer-novatek-starts-building-425883.html
Russian gas producer Novatek started building the fourth production line of Yamal LNG, which will be implemented on the basis of the company's own liquefaction technology, the Arctic Cascade, Novatek CEO Leonid Mikhelson said Wednesday.
For anybody who thought this project is 50% Chinese technology and 50% European money.

to David @359
It probably has something to do with average density of population, which is decent anywhere east of Poland and non-existing beyond western Siberia. There's a lot of overflight traffic, though.

http://www.rusaviainsider.com/russian-air-traffic-set-time-record-2017/
It helps that the growth comes after huge drop of airline industry after USSR dissolution. The economy is recovering and demand for air transportation becomes so huge that it can overcome even sanctions and economic crisis. I find it very convenient that I could afford to save 3 days of my vacation by taking 2,5 hour flight on plane instead of 2 days of train travel.

361:

Re: ' ... that have their transponders turned on'

Interesting - thanks for the info!

Apart from suggesting lower international/inter-regional economic activity, wonder whether Russia might use some other system or wavelength for their 'pings' on domestic routes. If yes, the only way to verify their air traffic might be via radar/satellite. Speaking of Russian satellites, seems that one satellite launched about a year ago was showing some 'erratic' behavior.

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-45194333

'"[The satellite's] behaviour on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities," Ms Poblete told the conference on disarmament in Switzerland.'



362:

FlightRadar24 for tracking flights

There's a similar one for ships: https://www.marinetraffic.com . Mildly interesting, but probably less informative overall than FlightRadar24.

363:

Re LNG terminal. Is “fracking” for gas production used in Russia?

364:

Charlie @ 172
Yes
THIS is the argument I’m having with the lycra-mad “cyclists” ( note the quote marks) who want to steal my car ( which I only do 1500 miles a year in ) because to make life better for cyclists you crap on the motorists – well no ( I have seen Berlin & it works - the traffic priority is:
|TRAMS, peds, cyclists, cars, but the motorists are not “criminalised” as here.
The point is that my ancient & yes somewhat polluting L-R is STILL LESS POLLUTING than buying a new car, especially if I can keep it running.
This exactly parallels your -repair & reconstruct the buildings argument.
EC @ 296
Yes

Nuclear power, generally
This is a perception & hysteria problem.
Germany claims to be “greener” than the UK & has no nuclear power, but still burns Brown-Coal in huge quantities.
THIS IS STUPID
We had nuclear power, stopped, buggered about & are now buying it from other people, rather than re-developing our own again
THIS IS ALSO STUPID
How much publicity does it take to finally get the message across that nuclear is safer than coal?
SEE ALSO sleepingroutine @ 192 – thanks
( Ah yes – long money & fast money for power generation – too true )


257 & 259
Two aspects of the same horrible problem
The Ru are treating people who really want to help as evil spes ( to bolster nice Mr Putin who is “protecting” us …
And the US is setting itself up as treating “borderline latino” who are actually US citizens as if they were not – which (Godwin warning) looks horribly familiar.

Whitroth @ 339
ILLEGAL in the UK
MUST have pavements ( “sidewalks” )

Sleepingroutine @ 357
( Referring homosexuality)
No, of course it is a matter of choice. There are other people who have reduced need in such matters, or those with increased demands, or those with various deviations, why isn't there specific law to address them? They simply did not pass legislation, that's why. So it is a matter of choice for society to assume such norms, nothing more. Today they chose to permit light drugs and play with gender definitions, some other day they will fall further into hedonism and degeneracy and do something more stupid.
Are you a Christian Or some other totally brainwashed person?
This isn’t even wrong…..
And might get you red/yellow flagged, it's so "not even wrong"

365:

to Robert van der Heide
Not until recent times. Most of oil reserves are located in Siberia farther away from populated areas and when they are exhausted, companies usually just moved to drill new well. It should also be noted that US owns almost all of fracking technology in the world and after sanctions against oil and gas companies (which specifically targeted fracking) Russia is forced to develop this area independently.

to Greg Tingey
The Ru are treating people who really want to help as evil spes
Thank you very much for that suggestion, there was so much help in the 90s, we almost destroyed our country once again. Honest people usually don't get upset if their help is rejected.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_legs

And might get you red/yellow flagged, it's so "not even wrong"
And this, ladies and gents, is where big politics catches up to us. Express wrong opinion and they threaten to shut you up - it doesn't even take any offensive language.

366:

Nuclear power, generally

Germany still has several GW of carbon-emission-free nuclear power plants but they're all being shut down by Government fiat by 2023. The rise in German renewables generation is just about keeping up with the shutdowns leaving fossil carbon (including the dark horse of Russian-supplied gas-fed CCGT plants) to cover the majority of electrical demand and most of the heating and industrial process heat demand in Germany.

There's no real point to "developing our own again" unless we can sell the design as exports and we can't, there isn't any sort of gap in the market that isn't already filled by the Russians and the Chinese and, to some extent, the Koreans, all building and exporting LWRs based on modernised 1970s designs. We tried "developing our own" with the AGRs which would be really competitive designs if uranium was scarce and expensive but they're too small (550MWe - 670MWe) for today's markets which is almost all 1GWe-plus per reactor unit. As a result we never sold any of them outside the UK despite the temptation of using them to create weapons-grade plutonium (a capability of the predecessor Magnox reactor that sold single units to several countries such as Italy and Japan).

367:

Sleepingroutine
I can understand why & maybe how, you might, quite easily, want to reject all help, because some "help" wasn't & was fake or of evil intent ...
I happen to think that that is a very convenient excuse for Putin tpo raise the "holy Mother Russia" flag, but I also could be wrong.

BUT ( Sexualsity )
No
You are flat wrong.

Most people are mostly hetreosexual ( Note the "most" in both of those staements? ) ... but a largeish minority are either bisexual or homosexual - & this applies, shock, horror to women as well.
It's also a known biological fact, it applies to as far as is known to all mammals & most birds.
IT IS NOT A MATTER OF "CHOICE".
You are parroting what the christians told us all through the period 1880-1965 (approx) & often long before that time & it is simply WRONG, because not based on facts.
Your version of that old, prejudiced & as I said wrong view appears to be (also) what that not-so-nice Mr Putin says, backed, of course by the Orthodox church.
Um, err .....

368:

Your version of that old, prejudiced & as I said wrong view appears to be (also) what that not-so-nice Mr Putin says, backed, of course by the Orthodox church.
Understandably. I have my own arguments against religion, against old ways, but even then, I don't really feel the need too judge their behaviour like that - they have their reasons. Let me apply an analogy? attraction to under-ages is still considered to be a grave crime that can not be tolerated. And even though it is well known biological fact, society is still not ready to accept anything like that. Moreover, there are, well, pretty liberal opinions that this is, in fact, a bad idea that goes against human nature.
I'm not that educated to know such peculiarities of social dynamics. I don't know where it comes from, really. Maybe somebody argues that we need to regulate population of Earth by introducing new cultural traditions and shaping society (something I've read in "Forever War" many years ago), but I've never heard of them. So I just argue, when it comes to society, it is not about biological predetermination. It is an institutional decision.

IT IS NOT A MATTER OF "CHOICE".
Now that you've used quotation marks, I've been thinking, it really depends on definition of choice.

369:

Germany claims to be “greener” than the UK & has no nuclear power, but still burns Brown-Coal in huge quantities.

My daughter spend a school year in Germany 2009-2010. While their people were constantly amazed/appalled that she lived 10 miles from a nuclear power plant. And expressed it strongly. While puffing hard on their cigarettes.

370:

wonder whether Russia might use some other system or wavelength for their 'pings' on domestic routes.

I think this is one of those things were everyone got together and decided to install transponders on all civilian aircraft no matter what else you might be pissed about. These things are the basis for the world wide air traffic control systems.

371:

Nojay @ 366:

Nuclear power, generally

Nothing to do with nuclear power, but I ran across these articles today & thought y'all might find the idea interesting.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/09/09/645539064/so-maybe-stopping-the-sahara-from-expanding-isn-t-an-impossible-dream

https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/09/carpeting-sahara-with-wind-and-solar-farms-could-make-it-rain/

Brief synopsis: An atmospheric scientist at the U of Maryland suggests that a massive solar panel & wind turbine installation covering 20% of the Sahara could produce 80 terawatts of electrical power that could be sold to Europe and at the same time could change the climate by producing precipitation to slow and perhaps reverse desertification in the Sahel.

All done with computer simulations, so I don't know how well it would actually work in the real world, but it seems to me you don't have to believe global warming is real to put the wind farms & solar panels there and it might be a way to finesse climate change deniers.

372:

Ah yeas, the "The Sahara doesn't belong to anyone so we can just carpet it with renewables and pipe the energy to Europe" gambit.

Step one: Conquer the entire Sahara, occupy it with a military force of a few million soldiers and eliminate the local population (see Trail of Tears for a worked example, also How the West was Won).

Step two: find several TW capacity of a solar panels lying around that no-one's using and ship them to the Sahara which ha the wrong kind of sand to make solar panels with. Remember at this point that the current world total production of new solar panels is 50GW dataplate (about 10GW production per annum once installed) so some more military action and appropriation might be necessary.

Step three: More silly shit like spending several hundred years building and installing a lot of renewables infrastructure in a far-off region to complete this giant project while burning fossil carbon in the meantime as a "stopgap" (See Germany and Energiewende redux).

Step four: Ah, hold on, "All done with computer simulations"... I think I see the flaw in your cunning plan. No need to pin ears on it and call it a fox.

373:

sleepingroutine @ 368
Homosexuality in humans is as old as recorded history.
Some societies ignore it, some condemn it ( Almost always for "religious" reasons of often-violent social control ) some accept it is a standard minority variation.
Real, actual science shows, according to our best modern evidence, that the last is the correct answer.
And, that as stated, it happens in all mammals. ( And most birds )
IF you have better more reliable information, then please produce it.
There is a profound difference between that & underage sex - the latter is almost always about the exercise of power & control & "dominance" - just like the religions I mentioned earlier.
Can you see the difference?

David L @ 370
Unless, of course, you are:
KL-007: 1983/09/01
or
MH-17: 2014/07/17
Cough

374:

I believe the first was before the current "everyone" system was in place.

For the later they likely ignored it.

In general it is common for there to be no way for military operations to not have access to civilian radio channels. Dumb as it might be.

375:

Can you see the difference?
Sorry, I could not. The only difference I see is that one is regarded as natural human right (in some countries), and the other one being a particularly serious crime (almost everywhere). I would not advocate any of them.

KL-007: 1983/09/01
MH-17: 2014/07/17

Mediocre. Think Iran Air Flight 655 or Siberia Airlines Flight 1812.

I believe the first was before the current "everyone" system was in place.
Not really, it was a result of irresponsibility. Or negligence. Or maybe malicious intent, but that's debated.

376:

Mediocre

Riffing on the Princes Bridge, I don't think that word means what you think it does.

377:

Ok, so you have to add "Raleigh" to the CAC.

Please note, as I've mentioned, I work for a US federal contractor, and wear a badge that's a "smart card"*, aka PIV card. Civilian employees of the US DoD carry - wait for it - CAC cards (civilian access card).

I need to get back to work on trying to figure out why one user's PIV card's being rejected....

* "Smart cards" carry a chip, and a stripe, and not only photo ID, but also carry biometric data (fingerprints and retina prints), as well as a chain of cryptographic certificates ("certs").

378:

One note that most, AFAIK, younger folks don't seem to be aware of, that I learned in my early, I think, teens: in Sparta, in ancient Greece, homosexuality was encourage in the citizens that made up their army; one given reason was that one would be ashamed to retreat from the enemy with your lover looking on.

379:

Thanks muchly.

*sigh*

Now to find a way to translate it from Russian...

380:

375
It is not a matter of "Advocacy"
You really have the (usually christian-religious) delusion that homosexuality is a choice.
What will it take to convince you otherwise, given the scientific evidence that it occurs in all mammals?

IR 655 - was admitted at once.
SA 1812 - appears to have been a full scale cock-up, with both the Russians & Ukrainians (at first) denying everything ....

381:

Nojay @ 372:

Ah yeas, the "The Sahara doesn't belong to anyone so we can just carpet it with renewables and pipe the energy to Europe" gambit.
Step one: Conquer the entire Sahara, occupy it with a military force of a few million soldiers and eliminate the local population (see Trail of Tears for a worked example, also How the West was Won).

Why do you immediately think of this in terms of conquest? This is something local people might want for themselves; energy for their own needs & a surplus to sell plus an increase in arable land.

Step two: find several TW capacity of a solar panels lying around that no-one's using and ship them to the Sahara which ha the wrong kind of sand to make solar panels with. Remember at this point that the current world total production of new solar panels is 50GW dataplate (about 10GW production per annum once installed) so some more military action and appropriation might be necessary.

So what if it's the wrong kind of sand? It's the right place to find the sunshine and wind.

Step three: More silly shit like spending several hundred years building and installing a lot of renewables infrastructure in a far-off region to complete this giant project while burning fossil carbon in the meantime as a "stopgap" (See Germany and Energiewende redux).

So? What's the alternative? Just keep burning all the fossil fuels and only start thinking about alternatives when the generators start to spin down from lack of fuel?

Step four: Ah, hold on, "All done with computer simulations"... I think I see the flaw in your cunning plan. No need to pin ears on it and call it a fox.

Not my cunning plan; just something I ran across that I thought might be of interest to open minds. If nothing else, it's something to think about. Not a solution to climate change, but possibly a cost effective way to reduce emissions and mitigate effects.

But thanks for being an asshole about it.

382:

So? What's the alternative? Just keep burning all the fossil fuels and only start thinking about alternatives when the generators start to spin down from lack of fuel?

It's not exactly a plan, that is no-one's sat down and said "this is what we're going to do do", it's just what's going to happen, we (meaning the human race 'We') are going to frack and dig up and pump all the fossil carbon that can be extracted at a decent energy return on energy invested and burn it and dump the resulting CO2 into the atmosphere because it's cheap energy and it's on-demand energy and what happens afterwards is someone else's problem.

Fantasies and Powerpoint presentations about spending centuries building out renewables in the Sahara and hoping the locals don't object and pretending they won't take offence at being colonised and won't shoot back is sweet and all that. It won't stop 500ppm CO2 or even 700ppm CO2.

Bombing every oil rig and gas plant on the planet and putting every coal mining executive up against a wall and shooting them would be a good start. Not going to happen though, instead we get platitudes like Paris 2015 where 195 countries agreed to do Something about global warming but without actually doing anything -- since the accords were signed we, meaning the global We, have dumped nearly a trillion tonnes more CO2 into the atmosphere, the measurable level has gone up by another four or five ppm and it will go up another couple of ppm each year for the forseeable future.

383:

It is not a matter of "Advocacy"
Oh, whatever. There are enough cultures, modern or not, who can make anything out of it. Your "scientific facts" mean nothing to them.

IR 655 - was admitted at once.
It wasn't. They admitted they shot down the plane but said it wasn't ever their wrongdoing.

SA 1812 - appears to have been a full scale cock-up
Admittedly. However, nobody ever took full responsibility and after the 2014 coup the investigation was halted indefinitely.

to whitroth @379
Google translate handles it relatively well, you put the link into the source window, select language, and it translates the entire page. Usually. The problems may be coming from unfamiliar terms (some of them may be new even to me) and expressions that may be well known only to native speakers.

384:

Re: Global air traffic system

Nice to know that there's still international cooperation.

385:

I lived ca. 20 km from the nearest downtown transit hub, and it easily took 1 hour to travel that distance -- or 2 if you missed the bus and had to wait for the next one.

The thing with public transport is that reliability and frequency are what makes it work at all. So you need to run buses and trains empty off peak just so that they are always there. People with limited information and without the spare intellectual capacity to work it out get outraged that services run when they personally don't want to use them (ask any PT operator about noise complaints). But they *have* to do that or half their passengers will leave (imagine being 10 minutes late leaving work and having to get a taxi because trains only run in peak hour... I grew up with a bus service like that in a town too small for trains).

You also generally have to run near-peak services against the flow to avoid storing all the vehicles in the centre of the city all day - the land to do that is expensive and tunnels even more so. In Sydney that means you can see "peak" trains at 4am because they run 100km or more out, then 100km out the other side as a peak service. There's an animation somewhere that I saw which was awesome but when I asked if it was on youtube the answer was "of course not, this is commercially sensitive information". Yes, timetables for publicly owned public transport are "commercially sensitive".

I have recently been travelling (and had an unexpected "internet detox" thanks to Optus decision that Australia consists of 5 cities and some rural wasteland). Lowlight was Sunday when travelling ~150km took 3.5 hours and it would have been 4.5 if I'd waited for the bus rather than walking the last 4km. Who thought that buses every 90-ish minutes after 6pm on Sunday was a good idea? And that *the* taxi driver would have more than one fare from the hourly train arrival? Unpossible! (not going to happen twice, at least).

Flip side is trains in Sydney and Melbourne are pretty good at "just turn up, one will be along soon" and both NSW and VIC have decent mobile apps now (VIC one is online only but has maps, so I just went "Irene St Thornbury to Chickerell St Morwell" and the app said "train leaves Bell Station in 8 minutes... 10 minutes walk away" so I ran and caught it).

386:

"attractive nuisance". A really good public transport system attracts passengers... because, well, it's carrying three times more passengers than it did before and it's full up. There are physical chokes on the rate at which trains or trams or buses can flow

You're aware the private cars have the same problem? But scaled up because there's only 1 person per car* ... a bus with two passengers is no worse. The cliche example is Los Angeles, where they kept knocking down the city to build motorways until even the most enthusiastic advocates were chocking on their own fumes. But some cities have big train networks and run frequent services, allowing them to move stupendous numbers of people (Tokyo 10 million people a day, in and then out... that's more than the population of New York).

Network effects mean we really do want big cities, but when you ask "what's the best way to arrange a big city" the answer is invariably public transport and quite often trains. LA, and similar crippled cities like Auckland, are really better thought of as clusters of smaller cities just because so few people move across the whole city. It's interesting listening to bus and tram fans trying to design cities to work without heavy rail, but at least they only do that as a thought experiment.

Private car fans often insist that their preferred answer is a utopia and that nothing else can even be discussed. As with so many things, private cars work fine as long as they're rare. Or very rare. Five people in the USA having handguns would be fine (cf miniguns, for example), but 50 million? That's a problem. Ditto 300 million private cars, and 200 million private health insurance plans.

* in most places the average people per car during rush hour is very close to 1. 2 would be very, very unusual.

387:

sleepingroutine @ 383
IN ORDER
Well, we all know that politicians & religious leaders often ignore scientific facts ... it usually comes back to bite them later.
I hope you are not advocating the same?

IR 655 - the important point was, that they admitted it (at all) but actually, very quickly. We all know it was a monumental fuck-up.
SA 1812 - Here, it's the other way around, intially (IIRC) both the Ru & the Ukrainians denied everything, including the shooting. We will probably never find out, now, who &/or why the screw-up occurred - there are several hypotheses, though I note that no-one thinks it was deliberate. ( The misslie was supposed to either self-destruct, or go somewhere else entirely. )

388:

You're aware the private cars have the same problem?

Oh yes, totally. The idea that public transport is a simple solution to overcrowding in cities is what I'm mocking. Cars would be worse for a whole lot of reasons.

Solutions? Mixed residential and business/commercial/retail/entertainment helps in cities and large towns, a willingness for people to move as their circumstances change in life rather than being nailed to the spot fifty kilometres from their new workplace by mortgages and a home price escalator ethos. It's not the transport, it's the travel that's the problem. Commuting to and from work provides most of the need for public transport with two super-concentrated times of the day, filling the capacity with bodies and resulting in the cries for "better public transport"!

Making public transport better means more firms look at moving into the city centre to open shops and businesses needing workers who can get there because there's better public transport available to them (it also brings in customers too for retail and entertainment businesses, of course) and the new transport capacity fills up and there are more demands for "better public transport!"

I do gig-economy work these days as I approach retirement. Most of the jobs I take are at sites a bit over a kilometre from my front door because I hate commuting. I've got good public transport options to get there but I can walk to those sites in twenty minutes if there's reason (like snow). It's a choice, I'm offered work by my employer at sites seventy or eighty kilometres away (with them providing the transport at no cost to myself, indeed they pay me for travel time) but I don't take those jobs. Someone who's on a career path doesn't have that luxury but if they're settled somewhere putting sweat equity into a house, their kid is in a nice school, they've got connections locally and the job requires them to travel three hours five days a week into a city centre because the office moved or the promotion came in then that's what they do. And then they bitch and moan about the "poor" public transport options which are a major reason the company moved there in the first place.

389:

Well, the noise footprint of a suburban electric railway can be pretty wide. I just measured from my Mum's house to the nearest line (which I can hear movements on), and got an answer of 323m. The next nearest line is over 3km distant.

Also, I'm not going to suggest that "cars are the answer" but I am going to suggest that a bus with 2 passengers generates ~twice the (pollutant that is this month's "grate ebil") per unit distance that a car or taxi using the same stops would.

390:

a willingness for people to move as their circumstances change in life rather than being nailed to the spot fifty kilometres from their new workplace by mortgages

Until we can eliminate families and communities that's how it has to be.

I know quite a few people who have moved to live midway between the workplaces of the parental units, or have looked for jobs close to where they live. But I know almost as many who commute ridiculous distances because their spouse, kids, friends and community are in one place but their job is in another. Admittedly I also know quite a few who moved to desirable areas then whine about the commute.

In Australia we have the added nonsense of "stamp duty" on house sales being hugely inflated because it's one of the very few ways state governments can raise money. So when I bought my house I was taxed ~$US35,000 by the state government. That's a very real incentive not to sell it and buy another in a more convenient location (but at least it makes the legal and real estate fees look small by comparison... yay?).

391:

but I am going to suggest that a bus with 2 passengers generates ~twice the (pollutant

That was an example of space used, not a reflection of actual occupancy. There's a subtle benefit that buses are replaced after 3-10 years so the fleet as a whole is usually newer than the car fleet (hello Pigeon).

But for low pollution mass transit you can't really beat trolley buses on the road (or bicycles), or trams and trains on the rail system. Whether it's possible to re-engineer car-dependent cities like most in the US is IMO an already-answered question - the answer is yes, and it's cheaper than most people think. The main thing is to compare the cost of not doing it (business as usual), not pretend that the conversion costs money and lives but the alternative is free. BAU is *hugely* expensive right now, and is likely to get more expensive rather than less.

While I love to moan about the state of rail in Australia, it's worth noting that maintenance dollars per passenger-kilometre (or tonne-kilometre for freight) is almost an order of magnitude less, and the death rate is almost entirely from the coal-fired power plants that make it go. The roads? We don't even consider "secondary deaths" as being part of the "road toll". Like they say, every road is a toll road.

392:

In other news, guess who has joined the new "Scramble for Africa"

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/sep/11/russias-scramble-for-influence-in-africa-catches-western-officials-off-guard

I was intrigued by the idea that they're building a naval base in Eritrea instead of Djibouti. Still, it's better than the Somaliland idea. Pity that they're not more focused on non-military ventures like China is.

393:

That worked, once I figured out how to use it.

Interesting - other pages refer to "strong fortification", while this describes a wooden palisade fence, with towers, and a ditch around it.

Here I was picturing stone.... But this will work well for my story. Thanks - that really helped.

394:

Roads are multi-use, they can carry buses and cars and taxis and motorbikes and bicycles and pedal-rickshaws and pedestrians and prams and rollerskaters and pretty much anything and everything, in any direction at any time delivering people and goods to their destinations or close by.

Rail uses up a similar land footprint to a two-lane road but with much more expensive signalling but it can only carry trains. They are not as flexible or as convenient as roads and rail services usually don't run 24-hours a day. They definitely don't go to front doors or close to them so we rely on evull roads to actually get us to where we want to go after rail gets us most of the way there (sometimes).

Trams, well some tram lines share road space, some are separated-track runs -- Edinburgh trams go from one system to the other as they approach the city centre, the changeover is pretty much outside my front door in fact. The tram lines require maintenance too, of course -- after only three years of operation we received notice the tram company is going to be working overnight to refurbish the lines outside our front door. The noise from the thermal lance will apparently only be for a few minutes each night.

395:

It looks like a pretty decent fortification for the time, from that web page. All that water around it, both natural and artificial, a fence which doesn't have to withstand artillery and which will obstruct any lesser attack pretty effectively, and towers to enfilade attackers trying to break through it or set fire to it.

When only mechanical energy storage was available to power the chucking of things at walls, the durability of stone wasn't all that important an advantage, but it calls for more, and more skilled, labour than building a wooden fence. In England around the same sort of time, while a castle's keep might be stone, the surrounding fortifications were very often of wood, and a ditch and a wooden fence was pretty much the standard for new construction of town walls; while some town walls did have stone parts, these were mostly whatever bits were left over from the Roman occupation that hadn't been picked apart to build other things in the intervening centuries. So it doesn't surprise me that somewhere beyond where the Romans ever occupied would consider a fortification "strong" never mind that it wasn't made of stone.

I do agree that it's difficult to think of fortifications and not automatically think of stone, though, given the skewed viewpoint that results from the different long-term survival rates of wood and stone.

396:

Wanted: One Kraken, 8-10 tentacles, no clothing
Only question, why this?
No clothing on the Kraken

(US Air Force, FA4418-18-Q-0103 )

397:

Nojay @ 394
Not quite.
On flat ground a railway uses up LESS space than a 2-lane road ... one of the critical reasosns the utterly insane idea of closing Marylebone & using the tunnels for Buses would fortunately never work ....

398:

Measuring on Google Earth, most railways around this neck of the woods in Edinburgh are electrified and two railbeds plus overhead catenary towers are about 11 to 12 metres wide. A public 2-lane road near me which passes between two buildings is 7 metres wide, not counting pedestrian pavements.


399:

The tram lines require maintenance too, of course -- after only three years of operation we received notice the tram company is going to be working overnight to refurbish the lines outside our front door. The noise from the thermal lance will apparently only be for a few minutes each night

Which is a brilliant summary of just one of the reasons why trolley buses are better than trams! Others include how, if a trolley bus dies on a road (this won't work on a guided busway), you just fold its pantograph in, and following services can pass it rather than having to wait for the stricken vehicle to be recovered!

400:

That's an argument about the UK loading gauge; does it still apply if you use the European or North American LG?

401:

two railbeds plus overhead catenary towers are about 11 to 12 metres wide. A public 2-lane road near me which passes between two buildings is 7 metres wide, not counting pedestrian pavements.

Which is useful to know, but then we also want the capacity of the way as well, so we can work out whether it's feasible to use each for a particular purpose.

Heavy rail generally serves a different purpose to a 2-lane road, especially one only 7m wide. The latter is likely to be a local road primarily used for journeys where walking is or should be an alternative, and may be considered too narrow for buses (depending on the fine print, in older cities it might count as a big wide thoroughfare).

IMO the trick is not to focus on "the one mode of transport for all things", but on getting the right mix.

It makes sense to have quite a lot of roads, since they do everything from last mile deliveries to long distance tourism. But it also makes sense to use large cargo ships for bulk transport over long distances then split those cargoes and use rail for local distribution then rail for the aforementioned last mile. But using roads to transport megatonnes megametres? Not so much. The "world's biggest road train" in Australia costs a huge amount, but still slightly less than the cost of building a railway for the relatively small quantity of ore transported). Same for passengers... good luck moving 10M people into the city every morning using roads, there's just fundamental limits to how far you can push that technology (sure, go 10+ levels and use self-driving electric cars to avoid pollution and parking, but you've just doubled the distance travelled).

402:

Also, in real, near vegetation-free deserts (i.e. not the Mojave), wind-borne sand scour is a major problem, even ignoring the areas with shifting dunes, and I doubt the lifetimes being quoted for things like solar panels. Yes, some areas are suitable, but a lot fewer than is usually made out.

403:

The minimum standard width for a (new) general-purpose road in the UK is 8 metres, because you need at least 0.5 metres each side for a verge and drainage. Current tarmac roads vary from below 2 metres to well above 20 metres.

404:

Nojay has, in the past said more or less where he lives, and in this conversation, says that he's on the Edinburgh Light Rail, er "tram", route. I think that Dalry Road, which is a bus route, might conform to the specification he's given? (I'm working on the basis that the road is a through route and not a residential side road.)

405:

In the UK, there are roads narrower than 7 metres that are used for two-way bus traffic, certainly down to 5 metres - however, a bus/HGV lane narrower than 3.5 metres is regarded as sub-standard. Whatever. The claim that rail takes less space than road (in the UK) is quite simply wrong. So is the converse claim, that it is far more disruptive and needs much more space, incidentally (it isn't and needs very little more, comparing like with like).

406:

In the UK, there are roads narrower than 7 metres that are used for two-way bus traffic
I know; my mother lives on one of them.

407:

Last time I was there, I found UK roads and lanes disturbingly narrow. (At the time, I'd only every driven in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where land is cheap and even side-streets are wide.

Particularly frightening were those narrow lanes in the middle of the road for motorbikes, marked with double-lines but narrower than the width of a motorbike. Very disconcerting to meet a motorbike or sports car coming around a blind curve in them. :-/

408:

Well, my Canadian relatives all feel similarly. There's one narrow road (about 12 feet) where my Dad overtook one of the Canucks (we were going to meet at the same relations' house, about 5 miles from where he overtook them) and they arrived about 30 minutes after us!

409:

Some are, indeed. In 2014, before Worldcon, we were driving up through the Llanberis Pass, and one lane was about it. Of course, there was the spot where a couple of sheep had gotten out, and were taking themselves for a walk along in the ditch by the road.

Which led, of course, to when I mentioned it on a mailing list I'm on, to someone noting that the road was too narrow for a ewe turn....

410:

"...those narrow lanes in the middle of the road for motorbikes, marked with double-lines but narrower than the width of a motorbike."

I am confused by this because we do not have narrow lanes in the middle for motorbikes.

We used to have suicide lanes in some places - a three-lane road with the centre lane a bidirectional overtaking lane - but they went out decades ago. Mostly the roads that had them were just re-marked with only two, rather wide, lanes. There may still be the odd relic in some obscure place that nobody's got round to eliminating yet, but most people these days have never even heard of them. (Not to be confused with unidirectional third overtaking lanes going up hills.)

The default separator marking down the middle of the road is a broken white line. Continuous double white lines mean "do not cross the line, stay on your own side of the road". One continuous line and one broken line mean that vehicles on the broken-line side may cross it but vehicles on the continuous-line side may not.

One thing we do suffer from is that county councils in some counties are staffed with arseholes who hate cars and think it is their mission to make travelling by road as painful as possible. These arseholes think it is really great to have as many people as possible stuck behind a lorry crawling along at 40mph for mile after mile, and they have a bunch of tricks for discouraging people from overtaking on roads that do not meet the criteria for formally making it illegal. One of these tricks is to artificially narrow a road from the middle outwards, by replacing the single centre-marking line with two lines spaced a couple of feet apart and a sort of no-man's-land in between. Usually the no-man's-land is emphasised by colouring the tarmac red and/or putting diagonal white lines on it. Is it something like this you're referring to?

This does effectively discourage most people from overtaking, but for some people it has the reverse effect. People who used to overtake just fine on that stretch of road before the paint appeared, and people who are aware that such things are done deliberately to be a pain in the arse, are likely either to just ignore it, or to go "yeah, well fuck you, council" and overtake with greater enthusiasm just to make the point.

Motorcyclists actually hate these things, because gravel and crap tends to accumulate in them and make them skiddy, and the diagonal cross-hatching lines are slippery especially in the wet. But they will still overtake using them if the problem happens not to be too bad at the specific location in question. (One of the strange supernatural skills you acquire through riding a motorbike is how to assess the exact frictional qualities of a road surface at high speed from quite a long way away.)

411:

One thing we do suffer from is that county councils in some counties are staffed with arseholes who hate cars
AND my local London Coundil, the London Borough of What The Fuck ( LBWF) whose "mini-holland" scheme is supposed to be very cycle-freindly.
They have got the idea that shitting all over motorists automatically makes it better for cyclists ...
As a cyclist, as well as an occasional motorist, I can tell you that this ain't so ...

412:

"...those narrow lanes in the middle of the road for motorbikes, marked with double-lines but narrower than the width of a motorbike."

I am confused by this because we do not have narrow lanes in the middle for motorbikes.

Two lines about six inches apart? Usually found on twisty roads with blind corners?

In Canada I would assume they meant "do not pass", although the occasional idiot does so anyway. But in the 80s when I was driving the length of England on holiday, I was routinely passed by motorbikes (and more than a few sports cars) on them.

(And if I was crawling at 40 mph, it would have been because that was the posted speed limit.)

413:

Dalry Road is a four-lane road although it's usually got cars and vans parked both sides along most of its length turning it into a two-lane road in reality. The 7-metre-wide road I mentioned is Haymarket Yards which has the added disadvantage of having two tram lines running through the narrowest point. It's normal for a tram to stop short to allow an approaching tram through that gap rather than try and get both trams through the gap at the same time.

414:

Oh, dear... I'm sorry, but that is hilarious. Not because of what it says about you, but because of what it says about us.

That marking does indeed mean "do not cross", and it is often applied on roads which attract motorcyclists by their twistiness and is resented for spoiling the fun...

415:

To be fair to those arseholes, they are primarily following Holy Dogma rather than just being vindictive, but you are quite right that it doesn't help cyclists or increase cycling as an alternative to driving. What is needed is almost the exact opposite of what is being done - i.e. to get cyclists back onto the carriageway, and make that safe. We simply do not have the space for an alternative road network.

This is actually relevant to the double line point - if they engaged even their rudimentary brains instead of their arseholes, they would realise that excessive use of such things is counter-productive.

416:

EC
The local ones are vindictive as well.
When some of them found out at a public meeting, which I had very carefully arrived at by cycle, that I also had a shock horror CAR ( & that it was a big 4WD ) they went ape & insulting.
One prominent local concillor, the vile Loakes, is public in his denunciations of motorists, but hem that walking shithole has "form" - he tried really hard to get our locally-loved & excellent museums, closed.

417:

Airborne dust (never mind sand scour) is a problem because it means you get to clean your solar panels often, so ECWMF offers a service to look for dust-poor areas in your chosen region for you.

418:

Yes. That is particularly helpful in a location where water is in extremely short supply - such as the Sahara.

419:

I've seen to this problem recently. It turns out to be really troublesome. Looks like you need to build a small irrigation system with thousands of liters of water to regularly clean those solar panels of dust, especially in the desert where rains are rare sight. Recently they've been building robots that are cleaning the tiles so to save on inhumanly hard labor and water.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWtukrV1xNQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8rIXjOPZ8w

420:

_Moz_ noted: "The thing with public transport is that reliability and frequency are what makes it work at all. So you need to run buses and trains empty off peak just so that they are always there."

Yes and no. If you do good traffic tracking over long periods, you get a good sense for the peaks in demand and can plan accordingly (i.e., reduce frequency or capacity during slow periods). You do see empty buses being relocated to peak passenger pickup points at certain times of day, but that also seems reasonable.

There are other solutions such as bus-only lanes, presumably to encourage people to take public transit instead of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and using two-car (double-length) buses during peak periods, so the capacity is doubled but with only one (very large!) vehicle. You just (I imagine) rotate from using single-car buses during slow period to double-car buses during busy periods. Better solutions are to expand the underground train network, since this gets more vehicles off the street.

Don't know how well this works elsewhere, and it's never going to be perfect, but here in Montreal, it seems to be pretty functonal. Enough so that I take public transit far more than I ever did in the past.

421:

Or you just use compressed air and a cloth, which works nearly as well.

422:

If you do good traffic tracking over long periods, you get a good sense for the peaks in demand and can plan accordingly (i.e., reduce frequency or capacity during slow periods).

With buses they seem to do that in most places, with trains it's significantly harder. I mean, in theory they could split a lot of metro trains and run half-length trains off peak... it's just that telling people you're doing that is hard, and the actual savings are smaller than you might expect thanks to regenerative braking and very low running cost per metre. I regularly see kerfuffles on trains that stop at short platforms, and much frantic activity on the rare occasions I've been on trains where the train has split with two bits going to different destinations (I recall seeing that only once, and it seemed as though half the passengers had got on the wrong half of the train).

In Sydney we seem to have a slightly eclectic mix of double-height and bendy buses, as well as short and mini buses. I think they vary the buses used on the same route across the day, but I am not sure because I very rarely use buses (I can bike as fast as the bus most of the time). But we also have privatised, "competitive" bus systems across the city so it's probably a nightmare under the hood. Luckily the mobile app works very well so I've never had to deal with it (we also have unified ticketing AFAIK, and a swipe card system that works everywhere).

423:

Manually cleaning each solar panel is a lot more work and more expensive than spraying water pumped up from a local aquifer (the usual solution). Shame that the aquifer is getting depleted and not refilled because, you know, it's a desert but them's the breaks when there's money to be made.

424:

With buses they seem to do that in most places, with trains it's significantly harder. I mean, in theory they could split a lot of metro trains and run half-length trains off peak...

That's the normal mode for trains coming into/out of London. There are a lot more destinations than tracks. So during peak it's normal to split trains about 20 miles out to serve more destinations.

At peak train frequency is very high. So high that minor delays snarl up the whole timetable for a couple of hours. Trains have been getting longer to help increase capacity, usually 12 cars in peak.

Off peak they're 4 or 8 cars long, and sometimes only a couple an hour where they could be eight an hour during peak. Depends on the destination of course.

425:

And usually abrades the surface faster.

426:

There's been a series of engineering works at various railway stations here in the UK to lengthen the platforms to accommodate longer trains to handle more passengers. The results are more passengers and overcrowding at peak periods and delays and complaints about higher ticket prices needed to pay for the engineering works to cope with the increase in passenger numbers.

https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/our-routes/scotland/edinburgh-waverley-platform-extensions/

427:

Moderation note

I'd like to remind sleepingroutine that homophobic material is a violation of the moderation policy of this blog, which as a matter of policy is LGBT- and feminist-friendly.

I'd also like to remind sleepingroutine that sexual obsession with children and sexual attraction to adults of the same sex are not the same, and note that homosexual activity is ubiquitous among all vertebrate animal species studies: your go-to study of the subject is Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl. (Basically, every species animal behaviourists have looked at has exhibited homosexuality: there are sound evolutionary biology reasons for believing it's a natural side-effect of being sexually attracted to the opposite sex, and about as unnatural as being left-handed (hint: most mammalian species are 50/50 right/left biased, humans are weirdly anomalous).

428:

Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl
I would put remark that human behavior can not be considered entirely "natural" for the obvious rules of development of civilization, and in my view LGBT(q) community is one of those down-shifters who would like to get "closer to nature" y indulging their instincts. A disdain, not phobia.

My point, being, of course, that there's a big difference between neutral-independent view of the situation and actual phobia and willingness to legally prosecute anybody who is involved. It becomes normal-phobia, the fear of people who are not radical enough. Certain people too often treat anybody who even slightly disagrees with them as their mortal enemy, without leaving wide threshold for people who might not support their opinion but but will readily defend them against worst fate.

This polarization benefits nobody here, not me and not you, and I would like to put the end to it.

429:

It's more fundamental than that, which is why you might want to read Bagemihl's book.

If you want just one tidbit, if sex toys (mastubatory aids) were considered tools, the number of known tool using species would more than double. Sex toys are the most commonly made and used tool among vertebrates.

Personally, I dislike Bagemihl's theory of animal exuberance, because I think it runs into trouble with other aspects of evolutionary biology which tests out well in other contexts. But that's the last chapter or so of the book, and I do agree that the evidence he raises means that we don't understand completely understand how evolution works. I DO think his documentation of the pervasiveness of a diversity of sexual behaviors throughout the vertebrates is encyclopedic and incredibly valuable, because it shows not only that humans are actually kind of boringly normal in our sexual diversity, but also that we're really, really good at suppressing such knowledge for political and religious reasons.

One critical point, which you just demonstrated admirably, is that homosexuality is neither unnatural or bestial. When zoologists weren't writing about the real range of sexual behaviors they saw in animals (because of fears that it would get them fired), people who didn't know about this diversity labeled homosexuality and other parts of the sexual spectrum "unnatural," as in "only humans do it, not animals, therefore it's against nature and should be outlawed." When stories began to leak out about animal homosexuality (and I think bonobo researchers led the way, as most bonobo sexual encounters are homosexual), and LGBT activists pointed to this evidence, their attacked relablled homosexuality as "bestial, therefore it's against human nature and should be outlawed."

The point here was that bigots were and are looking for any excuse to label LGBTQ-etc. behavior wrong and illegal, because it gives them a way to control other people. This is about power politics, not about biology.

That's a serious problem that gets a lot of people killed. And that's what Charlie, and I, and I suspect most of the people who post here, are very firmly against.

430:

Classic example the other way.
Anyone else here old enough to remember the war hero, travel writer, naturalist extrodinaire ( Oh & damned -good oil-painter too ) Sir Peter Scott?
He wrote a mongraph on Bewick's Swans ... which described in some detail their various forms of sexual behaviour, back in, erm ... err 1070-72 ( not IN THE wiki Bibli, oops ) including sme==ame-sex attractions.
That far back, it raise an eybrow or two.

431:

A disdain, not phobia.

You say disdain, I say phobia: homophobia includes (is a superset of) bias against folks who engage in any kind of unconventional sexual behavior. It's a slippery slope, and you'd be wise to you stop talking about it here, because I am by your standards radical on this topic (I'm an out-of-the-closet bisexual, I live in the middle of the gay village of the gay capital of Scotland, I have been known to go on pride marches, and so on).

This isn't open to "debate": normal-phobia" (your term) doesn't exist. It's a political football, and like anti-semitism, it appeals to a certain type of authoritarian mind-set which I despise and will not tolerate here.

(A less obvious point is that our contemporary construction of the idea of "homosexuality" was formalized in the 19th century; previously sexual activities were interpreted and understood differently. Go back to the Roman empire and the whole concept of gender was rather different; look to non-Christian cultures such as India and you get stuff that doesn't fit neatly into the industrial-revolution's tendency to plug everything into binary distinctions, e.g. the Hijra caste. And so on.)

432:

You say disdain, I say phobia
Alright, this has gone far enough.

433:

Alright, this has gone far enough.

It's not a phobia, you just really don't want to talk about it.


Charlie: for some reason I'm thinking "I'm not gay but I've had sex with men who are" :)

434:

Or, possibly even more to the point ...
"Classical" Greece ... in one of the Dialogues, IIRC Alcibiades (?) makes pass at Socrates, to be very politely turned down & no-one thinks anything of it .....

435:

"The Symposium" ( I think )

436:

Well, you don't have to be LBGTQetc. to stand up for human rights. I'm as boringly cisgendered vanilla white as people come, and I'm still going to stand up for gender diversity. For me, the turning point was finding out as a freshman in college that someone I admired was gay. I freaked for about 5 seconds, then realized that it didn't change anything about him, and that was enough to really help me get over it. It's not that I like getting propositioned by anyone other than my wife, but it's simply the realization that if the sex doesn't involve me and no one's getting hurt, why the hell should I be speaking against it?

437:

There is a famous lecture from the 1920s or 30s by a chap called Mauss, who is otherwise best known for marrying Emile Durkheim’s daughter. He would be called a meta-analyst in social ethnography these days, but for most of the 20th century this was referred to as an “armchair anthropologist”.

Anyhow this lecture on the concept of “self” is one of the starting points to our modern understanding that concepts can be culturally and historically located. Mauss shows both Ancients and contemporary non-Westerners as possessing different understandings of what an individual human is and can be to those of modern Westerners. The idea is that there is a contrast in both time and space. It’s all worked up with empirical findings of what these days we would call qualitative research and for what it is unreproachable. The interesting thing is that Mauss distances himself from the implied relativism and makes a claim about his cultures position being unquestionably the best. But that’s an ideological position, at least as we’d understand it now.

The point is that the time and space contextualisation is an essential evaluative gateway for any kind of knowledge claim in a qualitative area. We see a lot of relativist claims that amount to “anything goes”, and it is worthwhile referring to empirical tools, so we can see clearly when someone’s position is merely ideological. In the case here the ideological argument Ian usually a thin wrapper around something like “it’s icky” for someone whose culture made them feel icky about certain things. It’s usually easy to spot such non-reflective interlocutors well in advance.

438:

Actually, it's deeper than something as simple as what you suggest.
I had an, erm, "very unpleasant" personal experience, many years ago because certain moronic thugs "thought" I was "gay". Since then I have been more than somewhat symapathetic, shall we say (?) to their problems.

439:

Gosh during, I was sure I’d replied here earlier, but my phone may have been stuttering between office wifi and LTE.

Anyway, these days I liken this to working out guests for a dinner party. My gay friends are always welcome. If I learn some acquaintance has anti-LGBTIQ views and there is a risk they may wish to express them, they are not welcome in my home. The latter is a logical consequence of the former, because that would make my gay friends less welcome and whoever the interloper is they can’t possibly take precedence over decades-long friendships. It’s a ridiculous presumption to feel they have a place or a right to comment on who or what someone else is, or that anyone should listen to them. The same goes with racism or classism. Heck, I stopped inviting an old friend after I learned others were not coming to our events for fear of his lectures about who they worked for (an infamous telco).

Point is as with one’s house, so with one’s life. You just can’t tolerate people who are intolerant of others for who or what they are. People get confused about this and think there’s a contradiction, but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s like saying the theory or relativity is the same thing as cultural relativism.

440:

It's not a phobia, you just really don't want to talk about it.
As you can see, I tried to talk about it, but since people are starting to take personal offense and mentioning their personal experiences, I have proportionally less desire to continue. I'm not really well-informed about what your government wartime propaganda is telling you about situation with human rights in my country, and countering it is not my concern either.

I'm as boringly cisgendered vanilla white as people come, and I'm still going to stand up for gender diversity.
Most of my personal experience with European sort of diversity comes from many years in my primary gaming community, with major predominance of people from US, UK and Sweden. Being pretty normal gaming community, it also has majority of maturing people with a taste to indecent humor and specific jokes, so I took my time to adapt to them. Not in the least it helped that I'm living long ways to them, and moreover, they've been growing up out of their juvenile maximalism as they were getting taste of adult life. Any number of them have been or could have been gay or bisexual or of vague gender, it certainly did not concern me as long as they kept it lightly enough.

but it's simply the realization that if the sex doesn't involve me and no one's getting hurt, why the hell should I be speaking against it?
Sometimes it is not just that personal and becomes the affair of government, or international, or internal affairs. This dispute, if anybody cares of it, started with discussion of AIDS and drug addiction treatment methods, which I regard as a cash cow to international pharma conglomerates.

We see a lot of relativist claims that amount to “anything goes”, and it is worthwhile referring to empirical tools, so we can see clearly when someone’s position is merely ideological.
Ideology is just a consensual view of the reality, putting it as a negative label on things you do not like doesn't solve anything. And this question of moral relativism isn't up to debate - the society itself is a reference point, and it has necessary barriers to prevent conflicts. It doesn't matter what country you live in, if you are going to use external sources of money, influence or force to control the lives of people inside the country (especially without their consent), you shall be apprehended, charged and isolated. It is up to people themselves to determine their future.

441:

sleepingroutine
It most emphatic