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Trapped in the wrong trouser-leg of time

So it's time I faced facts: I've been writing this blog for seventeen years and it is getting bloody difficult to come up with stuff to say. (At least, right now.)

My usual book launch promo stuff last month was derailed totally by family circumstances (that won't recur). I really don't feel like kvetching about politics, either the ongoing UK-specific slow-motion train wreck that is Brexit, or the equally bizarre theatre of the absurd and evil that is the current incumbent of the White House. The global neo-nazi resurgence might be another angle, but I'm not the ideal person to write a "why Nazis are bad, 101" for folks who haven't already got the message—I'm not patient enough and the subject strikes much too close to home for comfort. (I grew up attending a synagogue with older members who had numbers tattooed on their arms; I'm pretty sure that if I lived in the US right now then I'd be a gun owner by now, and stockpiling ammunition and escape plans.)

These are dangerous times in the anglophone lands, and worse is coming; the UK seems to be rushing headlong towards a private debt crisis (largely due to nearly a decade of misguided austerity policies, but with insane ramping of student loan debt on top) and the economic uncertainty induced by the Brexit-triggered recession we're entering isn't helping ... and the Tangerine Shitgibbon in Chief seems to have decided that, in comparison with a short victorious war with North Korea, sending the US army back into Afghanistan is a vote-winner.

Against such news headlines I don't much feel like prognosticating about the near future right now.

I'd like to be able to take comfort by speculating about how things might have turned out differently in another time-line, but that's not so good either. Imagine the Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election results were flipped: where would we be now?

Let's tackle the UK first. David Cameron would still in all probability be Prime Minister, Theresa May would still be Home Secretary, and Boris Johnson would still be a joke. I see no way the UK wouldn't have been hit by several terrorist attacks—Manchester, London Bridge, the same sorry litany—so the likely political response from Dave and Theresa would be the same (kiss your civil rights goodybye, oh, and we're going to censor the internet while we're about it). Osborne would still be Chancellor, so a continuation of his austerity program would be on-going, albeit with an economy not sinking into recession and a currency that isn't crashing to a 30 year low. So it'd all be fucking depressing for those of us on the "let's not starve poor people to death" left, but at least it'd be a familiar kind of depressing instead of an "oh god and by god I mean Cthulhu why are they flooring the accelerator towards that cliff edge?" depressing.

In the USA, let's suppose Hilary Clinton took the Electoral College—just—but the House and Senate seats landed the same way. By now we would for a certainty have a Kenneth Starr 2.0 investigating the Clinton White House on some pretext or other ("but her emails!" would be a good start, even if "Benghazi!" flopped), while a drunk and angry Donald Trump would be tweeting up a storm about how he was robbed and threatening to sue Crooked Hilary in the Supreme Court over those rigged votes she bought from (... insert nonsensical Trumpian rant here). There would probably be deadlock between the executive branch and legislature over Clinton's choice of a new Supreme Court justice, but the exploding clown car attempts at repealing the ACA would have broken down immediately on the inconvenient problem of a Democrat president. The US government would have competent civil service leadership in place, mostly inherited from the Obama administration. There'd be none of the chaotic misrule we've seen this year. But there would still be angst and drama and threats of impeachment, and a President tempted to use foreign military adventurism as a tool of distraction ... and unlike Trump, this alternate-45th POTUS would know exactly how to make that happen. I'm calling it for a US/Russian clash in Syrian airspace, or a disastrous North Korean miscalculation. (What doesn't happen is Clinton going after Iran: she was part of the team that brokered the deal. It's probably too early for a presidential visit and a formal apology for Operation AJAX, at least unless she makes it into a second term, but at least that particular pot would be off the boil.) And the neo-Nazis would still be rebranding themselves as the alt-right and getting their fangs into pop culture via social media and the Republican party via Breitbart Media and Fox.

Tentative diagnosis: we're in a deviant time-line, careering towards a catastrophe. But the time-line we branched off between last June and November held all the seeds of our current doom and we'd have ended up here sooner or later. The root cause is the breakdown of the beige dictatorship at a point where wholly new and frightening tools of propaganda have become available and the social media many people trust are themselves in thrall to toxic agendas. The progressive opposition is chaotic and scattered and racist rabble-rousers have pulled their jack boots on and gotten marching, and they seem to have a first-mover advantage (if only because most of our mass media is owned by chancreous cockstains like Rupert Murdoch).



> Imagine the Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election results were flipped: where would we be now?

What, you mean if the US had voted to leave the EU and we had elected Trump?


I'm pretty sure cross-timeline posting is against Charlie's moderation policy, Paul.


One minor nitpick: Trump has many (countless?) faults, but he is teetotal, so drunk tweets are out. ISTR that there were some drunks in his family and he didn't want to go down that road himself.


The Iranian theocrats shouldn't want an apology for Operation Ajax. Their revolution likely wouldn't have happened without it.


I'm not as pessimistic about the possibilities for future change. I get it about the beige dictatorship and the choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee for Prime Minister. However I do think there is the possibility of articulating something better. Jeremy Corbyn made a better showing than anyone expected in the recent election, and he is stuck in a time warp from around 1970, complete with sucking up to nominally left wing third world dictators.

What the Left really *really* needs is to update its agenda. Socialism 1.0 died in 1979 with the Winter of Discontent and subsequent Thatcher victory. From there Labour was unelectable until Tony Blair ditched Socialism 1.0 for Thatcherism lite. Today Thatcherism is played out and has become a dreary saga of unending austerity and increasing inequality. But Corbyn just wants to reinstate Socialism 1.0. This sounds appealing for people born since 1980, but for those of us who actually remember the 1970s it sounds like a very bad idea.

We need Socialism 2.0. I don't know exactly what it looks like, but its going to treat "simplification" as a guiding principle rather than "deregulation". So in the UK will replace the maze of benefits and means-testing with a basic income, constrain the ability of big business to reject your custom or limit your behavior (I'm looking at you, Google), and do something about spreading the value obtained from data more widely. It will also push towards using network technologies to streamline government services at the point where we use them. The current governnment is already doing some of this, but it isn't the major focus it needs to be.

Corbyn isn't up to producing or promoting a Socialism 2.0. But its quite possible that his successor will be. Maggie Thatcher didn't just win some elections, she fundamentally redefined what the Tory party stood for. Imagine someone coming from the Left doing the same thing for Labour.


you'll be telling us next that he's a vegan... how bad can a teetotal vegan be in power...errrrrrrm


A slight correction from we lunatic proto-simians on the right of politics is possibly in order, on the term "Austerity".

"Austerity" is a decrease in State spending. Since the state has no money of its own, it can only spend money it has extracted from its citizenry, either now in terms of taxes or in the future by means of selling bonds. If the State spends more, we the citizens either get it nicked off us now, or later.

Taxation of companies is also a dangerous illusion. Companies, despite what lawyers would like us to believe, aren't people. If you tax a company, then ultimately some people aren't getting money that they otherwise would have gotten.

A final point is that of the mythical Rich (defined as someone other than me who looks richer than I am). Rich folk very rarely have money sitting around as notes or digits in a bank account. Actual liquid money doesn't do much except sit there; if you want it to grow, you have to invest it, hence the rich peoples' money is generally not idle but is being lent out to companies in order that it generates more money (which is generally also put onto this merry-go-round).

If you tax the rich so that the State can spend more money, then you're taking money that would have been out busy working and doing something else with it. States rarely if ever use money as efficiently as private enterprise, hence taxing and spending almost never improves the lot of the common man.


And now that I have expressed a vaguely blue opinion, we shall return to Red pessimism, stygian gloom and depression...


My honest question, assuming your statement is not just trolling, is simple: who builds the infrastructure and from what money? How does the private enterprise solve anything for which a monopoly is natural? Should we have multiple highways going side-by-side so the wonders of competition regulate the market? Same question for trains, cables, gas, schools, and so on. As I see it, either private monopolies are supposed to be the solution to the world issues, or somehow companies should be forced to compete in all fields and provide multiple redundancies for all necessary services?


On a happier note, I enjoyed the panel about utopias & SF that you participated in at the Edinburgh Book Festival last week. Thank you for alerting us to it.


Three bits of good news:

1) The sun reappeared yesterday afternoon, from the eclipse. The endless darkness has been postponed.

2) The Fort Knox Gold Vault was opened to "public" inspection, and shown not to be empty.

3) Bannon was sent into exile. He will probably write his own "Mein Kampf", but it will keep him busy for a while.

I needed reasons to not take the black pill this morning. These were the best I found.


Since the state has no money of its own, it can only spend money it has extracted from its citizenry

You really don't understand money (or macroeconomics), do you?

Why do you think money exists in the first place? Do you think it's an actual thing, in and of itself, or something else (like, oh, a coefficient of the velocity of economic exchange, or maybe a measure of public confidence in the viability of the state)?

You also seem to believe in trickle-down. That'd be kind of cute if it wasn't so horribly damaging.


What doesn't happen is Clinton going after Iran: she was part of the team that brokered the deal.


Clinton brought about the sanctions against them. To the extent that lifting those sanctions was part of the deal and was what Iran was after, there she had a hand in it. But that's only true in the sense that slavers had a role in the civil rights movement because they brought black people to america in the first place.

Clinton no part in brokering the deal. She was out in 2013, two and a half years before the deal was put together, and in advance of Kerry's team negotiating it.

She was in fact, opposed to it, for as much as someone running as "Obama's Third Term" could be against his biggest foreign policy accomplishment, and campaigned on a "distrust and verify" riff while repeatedly pledging military action was on the table and promising to "confront them across the board", while her lesser policy commitments suggest she was going to go after Iran's oil revenues (on the basis that it goes to Hezbollah and other proxies) and a continuation of American's cyberattacks and naval pressure. She also wanted to roll back the part of the Iran deal that sunsetted the embargo on conventional arms.

Clinton had no part in the Iran deal, nor the Paris Accords (and she blew the attempt at a deal in Denmark during her tenure because she brought along a hagiographer to show her "dealing tough" against India, which went over exceptionally poorly. Her attempt to claim credit for it during the campaign was an absurdly cynical lie). On the whole she was just a terrible secretary of state.


In the category of foolish optimism, I'm putting my faith (i.e., optimism unsupported by fact) in the outcome in which both the U.K. and the U.S. embark upon disastrous policies, learn hard lessons, and spend 30 years repairing the damage. Kind of like the Marshall Plan versus the Treaty of Versailles.

*Fe* Of course, there may be some minor inconvenience in the meantime*/Fe*, and people don't always learn from history, but I figure that every so often we naked house apes do manage to take a lesson or two and move a few steps up the evolutionary scale.


Charlie, I read a gloominess in your post. But for mine, this blog is a place for learning. I read so many thoughtful posts here, and the links are especially info-rich. It may be hard to find new things to say, but gd-it this place is an important forum. Please keep it going. Post anything you think of, if only to set the discussion off.


I'll abstain from commenting on the failure of the Brexit vote because I still don't know enough about your politics or internal economy to advance the discussion (there - when's the last time someone admitted ignorance here?).

Re: a Hillary victory - the most likely outcome is a continuance of the gridlocked government of the latter part of President Obama's tenure, but with less gravitas and thoughtful output from the White House. Ms. Clinton carries so much baggage that the interminable partisan sniping that has been increasing since the 1990's in the U.S. would only increase (thanks a LOT, Newt Gingrich). Any meaningful policy progress would be almost impossible. Mind you, that's still better than the shitshow of a farce we're watching now, with the added benefit of evil Race Bannon sitting in the wings.


Charlie, it occurs to me that even though there's so much to be gloomy about, one of the strengths of F/SF fandom is how creative fen are. So why not turn the question around? Not "how bad will things get?", but rather "how can we keep things from getting that bad -- or survive when they do get that bad?"

Obviously, we don't want to devolve into designing concrete survivalist bunkers with a 40-year supply of Twinkies and diet Coke. We don't want to suggest arbitrage (investing heavily in the pound so we can become rich when it eventually recovers). But we're a bloody creative bunch. What actionable ideas can we come up with that would make things better?


The sun reappeared yesterday afternoon, from the eclipse. The endless darkness has been postponed.

And to use a phrase which sounds terrible dated;

It was just plain cool

My wife and I drove over 500 miles yesterday in a day trip to go see it. It was well worth the effort.

If you've never seen a total, it is definitely worth trying to get to one.


12 August 2026 and 2 August 2027 in Spain...


Well, so far the "Trump presidency" is reminding me of the rock band Rainbow, except that Richie Blackmore is a better guitarist than Donald Trump. On which basis, some time in the next year Trump is going to completely lose it and fire himself as POTUS! ;-)


Re: '[Money] ... a coefficient of the velocity of economic exchange, or maybe a measure of public confidence in the viability of the state)?'

A couple of comments:

Measure of public confidence --- the stock markets have been going up despite the moron in the OO. Since the US is still the largest economy, this suggests to me that whatever most drives the US economy is now a serious driver of the world economy. IPOs more than production/sales make money (and billionaires) faster.*

I keep repeating/harping on this but seriously how do you justify net production dropping with ongoing economic wealth gains. There's got to be some other wealth producing source that isn't in the current formula and perhaps isn't being talked about because to do so might result in gov't stepping in to oversee or restrict it. The economic exchange is increasingly in stock market points rather than goods and services traded/provided/consumed. (Yeah, I know that 'financial services' is a major contributor to the GDP, but the stock market itself - share prices - is not. IMO, share prices should be treated like currency which would help determine inflation/deflation risks for exchanges. Index funds account for about 20% of all investments, so there's quite a bit of pressure to ensure that major stock exchanges continue upward ... regardless of the performance of whatever outfit issued those stocks.)

Think that the Chinese figured this out as well. Guessing that this test of capitalist waters might have persuaded PRC to leave Hong Kong as their capitalist outpost in 1997 when this territory officially passed back from under British rule. Do you seriously believe that all of the 300+ Chinese billionaires made their money directly off the bottom (net after tax) profit line?

'The current exchange was re-established on November 26, 1990 after a 41-year hiatus and was in operation on December 19 of the same year. It is a non-profit organization directly administered by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).

The Shanghai Clearing House provides security for financial market participants, and efficient clearing services development purposes, but also conductive to international peers inter-agency communication and cooperation. It provides central counterparty clearing of foreign currency in the interbank market, including clearing, settlement, margin management, collateral management, information services, consulting services, and related management department under other business.'


Given how the revolution in communications was sparked by the explosive public adoption of the internet and in turn enabled fringes of all sorts to build audiences, I wonder what the world would be like had it stayed a semi-private university research tool populated by stodgy professors and tired post-docs?


To clarify what I said (and not what you read into the statement), the implied austerity in the UK at the moment basically isn't austerity as usually defined.

State funding of things isn't decreasing. What is decreasing is the rate of increase of state funding of things, together with the sense and sensibility of various forms of funding.

One such necessary review is being conducted on the NHS. This is an interesting body, since nowhere else seems to have an NHS, and several countries like France, Germany and other European states not only lack an NHS but spend less on healthcare than we do, with better measurable outcomes AND a more left-wing government than the UK.

Notably, the US system spends more, does worse and is far less inclusive, so their system ought to be examined for lessons on how not to do things.


Trump wouldn't be drunk; he only takes the (very infrequent) sip of communion wine. But he's no vegan: his preferred dinner is well-done (that is, overcooked) steak with ketchup.


the subject strikes much too close to home for comfort. (I grew up attending a synagogue with older members who had numbers tattooed on their arms;
Please don't ... long ago a couple people I worked with had those [* note ], & another who was almost the last sy=urvivor of his whole family & others who had got out JUST in time.

[ * note: On had been through a doublele-dose: Theresianstadt, followed by going home, followed by the Gulag. His escape to "the West" was an interesting tale. ]

As for Brexit
well, maybe, maybe not ?
Reality is starting, ever so slowly, to break through ( I hope )


I find myself wondering if the crotch of these particular trousers isn't much further away, and the current moment is nearer ankle than thigh. I can easily imagine* the 1980s working out differently, with Reagan and Thatcher replaced by people who followed something more like the Norwegian socialist/capitalist approach to their economies. The downside is the possibility of STILL having a USSR, but given the way neo-imperial Russia is acting now... how much worse would that be?

*Not necessarily in a coherent or persuasive way-- it's a fantasy, after all.


Jeremy Corbyn made a better showing than anyone expected in the recent election, and he is stuck in a time warp from around 1970 1934
TRhe problem with JC is that he's totally fucking incompetent - even May looks capable compared to him.
As for him-&-his-party's attitude to women & as you say supposedly "left-wing" dictators really doesn't bode well.


Done it again & pressed send to soon ...
Imagine someone coming from the Left doing the same thing for Labour.
Let's hear it for my MP & near-neighbour?

Stella for PM!


How does the private enterprise solve anything for which a monopoly is natural? Should we have multiple highways going side-by-side so the wonders of competition regulate the market?
Classic example of how NOT do do it with both sides almost-bankrupt.
The cuthtroat competition between the SER & the LCDR for Kent & London suburban traffic 1852-1899.
English railway history will give you almost every worked example of how to do it, & mauch more important how NOT to do it for almost any commercial enterprise, up to very large-corpration sizes & scales


I'm likely hijacking this discussion, but I have a question:

How do you think the developing world would fare in both timelines? Any differences?

To me, the Trump/Brexit chaos reminds me of the Great Recession. In 08/09, people in the West were paralyzed w.r.t. the future due to the train wreck going on around them. However, the developing world was largely insulated. In China, I believe that it was called either the North Atlantic downturn or the North Atlantic recession (I can't remember which). Personally, I think those names are more accurate than "Great Recession".

Trump/Brexit reminds of the same. Both will be extremely unpleasant for citizens of North Atlantic nations and refugees. However, neither are dangers outside the N. Atlantic. I still stand by my belief that a war with N. Korea has less than 10 percent chance of happening.

So, how do you think the developing world will fare over the next five years?


Upcoming totals

Chile and Argentina July 2018
Ditto Dec 2020
Mexico to Dallas moving north east to Canada April 2024

Here's a nice web site.


I'm so old I remember when the dream was that everybody would have a computer and all the computers would be connected. It was going to enable The People to build Countervailing Power and Stick It To The Man!

I don't remember that it occurred to anyone that (some of) The People doing the power-building would be KKK and Nazis and various reactionary dolts. Or that they'd be doing it on the basis of disinformation distributed to the connected computers by The Man.


Both France and Germany (and plenty of other EU countries) spend more on healthcare than the UK does. Latest figures here (uk 9.7% of GDP, fr 11.0%, de 11.3%; uk figure jumps in 2013 because).)


Kim Stanley Robinson had a story set in an alt-history future that started in 1980. The attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages succeeded, so Jimmy Carter won re-election in 1980. Carter went big on human rights in his second term (instead of helping the scum of the earth as Ronnie did).

Because an alert bystander was going to a post-election victory party in early December 1980, John Lennon wasn't murdered and became a 'secular saint'.

The story was set on a moon base (!) sometime in the early 21st century-- who knows? Maybe around 2017. I can skip the moon base, but a non-Reagan 1980s? Sounds like a good start.


“Measure of public confidence --- the stock markets have been going up despite the moron in the OO.”

The Dow is not the economy

“... And the economy isn't the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It's worth repeating today, when the Dow closed above 22,000 and President Trump is touting the record as a big economic win. We'll just note that stocks aren't even the right market to be watching; the dollar is tumbling.” – Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal MPR

“There's got to be some other wealth producing source that isn't in the current formula and perhaps isn't being talked about because to do so might result in gov't stepping in to oversee or restrict it.”

How about Bitcoin?

“Is it a commodity or a currency? Can it be both or change roles based on the type of transaction? It’s difficult to regulate something where there has yet to be agreement on exactly what role it plays.”

“For example, the California case involved HashFast Technologies, a company that paid for services using Bitcoin and was trying to sue to recover that currency after it had been paid to a physician. The ruling by the bankruptcy court judge concluded that cryptocurrency is not the same as U.S. currency but was actually considered to be ‘intangible personal property.’” – Why Bitcoin Is Not Regulated by John Rampton


I agree with you that the Dow Jones is not a good proxy for the economy. However, I don't think that the strength of the dollar is a good metric either. A weak dollar could be read as Trump rewarding his base.

It is my understanding that a weaker dollar helps rural areas and metro areas with a population less than 1 million because

1. A lot of Trump supporters live in economies focused on either farming, energy (coal/fracking), or manufacturing (the US still has 12.4 million manufacturing jobs).

2. Due to poverty, alack of infrastructure, high distribution costs, a lack of competition, and culture, food, transportation, electricity/heating make up a greater share of the family budget. A lot of the imported goods at Walmart are more likely to be luxury items there.

I personally think that the labor force participation rate for Americans 25-54 years is a much more accurate measure of the economy

Right now, it's 81.5 percent, compared to a high of 84.5 in October 1997.


Agree that the stock market is not the economy ....

But making your money on the stock market allows you to go ahead of everyone else that makes their money the old fashioned way because way more money can be earned on the stock market and once the shares are sold that money can be use to buy all other goods and services.

This is the financial/economic equivalent of doing steroids.

If you added total stock market share values of all the exchanges, I'm guessing that you'd have the buying power of 100-200 times total global GDP. That's a hell of a lot of leverage and/or good will.

Also, because the stock market can churn out profit so fast, there is a huge disincentive for investing in anything else including new product development ... the every reason why stock markets (and their investors keeping the bulk of profits) were allowed in the first place.

It isn't the economy as currently defined, but it is the economy in it's usage and impact. Time to change the definition of economic inputs.


In the US there are secondary and tertiary effects that would be pretty major. The media industry, my bread and butter, would be in a very different place. The FCC would have had different leadership and support form the whitehouse. Net Neutrality would have been solidified, if not made permanent, within a year of the election. Media mergers like that of Sinclair (i.e. Evil Fox News) with Tribune would have been nixed, and likely there would be Justice Dept. investigations into some of their shady dealings. The Time Warner / AT&T deal likely would still go through, but to make the media landscape less monopolistic, there were already rules discussions about opening up the compulsive carrier licenses for broadcasting local broadcasts over the internet. It is very inside baseball, but the fallout effects would have been online companies like Hulu, Bittorrent, and Sony Vue becoming the equivalent of medium to major sized cable operators in four years, and diluting the electoral ad dollars going to companies like Sinclair.

The media landscape just from a few FCC changes and support from the White House would have caused massive liberalization in the content the industry puts out and where the money goes. That causes fall on effects for the 2018 and 2020 elections and for things like attention for stories about protecting from hacked elections and redistricting.


No, I don't think it did... but then the KKK and Nazis are only a second-order problem; see also Charlie's almost throwaway line about social media platforms with toxic agendas - the first-order problem is what causes them to espouse such agendas; and that is commercial use of the internet, specifically the fucking advertising industry.

I guess the alternate universe that I long for is the one where none of that shit happened. Where the reaction to the new possibilities of online fraud had been, not "cross your fingers, hope you don't get ripped off, and just sigh and take the hit if you do", but instead "too risky, sod this for a game of soldiers", both from the banks and from the public. Where the situation that few people even thought about putting ads on their website to get money because it was patently pointless unless you had myspace levels of traffic, and many who tried it anyway took them down again because it brought nothing in money but did bring complaints, evolved into the situation where nobody bothered to do it at all. Where nearly everybody having an ad blocker installed evolved into ad blocking as the default setting in Internet Explorer and soon there were no more ads to block. Where people who put ads on websites were as reviled as people who put spam in mailboxes. Where it was NOT considered normal for commercial outfits to run spyware on your computer and your domestic appliances while you can go to prison for trying to run it on theirs, but instead nobody would even think of trying it because as soon as anyone noticed ten thousand hackers would turn their system inside out. Where Google was just a search engine and collected nothing but search queries for only as long as they took to process and gave no output but search results, chosen on the basis of relevance to your query, as opposed to being able to pass themselves off as relevant for long enough for you to get the maximal number of ads shoved in your face. Where if you'd suggested that anyone should upload all their personal details and photographs to a website where anyone and everyone could see them, they would have looked at you as if you had green antennae growing from your head.


I personally think that the labor force participation rate for Americans 25-54 years is a much more accurate measure of the economy

Right now, it's 81.5 percent, compared to a high of 84.5 in October 1997.

I have a vague hunch this may be, or at least could be, significantly relevant to OGH's concerns and What Could Be Done. Not that I've gotten too far in figuring out what "What" is.

In addition to the LFP link above, see also this one, which is the same thing but for a considerably broader base of potential laborers(*):

Note that both of these grew robustly between about 1965 and 1990, leveled out around 2000, and then started down. The broader index slumped more steeply, presumably because of the aging population and the LF dropouts after 2008.

(*) And yes, I also think that regarding people as laborers will be a growing part of the problem.


Re: US labor stats

In the US there is no incentive to self-identify as unemployed esp. for long stretches. Also after 12 months or so, some folk decide to completely drop out of the labor market and rebrand themselves as something else. (Probably why over 10% self-describe as self-employed.)

The below is about the UK but probably applies to any other Western/G8 economy.


Thank you for that. The US does try to break out various kinds and levels of employment/unemployment, but I have the sense that there's a lot that isn't being captured.

Just how that contributes to the current political discontent is left to the Paul Krugmans of the world to opine on, not such as I.


The wrong trouser leg of time was somewhat sent up by Richard Herring's As It Occurs To Me audio extra podcast ( number 3 ), where he imagines what would happen in a world where Trump didn't win and listens in on that world ( recorded November the 10th ).

Not to everyone's taste admittedly :

Kudos for repeating the whole episode though, well done.

Seems the Anglosphere is circling a drain of paranoia and greed to feed the top .01%. That's probably not going to end well.

Perhaps a topic to cheer everyone up? Best Disney film? (I hasd that once in an interview, Jungle book).


A couple of issues for Dan H:

* "Taxation" and "Government spending" and "national income" are slippery concepts, connected by a lot of poorly-understood feedback loops. Anything that assumes simple linear relationships is, quite simply, wrong. And check out how much tax the big corporations actually pay.

* There are two causes of national/societal collapse: ecological disaster and wealth inequality. Currently, we have more income inequality than pre-Revolution France, and it's getting worse. We need to have some method of spreading it around. IMHO, Universal Basic Income is coming, whether anybody likes it or not.

* Re "rich people invest and grow the economy". Not anymore they don't. That was Capitalism 1.0; in Capitalism 2.0, money either goes into overseas tax shelters, who do Cthulhu knows what with it, or into "financial instruments". In the 2008 financial crisis, the problem was not with mortgages (less than $200B), but with "mortgage-backed securities", with paper values in the $trillions.
Also, big corporations currently are swimming in cash. (What's the interest rate on your savings? You'd think banks don't want your money.) They're not investing in increased production because they couldn't sell it -- folks who ain't got no money don't buy stuff.

* Keep in mind that rich folks write the laws. (We can define "rich" here as "people who hire their own lobbyists".)


Interesting. Your labor force participation rate peaked at 67.2 in Sept 1998 to Feb 1999, and it's now at 62.9. This means that the difference is 4.3. The difference between the peak and current labor force participation rate of 25-54s is 3.0.

In other words, there's not that much difference. Probably a lot of it can be accounted by the decline in summer jobs for teenagers.

Another thing to consider about the labor force participation rate is that it's VERY difficult to get a job once someone's been in prison. That drags both scores downward.


A few more thought between Clinton and Trump

1. The coal industry would be much smaller today. Perhaps more coal power plants would have shut down? Don't get me wrong, the coal industry is still facing a decline. However, Trump has slowed down the decline with the environmental policies he repealed.

2. Before the election, there was talk of regulating fracking fluids and activity which causes earthquakes. In our timeline (OTL), the election also removed a lot of legislators at the state level who wanted tighter regulations.

a. Although people talk about coal miners swinging Pennsylvania and Ohio towards Trump, frackers outnumber coal miners in both states.

b. Perhaps the international price of oil would be higher today? Remember, the fracking industry has been very successful in undercutting OPEC.

3. There would have probably been Appalachian/Rust Belt terrorism. Hear me out. President Obama was good for the people in these regions, and so would President Clinton have been. However,

a. He didn't sufficiently advertise his efforts, and I doubt she would have either.
b. The mainstream media ignored the poverty in the region.
c. The electorate in those regions would have remembered Clinton's comment that "the coal jobs are not coming back".

The above would allow Breitbart to demagogue any misfortune in the regions as "Hillary Clinton wants to make you second-class citizens because you're white males". That could easily lead to terrorist militia. Who knows, there might have been many more open neo-Nazis in that America?


You'd have both houses, namely all the Republicans and quite a few Third Way/ Blue Dog Democrats trying to stonewall and stymie President Sanders at every turn.


The wrong trouser leg of time was ... originated, AFAIK, with th radio-predecessor to "Monty Python" - ISIRTA
Whic had: "Professor Prune & the Electric Time Trousers"

The jokes were very, very bad, I'm glad to say.


I doubt any civil unrest in the rust belt would be called "terrorism". That term seems to be restricted to those with darker skins nowadays.


Like most people, I did not expect Trump to win. What I did expect would have been arguably worse in the long term:

1. Hillary wins the White House. Republican-controlled House and Senate block her at every turn as much as they did for Obama, and blame everything bad on her.

2. Now that Trump has shown the winning path to Republican primary, in 2020 a younger, smarter, and more articulate populist demagogue takes his place. One name I thought would be plausible (still is, actually) is Peter Thiel.

3. President Thiel.

Well, I was wrong. We got Trump. But I actually consider him a better outcome... until he quits out of boredom, and we get President Pence.


Employment (or unemployment) numbers also conceal the real story. In the 80s there was a sizable blue collar middle class with secure, well paid, often unionized full time jobs.

Now, across the anglosphere much of that has been hollowed out. Many of those who tick the "Employed" box are in minimum wage (or grey economy, below minimum wage) part time, insecure jobs. Many women have gone into the workforce not because of feminism, yay, but because two incomes are essential for household survival. At the same time, reduced taxes on the rich and the winding back of social programs further increase costs and reduce opportunities for the working poor and their kids.


Coal and other fossil fuels in the ground are free money. The technologies to get that free money out of the ground and into someone's pockets have been refined and perfected to reduce the costs to a ridiculously low level and no-one pocketing the cash has to pay for cleaning up the environmental aftermath.

Don't expect to see the "death of coal" for a long time to come -- at the moment America burns more coal per capita (about 2.9 tonnes per person per annum) than dirty old China (about 2.3 tonnes per person per annum). The death of the oil and gas extraction industries is even further in the future for this and other reasons.


Re: "the coal jobs are not coming back"

Perhaps in the other trouser leg of time US presidential hopefuls still arm-twist corporations into expanding their operations in key (under-developed) electoral areas. Unlike in this trouser leg where the corporations arm-twist the pols into letting them slash wages, benefits and full-time jobs.

Seriously - if more jobs are being off-shored because of cheaper labor, tariffs would seem sensible if only to replace the income tax that such manufacturers no longer pay to the US.


Re: 'How do you think the developing world would fare in both timelines? Any differences?'

Assuming a free Internet in both ... the steady-state (Clinton) trouser leg of time would probably see continued and possibly higher US-led foreign aid efforts targeting women and children esp. in the areas of education and medicine/healthcare. Long-term this would help maintain US status in at least a few states as well as help ensure English as a key international language.

In the present big-bang (Trump) trouser leg of time, only the loudest voices get heard esp. if they're talking dollars. Small undeveloped nations - unless someone finds massive oil/other key commodity reserves there - will be ignored and vilified for not being smart/god-fearing enough to be wealthy. Fundamental difference re: the purpose and ethics of wealth. Perfect target for China as already evident re: their large African investments. The Chinese are ignoring local foreign politics (apart from how they impact their projects) and getting the job done, i.e., building 21st century infrastructure in the Third World.


They quote an economist called "David Dollar". That could be the most amazing Nominative determinism I've heard all year.


A Constitutional amendment would be necessary to Thiel's becoming President, as he is not a natural-born U.S. citizen (born on U.S. territory or of at least one parent with U.S. citizenship). This were highly unlikely by 2020 even in Pres. H. Clinton's time-line.

This Constitutional limitation was the occasion of bigots' believing that Obama was born in Kenya and to misunderstand the law enough to think that such would have mattered (given that his mother was a citizen). These 'birthers' proved a wonderfully pre-selected target demographic for the mountebank they helped propel into the Presidency.


The 'Carter's second term leg' started with one or two more helicopters' being assigned to EAGLE CLAW. I recalled the story when there were reports of equivalent liberality's having saved the raid that killed Usama ibn-Ladeen.

Hmmm, would Carter have been smarter about carte blanching aid to religious fanatics in Afghanistan? It would have been about the same C.I.A.….


Gerald Fnord @ 58:

"Hmmm, would Carter have been smarter about carte blanching aid to religious fanatics in Afghanistan? It would have been about the same C.I.A.…."

Given that Carter started that CIA operation, I wouldn't assume so.


That "alternative" technologies for power are getting cheaper by the year/month/day ...
To the point that burning Oil or Coal is ... "Not Economic" except for specialist purposes.

Certainly for the developed world, which may or may not include the USSA, when will that day come?
Not so long ago, I'd have said 2030 or 2025, now, quite possibly before 2020.
We have discussed this before - what's the current expert prognosis?


.... Perfect target for China as already evident re: their large African investments colonisation programme
I am told that if you think "western" prejudice against dark-skinned Africans is bad, then you need to see the attitudes of the Han to said people ....
( note the "hearsay" declaration there, please )


What was that about "American Democracy" ( cough ) being safe, no matter what Dump did?

( WaPo link - may only open in incognito mode ... )


On a n other topic entirely:

This: Police Scotland in Glasgow & "Pride" ... errr ... "At odds" shall we say?
Doesn't look good, does it?
Charlie, Feorag, any thoughts?


(I wasn't there.)

Police Scotland was a Mistake — possibly the SNP's biggest domestic policy error. They formed it as a single unified national police force merged from six previous forces about 7-8 years ago as a cost-saving measure. Trouble is, seniority in the new merged organization went to the most senior cops in the predecessor forces, and Glasgow/Strathclyde was far and away the biggest Scottish police force, so the top jobs all went to Glaswegian cops. Who tend to be dour presbyterian hard-liners, and who then tried to set policy throughout Scotland, which went down like a lead balloon (try to imagine a zero-tolerance puritan policing approach to saunas, or the Festival, in Edinburgh, which traditionally had a very light touch). This sacrificed huge amounts of regional goodwill and set community policing back decades, and it looks like they still haven't learned better.

I believe F can provide more info on the specific event — which IIRC involved trans activists being shat upon for using the "faggot" word on a placard, in a manner strongly suggestive that the cops in question are highly prejudiced against trans people — but there've been issues with Glasgow Pride in the past, too.

(There's now muttering about splitting Police Scotland up into regional forces again and damn the expense — the cost savings turned out to be less than expected.)


Can we clarify; is "expenditure on healthcare" including administration costs or just about "delivering treatments to individuals"?


Also "not there" but can do a note on "personal accounts" relating to a point the Indy glosses over - The old "Scottish Police Pipe Bands" used to play at the major piping championships. Yes they wore band uniforms, but unless you were a tartan expert and knew which tartans they wore or were close enough to the side of the bass drummers to read the signwriting on the drumskins there is no obvious way you would identify, say "Strathclyde Police Pipe Band" from "Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band" from "Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band" (all real bands prior to the formation of "Police Scotland"; I don't know anything about the piping scene in the police after this event but I have heard and seen the cited bands playing at the World Pipe Band Championships and several major highland games more than once each).

So had the pipes and drums of the police region led the parade most people would only have known that the band was a police band by reading the publicity or the bass drum!


The quoted numbers are for everything. You can play with the dropdowns at the top of the OECD figures to compare spending on separate parts of the healthcare sector.


The Paris Accords and action to reduce carbon emissions are probably the biggest medium- to long-term effects on the Third World, here.


Unfortunately it probably doesn't matter very much which trouser-leg we're in.

If we make the assumption that there isn't a large-scale nuclear war (which is obviously not so safe as it was), then perhaps the difference between Trump/Brexit and Clinton/Remain might be, in the long term, perhaps a few hundred million deaths -- say half a billion at the outside (and almost all of this from the Trump vs Clinton bit, obviously: what England does hasn't mattered very much to anyone but the English since 1945). Obviously life will not be very nice for a lot of the people who don't die, especially if they are not white, staight, male, and belonging to the right religious sect.

But Trump and Clinton are have policies which, while they might sound different, are actually the same in the area that actually matteers: climate change. Clinton would have signed agreements and done nothing, while Trump would have withdrawn from agreements and done nothing. And unfortunately it's the 'doing something' bit that matters: some bit of paper signed in Paris does not make any difference at all, to anything.

Well, of course, you could argue that Clinton would have done something, except that she wouldn't, because there probably is nothing useful that can be done.

There really are four possible scenarious for the next hundred years or so:

(1) Technology we have or almost have, combined with politics we won't have. The technology we almost have is superconducting power cables and somewhat better batteries: combined with solar power (which we do have) a worldwide network of superconducting power cables can keep the lights on, everywhere. But to do this you need, essentially, world government, because this system makes any region entirely dependent on other regions for power at night, so without world government countries can hold each other to ransom and the system can't work. Well, we're not going to get world government so this is dead in the water. (Widespread nuclear power probably comes under this heading too.)

(2) Technology we don't have. This is good batteries, combined with solar power (which, again, is a solved problem). Good batteries mean you can charge them with solar power during the day and then get through the night on them. There's no reason to believe that good batteries are even possible: we can hope they are, but I'm not really sure. Certainly we're not very close to them now.

(3) We all agree to stop being a high-technology/high-power-use civilisation, to reduce population by some large factor, and end up living in some hippy idyll with, perhaps, a billion people on the planet. So, OK, that's unattractive to most people and ludicrously implausible in any case.

(4) We do nothing, good batteries and/or world government don't happen, and we hit the wall. Crop failures, mass migration, war (probably nuclear war), coastal cities (London, NY, blah) are lost as Antarctica and Greenland start to lose their icesheets. We end up with under a billion people living horrible lives in an environment which is damaged in a way from which it will recover in geological timescales, but not in any kind of human timescale.

So, even if some hypothetical alternative US or UK administration actually had any serious intention to do anything -- and this seems really unlikely to me -- there's actually probably not very much that any government, anywhere, can do. The single best hope is probably to throw an enormous amount of effort into research for good batteries and hope, and also look at mitigation strategies to get us over the hump (probably solar geoengineering is the best of these).

But if we assume that good batteries don't turn out to be possible, then we're fucked: many billions of people will die, whichever sort of government we have.


What a surprise - not.
I've heard very disturbing rumblings concerning Scottish BTP ( British Tansport Police ) who were also recently forced into Scot_Plod, with many officers either resigning or attempting to tranfer away to England.
The loss of expert knowledge & professional/technical expertise will come back to bite them very badly indeed if there is any major railway incident.


This is going to be US-centric. Sorry about that.

In 2007-2008 we narrowly averted a major collapse of the economy when Obama was elected to the White House. Republicans are incompetent and I've been working under the theory that if McCain had won the recovery would have been thoroughly mismanaged and the US economy would have collapsed. Thus taking the Europe and just about every other advanced economy with it. Over the last eight years I've come to think of it as one of those pivotal moments in history that set the course. I don't know that a solid left would have emerged from the wreckage, but my speculation is that that is what would have happened. When Obama won the left packed up it's bags and took a vacation. The left sat back and let Obama deal with it and then applied pressure on him and not on the Republicans. Meanwhile the right proceeded to organize and radicalize in opposition to Obama aided by those on the left that wanted to pressure him.

None of that would have happened if McCain had won and the mismanagement would have been impressive. The left would have had to organize as an opposition party. We're seeing the left do it now. There's that old quote attributed to Churchill that the Americans do the right thing when all other options are exhausted; well that's where we are now. The biggest problem I see right now is that the Democratic Party is horribly inept and the "leftists" are too introverted to their own politics.

I see an awful lot of parallels to what happened after the 1960s and Watergate. The Hippies were getting high and the conservatives were learning how to win. The Hippies won the Sixties and the conservatives turned the 1970s into a battleground and won the 1980s.


Greg Tingey noted: "To the point that burning Oil or Coal is ... "Not Economic" except for specialist purposes."

fwiw, there was a statistic in Harper's Magazine a few years back that suggested 100% of the U.S. was economically suitable for solar power IF the solar power industry was afforded the same tax credits and other perks received by the oil and gas industry. I assume the same statistic applied to coal. I didn't track down the original source, but Harper's is usually fairly careful with its fact checking, and confirmation bias makes it seem plausible to me. I'd want to see the original data before basing national policy on this information.

More to the point, fossil fuels are still "economic" precisely because some clever economists managed to find a way to make the most serious adverse consequences of extraction, processing, consumption, and disposal of these fuels "externalities". By eliminating these costs from the profit calculations (and the sales price), the fuels become much cheaper than they would be with a realistic cost accounting. By not taxing the producers or users of the fuel enough to pay the eventual costs of repairing the consequences of the externalities, nobody pays the costs -- until we have ecological disasters ranging from destruction of bodies of water to global climate change that can no longer be ignored.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, though economists as a profession seem to believe in one. This is the scientific equivalent of saying that we don't need toilets or toilet paper so long as we eat calorie-dense foods. "Any eventual problems will take care of themselves, or I'll be long dead and won't have to worry about it."

This is why I consider economics, on the whole, to not just be bad science -- it's not even good science fiction. Good SF at least has to be plausible and account for the most likely consequences of the SFnal ideas at its core.

To be very clear, any statements such as these that attack an entire profession do a gross injustice to individuals who don't share the negative characteristics. For example, there's a whole branch of environmental economics devoted to internalizing the externalities, and they're doing good work. But they still seem to be minority voices in the overall field of research.


Take issue with a World Government being required for (1).

We already have something called international trade that takes care of moving commodities from a place that has too much of it to a place that has too little of it. There is no reason to suppose that energy is a special case.

A valid analogy is probably the growth of data bandwidth, particularly delivered by cables over the last 20 years.

Whilst a partial challenge would be the rise of proxies for the global elite in various trading treaties (e.g. TiPP), there is no evidence to suggest they will generate a full block - just add additional friction.

And for Superconducting substitute HVDC to make it a "now" solution.


Since externalities are part of economics 101, what evidence do you have to suggest that economists were behind successful lobbying efforts to remove externalities rather than say it being the default state of an unregulated capitalist market?
Hint - the vast majority of business owners or operators are not economists.

In Economics it generally accepted that Governments and their Regulations are a key method of forcing the inclusion of externalities in pricing.


There's also a kind of 3a, where we stop being a high technology civilisation between about 4 pm and 8 am every day. It's usually taken as a given that there must be 24/7 electricity or everything will come crashing down, but that's not really the case. I'm old enough to remember when TV shut down in the late evening. When you couldn't go to a shopping centre at night. Actually you couldn't go to a shopping centre at all, as they were only just being built, but you couldn't go to any sort of shop at night, nor a bank, nor a petrol station. Pubs even closed at 6pm. Nothing opened on a Sunday. Nothing at all. We survived ok then and we (well the Americans) sent people to the moon, even without late night trading. If there's something that you feel you really *must* do at night, you can pay for batteries to make that happen.

It's all doable. We could easily have a high technology civilisation and have a habitable planet at the same time. We won't of course, but there's no law of physics that prevents it. Just the people prevent it.


Nominative Determinism?
I attended a sports drug lecture given by Dr Sample at a scientific meeting.


Where I live still has sunday closing. And as you say, not only does the world not end, but people live perfectly well, and happily.

And in terms of 24/7 electricity - when I was last in Sierra Leone there were still issues with the supply. The Bumbuna hydro plant was finally coming on stream, but there were still the occasional outages. So the place where I was would use its generator, but only between 1800 and 2200 hours. And when the latter point would roll around, I'd just switch on the LED flashlight/torch I'd bought down on the highway, and use that for illumination.


Each force had its own band; hence the existence of tunes such as "The Glasgow City Police Pipers". Some were very, very good - Strathclyde Police Pipe Band held a record for the number of consecutive wins of the World Championships in Grade 1. Some forces were rather smaller, and took their piping less seriously; Lothian and Borders Police may have competed in Grade 2, I suspect Central didn't compete at all.

Anyway... the studies done prior to the merger, for the Scottish Government, made it perfectly clear in advance that there wasn't going to be a cost reduction benefit. The Scottish Government knew it, and went ahead anyway for two reasons:

* they'd said they would do it as policy, and changing your mind looks weak.
* having a single Chief Constable means that you have greater political control over the Police than if there are five or six forces - you're less likely to have one contradict you because your shiny bright new policy is very much a "one size fits all" solution.

The enlargement of Strathclyde Police, sorry unification, caused frustration among the other forces too. Suddenly, the diktat of "we do it this way, so should you" was exposed by armed cops answering routine calls in Aberdeen, and the more hysterical types claiming that it was the first horrifying steps toward the jackboot heel of the fascist oppression... when in reality, the local Armed Response Vehicle types who used to leave their guns locked in the car, were told to carry them everywhere. Because that was what Glasgow did (ignoring the fact that more rural forces didn't have the resources, didn't need Armed cops on a daily basis, and so needed to use their ARV for routine calls rather than have them sat twiddling their thumbs)

Other wonderful ideas from the SNP have included "making sure to appoint a Lord President who voted the right way", especially when it comes to getting rid of that troublesome corroboration stuff from Scots Law (opposed by the vast majority of Scots lawyers). This is when I saw my only-slightly-right-of-centre lawyer friend change towards unqualified support for EU membership and Brussels - because he now realised it was another check and balance against local politicians (both at Holyrood and Westminster) having stupid ideas in pursuit of votes...


I think you are underestimating the current performance of already existing batteries and the many other forms of storage available. I think also you need to factor in offshore wind turbines. There are currently about half a dozen 6MW *floating* offshore wind turbines being installed off the north-east coast of Scotland as prototype production facility. The floating part is important. If they operate as expected i.e. they don't capsize or lose their moarings then that opens up lots and lots of offshore areas where the wind conditions are good but the near offshore bottom is too deep for conventional offshore piled turbines.

If a nation-state or closely allied supra-national federation is particularly worried about being held to ransome by unreliable sunny neighbours they can install nukes instead.

The technology already exists for most clusters of nation-states to be energy independent. Certainly energy independent for a year or two - which is probably long enough to solve most diplomatic difficulties or find other energy supplies.

I think the capacity for sunny areas to hold unsunny areas to ransome is overstated.


There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch was a favourite saying and a book by Milton Freidman, the 1976 winner of the Nobel prize for economics.


Which is funny, because there ain't no such thing as a "Nobel prize for economics".


There's also a kind of 3a, where we stop being a high technology civilisation between about 4 pm and 8 am every day.

That's utterly totally not going to work in those parts of the world where maximum domestic energy consumption correlates with protection from cold instead of protection from heat (air conditioning) ... like here. Turn off the power at 4pm and we'll be frozen by dawn.

There are also plenty of sectors where you can't simply turn the power down at night. Most industrial processes that rely on continuous flow need constant energy input over time (or you turn your electrolysis cell/fractionating tower/reactor into scrap). Plenty of people will die, too: hospital ICUs don't stop sucking juice just because it's inconvenient. Nor do we stop needing street lights, or air traffic control radar, and it's pretty bloody expensive to shut down million-server data centers overnight, too.


"Just the people prevent it"

I'd suggest that this is the rather important sticking point, and that you may have a slight cognitive bias from living in an environment that isn't constantly trying to kill you.

See Cyprus, and the chaos that followed "leave hundreds of tons of explosive weaponry out in the sun, right next to your biggest power station, ignore all offers of assistance to make it safe, and then try to escape the blame when there's a large bang" - rolling power cuts around the country. The entirely natural response to this was not gentle step forward to a better world, but instead a massive increase in carbon emissions, as everyone bought a generator set for their house.

Now, try that in a country where air conditioning is all that prevents "people die from heatstroke", or heating is all that prevents "people die from hypothermia".


Damn it, beaten by a minute :)


I will concede that there are things we can do to make it better — notably, starting by looking at infrastructure replacement that supports renewable power as an investment/profit opportunity ("getting rid of old, inefficient, and obsolete infrastructure") rather than a waste of time. We ditched coal-burning steam locomotives for diesel-electric and overhead-electric, after all. We pay lower household electricity bills if we replace our old incandescent filament bulbs with CFL tubes or LEDs (and pretty soon now CFLs will be seen as an obsolescent intermediate technology stage).

It seems to me that the reason Elon Musk is getting so rich so fast is because he's spotted this gap: he's building out the infrastructure for the future he expects us to live in, and by obtaining a first-mover advantage he's leapt ahead of the competition who were locked in an earlier/pre-existing business model. (This is "Innovator's Dilemma" territory.)


Are you sure that McCain would have mismanaged the recovery? My memory is foggy, but the main differences between McCain and Obama were

1. No aid for Detroit automakers, destroying pensions and attempting to destroy the UAW.
2. No Dodd-Frank. That would have set us up for a recession down the line, but how would it have affected the recovery?


gordycoale wondered: "Since externalities are part of economics 101, what evidence do you have to suggest that economists were behind successful lobbying efforts to remove externalities rather than say it being the default state of an unregulated capitalist market?"

Evidence? How about the couple hundred (resource) economics manuscripts that I've edited for peer-reviewed journals over the past 30 years? There has been a trend towards more ecological or environmental economics, and as a result, towards more accounting for externalities, in the past decade or so, but most of the economists I've worked with for the past 30 years still try to avoid inconvenient facts whenever peer reviewers will let them get away with it -- which is most of the time.

I fully agree that ignoring inconvenient facts is the default state of an unregulated capitalist market, but that default state is traditionally based on an economic model proposed by economists and adopted by governments, with or without help from lobbyists.

This does echo your key (and important point) that externalities are not new nor are they surprising. The routine ignorance of them by governments that are nominally elected to protect us against such things is the problem. I blame the economists for not educating governments and taxpayers about the problem.


The thing that really worries me about this particular trouser-leg, is that it sets USA up for something even more horrible than Trump in the next round.

With a republican party where the young vote is pseudoquasicryptofacistoids, from gamergate to neonazis, and a democratic party hell bent on rerunning the 1990'es, a third-party/independent demagogue has never had a better shot at the presidency.

President Zuck anyone ?


In 2007-2008 we narrowly averted a major collapse of the economy when Obama was elected to the White House.

It was a global crisis, not an American one; Obama or whoever else was secondary to an international agreement that was hammered out at high level, in no small part because UK chancellor Gordon Brown realized the scale of the problem and was shit-scared enough to bang heads together and run the printing presses until they smoked—quantitative easing, to inject liquidity into the gridlocked banking sector.

Globally, the preconditions for a recurrence still exist. This is one of the reasons Trump and Brexit are so dangerous; Trump doesn't have an echo of a shadow of a clue about economics, and the UK is systematically destabilizing itself — the fifth largest economy on the planet, second largest in the EU after Germany. If Brexit causes a UK-specific crash, there is a very real risk of it propagating to the rest of the global economy and of the SCROTUS then acting perversely and inappropriately to make it worse because somebody snubbed him on twitter.


Re the US ACA/Obamacare:

The Republicans would have just kept executing the plan from previous years: repeated show votes to repeal that they know will be vetoed.

The practical difference is a competent federal administration that backs the program, rather than an incompetent administration that opposes it. The program would have functioned better than it will going forward. Somewhat lower premium increases, somewhat less scrambling to get insurers to cover every county.

My guess is facebook guy is running for Senate. California's Senator Feinstein is 84, and up for election next year.


Ok, ok, I'll get back to work on my political book, Socialism in the 21st Century.

And then I can push my claim to being a Markist.


Trouser legs... I want the third leg.

Let's start with the holidays, 1967/68, and Mayor Fucking Daley, sr, of Chicago, has a massive heart attack and dies. The next up allows controlled demonstrations, rather than stalling on permits for five months, then denying them, and deliberately setting up what a federal commission in *this* timeline declared to be a "police riot"*. The result is, without the horrible publicity of that, Humphrey beats Tricky Dick, 'Nam winds down over the next year.

Apollo is not cut short, the Shuttle is built as *originally* conceived (1/4 the size), and Skylab is not allowed to fall.

Then Carter follows Humphrey, and Apollo/Soyuz turns Skylab into the first international space station, and we build the first true spaceships, orbit-to-orbit, and we build a base on the Moon, and launch the probes, and the expeditions around the Solar System from there.

And Raygun is a superannuated actor who does *not* get elected.

And my late wife and I make it up to the Moon.

* No, you may *NOt* argue. An organization called ROC (Radical Organizing committee) was who set up most of the buses carrying people to Chicago, and one of the principals negotiating for the permit. Their national HQ was a few blocks from where my first wife and I lived, and we volunteered there, so I personally know this as FACT.


"Slight correction"? I'm sorry, I cannot read this except as a right-wing troll.

"Definition of rich"? How about multimillionaire? How about billionaire? Is that good enough for you?

And given, in the US, how the right has destroyed the unions (early seventies, 24% of the workforce; now, barely over 10%)), the government is the only defence we have against Big Corporate Brother.

And with Big Money not creating jobs (other than sweatshop jobs in other countries) and crap jobs (I'm looking at you, WalMart), how are people supposed to live?

Oh, and don't you know that companies are "artificial persons", and it's CEOs and major investors who get less money.

As I said in the previous thread, US federal revenue stream, per 1972, 16.7% individual income taxes, 25% corporate taxes; 2012? 2013? 44% individual income taxes, 10% corporate taxes.

Go troll somewhere else.


Re the Sun reappearing: you're welcome. I went out in my front yard, and made lots of noise (mowing the yard), and watched it hit 81% here, and growled at it, and all by myself, chased off the Fenris Wolf. (And I hear that the Chinese say it's a dog, so the world agrees, it's a canid, trying to eat the Sun.)


Yup. Cantor and Siegel did the Green Card spam, and the opening of the 'Net was clamped to ban commercial advertising, and ISPs were required to enforce it.


Not only is there no incentive to self-identify as "unemployed", there is massive, aggressive incentives *not* to... HR people are STUPID, and rather than think "oh, they've been out of work longer, they're hungrier, and will take a lower starting rate", they think "oh, well, you're not 'fresh'" (THAT IS A DIRECT QUOTE FROM A HEADHUNTER AROUND '04 or 05.)

The more you can claim to be employed, the more willing they are to talk to you, and submit you for jobs.


Not quite true.

In 2007-2008 Governments bet the farm to delay a credit recession (a recession caused based by debt defaults, rather than the usual recession based on too much stock - hint the last time we saw one of those is 1929)..

The problem is that the solution used didn't fix the problem, it just delayed it and allowed the issues to continue unhindered - so when the crash eventually comes (some time in the next 18 months) its going to be far, far worse than it would have been 10 years ago...


The coal jobs are NEVER coming back. 50 years ago, the industry employed well over 500,000 (700,000?) miners. Now it's 70+k. They've gone to mechanization and mountaintop removal, and don't need them all.


Just wait until Waymo or Tesla have fully automated cars and trucks and then see what happens when driving no longer requires drivers.

I suspect that reality is far closer than most people expect..


Like I said earlier, the fossil fuel biz has screwed the costs of extraction down to a minimum. I saw a figure somewhere recently that America's annual coal production of 900 million tonnes or so comes mostly from the Montana and Wyoming open-cast mines and Appalachian mountain-top removal, about half from each area. The Western open-cast mines employ something under ten thousand people, the WV/KY mines four times that number or so. That means each American miner "produces" about 18,000 tonnes of coal per year. That puts the wages cost of a tonne of coal at less than four dollars at the minehead.

The US has, according to Wikipedia which is never wrong, 477 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves or, at the current rate of consumption, about 500 years supply. That's before any new sources are discovered, developed and exploited, of course.


"Which is funny, because there ain't no such thing as a "Nobel prize for economics"."

"The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 1976 Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel to Professor Milton Friedman, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy."

This would seem to be definitive and dispositive, being the announcement from the organization that chooses the Nobel laureates, announcing that they gave the prize for Economics in 1976 to Milton Friedman.


The coal jobs are NEVER coming back. 50 years ago, the industry employed well over 500,000 (700,000?) miners. Now it's 70+k.

BLS says the total employment in the US coal industry is 54k-ish, of which about 20% could reasonably be called miners, aka "extraction workers."


the Economics Prize wasn't instituted by Alfred Nobel, it was added to the Nobel awards process in 1968 and it's paid for by the Swedish National Bank, not the Nobel Foundation. It's not called a Nobel Prize, it's "in memory of Alfred Nobel". Some of Nobel's descendants do not regard it as a legitimate part of their ancestor's will and would like to see it disassociated from the Nobel Prize process.


Regarding tanstaafl

Didn't originate with Heinlein, either, though he used it long prior to Milton Friedman.



About economics as a discipline - you start off completely wrong, and end up partly right (but still wrong).

You start with this:

"[F]ossil fuels are still "economic" precisely because some clever economists managed to find a way to make the most serious adverse consequences of extraction, processing, consumption, and disposal of these fuels "externalities". By eliminating these costs from the profit calculations (and the sales price), the fuels become much cheaper than they would be with a realistic cost accounting."

... which is exactly wrong, in the following sense. This would be the standard behaviour of firms/managers/accountants when the private cost (to the firm) differs from the social cost (to society as a whole) because the former doesn't include the externality. (Unfortunate but understandable if their objective is to max the profit of their firm.) It has nothing to do with economists enabling this to happen - if anything, it happens because economists aren't involved. Economics is precisely the discipline that points to the externality problem and the environmental and social costs that follow.

But then you end up partly right when you conclude with this:

"[A]ny statements such as these that attack an entire profession do a gross injustice to individuals who don't share the negative characteristics. For example, there's a whole branch of environmental economics devoted to internalizing the externalities, and they're doing good work. But they still seem to be minority voices in the overall field of research."

...which is good except for the last sentence, which is completely wrong again. We (economists who take externalities and environmental economics seriously) make up the great majority of the discipline, and that's what we teach as well. Understanding the concept of externalities and basic environmental economics is completely standard in first-year university intro to econ courses. Anyone who goes through one of these courses is going to be told, at some length, about the core concepts. You will have a hard time find an econ principles textbook that doesn't do this. (If you want to look at a modern and free basic econ textbook, the CORE project is worth looking at: Disclosure - I contributed to a bit of it.)

There's also survey evidence (data!). In one well-known survey of US economists in the 1990s (link: respondents were asked whether pollution taxes/permits were better or worse than pollution ceilings as a way of dealing with pollution. That pollution (an externality) was an economic problem was so obvious and accepted that it was built into the structure of the question. (NB: in the early 90s more economists favoured ceilings than pollution taxes/permits but I think that has changed.)


Being unemployed is the kiss-of-death when looking for work in many fields. According to Suzanne Lucas (who blogs as Evil H.R. Lady) many managers assume that if you currently have a job you are competent, while if you don't have one you may (or may not) be. So filtering out unemployed applicants is an easy way to increase their chance of landing a satisfactory candidate*.

I was having lunch earlier this week with a retired engineer, who recounted a story about hiring an unemployed engineer**. Apparently it took a lot of arguing with the CEO and laying his own reputation on the line to hire the chap. ("No one else has hired him, so he can't be that good.")

*At least, that's the logic. Not that I agree with it…

*Immigrant, had run his own engineering business in his own country, but who was having problems getting even an interview in Canada.


March Schaffer responsed to my rant about economics and economists: "About economics as a discipline - you start off completely wrong, and end up partly right (but still wrong)."

I would be very glad indeed to learn that I am wrong and that economics as a whole is now dominated by economists who consider an analysis of externalities to be essential to any economic problem rather than something inconvenient that can be ignored.

That doesn't agree with my experience, but my experience is circumscribed to a small sample of the overall field (the 100 or so economists whose papers I've edited).


Oops... "Mark". End of day, brain fading...


Understanding the concept of externalities and basic environmental economics is completely standard in first-year university intro to econ courses.

When did it become standard? It wasn't covered when I took my undergrad courses in the 1980s, and I recall having arguments with MBAs in the late 80s/early 90s who didn't seem to understand the concept*. (I'm assuming that someone getting an MBA can be assumed to have studied more economics than an electrical engineer.)

*Or possibly didn't want to acknowledge it.


When did teaching externalities and basic environmental econ become standard in principles courses? Good question ... off the top of my head, I'd say it goes back at least to the 90s, but how much earlier than that (if at all) I don't honestly know. I will ask around and report back if I get anywhere.


Well the premise of 3 was that there aren't good enough batteries to run an entire civilisation on. I don't think that's quite right, but given that premise, what happens? Well demonstrably there are battery storage systems good enough to run a hospital overnight. Industrial electrolysis is normally sited next to hydroelectric generators, and where they're sited next to coal fired power plants and rely on the current system of massive subsidies and political donations, they'll have to close or buy a bunch of batteries (I'd bet on close). Data centres can be practically anywhere, and again, they'll go where the power is cheap/constant.

As for heating overnight, you could add a tank full of salt to each house. Melt the salt during the day, use the heat at night. It's hot enough to cook with if you want (500+C for many salts, common salt is 800C). Just pipe some air into the molten salt chamber, and then back out to a stove or oven. Ice gives up 330 J/g while table salt has 520 J/g while also being about 50% more dense, so it holds more than twice the heat in a given volume. Capital cost would be in a similar range to the first world change over from hand washing dishes to dishwashers. Trivial, practically unnoticeable costs. You could trigger a voluntary change over by rather than turning off the power at 4pm, just change it from 5p/kWh to 3 quid.

Fridges would be designed with a layer of phase change material between the bit with the food and the insulator, so they'd hold their temperature for days and only run when the power is cheap. Also trivial to implement. Hell, you could even keep old fridges going by putting a slab of the right material in each part of the fridge.

No problem with people buying a bunch of home generators, just restrict the sale of petrol (you'd be doing that anyway).

But as I said before, this will not happen. It's cheap, would obviously work with current off the shelf tech, allow us to have a high energy, high wealth civilisation, give us more free time, shorter working hours, more jobs, less income inequality and a livable planet. No-one would stand for that sort of thing.


Since all American law schools not named Yale or Harvard became Chicago Style Law and Economics, rather than Socratic Method, pretty much all American lawyers learn about externalities and similar principles. (Cue the requisite jokes about Chicago Style not being Real Pizza.) I would have preferred Socratic or a mix of both myself, but admit I did learn a few valuable things I might not have otherwise.


Capital cost would be in a similar range to the first world change over from hand washing dishes to dishwashers. Trivial, practically unnoticeable costs.

Uh, nope.

In the case of my apartment: a new-for-old replacement gas boiler is quoted at around £2400, including fitting. Replacing the pipework and radiators and pumps would probably triple that, on top: ripping out and replacing the central heating system is a £10,000 job (seventeen radiators plus a few hundred feet of underfloor plumbing on two floors). Your hypothetical molten salt bath could be used to heat the water, but it's still replacing that gas boiler and the heat still has to be distributed throughout the building — not a simple job of running "a stove or oven" but lots of plumbing with thermostatic valves and radiators and pumps.

In the case of a different apartment I'm intimately familiar with, a single night storage radiator (cheap night-rate power used to heat a ceramic core, which allows heat out during the day) costs roughly £600 plus £100-150 for installation — and needs 1-2 such radiators per room, depending on floor space/volume.

Heating houses in parts of the world where the ambient temperature drops below freezing for part of the year is a non-trivial problem, most definitely not like replacing a dish washer or a fridge.



What discipline are you refereeing for? I can easily imagine that the set of academic economists you have encountered via your refereeing don't incorporate externalities in their models as much or as often as you think appropriate. I might even agree with some or most of your assessments. All modellers take shortcuts - you can't model everything at once - and criticising economic model builders for what they put in/leave out/simplify is legit. And conventions etc will of course vary across disciplines.

But you were criticising the economics discipline as a whole for not acknowledging the issue, which is clearly wrong. Not practising what we preach as much as we should would be a more valid criticism and at least worthy of debate, but it isn't what you claimed.

Also, your rant blamed economists for enabling businesses to avoid internalizing externalities, but as gordycoale pointed out much more succinctly than I did, you're not going to find much in the way of actual evidence for this. Businesses don't need economists to be able to ignore something (social costs of pollution) that doesn't show up in the company accounts to begin with.


Interesting ... I have the same question about training lawyers that RP had about training economists - when did learning about externalities become standard in (US?) law schools?


Insulation ? Passivhaus ?
There are likely several options available, even with a worst-case preserved-architecture concrete horror.
Even on zero budget, skip-dive some cardboard to glue to the walls and cielings, and dig out the thick woolies.
Granted, damp is the implacable foe ..


Whenever Judge Posner reached his apotheosis, transcended and was deified. Records are scarce from that chaotic time.

My guess is the 1980s.


Maybe we have a different idea of what constitutes a dishwasher sized cost. I googled Dishwasher UK and got the Independent's assessment of the best dishwashers on the market in 2016. They recommend the Miele:


In terms of form and function, the Miele dishwasher we tested was far superior"

That was listed in 2016 at 1329 pounds

It's no longer available and the replacement seems to be this:

Which is 1745, but you get a 10% discount at present!

I struggle to think that an insulated tank full of salt could cost more than a dishwasher that's got 2 or 3 pumps, several moving bits and a computer, but I guess it could cost more... Particularly as the life of a tank of salt would have to be measured in centuries and the life of a dishwasher these days is about 5 years.

I don't see why you'd need to rip out the existing heat distribution gear to use it, but maybe you would. That might add 10 000 pounds to the cost. So that's 5% of the average house price (which rose 4.9% last year), or about half the average annual disposable income in the UK. Too much cost to save civilisation? Very likely yes. (Sadly)

It's also about the same as it cost me to have my house connected to the sewer system. The government just one day laid sewer pipes down the street and sent me a letter telling me I had to have a licenced plumber rip out the septic tank and connect to the sewer. I haven't seen any one ranting about town sewerage being an unbearable cost on society. Even though they're recovering the cost of laying the pipes by sending me a 1000 dollar bill for it every year for the next 20 years.

BTW, there's no reason you couldn't have a small salt tank integrated into the stove, so that there's no additional plumbing required. The stove uses electricity during the day, you cook on it at night.

It all seems doable for really trivial costs (especially compared to the cost of allowing civilisation to collapse), but as I said several times, it's pretty obviously not going to be done.


Mr Stross:

I think there are times when it is healthy to withdraw. The Brexit/Trump debacles are not going to go away anytime soon. There is really no good news to speak of right now. In the case of Trump, short of a miracle, it is only going to get worse for the foreseeable future. Therefore I decided to take a timeout. I checked the national news headlines once in the morning and once in the evening. Otherwise I accessed no cable news, no network news, no political blogs, and no National Public Radio. In the car I listened only to WWOZ, a local radio station that plays jazz and heritage music. At home I read only fiction and poetry.

After a week I noticed that when driving to and from work I was focused on the foliage and the weather, not my grinding frustration with my country's politics. My blood pressure was lower. My digestion improved. After two weeks I had a sense of humor again.

I can't say that the environment is better off. Trump is still president. We are all still doomed. But I feel much better. If you have recently been through a personal or family crisis, then give yourself a break from the crap tide that just keeps rolling in.

Just enjoy the ride for a few days or weeks. Even if you are still working full time, jettisoning the bullshit that seeps into our daily lives will help a lot. There will be a time and place to resume your struggle against the forces of darkness. After all they will never really go away no matter what we do.

Thus endeth the sermon.


Yes, what you said.

I've had similar experiences. 'Worrying doesn't help' is very true.


Insulation + bitcoin mining will keep houses warm in the winter!


No-one would stand for that sort of thing
Unless ... you can make a profit at it, as Elon Musk seems to be doing, so you may, I hope, be wrong....


WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO PUT the tank full of insulated salt?
My (Just) detached house is obviously smaller than Charlie's "apartment" - only 8 radiators, plus a gas-fire in front of the boiler - now, where do I put the salt-tank, please?
Slight practical problem, there ( House built in 1893 for reference )



I "worry" about replacing the float-valves on the allotments water-supply & whether I can keep the dreaded Blight at bay, rather than the insanity of politics, right now (Most of the time)

Let's hear it for François-Marie Arouet: "We must cultivate our Garden"

Also, from the smae source: Clever Tyrants are never punished.


17 radiators: Bloody hell - how big is your apartment? I live in a BFO house (took on next door's semi, so now have 6-bed detached instead of 3-bed semi), and I only have 14 radiators (w. 2 boilers, 2 gas supplies, 2 water supplies, 2 electric supplies, but that's a separate story)


He doesn't look teetotal, and he doesn't Tweet teetotal, but I believe everything you tell me.


You ignore that the State can only spend that money on people and companies.

So those of us who do things of social utility organised through the State get money passed back through us.

I think you may think money is a thing. It isn't.


I stepped outside my office to experience a previous one.

Well worth the trip!

Indeed, it was an experience of something quite unusual and striking.

How often should we copy it to steer the climate back toward good conditions for human life on Earth?


Well you'd only put in in houses that have the room for it (or some sort of outside space, or that stand on ground that you can dig a hole in). If you need something like this then presumably you already have a fossil fuelled something like this that can be removed to make way for the tank. However if you don't have any heating in your house that you can remove to make way for it and aren't in an area sparsely populated enough to have an outside, and aren't in a community densely populated enough that it can install piped community heating, all is not lost, there's more than one way to thaw a frozen cat.

The basic idea is to store enough heat during the day to last you over night (in your poorly insulated 17th C castle).

Put some phase change materials in your house. You can specify them to melt at whatever temperature you want. I've got some in a jacket that melt at 17C (which is stupidly cold for that application but ideal for this one). They could be packed in floor tiles, stuck in canisters around the house, built into furniture, hidden under the bed, put in the ceiling or inside pellets mixed in with the plaster. Run a reverse cycle airconditioner on heating during the day, say at 20C. All the PCM will melt during the day and then at night, it will refreeze releasing about 200 J/g, holding the house at 17C all night. The airconditioner only uses about a third the energy of resistance heating, so it might be even better than the molten salt. 2 tonnes of the stuff will give you the equivalent of a 7 kW heater running for 16 hours.

It's all doable. (but it won't be done)


"the stock markets have been going up despite the moron in the OO"

Sort of. But sort of not.

The S&P index in USD is up about 9% since the start of the year.

But the value of the US dollar is down around 10% compared to a trade-weighted basket of other currencies over the same period.

And many of the companies listed on the US stock market are international: Amazon, Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Goldman Sachs... these are global companies based in the US. When the USD dollar declines in value, their shares get more expensive as measured in US dollars. It's largely not the shares increasing in value, it's largely US dollars decreasing in value.

I'm over-simplifying because the US is still an important market for global companies like Apple, etc, and because lots of US companies aren't global. So the US stock markets really are up - a bit. But not byas much as it looks from inside the US.


Ironically you are probably better off with an older house than a newer one for that sort of thing.

These days the "fossil fueled something" is often a combi boiler that really isn't all that big. Large hot water tanks tend to exist in older houses but not newer ones.

A refit of a house with an old system will often leave an empty cupboard with a floor rated for something heavy.


{AOL}Like{/AOL} ;-)


There is so much stupid, wrong and illogical in this that I have no idea where to start!


"Globally, the preconditions for a recurrence still exist."

Yes, and no.

Market Risk management for derivatives trading is my business. The GFC really did cause reforms, in theory. But in the end it's mostly about whether regulators have the balls (and budgets) to do their job.

B of E or the Fed taking on the bankers? It's a sticky wicket, chaps. Especially with Goldman Sachs running the White House finance regulatory policy. And the Dark Side pays far, far better.

But consider the poorly paid EPA beaurocrats who took on VW over emissions cheating. Awesome! Admirable integrity, and balls of *steel*. Screw that up and your career is dead as the US Senators with VW factories in their state come hunting for you & you lose your life to a decade of stress and lawsuits. Get it right and you get a nice pat on the back and another day at the office. Damn, it's good when the good guys are good.

This is where I see Trumpism at its most corrosive. Would you take that sort of risk as an employee in the regulator if you didn't think that the boss had your back?


The best form of insulation in a cold climate is to actually keep the building warm. This actually works best with older solid stone properties.


"How often should we copy it to steer the climate back toward good conditions for human life on Earth?"

The current energy imbalance is about 0.6 W/sqm averaged over the whole surface of the Earth.

The area of the Earth is about 510072000000000 sqm

So that's about 300000000000000 W that needs to be blocked. 3x10^14 W

The moon has an area of a but under 40 million sqkm. It blocks light over an area 1/4 of that so 10 million sqkm. That's 10^13 sqm. So that's about 10^16 W (taking it as 1000 W/sqm, which isn't quite right, but close enough)

So there needs to be an eclipse about 3X10^14/10^16th of the time. So there needs to be an eclipse about 3% of the time. The time from the beginning of the partial eclipse to the end of the totality was 4 hours 17 minutes. (I'm assuming that the amount of light blocked by the two periods of partial is the same as one period of totality). So you''d need an eclipse about every 138 hours to correct the current energy imbalance.

(can someone check my maths?)


Are you using the word 'insulation' to mean 'thermal mass'?

They're not the same thing. Keeping something hot doesn't keep it insulated.


"There is so much stupid, wrong and illogical in this that I have no idea where to start!"

The longest journey begins with the first step.

I'm wrong about things every day, but I enjoy finding things out. So if you could make some sort of start that would be great.


I came late to my understanding of what money is. It's IOUs issued by governments, that's all. A lot of (maybe all) libertarians don't comprehend this concept even though it's printed on banknotes in one form or another -- "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of..."

Taxation by governments isn't to "raise money", it's to prevent runaway inflation by taking money (the IOUs they issued previously) out of circulation so they can issue more in the form of salaries for government workers, renting offices and premises, purchases of material goods, subsidies for the common good and other reasons. The IOUs circulating in private hands perform a useful function in liquifying wealth and simplfying trade. Materialistic types who can't see past the Shiny! think different hence the existence of gold bugs and tulip bulb speculators and those who prey on them.


> withdraw
Yep, no tv here, pretty much stopped following news, ditched fbook newsy things for nature/history/art, better fot it


> > salt
> stupid

How so ?

Salt heat storage is just a variation on the electrically-warmed-heap-o-bricks ('storage heater' hereabouts) trope, v. Common in older pre-mains-gaspipe buildings.

Another trick is to use heat pumps to source thermal energy from air or groundwater, with unpowered heatpipes or powered heatpumps, which gets more btu's than plain resistive heating


Well, alternative timeline view for Australia - one seat changed hands in the lower house in the 2016 election, going to the ALP rather than the Liberals. The ALP formed a government, and we had a hung parliament (again). On the one hand, the ALP are at least vaguely competent, and most of their members give the strong impression of being able to find their arse given both hands, unlike a lot of the incumbents in the Liberal party in our current timeline (many of whom give the strong impression of not being capable of figuring out where their arse was even supplied with a map, GPS, and a pantomime crowd yelling "look behind you!").

On the other hand: the ALP are at least vaguely competent, and policy-wise they're very hard to distinguish from the Liberals. So we'd still have Centrelink automating debt recovery processes - it just would have been rolled out a bit more gradually, and there would have been a lot more attention paid to the bugs thrown up by the system in the early stages. The Cashless Welfare card trials would have been scrapped, mostly because the company which runs the card is owned by the Liberal Party[1] - but the policy itself would most likely have been re-worked with a requirement for people in the trial areas to get a specific type of bank account from whichever bank was in the region. The detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru would still be standing, and the asylum seekers who had wound up there would still be stuck there with no hope of redemption, but instead of threatening the whistle-blowers with imprisonment, they'd instead be asked to participate in a committee aimed at determining the best method for improving circumstances short of actually allowing people to leave the camps or having to spend actual money on the business.

In other words, same shit, different day, but with a vaguely more competent administration running things. So the faces of the poor would still be being ground beneath the boots of the bureaucratic oppressor, because that's pretty much SOP here, but would be done in a far more effective way.

Of course, the Murdoch press would be screaming blue murder about the whole thing from go to whoa, as they usually do, and the ALP would be running scared trying to appease them, but with no viable candidates for replacement, the government would churn out its full three year term. While Malcolm Turnbull would have been expected to fall on his sword following the loss of government (to a double dissolution he called), it's highly doubtful the Liberal right wing would have allowed Tony Abbott the second go at the job he appears to think he deserves. Instead, I suspect we'd be looking at either Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton, or possibly Christian Porter as leader of the Opposition, with both Malc and Tony gnashing their teeth and sharpening knives for their backs on the back-benches. Julie Bishop would, of course, retain her position as deputy, because she knows what's good for her, and she knows being deputy leader is one of those jobs nobody else really wants. Barnaby Joyce would be a spectacle and an embarrassment to the Australian political system (so no change there!).

Corey Bernardi probably would have chucked his snit and walked out of the Liberal party anyway (they're not conservative enough for his tastes; he's gone over to Family First), and Pauline Hanson would have thrown her stunt with the burka no matter what happened, because the woman is a born shit-stirrer. Senator Malcolm Roberts would still be a Sovereign Citizen climate-change-denying fruitcake, good for a laugh on Q&A, and Derryn Hinch would still be irrelevant. Would we have still had the Section 44 kerfuffle? Possibly, since it got started by someone digging dirt on the Greens, and then expanded to cover all the other parties - but it wouldn't be throwing the government into an utter pickle as a result.

We wouldn't be having the "postal survey regarding same-sex marriage", because I suspect the ALP would have basically said "okay, we're putting a bill before parliament to repeal the changes to the marriage act made in 2004" not long after they got elected. If it passed, great! Hand the administrative hassle of dealing with same-sex marriage over to the states, and let them deal with it. If it didn't, well, it's off the legislative agenda for another three years unless someone from the Greens wants to put it up as a private member's bill. Again.

[1] Seriously. This is why my rather cynical joke about their latest little bit of "kick the poor" ("random" drug tests on people receiving welfare) is we don't know which company is going to be doing the pathology work, because the Liberal party hasn't quite finished the registration paperwork yet.


Paws could be confusing the two, as the ideal for cold climates with high diurnal temperature variation is to have very high thermal mass inside a well insulated shell. Less than ideal is just to have the high thermal mass structure, and do basic things like make sure the doors and windows seal.


Of course the withdraw approach works perfectly all the way to the moment they kick your door in...


There are likely several options available, even with a worst-case preserved-architecture concrete horror.

You're thinking American, or somewhere where the property market isn't wildly inflated and knocking down old and building new homes is something people do. I'm thinking of a country where the average home is 75 years old, and in some cases much, much older — my apartment is less than a decade away from its bicentennial and isn't particularly old by the standards of this neighbourhood.

Even indoor toilets were a retrofit some time in the 19th century.


Miele cost about three times as much as anything else on the market!

(I have a perfectly good Bosch dish washer that cost a quarter as much as that.)


They are good though though. I got a Miele washing machine half price about 10 years ago and it is still practically brand new. If it hadn't been half price I would probably have gone for Bosch.


17 radiators: Bloody hell - how big is your apartment?

Three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and a couple of small (windowless) utility rooms. It's about the same floor space as a three bedroom semi with attic. Thing is, three of those rooms — living room, main bedroom, and dining room — each have three radiators, because (a) no cavity wall insulation and it's illegal to fit double-glazing (UNESCO world heritage site) and (b) we sometimes get cold snaps down to -15 celsius. I usually keep two out of three of those radiators turned off unless the temperature drops below freezing, but when it gets really cold you use them or you freeze!

I could probably rip the radiators out and replace with modern units that are more thermally efficient (and fewer of them) but that'd mean moving out and ripping up the floors and getting listed building planning consent—they were installed in the 1970s before the conservation order was applied.


The basic idea is to store enough heat during the day to last you over night (in your poorly insulated 17th C castle).

Again, you display a cognitive bias caused by living in low latitudes and a benign climate (see also @82 / @83). I'm guessing you don't see much snow.

Edinburgh is reasonably temperate (thankyou, the North Atlantic Drift) but we are as far north as Moscow or Anchorage. The temperature doesn't get much above 10C for the majority of the year; and in January we will only see seven or eight hours of daylight.

In the last decade, I've seen two winters where we (within ten miles outside the city centre) had a week of -20C at night, remaining subzero during the short day. So: exactly how do we store all the energy we need for 16 hours of darkness, during the 8 hours of low-angle and rather dull daylight where we still need to run our heating to avoid hypothermia? You're suggesting that the eight hours a day we spend living in the refrigerator should give us enough energy to survive the next sixteen living in the freezer.

We need energy input into our living areas all day round. You are suggesting that we build three times as many power stations, so we can run them a third of the time and accept the efficiency losses involved with storing the energy at a local level... colour me unconvinced by your reasoning.

One possible solution is to bring all buildings up to Passivhaus standards - but that's something that has to be designed in, not bolted on. Even you will agree that "replace the entire housing stock of a nation" is a big ask. Meanwhile, we'll carry on adding insulation, designing better new houses, and installing more energy-efficient gas boilers and electrical appliances...


It's IOUs issued by governments, that's all.

That's generally right, but there are a couple of new twists; banks also issue IOUs and create money backed by debt. (You take out a loan from a bank secured against your home—where does that money come from?) And for about the past fifty years, banks figured out a new trick: they could bundle up the rights to these IOUs and sell the right to future income based on them, thus generating even more money. Virtual money! A money fountain! Self-replicating money! And this is why we have a financial economy that's a couple of orders of magnitude larger than the real economy of labour and physical goods that we mere mortals exist in.

It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye, as they say.


2 hard winters per decade isn't a real problem. Surviving 4 years out of every 5 should be good enough for anyone.


What really scares the shit out of me is the idea of sharing a domicile with a large tank (not built to industrial chemical reactor standards from 3cm-thick stainless steel and inspected regularly by licenced outside experts) full of a probably-toxic liquid at 500 degrees Celsius, nearly hot enough to melt aluminium. It's a bit like the "open-source" people who are building their own "powerwall" home storage batteries out of recycled laptop cells and homerolled charge control circuitry.


Basically money is trust. The "promise to pay" on a banknote is something you trust because you've always trusted it and your parents trusted it and your grandparents trusted it, and because of that you'll trade your time or goods or services for those promissory notes and expect others will do the same in turn when you offer them up in exchange for their time/goods/services.

New forms of money such as Bitcoin (which has no actual backing, just trust by the Twoo Bewievers) and new currencies such as the Euro have a harder row to hoe because they have to build up a level of trust before they become accepted. I've seen "The Euro is DOOMED!" stories in the press and blogs ever since it was introduced because it was somehow not like the German Deutschmark (created after 1945, I believe) or the French Franc (also a recent development after a major revaluation) but the Euro is doing quite well for itself despite the doomsayers. The Zimbabwean dollar, less so (that leetle inflation problemetto).


Not as such; it uses less energy to keep a typical 100 year old Scottish sandstone house at ~18c than it does to heat it up from ~5c every day.

All insulation does is reduce the rate of heat loss.


Income inequality and wealth inequality do not necessarily correlate well. Gini Coefficients:

UK Net Income Gini 32.6 Wealth Gini 73.2
Sweden Net income Gini 27.3 Wealth Gini 85.2

there are a few theories about sweden's lousy wealth gini but none of them look very convincing to me.


You're more than likely right. I'm suggesting you spend 8 hours at 20-21C and the other 16 hours 16-18C, and that's completely unreasonable. In fact if you read what I've said, you'll see that I've said this option will not fly. People would rather take option 3 than my suggestion of 3a, and you prove that to be true.

However you may not have read the whole thread. What I've suggested is an alternative to option 3 given the constraints that our only energy supply is solar and batteries no better than what we have now. In case you've forgotten it was this:

"(3) We all agree to stop being a high-technology/high-power-use civilisation, to reduce population by some large factor, and end up living in some hippy idyll with, perhaps, a billion people on the planet."

That remaining billion probably doesn't include more than about 50 000 people living in the UK. So about 1 person in 1000 UK residents survives, the rest die. Given the choice between having to wear a jumper indoors and being dead (along with everyone I know), I'd take the jumper option thanks, but that's probably because I suffer from a mid latitude bias and I've never seen snow.

As an aside, I've mentioned here that my house is less well insulated than a tent, the current temperature is 13C, the heater isn't on and I'm wearing a tee shirt. I don't think an indoor temperature of 16 while you're tucked up in bed is the end of the world, but if you want, you can run the same phase change system but with 25 degree materials instead. You'd just need to run the heater at 28-30C during the day.


Ahem! Edinburgh is further south of Anchorage than London is of Edinburgh (London, ~51.3 degrees N; Edingburgh 55.6 degrees N; Anchorage, 61.1 degrees N).

I will give you a "correct" for Moscow, though.

Main reason I know is that Stockholm is just a shy bit north of Kirkwall and also south of Anchorage. I suspect all of Scotland is south of Anchorage.


Well, for example, you seem to have assumed that Charlie, Feorag, Fluff (whom you really don't want to make angry) Marin, Nojay and myself will enjoy spending 16 hours a day in pitch darkness, in what is often the coldest 4 weeks of the year: That we will happily eat cold food approaching the coldest part of the day during those weeks: That running generating plant flat out 8 hours a day to convert electricity to heat for the other 16 (and still need to keep any of that plant that is thermal hot for those 16 hours a day) is more efficient than generating electricity when required...


"Not as such; it uses less energy to keep a typical 100 year old Scottish sandstone house at ~18c than it does to heat it up from ~5c every day."

You're going to have to elucidate the physics of that for me. The first blush reading of what you've said runs exactly counter to thermodynamics so there's something I've missed in what you're saying. It appears to be that you're saying that a house loses more energy to the environment when it's closer in temperature to the environment than when it's further away. You can't be saying that surely.


I've got storage heaters thanks. Using them "efficiently" means keeping at least one eye on the local weather so as to not over or under-charge them.

As "gasdive" described their system, they'd use one big heat sink per building, instead of a much smaller one n each room (BTW I do have 1 unit per room excluding the downstairs toilet which is no bigger than it needs to be, and have never used more than 3 of them) and I do struggle to see the advantage of that.


You need to read what I wrote again. Follow the links where is says the comment I'm replying to and the comment that's replying to and so forth.

You've got what I said completely, and exactly backwards.


No; I'm saying that you use less energy to maintain a higher energy state than you do to get up to the higher state from a lower one.


I think we need an addition to the mod policy- you can't comment on Charlie et al's flat and related energy policy matters upgrading of flat, etc, unless you have recognised expertise in the area of upgrading 18th century buildings to modern standards and accompanying installation of the various equipment required.


Ok. I think I see where you're coming from and where you've gone wrong.

This would be easier if we were face to face and I could draw graphs and wave my arms about, but I'll give it a go anyway.

Yes, the power you have to put in (I'm using the term 'power' in it's proper sense of energy per unit time) is or can be higher to raise the temperature of an object above that of the surroundings, than it is to maintain the temperature of the object at some arbitrary higher point.

That's true but irrelevant. (and not what you initially said)

The total amount of energy you put into an object over a period, must equal the amount of energy lost from that object (house, mouse, planet) or the temperature of the object will be different at the end of that period.

Now despite the temperature of a house going up and down a bit over time, after one full day, or month or even a year, it's temperature is the same. Say it's 18 degrees on the first of January. on the thirty first of December, its temperature crosses 18 degrees again. At that point, the amount of energy in, exactly equals the amount of energy out.

So what governs the amount of energy out? The difference between the inside and the outside temperature instant by instant. That the temperature is rising or falling within the object doesn't alter the amount of energy leaving (or entering) the object.

The closer the object is to the ambient temperature, the less heat (energy) will flow in or out.

If you take as a given that the outside temperature is always lower than the target temperature of he building (which it would be all winter) then allowing it to cool off below the target temperature and closer to ambient would reduce the amount of heat flowing out of the object. Heat that is replaced by energy coming in through electric supply.

So no. Letting a building cool off at night and then heating it back up to the target temperature during the day, and _Repeating_ that cycle does not use more energy than holding it at the higher target temperature constantly. It uses less energy because the Delta T is lower at night and it's losing less energy that needs to be replaced.


Oh, and paws4thot, I'd rather you didn't put my name in inverted commas if it's all the same, thanks.


Not as such; it uses less energy to keep a typical 100 year old Scottish sandstone house at ~18c than it does to heat it up from ~5c every day.

All insulation does is reduce the rate of heat loss.

I'm afraid that for once gasdive is right. It really does take more energy to keep a house warm than it does to warm it up twice a day.

You are missing some terms from your calculation.

The energy that goes into heating up the stones doesn't just vanish, and the energy input you need to maintain a temperature /is/ the rate of heat loss.


Re assorted comments on eastern vs western coal production in the US...

Currently, coal production is split about equally between eastern and western mines. 25 years ago the eastern mines held a much larger share. Restrictions on sulfur dioxide emissions made low-sulfur western coal much more attractive for eastern users, even with the cost of transportation.

The miners in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky that get all the media attention are going to be disappointed. The only actions the Trump administration can take in less than several years -- and they have already taken those steps -- will produce more western coal more cheaply. For a variety of reasons, that increased production will most likely displace the use of eastern coal, reducing mining jobs in those states still further.


The problem with the western coal fields in the US is that they're a long way from the Eastern cities that need the electricity, adding a lot of transportation costs to the final ticket price for their coal FOB Labadie and similar. It might be worth them taking a leaf out of the German lignite-mine playbook and build a lot of big power stations in the Powder River basin area and export the electricity on HVDC feeders to their customers in the East instead.


I came late to my understanding of what money is. It's IOUs issued by governments, that's all. A lot of (maybe all) libertarians don't comprehend this concept even though it's printed on banknotes in one form or another -- "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of..."

Wrong. To quote J.P. Morgan, who had some understanding on these matters, you should not confuse credit with money. Gold is money, the "money that jingles" (ie. Gold, as R.A. Heinlein put it.) It is not dependent on any government or bank, only by people's desire for it, and it is not an IOU to anyone. Which is why ISIS Gold Dinars will have at least minimum value when that bunch of retrograde b*stards finally get their just deserts instead of becoming poor toilet paper.

BitCoin is another. It's simply a database token, but one that cannot be forged or excessively produced by governments, and it doesn't obligate anyone to anything: Government money does, look up "legal tender".

(Okay, I'll ease on the goldbuggery a bit...)


Gold is money, the "money that jingles" (ie. Gold, as R.A. Heinlein put it.) It is not dependent on any government or bank, only by people's desire for it,

So silver isn't money, or pork belly futures or tulip bulbs or artificial diamonds or fine art or other things people desire such as food and clothing and a place to live and all the other things that a lump of gold can't provide.

I think you're making my case about gold bugs for me here. Thanks!


Re: 'Virtual money! A money fountain! Self-replicating money!'

Thanks for your post ... glad you understand what I meant to convey.

There's this situation as well ...

A long-time friend recently told me that his financial manager asked/told him to sign a document allowing that firm to put all of his financial assets/holdings into one humongous pile with all of their other clients so that this firm would have more clout in the markets. How they would recognize his portion was not described in the glossy brochure nor on their site. (Maybe they're using a BitCoin variant that magically keeps a perfect and uncorruptible/uneditable record of every single transaction?) Anyways when I heard this all I could think/say was: absolutely not! This reeks of subprime mortgage issues. No idea what my friend decided to do.

Something else that happens is that the proportions of types of financial instruments and their components is heavily advertised for the type of investment product people buy ... when they first sign up. Finding out what is actually in that portfolio afterwards (during or even a couple of years later when you need to re-sign the contract) is a different story.

Given the above two situations co-existing in the same outfit simultaneously - 'your portion is always identified' and 'what's in any one of our many portfolios is not identified' - I have serious doubts about what's going on.

Curious what thoughts/experiences/understanding others have had.


"alternative" technologies for power are getting cheaper by the year/month/day ...
To the point that burning Oil or Coal is ... "Not Economic" except for specialist purposes.

Still waiting, same as ever. Not until storage for all that great wind and solar electricity gets cheaper than coal, batteries of some kind since pumped hydro is way too localized. Maybe multi tens of millions unit sales for electric cars will provide sufficient backup storage, but by then I think the added stress on delivery grids will long since have kicked up enough resistance to discourage further e-car sales. A real chicken and egg conundrum, in the markets anyway, planned government sponsored development might be a way out.


Re: Chinese vs. African bigotry

Top-of-mind thought is: what do these populations know about each other? The less factual info they have, the likelier they'll use the most common stereotypes. Unless their own states/cultures produce consumer-level media (TV, Radio, etc.) about the other cultures, then these populations will likely pick up their stereotypes from outside cultures: Hollywood movies, US/UK records, online chats/blogs, etc.

There are two very large groups here: (1) the 35 and older crowd that lived through China as the global outsider/villain - with foreign media portrayals of its ineffectiveness, poverty, wrong-headedness, etc and, (2) the younger crowd living in a world where China is the fast-growing economy, producing thousands of STEM PhDs per year, and where making money is culturally lauded and even encouraged by its central government. Think this is very similar to early '50s US babyboomer segment. Article below describes key marketing research findings specific to this up&coming generation.

African perceptions of outsiders were reported in the article I linked to above. Important to remember that there are 54 countries in Africa - 2 disputed - whose cultures and ethnic compositions vary considerably, i.e., no such thing as an 'average African'. Below is a different news org discussing the same study - with charts.


Coal gets interesting, because the ratio of fuel used to payload (e.g. many miles you can move a pound of cargo on a pound of fuel) is around 63,000 for freight trains (bulk cargo ships go up to 1,300,000) (from Deffeyes 2010 When Oil Peaked). In comparison, the percent losses for electricity from a variety of sources range between 4% and 15% for the grid as a whole, with local transmission lines losing more than long distance ones (which allegedly collectively lose 1-2% of grid power).

Still, it appears that it's more efficient to put coal on a coal-burning train and move it to a urban power plant than it is to build a power plant next to the coal mine. It's the difference between a loss of 1:63,000 and 1:100.

One thing I've noticed is that over the last 150-odd years, we've done a pretty good job exploiting the most productive fuel sources in the most efficient manner. When oil was so abundant that it was gushing out of the ground, it was by far the best fuel around, in terms of energy return on energy investment. Now that we're having to frack and drill in scary places, it's not very good. Similarly, huge coal seams were great, but the stuff we're mostly mining now is full of rocks and crap and not so full of energy. This is what makes wind and solar competitive now. We're going to have problems running civilization on solar and wind, not just because they're inconstant, but because we're stuck with electrical line losses rather than efficient trains and ships moving fuel around. We're going to have to generate more power than we do now to meet current demands (useful pun there), and efficiency (e.g. using less energy to achieve the same ends) is really going to start to matter again.

So why am I radically pro solar and wind? The externalities of fossil fuels are such (climate change) that they override all simplistic considerations of transport efficiency. More to the point, we no longer have good fossil fuel sources. That carbon was blown decades ago making the energy-intensive, classic civilization we've grown up in and which we'll have to retrofit for post-classic efficiency.


Double*sigh* As I mentioned, I was at the Philly Folk Fest last weekend, first time since I left the East Coast in '86. Its' held on a farm. The evening concerts used to all start at 19:00, and the beginning is when the piper starts at the top of the hill in front of the main stage, and walks down the hill, piping, and then up onto the stage. The old piper died some years ago, and the new piper - I could hear him over the noise of the crowd at the top of that hill.

The old piper had *true* war pipes. You could hear him on the other side of the creek, and all over the many acres of campground.


The Republicans are really down on saving the economy (unless it makes big bucks for themselves and their owners). Obama and the Dems pushed through a big "government giveaway", which was big government spending, rather than austerity.


Disagree, strongly. I see it coming into use only on the highways, not city streets.

I've posted, before, a location near me, that when I drive, I use about half the time, that I'm sure would result in smoke coming out of the computer's ears.

Sample problems: can a self-driving car identify either black ice, or water flowing over the roadway? Does it notice, *over* the hood of the parked car, the zombie staring at their zombiephone, who's walking into the street without even looking? how does it deal with a narrow road with *no* center or side lines?


I think I see your problem: you're assuming a spherical house of uniform density.

1. The lower floors (and basement or slab) will get cold, and store that. You have to heat that mass up, as well as the ground under and around the house that's leaching the heat by conduction.
2, Older, solidly built houses, as opposed to crap built after WWII, has a thermal mass (if that's the correct word), that also has to be overcome.

If Charlie's building is stone, then the stone is going to take a while to warm up. Plus, you then have significantly added to the amount of thermal stress on the building itself, speeding up ageing.

And, meanwhile, until I can generate most of the electricity myself, gas heat and hot water is *the* way to go, given how much more expensive electric heat is.

My favorite electrical heater? An oil-filled radiator.


... and I recall having arguments with MBAs in the late 80s/early 90s who didn't seem to understand the concept*.

*Or possibly didn't want to acknowledge it.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

-- Upton Sinclair


Sorry to disabuse you of this, but I think it was in the sixties that the US went from silver-backed bills to "Federal Reserve Note (and still legal tender for all debts public and private).

Money is solely about trust, and making your work and goods vastly more portable than barter.


Re: 'So there needs to be an eclipse about 3X10^14/10^16th of the time.'

Was able to watch a partial eclipse: awesome!

And since you raised the subject, maybe I can append this question for the engineers & math pros here:

Since we've already talked about putting solar power-collecting gizmos into orbit on previous topic threads ...

How big would a parasol have to be to provide the same cooling effect as a total solar eclipse? Thinking that such a parasol could be made of flimsy, light-weight material or even better of PV fabric that would also provide solar-power to the ISS. Might be more feasible than the old-school SF domed cities approach for climate control. Would suggest siting it above particularly warm ocean currents rather than agricultural land, say the northwest coast of Africa where the worst of the NA impacting hurricanes originate.


"When did teaching externalities and basic environmental econ become standard in principles courses?"

Probably nobody cares but I checked some old textbooks in my office. The first edition of Samuelson's textbook (1948) covers externalities in a footnote. By the 11th edition (1980) there's a bit more discussion but still not much. The next textbook I have is from 1997 (different authors), and there's a lengthy and detailed discussion with diagrams etc. So ... still guessing but extended analysis of externalities, pollution etc. as standard in introductory econ texts is probably a 90s development, maybe late 80s.


Um, okay.

A parasol covering a particular city would have to sit in geostationary orbit, at 35,786 kilometers in altitude. To cover the sun it has to cover the same angle as the diameter of the sun at one astronomical unit. Cranking the math, that suggests that the parasol would have to be about 333 kilometers in diameter to pull of this particular stunt. It would, of course have to do something about all the heat it's picking up. Making it reflective would simply make it into a solar sail just a bit smaller than the one Robert Forward used in Flight of the Dragonfly, so I doubt it would stay in orbit. If it was made into a big solar farm, you'd still have to deal with the heat, and I'm sure there's all sorts of interesting things that people into plasma physics and space physics could say about having something that big interacting with things like space weather and Earth's magnetic field.

And this is easier than building a dome to cover a city (or to use the 1950s trope, simply burying the city), because Republicans and Tories are in charge? I guess.


Changing the subject ever so slightly, a realtor friend of mine recently told me that another realtor (who apparently has questionable personal habits, but that's just idle gossip) has a bang-up business selling underground shelters, redoubts, prepper bases, secret lairs, and whatever to right-wing clients across the US.

If you're a writer of dystopian YA near-future fiction, that strongly suggests that your next project could be called Tunnels and Trolls...


And this is without the "dual citizenship" shit that's hit the headlines recently, either.
It sersly looks as though AUS is mentally-screwed, or is it just the politicians, like here & (parts of) the USSA [ In the latter, of course it appears that about 25% of their electorate - Or should that be 12.5%, given the voter-suppression? - want to return to at least 1861 ]


I disagree with the embodied assumptions that anything built by the person most likely to die if it goes wrong is necessarily going to be crap and dangerous whereas something built by someone whose prime concern is making it last 3 months longer than the guarantee period and then fail catastrophically and unrepairably so they can sell another one is not, and that measurements made by someone who isn't going to die if they get them wrong are somehow intrinsically reliable but the same measurements made by someone who might are not.

However the molten salt containment thing is not really relevant except in the case of people like me who want to dissolve fissile material in it. The substance to use for domestic heat storage, thanks to the miracle of hydrogen bonding, is good old plain water. People already do install systems which combine intermittent energy input with heat storage, and a great big hot water tank is what they use.


And what the (Right-Wing) Libertarian fruitcakes & goldbugs don't understand is that "GOLD is a FIAT currency, too!" It's only worth "whatever" because people agree it's worth that much ....


Comparative wealth/wncome Gini for the USA?


Fluff (whom you really don't want to make angry)
Yes, well, if you annoy Ratatosk [ UNSPEAKABLY CUTE Lilac-point Birman tom-kitten ] angry, he will undoubtedly live up to his name & carry messages down to the Norns & up to the Aesir/Vanir ... after which things could get ... tricky.


House temperatures in Winter in London
We have our central heating set low - it turns off at a hall temperature of 16 & is only "on" 05.30 - 09.00 & 17.30 - 22.30.
But our 1893-built house has single glazing, but with thick curtains & good loft insulation, a blank N wall & a SW-facing conservatory ( replacing the smaller Victorian original).
With GW, it's now very unusual to have temps below freezing all-day, even in Jan-Feb.
Unlike the dreaded winter of 62-63, where it barely crept above zero for over 5 weeks ....



See my # 189
Gold ( Or ANYTHING AT ALL ) is only "worth" whatever it's worth, because people agree that it's woth $_That_Amount


OK, I'm not getting something here...

"it's illegal to fit double-glazing (UNESCO world heritage site)"

I understand that bit just fine - as far as it goes. But it assumes that "double glazing" === "complete replacement of existing windows with some ugly modern crap". Surely it would not be illegal to, say, build an additional frame that sits on the inside of the window aperture - not screwed to the wall or anything, but just held in place by the friction of the sealing strip round the edges, so you can put a little tray of silica gel in between the panes to prevent condensation and take it out to bake it every now and then, or take the extra frame away altogether to open the window in the summer? That would not even be visible from outside and does not involve even the most minor alteration to the actual building, so I don't see how it could be illegal (although I suppose that, regulations being what they are, it might be anyway for some bloody silly reason that makes no sense). It might not be as good as "pukka" double glazing, but it would still be a lot better than nothing.

" the radiators out and replace with modern units that are more thermally efficient..."

A radiator is as near as makes no difference 100% thermally efficient as it is. It might convert a minute fraction of the input energy into sound, by creaking as it heats up and cools down, but I don't think that really matters. All it puts out is heat, and that all goes into the room.

Where thermal efficiency does come into it is the boiler that provides the heat, since that can potentially chuck a good deal of its input energy up the chimney instead of into the house. There, you might be able to make a difference. These days you can get boilers which condense the water vapour in the exhaust to recover the heat of vaporisation, and produce flue gas which is so cool that you can use ordinary PVC/ABS waste pipe for the flue - the same stuff (and the same size) that carries away your bath water. They reduce the waste heat up the chimney to 10% or less of the input energy. They are also usually smaller than what they are replacing. Installation doesn't involve any plumbing changes apart from a few bends and things in the last couple of feet of pipe to make the new connections meet up, and the plastic flue pipe can go up the inside of the existing flue. I can't see how that would involve any difficult permission stuff, and you might even be able to get a grant for it.


You are probably correct ...
But I left something unsaid, because I (foolishly, perhaps ) thought people here already knew it.
If you think "Westerners" are racially-bigoted, try the Han or the Japanese ...
Even now, a Japanese who has lived "abroad" for any length of time is regarded with suspicion & some simply won't ever permanently go "home" as they are now Jpanese GaiJin.
The amazing & wonderful Dame Mitsuko Ushida [ Start @ 3.20 ] is one such ...
The Han ... I don't know if they are better or worse, generally speaking - doesn't bother me, because I have a "Free Pass" - people who have met me will know what I'm referring to, as I get the "Honourable Ancestor" treatment, because of one of their cultural/Confucian peculiarities ...


I know this is outside of the discussion, but I ran into this time article. I thought I'd share

Basically, it says that 37 percent of millenials and Gen Z voted for Trump, the same portion that voted for Mitt Romney. Another thing it mentions is that Gen Z is far more libertarian than the millenial generation. One of the effects is that Trump is more popular with them than the millenial Generation is. This is counter-intuitive since this generation is more racially diverse.


Water is a funny molecule, it does all sorts of weird shit like expanding as it cools in solid-phase (ice) rather than contracting like nearly all other compounds do, hence icebergs which float in seawater. It's got the highest heat storage of any material I know of, 4200 J/kg/deg C (this was a figure driven into me in secondary school physics lessons and it's stuck with me for nearly fifty years...).

The problem is that to store a lot of heat requires a lot of storage[1] and most people like Charlie and myself who live in multi-storey flats don't have the space for a small swimming pool-sized container to provide enough heat storage to be useful. I have seen someone use their backyard swimming pool for just such a purpose during spring and autumn but he was a John Galt type with all sorts of self-sufficiency systems in his purpose-built million-dollar Maryland home, things like a hot-rock heatstore in his basement and thermal solar collectors in his back yard. Then again he was a military contractor working in Washington DC so he could afford to go Galt. Yes the double-standards of his outlook in life and his job did not escape me.

The pricetag for going Galt has fallen since I saw that setup back in the 1990s and folks today are rushing to spend lots of money on solar panels and powerwall batteries to stick it to the Man, yeah! forgetting the poor folks who can't splash out 30,000 bucks to provide themselves with home-grown electricity on demand and who rely on a grid used by rich people as well as poor ones to keep the price at the wall socket down.

[1]Rough numbers -- assume 10kW of heating to keep a flat like Charlie's warm over a cold-ish Edinburgh winter's night of 12 hours or so. That's about 430MJ. Assume a target temperature of 18 deg C, water storage temperature of 68 deg C so a 50C difference, or average of 25C as it cools down to ambient overnight. I make that out to be about 4 tonnes of water needed as a heat store. Good luck putting something of that mass and size in a third-storey flat.


"Sample problems:
1:can a self-driving car identify either black ice,
2: or water flowing over the roadway?
3: Does it notice, *over* the hood of the parked car, the zombie staring at their zombiephone, who's walking into the street without even looking?
4: how does it deal with a narrow road with *no* center or side lines?
1: It dosn't
2: It doesn't
3: Yes, it does - cameras / lidar / radar
4: Same as # 3 - but will work much better in towns, with parked cars.
A rural road with no edge-marks, sahding into a wood on one side, & on the other a gentle grass lope, shading into a field, mabe not so much
Like THIS perhaps? I drive this one regularly on the way to the "Mole Trap"


The Mole Trap
Given the rain we've had recently, I will probably be havong beers in there in the next month, havong been mushroom ( CEPS!, Bay Bolete! ) picking in the woods ...


Re: 'And this is easier than building a dome to cover a city ...'

Maybe, who knows?

Still, the idea of this combination of double-duty for such a structure appeals to me. Build it with moveable louvers and provide even more control over what parts of the planet gets reduced sunlight, when and for how long. The solar parasol doesn't have to built and assembled on Earth and sent directly into orbit. It could be manufactured in orbit starting with a proof-of-concept parasol radius of 500 meters or so. Over time, additional motors, vanes, etc. would be added. Then, once 3D printers are large enough to accommodate larger projects and more sophisticated so that they can use a wider assortment of materials as input, it might also be possible to recycle the ISS garbage into the structure. Then add a 'net' to pick up stray expired satellites and use them as feed for the 3D printer. This could be the beginning of a decent infrastructure for orbiting colonies/hotels.

Also - if going very large scale on the parasol, that is, beyond just powering the ISS, you could get some of the larger existing power corps involved since Earth-side collecting and distribution infrastructure would still be needed.


I'm told that Charlie has said:
"We are living in a time when Onion headlines are real. "

Ever come across The Rochdale Herald ?
Oh dear - very funny, even under today's conditons


Since you liked that - how about this news item:

“Your presence in the White House harms the United States domestically and abroad and threatens life on this planet,” wrote Kammen, whose term as an envoy was set to end next month. The first letter of each paragraph in his message forms an acrostic that spells out the word “impeach”.


@172: Silver can also be money. Pork belly futures are not: They're intrinsically dependent on their issuer's ability to deliver in future (look up "counterparty risk"). Tulip bulbs are perishable, art and gemstones are not divisible and not interchangeable.
Also, any money or credit is worth what your counterparty is willing to trade it for. However, here again the government cheats with Legal Tender laws: You legally have to take government credit as payment (with few exceptions).

@182: Which is exactly what government does: Cheating. Hint: Value of USD has been dropping dramatically since it was decoupled from gold and silver. Today gold costs around $1200 USD per ounce. When it was fixed to gold, it was $20 USD per ounce. British pound was originally exactly what it said: A 1 pound (454 gram) of Sterling (92.5% pure) silver. It isn't the gold gold or silver that has lost it's value. (Of course, there is a rich history of people and governments farking around with coinage, inability to understand that the value of gold and silver can fluctuate against each other, and so on...)

@189: Which do you trust more: The Current government or human desire for gold? Which has continued for last 4000+ years consistently? Which is more reliable? Which is less dependent of political pressures?


what do these populations know about each other?

A few years ago, when I was teaching in China, what the university prof I was seeing stuff with knew about Africans she'd learned from the students whom China had sponsored to study at Chinese universities, who were the only Africans she'd met. She wasn't enamoured: having groups of young men sneaking into the women's housing to steal underclothing and try to watch you in the showers wasn't really a good introduction. (Nor was getting groped.)

Whether that was a particularly patriarchal African culture or just young men being obnoxious idiots I never figured out, as she only knew them as "Africans".

But assuming that these students could well be the only Africans than many Chinese have met (or heard about) might be a decent first approximation. Just as the only Canadians they know as Dr. Norman Bethune and Da Shan (which makes being Canadian in China rather pleasant).


"Fridges would be designed with a layer of phase change material between the bit with the food and the insulator, so they'd hold their temperature for days and only run when the power is cheap. Also trivial to implement."

So trivial, in fact, that it often happens anyway just as a side-effect of the design - that thick layer of ice covering the evaporator coils :)

The problem with fridges - certainly in the UK - is crappy design. We have this bastard convention of the "standard kitchen unit" which means that nothing can ever be more than 600mm (I think) wide, and a similar constraint exists on depth. So in order to get a decent amount of food storage space in the inadequate volume, they end up with sod all insulation. Put three inches of fibreglass around them on all sides and it'd make a tremendous difference, but it wouldn't fit in a standard kitchen unit so it would be as acceptable as eating babies.

To make matters worse they put the compressor under the cold compartment so half its capacity goes on pumping out its own waste heat that's leaked in. (A fridge I had like that sprung a leak and lost all its refrigerant while I was in bed one night, leaving the compressor running continuously; when I got up in the morning and discovered this, the thing was hot inside.)

The curse of the standard kitchen unit also affects ovens. I am horrified anew every time I visit my parents when they're cooking something. An oven is supposed to keep heat in, but theirs is so appallingly bad at this that it is actually a fan heater: it has a fan that blows cooling air all round the outside of the hot compartment, to stop it setting fire to its surroundings. Because the air duct can be thinner than actual insulation would need to be, and chucking all its energy out into the kitchen as fast as possible and making the place sweltering hot doesn't matter as long as it fits in the standard kitchen unit. It is a quite revolting piece of design.

The standard kitchen unit is also a pointer to a pathway to reducing energy consumption on a much wider scale. It exists because people have this crazy obsession with destroying their entire kitchen every few years and replacing it with an identical installation at huge expense ("Oh, but it's new!" - "It's got a sink and a cooker and a fridge and some cupboards which is exactly what your old one had, what's the bleeding point?" - "Yes, but it's new!" - ffs.), so making everything all the same size so it fits together like Lego facilitates this process. When you consider that this irrational obsession applies not only to kitchens, but to everything from pens to railway trains, and also consider the amount of energy wasted producing things that last five years instead of fifty in concert with this obsession, it is extremely obvious that if people educated their kids better and taught them to value persistence over evanescence, both the planet and its inhabitants would be a lot better off.


Puhleeze ...

No self-respecting alpaca would have anything to do ElGrandeOrangGringo let alone allow itself to be draped over his head.


"Re: 'And this is easier than building a dome to cover a city ...'

Maybe, who knows?"

I suspect that while the ease of doing it is arguable either way, it is certainly more useful. The domed-city SF trope has always seemed kind of sub-optimal to me. It generally seems to arise out of the rest of the planet being essentially uninhabitable - due to climate, wildlife, warfare, space radiation or whatever - and the question of where all the food comes from is either ignored, or handwaved with something like interplanetary imports or some giant version of a long-distance spaceship's bio-recycling facility. I don't think it really works as a practical proposition for a population of billions.

How about building some kind of launcher on the Moon to throw the occasional skipload of moon dust into the Earth/Sun L1 point?


"Sample problems:
1:can a self-driving car identify either black ice,
2: or water flowing over the roadway?
1: It dosn't
2: It doesn't"

The first one may not, although in the case of ice the driving system should be aware of the temperature at various levels and will also be capable of responding better to a loss of traction. The second and subsequent self driving vehicles along that section of road with either ice or water will already know that there is a problem and react accordingly. Self driving cars will not be working in isolation.


I agree with your rough numbers, but see also your first paragraph - gasdive was citing materials with thermal capacities about an order of magnitude lower, so you need ten times the temperature change to get down to the same mass just of the storage material, never mind the containment, and you probably wouldn't want to just shove it in the cupboard under the stairs.

(Chap I was thinking of has 3 tons of water which is cooked up to 90-95 deg C.)

I agree that flats are a problem, but I was also thinking that with flats there is usually also the bigger problem of the fat cunt who thinks the place only exists to provide a free source of money and won't let the people who actually live there make a proper home of it, and sorting that out is probably more difficult.


There isn't physically enough Gold to form the basis of a currency, any more, actually.
Also, If I understand what your saying, your ag=rgument is circular ....

And: Which is less dependent of political pressures? And Gold-price/value is NOT dependant upon those pressures?
Pull the other one.


"Yes, but it's new!"
My gas-cooker was built in (approx) 1956.
OK, so I had to practically dismantle it & clean out congealed guk when I got it (free) but it still works very well ....


Hmm... I'd rank them in pretty much the opposite order :) All pattern recognition, but of greatly varying difficulty. Water and black ice can almost certainly be detected reliably by putting microphones in the hubs and analysing the change in the tyre noise as the coefficient of friction changes, also by accelerometers looking at the response of the vehicle to delta steering inputs (as a human does). For detection at a distance, image analysis can use an additional input that humans can't (but bees can): difference in polarisation of the reflection of light from wet vs. dry surfaces. Still doesn't pick out black ice as opposed to water, but then a human can't do that visually even when standing on the stuff.

(We can, of course, forget relying on communication from other cars. There might not necessarily be any, and even if there are something still has to detect it, and not by going in the ditch.)

Spotting the zombie, though - especially against a likely background of urban clutter, including other zombies and also live bipedal apes, doing all sorts of things - is a much more complex and error-prone bit of pattern matching on a much less well-defined/characterised set of inputs. Same for other urban-type hazards with minimal cues, like the pair of feet glimpsed under a vehicle, or the ball bouncing into view above one.

A related point that strikes me is that when they encounter a sheep on a country road, they are going to be behind that sheep all the way...


Re crappy kitchen design-you forgot to mention the shitty materials of construction used by kitchen builders. It is called chipboard or compressed fibre board and will swell badly when wet, not that the designers would expect water in a kitchen.


Re: '... throw the occasional skipload of moon dust into the Earth/Sun L1 point?'

Looked up Lagrange points and read that there's stuff at that particular point already (Cruithne). Very interesting esp. if you're into NEOs that might/might not destroy the planet. Also a good candidate for the-moving-a-largish-heading-your-way-space-object exercise in B-grade planetary disaster films.

Similarly -- every once in a while someone comments about moving the moon for whatever reason, let's try this instead with Cruithne which is only 5 km across. We've got a few years to figure this out, so let's do it right.

'... 2292 – in July of that year, Cruithne will approach Earth to about 12.5 million kilometres (0.084 AU; 7,800,000 mi).'

Also, we're still sending up satellites; however, their locations are pretty diffuse for various reasons. Would be interesting to know how much sun protection/shade they provide in total. Possibly similar to Saturn's rings in terms of impact on atmosphere and surface temp. (Maybe NASA/ESA astronomers have calculated this?)


Gold's a bit tricky. For awhile in grad school, while fiddling with SF and fantasy worlds, I could figure out the price of an object by converting the spot price in gold into dollars. In 1996 it was around ~$10/gram, and the value tracked pretty well. In 2006 it was ~$20/gram. After 2008, currency speculation made the price kind of go nuts for awhile, and I stopped paying attention, but I notice in 2016 that the price of gold is not $40/gram, so the doubling every decade thing stopped happening.

It's too bad, in a way, because it was a great cheat for figuring out how much something like a sword cost. If it was around $320 in the catalog in 1996, that meant it was worth about an ounce of gold. That was handy. Of course, swords still cost around $200-400, so I guess they're dropping in price relative to the price of gold.

Anyway, the price of gold is only of interest to gold bugs, because these days, a big strike would cause inflation if currency was gold or silver-backed. The better proposals (IMHO) are to link the value of currency to the basic cost of a day's rations for the average worker. That was actually the basis for things like the denarius and the talent back in the day.

Another thing is that it doesn't matter if the gold is sitting in a temple or Fort Knox, because you can easily give credit against it. If everybody knows you've got a ton of silver tied up in temple statuary, you can issue credits against that ton of silver. So long as you don't cheat and issue more than you have, those credits can circulate around locally and be traded to buy stuff. This (per Graeber's Debt) is how economies worked before coinage came along around 600 BCE ish. Metal coinage first probably appeared when people like Alexander started raiding the temples, melting down the silver, and giving it to their soldiers to spend. See, the thing about credit is that, without central guarantors, it works best when everybody knows everybody else, and no one is a "person of no account." Soldiers are outsiders, so no one's willing to let them run up a tab until harvest time--they might leave the next day. Metal coinage is a way out of the situation, because it's an anonymous transfer of something held to be of value. If the local military leader collects taxes only in the coins that he's been issuing, then coinage rapidly replaces credit.

I'd also point out that it's perfectly possible, in a post-collapse kind of situation, to create local economies where people who trust each other to run up tabs and accounts against each other. So long as they can repay their debts as needed, it's fine. Indeed, Graeber sees this kind of mutual indebtedness as one way people can knit themselves together into a community, where everybody owes something to other people, and it's in everybody's interest to help each other both by paying off old debts and by taking on new ones, so that relationships continue to benefit each other.


I recognize your love of precious metals, but as has been stated elsewhere, gold and silver are a fiat currency.

People have used basically any commodity (not just gold and silver, but copper, salt, peppercorns, tobacco, cigarettes, etc) as money. In Canada, we also used playing cards for a time.


I'd also point out that it's perfectly possible, in a post-collapse kind of situation, to create local economies where people who trust each other to run up tabs and accounts against each other.

Not just post-collapse. Happened in Ireland during one (or more) of the bank strikes.


I stumbled across this criticism of cryptocurrencies today, which I thought I'd share since this has been a past opic of interest here: Cryptocurrencies Aren’t Currencies. They Aren’t Stocks, Either
.. funnily, since I found this the topic here also turned towards what is and isn't money.

regarding trouser legs: Given that in the US, hatecrime rose after Trumps win, and in the UK after Brexit, while the great turnout against a racist rally in Boston lead to white suprematists cancelling similar rallies ... I call bullshit on the thesis that with prez Clinton the US would have a ()bigger string of reight-wing terrorism ()somewhere upthread. These typoes don't thrive on confrontation, they thrive on the feeling of executing the "will of the people". Authoritarians. So "the people" need to show them that they are not wanted, not imply consent by silence. I think by and large, I agree with Charlie in the OP re. the what would have been.

Watching what happens in the UK & the US, I seriously wonder where the German government is similarly incompetent and dysfunctional, and why I don' see it ...


I'd be leery of a sealed container with a lot of water at 90-95 deg C as that's a bit too close to boiling for my liking and if there's a spill people's skin is going to be at risk. I used 65 deg C in my own example as that's the usual temperature a hot water tank works at and there's already a lot of hardware out there made to work reliably for decades at that temperature.

As for flats, not all of them are rented out. (My landlord who lives in this flat is not a "fat cunt" TYVM). The big problem with flats is that they share the roof which is the Eldorado for solar-panel Galtists but only in cases where they are the singular owner and beneficiary of the electricity the Chinese solar panels on said roof generate. In my case any roof-panel-generated electricity would have to be shared between four flats and a ground-floor shop.

As an aside I was astonished to find out the Chinese only make about 50GW of solar panels each year -- that's 50GW dataplate so maybe 8GW annual production of electricity added each year worldwide. I thought, given the enthusiasm for solar power the production levels were a lot higher than that. There are rumours that the Chinese government might stop subsidising the panel-making industry to some extent which will have consequences in price rises and output levels.


Interesting take on this was from back in the 1950s (per Raven Rock which is a really nice account of how the US government tried/tries to prepare for nuclear war): there was a brief push to protect all the US cities by rebuilding them underground, basically making the US into a bunker nation. You can see how well that went over, but I suspect there's some 1950s SF floating around that played with this notion.

Domes are (I think?) kind of a Buckminster Fuller deal. They make sense, until you start thinking about things like heat gain maintenance, and failure modes (like a geodesic dome tending to leak at the joins between the panes). Still, there are, erm, cottage industries building both underground bunkers (bunkers and trolls!) and geodesic dome houses, so take your pick of which you want to survive the apocalypse in. Personally, I'd go for an arcology myself, but whichever.


"gasdive was citing materials with thermal capacities about an order of magnitude lower"

No, not actually. Water has about 4.2 J/g per degree change. So if you take the absolute maximum available, it would be from 100C to 0C (assuming that you don't want to freeze the cat). So that's about 420 J/g of available heat capacity. In reality it would be less than that because pulling the storage heat temperature down to 0C isn't really practical as you probably would freeze the cat. As previously noted delta T would be about 60 degrees or 252 J/g

To go from 802C to 800C table salt gives up 520 J/g. However it's not done there. You could cool it down to say 150C. So that's a temperature delta of 650C. At a heat capacity of a bit over 0.8 J/g/C, that's another 520 J/g of available heat.

So the heat capacity per gram of a molten salt heat store is over 1000 J/g, well more than double that of hot water, more like 4 times.

That's by weight. Since its specific gravity is about 1.5 it would take up much less space. Factor in also that it doesn't expand by 10% when frozen, and you've made up for the extra insulation thickness and the leak containment pan.

Not that it really matters. If you live in a sparsely populated area then the heat store can be outside your house. If you live in a densely populated area and have no 'outside' it would be a district heating supply. You'd only need it inside your house if you want to live in a dense area and you want to live off grid in a place where it's dark all winter. (ie you're an idiot with money to burn). Hiding it under the stairs would be very very much an edge case.

Note also that as a district heating supply, 800 degree salt is plenty hot enough to run either a steam or gas turbine. The waste heat can still heat the houses all around, and the turbine can generate power for lighting etc during the time the grid is down. You end up with a battery that's not terribly efficient as a battery (about 30%) but which is 100% efficient as a heat store and which is (at scale) very cheap.

But as I've said many times, and which Paws4 has more than amply demonstrated, this will not happen. An attempt to keep the power on for 8 hours a day will not be seen as an attempt to keep the power on, but rather as a plot to turn the power off for 16 hours a day. The *exact* opposite of what's happening. The power will be held on for 24 hours a day until the system collapses and then there will be *No Heat* *No Light* *No Water* *No Imported Food*.


Mark Schaffer wondered: "What discipline are you refereeing for?"

First, I'm not "refereeing". I'm doing the technical/scientific editing required to get the papers ready for peer review. I have to not only point out the logical flaws with an argument; I have to help the authors find ways to fix them.

Most of the economists I've worked with are involved in resource extraction (e.g., forestry, energy industry). You can imagine why they do their best to avoid a full cost accounting: it would make many of their projects nonstarters. The hot topic example these days is fracking: highly economical so long as you don't have to repair any of the environmental damage you're doing and can shift those costs onto the general public.

Mark: "All modellers take shortcuts - you can't model everything at once - and criticising economic model builders for what they put in/leave out/simplify is legit."

The problem arises when the simplifications mean that the model no longer makes sense in the real world. For example, doing a cost/benefit analysis of fracking without including remediation costs. The whole notion of homo economicus was always nuts; it's great to see that it's slowly being abandoned.

Mark: "But you were criticising the economics discipline as a whole for not acknowledging the issue, which is clearly wrong. Not practising what we preach as much as we should would be a more valid criticism and at least worthy of debate, but it isn't what you claimed."

Yeah, I kinda overstated my case. As you note, "practice what you preach" is the real message I should have conveyed.

Mark: "Also, your rant blamed economists for enabling businesses to avoid internalizing externalities, but as gordycoale pointed out much more succinctly than I did, you're not going to find much in the way of actual evidence for this. Businesses don't need economists to be able to ignore something (social costs of pollution) that doesn't show up in the company accounts to begin with."

It's certainly true that businesses don't need an excuse. My point, unclearly conveyed, was that governments tend to hire economists to shape policies that make it easier for businesses to get away with such behavior. I'm thinking of things like Reaganomics" that distort entire economies in service of an ideology rather than sound analysis. While it's true that I can't blame the whole discipline of economics for failing to police all of its members, bad economics was at the root of the American savings and loan crisis and the 2008 bank failure. Aren't economists (perhaps masquerading as MBAs) up to their armpits in these kinds of problems?


"I was astonished to find out the Chinese only make about 50GW of solar panels each year -- that's 50GW dataplate so maybe 8GW annual production of electricity added each year worldwide."

So only 3 Hinkley Point C reactors per year compared to the UK's production of 0.05 Hinkley Point C reactors per year...

Oh and growing by about 50% per year. If that trend continues as it has for the last 25 years, for the next 5 years, that's 22 HPC/y. If it continues for 10 years it's 170 HPC/y. If it continues for as long as the projected construction time of HPC, 20 years (much more doubtful, but not physically impossible), then it's 10 000 HPC equivalents per year. And China isn't even the only solar panel maker with about 60% of the market share.


Oh, I see... unit confusion. I thought you were quoting heat capacities for a phase transition, and I didn't bother to check the figures against published tables.

Under the stairs, or somewhere equivalent, though, very much is where it would have to go round here. You wouldn't want it outside; you'd want it inside so the heat that leaked through the insulation wasn't wasted but went into the house. (There is also planning bollocks about how far away from your house the shed would have to be at minimum, which would probably make it worse but I'm not sure of the details.) And district heating has never been successful here; there have been a few instances of it over the decades, but I don't think any of them are still going. I think they mostly only managed to happen at all due to some kind of planning anomaly allowing the plant that provided the waste heat to be usefully close to the residential area in the first place, but I also think they were not popular with the people who had to use them - I don't know why - and they gradually installed conventional heating systems of their own, so when the plant eventually refurbished its systems it went back to heating the sky or a river as per normal and nobody cared.

That's by the by, though, because there are other reasons why it would never happen here - not because it would be seen as a plot to turn the power off 16 hours a day (although it certainly would be seen as that), but simply that it'd never get that far in the first place because it's a solution that doesn't match the problem. It might be useful in places where all or most of the energy supply turns itself off for 16 hours a day, because the sun isn't in the right place, but wherever Britain (or anywhere at similar/higher latitude) gets its energy from in future, it is not going to be principally from solar power. Wind, waves, tides have their non-constancy problems but they are either chaotic or continuously changing phase relative to demand, so the storage requirements are more diffuse; nuclear wants to be constant very much. And if you are still using fossil fuels, again it's more efficient to try and run them on a steady load than a wildly-varying one.


Pressure relief is no more onerous a requirement than for a conventional system - it's the size of the boiler, not the tank, that determines the capacity required for the relief (mostly) (it doesn't have to dump all the energy in the tank, it just has to bleed energy faster than the boiler can put it in). People these days seem to have a collective hard-on for unvented heating systems running at 1-2 bar with a small accumulator to allow for expansion and a boggo spring-loaded safety valve for a relief; I think it's a silly idea that introduces extra potential failure modes with no noticeable counterbalancing advantage, but it doesn't in practice seem to be particularly prone to going pop. And of course it doesn't have to be "sealed" at all, but can have an ordinary expansion pipe and header tank setup.

Re temperature, the system I was citing is used for hot water rather than space heating, so the heat storage tank has to stay hotter than you want the hot water rather than just hotter than you want the room. Also of course he wants to maximise the capacity; the reason for using a heat-storage system is to mitigate the hassle of chucking wood into the boiler instead of using a pumpable fuel, and only have to do it twice a week instead of all the time.


Not only 1950s SF, but my own sole published SF! (Though only in the school magazine, so it doesn't count really. And without asking me if they could use it. And it was complete dogshit and I think they only put it in to try and buck me up, which didn't work because I thought the same at the time.)

Domes - I rather agree - those two disadvantages were about the first to come into my head too. Round here (well, ish) the done thing seems to be to burrow into a sandstone cliff, which seems a much better idea if you can find a decent site.


I've also got my doubts about this.

I've posted here previously with links to manufacturers of double glazed windows intended to go into listed building.

It appears from this UK website that you can even get vacuum insulated glass panes specifically intended to go in conservation areas.

"Our revolutionary Pilkington Spacia™ vacuum glazing technology provides unrivaled thermal performance in an ultra-thin unit that fits seamlessly into traditional and conservation properties. With this innovative unit you can retain the aesthetics by using the original frames." Emphasis theirs not mine.

It's particularly odd when you consider the advice from Historic England (I know Scotland isn't England) with regard to windows in conservation areas "To further reduce energy losses through windows and match the performance of new windows, you may consider secondary glazing."


From the Edinburgh council with regard to *listed* buildings.

"Secondary glazing is likely to require listed building consent where it will impact on architectural detail or affect the external appearance of the building.
Replacement windows which do not result in a material change to the
appearance will not normally require planning permission." So if you've got plain glass panes (not blown glass), you can replace them with vacuum glass panes without asking first but you need to ask before you fit double glazing.

and with regard to unlisted buildings in a conservation area:

"Planning permission will not be required where replacement or altered windows and doors meet the following requirements....Appropriate timber sealed unit double glazing will normally be considered acceptable."

I continue to be amazed that a discussion of avoiding global collapse of civilisation always ends in a discussion of Charlie's windows, but that seems to be how the world works and there's no way to avoid the looming disaster unless we address his windows first. Perhaps this will solve that problem and we can move on to saving the world?


Edinburgh windows in old buildings are interesting. Sash windows, designed so that each section can be transferred to weight bearing hinges, which swing inward .. so that the windows could be cleaned from inside the flat without scaffolding in the many decades before power washers.
Then the better flats have retained internal wooden shutters; these act as effective draught excluders and single pane glass insulation. The UK has a legacy of cheap nasty hideous double glazing; the city fathers haven't worked out how to permit very expensive new suitable glazing while continuing to deter the awful stuff.
The grandest places add heavy light blocking curtains, for when you want to sleep past 2.00am in summer time.


Here is the view from the back of Queen St onto Hill Street ... not the most challenging of windows scapes .. those are in the Old Town.


"Wind, waves, tides have their non-constancy problems but they are either chaotic or continuously changing phase relative to demand"

True, more than true, but hardening the against interruption of supply is still useful. Since we have to decarbonise, and we know how to do everything we currently use fossil fuels for with electricity (bar aviation) and we know how to decarbonise electricity supply, it follows that we're going to have to do everything with electricity. (I'm talking about he world, not the New Town).

During the transition we're going to experience some failures of supply. Hell we get them now, but now we don't freeze without electricity. (generally) Setting up houses so that the occupants live through a blackout seems like a good idea. Well to me anyway.

As for the 'under the stairs', googling 'cupboard under the stairs dimensions' resulted in this:

So that's 1900mm high. Take about half that and stick it in the corner, so 1000 high. 800 wide, 800 deep. Given 100mm of insulation in every dimension, that makes a tank 600 by 600 by 800. (a bit bigger than a dishwasher, but smaller than a fridge). Given a spun silica insulator you're looking at about 12 watts of heat leak (so it could be outside, but whatever). The volume is 288 litres and it will hold 432 kg of salt. There's some space for heating elements and plumbing, but not a lot. At 1000 J/g, and 432 000 grams of salt, you've got 432 MJ under the stairs. So 120 kWh of heat. Enough to average 7 kW of heating for 16 hours. By an interesting co-incidence, this is exactly the same amount of heat that Nojay said wouldn't fit in his 3rd floor flat.


The 'Carter's second term leg' started with one or two more helicopters' being assigned to EAGLE CLAW.

Col. Charles Beckwith created Delta Force and planned the EAGLE CLAW mission before leading it himself. I remember reading in his book "Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military's Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit" that he did receive carte blanche from the Carter Administration.

He said he started his planing with the number of the helicopters he needed to complete the mission and added 50% more to his request. He could have had 200% of the required helicopters if he'd asked for them, but he didn't anticipate such a high rate of attrition.


I also recently had a revelation about YA fiction, this one aimed at emo kids. The hero is a half-elf/half-orc, who lives with his elvish parent, and nobody understands him... (or her.)*

BTW, I picked up Cadillac Desert when I was at Powell's after Eclipse Viewing, and I'm 10-12 pages in right now.

* BTW, I have no intention of attempting to write this drek; if anyone is feeling commercial grab the concept and go for it.


1:can a self-driving car identify either black ice,
2: or water flowing over the roadway?

The question is, in my opinion, can it do that better than humans do? I have had my driving license for about a quarter-century, and for various reasons, mostly because I don't drive that much, I'm not very certain I can identify black ice or even water on the road that accurately. The self-driving car should be as good or better, not perfect.

Obviously I drive carefully when I realize that there's risk of either, but for example any kind of ice under a bit of snow is quite difficult to identify while driving, and when that snow is everywhere on the road, it's not that productive to drive thinking ice could be everywhere there. (Mainly, it's very slow.) The automatic car can use the same information on the driving conditions as I can and in principle information from the cars which have driven in the same place earlier.

Driving more modern cars, I'm happy that they have anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Those systems do (mostly) a much better job in handling slippery surfaces than I do manually.


As has been pointed out repeatedly, I live in a paradise with no snow and constant perfect temperature, however when I've driven in places that have black ice, my layman's observation, based on the number of cars I saw sticking out of hedges, is that human drivers aren't much chop at picking it.


The better proposals (IMHO) are to link the value of currency to the basic cost of a day's rations for the average worker. That was actually the basis for things like the denarius and the talent back in the day.

See also the Japanese koku, 1 man/year of rice.


We do get snow and ice practically every winter (if only for a couple of weeks on a bad one), but still each year the temperatures fall below freezing, for some days the roads are a mess. The expression here is "winter surprised the drivers".

Also, there are too many people who change to the winter tyres only after it's needed. Of course especially studded tyres are a pain when there is no snow, but I loathe driving with summer tyres when there's even a possibility of slippery roads. Summer tyres are better when the road is wet, though.


Can I add my voice to Antiquercus's plea? Please keep blogging, Charlie: where else am I going to get interesting ideas to chew on? The Scott Alexanders of this world have their uses but they are a bit too... I don't know... dogmatically rational, perhaps.


With regard to District Heating, you might want to follow the links on this page,
I realise that the Glorious Socialist City of Leicester may not be on everyone.s radar, but we do do things here.


Tides, in Britain, should be able to supply a constant, large baseload power, given the "positioning" of high & low tides at any point around our large coastline.
Very large " tidal-power-pools" ( Or barrages if the latter are environmentally acceptable - a moot point ) should supply power 24/7/365, because, at any time, only one of them would be at the equivalent of slack water.
HERE is an example
Problem: This requires long-term thinking & stategig planning, as well as getting it right & most importantly, not screwing around with it, once you've decided what to do .....
[ That last is one of the principal causes of the Edinburgh-tram-fiaso, IIRC - the politicians could/would not leave well alone.
Contrariwise, "Crossrail" in London has ruthlessly refused to entertain any such buggering around.


That's mostly because they are (usually) cocky arrogant & ignorant, in that order ...
More than once, in winter conditions, I've seen BMW's &/or Mercedes "parked" in the ditch in Epping Forest, as a I bumble past in the L-R, usually much more slowly & often in low-ratio gear-set if the conditons are obviously dodgy.
You have to remember that even an L-R can slide, especially on packed ice under snow, & that when over 2 tonnes starts to slide, you soon learn caution, even if you weren't before (!)


I used studded tyres for the first time in Norway a couple of years ago. They were magic on packed snow. I could easily drive on surfaces I couldn't walk on.

I don't think they are legal in the UK though.


Ah, of course, I forgot the absence of double glazing. As a kid, I remember no-one had it, and jack frost patterns were a familiar morning thing in Bramley, but now we just assume everyone has white uPVC DG units. How quickly we forget.


I don't see the relevance to my post? I was talking about how easily a UK police pipe band is identified from any other (not very unless you can read the bass drum skin).


Oh yes, and just based on knowing that Charlie lives in a New Town tenement, I already know that the structure is grey sandstone. I have a vague memory of him reporting that the external walls are 2 feet thick!


You tend to see more BM's and Merc's in the ditch in winter due to their big fat low profile tyres which are dreadful in the snow, ice and even mere frost. A friend of mine who works for BMW had an M3 for a while which he could barely get back on his drive in winter.

The drive was on the tiniest upward incline you can imagine, and he was required to approach it from right angles from almost a standing start due to the width of his road and obstacles like walls, other cars and street furniture.

Used to be hilarious watching this uber performance car not making it up the drive, and this was with an amateur racing driver at the wheel.


Charlie's building is also UK Historic Buildings listed. Tl;dr of the relevant laws is "it is illegal to change the internal or external fabric, including windows, heating system (and in at least some cases doors and/or decor) without specific (and expensive) written authorisation to do so".

I can't remember the specific street address if I ever knew it, but I know of one ~1900 Listed building in a conservation zone (not in Edinburgh, not UNESCO WHS) that must have faux leaded uPVC framed windows because they're what it has on its Listing schedule. Yes they are totally inappropriate to the building, but the law requires them.


Para the last - As I pointed out, you'd be condemning significant numbers of people to "no light and no way of cooking for 16 hours a day" with your usual "one size fits all" solutions.


Para the last:-

Or you could stop posting "one size fits all and this will work in SoCal so it will work everywhere" solutions?


Oh yes: Some years ago I worked in Kent for a few months Autumn/Winter. One day it snowed, and it was very satisfying to drive my FWD hatchback up hill past a "stuck" Range Rover.


For the avoidance of doubt, Charlie lives fairly close to here ... the architecture should tell you all you need to know about the underlying structure of the buildings.
Aerial view of the same junction - look at how closeknit everything is? NOT your US, or even "Modern English" suburban sprawl, is it?


Cheers; the sandstone is more yellow than I'd remembered, but I don't think the colour of the stone affects its K value significantly.


Studded ones are good on ice and snow. However, where I usually drive (Southern Finland) there are not that many days when they would be needed, and they damage the road surfaces quite much. Our paved roads are mostly asphalt, and often have grooves because of the studded tyres. If I had a car, I wouldn't use them here.

More North they are useful, though. More snow and ice and less traffic.


Surely it would not be illegal to, say, build an additional frame that sits on the inside of the window aperture - not screwed to the wall or anything, but just held in place by the friction of the sealing strip round the edges

Yes, technically that's illegal; you're not supposed to make changes to the structure other than performa maintenance using as-near-as-you-can-get to the original construction materials.

Of course, they'd have to catch you ...

(On my to-do list when cash flow permits is getting my current inefficient boiler replaced by one of the high efficiency ones you mention. It's at the troublesome point where it'll pay for itself in 5-7 years but I'm unsure I'll still be living here that long, and also it costs me the use of the kitchen for a week while the old one's being extracted and the new one's going in.)


Yeah. This was up around Tromsø in winter, and in the few areas that weren't covered in snow the road surface was knackered.


Where would you move to - approximately?
I would have thought that livng in The New Town was almost ideal, apart from the lack of personal green-space.


The Zimbabwean dollar hasn't existed since 2009, when the entire country went over to using the US dollar:

Do try to keep up, there's a good chap.


Our key cognitive barrier is that Gasdive lives in Australia (and I believe is a local there).

British homes are on average a third the size of equivalent Australian dwellings; indeed, our homes are on average smaller than Japanese dwellings, while being as expensive as the suburbs of Tokyo.

This makes a bunch of solutions that apply where land is cheap, houses are large and do not share rooftops with other dwellings, and there's a lot of sunlight, impractical.


Domes are (I think?) kind of a Buckminster Fuller deal. They make sense, until you start thinking about things like heat gain maintenance, and failure modes

You know about Fuller's later designs for city domes, relying on tensegrity structures and very thin films (not glass!) to keep them light and enclose the maximum volume possible? His figures suggested that, above 1km diameter and using light materials already available in the 1960s the internal air volume heated by greenhouse effects — of only 1-2 degrees, so within spitting distance of urban "heat island" effects — would be sufficient to counteract the entire weight of the dome, effectively making it a warm-air lifted dirigible. Leakage in such a dome isn't a defect, it's a feature: it allows the dome to shed lift if it risks rising too high above the ground it's covering.

But given what we now know about tetraethyl lead in petrol, it's probably a really good thing that Fuller's proposal to put a dome over Manhattan never went anywhere ...!


Those sealed cellular glazing units are only legal for Grade II and lower listed properties. Grade I is seriously restricted (you can in theory pull time in prison for fucking up a Grade I listed building).


and also it costs me the use of the kitchen for a week while the old one's being extracted and the new one's going in

After 16 years in the house (from new build), it was recently time to replace our gas boiler - we had it go *phut* on New Year's Eve, and (rather than pay double or triple for holiday callout) eventually spent a week in "reversionary modes" while the plumber arrived on the next business day, ordered the part, received the part, fitted the part... Fortunately, we still had an electrical heating element in our hot water tank (old gravity-fed design), some electrical convection heaters, and a GBFO propane space heater in the garage, but our sons got to try the whole "life before central heating" thing with lots of layers and extra blankets. It's one reason why I laugh at gasdive's naivete - I grew up in a poor-heating environment.

So, having decided on a nice Worcester-Bosch condensing boiler as an in-situ replacement, the engineer turned up to survey the job, reassured us that the sink next to the boiler would do for the condensate, then scared us with the thought that we might have to replace the existing 15mm? gas supply pipe with a 22mm? gas supply pipe to meet the manufacturer's guidelines. Cue discussion about running a pipe across the diagonal of a kitchen that has a solid concrete floor. He asked his mate, they decided they'd test it on installation...

Whole thing done in a day, by one man. We left in the morning, came back in the evening to find a working boiler, bit of finishing off the next morning, no need for pipe replacement. Yay.


I continue to be amazed that a discussion of avoiding global collapse of civilisation always ends in a discussion of Charlie's windows


Take is as an illustration of the thesis that for any general solution to the world's woes, there are always special cases where the solution will prove to be expensive, inapplicable, exacerbate the problem, or fall foul of red tape such that major legislation is required to permit it.

This is why, while we may acknowledge the existence of global problems (old age as a chronic degenerative condition, climate change, the heat death of the universe, etc) there's seldom any prospect of a simple "quick fix" — if there was a universal solution, we'd be able to reach a consensus and apply it!

This is also why most of our big problems are best tackled by nibbling away at them from a variety of corners. So for example in some circumstances it makes sense to build out nuclear reactors, in others it's a good idea to erect wind turbines, and in yet more the answer is obviously solar rooftop and reduced domestic energy consumption at night.

See also the parable of the blind men and the elephant.


Morningside! If you can face hipsters and sprinting gentrification, it's got it all - more housing that doesn't require you to climb three flights of (high-ceiling) stairs, lower levels of Listed Buildings, lots of bus services, slightly shallower hills, slightly more parking, rather more green space. And slightly fewer aspiring performers handing out leaflets during the Festival.

Merchiston! Live in the Student Quarter, huge green spaces, access to favoured pubs, Hacklab, and a truly awesome fishmonger...

There may, as ever, be downsides. You really don't want to know about house prices in Edinburgh.


Greg Tingey @ 187: The "dual citizenship" stuff is a hangover from the mindset which gave us the White Australia Policy until about 1973. Our founding fathers were very worried about the idea of someone emigrating from say China, or India, or indeed anywhere other than Great Britain, and having a potential allegiance to a "foreign power" during a time of war or similar. Unfortunately, altering the Australian constitution takes a lot of work - there have been about 44 referendums since Federation, and only 8 of these passed (the last one to pass was the one which patched the constitutional loophole which caused the Whitlam Dismissal, and marks the *only* mention of political parties anywhere in the Constitution, despite the wretched things being a fundamental part of the way our political system runs).

This article from the ABC Constitution citizenship catastrophe: What on Earth is going on in our Parliament? covers it all pretty clearly.

At this stage, about the only members of parliament we can be reasonably sure *aren't* actually affected by all of this are Ken Wyatt (member for Hasluck, Liberal); Linda Burney (member for Barton, ALP); Senator Patrick Dodson (Western Australia); and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy (Northern Territory). This is because they're all acknowledged to be indigenous, and thus probably have a better claim to Australian citizenship than most.


Mirror Field @ 203: You are Mavolio Bent, and I claim my 5 Ankh-Morpork dollars. I'll take it in golems, thanks.


I saw it in Nashville. Awesome. My write-up of the experience is here:



I doubt the house-prices in Duedin are as mad as London's ...
The advnatage of Morningside is the twee dialect spoken there ....
And, of course at least two excellent pubs, one of which used to have Siamese cats ....
[ Bennetts / Canny Man / Golden Rule & one or two others ....


I doubt the house-prices in Duedin are as mad as London's ..

Greg, I know the joke you're trying to make, but even without the typo, there is actually a place called "Dunedin" in New Zealand. Saying "Auld Reekie" would work though.

Oh and the serious point is probably more correct since "Larndarn house prices are mad" is on a similar scale of mad to "a tomato is a bowsting girder bridge" is on a scale of wrong!


See also the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

I've always liked Pete Seeger's version of that story. The usual beginning, until you get to the last wise man:

"Your majesty, you'll know I'm right. This elephant is like a rope hanging down from the heavens. You pull on it, and the heavens open up with waste."


Likewise (well, not Nashville, but drove a ridiculous number of hours to see it. Clear skies, near center line of totality.). I've see several references now to Anne Dillard's classic essay:
Total Eclipse and don't even aspire to top her writing (overwrought, if that's the right word, that it is). Worth a read. or)
To me, the most heartening/awesome aspect was seeing the very large numbers of people obviously driving to see a total solar eclipse (and driving back home, sigh). The event itself, well, xkcd: "a thing going in front of another thing" ... "a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the sun go dark"
And watch/listen-to/feel the excited people around.


Re: '... to avoid the looming disaster unless we address his windows first.'

Hear, hear! Charlie absolutely needs to address this in his Laundry series: the fate of the universe vs. historically accurate but worse-than-useless-in-the-modern-climate window sashes. Which will the Historical Committee vote to save?

Even the Louvre has had major structural and functional updates specifically to help ensure the safety of the art. Seriously - Edinburgh's historical committee needs to think some more about what they're preserving. High damp, rapid temp change increases the rate of wood and plaster decay ... so I've been told.

'Conservation and storage areas now in new underground homes, will be converted for still more exhibition space. Rooms vacated to stock the Richelieu wing will be refurbished. Lighting will be improved in the older parts of the museum. Facades will be cleaned. Two courtyards in the Denon wing on the south side of the complex will be prepared for public use. Air conditioning is to be installed throughout, an especially important step for the Denon wing's Grande Galerie, home of the "Mona Lisa," which can become insufferably hot in the summer.'


Reasonably certain yes. There's the possibility that the Republicans would have acted entirely different without a black man in the White House, but I'm not sold on that. Yes, racism was a big part of their schtick in dealing with Obama, but they were really invested in that whole austerity during a depression nonsense. I think McCain would have been very much trapped in the standard conservative economic thinking of the times. Austerity good and Keynesian relief bad.


Re: Austerity measures (China)

China imposed some austerity measures which seemed to work at curtailing some of the worst excesses among the civil service. Lessons learned: (a) the choice of target of your country's austerity measures can improve your political success; and (b) despite historical* preference the optimal natural target of such measures can be any class in any sector.

*Learn from history, don't be enslaved by history - there's a difference.


And then the hurricane hits New York's tethered-dirigible dome, and...


He doesn't look teetotal, and he doesn't Tweet teetotal, but I believe everything you tell me.

There are other ways to damage your brain and/or your soul besides excessive consumption of alcohol.


The better proposals (IMHO) are to link the value of currency to the basic cost of a day's rations for the average worker. That was actually the basis for things like the denarius and the talent back in the day.

See also the Japanese koku, 1 man/year of rice.

I will point out that basing a currency on the cost of keeping people alive/infrastructure running has a problem: paying off debts.

The "nice" thing about inflation is that it means that a debt taken today for a fixed amount of cash will be worth a bit less tomorrow, due to inflation. That's one reason why it's seen as okay to take on debt and pay it back. Of course, most institutions charge interest on debts, but that can be okay if the amount of money made by a purchase now more than pays back the cost of the debt plus interest in the future.

And, of course, there were good reasons the Bible condemned this as usury.

There's a fundamental problem with taking on this kind of debt, as they realized back in the Bronze Age. Say a farmer borrows money to pay for seed, or to get through a spell of bad luck. This is fairly normal, and under normal conditions it works. Unfortunately, there are two kinds of luck: one is disaster, and the other one is simple randomness. Basically, if people are borrowing and lending to one another, over time, some, by luck if nothing else, will be on the winning end, having more and more to lend, and less and less to owe. Similarly, some will be on the losing end, having to borrow more and more to get by. You can get this kind of problem through a simple random walk: basically, you're flipping coins, and a few people get all heads, while a few people get all tails. The problem is, the people that get all heads get most of the money, own most of the other's debts, and become quite powerful, while the all-tails losers get stuck having to sell their daughters to brothels (or similar), send their sons to joint he military, and similar, to pay off the ruinous debts.

The point is that you get to this situation naturally: bad luck and a few disasters will put a lot of people in debt to a few. This is a socially unstable situation, and we're in it now.

A bronze age and early iron age solution to this was the jubilee. Every time the king of a local city-state (and I tend to think of these people as more bosses of the local Family rather than the god kings they mythologized themselves as), anyway, every time the king had a problem to distract his people from--say, they were about to overthrow him and institute democracy--he'd declare a jubilee, wipe out all the debts, and let the game start all over again. This is a really great idea because it cancels out the bad luck, not to mention the effects of disasters and shady loan practices. Certainly some of the rich and powerful would become rich and powerful again (there's skill involved, after all), but those who got to either the top or the bottom purely by luck get to start in the middle once again and see if life takes them in a different direction this time.

So anyway, if you want to think about why the Bible and Koran denounce usury, it was to try to squelch problems like the one above. Obviously it doesn't work perfectly (throwing a bit of side-eye at the House of Saud and the Vatican), but the American system works even worse.

This isn't to say we shouldn't take on debts or lend money and resources. Far from it. It's simply to say that there's some good in the notion of periodically blowing up the financial system, making the debts disappear, and starting everyone over closer to the middle.


Heteromeles noted: "every time the king had a problem to distract his people from--say, they were about to overthrow him and institute democracy--he'd declare a jubilee, wipe out all the debts, and let the game start all over again."

This custom dates back at least as far as the ancient Jews, for whom the custom of Shemittah involved forgiveness of all debts every 7 years. (Though I'm not sure whether the concept was ever extended beyond fellow Jews.) It's an interesting mechanism for social stability, and undoubtedly led to some very interesting machinations to arrange debt timing.


Re: China-Africa precious metals, commodities, etc.

Chinese researchers have developed a new type of steel using a new process that is 10% manganese. Largest deposits of manganese --- Africa. FYI: Range for manganese in steel production is 1.2% to 12.0% as per Wikipedia. No idea what the relative shares of total worldwide steel production are for each the various manganese proportions, that is, whether this new formulation will increase or decrease total world demand for manganese. (My guess - increase.)

'In addition to offering both more strength and ductility, the steel is also cheaper to make than other steels that are used in critical applications such as airplanes and rockets—the team claims that it can be made for just a fifth the cost of other more traditional methods. They also note that the process they developed offers the same desirable characteristics of other alloys.'

Read more at:

Such steel could make a huge impact on manufacturing, architecture, mining/environment/climate change, stock markets, weapons, law suits, corporate espionage, political turmoil, etc. Something to keep an eye on.


We will not be seeing molten slat systems for home use. Ever.
I am working through the engineering for a lab scale molten salt system. It is serious industrial kit, and would be about as attractive as having a home Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesizer.
Some issues:
-Any leak means instant home fire as the salt is hot enough to ignite any combustible materials.
-Water spray on the salt means steam explosion and flying salt that can start fires wherever it touches.
-Contact with people means 3rd degree burns or worse. Recommended PPE for being around such a system includes face shields, heavy clothing, closed boots, gloves. For actually potential contact with the salt aluminized or Nomex coveralls. Think of how bad deep fryer burns are, and that is only ~150C and without a phase change.
-How are you planning on getting the heat out to the house? Sending the slat directly to the radiator would be catastrophic. The freeze temperature of salts for ~500C use is above the boiling point of water (even for practical home pressurised steam systems). So you would need a two stage let down to even use steam as a radiator medium. Direct boiling would have a high potential of freezing the salt in the boiler, or massively overheating the steam.
-You will need to have high temperature heat tracing over the entire salt system so that you can remelt it when it freezes. Especially if you don’t have continuous power.
-Note, the pumps, valves, etc are specialised and require maintenance.
-Note, don’t even think of going above 550C. You are getting into Hastaloy material of construction requirements. This is in the range of if you don’t know what it is or costs, you can’t afford it.
Some salts are listed at:
-If you overheat the salt, breakdown products include NOx. The dusts of the salt are respiratory hazards.
System cost is more like Porsche than a dishwasher.


Um, lovely road. Now, on the other hand, try this:,-77.0861119,3a,75y,344.25h,82.14t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sYji4uams5oN7gG0YY6XUMw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

And note there are usually more cars parked on weekends and evenings, *and* a full-sized city bus uses this road. And it's two directions.


"And today, 3rd of May, 2010, Manhattan, mild spring-type weather under the Fuller Dome, ditto on the General Technics Plaza" - Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar


I'm quite aware of the NZ place, but I always like the laternate versions:
Dun-Eidinn & Edwin's Burgh
Meaning, exactly the same thing - "Edwin's Fort/town"
IIRC, one of the Reid NB Atlantics, class C 11, NB class H or I was "Dunedin" ( Goes & looks it up ... )
NB No. 874 [ Oh & 872 was called: "Auld Reekie }
Picutres, etc, of NB Atlantics


"The value of the USD dropping dramatically..."

Please note that, unlike the LB Sterling, the dollar was not tied in that manner, Rather, up until the mid-sixties, when it became a Fed Reserve Note, the price of gold was *fixed* by the US gov at, I think it was something like $35/oz.

Which is a perfect example of others' arguments that the price/value of gold is a fiat.

Btw, Mr. Midas, would you like jam on your solid-gold toast, to go with your solid gold fried egg replicas?


Yup, looks good for a computer-failure to me.


And, another thought after I hit : you don't eat anything, or wear anything, or use anything, except perhaps rocks and sticks, without *labor*, without you, or someone, doing work. So, really, all currency is fiat, if I'm using that term correctly, to make *labor* fungible.

Now, we could go on to Ponzi schemes, like the current version of the stock market, or hedge funds... but they, in fact, aren't real, any more than the joke I read as an early teen, about the three guys rescued from being shipwrecked on a desert island after 9 years, and each of them had become a millionaire, having each cornered the market on hats at various times.


Geoff wrote: "My point, unclearly conveyed, was that governments tend to hire economists to shape policies that make it easier for businesses to get away with such behavior. ... Aren't economists (perhaps masquerading as MBAs) up to their armpits in these kinds of problems?"

Lots in your reply to react to, but I have some doubts about whether anybody else (in this thread anyway) is much interested, plus succinct blog comments are not my forte (obv) so I'll come back on just this bit.

It's a good question but I don't think government economists have played as much of an enabling role along the lines as you suggest. I'm not trying to evade all (collective) responsibility here, especially with respect to macro and financial policy. Since the global financial crisis there's been a huge amount of self-critical soul-searching going on in the discipline, and rightly so. But with respect to the issues you originally raised - externalities, pollution, etc. - what influence there's been is positive-ish but limited. Tradeable pollution permits is maybe a good example. (See e.g. Basic idea has a lot of support in the discipline, as does the alternative of Pigouvian taxation of pollution, results when used often not bad at all, but you know what the outcome of the US policy debate on CO2 cap-and-trade was. Didn't matter that market-based schemes had lots of support from professional economists - it got sunk by politicians and lobbyists. The latter may have engaged some hack economists to help sink it, but you can't blame the discipline as a whole for that, and probably the political forces would've defeated the effort anyway.


Wonderful. In the US, such actions are performed by male Greeks, as we call the frat boys, and they tend to be mostly white.


Right, he lives in this thing called "a city". I grew up in a city (Philly), and lived in Chicago a good number of years. Houses in such areas tend to be what we in Philly call "semi-detached", where you share a wall with another house, or row houses, or sometimes there are very narrow walkways between the houses, not like where I am now, in the *ugh* 'burbs. (And the only reason I'm this far out is that prices in the DC metro area are, according to a report in the last year, on par with Silicon Valley and Manhattan.)

And it would take me at least 20 min to walk to a store, as opposed to going to the corner store.


I believe (again per Graeber) that the Jews got the idea of the jubilee from the earlier Babylonians.

It's worth remembering that Judaism as we know it is an iron age religion, and there's a couple of thousand years of Middle Eastern bronze age civilization that preceded it. I suspect many people take Genesis uncritically, in that they don't realize that Judaism wasn't the first religion in the Middle East. Instead, it's the oldest religion to still have a continuous tradition of practice. The last of the Babylonian traditions apparently died out somewhere around 1000 CE, probably in what are now the Iraqi marshes.*

If you want an example of how mathematically sophisticated parts of that bronze age civilization were, check this out.

*If you want to play Guess the Next Black Swans, you can try figuring out when the last of the current crop of monotheistic religions will die out, what will have replaced it, and what will spiritual memes will have come and gone between those two events. You won't live to find out whether you're right or not, but playing provides a valuable and seldom learned lesson in the actual history of spiritual traditions.


As do I, of course.
Round the ( double/triple ) corner to the very good local shops, down the road 12 minutes on foot to supermarket, or 7/8 minutes on foot to railway station, which has both a surface subirban service to The City & a Tube line to the W End.
Convenient, very.
The houses in this road are .... 4 pairs of semis, mine, a terrace of 7 & on the other side ..
a school's grounds, a small detached & a n other small terrace, all built 1892-94.


It's worth remembering that Judaism as we know it is an iron age religion
Mostly, but not entirely.
Anything before "Judges" is Bronze Age.
Including all of the Pentateuch, which is important.
Somewhere is a reference to the Philistines ( Tyre-&-Sidon-offshoots, basically ) trying to forbid & prevent the Isrealites from acquiring this new (weapons) technology - Iron.
By the time you get to "Samuel" you are (just) into the Iron Age


But, its not just an attitude from the Chinese to African people, now is it? Consider the sheer AGE of Chinese Civilization? This Attitude is Not going to end any day soon ...
Makes the British version of the same a little Johnny Come Lately doesn't it? ....


Have wondered whether the Old Testament borrowed heavily from Zoroastrian which traces back to about 2,000 BCE. After all, Abraham emigrated from that region and he's the first author/father of the Judaic-Christian bible. The place, the time and the chief precepts look right: Chief god is Ahura Mazda the Lord Creator and the Supremely Wise who encompasses both male and female aspects equally. Hosts of other spirits, a messiah, dead rising back up from the ashes at the end of days, etc. The devil is the untruth and chaos. It's pretty well all there as far as the foundation goes. Everything else in the J-C bible since is a combination of history, genealogy, and favorite bedtime stories with a lesson.


The Bronze Age collapse in the Eastern Mediterranean is conventionally dated to end at 1150 BCE. It looks ilke (Google "Dating the Bible") that the books we currently know were written no earlier than 800 BCE and possibly later.

As with Homer (which is thought to have been written down in the same age range), they describe earlier histories. However, they aren't histories of the actual bronze age. With Homer it's a bit easier to see, as his heroes of the Bronze Age seem to be using iron age style weapons (such as pike-like spears) in ways they aren't designed (throwing them). To me at least, this kind of discontinuity makes more sense if you have a writer translating a historical narrative into what's currently known about weaponry, and it's something that happens all the time (as in Arthur wearing plate armor and carrying a great sword in the 7th Century CE).

Although there were people in Sidon and Tyre in the bronze age, there doesn't appear to be good continuity between the bronze age populations and the iron age. IIRC, they were abandoned during the end of the bronze age and later recolonized. While it's worth noting that the Assyrians did have iron weaponry at the end of the bronze age, it's worth taking discussions of these with a large grain of salt.


People with larger homes and kitchens can have range-style cookers and "American" style fridge-freezers. I have a 45cm dishwasher because I ran out of space. My Worcester-Bosch condensing boiler was fitted six years ago in under a day. It replaced a pre-2001 condensing boiler of another make and early design that was getting expensive to repair. I believe it has been mandatory in the UK that all new and replacement domestic boilers are condensing since 2005.


"Facades will be cleaned."

Sacre Bleu!!

Cleaning buildings is absolutely verboten in the Edinburgh Victorian Theme Park Heritage Area.


Yes, there is some such regulation, but there are condensing boilers and condensing boilers :) The ones which produce such a cool exhaust that you can use plastic bathroom waste pipe for the flue are a more recent development.

Certainly it is not a long or difficult process to replace a boiler. The hardest part is probably lifting it into engagement with the hooks on the wall, if it has that sort of mounting, and even that has become easier now since they went to making the heat exchangers out of thin fins instead of a huge great lump of cast iron.


I believe it has been mandatory in the UK that all new and replacement domestic boilers are condensing since 2005.
I hope not!
Mine (replacing an older one on the same patch) is an up-the-chimney back-bolier, which means any waste heat gets dissipated INSIDE THE HOUSE, whereas a condensing one would have to be against an outside wall & where the fuck I'd put it, I don't know.


Read it again. I specifically pointed out how you could keep cooking when the power goes out. Contrast this with the alternative in options 3 and 4. Lighting is now utterly trivial if you've got power on for 8 hours a day. Battery powered lighting is off the shelf tech right now.

Let me remind you again what your preferred option looks like. I think we should be trying to avoid and which my suggestions of a graceful retreat from a high carbon civilisation is intended to avoid:

"(4) We do nothing, good batteries and/or world government don't happen, and we hit the wall. Crop failures, mass migration, war (probably nuclear war), coastal cities (London, NY, blah) are lost as Antarctica and Greenland start to lose their icesheets. We end up with under a billion people living horrible lives in an environment which is damaged in a way from which it will recover in geological timescales, but not in any kind of human timescale."

Further arguments against my suggestions based on things I've *already specifically addressed* will be met with a raspberry.


Except that "The Paharoh who knew not Joseph" is popularly supposed to be Rameses II, died 1213BC. Um.


My current boiler has an annual efficiency of 89.2% and a plastic flue, but even the previous pre-2001 model vented visible clouds rather than invisible steam.


"where land is cheap"


Really, I shouldn't laugh...

I am a native of Australia. I come from Sydney. Housing prices here are higher than Paris. One bedroom flats in the suburb I grew up in, 10km from the city, change hands for over a million GBP.

Sold last week for 1.865 million AUD (1.1 million GBP)

The median price for a one bedroom flat is 800 000 AUD (500 000 GBP, 600 000 USD)

To buy a (quite ordinary) house you're looking over 4 million AUD (2.4 million GBP)

Looking for something actually in the city, walking distance to everything, a flat same size as the Charlie flat? 4 million AUD.

I'm not even picking the eyes out of the market. A very nice 3 bedroom flat just sold for 10 million AUD (over 6 million GBP).

For the same money as a very nice 3 bedroom flat in Sydney you could buy a 6 bedroom *CASTLE* on 4 acres within walking distance of Edinburgh city centre.

Even that's not the peak of the market. The record price for a 3 bedder flat in Sydney is 37.5 million AUD.

So yeah, land is cheap (in the desert where no-one lives), but...


Ah, I think you've missed a bit in my post - I wasn't suggesting making any changes to the structure, I was thinking of something more akin to putting a flower pot on your windowsill, only it isn't a flower pot.

When we moved into a house with crappy windows (and no roof insulation, and single leaf brick walls) and no heating upstairs, where thick ice on the inside of the bedroom windows in the mornings was usual, a cheap and effective mitigation was a two-inch slab of expanded polystyrene, cut to fit the inside of the window aperture, to be slipped into place at night and taken out again in the morning. It made a significant difference to the temperature, and as a bonus it slowed down the decay of the window frames, since the blocking of the air circulation led to much less ice on the glass and consequently there were no longer great big puddles on the wood every morning when the ice melted.

So I was thinking of using the same principle but in an embodiment rather more practical and not an industrial bodge: something akin to a picture frame with no picture in it, just the glass, and some of that furry/fuzzy draught stopper strip stuff around the edges; so you can just pop it into the window aperture and it stays there by friction of the draught strip, then when you want to open the windows in the summer you can lift it out and stash it between the bed and the wall in the spare bedroom, or wherever your preferred stashing place for large flat things is. (I think everyone has one, even if they don't know it yet.) Purely a friction fit, so the structure alteration coefficient remains at "flower pot zero".

I have just realised that I am assuming that having two-foot-thick walls means you have great big deep window apertures with sills you can comfortably sit on so there is buckets of room to do this. I do hope this doesn't somehow manage not to be the case...

I wonder if we all share some kind of subconscious awareness that solving the Charlie's Windows Problem actually is the key to preventing the collapse of civilisation. Perhaps it is something as straightforward as that if it is possible to devise a design methodology that can negotiate the impenetrable maze of possible values for ($bizarre_structural_feature|$regulatory_castration_threat) and still eventually reach a successful conclusion, there will be no set of conditions for which it doesn't succeed. Or perhaps it is something more esoteric; maybe the amount of processing power being expended by the group of loosely-connected Minds on the same quite particular problem gives rise to some kind of computational-thaumaturgy side effect whereby the successful solution also happens to be the only successful method of creating a truly reliable great-old-one-proof shield. The pivotal moment of the apocalypse then occurs when the potential gradient created across the thin glass barrier between the presence of Fluff Cthulhu inside your flat and the usual slimy one outside causes the universe to bifurcate, the version anchored outside continuing to apocaliptify, and the version anchored inside being spat back into its correct timeline.


For optimism, research-wise, there's a new solid plastic electrolyte that is either pure BS or maybe a decently economic method for energy storage. If I had to be, I'd go with BS, but mostly out of pure ignorance.

I'd also argue that Brexit and Trump are maybe long-term positives.

Brexit first - the UK has been a pretty reluctant member of the EU. Going forwards, the UK either leaves - and hopefully the EU patches up some of its structural flaws without UK interference or the UK crawls back - and the EU can finally eliminate all of the British loopholes. (No, there's not much positive for the UK - as far as I can see - the financial center shift is going to be much worse than people seem to be planning for. Consider that finance is mostly a regulatory business - and EU regulators will probably act to maximize taxable income. Post-Brexit - London banking pays relatively little into the EU coffers - so anticipate fairly swift regulatory contortions forcing most EU business out of the UK.) Meanwhile - facing significant economic contraction - the Tories go into a long collapse - leaving room for more progressive coalitions in the UK.

Trump, well, assuming that we avoid nuclear war or going off the dollar standard, is actually lovely. He's simplified American politics a lot. Trump isn't an idiot - he realized that the largest plurality in the Republican party is motivated by racial animus. This made them susceptible to takeover in combination with the religious right (racists and homophobes unite). The Republican elite has known this forever, but they aren't absolutely awful people and also want power - so they've followed a policy involving dogwhistles followed by resolute ignoring. This has formed a coalition powerful enough to force Democrats into a center-right configuration for the last 30+ years.

That's over now. The white supremacists are taking over the Republican party - and I think the much of the corporate and small government pluralities are going to leave. That may usher in an era in which the Democrats can actually do something except be less terrible. The only negative may be a collective realization that Jim Crow really wasn't that long ago.



There isn't physically enough Gold to form the basis of a currency, any more, actually.

Arguably, bitcoin, and all other currencies that depend on solid-state electronics (and that would include most currencies, wouldn't it?)


Brexit and Trump - before a fire dies it flares up one last time.


I saw it in Nashville. Awesome. My write-up of the experience is here:

I made it up to Hopkinsville, KY. It was cool, but not quite the "life changing experience" others have described. I'd do it again though ... and will if I live long enough to make it to the next big US eclipse in 2024.


Working with a material isn't the same as having the material in a box that you never open.

"-Any leak means instant home fire as the salt is hot enough to ignite any combustible materials. "

Well lets compare that with some common around the house things that we already find. Any leak of electricity will set fire to things around it too.

"-Water spray on the salt means steam explosion and flying salt that can start fires wherever it touches."

Water spray on 240 V can lead to an explosion, and start a fire, anyone standing in the spilt water can be electrocuted.

"-Contact with people means 3rd degree burns or worse. Recommended PPE for being around such a system includes face shields, heavy clothing, closed boots, gloves. For actually potential contact with the salt aluminized or Nomex coveralls. Think of how bad deep fryer burns are, and that is only ~150C and without a phase change."

Contact with 240 V electric wires will lead to burns or immediate death. Rescuers are often also killed by contact with the body. Recommended working process with 240 V normally uses the three steps of Engineering (Guards, Barriers, Signage, attendants), Administrative, (Training, testing, Documented procedures, Hot work permit, risk assessment documentation), PPE, (flame resistant clothing, voltage rated gloves that are in test, voltage rated tools, hard hat Class E, flash hood, hearing protection, footwear Class EH)

"-How are you planning on getting the heat out to the house? "
With hot water
"Sending the slat directly to the radiator would be catastrophic." so you wouldn't do that would you?
"-You will need to have high temperature heat tracing over the entire salt system so that you can remelt it when it freezes. Especially if you don’t have continuous power."
Yeah, you'd have metal rods in the tank
"-Note, the pumps, valves, etc are specialised and require maintenance."
I'm sure they are and do. Lucky then that there are none of them in a sealed tank full of salt.
"-Note, don’t even think of going above 550C."
Well you'd pick a salt under 550 then. That's probably why the existing molten salt heat storage systems use salts at 550. Thanks for pointing that out.
"-If you overheat the salt, breakdown products include NOx."
Best put a thermostat in the system then. Maybe backed up with an electrical link that melts if things go awry.
"The dusts of the salt are respiratory hazards."
Lucky it's a sealed box, rather than an open bath in a lab into which we're dipping things.

You're an expert in this field and I'm not. I'm subject to Dunning–Kruger as much as the next guy, but I really can't see that fooling around with a bath of this stuff is in any way comparable with having a sealed box. Temperatures like this are commonish home events. You get them in small scales in bar radiators, electric stoves and grills. While on a size scale similar to the proposed home heat store, home kilns run at much higher temperatures. (1200 C)

I really can't see a home molten salt heat store costing as much as a home kiln or being any more dangerous.


I think I've tempted fate with all this talk of dishwashers. My $1000, 4 year old south korean dishwasher has just carked it.


"Perhaps it is something as straightforward as that if it is possible to devise a design methodology that can negotiate the impenetrable maze of possible values for ($bizarre_structural_feature|$regulatory_castration_threat) and still eventually reach a successful conclusion, there will be no set of conditions for which it doesn't succeed."

I think you're right. In a scare deep way, that Charlie's windows are indeed the key to survival.


Having had a mid priced Bosch dishwasher emit magic smoke after the warranty and two years before they sent out the recall letter for that model I now have a White Knight dishwasher that cost £186 from Amazon inc delivery which has lasted three years so far. Probably Chinese Hisense relabelled unlike the dryers that are made in the UK. Since 2001 I have bought two fridge-freezers, three washing machines, three dishwashers and two dryers.


The problem is all of the issues we describe are addressable, but each requires design compromises, devices, maintenance etc to address, and each of these add cost. I'm working through many of these for the first time, but as an example a lab scale system that I need to be able to supply 8kW I expect to end out costing ~500K when all is said and done. Yes, do many systems and the costs come down, but I don't think they can come down to where it is practical when you add all the foolproofing it would need for home use.

A scheme like this could work as a backup to a district heating system, where economies of scale can help.

Some of the big difference between these and the other hot and dangerous home services you describe are:
Electricity is not a liquid. you have to make a short for there to be a risk of a fire, and both the wire and insulation are solids that once installed don't tend to move unless actively damaged.
In addition the electrical system has circuit breakers where if a short is detected, all energy is removed from the wiring. Same with the outside breaker. The molten salt system has hundreds of MJ of thermal energy stored that is basically impossible to remove without waiting for it to dissipate.
The salt is a liquid, so any leak can result in the entire energy content of the system leaking out. If moisture gets into the salt, it can become corrosive leading to it leaking. The salt is below ambient vapour pressure (which is generally good and why you use it in the first place. Other options are worse), but this means that as the salt temperature cycles, it will draw in ambient air unless you use an inert blanketing gas. (Another system)
Things like the thermostat can be dealt with, but for adequate reliability you need industrial quality devices or redundancy and a venting method. Again, more cost.
All of the other hot things you mention are predominantly solids where most of the thermal mass is stuff like refractory brick. (Low thermal conductivity), or things like furnaces where they have very low energy content at any given time. (Gases at temperature, not much actual mass, and no ability for the hot components to leave the containment).
If you touch a hot refractory brick you will get a burn, but if you remove it quickly it won't transfer that much heat. Compare that to contact with fryer oil, which is at much lower temperature, but because of the much higher heat transfer of liquids and the difficulty of removing contact is much more damaging.
A molten salt has the thermal transfer properties of oil, with the temperature of refractory, and then the bonus of it going through a phase change on contact (which dumps a LOT of extra heat, and makes it even stickier).

One other point, you cannot effectively use a heat pump to add heat to a molten salt system. The temperature is already far to high for any useful level of efficiency. This means that where a heat pump system you can get roughly 3-4J of heat for each 1J of high quality energy you put in, the salt system you will only get ~1J. Even fuel fired heaters have poor efficiency because the high temperature of the salt means you cannot extract as much of the fuel value before the flue gasses are below the salt temperature.


I think you're right. In a scare deep way, that Charlie's windows are indeed the key to survival.

So is Charlie going to have to deal with hordes of time travelers trying to adjust this time nexus?

(Actually I recall a Robert Sheckley story about time travelers desperately trying to make sure a certain business merger goes down because it is key to having a breathable atmosphere in the future.)



I don't have the huge enthusiasm for the idea and I don't think it's useful in the UK, but nevertheless I do think it could be useful in the right circumstances and so should not be unfairly ruled out of consideration.

You do not want to lean against one of those wee kilns when it's going. You'd know about it. It's not even comfortable to stand too near it. This is, of course, because the insulation is crap. For a heat storage tank on the other hand you would want insulation that is very good. You make it in something like a series of shells, so that any leak from the main vessel has to leak through several further barriers as well, losing heat all the way, and will solidify before it gets to the point of making puddles on the floor; meanwhile the drop in level has caused a vertical electrode to cease to dip into the liquid, cutting off a current, and this causes the system to shut down.

As well as preventing it igniting things, the thick jacket also keeps water off it. The salt never leaves the tank, it just sits there in a big pool.

You eliminate awkward maintenance by having nothing in the tank. It's just a big bottle with a couple of heat exchangers (one in, one out), the level electrode, and a vent. It doesn't have to withstand pressure or neutron bombardment, only thermal cycling. So you do things like meticulous weld inspection and not skimping the materials, and you pick a combination of salt and alloy that doesn't have a corrosion problem. You optimise the design for longevity above all else, with a different set of compromises than you would use for an industrial or a scientific design.

Hot air would probably be better for extracting the heat than hot water. With hot water you either have to pressurise the crap out of it or you have to deal with it boiling; neither is desirable for a maximum-longevity minimum-maintenance design. You could have a secondary heat exchanger to transfer the heat to water, or you could use it for ducted hot air heating directly.

And allow me to stir things up a bit more by chucking in another heat storage system that has been proven in service :) That is the heat of solution of sodium hydroxide in water. I can't remember the capacity figures off the top of my head but they are pretty good, and the kind of temperature it operates at is somewhere around 200 deg C IIRC. The service application I am thinking of is steam locomotives operating in locations where it is desirable to avoid having a fire in them. Instead you have a boiler tank and a caustic soda tank; you give the boiler tank an initial charge of boiling water from an external supply, then as the engine runs the exhaust steam is directed into the caustic soda tank and the heat generated from the dilution boils more water. When the heat capacity is exhausted you blow superheated steam through the caustic soda to dry it out again. It works very well and you can get a range of at least several miles, but the need for an external boiler which of course has to be going all the time limits its useful application to cases like factories that have a site steam supply on hand anyway.


You're certainly right about the molten salt not being the ideal solution, particularly compared to a much lower temperature setup with phase change materials around the 17-20C range where heat pumps are useful. I think I made that very point further up. The only reason for the molten salt (apart from the case for cooking) was the edge case of a Scottish 3 floor walk up category A listed building in the middle of a world heritage area.

I agree with most of your points, but I really think it's not the insurmountable situation that you describe. I know I've been describing it as a 'tank', but I realised today, that's not going to work in the case as described because you can't carry it up three flights of stairs when it weighs 500 kg. I'm now thinking steel 'blocks' of about 10 kg each filled with anhydrous salt and welded shut. No user serviceable parts inside. Carry the big box up the stairs. Take off the insulated lid to reveal the insulated cavity. Load the 10 kg blocks into it. Put the lid back on. Connect up the power and either water or air (as worked out by a clever engineer) and you're away. Because they're each limited to 10 kg, they'd only have maybe 8 kg of salt in each one. If one leaked, you'd only have to catch about 5 litres of molten salt in the containment pan at the bottom. Heat transfer to the salt wouldn't be that hard as the blocks would be small. No issues with absorbing water because they're welded shut. No issues with spills getting on people. Fire fighters could hose it with water and all you'd get is clouds of steam, not a BLEV bomb. 550 C is well within normal engineering temperatures for cheap things that people deal with every day. 100 degrees lower than the exhaust of a car for instance. 1400 C lower than the internal temperatures in the gas fired boiler that you're replacing. 1000 degrees cooler than a coal fired heater, which probably used to be installed in said Scottish tenement. About the same as you get in a self cleaning oven. Sure, you'd no more want to stick your hand in it than you'd want to stick your hand in a fat fryer, but that doesn't mean it's completely out of the ordinary, even for a household use.

Hell, you could actually load up your normal oven with these bricks, switch it to 'selfclean' and it would work to keep the house warm overnight. Not that I'm suggesting that, just pointing out that it's really not that far from the stuff we find in homes already.


"hangover from the mindset which gave us the White Australia Policy"

The white Australia policy was *originally* a means to stop the slavery that was going on in Queensland. The policy was never intended to prevent 'coloured' people from immigrating to Australia and indeed in application, at least by the late 50's, didn't prevent my 'coloured' father from coming to Australia.

Australians certainly have cause for shame over our racist tendencies, but despite the press that it gets now, the White Australia Policy was actually us doing the right thing. It was the exact opposite of the racist policy it is portrayed as today. As with most things Australians have done with good intentions, we Royally fucked it up with moves intended to help people return home turning into deportation of people who wanted to stay.


I wonder if we all share some kind of subconscious awareness that solving the Charlie's Windows Problem actually is the key to preventing the collapse of civilisatio
"Think Global, Act Local" ... lots of little, often easy "fixes" will add up to make a huge difference.
Oddly enough, something I saw about three minutes ago is a n other move in that direction - ok it/they needs maintenance, but buildings need maintenance, anyway. [ See also the other recent examples mentioned in the article. ]


"every time the king had a problem to distract his people from..."

Much nicer than starting a war with a third world country that hasn't ever done anything to you.


You've discounted the possibility of At50 being cancelled, I note ...
[ Which is plainly what the Irish are hinting at, as well as "Mutti" ]


Contact with 240 V electric wires will lead to burns or immediate death
I've had several "belts", admittedly only to fingers & not across the body ... no burns, other than a tiny spot & I'm still here.
240V is safer than 120 - lower current flow


What's a"Dishwasher" ??
Unless you have 4+ people in the house ( & especially if those are children ) a diswasher is an 150%-unnecessary expensive, power-consuming waste of time & money.


I'm a Dishwasher.

As of today when the Korean box died. It was less work to hand wash everything than it was to pre-rinse, load and then unload the robot dishwasher.

It's also a box you have to have installed in all dwellings before you attempt to sell or let them. Not by law, but certainly by custom.

Oh, and 240V, I've had a couple of small tingles and lived, but it most certainly does burn and kill people. This was on the news last week.


A dishwasher is a very useful piece of furniture. A dirty dishes cupboard. But when the cupboard is full you switch it on and it washes the contents. 12 years ago I moved into a house with no dishwasher and no room for one. After having had a dishwasher for a decade we managed just a few weeks before we tore out the under - worktop fridge in our tiny kitchen and put a dishwasher in it's place.
There are only two of us in the house. It's still worthwhile having a dishwasher if you do your own cooking.
It's also cheaper than heating water to wash manually - even more so when you live in a village with no gas.


Re cars trapped in snow.
In the 1970s a colleague demonstrated "Instant Snow Chains" - an aerosol he sprayed on his tyres for more grip. It worked. I found this on YouTube.

Similar product are available now. I just ordered one to put in the car boot. Just search liquid snow chains.


Unless you have 4+ people in the house ( & especially if those are children ) a diswasher is an 150%-unnecessary expensive, power-consuming waste of time & money.

Greg, I can have a dishwasher and no eczema, or no dishwasher and eczema. Totally not a waste of money for those of us with skin problems.


Greg wrote:

240V is safer than 120 - lower current flow

Er, you have that exactly backwards from an electric shock point of view. Treating the body as a resistance, if you double the applied voltage, twice the current will flow. (Also the higher voltage will overcome more insulation than a lower one, so a 'brush contact' may be all that's required to give you a nasty shock - and because AC causes the muscles to contract it may well convert a brush contact into a solid grip on the conductor.)

The only point where the 'higher voltage means lower current flow' applies is from a power requirement viewpoint: you can use thinner conductors without overheating becoming an issue.



A dishwasher uses hotter water and stronger chemicals for better cleaning than hand wash can manage, rinses the residues off thoroughly and air dries (no germy tea-towels rubbing contamination from one dish to the next). Modern efficient machines on an economy cycle are plausibly claimed to use less water and energy than hand-washing the same dishes in a basin.

I also find that in the homes of people who do not use dishwashers the mugs and cups have a disturbing patina of tea-stain.


As a curious child I stuck fingers in a 240V light fitting and touched an electric fence. The electric fence definitely had more kick.


Yea stain
ONE: Wash properly with HOT water
TWO: If that fails, use a small quantity of bleach ....


Or if you have a spouse who likes to bake and cook.

Here's another thought: the dishwasher uses about four gallons per cycle. I'd crank that up to 6 gallons with the pre-rinse, but it takes a bit of work to actually clean the dishes with less than four gallons by hand. Certainly my wife, who doesn't believe in putting a stopper in the sink on the rare times when she washes (and isn't interested in learning), uses a LOT more than four gallons to do the dishes. Given where I live, that water savings adds up.


Re: ' ... subconscious awareness that solving the Charlie's Windows Problem actually is the key to preventing the collapse of civilisation.'

Think you've got it! Consider how often 'windows' come up in discussions of dire threats to civilization. Invisible malevolent spells and forces that can scramble humankinds best efforts and understanding and that only esoteric magic language can control/stop. Yes, it all makes sense!



>> I would not trust the Word spell checker - it returned 'earthling' for earthing...

> Further proof that Microsoft Word was created by aliens from another planet.



Re: Water heaters, solar powered

Noticed quite a lot of discussion about this when reading up on solar power for the home. Of the 8 or so authors/books, most seemed to prefer glycol/water mixtures for the unit and a set-up like this one.

Gargoyles and other architectural design features made of the right materials could work if the only requirement is that the building maintain the correct historical look.

Really - it's one thing to understand and preserve one's history/culture, but not if doing so harms the present or future generations. Am guessing that hardly anyone lived into their 70s back when Charlie's building went up. And now that age group is about to become the largest population segment. Drafty buildings with inadequate insulation don't help such folks living there stay healthy physically or financially.

Hopefully the historical societies don't decide they should also regulate health/medicine, public transit, civil rights, education, etc. because after all these also existed in various forms in the past.


A non-damaging idea for windows, some years ago during a cold snap I cut some foamed polystyrene to fit the bedroom windows and it helped a lot. Covering the foam with something, possibly winter solstice materialism festival paper, or some other art-like coating could make it look less white trashy.


Re: '... the dishwasher uses about four gallons per cycle.'

Decided to test that out last year after reading a bunch of living off the grid books. Agree that hand washing dishes uses much more water than a dishwasher if you keep the facet on throughout.

However, you can save a lot of water if as soon as you finish eating you do the following: thoroughly scrape food/residue off, apply some dishwashing detergent to a small wet paper towel which you then use to scrub/apply to all the dirty glassware, dishes, pots and pans. Let stand about 10-15 minutes to allow the detergent to help lift the grease/dirt. Use another fresh dry paper towel to wipe off this detergent-dirt mess. Only then do a final rinse in clean water either in the sink or another basin. Amount of water used will vary with the amount of dirty dishes and how dirty these dishes are.

Anyone who regularly camps or sails/boats is familiar with the need to use as little water as possible.


Well. Thing is - if I understand it correctly - it isn't as simple as cancelling Act 50. (I could easily be wrong.) The UK can cancel act 50 - but only subject to conditions set by the EU. I'm pretty confident that the conditions set by the EU would turn into a laundry list revoking every single exemption or advantage the UK has garnered from the EU. (Gibraltar, taxation stuff, et cetera). It'd be the sort of national humiliation that would damage the ruling party more than the fallout from a hard Brexit. So, I doubt there's appetite on either side to cement a deal.


Hopefully the historical societies don't decide they should also regulate health/medicine, public transit, civil rights, education, etc. because after all these also existed in various forms in the past.


In the US, such actions are performed by male Greeks, as we call the frat boys, and they tend to be mostly white.

They call themselves "Greeks". We called them "frattybaggers" and other less complementary names.


Zimbabwean dollars still exist in physical form.

They are legally valueless.

However, as a warning that it CAN happen here, they are quite important.

I'm looking at a 10,000,000 Zimbabwean dollar note, date of issue 1 Jan 2008, as I type this.


Re: '... coal jobs are NEVER coming back.'

Agree. I was thinking that newish tech companies that are still in growth mode could have been arm-twisted to set up some of their shops in these regions.

But not BigRiver because poor pay and crappy work conditions.


Yes - exactly! Thanks!


At this point you may as well use stones or bricks or even metal blocks for the thermal mass.
The salts are not cheap and the others are. The only reason to use a salt is to take advantage of the heat transfer benefits of a liquid. If it is sealed into a block, those benefits are hidden. The actual heat capacity is not that much higher that the solids.
Overall if we are getting to this edge case, there are likely to be a number of similar units grouped in an area, and you might as well use some sort of district heating.


Hey Charlie,

I've been thinking about your post for the last couple days, in line with the following major points:

1.) The U.K.'s current situation sucks.

2.) The U.S.'s current situation sucks, which will eventually make the whole world suck.

3.) The whole problem, from top to bottom, is mediated by fascists - Nazis, KKK-types, right-wing nationalists - all promoted by Russia

4.) There are new techniques for winning elections to which we have not developed immunities.

5.) Your personal situation sucks.

6.) Your business situation could be better (via a non-interrupted promotional process and a production schedule which didn't require some last-minute changes.)

You have every reason to feel unmotivated. The political enemy is riding high, the political allies have no grasp of strategy or tactics, people have not learned the lessons of history, politics are currently as destructive as they've been in the past 80 years and your own situation is difficult.

I totally sympathize. I wish there was something I could do to help you feel better about life. Perhaps it will help to note that as an American Liberal I am following the "advice" at the very end of your second paragraph. (And once I know how, I will show others.)

All of us are here with you and for you. As someone who's also missing a parent, I sympathize deeply. I have not a single doubt that you will find the strength and creativity to carry on. You will prevail.

Goddess Bless.


Oh, I know how to save a lot of water. Actually doing it is another matter.

The one thing I'd warn about is hygiene. A late uncle tended to clean the way you describe (actually, we think he just wiped off dishes rather than thoroughly washing them). While it saved a lot of water, he also (and probably not coincidentally) had a lot of health issues that ultimately put him in an assisted care home in his early 70s, and he died a year later.

Now, I know you can optimize both hygiene and water savings, but from what I've seen, at least in my family, it gets trickier when you're trying to optimize for multiple important targets. Worse, a bit of carelessness can make it easy to miss both (as with someone resentfully washing dishes with the faucet running AND not getting them terribly clean).

That's the advantage of things like 4 gallon washing machines. They're not ideally water conserving, but they're a good compromise between water efficiency and hygiene, and they take several elements of carelessness out of the process.


Disposable plastic window sealer works surprisingly well. Doesn't look great. I expect pressure fit inside storm windows, as others have described are better looking and worth it over not very long. They can be made of plexiglass and last for years, because the real glass window is protecting them.

One nice thing about caring how badly the world is wrecked is you don't have to worry so much about improvements paying back for you personally. It's nice, of course, but the next person still uses less energy.


Re: 'A late uncle tended to clean the way ...'

Reminds me of how some coworkers clean their plates and mugs. Not pleasant, but very effective at stopping people from borrowing anything of theirs.

The technique I described, properly followed, works and is hygienic. The only bug problems we've had camping/boating were bug bites (deer flies, mosquitoes), not stomach bugs. (Knock wood!)


EXCEPT that ...
The remainder of the EU want us to cancel At50 & therefore are v likely to let us of lightly.
Anything to avoid a actual leavinbg state ( almost ) - I think.


Improving air leakage also immediately makes a home more comfortable, another reason not to worry to much about it paying for itself.

A 1920 apartment I had in Chicago went from very uncomfortable to fine with about $80 of fixing grevious air leaks. Well worth it even though heart was just a fixed part of the rent.


Links or citations would be greatly appreciated, especially to formally stated positions regarding the cancelling of Art50 by other EU nations or the Commission itself.

Otherwise, it's about as reliable speculation as the post-Brexit "wonderful new trade deals" that we keep being promised, and only slightly less ridiculous than the "£350 million a week" promise.


I think the degree of importance attached to "hygiene" owes more to convention than necessity. Living on my own, I don't have to care about anyone else's expectations, and I find it answers perfectly well to just give a plate a quick swill under the cold tap; any remaining residue lasts no more than 24 hours on average before it is removed by dissolution in the next meal (a process facilitated by the next meal being identical to the previous one). After all, the easiest way to save energy on hot water is not to bother making any. Stomach bugs - they just don't happen; frequency has been considerably less than once a decade, and moreover it has always been someone else's food, not mine, that caused it.


I wash my coffee cup religiously, every Xmas and Easter. OK, I do scrape out some of the solid residue occasionally but that's simply because the buildup reduces the amount of coffee I can get into the cup and hence my caffeine intake, forcing me to drink more cups per day to make up for the reduced capacity.

I think it was Quentin Crisp who described how he would avoid washing a plate by simply putting more and more strongly flavoured food on it the next day. His comment, after a week, was "Mmmm, fish."


Meh. First off, new tech companies are mostly based around automating human labor - so - they don't create many jobs. Second off, competent programmers don't want to live in coal country. Third, it is currently much cheaper to hire from abroad than to train locally.


Doubt it - most countries in the EU have some hot issue with regards to the UK. Most countries in the EU don't mind that much if someone else's hot issue gets pressed.

I have a suspicion that one of the overlooked reasons for the preparedness of the EU negotiators is that herding the EU governments would probably be easier if they were replaced by feral cats. Even with the best will in the world, I think EU terms will tend towards harshness rather than accommodation.

It's like this one obnoxious kid, with decided good points(like paying dues), threatened to leave your club half a dozen times and only stayed when you gave them Eric's favorite chair, and let them eat Stephanie's lunch. Meanwhile, every time you tried to make the club run better, they pitched a fit. Now, they finally stormed out. And everyone is noticing how much better the place runs. Sure, maybe the kid realizes that the only other clubs are 2 towns over and run by either a vulgar cheeto or some sharks and wants to come back. Now, maybe you liked them paying dues. But, eh, it takes an unanimous vote to let them come back and Eric's pitching a fit about his chair. You could buy a new one - or just tell the kid that Eric needs his chair back. And then, Stephanie got tired of sharing her lunch. So you don't wanna argue that one either... And pretty soon Gibraltar closes down and the UK ends up being forced to harmonize taxation and...blah, blah, blah. And - even though everyone knows that they'd be better off just patching things over - no one compromises and the kid wanders off and spends the rest of high school playing video games at home.


The linked problems I'd suggest watching for are actually mouth infections and heart disease, since I've had the experience of watching both wreak havoc. I've also had food poisoning, which is no fun, but when I got to clean up after someone who'd been careless about doing dishes, careless about bathroom cleanliness, careless about dental care, and ended up in the hospital with some major surgery interspersed with hard-to-treat infections, well, I'm not going to try to prove causality, but I was very careful cleaning up his place for the next owners, and try not to do things quite the same way.

My point isn't exactly hypochondria, it's keeping it sensible. If it's possible to stay out of the hospital a bit more by washing dishes a bit more carefully, taking better care of my teeth, and keeping things a little neater, I think that's a worthwhile tradeoff. Your mileage may differ.


:shrug: As a child I had a device comprising a 6V ignition coil, a 6V battery, a switch, a condenser and a spark plug. Gave myself plenty of belts off that, but 240V from my bedside lamp was by contrast an experience not to have more than once.

It is said that the reason the telephone system uses a 50V line voltage is that that's about the maximum you can get away with before you hit the problem of people falling off the poles when they get a belt. And indeed, in many cases you can touch it and not notice. But I have also had a couple of very nasty belts from fiddling around inside computers without first disconnecting the phone line from the modem card - same voltage, but the sharp points of the soldered connections on the back of PCBs make vastly better contact.

If you shuffle your feet on a nylon carpet and then touch someone on the back of the neck they tend to leap in the air. You get a belt too, of course. But if you hold a key and touch them with that you get much less of one while they still get the same effect.

Those plasma globe things that you fondle to make glowing streamers use about 10kV, but you can't even feel it - the high frequency is both bad at stimulating nerves and also means the current flows only through the very surface of your skin, not your core. Though if you touch them very very lightly to make contact only at a minute point, you can get a pinprick sensation at the point of contact from purely thermal effects. Similar effects can be observed with much higher voltages playing with Tesla coils.

You are much more likely to get away with touching the live rail on London Underground than on the Southern Region. Not so much because the maximum PD to ground is 420V rather than 750V, but because the impedance to ground is 10k on the Underground but as close to zero as possible on the Southern.

In terms of casualty count, 750V third rail and 25kV overhead are equally dangerous to railway workers.

I have a mate who shorted 240V through himself from one hand to the other and blew a 5A fuse. He was OK. Fuck only knows how it was possible, but he is technically knowledgeable enough that I don't believe he's misreporting it.

The thing is that voltage alone is only one of a host of factors affecting how badly or not you get hurt, and often not even the most important one. Supply impedance, frequency, duration, quality of contact (both contacts), how sweaty you are, the list of variables goes on and on.


re: New tech co's ...Pennsylvania

A few companies did go in and offer software training for recently unemployed coal miners but not enough to make a dent in the overall unemployment rate.

An alternate plan could be having former coal miners sell 'Rare! Limited quantities of genuine Pennsylvania coal! Get yours before it's gone!' Carved or engraved coal could be sold as collectible decor or jewelry. Yes, it's snake oil, but they voted for snake oil.

Hmmm ... seems that Pennsylvania coal is suitable for carving so this scheme could work.


I would like to hear the first chapter of Labyrinth Index. Was a video made of Charlie's recent reading at that science fiction conference?


" don't have to worry so much about improvements paying back for you personally."

I think it is an error to worry about that at all. Nice if it happens, but it more than likely won't, and that means people get put off doing worthwhile things by reason of using an irrelevant metric for comparison. Or, indeed, may decide they will do things that are not worthwhile for the same reason. If people must use a money-based justification, at least use one that makes sense: as long as you can manage it at the time, it does not matter in the long term what $improvement costs; it may be a pain at the time, but once it's spent it's spent and in a few months you'll have forgotten the pain anyway. On the other hand, you will get a regularly-recurring dose of pain reduction from not having to find such a chunk for every fuel bill.

The money figures attached to any project have basically the square root of fuck all to do with how much effort it is to do or how worthwhile it is. It also seems that the larger the project, the greater the force with which this applies. This is why I want to scream and bang my head against the wall when discussions on here turn to things like the price of solar panels or of different fission technologies, and also why though I do occasionally read Greg's favourite site I never ever post on it. ("Cost Benefit Analysis" - 100 figures for and against, 98 of which have been pulled out of someone's arse by some bunch of consultants (tr: "blaggers, with impressive qualifications to know nowt") who have conned the government into paying them £10,000 per turd, and then selected to support the conclusion the government have decided they want.)

The environmental benefits of, say, nuclear power are related to things like how rapidly it can replace less desirable sources of energy; the impacts are related to things like how much mess does it make to dig up and process a kg of uranium ore and how much waste comes out of the other end of the cycle. Obviously, a breeding/reprocessing fuel cycle that fissions everything with 92 or more protons (including existing "waste") causes vastly less mess per joule than skimming off 1% and throwing the rest away in a hot stinking pile, and makes a similar difference to the task of supplying fuel to all the new plants. But what we actually get is proposals for the wasteful and messy method purely because of a wholly imaginary figure called "price of uranium", bearing no relation to anything, for which people happen to be inclined to invent small numbers under existing conditions - proposals, moreover, which fail to acknowledge that if they were to succeed, they would destroy their own so-called "justification", by encouraging people to start inventing large numbers for the aforesaid imaginary figure. And the reason the proposals have difficulty getting off the ground is not because anyone recognises the flaws, but because other people use an equally flawed and irrelevant methodology to argue for not doing it at all.

The difficulty of the task of establishing something like a breeder-based nuclear power infrastructure is essentially constant. You have to learn the same things and build the same things no matter when you do it, and things like programming your brain and humping concrete aren't the kind of things that change much. The wild fluctuations of some imaginary figure called "cost" bear no relation to how much actual effort it is. But the longer we pither about doing nothing waiting for people to make up a figure that looks nice, the more damage accrues from not doing it and the greater the urgency becomes. As does the urgency for other measures - which in turn gives rise for further opportunities to misdirect effort on the basis of stuff people made up.

Bugger "making money". It's not supposed to "make money", it's supposed to help keep the lights on while minimising damage to the planet. We could be 50 years further down that road by now if we hadn't spent them talking about money instead.


That reminds me of an idea I had a few hours ago about how to get Trump supporters into carbon sequestration - sell his preserved turds on a plinth.


CARBON: Very convenient until you run out. You fuck up your planet in decades, recovery starts shortly (years to decades) after you stop putting carbon into the atmosphere.

NUCLEAR: Slightly less convenient than carbon. You take centuries-to-millenia to fuck up your planet (your power-plants and toxic-waste dumps will not be accident-free.) Possibly you can extend the "fuck up the planet" timeline somewhat through use of pebble-bed or thorium reactors and careful disposal of waster. The date for recovery to start is measured in half-lives of Uranium and Plutonium atoms after you stop using nuclear.

GREEN: (hydro/solar/wind) Much more inconvenient, but still very, very capable of running a civilization. Time to fuck up the planet has not been estimated, but is much longer than carbon or nuclear; ideally millions of years. Recovery is more-or-less instant as you're not screwing things up to begin with.*

* Realistically, recovery is governed by the other substances that are used parallel with your green economy; how long does it take plastic or silicon to degrade? But this is true to some extent for all three technologies.


"I have a mate who shorted 240V through himself from one hand to the other and blew a 5A fuse. He was OK. Fuck only knows how it was possible, but he is technically knowledgeable enough that I don't believe he's misreporting it."

I'm not a technical expert on electrocution, but I worked at an electricity distribution company during the period it went from one of the worst safety records in the Western world to one of the best. You have no idea how much effort needs to be expended to change the culture from lipservice safety to actual safety, but it certainly involves a lot of training films and meetings with people who've had team members killed. It's actually pretty harrowing. One of the big themes was what they called "tossing the coin". Essentially it boiled down to an electric shock having an almost probabilistic effect. You can vary the odds with voltages, dryness of the skin, PPE and such, but when you get a belt big enough to stop your heart, it's a toss of the coin as to if it's actually going to stop your heart or not. I think one of the training videos was actually called "A toss of the coin"

I certainly went from being happy to do my own home electrical repairs to thinking that a 100 dollar call out fee for a licenced sparkie to risk _their_ life instead of _mine_ is an *Absolute Bargain*.


Things like taking a call from a farmer who's electric pump has shorted out and made the cattle water trough live... Every single one of the cattle electrocuted. Their whole working life gone for nothing overnight.

I love electricity and what it does, but I'm also terrified of it.

The date for recovery to start is measured in half-lives of Uranium and Plutonium atoms after you stop using nuclear.

An Integral Fast Reactor can burn long-lived nuclear isotopes, yielding only short-lived nuclear isotopes. See:


I'd have to concede that the design looks workable and it does appear to be impressively safe. (Note as I write this that my knowledge of nuclear physics could fit inside a thimble with room left over.) The two obstacles are that it can be configured as a breeder for PU-239, plus the fact that they haven't really solved the half-life problem for radioactive trash; they've merely reduced the worst of what the IFR puts out to something like 15,000 years.

I don't love it, but if I were president I'd want to build a prototype and study it for remediation of global warming. Then we'd put the prototype in the courtyard of Charlie's apartment.


The technologies to get that free money out of the ground and into someone's pockets have been refined and perfected to reduce the costs to a ridiculously low level and no-one pocketing the cash has to pay for cleaning up the environmental aftermath.

Actually this is starting to change. Here in North Carolina Duke Energy who now controls most of the power generation in the state is getting a LOT of push back to dealing with coal ash. Piling it up in small mountains until something goes wrong and your favorite fishing stream / water supply turns into a tan/gray/brown slurry that may be somewhat toxic even after it goes through your local water plant tends to get people of all political stripes wound up a bit.

The big debate now is do stock holders or power users pay to clean up the sites? And the R's, for the most part, aren't getting deep into either side.

And for currently operating plants it is being factored into the cost of the power. DT or no DT.


"Then we'd put the prototype in the courtyard of Charlie's apartment"

A couple of my family were in the Nuclear industry (one physicist and one designing control systems for the early British reactors) and the general family feeling was that eventually home heating would be solved by mixing high level nuclear waste with glass to make glass bricks and sticking it in people's houses. I'm not quite sure how this gelled with a refusal to have radium faced watches or clocks in the house (which was also family tradition). Perhaps my sanguine feelings about molten salt home heating are informed by an upbringing like that...


I get it, complete with contradictions... just remember, the world's problems aren't solved until Charlie and Feorag are warm in February and the historical society is still happy.

The two obstacles are that it can be configured as a breeder for PU-239

That is addressed at the end of the "advantages" section of the Wikipedia article (search for "proliferation"). If you keep the plutonium mixed with other heavy isotopes, and you don't have anything that can separate it out, it is not clear how to make a bomb from it.

they haven't really solved the half-life problem for radioactive trash; they've merely reduced the worst of what the IFR puts out to something like 15,000 years.

200 to 400 years, if the "advantages" section of the Wikipedia article is to be believed.

I'm citing sources for my claims, but you seem to be making stuff up. Please be more careful.


and pretty soon now CFLs will be seen as an obsolescent intermediate technology stage

That has mostly happened in the US. Several years ago.

I gave my stash of them away to charities 2 years ago.

Once the most common sizes of LEDs got down to $0.99 when on sale I made a wholesale switch.

Well except for those stupid ceiling fan lights that use a mini base. LEDs for those odd sizes are still thin on the ground at reasonable prices. (likely a USA thing)


You need to read the Wikipedia article more carefully. Note both the table of half-lives and the discussion of breeding weapons-grade PU-239. They're both right there in the text.

I'll happily admit that the IFR is much, much better than what's currently being built, but it still lends itself to proliferation and still produces exotic waste with half-lives starting at 4-6 years and increasing from there - much less waste, to be sure, but the waste problem doesn't exist at all with solar, wind, or hydro.


but the Euro is doing quite well for itself despite the doomsayers. The Zimbabwean dollar, less so (that leetle inflation problemetto).

I have a couple of $500,000 Zimbabwean notes from about 8 years ago. The most interesting things about them to me is they have expiration dates.


The problem with the western coal fields in the US is that they're a long way from the Eastern cities that need the electricity, adding a lot of transportation costs to the final ticket price for their coal FOB Labadie and similar.

Yes. But.

Transportation of western PRB coal costs less per ton than eastern coal to power plants. Reading between the lines western coal is much more of straight shot than eastern coal. It costs a lot more to move a rail head in the east than out west. And as other have noted labor costs of western mining are about 1/4 the cost of eastern mining so you can get cheaper costs out west before loading it on the train. And these trains for power plants built in the last 20 years or more are huge. So the overhead of making up and taking down trains is less out west where you have more long haul track to deal with.

Doing searches will turn up a lot of stats which basically say prices are similar. But mining western coal is "simpler".


there are, erm, cottage industries building both underground bunkers

Re-purposed ICBM bases into condos are a thing just now in the US. Not sure how many have gotten past the marketing brochures.


"links or citations"
Oh do come on!
This is "diplomatic negotiations" - sometimes conducted in quiet meetings & sometimes with megaphones ...
Look - very carefully - at the positions & Posures taken by the participants & the different messages they are sending to both theor "oppositions" & their supposed supporters....


That is emphatically not what my friends in GErmany are saying ...

Let's face it, a return to the staus quo ante is EASY.

But, it will require someone having the bottle to tell the loud, shrieking Brexiteers to: "SHUT THE FUCK UP, YPOU BLOODY LIARS!"
It's like having the bottle to tell Mary Shitehouse, back in the late 60's that she was totally bonkers & "buugger-off!"
Or, in view of current US events, having the same bottle to face up to the threats & bullying of the "South" BEFORE 1861 ... because their own rhetoric & bullying is what got them in to that irrecoverable position.
Well, we have until March '19 to do a U-turn.


Manwhile ...
both in London & Brussels corporate lobbying overshadows "real people" in Brexit negotiations.
In other news, Bears shit in the woods .....


make it look less white trashy

Interesting phrase that one is.


I was thinking that newish tech companies that are still in growth mode could have been arm-twisted to set up some of their shops in these regions.

As someone who spent 1980 - 1987 in Pittsburgh, it's hard to make it work. The unemployed want their old jobs back. $20/hr without a high school diploma was entry level. In 1980.

It took a new generation to grow up for the area to go hi tech and have jobs for people. Wait 20 years and then we have great jobs doesn't sell well in an election.


Am I the only one who has noticed that the next generation of nuclear power plants that are supposed to solve all (well most of?) the nasty failure modes of the existing plants and be cost effective are basically going nowhere fast?

For decades I've supported nuclear power as a solution to a lot of ills. If they'd move past overgrown submarines engines.

But the current state of the new plants being built by Westinghouse/Toshiba/???? gives me pause.


I'm sorry Greg, despite your personal analysis of "positions & postures" and the word of "friends in Germany", stating that we'd be welcomed back into the EU at this point with no penalties, conditions, or compromises (on our part) is firmly in the same realm of speculation and wishful thinking as all those new trade deals that the Brexiteers are promising.

I'd even accept a link to professional political analysis of these "positions & postures" to which you allude. I'm afraid your own past form on EU commentary does not inspire confidence with current or future analysis based on your own biases.

(I'd also like to point out and remind you how fond of, or should that be "agressive", your are in demanding links and proof from other posters when they offer opinions and speculation as solid fact.)


I didn't say "NO" compromises or "conditions" - but I expect them to be minmal - for the same reason that actually leaving will carry the harshest penalties that "Brussels" thinks they can get away with ...
Encourge people to stay in & discourage them to leave.....

CARBON: Very convenient until you run out. You fuck up your planet in decades, recovery starts shortly (years to decades) after you stop putting carbon into the atmosphere.
Not decades, millennia, there is no process that will take large amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere fast. You have to wait for rock weathering.

I'll be a lot happier with nuclear once all the kids are safe in their beds in Yucca Mtn., not swimming in pools all over the country. We have not shown the capacity to implement a simple plan supposedly finalized 30 years ago. Even if we started tomorrow, I'd lay pretty good odds that one of those hundreds of deliveries is either stolen or mishandled, delaying the rest of them for another twenty years.

If the reverse happens, as it will eventually, and one of the dispersed piles of wastes gets out, people might move on getting everything else to Nevada. But they will also become more adamant on rejecting any and all nuclear power options.


I would like to hear the first chapter of Labyrinth Index. Was a video made of Charlie's recent reading at that science fiction conference?

No it wasn't (I hope!) and you don't want to hear it. It's first draft, liable to change significantly, and I ran out of time (bad scheduling advice) so the end was very rushed.

You'll just have to wait, like everybody else.


Re: '... how long does it take plastic or silicon to degrade?'

According to search results, plastics can take hundreds to thousands of years to degrade depending on their composition. Plastics are very useful for many applications and can be recycled more easily than metals.

However, if you're going full-tilt green and pulling fewer fossil fuels out of the ground, and you still want your plastics, then how about fishing the oceans for old plastic. I realize that there are some new creatures that have recently evolved to live on plastics, but my bias is removing these plastic land masses so that the older ocean critters can survive.


Re: Plastics in oceans ... economic impact on tourism

And for folks whose decisions are based on dollars ...


Yeah, but that's California residents — and Trup's base seems pretty happy with anything that pisses off a Californian.


I said "starts," then carefully didn't say anything about how the process works or how long it takes. This is because even after you stop putting carbon into the atmosphere you get higher temperatures for another 50-100 years.

Agreed, however, that we're looking at hundreds of thousands of years at a minimum for all the carbon to leave the atmosphere.


If we're going full-tilt green we'll grow a lot of wood to sequester the carbon and use wood where we use plastics now, with the sawdust being composted or used as filler in some process.


One of the reasons I'm anti-nuclear is that the core technologies are not being improved. Note the discussion of IFR above. They had a much, much improved nuclear reactor in the prototype stage in 1993, one which was still capable of breeding PU-239 (if that's a requirement,) and which answered most of the environmental objections, and they stopped funding it! When I think of how much better the technology could be today with twenty years more research it makes me want to weep!

So what's going on with that? The IFR is not nearly as good as going full-on green, but also so much better than either current nuclear or carbon that I'd probably accept a compromise built on that technology.

I predict that one day a country like Iran or North Korea is going to start building IFRs and they will completely revolutionize the field, break the current paradigm, and suck the money out of the rest of the field.


The most efficient energy source, based on the cost of transport, is keeping cows on the ground floor and using the dung for heating and cooking. Not only do the cows deliver the dung right to your home, they generate additional heat which can warm an upper floor. Another efficient energy source is our own body heat, which can be captured by sleeping six to a bed.


Got any links on that one, Troutwaxer?

I ask because I have a relative who is both a climate change denier and a fervent nuclear advocate, you see. . .


I looked it up, and the major problem that triggered the overprinting of Zim dollars, and the consequent hyperinflation, was the decision to involve Zimbabwe in the Congo war.


See Tim Freeman's wikipedia link above.


A colleague of mine has done work on Chinese-African relations in the context of Zambia. . . she reported that in that country at least the new Chinese communities were under standing orders to get out and mix with the local population.

That's just one African country out of 54, of course.


Interesting, thanks for that.

Here's an article about a Kenyan school that relies on solar power:


Working class all my life, Father's family did the tenant farmer thing before WW2, white trash comes uncomfortably easy.
Remembering what I've read of "The treasonous slaveholder's revolt", AKA, "The mint julep inspired blue ribbon clusterfuck", the elite of 1861 held working class whites in nearly as much contempt as they had for their slaves, and contemporary conservatism is inextricably bound to the lost cause, I'd say we're seeing something not so very different from a world were the south won.


Transportation of western PRB coal costs less per ton than eastern coal to power plants.

Yep. The Scherer power plant in Georgia, largest coal-fired plant in the US, burns exclusively PRB coal. The coal cars travel approx 1,800 miles each way. The big railroad companies in the US have to be just drooling over the Trump administrations actions to produce more western coal, more cheaply.


However, if you're going full-tilt green and pulling fewer fossil fuels out of the ground, and you still want your plastics, then how about fishing the oceans for old plastic. I realize that there are some new creatures that have recently evolved to live on plastics, but my bias is removing these plastic land masses so that the older ocean critters can survive.

If you're talking about the garbage patch, it's more a large hunk of contaminated water than a floating island of plastics.

There's a good argument to be made for getting thee crap out, especially since plastic keeps getting eaten and killing the animals that eat it.

However, there's a little complication: microbes, especially Vibrio bacteria, are evolving to live on and digest plastics. There's also a host of bacteria that can metabolize crude oil and methane. This is great news, especially the latter, because it potentially means that at least some of the methane degassed by methane hydrates in melting permafrost will be metabolized into CO2 before it gets to the surface.

On the other hand, I don't think having great windrows and bins of bacteria-laced plastic waiting to be recycled is necessarily a good thing (and I won't link to it, but you can already buy recycled oceanic plastic products). One problem is that Vibrio includes cholera, and it would be just our luck if cholera starts using water borne debris as an alternative resting place. The second problem is that the bacteria and whatever else in the rapidly evolving "plastisphere" aren't necessarily consuming all the plastic. They might just eat some of it and leave things like phthalates to leach out, and/or make lots of plastic sponges by hollowing out the plastic. These little sponges could absorb other crap and then be swallowed by seabirds.

Finally, there's the most fundamental issue of all: the biosphere is rapidly evolving to metabolize our oil and plastics. Although the selection pressures appear to be more complex than what happens with antibiotic and pesticide resistance, I strongly suspect the critters are going to get better at this over time, which suggests that ours may indeed be the only age of petroleum this planet knows. And it could get worse: if microbes start eating the insulation off our cables, we might lose everything from the ability to put solar panels on our houses to intercontinental cables to, well, everything electrical and hydraulic.

So, do we go gently back into the embrace of the biosphere we keep foolishly trying to transcend, or do we cheer on the sophomoric efforts of those who are going to start making lubricants and plastics with antibiotics embedded in them for longevity? There's probably a SFF story in there for someone.*

*Actually, I already wrote a story about a planet where the naturally evolved use of compounds like our industrial polymers in their plant analogs meant that the planet rapidly degraded our plastics, insulation, and lubricants, leaving it inhospitable for a space-traveling civilization, but okay for something more primitive. I think I'll revive that world somehow.


Like this, do you mean?
Coal Train I - heavy US diesel thrash
Coal Train II A description ...

even after you stop putting carbon into the atmosphere you get higher temperatures for another 50-100 years.

You're still underestimating it. You get rising temperatures for decades after stopping (not reducing) CO2 emissions as the system equilibrates, then temperatures stay elevated as long as CO2 levels are elevated. It could take around 300 years for the removal of the first part of the CO2 (by ocean acidification) to finish, 40,000 years for the next fraction (reaction with calcium carbonate) and 400,000 years to get the rest (rock weathering).

Our current CO2 emissions are probably going to cause increased temperatures for the next 400,000 years.


Totally unrelated question, related to SFF worldbuilding on red dwarf worlds.

Let's assume that humans can colonize stars by riding giant magic wands or other handwavium. Let's assume that, through the magic of tetraploidy, unearthly enzymes, epic fluorescence, and incorporation of other handwavium into their cells, biospheres with oxygen atmospheres breathable by humans can form on planets in the habitable zones around red dwarfs.

Obviously, we're talking about planets around flare stars, so humans are probably going to live in underground bunkers and grow their plants on reflected (and possibly supplemented) sunlight, probably in greenhouses sitting behind the piled dirt atop the bunkers. Assuming these planets are tidally locked, the plants may not get a lot of light per hour, but if the sun never moves in the sky, that problem goes away, again with a liberal application of yet other forms of handwavium.

Anyway, there's another problem: the electrical grid. In my too-basic understanding of how red dwarfs flare, I keep thinking of these flares as Super-Carrington Events.

Is this correct? If so, it is both a problem and a possibility. The problem is that if you try to power the colony off something like a fusion reactor, you're going to have to bury the power cables and do other stuff to keep them from carrying a lot of current when the stellar flare hits the planet. Or is there some way (presumably using the hypercapacitor plant from hell, big flywheels spinning up, or whatever) to capture some of the energy racing around the electrical grid during the stellar flare, and to then put it to work?

Capturing solar wind energy wouldn't make much sense on Earth, because Carrington Events appear to be too rare to make using them cost-effective. But if an electrical grid under a red dwarf experiences flares monthly or annually, it might be worth trying to corral the energy. Is this even possible? Or are the flares just big flashes of energetic photons, and not electron barrages?


Funny, but it looks like you're rephrasing what I wrote, then arguing with me. Either that, or you didn't read the second paragraph of my post above. How in the world could you have not noticed that we are in substantial agreement on every point?


Like this, do you mean?

Exactly. The rail line coming out of the PWB and heading east across Nebraska carries more tonnage per year than any other rail route in the world.


I have this sneaking suspicion (which may make no sense) that if we can't burn all the remaining coal, we'll use it as feed stock for plastic.


Note to Charlie -

Just a friendly reminder that millions of SciFi fans depend on people like you to give us rays of hope, no matter how dim or far-fetched, in these historic times. The challenge has never been greater, but surely you are up to it. In the immortal words of Lowell George: feets don't fail me now!

Anyway, there's another problem: the electrical grid. In my too-basic understanding of how red dwarfs flare, I keep thinking of these flares as Super-Carrington Events.

As I understand it (ie, minimally), the most exciting electromagnetic effects you get from a solar flare (or a high-altitude nuclear explosion) are due to charged particles interacting with the earth's magnetic field. There's no particular reason why your hypothetical planet should have a magnetic field, and given the need to live under all that shielding anyway there might well be good reason to avoid planets with such fields as they may well end up doing you more bad than good.

But if an electrical grid under a red dwarf experiences flares monthly or annually, it might be worth trying to corral the energy. Is this even possible? Or are the flares just big flashes of energetic photons, and not electron barrages?

I wonder if there are other things you can do with a regular rain of high energy particles, such as nuclear transmutation. Probably not, but you never know. Throw your used shielding and fuel rods on top of the shield dome and leave them for a few months, bring em back in a bit less hot than before?

Earth's van Allen belts contain a small quantity of antiprotons generated by solar wind interaction with the upper atmosphere (which your planet wouldn't have, but there's still the surface). Even a small amount of antiparticles can be useful.


Why shouldn't planets around red dwarf stars have magnetic fields? They're orbiting the star every week or two, so that means, unlike Mercury or Venus, they're also revolving every week or two (a planet has to rotate in space to keep the same face pointed at the star at all times--basically a day=a year in tidally locked bodies). AFAIK, that means they could have magnetic fields.


I remember trying to explain in words of less than one syllable to folks on various blogs exactly what oil dispersant spraying was trying to achieve during the recent Caribbean Gulf pollution clusterfuck initiated by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The conspiracy theories started with the idea that spraying dispersants was a cosmetic exercise to "hide" the pollution down through Evull Oil Corporations attempting to confuse any attempt to estimate how much oil was being released as that would affect the amount of the fines and penalties to be imposed later.

Regularly-used dispersants don't destroy loose oil, they turn it onto small droplets with a very large surface area which can be more easily digested by existing bacteria, that's all. They're basically specially-formulated soap dissolved in kerosene. This basic science was totally lost on most folks even after it was pointed out that the Gulf has a lot of natural holistic organic oil seeps and an accompanying microbial ecosystem tuned to consuming crude oil of that particular formulation.

As for turning coal into plastics, the problem is that the current method for disposing of waste plastics is to burn them and release the resulting CO2 into the atmosphere, so using coal and oil to make plastic only slows down desequestration of fossil carbon by a year or two. The absolute best thing to do with such waste would be to landfill it as that would extend the time between the extraction of fossil carbon and its release as CO2 into the atmosphere to centuries or more but companies can get green credits for garbage-burning today because it's more "ecological" than nasty landfill.


The absolute best thing to do with such waste would be to landfill it as that would extend the time between the extraction of fossil carbon and its release as CO2 into the atmosphere to centuries or more but companies can get green credits for garbage-burning today because it's more "ecological" than nasty landfill.

Burning isn't allowed in places like LA where the air quality problems from smoke coming from incinerators are serious. In general, incineration is a problem, not because stuff can't burn, but because it's hard to optimize the burning parameters of a highly heterogeneous waste stream so that the stuff doesn't produce a lot of smoke. If you've got a pure feedstock, it's fairly straightforward to burn it cleanly.

The problem of a heterogeneous waste stream has been the bane of hundreds (if not thousands) of proposals to handle urban waste streams. Almost all of them would work "if only" they had a waste stream of particular characteristics. With materials like lead in batteries, it's cost effective to sort out the lead and ship it back for remanufacture. But dirty plastics? There's rarely enough money to be made recycling them to be worth the trouble.

Still, people try. There are some boutique industries making stuff out of ocean plastics, for example, and you can find them by googling.

My personal (and totally sky pie) solution isn't landfilling unrecyclable, dirty plastics. Rather, I'd melt them into large, heavier-than-water obelisk/penetrators, barge them out to oceanic dead zones like the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone or other dead zones (Baltic, Black Sea, Oregon, Gulf of St. Lawrence, etc.), and dump them overboard. Ideally I want them in a shape so that they'll entirely sink, point first, into the sediment and stay there.

Dead zones are places where there's little or no oxygen in the sea water, so stuff decays really slowly. In geologic terms, these are where shales form and, sometimes, where oil deposits eventually form. By dumping large lumps of useless plastics into the dead zones, you're trying to sequester the carbon in them, not for a few centuries, but for millions of years. If you can get them to penetrate into the sea floor, you're also making it harder for the plastics to leach whatever nasty stuff they have into the fast-cycling parts of the biosphere (leachate is a huge problem in landfills). Over time, these sediments should get buried, and once the plastic is buried well over 500 meters down, pressure and heat should do a reasonably good job of decomposing it.

The nice thing about such an operation is it's relatively cheap. There are known dead zones at the mouths of many rivers near large cities, so all you're doing is accumulating plastic in an urban port, melting and compressing it, and barging it out to dump in an otherwise useless part of the ocean where they won't be a hazard to marine life or shipping. While it will take energy to accumulate and melt the plastics, it will probably take less than refining them back into useful forms, and barging is far more energy efficient than overland shipping.


My understanding is that Carrington events — and EMP from high-altitude nuclear air bursts — is only a problem because it induces current fluctations in conductors stretching across long distances. A study of the British electricity grid reported that it would survive a Carrington event that would totally fuck the US grid, simply because the distances the high tension conductors spanned were an order of magnitude shorter.

Also, it is in principle possible to design and build a high tension grid today that would enable the US to survive such a threat, simply by beefing up the transformers and circuit breakers substantially.

So I think this is a much less major problem than the likely climate effects of living on a tidally locked world. (In which case, growing your crops in underground caves under LED lights powered by the solar farms on the surface may indeed be an optimal strategy.)

Why shouldn't planets around red dwarf stars have magnetic fields?

I said there's no reason that they should have one, which isn't quite the same as saying that they shouldn't have one. My writing could have been more emphatic, I guess.

AFAIK, that means they could have magnetic fields.

Apparently you can conceivably get a magnetic field generated by convection in a slowly rotating planet, if it is made up of the right sort of stuff. Presumably Venus isn't. Anyway, the take home message mostly seems to be that no-one has a good handle on ways to generate a planetary magnetic field, but there don't appear to be any models that suggest that the sort of world you're talking about must have one, therefore there's not an unreasonable chance that you could find one that didn't and live on that. There has been work on detecting exoplanetary magnetospheres, though as with most exoplanetary stuff it won't necessarily work for any particular given star system, but it would seem to be a silly idea to travel to a different solar system that you didn't have a reasonable knowledge of beforehand.


That's not really a conspiracy: Corexit is ~52 times as toxic as oil on its own[0] and there's significant evidence that a PR cover-up was in place[1]. Your framing is not omitting a lot of data and painting a far brighter picture of the events than reality[2] and lacks references.

This is actually an interesting segue into current events[3] since the Houston hurricane / tropical storm has just entered "unprecedented" areas in terms of volume of water dropped.

The most current model (~3 hrs old, EUR, 5th run)[4] puts Harvey as returning to the gulf, picking up more force, then returning to Houston area once more. And delivering an additional ~27" of water. The immediate issues over flooding and in particular damn structural integrity[5] in light of them already being under the highest risk classification and contamination by oil etc are obvious. (Oh, and if you like your irony thick, well, check the date they planned to start fixing them[6]). But, looking a little wider: At best case (crossed fingers and toes) this is a humanitarian disaster with ~2+mil people in a catastrophic flood event[7] with huge infrastructure damage and a bill of in the order of ~$0.5-1.5 trillion dollars (figuring lost revenues, insurance, rebuild etc). That's without considering that the US National Guard will probably have to be mobilized and so forth (Katrina[8] - and the lack of rebuild that's seen), you've an incompetent President, enough Generals on staff to raise eyebrows (what is it now? four? five?) and potentially a huge market event brewing.

Oh, wait: did you miss the fun? The end of QE4 looms[9] and there's a bit of a problem: Central Banks currently hold four times as much as in 2008[10] and Brexit and the EU are starting to get to the real issues[11] where the Old Guard Tories really lurk[12] so you've potentially three massive dyke breaches all at the same time (Social / Political / Economic).

However, positive note: in 2017 you can watch live from the middle of a category 4 hurricane to a live stream of a plucky Blue Shed who stood firm. She even got her own Twitter handle: What's your favorite ASTM code? Mine is … #blueshed Twitter 25th Aug 2017 (although, this being America, some-one already stole the joke / idea, made their own Twitter then printed out T-shirts to attempt to monetize it. Really tasteful after a hurricane...).

So, depends: how badly do you want to get into the other trouser-leg? Do you think Ms Clinton would stand more or less of a chance at being (literally) frog-marched if this happened with her in power?

Methinks not.

[0]1:130 the actual dispersant:oil ratio used in the Deep Water Horizon spill. Corexit 9500A® and oil are similar in their toxicity. However, when Corexit 9500A® and oil are mixed, toxicity to B. manjavacas increases up to 52-fold. Extrapolating these results to the oil released by the Macondo well, suggests underestimation of increased toxicity from Corexit application. We found small differences in sensitivity among species of the B. plicatilis species complex, likely reflecting phylogenetic similarity. Just 2.6% of the water-accommodated fraction of oil inhibited rotifer cyst hatching by 50%, an ecologically significant result because rotifer cyst in sediments are critical resources for the recolonization of populations each Spring.

Synergistic toxicity of Macondo crude oil and dispersant Corexit 9500A® to the Brachionus plicatilis species complex (Rotifera) Pollution, 2013

[1] Cleanup or Cover-up? What BP and the EPA Did to the Gulf Washington Spectator, Jul 1st, 2013

[2] Reproductive outcome and survival of common bottlenose dolphins sampled in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Royal Society, 4th Nov, 2015

[3] Exxon shuts giant refinery as Harvey hits Texas energy hub CNN 27th Aug 2017

[4] ECMWF Model Tropical Titbits, 27th Aug, 2017 - warning, large 36mg model

[5] Addicks and Barker dams are the "line in the sand." Not looking good. I'm scared. Twitter - good graph data, 27th Aug, 2017 - you can find more on the US Army planning to vent water etc on the various emergency sites

[6] Not that everyone agrees. According to Michael Sterling of the Corps' Galveston District, Addicks and Barker dams aren't about to crumble. The Corps, which has put in a couple of quick fixes that may or may not work, says the soonest that Addicks and Barker can be fully repaired is by September 2017.

If the Addicks and Barker Dams Fail Houston Press, Thursday, July 19, 2012

[7] Mesoscale Precipitation Discussion: #0743 WPC Met Watch 27th Aug, 2017

[8] Why America Still Hasn’t Learned the Lessons of Katrina Politico, 27th Aug, 2017

[9] Global investors look to Jackson Hole for signs of how QE will end Guardian 20th Aug 2017

[10] In total, the six central banks that have embarked on quantitative easing over the past decade — the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England, along with the Swiss and Swedish central banks — now hold more than $15tn of assets, according to analysis by the FT of IMF and central bank figures, more than four times the pre-crisis level.

Central banks hold a fifth of their governments’ debt FT, 15th Aug, 2017

[11]European Investment Bank cuts off cash for British building projects due to Brexit Sunday Times, 22nd Aug, 2017

[12] The UK’s risks and exposure to the European Investment Bank and other European financial mechanisms: amounts, safeguards and breaches in the dyke The Bruges Group, 2012, PDF. It's been a long term target, and the Bruges Group are old school (look @ the member list).

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(Apologies if that's a little link-heavy: writing urgent reports on the fly - most of the data is culled from various social media / media sites / twitter; it's just Stat Report for Monday Open type format)


Re a sci-fi story, there was the early 1970s
Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters
The biology is probably as bad as one might expect from early 1970s sci-fi. (Not re-reading it. :-)
Some maybe positive research news, if it holds up:
Minimal geological methane emissions during the Younger Dryas–Preboreal abrupt warming event (paywalled, 23 August 2017.)
via "Methane from tundra, ocean floor didn't spike during previous natural warming period"
CH 4 is unique in its ability to accurately quantify combined 14 C-free emissions from methane hydrates, thermokarst lakes and methane trapped under ice (which is also 14 C-depleted ) as a fraction of the total CH 4 source.
Agree with upthread subthread that advances in electrical storage tech are key, plus commercialization pathways to large scale production, generation of market interest, and protection from entrenched competing interests. There could be multiple countries competing for dominance.
Bean Sídhe, if still listening, was irritated at self (not you), and am working on weaknesses. No need for a reply.


And I'm sure you know that in the US, and I suspect other countries, the phrase "dumping waste into the ocean" will create riots in the streets from the eco side of the population. No matter what the science is behind it.


So far as I know, Venus' problem isn't composition, it's that it's tidally locked with a year/day of 225 terran days, so it's spinning too slowly for it to develop a strong magnetic field. AFAIK (and I'm waiting for the physicists in the group to check in and correct me), you need a big ol' molten core and a reasonably fast spin (whatever that means) to have a planetary magnetic field. Earth has both. Mars isn't sufficiently molten, while Venus and Mercury aren't spinning fast enough.

With red dwarf planets like Proxima Centauri B and the Trappist-1 brood, we're talking about planets with a year/day of 6-12 terran days, so they're twirling a bit faster. Whether it's fast enough is the interesting question.


"Mutant 59" was a spin-off from Doomwatch, by Kit Peddlar and Gerry Davis. While the TV series plots have been visited by the suck fairy's sexism sibling, it was the hardest of hard SF by 1970s standards. (And the basic premise — a government lab trying to develop a plastic eating bug for use in recycling plants — has some plausibility.)


Venus' problem isn't composition, it's that it's tidally locked with a year/day of 225 terran days, so it's spinning too slowly for it to develop a strong magnetic field

Yes. Also it's a good bit closer to the sun, so it picks up more radiation across the entire spectrum.

The lack of a magnetic field means that when solar UV splits water into hydroxyl and hydrogen radicals in the ionosphere the H+ ions can be blasted out into interplanetary space, so Venus rapidly loses water. This has interesting geophysical consequences, including putting stop to any nascent plate tectonics so that there's no convective cooling in the upper mantle and the crust literally melts every few hundred million years.

Who knows? If Venus had experienced an impact with a sister-planet as Earth did with Theia and ended up with a spun-off moon — assuming the lunar formation hypothesis is still held to be correct this week — then it might be hot but habitable by thermophiles. (Tougher to form hydrogen bonds and disulfide bridges to stabilize polypeptide tertiary structure, but a higher energy biosphere means faster evolution, I think ...)

So far as I know, Venus' problem isn't composition

I mentioned it specifically in relation to the convective model of magnetic field generation, rather than the rotatory kind. The model suggests that if it were made of the right stuff (and that if the model were correct, of course) then it could have some kind of magnetic field even in the absense of fast rotation or tidal heating or whatever else. I'm having problems finding useful information about the convective models though, so maybe it isn't all that interesting or useful. Or maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place.


Venus isn't tidally locked, it does one turn on its axis every 243 days but backwards so the sun rises in the West. The end result is you get a bit under two solar days per Venus year.


The one angle you might consider is that Hurricane Katrina didn't cause Louisiana to suddenly start voting democratic. Therefore, the Republicans may decide that hurricane prep and rescue is a non-issue politically and therefore it should be defunded. They'll always have their base there. Heh heh.

This is in response to comments from my friends that, depending on how you look at it, either God hates the Gulf Coast or climate change is making it hard to live there. Either or both may be true, but that doesn't stop the residents (or at least, the politicians who've gerrymandered them) from calling themselves God-fearing populists, who (at least in the white "majority") uphold the traditional values of racism and gender discrimination (which are all over the New Testament, according to them, especially in the Book of Revelations) and this causes them to generally vote for authoritarian plutocrats because that's their team, even though they see the current lineup as a bunch of ineffectual jackasses.

It's amazing what an authoritarian follower mindset can help you to believe. Chaos magicians have nothing on anyone who can actually pull all this off and still be happy.


The sun is slowly getting brighter, about 25% up on when it formed, so early life on a spinning moon-equipped Venus would have had an easier time getting started.


It's worse than that. Many residents of the Democratic-leaning neighborhoods in New Orleans moved away because of Katrina and the slow pace of rebuilding. Where are they now? Mostly in Houston.


Troutwaxer said

they haven't really solved the half-life problem for radioactive trash; they've merely reduced the worst of what the IFR puts out to something like 15,000 years.

and then:

You need to read the Wikipedia article more carefully. Note both the table of half-lives...

I think you are talking about the "Actinides and fission products by half-life" table in the "Carbon Dioxide" section. (It makes no sense to have it in the "Carbon Dioxide" section, but nevermind that.) You are off by an order of magnitude: it's 150,000 years, not 15,000. Short enough half lives are good because there is hope of waiting it out. Long enough half lives are good because you don't get much radioactivity. 150K years is in the "long enough" category, arguably. The figure of 400 years for the waste to be less radioactive than the original fuel is still consistent with your objections.

... and the discussion of breeding weapons-grade PU-239. They're both right there in the text.

Ya, for those reading along, find it in by searching for "239" and skipping back a few paragraphs. You'd have to run the IFR on specific inputs for it to generate more plutonium than it consumes. At the moment I'm confused about the proliferation consequences of the IFR vs. other nuclear alternatives.

the waste problem doesn't exist at all with solar, wind, or hydro.

Agreed. I've seen conflicting stories about whether those are available in sufficient quantity, including storage for use at night.

I don't presently understand why Enhanced Geothermal doesn't get seriously considered:

I'm willing to argue that IFR is better than other nuclear alternatives and better than burning coal, but solar, wind, and geothermal seem a better idea. I'm not sure there's enough hydro to matter.


No, that MUST have been a joke. It's the sort of joke that I would make, on the same sort of basis: it absolutely is not viable because you can't avoid being fried by the radiation before you even get in the front door, but precisely because that obstacle is obvious, massive, and insuperable, for the purposes of the joke you just pretend it doesn't exist and play with the ideas that would be possible if the pretence was true. It's a similar kind of idea to using a water-moderated reactor with a negative void coefficient to power a putt-putt boat.


It's amazing what an authoritarian follower mindset can help you to believe. Chaos magicians have nothing on anyone who can actually pull all this off and still be happy.


Birling Gap evacuated after 'chemical incident' on East Sussex coast Guardian, Sunday 27 August 2017 19.11 BST

Open-Air Biowarfare Testing and the Evolution of Values Health Secur. 2016 Oct 1; 14(5): 315–322. Full Text; historical.

You should probably parse my name out in fine detail there.


Re: '... the biosphere is rapidly evolving to metabolize our oil and plastics.'

Interesting ... which micro-critters specifically?

And, next door, use tweaked algae to reduce carbon.

'Because the algae take in three times the CO2 to produce a single ton of ethylene, the process acts as a carbon sink.'


True for Carrington but not for EMP, as I understand it. The important difference is in the frequency spectrum: the energy in the EMP spectrum is at frequencies several orders of magnitude higher, so you can receive it efficiently on a correspondingly shorter antenna. So instead of things needing wires that are thousands of km long to be affected, the lengths of the internal connections or even the size of the components themselves are of the right order to pick up destructive amounts of energy. (Not to mention that "destructive amounts" has a different meaning depending on whether you're talking about a 1000kVa transformer or a MOSFET.)


I agree with your first paragraph: much as I would like to be able to hold similar expectations on the matter as Greg, I can't see anything to lend such a position any credibility or justification.

The reason, mainly, is embodied in Greg's comment in the post following the one you replied to: that we desperately need some politicians who have the balls to tell the lying, screaming "leave" supporters (no, I refuse to use that stupid word that sounds like a brand of radioactive porridge) to shut the fuck up.

And to tell them emphatically and repeatedly, and to include the scum press (ie. nearly all of it) as well as the individuals and groups thereof. With sufficient vehemence to demolish the extraordinary immunity the "leave" side seems to have to exposure. After all, it was the "leave" side themselves, not their opponents, who came out on the very morning after the result and proudly announced that their main slogan which they had painted down the side of their bloody bus had been a lie all along... they effectively put their thumbs in their ears and wiggled their fingers and stuck their tongues out and went "ner ner ner suckers we got you", and it still didn't wake anybody up.

I also recall with disquiet that the last time we had a prominent politician with any balls, it was Thatcher...


Troutwaxer @ 365: The two obstacles are that it can be configured as a breeder for PU-239

Tim Freeman @ 370: That is addressed at the end of the "advantages" section of the Wikipedia article (search for "proliferation"). If you keep the plutonium mixed with other heavy isotopes, and you don't have anything that can separate it out, it is not clear how to make a bomb from it.

In 1939 it wasn't all that clear how you would make a bomb out of uranium either. Then some clever boy figured out how to refine it; how to enrich it and then how to use it to make and enrich Plutonium.

Don't "tut-tut" security concerns inherent in nuclear power. Just because you don't know how to make a bomb out of it doesn't mean someone else can't figure it out.


Is this backwards day or something? The exact thing I'm objecting to is the ability of this particular reactor to aid in proliferation (if configured correctly.) Unless I misunderstand you completely, we are in absolute agreement.


It sure seems like several of us have our trousers on backwards. Not sure how that happened.


"One of the reasons I'm anti-nuclear is that the core technologies are not being improved... When I think of how much better the technology could be today with twenty years more research it makes me want to weep!"

I think that broadly we are actually pretty much in agreement. The points of difference seem to be partly on assessment of the collateral damage, but mainly on overall approach: your reaction to the core technologies not being improved manifests itself as opposition to nuclear power (as per above quote), whereas mine manifests as opposition to the stupid reasons for the core technologies not being improved (as per my post that brought the subject up). It is quite possible that the underlying cause of the difference is in which areas you and I have a particular personal interest and the consequent ability to make a point without having to look stuff up (certainly that is why I picked nuclear rather than anything else for my example of an alternative energy source).

The IFR is not the only "clean and efficient" possibility; the important feature is the fast neutron spectrum which allows it to use all the energy in the fuel and to eat all the real nasties that would otherwise become waste. (The safety characteristics are rather more loosely connected to the nuclear operational aspects; the principles, if not the specific implementation, are applicable to a wide variety of designs.) Fission products either have such short half-lives that they decay into harmlessness on the scale of a few human lifetimes, or such long half-lives that they're not so powerfully radioactive as to be a real worry. The real bastards are the things with a half-life somewhere between those extremes, and all of those share the characteristic of being a source of fission energy in their own right if you whack 'em with a neutron hard enough; in a conventional fuel cycle they become highly problematic waste, but if you use fast neutrons they're basically just another kind of fuel.

The proliferation thing I regard as mainly bollocks. As far as nation-scale operations are concerned it's just a distraction from the existing measures being so much hot air. What really keeps nations from developing nuclear bombs is the overall reaction from other nations. Examples like Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa and North Korea make it clear that if a nation wants to do it badly enough and is prepared to deal with the opprobrium, it can, whether by lying and cheating on the regulations to get things going, or just by realising that since all the basic information is well-known these days it's not actually that hard to do it all yourself from scratch.

As far as the terrorist-nuke angle goes it looks to me very much like US propaganda intended to keep nuclear development running on US-approved lines. The US-sponsored line that you need high-purity plutonium to make a decent bomb, and making one out of low-grade plutonium is only an option if you have access to the classified data accumulated in the years when open testing was possible, doesn't really apply to non-military production. For a terrorist nuke, the solution to the predetonation problem is simply to ignore it: you may not get the biggest possible bang, but you'll still get at least several hundred tons and probably more, and you can do without all that complex and difficult stuff a proper bomb has to have to inject neutrons into the core at precisely the right instant.

(And of course that's ignoring the point that for terrorists there are so many other things they could do with less effort and more impact, whether nuclear-based or not. Terrorists in general do seem to be remarkably thick and unimaginative...)

I'd also point out that other non-fossil energy sources are not without their own environmental damage aspects. Some obvious ones are methane emission from newly-flooded hydroelectric reservoirs (since it's often mentioned on here), birds getting whacked by wind turbines, habitat destruction by tidal barrages, and pollution from mining and extracting rare elements needed for things like semiconductor doping, good permanent magnets, and storage batteries. Only nobody ever talks about it, and when they do they tend to talk politically-inspired bollocks. (For instance, there's one faction that claims wind turbines are magical and perfect, and another faction that claims they use more energy to make than they will ever generate. The non-factional objective reality is somewhere in between, but where are the non-factional objective figures?) Because there are so many factors, and such poor information, and I don't even know what most of the relevant factors are, I am thoroughly at sea when it comes to estimating the significance for any given proposal, but I do suspect just on general principles that an awful lot of touted solutions are not all they're cracked up to be. Note that I'm not saying they're not worth doing: there's a good chance that many of them are, but they need to be assessed (a) honestly and openly, and (b) on criteria related to how well they perform rather than how well optimised they are for making money.


Sugar Land:

Candy Land: Django Candyland Shootout Scene YT.

If you want to play funny-business, look at the sudden escalation of Harvey and the "never seen before" bubbles in the vortexes just before it ramped up in record Time. NASA has the files, and there's a lot of confusion over what happened (barring the HAAAAARP cries of Seagulls).

No, really: check it out.


Eh, forgot to mention - probably the hardest problem in respect of a terrorist nuke is how to survive handling the materials. Especially in their unpurified/unseparated state. HEU is reasonable, but WG plutonium is... tricky, and anything else gets rapidly worse.


It has long been known as a problem for diesel engines: there is some bug that basically requires water and diesel to reproduce. So if you get a bit of water in the bottom of a diesel tank, this critter multiplies and makes a horrible brown gooey mess which is about the worst thing out for clogging filters and stopping the engine working. I'm somewhat surprised that variants aren't already common eating things like polythene, which after all is just longer diesel.


We're pretty much in exact agreement. The main reason I'm "anti-nuclear because the core technologies are not being improved" is due to the cost of getting it wrong. If your windmill generates less power than it cost to build you don't have a gigantic environmental tragedy to deal with, whereas with nuclear if you get something wrong the costs are higher by multiple orders of magnitude and last much, much longer.

All new technologies need to be tested, both for reasonable financial success and for safety, in accordance with the actual risks of screwing up.

But if I were elected world dictator I'd test the hell out of safe nuclear in the hopes of having another weapon against climate change!


I used to have a poster that advertised itself as blueprints for a nuke (it was multiply non-functional), but the parts about making precise shapes of a high explosive that required a nitrogen atmosphere and milling plutonium (as well as getting enriched uranium by buying a lot of uranium yellow paint and doing a fair amount of centrifuging, and ditto with the heavy water) were ever so slightly eye opening.

The thing that poster drove home about nukes is that they take a lot of infrastructure to build. You've got to make all the crap you need for the bomb, and that infrastructure is a lot more detectable than the bomb itself is. That's actually a good reason to warn about terrorist nukes, because you can stop sub-state proliferation simply by keeping good track of where all the horribly toxic and expensive materials are. Hidden terrorists can't refine their own plutonium any more than they can transmute their own lead into gold to crash the financial system.

I'd also point out that, since the US has its Continuity of Government program and the USSR (and presumably now Russia) have the Dead Hand, having nukes in the hands of terrorists could be a real problem. Someone nukes Russia, Russia nukes the US, the US retaliates, and civilization is wiped out. We've got all these systems (like President Trump's Nuclear Football) that don't allow much time for thought or detailed analysis of an attack. They're supposed to respond fast before they're wiped out by the incoming attack. Most nukes exist solely not to be used--they're there to prevent someone else from trying a decapitation strike. What we don't want as a world is for someone to spoof the mutual deterrence system and goad the nuclear powers into launching against each other before they realize that they've made a mistake.



With little warning, an unexpected geomagnetic storm occurred on Aug. 23rd, ringing Earth's poles with the luminous glow of auroras. Peter Sayers photographed the display from the banks of the Forth River in Tasmania, Australia: What happened? The interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) near Earth tipped south, opening a crack in our planet's magnetosphere. Solar wind blew in through the opening and fueled the display.

UNEXPECTED GEOMAGNETIC STORM SpaceWeather, 24rd August, 2017

It's those magnetic tunnels...

And that's not how either Carrington nor EMPs work (depending on altitude of EMP/Nuke)

Anyhow, moribund.

Wake up once the Markets spot that Houston = Higher Oil Prices, the insanity will continue (Up!)


Question for historically minded bloggers-- why were the Reformation and Europeans' discovery of the Americas nearly simultaneous, just sheer happenstance or more than a coincidence? The reason I started wondering is because my wife was watching the Six Wives series on PBS when I walked in the kitchen to drop an empty beer mug in the sink. I ask her is that about Diana again, she says no Henry the Eighth, and stuff she read suggests he died of syphilis. I say makes sense, like Capone it took decades to kill him. She goes on about how one of the wives probably had multiple miscarriages due to it, and Mary Tudor was likely born with it as well. I say it hit Europe like a ton of bricks since it took generations to build resistance in the gene pool, Columbus didn't just deliver smallpox to the Indians he brought a little something back too, might help explain some of the Protestant emphasis on chastity and sexual repression. Then I got thinking, Columbus got his trip financed because the Turks were blocking trade routes East during the siege of Constantinople and its capture in 1492. Could Catholic excesses like sales of indulgences and ecclesiastical appointments, which prompted the Reformation, have been caused to sharply increase by the same thing? Maybe the Church was suddenly strapped for cash when the Muslims interrupted trade. So as a result the northern Protestant countries got hit harder with the inhibition stick than their more worldly Mediterranean competitors, since the new cultural apparatus was being formed right when an STD plague hit. Unlucky timing happening together that way, but maybe it wasn't strictly accidental. Anyway it may have provided further motivation toward striving for prosperity by way of Freudian sublimation, virtue out of necessity and all that. So we'd have the Turks to thank for the industrial revolution rolling out in England and Germany before Spain and Italy. As well as additional cultural baggage.


Radiation belts have also been artificially generated during the enormous charged particle releases from atmospheric nuclear tests like the “Starfish” nuclear explosion in 1962. Sometimes similar injections of particles have been observed during very strong magnetic storms.

Search for that, you'll see the band it formed with proofs and the internal (atmospheric) debris (particle sized) that it caused.

Anyhow: Carrington etc work because the actual magnetic field drops. i.e. while reversing / doing things, weakens significantly.

This allows lots of fun things to happen.

Wooobie Wooobie Wooobie.


Given that of late, a larger amount of "investment" by wealthier people has been done in ways that takes capital out of the economy long-term, not re-investment into other corporation but rather investment into e.g. long-term untaxable offshore funds, whereas the poor, given money, tend to spend it, putting it back into the economy and circulating it much more quickly, what you give is an argument for spending money on the poor, not on the rich; nix on tax cuts and "corporate welfare" and other forms of upward income redistribution, etc. Thanks!

Now the question becomes how best to do that, on which I am sure we shall disagree, but at least I can see we're agreed _that_ far, Mr. D.H. ...


Hrm. If I became (anykindof) dictator I think my first priority would be to try to find some non-fatal way -out- of the job and to get rid of the job entirely (good luck there, I suppose); one can try to be as benevolent a dictator as one likes but the institutional checks that the job lacks by definition means that your successor had better be at least as benevolent as you, and theirs as..., and... - and one has no way of knowing how long those terms are going to be (sometimes pianos really do drop entirely by accident, but you're just entirely as dead, and the succession problem becomes imminent rather than something that can wait until after the crisis is taken care of -- etc.)

(The narrator in a series of novels written by OGH may have mocked the idea of writing work journals for institutional continuity, that are the in-world reason why one's reading the novels one's reading- but both relatively (compared to some of the other policies at his workplace) and more or less absolutely speaking, they seem a good idea, even if the execution is sometimes from that POV a little confusing (when in the continuity is such-and-such being written (during the events of the book/after), etc.)


Henry VIII didn't have syphilis. It doesn't fit the spread models (i.e. 55 years even assuming immediate contact from the Americas or Pompeii), it certainly doesn't fit his sexual partners (young, virginal, naive and wealthy), his symptoms and so forth.

It's propaganda from much later on, almost certainly from William of Orange's time.

Want proof?

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

Even his death, attributed to syphilis ("the French Disease") is highly disputed as the cause.


"He had AIDS" worked for American slurs - same thing.


Her speech on Sept. 9 2015 was interpreted at the time as having a "Trust but verify" gist, actually, not "distrust but verify", at least by the NYT, though she may well have changed later; I don't remember. (Personally, if there's anything I'd like to see Reagan- nowhere in the top half of our better Presidents or even the top 2/3rds- remembered for, it's his attempt to broker the end of all nuclear weapons with Gorbachev. I wish that they had succeeded; Arms Control Association (ACA)'s website suggests that the 5 major nuclear states _still_ have fairly large arsenals and stockpiles (especially the US and Russia).



She handed him a palm-sized box wrapped with a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift—a red plastic button on a black base with a Russian word “peregruzka” printed on top.
“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton said as reporters, allowed in to observe the first few minutes of the meeting, watched.
“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said, to Clinton’s clear surprise. Instead of "reset," he said the word on the box meant “overcharge.”
... “It is a very, very large red button,” he said. “I do hope that Russia and the United States and other countries would never ever push any other buttons associated with initiation of destructive hostilities.”

VIDEO: Wrong red button
Politico 2009 - U.S. Gift to Russia Lost in Translation YT: AP PRESS, 2009 0:59

I mean: literally your entire political class has been playing world class nonsense / trolling for years now.

Reagan: the missiles have been launched...


Now: we get to play. No Boundaries. And we play with Causality and Chaos ^^

Apollo 13 (1995) - Houston, We Have a Problem YT: Film: 3:03

Fun film.


look at the sudden escalation of Harvey
Interesting. (Sandy made me twitch as well.)
I can only with effort imagine the experience; once dealt with a hurricane that locally dumped a mere 14 inches (35 cm) and flooding was severe. Only got home by remembering where all the little streams were and avoiding them. (and having a saw in the car.)

More prosaically, there may be future educational arguments about climate change, e.g.
Bob Henson - weather underground - August 24, 2017, 9:23 PM
Harvey will continue to traverse sea-surface temperatures near 30°C (86°F), about 2°F above average for this time of year. The warm waters extend to considerable depth, with a total ocean heat content of 70 - 85 kilojoules per square centimeter. Beginning early on Friday, Harvey will get an extra boost in energy as it passes over a warm-core eddy that broke off from the Loop Current. The oceanic heat content within the eddy exceeds 80 kilojoules per square centimeter--enough to support rapid intensification. When warm waters are especially deep, the strong winds of a hurricane are less likely to churn up cooler water that might blunt its growth, so intensification becomes more likely.


No, no, go find the .gif if it's still not purged and post it. (B&W, Sat. Data 3-4 days ago now).

Like mercury bubbles popping on the eastern surface, nada nada not how you Apes imagine these things can form. Much scrabbling @ NASA.

The Paranoid Androids go wiiiild with Conspiracy and HARP the Herald Angels Sing.

We Grin. You want to play Hard Ball?



Re best Disney film:

of recent ones, inclined to say Zootopia or Inside Out. Two that had me saying "wait, these are Disney films? Kudos to Disney, then." Inside Out especially, where the main human character comes perilously close to falling apart (and in a disturbing, plot-realistic way. I can understand why one (favorite because thought-provoking) amateur movie reviewer put in a strong caveat for those who might want to see the film but who might find it striking too close to home as it did with him.)

Of earlier ones, perhaps Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea ?


"doesn't fit the spread models (i.e. 55 years even assuming immediate contact from the Americas"

Immediate contact doesn't seem like a stretch considering the conventional sailor's lifestyle.
55 years seems slow when you consider how quick epidemics can move, or even invasive species like zebra mussels fouling the whole Great Lakes and Mississippi watershed just a few decades after the St Lawrence Seaway opened up

"doesn't fit his sexual partners (young, virginal, naive and wealthy"

what about all the capricious courtesans, like the one he married and then axed for adultery, sure he was older then, but composition of the court favorites posse must have always included some of the same types


*Western. Uff, forget you view things N - S like you do (instead of).

Immigrant Song - Thor - Ragnarok Music VideoYT: Music: 3:23. It. All. Ties. In. .gif. SFW.


How to Use Black Soldier Flies for Biowaste Treatment (short version) EAWAG, Indonesia, June 28th 2017 - quasi-industrial facility.

Rather cool little setup:

Organic (fruit / veg) waste - fly production - animal feed.

Best I've seen for a while for low-tech countries. It's your future (if you want to eat fish / flesh).


Uff, no.

Eckert LO, Lentz GM (2012). Infections of the lower and upper genital tracts: Vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndromes, endometriosis, and salpingitis. In GM Lentz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 6th ed., pp. 519-559. Philadelphia: Mosby.

The contagion rate is only 3-10% chance and that's if you're unlucky / open lesions / certain stages etc.

The viral spread (from Spain) to England in 55 years, even with sailors etc is pretty dubious.

Rochester is 1647-1680, Henry is 1491-1547; that's a good 100+ years for it to become even recognized / culturally important. And Rochester probably didn't even have it.

Want pictures?

(Oh, and Nietzsche probably didn't have it either: it was a common insult).


Nietzsche probably didn't have it because...
diagnostic reasons, please. "It was a common insult" is, believe it or not, irrelevant.


'Madness' of Nietzsche was cancer not syphilis Telegraph, 2003, book review

Friedrich Nietzsche's disease consisted of migraine, psychiatric disturbances, cognitive decline with dementia, and stroke. Despite the prevalent opinion that neurosyphilis caused Nietzsche's illness, there is lack of evidence to support this diagnosis. Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) accounts for all the signs and symptoms of Nietzsche's illness. This study adds new elements to the debate and controversy about Nietzsche's illness. We discuss former diagnoses, comment on the history of a diagnostic mistake, and integrate for the first time Nietzsche's medical problems.

The neurological illness of Friedrich Nietzsche. NCBI, Acta Neurol Belg. 2008 Mar;108(1):9-16

Yeah, believe it or not, I know what I'm talking about. Shocking, isn't it?

Now look at everything I ever type in the same manner.


People on MF who posted "don't worry about the dams, they're not full" (as noted above) using bad data probably just killed people.

Water levels at Addicks Reservoir are now at 100.02. At 103, homes in the area will be in imminent danger of flooding. Prepare accordingly, and if you are headed for the roof be prepared for an extended stay.

826 WOUS44 KHGX 280310 CEMHGX TXC201-290315-




Dumb Apes.

Liberal Forum Fake News Kills People.

Damn. Harsh, but True.


If it makes you feel slightly better, Emera Gratia, Barker and Addicks are only filled to ~3.7 to 5% capacity right now. They've literally got almost two hundred thousand acre feet each to go before they've reached flood pool capacity. In the Houston area itself, Lakes Conroe and Houston are much more worrisome. And there's a lot more reservoirs around the state nearing capacity, including some of the ones near Austin.

User: Barchan

MF user just killed people.

*slow claps*

Nice modding there peeps.


Starting to sound like a home nuke. ;)

Salt systems are likely fine for homes with basements or outside storage for safety. A solution to fit certain circumstances.


And there's the wrap:


You should probably be a bit grateful I'm not taking the mega-$$ and batting for their side.


Back in teh 1970s when energy was getting expensive and buildings were mostly uninsulated, there were a host of simple, inexpensive solutions to reduce heat loss. You mentioned one.

Getting hold of books from this era might be worth doing again.

E.g. "Living with Energy" - Ronald Alves (1978).

I well remember stuffing cotton wool into sash windows, taping polythene over windows to reduce drafts and create a cheap air barrier. Heavy curtains, draft excluders, etc.

Now that I have migrated to California, it is the summer heat that needs to be dealt with, not the cold. Plenty of solutions for this too.


Isn't that what rubber gloves are for? Seriously, who willingly lives without a dishwasher today unless they are some curmudgeon?



There's incredible satisfaction in cleaning surfaces and the methodical process and the little squeak you get from a finger on clean plates. Listen to a eBook or music while doing it.

Time taken: 10-15 mins. Chill factor: 7/10.


It's almost as if you're all males, married and so on... (cleaning for oneself is therapeutic; cleaning as a power-game-Diplomacy-token within a relation, less so).


Yes, agreed. Obviously it is not necessary to go to Manhattan Project scale any more, since you aren't starting from a position of not even knowing the basic principles and aiming for a military-grade result in the minimum possible time. But nearly all the short cuts which are now possible can be, and are, watched for exactly as you describe.

It works better than it does for detecting clandestine drug production, because those things which are specialised are a lot more specialised, and you have near zero freedom to use alternative routes which swap greater difficulty in doing it for greater ease in getting hold of the starting materials (whereas the drug makers can ring the changes on that so fast the law can't keep up). Also, drug makers don't have problems like the wind blowing the wrong way over their shed and all the radiation alarms at the local hospital going off.

An interesting illustration of the difficulties is that one of the techniques used to make nukes sabotage themselves if they're pinched is to squirt hydrogen into the core, which converts it to plutonium hydride (the reaction starts at normal temperatures without special initiation and proceeds rapidly). Having a whole core's worth of pure weapons grade plutonium as hydride is not the gift it might seem, because the stuff is such a bastard both chemically and metallurgically that transforming it back into a sphere of metal - and surviving - is quite a feat.

By far the easiest route is to pinch some nuclear submarine fuel rods, and nobody even wants to do that; the various spook agencies looking out for it have only "caught" each other's sting operations :)

I'm not so sure that the US/Russia "trigger" scenario is quite as worrying as all that, though, because one thing a massively nuclear-armed country is not going to do is start an exchange with another one with just one nuke. Also, there's no incoming missile track. (If there is, you know who sent it.) Whichever one got it, it would be obvious that the other one would be the least likely place it had come from, and these days it's no longer the case that there's only one plausible origin.

I'm not aware of the trigger criteria used by any automatic doomsday system, but I do think it is reasonable to assume that the people setting one up will be very aware of the catastrophic consequences of a false positive, and will have taken comprehensive measures to avoid it - including ensuring that one explosion isn't enough to set it off. One explosion might be one of your own nukes going off by accident, or a refinery/ammo depot/fertiliser plant going up, or a meteorite (Chelyabinsk). The Russians, certainly, do understand this, and have a strong track record of setting up their systems accordingly. People (including me) like to cite Stanislav Petrov as "the man who saved the world", but it is something of an exaggeration; if he hadn't decided not to report it on the basis of "only four missiles? nah, can't be real", it would still have had to go through several more layers before it resulted in an actual launch, and catching that sort of thing is one of the reasons why. (Punishing him for insubordination/disobeying orders looks somewhat less harsh and unjustified, in a military context, when you consider that someone of higher rank existed to make the same decision that he took upon himself.)

The Russians are in fact institutionally rational about that sort of thing, though people tend to confuse the different value structure informing their decisions with them not being. It's the American command structure that I have less confidence in (opinion held since Cold War days and now supported by stuff that has become public since). Having Trump there doesn't help - although the awareness that there is a nut in the White House who might be after starting a nuclear war via Twitter probably helps to keep people on their guard.

I think it's more of a worry in the case of nations with less institutional stability and/or a history of physical cat fights. If someone did it to India or Pakistan while they were having one of their periodic spats I'd be less surprised at the recipient lashing out at the obvious target without the possibility that they might be wrong crossing their minds. With North Korea you can probably do it any time you like and have a guaranteed catastrophe, although smuggling the thing in there in the first place is more of a problem.


Because of the small mass of red dwarfs, the planets in the NZ are close in. That means that most are tidally locked. Which means that they probably do not have protective magnetic fields.

While abundant, you are probably aware that there is a lot of debate whether planets around RDs can support life as their atmospheres are likely transient.

Your colony is probably going to be on an airless world, or perhaps on/in a mini-Neptune.