The terrible quake in Japan should remind us to prioritize the actual threats civilization faces. In 1923 a smaller earthquake in Japan killed over 100,000 people. The safety standards that prosperity and wealth have enabled has made a stronger earthquake in a land with more than double the population kill less than 1/10 as many people. The additional wealth and prosperity that innovation and industrialization bring may mean that one day major quakes and tsunamis will take no lives. Curtailing industrialization in the name of trivial threats (like global warming) puts all of us at much greater risk to the real threats that have killed millions of people.
Meet Bill Andrews: The Man Who would be Immortal
Aristotle gets the whole range of guilt applied to him. Usually he is blamed for the dark ages, because everyone believed Aristotle had all ready figured everything out, so didn’t bother to try to figure out anything new. Aristotle himself would have been disgusted by such an attitude. This writer from a forum I frequent argues that Aristotle was virtually irrelevant. His comment and my response follows:
(Aristotle hater) - " What you present here is a testable hypothesis: Hellenistic science and technology descend from Aristotle. I’d have to see your data. The best way to show this would be to show that later Greek scientists explicitly cited him. Second best would be to show that their contemporaries reported this. You might know of others. James Lennox, an Objectivist and an expert on Aristotle’s biology, notes that even his biology fell fairly quickly into obscurity after his death. To show that he was influential in fields that he didn’t work in (or where he was dead wrong, such as cosmology and mechanics) would be a hard sell, but you’re welcome to try."
Eratosthenes, when setting out to measure the size of the Earth in Alexendria around 240 BC cited Aristotle’s arguments proving the Earth was indeed a sphere - that constellations appeared lower or higher in the sky as one traveled north or south, and that the shadow of the Earth cast on the moon during a lunar eclipse was always round. Eratosthenes was a librarian of the Library of Alexandria and friend to Archimedes.
Aristotle argument that the Earth did not move based on the observation that the relative position of the stars never changed, though wrong, was completely reasonable given that stellar parrallex is not visible by the naked eye and was not observed until the 1800’s, it was never the less cited by Ptolemly when arguing his Geocentric model and was prevalent enough to not only be mentioned by Tycho Brahe, but to in fact SWAY his opinion to reject Heliocentricity in favor of Geocentrciticy (though begrudgingly) Tycho Brahe was the best naked eye astronomical observer to have ever lived, he spent years trying to observe stellar parallelx, and finding none, went against Copernican theory and supported the Ptolemly / Aristotle view.
Daniel N. Robinson Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Georgetown University and a member of the philosophy faculty of Oxford University says of Aristotle in his Teaching Company lecture "Great Ideas of Philosophy"
"I’ve occasionally said to classes that if I had to single out any event as evidence that some civilization out in the milky way was taking pity on humanity for its slow progress…the evidence might well be Aristotle and his accomplishments. Its almost as if such a distant galactic neighbor said ‘Goodness sakes those human beings do not seem to be getting along at all, Aristotle, why don’t you go down there and get things going"
"The sheer intellectual power of this man, expressing itself in biology, natural science, ethics, politics, metaphysics, logic, is simply without parallel in the history of thought. There is almost no academic or scholarly subject taught that does not bare his stamp of influence."
Lets take a critical look at aspects of ’sustainability’. Lots of small communities producing locally only what they need is a recipe for disaster. The first drought, hurricane, or tornado that swings through will basically condemn all those inhabitants to certain death. Neighboring sustainable villages do not produce food or supplies ‘in excess’ as that is not sustainable. People who complain that a typical watermelon travels 1,000 miles to get to your kitchen ignor the fact that they can’t actually grow watermelons, or most other crops, where they live, or that it requires many more resources than it actually took to ship the product.
For many centuries frontier life in America was essentially a life of sustainability. Families lived in small crowded houses, produced enough food for themselves, made candles from animal fat from animals they raised and slaughtered, made clothing from laboriously spinning various grass like plants, and spent virtually every waking moment doing what was required just to ’sustain’ themselves. PBS ran a ‘reality’ show which humorously emphasized this, called "Frontier Life" it stuck wealthy families in the middle of the Oregon forest with 1600’s technology and asked them to survive the winter. The father did pretty much nothing but chop wood, and the mother almost nothing but pickle things. The children tended animals and crops. All of the families worked their butts off and by the end of the summer a judge determined that none of them would have survived the winter, not enough wood or salted food was prepared. It was quite the entertaining show.
Advanced technologies may enable a more comfortable vision of ’sustainability’ But the technologies that the advocates of sustainability rely on, like wind and solar power, can only be afforded because they are mass produced by giant industries. Show me a man living ‘off the grid’ who is able to manufacture his own solar cells, or even able to sun bake his own bricks, and you’ll get my attention.
Case in point - how do you have a ’sustainable’ mine? This whole thing about ‘running out of resources’ is an absolute absurdity. My Econ professor tried to say the same thing, so I asked, ok, why then are there more people than ever before on the earth, but every one of the enjoys a higher standard of living with more material goods than ever before? He balked and the admitted that people have been making malthusian claims for decades. The problem is environmentalist compare potential available resources of the whole planet against the population of the earth, so they think, well if there’s six billion people instead of 1 billion, then everyone has 1/6th the resources!
What they don’t compare is the utilized and processed resources against the population. My favorite example is Aluminum. Aluminum makes up about 10% of the Earth’s crust. The earth, weighing in at 5.98 x 10^ 24 kg, has about 1% of it’s mass in the crust, or about 5.98 x 10^22. 10% of that is 5.98x10^21. That’s how much aluminum is in the Earth’s crust. This is our total available exploitable resource repository of aluminum. At a population of 1 billion people, that’s 5.98x10^12 kg per person available of Aluminum. That’s almost 6 TRILLION Kilograms PER PERSON. So during the course of the 20th century where the earths population rose from 1 billion to 6 billion, the available resources of aluminum per person dwindled from 6 trillion kilograms PER PERSON to a mere 1 trillion kilograms PER PERSON!!! OH NO! MY GOD! We are running out of resources!!!
1 cubic meter of solid aluminum weighs about 2,700 kg. If we were to build a skyscraper that is 1 km tall and 100 m square at it’s base, it would have a total volume of 10 million cubic meters. A typical structure might use 10% of it’s volume to hold itself up, making us use about 1 million cubic meters of aluminum per 1km tall skyscraper. At 2,700 kg per cubic meter, and 1 million cubic meters, our skyscraper made of aluminum weighs in at 2.7 billion kilograms. Since each person has almost 1 trillion kilograms of aluminum at his disposal, that comes out to be a large city of 370 skyscrapers FOR EACH PERSON!
Really, I think I would be happy with just one skyscraper.
These Malthusians and dishonest economists are comparing a growing population number against an EXTREMELY large resource number, but not really acknowledging that the total available resources are so astronomically high that the idea we are running out of resources is a laughable absurdity (consider also every asteroid contains enough nickel and iron to bury the whole of the Earth a few miles deep, and there are billions of these just in these asteroid belt) They just want that quick superficial knee jerk reaction. What they should compare against is the total usable exploited resources, since the potential is basically irrelevant, and the usable keeps going up every year.
The environmentalist fear mongers love to scare us about Global Warming, but ignore every other threat humanity and civilization face, like caldera volcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts, supernovae, solar flares, or even coming man made ones like an out of control self replicating nanotech devices. We know that global warming poses no serious existential threat, but that these other things certainly do. The proposed solutions to global warming, like curtailing industrial or economic growth, or building ’sustainable’ communities, is exactly what would make it difficult to survive any of these OTHER threats we face, which are best delt with by massive industrial and economic growth, until human civilization is wealthy enough and technological advanced enough to spread out into space, mitigated the chance that any individual threat will wipe it out. That asteroid impact won’t give a damn what your carbon foot print was! And it may very well wipe out ALL life on earth. Some of sustainability is good, but only when it relates to self sustaining mobile biospheres (colonies or space stations) any talk of it on earth is a waste of time. Robustness and redundancy are good things, and thus so is the decentralization of critical life sustaining technologies. But reducing everyone one of us to farmers making just enough food for ourselves is a horrible idea and.
Why is the Electric car not more popular? Many attribute this to some conspiracy by the oil companies. The simple fact is that physics killed the electric car, not any conspiracy, because the ability of batteries to store energy is about one thousandth that of gasoline.
Energy Density is often measured in Watt Hours per Kilogram. This means that a battery which can store 100 Watt Hours per Kilogram can run a 100 watt light bulb for about an hour for every kilogram of battery weight. The Watt Hours measurement is simply the product of the two, if it can run a 100 watt bulb for one hour, it can run a 200 watt bulb for half an hour, or a 50 watt bulb for 2 hours, etc.
The best batteries store a mere 300 Watt Hours per kilogram - and those are aerospace grade batteries used in satellites. Common rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries store about 100 Wh/Kg while lead Acid batteries (the ones in your car) store less than half that. Gasoline, for comparison, stores almost 30,000 Wh/kg. This is the main reason why electric vehicles are so rare and consumer demand is so low, when it comes to range, they have about 1/10th that of gasoline powered vehicle and need to be re-powered 10 times as often.
Many small motorcycle manufacturers are pushing electrics now not because they have vast performance potential but because they don’t need to go through the 10 - 20 million dollar EPA Engine approval process to get a vehicle on the road. This has led to results like the Providence based Vectrix motorcycles, producing an Electric Scooter that retailed for about 10,000 dollars, it managed a paltry 40 miles on a charge. This was after a reported 70 million dollars spent on R&D.
For the record though, Electric Motors generally have many advantages over internal combustion engines, the problem of electric cars is not the motors but how to power those motors. The performance advantages of electric motors in terms of power output and instant torque are commendable, and Electric motors are rated in constant power output (what they can produce continually without over heating) while Gas motors are rated in Peak power output (the maximum they can produce in a short period of time, but would destroy them if continous). A 10 Horse Power (HP) electric motor can sometimes produce for short periods of time 20 - 30 HP, while a 30 HP gas motor usually runs at 10 HP. If you have a compact car, that 100 HP engine in your car is usually running at about 20 - 30 HP. These admirable performance qualities of electric motors however simply do not make up for the pathetic range that batteries produce.
Electric vehicles may be simpler, not requiring air and fuel injection systems, transmissions, and exhaust systems, but the fact that you need to recharge them about ten times as often as a gas powered vehicles need to be refueled does not make up for that in any feasible mass marketable vehicle. No conspiracy killed the electric vehicle, pure and simple physics did.
While there are common news reports of advances in battery technology, these incremental advances are little compensation for battery energy density when it is a full two orders of magnitude off from gasoline.
Usually when celebrating electric vehicles, people are touting the advantages of electric *motors* not batteries, while apologizing for the batteries. But if gasoline far exceeds the capacity of batteries and electric motors have significant performance and complexity advantages over Internal Combustion gas engines, then serial hybrids are the best solution, or some form of liquid based fuel cells, not electric vehicles powered by batteries. A serial hybrid is not the configuration of today’s modern hybrids but something simpler. The serial hybrid exploits the advantages of gas as a storage system and electric motors as the motor power of the system. In it a gas tank fuels a small simple gas engine that is optimally tuned to run at one single speed (gas engines are super efficient at one and only one speed, at every other speed they waste tremendously more power) This gas engine does nothing but turn a generator and recharge a small temporary energy storage system made up of capacitors, which are like batteries in that they store energy, but are unlike batteries in that they can release almost all of their energy nearly instantly. Those capacitors power the electric motors which turn the wheel. Although this sounds like a somewhat complex system, it’s actually much simpler than the parallel hybrids found in most cars today, and could potentially get twice the mileage.
Tech news is often flooded with claims of amazing advancements in battery technologies, or amazing ultra-capacitors. From a recent article of that type we find
“We recently reported on new research that makes a Lithium Ion battery perform more like a supercapacitor, now we can report on research on a supercapacitor that performs more like a battery”
While super and ultra-capacitors provide high power density, but they are still low energy density. This means that while that can release alot of energy in a short amount of time (think flooring your gas pedal) they contain very little energy overall - so you might get one single rapid acceleration out of a capacitor bank, but then they will be dead and will need a recharge. In physics power and energy mean to very distinct specific and different things. Power is the rate at which energy is used, and energy is merely the capacity to do work.
In terms of energy density, super-capacitors are an order of magnitude lower than even batteries, and in terms of power density, batteries are an order of magnitude lower than capacitors. A new Lithium Ion battery, as celebrated in that article, that performs as well as a capacitor simply means you don’t need to use capacitors in your EV design, but you still have 1/1000th the energy density of gasoline.
Besides all that, these are merely claims, and until I see a product on the market which I can buy that gets these kinds of performance numbers then it is just speculation. Equally impressive claims can be made on the future efficiency of gasoline based power systems as well, one type of gasoline engine, the HCCI engines, for instance, could double or quadruple the efficiency.
But I don’t value something based on what some people say it *might* be capable of someday, but what it is proven capable of now. Unfortunately the industry incentives now are toward making outrageous claims then getting government funding to research them, ultimately finding out that they were merely outrageous in the first place. When a university comes out with an unabotanium-ion super battery claim they are looking for grants to do the research to find out if the idea is practical - they are not on the verge of mass production.
The current popularity of EVs is not driven by massive consumer demand but by a bias in research grant awards and the fact that you don’t need to spend 10 – 20 million dollars getting government approval to make an EV bike and engine. Unlike gas engines which require years of testing by various government branches to even get approval to manufacture and sell.
Lets do a quick example, imagine you want an electric car that performs as well as your 100 HP gas engine powered car. You get about 300 miles out of a full gas tank. Cruising on the highway your car probably uses about 20 HP, and one HP is the equivalent of 740 Watts. That makes your car require, cruising at highway speeds, 14,800 watts, or 14.8 kW (20 HP * 640 watts / hp) So if you need 14.8 kW for 5 hours (300 miles at 60 miles per hour) you need 74 kW hours (14.8 kW times 5 hours). If your car is powered by lead acid batteries you get about 40 Wh/kg (40 Watt Hours per Kilogram) Now, at 40 Wh/kg for lead acid batteries, that means you need … wait for it … 1,850 KG worth of batteries. That’s over 4,000 pounds, or 2 tons worth of batteries, yet right now your entire car weighs 2,000 pounds. With expensive Lithium Ion batteries, which get twice the energy density but cost four times as much, you would need a mere 925 kg of batteries. Compare this to the 40 kg your 15 gallons of gasoline weighs and it becomes clear why electric vehicles are not more popular. Remember, Gasoline has an energy density of almost 30,000 Wh/kg, while Lead Acid batteries are 40 Wh/kg.
Ultimately then, it’s physics that killed the electric vehicle, not an oil conspiracy or government cover-up. To put it simply, batteries just suck. You need 20 - 50 times the weight in batteries that you do in gasoline to get the same performance, and this does not take into account the potential significant advances in gasoline performance in the future. Unless some revolutionary battery technology arises whose basis is currently at the frontiers of physics, It’s highly doubtful that any time soon batteries will replace gas as the most convenient and useful energy storage mechanism.
Aristotle was a student of Plato’s and greatly admired his teacher. However as his own philosophical inquiries progressed he began to question the wisdom of his teacher, wrestling with this and eventually coming to terms with it, he wrote "Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is the truth"
For centuries after the age of the classical philosophers most of western civilization had embraced Aristotle’s ideas about reality entirely uncritically, while embracing most of Plato’s ideas about knowledge and religion. The Dark ages were characterized by an uncritical acceptance of the teachings of the ancients, where for nearly 1500 years virtually no advancements were made and all questions about reality were directed toward the ancient texts.
Aristotle would have never welcomed this, his own writings are full of deep sense of inquiry and his own opinions changed on many topics as he investigated them further. Aristotle’s deeply inquisitive nature is evidenced by his love for collecting and analyzing animals, attributing characteristics to them and classifying them - the entire science of Taxonomy was primarily founded by Aristotle, as well as the rules for describing nature accurately in the what we today refer to as Aristotlean logic. But on some matters his speculations were wrong, and the uncritical acceptance of these for centuries hindered further progress.
The Roman doctor Galen, who did in fact proclaim to have figured everything out in medicine, was also uncritically accepted throughout the Dark Ages, he is the origin of blood letting and disease coming from an imbalance in the various ‘humours’ (fluids in the body) today some words are historical descendants of his medical quackery, such as being sanguine.
The middle ages did cultivate an atmosphere of inquiry and questioning, but it was entirely focused on theological matters that had little relevance to material progress on earth, and it was only when that questioning attitude was shifted toward descriptions of reality that the renaissance and scientific revolutions would begin. One great admirer of Aristotle was Isaac Newton. And one incorrect teaching of Aristotle’s was that objects need to be perpetually pushed in order to keep moving, but Newton’s understanding of nature was making it obvious to him that some things keep moving - even forever - without slowing down and in fact something else has to push on them to slow them. This today is his first law of motion and the notion we readily recognize as inertia, but the fact that he was proposing something that contradicted Aristotle greatly disturbed him.
Wrestling with this, he finally came to terms with it from Aristotle’s own famous quote about Plato. Paraphrasing Aristotle and illustrating both his admiration for Aristotle and accepting that he had moved beyond Aristotle’s teaching, Isaac Newton wrote in the margin of one of his notebooks "Aristotle is dear to me, but dearer still is the truth"
"You can state all you want that our health care system is the "best in the world," however every study/survey that compiles a spectrum of measurable outcomes ranks us extremely low, and of course the most expensive"
Ok, I’d like to address this point since you have re-iterated it a few times. What you are referring to is the WHO report, a briefing you can find here
There are numerous problems with this report, but let me first ask you what you think are good things to measure the quality of health care on. Lets say for instance we measured the average life expectancy, would that be a fair assessment? At first thought it might be, but consider for starters that the US has twice the land coverage and about half the population density of most every other developed nation (especially Europe) and because of this, we drive much more than our european counterparts, and we spend a much greater amount of time traveling at higher speeds. Naturally, this causes many more premature deaths, since car accidents are one of the leading causes of early deaths. Since such accidents will cause many more people to die much earlier, the entire statistic of ‘average life expectancy’ is skewed in favor of nations which are smaller, have higher population densities (using more mass transit) etc. Is this then a fair and reasonable way to judge quality of health care? Wouldnt a much more accurate represention be how many people survive car accidents, and how long they survive for? Of course, this isn’t very good either because we drive faster and further, which might also put us further from health services. That means that the best judge of care quality would be to look at specific ailments or injuries and see how many people survive these, and for how long.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the WHO report, from the link above
"In designing the framework for health system performance, WHO broke new methodological ground, employing a technique not previously used for health systems. WHO’s assessment system was based on five indicators: overall level of population health; health inequalities (or disparities) within the population; overall level of health system responsiveness (a combination of patient satisfaction and how well the system acts); distribution of responsiveness within the population (how well people of varying economic status find that they are served by the health system); and the distribution of the health system’s financial burden within the population (who pays the costs)."
Without getting into detail, do you think it’s fair to judge the quality of a nations health care on such things as the ‘distribution of financial burden within a population’ and ‘distribution of responsiveness within the population’ Notice that these two factors completely ignore how good ACTUAL care is. If you are a snake oil mystic and prescribe vasoline to cure cancer, yet you make everyone pay for this vasoline equally and make sure rich and poor have equal access to it, you will score higher by this standard. If you use chemo, radiation therapy, and stem cell treatments to cure cancers, but your population bears the cost unequally, you would score LOWER than the snake oil vasoline quack. Again, do you think this is a fair representation of the quality of medical care? **How much different people pay for medical care** is irrelevant! to the quality of health care! You can have terrible health care but make sure everyone gets an equal amount of it and score better than a system which gets the best kind of health care to as many people as possible.
If you were to rank the quality of cars in a nation, would you seriously propose ranking how expensive the most expensive care is compared to the least expensive car? And ranking how many people have cheap cars and how many people have expensive cars? Or would you rank the cars for safety performance, fuel effeciency, average age, etc? If you actually care about measuring the real quality of cars, you would ignore aspects relating to relative inequalities, and would average out all cars and measure them for specific attributes.
Basically there are two opposiing philosophical premisses at work here, one is a system which delivers the best possible cars to as many people as possible, and the other is to make sure everyone has a car, and that every car is equal, no matter how old or crappy the car is. Both of these still though are utilitiarian ethics, that is, they consider only the greatest good for the greatest number, but the universal and time tested criticism of utilitarianism is that it routinely ignores and violates the rights of individuals.
This WHO report is a ranking of how well nations score when compared against some abstract ideal of a perfect socialized medicine system, and in only small parts does it actually rank quality of care. ANd where it does actually measure the quality of care, the US wins hands down. Consider:
- The US is 37th, and CUBA is 39th
Cuba has horrible health care, but everyone get’s an equal share of this horrific health care and it costs everyone the same amount. Not to mention it’s a dictatorial communist nation, and as such, no doubt lies about it’s quality of care.
- Responsiveness: The nations with the most responsive health systems are the (1st) United States, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Canada, Norway, Netherlands and Sweden. (where is CUBA??)
- Fairness of financial contribution (again, why is this relevant to guaging the QUALITY OF MEDICAL CARE?) When WHO measured the fairness of financial contribution to health systems, countries lined up differently - Colombia was the top-rated country in this category (Colombia? Seriously? If you were poor and got to choose where to live if you got sick, would it be Colombia, or the US?)
- In North America, Canada rates as the country with the fairest mechanism for health system finance – ranked at 17-19, while the United States is at 54-55. Cuba is the highest among Latin American and Caribbean nations at 23-25. (And yet the Provicincial governer left Canada to seek treatment in the US)
"ST. JOHN’S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams had his mitral valve repaired in Florida - a procedure he says was not offered in Canada. However, Dr. Asim Cheema, a cardiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, told QMI Agency that mitral valve repair is routinely performed in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto."
So even though Canada has the ‘fairest’ health care, a leading politician in Canada leaves Canada to get better care in the US.
Don’t worry, it get’s worse
- To assess overall population health and thus to judge how well the objective of good health is being achieved, WHO has chosen to use the measure of disability - adjusted life expectancy (DALE)
What exactly is Disability adjusted Life Expectancy?
From - http://www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-life.html -
"For the first time, the WHO has calculated healthy life expectancy for babie..based upon an indicator developed by [who else but…] WHO scientists, Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE). DALE summarizes the expected number of years to be lived in what might be termed the equivalent of "full health." To calculate DALE, the years of ill-health are weighted according to severity and subtracted from the expected overall life expectancy to give the equivalent years of healthy life."
Ok just to make this clear, DALE basically measures fully functioning ‘healthy’ life spans, not, you know, how long you live after you get sick. So by this measurement, if you are a professional athlete, spend your whole life in great shape, then suddenly drop dead from heart disease, you technically have a higher rated DALE figure than someone who is in regular shape, gets sick a few times, get’s really sick later in life, and gets numerous medical treatments, surviving an extra couple of years. DALE conveniently SUBTRACTS these years from any measurement of the ‘life expectancy’
This is utterly absurd.
Consider then that the countries which will score best are the ones that see people die quickly after getting sick, while the ones that score worst are the ones that keep people alive the longest after they get sick. Compare this measurement with cost spent on care, and then the countries that score best are the ones that spend the least and see patients die quicker after they get sick (as long as they take longer to actually get sick in the first place!) while the ones that score worst spend the most and successfully prolong life after someone gets sick (assuming they take a decent length of time to get sick in the first place)
So basically the DALE was created specifically so the United States, which does in fact keep patients who are sick alive the longest by spending alot of money on it would score low, while nations which do not spend that much and do not keep patients alive very long score higher.
The US Ranks 24 by this standard of ‘adjusted life expectancy’
"The DALE system is simple," says Dr. Lopez. "In the old system, we measured a total life expectancy based on the average numbers of years males and females could expect to live in each country. However, people don’t live all those years in perfect health. At some point in your life, you will have some level of disability. These years with disability are weighted according to their level of severity to estimate the total equivalent lost years of good health. You subtract this from total life expectancy, and what remains is the expected number of years of healthy life."
Now WHY exactly would you consider being disabled and alive to be ‘less alive’ somehow than being entirely enabled and alive? Do you think this is a fair why to measure the quality of health care?
To me, the best measure of quality of health care would be things like how long you live after getting diagnosed and treated with X. What are US Heart Transplant Survival Rates? Cancer Survival Rates? Minimally invasive surgery survival rates? Kidney Transplant Survival Rates? I don’t have the time to google these, but why are these not the measurements the WHO is using to guage health care? The only attempt to measure the ACTUAL quality of care is the DALE system, which is inherently biased against any medicine that prolongs the lives of the sick.
Also, who has developed most of the procedures and equipment that currently make good heatlh care possible in the first place? Who invented the artificial heart, the MRI, the CAT scan and PET Scan? Who discovered and tested most of the worlds life saving drugs? Which country has the best medical schools in the world? Etc etc etc.
**See also - http://granitegrok.com/blog/2010/01/the_real_healthcare_rankings.html
Anti-Nuclear Power Hysteria and it’s Significant Contribution to Global Warming…
The decline of nuclear power has had a significant effect on global carbon emissions and subsequently any anthropogenic global warming effect. To see the extent of this influence, let us first take a look at total U.S. carbon emissions since 1900.
According to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, from 1900 to 2006, US carbon emissions rose from 181 MMT (million metric tons) to 1,569 MMT.
Taking a look at US electricity generation by type, according to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. generates 51% of its power from coal, and cumulatively about 71% of its power from fossil fuel sources.
Comparing the energy source to Carbon emissions, the burning of coal to generate electricity alone emits more CO2 than any other single source, about one-third of the total.
As the US Electrical Generation by Type figure shows, about 20% of the U.S. electrical supply comes from nuclear power. Let us now imagine that the U.S. never built any nuclear power plants, but instead built more coal plants to generate the electricity those nuclear plants would have generated.
According to the Energy Information Administration, since 1971, 18.6 billion MW•h (Megawatt hour) of electrical power have been generated by nuclear sources (1). According to the US Department of Energy, every kW•h (kilowatt hour) of electricity generated by coal produces 2.095 lbs of CO2 (2).
As the calculations in the table above show, every MW•h of electricity generated by coal generates 2,095 pounds of carbon dioxide. For 18.6 billion MW•h at 2,095 pounds of CO2 per MW•h, this amounts to 39.0 trillion additional lbs of CO2, or 17.7 billion metric tons. Finally, converting the 17.7 billion metric tons of CO2 to carbon results in 4.842 billion, or 4,842 million metric tons of carbon.
What all this shows is that had this power been generated by coal plants, an additional 4,842 million metric tons of carbon would have been released into the atmosphere. Breaking this calculation down by year, what would this have made our carbon emissions record look like?
Again in blue we see the real world US carbon emissions, but in green we see what the carbon emissions would have been if all the electricity generated by our nuclear infrastructure had instead been generated by coal power plants.
In all, carbon emissions would have been 14.6% higher, with 1,782 MMT of carbon released without nuclear power plants, while only 1,552 MMT are released with our current nuclear infrastructure. This is why many leading environmentalists, such as James Lovelock (author of the Gaia Hypothesis) are vocal supporters of nuclear power.
But this chart is not entirely fair to nuclear power, because the growth of nuclear power was severely derailed by environmentalist hyperbole and outright scaremongering. Because of the attacks by environmentalists on nuclear power, many planned power plants were cancelled, and many existing plants licenses were not renewed. The result, according to Al Gore himself in "Our Choice” was:
"Of the 253 nuclear power reactors originally ordered in the United States from 1953 to 2008, 48 percent were canceled, 11 percent were prematurely shut down, 14 percent experienced at least a one-year-or-more outage…Thus, only about one-fourth of those ordered, or about half of those completed, are still operating." (3)
Let us take a look then at U.S. carbon emissions if the U.S. had simply built and operated the power plants that were originally planned.
Yup, that’s right people: if the US had simply built and operated the nuclear power plants it had planned and licensed, it would today be producing not only less carbon emissions than it did in 1972, but would in fact be emitting almost half the carbon emissions it is now.
But let’s not forget that the very planning and licensing of nuclear power plants was drastically affected by the anti-scientific opposition. Looking again at the Energy Information Administrations figures, the average sustained growth for nuclear generating capacity was increasing by about 28.8 million Megawatt hours for a 20 year period from 1971 to 1989
Here we see a chart taken from the EIA data which shows the growth of real nuclear generating capacity in blue, and the projected growth in red, had the growth of the previous 20 year period been sustained (remember, this is still only about one-fourth of the intended capacity). In this graph, any year which produced less than the average of the previous 20 years was increased to that average of 28.8 million MW•h.
Now let’s take this projected growth and imagine the U.S. had actually built a nuclear infrastructure at this level. What would our carbon emissions look like?
Incredibly, U.S. carbon emissions today would be almost one-fourth of what they are currently. These numbers are estimated by taking the average yearly increase from 1971 to 1989 in nuclear generating capacity and projecting it to the current day, and since these numbers are only one-fourth of the original planned capacity, the result is multiplied by four. In case you think my numbers are fanciful, let’s see if there are any countries out there that did not get entirely persuaded by the anti-nuclear hysteria, and how that affected their carbon emissions.
After the energy crisis of the 70s, France, which was highly dependent on imported oil for electricity production, decided to divest themselves of Middle Eastern oil dependence. Lacking significant fossil fuel deposits, they opted for a nuclear infrastructure. Today nuclear power generates about 78% of France’s electrical power supply, and it is today the world’s largest exporter of electrical energy. France alone accounts for 47% of Western Europe’s nuclear generated electricity (3).
While we do not see the production in France dropping to half of its 1970s levels as we would have in the U.S. had it continued the transition to a nuclear infrastructure, nevertheless the 40% reductions are close and tremendously significant.
Consider from the presented information what the total potential nuclear generating capacity for the US would be if it sustained the high level growth and achieved its planned capacity.
By the year 2000, the US nuclear infrastructure could have been generating 100% of the domestic electrical supply. This is not an extraordinary claim considering, again, that France generates 78% of electrical energy from nuclear power.
Extrapolating this to the global climate, let’s take a look at the global carbon emissions levels and compare them against a world where the U.S. sustained the first two decades of its nuclear infrastructure growth perpetually and ultimately achieved the original planned capacity.
In green, we see the existing global carbon emissions levels and in purple is the U.S. carbon emission levels if it continued to adopt a nuclear infrastructure. In red then, as a result, we see the global carbon levels would have been almost 15% lower than current levels.
I invite readers to extrapolate then where the total global carbon emissions would be if all the post-industrialized nations had adopted nuclear power – as their natural technological progressions would have dictated – if it were not for the hijacking of this process by anti-scientific hyperbole by scaremongering environmental activists. Many organizations – such as Green Peace, still ardently oppose nuclear power. And these levels, mind you, are only about one-tenth of what the Atomic Energy Commission was projecting based on demand during the 60s, where at its height 25 new nuclear power plants were being built every year, and the AEC anticipated that by the year 2000 over 1,000 nuclear power plants would be in operation in the U.S.. Today only 104 operate.
Let us project an educated guess as to what the resulting reduction in carbon emissions would have been had the European Union (which in 2005 generated 15% of their electricity with nuclear) Japan (34.5% nuclear) and finally, going into the future China and India as they fully industrialize.
All of these facts lead to one conclusion: if manmade global warming is a real problem, then it was in fact caused by environmental alarmism. That is not to say that some environmentalism has not been good, but this atrocious abandonment of reason hangs as an ominous cloud over everything environmentalists advocate. Rational environmentalists, such as James Lovelock, who want a high standard of living for humans and a clean planet are quick to change their minds about nuclear power. Irrational environmentalists who actually do not desire wealthy, comfortable lives for all people on the planet–as well as a clean planet–actively oppose nuclear power. Nuclear power is a litmus test for integrity within the environmentalist community.
If you want to spur the economy, stop global warming, and undermine the oil-fueled, terrorist-breeding, murderous theocracies of the world, the solution is simple: build nuclear power plants.
- Sources -
Energy Information Administration - http://www.eia.doe.gov/
US Electrical Generation Sources by Type - http://www.clean-coal.info/drupal/node/164
Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) - http://cdiac.ornl.gov/
CDIAC US Carbon Emissions - http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/trends/emissions/usa.dat
CDIAC France Carbon Emissions - http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/fra.html
(1) - "18.6 billion MW•h (Megawatt hours) of electrical power have been generated by nuclear sources" – Energy Information Administration - http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/pdf/pages/sec8_3.pdf
(2) – "every kW•h of electricity generated by coal produces 2.095 lbs of CO2” – US Department of Energy "Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Generation of Electrical Power in the United States” - http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/FTPROOT/environment/co2emiss00.pdf
(3) - Al Gore (2009). Our Choice, Bloomsbury, p. 157.
(4) - "France alone accounts for 47% of western Europe’s nuclear generated electricity” - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2008 World Nuclear Industry Status Report, http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/reports/2008-world-nuclear-industry-status-report/2008-world-nuclear-industry-status-re-1
There has been a lot in the news lately about the “climategate” scandal, where hackers leaked emails from a leading climate research institute which showed very unscientific and some outright dishonest manipulations of data. I want to bring up a periphery subject to the climate change debate, the so called “heat island” effect, and really concretize this.
I came across the web site www.surfacestations.org – which is working to catalog all global weather and temperature monitoring stations which climate change data has been derived from. The “heat island” criticism centers around the idea that as areas where temperature monitors are stationed are developed, the local temperatures rise artificially because of heat sinks, like black asphalt, or heat producing equipment, like air conditioners or exhaust vents. Surface Stations.org has some pretty startling records which really concreticize this, in some cases, air conditioners are placed right next door to temperature monitors or driveways are paved right around monitors. SurfaceStations.org is attempting to catalog all surface station monitoring equipment and audit them for accuracy, whether you lay awake at night worrying about AGW or think it’s all hogwash, accurate scientific information is always your ally.
SurfaceStations.org rates monitoring stations through a very detailed site survey (complete with photographs and measurements) into 5 classes, the first being a monitor on clear flat ground with low vegetation and at least 100 meters from any artificial reflecting or heating surfaces.
Take a look, for example, at this well placed temperature monitoring station in Orland California,
The interesting thing is the temperature plots from this station show a clear decline from 1880 to about 1965 where a slow, and much smaller increase, starts.
In near bye Marysville, California (about 67 miles away also in the Sacramento Valley)
the more conventional story is told, a warming trend is obvious
Here is the actual temperature monitor though
Close to a air conditioning exhaust unit, concrete patio, and portable BBQ, and a cell phone tower.
And here is another view showing the influences in close proximity
So far, Surface Stations.org, a volunteer organization, has audited with clear documentation about 82% of the temperature monitoring stations, and ranks fully 69% of those with either of the lowest ratings which places them within 100m from an artificial heat source. Only 2% of surveyed monitoring stations are well placed and undisturbed.
Take a look at this Gainsville, GA, temperature monitoring station, which appears right in the middle of a residential development, sandwiched a few feet from two concrete driveways.
And now look at it’s temperature plot
We see a low point around 1970, and then a rather steady climb. While I am no architectural expert, those houses surrounding the monitoring station look to be 1970’s ranch style
Some of these stations are just absurd, like Forestgrove where someone decided to place an air conditioner right next to the temperature monitor
Or Tahoe city which has one sitting within 5 feet of a trash burning barrel (seriously!?)
Scientists, of course, all ready know about the “heat island” effect and attempt to adjust for it. But the very manner in which they adjust for it is also hotly debated. Given that the overwhelming majority of these monitoring stations are poorly located, sitting close enough to heat sinks and exhaust vents to be effected by them, and the actual official reported temperature increases are so small, and the consequences of warming or attempts to combat it so profound, it’s only proper that the sources of that data be rigorously controlled and audited and the data itself be approached with cautious skepticism.
For my part, one of these monitoring stations is in my home town of Groton, CT, and has little information on it, so I’m going to hunt it down and check it out, and contribute to the audit if I can.
Surface Stations - http://www.surfacestations.org/
Surface Stations location database - http://gallery.surfacestations.org/main.php?g2_itemId=20
As many of you know, I was recently involved in a pretty serious motorcycle accident. I T-Boned a Dodge Intrepid doing around 30mph, and was thrown over the car Below are the details of it, the bike involved in it, the circumstances of the accident, what I learned about motorcycling safety from it, some innovations that came from it, and my own Animated recreation of the actual crash in an attempt to understand my perplexing injuries.
The last major project on the old V-Strom – the Givi Top case with integrated brake lights. Very niiice. This adds significant visibility to your vehicle, and distinguishes it clearly as a motorcycle. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite get the wiring right! When I hit the brakes, the lights TURNED OFF! I don’t know how I would even do that If I wanted to! For the purposes of the ride, I very disappointingly left them disconnected, since lights turning OFF (just the case lights) when I hit the brakes was probably more confusing and dangerous then the benfit as running lights they offered.
Ready to embark on the trip, the tank bag with laptop / tablet GPS, here with it’s water protective cover. My modified seat with extra cushion, hydrophilic cover and hydrophobic spacer, the Givi side cases and Givi top case.
Me! Ready to go! The yellow shirt is a knit Kevlar mesh. Comfortable but highly abrasion resistant.
About an hour later I got into an accident. The result =/
Ouch! My poor V-Strom! And me, I was pretty banged up.
The circumstances are as follows – I entered an intersection traveling approximately 30 mph (my estimate) this was in a 45 mph zone. The light, according to witnesses, had ‘just turned’ red. In the intersection I hit almost dead on a blue Dodge Intrepid, which was traveling perpendicular to my direction of travel. For the light to have just turned red, and for this car to all ready be in the intersection – it must have darted immediately out or, seeing the light on their direction of travel was about to turn green, kept up a high velocity. Either way, it was in the middle of the intersection I entered. The police report indicated where the car was towed, I went there and found it - Here is the car I hit
According to the officer I picked the report up from, my bike hit their car and came to a dead stop, but the car was hit hard enough that it rotated the position of the car 90 degrees on the road. Initially he told me I hit the driver DOOR, which worried me, doors don’t have stellar records for preventing intrusions and thus major injuries, but this picture shows otherwise, I hit the frame between the front and the rear door, which explains the very small amount of intrusion of the wall of the car into it’s cabin (A good rating on Intrusion according to the NHSTA is when the door does not pass the outer edge of the steering wheel, a ‘poor’ score the door would pass the midline of the steering column) In this case, intrusion was not more than a few inches, even though I hit the car pretty hard. Instead the momentum was transferred via the frame directly to the rest of the car, hence the rotation of 90 degrees, instead of the door crumpling and me ending up on the drivers lap! The officer said the driver suffered scratches from the flying glass but as far as he knew nothing serious, she was more concerned about how I was doing, and I am very glad to hear she suffered few injuries.
Consider this picture of the front forks of my bike
The solid green line is the path the forks SHOULD follow, here the dotted line shows their actual orientation now, they were bent pretty good in this crash. Note these are 2” steel tubes. This is a good 3 or 4 degree bend at the lower tree.
My poor VSTROM!!! =(
Vehicle designers like to try to make the fronts of vehicles look like faces, my poor bike here looks like a hawk that has had the crap beaten out of it.
This is the Steering Column – note the curvature of the tube. Again, that’s some pretty serious force, the steering column is usually about 3” tubing with ¼” wall (my guess) This is what makes the bike totaled, the steering column is directly welded to the frame, and since it is collapsed and cracked, the handlebars / fork can not turn, and the column can not be replaced without cutting the whole frame up – you might as well build a new bike.
Last, look at the gas tank. I still can not figure out the circumstances here, this dent for the most part is on the RIGHT side of the tank. The area of ME hitting the tank here would have been my GROIN – but I suffered no groin injuries at all. My LEFT leg was bruised on the inner thigh, but this is on the RIGHT side of the tank! - ?? That’s a heck of a dent. This also is underneath my tank bag, which was mounted to the bike through two strong nylon seat belt like straps.
Groin injuries are very common in motorcycle accidents, and I was aware enough of this to weigh it when bike shopping. The most pressing influence on severe groin injuries (by severe, I’m talking about a SPLIT PELVIS, which usually involves not walking for a year or more) is a very steep tank angle. Look at most sport bikes and you see this –
My V-Strom by comparison, looks like this
For starters, the seat cushion itself rises with the tank for the first part of it – which the brunt of the force would take place. Then it rises *gently* at about 30 degrees. Contrast that to the Honda CBR600RR (red) above, which starts with no padding at a RIGHT ANGLE to the seat. The Hayabusa and Ninja aren’t much better.
Motorcycle Consumer News (probably the best Motorcycle magazine) did a study on motorcycle tank to seat angles against pelvic and groin injuries, and found, not surprisingly, the steeper the tank angle to the seat, the more severe the injuries.
My V-Strom, however, had an extra cushion added ? and so looked more like this
Which you can see here
I think this gentle seat angle of the V-Strom as well as my added seat cushion is what granted me NO pelvis, hip, or groin injuries. Amazing considering that dent on the tank.
The gentle slope helped significantly, and the extra cushion actually put me just above the gas tank, it seems.
So, what injuries DID I suffer?
Here is a quick representation of them
From top to bottom, I had a bloody nose, my helmet chin strap cut my chin up, nothing significant though. I had some kind of major injury on my upper right chest, a bruise was not apparent until 3 days later, but this continues to cause me the most discomfort, breathing deep, laughing, or worst of all, hiccupping, cause severe shooting pain. This must have been a significant muscle tear or pull on the muscles that overlap ribs. My lower left abdomen / rib cage has a similar injury though not as severe. The inside of my left arm has a deep yellow and purple bruise about 5 inches long. Not sure what caused this. My left leg, inner thigh, upper has a very deep purple bruise and my left inner thigh has the largest bruise I’ve ever had in my life to date. Those bruises are below. My right knee suffered something serious, it’s still significantly swollen, I don’t have full range of movement yet, and there is still some numbness in it. Also my lower right leg has a light bruise that covers the whole shin area. And my left ankle has no bruising but feels almost sprained.
Left leg, above knee, inner thigh. This is about 14” long.
Left leg, inner thigh, just below groin. Hmm, this looks suspiciously like, and is of similar size to… a Handgrip! Weird.
Lets take another look at my injuries chart compared to safety gear. Outlined in Blue is my riding gear, helmet, textile jacket, and boots.
Well, I think this shows a pretty clear trend. Where I had riding gear, I had few significant injuries. Where I had none (legs) I suffered the worst injuries. This is pretty common, the most common place of injury for motorcyclists is the legs, and this is also the place that motorcyclists are least likely to wear protective gear. Obviously in this case I am guilty of this as well, even though I was fully aware of this. I had a good set of riding pants that I was going to put on as soon as I got to my brothers house before embarking on the full trip to Chicago. This was textile gear (high strength nylon thread called "Cordura" which is better than leather for abrasion resistance yet can be woven into a light netting) with armor in the knees and hips. The biggest reason, I think, that motorcyclists don’t don leg gear more often is that it is entirely cumbersome to take on and off. Where as a jacket and helmet can be thrown on in a few seconds, pants take a good minute or two to pull on over your boots and zip up and fasten.
Either way, I don’t think the riding pants would have made much difference on the bruises on the insides of my legs, but I think that knee injury would have been much much less severe.
Taking another look at my gear, I added the placement of the armor of the jacket and boots.
Here something else shows up, I had NO injuries where armor was present. Some places armor would be unwieldy, like the inside of the upper arm. But that chest injury, which I think came from hitting my windshield, there certainly could be armor there, and in the abdomen. I’m adding this to my future modification list (perhaps I’ll just get some motocross armor and cut it up and put it inside the jacket)
So, lessons learned, wear full riding gear (even though I had much more than motorcyclists typically do, which the medical personal frequently commented on) and add armor in strategic places to that armor. I’ll have to research this a little more but it seams reasonable enough.
So, what I’ve been wondering is what actually happened as far as me hitting parts of my bike, given the placement of the injuries, it’s very hard to piece together. Here is what is known
Me – Severe RIGHT knee injury Upper Inner LEFT thigh major bruise upper leg inner LEFT thigh major, large bruise Upper LEFT arm inside significant bruise Upper RIGHT chest, major injury Lower LEFT leg distributive light injury Helmet – abrasion and impact, left side I came to rest far to the left side of the bike and the car, according to police report diagram
Motorcycle - RIGHT side of tank, major dent LEFT side case took major blow, bike probably ended up falling onto left side motorcycle stopped after hitting car, fell over
What is very curious is that huge dent in the tank, being on the RIGHT side of the tank, and yet my LEFT thigh being bruised. The fact that the upper thigh injury looks a lot like the handgrip got me thinking. After some deliberation I believe this is a reasonable estimate of what occurred.
1) As I hit the car, the bike and car being at angles with respect to one other, the motorcycle was violently forced to the ground, falling over to the left. 2) My body, however, continued forward with it’s forward momentum, but also picked up some lateral momentum from the bike being forced violently to fall over 3) With the motorcycle now at an angle, and in the process of falling over, my LEFT INNER LOWER thigh hits the tank bag and left side of the gas tank, since the bike is being forced violently to fall to the left, my right thigh does not hit the gas tank. a. This does not dent the gas tank, but gives me a good bruise, but also forces my left leg to spread further. The tank bag mat is ripped up and to the right, since I hit it from the left. b. This gives my body significant lateral momentum, taking away from forward momentum. c. The Gas Tank and Tank bag also give me some upward momentum. d. When my lower body hit the gas tank, my upper body folded forward and my arms reached far forward 4) I am still traveling forward, but now also traveling up and sideways. My hips and rip cage are folder slightly, my arms outstretched forward. a. At this point my far outstretched LEFT arm hits the LEFT MIRROR of the motorcycle, breaking it and giving me the bruise in my upper left arm. b. Shortly after that, my LEFT UPPER THIGH actually hits the LEFT HANDGRIP! Giving me the major bruise on my upper thigh looks like a handgrip. 5) I am traveling forward, upward, and to the left, while the bike is falling rapidly down and to the left. My left leg has just hit the handgrip, stopping the forward momentum of the left side of my body almost immediately! The result is the right side rapidly rotates. Here is where the Knee injury and gas tank dent come from. a. With the tank bag now torn off and my left upper inner thigh hitting the left handgrip, my entire body now rotates very rapidly around the point of impact of my left thigh, essentially swinging my leg and knee around an arc and ultimately I pound the gas tank with my KNEE! Giving it the one massive dent it had and my major Knee injury. 6) Around this same time, as my body is rotating with my right side moving forward and my whole body yet still moving forward, my upper chest impacts the top of my givi windscreen, concentrating a large force in a small area on my chest.
Other than that, the ankle, shin, and helmet injuries I think came from landing on the ground and sliding. Ultiamtely this is the only scenario I can think of that explains the left leg bruisies, the right side of the gas tank dent, and the knee and chest injury.
Here is a quick little animation I did while trying to understand this, my not so dramatic recreation of my motorcycle accident
Well, all of this suggests some safety modifications to me, some simple, some elaborate.
Breakaway handlebar grips – Fasten the handgrips using nylon or UHMWPE plastic, so if you hit the grips, the grips break off by shearing the bolts. But under all normal conditions they are held as tightly as a steel tube would.
Liner for windscreen – I think my chest hit either the edge of the windscreen or the right side mirror. This suggests a wide liner on the edge of the windscreen or mirror would be good. Ultimately the mirrors should be moved and placed on the cowling anyway.
fastening to vehicle – All this makes me think some mechanisms which fastens you to the vehicle, BUT breaks away and in the process takes away much of momentum would be very valuable. Such a system might be two teathers that attatch to your bike frame and to your jacket, which has adequate wide strapping sewn into it. The tethers could be weighted to break at various levels of force. I think this is worthy of some research.
Small air bags – Honda has all ready started experimenting with small air bags on their Goldwings, the purpose of these, again, are to take away much of the momentum of your body gently, this significantly reducing injurires.
Very low center of gravity – A low center of gravity would help keep the bike stable in an accident, and make it much harder to do wheelies and stoppies. But a high center of gravity is preferable for sport bike and quick, agile performance. Thus a system which gives you a low center of gravity only under rapid deceleration would be preferable. In My case, I believe the large amount of extra weight added to the vehicle helped to prevent it from actually flipping over the car I was impacting, but the geometry of the crash and car did as well.
Accessory / periphery shedding – aircraft are made to break apart on impacts, but not the fuselage or cabin, only the wings, tails, engines, etc. This is to reduce the momentum of the vehicle which carries the occupants so they can be stopped easier. Windshields, cowlings, cases, could be made to sheer off with nylon bolts, as long as they are not in your path. This will make the vehicle with you on it lighter and easier to stop.
hypextension limiting safety gear – I had few bruises, no broken bones, and many of my bruises did not actually hurt (such as the two on my thigh) yet I was in a lot of pain and very very sore, virtually every joint was sore. This suggests to me that injuries were primarily hyperextension of my joints and or torn muscles.
Chest armor plates – a simple and easy addition would be small hard overlapping armor plates in my jacket covering parts of the chest
Ultimately I was issued a ticket for running a red light for $143. One of the witness accounts stated the light had just ‘turned’ yellow, why would the other vehicle all ready be in the middle of the intersection? There must have been some confusion about this, one of the EMT’s said the car ran the red light. I don’t remember at all, but I know I was quite tired and was not paying as full attention as I should be in such a situation – I was on my way to my brothers house just a few minutes away to take some rest there. My lessons – always wear leg gear and also never ride if at all tired! (duh!)
I’m awaiting my insurance check and shopping for a new bike, it will probably be the same model since I can transfer my accessories directly to it, and I loved that bike. I’m always confronted with looks of disdain or condescension when referencing motorcycling. At a recent family gathering a friend of a family member was there and chiding that motorcyclists were just organ donors to be, this he said while puffing away on a cigarette. Motorcycling has an unreasonable reputation regarding safety, consider smoking is about 5 times more dangerous than motorcycling is, for instance, in terms of average years taken off your life. And an average alchohol habit is as unhealthy and as dangerous as smoking is, yet get little attention. Furthermore, the perception of safety in motorcycling is an average of safety minded individuals and irrational irresponsible people who speed, at night, while inebriated, without any safety gear. Were motorcycling statistics made up of only safety minded folks who never the less get in accidents and injured or killed, the numbers would be far far lower. Some 80% of Motorcycle fatalities are SINGLE VEHICLE ACCIDENTS and the majority of those involve alcohol and no helmets. Averaging the perception of safety of motorcycling over helmeted riders and non-helmeted riders, for instance, is absurd. Non helmeted riders are some 10 – 20 times more likely to die if they do get in an accident. Personally, I don’t drink, or smoke, and as such live a life with a higher safety margin than your average person who does EITHER of those (not both) but never the less has a paralyzing fear of motorcycling. And within the context of motorcycling, I am a very safety minded rider. My gear and modifications significantly reduced my injuries in this incident, though much was pure luck. Moreso, this was an entirely avoidable incidence and was due to at least in a major part from a lack of rational judgment on my part. In 8 years I have not dropped my bike a single time, until this accident, and have never had a speeding ticket or citation, and routinely practice emergency stopping and swerving techniques. I ride defensively and attentively, I’m fully confident that I’ll never be involved in an accident even remotely as bad as this because I will never commit this judgment lapse again and undertaken with reasonable care motorcycling can be enjoyable and safe.
Whatever might happen in the future, know I don’t regret for one moment getting involved in motorcycling, I’ve encountered nothing more liberating and indeed intellectually exhilarating and personally rewarding. Originally I started motorcycling purely for pragmatic reasons, but I’ve turned out love it. There is no finer example of advanced technology as the product of the most ingenious minds through centuries to the average person than a motorcycle and nothing more representative of productive human effort in a physical manifestations than the technology and ingenuity that goes into putting that power, technology, and sophistication into such a tiny package. While I believe there is much more to be done still with such vehicles, they are never the less the highest manifestation of technological achievement available to the average man and immersing myself in them, operating and even designing and building one has been an immensely fulfilling and rewarding endeavor
Four months of swine flu deaths finally equal 1 seasonal flu day. See: http://bit.ly/v1fB6
In my pursuit of gradually converting my V-STROM into a long distance touring vehicle, I’ve recently made some good upgrades to it. One is simply a larger windscreen, and the other is a Tablet PC converted to a GPS Tracking module and mounted on a Tank Bag!
Before these modifications – I used the bungee spider web neeting as a convenient way to quickly hold things, such as maps.
On my last trip, my printed google map blew off my bike in mid ride in a place I had no maps for. Frustrated with that, and realizing how much I’ve spent on maps, I decided to get a GPS Module. However, motorcycle GPS modules are quite pricey. I realized that I keep my tablet PC with me anyway, and that GPS receivers alone only cost $20 - $40. So the result was getting a tank bag and map bag and mounting my laptop to the tank bag with the GPS module so it becomes a real time full screen electronic map! The results were a rousing success!
1st though, the new GIVI Windscreen.
Very nice, wind noise was reduced drastically and I feel no turbulence on my helmet at all now. The Givi screen is taller and wider, but among all the after market screens I think it has the best style too it, keeping the curve and feel of the V-Strom.
On to the GPS setup.
After researching tank bags I settled on the strap mount Tourmaster T-12, moderate sized and stylish. For mounting the laptop, I needed a larger bag that the laptop would fit, and came across TourRiggs large map bag, at 16"x12"
First modifcations are to the Map bag, these bags usually seal up tight and have a vinyl cover to protect the map. The Wacom tablet pens used on tablet PC’s are very cool in that they used inductive loops so don’t need to actually touch the screen of the laptop and work perfectly fine through the vinyl cover.
Here is the map bag with holes cut out of it’s backing for ventilation for the laptop.
Flipping it over, I want to add spacers so that it ‘floats’ above the tank bag leaving plenty of room for air to swirl around under the laptop.
To hold the spacers I used some light nylon sewn into a long hollow rectangle.
Here the spacers are inserted into the nylon sock
sewn closed in front of and behind foam spacers
both spacers now sewn onto the back of the Map bag
They were able to move side to side to much, so I added small adhesive Velcro to both the spacer and the bottom side of the back of the map bag to keep them in place.
Here I added a side strap and a zipper attachment for connecting to the tank bag. You can also see how much the spacers are able to move side to side
The laptop now nice and cozy inside the bag
closer view of the underside with the foam spacers and the holes cut out for ventilation
the other side of the map bag also has spacers so the laptop floats above the backing of the map bag, again to help increase airflow.
I opted for the strap mounted tank bag, unfortunately these allowed for a great deal of side to side movement no matter how tight I made the straps. The map bag came with power full rare earth magnet mounts which just stick to your metal gas tank. I decided to sew those onto the tank bag to give it laterally stiffness, so the tank bag is now both strap and magnetic mounted.
Here you can see the map bag, now laptop bag, without the laptop. You can clearly see the ventilation holes and the spacers on the laptop side of the base.
The tank bag slides down easily revealing the gas cap by just disconnecting the front two strap latches. The magnetic flaps keep it in place quite well. http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010895.JPG
Here is the underside of the map bag, now the laptop bag, you can see the spacers, the front and side nylon Velcro straps, and the zipper which keeps it attached. This is a separating sport zipper to it separates completely.
The Velcro side strap holds the bag down nice and tight. Here you can see the magnetic flaps that were added protruding down as well. http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010890.JPG
At the front is another Velcro strap, 3 points of connection should keep the laptop nice and stiff. http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010891.JPG
Pics of the the whole assembly mounted. http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010889.JPG
Now it’s on to powering the unit. Here are the gizmos for powering it. On the left is the Powerlet plug, these are like cigarette lighter plugs but better and smaller. In the middle is an adapter which converts from Powerlet to a regular automotive type cigarette lighter plug, because the converters needed to power the laptop AC unit only come with those connectors. Next to the right is the power block, this plugs into your battery positive terminal and has six attachments points for later accessories and each has it’s own slot for fuses. It wasn’t necessary for this, but when I add more components it will be. Last on the right is the main relay switch and fuse, this is actually what directly connects to your battery and the power block attaches to it. The relay opens up the 30A from the battery to your accessories but uses a small current to actually throw that switch. Relays basically use small switches to close big switches making the whole setup more reliable and safer.
The instructions say to find a suitable place to mount your power block, I removed the seat and found plenty of secure shielded room there. The seems to be exactly where virtually everyone finds to mount power blocks like these. On the left with the large red rubber cap is the battery, just to the right of that is the fuse for my accessory device, to the right of that is the relay, and then to the right of that is the power block. Above center is my grounding block, made from Ultra High Molecular Weight polyethylene (the coolest stuff ever – used for medical implants and as lighter than water bullet proof armor!) In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have my grounding block so close to my positive power block, I’ll move it.
At this point the relay switch needs to be connected to something that turns on when you turn your key on. Most people connect this to your rear taillight which is always on in motorcycles. Lacking any easily accessible screws or mounts, I used a T crimping terminal which you just clamp around an insulated wire, it cuts through the insulation and makes contact with the wire, then you can just plug another connector to that.
Here is the rear tail light assembly removed, I had to remove my Givi side case mounting bars to get this off.
I confirmed which wire was the constant on wire using a multimeter - it’s the solid grey one. The red probe from the multimeter is sticking into the wire nut on the right.
Purple T crimp is clamped onto the grey wire, in my hand is the plug which connects to that, now creating a new circuit.
After that, I reconnected the ground, added the fuses, and tested it out. Here is the multimeter showing power in my Powerlet plug
I drilled a mounting hole for the powerlett plug.
Plug installed! http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010910.JPG
Wiring added. Obviously that little 6" plug was not enough to get to my tank bag, so I wound my own and gave it Velcro attatching points to the frame. Wrapping the adhesive Velcro around the wire, making quick and easy cabling which can be removed possible. http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010912.JPG
The wire goes under the tank bag base and comes out on the right. Now, everything’s ready! http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010911.JPG
Power up and running off the motorcycle’s electrical system! Woo hoo!!! http://www.matus1976.com/public/pictures/25_05_09/P1010914.JPG
Problems, Complications, Modifications
It’s rather ridiculous to take the 12V DC from the Powerlet plug and through an inverter change it to 120V AC only to use the laptop adapter to convert it back to 12V DC! With some more electronics knowledge I think a simple box that accomplishes this would be reasonable.
The Laptop + Battery are too big for the map bag, I have to disconnect the battery to use it, which is annoying. However I have the long life battery I think the normal battery would fit just fine.
The screen is hard to see in bright sunlight even at it’s brightest setting.
These new Wacom tablets are supposed to work just as a touch screen without needing the pen tablet. I have not been able to get that to work yet though.
Power wise, I need to devise some sort of quick connect system so the tank bag can be disconnected quickly.
The DeLorme Streets and Trips program is buggy, at the tall resolution of the tablet, the zoom out button is off screen.
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Day two of Italy and Greece started out with the vatican City. Prior to that, however, was one of the low points of the trips, the miserable event that Italians apparently call ‘breakfast’, which, at this hotel, consisted entirely of bread. Where’s my eggs? Bacon? Protein? MEAT? Yikes. Every morning it was what variety of stale cold bread would you like to call ‘breakfast’ Everyone on the trip was heartily disappointed, and even the tour director said it was unusual. Across the hall a large Japanese tour group routinely enjoyed eggs and bacon. To be fare to our Italian hosts, apparently it was EF that skimped us on our ‘continental’ breakfast. Maybe I’m just an annoying American…but bread only?
We took the Metro and got off at the vatican Museum stop, walked a few blocks to the entrance to the walled vatican City. This grayed off section from this Google maps screen shot shows the outline of vatican city.
The satellite perspective of the Google maps view doesn’t give a good appreciation of the scale of the wall surrounding this vatican City, though this image comes close. Notice the cars in the right hand side.
Another google street view image helps appreciate the scale of this wall.
The vatican city is a sovereign city-state with a population of about 900 on a 110 acre complex that is completely landlocked. It represents the smallest country in the world. Brought into it’s present form by treaty in 1929, it was a refuge for Christianity during the middle ages and the home of Emperor Nero’s circus (in ancient Rome, the circus was a loop in a stadium which chariots would race around) A great fire erupted in Rome under the reign of Nero, which some historians suggest he started, and others stories report he sat joyfully playing his liar on a rooftop while watching the city burn. Nero blamed Christians, a minority cult at that time, for the fire, and many were persecuted in this square. Tradition holds that Saint Peter was crucified in that circus, upside down at his request to be distinguished from his lord. Near the circus was a cemetery which Saint Peter was buried in and today St. Peters Basilica sits on top of his likely burial site.
We entered in the Northern part, near the museum. This Google street view shows the entrance we came upon and the medieval wall surrounding the whole vatican City.
This impressive doorway was the old entrance to the vatican city and Museum. That is some of our group passing in front of me. (on to my pictures now)
We didn’t get to go in that cool door though, and instead went into this one, the ‘new’ entrance.
Passing quickly through the museum, some of us hit the ATM’s and others the Bathrooms, then we passed into this courtyard inside the city.
The adjacent building had fantastic renaissance styling.
a close up of the work
Looking south down the courtyard off the balcony were the gardens, which were not open to the public, and in the distance, looming large and hazy, was the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the most fantastic buildings in the world. From this view the basilica is about 1,300 feet away.
We turned around and started toward this round building, another impressive piece of renaissance architecture.
We went back inside and passed one building’s width away
And emerged into the ‘pinecone’ courtyard into this view
A close up
The pinecone in the center was a symbol of fertility and life to Romans, and is a bronze from the 1st century AD, originally part of a Roman fountain. A nice view of the building surrounding the pinecone and the niche which emphasizes it.
Most of this courtyard was constructed in the high renaissance period. The first two stories of this was designed and built by the Italian architect Bramante. The design came from scholarly reconstructions of the Roman temple Fortuna Primigenia.
Dying before it’s completion, the third story and the vast half dome, an interesting piece of negative space, was built forming the largest niche that had been built since antiquity.
In the center of the courtyard was a large metal sphere, broken and rotating.
The broken and fragmented sphere, according to the tour guide, represented the fracturing in the world that came from the protestant reformation going on at the time the basilica was constructed. The sphere, ugly, out of place, and non objective, was obviously a recent addition as only ‘modern’ artists would call it art. Though obviously requiring technical mastery and a very unique complex piece of work, it’s theme and manner of achieving it are hardly more than a Roarsarch test and stand in ugly stark contrast to the romantic realism of classical art that fills the courtyard and the vatican city.
According to the tour guide, the spherical work of art is the same size of the sphere that adorns the top of the dome of St. Peters Basilica. In this shot I tried to capture both to help get that sense of scale.
An interesting façade and building in the courtyard, St. Peters again looms in the distance.
the courtyard was adorned with Roman artifacts and artwork. I love this stuff, can’t get enough of it.
A good view of the courtyard pinecone and niche
After that, we headed inside through some of the elaborate galleries and hallways.
It was popular during the renaissance era for wealthy people to collect roman artifacts, and the pope, being the wealthiest, of course had the best collection. We were rushed through this hallway with hundreds of artifacts which I could have spent days in alone, I tried to grab some of the best picutres. This sarcophagas is made of an extremely rare red marble.
Turning the corner, more elaborate halls and stairs.
More Roman Artwork
I wonder what that toe or finger was to?
More elaborate halls
What a great piece this is, Roman art, as we’ll see more of in Pompeii, celebrated existence. Here great art celebrates the intellect, the thinking man.
I want a sarcophagus like this
Some of the halls had elaborate decorations such as these adorning the curved cielings.
Taking a close look though, almost ubelievably, these are painted to appear 3 dimensional, the surface is perfectly smooth. These guys who painted these are masters.
After passing, or, getting shoved through, the great hall of Roman artwork, we entered a hall of tapestries, which was quite impressive.
These tapestries, as this picture shows, were huge. The smallest was probably 15 x 15, the largest had to be 50 or 60 feet on it’s longest dimension. And these were woven
After the tapestries, we entered a hall of maps.
This was meant to be a center of information regarding the territories governed by the Pope that he could peruse down as sort of a giant reference hall. Pretty impressive. In this case, the ceiling was actually adorned with sculptures, and not just painted to look 3D. The elaborate nature of it struck everyone with awe.
I resolve to have a similar hall of maps to appreciate my empire with
The paintings though not geographically accurate were represenationally accurate
More of the incredible Ceiling in the hall of maps
This map, labeled ETRvRIA was a region of northern italia where the Etruscan’s, predecessors to the Roman’s, hailed from.
Some fantastic artwork adorning an entrance.
A damn cool hall way. I don’t feel important enough to walk such a hallway.
These long building gracing the sides of the courtyard housed the halls of maps, tapestries, and roman artwork.
After the halls, we emerged into an outside area impressive of it’s own right.
I think this was the courtyard we emerged into
Through the arch, looking up, heading outside
Emerging into St. Peter’s square
We take a quick right, avoiding the square and staying under a large elaborate portico
The important people’s door
Look at those capitals, how long does it take to carve something like that?
We swing out of the portico into the square to get in a line. The portico was the entrance to St. Peters Basilica so we’re getting ready to enter. In this shot, the renaissance architecture of the lower building is captivating, along with the elaborate statues adorning it’s top. Our tour guide tells us the rustic 2 story-ish building at an oblique angle to the sandstone colored lower one is the home of the Pope, and the window at the far right is the one he emerges from to wave at the people.
Googling the “Pope’s Window” I think it was one building off. These two pictures give a good idea of the building the window is a part of.
And this image you can see both windows in the same view. That building was hidden behind this one from this perspective, but probably just barely, so perhaps from the tour guide’s point of view the ‘Pope’s Window’ was visible.
The other side of the courtyard, while we are still in line
Turning around the façade to St. Peter’s Basilica utterly overwhelms you
That was all we got to see of the facade for now, we turned and headed toward the door, we are about to enter.
The design beliegh’s the scale. Look at the size of the people near the columns to be reminded of it
Me in the basilica (front lower left)
A little history and architecture. As Christianity rose to dominance in the Roman Empire, the empire split into an east and west region. For various reasons which have been debated for centuries, from a change in the philosophical attitude of the people due to Christianity to weather changes, the western Roman empire fell, while the east remained with it’s capital at Constantinople for some centuries before it too fell. Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of Rome and made Constantinople the center of the eastern roman empire, and commenced construction of Byzantium Basilicas to replace the Roman Temples of the pagan days. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is the oldest and greatest of these Byzantium Basilicas.
Byzantian Basilicas were typically Greek crosses (a plus sign, not a t) and were characterized in the Roman era by Roman arches, large domes at the crossing and mosaic or fresco artwork. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of medieval Christendom, the Basilica gave way to the Cathedral, characterized by gothic arches (tall pointed arches) the Latin cross, stained glass instead of mosaics and frescos, and spires as bell towers, often asymmetric, at the entrance (think of Notre Dame).
Lacking the cement and mortar the Romans had, gothic cathedrals had to be self supporting and self stabilizing, making domes much harder to construct. The dome of the cross gave way to the height of the spires and the flying buttresses used to provide a counter force to the arches on arches used to achieve the incredible heights of cathedrals. The floor plan of the basic basilica was an even legged Greek cross, with St. Peters basilica, we saw an architectural revival of the Basilica (this was, after all, centuries after the height of gothic cathedral architecture) with the dome getting revived as the crown of the cross but retaining the Latin cross. This renaissance and reformation embroiled era of Christianity sought to distinguish itself from the Gothic era by, in part, reviving the basilica and dome.
I think to fully appreciate these pictures of St. Peter’s, it’s useful to know the structure and layout, to get a full sense of the monumental nature of the work. The earliest plan for the new Basilica was proposed by Bramante, and was a standard Greek Cross
St. Peters was a venerated site with a vast sacred earky Christian basilica built originally by Emperor Constantine. But by the renaisance era it was crumbling and in disarray, famously during once mass a wall crumbled and killed dozens of people. The Pope felt it was time to tear the old church down and build a better one.
Here is the first famous design of the new Basilica, by the famous artist Bramante. Though a great artist, he was a terrible engineer. The thin walls could never support the dome intended.
The famous renaissance artist Rapheal took Bramante’s plan and changed it to a latin cross, but seemed to have cluttered it with numourous colums and pilasters.
And subsequently Michaelengo further refined the design, reverting back to the greek cross, but extended the nave and finalizing the outer walls. The plan was returned to a latin cross, but otherwise retained all of Michaelengo’s contributions, by a later architect. The new dome was started in 1506, not completed until 1626. Michaelengelo spent the last 17 years of his life as the supreme architect on the project, over 30,000 drawings governed it’s construction.
Michaelangelo’s plan, with walls now able to handle the weight of the large dome, but with the disproportionately large facade from a later architect added
In my pictures above, we stand at the base of the long leg of the cross. Some more interior pictures.
These statues are 12 – 16 feet tall
heading over to michaelengo’s la pieta
This was one of the works I was most interested to see, part of the spark of the renaissance, it raised the bar on all art and necessarily technical mastery. More than that, it’s a powerful work. But you couldn’t get anywhere near enough to it to actually appreciate it, very dissapointing.
Now were starting to walk toward the center of the cross, under the dome, but were still in the long leg of it.
A view I liked
Now we start to reach the dome, looking up.
It’s impossible for your mind to wrap around the sheer scale of this structure, it never looks as big as it actually is. Obviously pictures do it little justice, but even being there it was like one grand optical illusion. I don’t think we evolved with the ability to conceptualize scales like this, since we rarely would come across them, and most important to our survival would be scales around our own immediate size.
Here is a shot with the incredibly elaborate Altar that the Pope occupies
I wish I had done a little bit of video here, just of walking, so you could see the parallax shift (or lack there of) that helps give the sense of scale.
Closeup of the alter
More of the Dome, I’m still staring up, captivated
looking down the cross toward the apse
Elaborate work at the end of the apse
One of my favorite shots
Another one like it
This wide angle panoramic shot hosted on wikipedia is worth a look, though it takes some time to download, it helps capture the elaborate beauty and scale of the interior
Ok, just to try to appreciate the scale of this structure, take a close look at this picture
Zooming in, you can actually see the people on the balcony in the dome.
Those letters surrounding the dome must be 12′ tall, the large round paintings in the pendantives must be 50 or 60 feet in diameter!
The overall dimensions of the basilica are 730 feet long, 500 feet wide, and 452 feet tall. The dome of the Basilica is indeed the tallest dome in the world, and as famously called, the greatest dome in all of christendom! 452 feet tall is roughly 45 stories. By contrast, the Statue of liberty, INCLUDING its base, is 305 feet tall, and could indeed stand, on it’s pedestal, INSIDE the dome. I would say this dome and the original façade of the basilica are properly considered to be the culmination of Michelangelo’s architectural genius.
Though not known as much for his architecture and engineering as he was for sculpting and painting, Michaelangelo’s Architecture has had a much more direct influence on all architecture since than his sculpture has for artist.
Here is a plan shaded view of the dome with standard 10’ stories present for reference. Again, the scale of this structure is tremendous and completely escapes grasping it in these pictures, and pretty much even while you are there inside it.
The World Trade Center, at 110 Stories, was a little more than twice the height of St. Peters Basilica! Note that this dome was completed in 1626. One of the reasons that it is so difficult to ascertain scale on these structures was the common renaissance practice to make things look, intentionally, like fewer stories than they actually were. From the horizontal articulation and window plans, one might guess from a quick glance that the Basilica is about 6 stories tall, since we assume a window equals one story. But each of the windows in the façade of the basilica alone are probably 6 stories tall!
If you were to actually articulate the external walls with conventional window spacing, the scale is more apparent.
Finally, Me, in front of the Basilica, from the courtyard.
Well, that’s it for part 1 of day 2
Off to Italy and Greece! We met at a parking lot in Mystic, jumped on a bus and headed to JFK. We had 35 people in the group, from high schoolers to retirees. The trip and boarding was uneventful. I spent a good amount of time getting to know others in the group as we had a few hours before take off at JFK. After a 7 hour flight over the Atlantic, were almost there! Just after departing at the layover in Frankfurt. With Lufthansa, I was expecting one of the new EU Airbus’s, but this was a Boeing 747. On our way to Rome, we passed over the Alps and the Appenine Ridge. I love passing mountain ranges from jet flights, but pictures never do it justice. About to Land in Rome! I was a little confused, I must have been on the wrong side of the plane, because this didn’t look like a big city at all. Turns out we landed about an hour outside of Rome in some beautiful Italian country side. We checked into our hotel, on the outskirts of the city. I was roomed with the father of one of the younger women on the trip, and not the person I was worried about rooming with. My friend from Illianos revealed to me I was originally roomed with him, and she’s been on the trips before and insisted to the organizer to not condemn me to that, knowing what this guy was like. Stories of him walking around in his underwear and toothpaste covered bathroom walls were floated about. I thanked her profusely! confessed my undying gratitude, and told her I’d buy her a drink at every meal. I knew none of the stories, just had the feeling he was those guys you know is going to be weird. Very nice guy, but definately weird. Decent view from our hotel room, but the Hotel was not at all impressive. As our tour host joked, it was a four star hotel but two of it’s stars were out. Apparently the EF Tours usually come up with much better stays. Floors 1 - 5 were electronic and accessible by elevators, floor 6 was stair access only and had old fashioned manual key locks. You were given one key per room, and asked to drop it off at the desk each time you left. We unpacked, relaxed for a bit, changed, showered, the all met for dinner. Here are some Random shots in Rome. After dinner, we made our way to the famous Spanish Steps, a popular meeting place in Rome which had a spectacular Ambience. I think if I lived here, I’d hang out here frequently. At the top was an old Egyptian obelisk From the very top, you could see the lighted dome of St. Peters Basilica, probably about 4 miles away. Looking down the steps to the street and fountain Me at the steps The fountain at the base was beautiful, the public fountains in Italy all have continuously fed clean water and are allegedly drinkable, though none of us tested the claim. We walked on, I found it odd there was an American Federal style building deep in Rome. This style was popular with the rise of American Federalism after the Revolutionary war, where American style was trying to distance itself from colonial and classical revival. And another one, attractively lit Walking the streets of Rome we came across a random church that was quite intriguing. Then it was one to the famous Trevi Fountain. Rounding a corner, the elaborate façade comes into view. Me in front of the Trevi Fountain. Closer detail of the elaborate marble carvings I liked this view And this one A close up of the center of the fountain This church sat behind the Trevi Fountain The elaborate Corinthian capitals were impressive A close up The front of the church was gated, and had all these small locks on it. I asked the Tour guide what the deal with that was. Lovers, he said, would come and put the locks on the gate together, supposedly their love would last forever, or as long as the lock remained. He said periodically the city comes and cuts them all off. So much for symbolism. We all enjoyed some Gelatio (Ice Cream) at the fountain. Seeking out Gelatio became a popular sport during our stay in Italy. A Random statue at the corner of a random building I spied an ancient looking temple façade down a side street, turns out we’d see it later though. We headed to a random church on reports about the interior of it from someone in the group Note the size of the pedestrians about to enter The inside was indeed incredible There was a service going on, so we quietly looked around. The pictures don’t do it justice. That’s a small choir all the way at the end, to help give a sense of scale. The walls are elaborate marble columns supporting giant Roman arches and the whole ceiling was elaborately painted. This was a random ‘small’ church in Rome, and was impressive and awe inspiring. Throughout the trip, these churches would inspire mixed emotions in me. While their technical skill and achievement is amazing and worthy of worship on their own, like a skilled artist choosing a bad theme, what they were made in the name of, and how the resources were acquired to make them, bothered me as much as the admiration of achievements required to make them inspired reverence in me. Off to the side was this interesting model. Someone asked at another church if this model represented something that someone wanted to actually build. I doubt it, given the sheer scale of it, but the tour guide said it was.
That dome would have exceeded by 10 fold anything built up until then, and probably exceeded anything ever built. The temples surrounding the outside looked to be replicas of existing famous temples. If these are to scale, the size of this structure would be almost beyond comprehension. Off to the side was this incredible structure And this one beside it A closer look reveals amazing sculptures Next to those, another just as impressive We quietly left the church, and a few blocks later was the Roman Pantheon!!! The sheer scale of it is hard to capture. Here I am standing in front of it The columns alone are a good 5 stories tall, and made of single pieces of granite. Probably 8 feet in diameter at the base. How the Romans even moved these, let alone put them into a standing position without breaking them is perplexing. I’m not sure what the inscription reads, but the Pantheon was built on top of the ruins of a previous temple to a Roman general, called Agrippa, so it looks to be something in honor of that. It was closed at night, but we would be returning the next day, and the inside was far more amazing. Next we passed the same ancient temple façade that was visible earlier. A few blocks away, we visited Hadrean’s Column. Built in the first century AD, by the famed Roman architect Appollodorus. After that, it was back to the metro and about a half hour ride and half hour walk to the hotel Some thoughts on Rome and Italy. One thing that immediately jumped out was the vast prevalence of motorcyclists and scooters. Lane splitting was almost a requirement, quiet a contrast to the states where only California allows lane splitting. Scooters and bikes could go and park pretty much anywhere they could fit. This area of Italy, at least, must have 10 or 20 times the motorcycle ridership that the states had. The weather and narrow roads surely is partly responsible for that, the terrain was full of small hills and charming alluring twisty roads, but the absurdly high gas prices was no doubt the primary reason. Geologically most of the land and stone outcroppings were a light sandstone, and the houses all had dark red terracotta roofs, contrasted with the lush green of the landscape they all made for a rich and very different landscape.
Objectivists consider Life as the objective standard of morality, the basis of ethical judgment. Anything which harms life is evil, anything which is beneficial to life is good. Now by “Life” objectivists do not mean the mere mechanical perpetuation of existence, but a particular kind of life, a fulfilling Aristotlean Eudaemonic life proper to rational beings living in the real world in voluntary co-operation with other rational beings. Those beings must have goals, values, and engage in a productive course in life to achieve that which they value and not be co-dependant or exploitative. Someone who values their mechanical existence over their ‘good life’ will find himself quickly betraying those things that make life enjoyable for the sake of things that allow him to exist, leading in a perpetual spiral toward a less meaningful existence. Rand clarifies this as ‘Life qua Man’ that is, the thing’s proper to life in the context of an individual’s values and Man’s nature.
Nihilistic skeptics, atheists, and philosophers throughout the ages have insisted that there is no such thing as an ‘objective’ morality. Theists will make a claim that the word of god handed down as moral commandments are in fact an ‘objective’ basis for morality, and in their case they use ‘objective’ to mean something like ‘absolute’ and ‘irrefutable’ in this their use of the term objective has infiltrated the skeptical philosophers, like Michael Shermer, using the religious definition of objective also insists there is no ‘objective’ basis for morality and justifies this by saying how can you say this or that is right or wrong, according to what? Shermer misunderstands ‘objective morality’ when he uses this a criticism of Objectivism, as if Objectivism has identified through revelation the one true morality, instead of identifying the only one proper to rational beings in the real world.
But when theists use ‘objective’ morality they hijack the concept of truth and deliberation through reason and usurp it with revealed dogma. To them, ‘objective’ morality is something that demands obedience no matter what and achieves it only through an omniscient omnipotent being as revealed through an elite aristocratic few only possible to those few. But skeptics are wrong to use this as the idea for ‘objective’ morality. We do not say that the ‘objective’ mass of 1 cubic centimeter of water is 1 g because it is announced by the fabric of space-time or decreed by an omniscient being and revealed through divination. They are ‘objective’ because they are the product of reason, logic, and observation. Objective in the context of science is something that is strived for that is removed from subjective interpretation and bias. An “Objective” morality is not something ingrained into the fabric of the universe in the sense that it can be deduced through Newton’s laws of motion or quantum mechanics, as skeptics seem to think is a requirement for morality to be objective, (in doing so rendering the very concept of objective pointless) but it is objective in the sense that it is removed from subjective interpretation or bias, it is objective because it is the natural logical consequence of the laws of physics and the nature of rational beings that exist in a real universe.
Liberals are still confused about this, theists have it easy, they look it up in their book, argue a little about interpretation, then decree something as ‘objectively’ immoral. But nothing that only an elite few have access to who provide official interpretations is ‘objective’, it is not something discernable by any person using their mind, reason, and observation - as anything that is called ‘objective’ should by definition be. Liberals aren’t sure where to go, they know that, for instance, killing someone is wrong, but not sure if it is right to say someone in another country is wrong to kill someone else when their culture makes it ok, such as ‘honor killing’, the inhumane treatment of the ‘untouchables’ in India, etc. Richard Dawkins wrestles with this contradiction in ‘the God Delusion’ where he associates religious indoctrination with child abuse, but then is a little confused about what that demands of him morally, if one is witnessing child abuse, expending a reasonable amount of energy to stop it is moral to him, so if a country is indoctrinating children with a hate filled ideology, abusing them essentially, it should be morally defensible to remove from power the tyrants of that nation. But this get’s in the way of the moral relativism, ‘tolerance’ and ‘multi-culturalism’ liberals profess so strongly (but rarely extend to inhabitants of their own nation who hold different opinions!)
Some Liberals though, I realized, do have an objective basis for morality, which they seemingly adopt whole heartedly, that of environmentalism. In the way that Life qua Man is the objective standard of morality to Objectivists, some vague platonic ideal abstraction of a pure and pristine environment is the objective standard of morality to liberal environmentalists. Whatever nation, culture, or creed, regardless of multi-culturalism and ‘tolerance’, if you’re burning down trees, killing cuddly animals, or dumping trash in rivers, all that bottled up moral rage and condemnation that liberals have been holding comes billowing forth. Now, you could be killing people because of their ethnicity, holding the people in your nation as literal hostages and running it like a prison camp, etc, but moral condemnation is sparse. They just say “who are we to say they are wrong” or “That’s just their culture” But if you’re burning coal, forget it! You are the incarnate of all that is evil!
This falls right into line with the growing criticism that environmentalism is just filling the psychological void of religious thought that secularism in the west has left gaping wide open. It has their garden of Eden – “Sustainability”, the fall of man from that where everyone lived in blissful harmony with nature (and not the painful disgusting short brutish lives they actually lived), it’s emotional disregard for facts, it’s original sin, and now, it’s ‘objective’ basis for morality.
One might try to argue that environmental degradation affects everyone and that’s why it’s morally objectionable to everyone everywhere, but this argument fails for two reasons. First it implies that unless something directly affects ME then I make no moral judgment on it, so what if you’re raping my next door neighbor! In fact an assault on any person on the planet is an assault on everyone’s rights because leaving it alone promulgates a world where that kind of thing is ok, where rights in general are not respected. It is always in your best interest to oppose the assault and infringement on rights any where in the world, because when you do not it will always, eventually, come back to bite you. Which leads to the second, the harm which comes from the promulgation of murderous tyranny, which is so often ignored because of ‘multi-culturalism’ and things like ‘self determination’ (as if a small group of thugs getting hundreds of billions in weapons from an expansionistic murderous tyranny like the Soviet Union and using that to enslave and force to war an entire nation, such as was the case of Vietnam, was anything remotely like ‘self determination’) is far more detrimental to your average person’s well being than coal power is. While it is true that these kinds of nations, the most unjust when life is your standard of morality, are also the worst polluters, it is also very true that they are the source and primary fuel for aggression, democide, famines, wars, terrorism, and pandemics.
At the end of WWI, Winston Churchill insisted that British Troops assist the Czars in defending themselves against the revolution which brought Lenin and communism to power, but the war weary west labeled him a war monger. Less than a thousand troops took the Czars with little resistance. It is said that in the making of a movie some years later glorifying the revolution more people were injured than in the actual revolution itself. A little opposition may have gone a long way, but instead what rose to power was the most murderous tyranny in the history of humanity. At the end of WWII, Winston Churchill again warned that we should move on the Soviet Union, while it is now at it’s weakest, and they again called him a war monger, and so we were thrust into an existential prisoners dilemma game with a murderous expansionistic tyranny that brought the entire world to the brink of complete nuclear annihilation.
It was not the Soviet Union’s dirty coal plants or poorly designed nuclear power plants that killed 60 million people this century (more than twice as many as were killed in World War II) and motivated the invasion of 1/3rd of the nations on the planet, thrusting dozens into civil wars and perpetual slavery. It was not the emissions of the crematoriums in Auschwitz that did not meet EPA guidelines that enabled Hitler to kill 20 million Jews, Gypsies, ‘unfits’ and homosexuals (incidentally, Stalin killed more Jews than Hitler did, but he just killed them along with other people, so it was not ‘genocide’ in the eyes of the semantically obsessed morally confused west) It was not raping the earth for steel that started the most dreadful war in all of humanity, it was the alliance of two militaristic tyrannical xenophobic megalomaniacal cultures and one merely power hungry expansionist culture. It was appeasement, indifference, moral relativism, isolationism, and utopian wishful thinking that ignored these murderous tyrannies and every reasonable warning sign until too late that wreaked this havoc upon humanity and the inhabitants of the world, and it will be those same characteristics that will wreak havoc upon humanity and indeed all life on earth in the future.
What is fusion? What elements are involved in this reaction in the sun?
(Another YahooAnswer of mine to a good question)
Fusion is the name of the nuclear reaction where one or more nucleons (a proton or a neutron) combine to form a larger atomic nuclei.
The smallest and simplest atom is Hydrogen, with a single proton making up it’s nucleus. When two protons are brought close enough together so that they almost touch, a force called the ’strong nuclear force’ pulls them together tightly, and in the process releases energy in the form of light, kinetic energy, and a positron (the anti-matter equivalent of an electron).
The new atom however is not made up of two protons, one of the protons decays into a neutron by releasing a positron (that is how it loses it’s electrical charge) This new atom, made up of a proton and a neutron, is still a form of Hydrogen, but it is an isotope called deuterium. So when two protons fuse, they create deuterium, this is the start of the major reactions in stars the mass of our sun or less, called the Proton-Proton Chain.
The protons have an electrostatic positive charge so they repel each other. It is the heat and gravitational pressure of the sun that get individual protons close enough together so that the strong nuclear force exceeds the electrostatic repulsive force. It turns out that the equivalent of over 100 pounds of force need to be applied to each individual proton to overcome the electrostatic repulsion. And even in a large star like our sun, the mass and heat are actually still not enough to make two protons fuse together.
Before the era of quantum mechanics this was a big mystery. But it was soon realized that sub atomic particles like protons can undergo an effect called ‘quantum tunneling’ which enables it to pass through barriers that classical physics would not allow. The smaller the energy barrier the more likely the particle will tunnel through it. The large energy barrier still preventing proton-proton fusion in the sun makes the tunneling a rare event, but there are so many protons that enough are tunneling at any moment to fuse and start the fusion chain in the sun.
This is a very important reaction in the sun and all stars with long lives because it essentially limits the rate at which the star can consume it’s fuel. It takes about 10 billion years for two proton to get close enough to each from quantum tunneling to fuse in a star like our sun.
Once two protons have been brought close enough together through random quantum mechanical fluctuations enabling a fusion reaction, a steady supply of deuterium is created. As soon as there is any deuterium in the sun the heat and gravitational pressure are enough to cause fusion reactions. At this point, there are many different reactions which take place, in some a proton fuses with a deuterium atom, in other cases two deuterium will fuse to create helium. Helium can then fuse with either individual protons, deuterium, or another helium to make larger elements. The types of available reactions increase rapidly and other elements like Boron, Beryllium, and Lithium are produced and also take place in still more reactions. Three helium nuclei can fuse to create a carbon atom.
In this way larger and larger atoms are created, but the dominant energy in stars the size of our sun come from the proton-proton chain reaction. In large stars, the Carbon-Nitrogen-Oxygen cycle dominates.
Very large stars can burn through there fuel very quickly, and some stars after they consume their fuel and lose the outward pressure from the fusion reaction that balances their inward gravitational pressure, suddenly collapse initiating a runaway series of nuclear reactions, like a nuclear bomb the size of a star. These are supernovae explosions and for a few minutes can create more light and energy than entire galaxies. It is these explosions that fuse smaller elements like carbon into larger ones like iron, aluminum, and uranium. These explosions throw these heavy elements out into space, and those elements later collect and form rocks, then asteroids, then planets, and all the things that live on the planets. That is why, in the immortal words of the famous scientist Carl Sagan, we are all made of ‘Star Stuff’
The Proton - Proton chain
Proton Proton fusion in the sun
The CNO Cycle
Why does fusion create more energy than fission?
The answer lies in the difference in energy of the nucleus of a small atom which would be fused, and a large atom which would be split. When two small elements are brought to together, each individual nucleon (proton or neutron) are much closer to the nucleons they fuse to. Since the strong nuclear force which holds nucleons together extends over a very short range, In a large element like Uranium (235 nucleons) any typical nucleon might only be bound to a few neighboring nucleons, while in a small element virtually all the nucleons are bound by the strong nuclear force to another nucleon. So the total amount of ‘binding’ energy in a larger atomic nucleus will be smaller than the binding energy in a small nucleus. As you bring more small nucleus atoms together the binding energy increases, but as the size of the atom increases more of the nucleons become further apart from the rest in the nucleus, and eventually the electrostatic repulsion force of the protons exceeds the strong nuclear attractive force and the binding energy levels off. As the atom gets larger, they become unstable and the binding energy decreases.
So when you fission a large element into two smaller, but still large elements, the binding energy of any particular nucleon is lower, and the number of nucleons effected with respect to the total number in the system is smaller. When you fuse smaller atoms, all of the nucleons feel the strong nuclear force to each, and they are all much closer to each other, so the binding energy is much higher. A shorter quick way to think of it might be the ‘binding density’ (binding energy per nucleon) in a large fissionable atom is much lower than the ‘binding density’ in a small fissionable atom.
Global Warming Primer, Solutions and Complications, and My Position.
I haven’t been too vocal on my opinions on Global Warming and the politics surrounding it but I’ve been watching some excellent videos from Berkeley professor Richard Muller on the topic and find them one of the best all around rational primers on the topic I’ve yet seen. A brilliant professor, Muller’s “Physics for Future Presidents” lectures have been skyrocketing in popularity even leading to the publication of a mainstream book. Those who are admirers of Richard Feynman, Freeman Dyson, Isaac Asimov, or Carl Sagan would find a kindred spirit in Muller where his brilliant conceptual presentations of complex topics and routine reduction into concrete examples are on par with those great popularizes of science.
You can download his full course, which I highly recommend, at Berkeley’s web cast site http://webcast.berkeley.edu/course_details.php?seriesid=1906978373
With my near lifelong affair with science, philosophy, and skepticism I think I’ve come to a peculiar opinion on Global Warming. Muller makes every explicit effort to avoid directing your conclusions or barraging you with appeals to authority and instead takes great pains in clearly showing the science and physics and allowing you to form your own informed opinions on the matter, exposing misconceptions and lies from both sides of the debate. Muller’s credentials are impeccable, and his explicit desire to weed through the vagarious interpretations and try to pull out the real, accurate understanding of exactly what’s going on in the world is admirable and precisely what resonates most with me.
I urge everyone to watch through Muller’s videos, which are recorded presentations from his Berkeley class. They are engaging, entertaining, and extremely informative and will give you a great deal of confidence when forming your judgments on such a complex topic.
Part 1 of 12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyuKOtIryis
With that, there is a great deal of skewing on all sides of this issue. The stop global warming advocacy groups have committed their fair share of moral frauds. They have routinely exaggerated temperature increase as explicitly outlined by the IPCC reports and exaggerated the certainty of those reports. Activists routinely cherry pick data, selecting isolated data points that support their hypothesis but ignoring numerous ones that do not, a tactic not readily identifiable to non scientifically trained persons. Egregiously mainstream science has now more than ever come to accept anecdotal evidence in support of a tentative conclusion. We are routinely barraged with observations that there seem to be more armadillos this far north than ever before or there are fewer salmon then in the last 30 years as actual evidence proving drastic climatic consequences, even though the consensus agrees to only a 1 degree Fahrenheit temperature difference which is only discernable from exhaustive statistical studies. A definite publication bias has arisen exploiting the public concern about global warming, publishing a paper on the mating habits of ground squirrels is iffy, but link it to global warming and you get published. The original hockey stick graph which most modern concern about global warming was build on was not just flawed but fraudulent and has exposed the terrible weakness that reliance on computer models brought about. Too often models are used AS evidence, not as tools to find evidence in the real world, the height of hubris. Historically, CO2 increases tend to follow temperature increases, so the global correlation to CO2 and temperature rise is not so clear cut, even though CO2 is a green house gas, it also promotes plant growth and cloud formation, as the entire climate and life cycles are complex enough that centuries more of study will be required to understand it. The presumption that there is ‘state’ which the planet should be in as optimal temperature is ludicrous, and to think that we humans know and can choose what that state ought to be (especially given our terrible track record managing wildlife preserves) is frightening. Give someone a computer and a physics book and he thinks he has the entire world and every complex interaction in it all ready figured out.
Conversely though, the global warming skeptics or deniers (as a skeptic, which merely means a reliance on clear objective data before embracing an interpretation, I am hesitant to use it in this way) have had their fair share of disingenuous or fraudulent assertions. Suggesting that solar output is the sole mechanism for temperature changes is overly simplistic. Suggesting that methane is 25x more potent than co2 ignores the fact that methane cycles through the atmosphere in a few years before it is removed, while CO2 remains virtually indefinitely. Similarly, while ater vapor is some 100 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2, it cycles through the atmosphere in a few weeks and it is only an increase in average air temperatures that could sustain an increase in both H20 and Methane over the long run. The deniers asserting that change is natural and temperatures fluctuate all the time ignore the difference between fluctuations over geographical time scales (thousands of years) and fluctuations over human times scales, and whether it is ultimately a good idea to be creating such fluctuations over short time periods.
With that acknowledgement of issues on both sides (I am sure there are many more) I’d like to point to some of the complexities that arise.
There is a great deal of difficulty weeding out variables in science. The “factoring out variables” stage is complex and factoring has it’s own succession of controversy surrounding it. Consider as an example (there are thousands) that many temperature readings have come from population centers, and these suffer from a natural ‘heat island’ effect, where sunlight heats man made structures more so than the average surrounding area. Scientists try to make reasonable adjustments for these kinds of factors, making educated guesses about what the data would be if it could have been collected in a perfect setting. The problem with this is that even the degree to which variables should be factored out is highly contentious. In a situation like the heat island effect, because of the small real increase in temperatures, different interpretations of factoring can basically make that temperature change disappear and global warming a non-issue. Most papers and graphs presented have already has this ‘factoring’ done on it, a unfair representation at it’s onset.
When we start talking about ways to mitigate CO2 emissions, things are not clear cut at all. For example, most recycling is actually WORSE from a global warming perspective because recycling focuses on conserving material resources, NOT Energy. With the possible exception of aluminum (whose processing is extremely energy intensive) it usually takes more energy re collect material resources like paper and glass, re process them, and then redistribute them then it does to collect them from a centralized location and manufacture / process them in a large centralized plant. In manufacturing, scale typically associates with efficiency, the more you make of something the more efficiently each individual component was made. This is borne out in the fact that most recycling programs are huge money pits and must be subsidized. The utilization of material resources (other than fossil fuels) is an entirely different use than creating greenhouse gases yet they are routinely lumped together.
Further, building more dams for instance actually creates a very large short term increase in the green house effect, because submerged vegetation decays quickly into methane, the long term reduction in CO2 emissions from hydroelectric power might never offset the short term increase because of the methane emissions from decaying vegetation.
Counter intuitively, a large increase in coal burning plants will actually delay the increase in global warming in the near term because of the reflective and cloud precipitating nature of the particulate matter, possibly giving us a chance to implement newer better technologies before those particulates precipitate out. Some scientist have proposed seeding the upper atmosphere with harmless nano particles to precipitate more cloud cover to reflect more incoming lite which will stay suspended indefinitely, putting us on the road to literal climate control.
Environmental Scientists David Keith presents this in his TED Lecture “A surprising idea for "solving" climate change” - http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/david_keith_s_surprising_ideas_on_climate_change.html
The bigger question which arises is that if global warming is occurring and is anthropogenic, what should be done about it and how much should we spend doing it.
In that, a person I admire greatly Bjorn Lomborg (a gay atheist vegetarian and so certainly no right wing flunky) assembled a conference of economists to weight this question. Climatologists are appropriate people to appeal to when trying to ascertain a scientific understanding of the climate and where it’s going, but they are not the people who ought to decide how much is spent and on what. You can watch his presentation on the Copenhagen conference at TED here http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/bjorn_lomborg_sets_global_priorities.html where he asks us to rationally prioritize the threats to the world and what should be done about them, and even by the worst IPCC estimates, global warming will be inconvenient and expensive, but pales in comparison to the damage done by malaria or dysentery.
Beyond that though, Lomborg and the Copenhagen conference stopped short of actually identifying existential threats to humanity, civilization, and indeed all life on Earth and instead focused on the general well fare of humanity.
For a summary of all the threats we face see Discover Magazine’s managing editor Stephen Petranek TED Conference presentation on “10 ways the world could end” http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/stephen_petranek_counts_down_to_armageddon.html
Those of you familiar with me know I am intimately involved with the Lifeboat Foundation, as one of it’s earliest members and current staff member, I spoke on their behalf in front of the Navy War College’s Strategic Studies group. The Lifeboat Foundation seeks to identify, prioritize, and work to mitigate all the existential threats we face. Cumulatively, global warming, even if anthropogenic, barely makes the radar. Yet global warming is almost exclusively the existential threat people are concerned about, and virtually everything proposed to combat global warming will make mitigating all of the other existential threats we face fare more difficult, and expending tremendous resources combating a not so serious problem might very well doom us to a sudden catastrophe from something that was not political expedient to parade around and had no vice presidential candidate building his reputation on scaring people about it. It is my firm opinion that if you are not explicitly aware of the most commonly identified existential threats we face, and make a compelling case as to how they should be prioritized and mitigated; you have no business holding such a series of opinions about global warming.
With all that, my opinion on global warming is currently as follows:
I am no fan of ‘consensus’ science, historically, some of the worst things in the world have come from appeals to a consensus, science is not something which progresses by a popular vote or a consensus. Almost all great scientific and technological advancements have come specifically from disregarding the consensus. When an issue is complex enough that it requires appeals to consensus, then the data is not clear enough to make policy pronouncements on. Conversely, a reasonable scientific investigation does seem to suggest that the Earth has warmed, on average, globally, about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last 30 years. What’s not clear is that this is explicitly anthropogenic in nature, BUT, we certainly are producing a large quantity of CO2 from previously sequestered sources and CO2 IS a greenhouse gas, so it is reasonable to suspect that if such a warming is occurring, and a large quantity of a gas known to be responsible for a warming like that has been released, that they could be casually related. The reliance however on computer models, the lack of peer review of the data and the programs, and the track record of forgery from these within the advocates of anthropogenic global warming, are something that should cause concern in any rationally minded person and skepticism toward their results.
The solutions usually proposed to alleviate global warming and cut CO2 emissions almost always deal with a curtailment of industrial and economic growth. Global warming, even by it the worst estimates of the IPCC, does not pose a threat to life on earth or human civilization, but the expensive current solutions proposed to delay it (which ultimately will have little effect) might very well doom us to one of the other numerous existential threats we face, which most people are neither aware of nor care to learn about. That asteroid heading toward Earth ready to extinguish all life won’t give a damn what your ‘carbon footprint’ was.
My philosophy of science skepticism and libertarian streaks find many disturbing trends in the modern stop global warming advocacy groups. Global warming is simultaneously tapping into our penchant for original sin, environmentalist scare mongering and an almost religious indoctrination and devotion to some profound ‘purpose’ in life so many people strive for, (especially in the purpose vacuum of modern secular materialistic determinism) all in the name of the ‘greater good’ and for functionally promulgating the centralization of power. This original sin is the nagging guilt many people feel for existing on the planet and consuming resources. Moral parasites are drawn to this penchant ready to try to alleviate you of that guilt by convincing you to do things to ‘earn’ the right to exist, either by giving them money or working toward ‘their’ case, and people are all too ready to expend a little bit of effort in something someone has convinced them will make them feel really good. Often no care is paid to whether they actually DO any good, it is only the intention and attempt that matters. The scare mongering of environmentalist is simply atrocious, from banning effective safe pesticides like DDT, and scaring everyone about nuclear power, their atrocious track record should hang like an ominous black cloud over everything they say, far overshadowing the slight objective good that has come from environmentalism. People in rich western nations, especially ‘educated’ ones, have moved beyond the explicit recognition of classical religious doctrines they consider low brow, but still contain the strong psychological compulsion to adopt a religious form of thought which grants an easy moral righteousness to them, gives them a clear and easily understandable ‘purpose’ in life, promises a heaven for them (or their children - sustainability) and allows them to atone for the guilt of existing which comes from having no clear objective standard of assessing their own self worth. Those moral parasites are all too familiar with these and the modern environmentalism movement has gone through great pains to essentially establish itself as a modern religion filling that vacuum of the educated secular westerner.
The accumulation of power for the greater good that environmentalist so strongly advocate has historically killed almost ten times as many people this century as all wars this century combined. Everyone is well aware that Hitler killed 6 million Jews and probably about 10 – 12 million Germans total. Few know that Stalin intentionally starved to death more than 60 million people, almost 10 times the number of Jews that Hitler killed. The murderously disastrous policies of Mao in China killed nearly 35 million Chinese peasants, forcing most of them to work themselves to death, starving, on their own farms. Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos killed nearly 5 million people intentionally. All of these deaths came at the hands of government officials who had centralized power, removed the liberties of their subjects, and did so in the name of the ‘greater good’. Don’t appeal to global warming skeptics or deniers being stooges of the ‘big energy’ without acknowledging that politicians vying for controls and regulations will put hundreds of billions of dollars into the pockets of regulators and those politicians and pass arbitrary whims as laws which effect the livelihood, and lives, of untold millions. People who, like Ralph Nader, get to be rich and famous not from inventing great new power generating technologies or efficient safe transportations systems, but merely by attacking everything else productive and good and becoming famous by scaring everyone.
Any centralization of power is dangerous, centralizing control and regulation over all industry is just about the most dangerous thing we can do. The disastrous ethanol subsidies policies all ready fore shadow this in the US, where half of the worlds food supply is produced but industry is forced to use food as fuel which has subsequently raised global food prices and probably caused many hundreds of thousands of people to starve to death. The nations which are freest, both economically and politically, are the ones with the best environmental track records. Yet environmentalist and advocates for acting to stop global warming almost unanimously propose government intervention as the solution. Riding to power on scaring people and a superficial religious like moral certainty, for ‘their own good’ has never turned out well. Where there are those demanding sacrifice, there are always other standing by to collect the proceeds of that sacrifice, be it labor, wealth, or spiritual servitude. These people come off to me as fustrated social tyrants riding on the coat tails of environmentalism, the secular remnants of original sin, and the drive for purpose in all to stagger around clamoring for power any power they can reach.
If Global Warming is a problem, and if it is indeed caused by human activities, then it was caused by environmentalist scare mongering which hijacked that natural technological energy progression trend away from cleaner fuels and ultimately nuclear power and forced societies to rely on coal plants. Many prominent members of the environmental community are now major advocates of Nuclear Power. The only nation which produces less CO2 today than it did 30 years ago is France, and only because 80% of their power is generated by Nuclear Power. Global Warming debates have been hijacked for political purposes by people clamoring for control and power over other people under the most superficial guises. Worldwide focus on it has come only at the expense of ignorance of all other threats we face and solutions proposed for it put us in much more dangerous situations with regard to those threats.
Without an exhaustive study I can’t say for sure that the Earth’s temperature has increased 1 degree Fahrenheit and that this increase was caused by our industries burning fossil fuels but I do think it pretty likely to be the case. Ultimately, it may just have to be the price we pay for industrial civilization until wide scale nuclear or solar power is available. However, global warming is a minor issue on the list of existential threats to humanity and life on earth, and the irrational single minded focus on it at the expense off all other real threats is dangerous and misguided, the proposed solutions are borne not from deep rational investigation but appeals to feelings of guilt and fear in the cowardly populace, and will drive the wealth and power of the world into an ever smaller portion of people who ultimately have control over men’s lives and property and create a dangerous recipe for cataclysmic incompetence. The problem of global warming is best left to the greatest problem solver of all time, the free minds and free exchanges of free people.
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www.Lifeboat.com - Lifeboat Foundation - Safeguarding Humanity
For many years I have been an active and staff member of the Lifeboat Foundation, from the time it consisted of only a few members. I have always had a strong affinity to technology and as the potential became more obvious of technologies like nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, computer technology, and biotechnology, to make the human condition better, I have since come to consider myself an extropian or transhumanist. An Extropian embraces the opposite of entropy, which in physics term is the progression into useless disorder that any system without intelligent input tends toward, so the opposite, extropy, is a continual progression into new patterns, order, more information, and general growth and progress.
The coming age of nanotechnology, AI, and biotechnology may prove to be little different than our current age, or it may prove to be so profoundly different that it is almost impossible for us to even conceptualize it (referred to as the ‘singularity’ by advocates) The end of aging, disease, and possibly even death, and certainly starvation, war, and poverty, are all seemingly within the realm of the physical possible. Introduced to the Extropy institute by Skeptic Magazine and always embroiled in scientific skepticism, I always kept in mind that it’s all too easy for a secular humanist and technophobe to extrapolate the possible benefits into actual with fervent certainty, based on merely wishful thinking, leading one to essentially have an attitude about life, death, and immortality with religious tones but disguised in techno babble. Many members of these technophile groups seem guilty of this to me, often ready, like good theists, to sit back and wait for the salvation singularity to come and save us all. The collapse of civilization into the Dark Ages demonstrates clearly enough to me that technological optimism is not guaranteed.
After a long involvement in these organizations, coupled with my skeptical attitude, I became more concerned with the potential threat that some of these technologies could pose. So I soon became an active early supporter, and later employee and staff member, of the Lifeboat Foundation. Rising with the great benefits that may come are some obvious and ominous dangers. Could a runaway self replicating nanotechnological device consume the Earths biosphere and destroy all life on Earth? Could an extremely deadly virus be genetically engineered to target specific ethnic groups with equipment found in any university? Many advocates of technological growth are absolute optimists, seeing no possible way any harm could come from any of these technologies. Others are on the other end of the spectrum, luddites seeking an outright curtailment of all technological growth in these potentially harmful areas. As I have seen the membership grow and hostility to the Lifeboat Foundation decline over the years by active members of these technophilic groups, (in my own small anecdotal assessment) I see a pattern of a more rational caution emerging. While optimistic, it wouldn’t hurt to have a deep understanding of all the possible implementations of potentially harmful technology, and in some cases obvious and simple mechanisms may be put in place to mitigate the chances of any dangerous technology being either intentionally or accidentally released.
As a corollary to this understanding of the risk that these technologies may pose, one can not help but come to an understanding of the entirely natural threats to civilization, and indeed all life on Earth, also face and the dire need to identify these and work to mitigate them. Consider that the last time a caldera volcano erupted on Earth, it likely brought the entire adult human population on the planet down to about 1,000 individuals, the closest humanity has ever come to complete extinction. Everyone is very familiar with asteroid or comet impacts, but little attention is actually paid to identifying these threats and working to mitigate them. Other threats, like a nearby supernovae or a rogue planet or black hole pose very serious threats, as do both natural and unnatural radical climate change (if you think a few feet of water from global warming would be bad, consider over a mile of ice covering most of the cities on Earth) A recent informal poll of Lifeboat Foundation supporters, which now includes over 500 accomplished scientists, authors, futurists, and leading thinkers in their fields, ranked the threat from global warming next to last, just above “Alien Invasion”. Even by the worst estimates made, Global Warming simply is not a civilization killer. Indeed, as far as I am concerned, you have no business holding an opinion about Global Warming and what ought to be done about it without a very clear understanding of ALL the existential threats humanity and life on Earth face and a cohesive prioritization of those threats. The ‘consensus’ from these informed individuals experienced in all existential threats was that the greatest threat we face is a sudden and catastrophic pandemic which wipes our enough life to collapse industrial civilization, leading us into a new dark age which we may never recover from, not global warming.
The most vocal advocates of catastrophic climate change from global warming are very similarly minded to the group I mentioned above, the luddites, which would essentially seek a curtailment of technological growth and ultimately industrial civilization, in order to prevent the threats which might come from new technologies. But such a path of local sustainability and small global populations, while stopping global warming and possibly stopping the threat of new technologies (organizations in secret will still likely pursue these technologies though, but now without oversight) will essentially sentence all life on Earth to certain death. While the threats that new technologies may pose are still unclear, it is VERY clear that the natural environment, from the Earth to the solar system and local area of the galaxy, pose very serious threats which routinely wipe out huge portions of life on Earth (there have been a handful off mass extinctions which typically saw >60% of all species killed in a geological instant) Stopping technological and industrial growth will mean that we can do essentially nothing in the face of the next great cosmic threat - that giant asteroid won’t give a damn what your carbon footprint it. What we need is rapid, rational, industrial and technological growth across the globe, in order to afford and achieve the dispersement of intelligent life throughout the galaxy. Technological optimists, including myself, envision a future in which humanity and intelligent life have spread (seriously reducing the threat that any particular risk poses) and the Earth is essentially cultivated as a giant national park always honored and revered homage as the birthplace of life in the galaxy.
Three principles create much of my strong support the Lifeboat Foundation, you can read about how I argue the Fermi Paradox, Drake Equation and Doomsday curve relate to the Lifeboat Foundation in my post
In recent years the Lifeboat Foundation has experienced tremendous growth and a strong momentum. Where other organizations are tackling specific threats, such as the Singularity Institute (examining the threat that Artificial Intelligence may pose) or the Foresight Institute (to examine the threats that nanotechnology could pose) we work in concert with them, where little attention is being paid to a particular threat, the LF seeks to develop an in depth understanding of those and in all cases work to mitigate the over all threats these things pose. These mitigation strategies may be as simple as ensuring oversight by a free, representative organization over the use of particular technologies, may include manufacturing particular containment facilities to do some of the most dangerous work in, restricting critical information to only the scientists and technical staff that have a legitimate need for it, etc, or as complex as creating vast information archives, underground storage facilities, genetic repositories, or ultimately self contained self sustaining space stations which house an ‘emergency’ population. Ultimately, simple dispersement, decentralization of critical life sustaining systems, and a general robustness (such as multiple independent colonies spread throughout the solar system) would create the most durable civilization possible and should be the ultimate long term goal of anyone concerned with life. In the short term, rational mitigation strategies need to be identified and implemented in response to the threats we face. The Lifeboat Foundation is the only organization with the explicit goal to identify all existential threats, natural or artificial, that humanity, civilization, and life on Earth face and work to mitigate those threats, as such it is one of the most important organizations anyone could support in their own long term rational self interest.
The Lifeboat Foundation has recently sponsored it’s first conference, organized with the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, entitled “GLOBAL CATASTROPHIC RISKS: Building a Resilient Civilization” It will be hosted in Mountain View California on November 14th. We are looking to raise $2,500 to support this conference, which all ready includes a stellar lineup. Consider supporting the Lifeboat Foundation.
Support the Lifeboat Foundation “Global Catastrophic Risks: Building a Resilient Civilization” conference
The Lifeboat Foundation – Safeguarding Humanity
Official Conference Page
My previous post on Existential Threats
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There are over 400 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy and the galaxy is over 10 billion years old. If at any time in the last 1 billion years one single civilization arose in this galaxy and it took 10,000 years to spread to a mere 2 other star systems, and repeated the cycle, it would cover every star in the galaxy within 400,000 years. This could have happened more than a million times all ready. So where are they? This is the Fermi Paradox, and the startling observation that no intelligent life seems to have spread throughout the galaxy in all this time could be a disturbing omen. Is life so rare that it never arises and spreads? Or is it perhaps that life once it becomes intelligent almost always destroys itself? We don’t know, but just as any rational person mitigates risk and takes out insurance policies, so should all humans adopt an insurance policy for humanity, and attempt to mitigate the ultimate existential threats posted by natural or man made catastrophes - many of which are well outside the realm of public consciousness. The Lifeboat Foundation seeks to raise awareness on these threats and develop strategies to mitigate, and ultimately eliminate, the threats they pose to humanity. Below are some of the commonly recognized possibly existential threats that Humanity, civilization, and life on Earth face.
Anthropogenic Global Warming
Man made carbon dioxide and other green house gases are argued to be causing a run away greenhouse effect, ultimately disrupting the global climate and ecological balance to such a degree that massive extinctions and general disruption make human life impossible. Could accelerating climate change in the 21st century become so severe that it leads to the end of human civilization?
Grey Goo or Ecophage
Scientists are just beginning to look seriously at a potential future risk caused by self-replicating nanotechnological devices, also known as nanites. The machines, like mechanical cells, are built atom and by atom, and copy themselves like small factories by taking material and energy from the environment. Is it feasible that within the next 100 years, biomass or sunlight-fueled autonomous nanites will be created, and their deliberate or accidental release could directly or indirectly result in destruction of the Earth’s biosphere and the end of civilization, and possibly life on Earth. It is also possible that ‘wet wear’ is the only feasible manner to physically make a self replicating machine, thus limited the strength and potential of nanotechnological self replicating devices to ones similar of natural cells, and vulnerable to toxins and radiation.
Global pandemic, either bio engineered or natural
The 1918 Spanish flu killed 2.5 – 5% of the human population in under a year, recently the US Government published the Genome for the Spanish Flu virus a mere year after the first complete artificial life form was assembled in a laboratory from component molecules. The two could be combined to that a resourceful intelligent group could create from harmless chemicals their own supply of custom made deadly pathogens. Mosquitoes have been estimated to be responsible for the deaths of approximately half of all humans who have ever lived as these self replicating flying used needles are the primary vector of 10 of the 12 worst diseases humans can contract. Advances in biotechnology and materials science will soon allow scientists to create synthetic life forms based on chemistry foreign to traditional life. In the modern age of globalization and transcontinental flights, could a pandemenic, natural or artificial, so severe arise that it kills the majority of the human population?
Comet or Asteroid Impact
Asteroids with a diameter of 1km or larger hit the Earth a few times every million years, and mass extinctions appear to be routinely caused by asteroid impacts. There is a serious chance that a major asteroid could hit the Earth directly or indirectly and resulting in the death of all life on earth. Current estimates of the number and frequency of asteroid impacts are probably lower than reality because asteroids impacting the oceanic basin leave no evidence of their destruction, and the massive tsunamis that result are often more damaging than the impact itself, and in the modern age could easily destroy half the worlds major population centers, which
are almost always on coast lines, thrusting the rest of civilization into a new dark age through massive political and economic disruption.
Caldera Volcanic Eruption
About 70,000 years ago, a supervolcano in Sumatra, Indonesia erupted, releasing 2,800 cubic kilometers of magma and pyroclastic material. Some scientists have argued that the entire human population was reduced to a mere 1,000 adults because of the resulting global climate changes and ash cover. The supervolcanoes are not like typical volcanoes, where a small chimney of magma breaks through the Earths crust and builds a mountainous cone, but instead are actually bulges of huge sections of the Earths mantle into the crust. An eruption results when the mantle itself breaks through the crust, creating a devastating explosion Tens of thousands of times more powerful than convention volcanoes. Yellowstone national park in the western United States is one of these supervolcanos as well, and has erupted, on average, every 600,000 years for the last 15 million years, leaving a pock marked path of scars across the north western United States as the continental crust drifts slowly over the volcanic spot in the mantle. It is now 60,000 years over due, and no one is sure if it is settling down or warming up. The last time it erupted Yellowstone covered almost the whole North American Continent under a meter of ash. Such an eruption today would destroy America’s agriculture heart, which creates by many estimates half of the world’s food supply and most of the world’s grain supply. Another such eruption could cause through global climate change and civilization collapses a new dark age. When these volcanoes erupt in the oceanic basins, they leave no long lasting geological evidence, so again we are unsure of how common these kinds of volcanoes are and how often they erupt.
Other Cosmic threat (runaway star, black hole, gamma ray burst, massive solar flare)
Recent Astronomical evidence is suggesting that we face some existential threats from our Galactic neighborhood. A rogue or runaway star could disrupt our planets orbit or even remove it from the orbit of our star. A rogue black hole could tear apart the solar system, or a massive solar flare could wipe out a huge portion of the Earths population through radiation exposure. These events could kill billions and lead to the extinction of the human population.
Runaway Ice Age
Life on earth exists in a precipitous razor’s edge balance between the frigid desert of airless Mars and the runaway greenhouse oven of Venus. Numerous Ice Ages have been experienced in the past, with on particular era referred to as the "Snow Ball Earth" where it is suspected that the whole of the Earths surface was covered with ice, and the only refuge of life was near thermal volcanic vents. While it is known that periodic cycles in the Earths orbit are the primary cause of ice ages, changes in cloud cover, general climate, or orbital disturbances could initiate another ice age with devastating consequences.
Launched by malevolent individuals or groups, any event having global economic or environmental consequences, for example a major coordinated attack or one utilizing nuclear, nano, or bio technology. Such an attack could be a major threat to humanity through destroying most of the industrial infrastructure of modern civilization or causing an economic collapse leading to a new dark age which me may never recover from.
One of the only existential threats common in the popular mindset is that posed by a nuclear war, which scientists of the 70’s and 80’s argued would launch enough dust into the atmosphere to reflect enough sunlight to cause a winter spanning decades. This also led many people to suspect that the growth of technology and the subsequent tendency for civilizations to destroy themselves as a possible answer to the Fermi Paradox. Could the use of part of the huge stockpile of existing nuclear weapons ultimately lead to the end of civilization?
High Energy Particle Physics mishap
During the Manhattan project, physicist Edward Teller was charged with calculating whether the first nuclear blast would be strong enough to cause major damage to the planet. At this time, it was unclear how much of an explosion would occur, once the fissionable fuel reached it’s critical mass, an immensely rapid exchange of neutrons instigating further fissioning ensued, but as this exchange and atomic splitting progressed, heat was added to the material physically expanding it, and reducing the exchange of protons. Would the fissioning exceed the rate of expansion, cause an explosion a thousand or ten thousand times more powerful, or would the expansion from the heat cause the explosive wave to quickly fizzle? The calculation was difficult, but ultimately Teller was confident of the rate which the explosive wave would diminish and predictions were reasonable accurate. Today, particle physicist seek to make microscopic black holes in particle accelerators. Physicists abate fears by pointing out that cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere routinely occur with higher energies than our accelerators use. Physicists, like Teller at the Manhattan project, calculated that these microscopic black holes also will instantly evaporate. While we have every reason to be confident in rational scientific assessments like these, we must be careful to not let hubris cloud our judgment. In all likelihood, calculations like this will be ever more common in high energy physics, so one can not help but ask if one time we might be wrong. Particle accelerator mishaps including long lived microscopic black holes or the formation of a stable stranglet, may trigger cataclysmic chains of events which could destroy all life on Earth and even the planet itself.
In science fiction, a takeover by artificially intelligent robots or computers is a common theme. In The Matrix, humans were used as batteries by computers that did not understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics. In the Terminator series, a super intelligent computer waged war with human kind. But could it happen in the real world? In the real world our computers become ever more complex and intelligent, robots ever more agile, and mankind ever more reliant on automated computer controlled systems – which might be a recipe for disaster. Will a super intelligent and malicious Artificial Intelligence overpower humanity and wipe out humanity and civilization? Advocates of extropianism and tranushumanists counter that human modification and enhancements will rival the capacities of computers, neither outpacing other to too much of an extent. Technological progressions suggest that within a few decades single individual computers will surpass the intelligence of individual people. A short time there after, they will surpass the intelligence of all humans. Conversely, it may be that biological wet ware is the only way to achieve the complexity necessary for sentient life.
Nihilism / Mental Disorders
A significant threat that I think humanity faces which is barely on the register of people worried about significant threats, is the growth of a nihilistic attitude toward existence. For 90,000 years humans lived short, difficult, busy lives, and never really had the time to fret about existence or ponder existential dilemmas while their families were perpetually on the verge of starvation. Even through the growth of civilization, it was only the wealthiest that ever had free time enough to ponder these things. But in our modern age, this scenario has changed significantly, people, especially those in industrialized nations, have more free time than ever before and their lives longer and easier to live than ever before. Coupled with the rise of secularism and later determinism, many people find themselves at a very subtle level wondering about the purpose of life, or through avenues like Buddhism or materialism removing any value in life whatsoever. Today, mental illness such as depression are the leading cause of debilitation in people over 65 in the industrialized nations, while health professionals try to gain attention to this startling phenomena and try to treat it with medication, the overwhelming cause of this is probably the lack of a decent humanistic philosophical attitude. Following these trends out, it can be expected that modern ‘western’ ideas of religious tolerance and even secularism will probably permeate educated people to the same degree it has in western nations, this will only seem to get worse. Should future technological advances significantly extend the human life span, the problem might only be exasperated. Today, without even facing these difficulties, a small minority of individuals think that all sentient life and human life is a blemish on the earth, as manifested through things like the Voluntary Human Extinction project and in more extreme forms through radical environmental terrorism or people like Ted Kaczysnki. These groups see all humans, even themselves, as vile creatures. As a corollary, a large portion of the modern western world also find little value in life and feels guilty for their own existence. As this attitude grows in popularity because of the mentioned cultural / philosophical influences, it will pose a serious threat to humanity, as any civilization which no longer desires to exist has little future.
Humanity and civilization face a serious set of existential threats, including both man made technological threats and natural threats. In man made threats, most people are familiar only with the possibility of anthropogenic global warming modifying the climate to such an extent that the planet is uninhabitable, other, probably more likely threats, are an out of control self replication machine which consumes all of the material surface of the planet, a terrorist attack causing a global economic collapse and new dark age, a nuclear war or winter rendering the world uninhabitable or causing another dark age, a high energy physics mishap, or a malicious artificial intelligence destroying humanity. From nature we face the ominous perils of an asteroid or comet impact with resultant fires and floods, the eruption of a caldera supervolcano covering whole continents with ash and destroying world food supplies and economies, random cosmic events like rogue planets or massive solar flares. We may face another ice age from unexpected climate change or a global pathogen which wipes out huge swaths of the population. Lastly, humanity is facing an ever more obvious threat in it’s growing unwillingness to want to survive.
Because of all of these threats, Humanity needs an insurance policy. The simple fact is that for intelligent sentient life to ultimately survive, humanity must spread out among the stars. This is something recognized by many prominent members of the scientific community, including most recently Stephen Hawking, Freeman Dyson, and Martin Rees. To answer this need is the Lifeboat Foundation, which is an organization I am a strong supporter of and actively involved with. In the long term the Lifeboat Foundation would like to actually see self-sustaining space stations created and built, with humanity spreading among our solar system and eventually to neighboring solar systems. In the near term a strong focus on mitigation strategies such as bunkers, information archives and the necessary technological checks and balances on innovation related threats are being pursued. Ultimately the fate of humanity and indeed all life on earth depends on this.