Responding to Ross McCluney Comments…

January 27th, 2009
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In a recent post I expressed some of my frustrations and feelings about those who have been active in the anti-nuclear movement, especially in the context of the recent coal waste issues that the TVA has been experiencing. It is my contention that those who have been so active in opposing the TVA’s plans to operate nuclear reactors at Watts Bar, Bellafonte and other locations are in a way responsible for these coal disasters. This is because the anti-nuclear movement’s efforts in making it as difficult and expensive to build nuclear power plants is responsible for many plants not being built and therefore the continued operation of coal power plants.

I make no bones about the fact that I’m really losing patience with this movement, especially when it comes to claims of having the ethical high ground. I’m pro-nuke and proud of it and I’m tired of having to deal with attacks on my credibility or motives and I’d like to turn the tables.

Professor Ross McCluney was one named in the post and he responded with a comment. I’d like to thank Dr. McCulney for coming up an defending his position. Obviously I disagree with Dr. McCulney in a variety of ways, but I appreciate his response. Energy policy and environmental issues are always going to be contentious and I have no problem with all sides having their fair say. It is healthy and appropriate that both sides in such issues be vetted and debated publicly, as the choices our society makes in this area will ultimately affect not only us all, but future generations as well.

Therefore, I’d like to respond to the comment piece by piece and issue by issue:

I’ll answer some of your questions and correct some inaccuracies:
“Also, to Ross McCulney, I noticed you live in Florida and teach at a university.â€
No. I’m retired. I was a research professor, but I did do some teaching.

Thanks for correcting that. Sorry for the inaccuracy.

“I’m therefore sure you have a nice home away from both Bellafonte and Widows Creek. Do you think this means you’re worth more than the people who have to live downwind from the coal power plant?â€
Of course not. My roots are in Kentucky and Tennessee, and I have a home in the hill country around Chattanooga. I love my hillbilly friends and am a fan of country music.

“Do you think that those hillbillies in Alabama don’t matte?â€
What a ridiculous question. Of course they matter. How could you think this? I thought your blog was supposed to be fact-based.

It is, but it’s also editorial in nature and therefore I do add some social commentary. I’ll be the first to admit that some things bother me and I don’t make any bones about it.

“I also noticed that you’ve been working on things like Ocean Thermal Energy for more than thirty years.â€
No. I did some work on OTEC when I first started work at the Florida Solar Energy Center because of my background in optical oceanography and the interest in this field by the Director of the Center at the time. After a short time, when it became obvious that OTEC had many technical, environmental, and economic hurdles and was going nowhere, I switched to more people-scaled technologies like solar water heating and window energy and illumination performance.

Apologies for any inaccuracies in the statements. Ocean thermal energy is an interesting topic, but given the small temperature difference it is a very difficult technical challenge to get a thermal engine to work effectively with such a source of energy.

“Therefore, may I ask, how many decades of fruitless efforts do you need before you start to consider whether or not it’s just not going to happen?â€
Solar water heating and high performance windows and daylighting systems are now cost-effective. They are but a few of the many energy conservation and solar energy technologies that promise clean, healthy, alternatives to dirty, polluting, global-warming-gas-producing fossil fuel production, and which are way less costly to build, install, operate, and keep secure than obsolete and dangerous nuclear technologies. I could ask the same question in another way: How many decades of fruitless efforts to restart nuclear power in the U.S. will be needed before the folly of this dangerous and economically inviable technology is finally accepted?

Actually, I very much agree that solar water heating is a place where solar energy can more than pull its own weight. Solar heating is another situation where it has some potential. In favorable conditions, a solar hot water system can nearly eliminate the need for gas or electricity to heat water. A solar heating system can be effective in some situations, like more mild climates or when combined with a heat pump. Solar illumination is certainly worthwhile as well, sun light provides an excellent full spectrum light source.

However, lets not kid ourselves about the scale of the issue. Even if every home and business used solar panels to provide hot tap water, the energy savings would be pretty modest in the grand scheme of things. Mankind uses enormous amounts of energy for transportation, for recovering and refining metals like aluminum and iron, for lighting after dark, for industrial processes, manufacturing, for data processing, air conditioning, refrigeration, pumping water and so on.

This combined with the limitations of solar heat, hot water and illumination, such as the fact that it does not provide illumination at night and can’t generally be expected to entirely replace conventional heat in colder areas means that it’s not the kind of technology that can dramatically shift energy use. It can shave off a little bit of fossil fuel use, and I encourage its use in doing so. It’s just not going to move any mountains.

“Does the idea of nuclear energy frighten you because it might make your job and research seem unimportant?â€
Not in the least. Quite the contrary. The more I look into nuclear energy the more I find that convinces me it is not the way for humanity to go, no matter how mature the technology may seem to be.

Maybe I give humanity more credit than some, but I’m not one to think that we as humans should turn our backs on something as fundamental as nuclear energy because it seems too powerful for us to try to meddle with. That is the kind of mentality that stops human progress by ruling some area as being sacred ground that we dare not touch.

Lets not forget something: Nuclear energy is as fundamental as electrical energy, chemical energy, mechanical energy or thermal energy. To say humanity best avoid nuclear energy is as broad in scope as saying that humanity must not use chemical energy and that any chemical reaction, fire included, is to be shunned and avoided. In fact, nuclear energy is more fundamental than any other kind of energy. It is literally the be all, end all, absolute energy to end all energy.

All energy is nuclear in origin. Any time we use mechanical energy or thermal energy, that energy came from a nuclear reaction, whether decay in the mantle of the earth, fusion occurring in the sun or fission in a nuclear reactor, natural or man-made, all the energy in the universe has come from nuclear energy. The universe does not store energy in puny chemical bonds but rather in the binding forces, the quantum variables that hold the most fundamental particles of matter together.

When we tap this energy we are going directly to the source of energy, literally creating energy. If we did not fission a uranium atom, it would decay, releasing only a tiny portion of its potential energy, until it finally ended in lead 206, a stable isotope. At this point the atom would sit quietly, presumably until the thermal death of the universe. Thus when we split this atom, remaking the very nature of matter, we have introduced energy into the universe, energy which has been bottled up since the ancient supernova that created the atom. We’ve cut out the middle man and done it for ourselves.

The fundamental shift that this represents for mankind is mind-boggling. The practical aspect of this is that it is energy which is orders of magnitude greater than any other kind of energy source. However, in terms of the overall impact it is even greater. The difference between making our own energy and gathering it as is vast and basic as the difference between hunting and gathering and growing our own food. Releasing nuclear energy is as significant as creating fire. When we first began to build nuclear reactors in the 1940′s, we were experiencing a kind of turning point in human history as significant as the day that a cave man first figured out how to start a fire or when early experimenters first began to understand electricity.

We use fission because fission is to nuclear energy what fire is to chemical energy – it is the most easily harnessed, the most stable and the most useful. Certainly this is not the only kind of nuclear energy. There is neutron activation, spallation, photofission, gamma-neutron reactions, decay and fusion. Yet these reactions have not proven themselves as viable sources of large amounts of energy. Fusion does not scale down to our needs well and presents few, if any, advantages over fission. The fission chain reaction is like fire, self-sustaining and nearly tailor made for useful energy production.

If we stop and cower in fear of nuclear energy then we have cheated our species out of the greatest potential we have. It is obvious that energy is becoming our limiting factor. We can barely pump oil or dig coal fast enough. Gathering energy from the environment is holding us back and we need more room to expand. We need a source of energy that is more dense, not less. With this energy the sky is the limit. What will nuclear energy bring us in centuries to come? I don’t pretend to even be able to imagine. I am no more able to envision the ultimate uses of nuclear energy than the first fire starting caveman could envision the lithium ion polymer battery.

If we are ever to have truly bountiful energy, if we are ever to have spacecraft to the stars or communities living on other planets then it will be because of nuclear energy. If we are ever to have plenty for all people then it will be because of nuclear energy. It is, undeniably, the be all, end all of energy. And now, in our own lifetimes, it is ours to use for the good of mankind.

Because of this, I take pride that the work I do helps in some small way to move the U.S. toward a truly sustainable energy economy that is more labor-intensive and hence puts more people back to work doing jobs that are healthier and have far less risk for radiation illness in both the short and long terms.

Wow. Just wow. Just wow. I’m not even sure where to begin on this as I am so stunned by this statement. It is just about 180 degrees away from all that I value.

To start with, there seems to be here a statement that it is ‘healthier’ to work in jobs which are labor intensive and have more manual labor than intellectual labor. Historically, this has not proven to be the case. There is some truth to the claim that our current lifestyle, in which many people spend the day sitting at a computer screen and watch television for entertainment is not optimal. It leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and so on. Yet, this is small price to pay for the better safety and health it provides. While exercise is generally good for overall health, labor intensive jobs do not necessarily provide good exercise. Working in a mine or digging ditches is just as likely to cause repetitive strain injuries as it is to provide for better health. Labor intensive jobs cause strain, hernias, joint damage and carry the dangers of heat stroke, dehydration or hazards of the job in general.

In low productivity, labor-intensive work, the quality of life is much lower than in more productive and less labor intensive work. Labor saving technology and methods have given us the forty hour work week and jobs that pay well. Today a farmer is not limited to barely feeding his family, but rather can produce enough food to sell and provide his family with a good home, education even vacation and leisure. There is nothing wrong with leisure either. It is a great thing that we as humans can now spend time to pursue our happiness and not be slaves to our own existence.

There is another issue here and that is the consideration of what being for labor-intensive systems says about one’s value of humans. Labor intensive jobs that employ masses of individuals not only pay little, by necessity, but they also devalue the humanity of those involved. An intellect-intensive job or even one which simply makes a worker very productive makes that worker a valuable asset to the company, a major contributor to society and something significant. If a ditch is to be dug by a heavy machine, then the operator of that machine is a skilled worker who knows how to operate it and is licenced and certified. The operator has value and is treated like a valued employee. Yet when the ditch is dug by a large crew of manual laborers, each is of little value and is simply a cog in the big projects machine. If one falls ill, why bother with them? Any idiot can dig a ditch. You won’t even notice the nameless faceless laborer is gone.

It also brings into question some of the social aspects of such a society. When all workers have high productivity and highly productive methods are available, there can be upward mobility and there can be value to each individual. Yet in a labor intensive system, the classes must be strictly cast. There are the foremen and the designers, the bosses and the managers on top then the droves of hard workers on the bottom, valued only for muscle, like bio-robots.

Then comes the economic aspect of such a system. The big problem is that the less labor intensive a pursuit is, the more economical it is. Any company or individual who can get a job done with less labor has a powerful advantage in the market. The farmer who can grow more crops with a tractor will always outproduce the farmer who works the soil by hand. The automated factory will always outproduce the producer who uses hand labor. The product can be sold cheaper and more can be made.

Not only does mean that more efficient production is better for society and living standards (Henry Ford did not make the automobile affordable to the common person by producing them *less* efficiently), but it means that there’s no reason anyone would ever want to be less manpower efficient. You want a company to choose to employ hundreds of people to do with a few dozen could do? That’s economic suicide. That company will go bankrupt pretty fast.

So how are we to achieve this then? When the market favors greater labor efficiency how do we force high labor pursuits to exist? Are we to micromanage things at each and every level? Are we to outlaw tractors, combines and automated harvest machines to give farm laborers more employment? Are we to outlaw production lines so factory workers have more to do? And what of the decrease in what we can have. This would make food and products more expensive and ultimately increase the class divide, reducing the worker to just faceless labor and making the product too costly for most to afford.

There has long been a kind of knee-jerk resentment toward higher productivity on the grounds that it will take jobs. This is not only not the case, but it is the opposite. Higher productivity per worker helps commerce and ultimately the economy as a whole. By increasing growth, the workers become more in demand and not less.

In a way, this is an example of Jevon’s Paradox, because when a given amount of production is less labor intensive, the worker is a more efficiently utilized entity and thus is in higher demand. It’s a simple, if counter-intuitive effect, yet we see it all around us. In the 1930′s a single airline pilot could carry twenty or so passengers, mostly limited to the very wealthy. By the 1960′s, an airliner could carry over one hundred and had a flight crew of three or four. Today a cockpit crew is generally two and a single plane can carry five hundred or more. Does this mean there is less demand for pilots? No, there is far more.

Similarly, the IT field has grown and employs millions worldwide. Many of the things that one employed in the field does are many times more productive and less labor intensive than their predecessors. As a member of the IT field, when I go into an office and install a computer or service one, I am doing something which is not very labor intensive and which pays well. Yet, I am accomplishing far more than those in years past could do with much more labor.

That one computer can send an dozens of email message across the country with little effort. At one time sending a message across the country involved teletype operators, switchboard operators, curries to run the message to the end user and so on. The computer can also do financial operations simply which otherwise would involve a small army of people working with adding machines. But even this is more efficient than what came before. It is less labor intensive to send an email than a telex, but it is less labor intensive to send a telex than a telegraph-transmitted telegram, and it is less labor intensive to send a telegraph telegram than it is to send a note by the Pony Express.

So how is it, how could it possibly be, that something as labor un-intensive as the IT industry could actually create jobs? What of all the telex operators, the typesetters, the delivery persons, the orderlies with adding machines and those who oiled the adding machines, inked the typewriter ribbons and so on? It’s simple. Less labor intensive means more jobs.

“(Just between you and me, you knew this renewable crap wasn’t going anywhere when you started, right? But hell, I mean it gets you plenty of speaking spots and finances your worthless projects, so there ya go.)â€
This gratuitous comment is not worth a response.

Two words: power density.

Going back to the issue of worker productivity, the nuclear power plant near me provides jobs to about 1200 persons. Each one of those 1200 corresponds to roughly two megawatts of power. Can any renewable sources (besides hydro) compete with that?

The ability to provide vast, ample amounts of energy, just ain’t there. Wind power uses air. Air is not very heavy and it doesn’t move very fast. Solar uses radiant flux which, at surface level, provides pretty modest power per square meter. A nuclear reactor can produce more energy in an hour than the largest solar plant in the world can in a year.

“I also noticed you contributed to the book Humanity’s Environmental Future: Making Sense in a Troubled World and to the website The Future Of Humanity. Do you think energy issues are only part of the future?â€
If you would read the book, you’d discover the error of this assumption. In fact, one of the points I make, and one of the reasons I wrote that book, is that the current focus on global warming and fossil energy production as the primary cause of it is too narrow. The bigger picture addresses the many additional aspects of civilizational development that have led the industrial world to the point of systematically taking apart the very life-support system of the planet for humanity. If you had bothered to look at the book, you’d have found that chapter 13 is titled: “The Big Picture — Taking a longer view. Avoiding narrow thinking.â€

On this I agree. We need to look at the big picture. Fossil fuels are a huge part of the problem, but are not the only part of the problem. I’d argue that the thing we need to consider is how to get the most bang for our buck, both financially and ecologically. We need to mine something like uranium, where a small mine can give us huge amounts of energy and not coal, which means tearing up vast areas to get the same energy. We need to farm the land more efficiently so that we don’t need to slash and burn to get the land to use.

Above all, we need more energy, because energy is the limiting factor so often in what we can do with the world. If we had enough energy, we could recycle waste water and therefore would not need to drain watersheds for our use. If we had the energy, we could reduce waste to its component elements instead of looking for a landfill to put it in. If we had enough energy we could make plastics out of any organic material around and not oil or gas. Energy is the key to working with materials and not needing to acquire new ones.

“IS that how you rationalize what you do? Do you think of these things as being in a distant, theoretical future? Does that help you justify things to yourself? I’m sure that you know, given your background that because Bellafonte did not open and therefore because Widows Creek continued to operate that people have suffered and died. I’m just wondering how you can live with yourself each day, having been part of that.â€
Of course I don’t see my work as contributing only to a “distant, theoretical future.†The technologies I investigate are here and now, and can also benefit the distant future, however theoretical you think it might be. The policies I have been advocating for years are wholly aimed at rescuing humanity from the multiple threats facing it, mostly of its own making. This is not to deny the value of civilization, but to support efforts to make our civilization truly viable for the long term, truly sustainable.

I agree in part. I like civilization, a lot actually. I like libraries and sky scrapers. I like art and music, movies and plays. I like science and technology. I’d like to see them continue in the future. I don’t believe that humanity is necessarily creating problems that cannot and will not be solved. When we ran out of wood to burn and whale oil we survived. We’ve gone through two world wars, the little ice age, the crusades, the black plague, the fall of Rome and other worldwide problems and still we continue on.

It is unfortunate that TVA went so heavily into fossil fuel production and still today fails to consider safer, environmentally more benign alternatives. I was not part of TVA’s misplaced decisions to go that way, have lived most of my life distant from the TVA service territory, so was for a long time unaware of how heavily they have gotten hooked into fossil fuels. The U.S. had a wonderful opportunity back in the early 1970s, when the U.S. passed its peak of domestic oil production and started switching more and more heavily to foreign oil. It could have begun a multi-decade program of researching, perfecting, and implementing energy conservation and renewable energy technologies, and employing them as soon as each was ready. Instead, the country took what it thought at the time was the easy and cheap way out, so got hooked on oil and the other fossil fuels. At least the nation got away from nuclear power production many years ago for very good reasons. There is no good reason to try and switch back to that dangerous and costly technology when we have better alternatives readily available and on the horizon.

The TVA relies heavily on fossil fuels because their demand has continued to grow past the point where hydro alone can provide for the need for electricity. In the US we get 60% of our electricity from coal. We’re not alone. Much of Europe, China, Russia, India get their electricity from coal. Australia gets nearly all electricity from coal. We get huge amounts of our energy from oil and gas as well.

Indeed, the TVA is considered one of the larges polluters in the US and the Tennessee Valley area has had pollution problems because of this.

Efficiency will not reduce the amount of energy we need. At best, it might reduce the rate at which our need for energy grows, but only slightly. Due to Jevon’s paradox it may very well do the entire opposite. There ave been many improvements in efficiency. Yet these have not turned the tide. High bypass gas turbines are far more efficient than turbojet engines, yet more people fly and thus aviation continues to use more energy. Modern refrigeration is far more efficient than the early systems of the 20th century, yet today everyone has a refrigerator and many people have two.

We cannot count on efficiency to decrease our need for energy, especially given the way so many in the world live today. Much of Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere have populations which live without clean water, without safe and mechanized mechanized transportation or good shelter and comfort. If we are going to have a world where people in central Africa can get an MRI at their local clinic and then get home by mechanized transit instead of days of working in the hot sun and where there is plenty of purified water for the world, then we need more energy, not less.

But imagine if the entire population of the world contributed as much energy as the workers at the local nuclear plant. Six billion of us each with two megawatts per person. That’s six million billion watts. Six quadrillion watts. Six yodawatts. What could we do with that? What couldn’t we do?

I think the new wave of nuclear will die of its too heavy economic burden. Where will they find the financing to support such an expensive way of making energy that ties up precious capital for many years before it can begin generating power and providing revenue to start paying off the debt?

Well, the French seem to have done pretty well with it. In any event, there’s no doubt that nuclear power plants are capital intensive, although not necessarily by that much more than coal or gas and per watt they’re orders of magnitude cheaper than solar and wind, which never pay for themselves except with subsidies and tax breaks. Though capital intensive, the operating costs of a nuclear plant are very low and thus it does manage to pay itself off, as long as road blocks don’t stop it from being completed in reasonable time.

Many of the expenses are regulatory in nature. Back in the days before the NRC, when US policy was pro-nuclear we built some of the cheapest nuclear power plants around. Plants like Connecticut Yankee, Oyster Creek, Yankee Rowe, Peach Bottom and others showed how economical it can be to build a nuclear plant. It’s not surprising anyway, because it’s really just a standard thermal power plant with a reactor, which is a big boiler inside a concrete structure with a few other design elements, but nothing that is inherently super-expensive.

Of course, there’s huge room for improvement. The molten salt reactor is one design which has great potential because it offers better efficiency, due to higher temperatures and it can operate at ambient pressure. It also has the ability to continuously refine the fuel to make for much better efficiency. I happen to like the lead cooled fast reactor. It has very high theoretical burnup, thus making fuel costs almost nill, and it can operate at ambient pressure, reducing the need for pressure vessels. It does not need as much maintenance and refueling, which cuts down the amount of labor – of course, I’d like to see a lot of these and thus many employees.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 at 4:36 pm and is filed under Agriculture, Culture, Enviornment, Good Science, Humor, Nuclear, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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100 Responses to “Responding to Ross McCluney Comments…”

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  1. 51
    J Carlton Says:

    I’ve never heard of this book. but it makes sense from what all I have read about the progressives and their grip on education. Especially the drive to kill apprenticeships and get the kids out of the factories and into state run schools. Read what kids who actually worked in the factory apprenticeship programs that say Baldwin Locomotive works ran and you find budding entrepreneurs being made. In the state run repression factories we make generation after generation of subjects to the state run by the professionals from the Ivy Covered Snob Factories. Young people re by and large taught how to make things and run things in our schools and that is just the way the elite likes it.

            DV82XL said:

    No kidding!

    The fear of common people learning too much is a recurrent theme in state records around the world. The same was true in America.

    The great social engineers of the American Industrial Revolution were confronted by the formidable challenge in the U.S. of working their magic in a democracy, least efficient and most unpredictable of political forms. School was designed to neutralize as much as possible any risk of being blind-sided by the democratic will.

    The tool they used was State education. Schools got the way they were at the start of the twentieth century as part of a vast, intensely engineered social revolution in which all major institutions were overhauled to work together in harmonious managerial efficiency. It was to be an improvement on the English system, which once depended on a shared upper-class culture for its coherence. It would be subject to a rational framework of science, law, instructions, and mathematically derived merit. In fact the principal purpose of the vast enterprise was to place control of the new social and economic machinery out of reach of the mob.

    Alexander Inglis, author of Principles of Secondary Education, was of this class. He wrote that the new schools were being expressly created to serve a command economy and command society, one in which the controlling coalition would be drawn from important institutional stakeholders in the future.

    In his book The American High School Today (1959),James Bryant Conant (president of Harvard from 1933 to 1953.) brusquely acknowledges that conversion of old-style American education into Prussian-style schooling was done as a coup de main, but his greater motive in 1959 was to speak directly to men and women of his own class who were beginning to believe the new school procedure might be unsuited to human needs, that experience dictated a return to older institutional pluralistic ways. No, Conant fairly shouts, the clock cannot be turned back! “Clearly, the total process is irreversible.” Severe consequences would certainly follow the break-up of this carefully contrived behavioral-training machine, he wrote: “A successful counterrevolution…would require reorientation of a complex social pattern. Only a person bereft of reason would undertake [it.]“

    To Conant, school was a triumph of Anglo/Germanic pragmatism, a pinnacle of the social technocrat’s problem-solving art. One task it performed with brilliance was to sharply curtail the American entrepreneurial spirit, a mission undertaken on perfectly sensible grounds, at least from a management perspective. As long as capital investments were at the mercy of millions of self-reliant, resourceful young entrepreneurs running about with a gleam in their eye, who would commit the huge flows of capital needed to continually tool and retool the commercial/industrial/financial machine? As long as the entire population could become producers, young people were loose cannon crashing around a storm-tossed deck threatening to destroy the corporate ship; confined, however, to employee status, they became suitable ballast upon which a dependable domestic market could be erected.


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  2. 52
    Engineering Edgar Says:

            AntiquatedTory said:

    I’m certainly not against renewables, but I suspect it will take a mix of a whole lot of technologies to provide our energy. From my understanding, renewables could provide a fair bit of peak power generation. Local measures, like self-heating/self-cooling buildings relying on solar heating, thermal exchange, and more efficient design, can be a part of it.

    I don’t think anyone here disagrees that there is good use for things like buildings that exploit solar energy to self heat or that use cooling from things like thermal exchange with bodies of water or heat pumps using the ground for thermal mass and that kind of thing. It does help improve the economics of a building when it is done properly and collectively and with better insulation we can start to make some difference in the use of energy for interior enviornment regulation.

    At issue is that the amount of energy you are dealing with in that circumstance is comparatively small. Industry uses more than half of energy and we can’t expect to power it like that. Aluminum refiners and cement plants and steel mills and even data centers are places we need to maintain our modern standard of living and they are the issue for power. They’re the elephant in the room and really solar water heaters are just small potatoes.


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  3. 53
    DV82XL Says:

            AntiquatedTory said:

    I’m certainly not against renewables, but I suspect it will take a mix of a whole lot of technologies to provide our energy. From my understanding, renewables could provide a fair bit of peak power generation. Local measures, like self-heating/self-cooling buildings relying on solar heating, thermal exchange, and more efficient design, can be a part of it. Biomass already is a part of it. But the big issue is baseline electricity generation, and nuke is the only realistic solution we have now that doesn’t involve fossil fuels.

    Like Engineering Edgar said no one here disagrees with energy efficiency or thinks that it shouldn’t be pursued, however I would like to correct one thing in your comment; renewables (with the exception of hydro) are not useful for peak-power generation. The problem is one of what the industry refers to as dispatch, one cannot depend on a generator that may not be supplying electricity at any given moment to provide peaking services, and unfortunately this is the case with wind and solar. In fact the only real technical justification for wind and solar is to see them as auxiliary to a base load generator that may help reduce the consumption of what ever non-renewable source it may be using, and even then the economics are questionable.


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  4. 54
    Garry Morgan Says:

    Quote from DV82XL: “I can’t help but notice that Ross McCulney hasn’t shown up to respond in this thread. Could it be he is unaware of it, or is he just a coward?” Maybe it is because of your insults. The absurdity of your comment is in the fact you call him a coward while remaining anonymous yourself.

    About Fuel Cells: Is Mr. Greg Romney wrong in this article, http://www.bizjournals.com/eastbay/stories/2003/01/27/focus1.html Or how about the folks at NREL are they wrong http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/

    You all carry on in your self indulgent “nuclear” ego stroking.


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  5. 55
    DV82XL Says:

            Garry Morgan said:

    Quote from DV82XL: “I can’t help but notice that Ross McCulney hasn’t shown up to respond in this thread. Could it be he is unaware of it, or is he just a coward?” Maybe it is because of your insults. The absurdity of your comment is in the fact you call him a coward while remaining anonymous yourself.

    About Fuel Cells: Is Mr. Greg Romney wrong in this article, http://www.bizjournals.com/eastbay/stories/2003/01/27/focus1.html Or how about the folks at NREL are they wrong http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/

    You all carry on in your self indulgent “nuclear” ego stroking.

    First I have used this sig all over the web, and I am well known by it. Also anyone that wishes to know my real name can find it without much effort. However it is a very,very common French-Canadian name that I share with several others that have a presence on the net, and I also choose not to have my remarks in venues like this confused with my professional activities.

    As for fuel-cells, no one has said there is anything wrong with this technology, however if you read the Romney article in detail, you will see that he clearly says that businesses will be able to buy hydrogen, or a hydrogen source such as natural gas or methanol and those last two are a more likely fuel for this service than raw hydrogen, because of the issues noted before.

    Nobody, and certainly not the NREL can change the basic physics of hydrogen. It will always remain difficult to produce, store and transport unless there is some huge innovations, none of which are on the horizon, to change this.

    So we are back to the same argument: How can you bet the future on technology that is unproven and hardly of the drawing board, but reject all the advances that have been made in nuclear energy, insisting on dwelling on issues that have been solved decades ago?


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  6. 56
    Garry Morgan Says:

    Quote from DV82XL: “So we are back to the same argument: How can you bet the future on technology that is unproven and hardly of the drawing board, but reject all the advances that have been made in nuclear energy, insisting on dwelling on issues that have been solved decades ago?”

    I’m sure someone said that about nuclear power some 70 years ago, flight before that, there were those who believed in the flat earth and rejected a round earth. Whose rejecting nuclear power, certainly not me, that is your assumption. I do reject absurdity and embrace a better way to provide power for our nation’s future in a cleaner environment.


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  7. 57
    DV82XL Says:

            Garry Morgan said:

    Quote from DV82XL: “So we are back to the same argument: How can you bet the future on technology that is unproven and hardly of the drawing board, but reject all the advances that have been made in nuclear energy, insisting on dwelling on issues that have been solved decades ago?”

    I’m sure someone said that about nuclear power some 70 years ago, flight before that, there were those who believed in the flat earth and rejected a round earth. Whose rejecting nuclear power, certainly not me, that is your assumption. I do reject absurdity and embrace a better way to provide power for our nation’s future in a cleaner environment.

    Then perhaps you would address the question I asked, instead of one I didn’t.

    To recap: A hydrogen based energy distribution system is not economically or technically posible given the current state of the art. All we are shown are ideas none of which are ready for deployment, none of which have been properly costed, or even field-tested. These are nothing but promises, often made by people looking for funding, based on very optimistic assumptions.

    Nuclear energy, on the other hand is a mature technology, that has been in a state of constant development for decades, particularly in other places than the U.S., and most of the issues with it have been dealt with, and are being dealt with on an ongoing bases, and have been for years.

    Thus my question: Why support the former over the latter?


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  8. 58
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Garry Morgan said:

    Quote from DV82XL: “So we are back to the same argument: How can you bet the future on technology that is unproven and hardly of the drawing board, but reject all the advances that have been made in nuclear energy, insisting on dwelling on issues that have been solved decades ago?”

    I’m sure someone said that about nuclear power some 70 years ago, flight before that, there were those who believed in the flat earth and rejected a round earth. Whose rejecting nuclear power, certainly not me, that is your assumption. I do reject absurdity and embrace a better way to provide power for our nation’s future in a cleaner environment.

    When judging the possibilities of technologies and the future merits of them, I feel pretty comfortable making absolute statements about what is and is not possible simply by applying the laws of physics. The laws of physics don’t change and they preclude certain things and make other things possible or even probable. I don’t expect we’ll find that our understanding of the laws of physics is going to be found to be wrong in general. Perhaps we might find that some current ideas pertaining to stuff like quantum physics or the physics of cosmology are not valid, but the stuff that is larger than an electron and smaller than a quasar: That we basically have in the bag and tested.

    Given that, I can state the following with absolute certainty and know that these facts will never be change, regardless of the amount of money thrown at them:

    1. Hydrogen does not occur on earth in any quantity in its elemental form. It must be extracted from another chemical, and if that chemical is water then doing so will always require an amount of energy greater than what you get back. In theory, you might be able to approach equality but there is never going to be a net gain.

    2. The energy per volume of hydrogen is low compared to other chemical energy carriers.

    3. Compared to other gases, hydrogen requires greater pressure and/or considerably lower temperature to convert to a liquid. It does not store in compressed form as efficiently. There is substantial energy required to compress and refrigerate hydrogen.

    4. The power from radiant flux over a given area from the sun, on the surface of the earth, averages less than 200 watts per square meter. The sun does not provide continuous power because the earth revolves.

    5. There are finite and inescapable amounts of energy required to do certain things, such as refine large volumes of aluminum, refrigerate large amounts of material, pump a fluid a given distance, pressurize a fluid, move materials against friction and so on. Given this, many energy intensive facilities would require many square kilometers of collection area to provide enough power.

    6. Solar cells are not 100% effecient. Nothing is 100% effecient. Some things come close, like electric motors and induction transformers. Some are very lossy, like thermal engines. However, every time energy is stored, transmitted, used or converted from one form to another, there is loss. There will always be loss any time you deal with energy.

    7. Air does not weigh very much and does not move very fast. Therefore, it does not provide much energy per a given volume of air when compared to human needs or other energy sources.

    8. Nuclear energy is the most basic, most fundamental, most plentiful, most dense energy that there can be. It is the be-all and end all of energy. There is no more direct form of energy. There can’t be. It is where all energy comes from.

    9. It is impossible that any form of energy could ever beat a nuclear reaction for energy yield, except for three very narrow examples: Hawking radiation, which only occurs in certain circumstances with black holes, some very special circumstances at enormous temperatures that can theoretically convert classical particles nearly entirely to energy with only a few neutrinos left and finally matter-antimatter annihilation. These are only footnotes because their nature precludes them from being used as primary energy sources. Also, I’d argue that antimatter reactions fall under the nuclear umbrella anyway, because they involve subatomic interactions.

    10. Energy is required to do anything or make any change in the enviornment. The greater the alteration, movement or other action, the more energy is required. With sufficient energy, it is entirely possible to do things like synthesizing almost any chemical compound or decomposing any chemical compound, constructing nearly anything imaginable, moving anything at any speed up to a significant fraction of the speed of light. In other words: there’s almost nothing you can’t do without enough energy. Conversely, the less energy you have the more limited you are and the less you can ultimately do.

    This is the way it is. This is the way it always was. This is the way it always will be. Nothing, absolutely nothing, no research or amount of money will ever change this. No creativity or ingenuity will ever alter it. There may be ways to occasionally find special circumstance sin the laws of physics or find a loophole, but you can never break them outright. This is set in stone. (actually it’s not, because if it were, you could alter it, given enough energy you could chisels it away or make your own damn stone from scratch).

    No, it’s unalterable. You must live within the laws of the universe.

    Don’t try to tell me that there are those who have been wrong about this before. When physicists said in the 1930′s that man could not reach the moon in the 20th century it or something like that, it was not because they thought it was physically impossible. Any with a basic physics knowledge knows it is entirely possible. It was based on the fact that the technical challenges of doing so and harnessing that energy, while not theoretically impossible, were so large that they seemed unlikely to be conquered. It was not a practicle more than theoretical issue.

    That’s not what I’m talking about here. Beating nuclear energy is not difficult, it’s impossible. It’s not even worth trying. Nuclear energy is the be all and end all of energy. Not because I want it to be or because people don’t like bio fuels or something. It is because it is. It’s the way the universe functions. It can’t be escaped. You may as well deny gravity exists.

    Game, set, match.

    Check mate.

    Done.


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  9. 59
    Gordon Says:

    Well, nobody ever accused you of not being blunt.


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  10. 60
    BigOleAngus Says:

    Well, I have to say that before coming to this page I was lukewarm on nuclear power and probably would not have been all for it, but I’m starting to take a better look at that now. Whoever wrote this makes a lot of sense and I guess I never really had any reason to even think about the issues raised. I appreciate this is an unusually intelligent discussion, which surprised me since the website title sounded more like a joke. I would like to know if there are any posts on this website that are especially recomended. I have been reading for about an hour on the site archive and it keeps going and going.

    Thank you for bringing up these important issues and framing it in this way. There’s very important points Ive not seen anyone make before but it does make a lot of sense. I would like to learn more about these important issues and especially what the limitations of the energy systems we throw so much money at are. I part of me always knew something didn’t add up there.


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  11. 61
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    When judging the possibilities of technologies and the future merits of them, I feel pretty comfortable making absolute statements about what is and is not possible simply by applying the laws of physics.

    Gee Steve that could have stood as a main post all by itself.

            BigOleAngus said:

    Well, I have to say that before coming to this page I was lukewarm on nuclear power and probably would not have been all for it, but I’m starting to take a better look at that now. Whoever wrote this makes a lot of sense and I guess I never really had any reason to even think about the issues raised. I appreciate this is an unusually intelligent discussion, which surprised me since the website title sounded more like a joke.

    I would like to know if there are any posts on this website that are especially recommended.

    May I suggest that you look at the What’s Hot page, in particular the group Most Talked About Posts. These are probably some of the best ones on this site.


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  12. 62
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Gee Steve that could have stood as a main post all by itself.

    hmmm maybe I’ll make one of it.. with a little editing


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  13. 63
    RBR1978 Says:

            George Carty said:

    The attitude reminds me of the movement for unilateral nuclear disarmament. Sort of makes sense – I expect that a lot of anti-nuclear-power protestors started off as anti-nuclear-weapons protestors…

    I want to say something about nuclear weapons that is going to get a lot of people really upset, because according to political correctness and every group seems to think they are a good target and also the nuclear groups try to disassociate themselves with it.

    I like nuclear weapons and I am glad we have them. I don’t like the idea of people being killed in large numbers or war or civilization destroyed. However having an inventory of nuclear weapons gives me a sense of security and I would not ever want to be without them unless perhaps every other party who had them or cold possibly get them would also not have them.

    I think this especially at times like when New York was attacked and everything seemed to be so unsure or the London and Madrid bombings. It is a final assurance that even if the whole of the middle east were to attack at once, we have a way of stoping them if we had to and hopefully the knowledge that we could is enough to stop it from ever happening.

    Also, I would like to point out that no modern nuclear weapon, nuclear thermal weapon, ICBM or submarine BM has ever been used in anger and they have been there a long time.

    Also, people say that it was insanity to have the soviets and the east Germans and sitting with their bombs and the west with ours pointed at each other. They forget to mention that the strategy worked and kept the peace during even trying times. I think even today if things went very far south with a country like China or Russia, then the existence of nato nuclear fleet would make me sleep better at night knowing that there was a good reason to stop things from going to far.

    They say that nuclear weapons caused the tensions of the Cold War. That’s fine with me. I’ll take a cold war over a hot war any day. I think it’s amazing that you could have two sides so opposed to eachother standing there in peace and without firing a shot for fifty years.


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  14. 64
    DV82XL Says:

            RBR1978 said:

    I want to say something about nuclear weapons that is going to get a lot of people really upset, because according to political correctness and every group seems to think they are a good target and also the nuclear groups try to disassociate themselves with it.

    Not everyone.

    When a country first acquires nuclear weapons it does so out of a very accurate perception that possession of nukes fundamentally changes it relationships with other powers. What nuclear weapons buy for a nuclear nower (NP) is the fact that once the country in question has nuclear weapons, it cannot be beaten. Only later do they realize the problem. Nuclear weapons are so immensely destructive that they mean a country can be totally destroyed by their use. Although our NP cannot be beaten by an enemy NP it can be destroyed by that enemy. Although a beaten country can pick itself up and recover, the chances of a country devastated by nuclear strikes doing the same are virtually non-existent.

    With that appreciation of strategic paralysis comes an even worse problem. A non-nuclear country has a wide range of options for its forces. Although its actions may incur a risk of being beaten they do not court destruction. Thus, a non-nuclear nation can afford to take risks of a calculated nature. However,a NP has to consider the risk that actions by its conventional forces will lead to a situation where it may have to use its nuclear forces with the resulting holocaust.

    So, the direct effects of nuclear weapons in a nation’s hands is to make that nation extremely cautious. They spend much time studying situations, working out the implications of such situations, what the likely results of certain policy options are. Its interesting to note that mad, homicidal aggressive dictators tend to turn into tame sane cautious ones as soon as they split atoms. Whatever their motivations and intents, the mechanics of how nuclear weapons work dictate that mad dictators become sane dictators very quickly.

    So yes nuclear weapons are a good thing, not only do they keep others from attacking one’s own country, but they serve as a restriction on geopolitical adventurism of one’s own government.


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  15. 65
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Well, to make a couple of small points here. I don’t know that simply having nuclear weapons means that a country could not theoretically be beaten in a conflict, even if it were to use the weapons in said conflict. For example, if Pakistan were to be taken over by a radical Islamic group who started a war with other countries and fired off its nukes, I don’t know that they could pose an insurmountable threat. Pakistan has about fifty weapons at the most and their prefered method of delivery would be by IRBM. Actually, it’s likely in a combat situation, all the weapons would be delivered by ballistic missile., IRMB’s and RBM’s.

    The ballistic missiles that Pakistan has are all derived from the Ghauri, which is now the Ghauri-3 and Shaheen-3. By world standards, these are not extremely advanced missiles with any kind of formidable penetration aids.

    A couple of THAAD batteries and a PAC-3 battalion would probably be able to take out every missile fired if in place. Thaad being the primary interceptor in lower outer space and PAC-3 being used to get any that made it past thaad.

    In such circumstances Pakistan could be beaten because their arsenal is far from being beyond neutralizing. It could probably even be stopped by some preemptive strikes.

    There is still the possibility that two nuclear powers could get into a non-nuclear war if they just are both unwilling to escalate it. Something similar was seen in WWII, where both sides had the ability to use chemical weapons, but having used them heavily in the first world war there was a strange truce on the issue. Despite the fact that they both tried to burn each others cities to the ground and fought to the end, both sides agreed that they’d only use chemical weapons in response to the other using them first.

    There are some situations where I would not want a country to have nuclear capabilities. The whole idea that it makes a country think twice and raging dictators cool off when faced with them applies in many cases, but I doubt it would in radical islam. These are people of the mentality that they are in a holy war and they consider it an honor to die flying a plane into a building or blowing themselves up in a market full of civilians and children. They don’t tend to have much problem with doing things that they know will cause retaliation. It is an honor to die and there are 77 virgins waiting for them**.

    For this reason I don’t trust Iran with a nuclear reactor or a fuel enrichment plant. I’ve been critisized for this, but the thing is that I can’t imagine a remote circumstance where Iran would use ANY technology or ANY item for a peaceful and useful purpose. If they get a reactor, I can’t even fathom they’d use it to produce electricity. They’d imediately try to modify it for weapons use. If they couldn’t breed weapons materials with it, they’d just take the reactor apart and use the plumbing pipes to hit people over the head with. They simply will not use anything for a good purpose… they’re Iran! I would not trust Iran with a fertilizer plant because they’d undoubtedly turn it into an explosives plant. I wouldn’t trust them with a damn bag of fertilizer.

    One thing that shocks me is that the president of Iran is allowed to actually leave Iran and come to places like the UN. The UN is in New York city. The bastard comes into JFK airport. Why doesn’t the NYPD or the feds arrest him and either execute the bastard or have him in prison for the rest of his life? I mean seriously. Do you think they’d let Hitler come into the US in 1942 to give a speech?

    (Oh yeah… the whole Iraq thing has forced us to pretend that Iran is not the enemy of the rest of the world so that they won’t fund terror as much… right)

    And yes I know you’re not supposed to just arrest someone like him because he has diplomatic immunity and everything and you can’t grab a leader off the assembly floor of the UN. I’d say screw it though. That would be ironic, seeing Iran cry that we had violated the protocol of protecting visiting diplomats. Given that the criminal regime of the illegitimate gutter country of Iran has directly made it clear that they don’t care for that protocol or basic fairness and traditions over decency in diplomatic relations, I don’t see why they should expect any better.

    Really though, any Islamic nation having any weapon of any kind is disturbing. Luckilly if Pakistan ever uses their nukes it won’t be anywhere near me.

    **(I know some people say why would you want 77 virgins who don’t know what they’re doing, but I disagree to some extent, because as Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” and I’ll take enthusiasm over experience anyday)


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  16. 66
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    Well, to make a couple of small points here. I don’t know that simply having nuclear weapons means that a country could not theoretically be beaten in a conflict, even if it were to use the weapons in said conflict.

    The issue here is semantics, beaten in this context is failing to meet your military objective and suing for peace. The other option, is destroyed which would be the case if they picked a fight with India and it came to nuclear blows.

    The point here is not what could happen, if everyone keeps their head and has a nice little conventional war, but that strategic planners, and those prosecuting that war have to take the possibility of escalation into account, right from the beginning, and that will have a limiting influence on the belligerents.

            drbuzz0 said:

    There are some situations where I would not want a country to have nuclear capabilities. The whole idea that it makes a country think twice and raging dictators cool off when faced with them applies in many cases, but I doubt it would in radical islam. These are people of the mentality that they are in a holy war and they consider it an honor to die flying a plane into a building or blowing themselves up in a market full of civilians and children. They don’t tend to have much problem with doing things that they know will cause retaliation. It is an honor to die and there are 77 virgins waiting for them**.

    Without putting too fine a point on it, there is a difference between the propaganda served up to the populations in the West as well as the indoctrination of the suicide bombers, and the tactical considerations that a leadership engaged in asymmetrical warfare have to make compared to those of a full State’s strategic planning. In other words you cannot see the geopolitics of the whole region as a reflection of some Islamic guerrilla operating under a state of occupation. After all we wouldn’t like to be judged on the behavior of Christian Fundamentalists.

    Iran wants nuclear weapons for defense, simply because this is the only weapon system that can guarantee that they will not be invaded by ether the Russians or the West. The idea that they want to use these to strike first simply goes back to my original premise – they will know that they will be totally destroyed if they do so.


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  17. 67
    George Carty Says:

            DV82XL said:

    The issue here is semantics, beaten in this context is failing to meet your military objective and suing for peace. The other option, is destroyed which would be the case if they picked a fight with India and it came to nuclear blows.

    I believe “beaten” meant “conquered” in the article you quoted.

            DV82XL said:

    The point here is not what could happen, if everyone keeps their head and has a nice little conventional war, but that strategic planners, and those prosecuting that war have to take the possibility of escalation into account, right from the beginning, and that will have a limiting influence on the belligerents.

    Indeed – the fundamental reason why the US lost the Vietnam War, was that it didn’t dare invade North Vietnam for fear of World War III.


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  18. 68
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Without putting too fine a point on it, there is a difference between the propaganda served up to the populations in the West as well as the indoctrination of the suicide bombers, and the tactical considerations that a leadership engaged in asymmetrical warfare have to make compared to those of a full State’s strategic planning. In other words you cannot see the geopolitics of the whole region as a reflection of some Islamic guerrilla operating under a state of occupation. After all we wouldn’t like to be judged on the behavior of Christian Fundamentalists.

    Perhaps, but the Christian Fundamentalists don’t have dictatorial rule in the West. The Supreme Leader of Iran is Ali Khamenei, one of the most radical Islamic leaders in the world. He has had people beaten to death for criticizing his policies. The entire charter of Iranian government is based on very strict and militant interpenetration of Islamic law. Iran issues capital punishment routinely without full representation and defense in court, however non-official executions in Iran are estimated at several thousand a year by groups like Amnesty International. They are the only nation on earth which executes children, with no lower age limit, including executions of children accused of disrespecting Islam.

    The officially sanctioned slogan, chanted by the highest clerics in Iran is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to the Jews.” The current president of Iran has repeatedly said, in public and private that it is the responsibility of Islam to destroy Israel, which he called ” a disgraceful stain on the Islamic world” Clearly this is not the kind of leader who gives a rats ass about the international implications of what he says or does. Iran has been known to have funneled money to Palestinian groups for civillian attacks on Israel for more than twenty years. Doing so is clearly the kind of thing that could get them bombed by Israel and it’s come close on occasion, but this hasn’t had much effect on the leadership.

    The idea that nuclear weapons won’t be used because of the retaliation they would cause is based on the idea that you have a state that is at least semi-rational. History has shown that there are leaders who are so vengeful that they care not about the destruction of their own forces or even their own end. In some cases, it may be because they believe god is on their side and it won’t happen or is their duty to fight. Some examples:

    It was clear Germany had lost the Second World War shortly after the battle of the Buldge, but Hitler would never allow for surrender. Even as his armies were surrendering to allied troops, he demanded more fighting up until the very end when he committed suicide as soviet troops were overtaking Berlin.

    Japan was decimated and the emperor declared an end to the war, but there were factions of Tojo’s cabinet which rebelled and attempted to stop the announcement. They were willing to have Japan nuked into a parking lot, as they were not aware at the time that the US had only limited nuclear material.

    Stalin absorbed decimating destruction and death without flinching or even considering any kind of peace treaty. By 1944 the deaths on both sides were so severe, it would not have been unrealistic to think Germany might accept a ceasefire if they pulled out of Russia and just capitulated that campaign, but Stalin never considered it despite massive losses.

    This is actually not that different a situation than the Napoleonic wars in Eastern Europe. There was no surrender when it became clear that the cause was lost or that the objective could not be conquered. After the loss of Moscow and the beginning of the French retreat, the logical thing for Napoleon to do would be to try to evacuate from the campaign and possibly approach the Russians and ask for a ceasefire or treaty to allow for his exit if his army ended battle activities. Of course he didn’t, rather than retreating in the face of superior forces, he basically forced the Russians to earn every inch in blood and lost most of his own troops in the process, when retreat was forced, the army used what little munitions they had left not in defense but to destroy what they left behind.

    Why are we to presume that Iran would not engage in tactics and aggression that amount to national suicide?

    I have never seen any reason to see the modern nation of Iran as anything more than an illegitimate, criminal nation which has no reason to be, contributes nothing positive to the world, is by very nature aggressive, unjust and dishonorable and has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. (I’m talking about the current regimen of Iran, not the people of Iran or the history of the land or culture).

    The classic example of a state which causes only harm and can’t be negotiated with and should not be allowed to even exist is Nazi Germany. Of course there are other examples of brutal and tyrannical regimes with no positive attributes: Imperial Japan during the time of conquering of the Pacific Islands, the Soviet Union, especially under Stalin, Laos under Pol Pot, the Taliban, the reign of Caligula, the Barbary Pirates. I don’t see any reason why Iran should be elevated above such examples.


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  19. 69
    George Carty Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    It was clear Germany had lost the Second World War shortly after the battle of the Buldge, but Hitler would never allow for surrender. Even as his armies were surrendering to allied troops, he demanded more fighting up until the very end when he committed suicide as soviet troops were overtaking Berlin.

    I thought that Hitler’s refusal to surrender was because he was an extreme Social Darwinist who believed that the German people deserved to be exterminated if they lost the war (hence the “Nero Order” to raze Germany to the ground – which was however disobeyed by Albert Speer).

    In my view, using nukes against German cities (if the Allies had had them before the end of the war in Europe) would have been pointless unless you managed to wipe out the Nazi leadership directly. Unlike the Japanese, the Nazis could not be terrorized into submission. They had to be physically removed from power.

    Oh, and Pol Pot ruled Cambodia (renamed “Kampuchea” during is regime), not Laos.


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  20. 70
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    The classic example of a state which causes only harm and can’t be negotiated with and should not be allowed to even exist is Nazi Germany. Of course there are other examples of brutal and tyrannical regimes with no positive attributes: Imperial Japan during the time of conquering of the Pacific Islands, the Soviet Union, especially under Stalin, Laos under Pol Pot, the Taliban, the reign of Caligula, the Barbary Pirates. I don’t see any reason why Iran should be elevated above such examples.

    I am certainly no apologist for the current regime in Iran, however there is a marked difference between it and the leadership in Gaza for example. Plus one has to see nuclear weapons in the hands of a minor nation very differently than in the hands of a superpower. The strategic imperatives for these nations is first to prevent invasion, and second to give anyone contemplating a limited strike something to think about. At the same time, they too will place themselves in a position where they can surely expect a nuclear strike if they get too bellicose, simply because they are a nuclear power, and the only way to assure these are not used is with a preemptive action

    This is the paralyzing effect of holding these things, yes the threat of retaliation is one part of it, but prior to that is the sure knowledge that you are now dangerous enough to warrant a preemptive attack if you look like you might be contemplating mischief. It is somewhat counterintuitive, but a nuclear armed Iran is in fact an easier target to justify a strike against, than it is now if it gets out of hand. Rhetoric aside, I am sure that the leadership in Iran is well aware of this.

    Acquiring nuclear weapons brings the game to the next level; there are certain advantages true, but the stakes are considerably higher.


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  21. 71
    Chuck P. Says:

    I’m not too worried about Iran getting nuclear weapons.
    Israel will never allow it to happen, they can’t. If Iran ever gets close to building a nuke, you can rest assured that an Israeli airstrike will turn whatever place they’re building it into a smoking ruin. They did it to Iraq, they’ll do it to Iran. All the US needs to do in this scenario is stay out of the way. To me that sounds like our new president’s style; letting others take risks to achieve his goals while not getting his hands dirty.


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  22. 72
    Q Says:

    A nuclear armed Iran is simply not tolerable. It can’t be allowed to happen and it won’t be allowed to happen. If the US does not destroy all capabilities of Iran to produce a nuclear weapon then Israel will. They can’t afford not to. If Iran has a nuclear weapon then there is a very good chance they’ll use it to blow up a city in Israel or even New York or London. That’s not an acceptable risk to anyone.

    There is an assumption that Iran plays by the rules like other countries would. We don’t know that. They might do the logical thing and they might not.

    Some say Iran knows using a nuclear weapon or even acquiring one invites an attack on themselves. Sure, they know this. Will this stop them? I doubt it. They may very well want to spark an all out nuclear war. They may believe that provoking a nuclear exchange with Israel is the will of Allah and it is the way to produce a larger Islamic uprising to destroy Israel. They may believe that they are commanded to kill Israelis or Westerners by their god and therefore must do so even at their own destruction.

    The supreme leader of Iran, is Ali Khamenei and he has dictatorial powers. He is the religiously ordained and believed holy leader of the country. He is getting into his old age and whose to say he won’t decide that he wants to go out with a bang and make his lasting legacy the destruction of Tel Avive or New York City? Think a religious leader wouldn’t pull that? Imagine David Koresh or Jim Jones with a nuke. That’s what we’re talking about.

    It is too big a risk. It can’t be allowed. The way it is stopped is by whatever means need to be used, because the world can’t allow such a risk to exist.


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  23. 73
    Garry Morgan Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    When judging the possibilities of technologies and the future merits of them, I feel pretty comfortable making absolute statements about what is and is not possible simply by applying the laws of physics.

    The laws of physics don’t change and they preclude certain things and make other things possible or even probable.

    I don’t expect we’ll find that our understanding of the laws of physics is going to be found to be wrong in general.

    Perhaps we might find that some current ideas pertaining to stuff like quantum physics or the physics of cosmology are not valid, but the stuff that is larger than an electron and smaller than a quasar: That we basically have in the bag and tested.

    Given that, I can state the following with absolute certainty and know that these facts will never be change, regardless of the amount of money thrown at them:

    1.

    Hydrogen does not occur on earth in any quantity in its elemental form. It must be extracted from another chemical, and if that chemical is water then doing so will always require an amount of energy greater than what you get back.

    In theory, you might be able to approach equality but there is never going to be a net gain.

    2. The energy per volume of hydrogen is low compared to other chemical energy carriers.

    3. Compared to other gases, hydrogen requires greater pressure and/or considerably lower temperature to convert to a liquid.

    It does not store in compressed form as efficiently.

    There is substantial energy required to compress and refrigerate hydrogen.

    4. The power from radiant flux over a given area from the sun, on the surface of the earth, averages less than 200 watts per square meter.

    The sun does not provide continuous power because the earth revolves.

    5. There are finite and inescapable amounts of energy required to do certain things, such as refine large volumes of aluminum, refrigerate large amounts of material, pump a fluid a given distance, pressurize a fluid, move materials against friction and so on.

    Given this, many energy intensive facilities would require many square kilometers of collection area to provide enough power.

    6.

    Solar cells are not 100% effecient.

    Nothing is 100% effecient.

    Some things come close, like electric motors and induction transformers.

    Some are very lossy, like thermal engines. However, every time energy is stored, transmitted, used or converted from one form to another, there is loss. There will always be loss any time you deal with energy.

    7.

    Air does not weigh very much and does not move very fast. Therefore, it does not provide much energy per a given volume of air when compared to human needs or other energy sources.

    8. Nuclear energy is the most basic, most fundamental, most plentiful, most dense energy that there can be.

    It is the be-all and end all of energy.

    There is no more direct form of energy.

    There can’t be.

    It is where all energy comes from.

    9. It is impossible that any form of energy could ever beat a nuclear reaction for energy yield, except for three very narrow examples:

    Hawking radiation, which only occurs in certain circumstances with black holes, some very special circumstances at enormous temperatures that can theoretically convert classical particles nearly entirely to energy with only a few neutrinos left and finally matter-antimatter annihilation.

    These are only footnotes because their nature precludes them from being used as primary energy sources. Also, I’d argue that antimatter reactions fall under the nuclear umbrella anyway, because they involve subatomic interactions.

    10. Energy is required to do anything or make any change in the enviornment.

    The greater the alteration, movement or other action, the more energy is required.

    With sufficient energy, it is entirely possible to do things like synthesizing almost any chemical compound or decomposing any chemical compound, constructing nearly anything imaginable, moving anything at any speed up to a significant fraction of the speed of light.

    In other words: there’s almost nothing you can’t do without enough energy.

    Conversely, the less energy you have the more limited you are and the less you can ultimately do.

    This is the way it is.

    This is the way it always was.

    This is the way it always will be. Nothing, absolutely nothing, no research or amount of money will ever change this.

    No creativity or ingenuity will ever alter it.

    There may be ways to occasionally find special circumstance sin the laws of physics or find a loophole, but you can never break them outright.

    This is set in stone.

    (actually it’s not, because if it were, you could alter it, given enough energy you could chisels it away or make your own damn stone from scratch).

    No, it’s unalterable. You must live within the laws of the universe.

    Don’t try to tell me that there are those who have been wrong about this before.

    When physicists said in the 1930′s that man could not reach the moon in the 20th century it or something like that, it was not because they thought it was physically impossible.

    Any with a basic physics knowledge knows it is entirely possible.

    It was based on the fact that the technical challenges of doing so and harnessing that energy, while not theoretically impossible, were so large that they seemed unlikely to be conquered.

    It was not a practicle more than theoretical issue.

    That’s not what I’m talking about here.

    Beating nuclear energy is not difficult, it’s impossible. It’s not even worth trying.

    Nuclear energy is the be all and end all of energy. Not because I want it to be or because people don’t like bio fuels or something. It is because it is.

    It’s the way the universe functions. It can’t be escaped.

    You may as well deny gravity exists.

    Game, set, match.

    Check mate.

    Done.

    You state basic facts of physics as if they are something only you are privy. You say much without actually making any sort of meaningful statement, except to yourself.

    I’ll leave you with this Mr Steve Packard. Not one of the individuals in your “Coal Waste Pond” posting have ever slandered or attacked you in any fashion. Your comment concerning those pictured being “unethical and dishonest” is defamatory and libelous. I would highly suggest that you get a handle on your inappropriate and illegal conduct.

    I could care less about your views or position on Nuclear Energy. What has came to light is your defamatory attack. The only reason I have continued this conversation with you is to determine if there is a reasonable probability that you pose a physical threat to those you have defamed.

    Just so you understand the meaning of defamation and its several forms, this Google listing will be of assistance to you. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4GZAY_enUS249US249&defl=en&q=define:defamation&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

    You would do much better to stick to Science on your blog and not make inaccurate, defamatory attacks on individuals, it has the potential to result in a legal conclusion which may not be beneficial to you.


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  24. 74
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Garry Morgan said:

    You state basic facts of physics as if they are something only you are privy. You say much without actually making any sort of meaningful statement, except to yourself.

    No, they’re not privy to myself only. They facts are inescapable. If you can’t understand the implications of things like thermodynamics or conservation of energy then that’s your problem, but don’t tell me that it’s not meaningful. It is the one thing nobody wants to address.

            Garry Morgan said:

    I’ll leave you with this Mr Steve Packard. Not one of the individuals in your “Coal Waste Pond” posting have ever slandered or attacked you in any fashion. Your comment concerning those pictured being “unethical and dishonest” is defamatory and libelous. I would highly suggest that you get a handle on your inappropriate and illegal conduct.

    I happen to be located in the United States which means that what I say as a matter of opinion is protected by the first amendment. Now if you want to get onto the issue of defamation, that’s something I assure you I know plenty about. If I were to make statements of a fact-based nature toward someone which were untrue and which caused direct damage to their reputation then this could constitute civil damages.

    I have no such thing, for a number of reasons. First, whether or not someone is ethical, morally reprehensible or generally an honorable person is not a matter of direct and falsifiable fact. It is a value judgment which clearly is beyond the scope of any law and is constitutionally protected.

    I have made a statement about the honesty of the anti-nuclear movement as a whole and the individuals involved therein. I stand by the statement that the anti-nuclear movement is, as a general rule, dishonest, and nearly all groups associated with the anti-nuclear movement are dishonest and prone to making statements that are demonstratively untrue.

    By extension, those who have acted in their own personal actions to the end of forwarding the movement, those who have issued statements or taken politically action which has helped create the energy problems we have today are no less blamable for their actions and the result.

            Garry Morgan said:

    I could care less about your views or position on Nuclear Energy. What has came to light is your defamatory attack. The only reason I have continued this conversation with you is to determine if there is a reasonable probability that you pose a physical threat to those you have defamed.

    Oh puh-lease. You’ll notice that my opposition to this is entirely intellectually based and I see no reason why I need do any more than neutralize the arguments of those who go out there and cause harm to the world in general through inaccurate statements and advocacy of pro-coal policies. It is a fact of life that the public advocacy a person participates in is not in a vacuum and can be refuted.

    I’m more than willing to open a can of whoop-ass (in the metaphoric sense) when it comes to showing the flaws in statements and refuting them fully. You’ll notice that rather than railing and raving, I address each point head on.

    In any case, I invite you to do the same. Please find the flaws in the arguments, take them apart. My words would be worthless if I didn’t think they could stand up to critical review.

            Garry Morgan said:

    Just so you understand the meaning of defamation and its several forms, this Google listing will be of assistance to you. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4GZAY_enUS249US249&defl=en&q=define:defamation&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

    That won’t be necessary

            Garry Morgan said:

    You would do much better to stick to Science on your blog and not make inaccurate, defamatory attacks on individuals, it has the potential to result in a legal conclusion which may not be beneficial to you.

    I am not afraid of any legal actions because I know enough about this to understand what one can and cannot say. I don’t lie, but I do say what I think of people and last time I checked, that is completely legal.

    There is a greater issue than science here. The various “green” groups of the world have, for the past thirty years or so, misrepresented scientific and have framed themselves as being the trustworthy, honorable custodians of good enviornmental policy. In the name of ecology, groups have advocated policies and philosophies which cause direct harm and which have been wrapped in an almost holy mantra that makes anyone who opposes it seem evil. Greenpeace, FOE, The Green Party have made themselves out to be saints that can’t be questioned and at the same time lie through their teeth.

    From a scientific standpoint, their statements are inaccurate.

    From a human standpoint the statements are reprehensible.

    I’ve had enough of apologizing for advocating things that many of the far-left eco-extreme groups oppose. I’m not the one who should be on the defensive.

    By the way, feel free to tell the world how disgusted you are with me. Call me a bad person, an annoying self-centered raving idiot or whatever else you want. If that’s how you feel about me then there’s nothing I can do about it. it’s 100% legal and I won’t have it any other way.


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  25. 75
    Engineering Edgar Says:

            Garry Morgan said:

    You state basic facts of physics as if they are something only you are privy. You say much without actually making any sort of meaningful statement, except to yourself.

    One might be forgiven for thinking that they only mean something meaningful to buzzo, but really these facts are extremely meaningful and everyone is privy to them, except nobody seems to ever consider that they exist.

    I think to anyone with a science or engineering background they’re glaring and obvious. The laws of physics and their concequences are the constant that we have to work with. They basically should go without saying. It should be taken for granted that you can’t start off with a certain amount of energy and end up with more or that you can’t do certain tasks without a finite amount of energy. It should be obvious that there are limits to conversion effeciency.

    I still think it’s important because it seems like the current thing to do is to basically ignore these facts and to try to cover it with a lot of rhetoric about labor intensive and effeciency and renewable energy and how natural it is and how we need to change how we think. To me, it seems like an example of trying to gloss over these facts. Call it putting lipstick on a pig, but really it’s about time that someone started waving the laws of thermodynamics in the face of policy makers to get them to stop pretending they are not there.


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  26. 76
    DV82XL Says:

            Garry Morgan said:

    You state basic facts of physics as if they are something only you are privy. You say much without actually making any sort of meaningful statement, except to yourself.

            Engineering Edgar said:

    … it’s about time that someone started waving the laws of thermodynamics in the face of policy makers to get them to stop pretending they are not there.

    It would seem that rubbing the laws of thermodynamics in the face of someone gets you accused of making an inaccurate and defamatory attack on them. This is what it has come to; energy policy based on faith and legal threats against anyone with the temerity to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. Jesus weeps.


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  27. 77
    Michael J Says:

    Just to be fair, I think you should consider the context of things when you talk about nuclear energy being the be-all and end-all and the most signifficant kind of energy. I am sure nobody who understands the basics of physics would disagree that nuclear energy is where the buck stops, but I think the argument is not that nuclear energy is bad but that it’s something that should be reserved for the stars and that nuclear fission by humans is not a good thing. Even if the energy in the world comes from nuclear energy somewhere that doesn’t mean that its best to do it ourselves using fission.

    Also, I think some might argue that because nuclear energy is the most powerful and dense kind of energy this is all the more reason to not have it used by mankind. Yes, it is as significant as fire, but fire can burn down houses and villages. Nuclear energy is so much more powerful it can destroy much more. Maybe we as humans are not responsible enough to handle this and it is too great a burden and responsibility for a species like us to meddle in it. You are right, it is a profound force of the universe and maybe it is pushing it too far to tread here.

    I’m not saying I agree with that, but I think in fairness you have to recognize that nobody is saying that nuclear reactions are bad, like when they happen in stars and such, but some people might think that it is too powerful a tool to be in the hands of mankind.


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  28. 78
    Finrod Says:

            Michael J said:

    You are right, it is a profound force of the universe and maybe it is pushing it too far to tread here.

    I’m not saying I agree with that, but I think in fairness you have to recognize that nobody is saying that nuclear reactions are bad, like when they happen in stars and such, but some people might think that it is too powerful a tool to be in the hands of mankind.

    Screw that cowardly excuse. Build the reactors. Banish the very memory of a time of energy scarcity. Develop the world, and push beyond.


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  29. 79
    Finrod Says:

            Garry Morgan said:

    You state basic facts of physics as if they are something only you are privy. You say much without actually making any sort of meaningful statement, except to yourself.

    I’ll leave you with this Mr Steve Packard. Not one of the individuals in your “Coal Waste Pond” posting have ever slandered or attacked you in any fashion. Your comment concerning those pictured being “unethical and dishonest” is defamatory and libelous. I would highly suggest that you get a handle on your inappropriate and illegal conduct.

    I could care less about your views or position on Nuclear Energy. What has came to light is your defamatory attack. The only reason I have continued this conversation with you is to determine if there is a reasonable probability that you pose a physical threat to those you have defamed.

    Just so you understand the meaning of defamation and its several forms, this Google listing will be of assistance to you. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4GZAY_enUS249US249&defl=en&q=define:defamation&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

    You would do much better to stick to Science on your blog and not make inaccurate, defamatory attacks on individuals, it has the potential to result in a legal conclusion which may not be beneficial to you.

    Talk about changing the topic!

    All Doc has done is illuminate people’s understanding of these issues with a few home truths, both scientific and ethical. The only rebuttal being offered to those who should make a real effort to defend their position (if such a defence is still possible) is to make empty threats of legal action.

    We are doubtless still many years away from the point where the anti-nuclear stooges of the fossil-fuel industries can be brought to proper justice for the many millions of deaths globally attributable to them. Indeed, justice may never be served. Nonetheless, I’d like to think that there’s a non-zero chance that some of the key players may yet at their final hour confront the gallows.


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  30. 80
    George Carty Says:

            Finrod said:

    Screw that cowardly excuse. Build the reactors. Banish the very memory of a time of energy scarcity. Develop the world, and push beyond.

    Build reactors by all means, but I don’t think space colonization will ever fly (space colonization is to the ideology of Technocracy what Lebensraum is to Nazism, or what World Revolution is to Communism).

    I think the closest we’ll get is to send some foremen to Mars or the asteroid belt, to control robot workers extracting resources (helium-3?) — and these foremen will be itching to get back to Earth at the end of their tour, just like workers on North Sea oil rigs today. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the Moon, it’s because lunar robots are close enough to be controlled directly from Earth).

    We consider places like Antarctica or the Sahara to be inhospitable, but they’re still way more hospitable than any extraterrestrial environment is likely to be – at least within our solar system.

    As for interstellar colonization, let’s imagine we found an extrasolar terrestrial planet with a biosphere as hospitable as ours, and landed a few hundred people on it. Wouldn’t they be back in the Stone Age within a few generations?

    To maintain 19th century technology needs at least tens of thousands of people, and to maintain 1940s era technology needs at least several millions. Today’s technology probably requires hundreds of millions of people to maintain.

    The backwardness of North Korea may be partially due to its messed-up centrally planned economy, but if it adopted capitalism internally it still wouldn’t advance very much if it was still trying to remain isolated from the rest of the world.

    (See more on Charlie Stross’s blog here)

            Finrod said:

    All Doc has done is illuminate people’s understanding of these issues with a few home truths, both scientific and ethical. The only rebuttal being offered to those who should make a real effort to defend their position (if such a defence is still possible) is to make empty threats of legal action.

    Isn’t one problem, especially in the United States (I don’t know if it’s the case anywhere else) that anyone who is sued as a private individual by a major corporation is more or less doomed to bankruptcy, even if they win the case?

            Finrod said:

    We are doubtless still many years away from the point where the anti-nuclear stooges of the fossil-fuel industries can be brought to proper justice for the many millions of deaths globally attributable to them. Indeed, justice may never be served. Nonetheless, I’d like to think that there’s a non-zero chance that some of the key players may yet at their final hour confront the gallows.

    Not all the anti-nukes are fossil fuel stooges. Some are professional environmentalists (who need there to be an environmental crisis in order to make a living), or misguided small-is-beautiful advocates (such as Ralph Nader or the early Amory Lovins) or Malthusian zealots.


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  31. 81
    drbuzz0 Says:

            George Carty said:

    Build reactors by all means, but I don’t think space colonization will ever fly (space colonization is to the ideology of Technocracy what Lebensraum is to Nazism, or what World Revolution is to Communism).

    I don’t see space colonization as something that we’ll see any time soon, but I’m not about to put limits on the future, as long as it does not violate the laws of physics, which space colonism does not necessarily do.

    However, I do believe that as we exploit nuclear energy to a greater and greater degree we are taking baby steps toward humanity expanding to the next order of magnitude of development. Therefore, I dare not even try to imagine what the ultimate result could be.

    We don’t need to concern ourselves with the far future as we develop current technology. We just know that it step toward greater things. That would be like expecting the founders of the industrial revolution to consider its ultimate results.

            George Carty said:

    Isn’t one problem, especially in the United States (I don’t know if it’s the case anywhere else) that anyone who is sued as a private individual by a major corporation is more or less doomed to bankruptcy, even if they win the case?

    Well, not necessarily. Yes, it can be a struggle and the fact that the case may be without merit does not mean that it is not an effective tool to intimidate someone. A lawsuit can be used just to make your life hell, even if they can’t win it in the end.

    On the other hand, if the suit is obviously frivolous then you can counter-sue, and in the case of an individual being sued by a large entity, it’s quite likely that you’ll find lawyers who are more than happy to take the case. A corporation suing an individual is not likely to get a profitable settlement, because unless they’re wealthy, there’s not much there to be won. On he other hand, many lawyers will jump at the chance to sue a larger entity in order to get at the bigger money.

    The one group that has become notorious for filing lawsuits entirely to harass and intimidate others is the Church of Scientology. They’re damn near impossible to counter-sue, though, because they work very hard to shield all their activities and have a huge legal department.


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  32. 82
    Finrod Says:

            George Carty said:

    Build reactors by all means, but I don’t think space colonization will ever fly (space colonization is to the ideology of Technocracy what Lebensraum is to Nazism, or what World Revolution is to Communism).

    I think the closest we’ll get is to send some foremen to Mars or the asteroid belt, to control robot workers extracting resources (helium-3?) — and these foremen will be itching to get back to Earth at the end of their tour, just like workers on North Sea oil rigs today. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the Moon, it’s because lunar robots are close enough to be controlled directly from Earth).

    We consider places like Antarctica or the Sahara to be inhospitable, but they’re still way more hospitable than any extraterrestrial environment is likely to be – at least within our solar system.

    As for interstellar colonization, let’s imagine we found an extrasolar terrestrial planet with a biosphere as hospitable as ours, and landed a few hundred people on it. Wouldn’t they be back in the Stone Age within a few generations?

    To maintain 19th century technology needs at least tens of thousands of people, and to maintain 1940s era technology needs at least several millions. Today’s technology probably requires hundreds of millions of people to maintain.

    The backwardness of North Korea may be partially due to its messed-up centrally planned economy, but if it adopted capitalism internally it still wouldn’t advance very much if it was still trying to remain isolated from the rest of the world.

    (See more on Charlie Stross’s blog here)

    Space colonisation will occur as soon as the tools are available at a price which a large portion of wealthy individuals can afford. The only way this would not occur is if a deliberate policy forbidding or restricting space travel was enforced politically.

    Given that if we succeed in developing a global nuclear economy we shall likely have many millions of years before us, it is highly unlikely that the goal of permanently restricting space travel could be maintained for the entire future lifetime of terrestrial civilisation. I therefore think that space colonisation is inevitable at some point in the future unless we abort civilisation before it reaches that level of stability.

    I find the notion that our technology is too complex to allow for a self-sustaining colony not credible. If we were going to colonise another star system I’d think that a long period of sending equipment and stores in advance would precede the arrival of the first human colonists, and that automation would be far more advanced in that era, as would be genetic engineering and other advanced biological techniques. If we really do need 500 million people for a viable civilisation, we can likely grow them artificially over a period of a few decades.

    Incidentally, I don’t think I’d advocate planting a human colony in an extraterrestrial biosphere. Much better to create our own artificial colonies tailored to our needs than go around upsetting the locals.


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  33. 83
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Finrod said:

    Space colonisation will occur as soon as the tools are available at a price which a large portion of wealthy individuals can afford. The only way this would not occur is if a deliberate policy forbidding or restricting space travel was enforced politically.

    Space travel is far too expensive to move the kind of bulk goods you’d need for space colonization or to make space resource recovery worthwhile, but I don’t think it will always be that way. In a high-energy society it will eventually become cheaper and cheaper as systems evolve. I think we’d see it in a series of steps. First we might see bigger and more capable space stations, as it becomes possible to launch larger modules into space at a reasonable price. We’ll see big pressurized modules sent to the moon, probably initially for scientific reasons. The moon is an excellent location for radiotelescopes and other observatories. Eventually we’ll see more and more of this and at some point we will see outposts on places like Mars.

    That is how I think it will be to begin with: outposts. Perhaps a few pressurized modules each the size of a 747 fuselage for scientific research and possibly eventually for commercial purposes. Maybe even resource recovery, but that’ll take a long time.

    What will stop this is not just the political restrictions on space flight, but also it could be achieved by keeping energy supplies tight. That is one thing you need a lot of to send big things into space. No matter how you go about sending it up, whether magnetic launch loop or conventional rocket or space plane or something, you’re going to need a lot of energy. As things stand now, a few millionaires can aford a few days in low earth orbit. That’s not going to allow any kind of long term colonization. We need a space station at least the size of an aircraft carrier before we can even begin to start considering the possibility of a fully functional society in space. If current energy systems and energy levels remain, we’ll never get much further than we are now.


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  34. 84
    AntiquatedTory Says:

    First, thanks for correcting me that renewables are not a useful peak power source.

    drbuzz0, though, in the passage above where you suggest that US law enforcement arrest and perhaps summarily execute President Ahmadenijad without trial and without any warrant against him for violating any US laws–Does that really seem like a good idea to you?


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  35. 85
    drbuzz0 Says:

            AntiquatedTory said:

    First, thanks for correcting me that renewables are not a useful peak power source.

    drbuzz0, though, in the passage above where you suggest that US law enforcement arrest and perhaps summarily execute President Ahmadenijad without trial and without any warrant against him for violating any US laws–Does that really seem like a good idea to you?

    Without trial or warrant? No, of course not. I’d suggest that he be arrested under universal jurisdiction for innumerable crimes committed by him directly or by his regime and groups supported by his government. I know, someone is going to argue “well didn’t bush commit crimes too” — be that as it may, he’s not a direct enemy of the United States and not leading a foreign hostile regime.

    This not to say he doesn’t get some kind of trial. Given the circumstances it would be a military tribunal of some sort. But that’s really a principle issue and not a practice one, since his guilt and the guilt of Iran as an illegitimate and criminal entity and enemy of all western sovereignty is obvious.

    If it came down to the point that he couldn’t be captured safely then I don’t see any reason why shoot to kill on the grounds that he is an enemy of the state and an active threat to national and global security and peace is unjustified. Israel has dropped bombs on known Hamas leaders, the US has tried to kill Saddam Hussein with a guided bomb (turned out the inlet was faulty and he wasn’t there). We bombed areas where Bin Ladin was believed to be (also missed the target, damn shame). There were Allied plans during the Second World War to bomb Hitler’s location and try to kill the Furur if they were able to pin down his location at a given time and dispatch bombers quickly enough. There were similar plans to kill high ranking Japanese leaders, and in the case of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, it was successful. When it was determined that he was determined that he was headed for the Solomon Islands, a squadron of fighters was dispatched to find and shoot down his plane

    Why should a tyrannical, criminal and for lack of a better word evil leader like that of Iran be offered any better treatment than the other figures in similar positions throughout history.

    As far as I can tell, the best historical analog to any Iranian leader setting foot in the US or any other country that values justice and civility is the flight of Rudolf Hess to the UK in 1941. His motivations for the flight remain something of a mystery, but it’s believed that he had some kind of plan to begin negotiations with the British, possibly through the Duke of Hamilton. In any case, his plane was shot down and he managed to bail out and make it to the ground alive. He was promptly imprisoned. He did get a trial at Nuremberg. He was sentenced to death initially but that was commuted down to life in prison where he remained until his death in 1987.


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  36. 86
    AntiquatedTory Says:

    Setting aside the differences between being in a declared war with a country and being in a long-term conflict involving occasional attacks and proxy campaigns, what precisely do you think arresting and executing Ahmadenijad would accomplish? He isn’t a tactical or strategic asset like Yamamoto or the Hamas guys the Israelis off (and there is some debate on how effective the latter strategy is), and he is far from having the kind of central power or status that Hitler (or Saddam, or the Dear Leader, or even wassisname in Sudan) had. Dude was mayor of Tehran, wasn’t too bad at it, got in on a populist ticket with Revolutionary Guard backing and because the people who actually rule Iran (or come closest to it) barred anyone more reasonable from running. Kill him, what are the odds he becomes a martyr and they elect someone even crazier in a fit of resentment? (Think what would have happened in the US if Bush had actually been imprisoned, much less executed, while visiting another country.) I’m not sure what good talking to him will do, either, since he pretty much needs Khameni’s permission to go to the bathroom…


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  37. 87
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Well, it’s not so much that I think it would make a difference or anything, but I’m disgusted by the fact that the international community or any of the civilized world will engage Iran in negotiations, allow them to be part of the international community, allow the leadership to travel in the rest of the world etc.

    I don’t think it makes any sense to consider that kind of country anything other than a criminal, illegitimate regime that is an enemy to justice, freedom and peace and any country that values any of those. I really think that the nazis are the best example most people can relate to. There wasn’t all that much effort to negotiate with them or offer them anything by the allies. Even before the outbreak of war with all countries, by 1940, for example, I don’t think Himler could have come to New York to do his Christmas shopping, because at that point the US, though not formally in a declaration of war, had pretty much ended relations with Germany.

    But it’s not really him in particular. It’s more that I think we should just have a zero tolerance view of Iran.

    I mean this is a country which seized sovern US teritory (An Embassy) which is something protected by centuries of diplomatic and international law. They held our citizens for years. That’s an act of war. I mean, think about it. That’s truely the kind of thing that awakens the sleeping dragon. That’s inexcusable. We tried to negotiate their return? NO! You don’t negotiate their return! You don’t negotiate ANYTHING with a country that does that. You **tell** them that they’ll give you your citizens back safely or if they don’t, you’ll come get them back. And you don’t get them back with a covert mission in the desert, you take them back with overwhelming force. And if they dare kill those hostiles, you let them know that you are more than willing to firebomb every one of their cities down to rubble.

    I know someone is going to say that’s horrible and war like and violent. The point is you Just don’t tolerate or allow that It would be like if Iran occupied the state of Rhode Island and kept all the citizens there hostage. You don’t go ask them nicely to leave, you don’t stand for that. You defend your country, your people and your assets and you don’t allow anyone to act like that and then act all diplomatic about it.

    Iran has done far more than that. We know that they’ve funneled money and weapons to groups that have committed acts of terror in Israel and Lebanon. They say they haven’t done that in several years. It doesn’t matter, in the end. We’ve let them behave outrageously repeatedly since the 1980′s and yet we negotiate with them? No no way. You don’t negotiate with the Mafia, you don’t negotiate with the Nazis, you don’t negotiate with Al Queda, you don’t negotiate with Iran.


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  38. 88
    Biff Henderson Says:

    Well, I don’t know how the best way to deal with Iran is, but it would at least be more consistent to treat them like that. What you’re talking about is basically how the US has treated Cuba. We don’t like their government and won’t engage them in travel, trade, negotiations or anything. For the past fourty years we’ve basically said as long as the Castro regime is in power (Fidel or Raul or whoever) we won’t even consider giving them a thing. Also, we have tried to kill Castro and we ended up having to agree to not do that or take over their country as part of negotiations with the Soviet Union.

    When you think about it it is amazing wer are like that to Cuba and not to Iran. Iran is clearly the worse country when it comes to almost everything and Cuba is too small and poor to do much to world peace. So I guess we could tighten up on other countries or loosen up on some, but it doesn’t make sense that we’d allow the president of Iran in New York, when if Castro came there I’m sure he’d be immediately detained.


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  39. 89
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    I mean this is a country which seized sovereign US territory (An Embassy) which is something protected by centuries of diplomatic and international law…..You don’t negotiate their return! You don’t negotiate ANYTHING with a country that does that. You **tell** them that they’ll give you your citizens back safely or if they don’t, you’ll come get them back. And you don’t get them back with a covert mission in the desert, you take them back with overwhelming force. And if they dare kill those hostiles, you let them know that you are more than willing to firebomb every one of their cities down to rubble.

    I know someone is going to say that’s horrible and war like and violent.

    No I think you are right at least about this. If there was anytime in postwar history where gunboat diplomacy was warranted it was there. Had their been a swift, sharp response to that outrage very shortly after it had happened, I suspect that the West would not be having the same problems with the Muslim world as we do now.

    What people fail to understand is that not reacting in force to events like these not only emboldens radical elements, but also undermined the efforts of moderates, and renders them impotent. The reason any criminal, illegitimate regime survives domestically because of its short term successes. If the Allies had crossed into Germany the instant Hitler violated the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Hindenburg, could have flushed him into oblivion with the stroke of a pen.


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  40. 90
    Q Says:

    Yes, I agree, Jimmy Carter is basically responsible for Iran being the pain in the ass it is. But this is something that happens time and time again. There’s nothing violent or pro-war about showing force. The whole point is that once a willingness to use it is demonstrated you generally don’t have to. “Speak softly and cary a big stick” and all that.

    I’m not saying that war in Iraq was an example of this, by the way. However, when a country does something like take your diplomats hostage or directly sponsor a large attack on your civilian population, you just plain don’t tolerate it. Once you have a reputation for not tolerating that, you’ll find that you don’t have these problems in the first place because you’re not a pushover.

    But that’s neither here nor there. Iran needs to be understood for the fact that it is basically a handful of very bitter Islamic clerics who are at the top. Everyone else basically does what they say and the council and the rest is just symbolic. They’re going to act the same way they always have. They’ll just keep trying to push and prod the west to try to get something out of it. If they believe they’re actually in danger, they’ll back off. They’re comfortable that they can continue like this adn they probably can.


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  41. 91
    Molly Smiles8 Says:

    I just want to say something about this posting and in defense of the groups that are fighting for the enviornment and future generations. You keep saying that nuclear is the ultimate power and the biggest, most powerful, most great energy around and you act like that is a good thing. Let me just say that I know that might be true and if it’s the science of it then nobody says nuclear power is not the big kind of power.

    Think about it though. It is too much for us. People are not smart as we think and we shouldn’t fool with something that is so powerful. Think about the sun, okay, that is nuclear right? The sun is powered by nuclear power and it’s terribly dangerous and you could never go near it. The sun is only safe because it is millions of miles away. If it were here we could never survive. That is what nuclear power is like. TOO POWERFUL UNLESS VERY VERY FAR AWAY AND ALSO NATURAL AND NOT POSSIBLE TO HAVE AN ACCIDENT

    You talk about fire too like it is so great. HELLO! Fire is what made the carbon problem and that’s how we got here! Fire was abused by us. We didn’t know what fire would get us into. Now you want to go to the next step? Um. NO! If burning coal is so bad think about burning plutonium and you’ll realize it is not for man to use because of the destruction


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  42. 92
    DV82XL Says:

            Molly Smiles8 said:

    I just want to say something about this posting and in defense of the groups that are fighting for the environment and future generations. You keep saying that nuclear is the ultimate power and the biggest, most powerful, most great energy around and you act like that is a good thing. Let me just say that I know that might be true and if it’s the science of it then nobody says nuclear power is not the big kind of power.
    Think about it though. It is too much for us. People are not smart as we think and we shouldn’t fool with something that is so powerful. Think about the sun, okay, that is nuclear right? The sun is powered by nuclear power and it’s terribly dangerous and you could never go near it. The sun is only safe because it is millions of miles away. If it were here we could never survive That is what nuclear power is like. TOO POWERFUL UNLESS VERY VERY FAR AWAY AND ALSO NATURAL AND NOT POSSIBLE TO HAVE AN ACCIDENT

    You talk about fire too like it is so great. HELLO! Fire is what made the carbon problem and that’s how we got here! Fire was abused by us. We didn’t know what fire would get us into. Now you want to go to the next step? Um. NO! If burning coal is so bad think about burning plutonium and you’ll realize it is not for man to use because of the destruction

    Molly when you can show me that you can live without fire and what it does for us, I will begin to listen to you.

    We are committed as a species to use energy and the only path that we have that will not poison us, or leave us out in the cold is nuclear. Nuclear isn’t some sort of magic box that will make all of our energy problems go away, and it does have some issues that will need to be dealt with proactively. In the end however they CAN be dealt with, something that none of the traditional or alternative generators can say.


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  43. 93
    Biff Henderson Says:

    Christ, Molly. You know I’m not even going to bother arguing with that because I’m libel to break a blood vessel in my eye or something. Jesus. FIRE BAD??? You know there’d be no civilization without fire. There’d be no technology, no cooking, no metallurgy, no chemistry, no culture, no medicine. Fire is what gave us the ability to tenderize and sanitize meat and then to bring warmth and then to make ceramics and smelt metals and damn near everything that was needed to create human culture and technology.

    Nevermind, I can feel that vein is about to pop. I’ll go have a drink


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  44. 94
    Finrod Says:

            Molly Smiles8 said:

    You talk about fire too like it is so great. HELLO! Fire is what made the carbon problem and that’s how we got here!

    Fire was abused by us. We didn’t know what fire would get us into. Now you want to go to the next step? Um. NO!

    So you like your meat an vegies raw, do you?


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  45. 95
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Finrod said:

    So you like your meat an vegies raw, do you?

    Maybe she cooks with electricity. And If you ask her where the electricity comes from, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything because a lot of people will just answer “The wall outlet, silly”


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  46. 96
    J Carlton Says:

    I thought I had seen every level of Green Ludditism imaginable. Until now. Wanting to ban fire? Based on archeological evidence the use of fire actually predates the existence of humanity as a species.

            Molly Smiles8 said:

    I just want to say something about this posting and in defense of the groups that are fighting for the enviornment and future generations.

    You keep saying that nuclear is the ultimate power and the biggest, most powerful, most great energy around and you act like that is a good thing.

    Let me just say that I know that might be true and if it’s the science of it then nobody says nuclear power is not the big kind of power.

    Think about it though. It is too much for us. People are not smart as we think and we shouldn’t fool with something that is so powerful.

    Think about the sun, okay, that is nuclear right?

    The sun is powered by nuclear power and it’s terribly dangerous and you could never go near it.

    The sun is only safe because it is millions of miles away. If it were here we could never survive.

    That is what nuclear power is like. TOO POWERFUL UNLESS VERY VERY FAR AWAY AND ALSO NATURAL AND NOT POSSIBLE TO HAVE AN ACCIDENT

    You talk about fire too like it is so great. HELLO! Fire is what made the carbon problem and that’s how we got here!

    Fire was abused by us. We didn’t know what fire would get us into. Now you want to go to the next step? Um. NO!

    If burning coal is so bad think about burning plutonium and you’ll realize it is not for man to use because of the destruction


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  47. 97
    Finrod Says:

            J Carlton said:

    I thought I had seen every level of Green Ludditism imaginable. Until now. Wanting to ban fire? Based on archeological evidence the use of fire actually predates the existence of humanity as a species.

    That’s my understanding. Apparently campsites with evidence for fire have been found in Africa dating back about three million years. That predates our species. Our pre-homo sapiens homonid ancestors had been using fire for a very long time.


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  48. 98
    Burya Rubenstein Says:

    Charles Stross is right about one thing: space travel requires a God-awful amount of energy. I found this wrong with an episode of Deep Space Nine in which someone had their household power disconnected because of an unpaid bill. If you have space travel affordable enough for people to be commuting across a solar system as much as they do in that show, then you have no such thing as an energy shortage, or even any measurable cost for energy for any imaginable household purpose. Either as a requirement to power the spacecraft in the first place, or as a side effect (magic wand the ship up 10000 miles, let it drop through a linear decelerator), or both.

    This is one reason I want ultra-cheap energy.


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  49. 99
    drbuzz0 Says:

            J Carlton said:

    I thought I had seen every level of Green Ludditism imaginable. Until now. Wanting to ban fire? Based on archeological evidence the use of fire actually predates the existence of humanity as a species.

    I suppose that would depend on how you define humanity. If you mean homosapians then yes it predates that. I generally think of Mankind to mean modern man and the close cousins and ancestors, the ones that lived in tribes and made simple tools and such things.

    Fire was likely a very large step in moving toward modern man and society as we know it. A fire makes a natural center to a campsite and allows for light and therefore activity after dark. A fire would likely keep other animals at bay and so this would lead to a new kind of dynamic of society, where you’d have life around the fire in a small community and the valuing of those with the skill to create fire.

    If you’ve ever been camping or anything, it’s surprising how difficult it is to start a fire and get it going. Of course, it’s not to bad if you have lighter fluid or enough crumpled up paper, but getting a little fire going onto tinder and then getting it to grow to the point that you can have a stable fire to burn twigs and then sticks and logs is surprisingly difficult. A gust of wind and you’re back to square one. Also, any time after rain, finding tinder is difficult.

    That’s not even considering how difficult it is without a match or lighter. If you’re reduced to banging rocks together over dry grass or making a firebow, it’s exponentially harder. One can easily speculate on how this must have changed things. There would be a desire to have someone assigned to tend the fire because it is so difficult to relight and there could be value placed on those who had the skill to start a fire, perhaps even elevating them to become the chief of a group or something.

    Of course, that’s at least partially speculation, but theres no doubt it had a profound effect on society of early mankind.


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  50. 100
    George Carty Says:

            J Carlton said:

    I thought I had seen every level of Green Ludditism imaginable. Until now. Wanting to ban fire? Based on archeological evidence the use of fire actually predates the existence of humanity as a species.

    I prefer to describe this ideology as “primitivism”, because the Luddites were not hostile to technology per se, only to the specific technologies which threatened their livelihoods. One could describe the Rocky Mountain Institute (and other anti-nuclear groups funded by fossil fuel companies) as “Luddite”.


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