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Comment: Re:Cold Fusion Current - WITTS (Score 1) 343

by Paul Fernhout (#48175827) Attached to: The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

For more background on WITTS, see: http://peswiki.com/index.php/D...

Or also an open source version of one of those idea by a different group: http://peswiki.com/index.php/O...

Just pointing out the info -- making no claims about the validity of any of it. In general, the peswiki is a big collection of similar claims. Of course, only one of them needs to be true to change the world significantly.

Here is something posted to the peswiki myself, previously sent to Rossi about why he should open source his eCat rather than try to make money off it (assuming it actually works as suggested):
http://peswiki.com/index.php/O...
"The key point here is that breakthrough clean energy technologies will change the very nature of our economic system. They will shift the balance between four different interwoven economies we have always had (subsistence, gift, planned, and exchange). Inventors who have struggled so hard in a system currently dominated by exchange may have to think about the socioeconomic implications of their invention in causing a permanent economic phase change. A clean energy breakthrough will probably create a different balance of those four economies like toward greater local subsistence and more gift giving (as James P. Hogan talks about in Voyage From Yesteryear). So, to focus on making money in the old socioeconomic paradigm (like by focusing on restrictive patents) may be very ironic, compared to freely sharing a great gift with the world that may change the overall dynamics of our economy to the point where money does not matter very much anymore."

Comment: Yes, prison is tough on guards, too (Score 2) 407

by Paul Fernhout (#48169219) Attached to: As Prison Population Sinks, Jails Are a Steal

http://www.denverpost.com/news...
"They harden themselves to survive inside prison, guards said in recent interviews. Then they find they can't snap out of it at the end of the day. Some seethe to themselves. Others commit suicide. Depression, alcoholism, domestic violence and heart attacks are common. And entire communities suffer. ... Prison work "bleeds over into your private life. You go into restaurants, you sit with your back to the wall. You want to see all the entrances and exits, and you notice if somebody is carrying something bulky. You can't turn these skills off," said Matthew von Hobe, 50, a former manager at the four-prison federal complex in Florence. He knows of two colleagues who committed suicide."

So, like you imply, looks like a tough road to rehabilitation for many prison guards...

Good to see so many comments mentioning the lead connection to violent crime. There are nutritional connections too.
"Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat: Research with British and US offenders suggests nutritional deficiencies may play a key role in aggressive behaviour"
http://www.theguardian.com/pol...

The problem is, of course, the prison is one of the main social safety nets in the USA, and also that putting people in prison boosts the employment rate (jobs for guards, prisoners off the unemployment roles). We need to rethink our economy, like with a basic income that a person does not get while incarcerated?

Also related to show how bad it could get:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K...
"The "kids for cash" scandal unfolded in 2008 over judicial kickbacks at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Two judges, President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan, were accused of accepting money from Robert Mericle, builder of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities, in return for contracting with the facilities and imposing harsh sentences on juveniles brought before their courts to increase the number of inmates in the detention centers."

Here is am excerpt from a related satire by me regarding expanding prisons for copyright violators that I sent to the US DOJ a dozen years ago in response to a slashdot article, but sadly sometimes it seems people may be taking it more as a blueprint than a cautionary tale: :-(
http://www.pdfernhout.net/micr...
"""
My fellow Americans. There has been some recent talk of free law by the General Public Lawyers (the GPL) who we all know hold un-American views. I speak to you today from the Oval Office in the White House to assure you how much better off you are now that all law is proprietary. ...
      First off, we all know our current set of laws requires a micropayment each time a U.S. law is discussed, referenced, or applied by any person anywhere in the world. This financial incentive has produced a large amount of new law over the last decade. This body of law is all based on a core legal code owned by that fine example of American corporate capitalism at its best, the MicroSlaw Corporation.
    MicroSlaw's core code defines a legal operating standard or OS we can all rely on. While I know some GPL supporters may be painting a rosy view of free law to the general public, it is obvious that any so called free alternative to MicroSlaw's legal code fails at the start because it would require great costs for learning about new so-called free laws, plus additional costs to switch all legal forms and court procedures to the new so called free standard. So free laws are really more expensive, especially as we are talking here about free as in cost, not free as in freedom.
    In any case, why would you want to pay public servants like those old time -- what were they called? -- Senators? Representatives? -- around $145K a year out of public funds just to make free laws? Laws are made far more efficiently, inexpensively and, I assure you, justly, by large corporations like MicroSlaw. Such organizations need the motivation of micropayments for application, discussion or reference of their laws to stay competitive. MicroSlaw needs to know who discusses what law and when they do so, each and every time, so they can charge fairly for their services and thus retain their financial freedom to innovate. And America is all about financial freedom, right! [Audience applause].
    [Inaudible shouted question] Prisons? There are only a million Americans behind bars for copyright infringement so far. No one complained about the million plus non-violent drug offenders we've had there for years. No one complained about the million plus terrorists we've got there now, thanks in no small part to a patriotic Supreme Court which after being privatized upheld that anyone who criticizes government policy in public or private is a criminal terrorist. Oops, I shouldn't have said that, as those terrorists aren't technically criminals or subject to the due process of law are they? Well it's true these days you go to prison if you complain about the drug war, or the war on terrorism, or the war on infringers of copyrights and software patents -- so don't complain! [nervous audience laughter] After all, without security, what is the good of American Freedoms? Benjamin Franklin himself said it best, those who don't have security will trade in their freedoms.
    I'm proud to say that the U.S. is now the undisputed world leader in per capita imprisonment, another example of how my administration is keeping us on top. Why just the other day I had the U.N. building in New York City locked down when delegates there started talking about prisoner civil rights. Such trash talk should not be permitted on our soil. It should be obvious that anyone found smoking marijuana, copying CDs, or talking about the law without paying should face a death penalty from AIDS contracted through prison rapes -- that extra deterrent make the system function more smoothly and helps keep honest people honest. That's also why I support the initiative to triple the standard law author's royalty which criminals pay for each law they violate, because the longer we keep such criminals behind bars, especially now that bankruptcy is also a crime, the better for all of us. That's also why I support the new initiative to make all crimes related to discussing laws in private have a mandatory life sentence without parole. Mandatory lifetime imprisonment is good for the economy as it will help keep AIDS for spreading out of the prison system and will keep felons like those so called fair users from competing with honest royalty paying Americans for an inexplicably ever shrinking number of jobs.
    Building more prisons... [Aside to aid who just walked up and whispered in the president's ear: What's that? She's been arrested for what again? Well get her off again, dammit. I don't care how it looks; MicroSlaw owes me big time.]
    Sorry about that distraction, ladies and gentlemen. Now, as I was saying, building more prisons is good for the economy. It's good for the GNP. It's good for rural areas. Everyone who matters wins when we increase the prison population. People who share are thieves plain and simple, just like people who take a bathroom break without pausing their television feed and thus miss some commercials are thieves. Such people break the fundamental social compact between advertisers and consumers which all young children are made to sign. And let me take this opportunity to underscore my administration's strong record on being tough on crime. MicroSlaw's system for efficient production of digitized legal evidence on demand is a key part of that success. So is the recent initiative of having a camera in every living room to catch and imprison those not paying attention when advertising is on television, say by making love or even talking. Why without such initiatives, economic analysts at MicroSlaw assure me that the GNP would have decreased much more than it has already. Always remember that ditty you learned in kindergarten, Only criminals want privacy, because a need for privacy means you have something evil to hide. ...
      By the way, I am proud to announce government homeland security troops are successfully retaking Vermont even as we speak. Troops will soon be enforcing federal school standards there with all necessary force. Their number one priority will be improving the curriculum to help kids understand why sharing is morally wrong. Too bad we had to nuke Burlington before they would see the light, har, har, [weak audience laughter] but you can see how messed up their education system must have been to force us to have to do that. And have no fear, any state that threatens the American way of life in a similar fashion will be dealt with in a similar way. I give you my word as an American and as your president sworn to uphold your freedom to live the American lifestyle we have all grown accustomed to recently, and MicroSlaw's freedom to define what that lifestyle is to their own profit.
    So, in conclusion, a body of legal knowledge free for all to review and discuss would be the death of the American dream. Remember, people who discuss law in private without paying royalties are pirates, not friends. Thus I encourage you all to report to MicroSlaw or your nearest homeland security office anyone talking about laws or sharing legal knowledge in other than an approved fashion and for a fee. Always remember that nursery school rhyme, there is money for you in turning in your friends too.
    God Bless! This is a great country! [Wild audience applause.]
    Addendum -- March 4, 2132 -- Freeweb article 2239091390298329372384 Archivists have just now recovered the above historic document from an antique hard disk platter (only 10 TB capacity!) recently discovered in the undersea exploration of a coastal city that before global warming had been called Washingtoon, D.C.. It is hard for a modern sentient to imagine what life must have been like in those dark times of the early 21st Century before the transition from a scarcity worldview to a universal material abundance worldview. It is unclear if that document was an actual presidential speech or was intended as satire, since most digital records from that time were lost, and the Burlington crater has historically been attributed to a Cold Fusion experiment gone wrong. In any case, this document gives an idea of what humans of that age had to endure until liberty prevailed.
"""

Comment: Suggested self-replicating space habitats (Score 1) 348

4 years ago: http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/d...

From there:

My suggestion for a "Game Changing" project is that NASA (possibly in partnership with NIST) could coordinate a global effort towards designing and deploying self-replicating space habitats that can duplicate themselves from sunlight and asteroidal ore (developed under free and open source non-proprietary licenses as progress towards "open manufacturing").

NASA showed the basic technological feasibility of this with work in the late 1970s on space habitats, and also in a 1980 study called "Advanced Automation for Space Missions".

In a long-term space mission or a space settlement, a self-sustaining economy must be created and supported. Therefore, addressing the problem of technological fragility on Earth due to long supply lines and the inaccessibility of key manufacturing data (because it is considered proprietary) is an essential step in the development of the development of human settlement in space. Addressing such fragility would have immediate benefits to improve intrinsic and mutual security globally, and would help humanity survive in the face of plagues, wars, global climate change, asteroid strikes, earthquakes, and whatever other disasters might strike unexpectedly. As the loss of New Orleans showed, Mother Nature remains a formidable adversary even when people are not fighting amongst themselves over perceived scarce resources.

A NASA-coordinated effort to organize manufacturing information and use it to design such habitats (or seeds that would grow such habitats), as well as improve the state-of-the-art in collaboration software, could thus help meet needs both currently on Earth and in the future in space.

Nothing NASA is doing now compares with this at all in terms of gaining the excitement and participation of the world's technologists and technically-minded youth, given this project would have the scale of the entire FOSS movement applied to manufacturing (and simulation). Achieving this goal of a self-replicating space habitat could justify literally trillions of dollars in effort to create a technological infrastructure that could support quadrillions of human lives in space, making nonsense of current worries of "Limits to Growth" or "Peak Oil" or "Overpopulation" or whatever else.

While NASA could coordinate this effort, many other organizations including NIST (and its SLIM program), DARPA, universities, and manufacturers globally could also participate in this effort.

As a whole, this project would help increase US security as a sort of public outreach by helping the global security community transcend ironic and outdated visions of what security means, given that so much abundance is possible through modern technology and this NASA effort would demonstrate that:

"Recognizing irony is key to transcending militarism "

http://www.pdfernhout.net/reco...

See here for more details:

http://groups.google.com/group...?

This effort could also be done in conjunction with this other proposal I made:

"Build 21000 flexible fabrication facilities across the USA "

http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/d...

Comment: Fed Reserve research: rewards reduce creativity (Score 1) 832

by Paul Fernhout (#48164281) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

See Dan Pink's presentation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

So, much of the premise of differential rewards to spur innovation is flawed (even though it does apply to some extent for hard manual labor not involving much creativity). What Dan Pink says motivates people most to work in creative innovative directions is a sense of purpose, a sense of autonomy, and an increasing sense of mastery.

Also on that theme by Alfie Kohn:
http://www.alfiekohn.org/books...
http://www.amazon.com/No-Conte...

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T...
"The book argues that there are "pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption".[5] It claims that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.[1] The book contains graphs that are available online.[6]"

And see also, on how the logic of diminishing returns in economics got replaced by the concept of "Pareto efficient":
"Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal"
http://www.amazon.com/Economic...

Also on the social dynamics and mythology related to all this: http://conceptualguerilla.com/...

You made a good presentation of the roots of the better ideas behind capitalism. But somehow along the way, as power accumulated and corrupted our main social institutions in the USA and elsewhere, those ideas got stretched into neoliberalism... Here is a conceptual video on what happens as those neoliberal ideas expand:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

For some comic relief (and a bit more insight), the first novel in a futuristic sci-fi series featuring cybertanks fighting against neoliberalism (especially in the third novel in the series started by the Chronicles of Old Guy by Timothy Gawne):
http://www.amazon.com/The-Chro...

As long as we have an economy based mostly on exchange and capitalism, and as automation takes more and more jobs, it seems like we would need a basic income to make the system more humane and also keep it going by creating demand. So, to do that, we can just reduce the age of the first Social Security payment from age 65 to age 0, and fund that via taxes and fees royalties on use of government assets (like the Alaska Permanent Fund) and so on. However, long term, as I say on my website, we will likely see a mix of advanced subsistence production (3D printers, solar cells, Mr. Fusion), an expanded gift economy (FOSS, Freecycle), better democratic planning (like via the internet), and an exchange economy softened by a basic income.

Comment: Post-scarcity post-docs? :-) (Score 1) 283

by Paul Fernhout (#48109901) Attached to: Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

You might find the intro of this book of interest (just noticed it today) as it talks about the conflict between scarcity and post-scarcity ideas, including market failures and market-based solutions: http://books.google.com/books?...
"Sustainable Growth in a Post-Scarcity World: Consumption, Demand, and the Poverty Penalty -- by Philip Sadler"

IMHO, universities have an implicit moral obligation (including "in loco parentis") to be candid and as accurate as possible with their students about things like career prospects; that they fail to do so as evidenced by this issue is problematical whatever the reasons (including "selection bias" that you only see relatively successful academics working in universities and the advice they give may have worked for them decades ago but may not be very useful either now or for other personality types).

If you look at other countries like in Western Europe, there is not as much of a conflict between being reasonable "successful" in a field and having a family and hobbies and such. Example: http://www.salon.com/2010/08/2...
"Germany's workers have higher productivity, shorter hours and greater quality of life. How did we get it so wrong? ... But even before the recession, American workers were already clocking in the most hours in the West. Compared to our German cousins across the pond, we work 1,804 hours versus their 1,436 hours â" the equivalent of nine extra 40-hour workweeks per year. The Protestant work ethic may have begun in Germany, but it has since evolved to become the American way of life. ... In comparison to the U.S., the Germans live in a socialist idyll. They have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, nursing care, and childcare. ... How did Germany become such a great place to work in the first place? The Allies did it. This whole European model came, to some extent, from the New Deal. Our real history and tradition is what we created in Europe. Occupying Germany after WWII, the 1945 European constitutions, the UN Charter of Human Rights all came from Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Dealers. All of it got worked into the constitutions of Europe and helped shape their social democracies. It came from us. The papal encyclicals on labor, it came from the Americans. ..."

Various studies show that overwork does not make people more productive in the long term. Lots of things suffer -- including creativity. Overwork in the USA is a cultural pathology. BTW, it is also problematical to try to motivate the best creative work via rewards:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

As for technological innovation, there is a lot of discussion related to that by people like Langdon Winner and E.F. Schumacher (including related to "appropriate technology"). Just look at how US federal dollars went as subsidies via land grand colleges to big agriculture research vs. small farm research. Why were research funds for decades going into ever bigger mechanized harvesting operations and related plant varieties (the tasteless tomato) instead of multi-purpose flexible agricultural robotics useful for small farms and heirloom seeds? Why is funding "Seed Savers" heirloom seed production (seeds with a variety of natural resistance and good nutrition) or remineralizing US soils via ground up rock dust not one of the USA's top defense priorities vs. defending long supply lines of imported oil used to create monocultures propped up in dead soil doused in petro-chemical-derived synthetic fertilizers and pesticides?
http://www.seedsavers.org/
http://remineralize.org/

Markets may be good at producing certain types of abundance, but in the absence of political oversight, markets are problematical when it comes to distributing that abundance, creating healthy working conditions, or managing the risk of market failures. Just ask Alan Greenspan:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10...
"But on Thursday, almost three years after stepping down as chairman of the Federal Reserve, a humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending."

I'll agree with you that there is a very complex dynamics of the whole system, with lots of parts interconnected in surprising ways. This post-doc issue is just one piece of the puzzle reflecting a lot of trends. And it is unlikely it will be made a lot better without considering the complex dynamic of the whole system -- which is just the sort of thing one might think "smart" people would be studying -- if they were not "disciplined minds" with assignable curiosity assigned to prop up a failing status quo: :-(
http://www.disciplined-minds.c...

I don't know about short-term solutions, but in the next couple decades, it seems pretty clear to me that, given increasing automation of mental labor, our entire current economic system is going to undergo a huge transformation. What exactly the end result will be remains to play out... But the "economic literacy" you imply IMHO is getting to be more and more a historical thing related to the 20th century, and will be less and less applicable as the 21st century unfolds. Something I wrote on that back in 2008: http://www.pdfernhout.net/post...

Comment: Displacing cheap solar PV with LENR (Score 2) 2

by Paul Fernhout (#48109617) Attached to: Cold fusion reactor verified by third-party researchers

I would agree that cheap hot or cold fusion (or something similar) is probably about the only thing that could displace cheap PV economically. PV doesn't take that much space on a global scale for our current power needs (a small patch of the Sahara desert could produce our current needs), but cold fusion would be so much more compact and in that sense be more aesthetic and not shade out any green plants or disrupt fragile desert ecosystems. Also, if (and likely when) our energy use grows, including for things like space launches, then solar starts to get iffier (like if our global energy use grows by 100X). We probably don't need to grow our energy use like that to be happy at roughly the current population (although 3X is likely as other countries continue to industrialize).

The biggest new thing a compact energy source such as LENR as described makes possible are improved mobile systems (space craft, flying cars, autonomous yachts, etc.). Solar will likely never be that compact for human-scale mobile systems, where the need for a big surface area conflicts with other mobile requirements for sleekness.

Still, that is if cold fusion / LENR works. This "verification" still is debatable as these researchers seem to have been tangentially involved in evaluating Rossi's work for years. So, this report is not as "independent" as one might like (even if I thought it was notable as a story). But there are many other reports by others. Things remain still unsure until you can buy one at your local big box store or via Amazon -- or your utility company uses them. :-) Of course, if ten university teams were saying they had such test results, well that would also be pretty significant. One collection of authors at a couple less prestigious institutions is still in the realm of fraud or self-deception or some other confusion. On the other hand, as with the original "cold fusion" reports at MIT twenty years ago dismissing the phenomenon, there is an incentive within the status quo to dismiss such claims because they would potentially disturb existing social and financial relationships (like hot fusion funding, fossil fuel subsidies, now solar PV research, etc.).

+ - Cold fusion reactor verified by third-party researchers 2

Submitted by Paul Fernhout
Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "ExtremeTech reports that "Andrea Rossi's E-Cat — the device that purports to use cold fusion to generate massive amounts of cheap, green energy — has been verified by third-party researchers, according to a new 54-page report. The researchers observed a small E-Cat over 32 days, where it produced net energy of 1.5 megawatt-hours, or "far more than can be obtained from any known chemical sources in the small reactor volume." The researchers were also allowed to analyze the fuel before and after the 32-day run, noting that the isotopes in the spent fuel could only have been obtained by "nuclear reactions"...""

Comment: Well said! (Score 2) 55

swb's comment is insightful too. The best reason to go into space is because we are happy on Earth and want to grow that happiness further.

That said, it is not unreasonable to want a distributed population for reasons of backup and resiliency, as well as reasons for new perspectives/exploration/innovation. Humans run simulations to learn things, and space habitats may develop a variety of approaches to things that are new and useful.

Also, as human technological power grows, the Earth becomes ever smaller and the stakes for a global mistake (e.g. bioweapon, nuclear war) get every higher -- even as we should do what we can to reduce and contain those risks as appropriate.

See also:
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/K...
"A planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever."

NASA should have been doing these sort of hab missions decades ago IMHO. Better late than never!

Comment: Type 2 Diabetes: Reversible w/ Superior Nutrition (Score 3, Informative) 100

by Paul Fernhout (#48107583) Attached to: Scientists Coax Human Embryonic Stem Cells Into Making Insulin

Less of some types of carbs, yes, but more other stuff too: https://www.drfuhrman.com/libr...
"Excess weight interferes with insulin's functions, and is the primary risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore the most effective treatment for type 2 diabetes is significant weight loss. However, the primary mode of treatment by physicians today is glucose-lowering medication. These medications give a false sense of security, providing implicit permission to continue the same disease-causing diet and lifestyle that allowed diabetes to develop in the first place. Many of these medications promote weight gain -- making the patient more diabetic; most importantly, these medications do not prevent diabetes from progressing and causing complications. ...
The key to diabetes reversal is superior nutrition and exercise. It may take a little extra effort, but avoiding the tragic complications of diabetes and a premature death is well worth it. My diabetes-reversal diet is vegetable-based with a high nutrient to calorie ratio, containing lots of greens and beans, other non-starchy vegetables, (such as mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes and onions), raw nuts and seeds, and limited fresh fruit with no sweeteners or white flour products. When diabetics eat in this style, they lose their excess weight -- the cause of their diabetes -- quickly and easily, reducing or eliminating their need for medications and they also flood the body with disease-protective and healing micronutrients and phytochemicals that aid the body's recovery and self-repair mechanism."

For Type II diabetics, such a diet with weight loss brings the body's ability to respond to glucose in line with the remaining capacity to make it as needed. Exercise that builds more muscles and that is done when sugar is spiking can also help in managing glucose levels.

For Type I diabetics however, where the body can't produce much glucose at all if any, this improved diet/exercise is not enough, even if it can improve the situation some what as far as reducing complications. For Type I diabetics, this sort of breakthrough with stem cells, if it works, would be truly amazing.

Sometimes type I diabetics are really misdiagnosed type II, and vice versa, so there is a small level of confusion here where sometimes diet works when you would not expect etc..

BTW, vitamin D deficiency (from lack of natural sunlight) may be involved with the autoimmune response that could cause type I diabetes or perhaps make type II worse.

More from Furhman:
https://www.drfuhrman.com/libr...
http://www.amazon.com/The-End-...

More from others:
http://www.rawfor30days.com/
http://www.fatsickandnearlydea...
https://www.drmcdougall.com/he...
http://articles.mercola.com/si...
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/hea...
http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/0...

The deeper issue is that our brains and microbiomes are adapted for a scarcity of refined carbs, and we struggle with the abundance of cheap ones:
http://www.drfuhrman.com/libra...
"Scientific evidence suggests that the re-sensitization of taste nerves takes between 30 and 90 days of consistent exposure to less stimulating foods. This means that for several weeks, most people attempting this change will experience a reduction in eating pleasure. This is why modern foods present such a devastating trap--as most of our citizens are, in effect, "addicted" to artificially high levels of food stimulation! The 30-to-90-day process of taste re-calibration requires more motivation--and more self-discipline--than most people are ever willing to muster.
    Tragically, most people are totally unaware that they are only a few weeks of discipline away from being able to comfortably maintain healthful dietary habits--and to keep away from the products that can result in the destruction of their health. Instead, most people think that if they were to eat more healthfully, they would be condemned to a life of greatly reduced gustatory pleasure--thinking that the process of Phase IV will last forever. In our new book, The Pleasure Trap, we explain this extraordinarily deceptive and problematic situation - and how to master this hidden force that undermines health and happiness."

Comment: Re:From Goodstein on this 20 years ago! (Score 1) 283

by Paul Fernhout (#48090767) Attached to: Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

You make a good point though that doing some sorts of science are much cheaper now than they used to be, in large part because of cheap computing, so you can simulate and communicate and archive cheaply in a way never before possible. So yes, "professional amateurs" working part time and living very frugally might be able to do some tabletop-sized stuff supported by cheap computing. Or maybe they can help analyze data produced from big projects like supercolliders or NASA imagery, with the data distributed via the internet (a worthwhile thing). I'll agree that is a good point. While there may be less fundamental low-hanging scientific fruit than in the 1800s (basic chemistry, basic electromagnetism), there are certainly more edge cases now to explore as the scientific literature has grown in size.

However, given all the complaints already about financial difficulties of full-time adjuncts, as well as the difficulty of newly-minted K-12 teachers getting good jobs, I feel it is still a bit of wishful thinking to thing teaching is likely to support most people who want to do research. Also, in general, research and teaching require somewhat different mindsets and personalities to excel in or be happy in -- which is one reason so many college students get not-very-good teachers who are researcher wannabees (even ignoring self-education vs. teaching).

The main funding issue in the USA is competition and expectations relative the the vast numbers of PhDs being produced as opposed to the 1950s-1960s numbers and available funding then. Yes there are resources out there for science even now, as you say. But, saying the average bright PhD (or non-PhD) can get them is like saying you can take a job at Google or IBM because they have a lot of resources to use for your project without realizing there is a lot of competition for those resources even if you can get in to such a company. Yes, you might win the lottery, and people do every day, but is it unlikely relative to the number of players. IBM Research, for example, at least when I was there, has many people with many good and creative ideas, but IBM will only pursue the very few ideas with the most profit potential (generally measured in billions of dollars), discarding the rest (which frustrates researchers to no end, even if they may sometimes get to publish something before being asked to move to some new project). I read about that frustration even from a book from around the 1980s on researchers -- that people can be asked at a moment's notice to drop their project and do something else and never be able to work on the project again.

The bottom line is that, increasingly, many people are not being given accurate information about career expectations when they pursue PhDs. Although this is increasingly true for much of academia. Which suggests a bubble is about to burst...

Example from Greenspun:
http://philip.greenspun.com/ca...
"The average trajectory for a successful scientist is the following:
age 18-22: paying high tuition fees at an undergraduate college
age 22-30: graduate school, possibly with a bit of work, living on a stipend of $1800 per month
age 30-35: working as a post-doc for $30,000 to $35,000 per year
age 36-43: professor at a good, but not great, university for $65,000 per year
age 44: with (if lucky) young children at home, fired by the university ("denied tenure" is the more polite term for the folks that universities discard), begins searching for a job in a market where employers primarily wish to hire folks in their early 30s
This is how things are likely to go for the smartest kid you sat next to in college. He got into Stanford for graduate school. He got a postdoc at MIT. His experiment worked out and he was therefore fortunate to land a job at University of California, Irvine. But at the end of the day, his research wasn't quite interesting or topical enough that the university wanted to commit to paying him a salary for the rest of his life. He is now 44 years old, with a family to feed, and looking for job with a "second rate has-been" label on his forehead.
Why then, does anyone think that science is a sufficiently good career that people should debate who is privileged enough to work at it? Sample bias."

I'm also reminded of a recent discussion of how even a newly-minted PhD in computer science could not get a programming job or find a research job...
http://ask.slashdot.org/story/...

Is some good science possible on a shoestring while living in poverty? No doubt. Maybe that is even easier than it ever was, as you point out. But that sort of life is far from the expectations most people have when they pursue a PhD -- especially for people who hope to raise a family. As Greenspun points out, is it any winder that most smart women avoid science as a profession given the financial reality?

BTW, good luck getting independent shoe-string research published in big journals. :-) Although, with blogs and such, again supporting your point, more outlets are possible for new ideas or research results. While I don't know of the scientific merit of these, the "H-Cat" and the "Martin Fleischman Memorial Project" both related to LENR (cold fusion) are examples of a more open source approach to table top science:
http://www.e-catworld.com/2014...
http://www.quantumheat.org/ind...

One might also see the numerous experiments innovating in 3D printing and open source software and open source robotics as more examples of the sort of things you suggest.

Personally, I feel part of the solution is a "basic income" for all. Then anyone who wants to live like a graduate student and do small-scale science (or data analysis) can do so without needing to find an unrelated job (and also without having to be "credentialed" in a discipline -- see "Disciplined Minds"). I feel with a basic income we would see an enormous increase in human-scale ideas to build a happier healthier world than the ideas being produced by big money. Whether corporate big money, philanthropic big money, or governmental big money, it all tends to come with big strings attached related to building monopolies (e.g. Facebook, Big Pharma), aligning with the beliefs of rich donors enmeshed in the current socioeconomic system (e.g. Gates Foundation, Koch brothers), or supporting partisan power-centralizing politics (big agriculture, big military, big medicine/insurance, etc.).

Having said all that, my life and my wife's for the last couple decades (since grad school and even before) has been some mix of doing our own small-scale research-ish science-related projects (like our garden simulator or other simulations, thinking about triple stores and knowledge representation, or now stuff on stories and social science-ish things), working for others on mostly unrelated stuff, and raising a family (including homeschooling -- which is very expensive in opportunity costs). Ever cheaper computers and communications have indeed made that easier over time. For example, I write this on a US$250 Chromebook for example, whereas my first Commodore PET system with dual disk drive and printer cost about US$7K in today's dollars given inflation and is no comparison in capabilities, especially regarding communications and remote data sources. So, it is possible to do what you say, but it has been a stressful difficult thing for us, even with two bright people and some good luck and reasonably good health. It gets harder as you get older (competing with younger people for those unrelated jobs) and no doubt also if you have more kids.

With trends towards automating more jobs including "teaching" (via software) and even "research" itself, I would expect such a path would get only harder financially in years to come.

Here is one example of the new uncomplaining post-doc that human PhDs will have to compete with: :-)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R...
"As a prototype for a "robot scientist", Adam is able to perform independent experiments to test hypotheses and interpret findings without human guidance, removing some of the drudgery of laboratory experimentation.[9][10] Adam is capable of:
* hypothesizing to explain observations
* devising experiments to test these hypotheses
* physically running the experiments using laboratory robotics
* interpreting the results from the experiments
* repeating the cycle as required[8][11][12][13][14][15]
While researching yeast-based functional genomics, Adam became the first machine in history to have discovered new scientific knowledge independently of its human creators.[3][16][17]"

It comes down to the question of what sort of society do we want to have of all the possibilities? Marshall Brain's "Manna" shows two extremes. For the most part, so many people have had their head in the sand for the past couple decades since Dr. David Goodstein made his (mostly ignored) points -- including in testimony to Congress in the 1990s (when he was Vice-Provost of Caltech). But I'll have to concede to you that even though over the past couple decades some things have gotten worse about the ease of doing research and development in the USA, some things have gotten better.

Comment: From Goodstein on this 20 years ago! (Score 4, Informative) 283

by Paul Fernhout (#48088381) Attached to: Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg...
"Actually, during the period since 1970, the expansion of American science has not stopped altogether. Federal funding of scientific research, in inflation-corrected dollars, doubled during that period, and by no coincidence at all, the number of academic researchers has also doubled. Such a controlled rate of growth (controlled only by the available funding, to be sure) is not, however, consistent with the lifestyle that academic researchers have evolved. The average American professor in a research university turns out about 15 Ph.D students in the course of a career. In a stable, steady-state world of science, only one of those 15 can go on to become another professor in a research university. In a steady-state world, it is mathematically obvious that the professor's only reproductive role is to produce one professor for the next generation. But the American Ph.D is basically training to become a research professor. It didn't take long for American students to catch on to what was happening. The number of the best American students who decided to go to graduate school started to decline around 1970, and it has been declining ever since. ...
    To most of us who are professors, finding gems to polish is not our principal problem. Recently, Leon Lederman, one of the leaders of American science published a pamphlet called Science -- The End of the Frontier. The title is a play on Science -- The Endless Frontier, the title of the 1940's report by Vannevar Bush that led to the creation of the National Science Foundation and helped launch the Golden Age described above. Lederman's point is that American science is being stifled by the failure of the government to put enough money into it. I confess to being the anonymous Caltech professor quoted in one of Lederman's sidebars to the effect that my main responsibility is no longer to do science, but rather it is to feed my graduate students' children. Lederman's appeal was not well received in Congress, where it was pointed out that financial support for science is not an entitlement program, nor in the press, where the Washington Post had fun speculating about hungry children haunting the halls of Caltech. Nevertheless, the problem Lederman wrote about is very real and very painful to those of us who find that our time, attention and energy are now consumed by raising funds rather than teaching and doing research. However, although Lederman would certainly disagree with me, I firmly believe that this problem cannot be solved by more government money. If federal support for basic research were to be doubled (as many are calling for), the result would merely be to tack on a few more years of exponential expansion before we'd find ourselves in exactly the same situation again. Lederman has performed a valuable service in promoting public debate of an issue that has worried me for a long time (the remark he quoted is one I made in 1979), but the issue itself is really just a symptom of the larger fact that the era of exponential expansion has come to an end. The End of the Frontier could just as well have been called The Big Crunch."

See also from 10 years ago!
http://www.villagevoice.com/20...

And somewhat more recently:
http://philip.greenspun.com/ca...

A collection of general links I put together on schooling:
http://p2pfoundation.net/backu...
http://p2pfoundation.net/backu...

Comment: Re:What's more, utilities should have predicted th (Score 1) 488

by Paul Fernhout (#48037927) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Great points about the nuances in the details!

I agree that the dynamics of dense cities based on space available are going to be different for grid connection than for rural areas or suburbs or even some more sprawling cities. Dense cities are either going to want dense power locally (some form of safe nuclear fusion) or they are going to pull energy from diffuse sources at a distance like big solar or wind farms via direct lines or from a broader grid.

I think the "global reserve" issue is not significant in the long term, both because we do have storage technologies like compressed air or hydrogen that don't require too many exotic things (even if they have other issues). And also because a good aspect of markets (amidst many bad aspects) is they tend to lower costs when there is a demand either by putting in play new resources (like from new mines) or by finding cheaper substitutes.

A ready backup to solar also for those on a gas grid or who have their own propane storage is gas-fired generators to smooth out interruptions in solar power. Some sort of major advance in hydrogen storage, like via converting it to a liquid fuel or in metal hydrides, could also solve the local storage issue -- and we are seeing innovation in that space.

It is hard to tell what technologies hold in the future. Other possibilities might include centralized production of materials requiring lots of electricity like refined metals such as aluminum or via hydrogen saturated in some metal-hydride complex and then trucking those materials onsite to use for local power by oxidation or some other process, where they are then shipped back when consumed. Then we are using the highways as a "grid". :-) A wired grid may well be much better, but that is an example of how you can change the time constants of buffering in systems by different sorts of engineering.

Neighborhood-scale power with a local grid might make a lot of sense -- perhaps even with trucking of materials of some sort instead of wires? Or, the USA could perhaps do like in Europe and just start burying much of its electrical glid cable to make the grid more reliable (but currently at a greater cost -- but maybe we will see innovation in tunneling robots?)

In any case, your insightful comment points to how the "devil is in the details" and how most real power system (absent "Mr. Fusion" from "Back to the Future") are going to be some mix of options (including energy efficiency and other alternative choices).

But who knows, if LENR pans out, we may indeed have "Mr. Fusion" of a sort even within the decade? Or that may be a scam or self-delusion by dozens (hundreds?) of researchers...
http://coldfusionnow.org/comme...
"The recent 2014 Cold Fusion/LENR/LANR conference from March 21st to March 23rd at Massachusetts Institute of Technology happened to overlap with the 25th anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of cold fusion at the university of Utah. Against all odds, huge strides in understanding the phenomenon were made in the last 25 years. Recently, groups have shown that this is more than a lab curiosity, it can be engineered and harnessed to safely solve the worlds energy problems. This is an overview of some commercial groups which presented at the 2014 MIT conference."

Comment: Space and improving Earth are not incompatible (Score 3, Insightful) 549

by Paul Fernhout (#48036403) Attached to: Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity

Seem my other comment here, but in short, pretty much all the same sorts of technologies we need to live in space would make life better on Earth. These include better recycling, power generation, advanced medicine and nutrition, cradle-to-cradle zero emissions manufacturing, greenhouse agriculture, education-on-demand, a library of open source part designs for 3D printing or other manufacturing, better ways of resolving conflicts in small groups or between groups, and so on. So, we don't have to pick one or the other. Sad thing is, we too often seem to pick neither and instead prop up social systems built around "artificial scarcity" and "learned" stupidity.

In general though, I agree with you that we could make the Earth more like a "Star Trek" society. Here is an essay I wrote about that a decade ago:
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/...
"This essay shows how a total of $14000 billion up front and at least another $2085 billion per year can be made available for creative investment in the USA by adopting a post-scarcity worldview. This money can help further fund a virtuous cycle of more creative and more cost saving efforts, as well as better education. It calls for the non-profit sector to help shape a new mythology of wealth and to take the lead in getting the average person as well as decision makers to make the shift in worldview to their own long term benefit. "

I'm nearing the end of reading "Player Piano" which several people on Slashdot have recommended regarding understanding humans and technology -- although I think a basic income rather than a work requirement would have created a different society, and Vonnegut also seems to ignore how much effort can go into raising healthy and happy children or being a good friend, neighbor, or citizen -- focusing instead of "jobs" in a manufacturing sense.

Related on learned stupidity, by John Taylor Gatto: http://www.naturalchild.org/gu...
"Our school crisis is a reflection of this greater social crisis. We seem to have lost our identity. Children and old people are penned up and locked away from the business of the world to a degree without precedent - nobody talks to them anymore and without children and old people mixing in daily life a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present. In fact, the name "community" hardly applies to the way we interact with each other. We live in networks, not communities, and everyone I know is lonely because of that. In some strange way school is a major actor in this tragedy just as it is a major actor in the widening guilt among social classes. Using school as a sorting mechanism we appear to be on the way to creating a caste system, complete with untouchables who wander through subway trains begging and sleep on the streets.
    I've noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my twenty-five years of teaching - that schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very hard, the institution is psychopathic - it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to different cell where he must memorize that man and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.
    Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted - sometimes with guns - by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.
    Now here is a curious idea to ponder. Senator Ted Kennedy's office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was 98% and after it the figure never again reached above 91% where it stands in 1990. I hope that interests you.
    Here is another curiosity to think about. The homeschooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and a half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents. Last month the education press reported the amazing news that children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think.
    I don't think we'll get rid of schools anytime soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we're going to change what is rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution "schools" very well, but it does not "educate" - that's inherent in the design of the thing. It's not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent, it's just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.
    Schools were designed by Horace Mann and Barnard Sears and Harper of the University of Chicago and Thorndyke of Columbia Teachers College and some other men to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce through the application of formulae, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.
    To a very great extent, schools succeed in doing this. But our society is disintegrating, and in such a society, the only successful people are self-reliant, confident, and individualistic - because the community life which protects the dependent and the weak is dead. The products of schooling are, as I've said, irrelevant. Well-schooled people are irrelevant. They can sell film and razor blades, push paper and talk on the telephones, or sit mindlessly before a flickering computer terminal but as human beings they are useless. Useless to others and useless to themselves.
    The daily misery around us is, I think, in large measure caused by the fact that - as Paul Goodman put it thirty years ago - we force children to grow up absurd. Any reform in schooling has to deal with its absurdities.
    It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety, indeed it cuts you off from your own part and future, scaling you to a continuous present much the same way television does.
    It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to listen to a stranger reading poetry when you want to learn to construct buildings, or to sit with a stranger discussing the construction of buildings when you want to read poetry.
    It is absurd and anti-life to move from cell to cell at the sound of a gong for every day of your natural youth in an institution that allows you no privacy and even follows you into the sanctuary of your home demanding that you do its "homework".
    "How will they learn to read?" you say and my answer is "Remember the lessons of Massachusetts." When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.
    But keep in mind that in the United States almost nobody who reads, writes or does arithmetic gets much respect. We are a land of talkers, we pay talkers the most and admire talkers the most, and so our children talk constantly, following the public models of television and schoolteachers. It is very difficult to teach the "basics" anymore because they really aren't basic to the society we've made. ..."

Regarding Gatto's comments, is that the kind of social system we really want to see duplicated on Mars or elsewhere?

Comment: What's more, utilities should have predicted this (Score 1) 488

by Paul Fernhout (#48035903) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Back around 2003, I was arguing on the SSI list against space-based solar power satellites, pointing out that with trend towards ever cheaper ground-based solar power, solar power satellites were making less and less economic sense, even if they might have made more sense in the 1970s if built from lunar materials. I also pointed out the with decentralized roof-based solar power, and with likely predictable improvements in power storage (compressed air, hydrogen and fuel cells, better batteries), fairly soon it would no longer make sense for many people to connect to the grid even if the production cost of the electricity was nearly free (like from SPSS), because roughly half the then-current cost of electricity was for "distribution" via a grid of wires, not for "production". The grid is costly to maintain with falling trees, hurricanes, and so on. So, at some point, it is cheaper to have local solar panels than to get even free electricity from space if you need to use a grid to distribute it. (Solar power from SPSS beamed directly to airplanes in flight or to big industrial plants or laser launching rocket systems might be a different economic story.)

One idea I suggested back then is that if you looked at these trends, and factored in a future decommissioning cost for the grid to remove poles and power lines and such, and also sunk costs of debt being repaid for previously built coal and nuclear plants, some utilities might already be effectively bankrupt? Of course, you need to weigh the value of the copper in the wires as well as the value of the power line right-of-way for communications, so that idea is a stretch -- but it shows what these cheap solar PV trends could mean to the utility industry.

But even in the 1980s, just as Reagan took office and took the solar panels off the White House, people were talking about these solar trends. Amory Lovins is another person good at general big predictions on energy (including oil prices in the 1970s, when you factor in risks like wars and supply disruption).

Anyway, all this issue with solar PV reaching grid parity something utility company planners should have seen coming a long way off. Instead, it seems most people (including on Slashdot) have been completely ignoring these cost trends towards grid parity, and are only now acting on the fact that it has finally been (or is about to be) reached for solar PV. That is kind of like ignoring the fact that a car engine is leaking oil until it actually seizes up.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G...

Or in other words:
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/U...
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Of course, I'm not sure what you could tell most utilities to do even if they had seen this trend. If their only response is to try to disrupt cheap solar, then maybe it is for the best that they ignored this trend? An alternative might have been for utility companies to get into a Sears-like appliance relationship with homeowners and their solar panels and batteries, or to do something like Solar City did with funding such systems?

The only thing I can see that would affect this trend towards dirt-cheap solar is even cheaper power from hot or cold fusion or something similar. It's true that people can fall off roofs installing solar panels, and that ground-based solar not on roofs can look cluttery and cover up ground otherwise usable for growing plants, and that batteries in the home need to be maintained and can be a hazard, and that some solar panels could in theory have run-off with some heavy metals (like lead or cadmium). So, nothing is perfect, and utilities might have been able to supply something better if they had thought hard about it and invested in R&D.

Comment: Basic income from a millionaire's perspective? (Score 1) 475

by Paul Fernhout (#48035471) Attached to: Ebola Has Made It To the United States

As I wrote here: http://www.pdfernhout.net/basi...
"Right now, a profit driven health care system has sized emergency rooms for average needs, and those emergency rooms are often full. With a basic income and more money going on a systematic basis to the health care system, the health care system emergency rooms will no longer be overrun with people there for reasons they could see a doctor for. So, emergency care would be better for millionaires. Millionaires with heart attacks won't be as likely to end up being diverted to far away hospitals because the local hospital emergency room is full. Likewise, emergency rooms might, with more money going to medicine, become sized for national emergencies, not personal emergencies, so they might become vast empty places, with physicians and other health care staff keeping their skills sharp always running simulations, learning more medical information, and/or doing basic medical research, with these people always ready for a pandemic or natural disaster or industrial accident which they had the resources in reserve to deal with. So, millionaires who got sick or injured in a disaster could be sure there was the facilities and expertise nearby to help them, even if most of the rest of the population needed help too at the same time too. In that way, some of this basic income could be funded by money that might otherwise go to the Defense department, because what is better civil defense then investing in a health care system able to to handle national disasters? So, any millionaires who are doctors (many are) would benefit by this plan, because their lives as doctors will become happier and less stressful, both with less paperwork and with more resources."

Maybe someday...

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