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Submission + - Is a Climate Disaster Inevitable?

HughPickens.com writes: Astrophysicist Adam Frank has an interesting article in the NYT postulating one answer to the Fermi paradox — that the human evolution into a globe-spanning industrial culture is forcing us through the narrow bottleneck of a sustainability crisis and that civilization inevitably leads to catastrophic planetary changes. According to Frank, our current sustainability crisis may be neither politically contingent nor unique, but a natural consequence of laws governing how planets and life of any kind, anywhere, must interact. Some excerpts:

The defining feature of a technological civilization is the capacity to intensively “harvest” energy. But the basic physics of energy, heat and work known as thermodynamics tell us that waste, or what we physicists call entropy, must be generated and dumped back into the environment in the process. Human civilization currently harvests around 100 billion megawatt hours of energy each year and dumps 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the planetary system, which is why the atmosphere is holding more heat and the oceans are acidifying.

All forms of intensive energy-harvesting will have feedbacks, even if some are more powerful than others. A study by scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany, found that extracting energy from wind power on a huge scale can cause its own global climate consequences. When it comes to building world-girdling civilizations, there are no planetary free lunches.

By studying these nearby planets, we’ve discovered general rules for both climate and climate change (PDF). These rules, based in physics and chemistry, must apply to any species, anywhere, taking up energy-harvesting and civilization-building in a big way. For example, any species climbing up the technological ladder by harvesting energy through combustion must alter the chemical makeup of its atmosphere to some degree. Combustion always produces chemical byproducts, and those byproducts can’t just disappear

Submission + - Plan C: The Cold War plan which would have brought the US under martial law->

v3rgEz writes: Starting on April 19, 1956, the federal government practiced and planned for a near-doomsday scenario known as Plan C. When activated, Plan C would have brought the United States under marshal law, rounded up over ten thousand individuals connected to "subversive" organizations, implemented a censorship board, and prepared the country for life after nuclear attack.

There was no Plan A or B.

Link to Original Source

Comment Heidegger (Score 4, Informative) 416 416

Maybe they should stop publishing works about Martin Heidegger while they're at, I understand he was a Nazi sympathizer which seems like a pretty terrible thing to be. http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/... http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/... http://mitpress.mit.edu/search...

Comment Something New (Score 1) 358 358

Let's see what they can come up with. This is about music but so is going to a live concert. You can't pirate a live concert in the sense of completely recreating the live concert experience. Of course you can record the audio tracks, or video record it, but obvious you can't "go to the concert." What I am trying to say is sure, create something new, some cool multimedia thing or whatever. If people want to buy it they will, if not, so what.

Comment The problem isn't COBOL it is bad management (Score 1) 345 345

The problem isn't COBOL is is bad management. I think that really says it all. You have to manage a project and that means you have to have support at a high enough level that the impacted departments get their marching orders in agreement with the master plan. Otherwise you are doomed if you have to fit the solution to the middle management tier's "requirements" because their "requirements" are that everything stays the same so their jobs and departments are unaffected by the new solution. That's not going to happen in a ground up re-implementation.

Comment Re:Typical government efficiency... (Score 1) 345 345

Amen to this. Automating a system from scratch is much harder than tweaking an existing work flow. It is not at all unusual to see entire departments built around the failures of the automated system. In other words, lets say there is some inefficiency in an implementation. Because it is difficult to get the IT prioritized and modified to address it, another option is to hire someone to fill the gap and do the work that you might have been able to automate, but would require reworking the system. Now try to totally overhaul the work flow from top to bottom when jobs and departments on the line.

Comment Re:Cobol is self-documenting (Score 1) 345 345

It depends. I've seen some Cobol systems where programmers created truly unreadable layers of code with all kinds of convoluted methods. IN some cases it almost looks like they tried to make it impossible to read the code. I once saw a simple date routine that for some reason was running forever, only to crack it open and find out that the program proceeded to build through the most complex and inefficient ways an actual calendar of every possible date within several decades - perhaps even the whole century, I can't remember, only to subtract one date from the next. It took forever. Another implementation of this might have been done in 20 lines of code. But because of really really bad programming, it took a thousand lines of really messy hard to maintain code.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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