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Comment Suggestions (Score 1) 278

The story "Division by Zero" by Ted Chiang. Can be found in the collection Stories of Your Life and Others (they're all great stories, actually).

The story "Luminous" by Greg Egan, from the collection of the same title. What happens when mathematicians discover that: (a) there is a flaw in the structure of mathematical truth; and (b) that mathematical truth can be altered by performing calculations around the flaw.

Someone has already collected a bunch of mathematical fiction here.

Comment Low openness to experience (Score 1) 1128

The difference between establishment, Eisenhower-style conservatism and today's variety, dominated by the South, is that conservatives of the Southern stripe tend to score much lower on openness to experience. This way of thinking tends to feel that it already knows what it needs to know, and that anyone who comes along proclaiming that, say, we need to put a price on carbon actually has some other agenda, like taking away your freedom because of how eeevil and librul they are. Since the fundamental tenet of science is empiricism (i.e. being committed to accepting what experience is telling you about reality, no matter how unintuitive), it's small wonder that science comes to be viewed with suspicion.

Comment Re:Renewable or infinite? (Score 1) 835

As I see it, the downside in moving to renewable energy (as we inevitably must and will do) is less to the environment and more to people's expectations. Our expectations about technology and the kind of society we can have were formed in a historically brief period of energy abundance, in the form of hundreds of millions of years of stored sunlight that comes down to us as an enormous, but finite, pool of highly energy-dense fossil fuel. In effect, we've been living off (in fact, spending profligately) our inheritance. When we switch to renewable sources, we will have to go back to living on an energy *income* instead. Cornucopians, or anyone who expects technology to make up the difference, are not reckoning with the fact that most of the benefits of technology are actually the benefits of energy. Technology is simply how we put the energy to use to achieve results that we like. There will be no technological singularity in a low-energy environment. A more realistic view of our future comes from the permaculture movement, who are a lot closer to dealing with reality in this respect. Get ready for less energy, lowered expectations, economic contraction, and a return to self-reliance for most.

Comment Re:Renewable or infinite? (Score 4, Insightful) 835

On the contrary, I would argue that the problem with nuclear power is that, as is becoming increasingly clear, people's fears about it are *justified*. The current installed base of nuclear tech represents an enormous and unsolved long-term problem to produce what are, on a historical scale, very short-lived benefits. We should not be creating any additional problems for our posterity to deal with.

Comment Climate Wars (Score 1) 178

Gwynne Dyer has written a book that is an excellent starting point for this issue: Climate Wars. He is a journalist and military historian who spent a year or two interviewing military planners who see exactly this issue on the horizon. Check out his website for a three-part radio series based on the book, for those who might not want to invest the time to read the entire book.

Comment Re:Obsessive Analysis (Score 1) 332

Downtown cores suck. It's called a concrete jungle for a reason.

Downtown cores suck because they're designed that way, by people who hate them because they've never experienced anything better. Older, highly dense city cores in Europe, on the other hand, don't suck -- because thought was put into their design. Read James Howard Kunstler to find out more.

Comment Lack of capital (Score 1) 314

"2012 will be a rich year for equity capitalizations, giving energy entrepreneurs the capital they need to build infrastructure." Sounds great, but it's wrong. The financial system is sick and corrupt and the capital he's talking about is largely an illusion. The major financial institutions (Citibank, JPMorgan, etc.) only present a facade of solvency because mark-to-market rules have been suspended, so they have been allowed to hold toxic assets on their books at the values their models predict (the models that were proved devastatingly wrong in the collapse of 2008) instead of what they could actually fetch in the market. If it were ever brought in contact with reality, the world financial system would die instantly. Instead it's basically being strung along by the U.S. federal government (i.e., taxpayers) in the hope that this was a one-time thing and at some point, something like solvency will return.

The fact is we are in a deflation right now, with debt-based capital disappearing from the system at a prodigious rate, while the U.S. Federal Reserve is using quantitative easing (i.e. manufacturing more debt on its own balance sheet) to hold the process back and try to restore growth. The financial system is sick just when we desperately need capital to start rebuilding our energy infrastructure. I would refer anyone to The Automatic Earth if they want to learn more about the energy and finance predicament that we're in.

Comment Re:And of course... (Score 1) 113

Those of us who are a certain age and were geeky enough to read Danny Dunn books know exactly where the CIA got this idea.

(Luckily Danny was able to destroy Professor Bullfinch's notes so the CIA wouldn't be able to replicate the much better dragonfly he'd invented, so they had to fall back on tiny, impractical gasoline engines instead.)

Boo, you got there first! If I couldn't post first about DD, I wish I had some moderator points so I could upvote. Just hearing the name Danny Dunn makes me feel like I'm ten years old again, curled up at Riverside Library. Ah, memories...

Comment Re:US abuse (Score 3, Insightful) 966

Yes, but the U.S. is the first country in the history of balance-of-power politics to think that the failure of its main enemy (the USSR) entitles it to something like control of the entire world, forever. That was the goal of the Project for a New American Century that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice tried to enact for eight years, at a price that may yet cost the U.S. its pre-eminent position. And yet neoconservatives like William Kristol continue to promote this as though it were a good idea and facts recognized by the 'reality-based community' simply don't matter.

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The bogosity meter just pegged.