31 October 2012

Europe is Facing a Moment of Truth Largely Unawares

Europe is growing older, but not wiser. Debt is piling on top of debt, unemployment is rising, and workforces are ageing rapidly.
Pension and other welfare benefits, promised long ago when the workforce was expanding quickly, are at the heart of Europe’s current fiscal convulsions, which are perhaps a harbinger of worse to come. In David Canning’s view, the 2008 crash and its aftermath have merely moved up a long-inevitable implosion by 10 to 15 years. European nations “had unrealistic systems that were eventually going to cause a crisis,” he told me. _Megan McArdle
Low birthrates and a rapidly ageing workforce are not compatible with the European welfare state. There are not enough bailouts in the world to compensate for such a self-made decline.
In the European Union, how many nations will fall into irretrievable debt before Mario Draghi or Angela Merkel suggest that Europe’s 20th-century entitlement systems are incompatible with 21st-century demographics? And how many more G-8 and G-20 summits will pass without mention that two people turn age 60 every second of every minute – with an obvious impact on core questions of fiscal sustainability unless profound social and economic changes put in place that align with our new century’s demographic realities? _Fiscal Times
European unemployment is rising for a number of reasons, among them high taxes, burdensome EU regulations, and a policy of energy starvation from the top down.
Unemployment in the 17-country eurozone hit a record high of 11.6 percent in September, official figures showed Wednesday, a sign the economy is deteriorating as governments struggle to get a grip on their three-year debt crisis. _MiamiHerald
The European middle class is under assault, according to some sources. Certainly the old regime of guaranteed employment and early retirement is under assault by the harsh realities of the global economy, as exacerbated by European demographic decline.

Moving into this turbulent dynamic, to fill the demographic gap which reluctant European women are creating, are large numbers of immigrants from Africa and Asia. Many of these immigrants are untrained, uneducated, do not speak European languages, and are culturally unable and unwilling to assimilate.

One possible demographic scenario for the future of Europe, would be the significant replacement of native European populations with less advanced populations from the outside. These abundant newcomers may be antagonistic to an ageing Europe's cultural norms.

The video above presents a broad outline of one possible scenario of demographic change. As you will see if you view it completely, the video approaches the problem from the viewpoint of one religion being displaced by another. But the concept also applies to cultural and civilisational replacement, via demographic change.

Europe faces a moment of truth, largely unawares. Her people are being told everything else except what they need to know to preserve themselves, their families, and their cultures.

The end result may not be pretty.

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Toward a More Abundant Energy Future: New Nuclear Technology

This article is cross-posted from Al Fin Energy

Intriguing developments in fusion:

Brian Westenhaus takes a fascinating look at Tri-Alpha Energy's approach to Boron fusion:fission. Brian's article complements an earlier piece by Brian Wang on the Tri-Alpha approach.

Tri-Alpha's approach is a hybrid form of fusion:fission, where high energy protons are forced into Boron 11, converting it to Carbon 12 in a highly energetic state. The Carbon 12 decays -- or fissions -- emitting up to 3 high energy alpha particles.
Tri-Alpha’s position is, “We want to know the energy and location of every outgoing alpha particle.” This is important because in a pB11 reaction the harvest is high energy Helium that can be used to directly generate electricity.

The news from Tri-Alpha is the discovery of two high-energy α-particles (alphas) – that will have a huge impact on pB11 fueled reactor designs because the alphas are much easier to extract and convert more efficiently into electricity.

This is quite significant news and powerful information that may apply to the other two leading pB11 fueled efforts, the Lerner Focus Fusion effort and the Bussard Wiffle Ball work. _Brian Westenhaus

79 page PDF document explaining this approach more thoroughly

Brian Wang has more recently discussed a report by Kachan & Co. on new nuclear technologies. Here is the executive summary of the report (PDF).

Kachan & Co. Nuclear Report Exec Summary PDF

In the excellent video below, Mark Halper discusses the future innovations in fusion and fission which he detailed in the full Kachan report. (via Brian Wang):

Advanced fission can provide humans with abundant electricity and heat for tens of thousands of years. Fusion can provide a further abundance of energy and heat for additional hundreds of thousands of years and beyond.

We have barely learned to extract energy from basic matter. It will take us a number of decades to perfect most of the technologies discussed in the video and at the links above. Will current energy technologies give us that much time? That depends upon the energy policies that our governments pursue.

Ideological green faux environmentalists -- who have achieved dominance in the US government, the EU government, the Australian government, etc. -- want us to reject advanced energy technologies, and to rely on intermittent unreliables such as the wind and the sun. Such policies would eventually cause modern societies to revert to primitivist quasi-feudal societies of a subsistence nature. Such an approach, if enacted, would result in the deaths of billions of humans across the planet.

It can be assumed that most intelligent humans -- if properly informed -- would choose an advanced technology approach to a future of abundant energy.

More: How energy from shale can help humans bridge the gap between modern technologies and future technologies...

America's Energy, Economic, and Industrial resurgence

Europe's governments choosing the darkness as the continent grows older and more feeble

North American shale bonanza promises stable global energy prices over intermediate term

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30 October 2012

Dennis Mangan Returns: A Blog Awakens

Mangan's, the notable blog by Dennis Mangan which will be 9 years old next March, has been awakened from a deep sleep. Here are links to his three most recent pieces, as of this writing:

The piece -- "Violent crimes against whites: some evidence" -- links to an important piece from judicial watch, which helps fill some huge gaps in reporting left vacant by the skankstream media:
The rate of violent crime increased by a whopping 17% last year, according to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), marking the biggest jump since 1993. Property crimes also went up 11% last year. That means that in 2011 there were nearly 6 million violent victimizations and more than 17 million property victimizations, according to the DOJ figures.

...Here are more unsettling statistics buried deep in the DOJ’s new crime report; there has been a large increase in the rate of violent victimizations for whites, Hispanics and younger people. That means white non-Hispanics and Hispanics experienced an increase in violent victimization rates, while the rate for black non-Hispanics was stable, according to the DOJ stats.

Additionally, crime rate in the suburbs is growing much faster than in the cities or rural areas, the government figures show. In 2011 suburbanites suffered a 20% in violent victimizations, according to the DOJ. Keep in mind that the feds admit in their report that the figures are probably much higher since only about 50% of violent victimizations were reported to police.

...Not only is the U.S. economy in shambles, violent crime is at an all-time high... _Judicial Watch
This is the sad legacy of Obama's crusade to turn America into a larger version of Chicago.

This information helps substantiate what earlier government statistics had shown:
Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.
When blacks commit crimes of violence, they are nearly three times more likely than non-blacks to use a gun, and more than twice as likely to use a knife.
Hispanics commit violent crimes at roughly three times the white rate, and Asians commit violent crimes at about one quarter the white rate.
The single best indicator of violent crime levels in an area is the percentage of the population that is black and Hispanic.

Interracial Crime

Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year involving blacks and whites, blacks commit 85 percent and whites commit 15 percent.
Blacks commit more violent crime against whites than against blacks. Forty-five percent of their victims are white, 43 percent are black, and 10 percent are Hispanic. When whites commit violent crime, only three percent of their victims are black.
Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery.
Blacks are 2.25 times more likely to commit officially-designated hate crimes against whites than vice versa.


Only 10 percent of youth gang members are white.
Hispanics are 19 times more likely than whites to be members of youth gangs. Blacks are 15 times more likely, and Asians are nine times more likely. _Color of Crime (PDF)
If Obama is re-elected to a second term, these statistics are likely to worsen over time, as the underlying problems within US black communities continue to be avoided by politically correct, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats of the leftist persuasion.

These are just a few of the important trends to keep in mind, as we feel our way into an increasingly treacherous future. Thanks, Dennis. And welcome back!

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Hello, My Name is Stockton, California. Prepare to Die

This piece is adapted from an article previously published on Al Fin Potpourri

Like many other California cities, the cost of pensions, pay, and benefit packages is bankrupting Stockton, California. In fact, Stockton has already declared bankruptcy. The city cannot afford to hire new police officers, because all the money is going to pay for the pensions and benefits of old police officers and other municipal employees -- current and retired.

Murder, rape, and robbery are becoming the new normal in Stockton, something of a preview of coming attraction to other Calfornia cities who find themselves in the same fiscal boat.

In Stockton, California, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year, your chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime such as murder, rape, robbery or assault are 1 in 70, which is nearly four times higher than the national average.

Your chances of being the victim of a property crime are even more likely, with 1 in every 17 residents of the city facing the prospect of having their house broken into or car stolen this year.

This is what happens when a city, county, state or federal government can no longer pay its bills and is forced to lay off workers. In the case of Stockton, the city has cut tens of millions of dollars from their budget, mostly targeting law enforcement and other essential services. _Stockton's Woe
In fact, in cities across the "blue zone" of the US, municipal workers' unions have enough power to bankrupt cities, and force the same type of hardship on their citizens.

Detroit, Michigan, is the true forerunner of municipal decay. And as you might guess, the municipal workers' unions of Detroit stand front and centre to blame for the downfall of motown, motor city.

What we are seeing is the doom of cities -- from Obama's Chicago to Detroit to inner city Philadelphia. Murders, flash mobs, out of control gang violence, and fat cat wealthy unions able to control elections and determine who gets elected to oversee their contracts.

Government officials on all levels are stuck. They are overloaded with debt and have no more money to spend. The only option is to start cutting services like law enforcement, emergency medical response, public food and homelessness support, and other social services like rental assistance. The effect of this collapse of government services is rising crime across the entire spectrum of criminal activity including murder, theft and organized attacks like flash mobs.
This is more than likely coming to a town near you in short order, no matter where in the United States you live. _shtfplan
The comments following the article linked above are also interesting.

Private citizens are being forced to come together to form citizen's vigilance groups, militias, and armed neighborhood watch posses. This is what comes from the US electing a president who is viscerally antagonistic to the private economic sector and the non-governmental economy.

If Obama is re-elected, expect the situation to grow even worse. Much worse.

A newbies' guide to UAVs -- fly your own security drone to monitor the mean streets around your gated community.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

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29 October 2012

World Views, Paradigms, Metaphors, and the Pre Verbal Core

Each of us views the world in a somewhat unique way. This "world view" is informed by a number of conscious and subconscious paradigms. What is a paradigm? It is a model of some aspect of reality. When large numbers of people share the same paradigms -- or models of reality -- we refer to "shared paradigms." Here are three examples of shared scientific paradigms:
  • Quantum Mechanics: the extent and precision of confirmed predictions proves the basic theory (though "cutting edge" hypotheses are still up in the air, and the loonier interpretations are demonstrably false). Ultimately it will be derivable, as exact or approximate, from a deeper theory.
  • Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe: the best explanation of available facts, but not enough facts to prove it. May be confirmed and refined, or may suffer a complete paradigm shift.
  • Evolution of living things: the fact of evolution and the important mechanisms of mutation and natural selection are true, but further as yet unknown mechanisms cannot be ruled out.
_Doubt and Certainty

Paradigms may explain many aspects of reality -- but they can just as easily obscure and distort aspects of reality. The reliability of a paradigm has nothing to do with the number of people who share that paradigm. Frequently, the number of people who share a paradigm is inversely related to the reliability of that paradigm. Each one must be continuously tested -- without mercy or restraint.

A paradigm is a framework of perceiving, thinking and acting. It is a cognitive structure composed of aggregated concepts, values, beliefs and assumptions that organizes how we perceive, how we think and how we act — by, consciously or unconsciously, supporting rule-governed behavior. _ProcessParadigm
Where do paradigms come from? They come from more basic mental constructs, known as conceptual metaphors. It is possible for a paradigm to be assembled from thousands of distinct metaphors, in the same way that a complex computer model may be constructed using thousands of different equations.

Then what are conceptual metaphors? On the most basic level, metaphors are the language of unconscious thought -- low level mental constructs that influence every single thought that we have ever had, or that we will have in the future.

Linguist George Lakoff is one of the modern pioneers of conceptual metaphor theory. (PDF) Lakoff and frequent collaborator Mark Johnson have described a basic model of conceptual metaphor, which operates on the subconscious level to influence our every thought and argument. Conceptual metaphors also explain much of the power of modern conversational hypnotic techniques.

But even deeper than the idea of the "conceptual metaphor" as described by Johnson and Lakoff, is the idea of the pre-verbal metaphor. Conceptual metaphors can be described and labeled with words. Pre-verbal metaphors do not enjoy such advantages or luxuries.

Psychoanalysts such as Allan Schore have attempted to describe the process of early childhood development of pre-verbal metaphors -- although the phenomenon is not described in those terms.

But psychoanalysis is not always held in the highest regard these days, at least not by mainstream cognitive science. Science needs better ways of measuring and describing unconscious cognition. Not just in adolescents and adults, but in children -- particularly very young children whose unconscious cognitive processes are still in the formative stages.

What we describe as consciousness is only the barest tip of the cognitive iceberg. Beneath the waves exists a primal and dynamic menagerie of sea creatures, beyond the powers of modern science to capture, describe, or catalog. We can only detect faint and phosphorescent hints of their wakes as they swim by.

Is this really all that important? Not unless you want to better understand the basic flux of reality -- both individual, societal, and scientific.

Mass movements, for example, are based upon shared paradigms. These shared paradigms may or may not be able to survive a harsh test of reason and reality. But the movement itself may acquire sufficient momentum so that its underlying rationality loses importance -- in terms of the short and intermediate term success and victory of the mass movement. In the long run, of course, all mass movements are dead.

The best place to start for a basic understanding of the nature of scientific paradigms and scientific revolutions, is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn. (PDF)

Learning more about pre-verbal metaphors is somewhat more difficult, although I would not be betraying a trust by revealing that such a concept is among one of the most important proprietary ingredients of The Dangerous Child Method of childhood education -- specifically in the infant years.

Not everyone really wants to understand "what makes them tick." Not everyone wants to understand how easily a broad scientific consensus can turn out to be wrong -- even absurdly wrong. Not everyone wants to understand why mass movements and governments go so badly awry, so frequently.

But I am assuming that you -- by virtue of reading this blog -- are not just anyone. At the least, you will possess curiosity and some level of reading comprehension.

Applications of these ideas to The Dangerous Child Method of childhood education will be pursued mainly at Al Fin, the Next Level.


Non-verbal and Multi-modal Metaphors in a Cognitivist Framework (PDF)

Also recommended: Marvin Minsky's Society of Mind . . .

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26 October 2012

America's Haute Noblesse: Living Well on Other People's Money

Haute Noblesse to Citizens:  Back in the soup line, little people!

The following article is adapted from a piece first published on abu al-fin

The US is a nation struggling with economic uncertainty and cultural decline. While real unemployment is well above 10% and underemployment approaches 25%, America's new political nobility provides itself a lavish lifestyle in which previous president's and their families never thought to indulge.

President Obama has spent far more lavishly on White House state dinners than previous chief executives... current and former government officials said the documents obtained by The Examiner point to an unprecedented upsurge in White House spending on such events.

...A knowledgeable government official who made the documents available to The Examiner said the extravagant spending seemed unfair with so many Americans out of work.

"It just kind of takes your breath away to see the expenditure of money that has occurred since 2009," the official said.

Gary Walters, who ran presidential household operations for 21 years during Democratic and Republican administrations, before retiring in 2007, told The Examiner the costs reflected in the documents were "excessive. They are high." _Examiner
Not surprisingly, the government agency responsible for paying for these extravaganzas of the haute noblesse, is run by a US State Department official who also happens to be a business partner of the man who caters these exorbitantly costly events.

Of course, that is but one side of the story. The very costly vacations taken by the nouveau haute noblesse would make a billionaire blush -- if his vacations were taken at taxpayer's expense.

But to the nouveau haute noblesse, such costly pleasures are considered minimal perquisites, for the many duties required of them as official and unofficial figures of state. "If you cannot live well on other people's money, what good is becoming involved in government?" they are likely to ask.

And America drifts backward toward the autocratic rule which the founders of the original republic had tried to hard -- at such a high cost -- to escape. Welcome to the Idiocracy.

More: The following is just a partial list of some of the pleasures taken by the haute noblesse at the expense of other people, while the citizens were struggling to get by --
– March 19, 2012, The elder daughter, is spending her springbreak in Mexican city of Oaxaca in the company of 12 friends, Malia Ann Obama, are staying at a downtown hotel in this city famous for its colonial architecture and well-preserved native American traditions. Malia and her friend are guarded by 25 US Secret Service agents as well as Mexican police.
President’s Day 2012, Michelle and the first daughters in Aspen, Colorado to ski. Michelle Obama and her daughters are on a ski trip to Aspen, Colo., the White House confirmed to POLITICO. The first lady and the Obama daughters are on a private family trip to Colorado.
– Christmas 2011, the first family in Hawaii for an extended vacation. The Obamas celebrated the holiday by attending a Christmas service at the Kaneohe Bay Chapel on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, followed by a visit with military families at Anderson Hall.
Summer 2011, in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., for the annual beach break. the first family, their Vineyard haven is taking on the flavor of a summer White House. President Obama, for the third straight year, is planning to return to Martha’s Vineyard for vacation this summer, according to a White House official. The Obamas are scheduled to spend seven to 10 days on the island in mid- to late August, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
June 2011, the first lady, her mother and daughters traveled to South Africa and Botswana. Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana. Judicial Watch received mission expense records and passenger manifests for the Africa trip that described costs of $424,142 for the flight and crew alone. Other expenses, such as off-flight food, transportation, security, etc. were not included.”
In the past two weeks, we have:
-$800,000 for the GSA’s lavish Las Vegas vacation
-$470,000 for Michelle Obama’s Spanish getaway
-95+ Rounds of golf played by Barack…during a recession.
-$850,000 for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s $32,000 round trip tickets home to see his family.
-Secret Service Agents involving themselves with prostitution
-Barack Obama seen in a video telling a crowd part of his job is to scout out vacation spots for Michelle
President’s Day 2011, the first lady and first daughters travel to Vail to ski. Michelle Obama and her two daughters are spending the Presidents Day weekend on the ski slopes in Aspen, Colo., a newspaper reports. Obama arrived Friday.
– Christmas 2010, in Hawaii. The Obama’s go back to Hawaii for what is expected to be a 17-day vacation. The total cost for a 17-day round trip vacation to Hawaii for the President and his family and staff and security is estimated at around $4,113,038.. Obama’s $4 million Hawaii Christmas vacation,
August 2010, the first family traveled to Panama City Beach, Fla., for some sun and fun at the beach.
August 2010, Obama spent the weekend alone in Chicago for his 49th birthday bash. Barack Obama is coming home to celebrate his 49th birthday. Obama will be in Chicago on his birthday– August 4. The White House said he is looking forward to spending the night in his family’s home in Hyde Park on the city’s’ South Side and gathering with friends.
August 2010, the first lady and daughter Sasha traveled to Spain for a mother-daughter vacation. Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha, 9, are vacationing at a lavish resort in Spain. The first lady and her entourage landed at Malaga, on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, at 10:30 a.m.
August 2010, summer vacation again at Martha’s Vineyard. Obama and his family arrived August 19 for a 10-day visit. The President and Me, we invite you to post photographs of your encounters with the first family, whether you’re dining with the leader of the free world, swimming or golfing with him, playing a game of Horse, or just offering advice.
July 2010, the first family went to Mount Desert Island, Maine. President Obama and his family are arriving Friday for the weekend. The summer playground of the Astors, the Rockefellers and the Morgans – as well as newer social titans like Martha Stewart.
May 2010, the first family had a four-day trip to Chicago. Obama in Chicago working out Sunday morning. Obama Secret Service agents in Chicago in sort of “standoff” with Farrakhan’s Fruit of Islam guards
March 2010, first lady and daughter spend Spring Break in New York City. Obamas arrived in New York on Saturday, when they visited Dylan’s Candy Bar and caught a performance of Blue Man Group. Before seeing “Memphis” on Sunday, they ate brunch at Mesa Grill. After the show, they got a private tour of the Empire State Building, devoured cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery in the West Village and ate at the Russian Tea Room.
Christmas 2009, Hawaii again for the annual break. The president, first lady and their daughters came to the island of Oahu for a more-than-weeklong vacation away from Washington. The Obamas have no public schedule and are expected to celebrate the holidays in private at a rented compound in Kailua.
August 2009, at Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon for a short vacation. the president, First Lady Michelle and the kids are heading west on Aug. 14 for a long weekend to visit Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National parks. Just days later, the First Family travels to Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts. On Friday, Aug. 14, the First Family will visit the Bozeman, Mont., area. On Aug. 15 they will travel to Yellowstone, Wyo., and Grand Junction, Colo. They will then travel to the Grand Canyon and Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 16, and return to Washington, D.C., on Monday, Aug. 17. The First Family’s visit to the national parks occurs during a free weekend for our national parks. Mrs. Obama and her daughters have already made two overseas trips this summer.
August 2009, their first summer vacation as first family at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The 28.5-acre Martha’s Vineyard estate where President Obama, his family and, of course, the Secret Service will spend part of the president’s summer vacation. Caroline Taylor, another Martha’s Vineyard realtor, estimated that the property would go for $35,000 to $50,000 a week. The Obamas will pay for at least a portion of the rental, but taxpayer funds will be used to pay for Secret Service and staff housing on the property.
American politicians often become very wealthy either while in office, or soon after leaving office -- regardless of the prior state of their finances. Is it corruption? Hush! That kind of talk is for the little people, softly and behind closed doors.

La haute noblesse to the little people: Apres nous, le deluge!

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Haughty Huns Threaten Czechs and Pols: The Energy Wars

This article is cross-posted from Al Fin Energy

Germany is conducting an energy war, using the erratic and unpredictable wind as a covert weapon against its neighbors.
Germany is dumping electricity on its unwilling neighbors and by wintertime the feud should come to a head...

...Central and Eastern European countries are moving to disconnect their power lines from Germany’s during the windiest days. That’s when they get flooded with energy, echoing struggles seen from China to Texas over accommodating the world’s 200,000 windmills.

...Renewable energy around the world is causing problems... At times, the glut can be so great that utilities pay consumers to take the power and get rid of it.

...The problem may intensify with the approaching winter. With an insufficient north-south connection, Germany’s power network came close to a collapse last February when high winds in the Baltic sea flooded it with power and the Czech Republic and Poland threatened to disconnect their grids.

...“The Germans are using our infrastructure in an excessive manner,” CEPS board member Zbynek Boldis said in an interview in Prague. “At this point they’re getting a free lunch.”

...“Electricity follows a path of least resistance in the grid, according to the laws of physics,” Boldis said. “The result is that our transmission system is overloaded, we have security threats.” _Bloomberg
Big wind energy generates large and erratic power irregularities in the grid, on an almost instantaneous basis. These large power shifts cause expensive damage to critical power backup infrastructure, and significantly shorten the useful lifetimes of backup systems worth tens of billions of Euros or more.

Wind advocates claim that the problems of big wind can be solved using geographical averaging, supergrids, and energy storage. But a close analysis demonstrates that such is not the case.

The wind does not generally blow at times when the power grid needs the most power. And it tends to blow the most when the power grid is already well supplied -- forcing the grid to dump excess power at significant cost.

This de facto energy war is actually a religious war -- a crusade. Underlying green philosophies which drive the compulsion to overbuild wind and solar infrastructure, are equivalent to religious dogma, unsupported by science or empirical observations.

Over the past hundred years, Germany has had a tendency to start wars that devastated large areas of the world, leaving most of Europe in tatters for decades. Let us hope that this German-instigated war does not achieve the same dismal result. Preliminary analysis, however, does not provide much hope.

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25 October 2012

Guest Article: 20 Bad Things About Wind Energy

The following is a guest article by John Droz
This guest article is being cross-posted to Al Fin Energy

1 – Wind energy was abandoned well over a hundred years ago, as even in the late 1800s it was totally inconsistent with our burgeoning, more modern needs for power. When we throw the switch, we expect that the lights will go on – 100% of the time. It’s not possible for wind energy, by itself, to EVER do this, which is one of the main reasons it was relegated to the dust bin of antiquated technologies (along with such other inadequate energy sources as horse and oxen power).

2 – Fast forward to several years ago. With politicians being convinced that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) was an imminent catastrophic threat, lobbyists launched campaigns to favor anything that would purportedly reduce carbon dioxide. This was the marketing opportunity that the wind energy business needed. Wind energy was resurrected from the dust bin of power sources, as its promoters pushed the fact that wind turbines did not produce CO2 while generating electricity.

3 – Of course, just that by itself is not significant, so the original wind development lobbyists then made the case for a quantum leap: that by adding wind turbines to the grid we could significantly reduce CO2 from those “dirty” fossil fuel electrical sources (especially coal). This argument became the basis for many states implementing a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) or Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – which mandated that the state’s utilities use (or purchase) a prescribed amount of wind energy (“renewables”), by a set date.

Why was a mandate necessary? Simply because the real world reality of integrating wind energy made it a very expensive option. As such, no utility companies would likely do this on their own. They had to be forced to. For more on the cost, please keep reading.

4 – Interestingly, although the stated main goal of these RES/RPS programs was to reduce CO2, not a single state’s RES/RPS requires verification of CO2 reduction from any wind project, either beforehand or after the fact. The politicians simply took the sales peoples’ word that consequential CO2 savings would be realized!

5 - It wasn’t too long before utility companies and independent energy experts calculated that the actual CO2 savings were miniscule (if any). This was due to the inherent nature of wind energy, and the realities of necessarily continuously balancing the grid, on a second-by-second basis, with fossil-fuel-generated electricity. The frequently cited Bentek study (How Less Became More) is a sample independent assessment of this aspect. More importantly, there has been zero scientific empirical proof provided by the wind industry to support their claims of consequential CO2 reduction.

6 – Suspecting that the CO2 deception would soon be exposed, the wind lobbyists took pre-emptive action, and added another rationale to prop up their case: energy diversity. However, since our electricity system already had considerable diversity (and many asked “more diversity at what cost?”) this hype never gained much traction. Back to the drawing board….

7 - The next justification put forward by the wind marketers was energy independence. This cleverly played on the concern most people have about oil and Middle East instability. Many ads were run promoting wind energy as a good way to reduce our “dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”

None of these ads mentioned that only about 1% of our electricity is generated from oil. Or that the US exports more oil than we use for electricity. Or that our main import source for oil is Canada (not the Middle East). Despite the significant omissions and misrepresentations, this claim still resonates with many people, so it continues to be pushed. Whatever works.

8 – Knowing full well that the assertions used to date were specious, wind proponents manufactured still another claim: green jobs. This was carefully selected to coincide with widespread employment concerns. Unfortunately, when independent qualified parties examined the situation more closely, they found that the claims were wildly exaggerated. Big surprise!

Further, as attorney and energy expert Chris Horner has so eloquently stated:

There is nothing – no program, no hobby, no vice, no crime – that does not ‘create jobs.’ Tsunamis, computer viruses and shooting convenience store clerks all ‘create jobs.’ So that claim misses the point. Since it applies to all, it is an argument in favor of none. Instead of making a case on the merits, it is an admission that one has no such arguments.

See a very detailed critique of the jobs situation at PTCFacts.Info. Listed there are TEN major reasons why using jobs as an argument is not appropriate or meaningful. Additionally there is a list of some 45 reports written by independent experts, and they all agree that renewable energy claims are based on numerous fallacies.

9 – Relentlessly moving forward, wind marketers then tried to change the focus from jobs to “economic development.” The marketers typically utilized a computer program called JEDI to make bold economic projections. Unfortunately, JEDI is a totally inadequate model for accurately arriving at such numbers, for a variety of technical reasons. The economic development contentions have also been shown to be inaccurate, as they never take into account economic losses that result from wind energy implementation – for example agricultural losses due to bat killings, and job losses due to higher electricity costs for factories, hospitals and numerous other employers.

Additionally, as with jobs, economic development in-and-of-itself has nothing to do with the merits of wind energy as a power source. Let’s say we have a transportation RES mandating that 20% of a state’s vehicles be replaced by horse power by 2020. There would be a LOT of “economic development” (making horse carriages and buggy whips, building horse barns, growing and shipping hay) that would result from such an edict. But would that be any indication that it is an intelligent, beneficial policy?

10 – Along the way, yet another claim began making the rounds: that wind energy is low cost. This is surprisingly bold, considering that if that were really true, RES/RPS mandates would not be necessary. For some reason, all calculations showing wind to be “low cost” conveniently ignore exorbitant subsidies, augmentation costs, power adjusting (see next item), additional transmission costs, and so on. Independent analyses of levelized costs (e.g. from the EIA) have concluded that (when ALL applicable wind-related costs are accurately calculated) wind energy is MUCH more expensive than any conventional source we have.

11 – A subtle (but significant) difference between wind energy and other conventional sources of electricity is in power quality. This term refers to such technical performance factors as voltage transients, voltage variations, waveform distortion (e.g. harmonics), frequency variations, and so forth. The reality is that wind energy introduces many more of these issues than does a conventional power facility. Additional costs are needed to deal with these wind-caused problems. These are rarely identified in pro-wind economic analyses.

12 – When confronted with the reality that wind energy is considerably more expensive than any conventional source, a common rejoinder is to object to that by saying that once the “externalities” of conventional sources are taken into account, wind is less expensive than those conventional sources.

To gullible sheeple, this might make sense. But consider the following two points. First, externality analyses posited by wind zealots never take into account the true environmental consequences of wind energy (rare earth impacts [see below], human health effects, bird and bat deaths, the CO2 generated from a two million pound concrete base, etc.).

Second, the “externalities” for things like coal are always only the negative part. If these advocates want a true big picture calculation, then they need to also add in the benefits to us from low-cost coal-based electricity. Considering that coal played a major part in our economic success and improved health and living standards over the past century, such a plus factor would be enormous.

[BTW there is some evidence that the negative externalities (e.g. about coal related asthma claims) are exaggerated. What a surprise!]

13 – A key grid ingredient is Firm Capacity. (A layman’s translation is that this is an indication of dependability.) Conventional sources (like nuclear) have a Firm Capacity of nearly 100%. Wind has a Firm Capacity of about 0%. Big difference!

14 – Since this enormous Firm Capacity discrepancy is indisputable, wind energy apologists then decided to adopt the strategy that wind energy isn’t a “capacity resource” after all, but rather an “energy resource.” Surprisingly, this may be the first contention that is actually true! But what does this really mean?

The reality is that saying “wind is an energy source” is a trivial statement, on a par with saying “wind turbines are white.” Lightning is an energy source. So what? The fact is that your cat is an energy source too. In this Alice-in-Wonderland reality, connecting the cat to the grid (after heavily subsidizing it, of course), makes as much sense as does connecting puff power.

15 - Wind marketers then hit on a new tactic: that we should use wind as it is a plentiful resource. This is a strategy based on a part truth: that we should be utilizing energy sources that are abundant, reliable, and low-cost. There are two major deficiences in this thinking.

First, abundant sources that are not reliable and that are not low-cost (i.e. wind energy), are a net detriment to our economy. Second, if they are really saying that abundance should be our primary focus, then they should be promoting nuclear power and geothermal energy. Both of these sources have something like a million times the available energy that wind does. Both of those are orders of magnitude more reliable than wind is. Both are lower cost when comparing the actual levelized cost of wind energy (e.g. Wind+ Gas).

16 - One of the latest buzz-words is sustainability. One has to give these marketeers credit for being persistently imaginative. The truth about sustainability is:

a) It is totally hypocritical to have wind advocates attacking fossil fuels as unsustainable, when the wind business has an ENORMOUS dependency on fossil fuels for their construction, delivery, maintenance and operation. This article explains some of it.

b) Nothing is sustainable, as this piece accurately explains.

c) Wind energy is our LEAST sustainable option!

17 – A related pitch is that our adoption of wind energy will help us break “our fossil fuel dependence.” Guess what? The reality is that wind actually guarantees our perpetual dependence on fossil fuels! In addition to wind turbines’ dependence on fossil fuels for manufacture, delivery and maintenance, the only way wind energy can quasi-function on the grid is to have it continuously augmented by a fast responding power source – which for a variety of technical and economic reasons is usually gas.

It’s rather amusing that the same environmental organizations that support wind energy are also against shale gas. That’s like saying that you love Italian food but hate tomato sauce. The two are paired together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Realizing that their best defense is a good offense, some of these hucksters are now contending the inverse: that wind actually augments gas! So wind that generates electricity 25±% of the time is “augmenting” gas, which has to supply the 75±%! This immediately brings to mind the British army band playing “The World Turned Upside Down.”

18 – The claim that wind energy is “green” or “environmentally friendly” is laugh-out-loud hilarious – except for the fact that the reality is not funny at all. Consider just one part of a turbine, the generator, which uses considerable rare earth elements (2000± pounds per MW).

The mining and processing of these metals has horrific environmental consequences that are unacknowledged and ignored by the wind industry and its environmental surrogates. For instance, a typical 100 MW wind project would generate approximately:

a) 20,000 square meters of destroyed vegetation,

b) 6 million cubic meters of toxic air pollution,

c) 33 million gallons of poisoned water,

d) 600 million pounds of highly contaminated tailing sands, and

e) 100,000 pounds of radioactive waste. (See this, and this, and this.)

19 – Modern civilization is based on our ability to produce electrical POWER. Our modern sense of power is inextricably related to controlled performance expectations: when we turn the knob, we expect the stove to go on 100% of the time – not just on those wildly intermittent occasions when the wind is blowing within a certain speed range.

Underlying a lot of the wind lobbyists’ claims is a carefully crafted, implied message that there is some kind of wind energy “equivalency” to conventional sources. This assumption is the basis for such assertions that XYZ wind project will power 1,000 homes. Such claims are totally false. They are dishonest from several perspectives: the most obvious error being that XYZ wind project will NEVER provide power to any 1000 homes 24/7 (or really seconds or fractions of a second within each minute of each hour). It might not provide power for even one home 86400/1440/24/7.

Yet we see this same “equivalency” message conveyed even more subtly on EIA tables for levelized costs. Wind and conventional sources should not be on the same table, but they are (defended only by a small footnote). One useful analogy is to consider the cost, speed, reliability and load capacity of a single eighteen-wheeler truck in making daily interstate deliveries of furniture, heavy equipment or other large products. This semi-truck is equivalent to a nuclear plant.

In energy generation terms, the wind turbine equivalent is to attempt to replace the single truck with golf carts. How many golf carts would it take to equal the cost, speed, reliability and load capacity of a single eighteen-wheeler in making daily interstate deliveries? This is a trick question, as the answer is that there is no number that would work: not ten, not a hundred, not ten thousand, not a million. Exactly the same situation exists in the electricity sector: no number of turbines will ever equal the cost, reliability and output of one conventional electricity plant.

20 – A close cousin of the prior illegitimate contention is that “The wind is always blowing somewhere, so spreading wind projects out will result in a combination that has a dependable output.” Like essentially all the wind industry mis-infomercials do, this bald assertion has a soothing, reassuring ring. But this marketing claim is unsupported by any empirical, real world evidence. For instance, in southeastern Australia about 20 wind projects are spread out over a single 1000± mile long grid. Yet the combined result in no way even approximates the consistent dependable performance of our primary conventional sources.

Again, our modern society is based on abundant, reliable, affordable electric power. All these specious claims for wind energy are simply part of a long line of snake oil sales spiels – intended to fool the public and enable politicians to justify favoring special interests by enriching various rent-seekers (which will then return the favor via campaign contributions and other reelection support).

They get away with this primarily for three basic reasons.

1 - Wind proponents are not asked to independently PROVE the merits of their claims before (or after) their product is forced on the public.

2 - There is no penalty for making bogus assertions or dishonest claims about their product’s “benefits,” so each successive contention is more grandiose than the last.

3 - Promoting wind is a political agenda that is divorced from real science. A true scientific assessment is a comprehensive, objective evaluation with transparent real world data – not on carefully massaged computer models and slick advertising campaigns, which are the mainstay of anti-science evangelists promoting political agendas.

So, in effect, we have come around full circle. A hundred-plus years ago, wind energy was recognized as an antiquated, unreliable and expensive source of energy – and now, after hundreds of billions of wasted tax and consumer dollars, we find that (surprise!) it still is an antiquated, unreliable and expensive source of energy. This is what happens when science is relegated to a back-of-the-bus status.

Paraphrasing Dr. Jon Boone:

Let’s see the real world evidence for the lobbyists’ case. I’m weary of these relentless projections, uncontaminated as they are by reality. In a nutshell, what these profiteers are seeking to do, through methodological legerdemain, is to make wind appear to be what it is not. This is a plot lifted out of Cinderella and her step-sisters, or the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s really a story of class aspirations, but one that is bizarrely twisted: giving wind a makeover to make her seem fetching and comely when in fact she’s really a frog.

When you hear that wind opposition is all about NIMBYs, think about the above points, and then reflect on what NIMBY really means: The Next Idiot Might Be You.

__ written by John Droz and originally published at Master Resource

For a more thorough discussion, see this John Droz slideshare presentation.


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24 October 2012

Confidential: Sexual Secrets; Use Discretion

This article was first published on Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!, and was also published on Al Fin Potpourri

Warning: Do not try this in a public place!

Finding the Ways to Female Sexual Pleasure

Different women may travel somewhat different paths to achieving their ultimate sexual pleasure. The path begins with basic health and self esteem, and will be more or less accessible depending upon the state of receptivity. That will vary by time of the month, basic physical comfort and satiety levels, a sense of physical safety, and more. Receptivity is influenced by degree of physical and emotional attraction, by chemical intoxicants, or by other influences on the brain -- particularly the pre-frontal lobes (judgment and decision-making) and the pleasure centres of the brain.

But once a couple proceeds past the preliminaries, and are committed to the act, a knowledge of the basic anatomy of erogenous areas can prove immensely facilitating.

There are a number of erogenous areas which elevate the levels of female sexual excitement when properly stimulated at the right time. Kissing the lips and fondling the breasts stimulates two very powerful erogenous areas, and helps to direct blood flow to the pelvic erogenous areas, pictured below.

The clitoris is the best known female pelvic erotic trigger, and the easiest to find right away. The "U-spot" around the urethral opening is much less well known, but in certain women it can open the gate to orgasms not accessible otherwise. The same is true for the "G-spot," located along the mid-anterior wall of the vagina, at about the level of the bladder sphincter. The "A-spot" is further back on the anterior vagina, toward the cervix. The cervix itself -- and attached structures -- can also be considered an erogenous area for many women. Stimulation of both the A-spot and the cervix requires deeper penetration as opposed to stimulation of the more superficial erogenous centres.

The trick to being a great lover of women, is understanding each phase of female sexual attraction and arousal, and stimulating the appropriate erogenous zones of the woman's mind and body for the particular stage of seduction. The approach to pleasing a woman will necessarily be different for each woman. If you have found this not to be the case, then it is likely that you are being deceived by both the women involved and by your own narcissistic nature.

Once you reach the stage of genital contact and penetration, it is important to visualise what is taking place on the inside, in places where the sun and other sources of illumination are unlikely to shine.

By studying the anatomy of intercourse, as well as the anatomy of the female erogenous areas, one should be capable of modifying one's approach in response to how the woman is responding to the situation as a whole.

A woman may achieve intense orgasm by using a vibrator or other sexual utensil. But a vibrator does not generally satisfy all the multiple levels of sexual needs and desires which most women are likely to have. Of course, neither do most men. But that is a situation which we hope to remedy, at least for the most insightful readers of the Al Fin blogs.


More reading:

Clitoris, G spot, U spot, A spot . . .

Female erogenous zones in general

Does the female G spot exist for every woman?

The female is a subtle and highly variable animal. Make broad and blanket assumptions at your own peril.
Always use discretion.

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How Long Can Russia's Soviet Era Oil Infrastructure Go It Alone?

The following article was previously published on Al Fin Energy''

“For foreign oil companies seeking to expand production and reserves, Russia is now off limits,” Robbert Van Batenburg, head of research at Louis Capital Markets LP in New York, said in a telephone interview yesterday. The BP accord “is probably scaring the others away.” ...

Since 2004, Putin has been tightening the government’s grip on the Russian oil sector, moves that made it increasingly difficult for foreign producers to establish or maintain footholds in the country, said William J. Andrews, a fund manager at C.S. McKee & Co. in Pittsburgh....

“The Russians are nationalistic and are going to keep the oil reserves for themselves,” said Andrews, who helps manage $14 billion. “They don’t really have a legal system or a political system. It’s a dictatorship.”

...“Ten years ago, Russia was a much more open place to do business,” Molchanov said. “But that is no longer the case, thanks to Vladimir Putin. The international oil companies are having to look elsewhere for opportunities at a time when the set of opportunities is growing more limited and costly.” _BW
But is Russia -- with its neolithic infrastructure and shrinking ethnic Russian population -- in a position to cut itself off from western expertise and the technological advances that are occurring at a rapid pace in the western world? Is this the same phenomenon of a hubris born of backwardness that brought down the Soviet Union?

Russia's Putin has been banking on rapidly rising oil prices. But more and more western analysts -- including Citi and Goldman -- believe that global oil prices will stabilise near present levels through 2020, and possibly beyond. To finance his ambitious military, nuclear, and technological goals, Putin needs for oil prices to approach $150 a barrel. As long as prices stay near $90 levels, Putin must either restrain his ambitions, or draw down his dwindling reserves.

If Putin refuses to open Russia to outside investment and infrastructure upgrades, he is limiting himself to more devious methods of supporting his grandiose goals for Russia. Methods which include starting proxy wars in and around the middle east to increase the geopolitical risk premium of oil -- driving up global oil prices.

It is a type of "painting oneself into a corner," which appears to be a common character failing of Russian leaders down through history.

Between Russia's core population collapse, its disintegrating public health infrastructure, a debilitating brain drain, and the steady drip, drip, drip of capital flight outside the country -- more intelligent and wise Russians must understand the desperate need for a change in direction.

With Putin at the helm, Russia sails perilously through hazardous straits.

More: A Weak Russia is A Dangerous Russia

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Could It Happen? China hastens its planned invasion of Siberia to access newly discovered oil and gold fields

The title of this posting is taken from the Wikipedia article describing the Tom Clancy thriller: The Bear and the Dragon. Novelists are known for taking liberties with the facts, but that is all in the nature of fiction writing. In reality, could China be planning an invasion of Siberia in order to take over the massive resources there?

Certainly the Russians have been considering the possibility for several years:
Russian assessments from 1997 suggested that China, not the United States, posed the greatest threat to Russia’s interests and allies. Indeed, leading Russian scholars of international relations such as Alexei Arbatov predicted that over the next five to 20 years, Russia should carefully watch China’s expansionism toward Siberia and the Russian Far East, as well as Central Asia ... _thediplomat
“[Russians are] still worried that China will invade Siberia one day because of the resources,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior analyst at military and public sector think tank CNA, said in an interview last month.

“Because from the Russian point of view it’s a very sparsely populated area, hard to defend, very remote from the center of Russia,” he said. _Taipei Times
They have good reason to be concerned. The ethnic Russian population of Siberia is disappearing at the same time that the Chinese population in Siberia -- legal and illegal -- is growing. Russia's population is increasingly crowded to the west of the Urals, making it more difficult for the Russian Bear to keep an eye on its vast and immeasurably wealthy land areas to the west.

And on another level, Russia needs to be concerned about the demographic pressures influencing China's top leaders. Like most of East Asia, China is rapidly ageing -- losing its young workforce at the same time it is gaining large populations of the old and infirm.
Whatever China's leaders are going to do to guarantee China's rightful place in the top rank of world powers, it will need to do before its people turn gray and shrunken.

Russia is struggling with an economy built upon an over-reliance on oil & gas exports -- and very little else. Corrupt -- like most oil dictatorships -- Russia also struggles with a collapsing public health infrastructure, an ongoing brain drain of the best and brightest of its young, and a level of stealth capital flight that officials cannot tally, much less control.

Russia is a nation that shows the world a pretty face, but inside it is rotting from tuberculosis, HIV, alcoholism, and a deep despair that too often results in suicide. And the numbers of ethnic Russians continues to drop -- while the numbers of immigrants from the third world grows, blurring the underlying population trends.

Will China invade Siberia? It has been doing so for over a hundred years. But the pace of invasion does seem to have picked up recently.

It is more than likely that China's leaders are biding their time, scouting the terrain, looking for the best opportunity. In the end, Tom Clancy may have gotten off a lucky shot.

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All the Single, Old, and Childless Ladies

This article is from "The Best of Al Fin" collection. It was originally published on Al Fin October 14, 2011. It is re-published on the occasion of the ongoing national political campaign season in the US.

Where Does the Time Go?

Writer Kate Bolick has published a long piece in celebration of women choosing to grow old and single, without a man, and with or without a child. Titled "All the Single Ladies," it is actually about one specific lady -- Kate herself. It is about choices that Kate made or didn't make, back when she was still young enough to make those choices.

The article reveals more about Kate's regret and sense of loss than she is likely to comprehend. But it is actually a tale of an entire society's loss, percolating slowly across its length and breadth, in all the single, old, and childless ladies passing through time like sleepwalkers.
Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a “good enough” mate. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. A decade ago, luck didn’t even cross my mind. I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again. This wasn’t hubris so much as naïveté; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently.

Well, there was a lot [we] didn’t know 10 years ago....We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.

That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. How could we not? _All the Single Ladies
But after going through the sad tales of turning down exceptionally fine men so as to give herself more time to "find herself," and discussing how hard it is to find men who are worthy of her at this stage in her life, Kate decides that she sure as hell doesn't need a man anyway. If she wants to have a kid without a man, who's gonna try to stop her?

But who is she kidding? If she couldn't "settle" for a man when she was younger because she needed to sow more wild oats, or because he wasn't perfect enough, is she really going to take a chance with parenting a child? Because the child is sure enough not going to be perfect, and if she finds herself needing a little more time to find herself as a parent, the child is not going to go away for a few months or years to give her that opportunity.

When too many people in a society grow old and childless, the potential -- the future -- of that society withers on the vine. The generations of the unborn begin to haunt the false over-cheeriness of the singles gathering in bars and pubs.

There is a sense of oddness I often feel in the presence of large numbers of gay or lesbian folks. Good folks, cheery folks, happy and friendly folks. But usually childless, and too often needing to make up for that, subconsciously. I am starting to see the same thing whenever in the company of people who are like author Kate. Childless, aging, spinsters in denial, who must at all costs compensate for their lack of a child.

And so all the spinsters -- male or female, gay or straight -- must be the children they never had -- or never acknowledged. Cosmetic surgeons certainly never had it so good. The youth fetish becomes a lifelong pursuit, until it grows into an obsessive and expensive obscenity.

There is a flip side to the coin, which we have discussed here previously. The "Parents of a Certain Age" who make the decision in their late 40s, their 50s, or later that "dammit, I'm gonna have a baby," and follow through with it. There are many more of these than there used to be, but not nearly enough to make up for the childless Kates that our culture is spinning out into the void. Reproductive technology is making it easier to make such late life decisions, and freezing your youthful sperm and eggs -- along with surrogate mothers -- makes it even easier.

Of course, there is the child (or children) that must be raised properly. We can always hope that the midlife crisis survivors have acquired at least some wisdom along the way, compared with how they were when they were younger and more vital. Their time on Earth is growing shorter with every day, and most of what they have not learned by now, they will never learn. Ah...except for the lessons that come from parenting itself. Those are perhaps the most important and poignant lessons of all, and they are learning them so late!

Lionel Tiger described this developing phenomenon best in his 2000 book, The Decline of Males. Neither Kate Bolick nor any other writer since Tiger, has revealed the basis for the phenomenon so accurately, nor revealed the future of it so clearly.

The core advanced populations, the ones that have made so many advances in science and technology, are fading away. They are becoming old, and childless, like the ladies one sees...


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23 October 2012

Obama Executive Order to Stamp Out US Shale Revolution

Today we bring you some good news, and some bad news, about the US shale revolution -- which has been the saving grace in the US economy over the last few years.

First, the good news:
Image Source
The U.S. shale boom... has transformed the U.S. energy sector. Shale gas alone is now 10 percent of the overall energy supply in the country.

A surge in unconventional oil and gas extraction nationwide will trigger more than $5.1 trillion in capital spending and support a total of 1.7 million jobs this year, a number that will swell to almost 3 million by 2020, a leading consultant said in a study released Tuesday. _IBT

Now, the bad news:
...the Obama administration is working to increase federal control over hydraulic fracturing in the United States. In April of this year, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order on hydraulic fracturing that created a working group of 13 executive branch departments to coordinate policies between departments, share research and information on hydraulic fracturing, and ensure that the federal government spoke with one voice on the subject. This was in response to actions being undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency to release new air pollution regulations for shale gas drillers and by the Department of Interior to release new hydraulic fracturing regulations for drilling on public lands.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required drillers to capture emissions of certain air pollutants (volatile organic compounds and methane) from new wells. Drillers can burn the pollutants at the wellhead until the start of 2015, when EPA expects that enough equipment will be available to capture the pollution.[ii] The original proposed rule issued by EPA in 2011... was estimated to reduce oil production from hydraulically fractured wells by up to 37 percent and reduce federal royalties by $8.5 billion and state severance taxes by up to $2.3 billion due to reduced drilling and production.[iii]

While other countries are using hydraulic fracturing to increase production and revenues, the United States – which pioneered the technological breakthroughs that led to the practice — is looking to lower oil and gas production and increase costs by increasing regulations on the technology. To date, hydraulic fracturing has helped to reduce our dependence on imported oil and natural gas, lower natural gas and electric utility bills, and increase employment in states where shale oil and natural gas are produced. It looks like hydraulic fracturing should be a win-win relationship for domestic production and consumption of oil and natural gas, but the Obama Administration has proposed changes that threaten that through increased regulations, despite the fact that the states have successfully regulated that industry for half a century or more. _IER

Obama conveniently (and duplicitously) claims credit for the shale revolution, while his administration works behind the scenes to clamp down on the technologies which made the revolution possible.

Plentiful oil & gas opens the door to a wide range of other industries to grow -- and to return to the US from overseas. No wonder Obama wants to stop it.

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World Dictators to US Voters: We'd Prefer You Vote Obama

From Moscow to Caracas to Havana, something disturbing is happening: Dictators with long records of enmity toward the U.S. are endorsing Obama for president. What does that say about the Obama presidency?

Fresh from abusing Venezuela's opposition after his own rigged re-election, Chavez declared, "If I were American, I would vote for Obama. He is my candidate." It was his second direct endorsement of Obama in a week. After that, he spooled off his plans to impose socialism on his country.

Around the same time, Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuba's ruling communist capo Raul Castro, Fidel's brother, told CNN: "As a citizen of the world, I would like for (Obama) to win."...

There was more of that appreciation of Obama's heartwarmingness from Russia's stoat-faced autocrat Vladimir Putin: "Obama is a genuine person who really wants to change much for the better," he said, in what The Moscow Times said was "widely viewed as his most direct endorsement of Obama."

...there have been de facto endorsements based on acts — from the evidence of Chinese cash coming into Obama's campaign coffers through the China-domiciled Web site Obama.com — to the sudden declaration by Iran's mullahs last weekend of "peace talks" soon to be held, but only if Americans vote for Obama. _Obama: The Dictator's Choice
Americans are accustomed to the more leftist candidate receiving endorsements and support from academics, foreign and domestic journalists, and media celebrities. But when a candidate receives endorsements from the world's dictators and most outspoken enemies of individual rights and freedoms, something odd is going on.
In the case of Chavez and the Castro oligarchs, it's obvious enough that Obama governs in a way that resembles their own — increasing state employees and state dependency, ruling by decree, singling out companies for punishment, and engaging in a cult of personality where the state is replaced by the leader.

But in the case of some of America's other dangerous foes — from Russia to China to Iran — the only answer to this odd phenomenon is a recognition that Obama is a weaker horse. He is therefore easier to corner or checkmate to achieve their own power ends — in the case of all — military and nuclear power. _IBD
America represents a threat to every imperialistic dictator-state in the world, by virtue of its economic, political, and military power. Any US president who promises to weaken the US in any of those areas, would be a godsend to such a dictator-state. In that sense, another Obama term is a bright and shining promise that these dictators cannot ignore.

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22 October 2012

Brain Network Dynamics: Brain as Anti-Algorithm

Cognitive scientists are uncovering more secrets of the brain every day. One fascinating line of brain research involves how the brain forms categories and metaphors.
At the IMP in Vienna, neurobiologist Simon Rumpel and his post-doc Brice Bathellier have been able to show that certain properties of neuronal networks in the brain are responsible for the formation of categories. In experiments with mice, the researchers produced an array of sounds and monitored the activity of nerve cell-clusters in the auditory cortex. They found that groups of 50 to 100 neurons displayed only a limited number of different activity-patterns in response to the different sounds.

The scientists then selected two basis sounds that produced different response patterns and constructed linear mixtures from them. When the mixture ratio was varied continuously, the answer was not a continuous change in the activity patters of the nerve cells, but rather an abrupt transition. Such dynamic behavior is reminiscent of the behavior of artificial attractor-networks that have been suggested by computer scientists as a solution to the categorization problem. _SD

Here is the study abstract from Neuron:
The ability to group stimuli into perceptual categories is essential for efficient interaction with the environment. Discrete dynamics that emerge in brain networks are believed to be the neuronal correlate of category formation. Observations of such dynamics have recently been made; however, it is still unresolved if they actually match perceptual categories. Using in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in the auditory cortex of mice, we show that local network activity evoked by sounds is constrained to few response modes. Transitions between response modes are characterized by an abrupt switch, indicating attractor-like, discrete dynamics. Moreover, we show that local cortical responses quantitatively predict discrimination performance and spontaneous categorization of sounds in behaving mice. Our results therefore demonstrate that local nonlinear dynamics in the auditory cortex generate spontaneous sound categories which can be selected for behavioral or perceptual decisions. _Neuron Article Abstract
Here is a broader look at brain network dynamics in the context of decision making:

Cortical network dynamics of perceptual decision-making in the human brain

Brain cells work together in groups, in a dynamic fashion.

Spontaneous rhythmical activity occurs in groups of neurons -- whether artificially cultured in the lab, or in self-selected groups within a living brain.

When separated groups of neurons communicate with each other over a distance in the brain, they utilise a method of synchronous oscillations -- a language that scientists have just begun to understand.

Billions of dollars are spent every year on the quest to achieve human level artificial intelligence. Most of this research is based upon algorithmic design, utilising digital computers. But as anyone can see from looking over recent findings in the neuroscience of cognition, the brain is more of an anti-algorithm. The logic of brain network dynamics has almost nothing in common, conceptually, with the algorithmic basis of digital computing.

AI researchers have attempted to narrow the conceptual gap by utilising "neural net computing," "fuzzy logic computing," and "genetic algorithmic computing," to name three alternative approaches. And these alternative approaches are likely to be very helpful in both applied and theoretical computing and information science. But do they get AI researchers closer to the goal of human-level machine intelligence?

Probably not. Not even the startling potential of memristors and similar semiconductor devices are likely to close that gap appreciably.

As discussed recently in an article quoting quantum physicist David Deutsch, artificial intelligence research is desperately in need of better supporting philosophical structures.

Until then, it is likely that artificial intelligence research will continue to spin its wheels pursuing better algorithms to emulate the brain, without a good understanding of what the brain does.

It is possible to emulate the human brain, using an approach that depends to a limited extent upon algorithmic control, in conjunction with other conceptual methods. But not before researchers learn to approach the problem in entirely new ways, on new logical levels..

Introduction to brain oscillations video

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