Archive for June, 2013

GASSING EARTH: Tipping Point Passed!

June 29, 2013

CO2: NOT JUST HOT AIR ECONOMICS.

Warning: The essay below demonstrates, from published official data, that NON LINEAR EFFECTS are now ACCELERATING the CO2 greenhouse. This is no theory, but data that I observe. This is the major tipping point experts feared. It’s here, now. Weirdly I am the first to observe this catastrophic evidence. 

We are making war to the biosphere. We are trying to kill it (biocide?). Gassing Earth with CO2. Calling this atrocity “climate change” is more than a silly euphemism. It’s disinformation.

True information: the bath is heating up. Here is the global heat content of the ocean, incomparably greater than that of the atmosphere.

Global Warming Is Accelerating

Global Warming Is Accelerating

Self satisfied frogs croak happily in the simmering heat until they croak for good. Speaking of the stupid, loud and mosquito inclined, a deafening chorus from all over richly rewarded pseudo-science has recently claimed that global warming had stalled, or that the climate was less susceptible” to increasing CO2 than previously thought.

The graph above shows that those people are either paid too much, or as stupid as the frogs they mimic so well. Unable to deny the greenhouse, they focus suddenly on atmospheric heat content, as if that was the main problem (it’s not, by a very long shot!)

One can see, in the graph above, that the global heat content of the biosphere is clearly not just augmenting, but doing so faster than ever.

Another remark of mine of TREMENDOUS importance, and you read here first. Look at the graph above carefully. And then look at the CO2 graph below, just as carefully. Compare the graphs. What do you see? The horror! The HEAT CONTENT GRAPH accelerates FASTER after 1990 than the CO2 GRAPH!!!!

Thus there is now evidence that NON LINEAR EFFECTS ARE GETTING IN GEAR. Heat is increasing faster than CO2 now! Tipping points have been passed, the heat is growing by ITSELF, beyond human input.

Non Linear HORROR: CO2 Augmenting SLOWER Than Global Biospheric Heat Content!

Non Linear HORROR: CO2 Augmenting SLOWER Than Global Biospheric Heat Content!

[Technical math remark, consecutive to readers’ misunderstanding: I have a math background as one high as one can get; so, obviously I am not making the grotesque mistake of comparing the overall slopes, as the scale of the y-axes are arbitrary. What I am doing is more subtle, and that maybe why the NON LINEAR TIPPING POINT was not noticed before: I was trained as a research mathematician, not as a cloud watcher.

I am not comparing the overall slopes of one graph with the other, but the changes of slope after 1990, of one graph relative to the other. The global ocean heat content graph clearly accelerates so much after 1990 that it adopts a steeper trendline; one does not have such a feature on the CO2 graph. So one can say, supposing that the latter drives the former (that sounds intellectually fair), that it has been driving it much more since 1990. End of the high school level mathematical analysis. More details & answers to objections can be found in the comments!] 

So fossil burning is launching the avalanche, but the avalanche is also growing by itself, that’s what comparing the three graphs above shows.

OK, now for some elementary school math. The mass of the top 2000 meters of the ocean is 2 (total oceanic surface relative to continental surface) x 200 (mass of 2000 meters of water relative to atmosphere) = 400 times that of the atmosphere. The excess heat injected since 1990 in the upper 2000 meters of oceans is roughly equivalent to one billion times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb (personal computation). Yes, the inflection point when non linear amplification of CO2 started was in 1990 (look at the first graph ).

The core economic issue of our time is the alarming CO2 curve. That CO2 curve is threatening to become an exponential. CO2 is augmenting by (nearly) 1% a year. CO2 concentration has reached 400 parts per million. If one takes into account all industrially made greenhouse gases, it’s more like 450 ppm in CO2 equivalence, beyond the point where most of Antarctica’s ice shield is stable.

Thus the CO2 curve is also the core survival issue of our time. Every day, the deep oceans are getting warmer, more acidic (the CO2 gets in the sea, turning it to a soda), and lose oxygen. Every day, the deepest currents are absorbing the new energy, modifying themselves. Any day, Antarctica could start melting, big time:

Giant Regions Of Antarctica Are Below Sea Level

Giant Regions Of Antarctica Are Below Sea Level

The brownish and yellow parts are the WAIS, the West Antarctica Ice Shield’s bed, and are all below sea level, and are why the WAIS will disintegrate.

Areas more than 200 meters BELOW SEA LEVEL in East Antarctica are indicated by blue shading. Notice that a lot of east Antarctica, where the sub sea level basins are, have their margins well north of 70 degrees (and actually just north of the south polar circle).

(Extracted from: https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/sun-cooling-ice-melting/)

Some idiots out there have pointed at the fact that atmospheric heat is not going up drastically, in the last decades. Of course. That means the energy is spilling in other dimensions. If those idiots had taken a physics class, they would know that this effect is similar to a well known phenomenon: as ice melts, the water in which it sits stays at zero degree (Celsius, only Americans use crazily obsolete units).

This general change of the biosphere, throughout dimensions so far unsuspected, is due to a generalization of the equipartition theorem:

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/the-equipartition-of-energy-theorem-should-be-applied-for-climate-change-and-predicts-wild-fluctuations-of-temperatures/

At any point, any day, formidable non linear mechanisms independent of man, caused by the effects of the CO2 increase, could get in gear. That they did not happen yet is as reassuring as jumping from a gigantic cliff, without a parachute, and then gloating that everything is fine so far.

For example enormous, sudden releases of methane hydrates causing tsunamis (accelerating considerably the greenhouse, as methane is twenty to a hundred time more of a greenhouse gas). https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/terminal-problem-final-solution/

A slow-down of the sun has bought up some time, in the last decade (see again the very long: https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/sun-cooling-ice-melting/.)

Most of the carbon found in coal has been buried for hundreds of millions of years. Extracting, and throwing  it up in the air, in ever greater quantities, is sheer insanity. This has got to stop. That is the main problem with fracking for gas; not that it makes water flammable, but that it pollutes with CO2. Although fracked gas (CH4) produces half the carbon for an equal amount of energy, that’s still an awful lot of carbon!

Advocating fracking-for-gas as a way to kill coal, short term, is tenable. But then fusion research ought to be massively financed, to make sure fracking-for-gas is really short term. Yet the $600,000 for fusion propulsion at NASA, while Elon Musk the well connected Neanderthal, gets billions, just for looking good, and dishonorable Sen. Feinstein’s whining about ITER, demonstrate that fracking forever, without fusion, is the real agenda!

Managing the planet correctly is real macro-economics. It is much more real economics than the shenanigans of some central bankers, or the dementia of unregulated shadow banking (which is just as big as official banking, 67 trillion dollars, nota bene).

The new Obama plan ought to be a war on coal. Right now, about ten billion tons of CO2 from coal are pumped in the atmosphere, each year. Better a war on coal now, rather the alternative. The alternative is world war, or worse. About CO2 pollution and energy.

This is not just a fancy vision of an apocalyptic future. It is also a sober assessment of an awful past. Around 1300 CE, sextuple trouble hit Europe: a population crisis, an energy crisis, a construction material crisis, a food crisis, an ecological crisis, and a climate crisis. All those aspects were entangled in one huge crisis .

Within a generation, France and Britain, until then part of the same polity, had exploded in a very complicated, but extremely lethal civil war, that was to last nearly five centuries. A terrible plague assaulted Europe (from Yersinia Pestis, a 2000 French study showed in all of 20 samples). The plague itself was related to the preceding, as bad climatic and military conditions in the two years preceding it, favored overcrowding of rats and humans alike. (Tremendous research on how the Black Death occured as early as 1348 CE, and great progress was made, leading to control of many diseases. Yet, the tricky causal triangle between fleas, rats, and plague was discovered only around 1900!)

In a few years, the population of the European continent had been cut by more than two-thirds. Greenlanders, assaulted by plague, climate cooling, and Inuits, died off.

Yet, countries such as France and Germany took effective ecological counter-measures of preservations of forests (thus saving commodities, construction, energy, soils, etc.).  Western Europe did not go the way of the Mayas because of vigorous. scientifically minded governmental counter-attack.

Instead, Europe chose then what we have to chose now. New technology was relentlessly pursued. By 1300 CE, pollution from burning geological coal was so acute in London that regulations were passed to reduce it. Edward III, grandson of French king Philippe IV Le Bel, and official launcher of the “100 Year war”(-that lasted in truth 478 years, as I said above) actually regulated coal trading, allowing the exportation of coal to the parts of France he controlled. Within two centuries, coal would be mined under the sea in Scotland.

No doubt all this would have worked better, the calamitous Fourteenth Century would not have been as calamitous, had superior technology, and careful management thereof, had arrived earlier. It could have arrived earlier.

In Roman Britannia, the usage of coal had been ubiquitous (even down the social scale). The tech was lost for nearly a millennium after the legions evacuated in 400 CE. Superior tech would have allowed to avoid the overcrowding that killed so many during the Black Death (relatively few nobles died, as they lived large).

The proximal reasons why Greco-Roman civilization collapsed are complicated, and are all entangled. Although the story started with plutocracy blossoming, it ended, four centuries later, with technology failing in so many dimensions that civilization could not be sustained anymore.

Basically, rising plutocracy (2C BCE)  led to political fascism (1C CE), that led to intellectual fascism (2C), which in turn led all sorts of technological stagnations or reversals (monetary, ecological, resources, military), and from there massive command economy and theocracy (300 CE) was called on, and then religious terror, anti-intellectualism and mental retardation (starting under emperor Jovian in 363 CE).

Many of these tipping points and causal chains are relevant today. However the situation is different in the sense that not only is history is going much faster, but, on the hopeful side, the world is still endowed with well armed, grimly determined republics (say France). Thus plutocracy may not win this time, as it did under the Gracchi brothers’ Roman republic. Indeed, we can now use meta arguments the Gracchi could not use, namely point at the fact that, ultimately, not only did plutocracy made society unfair, but the Republic collapsed, and so did civilization.

However, some causal chains, similar to those that undid Rome, are being activated presently.

One of them is the technological gradient between civilization and savages. Or, rather, the disappearance thereof. Bear with me a moment here.

Shortly after 300 CE, the Roman empire, in a reversal of hostilities, called onto the Salian Franks to become the shock troops of the empire. For years, the Franks had raided rivers of the empire, Viking style, and Constantine had fought them. Then suddenly, the Franks were at Constantine’s side, conquering the entire empire. And, astoundingly, by 400 CE, the Franks were put in charge of the defense of the entire North-West corner of Romanitas. Although, even more incredibly, the Franks had staged a long succession of coups and civil wars, against what they viewed as excessive Christianity, promoting a succession of secular Roman puppets to fight the central government.

What happened? Why did Christianized Romans put in charge their natural enemy, the Salian Frank Confederation? Simple: the Franks had better weapons, and better military capability. The Romans determined that, if you can’t beat them, you should join them. (Another, secondary reason, had to do with the Franks being more republican than the Byzantine court; Romans nostalgic with the republic, and secularism, and they were many, could only see the youth of Rome in those Frankish farmers).

What’s the connection with the CO2 rampage?

The only way for the most economically advanced countries to stay advanced is, first, by staying technologically advanced. Thus by researching, developing, and imposing worldwide, advanced technologies.  That can only work when those advanced technologies are necessary, and sustainable, that is, moral. As sustainability is the definition of  morality.

As I have long advocated, Obama is going to use his executive power by, hopefully, imposing new technology to stay on top. Not just on top of the problem, but on top of the world. Finally (Welcome to the executive branch, Mr. President!) With executive orders. Four years late. Execute, or be executed. After all, pollution to the extent we are exposed with CO2, is a form of execution. (Obama should have done the same with health care, as I also advocated more than 4 years ago).

The sorry collapse of the Greco-Romans, all entangled as they were with slavery (thus lower tech) caused some physical damage to the planet. Forests in Dauphiné are still showing subtle scars from Roman over-exploitation (mostly from mining). No big deal: South East France is heavily forested.

However what we are doing now with CO2, and other industrial greenhouse gases, is the big deal. The lifetime of CO2 in the combined air-ocean system is counted in many millennia. Projections show that we have already done enough to modify the climate enough to prevent a glaciation in the next 50,000 years . The mind reels.

So we are in life-and-death race to develop a long term, massive, survivable energy source. And there is just one; that of the sun, itself, thermonuclear fusion. Sun in a bottle. Feasible, but only if dozens of billions of economic activity are directed towards fundamental research labs (see note). Let’s not do like the Romans, and rest on yesteryear technology, until it’s so late, that nothing can be done anymore.

Einstein used to say that he knew the Fourth World War would be fought with sticks and stones. Error my dear Albert. The way things are going, the Fourth World War will be fought by scorpions and dragonflies.

***

Patrice Ayme

***

Note: let’s not be too passive, even if the outlook is sunny. Some are sure to whine that “solar energy” can do it all; what they mean is the passive reception, on Earth of part of Sol’s enormous thermonuclear output. Well, yes, they are talking about thermonuclear fusion, but may not know it (?) Passive solar has a great future. However its usage is bound to stay unimportant in space (!), high latitudes, and, more worryingly, in regions with high precipitations  (the greenhouse is going to get very wet in places!).

Advertisements

Genius Irreplaceable. Jobs Follow.

June 20, 2013

  Paul Krugman finds the bottom line: “Ah, Paris! You walk for miles and miles — it’s still, after all these years, a spectacularly beautiful city. Then you have as traditional a meal as possible at an old-fashioned bistro, washed down with lots of wine. And you feel like hell the next morning.”

  Hell can be a relaxation one needs. Speaking of hell, on the other side of the planet, I met a professional economist brandishing an iphone. He told me Steve Jobs was a genius, he deserved more money. I replied that iphones were made with lasers. Did he know who discovered the laser?  Would not that person be the real genius?

  The learned economist had no idea iphones’ chips were built with lasers. He had no idea electronic circuits are printed with light. Lasers exists thanks to OPTICAL PUMPING, invented here:

Nobler Motivations, Deeper Thoughts

Nobler Motivations, Deeper Thoughts

  [Pierre de Corneille welcomes you; Clovis Tower behind right; it’s 15 centuries old. Descartes is buried below in a copper coffin.]

The Kastler Brossel lab at the École normale supérieure (ENS) located in  Paris’ Latin Quarter, invented Optical Pumping in 1953. (500 meters right of the picture above.)

  Alfred Kastler, head of the project, got the Nobel Prize later. Kastler’s Nobel was attributed to him alone; this indicates that Optical Pumping was from the ENS alone; by contrast the famous Feynman shared his Nobel with two co-inventors of that particular portion of QED.

Genius: Not Market Supported

Genius: Not Market Supported

  Now that same ENS lab got the latest Nobel Prize in physics (2012). What was the deep discovery this time? Well, seeing light, without perturbing it.  How can one see the light without seeing the light? Is not that endangering one of the main metaphors? The deep new idea was to see light with atoms. An inversion of conventional expectations. That was what the Kastler-Brossel lab succeeded to do. Very enlightening. Even philosophically enlightening, as the method painstakingly devised shows that waves can be more subtle than official scientific thinking ever guessed before. (An anecdote: part of the experiment necessitated the most reflecting mirrors ever made, by a very long shot.)

  Seeing single photons going back and forth, without intercepting them. Now this is real genius. It’s what real genius means: completely new ideas or techniques, never imagined before.

  In truth, far from being a “genius”, Steve Job was just an ignorant, greedy boy playing with toys real men had invented. Nothing wrong with that. The economy needs little hands to bring technology to market. What’s wrong is to conflate business and the most fabulous edge of human creativity. What’s wrong is to confuse the little hand with the biggest minds.

  The iphone was not really invented by Jobs. It was invented thanks to the idea of a scientist, Kastler, working hard in a lab in a locale, Paris, where civilization has shined for more than 2,000 years. Kastler’s lab was paid by government money. And still is, 60 years later. This money came from taxes. It could not come from anywhere else.

  Thus, refusing to pay enough taxes is refusing to invest in new science and technology, just so that completely ignorant people, such as this (austerian) economist, an admirer of Hayek and Friedman, can keep on spewing absurdities. Is that a world we can afford? No, our civilization hitting the global ecological and energetic lower bounds.

  There is no easing out of that. Only hard work, the work of real genius. Not the “work” of those who sell stuff real minds invented. What we need to do is to see the light, whether with atoms or not.

  A world where money changers, tax dodgers and salesmen are viewed as geniuses, we cannot afford. And is it what we want, anyway? No. Civilization is also about beauty. This is what Paris say. And what Very Serious Plutocrats, and their obsequious servants, cannot understand. 

***

Patrice Ayme

***

Notes: Paris was renamed in the 4 C in honor of the Parisii, the Celtic-German nation that thrived there prior to the brutal unification of Gallia by Caesar. Contrarily to their reputation, the Celts were advanced in many important ways. They had Senates, Greek gods (Mercury was big), world class ocean going ships. Celtic metallurgy was the world’s most advanced (Celtic forges had equipped the Roman army, for generations, with special weapons, including swords, and the characteristic light metallic helmets). Logically, it’s Frankish steel that cut through Damascus steel, when the Damascus Caliphate invaded Europe in the 8C. It’s also in France that hydraulic hammers to forge enormous steel were devised in the 12C (to hold cathedrals together). Even recently only a forge in France and one in Japan made the steel for nuclear reactors’ vessels.  

*

LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Computer chips are currently made with a lithographic process using ultraviolet light. Literally, the circuits are printed with light, down to 22 nanometers. Companies such as Cymer and ASML are working on shrinking the ultraviolet laser beam down to just 13.5 nanometers, which will allow in turn companies like Intel to squeeze four times more transistors on chips, making them faster (as the signal travels at the speed of light, the smaller, the faster). By contrast, a hair is a gargantuan 40,000 to 60,000 nanometers wide.

*

Einstein did some theoretical work on Simulated Emission of Radiation in the 1920s. Work on computers go all the way back to the Ancient Greeks. Transistors were invented in Germany in the 1930s. Completely electronic computers were made secretly for the first time in WWII, thanks to the work of an army of geniuses (such as Alan Turing and john Von Neumann). A prominent idea was to mimic the way the brain worked (as elucidated by a dozen generations of biologists, from Volta to Ramon Y Cajal, Golgi, etc…). Genius can neither be sold, nor bought. True genius can only thrive in the tender care and spirit of the noblest civilization, sustained by taxing more primitive animal impulses.  Motivation deep, mountain high. Motivation trivial, mountain flat.

*

Syrian Red Line

June 16, 2013

Obama said that Assad using gas in Syria would be a red line. Then he muttered that he could not tell which shade of pink it was. However French laboratories  determined and French foreign minister Fabius, an ex-PM, declared officially, that chemical weapons were used in Syria by Assad. Many times. The neurotoxic agent is Sarin.

Time to go to war. War is the force that defines civilization.

Civilization Defended: Ypres

Civilization Defended: Ypres

Why to make nerve agent a casus belli? First, chemicals are unfair weapons: one cannot surrender to a gas cloud. Second, militarized chemicals also allow mass killings, cheaply, and readily (in the Nazi extermination camps, most of assassinations happened using deadly gas made by IG Farben, a chemical cartel created by Wall Street in the 1920s).

France hates chemical weapons.

In World War First on 22 April 1915, the German Army released 168 tons of chlorine, north of the Belgian town of Ypres. It formed a gray-green cloud that drifted across a division of French from Martinique and Algeria. Some tried to flee. They got asphyxiated while running. Within ten minutes, more than 5,000 French troops were gazed to death. Yes, in minutes, five thousands dead: analogies with Auschwitz are invited.

Ypres After Fascist Prussian Attack WWI

Ypres After Fascist Prussian Attack WWI

That massacre left a 7,000 meter gap in the Allied frontline. However, the German infantry, wary of the gas, failed to exploit the breach as much as the criminals who ordered them around wanted them to.

Other Canadian and French troops were rushed in. The Germans reapplied gas. In spite of various counter-measures against the gas, the Canadians suffered 1,800 dead from the chlorine by 24th April.

(Canadians? Were where the “Americans”? They were at peace, and would take another two years to threaten fascist Germany with words: the closest adviser of USA president Wilson had proposed an alliance with Germany in 1914! Thus we can see that World War One happened, in part, because the USA played Germany against France and Britain. Same old, same old…)

The allies called the German usage of gas a war crime. International treaties outlawed the usage of chemicals in shells. The Germans argued disingenuously that the gas had been released from “canisters” not “shells”. Fascists are disingenuous, or they are not.

Because the element of surprise was passed, never again during the war was a gas attack so successful. The Allied Democracies, especially the Brits (up-wind in Flanders!) had to retaliate in kind: only gas could stop  those who used it. All together 100,000 soldiers died from gas, right away, and one million were handicapped for life (most dying in the following years).

France, Britain and Canada screamed loudly that the Prussian General staff was a gang of criminals.

Yet after the war, under pressure from the glandularly deprived, and soon stroke struck USA president Wilson, obvious German war criminals of the First World war, starting with the Kaiser and the four generals and two admirals who had plotted the war, as early as December 1912, were not prosecuted.

That Colonel House, Wilson’s grey eminence, had proposed an American-British-German world domination deal to the Kaiser, on May 1, 1914, obviously inflected American policy thereafter. In particular from 1919, all the way to 1942… don’t be surprised if this sort of history is not taught in pro-plutocratic Harvard.

The non-prosecution of gross war criminality in World War I opened the way to Auschwitz. In the first few weeks of the German invasion, Belgian and French civilians were made hostage to military death threats, and then summarily executed in retaliation (for whatever).

Clearly, the generals who ordered the usage of gas on April 22, 1915, ought to have been judged, condemned and executed. And if there were 500 “Prussian” colonels, and generals to be executed, that should have been done. Their successors would have been in turn, more enthusiastic at executing the Nazis in a timely manner.

Sometimes, civilization is all about executions.

(A dark Obama, his wings laden with smart bombs just passed by… This one has been told to man battlefields exclusively, if he is really as smart as he wants the rabble to believe he is.)

How did the Germans become the greatest, less excusable, mass criminals of the twentieth Century? By not being punished vigorously enough in a timely manner.

BASF chemist Fritz Haber, a Nobel Laureate, had developed the processes used to make ammonia. Haber came up with the idea of using chlorine gas as a weapon. After the war, Haber should have been caged like the wild and dangerous beast he was, and left there to eat dry bread and water for the next thirty years.

That would have emphasized Rabelais’ point, published in 1532 CE, that “Science without conscience is only ruin of the soul.” Instead, some people still harbor respect for Haber, that despicable degenerate, to this day. And please don’t tell me he is honorable because he made ammonia; somebody else would have.

Haber’s violation of international law and common human decency was one of the many moral compromises that foreshadowed greater horrors. As the world war Germany had deliberately started drained manpower from its chemical factories, Bayer Chief Executive Friedrich Carl Duisberg lobbied for a novel solution: importing forced labor from occupied Belgium.

In other words, all what came to be known as “Nazism” was taught to Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and Goering’s generation by their forefathers. Their unpunished forefathers.

German fascism kept on going, through sheer mental inertia. It gazed more than ten million civilians in WWII.

The Germans, amusingly, were told never to do this again, and signed a very strong treaty about this, never using gas militarily. In 1944-1945, Adolf Hitler’s kingdom of the beasts was perforated by the invading armies of his enemies. Hitler, and the top Nazis knew they were going to die, and that their world of horror was being annihilated. They were total fanatics. Martha Goebbels, wife of ephemeral Reich Chancellor and propaganda chief Goebbels, would poison her six children (although some of her children tried to resist the monstrous author of their days).

Hitler disposed of dozens of thousands tons of stockpiled nerve agent, and the means to deliver them (hypersonic long range rockets and several types of jet bombers). Hitler used his V2 rockets to bomb London and Paris. He could have ordered to gas London and Paris. But Hitler had been gazed in 1918 (by the French). He knew the consequences would have been terrible: Germany would be gazed back, to start with. So the Nazis did not use gas. They did not even consider the usage of gas. On the battlefield.

A moderate mullah, Hassan Rouhani, was just elected president of Iran (on the first turn, by surprise). International sanctions on Iran have been so severe that Iranians chose someone who has always been keen to negotiate with the West (he had been fired from his nuclear negotiator role for being too keen that way).

The best way to encourage people to vote for moderates is by punishing firmly nasty people such as chemical Assad. The systematic use of chemicals cannot be left so unpunished that it keeps on being used. The mood of using gas, expecting to get away with it, could expand, spreading to other countries, in all sorts of ways.

There are of course many other reasons to go to war in Syria, some all the way back to 638 CE, when, after a four year war, characterized by the illness of the emperor, huge tactical blunders, and a lot of luck for the enemy, the Roman empire lost Syria… to fanatics. The best way to fight fanaticism is early on.  

The Western military intervention in Syria will have to support only secular, anti-tyrannical forces. Assad knows this. So he (and co-plotting Iran) released craftily religious fanatics (Al Nusra) to pollute his own opposition and give him a Western palatable excuse to kill it. Another complication is that there is a triangle of hatred, mutual support, and co-dependence between the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt), the Saudi family (Arabia, oil), and Washington (Wall Street, Dollar, Plutocracy running amok). All these are invested in Syria.

Well, maybe it’s a good occasion to break the cycle. The USA’s oil production is becoming considerable, and the USA is not dependent of the Saudis anymore…

In any case, the usage of Sarin has made the situation clear and transparent. That, by itself, gives enough of a moral reason to go to war in Syria.

Don’t forget that the origin of the concept of morality is sustainability. A world were tyrants use weapons of mass destruction so that their wives can shop till they drop, is not sustainable.

***

Patrice Ayme

Cultural Exception Cultivates Civilization, Economy

June 14, 2013

The French Republic threatens to veto the free trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States of America, if culture is not excluded from the negotiations (as the Cultural Exception in the rest of world trade!). France is right, this essay will show why.

Ultimately, culture is about the greatest wealth. And the greatest wars. Ultimately culture is what makes us what we are, the honor of the human spirit, and the love that endows the mind. It should not be about fighting for bones.

Big Master Is Ordering You

Big Master Is Ordering You

The EU-USA free trade accord is a good idea. Exchanges between USA and EU are already 40% global exchanges, yet, their total GDP is 55% of the world total. That means they could help each other by trading more. (And what about that silly visa thing?)

Custom duties are already low. So the accord is mostly about new, common norms, and the removal of non customs barriers to trade (such as the American regulation that real French cheese is poisonous, verboten).

The rest of Europe is all for free trade with the USA, because a law of 1933 forces the government of the USA to contract with companies of the USA, exclusively (except when there is no choice, and that’s why the US Army ordered 345 combat helicopters built-in Marseilles’ Eurocopter recently, following the US Coast Guard; the USA did not produce a new helicopter type in 20 years, whereas Eurocopter churn them out, so this is a case of no choice!).

But France looks at the millennia, and the mind breathing through them. France does not want to see vacuous, mono-cultural minds. History shows that vacuous, mono-cultural minds have always translated into civilization-destroying horrors. Thus France decided to cultivate cultures, by introducing in GATT (General Agreeement on Tarifs and Trade) the Cultural Exception. Bush’s America never liked that.

Let’s not forget that, in 1938, and 1939, or even 1940, American culture did not overwhelmingly see something ultimately objectionable in Nazism. Literally. So there was no ultimatum of the USA to Hitler (whereas France and Britain gave one). The father and grandfather of two American presidents, Prescott Bush, was Hitler’s most precious collaborator. All the way to August… 1942. August 1942, that’s three full years after the Franco-British declaration of war to the Nazis.

The mind France wants is much grander than that of Big, Uncle Sam Watching All, As Ordered by Greedy Wall Street. In 1948, the perfidious USA proposed France to forget all the French debt owed to her self-interested liberator of sorts during World War Two, as long as France would allow free reign of American movies over France. France, wisely, declined.

This, by the way shows that, from the American point of view, cultural supremacy is more important than money. Even from the American point of view, culture is priceless. Thus why should not others brandish the same principle? As I am going to show, culture ought to become more important than ever. And, if the Americans were smart, instead of having a dog fight with the French, they should learn even about, and from, the importance of culture.

Let’s call Princeton to the rescue.

Excellent editorial of Paul Krugman in Sympathy for the Luddites, about the drawback of technological progress:

“In 1786, the cloth workers of Leeds, a wool-industry center in northern England, issued a protest against the growing use of “scribbling” machines, which were taking over a task formerly performed by skilled labor. “How are those men, thus thrown out of employ to provide for their families?” asked the petitioners. “And what are they to put their children apprentice to?”

Those weren’t foolish questions. Mechanization eventually — that is, after a couple of generations — led to a broad rise in British living standards. But it’s far from clear whether typical workers reaped any benefits during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution; many workers were clearly hurt. And often the workers hurt most were those who had, with effort, acquired valuable skills — only to find those skills suddenly devalued.

So are we living in another such era? And, if we are, what are we going to do about it?

Until recently, the conventional wisdom about the effects of technology on workers was, in a way, comforting. Clearly, many workers weren’t sharing fully — or, in many cases, at all — in the benefits of rising productivity; instead, the bulk of the gains were going to a minority of the work force. But this, the story went, was because modern technology was raising the demand for highly educated workers while reducing the demand for less educated workers. And the solution was more education. “

So far, so good. However Paul, although he means well, then gets confused by the evil spirits, and unwillingly deviates to the Dark Side, at least, the way he concludes:

“… there may have been something to this story [more education, less equality] a decade ago.

Today, however, a much darker picture of the effects of technology on labor is emerging. In this picture, highly educated workers are as likely as less educated workers to find themselves displaced and devalued, and pushing for more education may create as many problems as it solves.”

… Education, then, is no longer the answer to rising inequality, if it ever was (which I doubt).

So what is the answer? If the picture I’ve drawn is at all right, the only way we could have anything resembling a middle-class society — a society in which ordinary citizens have a reasonable assurance of maintaining a decent life as long as they work hard and play by the rules — would be by having a strong social safety net, one that guarantees not just health care but a minimum income, too. And with an ever-rising share of income going to capital rather than labor, that safety net would have to be paid for to an important extent via taxes on profits and/or investment income. I can already hear conservatives shouting about the evils of “redistribution.” But what, exactly, would they propose instead?”

Well conservatives want to conserve things the way they used to be before the awful revolutions in England, America, and France: bring back feudalism. In the ancient order, the Nobles paid no taxes, just as plutocrats nowadays increasingly do not.

And, of course, it was silly to want to use education to fight rising inequality: inequality and education live in different dimensions. One dimension cannot subtract from another, that’s basic math.

Ultimately, in all and any society, the ruling class decides how much it will earn. In a democracy, the People (Demos) Rules (Kratos), and so it earns well. In a plutocracy, the People is nothing, and gets nothing, beyond what is needed for serving the Devils (Plutos) who Rule (Kratos).

There is only one way to prevent democracy to turn into plutocracy: the application of severe and efficient methods to prevent the exponentiation of wealth. Either one can put an absolute limit on the wealth any family can control (that was the method used by the Roman republic for five centuries). Or one can apply heavy, exponentiating taxes (as most societies have done, sometimes with the help of human sacrifices).

Yet, as machines are going to take over most work, what are we The People going to do? A related question is that studies have shown We The People to be very sensitive to propaganda. It has long been known that People, like animals, can be imprinted: the first knowledge they get exposed to, because the only knowledge they own.

An experiment on 6,000 students, using 48 songs, showed that People pretty much love and appreciate what they have been told the tribe love and appreciate. What the better songs are, has more to do with what People are told they are, rather than any other criterion.

This, of course, threatens the very existence of democracy. As people believes what they are told to believe, how can one have democracy? This stage has been reached in the USA, one may fear.

For most People to be happy one needs two things, once decent living conditions are taken for granted: employment and happy, that means, correct, beliefs. Hence the importance of culture. Variegated culture presents minds with choices, and choices means imprinting does not have it easy. (So cultural diversification also fights the rabid oversimplifications leading to war.)

Indeed, there is one way out, and only one of the quandary posed by exponentiating technology: make culture more of an industry. Yes, because there is not just plutocracy that is exponentiating. Besides the government surveillance programs, technology itself is approaching a singularity.

The first Luddites were not English. They were the Roman emperors themselves. Later, after the French refugee + built the second steam boat, and went down a river one hundred kilometers, enraged conservatives destroyed the ship. That set back steam power by nearly a century (well the Roman emperors had set it back by 16 centuries, prior!)

Machines can do farming, and all sort of other tasks, including, increasingly, knowledge service. There is no doubt that robot doctors will do better than doctors in the future. For example, as far as automated gross diagnostics, they already do better. A robot brain surgeon can go where no human hand can, and no human can be so precise.

So machines can do more and more of everything. And that, even before Quantum Computers are massively for sale.

But machines cannot do culture. Yet, everybody can potentially become a culture worker. People can sing, paint, experience the world and tell about it, educate, relate and narrate (“blog”), etc.

It can be ascertained that culture is the growth industry with the greatest potential. In all and any industry, one should outlaw cartels. A fortiori, if culture is to become a growth industry, one ought to refute cultural hegemony, in other words, cultural cartels, cultural monopoly. Hence culture ought to be a “protected industry”, an industry where the grossest, simplest minded free trade rules do not apply.

The corporate culture of the USA’s cultural industry has certainly behaved as a cartel: it’s very difficult for small movies from a small author of a small studio to make it big in the USA. Whereas it can, and does happen all the time in France. “The Artist”, for example, which got the top Oscar, even in Hollywood, started as one such French state subsidized small movie.  

As the cartel aspect already shows, the very size of the cultural market of the USA makes asymmetric any “liberalization”. It’s as if one claimed that it is “liberal” and a “free exchange” of blows, between two fighters, one a gorilla, the other a human child.

Cultural diversity is a very old debate: the Celts had it with the Romans, 25 centuries ago. The Gauls, Romans and Franks spent the next 13 centuries conquering each other, until Europe became another name for cultural diversity.

Conclusion: in trade talks between the USA and the EU, culture ought to be off the table. Culture ought to be traded, but trade is not culture. That’s what the French republic is trying to say.

***

Patrice Ayme

***

Note: Decent, clever, civilized Americans of course agree with the preceding: In a press conference headed up by French culture minister Aurélie  Filippetti (Google’s enemy), Harvey Weinstein threw his support behind the cultural exception. “The cultural exception encourages filmmakers to make films about their own culture. We need that more than ever,” he said. He cited some countries moribund film industries and the morbid propensity to simply copy the American model to the detriment of indigenous creativity. “The most important thing is to preserve the environment of cultural films, because it’s good for business too.”

As we have seen, it’s a question of the global economy and global democracy too, especially looking into the only decent future we can have.

Cannes Festival Jury President Steven Spielberg called the cultural exception “the best way to support diversity in filmmaking” during his closing ceremony remarks. As Spielberg came to Cannes with his 80 meter yacht, and spent two million there for his creature comforst, one cannot suspect him to be scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

Plutophiles’ “Grexit”.

June 7, 2013

“Grexit” is how Greece leaving the Eurozone is called. (Momentarily introducing a fake currency as California did with “IOU”s, when it had a severe deficit, would not be “Grexit”; California has now a surplus.)

The IMF just recognized having been bone-headed about Greece “Too much austerity” induced:… Notable failures.” 

The IMF enforces monetary orthodoxy, the Eurozone follows. What the IMF is now saying is that monetary orthodoxy is unbalanced. In other words, conventional economists, so far in command, are lunatics.

Presidenta Argentina: I Told You IMF Was Nuts

Presidenta Argentina: I Told You IMF Was Nuts

So what does Paul Krugman conclude? Yes, you guessed it right, the Euro is uglier than ugly. Here is what he said:

“you have to wonder whether it was worth trying to keep Greece in the euro at all. “Grexit” would have been ugly, and will still be ugly if it eventually happens. But compared with what has actually taken place?”

Paul knows a bone when he sees one. He does not like the idea of the Euro, as an equal to the Dollar, and rarely miss an opportunity to make his feelings known. OK, maybe if I had a cushy life because of the USA supremacy system as explicitly as he does, I would not like the Euro either. The more Euro, the less Dollar, looking forward. A serious thing. After all, Euro preference is why Saddam was eradicated. Saudis are paid in Dollars. If they were paid in Euros, Washington would break down (not true in the close future, because of USA fracking is changing everything!).

Let me make the honorable Paul notice this: the I in IMF is for:”International”, like in “International Monetary Fund“. The IMF is what dominates the debate here, not whether Greece is in the Eurozone or not.

Dear Paul, please go back to the Greek civil war (after World War Two). This happened, thanks, in part to heavy Anglo-American military intervention. Number of dead around 800,000. That is proportionally three times more than the American Civil War.

Next, please go back to the dictatorship of the Colonels in the 1960s, also propped by American interests plutocracy.

The Euro is a political answer to such horrors. These are the horrors one is really talking about.

Property rights are a huge problem in Greece: often nobody has any idea who owns what (this makes honest investors shrink at the possibilities). Plutocrats are a huge problem in Greece: they, be they rich ship magnates or the church, pay no taxes. Tax evasion is giant: Greek fortunes are sitting in Swiss bank accounts , etc.

These are huge problems, indeed. However, they were not caused by the Euro, quite the opposite.

The Greek problems having to do with plutocracy, kleptocracy, and a dearth of State of Law, can be traced back to the manu militari intervention of the USA on behalf of its natural allies there, the friendly plutocrats. Those friendly plutocrats, in exchange, just as with the Saudi family, took care of the interests of the USA. (One of them would even marry the widow of the president of the USA, just to show who was the boss.)

To enter the European Union, Greece was forced to democratize (democracy is a culture imposed on those who enter the EU). it was a gift. So was the well intentioned gift of letting Greece enter by overvaluing the Drachma by 100% (that, plus the Olympic Games, somehow backfired, as Greece, as a nation, splurged!).

In the rest of Europe, Greece has the huge and somewhat benevolent friend to help solve the problems left by 23 centuries of foreign, sometimes even alien, and definitively plutocratic, domination by the ugly.

The rest of Europe will help solve the Greek problems, all the more as it somewhat also has them. To put it crudely, Germans have interest that rich Greeks keep on buying Porsches (that means no revolution, but, also, no starvation). Greeks have to decide, democratically, to squeeze their hyper wealthy. Belgium just decided to tax its Royal family, after ludicrous excesses (except for the reigning queen and king).

Having European stakeholders helping out is better than having some autocrat propped by Washington doing so in his own special way (which is what “Grexit” would mean, in practice!).

Such autocrats are no view of the mind, looking at the past: the Egyptian military is an example, one of many. The Egyptian military is completely infeodated to Washington. Yet, plenty of foreign NGO officers got five years in jail in Cairo this week from proceedings started under… Mubarak. (Most of these professional do-gooders had already fled Egypt.)

Problem in Egypt? The Muslim Brotherhood. It had a long love-hate dependency upon both the Saudis, and Washington.
Why not to focus instead of the horror that is Saudi Arabia, and the little arrangements with Washington allowing it to be so (9/11, or the Mali invasion being details of that picture)? These arrangements are fundamentally economic and financial. They are not pretty. They are intrinsically entangled with the nature of the currency of the USA, and its financial potentates.

And how did the dollar start? As the greenback, to pay Federal troops during the Secession War. The central bank was created half a century later.

Ultimately, all state dependent currencies reflect the might of the state behind it. Or the might of a confederation of states: the Imperium Francorum, de facto behaved more as a confederacy as anything else, especially when, having been renamed the “Roman empire“, it got diluted in hundreds of states.

Speaking of that, where did the word “Dollar” come from? From the Thaler“. Or more exactly its Czech version: “Tolar”. The Americans are Czechs, and never knew it! The Thaler was a silver based currency used throughout much of Europe for 400 years. It replaced various coins whose real value was about 5% of their nominative value (inviting forgery). Notice that this transnational currency lasted three times longer than the Dollar.

 The questions of currency, debt, structural deficits, rogue bankers, politicians doing exactly what plutocrats told them to do (“rescue our banks, and let us do exactly what we did before!”) are not the same. By confusing all the issues in a conceptual soup, economists end up playing in the hands of the plutocrats.

It’s particularly telling that American economists obsess about Greece. What’s in it for them? Did Greece organize 9/11? No, Greece did not organize 9/11. 15 out of 19 highjackers in 9/11 were Saudis (and 2 from the UAE). It is the Saudi system, the system that allows a family to own a country, that instigated 9/11. And guess what? That has to do with economics. With the Wall Street induced economic system.

Now, that, is a perspective worth gaining. Instead of moaning of Greece and the Euro, lamenting, fundamentally, that Greece left the orbit of the binary system Washington-Wall Street.

So why do American economists lament about Greece? Because therein their daily bread, pleasing their masters, whether they realize it, or not . Lots of bread, as I explained in Euro Derangement Syndrome. Europe breaking in World War Two gave us the satisfaction of the American Century.

Now the American Century is breaking down, mostly because of the rise of China and Europe, and all the other critters using that tectonic opening (see the Argentinean president above, a butt of hostility for the IMF, for daring to discard the old IMF). Paradoxically global plutocracy is stronger than ever. But it is lacking in dictators anxious to please, and behind whom it could hide.

Thus it would be so much nicer, for Wall Street dependent economists, to see a financial and economic catastrophe in Greece. If “Grexit” happened, Greece would collapse, and, surely, a Washington supported dictator emerge, no doubt a great hope for all sorts of plutocrats and plutophiles.

However, I doubt Europe will not see the peril this time of succumbing to American sirens. Europeans are coming to slowly realize how alien the system in the USA is becoming. They observe, aghast, the great democratic hope Obama going to sleep within homes of countless billionaires, guns all over, millions incarcerated, the security state, spying all over, and, insult added to injuries, the USA being the only advanced country without any mandated paid vacation. Among other things.

And that’s why the right wing temptation has been resisted throughout Europe (even Hungary). So far. Differently from the 1930s, the sort of American plutocracy supported civil war that occurred in Germany in 1932 (10,000 dead, thanks to smuggled USA weapons such as those made by conspiring Browning) will not be tolerated this time. Nor should any ideological drift conducive to European break-up.

Japan itself is drawing the same conclusion: PM Abe, although he has perfect credentials as a right wing politician, broke with Washington diktat. He is devaluating the Yen massively, and engaged in an economic program, with massive structural investments, that true progressives approve. Damn the 240% debt/GDP. To save the world, please default!

***

Patrice Ayme

Rolled By Rawls

June 4, 2013

  It’s a grave thing when your leaders are turncoats. And worse when you don’t even feel that this is the case. Has John Rawls led the philosophy, and, even worse, the economy, and financial system, of the world, dramatically astray in a subtle way? So that we will end down worse than where we started? Is Faust lurking within Rawls?

  John Rawls, “arguably the most important political philosopher of the twentieth century“, is widely viewed as progressive. But I will show here that, down in his philosophical fondations, Rawls shares the same universe, the same building materials, with Ayn Rand, the notorious pseudo-Nietzschean business fascist. I will proceed to demonstrate this while demolishing the very core of Rawls, just as Luke Skywalker with the Death Star in “Return of the Jedi“.

Raw Rawls, "Left", Enlightening Human, Right

Raw Rawls, “Left”, Enlightening Human, Right

  In Ben Bernanke Endorses A 73 Percent Tax Rate“, Paul Krugman extols his past and present chair: “the big thing in Bernanke’s remarks was his discussion of the obligations of the successful, even within a supposedly meritocratic society:”

  I do, of course, agree with a 73% tax rate (and even higher). I also do agree with most of the practical political aims of Rawls (widely viewed as on the left…in the sense “left” has in the USA). The point I am going to make is otherwise subtle. I will show that Rawls and his followers are embracing a metaprinciple that contradicts goodness. Namely that everything is a deal. Sorry Rawls, your brain is perfused by markets, not goodness.

  Here is what some of the head of the central bank of the USA said, June 2, 2013, at Princeton:

  “We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others.”

  And Krugman to add, by complimenting, while exposing, Ben Bernanke:

  “OK, this is, whether BB realizes it or not (he probably does) basically a Rawlsian view of the world, in which you think of life as a kind of lottery in which you draw a ticket that includes things like your genetic endowment as well as the wealth of your parents. And what you’re supposed to do, ethically, is support the economic and social system you would choose if you had to enter that lottery not knowing what ticket you were going to draw — if you were making political choices behind the “veil of ignorance”.

  It’s more than “basically” a Rawlsian view, it’s raw Rawls, rehashed. Rawls’ “lottery” is one his most famous ideas.

  Why is Rawls so famous? Here is Rawls in the raw, at the core of the most famous extract of his most famous book and system of ideas, “Justice As Fairness”

  “The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. This ensures that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in the choice of principles by the outcome of natural chance or the contingency of social circumstances. Since all are similarly situated and no one is able to design principles to favor his particular condition, the principles of justice are the result of a fair agreement or bargain. For given the circumstances of the original position, the symmetry of everyone’s relations to each other, this initial situation is fair between individuals as moral persons, that is, as rational beings with their own ends and capable, I shall assume, of a sense of justice.

  Key concepts: justice, fair agreement, bargain… In other words: justice 1, business 2. Give that genius tenure at Harvard!

  I will discreetly slip on Rawls’ wonderfully circular logic: justice as fairness, and fairness as emanating between “moral persons… capable… of a sense of justice“. Justice is fair, fair is justice. Just as the crocodile rolls, to discombobulate and disintegrate the prey, so does Rawls. You have been rolled, people!

  What did Rawls do that was not done before? Why so famous on Wall Street? Rawls found a reasoning that Americans obsessed by business ethics (“making deals“) would think they have to find ethical to follow (as deals is what they do). By so doing John Rawls seduced deal makers, the plutocrats, and insured that he would be professor at Harvard for more than thirty years.

  In a further development of his basic drift, Rawls presented society as a lottery, and reflected on what ought to be the rules of that lottery. Those rules, he says, are what is fair, and to be called justice.

  Rawls presents the participation in society as a choice (it’s not; one does chose to be born), and then he presents the form that this participation should take as a business deal.

  So Rawls is saying that all members of society have decided to engage in a business deal. We are all business men! Apparently we started early, when we were six days old. Making deals. You will ask me: ‘How can a 6 days old baby engage in a business deal?’ Beats me: go ask Rawls, down in the abyss.

  Down the abyss? Down the ethics of plutocracy? Rawls and his followers implicitly accept the principle of profit, the principle of the deal, as the base of all ethics. Thus we are invited to make a deal with the devil, in the name of ethics, as if the devil cared.  It’s pure Faust. It’s self contradictory (as Rawls admits there is a “sense of justice“).

  Rawls, and his belief that markets, deals and bargains made by individuals, behind a veil of ignorance (so is ignorance good?), are the way to achieve justice is the flaw behind the thinking of the left leaning American intellectuals, and the democratic party. Reagan, or Thatcher, and their neoconservative followers, worldwide, shared the same convenient credulity and profitable blindness.

  This is all sheer madness:  Rawls is another case of a mental infection started in Harvard, a pandemic of the mind that spread worldwide. In the Rawlsian system of thought and emotion, making deals is what the universe is all about.

  How more wrong can one be? To justify redistribution of wealth, one just has to know what an exponential is, it has been done for at least 10,000 years, except when Lords succeeded to reign (and when they did, it was because redistribution failed and the exponential won!)

  The real reasons for justice have nothing to do with imagining society as a business deal. Justice, as given by evolution, is biological. Justice is not venal.

  Studies on (South American) marmosets showed that such animals had an acute sense of justice. To the point that, if justice gets trampled upon, they can revolt in anger against the human experimenter. Without ethics most advanced primates species could not even exist. Especially not baboons. How come what baboons know is the process of being forgotten in the USA (and its poodle, the EU)?

  Human goodness exists, independently of business deals. One does not make deals with a baby, one gives the baby love. Only the clueless, or the vicious, believe that bargains and lotteries define the core of the human condition. But, however abysmal, this is what we are confronting. Even on the so called left.

***

Patrice Ayme

Nuclear Fusion Or Civilization Fission

June 2, 2013

 Obama diverted billions of dollars of taxpayer money towards private companies, such as battery makers (bankrupt “A123”), solar makers (bankrupt “Solyandra”, cost to The People, half a billion), or luxury car makers (Tesla; bankrupt Fisker). Result? NASA can find only $600,000 for research on propulsive nuclear fusion. Why? NASA was forced to give billions to companies such as “Space X” (owned by a South African billionaire). Never mind there is no market for “Space X”.

 Instead, government ought to finance only technological research that cannot bring immediate profit, from sales. Government ought to never, ever, finance for profit companies. Public money has to be saved for financing what no private company would ever finance. That Obama did not understand this is astounding. Governments should fund, and only fund, instead, big, expensive science:

Provence 2013: 20 Billion+ Fusion Reactor Rising.

Provence 2013: 20 Billion+ Fusion Reactor Rising.

 ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is the most valuable international science project. Ever. (The International Space Station, a good thing, pales relatively speaking, as it requires little science; there are rumors it found something unexpected recently, though… CERN is not really a project, as it’s an organization dating from the early fifties.)

 Such a machine is, literally, priceless. Its real cost will be well above 20 billion, as the participating governments have to feed their research establishments to produce the required new science. In particular a whole new science of materials capable of confronting directly temperatures and pressures only found inside the sun. Just as with propulsive fusion, or maglevs, or contact free bearings, the production, control and efficiency of magnetic fields, an electronic and mathematical problem, has also to be considerably improved.

 ITER will bring near infinite profits. Saving civilization may be one of them.  Be it only from ITER’s diplomatic aspects ITER should be financed. All nations worth anything are funding, and collaborating in ITER, each bringing new science! This has never happened before, except at CERN, not coincidentally also on French territory. Learn, silly and offensive Senator Dianne Feinstein, learn. If your hubris allows you to!

 In the preceding essay, Philosophy Feeds Engineering, I deplored that thermonuclear propulsion studies were not financed more.  Some readers asked me to justify myself a bit more, here it is.

 The rationale for wishing for fusion propulsion, is that, since we use, now, much more of the Earth than the Earth can provide, we have to expand in the solar System. Now.

 It’s a pressing problem, a very practical solution should one want to avoid a holocaust: human population augments at the rate of 100 million a year, at this point. Thus as much as the entire Earth can support with pre-1900 technology, about 500 millions, is added every five years (500 million humans on the whole planet was passed around 1550 CE).

 Some will sneer that they don’t see what’s out there in space that we can use. Sure, as we have not been out there. Clearly, with energy at will, Mars could be colonized right away. And even the Moon, as there is water there, in the rocks, so oxygen could be obtained. Again, if we had a plentiful energy source.

 We can’t expand through the solar system with chemistry (that is, by burning stuff), as the energy production of that prehistoric method is barely enough to send robots to planet. And even then: a successor to the Curiosity Rover won’t happen before 2020, because, although the demand is great, it’s too expensive, and we have run out of Plutonium generators, so we simply do not have the energy source for a new rover! (I hope the rabid anti-nuclear lobby is satisfied!)

 However, there is the energy of the sun, thermonuclear fusion, and we know how it works. Much of the science is here. Can the engineering follow?

 Old Geezer Pilot, a faithful commenter on this site, loves the photovoltaic effect and he reminds us that: “Fusion is just 20 years away. And it always has been.”

 That’s an old joke, always good to hear. However, it’s getting a bit too long in the tooth. Indeed, two points:

 a) the photovoltaic effect was discovered by an obscure Frenchman,  Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in1839. It took about 150 years to make the PV effect able to produce electricity economically.

 b) the Joint European Torus, the JET, in the UK, achieved, with its Tokamak design, not just thermonuclear ignition, but break-even (or so), producing nearly  as much energy through fusion as was put in to confine the plasma and heat it up. That was in the 1990s. (Tokamak is from the Russian for toroidal kamera aksial; the great Andrei Sakharov got the idea of the toroidal chamber with an axial magnetic field.) Since then tremendous progress has been made.

 ITER is supposed to produce ten times the energy put in.

 Tokamak designs aim to put the sun in a box. A tall order. Have the sun turn around in a torus, as a magnetically controlled plasma, never touching the walls. It’s ambitious. Maybe too ambitious.

 The first problem is to confine magnetically the 100 million degrees Celsius plasma, so that it does not touch the walls. Initially, plasma could be confined for only a fraction of a second. But, in the last decade, a Tokamak in France at Cadarache, where ITER is built, achieved around ten minutes of confinement. After some subtle computations by a woman mathematician uncovered new tricks for stabilizing a plasma.

 Plasma are the fourth state of matter, beyond gas, liquid and solid. Stars are made of plasmas. It’s not like we don’t need to know about plasmas. Sometimes, stars blow up. The French Corot satellite found that most stars are much more unstable than the sun. (This discovery could lead to very practical applications, say in the search for extraterrestrial life, or just Sol surveillance.)

 Other designs for thermonuclear fusion than the tokamak, are imaginable, or have been achieved. No, this is not a joke about “cold fusion”.

 Electrostatic thermonuclear fusion machines do exist and are for sale. In them a beam of particles is shot into a thermonuclear fuel target, fusion is achieved. They generate copious amounts of neutrons (that’s why people buy them). http://www.nsd-fusion.com/

 The lack of success of the presently governmentally financed fusion efforts has been caused from their very ambition, in particular the necessity to avoid contact with plasma and to handle waste… something that is irrelevant in space.

 A few years back, the confinement of the Tokamak at Princeton failed catastrophically for a second, or so. The plasma touched the wall, or something. The machine is 10,000 metric tons (heavier than the Eifel Tower). It jerked up by a foot.

 10,000 tons, jumping. Fusion is mighty.

 The scheme for fusion as propulsion is a variant of a system long proposed to achieve energy production. The idea was to use some material to crush fusion fuel (Deuterium and, maybe, also Tritium), to the point temperatures and pressures similar to those of the sun would be achieved.

 This is how a so called thermonuclear bomb works. In such a bomb, the enormous pressure of the electromagnetic blast from a fission bomb is used to compress a so called tamper that surrounds a mantle made of thermonuclear fuel with a plutonium fission core. The tamper gathers heat and kinetic energy, and, in turn, compresses its interior to sun like conditions.

 In a nuclear bomb, the tamper participates to energy generation: if made out of U238, it fissions. That, however, generates nasty radioactive waste.

 Thus, the main problem of controlled thermonuclear fusion has been, what do you do with the crushing mechanism, once it has become some sort of obnoxious plasma?

 In a so called fusion bomb, the crushing mechanism, which is crucial, can either be made of lead (to reduce yield), or U238 (to augment yield, by supplementary fission).

 Then how come the usage of lasers to ignite a pellet has, so far, failed to achieve ignition? (Differently from the tokamaks which do this routinely.) Because, precisely, in this NIF, the National Ignition Facility, there is not much of a crushing mechanism. Instead light is asked, directly, to crush. But light is made of bosons, particles that like to pile up at the same place, they don’t crush very well.

 In the rocket engine, the crushing mechanism becomes ejected fuel. Presto, no more waste. So I think it should work.

 Why having fusion obsession as a moral order? We don’t want to do like the Romans, and wake up some day, out of energy to do what needs to be done. Going to Mars. Among other things.

 Just like the Romans had to go to Eastern Europe, to find the metals they needed. But they never made it there, because, the one and only time, the entire Roman army was ready, capable and determined to make it there, its imperator was assassinated.

 His name was Julius Caesar.

 Never again would a Roman army be capable of that mission. Eastern Europe would turn into Rome’s Achilles Heel. In several ways. Those romanized Germans, the Franks, were fully aware that progress of law, order and civilization had to cover all of Europe, so, as soon as 407 CE, they fought as the old republican Romans used to, and conquered Eastern Europe by the 8C.

 After this not so accidental happenstance of history, the assassination of the transgender Caesar, the hostile attitude of emperors to any sort of new adventures, especially in all aspects of the mind (hence technology) insured debilitating degeneracy.  That’s why the initiative of plutophile senator Feinstein (Demoncrat, California) to defund the modest USA contribution to ITER should be seen for what it is. Rage against the progress of understanding. Rage against progress: an attempt to spoil our only chance.

 Either we will master fusion, and will go beyond prehistory, or civilization, just as unable to hold together as a nucleus with too many nucleons, will fission.

***

Patrice Ayme

***

 P/S: Some will say that we can just do with PhotoVoltaics. Not true. However the fusion propulsion project will use PV to create the electrical power it needs. So, as fusion products don’t fission (having too few nucleons), fusion propulsion will be very clean, allowing to use it even in low orbit. Add this to the space elevator, and we have our access to space, cheap, easy and safe.