Thursday, July 14, 2011

Who Can Defend Planet Earth from the Real Threats?

Power Point Slide Presentation via Brian Wang

The US is dismantling its space program, piece by piece, and neither Europe nor Russia can afford their ambitious space goals. Only China appears to be in a position to pursue the vast opportunities, riches, and challenges of space travel, exploration, colonisation, and . . . . yes, militarisation. It is the high ground, after all.

Unless humans create space-based defenses against errant asteroids, comets, and other dangers from extraterrestrial space, the planet Earth and its precious biosphere will remain defenseless against the most serious threats it will likely face.

Brian Wang takes a look at the problem in a recent posting, Defending Planet Earth from Space Asteroids.
4 approaches depending on circumstances

* Civil defense (evacuation, sheltering, first aid, etc.
- Up to 50 meter in diameter?

* Slow Push-Pull (tug, solar heating, albedo change, gravity tractor, et al.)
- Needs decades to operate (plus time to build, etc.)
- Max size 300-600 m diameter
- Gravity tractor closest to ready and least dependent on properties of NEO

* Kinetic Impacts (Super Deep Impact)
- sensitive to porosity of top meters to tens of meters
- momentum transfer efficiency not known
- much wider range of applicability (max size 1 to 1.5 km, shorter warning for small ones)

*Nuclear blast
- standoff blast best
- works up to 10 km and relatively short warning

What Next

* Don Quixote-like mission
- a rendezvous spacecraft at a small NEO followed by a large impactor
- biggest gain in knowledge directly related to mitigation
- Guess $1.5G; Good for international collaboration

* Gravity tractor demonstration
- fewer unknowns other than engineering
- second priority

* Apophis a possible target but any small NEO will do
- Can’t predict which might need to be used first
- Small NEO is by far the most likely
- Warning time very uncertain but short warnings are likely at ~100m diameter or less _NBF

More at link above, and at Planetary Defense and NEO Exploration PPT

Only humans with advanced science and technology can defend their planet from space threats such as comet and asteroid collision. But while the advanced western world governments are dominated by faux environmentalists and beseiged by the twin destructors of debt and demographic decline, science and technology are skewed toward dysfunctional phantom fears such as carbon hysteria, overpopulation doom, etc.

Yet another extremely dangerous societal dysfunction in the west is the ongoing "war against boys" led by highly placed feminsts in academia, journalism, think tanks, and government. It is from among the boys -- including some with Aspergers, dyslexia, and ADD -- that the bulk of high achieving scientists and technologists will inevitably be found. The war against boys is a war against science and technology, and a war against the future of the planet and the human race.

Human societies in general are going the wrong direction, heading toward an Idiocracy. It may be up to isolated groups of humans, building alliances among themselves, to preserve and extend the art of human and planetary survival via the advancement of true science and beneficial / protective technologies.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Lori Gottlieb and the Collapse of the American Empire

The message we send kids with all the choices we give them is that they are entitled to a perfect life—that, as Dan Kindlon, the psychologist from Harvard, puts it, “if they ever feel a twinge of non-euphoria, there should be another option.” Mogel puts it even more bluntly: what parents are creating with all this choice are anxious and entitled kids whom she describes as “handicapped royalty.” _Lori Gottlieb

Pity meek and mild Lori Gottlieb, an intern in family counseling who has made some interesting observations in the course of her work. Gottlieb discussed her observations in a recent piece in the Atlantic. The piece has raised a firestorm of online debate, snark, and condemnation, almost entirely undeserved. The fault in Gottlieb's piece lies not in what she says, but in what she leaves out -- what these disturbing findings imply for the future of the American empire.
...Here I was, seeing the flesh-and-blood results of the kind of parenting that my peers and I were trying to practice with our own kids, precisely so that they wouldn’t end up on a therapist’s couch one day. We were running ourselves ragged in a herculean effort to do right by our kids—yet what seemed like grown-up versions of them were sitting in our offices, saying they felt empty, confused, and anxious. Back in graduate school, the clinical focus had always been on how the lack of parental attunement affects the child. It never occurred to any of us to ask, what if the parents are too attuned? What happens to those kids?

...Dan Kindlon, a child psychologist and lecturer at Harvard, warns against what he calls our “discomfort with discomfort” in his book Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age. If kids can’t experience painful feelings, Kindlon told me when I called him not long ago, they won’t develop “psychological immunity.”

“It’s like the way our body’s immune system develops,” he explained. “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle...

...Wendy Mogel is a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who, after the publication of her book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee a decade ago, became an adviser to schools all over the country. When I talked to her this spring, she said that over the past few years, college deans have reported receiving growing numbers of incoming freshmen they’ve dubbed “teacups” because they’re so fragile that they break down anytime things don’t go their way. “Well-intentioned parents have been metabolizing their anxiety for them their entire childhoods,” Mogel said of these kids, “so they don’t know how to deal with it when they grow up.”

...A few months ago, I called up Jean Twenge, a co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, who has written extensively about narcissism and self-esteem. She told me she wasn’t surprised that some of my patients reported having very happy childhoods but felt dissatisfied and lost as adults. When ego-boosting parents exclaim “Great job!” not just the first time a young child puts on his shoes but every single morning he does this, the child learns to feel that everything he does is special. Likewise, if the kid participates in activities where he gets stickers for “good tries,” he never gets negative feedback on his performance.

...This same teacher—who asked not to be identified, for fear of losing her job—says she sees many parents who think they’re setting limits, when actually, they’re just being wishy-washy. “A kid will say, ‘Can we get ice cream on the way home?’ And the parent will say, ‘No, it’s not our day. Ice-cream day is Friday.’ Then the child will push and negotiate, and the parent, who probably thinks negotiating is ‘honoring her child’s opinion,’ will say, ‘Fine, we’ll get ice cream today, but don’t ask me tomorrow, because the answer is no!’” The teacher laughed. “Every year, parents come to me and say, ‘Why won’t my child listen to me? Why won’t she take no for an answer?’ And I say, ‘Your child won’t take no for an answer, because the answer is never no!’”

... _theAtlantic
And so on... An interesting glimpse into the modern state of child-raising in the US from someone on the front lines of family therapy.

If Americans truly are raising generations of fragile, entitled children, who is going to do the hard work that needs to be done? As long as the US economy was doing well, America could import its hard workers and many of its hard thinkers, so as to keep the wheels of commerce and invention moving along. But with the rapid emergence of crisis levels of debt and demography, the US economy may not be able to import so much of its needed human capital -- to compensate for the disastrous failures of its parents and educational system.

Children need to learn practical competence in a wide range of skills. They need to learn to focus on a difficult task, and learn to work hard at it until it is done. Children must not be age-segregated in prison schools for so many of their formative years, kept away from any responsibility or opportunity to explore the real world.

The Roman Empire collapsed over a few centuries for many of the reasons the American empire is threatened: debt, demography, social problems that were swept under the rug, entitled and abusive ruling classes, etc.

American parents have only one or two children, on average, and far too many of them are being raised as "trophy children," pampered perpetually childish pets rather than skilled, competent, and responsible proto-adults. This failure to reproduce -- and failure to competently raise the meagre progeny which they do produce -- is what truly threatens the collapse of the American Experiment (not actually an empire in the Roman sense at all).

Gottlieb was actually rather tentative and modest in her conclusions -- not taking them as far as she perhaps should have. Yet she was castigated by the "pampering nannies" of modern academia, journalism, and the blogosphere. The dysfunction can probably not be reversed before catastrophe ensues, at least not in the many strongholds of the destructive philosophy.

It is up to parents who wish to raise competent and functional children to structure an environment around the child which facilitates the acquisition of skills and an ongoing successful adaptation to adult world responsibilities.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Solar Cycles Stalling: Ice Age On Its Way?

Average temperatures in Britain could fall by two degrees centigrade, according to the study led by Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics at Reading University, because of a drop in the amount of sunspot activity. _DailyMail
Little Ice Age Plunging In?

The Earth's climate is chaotic by nature, and given to drastic changes and shifts as a matter of course. The many overlapping natural cycles which contribute to global climate have been largely ignored by climate scientists -- until now.
Professor Lockwood's findings could mean the average winter temperature could drop below 2.5C, compared to the average British winter now of 5C, the newspaper reported.

In June, three different studies all concluded that sunspot activity looks set to decline over the next 10 years.

Experts said the next upswing in sunspot activity, which follows an 11-year cycle, will not be as strong as normal - or might not even happen at all.
The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's solar physics division.

They said a decrease in global warming might result in the years after 2020, the approximate time when sunspots are expected to disappear for years, maybe even decades. _DailyMail

Meanwhile, climate scientists are just now beginning to admit the importance of the urban heat island effect, which has biased global temperature records upward -- contributing to the carbon hysteria which has sustained the orthodoxy of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, and helped drive the bandwagon and steamroller of the great climate panic of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

More honest scientists are likewise admitting that extreme weather events have nothing to do with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

You Mustn't Believe the Lies that Green Zealots Tell. Not only about nuclear power, but about climate change, resource depletion, overpopulation, etc.

Government meddling in climate and energy will be the death of us all. It is time to stamp out government meddling, before government meddling stamps us out!

Friday, July 01, 2011

A Biological World: Sustainable Materials and Fuels


Global industry is looking for alternatives to fossil fuels, as feedstocks for the production of fuels, plastics, high value chemicals, lubricants, and other materials. The planet Earth is highly prolific in its biological output -- and it could be far more biologically prolific, given just a little help.

The image above depicts the scheme of Montana startup Blue Marble Biomaterials, which aims to ride a $multimillion grant from the US Advanced Manufacturing Program to successful bio-manufacturing.
The company is implementing novel recycling systems to eliminate waste and reduce cost: a photo-bioreactor containing algae purifies wastewater and waste gas from the fermentation system and their solid waste is dried and pelletized for use in wood-burning furnaces and stoves. The company has future plans to power its facilities using its own waste gas and pelletized solid waste in already on-site gasifiers.

Blue Marble Energy’s proprietary AGATE (Acid, Gas and Ammonia Targeted Extraction) system uses different bacterial consortia (“cassettes”) in an anaerobic fermentation process to produce carboxylic acids, esters, mercaptains / thiols, and terpenes. The system is feedstock flexible; for the Missoula plant, Blue Marble is using waste coffee grounds and spent grain from a major brewer, said Kelly Ogilvie, Blue Marble’s CEO.

(Blue Marble uses a supercritical fluid extraction process to remove the remaining lipids from the coffee grounds.)

The feedstock flexibility can manifest as price stability for Blue Marble’s chemical customers, Ogilvie noted. For example, the company has a stable price on the spent grain from the brewer; a waste product which otherwise would end up in landfills (i.e., the amounts above that which could economically be used for cattle feed, the other major disposal pathway for spent grain).

If we have fixed feedstock [such as the waste spent grain], we have price stability. We can hedge off the future price volatility of petroleum. Price protection is a huge issue right now.

—Kelly Ogilvie
Blue Marble had better have its act together, because government grants run out very quickly -- no matter how well connected company founders may be to government administrators. Bio-manufacture of this range of materials, using these new technologies, is risky and cutting edge.

As long as petroleum prices remain relatively high, crafty uses of biomass and bio-products as substitutes for petroleum can make a profit. But to build a large-scale infrastructure of bio-manufacture and bio-refining, investors and participants will want to be sure the bio-approach can withstand temporary nose-dives of oil prices, such as occurred in 2008-2009 and multiple times throughout the 1900s.