Sunday, August 13, 2017

Life or death new developments and opportunities re energy/climate

Global energy and climate issues remain a matter of life and death importance.
We do need to keep discussing them and doing our best to address them.

One of the reasons I have not posted as much this year is that there are key facts of life which have not changed so much. For example, the methanol policy forums led by Anne Korin and Gal Luft brought out basic facts of life which are still important.

Maybe I should have posted something on the changes we need in regulation of interstate transmission lines, changes which ought to be possible under the new administration. Those could be much more helpful to the market deployment of renewable electricity generation than any changes in any of the relevant federal incentives and laws, certainly more helpful than the Waxman Act would be, while also relying more on market forces and reducing electricity costs to ratepayers. 
That's a long story. A small part of that story is posted at, responding to the solar power leaders of Chile.
I am truly disgusted that political correctness has blocked so many people from working with the Administration in areas of limited agreement, to address serious common problems.

HOWEVER: the new situation on climate REALLY demands new thinking, at least from the viewpoint of those of us who actually care whether all humans on earth might well die by 2060-2100. That's the concern; no hyperbole whatsoever.

The Atacama paper from last year summarizes why I really worry about that now; if the story in the later half of that paper is too long (4 pages?), note that there are color pictures which basically tell the whole thing. Before I discussed Peter Ward's questions with Marty Hoffert (use to see who he is), I was worried more about the Arctic and North Atlantic (where problems will develop sooner), but did not realize how utterly fatal the Antarctic progressions are. This year, the news about accelerated melting in Antarctic make it even more crucial. It was not just one record-breaking iceberg, but a crack in motion to a lot more -- as in the "worst case" scenarios of Jim Hansen, who was sadly retired from NASA.

Some of you may have read about a new comprehensive assessment 
of climate issues by NOAA which has been leaked:

Chapter 6 addresses Antarctic.

Three main big messages I see here:

(1) The "cutting back on science" started about when Hansen and I retired, about when Lamar Smith took over a lot of federal agencies de facto (gutting hopes for the US space program, among other things, including even our ability to intercept North Korean missiles as effectively as we should). 

(2) The detailed specifics I cite in the Atacama report remain fully valid and fully confirmed, even though the obvious effort to use euphemisms and cut back on data collection do reach the report.

(3) Most important -- if we care about staying alive, it is high time for those of us who are responsible stop relying 100% on things like climate bills and even changes in net GHG emissions to keep us alive. 

Once I wondered: "Can we act fast enough to prevent what Ward called 'ocean stratification'?" Well, it's too late. It's already happened, around the Antarctic. Fortunately, even on the crucial Pacific side of the Antarctic, there are reserves
of oxygen in the deep ocean likely to last 40 years. But we are like a person with head underwater, with limited oxygen in the lungs.

It really is urgent that humanity reconsider the Teller/Wood/Caldeira proposal for geoengineering, specifically just for the Antarctic, to try to prevent the really worst case climate impacts. Yes, that would not protect us from a host of other climate problems people have talked about, the kind which IPCC IV projected might cost us 5% of world GNP by 2100. But the sea level rise and H2S implications of the Antarctic melting are 'way more urgent and serious. 

A recent revisiting of the Teller/Wood/Caldeira scheme was posted at e360, the environment site run by Yale. Even for a GLOBAL use of the Teller/Wood/Caldeira scheme, costs were projected at under $1 billion/year. Compare that with the $500 billion per year allowance giveaways which came with the Waxman bill!!
As a skeptic on costs... I might guess we would need $1 to 2 billion per year, from some consortium of nations, to be really sure of really doing it just for the Antarctic, to stop the melting there and restore the "lungs of the planet". 


Back in 2009, I would not have advocated immediate deployment of the Teller/Wood/Caldeira scheme. There are many reasons why. I worked with the key EPW staffers who would also have had valid reasons. But things have changed. 
I did advocate R&D to try to develop a variety of geoengineering approaches, "just in case," to be available as a backup in case other approaches were not enough, in case of worst case developments. But now, we are in the worst case kind of situation, and things like the Paris agreement certainly would not have changed that. The numbers just aren't right. And delay would be in incredibly risky.

Many hate US leadership so much that they would say: (1) there is no hope there; (2) but US leadership is necessary; (3) therefore we can express our concern for humanity by fiercely going on strike and helping it die. I am still fascinated by the research in neuropsychiatry showing how an apparently intelligent organism could be capable of such weird suicidal "reasoning", but with mental discipline we can all do a bit better. Rationality demands that we at least try to stay alive, and therefore that we look for holes in the apparent stone walls of (1) and (2) or both.

Regarding (2).. the Antarctic is already an international zone. On a recent trip to Norway, I could see that Norway has the best right of any nation to claim ownership of the Antarctic, if it comes down to it. Any member of the existing consortium could take leadership. Any responsible group should of course invite (1) contribution and "shares" in the new effort; and (2) at least acquiescence from all other nations, including the US, so long as there is no waiting for full contribution (or even for x% as in the Kyoto model). This would also be a great constructive way for other nations to raise awareness and dispel misconceptions.
It would EITHER get clear US acquiescence, or esle add a big nail in the coffin of those so irresponsible they would interfere with the right of other nations to try to save us all.

As for the US.. I had strong bittersweet feelings when Ivanka tried to bring up to date climate information to her father, and used Al Gore to do it. Al Gore!
The same Al Gore who called it the "breakthough of the century" when a pawn of that natural gas industry showed him a system to burn natural gas to make hydrogen, losing 50% of the energy in the process, and he let himself be bamboozled into thinking this could be useful in cars. Whatever Trump's failings, I suspect he at least notices numbers more than Gore, and Gore: (1) is excessively wedded to old expensive approaches and political correctness; (2) simply did not have the relevant information. Trump actually would have a positive opportunity here, which he could really play quite well if he thought about it. For openers, I would strongly urge consideration of Lowell Wood himself for the crucial vacant position of Science Advisor (head of OSTP); after all, he was good enough to be science advisor to Ed Teller for many years, and Teller was a friend of Ronald Reagan and as tough as they come. Teller and Wood do have pro-nuclear
biases stronger than I would like (Teller being father of the H-bomb), but if we need him to save our lives... 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Where did this universe come from?

A member of the Vedanta Society listserv  wrote:

The question becomes "where did this physical mundane universe actually come from?"
The big bang? Quantum vacuum? This already assumes a physical reality. There might be a simpler explanation.

First, a small caveat. There are times when I prefer to use the word "cosmos" rather than "universe," in respect to the Everett/Wheeler/Deutsch theory that our cosmos is actually made up (at each time) of an infinite collection of three dimensional objects we see as "universes". Reality is trickier than that, but already our understanding in physics is rich enough that I need to know which question you are interested in:

(1) Why do we seem to see the particular three-dimensional "universe" object we now see, out of all the many such objects which exist?

(2) Where did the larger cosmos, and the mathematical "law of everything", actually come from?

My guess is that you meant to choose (2), but then there is a further caveat. I would not use the word "mundane" to describe the cosmos. The cosmos includes not only ordinary familiar types of matter (electrons, protons, neutrons, photons), but dark matter and other things -- enough to provide the material substance for life and intelligence and consciousness to evolve at levels above that of the mundane human body. STRICTLY AS A MATTER OF SEMANTICS, we may or may not choose to view the cosmos itself as a kind of mind in itself, depending on how we feel about the equations; the equations are real, the fuzzy labels people argue about much less so. Not "mundane" as many of us have used that term for a long time. 


So then, your question (as I understand it): where did this incredible cosmos come from?

My questions: how can we make sense of this question, and what is the right way to approach it?

Always when we pose a fundamental theory, the question of "WHY is it true?" effectively asks for a more fundamental theory. As you hint, this easily gets into an empty infinite regress, whether we talk about it in words or in mathematics. Certainly I am DEEPLY interested right now in looking for such a more fundamental theory, one step deeper than Modified or Markovian QED ( At some time, it may or may not be worthwhile to try to probe one level even deeper than what I am looking for now (if an empirical basis is found for doing so), but for now that one deep step is enough of a challenge, even though the gross qualitative ideas seem clear and detailed enough. (We all can emit lots of fuzzy words, but that is neither here nor there.) 

For myself, I would be ready to respond with intense thought in reaction to real empirical clues EITHER from the physics lab OR from veridical paranormal experience. (Ancient holy texts I do not treat as solid evidence, given how they contradict each other anyway. I view them all as evidence more like dreams, which at best call for lots of filtering, testing and probing analysis of where they came from.) At present, I do not see any serious clues to any specific need for a model beyond Lagrange-Euler equations operating over ordinary curved Minkowski space, now that I understand better how such models work. 

That is the logical response as I see it. But I still see two entertaining images which may be worth mentioning.

Many decades ago, I came to a small party hosted by Professor Albritton, head of the Harvard philosophy department (which combined a typical Anglo-American analytic base with a deep interest in the larger history of philosophy). Someone asked him what it all means in the end, what it has to say to the rest of us. He knocked his hand on the wall, and said (roughly) : "Well, we have agonized a lot over whether we should accept THIS all as real or not. Mainly we do.." To accept reality and life, for all their complexities, or not. Or as Nietzsche once said, to say "yes" or "no" to life itself. Or as Valliant once said, whether to get rid of nonsense defense mechanisms like denial, and to move on. 

I have often heard people debate "Is God male or female or transgender?" The minute I hear such things, I picture a huge fetus (a bit like the one in the movie 2001), a fetus speculating about the sex life of its parents. There are better things for a fetus brain to think about. Such speculations remind me of a neural network I once trained to solve a generalized maze problem, which initially wasted ever so much time in relatively unproductive oscillations, due to trying to optimize the weights which were less important to its current stage of learning. A system more self-aware, modeling its larger progress, could move much faster. To express our own life and our own nature, we too need to make better use of true self-awareness, and try not to follow the empty paths of so many ... whatever. (I remember a yoga teacher who talked about the "river of ice" so many get caught in, made much icier by delusions of... whatveer.)

Best of luck,


Thursday, August 10, 2017

From the watch: who loves and supports King Kim

 I would prefer to work on certain equations today, but .. cleanup and the watch intrude.

On CNN just now, I saw Congressman Kinzinger, whom some folks are grooming to become their many in the White House. By now I have been in DC long enough hat I can sometimes tell who they have been talking to just by looking at the face, even before the words give it away. But no, it is not a good idea to name too many names.

The US security community at top levels has been polarized along one dimension more than the many others: those who plan to get ahead because of their external stakeholders, and those who really care about national security (though a variety of different honest perspectives). The folks who want maximum money for minimum work are really salivating about how much they love having Kim around, and they sure don't want any actions taken which would reduce the chances of staying there.

Some folks, hearing Kinzinger smile about all the new money for missile defense, might imagine that this will result in a much stronger US military, and maybe even a first strike capability. "We will do so much now, with all the new money." But no, those very same folks have taken substantial action to prevent anything like that.

If Kim sends missiles to Guam, if they land in US territory... well, the Japanese didn't expect much reaction to Pearl Harbor. They had studied how people like Roosevelt and his generals behaved...
If the missiles go exactly where North Korea has announced, Chinese help with GNC will immediately be suspected... whether from Xi or from folks he does not control would not much change the reaction. But if they go in the wrong place... well, that could also be interesting.

If the US does NOT try to intercept a previously advertized strike on US territory... that kills credibility in one way. But folks like Kinzinger's friends would not want it so obvious how they have lied and blocked real technology, so they may push for that. "Sooner die than be embarrassed... especially if it's really only a few million lives in the Bay area or Seattle who would pay the price."
(Marketing gets focused priority in some places; I know them well.)

Of course, China too has its own defense procurement people...

Who knows?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

From the watch: a sea of glass coming in Korea?

It never ceases to amaze me how humans filter their beliefs SO MUCH according to what they want to believe, and political correctness.

For example, two really major decisions have been made by China in recent months, which dispel the world's hope that China might provide a new kind of leadership to save humanity from the obvious biases of the old. One: when folks like VP Candidate Kane pointed out holes in TPP which truly hurt working people everywhere, why not lead a new TPP (US invited but not to lead)? Does the leadership in China not understand how important the well-being of working people is to long-term sustainability? But more recently, the big decision was NOT to accept the US request that energy imports to North Korea be included in a new world sanctions blockade. It is very hard to believe that China did not know exactly what it was doing in that decision. It was a strong signal:"Sorry folks, you may be a trading partner, but we don't care whether this guy soon kills every ;person living in the San Francisco Bay area. On balance, we would enjoy the new monopoly this wuold give us, and we are ready to join North Korea in North China Sea to kick out both you guys and the other competitors who are not yet suzerains to the new Empire." The US has aberrations due to oil companies and literal imperialists, but China seems eager to prove it is no better.

So yes, we are on our own. The guy has said he will do anything to get revenge on the US, and he is very very close to mass murder, and the US will not compromise one minute facing THAT MUCH.

But is Trump too weak to do what he feels is necessary, to bite the bullet? Or could HE be discouraged by sanctions and such?

First, he is indeed immensely weaker now than most people expected.  The rule that everything now  goes through General Kelly is hugely important. Some say "That's just rational," but it reminds me of a novel about China, River of Stars, by Kay, which gives some idea what such reporting can do. The folks who wanted war today between US and Israel versus Russia and Japan are on the ascendant in Congress especially .. and Trump had to deal to stay around. No choice. But guess what? The folks who want war are NOT more peaceful than Trump. Quite the opposite. Lindsay Graham has been very, very clear about how he runs the numbers for the Korean crisis.

Corruption in Washington has made the US much weaker than it should be in areas like missile defense. I wish THAAD was so accurate that it could even reduce Russian and Chinese ability to destroy the US a little bit, but that is not realistic. Complaints like that are a nonsense PR game. If Trump and Kelly felt sure THAAD could at least handle the much smaller capabilities North Korea is starting to deploy, they would just relax. If they don't just relax, Russia and China should remove any doubts at all that THEIR deterrents are at risk. In truth, corrupt lobbyists and folks who respond to them have prevented deployment even of the best available GNC algorithms on existing chips, let alone... what could have been done. I tend to think that Kelly and Bush understand the weaknesses of THAAD, and the need to do something else. I just hope others are wise enough not to terminate the human experiment; if Trump and Kelly start with something which SEEMS very strong, I hope they don't pull out the stronger last ditch plans that others wanted soon.

Why did Trump talk about fire and fury? A matter of due diligence.

But: back to equations, an activity which remains valid with or without this planet. Maybe we will be out of town, by coincidence, when all hell breaks loose. maybe. Probably not, but no one knows. Maybe it will be one of those many worlds junctions...


A few hours lately, Fareed Zacharia is assuring the world that Trump would not take real military action, let alone a scheduled conditional plan. Well, if anyone listens, they should also remember that Zacharia also reassured people that Trump could not possibly be elected, period. Trump has a history of betting his own farm, a billions dollars worth, when the numbers looked like they call for it. Lindsay Graham has spoken about the numbers here.

But other folks said Trump needs to be clear that the goal is to make sure Kim cannot possibly nuc the US mainland, ever. Hasn't he been clear enough? That COULD be accomplished by regime change (e.g. by China or Russia just taking over North Korea) or by a much stiffer embargo demanding quick action or by turning North Korea into a sea of glass. Of course a truly effective embargo would be his preference -- or even more pleasant talks inviting Kim to Miss Universe parties and such, IF the nuclear program slowed enough to make that realistic as a hope. But for now, present sanction s don't seem realistic as a way to  prevent Trump's absolute red line, and talks just accelerate the program. There is no contradiction with what Tillerson said; regime change as such is not a stated goal of any of them... but if China gives us no other option to achieve the goal, Trump is very much a bottom line results guy by nature (even though he messed up on health care that way).

Who knows? But at least the equations finally seem to be behaving better for now...
not the quantum but subquantal..

Saturday, August 5, 2017

New immigration bill: Trump's best performance so far

THE WATCH: months ago, I mentioned how various folks urged me to probe deeply into what is going on in the larger human world, including the politics of DC, and report to anyone interested. That is not my main activity now. In fact, our six week trip June 13 -- July 25 from Barcelona to Hamburg, from Hamburg to Arctic Ocean and back, and form Hamburg to Rome was SUCH a..
blessed break. Virtually no thunderclouds of CNN over my head. No assumption dreams where I looked through the eyes of Donald Trump. There actually was at least one dream where I saw through the eyes of Angela Merkel, and that was so much more sustainable and tranquil... Ale France24, in French...

But the watch is not over, just put on a lower priority, and a few observations still require comment.

Above all, two days ago or so, I did see Muller on CNN, presenting the Administration's new immigration bill. For once I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of what was coming from the White House. There have been so many kinds of insincere bluster, posturing and PR, at best out of touch with reality on many points -- at best a valid primal scream responding to things even worse. (One of the scariest things in the DC watch is people's lack of awareness of those worse things around the corner or under their nose.) But this time, it sounded like a truly sincere and competent guy, presenting a modes but significant proposal which was well thought out and which even passes a couple of higher tests of reasonableness. Could Trump claw his way out of the swamp after all?

Still, the session afterwards was somewhat sobering. I was disappointed that the CNN reporter behaved a bit like some science lobbyists I have seen when confronted with Heresy from an Improper Person. (Real science respects the rights of all People, does not blacklist, and treats different ideas from the same person differently.) His paen to the statue of liberty, misplacing what he was referring to, was a lowering of the level of discussion, and a return to the kind of nondialogue which systematically screws things up here (which Administration people have contributed to of course).

The one statement by Muller which really jarred me was when he replied that the reporter was guilty of being a 'cosmpolitan." That was a very bad moment for me, since I certainly identify with being a cosmopolitan -- a child of the cosmos, not a narrow provincialist. Yes, it seems that Muller nourishes a false stereotype of what it means to be cosmopolitan, just as many people have false stereotype of pater galacticus as a bearded Jewish patriarch who casts scowls and thunderbolts at anyone who is not strictly kosher in a literal sense.  (Obviously there are imams and billionnaires in Qatar and Turkey who wallow in even worse stereotypes.) Yes, there exist distorted versions of cosmpolitanism and science, but making war on either one of them is over the line in a very basic way.

Nevertheless, it is also a reasonable test of sanity whether people can take the presentation before that time in a respectful way, on its own merits. The planet earth does not have infinite resources, and selection mechanisms are unavoidable. Canada and Australia are not Nazi states, for God's sake! Even the English language does deserve a certain degree of respect (even though people like me are called to try to learn additional languages, and to keep trying to do it better, as one of many priorities). At some points, I began to wonder: this guy is sounding so sane, could he have been talking to those IEEE-USA folks I know who talk about their regular White House discussions? But IEEE has focused more on abuses in the H1B program, which was not the theme here.

Certainly the EXISTING US system is full of incredible abuses and stochastic stuff, and perhaps even the kind of corruption we haven't thought of before with US federal agencies (though we all know of local police systems sometimes getting bought off by drug dealers). A more objective points-based system could be more fair as well as more sustainable, if done right, and Muller sounded as if he was trying to get it right.

It was also sad for me a few hours later to hear a well-meaning CNN woman expressing a superior attitude here, sounding a lot like a nun I had in the third grade talking about Alexander's "temple to the unknown God," telling us how she knew it all and could have helped that poor ignorant man.
"Doesn't he know  how many new businesses are opened by immigrants?" Obviously he knew, he cited literature, and he obviously knew that some immigrants do more of that than others.

The university system in the US, and the old NSF before Lamar Smith bot his hands on things,  was one of the fairest, most open and most competitive sectors in the entire world, responsible for much of US economic growth. It is a sad fact of life that they all relied on selection and judgments which were unavoidably imperfect -- but even so, that is much better and more sustainable than just saying all standards and all selection will be thrown out the door. Living without selection mechanisms is a bit like old-style perpetual motion; pious belief in it can be a real problem when people start throwing out something they need just to stay alive. It makes sense to work very hard to make selection mechanisms more open, more fair and more transparent (the exact opposite of what Lamar Smith has enforced) with a larger creative perspective, but the pious belief that we can live without them is dangerous illusion.


Before I move to equations... it was also interesting to see in Europe how upset people were by Congress acting as if the US had no allies, not consulting, putting sanctions on Europe as much as Russia, trying to force them to shift back from electric transportation to oil as a little "unintended consequence." No, they don't worship Trump, but Congress has given many a sense that Trump is not the only person they must become more free of.

I wonder whether Pence has noticed the news from Brazil about what can happen to the guy in place after a legal removal of an elected president? Many of Brazil's hopes are also on hold at best for now...

Back to equations. It is a new semester ....

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Where we really come from

In my view, these three pictures depict the best we really know about who we really are, where we really come from… and what we should meditate on very deeply, to come to terms with the greater reality we are part of.

The pictures on the left and on the right come from very important new scientific research on dark matter; there are simple press articles which copied over the images and cited the original papers:

Galaxies, like our Milky Way, are just tiny nodes or nodes in this huge ecology, a huge pulsing energetic network, evolved over billions of years (10? More?). In my view, the “noosphere” of earth is just one of many billions of similar organisms, evolved over billions of years, and we humans are a kind of symbiotic life form, a symbiosis of the body we see and the “soul,” a part of this hard-to-see greater network.

Here are my recent posts to a discussion with Vedanta and yoga people:

Likewise, those who imagine that the ocean of higher consciousness is just a pure homogeneous salt solution are blocked by this strong false image from making any progress towards getting there.  If all you care about re the ocean is that it is salty, and you discuss it at emotional arms length, purely as a game of words and hermeneutics, you won't get very deep at all, or begin to appreciate the complexity of life therein.

What IS that complexity like?

Beyond the earth -- and far surpassing the true knowledge of any of us on earth -- is this vast connected ecology, billions of years old at the least. It is real, here and now. It validates Loren Eiseley's poetic images in his introduction to Voyage to Arcturus. 

If we underestimate the vast reality out there... well, there are small creatures in little ponds on earth who do not appreciate even the larger planet they are living on. Some are insects, doomed to a short life anyway, while others are tadpoles of a sort, who will learn sooner or later, if they are alert enough to survive. 

I hope you do, and I hope I can help somehow. 

critic: Comparing the ocean of the consciousness with some homogeneous salt solution is not correct.

Indeed. Yet when people write rapturous or ponderous tomes on cosmic consciousness (the greater ocean of consciousness) as pure bliss, it is like pure saltiness.

The analogy is good, because the misconceptions are similar in both cases, oversimplifying the immense complexity.

Critic: A salt solution is a divisible reduction entity and comprises of some parts -- water, Na, and Cl and some forces bind these parts. Cosmic consciousness at the fundamental level is an infinite indivisible holistic single reality.
Well, perhaps the lagrangian of the cosmos is so simple, but for exactly that reason it cannot be attained, or lost. It is simply there for everyone at all times regardless. But it is meaningful to try to understand it, with math not words at this point, and to understand how it drives the very complex web of emergent phenomena of which we are a very small part in the huge real objective ocean of life. That web is our life.

There can't be any objective way to get to that level of the infinite ocean of the consciousness since it is NOT emergent. It never came into being and never go out of being. Of course, when it manifests on the brain, the brain undergoes some dynamical changes, which erroneously could be interpreted as consciousness.

"Consciousness" is just a word, and overuse of the word as a kind of flag is itself an unconscious defense of ego which we need to keep under control. 

There are configurations of brain, configurations of greater networks, configurations of computers we haven't seen yet on this planet, and the laws of the cosmos Itself. Those are real,
and are the only forms of consciousness which are -- though they can also imagine things which aren't.

The word "computing mechanisms" is somewhat loaded.

But, in general, there is excellent reason to believe that the level of consciousness we see in the human brain can be functionally explained and replicated by mathematical models taking full advantage of neural network mathematics, electromagnetic field effects, and ordinary quantum molecular interactions. (See the open access paper by Werbos and Davis, Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, open access, 2016.)

I recognize the validity of a lot of first-person empirical data on levels of consciousness beyond that brain level, but, after trying to understand them and work with them and analyze what others can really do with them (leaving aside folks like Sumerian priest kings and Roman emperors who claim they created the entire universe, and folks who smell like that), I see no reason to doubt that the same mathematics continues to work for all levels of actual consciousness in our cosmos -- unless you count the cosmos itself whose underlying principles seem ever more likely to be simpler still in foundation/axioms/Lagrangian.

No sane reason to doubt -- but on the neurotic side of course, human egos always want to be like those Roman emperors.

By the way, the picture in the middle is of Luda in front of the painting in our room on the Norwegian Jade, for our cruise June 22- July 4 from Hamburg to Arctic Ocean and back, with 8 days stopping in Norway. Before she stood there it reminded me of another map of our dark matter cluster of galaxies, and it was a fitting backdrop to our time in the Arctic Ocean. But her presence adds another dimension, so fine.