Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Clueless Award


 It's hard to imagine just how clueless most Rs are these days, but here in Texas, the R controlled Texas legislature gets my nomination for the much coveted Clueless Award.  Texas has been Red since the early nineties when Ann Richards and Jim Hightower, along with a host of other D's actually tried to govern a state with such enormous diversity in land, climate, and people.

But even with most of the big cities turning blue over the last decade, the rural areas still run the show.  It's gotten so unruly in Harris County, where Houston is,  the R's wrote and passed a bill that allows them to take over the voting administration  from the locally elected officials.  So much for local home rule.

So besides waging the usual culture wars on gays,  children,  women's health, and public schooling, the 88th legislature decided that they needed to stop one of the best things we have in Texas.  And that is our large and growing Renewable Energy industry.

That's the same industry that builds football fields and basketball field houses in lots of West Texas counties that don't have a sufficient tax base without the hundreds of millions dollars of renewable investments that have been planted in the hills and valleys of rural Texas.

So this session, legislators  spent a lot of energy arguing over bills that would make renewable energy harder to build and provide multi-billion-dollar payouts to companies to construct new gas-fired power plants. This from Canary Media:

There is an irrational animus toward renewables, a fundamental misunderstanding of what is causing the problems on the grid and what could be done to improve the situation,”  said Doug Lewin of the Texas Energy and Power Newsletter  in a Tuesday interview. We’re not even talking about the right things. All the debates at the end were about how much we’re going to screw over renewables, rather than what we’re going to do to fix these problems.”

But the most expensive and counterproductive policies, among the many threatening to undermine clean energy and drive up consumer costs, failed to be passed into law,  Lewin said.

That’s because a remarkable coalition of environmentalists, industry organizations and business groups” — including more than 50 chambers of commerce and trade groups representing manufacturers and even the oil and gas industry — united to defeat the worst measures, Lewin wrote in a post-session roundup for his Texas Energy and Power Newsletter. Together, these unusual bedfellows were able to stop a slew of policies that multiple analyses warned could increase costs to Texas energy consumers by billions of dollars per year without any evidence that they would improve grid reliability.

Those amendments threatened to increase the cost of electricity for Texas consumers by as much as $10 billion per year, according to IdeaSmiths, an analysis firm co-founded by University of Texas at Austin research scientist Joshua Rhodes. That would mean an increase of 50 percent over today’s costs, which have already risen significantly since the February 2021 grid disaster.

Over the final days of the session, a reconciliation committee (conference) working to align the Senate and House versions of HB 1500 managed to get rid of many of the most potentially harmful amendments."












Today,  Wind power and Solar power will be powering over 1/3 of Texas' homes and businesses and electric vehicles. And when you include our other non carbon generators, the total is 40%.  And it's very reliable, inexpensive, predictable power.  Look at today's power curve from ERCOT.


You can see that solar and wind together make a very nice match to the daytime load:






10 years ago, when I was serving as Chairman of the Austin Electric Utility Commission and the Generation Planning Taskforce, I spoke about the Renewable Symphony and  how well placed renewables can follow the State's load quite effectively.

Of course, we will have and will need natural gas generation for another decade or more.

Climate Change is occurring whether or not the Republican Party knows it 

or just chooses to disregard it.

I asked a leading lobbyist how we did as the session ended.

He said, we survived a plane crash.

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Sunday, April 30, 2023

AI thinks therefore AI am










If you haven't noticed, artificial intelligence (AI) is quite suddenly becoming a huge story.  Just last month, 60 minutes ran a significant piece on the issue and not only was it very entertaining, it was downright scary.  The self learning soccer robots really got my attention.  After just two days, they were running soccer plays that I've never even seen in a FIFA event. The excitement and concern started at the end of 2022 with the release of ChatGPT.  This from Wikipedia:

ChatGPT launched as a prototype on November 30, 2022, and garnered attention for its detailed responses and articulate answers across many domains of knowledge.[3] The advent of the chatbot has increased competition within the space, motivating the creation of Google's Bard and Meta's LLaMA

And just this week,  Jeffery Hinton , the Godfather of AI, left his job at Google because of his concerns for the technology he has helped develop.  

This from the Times:

"Geoffrey Hinton was an artificial intelligence pioneer. In 2012, Dr. Hinton and two of his graduate students at the University of Toronto created technology that became the intellectual foundation for the A.I. systems that the tech industry’s biggest companies believe is a key to their future.

On Monday, however, he officially joined a growing chorus of critics who say those companies are racing toward danger with their aggressive campaign to create products based on generative artificial intelligence, the technology that powers popular chatbots like ChatGPT.

Dr. Hinton said he has quit his job at Google so he can freely speak out about the risks of A.I.  A part of him, he said, now regrets his life’s work. (clip)

Dr. Hinton’s journey from A.I. groundbreaker to doomsayer marks a remarkable moment for the technology industry at perhaps its most important inflection point in decades. Industry leaders believe the new A.I. systems could be as important as the introduction of the web browser in the early 1990s and could lead to breakthroughs in areas ranging from drug research to education.

But gnawing at many industry insiders is a fear that they are releasing something dangerous into the wild. Generative A.I. can already be a tool for misinformation. Soon, it could be a risk to jobs. Somewhere down the line, tech’s biggest worriers say, it could be a risk to humanity.

“It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” Dr. Hinton said.

After the San Francisco start-up OpenAI released a new version of ChatGPT in March, more than 1,000 technology leaders and researchers signed an open letter calling for a six-month moratorium on the development of new systems because A.I. technologies pose “profound risks to society and humanity.”

Several days later, 19 current and former leaders of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence released their own letter warning of the risks of A.I. That group included Eric Horvitz, chief scientific officer at Microsoft. (clip)

Dr. Hinton, a 75-year-old British expatriate, is a lifelong academic whose career was driven by his personal convictions about the development and use of A.I.  In 1972, as a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Hinton embraced an idea called a neural network. A neural network is a mathematical system that learns skills by analyzing data. At the time, few researchers believed in the idea. But it became his life’s work.

In 2012, Dr. Hinton and two of his students in Toronto, Ilya Sutskever and Alex Krishevsky, built a neural network that could analyze thousands of photos and teach itself to identify common objects, such as flowers, dogs and cars.

In 2018, Dr. Hinton and two other longtime collaborators received the Turing Award, often called “the Nobel Prize of computing,” for their work on neural networks.

Around the same time, Google, OpenAI and other companies began building neural networks that learned from huge amounts of digital text. Dr. Hinton thought it was a powerful way for machines to understand and generate language, but it was inferior to the way humans handled language.

Then, last year, as Google and OpenAI built systems using much larger amounts of data, his view changed. He still believed the systems were inferior to the human brain in some ways but he thought they were eclipsing human intelligence in others. “Maybe what is going on in these systems,” he said, “is actually a lot better than what is going on in the brain.”

As companies improve their A.I. systems, he believes they become increasingly dangerous. “Look at how it was five years ago and how it is now,” he said of A.I. technology. “Take the difference and propagate it forwards. That’s scary.”

One of the segments of the 60 minutes story discussed that these learning systems have not just the ability but an apparent propensity to make up stuff.  They call these stories hallucinations

Down the road, Hinton is worried that future versions of the technology pose a threat to humanity because they often learn unexpected behavior from the vast amounts of data they analyze. This becomes an issue, he said, as individuals and companies allow A.I. systems not only to generate their own computer code but actually run that code on their own.

“The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people — a few people believed that,” he said. “But most people thought it was way off. And I thought it was way off. I thought it was 30 to 50 years or even longer away. Obviously, I no longer think that.”

This is what used to be called the Singularity and I wrote about it 20 years ago. 

The concept and the term "singularity" was popularized by Vernor Vinge  in 1983 in an article that claimed that once humans create intelligence greater than their own, there will be a technological and social transition and it would signal the end of the human era.

He wrote that he would be surprised if it occurred before 2005 or after 2030.

This week, the White House is gathering as many of the tech folks that they can to do something before we find ourselves in one big pickle.

Rene Descarte would be pleased I suppose.



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Friday, March 31, 2023

Mourning Mary













Mary Bess Faris  




I didn't meet Mary Bess Faris until about 17 years ago.  She was the partner of the father of my partner's best pal from medical school.  And it was then that we started having Sunday Brunch with at  least the five of us... Dan, his son Steve, my partner Dana, and Dan's partner Mary.

I knew Mary as a potter.  She would show her beautiful works at the Food Coop every year when they would have that wonderful arts and crafts show in their parking lot.  Her work was delicate and lovely, much like she was.

Actually Mary met Dan through Dan's two sons, Steve and Ross.  But make no mistake about it, Dan and Mary were the kind of late-in-life couple that you loved to be around.  They would go out with us to all kinds of events. We would take them to concerts, even outdoor events with dancers swinging from on high with all kinds of gear and tackle.  They even showed up with a gift for a Quiñceanera party for Dana's dog Misha. They were game.

We traveled a little with them.  One trip to  upper New York State was particularly enjoyable as we enjoyed the upper Hudson River Valley where the Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts had their summer places.  We spent a good amount of time at FDR's home and presidential library.  It was not only the first, it was a working library and office for the four term president.

On occasion, we went to their quaint cabin on the Guadalupe River just north of San Antonio.  There, Dan and Mary lived for parts of many years in that cacophony of buildings that Dan had created.  And it was right down on the river, or as close as you would want to be given the nature of Texas rivers.  They could bathe and shower outside and watch the time roll by. It was funky but nice.

Up until the pandemic, Mary and Dan were about as active as two octogenarians can be.  They would hike in Big Bend, sometimes at their land out there. Mary was good with plants and trees and she knew them well with the aid of her luminous mind and quiet but powerful intellect.

And along with Dan and Dana,  it was Mary and I that responded to the infamous tree report that called for the removal of almost every one of your favorite trees at Barton Springs Pool.  I will always remember Mary and I walking the grounds marking each tree scheduled for removal with a small but official looking sign and iridescent surveyor's tape.  She carried a clipboard with a list of the tag numbers of the endangered trees. I  would read the tag number, Mary would check it off on the clipboard, and then we would wrap the tree with our signage.

Midway through the process, the manager of the Pool came over and asked what we were doing and that we were freaking people out.  I said I was with the City  (the utility) and that these trees were scheduled to be removed and part of good government is communicating these plans to the public in a timely, effective way.  The manager said, "OK good."

But the bulk of our time together was in our weekly brunches.  Almost every Sunday we met at noon at  various Mexican Food restaurants.  We started out on north Burnet Road at Elsie's, but over the years, we met south at El Meson, and later in central Austin at Santa Rita.  Occasionally, we would even go to the venerable classic Green Pastures.

Mary would almost always eat a bean chalupa or enchilada-like something, but she wasn't too proud to not eat some chips and queso.  We would talk for hours, almost always about the condition of our politics, be it local or national.  Every subject was on the table, and Mary would almost always listen except for when she did speak. And it was always worth the wait.

Mary's partner, Dan, was and is quite a thinker.  He retired young from his career in law, and became a Siddhartha for the last third of his life.  I would always joke that Dan spent the last 30 years looking for God, when he was partnered with the actual Oracle from the Matrix.

Mary was so special.

And we all knew it.

Normally I would post the official obituary at this point, but Dan sent me some hand written notes instead.

Mary Bess Faris was born in Houston on October 22, 1933.  After graduating from High School, she went to Baylor for a couple of years.  There she  married Douglass Hanson who she met in High School. She then went out to San Diego State and managed to have two daughters, Linda and Jan who were born in 1954 and 1956. When she returned to Houston, she had a son, David, on October 2, 1960 in wedlock with Bob Turner in 1959.

She graduated from the University of Houston and then got her Masters Degree at UTMB Galveston while living in  La Marque. Over the next 15 years, she worked in labs and other institutions like MD Anderson. And she also studied microbiology at the Med school in Galveston in the late 60's.

90 years is a good long run and how fortunate Dan and Mary were to find each other as the millennium turned.

And how fortunate those of us who had brunch with her almost every Sunday were to know her serene, quiet, yet knowing presence.

Mary had been getting weaker and weaker over the last few years.  She had to keep her oxygen handy, but she didn't make a peep about it.

We saw her less and less as the Time of Covid wore on.  The last time I saw her, we walked her out to the swimming pool so we could celebrate Dan's 90th in September and her 90th to come as the Sun moved from Libra into Scorpio.

As the Spring peaked its head out, we heard that she had gone into the hospital.  A few days later on March 14th, one of her favorite doctors stopped by to check on her.  He found her growing even weaker, so he called Dan.  

And there with Dan on the phone, the Oracle passed.

"Mary passed this morning at 9:33 am while I was on the phone with Dr. Wolf at her bedside. 

No rehab, no hospice , no more palliative care , as Steven put it,  

Mary retired undefeated."   Dan Crow






Mary's service will be this Wednesday, April 19th at 10:00 AM  at Oakwood Cemetery just east of I 35 and 16th street.



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Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The War on Woke

















Lately, our politics from the right have been so bereft of political content.  Gone are the days of the fiscal conservative and actual conservative thought.  Gone are the days of conservative state government keeping its mitts off of big business. They now live in the Cultural Wars of DeSantistan.

This from the Orlando Sentinal:

As he declared victory over Walt Disney Co. on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis lectured the corporate leaders of the state’s biggest employer in its lifeblood tourism industry.

He suggested new board members who will oversee Disney World’s reconstituted special district might want to influence the corporation’s new attractions, movies and other shows. clip

Bryan Griffin, a DeSantis spokesman, later clarified that the board once known as Reedy Creek doesn’t direct Disney’s content. Its duties are primarily focused on providing the infrastructure and other government services needed to keep Disney World’s sprawling theme parks and resorts running.

“However, Gov. DeSantis was 100% correct to point out that many hope Disney will abandon its woke agenda,” Griffin said in an email. “The district board members are now in place and will be examining all of the needed actions to get back on track.”

DeSantis touted his move to strip Disney of its self-governing powers in Florida in an op-ed titled “Why I Stood Up to Disney.”

“When corporations try to use their economic power to advance a woke agenda, they become political, and not merely economic, actors,” he wrote. “In such an environment, reflexively deferring to big business effectively surrenders the political battlefield to the militant left.”

Recently speaking in Texas, De Sanctimonious continued his war on woke, “The state of Florida — and the state of Texas — is where woke goes to die,” DeSantis said, refashioning a line from his January inaugural address to include the Lone Star State

So what is this woke and why must it go to Texas or Florida to die?

 The old meaning of the word defines woke as simply the past tense of wake, as in to wake up, or awake. And in  2017, a new meaning of the word "woke" was officially added to the dictionary.

Described by Merriam-Webster as “chiefly US slang”, the dictionary defines the word as: “Aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” The use of the word reached mainstream vernacular when the Black Lives Matter movement used the hashtag #staywoke following the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by police in 2014.

And now, the far right R's want it to die. And running on its demise for President is not just blatantly racist, it is Pro-Comatose.

However, the War on Woke is a natural result of the R's other wars, like the war on science in their lack of support and more importantly, their undermining of the science of Climate Change.  In their adoption of the whacky belief that life doesn't begin when you are born but when you are conceived, they have taken basic rights from half of the population. 

This is not morality, it is transactional vote harvesting.

And finally, these Pro-Comotose R's would rather watch their "fox in the newshouse" than accept that their celebrity stars would lie on camera, while speaking the truth to each other behind their private doors.

This from the Atlantic:

Fox News lies to its viewers. Its most prominent personalities, among the most influential in the industry, tell their viewers things they know not to be true. This is not accusation, allegation, or supposition. Today, we know it to be fact.

Early in the Trump era, news organizations were torn over whether to refer to Donald Trump’s false statements as lies, because it is difficult to know an individual’s state of mind, to know what they know. In the throes of insecurity, ideological conviction, or carelessness, people can make statements that are false without malicious intent. The argument over what a person knows to be true or false can take on a metaphysical aspect.

Sometimes, though, you have proof that someone knew one thing and said another. With Fox News, examples of the network’s commitment to knowingly misleading its viewers abound. There was the irresponsible hyping of anti-vaccine propaganda even as it imposed a vaccine mandate on its employees. There were the text messages from Fox hosts released by the January 6 committee showing that they saw Trump as responsible for inspiring the mob that sacked the Capitol, even as they defended him on air and downplayed the significance of the event.

The most compelling example of Fox News consciously lying to its viewers, however, arrived yesterday with the evidence in the defamation lawsuits filed by the voting-machine company Dominion, over claims aired on Fox News echoing Trump’s lie that the 2020 election had been fixed by compromised voting machines.  

Voltaire said that  whoever can make you believe absurdities can also make you commit atrocities.  But the full quote is even more revealing.

"Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is injust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. 

If the God‐​given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God‐​given sense of justice in your heart

As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. 

And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world."

And this is how Woke goes to Die


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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Children of the Wind

















We spent the New Year in Mexico this year.  It was the first time we had been to our home in Real de Catorce in 3 1/2 years.  On New Years Eve, we ate dinner up the hill from our house with a grand view of the well lit Pueblo some 9,000 feet in the Sierra Catorce mountains.  For the first time since I talked the local priest into letting me light the church a decade ago, the 200 year old cathedral that silver built was lit up for the holidays.

The town was ablaze.

After dinner, when we returned to our home on the zocolo below, we could see the stage where the evening's festivities were just getting into the spirit of the coming New Year.  The bands were loud, but actually pretty good which is not always the case. A few friends joined us and we welcomed the New Year in relative peace and warmth.

On New Year's day, we got up early and started the jalepeno frijoles that have become a tradition replacing the black eyed peas of the Southern portion of Mexico's bully brother to the north.  Although we had intended in staying almost 2 weeks in this magical high mountain pueblo, we decided to head south to San Miguel and the slightly lower elevations of the Mexican highlands.

I used to look at San Miguel with some disdain.  Mostly because there were so many redneck Texans there who not only had no intention of learning Spanish, they held the locals responsible for understanding their mangled Spanish.  That has changed in the last decade.  Many of those types have returned to Texas and have instead been replaced with Mexicans from D F.  Those Americans that are replacing the Texans are from high tech centers in the Bay Area.  It's a much better environment, and we now go to San Miguel to see our lawyer, artists, and business friends that we know there. The food is good and although expensive, the accommodations are first rate.

We rented a nice home just west of the Cathedral on  Los Arboles street just off of Canal. It was private and quiet and nice.  We have another place that we like a lot  just yards away from the very center of town. It's called Cinco Flores and with its location on the upper side of Aldama, its a gem.

We spent the last 2 days in Mexico in San Luis Potosi which is probably the biggest city in Mexico that you've never heard about.  It's now about 1.5 million inhabitants, and the southwest side of town is beginning to have a very developed look of mid rise structures than grow out of the low sloped mountain that runs to the south.  San Luis is an old city and was part of the early highland culture that fought the Spanish Conquistadores to a stand off over 70 years in the 1500's.

So, here is the history of a war you never heard of.  This from Wikipedia

The Chichimecas were nomadic and semi-nomadic people who occupied the large desert basin stretching from present day Saltillo and Durango in the north to Querétaro and Guadalajara in the south. Within this area of about 160,000 square kilometres (62,000 sq mi), the Chichimecas lived primarily by hunting and gathering, especially mesquite beans, the edible parts of the agave plants, and the fruit (tunas) and leaves of cactus. In favored areas some of the Chichimeca grew corn and other crops. 

Chichimeca population is hard to estimate, although based on the average density of nomadic cultures they probably numbered 30,000 to 60,000.[5] The Chichimecas lived in rancherias of crude shelters or natural shelters such as caves, frequently moving from one area to another to take advantage of seasonal foods and hunting. The Chichimeca referred to themselves as "Children of the Wind", living religiously from the natural land. 

The characteristics most noted about them by the Spanish was that both women and men wore little clothing, grew their hair long, and painted and tattooed their bodies. They were often accused of cannibalism, although this accusation has been disputed, due to the Spanish attempt to smear natives as savages in order to justify forced conversion to Catholicism by Spain during the Mexican Inquisition.[6]

The Chichimecas Confederation consisted of four main nations: Guachichiles, Pames, Guamares, and Zacatecos. These nations had decentralized governments, and were more of independent states.[7] Due to decentralized political unity, their territories overlapped and other Chichimecs joined one or another in raids.

The Guachichiles' territory centered on the area around what would become the city of San Luis Potosí. They seem to have been the most numerous of the four ethnic groups and the de facto leaders of the Chichimecas. Their name meant "Red Colored Hair" from a pigment that they also applied to their skin and clothing. Living in close proximity to the silver road between Querétaro and Zacatecas, they were the most feared of the native raiders.

The nomadic culture of the Chichimecas made it difficult for the Spanish to defeat them. The bow was their principal weapon and one experienced observer said the Zacatecos were "the best archers in the world." Their bows were short, usually less than four feet long, their arrows were long and thin and made of reed and tipped with obsidian, volcanic rock sharper than a modern-day razor. Despite the fragility of the obsidian arrows they had excellent penetrating qualities, even against Spanish armor which was de rigueur for soldiers fighting the Chichimeca. 

As the war continued unabated, it became clear that the Spanish policy of a war of fire and blood had failed. The royal treasury was being emptied by the demands of the war. Churchmen and others who had initially supported the war of fire and blood now questioned the policy. 

In 1574, the Dominicans, contrary to the Augustinians and Franciscans, declared that the Chichimeca War was unjust and caused by Spanish aggression.[15] Thus, to end the conflict, the Spanish began to change public policy to purchase peace from the Chichimeca and assimilate with them.  

The Children of the Wind were not defeated and their spirit in the Mexican Highlands lives on today.

And now I know what a true Zacatero is. 















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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Fusion Confusion


Who didn't hear or read about the big fusion development this December when scientists studying fusion energy at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California announced on Dec 5th that they had crossed a long-awaited milestone in reproducing the power of the sun in a laboratory?

It made the news for several days and lots of news outlets gave the breakthrough the legs that would turn most PR flacks green with envy.  

“This is such a wonderful example of a possibility realized, a scientific milestone achieved, and a road ahead to the possibilities for clean energy,” Arati Prabhakar, the White House science adviser, said during a news conference on Tuesday morning at the Department of Energy’s headquarters in Washington, D.C."

"If fusion can be deployed on a large scale, it would offer an energy source devoid of the pollution and greenhouse gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the dangerous long-lived radioactive waste created by current nuclear power plants, which use the splitting of uranium to produce energy."

Well actually, fusion is deployed on a large scale right now and it's called the Sun.

And the energy from our own fusion reactor 93 million miles away arrives everyday bathing the planet with enough energy so that Albert Einstein's Nobel Prize winning idea that photons can excite a crystal latticework and produce usable electrons that can power our world.

And solar plants are going up all over the World right now producing electricity that is affordable and reliable.  Last year photovoltaic plants produced 112 gigawatts of usable power in the United States. And with wind and its other renewable cousins, renewables produce about 20% of all power. Here in Texas, that number is closer to 1/3. And that number is growing like a Chia pet.

And moving to a world run on our own fusion reactor a safe 8 minutes away at light speed is not just here, it's being manifested at prodigious speed across the resource rich landscapes of our land.

But according to the NYTs and other corporate soothsayers, the fusion of the future is not 93 miles away but right here on earth.

"Within the sun and stars, fusion continually combines hydrogen atoms into helium, producing sunlight and warmth that bathes the planets. In experimental reactors and laser labs on Earth, fusion lives up to its reputation as a very clean energy source.

There was always a nagging caveat, however. In all of the efforts by scientists to control the unruly power of fusion, their experiments consumed more energy than the fusion reactions generated.

That changed at 1:03 a.m. on Dec. 5 when 192 giant lasers at the laboratory’s National Ignition Facility blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond.

The laser beams entered at the top and bottom of the cylinder, vaporizing it. That generated an inward onslaught of X-rays that compresses a BB-size fuel pellet of deuterium and tritium, the heavier forms of hydrogen.

In a brief moment lasting less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the hydrogen pellet. Out flowed a flood of neutron particles — the product of fusion — which carried about 3 megajoules of energy, a factor of 1.5 in energy gain."

Now if you are writing this story, you can use a big bangy metaphor like a pound of TNT, but if you just look it up, you'll see that 1 megajoule is 0.277KWh.  So, the gain is about a quarter of a KWh or about 3 cents worth of energy.  And that's not counting all the other parasitic costs and expense of building a  power plant that can house a Sun on Earth.

The New York Times goes on:

"The main purpose of the National Ignition Facility is to conduct experiments to help the United States maintain its nuclear weapons. That makes the immediate implications for producing energy tentative.

Fusion would be essentially an emissions-free source of power, and it would help reduce the need for power plants burning coal and natural gas, which pump billions of tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

But it will take quite a while before fusion becomes available on a widespread, practical scale, if ever.

“Probably decades,” Kimberly S. Budil, the director of Lawrence Livermore, said during the Tuesday news conference. “Not six decades, I don’t think. I think not five decades, which is what we used to say. I think it’s moving into the foreground and probably, with concerted effort and investment, a few decades of research on the underlying technologies could put us in a position to build a power plant.”

In two decades, climate temperatures will exceed the 1.5 Degree Celsius rise that most climate scientists hope we can survive.  And, spending money on Fusion will not put a dent in our ability to reduce our carbon emissions.  

This program is a war program.

Lots of fusion confusion.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Bay of the Wise


It was a big Roevember and it's not quite over yet.  Hopefully, the D's will win the runoff in Georgia and actually pick up a seat in the Senate.  It will be quite a repudiation of the party that is out of control. Unfortunately, they did manage to eke out control of the house by a few votes.  Had it not been for Long Island and the  lower Hudson River along with  the seats that DeSantis gerrymandered, the table would have been turned. So it wasn't a wave or tsunami, it was more like a light rain.  But it will make things soggy and the House will be a mess.

But as the election began to show itself, another event in Africa was convening.  It was COP27.  And if you don't speak diplomatic acronym that's the  27th Conference of Parties for the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat "dangerous human interference with the climate system", in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.[1] It was signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. Its original secretariat was in Geneva but relocated to Bonn in 1996.[2] It entered into force on 21 March 1994.[3]

As for COP 27, here is the press release:

UN Climate Change News, 20 November 2022 – The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 closed today with a breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.

“This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”

Set against a difficult geopolitical backdrop, COP27 resulted in countries delivering a package of decisions that reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The package also strengthened action by countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as boosting the support of finance, technology and capacity building needed by developing countries.

 I had several friends who went.  One was our Mayor and the other was our County Commissioner from Travis County.  We had dinner this weekend and the results of her report are much worse than the  meeley mouthed milk toastie  official Press Release.

Here are the five main accomplishments from Reuters:


After years of resistance from rich governments, nations for the first time agreed to set up a fund to provide payouts to developing countries that suffer "loss and damage" from climate-driven storms, floods, droughts and wildfires.

Despite being the standout success of the talks, it will likely take several years to hammer out the details over how the fund will be run, including how the money will be dispersed and which countries are likely to be eligible.


The final COP27 deal drew criticism from some quarters for not doing more to rein in climate-damaging emissions, both by setting more ambitious national targets and by scaling back use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

 While the deal text called for efforts to phase down use of unabated coal power and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, some countries had pushed to phase out, or at least phase down, all fossil fuels.

But from the opening speeches to the gaveling of the final deal, the use of fossil fuels was affirmed for the near future.

President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates - host of next year's COP28 climate summit - said his country would continue to deliver oil and gas "for as long as the world is in need".

Oil company CEOs were on hand at this year's summit, after having been pushed to the margins at COP26. Natural gas chiefs were billing themselves as climate champions, despite gas companies having faced lawsuits in the United States over such claims.

Nevertheless, some electricity-poor nations in Africa argued for their right to develop their natural gas reserves, even as they face increasing climate impacts such as drought.

Other Highlights.


Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was greeted by roaring crowds as he declared "Brazil is back" in the global climate fight, and vowed to host COP30 in 2025 in the Amazon region.


A critical precursor for the climate talks' success happened far away from the Red Sea locale.

As the COP entered its second week, China's President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden met in Indonesia for the G20 where the heads of the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters agreed to restart cooperation on climate change after a months-long hiatus due to tensions over Taiwan.


The world of finance has failed to provide enough money to help countries cut their carbon emissions and adapt their economies to the changes wrought by global warming, yet the COP27 talks suggest change is coming.

Among the steps likely to free up more cash is a plan to reform leading public lenders such as the World Bank so that they can take more risk and lend more money. By doing so, countries hope more private investors will join in.

For me, the super take away is that the whole show was sponsored by Coca Cola.

My guests for dinner were alarmed at the pace of progress and they have been to at least five of these things over the years.  They didn't see how the current pace was going to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees C.  In fact neither does this group. This from last year's report:

"The world's largest-ever climate change report has been published, setting out the most up-to-date assessment of how the climate crisis will impact the world over the coming decades.

It has found that the average global temperature is likely to rise by more than 1.5°C within the next 20 years, surpassing the limit settled on in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

This warming will result in more frequent and widespread extreme weather events - including heatwaves, heavy rainfall, drought, wildfires and ocean acidification all of which have already been increasing in severity around the planet.

'Today's IPCC Report is a code red for humanity,' says António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

'The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.

'Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.'

In all predicted scenarios, we are now expected to release enough carbon emissions to cause the planet to warm by 1.5°C by 2040, although with the current trajectory of emissions this will likely be closer to 2034.

The past five years have been the hottest on record since the 1850s. The recent rate of sea-level rise is nearly triple that of 1901-1971 and human influence has caused the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s.   
It's the kind of thing that makes you want to pack up the kids and go to Sharm El Sheeikh


Which by the way, 


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