A bit of perspective

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
anthony01's picture
anthony01
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 24 2008
Posts: 1
A bit of perspective

First of all let me join with so many others and commend Chris on his fine effort in putting all the material together in the Crash Course. This is really thought provoking and highly informative stuff.

However I am concerned with a few aspects of the course which result in an unbalanced treatment and seem to be adding to the mounting hysteria.

1. Like so many others, I don't see evidence that Chris really understands the exponential function. He talks of hockey sticks which all of a sudden turns upwards. The reality is that the exponential function turns upwards from day 1, or time 0, or whatever. It all depends on what scale one views the graph from. So we aren't reaching a time when the various hockeysticks are heading due north - this happened a long time ago, or viewed from another perspective, will happen a trillion plus years from now.

2. Chris fails to factor in the exponential growth of research and development around the globe - this is truly awe inspiring. This will address many of the concerns raised. Energy solutions are available today. We just need a sufficient crisis so that governments will truly champion the new technologies and let go of oil. This will result in the long waited for climate change action.

3. Although a certain amount of negative outcomes from climate change are unavoidable - we will adjust. Global warming is certainly better than an ice age.

4. The US may well be losing its hold on the economic reins of this planet. It has done some dumb things. But this happens to superpowers. Others will move up to the plate. New economic systems will emerge.

So yes we are all hurting with the current financial crisis. Yes it's a great time to ponder and reflect. But there's no need for us all to become goat herders just yet.

krogoth's picture
krogoth
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 576
Re: A bit of perspective

Dammit, I just bought 100 goats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

switters's picture
switters
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 19 2008
Posts: 744
Re: A bit of perspective
[quote=anthony01]

First of all let me join with so many others and commend Chris on his fine effort in putting all the material together in the Crash Course. This is really thought provoking and highly informative stuff.

However I am concerned with a few aspects of the course which result in an unbalanced treatment and seem to be adding to the mounting hysteria.

1. Like so many others, I don't see evidence that Chris really understands the exponential function. He talks of hockey sticks which all of a sudden turns upwards. The reality is that the exponential function turns upwards from day 1, or time 0, or whatever. It all depends on what scale one views the graph from. So we aren't reaching a time when the various hockeysticks are heading due north - this happened a long time ago, or viewed from another perspective, will happen a trillion plus years from now.[/quote]

Not sure what your point is here. Regardless of the actual shape of the curve, we have already reached some precipitous milestones when it comes to energy, economy and environment.  Chris discusses these at length in the Crash Course, and their implications should be clear.  Changing the scale we view the graph from does not change the movement of the curve; it just changes our perspective on it.  

[quote]2. Chris fails to factor in the exponential growth of research and development around the globe - this is truly awe inspiring. This will address many of the concerns raised. Energy solutions are available today. We just need a sufficient crisis so that governments will truly champion the new technologies and let go of oil. This will result in the long waited for climate change action.[/quote]

Wrong.  We do not currently have the technology and/or resources behind the technology to replace the energy density of oil. I will be happy to debate this with you, but please provide statistics/evidence to back up any assertions you make.  I will. 

There is no doubt that new technologies will play a significant role in our energy future.  But simply hoping that technology will solve all of our energy problems is supremely naiive, and in my opinion, dangerous.  This is exactly the kind of thinking that prevents people from making the real changes we need to make in order to prepare for the coming decline in energy supply (i.e. reducing energy usage, achieving energy independence in the home, learning to grow food, etc.).  Because people have a religious faith in technology's ability to solve all of our problems, they don't feel the need to make these changes.  They are simply waiting for "the miracle" to save them.  

Actually, they're waiting for three miracles.  1) The miracle of exploration and discovery, i.e. that we will disover a new source of energy equivalent to oil; 2) a social and political miracle, i.e. that we will radically and immediately develop the social and political will necessary to implement a massive move towards renewables (which includes voluntary reduction in standard of living and electing politicians who promote this...ha ha ha), 3) an economic miracle, i.e. finding the money to finance #1 & #2 in a global recession/depression.

[quote]3. Although a certain amount of negative outcomes from climate change are unavoidable - we will adjust. Global warming is certainly better than an ice age.[/quote]

Are you seriously that uninformed about climate change?  "Global warming" is a woefully inadequate slang term which actually refers to not just warming of certain parts of the globe, but extreme climate events (including an ice age in Europe) that would have devastating effects on all aspects of human civilization. The vast majority of the world's scientists are literally terrified about this - and these aren't the "alarmist" types. 

[quote]4. The US may well be losing its hold on the economic reins of this planet. It has done some dumb things. But this happens to superpowers. Others will move up to the plate. New economic systems will emerge.[/quote]

Have you actually watched the Crash Course?  Do you understand the fundamentals of the crisis?  Do you get that we cannot have economic growth without a growth in the energy supply?  It seems to be you have quite a bit more research to do, or you are stuck in the "denial" or "bargaining" stages of the "6 stages of peak oil awareness" that Chris laid out (based on Kubler-Ross's framework). 

Of course new systems will emerge.  But that doesn't mean the transition will happen quickly or smoothly. We're probably in for a very rough ride.

[quote]So yes we are all hurting with the current financial crisis. Yes it's a great time to ponder and reflect. But there's no need for us all to become goat herders just yet. [/quote]

Pondering and reflecting is exactly what Chris and others on this site have done, and it's led us to make preparations.  I'm no goat herder, but that wouldn't be a bad choice of vocation for the long-term future.  We are living in extreme times, and extreme times sometimes require what seem to be extreme actions. 

Wishful thinking is not very helpful in crisis situations.  Being well prepared and maintaining a positive attitude is.  

joe2baba's picture
joe2baba
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 17 2008
Posts: 807
Re: A bit of perspective
dammit i just got done milking my goats
pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2247
Re: A bit of perspective
switters, nice response.  krogoth and joe2baba, you kill me!
pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2247
Re: A bit of perspective
[quote=anthony01]

1. Like so many others, I don't see evidence that Chris really understands the exponential function. [/quote]

Also, have you checked out Chris's bio?  Click the "about" button at the bottom.  I suspect he has a pretty good grasp of the exponential function...

JoeNemeth's picture
JoeNemeth
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 24 2008
Posts: 16
Re: A bit of perspective
[quote=anthony01]

1. Like so many others, I don't see evidence that Chris really understands the exponential function. He talks of hockey sticks which all of a sudden turns upwards. The reality is that the exponential function turns upwards from day 1, or time 0, or whatever. It all depends on what scale one views the graph from. So we aren't reaching a time when the various hockeysticks are heading due north - this happened a long time ago, or viewed from another perspective, will happen a trillion plus years from now.

[/quote]

Technically, there are several different curves involved in the crash course - they are not all strictly exponential curves.

The geometrically-increasing curves are true exponentials and are all self-similar at all scales, as you point out. But the "natural" scale has to do with quantities we care about as humans. In one of the early videos, Chris explained this in terms of filling Fenway Stadium with water. You don't really care about the incremental changes at the water-drop scale, but you really care about it when it amounts to five feet of water a minute. What is absolutely true about exponential curves (which never exist in nature without limiting factors, but do apply to financial interest accrual) is that they WILL eventually reach levels that you care about quite desperately. The point that Chris makes is that we've reached those levels that we care about.

The Net Energy curve he showed, by contrast, was described as a "hockey stick," but it isn't exponential, it is an inverse-proportion curve (a 1/x curve), which is (practically speaking) worse. It actually has a pole (or vertical asymptote) when you divide by zero, that amounts to a hard wall.

[quote=anthony01]

2. Chris fails to factor in the exponential growth of research and development around the globe - this is truly awe inspiring. This will address many of the concerns raised. Energy solutions are available today. We just need a sufficient crisis so that governments will truly champion the new technologies and let go of oil. This will result in the long waited for climate change action.

[/quote]

I'm with you on this, but not for prudent contingency planning. One of the major factors in energy technology development has been trying to compete with cheap oil. The economic system demands exponential growth. There are other energy sources that might actually out-perform oil (more in a moment), but can't produce exponential growth quickly enough in a world of cheap oil with a fully-developed infrastructure. A magic genie in a bottle faces production problems, distribution problems, customer acceptance issues, the list goes on.... Even if such technology can be developed (not guaranteed), it certainly won't show up until peak oil produces enough pure pain to fund the switchover. By then, it may be too late - it's starting to work on the handcuffs (in Fenway Park) when the water starts wetting your feet.

An example: cold fusion got a bad rap in the 1990's primarily because it was so completely plausible. The fringe has been touting free energy from all kinds of sources for decades, but no one has ever taken such things seriously as science or technology. Cold fusion was taken very seriously, because it made complete sense. But it didn't work, and the two researchers who reported it got slammed for fraud and/or bad research - which may have been true, but a lot of the hoopla also had to do with the politics of bypassing the normal review process and pre-publishing on the Internet. Now "cold fusion" is political poison, and no credible researcher would touch it with a twenty-foot pole. All research stopped "cold." Nothing in the plausibility of the concept has changed, the problem is one of academic politics. Assuming that peak oil pain produces the appropriate political environment, AND that such technological development is possible, AND it is not too late to develop such technology before we're all herding goats, it would definitely change the energy map.

I assume this falls into the category of what Chris refers to as "reserving the right to change his mind" if new information becomes available. But relying on it is like using the lottery as your retirement plan. Not prudent.

Majormoney's picture
Majormoney
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 9 2008
Posts: 21
Re: A bit of perspective

JoeNemeth wrote:  Now "cold fusion" is political poison, and no credible researcher would touch it with a twenty-foot pole. All research stopped "cold."

Wrong; dead wrong.  Your misinformation on this subject can be corrected by a visit to http://newenergytimes.com

 

Salis's picture
Salis
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 25 2008
Posts: 3
Re: A bit of perspective

I'd have to agree with anthony01. I think Chris brings up some serious issues especially regarding the current financial crisis.  However I do think this is a continuation of Malthusian economics.  The forecast of early man would be destitute without the development of bronze, iron, steel, the development of ores and sources of energy their forefathers would consider magical.

 I have no doubt that today we stand on a precipice, but as Chris rightly states it is a precipice of our own design.  There is much of the world that will not notice this subtle shift in energy sources, and as I think there will be a reduction in OUR ability to service our excesses I think that at some level we will return to an era of conservatism and understanding, much missed in this generation.  And perhaps we'll finally understand that it isn't all about us, it's about everyone on this planet. 

 And there lies the human aspect of the equation, we might in the West protect ourselves at the cost of others.  And retain our wealth, and our capital.  But until we realise the value of ourselves, and that we can all bring ourselves out of any equation, we will continue to be protectionist on a human scale.

JoeNemeth's picture
JoeNemeth
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 24 2008
Posts: 16
Re: A bit of perspective

Majormoney:

Looks like I overstated the case a bit (which is good, I'm glad to see the field of cold fusion is still at least somewhat alive and of interest to real scientists). Unfortunately cold fusion (according to the site you cited above) is still in "fringe limbo" in the scientific community, even though it appears that some very interesting science is available there, and potentially a whole new energy source.

A couple of bits of background. My training is in physics, and I grew more than a little familiar with the political aspect of science during my graduate-school years: it was one of the major contributing factors to my decision to not pursue a career in that field. Science is NOT objective, it is intensely political - at least, it was in 1980, and from what I've heard from new PhD's, it has only become (much) more so.

When the Pons & Fleischman work first surfaced, I heard about it through a personal friend who was in the electrochemistry and photolithography business, and since he actually was in the business of purchasing precious metals, he started positioning himself to start buying up palladium futures and also taking delivery  (he felt the price would skyrocket as soon as the work was confirmed). I was very excited, too, and stayed close to the whole fiasco until it went beneath the radar.

It's still beneath the radar, and still poses severe career risks to anyone who gets involved, especially young new graduates (who are most likely to have fresh ideas) who are trying to carve out a career in a shrinking and intensely political scientific marketplace.

I'm hoping that may change as the energy crunch deepens, and hope that there is still time to move forward.

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 3176
Re: A bit of perspective
[quote=JoeNemeth]

It's still beneath the radar, and still poses severe career risks to anyone who gets involved, especially young new graduates (who are most likely to have fresh ideas) who are trying to carve out a career in a shrinking and intensely political scientific marketplace.

I'm hoping that may change as the energy crunch deepens, and hope that there is still time to move forward.

[/quote]

No doubt science is political, but my quick review of the literature out there suggests that, although there is some legitimacy to continued study of cold fusion, at best it is far away from having any applicability as an alternative energy source.  The frequently repeated phrase that cold fusion research has yet to produce enough excess energy to "heat a cup of tea" appears to be the state of the science.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A54964-2004Nov16?language=printer

 

http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN07/wn032307.html

 

http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN08/wn072508.html

 

3. MISCONDUCT: THE FUSION BUBBLE BURST SIX YEARS AGO.

The March 8, 2002 issue of Science published a controversial Taleyarkhan article reporting d-d fusion in sonoluminescence even though several distinguished scientists had asked that it be delayed and published with a conflicting paper (WN 8 Mar 02) . Meanwhile, Taleyarkhan moved to Purdue, which has been embroiled in the controversy ever since. Today's issue of Science relates what may be the final chapter in a sad journey of Rusi Taleyarkhan from foolishness to fraud. The third Purdue committee to review the controversy "clearly documents that there has never been any successful replication except when Taleyarkhan is present or supervising."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments