Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Science failings

Greer in http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2016/07/scientific-education-as-cause-of.html provides sound insight into how decisions are made by all levels of society about the wide range of fields. In particular, he noted that physical science, in principle, is based on the gathering of evidence To improve understanding of what happens. He noted, however, that the contributions of scientists about issues in their fields are often biased by vested interests. He also points out that the findings of science often do not influence the decisions being made by various levels of society because of lack of understanding of the consequences of not taking the findings into account.
 
However, Greer does not take into account the failings of science to provide convincing arguments on how many aspects of natural forces always have and always will operate. Of course, sometimes exceptional scientists come up with understanding of specific issues that are gradually incorporated into the body of scientific understanding as a prelude to acceptance by society at large and influencing the decissiona being made. Albert Einstein is now renowned for his contributions on the theory of relativity but that renown only came decades after his orginal findings were made known to the scientfic community. Galileo Galilei made a major contribution to science five hundred years ago but his findings only slowly became widespread understanding of some fundamentals long after his death. This slow acceptance of novel scientific findings is inderstandable in view of the fact that there were also many proposals that were slowly proven to be unsound despite the arguments (and even demonstrations) by their proponents. Perpetual motion machines is by one example of the furphies that have been foisted on the community only for a while because convincing demonstration could not emerge despite attempts by scientists who did not underatsnd the fundamental physical principles that govern these operations. They did not take into account the fact that in operations, energy does positive work while friction does negative work. 
 
The proposition that the emissions from the combustion of coal and other fossil fuels were having a harmful impact on environmental operations was initially made by a scientist over a hundred years ago. Slowly sufficent evidence has been gathered by dedicated scientists in many countries to prove that proposition. These peer-reviewed findings have been sufficient to convince some prominent people to support moves to deal with climate change as much as is physically possible and to introduce measures to cope with the consequences, such as sea level rise and impact on farming. This failing of science at large to recognise the consequence of the combustion of the hydrocarbons (which natural forces took aeons to produce using energy from the Sun) to provide the energy to drive the technical systems while producing carbon dioxide and other emissions will continue to blight developments for a long time. It is not surprising that many people who do not understand even rudimentary physical principles are take in by how the operation of society is very largely governed by monetary decisions. The failing of physical science to educate society about the stark reality of the irreversible consumption of a vast range of limited natural resources, including the fossil fuels, together with the production of irrevocable material wastes, the irreversible aging of the vast infrastructure that provides the services society had become so dependent on and the degradation of the environment means that industrialized civilization is doomed without sociey understanding why. Climate disruption and ocean acidification and warming is just one emerging manifestation of nature's response to the bad decisions made by all levels of society partly because of the failure of science to foster understanding of fundamental physical operations.
 
These views are by a physical scientist who after a career in aeronautical research has gained understanding of the fundamental physical principles that govern all operations (including how friction allows birds and airplanes to get lift as they fly)
 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The confusing mix of tangible and intangible energy

The article "The Physics of Energy and the Environment" by Gael Tverberg highlights the widespread lack of understanding of the difference between tangible, physical energy and intangible, intellectual energy. This difference and the consequential impact on natural operations and the operations of civilization need to be understood in order to make sound decisions about how to cope with the difficult times ahead.
Physical energy flows can be measured, so are tangible. The measuring device depends on the form of the energy flow which may be electricity, flowing water, heated material, etc. Physical energy flows have always been governed by natural laws. Some of these laws, such as the Laws of Thermodynamics, have been recognised by scientists and engineers for centuries. However, the fact that natural laws always govern physical energy flows and the development of the associated materialistic systems is a fundamental principle that is often not taken into account in discussions of operations. The fact that energy is always a property of materials is not recognised.  The irreversibility of physical energy flows and of the destructive operation of friction on material in motion always occurs: just like the passing of time.
Intellectual energy flows are intangible because they cannot be measured. They are the flow of information in seeds that leads to and governs  the usage of physical energy flow and usage of materials in the development of all system from people to trees, to bees, to skyscrapers.  They are the decisions made by people about issues, tangible and intangible, they have some understanding of.
The failure of people to differentiate between the tangible and intangible is not confined to energy. Friction between individuals may involve an intangible play of words or a tangible exchange of blows. But friction is a factor in all tangible motion that is not sufficiently recognised by society at large although engineers do take it into account to a degree. Motorists curse the wear and tear of their car tyres without realizing that the car can only be propelled by friction between the typres and the road surface. Ice skaters have more understanding of the impact of friction. Birds do not understand that friction enables their wings to generate lift: they just fly as do aicraft. 'power', 'force' are also terms describing how natural forces operate on systems made of materials that have been purloined by society to describe the unconstrained decisions made by people. There is growing recognition that the intangible financial and tangible material (the infrastructure) 'wealth' of civilization comes at the irredeemable cost of destroying tangible natural material wealth (the envionment and the crustal store of materials, including the fossil fuels). The increase in the wealth of civilization is a delusion becausethe divestemnt of natural wealth is not taken into account. 
It is quite likely that intangible economies will collapse in the near future because of the unsustainable growth of (financial) debt. But that is a different issue to the tangible operation of the vast exisiting physical infrastructure which will continue to age due to the effect of friction despite using up the crustal stores of materials for its operation and maintenance. An intangible financial collapse will affect the decisions made by a lot of people about what tangible operations (such as driving their cars or flying away on a tourist trip or for business meetings) they will have to cut back on. But that will do no more than slow the inevitable demise of the physical structure of industrialized civilization.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sustainable Development Goals


Young people are being encouraged to embrace the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals defined by the UN following the success of some of the Millennium Development goals. Global poverty has been markedly reduced while education of the poor substantially improved this century.
However, the goals are no more than wishful thinking as they are not based on what is physically possible. The primary objective of sustainable development is not possible because the operations of industrialized civilization irreversibly use up limited natural resources, produces irrevocable waste material and degrades the terrestrial and marine eco systems. This operation is an unsustainable process.

The most that sound policies can do is slightly ameliorate some of the seventeen listed predicaments. This, of course, would be admirable and is a remedial policy to be encouraged even though it is based on an anthropocentric delusion. Those who contribute to enabling these processes will have the satisfaction of doing something that is clearly worthwhile. This movement by the young will tend to counter to a small degree the common wide spread aspiration for a high material standard of living regardless of the deleterious impact on the environment and the disadvantaged people. It will give the smart youngsters pride in easing some of the problems created by the unwise decisions of their elders and ancestors. However, they need to understand that there is a practical limit to what can be done in regressing to cope with the identified predicaments. The Sustainable Development Goals are only a pie in the sky!

However, it is expected that ELAM (Earth's Lodgers' Activity Movement) will provide a more realistic agenda for the young to embrace in coping with the inevitable powering down during the coming decline of industrialized civilization. How will society cope with the rapidly decreasing land, sea and air transportation capabilities as liquid fuels become very scarce? How will they cope with decreasing communication capabilities as electronic devices and electricity become very scarce? 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Distorted perspective

The possibility of intelligent life on some of the multitude of planets in the universe appears to be quite a consideration of some cosmologists, probably because it aids their academic careers to publish seemingly knowledgeable arguments on the subject.
Of course, they are not required by society to put this issue in appropriate time perspective. After all, most people are only concerned with what has happened in recent times and what is likely in coming years here on Earth. Some have a mild interest in the speculation of cosmologists about what has happened over past eons in the vastness of the universe. The space efforts of NASA and other organizations are of wide interest largely because of the impact of satellites on what they can use and do. The increased knowledge of what it is like on Mars is an interesting abstraction that does not rate as highly in society as the doings of entertainment and sporting (human) stars.
The time reality does not, however, appear to be taken into account by those who speculate on possibility of intelligent life on other planets. The universe has developed for billions of years with galaxies coming and going. It is quite likely that intelligent life on Earth will last for only millennia. The demise of industrialized civilization is certain within centuries as the limited natural resources are used up, while the surviving human population will not have the tools to survey the stars. If any intelligent life has existed for millennia on other planets it is most unlikely that they are in existence now. Those who speculate on making contact with intelligent life on other planets do not take that time factor into account. The slight possibility that intelligent life will develop on some planets in the distant future is an issue that no doubt some people will speculate on!
No doubt most people will continue to strive to make do as global economies start to contract and the views of cosmologists will be only a very minor distraction among even the the most learned.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Anthropocentrism hallucination

Anthropocentrism is the hallucination in society of regarding humans as the central element of the universe. It involves interpreting reality exclusively in terms of human values and experience, often without understanding of what is really happening..
 
There are many examples of how this lack of understanding has led to mistaken attempts to emulate nature in providing services. An example is the installation of desalination plants to provided communities with potable water and or irrigation. The hydrological cycle is how natural forces have use energy from sunshine to supply water in rain and snow for eons with an ecological cost (such as the damage due to floods) that is remedied over time by other natural forces. It has been and will continue to be a major factor in natural operations such as plant growth and organisms operations. 
 
Desalination plants provide potable water by using electrical energy (often from coal fired power stations emitting the greenhouse gases contributing to climate disruption and ocean acidification and warming). Ironically, these plants need cooling water circulated by using electrical energy in their operation. These plants are made of irreplaceable materials and have limited lifetimes so their operation is unsustainable process. So they are an eco costly emulation, not substitution, of the hydrological cycle.
 
That is, they are a common example of the failure of costly technological systems to emulate freely available natural processes. Despite these failings, proponents argue that desalination plants are often justified to meet the range of needs of industrialized civilization when what is freely available from natural operations is insufficient.
 
There is failure to understand that systems such as desalination plants are only temporary expedients. Installing these expedients as the population and infrastructure (and severity of climate change) grow only makes the inevitable collapse of the infrastructure and the die off of the population harder to deal with.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

demise of airliners

Appreciable research is under way in an endeavor to determine a viable alternative to the jet fuel derived from oil. This research is driven by the requirement to reduce emissions from the exhausts of jet engines in aircraft as well as the fact that the availability of oil is expected to decline in the future. There is a vast airline industry operating something like 200,00 airliners. An airliner consumes around 150,000 litres of jet fuel per flight. For example, a Boeing 747 consumes 4 litres/sec  So something like 3 x 10exp10 litres per day of jet fuel is being used.
Bio fuels are being promoted as a viable alternative. Fundamental energy relations show that these fuels cannot possibly meet the demand for jet fuels so the demise of most airline (and other aircraft) operations this century is certain.
Sunshine powers the production of the bio mass needed for bio fuels. About half of the amount of sunshine energy producing the biomass is available in the bio fuel produced. This means that about 15 hours of sunshine on a square metre of plant are required to produce the amount of energy in a litre of fuel. That is, about 3 square metres of plant are required to each day supply the energy provided by a litre of fuel. Plants do not have anything like the energy density of oil. The energy in jet fuel is about 35 MJ/L so airliners use abut 10exp12 MJ/day of energy in the fuel consumed in their operations. So something like 10exp11 square metres (10exp5 square Km, about 1 per cent of the area of USA) would be required of bio fuels to meet the present airliner demand. This would have to be in addition to the amount of land used for other purposes, including food production.
Research into using hydrogen as an alternative jet fuel decades ago did not get very far because it has such a low energy density in its gaseous form that the necessary fuel tanks would have been enormous. Cooling it to its liquid form was not technically practical on an aircraft.
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Energy issues alone do not determine what is reasonable or even feasible. The extraction, transportation and processing of oil to yield jet fuel entails the use of energy and materials in technological systems that irrevocably age so need maintenance. In the main, these systems exist around the globe.
The growing, processing and transportation of bio mass to provide bio jet fuel entails the future installation of a massive eco costly, aging system. Yet it can only meet only a small portion of the demand. So airliners (and other aircraft) are a doomed species!

demise of shipping

http://www.gizmag.com/shipping-pollution/11526/ Provides details of the fuel oil consumed in vast quantities in the operation of the fleet of 90,000 cargo vessels carrying 90 % of the goods of global trade. It's the cheapest and most polluting fuel available and the world's ships chew through an astonishing 7.29 million barrels of it each day, or more than 84% of all exported oil production from Saudi Arabia, the worlds largest oil exporterThe article focuses on the polluting effects of the exhausts from the engines and consequent effect on human health.  A single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. The UN's International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which regulates shipping for 168 member nations, last October enacted new mandatory standards for phasing in cleaner engine fuel. By 2020, sulphur in marine fuel must be reduced by 90% although this new distilled fuel may be double the price of current low grade fuels. There are nuclear powered military and ice breaker ships but the in-feasibility of nuclear powering of cargo vessels was determined decades ago.The powering of some vessels by liquefied natural gas (LNG) will have insignificant impact on the holistic predicament.
There is no mention in the article of the effects of the emissions from these ships on climate change. There is no mention of the fact that the global stocks of oil are limited and oil will be getting beyond reach in the near future. There is no mention of the fact that these ships are built of irreplaceable materials and have limited life times. It appears that the decision makers around the globe do not understand these fundamental physical principles.There are already 3,693 new ship builds on the books for ocean going vessels over 150 meters in length due over the next three years. So ship builders will be facing the same grave predicament in due course as the shipping  firms and importing/exporting countries  as global trade disappears down the black hole. Society will have to cope with the inevitable powering down following the black swan event of the closure of global trade.