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Entropy production delusion

It is common in knowledgeable circles to talk about the development of civilization in terms of entropy discussion. The term 'entropy...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Zombies

It has become common in discussions of the financial scene to condemn the failure of 'zombies' to contribute to the economy. Investors regard those who do not contribute directly as zombies because they cost money without contributing to the creation of wealth. Aged people on pensions and using subsidized health care, the unemployed who are paid benefits and the disabled are non-productive so, zombies. But the real zombies as far as as the money people are concerned are the bureaucrats who monitor the regulations that inhibit the businesses that produce the goods they sell to consumers to make money.

That attitude is typical of business people who are out to make a profit while externalizing as many of the costs that they can get away with. They avoid taxes as far as possible as they publicly decry the support the use of taxes to pay zombies while they make use of roads and infrastructure provided by the government. Business people do not like the zombie bureaucrats because they invoke regulations that stifle the abilities of commercial operations to take unfair advantage of the consumers.

Investors have a similar outlook. They aim to make more money and condemn any measure that restricts the profitability of the firms they pick. Their money is expected to work for them.

Politicians have to be very careful who gain from their policies. Even the pensioners, unemployed and disabled cast votes so cannot be ignored. The monetary influence of business cannot be ignored either. So politicians have to appear to balance on a tight rope to stay in office.

The community at large believes it has the right to to use up natural resources wastefully, degrade the environment and destroy biodiversity in their pursuit of a high material standard of living. Businesses lead the way in  promoting that unsustainable process. Politicians just respond carefully.

Who then are the real 'zombies'? Businesses lead the way in destroying society's life support system so they 'deserve' to head the list. Investors are zombies who often use the leverage of their money to support ravishing. Consumers are also high on the list as they are happy to buy stuff if they can afford them even though there will be little left for future generations. Politicians are zombies of a different kind. They are well paid representatives of the people who just tag along as they wish to avoid being cast aside.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Information impotence

Society is becoming besotted with the exponential growth of information. The innovators of the devices that store and communicate the vast amount of information are revered. Many people, especially the young, want to have the latest versions of these devices. Desk top computers are now regarded as ancient relics. However, society does not take into account three fundamental issues that will ensure that the information revolution is unsustainable. The demise of the copious information era this century is certain, despite all the contrary hype.

The intangible information is always stored and communicated by tangible devices and systems made of mined materials by the use of natural forces. This has always been the case and will always be the case, even in the distant future when few of these devices are still around. Despite the general view that people have been clever to invent the technology that is the basis of the information revolution, all they have done is use some natural forces in a novel fashion. Most people think some clever people developed electricity but all they did was invent machines to generate electricity using natural forces. Nature has been producing electricity for eons. Lightning provides us with reminders of the power of these natural forces. The materials used in the manufacture of these devices has been mined  but many of the deposits are running out. Some of these materials are being recycled but most of them are ending there short lives in land fill.

The second issue is that most of the information is misleading, wrong or useless. Nature provides sound information in seeds that enable the replenishment of a vast range of organisms from trees through to humans. Humans have used misleading information to generate technology without taking into account the deleterious consequences, such as climate change. The information about monetary forces is wrong as it does not take into account the ecological costs of the activities financed. The economic growth that this information promotes is not sustainable, as society at large will learn the hard way in coming decades. The bewildered masses will wonder how the political leaders got their information so wrong. They will find that most of the information they have been fed is useless as they try to cope with the inevitable powering down.

Education involves the transfer of information. Most of this information transfer is aimed at providing students with the know how to operate in society. The information that teaches people how to relate with others, do useful things such a grow food and how to contribute to community activities is very useful. People are now addicted to getting information from such sources as TV without thinking through its usefulness. They are sold the benefits of having a car or going on overseas tours without the being informed

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Smokers' rivals

Society is slowly learning the lesson that smoking often causes lung cancer. Quit campaigns are getting the message out in many sections of the global community.

Ironically, society has yet to come to grips with some much bigger problems. Smoking only affects the smokers and those nearby. It will cause the die off of quite a few due to lung cancer and associated health problems. But smoking is an isolated, personal  addiction. Society in general, particularly in developed and developing countries, is addicted to using up vast amounts of natural bounty in an unsustainable manner. This is a holistic addition with irrevocable dire consequences for most of the global population.

How many people think for a moment as their cars exhaust fumes polluting the atmosphere that they are contributing to the destruction of a hydrocarbon fuel that it took natural forces eons to produce. There is no need for society to mount a Quit campaign on this issue as natural forces will do the job in time: the crustal stock of oil is running out and the industry is finding it hard to extract what remains.

People will find it hard to cope with that problem as they are addicted to using their cars and flying in airliners. However, a bigger problem is that there are too many people around the globe. Billions are going hungry even though there is now an abundance of food as fossil fuels foster agriculture while aiding transportation and storage of food. Water supply and sanitation are also heavily dependent on the use of some of the remaining fossil fuels. Coping with the trauma of the inevitable die off will be a trauma much harder than deal with than quitting smoking.

Climate change is now causing isolated problems taxing the skills and resources of many communities around the globe. Society at large has yet to understand that it is an irreversible disruption of natural forces caused by its addiction to cheap energy by using fossil fuels. There is no feasible quitting of this process by Homo sapiens. And climate change is only one aspect of the deleterious impact of the systems of civilization. Pollution of land, sea, air and all species is creating a host of problems worse than smoking. Nature bats last in all physical processes.

Society has an insane belief in the ability of technology to overcome developing problems when, in actual fact, it is technology that has instigated these problems by making use of some natural forces to irreversibly use up limited natural resources and irrevocably produce material wastes. Society has a problem in understanding that reality as it is besotted with the illusory temporary power of money.

Technology has provided society with a wide range goods and services that are useful for a time. For example, cars are an endangered species even though very few give a moments thought to that addition. Society will find it hard to cope with the withdrawal that monstrous substitute for the facility of legs. However, an even greater problem will be the withdrawal of the recording and communication aids provided by the wide range of electronic devices from computers to iPods that have come online in recent decades. The rapid growth in the use of these devices is unsustainable as they are made of irreplaceable materials. But users of these devices are so bemused by the facility by this information revolution that they are unable to comprehend that it cannot last more than a few decades.

If you think that these are the only problems that society will have to face up to, then you are wrong.
The infrastructure of civilization, including the cities, are addicted to using some of the remaining natural resources to enable their functioning and cope with their irrevocable aging. As society can do nothing to stop this process, all they can do is try to power down. A few smart people are already fleeing from cities in emulation of some passengers taking to lifeboats as the Titanic headed for the iceberg.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

friction fiction

Students are taught in engineering at university that friction has a small effect so can be largely ignored in assessing how machines operate.  It is one of those simplistic notions that enable what is deemed to be the fundamental picture to be portrayed to students. These students soon learn when they get out into the real world where they have to make sound decisions that friction cannot be ignored. It is ever present. It always ensures that some energy is dissipated as heat. It often ensures material is also transformed into waste. Tribology, the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and wear covers the types of friction that occur, the use of oil to reduce the impact in some circumstances so the erosion of material by friction.

Friction is not discussed in most considerations of what technology does in providing society with goods and services. The technical people are expected to quietly take these real effects into account in their designs while management and the financial number crunchers tackle the real problem of selling their product to the consumers, who then have to cope with the item wearing out.

This quote "The defining feature of a technological civilization is the capacity to intensively “harvest” energy. But the basic physics of energy, heat and work known as thermodynamics tell us that waste, or what we physicists call entropy, must be generated and dumped back into the environment in the process. Human civilization currently harvests around 100 billion megawatt hours of energy each year and dumps 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the planetary system, which is why the atmosphere is holding more heat and the oceans are acidifying." summarises a biased, unrealistic, view of what always happens in the operation of systems. The process is considered but not what irrevocably happens to the systems.

It is ironical that those seemingly authoritative people who claim that the supply of energy is the problem that society will have to face because all material can be recycled have to replace the tires on their cars because friction has reduced so much of the tread to waste dissipated into the air. They are often aware of the impact of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in dissipating energy in the process of doing (positive) work. They are aware of the action of friction causing wear but do not regard it as the negative work always coupled with positive work even though in some circumstances it is the crucial issue. People trying to walk on a frozen lake learn the hard way of how useful friction can be. And our hearts do positive work in pumping blood againat friction! Birds (and aircaft) can fly only because friction enables lift.

Knowledgeable people will also be aware of the conservation of mass law. But, seemingly, they do not think about the dissipation of waste material because that irrevocable process is commonly regarded as having trivial impact, except when rubbish has to be transported to landfill. They have to understand the grievous mistake of science in not realizing until recently that the combustion of fossil fuels irreversibly transforming hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide gas and water vapor would lead to global warming, so irreversible rapid climate change. The Fischer–Tropsch process is a collection of chemical reactions that enables technology to convert a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons. It is useful in the fertilizer industry but in no way can it counter the waste emissions of fossil fuel combustion, an irreversible natural process.

There is a need for science to recognize that Laws of Massdynamics often play as big a part in materialistic processes in technological systems as the Laws of Thermodynamics. The First Law is the well known law of conservation of mass but the Second Law, dealing with the transformation of material to waste in the process and in the system, has not yet gained the recognition that is warranted in view of it's impact on what invariably happens in operations in systems.

The emission of waste material (primarily excessive carbon dioxide) from the fossil fuel combustion process is now receiving the attention that is warranted. But what can be done about the waste radio active material from nuclear power stations is a problem that has been place in the too hard basket in a number of countries. Would these problems have been so bad if the Laws of Massdynamics had received the attention in engineering that Laws of Thermodynamics has over recent centuries? The economist Georgescu-Roegen said decades ago the "matter matters too" but his insight into what invariable really happens in materialitic operations was fobbed off.

That systems invariably wear out is common knowledge but the invariable transformation of irreplaceable material in the systems to irrevocable waste is not. The fact that some material can be recycled at appreciable ecological cost does not affect that principle.

This failure to understand this simple principle will contribute to the deleterious impact of the operation of technological systems that are culminating in what will inevitably be called the Devastation Century.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cheating

Lance Armstrong has come out and admitted that he cheated during his career as a professional cyclist. He used performance enhancing medical procedures to give him an illegal edge over his opponents in such events as the Tour de France. He is being roundly condemned for the deleterious impact that his actions are having on the sport.

The use of drugs to enhance the performance of competitors in various sports is a growing problem  that the authorities are doing their utmost to tackle.

Ironically, there are numerous other activities that people use to give them an unfair advantage in their activities. Society does not even recognize many of them. Very few realize that some traders use computer systems to give them an unfair advantage in making money on the stock market. Using computers to advantage is no difference in principle than using drugs and medical procedures.

The ability of rich people to use the leverage of their money to enhance their off-shore  bank accounts is a common practice that authorities cannot tackle But this practice does not receive the media attention celebrities attract.

Of course, it is not only people who misuse resources to gain an unfair advantage. Powerful countries have historically done this by using their military might as the means to plunder the natural resources of weaker countries.

Society has over the ages drawn a line in the sand over which only the powerful can venture. The masses have to recognize this constraint or pay the price. Armstrong is learning that lesson the hard way. But his mistake has done little harm compared to the selfish human made disasters that have and continue to devastate the environment as well as the lives of many, without the derision that has been served up to Armstrong.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lament



I am old and my time is drawing to a close . Family and friends may lament my passing but it will not be a noteworthy event in the affairs of society. On the other hand, Tityas is in its senescence, unbeknown to most, and its demise this century is certain, to the mortification of its denizens, rich and poor, but particularly for the latter. Tityas is the vast organism consisting of cities and associated infrastructure and machines that provides the goods and services of the demanding human population. Many of the survivors  of the demise of Tityas will lament the disintegration of the cities and the disappearance of most of the services on which they had become so dependent. They will have to learn how to make do with only those services that Gaia has provided for ages. Gaia is the vast natural organism that has evolved over eons and will continue to do so after Tityas’ demise, despite the harm done by Tityas. Billions of those born in undeveloped countries will not survive Tityas’ decline because of lack of food, potable water, sanitation and basic health services that money provides.

I am a registered organ donor so that when I pass on some of those parts of my body that are still functioning can be used to boost the health of ailing people. It is doubtful that my brain will be used in that manner. That is a pity as I have garnered appreciable understanding of what society has done wrong. I know why the demise of Tityas is certain.  Ironically, the vast amount of my writing on this subject is stored electronically so it has no brighter future than my brain! All the electronic gear that is the latest boom of the young of society is made using aptly named rare earth materials and has the limited lives common to all technological systems.

Tityas is unwisely growing exponentially at this stage as it feeds on declining natural material capital under the stimulus of the flow of intangible fiat money. Cities are sprouting up in the developing countries while the old-time leaders, London, Paris, Rome, Athens, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo struggle to keep up in their senescence.  The concentrated energy from fossil fuels that has been Tityas’ life blood in its adolescence has come at the unforeseen cost of causing rapid climate change and has had numerous other unintended consequences. The emerging decline in the availability of energy and numerous irreplaceable material resources will hasten the aging of the many components of the infrastructure that comprises Tityas. What use will skyscrapers be when there is not enough electricity to power their elevators? Traffic congestion on freeways will become a past nightmare due not only to the declining availability of fuel but cars are made out of materials that are also running out.