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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...

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. Energy flow can do positive work while the associated friction does negative work.
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 tyres 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.