Outgoing Governor Jerry Brown of California on NBC’s Meet the Press this morning:
I’ll miss him there, but I don’t think Gov Jerry is going anywhere soon.
Thanks, Bill, for your year end insights, documenting where we are, and your continued leadership.
As someone who grew up with computers (FORTRAN in 6th grade on IBM 1620), and was often dreaming of a technological future, I must say that the only part of that dream which came true were computing, and the Internet. It’s a great part, don’t get me wrong, but I wish we had more in the direction of sustainable economies and living. That said, and at age 66, I remain part of the computing industry, and I continue to be excited by the phenomenon which Marc Andreessen described in 2000, that “Software is eating the world”. Everywhere anyone turns, traditional devices which used to use mechanical connections and actuators are being displaced by general purpose computers, often embedded, and things like electric motors controlled by pulse-modulated signals. These are cheaper, lighter, less power hungry, and offer finer, smarter controls. This extends to analog applications of all kinds, from control boards for music systems and video, to automobile controls. I await the day when they make their long anticipated debut as part of civil engineering projects.
On nuclear, I recently studied the field, and believe that the long lamented negative learning curve it exhibits is due solely to the failure of that industry to fail to create modestly sized modular units which can be produced like commodities. Instead, nuclear power has been a cost-plus business and they build bigger and more elaborate all the time, which means these inevitably overshoot schedules and cost targets. We need something like 1 MW reactors which can be lashed together to obtain both arbitrary sizing and greater reliability. (If I lose one server in a farm of ten thousand, like, who cares?) It would be good if they were portable. It would be especially good if they had design safeguards so the materials could not be diverted for nasty purposes, especially dirty bombs. I believe that’s possible, but I also believe that this will require a triumph of imagination, and I can’t see existing players — any more than IBM in its day — coming to that on their own. I wish hope and purpose in this direction for your efforts. No doubt nuclear power was incentivized in the direction they pursued, but the path may have also depended upon contingencies which no one really chose.
By the way, “Software is eating the world” is the corporate motto of Andreesen-Horowitz VC company.
Among physicists and chemists, well at least the theoretical side of the latter it is well known that electrons have no hair by which is meant that a bunny can’t tell one electron from another. This has serious consequences in quantum mechanics because in a multi-electron system you have to allow for each electron to be anywhere any electron is and it gets quite complicated. True, when an atom is ionized you can trace the electron as it is expelled from the atom, but you can’t say WHICH electron it was. Same for electron capture. You could identify an atom before it is captured, but once it was captured you can not identify it from any of the others in the atomic system.
The same thing is true of heat. Heat in an object, perhaps better thermal energy, is random motion of atoms and molecules, translation, vibration, whatever. You can say where heat entering an object came from (say radiation from the sun), but if there is more than one source (trivial case). once it is randomized and in the object you can’t say where it came from.
Which brings Eli to the evergreen claim of those who deny the greenhouse effect, that radiation is not important compared to convection.
Read more at the original link. As I wrote in a related comment:
All the best for your continued explanations and wish you happiness, health, and continued good spirits. Your writing is a joy.
Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s hope the Angry Beast continues to be kind, and we learn some respect. To understand how far we have yet to go, how long we have known, it is worth taking a look at a publication from 2003, an issue of Wild Earth, one called Facing the Serpent. Although they did not mean The Angry Beast, that’s where we are. As Dr Kate Marvel remarked this year, it will take courage, not hope.