Finding out your heroes are cretins

I remember one of the funniest things I saw early in my life in Australia was a poster of all the rare fish endemic to NSW published by the NSW Department of Parks and Wildlife. A very detailed scientific poster showing habitat and a painting (or lithograph) of something like 20 species of fish with other scientific facts about them (latin name, etc.) and . . . well the ‘and’ is punchline which was a 1 to 4 star rating of how “good eating” they are.

OK, so its a little dark humour, but funny as shit to have a government department playing straight man to a joke they didn’t know existed. I am reminded of this again today as I read about the namer of my favourite bird (Gouldian Finch) and, as a conservationist, his proclivity to consume the birds he examined and described in paint and words. Mmm mmm, them Rosellas are gorgeous , and tasty.
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Something for all of us to consider as we examine the conflicted and sometimes dark pasts of people with just celebrity or perhaps even our heroes as they continue to be exposed in the coming year. Beware the hero, because his arrival always heralds the demise of commoners such as yourself. Let’s just hope I don’t find out J Willard Gibbs died trying to make gold out of straw and shit or something.

I’m just glad . . .

. . . that these fucking morons aren’t in charge of my portfolio.

Hmmm, maybe I was on to something . . .

Because with even USA Today after you, clearly the word for you is repulsive. #repulsive

Sure, I also do movie reviews

OK, so lets say you are like me and you’re just a touch over anymore superhero films. Even the best more recent ones (Wonder Woman) always end up being a little bit formulaic and frankly, a little bit shit. So, I’ve pretty much sworn off the things, especially if theres a whole tag team of them required to take down a single baddie.

However, the new Thor might be an exception, as they have decided to get some real talent to direct it. If you have never seen any of Taika Waititi, then you are hoping for a pleasant surprise, and maybe it will approach some of his best work, which if you haven’t checked out you should devote 2 minutes to. After that maybe check out Eagle vs Shark, Boy, or What We Do in the Shadows

I’m With That Dick . . .

. . . or why the ABC should have all its funding eliminated for censoring me.

OK, in case you missed a very good Hard Quiz Last night in which Jim showed how to play (spoiler alert – by being a freak in his level of knowledge on his special subject AND on how to play game to win) you should try to catch it on iview, or wherever you stream or download content regularly (even, YouTube apparently) Here are the players:

Me on Hard Quiz

OK, so my decision to try to get on the show was one of those really long considered decisions I have made in my life, prompted by someone sitting next to you while watching season 1 and saying, “You should go on that show, you’re a fucking smartarse”

Having really no response to that, and a computer in my lap at the time, I logged into the advertised site, answered a few details about myself, took a quick test, and bada bing, I’m in. OK, so it was a bit more detailed than that, as after the quiz I had to do a Skype interview with a producer and take another untimed test in person. Now, since I live in the remotest part of the earth, and doing it all remotely, I’m thinking I might have been the only person in the west that applied and they let me in to meet a regional diversity policy foisted on the show by a Senate Estimates Committee.

But, sitting in the green room with Jim and Carolyn I found out that they went to auditions in person in Sydney and Melbourne, with lots and lots of other people. So apparently the tests were a little harder than I thought, or there definitely IS a regional diversity policy. I was congratulating Jim after the taping about what an obsessive level of knowledge he had about the Rockford Files, a pretty obscure US tv show from the 70s. It turns out that he had only picked it so that it fit his plan to not just go on Hard Quiz, but to WIN Hard Quiz. He binge watched every old episode of the show (122 of them), wrote himself out ‘hundreds of pages’ of test questions and answers and memorised them, and also binge watched every episode of Hard Quiz to plan his tactics (when to answer fast and when to think a bit). Now that’s some commitment.

So, it was a really fun experience, but I now have to side with Dick Smith and Pauline Hanson to demand that all of the ABCs funding be cut for censoring me. Why? Well, they cut out both of my zinger lines, one of which would have fulfilled one of my lifelong ambitions of cursing on national television, and the other because it was too “political” obviously. Dicks.

In the introductions, Tom asked me “Why did you pick thermodynamics? So that no one could steal off you”. I said, “No it was just an obscure area of my university degree that I found myself repeatedly needing to explain in the past 20 years in order to discuss with people how things like climate change are real and clean coal is bullshit”.

Then, after the perpetual motion machine answer yo see int he episode, I said, “Thats also a lot like how clean coal works.” This is a 100% true and provable statement, and also funny (well, to me)

Now the ABC could not claim that they cut my first line due to content (the word shit) because Tom curses all the time, uses sexual innuendo like a maestro, and in fact said the work “fuck” later in the same episode. So clearly they are trying to stifle factual funny comment that disagrees with their alt-right view on climate change, ‘clean coal’, ‘cold fusion’, and anything else they disagree with. This is why they don’t meet their existing charter or the recent changes in media law that requires them to present material “based on the preponderance of evidence”.

For, if they were to do that, they would have to give me my own half hour show for a season (or maybe just a 1 hour special on 11 Feb) to lampoon complete unscientific crap like clean coal , and basically do a man-crush puff piece on J Willard Gibbs. I could probably get Andrew Dice Clay to narrate. But I digress.

So fuck the ABC and cut all their funding I say, as I have direct evidence of their extreme anti-science censoring of me. Who would have though that nonce Dick Smith would be correct?

Finally, to add insult to injury, they caused me to waste something like 2 to 3 minutes of my allotted 15. Bastards.

So, join my revolution. When I was a young fellow, I heard the world’s comic genius George Carlin identify the 7 words you can’t say on TV, and made a goal to do so. If you want to try, he also identified an excellent alternative. What you want to do is get on TV, but not be the focus of the camera, like in the shot but behind the presenter. And you want to mouth (not say) “I hope all you stupid fucking lip readers are looking in”.

Enjoy your day. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Why Clean Coal is Bullshit

As a tiny bit of background, I have been working on the nuts and bolts of dealing with climate change for about 30 years, somewhat by accident. When I went to work as an environmental engineer back in the US, you couldn’t even get an environmental engineering degree precisely (I have a chemical engineering degree) as the subject area was confined to “can we make drinkable water?” and “Can we treat water with poo in it before discharge?”

When I started, we were only about 10 years past a Time article I read as a young lad wondering if we were going to go into another ice age, because of what was being discovered in relation to the elliptical motion of he earth and the slight wobble the planet has on its axis. [Fun fact: these factors are now used by climate change deniers as reasons why climate varies naturally and so we shouldn’t worry about it.] Anyway, I have worked on doing things that are called emissions inventories, and air emissions compliance testing, and computer automation of emissions logging and estimation based on mass balancing, and then how one might produce a scientifically verifiable emissions reduction certificate such a way that it could be traded in a market like any other commodity (think pig belly futures), and then finally developing and demonstrating the methods by which companies large and small could do their CO2-e accounting in a way that caused minimal extra effort through their normal expense reporting processes.

This was all done as a thread in my whole career behind the scenes of earning a crust doing whatever industry and industrial clients needed at the time in relation to HSE risk identification and management.

Now I have realised over the past few years that I have pretty much wasted my career working on something that we aren’t going to do, or do in time at least since the Abbott government got elected with their whole chain of lies about the carbon tax, and the fact that they won public opinion with their fear mongering. So, we aren’t going fix up the worst problems with climate change and really, I should have been concentrating on zombie plan research or something more likely to be useful. The basic problem is that people won’t listen to any argument that can’t be wedged into a 30 second sound byte and doesn’t come with a catchy slogan. But the truth is the truth, especially when that truth follows the scientific method. Whether or not we can translate scientific truth into peoples’ lived experience is another thing entirely, I have found, and that is why I am, at the end of the day, a failure professionally. I actually now do know a couple of ways to translate how a 2°C average temperature rise manifests itself in events people could experience (not any specific one, you understand but in a trend), but really its too late once I can show someone that. The key lies, I believe, in getting people to understand through lived experience the nature of entropy.

The problem with getting people to understand entropy is that its like dark matter right here on earth. Entropy is enthalpy’s weird cousin. Enthalpy is a type of energy we call heat, but entropy is essentially chaos. You cannot see, touch or sense entropy directly, but only in the effects it has around you. But understanding entropy is essential in understanding climate change, as well as bullshit like clean coal, which I promise you, I will get to eventually.

The guy that really did the seminal work on providing our understanding entropy in my opinion was J. Willard Gibbs, who is the father of modern thermodynamics and who won the Nobel Prize for it, before there was an it (he won for statistical mathematics). But why don’t we remember him? Probably because he was actually just a bit too far ahead of his time. Scientists joked at the time that the only person that could understand Gibbs’ work was Maxwell (that’s James C. Maxwell of electromagnetism Nobel Prize fame). Most people remember Einstein, however, and Einstein identified Gibbs as one of the scientists he most admired. And that makes Gibbs up there in importance with Newton, Einstein and Hawkings, in my book.

Anyway, there are 4 laws of thermodynamics, and Gibbs helped translate what the equations of state are when mass becomes energy, energy transfers between systems, as well as to put some boundaries on what happens to entropy (the state of chaos) during the interactions. So, it can be a little bit thinky and its easy to give up on trying to follow it. However, the understanding of thermodynamics is the basis for things like energy production in internal combustion engines, refrigeration and superconductors, so its very real and not some faith (or even fake news!). Thermodynamics is like translation of something in 2 dimensions (mathematics) into the third dimension where we need things like refrigerators. But with refrigerators comes Category 6 cyclones. See, now your saying, there aren’t any, since classification of cyclones only goes up to Category 5. Which is true . . . today. But by the time they have to add the Category 6 classification and we can prove to enough people that through their lived experience, they are seeing a manifestation of a massive rise in entropy in their atmosphere, its really is too late, and I mean in the second law of thermodynamics sense.

However, while I must accept that we as a species will fail to do anything substantive to stave all but the worst effects of climate change, I would like to stop the further huge waste of money along the way, as that is an issue that apparently does resonate with most Australians. And so we arrive at “clean coal” technology. The same laws of thermodynamics that hold true for the rest of our known world also specifically and directly apply to the combustion of solid fuel material to produce electricity, waste heat and waste gases materials.

Each and every “clean coal” technology ends up requiring supplemental inputs in energy and cash to make them viable even as demonstration projects. So, it was nice to see an industry insider finally admit as much this morning in the ABC news. But I will go further and state categorically that there is not and will not be in my lifetime a scientifically and economically viable “clean coal” combustion device of any sort that can satisfy the first and second laws of thermodynamics. The Chevron Gorgon carbon capture and storage (CCS) project is not an example of combustion to capture and storage, and there is no viable ‘clean coal” system in operation anywhere in the world. Notice how we never see one advertised as actually available for operation? They are all pilot projects or experimental demonstration installations that will never be scaled up by private investors (because private investors believe in mathematics). Which basically means money for ‘clean coal’ technology is just cash handouts in the millions for R&D in the fossil fuel industries to get them not to lobby against upcoming legislation (ala John Howard), or bullshit additional spending that Josh Frydenberg wants to allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to loan (waste) money on. They want to waste public money on this grift because they know people, once again, don’t understand thermodynamics, don’t want to, and want to believe in something like “clean coal”.

Under no circumstances is an apples for apples comparison of any hydrocarbon burning and CCS system competitive economically now or in the foreseeable future to any viable renewable energy production facility (PV solar, solar heat, hydro or wind) whether we look at the systems themselves or examine the whole of lifecycle mass and energy balance of them. There is simply no way that a combustion energy plant can produce enough energy for recapturing and liquefying all its gaseous emissions, then store them, while at the same time producing electricity for the grid. Its called a perpetual energy machine and its bullshit and has been known as such since Da Vinci’s time.

See, the best of “clean coal” technology is sold to you as a complicated engineering thing that is added to the front end and back end of a standard coal fired steam generator. The ‘best’ of it is a combination of fuel processing and combustion burner technology to maximise the amount of energy production of each molecule of hydrocarbon burned and minimise the amount of nasties produced while doing that (NOx, SOx, CO, CO2, etc). This technology does work, but it is very expensive and raises the cost of a coal fired plant a lot. And, it still doesn’t allow each molecule of coal burned to generate more energy than the first law of thermodynamics allows, meaning that about 2/3 of a molecule of coal becomes waste heat and only a third of it becomes electricity. Second, we have to capture all (or a significant part) of the waste CO2 that is produced in our coal plant as a result of the second law of thermodynamics and absorb or adsorb it into liquid or solid, then transport that liquid or solid material to long term storage, and that equipment is both costly and energy intensive. So what you get is a Rube Goldberg machine that costs more in materials and energy than it can produce. See a graphical representation of the mass and energy balance comparison between coal, clean coal and a couple of renewables below to simplify things a bit. Just skim the pictures and you tell me which is more expensive to build and operate.

To waste any more taxpayer money on this bullshit idea, that should be called as such at every opportunity, is criminal, especially while we also continue to subsidise the dirty fuel required to extract other dirty fuels, and build roads and railroads to service dirty fuel production, all the while hearing complaints about how wind and solar are getting “unfair” subsidies.

If we aren’t going to do anything about climate change, then lets at least be honest about it. We’re gonna live it up until your kids, or your grandkids start having to pay the piper. We simply don’t fucking care as a whole of society if there is even the slightest risk of it raising our electricity prices even perceptibly. But lets not buy any more of this snake oil like we are back in the days of the travelling salesman. I can move to America if I want that shit sold by their current orange carnival barker.

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Mr. Trump, can I have some more winning, please

OK, in the vein of, “We’re going to be winning so much, you’ll get tired of winning” (May 26, 2016); now that we are all in this together with you as my Pr*sident, Mr. Trump, I’m prepared to get on board.

I’m pretty happy with the wins so far, from my perspective with you driving the ship of state, that’s:

• Muslim ban 0-2 in its battle with the constitution. A clear win
• Repeal the Affordable Care Act 0-1 (which I for one will now START calling Obamacare, in homage to a guy who was competent enough to at least get half a shit sandwich passed)
• Expose Paul Ryan as not brilliant and also not competent at his job, a bonus win
• Expose Devin Nunan as complicit and incompetent, and shifting the situation closer to a special prosecutor appointment

So, can I have some more winning, please. Can I have a win in 100% of all Senate Democrats voting “no” to Gorsuch, and “no” to any other Supreme Court nominee, with the exception of M. Garland, who was duly selected by a President a year before leaving office. If there is no vote on Garland, then vote “no” until such time as the next Democratic President is elected to make another nomination. There is no rule that the Supreme Court is required to be filled by 9 justices, and I for one am happy to take the win as leaving it open for now. Now, the Republicans make threaten to go ‘nuclear’ on this and any other appointments going forward, I’m not cool with that. But hey, as indicated above, I’m very interested in seeing the rules applied, so I will be satisfied that the Democrats will carry on any tradition set by the Republican Senate with regard to rule changes.

We need some more wins more quickly, Mr. Trump, because we need the Big Win (your removal from office) to occur soon to prevent more of the serious losses that we are bit quiet about, but are real problems for the US, like:

• Repealing rules that required companies to report their bribery overseas
• Signing a bill that allows mining companies to once-again dump their waste into streams and rivers
• Your appointments across the board who will either waste money or destroy their departments
• Every day that R. Tillerson, S. Gorka, J. Sessions and S. Bannon spend in their positions doing damage to US credibility at home and abroad

Sincerely,

An unfortunate constituent

The word you are looking for is ‘repulsive’

So, finally we may have reached the point where Trump will lose significant support and endorsements for using language that was so vulgar and mysogynistic that even stalwart supporters reacted negatively. I believe that there will be a significant number of wives and girlfriends of white supremacists that will secretly vote for Hillary. Plenty of his core white male support will also have wives, daughters or mothers that could be the target of behaviour like that displayed by Donald Trump, and will also be repulsed by it.

I actually reckon that his campaign had jumped the shark last week when people started leaving his event about half way through the 40 minute rant after he was 80 minutes late. But hopefully this latest revelation is the end of him in this election. The racism, sexism, and bigotry to virtually every constituency I can think of already displayed didn’t seem to do it. Nor has the documented evidence of his poor business skills or the proclivity he has displayed to defraud anyone he encounters in business.

But his final failure is clearly the fact that he is a pathological liar. That’s right, a liar so complete that he believes his own lies and is deluded enough to think that audio, video or written records will somehow disappear, or can be explained away as some conspiracy theory.

Spy magazine clearly nailed it when they dubbed him a short fingered vulgarian in the ’80s.

Precisely what is wrong in the world

I note from the ABC the recent closing of the article on the Pluto flyby:

Following its encounter with Pluto and its satellites, New Horizons will continue its one-way journey. . . . Its radioactive power supply will last into the 2030s; NASA wants to focus investigations on two more objects in the Kuiper Belt but will need to secure more funding to make that happen.

With all the stupid shit we fund in the world, we can’t even find a couple million bucks to continue examining the world around us. Truly doomed as a species at this rate.

Love Your Work Jen

This is exactly how it works here in Australia in relation to taxing mining, addressing climate change and other issues, and she says it more succinctly than a 3 page rant from yours truly.

Attribution: Jen Sorensen