Fossil Fuel Production Is Reaching Limits in a Strange Way

Strangely enough, the limit we seem to be reaching with respect to fossil fuel extraction comes from low prices. At low prices, the extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas becomes unprofitable. Producers go bankrupt, or they voluntarily cut back production in an attempt to force prices higher. As the result of these forces, production tends to fall. This limit comes long before the limit that many people imagine: the amount of fossil fuels in the ground that seems to be available with current extraction techniques.

The last time there was a similar problem was back in 1913, when coal was the predominant fossil fuel used and the United Kingdom was the largest coal producer in the world. The cost of production was rising due to depletion, but coal prices would not rise sufficiently to cover the higher cost of production. As a result, the United Kingdom’s coal production reached its highest level in 1913, the year before World War I started, and began to fall in 1914.

Between 1913 and 1945, the world economy was very troubled. There were two world wars, the Spanish Flu pandemic and the Great Depression. My concern is that we are again headed into another very troubled period that could last for many years.

The way the energy problems of the period between 1913 and 1945 were resolved was through the rapid ramp-up of oil production. Oil was, as that time, inexpensive to produce and could be sold for a very large multiple of the cost of production. If population is to remain at the current level or possibly grow, we need a similar “energy savior.” Unfortunately, none of the alternatives we are looking at now yield a high enough return relative to the required investment.

I recently gave a talk to an engineering group interested in energy research talking about these issues. In this post, I will discuss the slides of this presentation. A PDF of the presentation can be found at this link.

The Low Oil Price Problem

Oil prices seem to bounce around wildly. One major issue is that there is a two-way tug of war between the prices that citizens can afford and the prices that oil companies require. We can look back now and say that the mid-2008 price of over $150 per barrel was too high for consumers. But strangely enough, oil producers began complaining about oil prices being too low to cover to cover their rising cost levels, starting in 2012. Prices, at a 2019 cost level, were at about $120 per barrel at that time. I wrote about this issue in the post, Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending. Oil prices now are in the $40 range, so are way, way below both $120 per barrel and $150 per barrel.

Interest rates and the availability of debt also play a role in oil prices. If interest rates are low and debt is readily available, it is easy to buy a new home or new car, and oil prices tend to rise because of the higher demand. When prices are too low for producers, central banks have been able to lower interest rates through a program called “quantitative easing.” This program seems to have helped oil prices to rise again, over a three-year period, after they crashed in 2008.

OPEC producers are known for their low cost of production, but even they report needing high oil prices. The cost of extracting the oil is reported to be very low (perhaps $10 per barrel), but the price charged needs to be high enough to allow governments to collect very high taxes on the oil extracted. If prices are high enough, these countries can continue the food subsidies that their populations depend upon. They can also sponsor development programs to provide jobs for the ever-growing populations of these countries. OPEC producers also need to develop new oil fields because the old ones deplete.

Oil production outside of the United States and Canada entered a bumpy plateau in 2005. The US and Canada added oil production from shale and bitumen in recent years, helping to keep world oil production (including natural gas liquids) rising.

One reason why producers need higher prices is because their cost of extraction tends to rise over time. This happens because the oil that is cheapest to extract and process tends to be extracted first, leaving the oil with higher cost of extraction until later. 

Some OPEC countries, such as Saudi Arabia, can hide the low price problem for a while by borrowing money. But even this approach does not work well for long. The longer low oil prices last, the greater the danger is of governments being overthrown by unhappy citizens. Oil production can then be expected to become erratic because of internal conflicts.

In the US and Canada, oil companies have been funded by bank loans, bond sales and the sale of shares of stock. These sources of funding are drying up, as many oil companies report poor earnings, year after year, and some are seeking bankruptcy protection. 

Chart 6 shows that the number of drilling rigs in operation has dropped dramatically in both the United States and Canada, as oil companies cut back on drilling. There is a lag between the time the number of drilling rigs is cut back and the time production starts to fall of perhaps a year, in the case of shale. These low drilling rig counts suggest that US and Canadian oil production from shale will fall in 2021.

Of course, unused drilling rigs cannot be mothballed indefinitely. At some point, they are sold as scrap and the workers who operated them find other employment. It then becomes difficult to restart oil extraction.

How the Economy Works, and What Goes Wrong as Limits Are Reached

Slide 7 shows one way of visualizing how the world economy, as a self-organizing system, operates. It is somewhat like a child’s building toy. New layers are added as new consumers, new businesses and new laws are added. Old layers tend to disappear, as old consumers die, old products are replaced by new products, and new laws replace old laws. Thus, the structure is to some extent hollow.

Self-organizing objects that grow require energy under the laws of physics. Our human bodies are self-organizing systems that grow. We use food as our source of energy. The economy also requires energy products of many kinds, such as gasoline, jet fuel, coal and electricity to allow it to operate.

It is easy to see that energy consumption allows the economy to produce finished goods and services, such as homes, automobiles, and medical services. It is less obvious, but just as important, that energy consumption provides jobs that pay well. Without energy supplies in addition to food, typical jobs would be digging in the dirt with a stick or gathering food with our hands. These jobs don’t pay well.

Finally, Slide 7 shows an important equivalence between consumers and employees. If consumers are going to be able to afford to buy the output of the economy, they need to have adequate wages.

A typical situation that arises is that population rises more quickly than energy resources, such as land to grow food. For a while, it is possible to work around this shortfall with what is called added complexity: hierarchical organization, specialization, technology, and globalization. Unfortunately, as more complexity is added, the economic system increasingly produces winners and losers. The losers end up with very low wage jobs, or with no jobs at all. The winners get huge wages and often asset ownership, as well. The winners end up with far more revenue than they need to purchase basic goods and services. The losers often do not have enough revenue to feed their families and to buy basic necessities, such as a home and some form of basic transportation.

The strange way the economy works has to do with the physics of the situation. Physicist Francois Roddier explains this as being similar to what happens to water at different temperatures. When the world economy has somewhat inadequate energy supplies, the goods and services produced by the economy tend to bubble to the top members of the world economy, similar to the way steam rises. The bottom members of the economy tend to get “frozen out.” This way, the economy can downsize without losing all members of the economy, simultaneously. This is the way ecosystems of all kinds adapt to changing conditions: The plants and animals that are best adapted to the conditions of the time tend to be the survivors.

These issues are related to the fact that the economy is, in physics terms, a dissipative structure. The economy, like hurricanes and like humans, requires adequate energy if it is not to collapse. Dissipative structures attempt to work around temporary shortfalls in energy supplies. A human being will lose weight if his caloric intake is restricted for a while. A hurricane will lose speed, if the energy it gets from the warm water of the ocean is restricted. A world economy with inadequate energy is likely to shrink back in many ways: unprofitable businesses may fail, layers of government may disappear and population may fall, for example.

In the discussion of Slide 7, I mentioned the fact that if we try to “stretch” energy supply with added complexity, many workers would end up with very low wages. Some of these low wage workers would be in the US and Europe, but many of them would be in China, India and Africa. Even though these workers are producing goods for the world economy, they often cannot afford to buy those same goods themselves. Henry Ford is remembered to have said something to the effect that he needed to pay his workers enough so that they, themselves, could buy the cars they were making. To a significant extent, this is no longer happening when a person takes into account international workers.

The high interest rates that low-wage workers pay mean that loans don’t really help low-wage workers as much as they help high-wage workers. The high interest on credit cards debt and personal loans tend to transfer part of the income of low-wage workers to the financial sector, leaving poor people worse off than they would have been without the loans. 

COVID shutdowns are extremely damaging to the world economy. They are like taking support sticks out of the dome on Slide 7. They produce many more unemployed people around the world. People in low wage countries that produce clothing for a living have been particularly hard hit, for example. Migrant workers and miners of various kinds have also been hard hit.

We Seem to Be Reaching a Major Turning Point

Oil production and consumption have both fallen in 2020; oil prices are far too low for producers; wage disparity is a major problem; countries seem to be increasingly having problems getting along. Many analysts are forecasting a prolonged recession.

The last time that we had a similar situation was in 1913, when the largest coal producer in the world was the United Kingdom. The UK’s cost of coal production kept rising because of depletion (deeper mines, thinner seams), but prices would not rise to compensate for the higher cost of production. Miners were paid very inadequate wages; poor workers regularly held strikes for higher wages. World War I started in 1914, the same year coal production of the UK started to fall. The UK’s coal production has fallen nearly every year since then.

The last time that wage disparity started to spike as badly as it has in recent years occurred back in the late 1920s, or perhaps as early as 1913 to 1915.  The chart shown above is for the US; problems were greater in Europe at that time.

With continued low oil prices, production is likely to start falling and may continue to fall for years. It is hard to bring scrapped drilling rigs back into service, for example. The experience in the UK with coal shows that energy prices don’t necessarily rise to compensate for higher costs due to depletion. There need to be buyers for higher-priced goods made with higher-priced coal. If there is too much wage disparity, the many poor people in the system will tend to keep demand, and prices, too low. They may eat poorly, making it easier for pandemics to spread, as with the Spanish Flu in 1918-1919. These people will be unhappy, leading to the rise of leaders promising to change the system to make things better.

My concern is that we may be heading into a long period of unrest, as occurred in the 1913 to 1945 era. Instead of getting high energy prices, we will get disruption of the world economy.  The self-organizing economy is attempting to fix itself, either by getting more energy supply or by eliminating parts of the economy that aren’t contributing enough to the overall system. Conflict between countries, pandemics, bankruptcies and economic contraction are likely to be part of the mix.

Coal Seems to Be Reaching Extraction Limits as Well 

Coal has essentially the same problem as oil: Prices tend to be too low for producers to extract coal profitably. Many coal producers have gone bankrupt. Prices were higher back in 2008, when demand was high for everything, and again in 2011, when quantitative easing had been helpful. 

There have been stories in the press in the past week about China limiting coal imports from Australia, so as to make more jobs for coal miners in China. The big conflict among countries relates to “not enough jobs that pay well” and “not enough profitable companies.” These indirectly are energy issues. If there was more “affordability” of goods made with high-priced coal, there would be no problem.

Coal production worldwide has been on a bumpy plateau since 2012. In fact, China, the largest producer of coal, found its production stagnating, starting about 2012. The problem was a familiar one: The cost of extraction rose because many mines that had been used for quite a number of years were depleted. The selling price would not rise to match the higher cost of extraction because of affordability issues.

The underlying problem is that the economy is a dissipative structure. Commodity prices are set by the laws of physics. Prices don’t rise high enough for producers, if there are not enough customers willing and able to buy the goods made with high-priced coal.

We Have a Major Problem If Both Coal and Oil Production Are in Danger of Falling Because of Low Prices

Oil and coal are the two largest sources of energy in the world. We can’t get along without them. While natural gas production is fairly high, there is not nearly enough natural gas to replace both oil and coal.

Looking down the list, we see that nuclear production hit a maximum back in 2006 and has fallen since then.

Hydroelectric continues to grow, but from a small base. Most of the good sites have already been taken. In many cases, there are conflicts between countries regarding who should get the benefit of water from a given river.

The only grouping that is growing rapidly is Renewables. (This is really Renewables Other than Hydroelectric.) It includes wind and solar plus a few other energy types, including geothermal. This grouping, too, is very small compared to oil and coal.

Natural Gas Has a Low Price Problem as Well

Natural gas, at first glance, looks like it might be a partial solution to the world’s energy problems: It is lower in carbon than coal and oil, and it is fairly abundant. The problem with natural gas is that it is terribly expensive to ship. At one time, people used to talk about there being a lot of “stranded” natural gas. This natural gas seemed to be available, but when shipping costs were included, the price of goods made with it (such as electricity or winter heat for homes) was often unaffordable.

After the run-up in oil prices in the early 2000s, many people became optimistic that, with energy scarcity, natural gas prices would rise sufficiently to make extraction and shipping long distances profitable. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that, while prices can temporarily spike due to scarcity and perhaps a debt bubble, keeping the prices up for the long run is extremely difficult. Customers need to be able to afford the goods and services made with these energy products, or the laws of physics bring market prices back down to an affordable level.

The prices in the chart reflect three different natural gas products. The lowest priced one is US Henry Hub, which is priced near the place of extraction, so long distance shipping is not an issue. The other two, German Import and Japan Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), include different quantities of long distance shipping. Prices in 2020 are even lower than in 2019. For example, some LNG imported by Japan has ben purchased for $4 per million Btu in 2020.

The Economy Needs a Bail-Out Similar to the Growth of Oil After WWII

The oil that was produced shortly after World War II had very important characteristics:

  1. It was very inexpensive to produce, and
  2. It could be sold to customers at a far higher price than its cost of production.

It was as if, today, we had a very useful energy product that could be produced and delivered for $4, but it was so valuable to consumers that they were willing to pay $120 for it. In other words, the consumer was willing to pay 30 times as much as the cost that went into extracting and refining the oil.

With an energy product this valuable, a company producing it would need virtually no debt. It could drill a well or two, and with the profits from the first wells, finance the investment of many more wells. The company could pay very high taxes, allowing governments to build roads, schools, electricity transmission lines and much other infrastructure, without having to raise taxes on citizens.

Besides using the profits for reinvestment and for taxes, oil companies could pay high dividends. This made oil company stocks favorites of pension plans. Thus, in a way, oil company profits could help subsidize pension plans, as well.

Now, because of depletion, we have reached a situation where oil companies, and in fact most companies, are unprofitable. Companies and governments keep adding debt at ever lower interest rates. In fact, the tradition of ever-increasing debt at ever-lower interest rates goes back to 1981. Thus, we have been using debt manipulation to hide energy problems for almost 40 years now.

We need a way to counteract this trend toward ever-lower returns. Some people talk about “Energy Return on Energy Investment” or EROEI. I gave an example in dollars, but a major thing those dollars are buying is energy, so the result is very similar.

I think researchers have set the “bar” far too low, in looking at what is an adequate EROEI. Today’s wind and solar don’t really have an adequate EROEI, when the full cost of delivery is included. If they did, they would not need the subsidy of “going first” on the electric grid. They would also be able to pay high taxes instead of requiring subsidies, year after year. We need much better solutions than the ones we have today.

Some researchers talk about “Net Energy per Capita,” calculated as ((Energy Delivered to the End User) minus (Energy Used in Making and Transporting Energy to the End User)) divided by (Population). It seems to me that Net Energy per Capita needs to stay at least constant, and perhaps rise. If net energy per capita could actually rise, it would allow the economy to increasingly fight depletion and pollution.

Conclusion: We Need a New Very Inexpensive Energy Source Now

We need a new, very inexpensive energy source that buyers will willingly pay a disproportionately high price for right now, not 20 or 50 years from now.

The alternative may be an economy that does poorly for a long time or collapses completely.

The one ray of hope, from a researcher’s perspective, is the fact that people are always looking for solutions. They may be able to provide funds for research at this time, even if funds for full implementation are unlikely.

This entry was posted in Financial Implications by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.

983 thoughts on “Fossil Fuel Production Is Reaching Limits in a Strange Way

    • The CNBC article is about consumer credit only, not governmental debt or corporate debt. It is based on an analysis by Experian, a credit rating organization. I would presume the ratios are to the count of borrowers that Experian monitors. I would assume that this means everyone who individually applies for credit. If a husband and wife have always applied for credit as a couple, I would expect that they might get a count of one, rather than two.

      I would be interested to know how the analysis treats “zeros” in this calculation. There have to be a moderate number of people who have no debt, other than the end of month balance on items charged on credit cards in a given month. I know this is the way we handle our financial transactions. My guess is that they are leaving the zero’s out.

      For mortgage balances, they say:

      Mortgage loans: Gen X have the highest average mortgage balance, at $238,344. Millennials were a close second, at $224,500.

      I suppose that in many instances, there are two people on the mortgage, so the the mortgage amount is double this amount. These amounts are a big part of what hold up the $90,000+ amount averages.

      • I use my millennial son and his wife as an example. They both have good paying secure jobs in biotech (for now). They are concerned about all the wealth concentrating in a top few. I keep trying to educate (especially my daughter. In-law) who is on facebook a lot, that it is the oligarchs that own the media and the government that are their true enemies…not the left versus right distraction. My son actually stated that with the wealth concentration it is like we are moving toward feudalism. How right he is!

        Early on, I had my son read the classics, including 1984 and Brave New World. He listened to them, on audiotape, and is pretty discerning. I hope to get them to realize the energy predicament we are in. They just don’t see it yet.

          • The most relevant thing is that the UK is Airstrip One and we are off the coast of Eurasia but actually part of Oceania. Anyone say Brexit?

          • I have read it every4-5 years since picked it up in the day room at Army MP school in Ft.Gordon GA in 1965. That’s at least 10 times and I seem to always find something I didn’t catch before. Last year it was “newspeak”. OMG newspeak is everywhere.
            Orwell never dreamed we would all be carrying a telescreen in our pockets.
            Remember everyone. Big Brother is watching to see if you are wearing your mask.

            • Where I live there is widespread disobedience to the emperors mask decree. 3/4 of the people in the dollar general not wearing masks. The beauty is its by both the right and the left. Could the rebellion end the manufactured polarization?

      • According to that Bloomberg graph discussed recently, millennials own only ~5% of the assets (vs Silent-Boomers-GenX) while becoming the largest employee group.. That won’t end well, rebellion or abandonment/walking away unlikely at the moment (and or given their psycho-social setting), so perhaps allowing lapse into more direct forms of ~feudalism instead..

  1. “With unrest on all sides, Russia’s regional muscle is being tested…

    “To the south, the three-decade-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has reignited. To the west, protests calling for Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s ouster are well into their second month. And to the east, Kyrgyzstan is facing its third political crisis in 15 years after recent parliamentary election results were annulled.”

      • People like Khazin, Orlov, .. been trying to explain it why there has not been over-reaction from “the bear” so far. Well, it took almost two decades to turn over, stabilize the situation since the breakup of ~1991, push oligarchs to pay at least some taxes locally, and or let them engage in the economy somewhat meaningfully, retooling the economy to higher value added instead of mere raw resource exports etc.

        To foreign meddling call (via Ukraine, Belarus, Caucasus, .. econ sanctions) has been always responded with “minimal variant – great restraint” so far. In essence, well played by the underdog, evidently being a chess game about longer time horizon. Yes very recently western underclasses had no problem getting credit for ~400hp toyz and other crap, living the opulent dream, while in .ru settling for funny looking econoboxes and (clean) public transit. In next installment (almost there now) western underclasses won’t get (enough) food, medical assistance and even the middle class starts seriously hurting. It seems the politics of post Soviet break up was also in large part actively managed/nudged triage for mere survival of the most essential, several regions out of the former core [millions of pop] have been completely ruined..

        We can observe some similar precursors on the “EU southern edge” as well.. or even within/near that core, say [Bavaria and Austria, Hungary] vs Londonistan and Benelux/French suburbs (new beheading just yesterday)..

        • What Khazin trying to explain for years now: The World needs new order. And this new order is reverse of globalization. World will be divided in local “Centers”. These centers are: USA, China, Russia. Smaller countries will be more dependent on thier local center. Example: if Ukraine’s local center is Russia, Russia can do whatever it wants with Ukraine and noone can’t say anything, because it’s new world order. I don’t agree with his view, but it’s only an opinion, I think he oversimplyfying things.

          • Thanks, Sergey!

            I agree with the idea of new centers to smaller areas. USA, Russia, and China could be the new centers. Or China/Russia could be a single center, I suppose. China doesn’t have enough oil on its own.

            A lot of places could be knocked out of the trade loop, it would seem, to try to get oil prices higher for providers. Parts of countries could disappear as well, such as the Wall Street area of New York.

  2. Thorium. Check it out. Cheap and safe, fits the bill. The Means Assures the End. Do the Good.

    John G Root Jr Just Abundance, Inc. Mutual Credit and Sociocracy shift the paradigm Cell: 413 329 3200

    On Thu, Oct 15, 2020 at 2:03 PM Our Finite World wrote:

    > Gail Tverberg posted: ” Strangely enough, the limit we seem to be reaching > with respect to fossil fuel extraction comes from low prices. At low > prices, the extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas becomes unprofitable. > Producers go bankrupt, or they voluntarily cut back product” >

      • “These managers can not calculate!”
        “Do they not see that there is a problem?”
        “Why does nobody do this, it is so obvous”
        “Wind and solar is so cheap, These people do not understand what a good investment this makes”
        “Politicians just do not know what to do”

      • I agree- thorium. Molten salt thorium reactors totally safe from melt down. Fuel is completely used with no radioactive waste. Abundant supply. No technological barriers to deployment. Gail, were are the scientific peer reviewed papers on why these CAN’T be built? Nowhere to be seen. I smell a rat.

        • Sorry, thorium is not a nuclear fuel. It must be subjected to neutron bombardment, which is itself a slow and expensive process, and the output Uranium 233 is the real fuel. Its major advantage is that there is a lot more of it, but there is currently no cost advantage.

          • The molten salt reactor seems like a highly radioactive chemical processing facility with a side effect of happening to produce electricity. A hot mess.

            Keep the fuel solid and reprocess it centrally. Then burn it until all actinides are depleted of their fissile energy.

            • India has been trying to work the bugs out of thorium since the 70s, since they have a lot of it. No luck after 45 years of research. With patience, I once managed to google up a site that listed all the difficulties with thorium. It was a formidable list. There are a lot of countries that would love to adopt thorium if it were everything its advocates say. The technology is not ready, and may never be ready.

            • when you irradiate rocks, one of the biggest radioactive products is 22Na from sodium in the minerals. i can imagine what 22Na levels might get produced by neutron activation in molten salt used as a coolant. fortunately, it has a relatively short half-life.

            • For the molten salts used in thorium reactors its fluoride. Does that sucker got some nasty radioactive isotope?

              Let me guess: Yes.

              Its a Hot Mess.

        • Wrong. There ARE technological barriers to deployment. Lots of countries would love to burn thorium, esp India which as vast thorium reserves and has been trying to work the bugs out of the idea since the 1970s. I am sure China, Japan, Russia, Germany and France would all love to have a reactor that could not melt down and would burn an abundant fuel. Why do you think no one is doing it? Not even TEPCO!

          As for peer reviewed papers, you don’t keep the grant money flowing by publishing reasons why it’s hard to do. Same problem with EV’s. Rumor has it that most of the engineers who work on EV batteries think they are a dead end that will only serve a niche market, but no one will say that for the record. They like having jobs!

          Here is the latest example of overblown MSR hype:

          In other words, this was another case of technology hubris, an all-to-common malady in energy, where hyperbolic claims are frequent and technology journalists all too credulous.

          • “As for peer reviewed papers, you don’t keep the grant money flowing by publishing reasons why it’s hard to do. Same problem with EV’s.”

            People don’t realize how important grant money is as a driver of what gets written. Also, peer reviewers will like the papers better, if they seem to present a solution.

  3. There is a problem with your human body analogy. Humans only grow in childhood. Adult humans use energy for homeostasis, not growth. We need to develop a homeostatic economy at a level the planet can support, which includes all the other life on the planet, not just humans.

    • There are a lot of different kinds of dissipative structures. Stars, including the sun, are dissipative structures. They grow until they collapse. Ecosystems of all kinds are dissipative structures. They operate under the maximum power principle. They self-organize in such a way as to make maximum productive use of the energy available to them. The economy is, in a sense, a type of ecosystem. Our economy self-organizes and grows to make maximum productive use of the energy available to it. This includes energy sources of all sorts, including fossil fuels.

      The economy keeps reaching diminishing returns. For example, wells need to be dug deeper or water needs to be desalinated, to produce enough fresh water. Mines become deeper and have minerals with lower mineral percentages. We need to grow more food per acre, so more irrigation is needed and more support of other kinds. Thus the economy needs to use more energy, just to “stay even.” If we want to repay debt with interest, we need even more.

      • Piggybacking on the debt – interest tangent.
        Suddenly, there are appearing people (out of the woodwork) predicting period of sustained real negative interest rates and spike in bonds.. basically multi decade mega trend reversal out of the blue (for most).

        I guess it was linked recently here, van Metre, Rickards, .. although the later even wrote about it long time pre-covid times, also citing historic precedents for econ depression times escalation, e.g. US blocking its debt owed to-held by China. Not exactly impossible to imagine in second term for this POTUS and non recovery..

        • Not really a mega trend reversal. Yields have been trending down since the 1980s, and many countries already issue bonds at negative rates. Really a continuation rather than reversal of the trend.

          • You are right! GDP results have been helped by lower interest rates and more debt for a very long time. Peak interest rates were back in 1981. We can no longer live without this kind of help.

    • Susan, my experience in Pittsburgh is that some adult humans graze on food stamps, and continue to grow until they die in their 50s from one of the diseases associated with morbid obesity.

    • Maybe after a huge collapse, some leaders might embrace the idea that the world is finite and thus the economy must be as well.

      • if covid never happened, then yes, after the inevitable huge economic decline perhaps by the middle of this decade, “some leaders” might have gained a bit of a susspicion that prosperity is finite.

        but the herd mentality of the leaders to (over)react to covid makes me think that they will continue in a herd mentality that the economic downturn was only because of covid.

        I say that, and I hope in a way that doesn’t give the impression that it is covid-con-spear-acy talk, because there is no such con-spear-acy.

  4. The only thing that will save civilization is another revolutionary energy source to replace fossil fuels. We all agree on that. This is out there a bit, but Cliff High is using the theory of Roger Joseph Boscovich to invent a way to tap into the Electro Magnetic Field and coming up with some novel inventions that will allow propulsion of vehicles without internal combustion engine, similar to how ufos might be moving. Other, energy creating inventions could come from this. His web bot predictions have had a few events in our present that shows a sci fi world is upon us. If reality is a simulation and the “programers” don’t want the game to end, this could be a way forward. It may sound crazy, but I am keeping a tentative eye upon developments. Hope springs eternal!

    • er—–

      no we don’t all agree on that

      check back through the last millennia of OFW posts and you will confirm that .

      There was never a ‘revolutionary’ energy source in the first place. We burned biomass to create a ‘modern’ civilisation. Fossilsed biomass is still biomass. Using different burning methods does not change the basic premise of what it is.
      There is not, and never has been, anything else.

      (And no—it isn’t possible to use nuclear without burning biomass)

      The laws of physics prevent the creation of energy, only allow converting it from one form into another.

      But if this discussion is lapsing into the propulsion systems of UFOs, (let alone their existence) —I am suddenly lost for (polite) words. (imagine that!!!!)

      • Norman, I think nuclear is possible with energy only needed for mining the Uranium. No need for high pressure reactors with MASSIVE concrete domes. We can mine with electric from nuclear. Current coal mining uses electric machines. Operated remotely by people who are located in one of three centers around the planet so the operator is always alert working first shift.

          • Looking at the article, Derek Abbott makes a really good case that you can’t scale Nuclear up enough. In fact, the nuclear that we have now is getting near the end of its lifetime, if stations need to be replaced every 50 years or so. This leaves a big “hole” in the electricity generation of the US, Europe, and Japan, as we are discovering. Intermittent solar is not really a good replacement for this nuclear power, either.

      • Norm, before you dismiss UFO ‘s entirely checkout a Joe Rogan podcast with commander Fravor. This guy is creditable and has evidence that there is indeed weird and wonderful craft flying around out there.

        • That may (or may not) be so, but I greatly doubt they are piloted by space aliens. Any civilisation able to build interstellar craft with those capabilities would also have the technology to make them completely undetectable by mere earthlings. Unless …

          “Pod mother, pod mother, may I take the landing craft for a ride?”
          “Of course, sweetheart, but don’t get caught and end up in Area 51.”

          • Whoever is piloting these craft, they have been noted for centuries. Since they can outmaneuver anything humans can produce, I suspect they may be produced by humanoids rather than humans. There is therefore no requirement for the entities to remain undetectable. After all, we humans don’t think to hide from animals lower down the food chain. Beyond that, the humanoids – or entities or androids or whatever they are – might think it edifying for us humans to realise that we are not top dog even on planet Earth.

      • UFOs have lots of hard evidence for their existence. The Unidentified is key. If you are skeptical about who created and controls them then that is justified, but hard to deny existence. The rules of physics are always evolving, and it depends on your definition of revolutionary. How do you see civilization continuing into the long term future without fossil fuels? I thought that was the foundational concept of Our Finite World.

        • by my definition, hard evidence is exactly that

          something you can go up to, (after it’s landed) bang with a hammer and demand to know where it came from.
          If nobody knows, then it’s a UFO.

          I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’re there yet on that one. I certainly wouldn’t put my faith in their propulsion systems.


          As to civilisation, this is the only version of it that is in the process of consuming its own future. Or has been able to.

          I will defer to our gracious host, but I would have thought that the title ‘Our Finite world’ pretty much defined what it’s all about..

          Civilisations can only expand beyond the level of basic hunter-gathering by finding and exploiting surplus energy.
          When that surplus (not the energy resource itself) goes beyond economical exploitation, civilisations collapse. Other factors are involved, obviously, but lack of surplus energy is the killer.

          I fully accept that I may have missed some fundamental point, but every past civilisation seems to have ended in that way.

          Every past civilisation has effectively consumed itself trying to stay viable ‘forever’ through denial that collapse is happening. (who wants to believe that? I certainly don’t. Greeks, Romans, Aztecs Germans, Brits USA et al—all were certain of their 1000 year Reich. All were prepared to die to prove it.
          Check out the current VP—certain that Jesus is going to return and fix things. (literally). So the USA will be an eternal paradise.

          We can only advance if we can go on converting explosive force into rotary motion.

          But without FFs, our civilisation reverts to muscle power and the technology of the horse and cart. (no explosive forces (surplus energy) you see.)

          View at

          • I think we are on the same page, civilization will collapse if it has to rely on animal muscle power. My point is that we need to find a way of creating movement of machines without the use of fossil fuels, and current renewable energies are too small in quantity, or we crash. You may have understood different than my intent. If you can’t see a way to do that using current laws of physics, one solution is to change the laws, or shake the box of the current paradigm and see what comes of it.

            • “If you can’t see a way to do that using current laws of physics, one solution is to change the laws” — Such a simple and obvious solution, why didn’t I think of it?

          • I agree that we can only go so far in the only direction we know about. We seem to be reaching the end of the line.

            Our self-organizing system will figure out how to maximize “productive” energy dissipation in the future. Humans may no longer be around. Or many years may have passed, plus higher radiation, leading to some new kind of beings. The self-organizing system will work things out in its own way. It may not be a way we would approve of.

            • Self-organizing systems can and do organize themselves into a state of criticality, whereupon they can collapse unpredictably at any time and to any degree.

              Why Do Societies Collapse?: A Theory Based on Self-Organized Criticality
              Gregory G. Brunk First Published April 1, 2002

              Abstract: The oldest answered question in the social sciences is ‘Why do societies collapse?’. I advance a theory of the collapse of societies that is based on self-organized criticality, which is a nonlinear process that produces sudden shifts and fractal patterns in historical time series. More generally, I conjecture that weak, self-organized criticality is ubiquitous in human systems. If this conjecture is correct, it would not only explain the source of total societal collapses but the pattern of most other sorts of human calamities and even the frequency distribution of many mundane day-to-day events.

        • “UFOs have lots of hard evidence for their existence.”

          I don’t think you will have a lot of influence on my thinking about UFOs or at least them being aliens from the stars. Almost 60 years ago, my friends and I (working out of the Druid Student Center) launch dozens of UFOs. The stories occupied about 20% of the front page of the Tucson newspaper in the summer of 1962.

          In the late 90s, a TV show called Sightings filmed me building and launching a UFO. I think I still have a copy of the tape.

          But if you want a reason to doubt we have any technical aliens in this galaxy, try

          • What a great prank! Have you or others written anything about this?

            Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee’s book, Rare Earth, also counters, with good evidence, hope for intelligent aliens. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but just very unlikely.

            • “What a great prank! Have you or others written anything about this?”

              No. I have written up some of my adventures from my misspent youth, but not the UFO story. One of the better stories was “Blasting in a Cave.”

              Years later I was talking with a Civil Air Patrol about UFOs. The CAP guy recounted another UFO story. It seems about 20 aircraft would get in a line across the sky. They would flick their landing lights when the plane next to them flashed their landing lights. What this looked like from a distance was a bright light ripping back and forth seeming to be an object that was moving faster than a conventional aircraft.

              And there was a time when we hung a florescent light over a road out in the forest near Prescott, AZ. We lighted it with a model T spark coil, so besides the light, if the driver had on his radio, it was like a montain of cornflakes being crushed by a dozer.

          • thanks Keith.


            “When we update this prior in light of the Fermi observation, we find a
            substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our
            observable universe (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% respectively). ’Where are they?’
            — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological
            horizon and forever unreachable.”

            yes, the chance of aliens flying around in our atmosphere are extremely low.

            the idea of such is just modern mythmaking.

            • Time for the canonical reference: “Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky”, 1958, Carl Gustav Jung

            • “but it turns out that flying saucers possess very good avionics,”

              How do you know? My UFOs didn’t have any avionics at all

              ” if we could engineer a propulsion system for them.”

              Given our current knowledge of physics, it looks like Forward’s method of using huge lasers to push light sails is the most efficient If we do this to our galaxy, it is going to be visible far across the universe.

      • The laws of physics prevent the creation of energy, only allow converting it from one form into another.

        Who promulgated the laws of physics?

        Also, if they prevent the creation of energy, why is there so much energy around?

        How did all this energy that is around get to exist if it wasn’t created?

        • “Also, if they prevent the creation of energy, why is there so much energy around?”

          A very good question, and one for which physics does not have a satisfactory answer. A “singularity” is nothing; it has no dimensions and no volume, so how could it turn out to be full of energy? And if it did have energy, the density would be infinite and nothing could ever escape.

          Until we have a credible theory, I’ll stick with Genesis i:3.

    • Whatever new technologies anybody comes up with, however promising it may seem, will run into the same problems that we are being hit with now. Resources and systems.

      We would need to use current energy sources to develop the new energy sources whilst we are transitioning to those new energy sources. This would be in addition to maintaining the current economy with current energy sources during the transition with a sufficient surplus not only for development of new energy sources but also to keep growth going. This is at a time when current energy sources would be in decline with no way to arrest that decline for anything more than a short period of time if at all. The same would apply to minerals used in the new economy at the same time as the old.

      In addition, economic growth necessarily involves not only greater consumption of resources but also greater production of waste and of thermodynamic heat, regardless of what technologies are used.

      We would therefore still be looking at pollution, global warming and other environmental issues regardless of what technologies are being used. And, of course, the biggest elephant in the room of them all: overpopulation.

      • The sci-fi is key. Off world travel, lots of minerals in asteroids and planets. Lots of room for waste in space. You have to go further out of the box with your thinking. Not going to spend a lot of time defending but just keep it in the back of your mind.

            • Here are three sci fi stories and one novel that inspire me:
              Tom Godwin “The Cold Equations”
              Theodore Sturgeon, “Twilight of the Gods”
              H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine”
              Mark Twain, _A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court_

              Planet of the Apes
              Mad Max
              George Pal’s film adaptation of “The Time Machine”

              But somehow I don’t think these are the sort of sci-fi stories Jason was thinking of. Everyone here has probably seen the films, but the three short stories and one novel are very well worth reading. Especially “The Cold Equations” and “Twilight of the Gods.”

            • I am also inspired to go into the business of manufacturing hoverboards after watching ‘Back to the Future’

              would you like to invest in my new business?

        • Jason, a random and unpleasant late evening thought. “Lots of room for waste in space”. Well, previous generations thought “lots of room for waste in the ocean”, and they were badly wrong. As are we: near earth space is increasingly dangerous because of the presence of waste, which threatens our satellite network every day, and out manned space missions on the rare occasions we have them. There have been several studies on how to clean up space debris; they mostly conclude it is more expensive than letting them wreak their worst. As of course is the case with the oceans, which is why the effort is confined mainly to amateurs and philanthropists.

          • Okay, there is a mess in space. If we revert to spear and thong does it make any difference?

            The oceans have changed gears in the past, they will do fine, if we are gone what difference does it make?

            Stars explode, all sorts of orbital junk, haven’t seen a star clean up crew lately.

            Nothing is perfect, we stumble forward or we most likely perish, what do we have to lose?

            Junk in the oceans: I have a bet much of that came from the US and was recycled back to China who recycled it into the sea. We moved it out of mind and out of sight, it is still there and too damn close for my thinking. Put all this crap in space in the first place, one of the lunar elevators designs has it at the lunar pole, hide the mess on the dark side of the moon, earth for humans – new campaign slogan don’t you know? Think of it as Greta with a positive, hopeful twist.

            Robert, we have to have hope.

            Dennis L.

        • Relying upon the mining of asteroids for the minerals we use everyday can make for a decent background to a good science fiction tale, but it is not going to work in real life. The asteroids are far farther flung than the Moon. It would take an awful lot of energy and other resources to get robotic mining ships out there in very large numbers, at an exponentially growing rate, and then find that the mineral density of the asteroid belt is lower and less reliable than ores on Earth.

          However, even if we could do that adequately, reliably, affordably and somehow fuel growth on Earth that way, that would make global warming worse and push us into uninhabitability. From that point of view, it is a good thing that we cannot afford to keep growth going indefinitely by mining asteroids.

          • Kurt, I beieve the received wisdom is that we need to send just one robot miner to the asteroids, certainly well within our current capability. On arrival, the miner will make a copy of itself, and the system takes off from there. Until the robot swarm runs out of asteroids, and their advanced AI decides that a nearby small blue world would make an excellent source of raw materials …

            • I did the calculation once, if humanity increases by 1% per generation then in about 5000 years we will have a solid ball of human flesh expanding outward at greater than the speed of light. Unlimited growth is not possible in this universe.

            • That may not be as good an idea as it at first may seem to be. Although in science fiction we often see asteroid belts depicted as being densely packed with rocks, that is not actually the case where our solar system is concerned. Asteroids are also not all rich in the minerals we seek, but when they are they can be expected to be more widely separated in the asteroid belt than equivalent ores are on Earth. A robotic craft seeking to replicate itself would be likely to be required to visit and collect materials from multiple asteroids before having what it needs to do so, and there will still be the issue of where it might get its energy from. Not only for asteroid hoping and mining, but also for building the new robotic miner spacecraft. The resources ultimately sent back to Earth can be expected to be significantly more expensive than their Earth-mined counterparts.

      • Ain’t no humans that is going to leave earth, that’s one thing that is for sure.

        The children of humankind, perhaps, just perhaps if the rapacious monkey can get its act together and power through until the end of the century.

        Earth is our home, it’s where we’ll emerge and decay from mineral.

        It is all process. There is no beginning, nor is there an end. It’s instantaneous and eternal at the same time.

        Once you let go of part of what makes you human it becomes evident.

    • You may be right. I think someone will have to take a totally different approach than we have, to figure out how to get access to the huge amount of bypassed fossil fuels. If the earth and its biosphere together are a dissipative structure, something will come along to make certain that happens, even if doing so disturbs our sensibilities regarding what the earth should look like and what the temperature of the earth should be.

      • Gail,

        It may be we cannot dump much more waste on earth, “The Limits to Growth” addresses that issue. Growth and waste heat have no solutions if the calculations I recall are correct, surface temperature goes to 200 degrees.

        All the minerals didn’t just appear, “puff,” much current theory as I understand it makes the earth from aggregations of stuff much of which comes from novas and supernovas – processes best done at a distance.

        We are right, BAU will not continue and all hopeful alternatives lead to dead ends. Xcel has a program to produce hydrogen for industrial uses because the nuclear plants need to run at capacity and are not now doing so, diminishing returns.

        Make earth for biology, it is well suited for that, put the pollution in space, earth is our spaceship, it is already done this and although a bit beat up, it heals by itself, all will be well.

        The “Limits to Growth” appears to be a correct approximation for earth, it is not an approximation for our solar system. Populations have always been self limiting one way or another, so earth will deal with that issue. Gross pollution from organic, human processes seems manageable if the industrial aspect is removed. All the minerals in the earth came from somewhere, out there? Well, mine them out there, use small nuclear reactors in space but don’t put one on every block. Make the MTBF for both the reactor and the process the same economically(NPV as always), before the reactor fails, kick into an orbit which collides with the sun, no space debris issues, make it a slow, low energy trip, takes two hundred years? Who cares, it is nimby.

        A frivolous comment, make life a cargo cult, a landing area next to metropolitan areas, parachute goods from space – parachutes are waste a problem for someone to work on, get paid and solve.

        Take these posts as approximations, not prescriptions. What is important for humanity now is to figure out whether the journey goes metaphorically to the east or west, the journey will not be a straight line but think of the wagons west in the US. Many did not make it, but hope kept them going and go they did.

        Dennis L.

        • If I remember correctly, David Montgomery in Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations says that the bedrock erodes very slowly gives a big part of the dirt we find today. The speed at which erodes varies with the type of rock. Something like 1,000 years for a meaningful amount.

          When we plow, we subject the soil to far more erosion than it normally would have. Montgomery believes that a major reason for collapses is because soil had been eroded that the farmers need. Alternatively, irrigation (except from the overflow of rivers) tends to add salt to the soil. Repetitive growing of one kind of crop also has an adverse impact on the soil. Montgomery believes that soil problem underlie many collapses.

      • Humanity has expressed its technological dreams in science fiction. In the 1930s when my late father was a boy, he used to collect used jam jars, which he says the cinema would accept as an entrance fee. He told me that he adored the Flash Gordon films of the 1930s. The cinema was a fixture in the UK in those days, since nobody had television.

        Come the 1980s, my father bought a video recorder. He started taping films from TV and eventually building his own collection of tapes. I asked him if as a boy he had ever imagined he would have his own home cinema. He gave me an emphatic shake of the head.

        And of course, by the 1980s the Americans and others had long since travelled, into space. So some science fiction does come true – not all of it, of course. The moral is that some people and some inventors do think outside the box and will continue to do so. And some people do not and never will. We have one of them among the commenters here, posting the same insight over and over again.

        • space travel will not happen.

          humans got ‘off earth’ using 1000 yr old ‘technology. (chinese fireworks,/exploding chemicals) ……That took us as far as the moon.
          They brought back photographs and souvenirs.

          The reactive thrust of the rocket follows the same laws of physics, whether a firework in a milk bottle, or a huge tube with men sitting on the top.

          There is no other way of getting off earth, no matter how many science fiction books we read, or how we ‘shake the box’ or change the laws of physics

          Viable space travel needs commercial returns, which is why we will not go anywhere. Without viable returns, attempts at ‘space travel’ will drain an already fragile economic (Earth) system.

          Find a solid iron asteroid by all means. But it is then necessary to :

          ….get the iron to a point where it can be made into ‘stuff’.
          ….Such ‘stuff has got to reach a ‘market’
          ….the metal goods have to be bought/sold/exchanged
          ….the buyers need wages to do that
          ….but wages depend on surplus energy
          ….which we do not have

          Raw elements cannot accrue value until they are converted into something usable in human terms, (and in so doing underpins the ongoing value of money-tokens)

          Unless that happens an iron asteroid is worthless

          Right now, the global economic system is shuddering to a stop, because we can no longer afford to keep it going. The same economic law applies off earth—except that off earth ‘travel’ requires such colossal investment that it can never bring a worthwhile return…ie wages for humans

            • Clever, if it works that would be nice, nuclear power to movement which seems more likely than a series of small nuclear blasts against a shield – project Orion.

              Now journey out to the asteroid belt, maybe a few of Saturn’s rings, pick and chose and send the good stuff back to the moon, refine, manufacture, use a space elevator off the moon, drop on to earth with a parachute/drone thingy and Amazon will have another piece of the puzzle. A trillion here, a trillion there, money falling out of the sky, what could go wrong?

              Dennis L.

            • Magnetic propulsion? I googled this. For a vessel of some substantial weight, how much niobium (rare earth), tin, and copper will it need (in addition to the more common iron and aluminum–and aluminum needs substantial energy to produce)? How much electricity will have to run through the wire, and what will generate the electricity? What is the “metal” cylinder actually made of (did not say in the diagram I saw)? How much total weight will this device add to the vessel? Yes, it’s an engineering problem, but that does not mean it will ever be commercially viable.

          • Norman,

            May I suggest leave man on the earth, put replicating machines on the moon, the trip from the moon to the earth is easy, move the pollution off eartj, strip all the anti pollution off(basically what China did and trashed their ecology). On the moon shielding on a reactor is not needed, on a space craft mostly for the human cargo.

            We are going to need a new economy(Gail’s idea, she has been right so far, who am I to argue), we need hope which seems to be one function of most/many/all religions(there are those here who know much more about that than I).

            It is a hundred year or more project, think of it as a cathedral – if it has been done it can be done. Going back to spears and loin cloths sucks. It is also consistent with more complexity, complexity seems the only way out.

            My understanding is we put man in space so people would fund space exploration – a monkey did not have the same stage value as John Glenn.

            If everything is going to fail anyway, what is the risk? Keep looking at the size of the Saturn V vs the return rocket, build it in space or on the moon, pollute at will, no epa, no Osha, no building codes if she blows, she blows. That is a lot of cost removed, it is not important where cost is removed, only that it is removed. Gravity is a problem on a space station, we have one with gravity – the moon.

            Earth is for man, well maybe even a few women(it is a joke, relax), get rid of the polluting machines, think of it machines as an interlude. Anyone have a better idea? It is green, what could go wrong?

            Dennis L.

            • No, the polluting machines, and its CO2 generation capacity should go nowhere.

              I don’t want to live on an icy rock. Yes I am the spokesperson of mostly all flora and fauna on earth. The trapped carbon needs to be returned to the biosphere.

              The damaging substances of CO2 generation should however be filtered out.

              Yes, earth is our birthplace and it is where we will eventually meet our demise as a species.

              The Machine, however, will power along into intergalactic space and beyond.

              It’s time to let go of the human chauvinism and ponder upon the likely outcome of the process of life itself.

              It seems to me that life itself is the cancer of rock turning mineral into self-replication.

              It is what we are. Turners of mineral into life. Synthetic and natural.

            • “Going back to spears and loin cloths sucks” — I don’t think we will have to go that far back, but we will have to get to “steady state” using less energy per capita and with fewer capita to boot. I am not advocating this outcome as a strategic option, just saying that it WILL happen, voluntarily or not. Finite resources cannot accommodate infinite growth.

              Even 2% growth per capita (US historical average and the current world average) is not sustainable for very long (as a historian might mean by “long,” longer than a politician’s or journalist’s long, but far shorter than a geologist’s long), even though 2% is commonly considered “moderate” or even “slow” growth. Two percent (not even per capita, but 2% total growth) means you double annual consumption of resources every 34 years. It does not take many doublings before you are consuming more resources every year than actually exist.

              Because energy cannot be recycled once consumed, even a steady state is not possible at anything like current levels of global consumption. We have to burn too much just to stay in place. And if you try to go solar (including wind), then you will run short of materials for the technology (unless the population is vastly smaller).

          • and, the last commodity that we need from an asteroid is iron. the planet is practically made of iron. asteroids actually provide little that we need from them. maybe nickel, some cobalt, but probably not enough to justify the cost of extraction.

            • A few years ago I analyzed processing 1982 DA for the 0.75 ppm gold and 4 or 5 times that much value in platinum group metals. 1982 DA is about 2 cubic km of asteroid iron.

              I didn’t expect the economics to work out, but if you can do enough bootstrapping (i.e. use local materials for the extraction plant) it looks like it would be profitable.

            • world stocks of physical gold are about 130000 tons, give or take

              currently, gold is valued at about $1900 oz

              find an asteroid carrying 1 m tons of gold and bring it back to Earth. reducing gold value by about 90% and the gold market is destroyed.


              I believe something similar happened in Spain in the 16thc when looted gold began arriving back from the Americas

            • ” find an asteroid carrying 1 m tons of gold and bring it back to Earth.”

              Asteroid iron is typically less than one ppm. That’s parts per million. or a ton of gold for every million tons of asteroid. Does this suggest a way to reduce the shipping costs by a factor of a million?

    • Boscovich (1711 to 1787) is someone whose ideas should always be considered carefully. He was a citizen of Ragusa, but studied mainly in Italy and France. Most of his work was in astronomy, but his “De inaequalitate gravitatis in diversis terrae locis, which discussed how the Earth’s gravity varied from place to place, was groundbreaking. It led to a famous 20th century experiment, which used atomic clocks to prove that time ran slightly faster at the top of a mountain.

      However, Boscovich never wrote about the Earth’s magnetic field. But his paper “De motu corporis …” of 1743 seems clearly relevant. But on the other paw, we have a rather more direct method of tapping the Earth’s angular momentum than using its magnetic field: the tides.

      • Tides don’t seem to work very well for generating electricity. Sea water is damaging to metal equipment in the water. The availability of the energy is very intermittent. Cost benefit seems to be pretty bad, wherever it has been tried.

        • Thank you, Gail, and I agree. Getting the tides to push bits of metal is hopeless. But getting the tides to fill an estuary, and then letting the water generate hydroelectric power as it runs out, seems far more promising. There was a study many years ago that looked at damming the Bristol Channel in England for precisely this purpose; it went nowhere because as then envisaged it would have destroyed viability of the port.

          • Tide mills were once quite common in the UK. Storing water at high tide in lagoons and using the water flow to drive mills. You could get between 2 and 3hrs of milling twice per day. There is one down the road from here. Problem with tides is they move backward in time 45mins everyday so your working day moves every single day. Also the amount of work you can do varies every day as you cycle between spring and neap rides. So yes any electricity generated from this idea would be predictable but unfortunately would vary in time and amount every day, and therefore difficult to match to demand.

            • Thank you, Erdles, complete agreement here. The only effective use for intermittent energy is use in situations that can accommodate intermittent work. As windmills grinding corn, for example.

  5. “now you sound like L Ron Hubbard”
    When one resorts to name calling one has lost the argument. But if one must compare the statement “don’t rely on science fiction, be inspired by it” I would prefer Carl Sagan or Gene Roddenberry.

    • Roddenberry and Sagan were not on the same scientific page. One worked within the laws of physics, one wrote fiction that contravened them

      the words of Hubbard are accepted as truth by millions—can’t see how that can be interpreted as an insult.—-why should that present a problem?

      But this thread is presenting me with a problem:

      Should I be inspired by science fiction or change the laws of physics? (in order to solve the looming demise of civilisation) Both have been suggested on this thread.

      I’ve already been taken to task for not believing in UFOs–despite defining what ‘hard evidence’ is.

      Seems the only solution is unquestioning agreement with every nutty thesis .

      • I shouldn’t say change the laws of physic, but expand. Any new theory has to account for and explain the older laws. Eric Weinstein and Stephan Wolfram have proposed some new theories that, if proven, expand our view of experienced reality. Also, Donald Hoffman is working on a theory of reality based on consciousness as the basic unit of reality. These are some examples that I consider revolutionary and out of the box, but definitely not nutty. They are all internally consistent with their math and logic, only the beginning assumptions are different to current mainstream theories. When I said shake the box, I meant try different assumptions, but still be mathematically and logically consistent. The solution is to have an open mind, but, in my opinion, any theory must pass the math and internal logical consistency test. Of course ultimately testable with our experienced reality as well.

        • The cult was originally “Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health”, popularised by J W Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction. So you could learn on the inside pages how to become “clear”, and on the end papers get an invitation to join the Rosicrucians (AMORC), by writing to Scribe LVIII (occult reference, can you find it?). Elron then discovered the tax advantages of religion, and launched Scientology, which duly dissolved into a cult of brainwashing, intimidation, and sexual exploitation. Much like some other cults, not mentioning one centred in Rome.

      • Funny, I seem to remember Carl Sagan zooming around the Universe inside a Tinkerbell at warp speed to music by Vangelis, breaking the laws of physics while going boldly where no man has gone before.

        Let’s watch it again!

        • Basically, Cosmos WAS Star Trek without the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians or the Borg, with Sagan in the role of Spock—half human, half Vulcan, pointing out to us how illogical we pure bred Homo sapiens are.

          Truer words were never spoken in fiction:

    • “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” (Arthur C Clarke, 1917 to 2008)

      • > A victorious age

        Comparing discoveries made before 1905 with after 1985, the average age at which physicists made their discoveries rose from 37 to 50. Chemists’ average age rose from 36 to 46 and that of medical scientists from 38 to 45. Before 1905, 20% of prizewinning work was done before age 30, but by 2000, this fell to almost zero. The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences….

        To explain the ageing effect, Jones and Weinberg suggest a shift from theoretical work, in which youngsters do better, towards experimental work, which requires experience and aggregation of knowledge, and therefore favours older scientists.

        They also suggest that as fields expand, it may take longer to accumulate the knowledge necessary to make a novel contribution. With the exception of 1920s physics, the analysis found that, over time, Nobel laureates received their PhDs later and that there has been an increase in discoveries that depend on previous work. This suggests a modern tendency to draw on more established knowledge, a skill at which older scientists excel….

      • “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” (Arthur C Clarke, 1917 to 2008)

        possibly was true when he said it.

        but the relentless diminishing returns of imagination-becoming-reality probably makes him wrong in 2020.

        • I’m still waiting for instacollapse.

          Nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be found.

          What, however, is collapsing is the money laundry, finance racket and the banker/CB cartel enabling it all.

          Good riddance.

          No more luxurious dinners, expensive wines, dope and hikers for the bandit gang.

          Such a pity.

          No, not really.

          • Collapses are rarely “insta” as you put it, although that is certainly a possibility (such was a massive CME). But if an “instacollapse” does not occur, then a gradual collapse is guaranteed. How could it not happen? Discover new laws of physics? Mine the moon or the asteroids? Try to contact UFO’s/ET? If it has come to the point that people must consider such “solutions,” isn’t it obvious that we are near the end of the line? In 1972, _Limits to Growth_ produced a set of graphs stretching from 1970 to 2070, with the down side of the graphs (such as energy production and population size) crashing in the second half–roughly 2020 to 2070. To say something like, “Well, it’s 2020 and we are still muddling through, so the theory must be wrong” is like saying, “Well, it’s September and still no evidence of winter; guess it’s not coming this year!”

            • I agree with you.

              LTG is a fine and sobering read.
              An instacollapse is only possible if some physical event triggers it, such as a meteorite impact, a more powerful virus than in the current pandemic, EMP weaponry going off in space. Nuclear war.

              Otherwise, it will prod along with the slowest cars being detached from the BAU train as time progresses.

    • Physics has stalled. There are loads more scientists than before but no progress is being made. Just a few Nobels in physics are now awarded for work done decades ago because nothing new of importance is coming through. Some suggest that new methodology is needed, renewed recourse to the philosophy of science, but that is just speculative as a solution.

      > The Present Phase of Stagnation in the Foundations of Physics Is Not Normal

      Nothing is moving in the foundations of physics. One experiment after the other is returning null results: No new particles, no new dimensions, no new symmetries. Sure, there are some anomalies in the data here and there, and maybe one of them will turn out to be real news. But experimentalists are just poking in the dark. They have no clue where new physics may be to find. And their colleagues in theory development are of no help….

      We know this both because dark matter is merely a placeholder for something we don’t understand, and because the mathematical formulation of particle physics is incompatible with the math we use for gravity. Physicists knew about these two problems already in 1930s. And until the 1970s, they made great progress. But since then, theory development in the foundations of physics has stalled. If experiments find anything new now, that will be despite, not because of, some ten-thousands of wrong predictions….

      • Dear Oh. First, an historical comment. Physics has stagnated before; astronomy for example between the fourth century BC (Aristotle’s Physics) and 1609 (Kepler’s Astronomia Nova). And it stagnated for just one reason: a slavish adherence to the doctrine of uniform circular motion. Any astronomical opinion that contradicted this dogma was forbidden. Even poor Copernicus, who tried to rehabilitate the solar system of Aristarchus, was compelled to adhere to it, with the consequence that his system needed more epicycles than Ptolemy to give worse predictions.

        Moving on to today, I again think the explanation is simple and obvious: a slavish adherence to the views of Albert Einstein, who is venerated today as much as Aristotle was then. Even though almost all his theories, supported by no real experiments but merely thought experiments, have proven false.

        The constancy of the velocity of light was disproved by the aether drift experiments of Dayton C Miller. The claim that there is no preferred velocity was disproved, dramatically, by the discovery of the isotropic cosmic microwave background radiation, which provides a universal standard of absolute rest, just as its temperature provides a universal standard of absolute time.

        The equivalence principle can be proved false using equipment you can build in a garage. The Einstein Podolsky Rosen thought experiment to disprove quantum mechanical entanglement was eviscerated by the real experiments of Alain Aspect. And finally, the claim that the velocity of light is the limiting velocity was overturned by Gunter Nimtz and his team, who transmitted Mozart’s Symphony 40 across the lab at 4.7c.

        But the high priesthood have behaved just like the Pigeon League who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope.

        • Interesting.

          Physics is obviously not my subject, so I am obviously not going to attempt to give a personal diagnosis of its state. There seems to be general agreement that it is radically stagnant and going nowhere fast. It has been like that for several decades.

          Scientists give their own diagnosis of why that is, and what can be done about it. Google offers an overview of the various diagnoses. I suppose that their various remedies are unproven until something actually is done about, if it ever is, and physics actually does progress. Good luck to them.

          There does seem to be some plausibility to your own diagnosis. Thanks for your input, very interesting.

          The Pigeon League made me laugh, thanks for that.

          > When Galileo announced he had seen mountains on the Moon, Cremonini and others denounced the claim but refused to look through Galileo’s telescope.

          Cremonini was later quoted as saying “I do not wish to approve of claims about which I do not have any knowledge, and about things which I have not seen … and then to observe through those glasses gives me a headache. Enough! I do not want to hear anything more about this.”

          • Oh dear, thank you for your most courteous reply. I also am a great fan of the Pigeon League, which was indeed named after Lodovico delle Colombe. But please be advised that my views on physics would a few centuries ago have ensured me the same treatment as was accorded to Giordano Bruno. However, I do have three degrees in the natural sciences, as well as a grounding in the history and philosophy of science, and I studied quantum theory under Paul Dirac at the University of Cambridge (wow, that dates me!).

            For the record, I also believed in the Theory of Relativity, until I discovered that the “experiments” that supposedly proved it correct were fraudulent. That led me to redo the mathematics for myself, and no, it didn’t hold up.

            • R, Nietzsche questions in BGE whether the cosmos really operates according to ‘laws’ at all or whether that is a metaphorical projection of social laws, a human way of thinking, onto reality.

              He insists that it is just as congruous with the facts to say that objects are doing what they ‘will’ to do and without any ‘laws’. (He personally runs with the ‘perspective’ of the ‘will to power’ as the essence of reality.)

              Your example of spiral galaxies spinning in an inexplicable manner and not according to gravity comes to mind.

              ‘Laws’ are, he says, a human ‘interpretation’ of phenomena but they do not express ‘truth’. Maths and science are ‘useful perspectival lenses’ but they do not necessarily allow us to ‘explain’ everything.

              I am not saying that he is ‘right’ about that but the present state of physics does not seem to refute him.

              We seem to assume that physics can produce a self-consistent and entirely explanatory model of the cosmos. Maybe that is not so? And maybe it is not possible to ‘prove’ that it can until and unless it actually has done so. What do you think?

            • There is exactly zero physics that agree completely with nature. All theory is a gross oversimplification.

              Einstein taught man to think in a different way about time and space. There are many problems with that theory, such as zero division fantasy. However, all of the concepts within science is a reflection of how reality is hallucinated by the rapacious primate brain. No damming shade should be put on Old Albert.

              Ultimate physical reality is in its essence impossible to conceptual use into everyday phenomena as observed and rationalized by the human brain.

              Furthermore, all experiment performed is a logical contradiction, since the measuring apparatus is itself a part of the universe.

              Imagine being a photographer wanting to take a photograph of a mirror and then acting surprised of why there is a camera in the picture. This seems to be the current status of quantum mechanics.

              One might ponder why scientist believe they, themselves, and their instruments exists outside the realm of physical reality.

              The whole shebang feels quite Gödelian and closed loop in its essence.

            • For Oh dear:
              I do not agree with Nietzsche that “natural laws” are our own projection onto Nature. (But then, I don’t agree with him about almost anything, so take that with a pinch of salt). But I do agree that many of our theories of nature are merely projections of our own prejudices. Astronomy was held back not just by a single principle, but rather by our prejudice that events on Earth (“sublunary” as the dogma had it) were radically different from events in the heavens, This terrene world was corrupt; the heavens were incorrupt. Is that still true today? Of course. As an example, I cite our prejudice in favour of “higher” animals, that deserve our respect, against “lower” animals. The systematic destruction of the world’s insect species is a manifestation of that prejudice, and one that might well destroy us.

            • To pick up on Nietzsche’s argument:

              We tend to suppose that physical things are ‘subject’ to ‘laws’, as if they are in a relationship between someone who ‘commands’ and someone who ‘obeys’. It is a projection of human social laws and of the relationship of ‘authority’ and ‘submission’ onto reality, as if that ‘paradigm’ is structural to reality itself.

              That ‘perspective’ is found in the ‘creation’ account in Genesis where God commands things into existence, he speaks and they ‘obey’. Likely the interpretation of physical phenomena according to ‘laws’ harks back to a very early projection of human relationships onto physical reality. But ‘laws’ are not the only human ‘perspective’ that it is possible to project, just the one favoured by a particular sort of society, the law bound, which is not the only possible sort of society. The human ‘perspective’ of ‘will’ and ‘will power’ may also be projected in the place of ‘law’.

              It is just as congruous with the ‘facts’ of phenomena to say that things do what they ‘will’ to do and without any ‘laws’. Things consistently ‘will’ to act in such and such a manner, to have such and such a state, such and such an influence, and the consistent outcome of their interaction is a consistency that is due to their consistent relative ‘force’ (power) to impose their ‘will’ on each other. Things are doing what they ‘want’ to do, and they are competing in an ‘unruly’ manner to impose their ‘will’ in their interactions with each other.

              To develop that argument: the ‘will’ ‘perspective’ would seem to be more congruous with the ‘facts’ in so far as ‘laws’ cannot account for all physical phenomena, such as the spiral galaxies, that Robert mentioned, that rotate in a manner that is ‘incompatible’ with the ‘law’ of gravity. We need only say that not all things that seem alike have the same ‘force’ to impose their ‘will’, or that they do not ‘will’ to do exactly the same thing. But ‘laws’ are either consistent or else they are not ‘laws’ and they cannot account for phenomena at all. Thus the apparent ‘inconsistency’ of phenomena is accounted for by ‘will’ in a manner that ‘laws’ cannot.

              It is as if those spiral galaxies raise an eyebrow and say, ‘whatever! subject to ‘laws’ are we!’ – just as it may be that there are no real ‘laws’, moral, social or political, to which humans ‘must’ be ‘subject’. The illusion of physical ‘law’ is parallel to the illusion of set social ‘law’. – An anarchist manner of physics?

              Thus ‘laws’ are not only an inadequate perspective that cannot, at least yet, account for all phenomena, but neither are they the most adequate perspective that ‘fits’ with all of the ‘facts’. The ‘point’ is not that the ‘will’ ‘perspective’ is ‘true’ but that we are projecting human ‘perspectives’ or supposed psychological ‘truths’ onto reality, and that ‘law’ is not the only one that it is possible to project. And even if it were the only possible human perspective, that still would not make it ‘true’, it would just be the only one that we were capable of – which it is not. Likewise if ‘law’ could account for all of the facts – which it cannot, at least yet – it would not thus be ‘true’ but just ‘fit’ the ‘facts’.

              ‘Law’ is at best just a metaphor that alludes to a supposed universal ‘regularity’ that itself remains to be demonstrated, and in fact never could be demonstrated, as one would need access to all ‘facts’ and to demonstrate their ‘regularity’, which is impossible. Nor is ‘law’ the only metaphor that can allude to regularity, ‘will’ and ‘will power’ can too, as perhaps can others.

            • “same treatment as was accorded to Giordano Bruno” — No, Bruno was executed for his occult teachings, not for his physics. Even Galileo was only prosecuted because he had offended too many powerful people–offended them by his personality, not his astronomy, which was already widely believed by the Jesuits and others. Copernicus’s model had been around for a century, and heliocentrism had been embraced by some church clerics since the 13th century, yet only Galileo faced legal problems for anything other than theological disputes.

            • The problem seem to arise from the dichotomy between subjective reality as experienced by biological and man made computation, which is then forced into concepts of objective reality.

              It is about time to give up on the endeavor that computational hallucinations has anything to do with objective reality.

              The subjective experience exist in the universe much the same way that mathematics exist in human affairs.

              Is it real?Yes. Does it have substance? No.

              Not all manifestation need to have a measurable property.

            • For Nehemiah, on Giordano Bruno. We have no idea why Bruno was condemned, because for over four hundred years the Church has refused to publish the transcript of his secret trial. I have seen two claims by apologists for his killers. One: he denied the “hypostatic union”. An absurd claim, why would he even care? The second, that he denied the Trinity. Would a Dominican friar do that? And even if he did, the matter would have been dealt with by the Order; no need to refer it to Rome.

              No: the only plausible reason is his teaching of the Plurality of Worlds; and that is not religion, it is science. (1) the stars are suns: true. (2) those suns have planets: denied even in the twentieth century, but true. (3) those planets are inhabited: not proven, but increasingly accepted. Bruno was murdered for telling the truth, by an organisation whose power rested on lies. It was a proud moment for me, when I visited the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome, and laid a rose at the feet of his statue. Magna est veritas, et praevalebit

          • Bah! We know very well why Bruno was executed as a heretic. He was very deeply interested in, and rather openly teaching, occult and heretical doctrines. This is really no mystery about this. If they had wanted to punish him for his astronomy, which was not even Bruno’s primary interest, they would have done so in that period of history without feeling the need for a smokescreen.

            ALL the evidence points to Bruno having been executed for heresy (yes, clergy and monks can be heretics–indeed, almost all heresies have originated with clergy and monks! Rarely with laymen). Since the Enlightenment, there have been Deists and other “freethinkers” who have desperately wanted to portray Bruno’s execution as a story of conflict between religion and science, since it makes for wonderful propaganda points, but none of the evidence points in that direction.

      • Oh Dear, dark matter is simply a fudge factor inserted into their equations to make them “work”. Adherence to their theory requires them to state that dark matter is out there is probably symptomatic of the state of physics today….grasping.

        • Jesse, we now have to contend with not only dark matter but also dark energy. Next I suppose is dark leprechauns (visible only after consuming 500cc of whiskey).

          The experimental evidence is that the spiral arms of some galaxies rotate faster than their mass would predict. Conclusion? there is some mass in them that we cannot see. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work: the speed of rotation does not diminish with distance, as Kepler’s Third Law requires, and therefore the underlying attractive force does not diminish as the square of the distance, and so cannot be gravitational.

          What is it? We don’t know, but our hubris will not permit us to admit that, so we craft an absurdity to preserve our appearance of knowledge (and our research grants).

          It is also methodologically unsound to propose an unknown cause for an unknown effect. As has been the established wisdom since Francis Bacon, four hundred years ago.

          • Robert, I think I would enjoy a conversation with you, over a beer. I first majored in physics, then drifted into solid state realm of electronics engineering. Took mucho physics and advanced mathematics. One of my favorite and most interesting books was “Mathematical Methods of Physics”.

            I could share my theory and evidence on why we might possibly be in a simulation.

            • Who would be simulating it, and why?
              Or is it our own simulation that we create for the usual (MPP/dissipation) reasons?

            • Thank you, Jesse, a good book I would recommend to any high school student. Alas, published long after my time. But it builds on Galileo’s observation (his best, in my opinion) that the Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics. But then, as an ostrakon carrying Platonist, how could I disagree.

      • Oh dear, yes it does feel like physics has stalled. Yet, I have hope. None locality (Aspects delayed choice experiment at CERN) and Bell’s Inequality put us in the position 10 years before Einstein’s special theory of relativity pointed out the space and time are not orthogonal. We know there is non-locality and we have the theory that gives the probabilities that we measure. We just do not have a good story on why? I hope it is in my lifetime (30 years) that the next Einstein explains this to us.

        I am also impressed with the work in foundational quantum mechanics at places like the Perimeter Institute in Canada.

        In the 70s when I was an undergrad one professor suggested that the rotational data for galaxies due to unexplained mass might be ping pong balls. It would only take a few per million cubic meters. They do not emit light we can not see them.

        • “… yes it does feel like physics has stalled.”

          does it feel like it has stalled because, um, it actually has stalled?

          thanks to all for the physics discussion.

          some may think it too simplistic, but it does feel like physics as a human endeavor has reached a stage where it is ever increasingly difficult to make progress.

          in other human endeavors, this is usually called diminishing returns.

          • It may be that we just are not smart enough as a species to solve the remaining problems. Based on reaction time tests, real general intelligence in western Europe appears to have fallen about a standard deviation (15 points) since the 1880’s. (The Flynn Effect AKA Cattell’s Paradox, whatever it really is, has very little g loading, if any.)

    • Keith,

      Don’t use oil for combustion, move the processes into space, shoot them around the sun for heat, shoot enough of them and one finished refined product will come by every day or so. This is getting out of my realm of expertise, but I think most space missions to some degree rely on gravity to do the trip and a slingshot like effect. It is mostly momentum once things get going.

      You seem good at calculation, can we make a spaced elevator on the moon with current materials? Earth seems not possible at present, but the moon has much less gravity. Nuclear could run the elevator, no need for chemicals, rather than a chicken in every pot, a reactor in every crater.

      Dennis L.

      • “shoot them around the sun for heat, ”

        The energy needed for a close orbit on the sun would be a great deal more than the heat needed to vaporize the whole payload

        “You seem good at calculation, can we make a spaced elevator on the moon with current materials? ”

        Yes. I have worked the numbers. Got the same as Jerome Pearson. A lunar elevator is not without problems though. Even at 2000 km/hour, it will take more than a day to ride the elevator to L1.

        ” Earth seems not possible at present, but the moon has much less gravity.

        That seems to be the case.

        • See, there you go, another problem solved in the last sentence, those working in tourism who have been laid off could have hope of future employment.

          “An L1 station would have a number of important functions due to its stationary position between the Earth and Moon. It is in an excellent location to monitor and coordinate communications among various missions on the nearside of the Moon. A vessel launched from L1 could reach any place on the Moon within a few hours to a day. This would make it ideal for crisis management if an emergency occurred on the Moon. Furthermore, it could serve as a way station, especially once built up, and would probably be used to handle tourists and casual visitors to the Moon.”

          I don’t have a clue what can and cannot done, but is Widipedia ever wrong?

          A quote and reference regarding lunar based space elevators.

          “It is similar in concept to the better known Earth-based space elevator idea, but since the Moon’s surface gravity is much lower than the Earth’s, the engineering requirements for constructing a lunar elevator system can be met using materials and technology already available. For a lunar elevator, the cable or tether extends considerably farther out from the lunar surface into space than one that would be used in an Earth-based system. However, the main function of a space elevator system is the same in either case; both allow for a reusable, controlled means of transporting payloads of cargo, or possibly people, between a base station at the bottom of a gravity well and a docking port in outer space.”

          I suppose somewhat sarcastically but with dose of humor, we have solved moving things from the moon to earth, get them to L1 and drop them, after elevating them from the surface of the moon using nuclear power, an unshielded plant built to do on thing, make power and then be abandoned in place.

          In the second hundred years after this project is working, expand to rest of the solar system, polluting at will as one goes along and cleaning up the irreplaceable earth. What happens on mars I can’t see from my backyard so who cares?

          As for earth, only bring back what is needed, end products. Think of a mine, most of the process is waste, pollution, most of the process is conversion for human consumption the most profitable enterprise of which is conversion of raw materials. Do it in space, that changes economies, the elites can knock themselves out debating that one.

          And Keith, more humor, “Even at 2000 km/hour, it will take more than a day to ride the elevator to L1.” Now, let your imagine run wild, this would make the mile high club look tame, more sources of income.

          Dennis L.

    • Keith,

      It looks to me as if the world generates about 3 terawatt years of electricity per year. (Actually, about 3.08 terrawatt years, but none of this is very accurate, I expect.) So this would be about 100 times as much electricity as generated in a year. It won’t happen soon, I can see.

  6. When an object is dropped from 2000km high it ends up moving about 7000 km/hour before it gets to the air. It takes careful engineering to dissipate that energy.

    • Ed,

      Seems about right, is it easier to push an object 2000km high or stop it from burning? That is the question, we did it with shuttle at about 2M kg, concern for life, etc., a rock ought to be doable in English say 4.4M pounds or 2200 tons. The tiles were more or less reusable, make a tub, tile it and let it rip, if it is steel heating it to 1500 degrees F or so should not be an issue, may need to limit temp to strength issues of Al, parachute at altitude. The tub and parachute to be reusable need to be lifted out of the earth’s gravity well, nothing is free. I am not an engineer, it came to me that a Saturn V is somewhat bigger than the capsule that landed the three astronauts after the moon missions.

      I think we are being too earth and people centric, do it on the moon with robotics. We have been to an asteroid and landed on same already, technology may not be mature, but it works.

      Again, no arguments, not attempting to be right; looking at solutions that we have access to now, looking for something other than a spear and loin cloth.

      Civil peace seems to be a huge issue , people need hope, believing in nothing does not seem to be working. The future doesn’t appear as though it is going to be easy.

      Dennis L.

      • Dennis, the energy to go up against gravity is exactly the same amount of energy one needs to dissipate to come down. Both going up and down against gravity requires less energy then reaching orbital velocity.

        As for the Apollo the up stage needed to lift everything and get to orbital velocity and then lunar orbit along with the fuel needed to slow back down from lunar orbit. The weight to go down to the lunar surface and come bac up was all left behind. The return trip did not require fuel to slow from near earth orbit as the Earth air and friction dissipated that energy.

        • Ed,

          Once at your altitude, one has potential energy, the trip down less air friction is free, yes it is dissipated it is already in the bank. Going up, there is nothing in the bank. You are smarter than I am, so I am trying to be careful, no sarcasm.

          My understanding would be the energy to get out of the earth’s energy well was considerable, the energy to get out of the lunar energy well is trivial in comparison. The size of the rocket going up and the size of the reentry vehicle says it all. The space gravitational energy well of the moon is smaller than that of the earth. All that potential energy was “stored” getting to the surface of the moon, going home was a breeze. Bring essentially a zero gravity well , asteroids to the moon, drop onto earth a refined product less all pollution utilizing concentrated solar energy where necessary. Assume getting it going takes 100 years, it took James Colony longer than that, don’t tell anyone.

          My thesis is look at energy expended to find suitable asteroids(no significant gravity well), nudge them and they are off, find another, another nudge, enough nudges and there is a stream headed towards the moon, categorize, place into suitable containers for heat reaction, nudge towards the sun, recover, send waste back into the sun, save the earth from pollution. Humans uber alles.

          Economics, who knows, deal with it, win a Nobel; beats dumping everything into the Pacific. Gail has pointed us in the right direction, we need new economics, time to invent.

          Population, believe earth is dynamic, it will deal with the issue, duck that one. For me, I don’t want to be the culler or the cullee.

          Dennis L.

          • A quick and easy way to limit population. No more subsidies for childcare. If people have to pay for it. Then its best not to have children.

            • Childcare is mostly disappearing already in the United States. The schools that are open only take children for two or three days a week, alternating with other children. This leaves school out as an adequate childcare option.

              Childcare facilities (mostly for younger children) are not making money. They may be operating at reduced capacity. They may close for lack of revenue. Mothers who are at home with school-age children are not likely to send their younger children to day care. They just drop out of the workforce.

              Childcare becomes a luxury for the rich. The public options no longer work.

            • All the funds and efforts of excessive childcare and pandering to the cult of children should be put into better care of old people.

              The change in society to revere old people is sorely missing. At no time has it been more clear than during the pandemic. Sweden springs to mind as a particularly atrocious example. It is despicable.

            • I suggest the filmThe Ballad of Narayama for a different view on old people. In it a poor village takes their old to the top of the mountain and leaves them there to die of exposure when they are too old. The cinematography is superb.

            • Old people used to help care for children, and vice-versa, before everything “needed” to be commoditized by the exigencies of the monetary system. Liz Warren picked up on this in the “Two-Income Trap” notion she had about 15 years ago and then seemed to drop.

            • Native born fertility has been below replacement for many decades in the US and Europe, even with subsidies. Only immigration is driving population growth. If you want to end the growth, just turn down the immigration valve. As simple as that. Why does everyone who talks about this issue (not just you) overlook the simplest, most obvious, and probably most popular solution?

            • Commodification-of-everything on steroids only started after WWII c. 1945. Those who were born before 1940 (old people) can remember what life was like coming out of a Great Depression and the world war economy. In a downsized economy as proceeding now this knowledge is very useful. Old people are good for other things beside child care.

      • Gail a correction: no piloted plane. A pilot who tried such manoeuvres would be turned into strawberry jam. But I think we could build a pilotless vehicle that copied the moves; I would make it very light, and with a motor that coupled to the Earth’s magnetic field. No visible sign of propulsion, no reaction mass, and minimal inertia.

          • Or a glitch in the imager.

            It tracked the “UFO” with spotless accuracy.

            I would guess it was a laser beam directed onto the aircraft.

          • I don’t think we can understand how UFOs move with our current level of understanding. I’ll give an example. Think of sliding an object over a rough flat surface. This causes friction and the object heats up. If there is a limit to how hot the object can get, this limits its speed. But if you pick up the object and move it from A to B, no friction is created, thus the speed limit is removed. Now substitute the flat surface for 3d space, friction for acceleration, and heat for the forces experienced by the object and its contents, such as passengers. If it moves not through 3d space, but like picking up the object, into another dimension, then it can get from A to B without experiencing acceleration, and thus the passengers experience no force. Not saying this is how it works, but just showing how our current models will limit our concepts of what is possible.

    • “for a more intelligent species to run our planet can it happen? I say Yes” — more intelligent does not mean less self-interested or more benevolent. What if they find our species repulsive, like we would find giant cockroaches repulsive no matter how intelligent?

      Anyway, I’m not worried. I think the more plausible UFO sightings are probably experimental and highly classified aircraft (not spacecraft) of purely terrestrial origin.

  7. “America’s nuclear energy situation is a microcosm of the nation’s broader political dysfunction. We are at an impasse, and the debate around nuclear energy is highly polarized, even contemptuous. This political deadlock ensures that a widely disliked status quo carries on unabated. Depending on one’s politics, Americans are left either with outdated reactors and an unrealized potential for a high-energy but climate-friendly society, or are stuck taking care of ticking time bombs churning out another two thousand tons of unmanageable radioactive waste every year.”

    This is from an extensive review of the politics and technology of nuclear power.

      • The State of Georgia in the US is moving ahead as well.

        France, especially, has a problem. It has depended very heavily on nuclear, but its own uranium is depleted. The facilities are nearing the ends of their lifetimes. It is, in some ways, like Japan.

        The US East Coast also depends heavily on Nuclear. Intermittent solar and wind make nuclear unprofitable, driving it away.

        • The Germans tried to use one of the nukes to act as a dispatchable power source and it ended up as corrosion inside the reactor.

          Don’t play games with immense thermal base load seems to be the morale.

          The only source of energy that can balance out the green gimmicks is hydro.

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