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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Dec. 7, 2009 @ 17:19 GMT
It’s not quite as “foundational” as our usual topics (well it's a "Copenhagen interpretation" of sorts), but with climate issues dominating the news thanks to the start of the Copenhagen summit, it seems like a good time to talk about reactions to nuclear power. Gareth Mitchell, presenter of the BBC’s Digital Planet and lecturer at Imperial College London, recently visited India to investigate local views on the controversial Madras Atomic Power Station near Chennai for the BBC World Service’s Climate Connection series. Here’s his account of recording the program.

From Gareth Mitchell:

The first sign of trouble was a heated exchange that suddenly blew up between an armed security guard and our driver Antony. Though the raised voices were in Tamil, it was clear that the guard was deeply unhappy, pointing angrily to my camera and recording equipment.

We were at the entrance to Kalpakkam, a small township that serves the nearby Madras Atomic Power Station. We had interviewed the plant’s chief superintendent for our edition of The Climate Connection season on the BBC, exploring how India can meet its sharply increasing demand for electricity whilst keeping its carbon emissions in check.

After the interview, we’d wandered into the township to speak to the residents. We expected them to be lauding the employment and economic benefits of having a large power station on their doorstep and crowing about this reliable source of electricity, a luxury unavailable to many who live in India’s rural communities.

Instead, we heard that the power actually bypasses the township in favor of the 8 million inhabitants of Chennai about 70km north. They told us that the power station forbids other businesses locating within the area, thereby curbing job opportunities.

Most seriously, the villagers claimed that power station workers had become ill, with several dying of cancer and that some the township’s children were sick and lethargic. How can you be sure? I asked, anything could be making them ill, you can’t be certain it’s the power station. But, they pressed on, repeating their claims that the plant was a source of harm and hardship rather than wealth and opportunity.

The guard threatened to report us to the authorities and was making noises about us being detained until Antony worked some kind of magic and the man let it go. But the villagers’ revelations were safely recorded and I had a stash of photos. Right now, it was definitely time to go.



However attitudes to the power station are different in the city.

The ever-resourceful Antony drove us to a neighborhood of workshops and small business units in Chennai where he knew twin brothers who run a successful firm manufacturing and exporting cashew nut processing machines. The city’s creaking electricity supply only provides 70 per cent of the power they need to run their heavy machinery.

Annoying though that seems, the brothers are quite sanguine. Out in the countryside, full power is only available for five hours a day. At least their supply is relatively stable, even if it is a lower fat version of what they’d ideally like.

And, for them, the Kalpakkam nuclear power station is a good thing. It’s not, by a long way, the sole source of their electricity but the brothers are glad it’s there and they’re hoping for more nuclear plants in the future. They dismiss any suggestion that nuclear is a source of health problems. Anything that props up the power supply will be good for business.

Earlier we had interviewed Dr Pugazhendi—a firebrand of a man who has examined many Kalpakkam residents. Talking at us for forty minutes without pausing for breath, Dr Pugazhendi listed cases of cancer and other illnesses associated with the nuclear power station, insisting that he has solid evidence but that he has been blocked from carrying out full studies and publishing the findings.

The fact remains that there is no hard, published evidence that the nuclear plant has caused any illness among the local population. The station’s management told us that they take their workers’ health very seriously, regularly monitoring their wellness.

One of the villagers we met in Kalpakkam had given us Dr Pugazhendi’s mobile phone number and when I called him, he jumped at the chance of talking to us. He’d drop everything, he said, and come and find us wherever we were.

Whilst he was on his way, we turned up unannounced at the HQ of the Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board. (On the right is a photo of sign in the waiting room.) A contact in town had recommended we speak to the board’s chairman, Mr C P Singh.

Sure enough, Mr Singh, an affable gentleman in an office overlooking the sprawling monsoon soaked metropolis granted us an interview. The most penetrating questions came from my companion Hita Unnikrishnan, a feisty young ‘Climate Champion’ of the British Council of India. A recent life sciences graduate, she now lectures in Botany at Bangalore’s Jyoti Nivas College. She was travelling with me, taking on the role as local protagonist in our program.

Mr Singh obligingly fielded Hita’s onslaught of questions. We learned that Tamil Nadu was the first state in India to supply electricity to all households and that it is one of the most progressive in the country when it comes to green energy. Half its power comes from hydroelectric and wind.

But the board is struggling to keep up with Tamil Nadu’s rapidly increasing demand. Whilst renewables are part of the solution, the state needs more power stations. For now, there will be more power cuts and the state will have to continue buying in expensive electricity from outside.

But I spent most of the interview in a state of considerable anxiety. Earlier, after negotiating with Mr Singh’s assistant for permission to meet the boss, I had been awaiting the verdict in a holding room down the corridor, when Dr Pugazhendi called me, saying he was in the area. I let slip exactly where we were.

This, I feared, was a potentially catastrophic move. One assumes that a well-known and vocal local opponent of the state’s nuclear power station would be less than welcome in the Electricity Board’s offices.

Throughout the interview with the chairman I had unsettling visions of Dr Pugazhendi, barging his way in, pushing aides and assistants aside and insisting on speaking to the BBC.

In the event, we met Dr Pugazhendi later on in a car park down the road and our interview at the Electricity Board passed off without incident. This was good. I could have done without a second altercation with security officials in as many days.

You can hear the program, which includes more about other renewable energy options in India, at: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0053sqq

Or download it here (until Thurs Dec 10): http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/oneplanet/

Video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbLSM2hFL7Q

Photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23404067@N06/sets/7215762292738
5208/


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Anonymous wrote on Dec. 7, 2009 @ 18:06 GMT
Meanwhile Danes are starting to think more positively about nuclear power:

http://politiken.dk/newsinenglish/article853557.ece

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Witchy wrote on Dec. 7, 2009 @ 19:38 GMT
What will we tell our children? When they inherit a damaged world, what will we say to explain ourselves? The plundering of the planet's resources, the lack of real commitment to renewable energy sources, the potential dangers of nuclear power... Well, kids, we all needed to get from A to B with a car, and we knew at the time it was a bit short-sighted of us but... And don't get me wrong, I'm guilty too, but as a parent of an inquisitive four year old I'm starting to see the world through new eyes.

If only we all believed in reincarnation. I'd imagine then all of us would be more interested in reducing our carbon footprint.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 7, 2009 @ 23:05 GMT
Solving global warming by switching to nuclear power is problematic. If we are not careful it might amount to curing a problem of cockroaches in a house by burning it down. I am not entirely opposed to nuclear energy, but frankly I think we need to maximize our capabilities with solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources. Nuclear power should at most be used as a way of stabilizing electrical power when certain renewable sources are less operational, such as a solar energy drop off during overcast periods. Yet solving the carbon problem with 100% nuclear energy would be terribly expensive, and it would require in the US the building of a new reactor power station every few weeks over the next 25 years to do that. It would also potentially exchange one problem for another. We still have not exactly figured out what to do with the radioactive byproducts or wastes from nuclear reactors.

Cheers LC

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Jesse wrote on Dec. 8, 2009 @ 14:47 GMT
I tend to think that if we're going to maintain our current lifestyles we're going to have to get either get used to nuclear power, or just keep burning coal and oil. Wind, solar and so on can help to supplement power, but just can't pump out enough electricity to keep us going. Especially if we start switching to electric cars. While it's true some European countries are able to provide a large proportion of their electricity with wind, they are only able to do so because the rest of Europe has a stable grid that can stablize a wind based one. So while these alternative sources can help, it will continue to be nuclear or fossil fuels that will provide the backbone of our power, with all their attending problems. I prefer nuclear of the two.

The other option, of course, is to change the way we live.

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v wrote on Dec. 8, 2009 @ 15:26 GMT
Would the people of Chennai be as happy with their nuclear power station

if they were living right next to it?

It is a shame that there have been no benefits for the villagers of

Kalpakkam, as ideally you would want to get the community to be on your

side, as demonstrated with CHP (Combined Heat and Power) plants, where

district heating is provided from the as...

view entire post


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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 12, 2009 @ 14:53 GMT
Given the "Copenhagen connection" I transmit this from:

WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 11 Dec 09 Washington, DC

1. WARMER: THE TREND SHOWS NO SIGN OFF ENDING.

At the Copenhagen climate talks, Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the

international weather agency, told a news conference that the period from

2000 through 2009 will almost certainly be the warmest decade in the 150

years of modern record-keeping. And with just a few weeks remaining, 2009

will likely be the fifth warmest year on record. But what about those

hacked emails from the climate research unit at the University of East

Anglia? Jarraud replied that there is no evidence that independent

estimates showing a warming world are in doubt. The more interesting

question is who was behind the break-in and why? The use of dirty tricks to

cast doubt on the reality of global warming began with Kyoto.

2. KYOTO: THE PROTOCOL WAS ADOPTED 12 YEARS AGO TODAY.

It?s awkward that the United States, alone among major nations, declined to

ratify the Kyoto protocol calling for reduction of greenhouse gases.

Without the United States, which is responsible for 1/3 of the world's

greenhouse emissions, the Kyoto accord was meaningless. To convince

Congress and the public that scientists have serious doubts about global

warming, a petition was launched. The only return address on a massive

mailing to academic scientists was a P.O. Box. The only name was Fred

Seitz. A famous condensed matter physicist in his earlier years, Seitz

headed the ultra-conservative George C. Marshall Institute in Washington.

Seitz was also a permanent paid consultant of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco

Company. Although he conducted no tobacco research, Seitz used his

scientific reputation to cast doubt on medical evidence showing that

secondhand smoke is dangerous. Now he was doing the same for global

warming. The petition mailing included a Wall Street Journal op-ed that

said we have an ethical responsibility to burn as much fossil fuel as

possible to get carbon out of the ground and into the air where it can

create life. According to NBC news correspondent Ian Williams this week,

the life C02 is helping to create in Malaysia includes the Aedes Aegypti

mosquito that multiplies more rapidly as the temperature rises. Aedes

transmits dengue fever.

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Narendra Nath wrote on Dec. 16, 2009 @ 12:31 GMT
Generating electric power has become a matter of all sorts of lobbying. Persons dealing with it are hardly interested in the broader aspects involved, such as the feeling of local people, health hazards to workers and ordinary citizens living in the neighborhood, etc. There is hardly any long term planning of the effect on the environment. I have personally visited the site and the little town of Kalpakkam. It is such a scenic place full of beauty and agricultural landscape. Tropical trees abound. The only advantage for nuclear power station to me lies in the nearby sea where nuclear waste can be safely embedded. The questions raised here involve greater awareness about the nuclear power technology and how to ensure safeguards transparent to the local population. This needs to be done during the planning stage itself and site selection. It is now late to do anything except to ensure safeguards that are certified by knowledgeable persons outside the Atomic Energy Establishment of India , to satisfy the required safety norms.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 16, 2009 @ 18:58 GMT
i frankly think we need to shift towards renewable energy, and push this as far as we can. I am not sure if we can transition to 100% renewables, but I think we should work towards what limit there is. Nuclear power might then serve to stabilize electrical energy generation when renewable sources go off line due to conditions, such as with sunlight and wind.

With nuclear energy we should also set up international regulatory bodies. Unfortunately there are nationalist interests which block such efforts, particularly from the United States. Such international oversight would constrain nuclear armaments, which is problematic for some major governments in the world. Yet there are now some nuclear powered states which are of concern, Pakistan and Iran of moderate concern and N. Korea is a serious concern.

Cheers LC

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 16, 2009 @ 20:42 GMT
Does anyone here believe that CO2 is causing global warming?

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 16, 2009 @ 21:31 GMT
Yes it is. I get the AAAS "Science," and the articles on this subject are pretty conclusive. CO_2 has a large cross section for IR photons and scatters them. The result is the famous hot house effect. Climate data is also pretty supportive of CO_2 warming. The so called global warming skepticism is just corporate driven denialism.

Cheers LC

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 01:36 GMT
@James Putnam: To be honest I really don't want to get into a debate over global warming. A couple of weeks ago on another blog I with some others went toe to toe in climate combat with some conservative anti-AGW types. I can only tell you that the only crime which happened with the CRU emails is the hacking, No data was erased, and the email discussions were about peer review. If you track the science on a format which is intellectually realistic, such as AAAS, and the blog "realclimate" is fairly reasonable, you can get the real stuff. Stay away from the political websites, particularly the right winged ones --- you will get pure propaganda there. In general avoid anything which is either political or sponsored by any sort of business interest. On the other hand if you want piles of nonsense which confirms your currently held opinions do the opposite of what I recommend.

If you are an AGW type, then don’t worry. We will probably not do anything about this, or at least the United States will not. It might be of interest that China has become the leading manufacturer of solar cells and wind turbines. The United States is going to drop the ball on this one. After all, if we can’t get a trivial problem like healthcare figured out what chance is there with global warming? The US is losing out on just about every technological sector there is, and alternative energy is the next big area opening up. Yep, expect America to blow it one more time and lose this one, just as we have lost out with electronics, automobiles, fibre optics, robotics and … . This decline largely started in the 1980s --- coincident with the generally right winged shift in politics here.

Cheers LC

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 01:58 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

Thank you for your quick reply. However, you did not respond to my questions.

James

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 02:09 GMT
I don't hold these data. It really is not my area of research. I can only advise either going to realclimate.org or to find articles in the AAAS Science journal. I am not one who particularly tracks this issue in great detail and minutia. What I am advising is that YOU look up the answers to these questions. I can only advise you go to responsible sources, which excludes organizations as the “Heritage Foundation” or the “Club for Growth,” or for that matter any website which has a preponderance of flags and such stuff.

Cheers LC

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 02:50 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

My information is not from either of those sources. I've never even heard of the second one. Now further quoting you:

"The search for truth and knowledge is one of the finest attributes of any man, though often it is most loudly voiced by those who strive for it the least." --- Albert Einstein

I think I am interested in the truth. Einstein did not know what mass is. Do you? If we do not get mass right then everything can change immediately. Or, do you think otherwise? Einstein's quote could have been applied to him also. When we get the answers then we will have the answers.

James

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 03:29 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

Forgive my ignorance, but I thought you were from Great Britain. I know Georgina is. I was reading your posts, and you sound an awful lot like an American, perhaps even a Liberal Democrat. I'm trying to stay away from politics these days. Both sides lie and distort the truth. It really turns my stomach.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 03:55 GMT
Nope, I am an American, though I have been to Britain several times, as well as a good deal of Europe, including Russia. I have been to parts of Asia as well, and Latin America. I speak a fair number of languages other than English, but none of them terribly well, and there include Russian and Hungarian. My favorite foreign language and country is Italy.

Cheers LC

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 07:34 GMT
What is it that you like about Italy?

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 12:05 GMT
Hi all ,

The solutions exist .The actual problem is simple ,we loose our global ecosystem and its stability .In some years we have destroy this balance .The reasons are not important but,on the other side the solutions must be put into practice quickly and pragmaticaly .

To make simple .The mass of the ecosystem around us decreases ,and thus the chaotics places appear .It is not possible for the humanity to live in this kind of system .

The solution is simple ,optimize the soils ....multiplicate plants(not only trees but all) ....harmonious growth ...composting(methan ).....exponential of natural products and compost ,that permits to stabilize and balance the others weak ecosystems where the men have destroyed the essence .

Each country must implant a concrete plant where the mass is analyzed with the most rational method.The quantization of the mass and the diversities ,vegetals ,animals ,minerals ...have a global balanced ratio if we go towards this technic .In fact each surface everywhere in correlation with its local parameters has its balance between mass .A place of 10m/10m thus 100m² have the same logic than a place of 1000 km/1000km thus 1000000km²,a specific number of plants and specificities about diversity are necessary to go towards the universal balance .Each state must implant a strategy to plant a little of all everywhere with a rational balance with the big towns .All must be re thought evidently .The recycling is so important too .

Best Regards

Steve

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 14:10 GMT
Italians make their cities with art, or at least they used to. Also the language has a unique pretty quality to it --- after all the great operatic composers were Verdi, Puccini, Rossini and others. Even if a policeman is giving you a ticket it sounds a bit like singing.

LC

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 17:48 GMT
For a brief overview of the AGW issue I attach a chart which illustrates aspects of the controversy.

Cheers LC

attachments: climate_skeptics_960.gif

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 18:33 GMT
Those are good reasons to like Italy!

I looked at your attachment. The fact that CO2 levels rise after temperatures rise really means that CO2 can't be blamed for driving temperatures high; I'm not even sure that global temperatures are rising. I respect your concerns about the environment. But I do fear that environmentalists are prepared to dismantle the economy with little or no regard to people's livelihoods and will very little understanding of a very complicated eco/weather system.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 19:30 GMT
The chart outlines the critique of your call that CO_2 is not driving temperatures. This is an overview of course, and more complete information is available to those who seek it out. Also the data on increased temperatures is pretty clear.

I found this article on Salon which is worth reading. The denialism over this is being pushed by those the least qualified to make these assessments.

Global warming does not mean dismantling our economy, but does require retooling it. This will require a lot of investment and hard work. If you think about it our economy has been shifting into nonsense of casinos, tatoo parlors, web market scams and so forth. Maybe we need a reboot.

Cheers LC

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 19:55 GMT
What's wrong with tattoos? I don't personally have any, but I support other people's right to get them. I've also played craps at the casinos; it's not the best use of money, but it's fun. It's also profitable for the local governments that draw tax money from it. I'm not fond of internet scams.

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Anonymous wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 21:14 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

Thank you for the link. The data wasn't there. I have been looking at others also.

"Also the data on increased temperatures is pretty clear."

Good, where is the data?

"The denialism over this is being pushed by those the least qualified to make these assessments."

So, your position is that there are not highly qualified professionals questioning the quality of the global warming evidence? I am not challenging you, I am just trying to frame your position and check it out.

James

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 21:22 GMT
I am anonymous this time. If there are more than one anonomouses are we then anonomi?

James

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 22:24 GMT
I don't have the raw data, and I am not privy to it. I can only read articles on this, most of which are second hand reviews. The AAAS has some frontline articles on this, which I try to read as I get to them. Yet I no more can have these data than you can request the raw data files from the LHC.

I am not that familiar with the techniques used and how data is manipulated. Ultimately I have to rely on the fact these guys are scientists who are working things according to well understood protocals. On that basis I have to follow the general conclusion: Global warming is happening and our production of CO_2 is the driving cause. I can also say that Glen Beck is full of crap when he says he has scooped a whole scientific community, which includes those at NOAA and NASA, and knows that AGW is false.

Cheers LC

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 17, 2009 @ 22:38 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

Well I wasn't expecting raw data. I was hoping for clear data. Raw data may or may not be clear. I have been to the NASA site. It seemed to support your position. Glenn Beck can wait. I would not question your mathematical talents or your knowledge of theoretical physics. However, your message regarding the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence showed a shallowness that I thought betrayed a political bias. I still do not know what political opinion has to do with scientific knowledge; however, I will check out global warming for myself just in case it does.

James

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 18, 2009 @ 00:06 GMT
What I am saying is that I have print articles, you can look some of this up on the AAAS website for articlesin "Science," but you need to be an AAAS member. There are other sources which one can look up, such as realclimate.org .

This gets political because there are politically connected and powerful interests who oppose this. And with regards to politics if you want to get the real stuff avoid websites with lots of flags and which are hosted by right winged types. The right has an ongoing war against science on a number of fronts.

I am not that far left, but of course to some these days anyone to the left of Gengis Khan is labeled a communist. I am, as are most scientifically educated people and intellectuals in general towards the left. I am unapologetic about that. When it comes to the history of this nation and its foundation, I have overall positive opinions, but I don’t worship this nation. I am not in the crowd who blindly chant U-S-A, as Orwell foretold in his 1984 when people chanted B-B (Big Brother). There are warts and unpleasant aspects to this nation’s history. I don’t follow this dichotomy of “You’re with us or against us,” which has infected our society.

Cheers LC

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 18, 2009 @ 02:17 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

I do not need to avoid websites with lots of flags or right-winged types anymore than I need to avoid socialists who have aquired the credentials sufficient to pass themselves off as sociologists or the leftovers from an earlier generation that either border on or are representative of Marxists. I think the Utopian's are the first ones to avoid whether on the right or left. I...

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 18, 2009 @ 03:24 GMT
The right wing is science dumb for the most part. The whole creationism thimg and the rest is just ignorant nonsnese. The right has largely been on the wrong side of most scientific issues, or policy matters involving technology. Republicans opposed the test band treaty of 1963 for instance. Bush expressed belief in creationism and worked hard to strangle climate research. So, on balance the right wing gets lower science grades than those on the left wing.

In this nation people who are defined as authoritarian personality types are on the right wing. In Russia the authoritarian types have largely been on the far left or communist side. The issue is the authoritarian peronality profile, not so much the particular political stance per se. Further such a crowd tends to attract people who are mentally disordered or psychopathic. Our political choices are being reduced to sane vs insane, and the insane tend to be the authoritarian types.

Cheers LC

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 18, 2009 @ 03:26 GMT
I've heard similar reports about China's pollution problems. One reason why China will build solar cells instead of the US is because they can build it more cheaply. They build it cheaply because there are no environmental laws in China. Environmental laws cost money and drive up the cost of production. I used to do asbestos abatement. I remember an asbestos abatement job at a bank in El Paso. It probably costed the bank over a $100K to remove all the asbestos. Environmentalism is expensive. Unfortunately, it just costs less money to operate in countries that don't care about the environment. By extention, the idea that retooling will create jobs has the negative side effect of driving up operating expenses. Would you rather buy a 30 inch LCD screen for $2000 from the US, or the same LCD screen for $1000 from China? People say they want environmental laws, but are unwilling to pay the higher costs that environmental laws bring.

Asbestos and lead hurt people's health, so the need for abatement is justified. The problem with spending money to reduce CO2 emissions is quite simple. You and I are generators of CO2. We exchale this stuff. Plants and trees breath it in and give us oxygen. CO2 and water vapor might be green house gasses, but their also part of the biosphere. The other problem with regulating CO2 has to do with erupting volcanoes. They don't erupt very often, but when they do, they pump huge quantities of CO2, and other gasses, into the air. We could spend billions of dollars and lose millions jobs while trying to cut CO2 emissions in the US. When some volcanoe erupts and pumps billions of tons of CO2, dwarfing emissions caused by humans, we will be kicking ourselves for making such a foolish decision.

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/2007/07_02_15.h
tml

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 18, 2009 @ 13:38 GMT
To quote from the usgs page, "Volcanoes are still awesome, even though they don't produce CO2 at a rate that swamps the human signature, contributing to global warming."

Most scientific associations from physics to geology have position papers on the AGW issue, which acknowledges its reality. Concerns over economics amount to a sort of worship of capitalism. We have seen in recent decades the elevation of free market economics to a quasi-religious status. Along with that has come options of infallibility --- the invisible hand of Adam Smith is onmisicent in some way and will always work for the "best." This is why many of the conservative or right winged organizations are so virulently opposed to the science of global warming. The science is pretty clear at this point, we are influencing the climate and raising temperatures with CO_2 production.

I think people have difficulty understanding how a CO_2 atom can trap heat. After all, why is it that you get such an effect with 300 or 350 CO_2 atoms in a million atoms total? It sounds odd. Yet ultimately it is quantum mechanics. A CO_2 atom has a huge cross section to an infrared photon. The electronic structure of the atom is highly resonant with photon in that band. After all, consider how the first lasers were CO_2, which pump out IR photons in 1.06 and 10.6 microns with ease. So the atom holds the energy of IR photons in its excited electrons and then re-emits them. The other molecules, O_2 and N_2 look like bb's to an IR photon, but CO_2 looks like an elephant. It is quantum mechanics, and this is why it traps heat.

To ignore our impact on the environment is virtually equivalent to saying the second law of thermodynamics is wrong. We use things up at a much faster rate than the natural world replenishes them and we produce byproducts, wastes and pollution (chemical potential contribution to entropy) as a result. Our species has been amazingly effective at using up the environment, and we have the intelligence to keep figuring out how to do it in new and bigger ways. But Earth has a finite surface area given by 4πr^2, and it can only go on so long

Either we will do something about this, or we will not. With the Copenhagen conference going on it is already apparent this will fall very short of what is required. I suspect that at best in the foreseeable future we will get bandaid measures which don’t upset applecarts and largely it will be business as ususal. Then around 2050 humanity will reach the inescapable conclusion: We’re fk’t, and it will be too late. I just hope we can get some data in during the mean time to figure these problems with cosmology and quantum gravity. The rock band from Germany “Scorpions” came out with a song recently “Humanity.” I advise listening to it at maximum volume. As things are shaping up it appears we’re doomed. I suppose we just need to get over it.

Cheers LC

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 19, 2009 @ 02:20 GMT
Dear Dr. Crowell,

"Concerns over economics amount to a sort of worship of capitalism. We have seen in recent decades the elevation of free market economics to a quasi-religious status. Along with that has come options of infallibility --- the invisible hand of Adam Smith is onmisicent in some way and will always work for the "best."

We do not have capitalism as defined by Adam Smith. How come you do not know that? The United States of America has not ignored our impact on the environment. We have made great strides in protecting it. We have paid a high price for protecting it and repairing damage done. We will be doing more and more and more. The right wing hasn't and will not stop this. We have constant ongoing court battles all the time.

Your, I think, unsupportable anti-God bias is showing up again where it has no reasonable application. For other readers looking in: I do not have a religion. I do not know the nature of the source of intelligence. However, it does not take great insight to recognize that dumbness cannot give rise to intelligence. I ask you again: How do dumb particles of matter whizzing around give rise to intelligence? What is your explanation for the property of intgelligence? I have already made clear that that my position is that intelligence can only come from intelligence. Can you give a different source?

"The rock band from Germany "Scorpions" came out with a song recently "Humanity." I advise listening to it at maximum volume. As things are shaping up it appears we're doomed."

Goodness Gracious! What other references do you have to offer? How about a scientific link? One more question: Do you see the left wing doing anything seriously wrong so that we should be alarmed?

James

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 19, 2009 @ 03:30 GMT
Lawrence said: "Concerns over economics amount to a sort of worship of capitalism." It's not that anybody worships capitalism, we just like working and getting paid for it. We like to be able to make a living. It gives us some measure of independence and a feeling of contribution.

Dear James,

Your belief that intelligence must spring form intelligence is reasoable. In the demand for numbers and predictability, quantum mechanics has left us with a sophisticated game of dice. Nobody knows how the dice get rolled and the eigenstates get selected, they just do. It's funny, one of the reasons I stopped watching news was because it became very predictable (and stressful). Most of the stories could be taken as results from dice. 1=murder, 2=war, 3=economy, 4=riot, 5=president said X, 6=natural disaster. Just like quantum mechanics, the news is mostly predictable. We assume that eigenstates are chosen at random, like the news. I'm not saying that quantum particles have names, faces and lead personal lives, but I'm not entirely convinced that the evolution of a large group of eigenstates are truly random. I do wonder if large groups of eigenstates can provide degrees of freedom for very subtle phenomena. Why can't their be phenomena that falls below the "h-bar information" threshhold? Occult phenomena draws such derision from the intellectuals because it falls below this "information content" threshhold. It would be a tragedy if the next major leap forward in physics was a fifth force hidden below the "h-bar information" threshhold. We might take three hundred years before the physics community gets bold enough to look there.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 19, 2009 @ 13:40 GMT
Well I really didn't want to get mired in too big a debate over this.

As for capitalism, if you have actually read Adam Smith he goes on at great length about how the capital elite must enlist governments. The Wealth of Nations is not an ideological treatise on capitalism, or about pure market capitalism, but is a treatise on how it actually is. Remember that back in the 18th century...

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Anonymous wrote on Dec. 19, 2009 @ 16:19 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

Thank you for that analysis. I would have explained things very differently. You can have the last word on it. I am very uncomfortable going so far off topic. I will write about the things that we have discussed, but will move it to my own website. You have made it clear to me that scientific thought has become mired in political bias. I see a need for each of us to speak out about this.

I assume that you felt that the meaning of your last remark was self-evident. I didn't think it was:

"As for intelligence or consciousness, that is an unknown area. I can't answer that question, but appealing to a belief system in the face of the unknown is a council of despair."

Is your 'appealing to belief system' remark referring to belief in an intelligent cause for the universe or to atheism or does it refer to both. If it does not refer to both, then: Which one is scientific and which one is a council of despair? The intent of this question does not include any intended support for any particular religion. It represents only that I see just two possibilities for explaining the existence of intelligence. One is that dumbness is the origin of intelligence. The other is that only prior intelligence can beget intelligence. What do you think?

James

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 19, 2009 @ 16:20 GMT
Sorry. I am anonymous again.

James

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Dec. 19, 2009 @ 17:33 GMT
Hi all ,

That becomes very interestings here .Let's go for a global analyze about the system on Earth .

Capitalism ,socialism ,communisn,politico economico ironico rigolo and furthermore the religions and ideologies ...

And if in resume the only problem was this one ,

Organized criminality +corruption= ?????

in all systems ,cultures ,countries ,religions ....it exists bad and good people .The bad uses chaotic tools for their unconsciensousness .

To complete the equation ,we add monney ,borders ,differences and arms and weapons in this corruption ....and the result is our Earth ,a big ironic joke .

The people who governs this Earth are not the best in fact ....the fear seems a real problem .

I have studied a little the history and the geography ,I am very intrigued with a real fact in USA .The number of arms is so incredible in your country .You know here in Belgium ,it is very rare to have a gun .I don't understand this fear in fact .These horribles things are very a big global problem .You know sometimes I say me ,it's very serious ,a gun doesn't disapear in the soil by composting like a flower or a plant ,....no they rest in time and we can kill with a gun of 1700 .The world is going to accept that still for a long time ???? Let's speak in total transparence .We know our global problems,even we have the solutions .....but .

Best Regards

Steve

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 20, 2009 @ 14:20 GMT
I probably should have included Ludwig von Mises. He wrote titled his magnum opus "Human Action: a Treatise upon Economics." There in he claimed that free market activity is the most natural form of human behavior. Of course if you have taken any time to look at indigenous people living in hunting-gathering communities you find they don't engage in market activity. I think the hypothesis that market behavior is close to biological behavior is at best suspect. There is the flip side of this, such as Marx & Engel’s “Communist Manifesto,” which has remarkably accurate observations about things, but then concludes on the basis of some mystical form of Hegelian dialectics that frankly are silly.

The role of intelligence as a designer is really more of a falsification of scientific theories. This is seen in the "Intelligent Design" concept based on "irreducible complexity" ---(IC). If something is found to be IC, in particular with biology, then evolution is falsified. However, a statement of falsification is not itself a theory. It can't be falsified. Biologists can work almost endlessly to show how putative IC systems are not IC, which has happened consistently so far, but this does not falsify IC. This can of course be extended to physics and cosmology in general. The idea that intelligent agency must act in order for the universe to come into existence is not a falsifiable concept. Even with some effective theory on quantum cosmology it can always be said that underlying this is some intelligent agency. The existence of such can't be proven or disproven within the formalism of the theory, or empirically supported or falsified. So the notion of an existing intelligent agent who is a Creator of existence is not a scientifically effective hypothesis.

Cheers LC

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 20, 2009 @ 15:50 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

It is not so much what others have written. That kind of simplistic debate is fine in an academic environment. What is necessary is to remove the cloud of theoretical debate and try to see what has actually occurred. Liberty was born here. Its struggle for existence has been difficult. It is not something that grows in isolation. People had to change, economies had to change, education had to change and all of this had to occur within a framework of many individuals trying to work out their differences and learn their commonalities. The guiding principle is simple. We don't want kings or dictators or business moguls or academic professionals running our lives. I think that you, in a way, by your responses, demonstrate why the people need to rely upon themselves for improving their lives.

It is a difficult path when there are those who would grab control through greed, meaness or just because they think they could design the right kind of world. We the people not only have to live our lives to the best of our abilities in a manner that shares as much of a good life as we can with the others around us, but we must constantly be fending off self appointed saviors of the world. Those who have their simplistic plans for world happiness. We must live to improve our lives and those of others while saving ourselves from saviors.

I will write about these matters elswhere, and, my arguments will most definitely not be in concert with yours. However, I enjoy participating here at fqxi and do not wish to go outside the guidelines they have set for the kind of forum they want.

With regard to the origin of intelligence, I repeat from my last message thus:

[I assume that you felt that the meaning of your last remark was self-evident. I didn't think it was:

"As for intelligence or consciousness, that is an unknown area. I can't answer that question, but appealing to a belief system in the face of the unknown is a council of despair."

Is your 'appealing to belief system' remark referring to belief in an intelligent cause for the universe or to atheism or does it refer to both. If it does not refer to both, then: Which one is scientific and which one is a council of despair? The intent of this question does not include any intended support for any particular religion. It represents only that I see just two possibilities for explaining the existence of intelligence. One is that dumbness is the origin of intelligence. The other is that only prior intelligence can beget intelligence. What do you think?]

I have no interest in debated weak positions such as irreducible complexity. I did not ask about that. I asked for you to defend for yourself the position that I think your words above indicate. Do you believe in dumbness as a designer?

James

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 20, 2009 @ 21:16 GMT
The universe appears set to extremize local levels of complexity. The universe is off equilibrium as well. The specific heat of spacetime is negative, so colder temperatures correspond to higher entropy. This means that if you have a black hole with a mass M and a temperature T ~ 1/M, then the black hole can’t sit at equilibrium with the cosmic background temperature. Even if the temperature...

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 12:04 GMT
Dear Lawrence ,

How can you say that the intelligence and the conceptor are not falsifiable ?On the other side you say that the strings are foundamentals ,there I don't understand .That has no sense in an universal point of vue .

An other thing related with the relativity ,how can you be sure about the expansion ,we perceive our past dear Lawrence and if the bad math tools are inserted thus I can understand your point of vue about the conscious and the intelligence .

I think that many confounds the universality and our actual ideologies invented by the humans .

I understand thus why some people utilize these bad tools thus ,because they don't understand the main cause ,thye main code ,the big equation .

The universe like its name say it, is unique and is an entity where we are a part .It is a little if pan pan in the disney cartoon becomes Bambi .

tHUS IF I understand well ,the conceptor is not intelligent and furthermore implies the chaos ,no no no ,please a little of pragmatism seems better .

In his book ,behind the good and the bad by Nietsche ,The man must be a super human ......it is foundamental ,no of course because the humility and the vanity are not sisters .Thus always see above you before speaking ,thinking or acting .....the complexity returns to the simplicity .....

An other point about ,all is in equilirium dear Lawrence ;even our BH ,these spheres have a specific rule like all .......

The confusion about physics seems in its most important meaning at this moment .

Best Regards

Steve

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 18:17 GMT
Dear Dr. Crowell,

Thank you for your message. Beginning with your statement:

"...I will not belabor this in great detail, but this indicates that local regions will evolve so there is some maximum level of complexity which is possible. In the case of our little planet this appears to involve the pre-biotic chemical development of life and the subsequent evolution of life....

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 18:25 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

So you believe that Americans worship God because a million years ago it was evolutionarily advantageous to think that the leopard was stalking you? That is really hilarious!!! So why don't I feel funny when my cat's stalk me? I know they do. Occasionally my cat Nermal will attack me when I walk by. Ok, I'm being facetious. But truly, this denial of God and religion is an evolutionary pitfall. Let me give you a hint. The region of the brain that manages the religious experience (interfaces with God) is the immediate neighbor of the sexual function. They're both neighbors on a street in the brain called Bliss Ave. Please forgive my rude comment, but what kind of an educated idiot would want to dismiss a part of the brain/a part of our lives that brings richness and joy? Is it illogical to experience bliss? I have a few choice words for that part of the brain (kind of intellectual) who seeks to destroy such a beautiful part of our lives. Since I don't want to be crass, I will simply say that the religious experience (our interface with a higher power) is a gift. It is only the scholar that misses/forgets this.

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 18:28 GMT
The last sentence should be read as:

It is only the (insert appropriate derogatory adjective) scholar that misses/forgets this.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 18:51 GMT
It might be that consciousness is the last frontier of basic science. I can't comment at great length about the nature of consciousness. It of course seems odd that some lump of matter is capable of self awareness. The scientific study of neurophysiology and the nature of consciousness has emerged as a topic of legitimate research in the last decade or so. The only thing those of us not connected to such work can do is to see what materializes. I am aware of work which illustrates by fMRI how different perceptions and mental states are associated with measurable changes in brain function. So the ghost in the machine idea is already under challenge. The Cartesian theater idea is also largely rejected by such researchers. The watcher of the physiological machine simply removes the problem one step, which suggests one needs a further nested inner observer, and so it goes ad infinitum. So the Cartesian theater idea has been largely eliminated.

Consciousness probably represents the last refuge for spiritual ideations. We will have to wait and see how things pan out. Yet one has to remember that a few centuries ago it was thought angels pushed the planets around. Those ideas have of course been swept away.

There are those who might find it regrettable that physical concepts replace older supernatural ideas. Yet it can be looked upon as growing up and learning to do without security blankets and teddy bears. Of course science is not going to ever cover everything, nor will it give us any omniscience in knowing the causal chain of all events in the world --- or the universe. So there may always exist spaces where gods, goblins, angels and the like can be placed. There will of course probably be those who will insist on such as well.

I also suspect that foundational physics might come to an end this century. I hope we are able to plumb the depths of the universe up to some first order effective theory. Yet with multiverse concepts, and Tegmarkian conjectures about universes which exist by completely different structures it appears that at some point our ability to empirically test these things will become too weak. As it is it will be hard to find oblique evidence to support string/M-theoretic hypotheses of today. Further, too many people have a weak grasp on reality, and without a forwards thrust towards learning foundations this trend may only increase. So I suspect that it will not be too long before the scientific paradigm of though is entirely lost. However, I don’t think this will happen right away and in the foreseeable decades we may witness considerable advances.

Cheers LC

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 19:08 GMT
The tendency to project agency onto the world might have its early evolutionary origins by such. If there is one thing the human mind does it projects itself. We do this in many ways, from projecting our consciousness onto fictional characters in stories or fiction writing, to Einstein imagining himself riding on a frame with an EM wave. I suspect this psychology of projection may have developed with the evolution of language. Stories are usually about anthrotypes, such as either humans or beings similar to us, and telling stories about the environment might have been a way of communicating information from one generation to the next about their local world. In doing so knowledge is past on to new generations on how to gather food and when or how to hunt and so forth. Tribal or hunting-gathering people often have stories about spirits in the forest, totems and so forth, which convey such information. It is with later cultural development with social complexity that these spirits got compressed into larger gods and then eventually into an idea of a one God.

I must confess I am not given to ideas of spiritualism or mystical ideas and religious notions of supernatural agencies or gods (God). I have never found these ideas very compelling, at least for long. To be honest I think they lead to muddled thinking.

Cheers LC

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Ray Munroe wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 19:17 GMT
Before you 'ZING' someone and later regret it, aren't we all friends here?

I once co-taught a course in Science and Religion (with a Religion Professor and former Southern Baptist preacher). At the time, the statistics were that less than half of all physical scientists were religious, and that includes all religions.

There is an interpretation that 'Religion' was an evolutionary advantage because it taught us to be moral. In contrast, one could imagine a 'non-religious' amoral society where there was no penalty for murder. Such a society would likely not be stable (they would kill each other over minor problems), and thus would not be a preferred evolutionary path. I have personal reasons for my faith - scientific interpretations cannot sway it.

To Lawrence's point, Religion doesn't necessarily teach us to use all of our natural resources wisely - which would also be an evolutionary advantage. Things might cost more to manufacture or operate if we take our environment into consideration, but at least we wouldn't be poisoning cities with carbon monoxide and such. Didn't China close a lot of factories for a while so they could host the Olympics last year and appear to have clean air? I would like to think that mankind is smarter than a petrie dish of microbes.

We need to use Wind, Solar and renewable energy resourses as our primary energy grid, and use everything else (Coal, Nuclear Fission, Oil, Gas) as our back-up energy grid. The only exception is Nuclear Fusion. If we ever figure out how to harness Fusion, then it should also be a primary part of the energy grid. I suspect that such a scenario would be more expensive on the short-term, but cheaper and more stable on the long-term. Its OK for your 6-month, 5-year and 50-year energy plans to be different.

Have Fun!

Ray

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James Putnam wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 19:34 GMT
Dear Ray,

I don't know if I may be so bold as to call each of you friends. That would be a high privilege. What I do know is that I really appreciate being able to talk with each of you. Thank you to fqxi and its participants for this valuable opportunity.

James

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 22:29 GMT
Dear James,

I know that I catch myself referring to the people I communicate with on this physics website as being friends.

Dear Ray,

In regards to resources, I think I remember a bible story about (talents?), with are another word for money; money is a resource. I suppose you could extrapolate that one should take care of their resources, to make them grow?

Dear RLO,

I hope you catch this post. In the spirit of the Christmas season, we are happy that you can share your thoughts with our physics community.

Dear Lawrence,

You said,"It is with later cultural development with social complexity that these spirits got compressed into larger gods and then eventually into an idea of a one God." I'm not exactly sure how and why many gods would get compressed into one God, particularly without their being a singular God who was exercising power to achieve this. Personally, I can vouch for the existence of one God. I have had lots of experiences with the paranormal and various related things. It almost seems like human consciousness is part of what makes these strange things happen. Just yesterday, the ghost of my girlfriends grandmother closed the bathroom door I had left open; everyone who was in the house was sitting at the table when we heard the door close. Apparently this happens all the time at their house. I can understand your conclusion that religion and occult all lead to muddled thinking; has quantum mechanics made anything less muddled? Less confusing? I obsessed for hours wondering why ghosts, if they exist, can't just move things around while we're watching. I swore when I pass on, I will find a physics department to haunt.

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Author Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 22:57 GMT
Lawrence and FQXi:

The self represents, forms, and experiences a comprehensive approximation of experience in general. The world requires and involves man. Each and every one of us has entirely different experiences. It is not a matter of "consciousness". It is a matter of understanding the fundamentally interactive nature of being and experience (including thought) in and with time -- as this all relates to, and is inseparable from, physics/sensory experience.

You said: "It of course seems odd that some lump of matter is capable of self awareness." What does this mean?

The integrated extensiveness of thought is inseparable from the integrated [and natural] extensiveness of experience IN GENERAL. The limits of physics will never be properly understood apart from this fact:

The ability of thought to describe or reconfigure sense is ultimately dependent upon the extent to which thought is similar to sensory experience.

Ironically, those who think that thinking is detached from what you erroneously deem to be "exterior experience" are more detached from reality (that is, from the integrated extensiveness of thought, experience, and feeling).

And there is nothing to the following, huh?: "a sense of oneness, being one with the music, a dry light (Francis Bacon), etc., etc.? Clearly, true superiority of thought is linked/attributed to our ability to model/describe/reconfigure sensory experience FROM WITHIN. How do you think that memory and genius are possible?

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 23:02 GMT
The connection between morality and religion came with the ancient Hebrews. Prior to the Mosaic code, or in particular the 10 Commandments, gods were generally regarded as rather capricious. They required sacrifices, often human sacrifices, and were not consistent in their demands --- as interpreted by various priests. The Torah was written over a period of about 1000 years, where there were...

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Ray Munroe wrote on Dec. 21, 2009 @ 23:03 GMT
Dear James and Jason,

Some of my FQXi friends are also Facebook friends. I've never met any of you, and I understand that you are both probably half my age. I assume that you aren't all sock puppets because you have different personalities. Nevertheless, you are a small percentage of the 'normal' population that understand my 'crazy' physics ideas. I can't talk Physics with my wife (the artist) or anyone at work. Because I'm not making a living in the field of Physics, I don't expect my friends or co-workers to call me "Dr. Munroe" (although I enjoyed it when I was a teacher). I enjoy this site, and hope that we can have "Peace on Earth and Good Will towards Men" during this holiday season (holiday = Holy Day).

Have Fun!

Ray

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 22, 2009 @ 00:08 GMT
I think we are close to being able to work out a problem here with SU(4). I wrote on The Beautiful Truth on SU(4) and SU(3)xU(1). This seems to imply QCD in a parton-like theory with Bjorken scaling is a low energy stringy theory that is holographically dual to an AdS_3 (or at higher energy AdS_4) spacetime physics. In this way we might work how hadron scattering is dual to holographic fields of a supergravity multiplet.

We could start working this up after the New Years I think. We will need to communicate off the FQXI website here.

Today is the solstice, so happy Yule and ring those solstice bells. This is the season we all light up candles and faralitos --- in our modern age electric lights, in keeping with an ancient tradition of trying to bring the light back. Hannukah is past, so the light of the Menorah are no more. The Romans had Sol Invictus and Saturnalia, and the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth is to carry the idea of light entering back into the world.

Cheers LC

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Dec. 22, 2009 @ 10:54 GMT
Hi all ,

I thank you for this explaination of your point of vue about the conscious.

I see a real problem in the sciences community .The difference between the human ideas and philosophies and ,on the other side this universality which creates the diversity and the complexity.Like the human after x years of evolution .

The evolution shows us the big equation .It is not a question of religions ,or ideologies invented by humans ,no the universe is the universe and with or without our approvement ,it will be always in its aim of building .

If the sciences community inserts some parameters very ironics thus I can understand their extrapolations without these limits and universal laws where their coherences seem the driving force between all .

The history of humans is less than the universal evolution .The humans are youngs thus we can undertstand their lack of universality and our extrapolations .A sure thing is that on the line time since the first cells ,we evolve and thus the equation was on a specific road to create lifes and its diversity .

The entity ,this all is different than our perception .The uniqueness seems imply a diversity like a fractal of this universlity in the physicality .

Best Regards

Steve

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Dec. 22, 2009 @ 19:22 GMT
about the subject of this forum ,the climat is not the main or global analyze to make .The ecology and the interactions between all systems ,minerals ,animals and vegetals ,must be taken in its whole ,here the spheroid Earth .Since the diferent steps of evolution ,cambrian...silurian...carboniferian....the O2 and CO2 always were balanced in a specific logic .Different ratio were a reality...

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 22, 2009 @ 22:03 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

You said this: "I must confess I am not given to ideas of spiritualism or mystical ideas and religious notions of supernatural agencies or gods (God). I have never found these ideas very compelling, at least for long. To be honest I think they lead to muddled thinking."

I think that supernatural agencies and God have been trying to civilize the savage human instinct for thousands of years. It is a difficult process and slow process. Just check out the BBC article about the slow learners.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8425820.stm

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 23, 2009 @ 01:31 GMT
This thread is going pretty far off topic. I think that it stems from some equations between concern with global warming, non-theism, liberalism and so forth. In point of fact that is one thing which appears fairly consistent with religion. It more often than not is a regressive force, one which attempts to stifle real knowledge, curtails social progress and is very frequently aligned with repressive and right winged politics. In the case of global warming it is fair to say that the religious leaders in the US, in particular from modern variants of Protestantism, are lined up against the science. The problem at the end is that religious ideas are not provable. In philosophy questions might be posed which have no final answer, but with religion you have answers posed which can’t be questioned. The reason is the presumed truth of them is not demonstrable or provable, and has a track record of being in contradiction with what we do actually learn about the world through science.

It’s tough reaching a level of maturity where you figure out you are not the center of the universe. Galileo booted Earth off the cosmic center and showed the universe was larger than thought. The trend has continued and in more recent times we have found that our species appears to have no special status in the world we can discern. But that is the situation we face, and our gods, ghosts, goblins and so forth have disappeared. I recommend reading Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World.”

Supernatural ideas ultimately mean that there is some domain of events in the world which we can’t understand. The nonexistence of supernatural events is not something I can prove, but the idea means that we must ultimately compartmentalize our minds. Our minds are required to have two contradictory bins, one for natural events and another for supernatural ones. This is not something I find terribly satisfactory, at least for myself.

Cheers LC

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Dec. 23, 2009 @ 02:41 GMT
I will own up to the BBC article as off topic; I came across it and it sickened me that there are cultures that still follow the "eye for an eye" mentality.

As far as the environment is concerned, you still have to pursue balance between ecology and the economy. The Chinese government is trying to grow their economy at the expense of their environment; they have terrible pollution problems. They really need to look at the EPA or other environmental agencies and decide what laws need to be passed. As for carbon dioxide, I'm not sold; the warm spell during the middle ages makes it impossible to determine the effects of producing CO2 in large amounts because CO2 is the result of warmer temperatures, not the cause.

If your universe is devoid of souls, gods, and spooky things, then I hope that brings you peace of mind. I can only assume that physics is finished explaining what it can; let's look at what it leaves unexplained. Quantum mechanics is a very careful process of assigning probabilities to the eigenstates of a system which are measured at random, as if it's a dice game. There is no physics theory to explain how the states are chosen; physicists swear that it's entirely random, always random. There couldn't possibly be anything happening within those random eigenstates. Certainly no processes or forces that manipulate eigenstate probabilities. Nothing but randomness...

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