Go to: Home page of www.BillHowell.ca



Crazy Ideas

Don't take any of this too seriously, it's just here to play around with crazy ideas - sometimes just to throw out a different perspective on issues, other times as a reaction to politically correct fashion trends in thinking. To some extent there is an overlap with ideas in the "Crystal Ball" section of my website.

There is a combination of separate files (mostly from Toastmaster presentations) and comments attached below.

Themes:


Cheating Theory, Parasitic behavior, and Stupidity(Dec03 Xmas letter)
(This mostly refers to my own flaws extended to the rest of you, so if you're feeling uneasy, you're probably not perfect either. (grin) I hope to provide more explanations within a year or so... )
Here's a 25 cent theory, it seems to me that society and organisations must be robust with respect to many things, but three simple basic requirements are often taken for granted or glossed over for politically-correct reasons (in increasing order of importance):
  1. Cheating theory – like theft, fraud, cutting corners. Normally this is really well taken care of, because people are so sensitive to, and critical of, it. But if cheats aren't nailed to the wall, they dominate.
  2. Parasitic behavior – is far more costly than cheating. The problem is that it "flies under the radar screen" of human compassion, politically-correct action, motherhood and apple pie. (Moreover it is closely related another of my 25 cent theory of the socially negative effects of over-insurance, which promote the behaviors they seek to protect against, and which are totally under-appreciated by our society. theft, health, etc... maybe some other year I'll write about that).
  3. Stupidity - by far the most costly of the three, and much more difficult to "fix". Unfortunately, the corollary is that we're all stupid – nobody can be well-informed and expert across all of the issues that we face. In spite of this, it's amazing how well our systems actually work! (fault tolerance to the extreme! - and this leads into behavior-based programming and ultimately Mindcode – see below)
Climate Change, or not...

(Dec04 Xmas letter)
Kyoto, or not - Last year I commented that the politically correct "belief systems" concerning Kyoto (specifically the anthropogenic or man-made effects such as Green House Gases (GHGs)) were scientifically suspect or tenuous. Well, last spring Nature magazine request authors Mann et al to redo their famous "hockey stick" graph of global temperatures over the last 1,000 years. That graph was and is possibly the most important psychological underpinning to Kyoto (i.e. a primary reason that political masters and other leaders bought the Kyoto story).

Whether or not anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 emissions prove to drive catastrophic climate change on Earth now or in 10,000 years time, it is clear to me that a fair amount of the pro-Kyoto reporting and promotion has been fraudulent, incompetent, and vindictive. Even if the "Kyotoists" prove right, their behaviour and approaches are simply not excusable. I will certainly not assume credibility for their proclamations – its going to take a huge amount of solid results for them to convince me now... The glaciation data might be a starting point due to time-shifts, but right now it seems a better bet that temperature drives CO2 levels, not the other way around. Of course, sufficient man-made CO2 might possible change that, but the evidence seems to say "not yet, not by a long shot".

(Dec03 Xmas letter)
The politically correct storm driving Climate Change is still THE dominant funding source for scientists and policymakers in our department (and to a lesser extent Environment Canada, and "even lesser" at Industry Canada), so the "poor mining sector" of NRCan is trying to pry loose some funding from our rich Energy and Geological cousins in the same department, with extremely limited success.

However, in spite of the propaganda spewing out of the environmentalists, the UN and national governments' "communications" shops, policy groups, and research labs, it seems to me that it is still a very open question as to the quantification of anthropogenic effects on the natural variability in climate. The good news is that countervailing opinions to the "Climate Change Doctrine" are now surfacing more in the media and being heard (after almost being stifled for some time by Official Science, the media and popular beliefs). Even so, some scientists are apparently still afraid of expressing an opposing viewpoint, and many others are quite happy simply to go with the trend and get the funding (our lab sure needs it). The worst-case politically-correct estimates of the "anthropogenic Greenhouse effect" are "maybe" 3 to 6 times the "natural climate variability" over the last 800 years, and similar to swings on the 10,000 or 500 million year scale. However, many of the politically-correct estimates do not seem to be self-consistent (such as the "hockey stick" graph from Mann etc that was one of the key underpinnings of Kyoto). In other words, yes the climate is changing – but it may not be changing much more than it always has and always will. Moreover, more and more analysis cast a great pall of suspicion over the politically-correct model forecasts – but I haven't yet personally looked at the details of how the models may have been mis-applied and mis-interpreted.

In any case, anthropogenic effects or not, the natural swings apparently can be large and fast enough to justify continued studies of the climate (processes and models for what has happened and what is happening) and ways for us to adapt to it. Given the very serious loss of credibility of the whole Climate Change community (that's my opinion), it is not appropriate to spend huge amounts of money on reducing GHGs – consider that even Kyoto would not have had any substantial effect on GHG levels in 100 years time. Let's go for the "easy" reductions to start with (like, wear a sweater and turn your thermostat WAAYYY down., take the bus, and do winter camping for your January-through-March vacations to show if you are really serious <joke>), and wait for more clear information before we cause more damage than good with extreme actions. Nuclear power is ONE obvious key solution if we were really serious about climate change (or even if we don't even care about climate change), but politically correct thinking (but technically/ environmentally/ ?safetily? incompetent thinking) leaves it totally out of the solution set of the official programs. Emotion has almost totally displaced rational thinking on these issues. Garbage... but still good garbage if our lab can get more money <grin>.

The last generation to die...

My favourite saying from Ottawa's BioNorth conference was from ?2000 or 2001?, when a scientist from San Diego (who used to be at McMasterU in Hamilton) gave a presentation on aging related diseases. Progress in understanding aging, he said, has been extremely rapid in the last five years, surprising the experts in the field. Anyways, he concluded his talk by saying:

"...Sometime in the not-so-distant future, someone may be giving you a presentation on the same topic [aging]. It is quite possible that he could finish it by saying "You know, we may be the last generation to die." [approximate quote of - I forget his name]"


Boy, was I ever excited, and could only hope that I would make the cutoff point! Imagine my surprise upon learning that not everyone thinks that eternal (or even 500 year) life is necessarily desirable. I explored these reactions in more detail in an unscientific survey, and got some beautiful explanations and viewpoints.

(Dec03 Xmas letter)
Nuclear spent fuel, high-level radio-active waste


The "Megatonnes to mega-Watts" program to convert weapons-grade uranium to commercial-grade fuel is a stroke of genius (I might have mentioned it last year – but I've heard more of it this year). How environmentalists & others could complain is amazing – and leads one to believe there is no way of devising anything to accomodate them, so perhaps they should simply be ignored (ditto for climate change & nuclear power). On another point I've attended sessions by the Nuclear Waste management Organization (nuclear power producers), where the options for spent fuel disposal have been presented (right acrioss Canada). We are following the USA's example – how anyone can spend such enormous sums of money on such easy technical challenges is beyond belief. The entire revenues of Inco (only one mining company) are only 2 G$/year, and for that they excavate hugely more rock, and transport far more high grade nickel, than needed to handle all of the waste (probably globally), which will cost (at first guess) 15-25 G$ or thereabouts for Canada alone (300 G$ in the USA?). Admittedly some extra security and precautions are needed, but this seems to be an example of "zero" mentality (zero dimensional mindset, zero risk, zero context, zero flexibility). Must have all the organized crime groups in North America involved to be able to spend that much $$$...



Directory of available files for this webpage:



Latest update: 04May07, original 27Jan07