It's always hard to see what's directly under one's nose, even when it might be one of the most important scientific discoveries in the history of the world that happened to go public yesterday.
This morning I woke up and saw a post on my Facebook feed from a most informed friend linking an article from NPR about the success at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories resulting in the following scientific paper being published by The Journal of Nature.
As the New York Times reported:
“A lot of people are jazzed,” Omar A. Hurricane, the Livermore scientist leading the project, said during a telephone news conference on Monday. “We’re certainly in a lot better position than we were. This has been a kind of turning point, I think, here at the lab, in terms of progress.”
So, I went and looked out in the world of popular media and found no major outlet - Including Scientific America reporting what might be one of the biggest science news stories ever to be released as top news. Turns our that the horrible blizzard in the North East and mid South is only part of a huge news day today that includes the Comcast Time Warner mega media merger, Ted Cruz blowing any political cover for Republicans in the Senate on the debt limit and quite an epic grilling of drug administration and of course FOX is still covering the Heath Care web site.
Still the march of mundane news to the top of the web news pages continues - Even on a top news day - Like ABC news covering Olympic wardrobe malfunctions and antique Corvettes in sinkholes in Kentucky on CNN.
Do you believe that humanity's interactions with discovery IS the most important thing ever and today's Fusion discovery may have been one if the biggest? If so...join me today below in alternative energy analysis rather than "snowpocalypse" paralysis....
So it's a huge news day in America. This means that in the current media climate - One of the top scientific stories perhaps ever released is getting pushed way down the media food chain and I would bet that less than 1% of Americans even know that Fusion just got real, or have any intelligent media pundits discuss the implications of such an event so far.
Let's change that...Please help me get the message out.
So many times our "TeeVee" media overlords (who merged even more today) argue that they just can't afford their 24/7 team to cover crisis if they don't also manufacture it - Yet the BBC will talk about climate implications during these days when the Jet Stream decides to fly South for the Winter - resulting in the cancellation of thousands of flights across the Eastern Seaboard and death and mayham on the highways of North Carolina.
So here it is - laid out right in front of us in one day. We know that Jet Streams are weakened by unseasonably high temperatures in the Polar Zone and this results in cold air being released to collide quite catastrophically with warmer air coming out of the Gulf.
The movie "The Day After Tomorrow" exaggerated this into a mega-dramatization - Yet you won't find anyone in the media even discussing that movie today - OR the ramifications of abundant energy to our society as front page news.
As a Big 10 educated environmental scientist who studied climate change in graduate school - I learned so much about how fossil fuels put the world at risk and alternative energy was desperately needed to save our planet from environmental apocalypse - Starting with the first graduate classed I attended where Dr. Ron Hites (the PI who discovered the bio-accumulation of flame retardant residue in fish) played Arrhenius and derived the most important climate change equation - Ever - right before my eyes from the physical chemistry constants - 20 years ago.
Just about the time I was graduating other scientists who taught me were discovering the effects of permafrost removal on frozen peat moss and the exponential risks of fossil fuel use started looking oh so exponentially more dangerous.
Yet the graduate school class that really blew me away the most was Risk Analysis. Here my math skills were taken to the absolute limit by a tag team Toxicologist and Mathematician Sociologist tag team professor team that taught me the difference between "fear" and "risk" and changed everything that I had learned about how government policy and society is supposed to work.
One day during that class - I switched from being anti-nuke to being a stark raving nuclear energy supporter. It was the day we actually studied the true risks associated with even the worst "China Syndrome" nuclear melt downs AND the risks associated with us burning the equivalent energy balance of fossil fuels. I had never looked at the world the same way before that class or after as for the first time I unhitched my Amygdala from the anti-nuclear rhetoric that I had been consuming for all of my life.
We never hear about Thorium Nuclear in the news, or much at all about Fusion except during the thorough "debunking and discrediting" of cold fusion...yet shrouded in a protective bubble of federal research security for the past 5 years since construction and the last few years of operation the 5 billion dollars spent and counting has not exactly been popular with the environmental community. From the last NPR Article in 2012:
The National Ignition Facility in Livermore, Calif., has been called a modern-day moonshot, a project of "revolutionary science," and "the mother of all boondoggles."Let's talk ramifications now - Not going to go out there and say "Eureka" world and civil society is going to quickly become a better place because in theory we overcame one of the greatest "scarcity" problems the world has ever known - Leading to a new age of civilized Austrian school capitalism.
"I think we will get ignition," Miller said. "I think we'll get ignition relatively shortly after we turn the facility on."
Now, fast forward 3 1/2 years.
"We just haven't gotten it to burn yet," Moses said last month. He has been doing a lot of these interviews lately, because Oct. 1 was a deadline, set by the agency that oversees NIF — the National Nuclear Security Administration — for the project to have achieved fusion. But they just can't get the conditions right.
And Ed Moses doesn't put too much stock in deadlines.
"We never guaranteed anything on any date," he says. 'And people have to sort of get used to that. That's what great science is'.... Energy Secretary Steven Chu is required to tell Congress why NIF hasn't met its goal, despite costing taxpayers more than $5 billion...
For Christopher Paine, director of the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, it'll be a giant "I told you so" moment.
'This project has gone on a long time,' he says. 'Billions have been invested. But to what end?' Why, in other words, are we doing this?
The first problem is that this plant is the most expensive and least efficient one in the world (for now) - Yet every new energy source started in the same impractical manner.
We must reconcile the projected trajectory of ROI in solar, wind, biofuels (including algae tech), geothermal, natural gas fracking, methane gas hydrates, oil, geothermal, etc. and make the appropriate investments in not only the energy research, but also the hundreds of millions of dollars in transmission and transportation infrastructure. The current popular debates over the Keystone XL Pipeline and net metering of solar energy in Arizona are examples of this.
Is there anyone out there who legitimately can argue with a clear mind and conscience that there is no need for a huge and expensive Federal Department of Energy? When we consider the challenge of the USA doing just what I propose above.
The second hurdle is that we need to clear if to continue the work of overcoming the massive public relations and political campaign infrastructure of the status quo to even possibly have this discussion in the first place. Every business engages in media and lobbying efforts - Yet the huge campaigns of Koch Oil are so big they are warping our entire society - media, public education, government - etc.
Considering bystander effects - The scientific cost/benefits of fossil fuels have for at least my entire middle aged lifetime been obsolete. Nuclear power has always cheaper for society because risk based models make CO2 pollution more dangerous than even a "China Syndrome" event. Yet the lobbying and PR media efforts of the fossil fuel industry has rendered a reversal of the trend of increasing regulations or stopped them in the first place...and the environmental movement's fear of nuke didn't help. So we were lead to be afraid to let nuclear energy become the dominant source of energy for America with either Uranium or Thorium based fission for my entire lifetime.
The real "Black Swan" event is solar just reached grid parity with solar and wind and now without much subsidy at all adoption is coming online at a furious pace. This means that we may expect to see an intense lobbying effort by the solar industry to protect their investments and fight advances in Fission Nuclear. So we must be as a society more scientifically educated and intelligent about picking winners here. Is there a "Norway Resource Curse" that may befall Livermore, CA in the future related to transmission infrastructure?
Because the energy industry makes the least amount of private investments in research and development - All of these discoveries are funded and must be funded massive amounts of tax dollars. Yet it is interesting to note that none of them have been made in Russia or China either. This is what squarely puts me on the "Right Wing" of KOS - Yet surely within your community's "Overton Window" since I am still quite a bit more Left of President Obama.
I used to consider myself a very moderate "Eisenhower" Republican RINO type who often disagrees with my pure socialistic friends that Capitalism can and should be preserved in a highly regulated and managed form. I want to see the country governed in the same way that Eisenhower did and I vote for candidates that align themselves most closely to the Eisenhower model of small defense and big space race spending. Yet in this day and age we need a "Space Race" of alternative energy research to stop climate change.
As we evolve as an intelligent species by interacting with the tools we design - The challenges to our collective thinking keep getting bigger and bigger. It's like a NFL team on the way to the Super Bowl - Each "Game Changing Play" leads to a new game and bigger challenge to invent a new play.
We are either going to become the first species on Earth to switch collectively as a society from being Heterotrophic to Autotrophic or we are going to face a great die off. Interesting that we can build our own sun a bit closer to home.
Still proposing a hypothesis that we are going to need to invest primarily in solar for quite a while for our energy needs - even in light of this new day of discovery. Yet always open to any challenges to this hypothesis - Fission is also a viable hypothesis to pursue and darn glad my government did.
Please pass the word to your family and friends that Federal investments in Science are still winning big and encourage them to contact their Federal Reps and Senators and demand more investment in alternative energy technology.
So talk to as many people as we can about both the problem of extreme weather as a consequence of continued fossil fuel use and the solution of alternative energy that is a legitimate hope of salvation. Let's not let this great intersection of both crisis and discovery that is the human condition be under reported this day.
Update: While I have been writing this diary today - Jack Clark from the British Register just finished his and it's the best one I have seen today: "Dr. Hurricane unleashes FUSION POWER at Livermore nuke lab".