Three Wise Guys #022

This weeks show takes a look at the established and growing trend of designer drugs, both legal pharmaceuticals and illegal highs. What are the legal, societal and political issues that we face when dealing with this trend in our societies.  

 

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The problems with trying to outlaws them, the issues with rapid addiction and the possible of home made drugs.

 

From their birth mid way through last century to their shift from the laboratory to peoples bathrooms and barns. 

 

Also our soap box looks at the worlds reaction to Edward Snowden and how countries that show support for him and contempt for the USA still dont offer him asylum. 

 

And this weeks Legend or Loser, Wimbledon Winner Andy Murray!

 

Listen at iTunes or Subscribe,  or listen direct online

In Defence of the Nuclear Dream

This is in reply to a show we did on Nuclear Energy earlier in the year and some really insightful feed back we got from Derek over at EarthEvolution.

 

First I’ll summaries for show for those who havent got around to it yet, the segment on nuclear is about 30 minutes and is the first portion of the show. You can listen here directly through the web on our site, or find it on iTunes here.

 

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As a general rule, we three, were in favor of nuclear power, seeing it as the only long term, realistic answer to our energy demands. That is not to say its perfect, or that there arent other ways, but that to meet the ever rising, sweeping demands we face on our energy supply, Nuclear seems to be the way to go.

 

The first point Derek brought up was the type and nature of the nuclear plants in use. As we mentioned in the show, our support is mainly for the new type of reactors either fully developed or on the drawing board and just in need of additional funding to finalize, apparently designing nuclear reactors are hard or something….

 

These new breed of reactors, from just fairly stock standard reactors similar to what we use today but safer and a bit cleaner, to the whole new breed of Thorium reactors, can meet energy demands over decades, with minimal contribution to greenhouse gases, marginal nuclear waste that can be dealt with in a safe and environmentally friendly matter, and most importantly when you compare it to the other hot power items today like wind and solar, nuclear can provide stable, safe and continual power to nations that need it. 

 

While I am not against solar or wind power, they do not provide constant power, their upkeep costs can be very high (a lot of people seem to be under the assumption that you just let a wind turbine go and it will last decades, in reality they have long “down time” where they are maintained) and  they can be shut down by either good, or bad weather, or by our damned round earth. These are great interesting sources of power, but as we have almost no ability to save power from when it is produced to when it is used, we have to make the energy as it is needed.

 

This conflicts with the goal people who are heading the movement to solar and wind power also have, of having us convert to electric cars. Now it goes with out saying, these cars would, for the most part, be charged over night when we are not using them (Also they tend to take several hours of charging) so at night time, when the production of power would be at a low (totally for solar and diminished for wind) we would be adding a whole new drain to the grid. 

 

As to what to do with the old plants, improve ones that can be, and do rolling shutdowns of those that can’t and replace them with the new breed, if we just slam shut all of them now, the people who work in them will be out of jobs, are their expertise will be lost as it will take time to bring the new plants online. And once that expertise is lost, it is hard to get back, the US Space program has less technical expertise now than it did in the 60’s, solely due to the fact they didnt keep their engineers employed over time. So while the technology is better, they are actually worse off in terms of personal.

 

Making a snap decision to close down plants after disasters is natural, but not very smart, you can take a few months or years to find a solution, as worrying as it is, a disaster of the same level is unlikely to strike several times in a such a short period. And other safety measures can be taken. 

 

IT is a bit of risk/reward, but the reward of shutting them down due to fear with out a suitable replacement is not backed up by reward. That power is now most likely coming from fossil fuel plants, that pollute a lot more, cause a lot more health risks, are adding to global warming and are not a long term solution .

 

Derek also brought up the point that even if we did swap to nuclear, we face the issue that that we still have massive need for fossil fuels and will suffer the damage they cause. And that rapidly swapping to electric cars now would be very bad, as they are in the big picture, just as bad, if not worse than SUV’s die to the massive damage the mining to get their raw materials is causing. 

 

This again is rather like nuclear, the first few plants will cost a lot, will likely cost more than they ever make, but it is the start up cost of a new industry. Like electic cars, we just need to support them through the growing phase to the point that they do become viable/green. But you must always keep an eye out for the alternative that no one saw coming, having blinders on does no one any good. 

 

Dereks last and most pointed question was, how do we lower our demand on energy.

 

Quite simply I dont think we can. I think energy saving devices are just plain smart, why wouldnt you want appliances or cars that use less power? So long as the cost of building or making them is not exorbitant, their is no point in spending $2000 for for a fridge that uses 4% less power, you’ll never see that money back and that money would have been better spent saving power elsewhere. 

 

There is also game theory to consider. When there is a global agreement to stop green house gases, everyone must agree to it. If only half do, the problem is still there and those countries that did lower GG have probably cost themselves billions and hurt industry in the short term, so they likely wont.

 

If everyone agrees, all the better, because then your country can sneak back home and not really try, reaping the rewards of everyone else doing it, while you carry on your old ways, getting all the rewards with none of the costs, unfortunately, it seems most countries have this idea, they all want lower GG, but they want others to do it, no them. 

 

Game theory says, plainly, if only half do it there is no point, if everyone does it, your better off not doing it yourself and reaping the rewards, If no one does it, well your no worse off in the short term.

 

Considering the growing power and apathy of China and India and other countries, there is not going to be a global agreement on this issue. 

 

I personally think our best hope is in the technologies that can reverse the damage we do to our world, while sadly still doing it.

 

We did touch on several such ideas in this show, listen direct or on iTunes, And some of them show great promise, but we barely scratched the surface of that topic. 

 

This is a complex, deep issue and we only touched on a few points that were brought up directly, we are more than happy to hear your feed back and we may even do a new show on this soon and even include some interviews/emails if people have good points. 

 

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Genetically modified ME!

Being from New Zealand, where clean and green is almost a religion, I had been well and truly indoctrinated against Genetic Modified foods and animals, and well… everything.

But I also had a science teacher in high school who while not pro or con Genetically Modified foods, he was VERY in favor of his students knowing about them, above and beyond the propaganda from both sides. He was, with out a doubt, the biggest influence on my life outside of my immediate family. I think a lot of people have that one teacher that effects them on a deeper level than others, that help shape your view of the world.

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He refused to give his opinion on GE foods, although I always was under the impression he was in favor of them in general. Although his motto for life was everything in moderation.

When we covered this topic here on our show, I said I was fully in favor of them, and we got some interesting feed back. The stance taken by most of the people who dont like them, was that they damage diversity in our food supply, put us at risk of blights and famines, and that we dont know the long term effects, points that were covered by Preston and Aaron in the show, who while pro GE, are not as willing as I am to surrender to the coming GE invasion.

The main point I want to cover now is the idea that a lot of GE crops are designed not to breed naturally, so called terminator genes are put in them so that farmers have to keep on buying them from the supplier rather than propagate them their selves.

Now I think terminator genes are good for two reason, first, it stops cross pollination with non GE crops, which I agree, is a big issue and shouldnt be accepted, just because I support GE doesnt mean everyone should have to put up with it.

The other reason is that it does protect the companies that do the, usually, very expensive research into these new breeds of crops, if they could only sell it over one growing season, they would not get the financial reward for their research.

This must be off set though, by having alternatives to their crops, if they supply the only strains of a certain plant, then it becomes unacceptable, as they would have a monopoly.

So long as we can protect the non GE strains, and so long as the dont pollute the natural plant lines. I think GE crops have done the world a lot of good, increasing crop yield across the board and providing drought and flood resistant strains of crops to areas with less fertile land.

As my old teacher would say, everything in moderation.

Now the case for GE in humans is another topic we covered here and I will respond to the feed back we got latter.

Three Wise Guys 018

Topic: Johnson Space Centre Warp Drive project, ever boyhood fantasy of the Three Wise Guys has come true!!!!!!!!!

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SoapBox: Cloud Atlas and Stupid Critics

This weeks topic is close to home for Preston, litereally, with the Johnson Space Centre in his backyard he has been closly following the real life development of the Warp Drive project, Classification and a lack of security clearence leave us wondering how far we really are to summers on Alpha Centure.

Also a Soap Box looking at the Independent Film, Cloud Atlas, its depth, and the lack of depth of reviewers.

Man vs Nature

Man vs Nature, and a lot of the time, it does seem like a fight. Fight for survival, fight against the elements, fight to preserve what we make. Fight for the right to party… not so much.

 

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I have traveled a lot both in my previous jobs, and for personal reasons. For almost three straight years I never spent more than a week in any one country. I went on tours as a tour guide, I went off by myself to explore cities older than my own country. I haggled with taxi drivers in a dozen languages. 

 

The one thing I take away after all these years an all these countries, that despite what most people think, despite what most travel books print on their covers, despite what many of us want to be true. We love the works of our own hands, far and above that of any work of nature.

 

There is something almost tangible about standing in front of the pyramids, or at walking through the ancient canyon city of Petra in Jordan. A lot of the time, its not even the fact that these places are especially amazing. Anyone who has walked a street in New York and then sees the pyramids tends to shrug and almost go “Is that it” for even though they were the tallest building for millennium, we have far surpassed them in the last century. 

 

But even so, the sense of history, the sense of human achievement. It is almost visceral feeling you get, the connection through time to our ancestors. 

 

And it is something that is completely lacking in nature. I have seen some amazing natural scenery, I am from what is considered to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world and have visited most of the other. But you get used to it very quickly, I was in Alaska once for 5 months, and was bored of the scenery after 2 weeks, as was every single other person at my firm of several hundred people. 

 

Nature seems to wear thin quickly, it is common place. Which is probably why we don’t mourn it very much when we bulldoze through the middle of it to build a highway or pipeline.

 

Where as our history, our creations through time… even the smallest of achievements of our ancestors millennia ago are revere now, where as mountains that took millions of years to rise are defiled for the ore they can give us. 

 

While I think we need to preserve nature and that it is a good an honorable goal to preserve and protect the nature.

 

I cant deny that on the list of most amazing things I have seen in my life, its a long way down the list before anything made by nature appears.