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. 

 

Three Wise Guys iTunes subscribe and listen and join in!

Three Wise Guys #021.1 Interview with Prof Corey Olsen AKA the Tolkien Professor

Three Wise Guys

 

Episode #021.1 Interview with Professor Corey Olsen, listen direct, or through iTunes, and the catalog

 

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Topic: Fantasy and Sci-fi in Academia and society, its roots, its future, and why it is not taken seriously my academics and critics.

 

This is a interview recorded for show 020: Science Fiction and Fantasy, put posted separately. It features an interview with Professor Corey Olsen of Signum University and the Mythgard institute, online he is known as the Tolkien Professor and has run his own very successful podcast detailing the works of JRR Tolkien and Fantasy in general. The interview goes for about 40 minutes and covers the history of fantasy literature, its perception by the public and academics, and how it effects our lives every day.

Three Wise Guys #021

Three Wise Guys 

 

Episode #021, listen direct or from iTunes and subscribe!

 

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Topic: Fantasy and Sci-fi in society and academia. Why these genres of books and movies are not taken seriously by either society of academia, Why they are passed over for prizes and awards to other, frankly, more boring works. And is the public perception of them changing with the like of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones?

 

Soap Box: Is a rebuttal and reply to several listener comments from the last few shows, featuring several comments from here at WordPress, topics cover, GMO’s, Globilization and media.

 

Legend or Loser (New Segment): Xbone Vs PS4

 

Easy listen Link and Catalog of episodes! Also iTunes.

Whats the Use:- Twitter, Facebook, Blog

This is essentially a part two of this post, where you, our loyal readers and listeners, let forth a avalanche of rage and hatred at social media, primarily Twitter, but old favorites like Facebook  did not escape your wrath.

 

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What seemed to be a underlying theme from everyone’s feedback, was that twitter had no purpose.

 

To contrast them I’m going to show the typical use of each media, or at least how most people try to use them before being driven into a psychotic rage. 

 

Most people, us included use their personal Facebook, to keep in touch with friends and family, some people use it a bit much and spam everyone with Farmville news, but Facebook, actually does have some rather useful features for ignoring someones posts with out offending them by unfriending them. I seem to use this feature for all my relations under 18 you just spam useless updates or photos that were emailed around a decade ago. I personally refuse to use my personal page to promote projects I personally, or Three Wise Guys as a group work on.

 

That is what, Facebook group pages are for. It has a nice interface, it allows people to follow or not follow as they choose with out offending the individuals involved. The posts can be long, well written, have the ability for feedback that is easily visible to everyone. We personally use Facebook as the first place to launch new shows and features, not because the audience is biggest, infact our Facebook page has less followers than the other sites we have, but because it is so user friendly

 

Blogs. well funnily enough, everyone seemed to like blogs, strange for a blogging site… But personally I dont just think that is a selection bias. It allows you to compose your thoughts in a wide variety or formats, it is personalised, and it allows you to connect with people of similar interests and best of all, exchange ideas in a open forum.

 

A media that is not much used, although it popularity is growing so fast iTunes is dedicating larger and larger portions of its makeup to it, is Podcasts. Although by far the most labour intensive of all the options, for us it is the most fun and gratifying. I creates a open and honest dialog, we can receive feedback from people with a huge range of backgrounds, and even do live interviews allowing people a wide audience that they otherwise might not get. This option is obviously not for everyone in terms of production, but in terms of consumption of ideas and the possibility of a wide audience for feedback and thoughts, nothing comes close.

 

The form of media that received almost universal hatred, was Twitter, not a single person out of the dozens that replied to our last post and our show on it, had a single nice thing to say about it. People are either forced to use it by PR and human resources for their firm, or just link it directly to their blog or show. With very limited freedom for what you can say, the butchering of language to fit with in an arbitrary limit, and the utter, utter, utter spam that spews forth from it. Twitter is full of businesses trying to be savy, but coming off sad, narcissistic celebrities who are leaving it in droves after being flooded with hate from the trolls that infest it. For us, our twitter audience is of a decent size, but we just use it to link to the show or our blog, as the character limit does not allow for anything else. Consider people usually just subscribe to the show, its not even really needed. If we all stop using twitter tomorrow, would anyone care? would it matter? does anyone get any use of it? Apparently not.

 

In summation:-

Blog yay

Facebook, a reserved yay if used right

Podcasting, a tired yay after much work

Twitter, Booooooooooo

 

-Ben

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 020

Three Wise Guys

 

Episode 020, Listen Direct or on iTunes!

 

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Topic: Synthetic Life, Biological Robots. A look at the different portrayals of synthetic life in movies, from Ash in Alien to the artificial life in Blade Runner. Then we look at where we are in the development of this technology and what we can expect from it in the coming years.

 

Soap Box: Animal right and where to draw the line. A talk about the changing face of animal rights, from the vegans to the carnivores, where do we stand and what should we tolerate in the treatment of animals.

Three Wise Guys 019

Three Wise Guys

 

Episode #019 – Listen on ITunes – Or direct!

 

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Topic: Modern day Piracy, online and the open seas, featuring a thrilling real life encounter with pirates in Indonesia (Washed away with fire hoses) and how International waters muddy the already murky laws we line under. Also is online piracy harming the artists at all?

 

Soap Box: The marijuana laws in Canada and around the world and the path to legislation.

Disillusionment With Western Sci-fi?

Well not so much disillusionment as disappointment…maybe?

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One of my favorite games is Fallout 3 and then Fallout: New Vegas, both worlds are large and visually interesting (well somewhat) but story wise, nothing grabs me. Even the usual stellar B plots are just uninteresting.

Contrast that Metro 2033, both the novel and the game. They have an intense dark atmosphere and a rich interesting world. All the little stations have a personality to them, you can taste Artyom’s fear in places. The game replicates it quite well, within it’s confines.

And it seems that Metro’s author making the story as an allegory to modern Russia is what does it. Realising that the story has more then one level is fantastic. But Fallout never reaches that.

But I play to poke my head in holes and shoot things.

 

-Aaron

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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http://threewiseguys.libsyn.com/webpage/three-wise-guys-018/comments

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.