Saturday, February 18, 2017

I know that voice

You can tell someone is ubiquitous when you're listening to a climate change podcast featuring Steven Chu, an unidentified member of the audience asks him a question and you realize you know who the questioner is.

John Mashey's question about whether ARPA-E will survive Trump got a confident reply from Chu that it will survive because it's an excellent program that enjoys Republican support. This corresponds to an interesting post by Stoat basically predicting however delusional/deceptive Trump may be, his administration will likely be constrained into being just a normally-bad Republican administration.

Would that we were to be so lucky, to only lose four years of human endeavor in America. And maybe it will work out like that, that the normally-bad Republican outcome is what we end up with. That's the close to the best-case scenario though,* with everything else being worse.

Anyway, William made some optimistic bet offers at his post, I made my own pessimistic ones in the comments, but there's no sweet spot between our positions. And no one else looking like they want to take the bets.

*Very best case is some accidental twists of luck lead them into doing the right things, and they lie about their prior intent to do the wrong things. No- so-best is that environmental disasters push them that way, like another Katrina.


David B. Benson said...

Sorry for not remembering but what are the bet positions?

Fernando Leanme said...

Trump seems to be. structuring a shrewd strategy to resolve the Israel versus Palestine conflict (the comment about a one state solution hit Netanyahu like a kick in the butt, which happens to be an excellent result), plus he's going to try to reduce tensions with Russia in spite of democrat and neocon warmongering. I'm also encouraged by his call to free political prisoners and restore democracy in Venezuela. So, even though I don't like the guy I must say he's exactly what USA foreign policy needed.

Brian Schmidt said...

David - you can see them at the link to Stoat.

Fernando - I thought Bibi was fine with the one-state solution (subtext: combined with apartheid and strong incentives for Palestinian self-deportation). He didn't like Trump's suggestion to start negotiations and slow down on settlements. And Trump had no idea what he was talking about.

JohnMashey said...

I talked to Chu & Oreskes a bit at the reception.

For context, see R2-D2 and Other Lessons From Bell Labs.

Chu (Bell Labs, Stanford, LBL, DOE, Stanford) certainly understands how real R&D works, with a "research funnel" that starts many research projects, most of which are expected to fail, hopefully quickly. (He has spoken about this, noting that many government organizations worry about this.) "Progressive commitment" then gives more resources to those that seem promising.

SO, the underlying question really was: suppose ARPA-E was shut off, were there enough things where R1/R2/D1 was successful, derisking them enough that they could move towards commercialization? A: yes, things like SunShot.

William Connolley said...

Hmm, disappointing. We're now, what, a month into Trumpism, and everyone apparently agrees he is an utter disaster area, but no-one wants to bet on anything actually going wrong in any major way.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Perhaps we are too busy acting instead of entertaining ourselves with gambling adventures. I guess all is going to swell for you, no?

It's all about you, William. You've make that clear already.

Brian said...

William, I think we can set a range: I'm not willing to give pretty good odds that Trump will cut research by 50%, and you're not willing to give pretty good odds that Trump will continue the historic increase in climate science funding and occasional climate big-mission commitment.

We haven't looked at betting on disaster outcomes that are lower probability, like say a 10-20% chance that Trump will either get China or India to drop Paris commitments or that he will fail to act to help keep them in the accord when they face their own Trump-like idiots near power. That kind of bet would be hard to arrange.

Hank Roberts said...

Speaking of interesting futures, if we see liquid-sodium-cooled "Integral Fuel" reactors come along, as Barry Brook enthuses about severally, that'll give us a source for sodium-22, an isotope that has an interesting decay path. It decays by producing a positron.

Which there's a use for:

(This is from my 'interesting consequences' mental collection, along with the observation that producing the latest high-temperature coal plants requires metallurgy that will also handle the temperatures expected from fusion reactors, which are still 30 years in our future -- chase that carrot suspended out in front of us ....)

One of the sad things about fission plants is they have to be run at relatively low temperature -- thermodynamically less efficient than contemporary coal (or gas? dunno) plants. That's because the fission piles have to be able to cool themselves down if something goes cattywampus, because we all know why. That's one reason it doesn't work out to replace coal burners with fission heat sources driving the existing generators -- wrong temperature source for the design of the electrical generators.

But hey, a supersupercoal plant would operate at around the same temperature as a fusion heat source, if such were to become available as a swap-in replacement.

And back to the first idea, who'd have thought generating positrons had a promising commercial future, eh?
Far Centaurus could be reachable after all ...