Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Putting down a marker on eating the ICE infrastructure away

Been looking for data like this for a long time:

Turns out that California Energy Commission has gasoline data, lots of gasoline data. I downloaded and edited the data above.

I've argued since 2013 that as EVs start taking up significant market share, the gas station and repair infrastructure for internal combustion engines will start to shrink and become less convenient. A similar-but-distinguishable process will happen with increasing ICE mileage, but that process stabilizes because even high mileage ICE vehicles still need gas and will pay enough to stabilize the number of stations. As EVs eat into the ICE infrastructure, the ICE market just gets less convenient and the shift to EVs accelerates in a virtuous feedback.

The effect will be especially strong when people consciously notice the ICE infrastructure is getting less convenient, but that's not required. And I fully admit the more important factor, for now, is EVs becoming more convenient. Still, a choice of EV versus ICE turns in part on the relative convenience of the choice, and increasing inconvenience for ICE will have an increasing effect.

Oslo would be the best place to test this, but I can't find their data. San Francisco Bay Area isn't a bad alternative. This doesn't constitute proof yet - 2016 was the highest year in the dataset, and it would be bold to claim the 2017 decline is from EV share of the fleet mileage traveled, but let's watch this space.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A thing of beauty

Sabine Hossenfelder's new book, Lost in Math:  How Beauty Leads Physics Astray is stirring up quite a stir with multiple reviews.  Hossenfelder has recently stuck her oar into the question about whether a new supercollider should be built as a follow-on to CERN.

The just-look-argument is of course well and fine. But, as I have pointed out many times before, the same just-look-argument can be made for any other new experiment in the foundations of physics. It therefore does not explain why a larger particle collider in particular is a good investment. Indeed, the opposite is the case: There are less costly experiments for which we have good reasons, such as measuring more precisely the properties of dark matter or probing the weak field regime of quantum gravity.
Eli got into this a little bit on Twitter
but the issue of beauty in physics, in science in general, what is worth doing, at least to Eli is of interest.  About a month ago the Rabett in a comment to Hossenfelder thought that beauty in physics was a matter of being terse, spare simple.  She really did not like that, and after all, who is Eli.  Reading the New Yorker this week a rather better description appeared in James Marcus' memorial to his father, a bioscientist, who died a difficult death.
Later, after his death, one of his colleagues noted that my father "believed that beauty would save the world".  My father would never have said that about himself.  Yet it was true, if you understood beauty to encompass not only ecstasy but precision, rigor a relish for the tiniest (literally microscopic) details. And it was true about me, too. We were a religious sect consisting of two people, and now half the congregation was gone. There would be no closure, no healing. I would simply adjust myself to a new and severely depleted reality. The world would come to an end, as it always does, one world at a time.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Paul Campos on dual loyalties, Israel and Omar

He sez:

....This whole sordid mess is a product of, among other things, the insidious idea that it’s undesirable for people to have “dual loyalties” in the context of their relationships to nation-states.  This idea is obviously absurd if stated as a straightforward proposition, which is why it almost never is.

People have multiple loyalties in every other aspect of their lives, so why wouldn’t or shouldn’t they in the context of their relationships with nations?  I’m not Jewish, but I think it’s completely ridiculous to criticize American Jews for feeling various levels of affection toward, passion for, and loyalty to, the state of Israel....

The accusation of dual loyalty, in other words, is based on a completely bogus theory of both human psychology and political morality.  And yes, I realize “dual loyalty” is a classic anti-Semitic trope, but that accusation only has bite because of a perverted concept of patriotism, which requires loyalty to the present government of the nation of which one is a citizen to always trump every other consideration.  In other words, “dual loyalty” is only bad per se if one accepts the essentially fascist concept of loyalty to a single nation state as the first duty of every citizen of the State.

Read the whole, etc. While I think he has good points, esp about fetishization of the state, the acknowledgment that we have biases doesn't remove the obligation to confront and control those biases, to the extent we can and acknowledging our limits. The issue runs both ways - anti-Semitism has woken from near death with the rise of conservative nationalism, while the left has an obvious point at how biased American foreign policy is toward Israeli right-wing government positions and against Palestinians.

My great-grandparents and their parents emigrated from Austria-Hungary to the US in 1910. My understanding is that German-Americans disproportionately opposed American entry into World War I. It's lost to time whether my relatives took part in those politics, but the German-American bias is worth acknowledging. It's not necessarily wrong - maybe we'd have fewer wars if people cared about the lives of family relatives in the opposing military trench. It does however complicate things.

I hope we can get a somewhat-more balanced perspective on Israel (given everything global, I favor a somewhat pro-Israel stance for the US) while confronting anti-Semitism and other biases wherever they arise.