World climate is changing

Earth’s climate has been changing for many decades. Now, the world is threatened by three effects of the change.

By the time today’s children have become the adults in authority, they will face a world unbelievably different from ours, today. These changes will fundamentally affect where we will live and how we will survive and interact with each other.

The world is changing. If we are lucky, the change might require 60 or 70 more years. If unlucky, if the change is too rapid, the environment could be pushed into a chaotic jump … a sudden change into a much warmer, more violent reality.  As our first sentence indicates, this challenging scenario feels unbelievable. Some people alive now will never accept it –  their babies today, grown into adults tomorrow, are the ones forced to cope.

Here, we discuss the 3 effects actually happening due to change. In another post, we will discuss human response to all this.

  • The global mean temperature will rise, some places much hotter, others perhaps cooler. || For example, destroy the Atlantic circulation and Europe could lose its winter warmth.
  • Global mean sea level will rise, and ocean shore lines will retreat. Expect a sea level rise of between 30 cm (1 foot) and 7 meters (23 ft).  || LESSER effect with smooth temperature growth to less than 2 ºC; GREATER effect with collapse of the West Antarctic ice shelf and melt of the Greenland glaciers (probably with temperature change exceeding 2º C).
  • Storms will become much more violent, though probably not more frequent. || Rate of rise for ‘storms-per-year’ will be much lower than the damage-per-storm rate.

The question ought to be about how the people of the Earth work with the results, but we will discuss here : what is happening now?

The changes have started, now

Those “will” words in the bullets sound dogmatic; but the change is happening – not the  “just-you-wait, you’ll be sorry” soon, but in current now. World temperatures are going up;  local air temperatures are rising, which puts into question the survival of the local residents.  Water temperatures are rising, have risen for decades. This is making ocean storms more energetic and shore life miserable. Heating is penetrating deeper below ocean surfaces, and is causing grounded icebergs everywhere to melt at the bottom where they rest on land.  This melt at the base has accelerated the rise in the sea levels for as long as reliable records have existed (back to the mid 1800s).

Temperature ( T ) extremes are growing

T changes make up the easiest effect to notice.  But, Who cares? It was awfully hot when I was young. Fact: as a boy in Kentucky I vividly recall summer time highs of 104º F or 40º C. (We will abbreviate that as 104F/\40C .) But projections now say that if we do nothing, it could reach 122F/\50C. Continue reading

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Flint water crisis cries racism

‘Flint’, an artist’s summary of the Flint water crisis, has visceral impact on the viewer.

This image won an award.  Flint Michigan is an old automotive manufacturing town in Michigan, about 45 miles north of my town, Ann Arbor. The Flint population is predominantly african-american.

The picture below shows the condition of the water provided by the Flint water system.  Every part of this image is a compelling statement about our past and about our very present issues with what is happening in America today.

Picture from Eclectablog web

‘ ‘Flint’ – an award winning work by artist Ti-Rock Moore. Click it to go to the Eclectablog website with full discussion

The image clicks to the original Eclectablog posting of the artwork, if you have any problem reaching it, here is the site link: .

For the past 5 years Flint Michigan has been horribly mismanaged by the Republican controlled State government. Governor Snyder ordered city management to be taken over by direct State control; horrible decisions were promptly made.  They disconnected Flint from the clean Detroit water supply that had been used (way too expensive), and substituted water from the local polluted supply, which was much cheaper but was known to be dangerous.  Flint children began to show effects of poisoning in 2014.  The water is still not clear today.

All this must have been way preferable to the original water contract.  It is very difficult to say that the governor and his advisers made decisions were not race based.

I believe that the “Colored” sign overtly refers to the color of the water being delivered to Flint homes.  This is another one of the denotes vs connotes things because it has strong evocation of the U.S. white supremacist laws that were overturned by a Supreme Court decision (60 years ago). That decision began our painful approach toward racial equality. Clearly, we are yet a long way from achieving that goal.


Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2017 Oct 11
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Gun rights vs hard data

Right winger David Brooks published an op ed column in the 2017 Oct 7 New York Times (print edition) on gun control.  His comments have a vital point, and they should be required reading.  If you quote hard data that demonstrates a mistake in an attitude, you will not change anyone’s opinion, instead you might strengthen their attachment to anti-real viewpoints.

Brooks with new wife

Fig 1  David Brooks with wife Anne

History is full of examples of this, from the spherical vs flat earth argument, the germ theory vs will of the gods arguments, or the current gun rights vs gun control struggle. Logical arguments are as effective as jerking a hook in a fish’s mouth.  This does not remove fishhook, it just makes it sink in deeper.

We made a similar point when we highlighted Katharine Hayhoe’s climate-change presentation – hard facts do not convince true believers who think that all that stuff is false. This is becoming a recurrent theme for us.

Img Tali Sharot

Fig 2  Tali Sharot, Princ. Invest. Affective Brain Lab

Brooks made excellent points, included a link to the book  The Influential Mind  by Tali Sharot (Director of the Affective Brain Lab, University College London).

Her point:  If you offer evidence that is opposite to  deeply held beliefs and you will not change any minds.  True believers will work hard to paint over the objections, even it if requires simply ignoring the data points.  The brighter the person, the faster and deeper the rationalizations.

Brooks’ topic is gun control.  When horrors like last week’s Las Vegas massacre happen state legislators move to weaken whatever gun control rules that were in place.  He quotes a study that indicates that when a single mass shooting occurs, there is a 15% increase in bills to state legislatures to strengthen gun ownership rights. Continue reading

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Shifts and jumps in chaotic systems – USA

We had a chaotic change in our politics. What does that mean?

The United States appears to be experiencing an historic shift in its social order. No need for a bullet list of changes, the  election of Donald Trump is sufficient to show that people are willing for (actually want?) the change. But, what kind of change are we in for?

At the time of this writing, no one can predict where we will be taken by a leader so self centered that he can not recognize the reality of others. We might go anywhere on the political map – from a successful impeachment followed by Republican rewiring of government, to the establishment of a strong-man dictator with the full restructuring of American politics. Trump could not have been elected 30 years ago. But it happened last year.

This is not a post about Trump.  We will examine chaotic changes and how they happen. This is an expansion of the chaos part of an earlier post, President Trump, Triumph of Chaos.

Equilibrium changes and chaotic shifts

We want to explore what can cause a nearly stable social state of affairs to change. “Nearly” because society’s “state” is only neutrally stable at best; small external forces can dislodge it, and the average central conditions do actually drift over time.  You know that any social order is pretty chaotic due to its many interacting and competing factors – any clear and firm position today could change, maybe suddenly.

tugs guide huge boats

Fig 1  Tiny tugs guide large ships

Ocean Ship Strategy – Small tug boats (Fig 1) can bring a huge ship to dock. Their low thrust push will move even mighty aircraft carriers up to the dock – but it takes time; tug captains need patience.

To get a ship to change course, you must expend a certain total effort. Why not get it over with faster with a bundle of TNT sticks? Same total energy involved.

Answer: Bombs yield energy too fast – the idea is to redirect the thing, not sink it. Use a soft push, maintain a controlled speed.

Ocean ship strategy results are predictable. If the tug stops pushing, friction with water slows the ship. This provides a stabilizing negative feedback, and the docking process is smooth and gradual.

Gradualism allows changes to be predictable. Ought to, at least. How do you know an initial gradual start will stay smooth and gradual?

Avalanches grow fast

Fig 2  Avalanches start small, grow fast

Avalanche Strategy – Avalanches (Fig 2) begin with a tiny bit of snow rolling down a hill. The core picks up volume, excite other snow/ice bits to move, until the ensemble is a moving mass that cannot be stopped.

No one knows exactly what the end effects are.  How will the hill and valley be changed?

Rule: do not use an avalanche for landscape architecture.

Results from the avalanche strategy cannot be predicted exactly. This is unlike the ocean ship strategy. There is no similar resistance to growth for a rolling/sliding chip of ice, and results are not gradual.  If the temperature, slope and other factors are correct, and if the initial material in motion can pick up enough momentum, the result will be roaring growth to the slide – chaotic change.

Here, change means a tumultuous jump from before – the smooth slope with rocks and trees; to after – the final jumbled and torn landscape. Continue reading

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ITER-2 Machine is being built – will it work?

Fusion waste disposal is an issue that may limit ITER’s success

The long awaited fusion test bed, ITER, is under construction.  The facility buildings are well on the way towards completion and machine assembly should begin in the last months of 2018.      We discussed the ITER machine structure and various fusion concepts in our  ITER-1 post – we will not repeat them here.

Iter Timeline

Comment 1  ITER Timeline

But note– ITER is not an acronym anymore. It is okay to write it ITER or Iter or iter

Comment 1 is the currently expected schedule for ITER operations. The official timeline is reasonable – The 2025 and 2035 targets allow for a reasonable break-in with this new machine.

Assumptions behind the personal estimates – No operating issues arise during start up trials.

(1) Operation schedules base on impatience – Pushing boundaries without checking. In the 1980s, the fusion flagship, TFTR, powered up its TF coils too high and too soon; one of their big coils broke … issues.

(2) Hoping without testing. ITER is a major jump in capabilities. What if long-lived, fusion-hot plasma is operates somewhat differently from short-pulse hot plasma?

Bad events are issues

Comment 2   issues

This post is based on an issue that might violate assumption (2)plasma operates as anticipated.  (See Comment 2)

Our question – Do the techniques chosen to remove waste heat (power) and particles form a basic issue that is a background worry to the physics staff? Maybe.

The technique to remove the waste heat and particles that flow from the fusion region relies on an array of divertors, that is, on the material surfaces that the plasma strikes first.

Will divertor operation become an functional issue? This is what we discuss.

ITER has a potentially serious divertor issue

ITER field and plasma

Fig 1 ITER cross section, with field lines

Waste heat  The intense heat from the fusion core will conduct out to its edge (the separatrix) and will cross into the unconfined field volume called the scrape-off-layer (SOL).

In Fig 1, the separatrix is the green field line with the sharp × point, it separates the confined plasma from the unconfined. The SOL is the dark (brown) much cooler plasma outside the separatrix.  See ITER-1 for a more complete description of the tokamak.

Most of the heat flows along the separatrix and out through its × point but some will enter the SOL to cause wall erosion.

Wall atoms can/will •diffuse into the plasma, •absorb energy, •radiate “like mad,”  •cool the plasma, and •quench the fusion.

Waste ash  What is left over from a fusion reaction is a neutron which has four fifths (80%) of the energy, The other one fifth (20%) of fusion energy is very high energy helium nucleus (called an alpha particle, usually written α). Continue reading

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ITER-1 – The international fusion test facility

ITER will begin fusion tests within a decade. We discuss this huge machine.

The long awaited fusion test bed, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is under construction in Cadarache, France.  ITER is an hour (70 km) North of Marseilles (South-Eastern France, not far from the Mediterranean).  The facility construction is on-going in France and the machine components are being assembled all around the world.

The ITER team has ambitious goals.  This is to be the first magnetic fusion machine to hold a stable plasma for 10 minutes. (They plan to extend operations to 1000 seconds, abut 16 minutes.)  The fuel will be deuterium (D) and tritium (T); D is a stable type of hydrogen (H), twice as heavy as H. Fusion techniques are discussed toward the end of Stirring The Pot.

Fusion terms

Comment 1 Fusion terms

It will reach fusion temperatures (about 150 M° C … 300 M° F) and ignite.  Their goal is to use their ignited plasma to generate 500 MW of output power with a device efficiency of Q = Poutput/Pinput = 10.  See Comment 1.

This exceeds the previous record set (1997) at the JET tokamak:
JET: Poutput = 16 MW, Q =0.67 .

This is hotter than any welding torch in any shop anywhere.  Hotter than the center of the sun.  Good thing, too, since the sun has to last tens of billions of years. If the sun had ITER temperatues, it would last only a small fraction of that.

In this post, we describe the ITER tokamak.

In our next ITER post we will use this discussion to describe a potential design feature that may limit the success of the program, though not until  they have tried to reach their goals of fusion temperature; efficiency, Q; and burn times (15-20 years from now).

ITER logoITER – Overview

ITER, the pronunciation   Most people in the business say eat-er.   You are allowed to say it anyway you want, just be consistent.

ITER, the acronym  The program started up in 1988 as the  International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.  It was an English abbreviation and the central words were thermonuclear and experimental.  Although pretty good, the word nuclear had to go.

Torus shape

Sketch A   Torus – donut shape

  • The T stands for thermonuclear and could have been changeable to tokamak; its shape is a torus – Sketch A. (Looks like a bagel, a donut, or a car tire).
  • The E is the important part.  This machine is truly an experiment to test out ideas, not a prototype for a mass produced product like a car. But… after 120 years of building automobiles, companies that release a new model require thousands of prototype parts and vehicles for destructive testing. Thousands(?) – not going to happen.  Definitely not a prototype.

ITER, the history  It started in 1988 as a joint venture of 4 countries. The U.S. pulled out maybe a decade ago, then rejoined; nearly withdrew during the Obama days; our DOE just lost significant funding – want to make a bet on our presence 4 years from now? BREXIT may remove the last English speaking country.  The countries currently on its guiding council are shown in the logo.

Soon, there might be no English speaking countries left, so disconnect the name from a living language. Voilá – ITER is no longer an acronym!  It is okay to write it “Iter,” or “iter.”

ITER is the chosen name because it is dead Latin for The Way.

ITER, the tokamak  ITER’s goal is to generate 500 MW of fusion power; support a fusion burn that lasts for 10 minutes (they will try for 1000 seconds, about 16 min); and produce 10 times more power than used by the facility (Q=10). The machine to ultimately perform these is shown in Fig 1.  The left side shows its interior lined with its protective first-wall blanket.  The right side depicts the blanket being installed.

ITER cutaway diagram

Fig 1  ITER cutaway, man lower left

ITER key features

Fig 2 Thin slice through ITER, showing the key features

Click any figure, to see a full sized image. The colors are for identification; unless someone uses a paintbrush, the actual ITER will be metal toned, from dull to shiny gray.

Unless otherwise stated the source of the figures originate with  We have modified and colorized most, but the basic drawings for the  images are from ITER organization.

Fig 2 is a thin slice out of Fig 1. Continue reading

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If I explain, they will accept. Uh, umm

Today’s has a link to one of Katharine Hayhoe’s latest videos.

Facts don’t convince.  This video (Fig 1) is a very solid description on why you cannot come up to someone, just explain the technical facts about something, then expect them to change their ideas – change their acceptances, their beliefs, their feelings of happiness or anger.

Hayhoe - facts don't convince

Fig 1  Opening screen, to a very grown-up presentation

This is very true, and the person becomes less amenable to facts, the more technical training they have.   She uses global warming as her topic, but it is true throughout all experience.  Her reasons are _ well, watch it for yourself.

Global weirding series

Fig 2  Global Weirding start screen

Katharine is one sharp person, who has been the topic two of LastTechAge posts – she is an evangelical Christian and an important Climate Scientist . (I think I have her correct order-of-importance, though I have never met her, nor had any kind of communication.)

Oh, brother, do I agree with her discussion!  Our last two Global Warming posts were not to change anyone’s attitude; but to explain to those who want to accept the inevitable that it is okay to say that climate change destruction is new, horrible and is our doings.

postscript —————
I refer to her here as “Katharine” because normal Americans are uncomfortable with Dr. WhatsTheName.  Same kind of reason I sign off as Charles, although I actually go by either Charlie or Dr. Armentrout.  (More people than imagined by my younger self have an uncomfortable, even hostile response to my preferred personal name!)

Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2017 Aug 9
This is listed under Natural Resources in the >Global Warming thread
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