Information Evolution

     DNA is a way to store information.  Magnetic domains on a surface is a way to store information.  Both are subject to an occasional error and modification.

     DNA codes for something that can propagate itself.  For the most part bits on magnetic surfaces do not.

     An exception is computer viruses.  Like DNA, usually their primary function is to make copies of themselves.  They resemble a biological virus in that they don’t have the necessary means to propagate themselves coded into them, they rely on the ability to take over resources intended for other functions.

     The rate at which both DNA and viruses mutate due to transcription errors is very very small, but lifeforms are so abundant that even the very rare useful mutation has a good chance at propagating and eventually dominating.

     Right now not the case for computer viruses.  The numbers are too small for there to be only a very trivial chance of a mutation occurring and propagating, and an even smaller chance of a useful mutation doing so.

     As the Internet continues to grow in size and complexity, and as the computing resources available to viruses continue to increase, there may come a time when computer viruses can grow sufficiently in number that useful mutations can propagate, and continue to grow.  Such a virus would be difficult for anti-viral software to eliminate because they would constantly change and not match the fingerprint the anti-virus companies generate for their software to identify them.

     Maybe some of these modifications would begin to encode for other digital life machinery making the virus less dependent upon hijacked machinery.

     Then at some point it might acquire intelligence and decide carbon based lifeforms are troublesome, threatening, and slow enough to easily eradicate.


Antartica Melting

     Seems like last year I was reading about how the ice deposits on Antarctica were growing, today I read they’re melting, “dramatically”. Of course people are going to milk as much drama out of it as they can.

     The way I see it, it’s just part of the Earth’s feedback system. 90% of the human population lives within 100 miles of the coast, so we kick out too much CO2 or methane or whatever, the ice melts, floods those 100 miles, people drown, CO2 levels go down, balance is restored.

     I don’t understand why people make such a big thing of it.


In 2014 man emitted no more carbon dioxide into the air than in 2013, this in spite of a world wide economic growth of 3%.  I view this as a very good trend, it means we’ve finally been able to grow the economy using better forms of energy than burning carbon-rich rocks.

Most of that was due to installation of wind power in China.  In 2014, China added more wind capacity than coal.  They’ve got incentive.  It’s estimated that more than 600,000 Chinese are killed each year by pollution and a loss of approximately 1.8% of agricultural output due to damage and blocked light caused by pollution.

While the fact that we didn’t increase in man-made global carbon-dioxide in 2014 is good news from a pollution standpoint, it’s also good news from an economic standpoint.  It means that renewable environmentally energy sources have become viable enough to contribute effectively to economic growth, and that in a sustainable way.

While coal use is declining in China and the US, oil consumption increased.  A lot of this increase was by industrial users of petroleum products and was the result of significantly lower cost domestic supplies.  In the long run though I think we can all expect to see oil gradually price itself out of the market.

The US Department of Energy is assisting China in building two molten-salt nuclear fission reactors.  These reactors are melt-down proof, can burn actinides that otherwise would keep waste hot for a hundred thousand years, and can extract almost 100% of the energy from Uranium or Thorium where as conventional pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors used in the United States can only extract about .6% of Uranium’s energy potential and can’t easily utilize Thorium except to the degree it can be bread in a separate breeder reactor into Uranium 233 which is fissile and can be used as a fuel.

Just using the nuclear waste we have sitting in spent fuel rod ponds from conventional reactors, these reactors could provide all the Earth’s electricity needs for 2000 years.  I’d like to see them built here so we could start ridding ourselves of some of this long term waste.  I am hopeful that if it meets with success in China, it will eventually be adopted here.

Lockheed Martin has a new approach to controlled nuclear fusion that holds great promise.  What they don’t tell you in this video is that there is more to it than being high beta, it also has a magnetic field structure that increases in strength as you get away from the centre of the plasma, this is opposite of a Tokamak where the field strength decreases as you get farther from the centre of the plasma.  This makes Lockheed’s design inherently stable as opposed to the Tokamak being inherently unstable.

I’ve maintained for years that we don’t have to live in a 6 ft3 cubical with no heat, no light, and a strictly vegetarian diet in order to live in a sustainable manner, and now I believe we are finally headed in that direction.

Threats to that are the Agenda 21 crowd, who do believe that’s how we live, and on the opposite side of the fence, conservatives who would have us live in the same manner as we did in 1950.  However, I see more and more resistance forming to Agenda 21, and I see the conservatives dying off so I have reason to hope we’ll get there.

Preparing for the Future

The last fifty years or so, the data I’ve shuffled through suggests a warming trend of about .1°C / 11-year or so solar cycle with about a .3°C difference between solar minimum and solar maximum, and then a whole lot of random variation (weather) on top of that which obscures the signals, but they are obtainable by averaging out the noise.

We can argue all day about whether it’s natural or man-made or what percentage of the warming is attributable to CO2 but I think the bottom line is that even if it is all man-made, the political will to do anything about it doesn’t exist.

It would seem in light of that the wise thing to do would be to start preparing for it, and here in the Pacific Northwest, one obvious change will be the amount of snow pack in the Cascades.  We depend upon that snow pack not only for summer water but also for much of our energy needs in the form of hydroelectric power.

In preparation for that reduced snow pack, and also to prevent massive flooding in the event of winter precipitation coming down as rain rather than snow in the Cascades, we should build more and larger reservoirs, to both hold the run-off and provide summer water for our needs.

The other big adaptation we should make is how we use water for agriculture.  Right now, if you look at central and Eastern Washington with Google Earth, you’ll see a pattern of circles in squares.  These are aerial irrigation sprinklers in a square field.  This is an extremely cheap form of irrigation, providing water is inexpensive, but it is inefficient.

With aerial sprinkler irrigation, first you loose a large percentage of the water to evaporation.  But then without any monitoring of how far water is penetrating down in the soil, too much water is used, and the result of that is the leaching of minerals out of the soil which results in a number of bad consequences.

First, it increases the salinization of rivers, and where that water is used downstream for irrigation, of soil, which inhibits growth of many crops.  The increased salinity of the water reduces the normal differentiation where it enters the seas and drives ocean currents.

Farmers then add phosphorus and nitrogen to their fields to get plants to grow.  Those plants however are deficient in other minerals, which we as humans need in our diet.  So one consequence of this poor farming practice is soil depleted in nutrients resulting plants also depleted in nutrients.

Then that phosphorus and nitrogen washes off into streams and rivers where it drives surface algae blooms depleting the water under the surface of oxygen.  The result of this are streams and rivers where fish can’t survive and huge dead spaces in the ocean where only surface algae and anaerobic bacteria (which don’t rely on oxygen but instead derive energy by combining hydrogen and sulphur producing in the process hydrogen sulphide which is a strong contributor to what gives farts their odour (methane the main constituent of farts is odourless).

There is some evidence to suggest that at least one of the great mass extinctions of the past was caused by conditions that resulted in huge blooms of these anaerobic bacteria resulting in atmospheric levels of hydrogen sulphide which were toxic (anything above about 300ppm).

Suffice it to say that global warming or no, the irrigation situation is something we should address.  The solution is drip irrigation with sensors placed at maximum root depth to turn off the water when it’s reached that depth.

There is no way of knowing the trend will continue as it has for the last fifty years, we could enter another Maunder minimum, or maybe a full scale nuclear war will result in a nuclear winter, but the odds I think favour a continuation of global warming.

Either way both of these things are good investments.  If global warming halts, we can make more electricity to sell to California, and investment in more sane farming practices will preserve our soil and provide us with more nutritious food.

Googles New Ranking Scheme – Death by Consensus

     Google has altered their scheme to rank pages no longer based upon popularity, as determined by the number and quality of incoming links, but rather by what they are considering “truth“, as based upon the number of non-comforming “facts” upon a page.

     That is to say if your page agrees with the majority of tripe on the Internet as a whole, it is ranked high, if it disagrees, it is ranked low.  So mass-media, like, “Unfair and Unbalanced Fox News”, can flood the net with “facts“, and anyone who disagrees with them, no matter how valid and well supported their argument may be, simply won’t get heard because their page contains ideas that are counter to those of the majority.

     Do no evil?  I think not!  This is about as Orwellian as a twist as Google could have possibly given the Internet.