“A Step Farther Out”

If you recall the Eames Office film “Powers of Ten” ― we humans are at the midpoint between the galaxies and the atomic nucleus. It’s a great place to be!

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Saturdays, 19h UTC

Why would I start a new show, when I have trouble keeping up with the one I already have?

This is a completely different concept, and will be a completely different format (whatever the format ends up being), from Hear Now the Words. About all they have in common is my speaking voice. HNtW is the show in which I read stories written by other people. ASFO is the show in which I talk about what I think are interesting and worthwhile things to know and think about. That is going to involve atomic energy and space travel a great deal. As I see it, those are two defining features of human existence in the present age, which is the age of transition from planetary to cosmic existence. If we fail to think about them, and get them in the correct perspective, we may not make that transition successfully. And that is a thought too hideous, too sorrowful, to bear examination.

Man and Atom Society "Atomic Fist" logo, with the slogan "Atomic Power to the People!"
“Atomic Power to the People!” Slogan of the Man and Atom Society

The title of the show pays tribute to the late Jerry Pournelle. Dr Pournelle was a great early advocate of the personal computer, and had a column in Byte magazine for years. His column in Galaxy, however, A Step Farther Out (collected in a couple of paperback volumes under that title), was not about computers. aNONradio, by its very nature as part of the SDF community, is never going to lack shows about computers.

With the encouragement of the SDF admin team, I am still working on the format. I may decided to approach it as a call–in panel show, or I may go to a pre–recorded format… I am not sure yet. Please bear with me as I develop this concept.

ASFO Shows from 2021
(for 2022, go here)

  • 2021–05–29 This show was done by dialing in to the conference bridge on the SDF VoIP system, also used for aNONradio OpenVoIP. I spent much of the time discussing the growth in energy use since 1700, why the movement toward a high–energy society is a good thing, and why it has relied up to the present on fossil fuels despite their obvious problems. I end with a cliffhanger, so tune in next time!
  • 2021–06–05 In which I take a long digression on the significance of energy to women in particular, and then a further one to address the fraught topic of “Nazi rocket scientists”. Some folks find it difficult to accept that the USA employed Wernher von Braun, and I don’t say they’re wrong to feel this way ― but there is some context which desperately begs to be discussed.
  • 2021–06–12 Grain bin robots, bicycle dynamos, and the Will of God.
  • 2021–06–19 More about the Will of God ; more on means versus ends, and the question of why I see a most instructive contrast between nuclear energy and “renewables”, but a vital conflict between nuclear and fossil fuels ; a brief description of the (non–) problem of nuclear wastes ; and a thumbnail sketch of the potential of space solar (pops ’em like popcorn!).
  • 2021–06–26 Is Brazil hoping that signing the Artemis Accords will get the USA to stop blocking its space program? Is Jeff Bezos going to get a chance to build a lunar lander for NASA? Is space settlement an existential threat to humanity? Is blue-green algae responsible for nuclear power?
  • 2021–07–03 “Personal spaceflight participants” versus “passengers” ; the concentration of wealth and its consequences (good and bad), an expression of doubt regarding “employers” as a concept ; and the Xinjiang PV sanctions.
  • 2021–07–10 Gold, copper, value added, and the economy of Chile (with a digression into trains) ; the SpaceShip Two concept of operations, and Tim Pickens’ hybrid rocket motor ; the Karmann Line and the definition of “Outer Space” ― no, “explosive decompression” is not a thing spacemen have to worry about, unlike deep–sea divers ; and intellectual blind spots.
  • 2021–07–17 More about copper, as well as the development of ancient agricultural civilizations, and what those apparently unrelated things tell us about the concept of “overpopulation” ― also best wishes for Jeff Mezos’ ascent to the Bezosphere, planned for the Glorious 20th of July.
  • 2021–07–24 A restatement of basic principles, including why the Cosmos is the true home of Man ; and how Sesame Street and peanut butter demolish the “Marching Morons” ideology.
  • 2021–07–31 Venezuela as a macroeconomic example, and the Parting of the Ways.
  • 2021–08–07 An intentional minute of silence to follow some unplanned dead air ; acknowledgements ; things worse than Venezuela ; Man, the animal who (for better or worse) creates his own environment ; Grid is Good.
  • 2021–08–14 More about grids, solutions which solve nothing (and which nobody really believes in anyway), the South Asian Brown Cloud, and urban leopards. Also a minute or two of confusion at the beginning.
  • 2021–08–21 Space news (with a brief digression into “New Space” versus “Dino–Space”) and the value of having more than one string to one’s bow ; problems I would not attempt to solve using nuclear energy, with a little thought about setting priorities ; and just what is this pastoralism that I’m always inveighing against, anyway?
  • 2021–08–28 Live from Munich, capitol of the Free State (former kingdom) of Bavaria, in the Federal Republic of Germany ― more on how German energy policy is causing domestic and international political turmoil, and damaging both German industry and (by implication) the environment.
  • 2021–09–04 Pre–recorded because I was attending pro–nuclear–energy rallies, first in the city center of Augsburg (where I gave an impromptu speech, with simultaneous translation), and then at the nuclear power station at Gundremmingen on the upper Danube. Turnout at the latter was quite poor, in part perhaps because of ongoing railway strikes. Anyway, I discuss the fission–fusion energy economy, food irradiation, the second worst civil power reactor accident ever (which you have never heard of), and a few other minor topics.
  • 2021–09–11 Another pre–recorded show, just to make it more convenient to include the audio from the speech I gave the previous week (also available on YouTube). Somehow, that leads into a discussion of plastic waste, fish farming, and the fresh water supply problem of the Lima–Callao megalopolis in Peru.
  • 2021–09–18 Eighteen people in orbit at one time, for what must have been the first time, albeit only for about a day ; a brief discussion of the “9/11” show I could have done, but chose not to ; and I read the statement from the Prime Minister of Australia purporting to announce the planned acquisition of nuclear–powered submarines in cooperation with the USA and UK, and discuss why it makes no sense whatsoever.
  • 2021–09–25 A very rambly show. I start off by apologizing for not attending the “big climate rally” on Friday the 24th, which is in principle an ideal venue to speak out with hope and positivity, and and remind people that we do have solutions to our problems ― but a pro–nuclear activist was assaulted at the march in Berlin. Then I try (with a little help from Chauncey Starr, one–time Director–General of the International Atomic Energy Agency) to dig into the mindset of the “Negawatts not Megawatts” people, who say we just need to cut back energy use. This leads me to comparing energy and electricity consumption figures for various countries ― 6.81 “tonnes oil equivalent” primary energy supply, and 13 098 kilowatt hours of electricity, per head of population and per annum in the United States, 5.33 and 24 047 in Norway, 17.40 / 54 605 in Iceland with its enormous hydroelectric potential ; 2.30 and 4906 in PR China, 1.90 / 6299 in Hong Kong, 4.65 / 11 227 in Taiwan ; 5.47 and 11 082 in South Korea, 0.56 / 509 in North Korea. [All figures refer to 2018, and are taken from the 2020 edition of OECD–IEA Key World Energy Statistics.] This further leads me to discuss the fascinating inversion by which manufactured goods are now being sold by poorer countries to wealthier ones, and to tie that to changing patterns of energy consumption, and thus to the enormous human and environmental cost of coal mining in China. Maybe I’ll be more coherent next week!
  • 2021–10–09 After a week involuntarily taken off due to technical difficulties, I narrate my visit on 3 October to the open day at the Heinz Maier–Leibnitz Neutron Source. The “source” is a specialized nuclear reactor (but the people in charge of it will thank you not to talk about that), otherwise known as FRM–II, the successor to the original Forschungs–Reaktor München (Munich Research Reactor), built by American Machine & Foundry in 1957, and noted at the time for its ellipsoidal aluminium dome.
  • 2021–10–23 (substitute show)
  • 2021–10–30 The two Texas Tokamaks ; a quick look at the new German coalition goverment, featuring the amazing Schulz–o–Mat™ ; and an idea for an extremely provoking ad campaign.
  • 2021–11–06 William Shatner is old and fat, and COP 26 accomplishes nothing. Not exactly breaking news!
  • 2021–11–13 Aleksandr Lukashenka of Belarus offers to help Europe reduce its carbon emissions, and everybody is mad at him for some reason. Also a digression on the horridness of Veblen goods.
  • 2021–11–20 Waiting for Kessler Syndrome ; “think global, act local” ; and a Climate Marshall Plan.
  • 2011–11–27 Much complaining about Greens, their mendacity, and its effect on public discourse. Also a brief report of a conversation with Dr Knief, author of a text on nuclear engineering for commercial power plants ; the Russian coal mine explosion (coal kills!) ; musings about nuance ; and a questionable word coinage. Surely I can come up with something better than “cosmification”.
  • 2021–12–04 A letter from the President of the United States! No, not a notice from the Draft Board.
  • 2021–12–11 Revised plans for the World Science Fiction Convention (15―19 December, Washington, DC) ; and the question of what we gain by allocating energy and other resources to “space tourism”. My answer? Hope, first and foremost ― and that may be the most important thing of all. Also some audience interaction, digressing into the proper use of the term “black light”, and the scammy use of ionizing radiation to give odd colours to glass and gemstones.
  • 2021–12–25 Last show of the year! In which I ramble quite a bit about the World Science Fiction Convention, the unsatisfactory outcome of the Site Selection voting there, and some spectacular posters by Frank Kelly Freas which I acquired for the shockingly low price of nothing at all.

Supplementary Shows

  • I appeared on the Thingularity Radio Hour, produced by the Catskill Maker Syndicate and broadcast by WGXC-FM 90.7, Acra, New York, on 2021–05–06. I used my Hear Now the Words timeslot on the following day to get the recording into the aNONradio archives. Topics discussed included the well–worn “humans versus robots”, in which I of course came down on the side of humans. Robots don’t have a purpose independent of us!
  • 2021–09–14 (an experiment at using the new “dial–in” feature during the regular Hear Now the Words! timeslot) ― Excerpts from volume XIV of the Proceedings of the 1955 Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy : “The Future of Atomic Energy” (evening lecture) by Sir John Cockcroft ; opening of first session (Monday, 1955–08–08), Welcoming Address by Mr Max Petitpierre, President of the Swiss Confederation ; Address by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammerskjold ; messages from Heads of Government of France, USSR, Britain, USA.
  • 2021–09–17 (more dial–in experimentation) ― A bit of humour from the letters column of Nuclear Power magazine, followed by more from Volume XIV of the 1955 Geneva Proceedings : President Bhabha’s opening address, plus closing addresses from the British, Mexican, Polish, Japanese, Yugoslavian (including a message from Tito), and Norwegian delegates.
  • 2021–09–21 (yet more dial–in experimentation) ― More from Volume XIV of the 1955 Geneva Proceedings : a brief address by Henri Medi, representing the Holy See ; closing address by Dr Bhabha ; and an evening lecture on Radioactive Tracers and their Applications by de Hevesy, inventor of the technique. Also an advertisement from Nuclear Power, and a digression about the prospects for power from fusion, in response to a question from the audience (in the aNONradio com room on SDF).
  • 2021–09–24 (the dial–in feature seems to be pretty well sorted out now) ― Further advertisements (of a most edifying nature) and other short bits from Nuclear Power, including a suggestion from 1958 that the displacement of combustion by fission should reduce the danger of global climate change from atmospheric CO₂ buildup ; and an impassioned plea for honesty in discussions of energy, from the Proceedings of the 1979 European Nuclear Congress and FORATOM Conference.
  • 2021–09–28 More from the 1979 ENC and FORATOM Conference. Included is my attempt at reading out part of one of the German–language contributions, because it really impressed me. A translation would be meritorious.
  • 2021–10–19 “The Role of Nuclear Energy in the Total Energy Mix” : address by Sir John Hill, chairman of UKAEA and BNFL, to the November 1972 joint meeting of the American Nuclear Society and Atomic Industrial Forum, in Washington DC, as reprinted in ATOM 194, 1972 December.
  • 2021–10–22 More extracts from the 1979 ENC/FORATOM conference proceedings ― the title of the volume, and theme of the conference, was “Nuclear Power Option for the World”.
  • 2021–10–26 An abbreviated recording, just the conclusion of the last item in the 10–22 show, “Impact of US Policy on the World Energy Situation” from US Representative Mike McCormack.
  • 2021–10–29 More from the 1979 ENC/FORATOM proceedings : “The Harrisburg Event” (Three Mile Island) and “Nuclear Safety and the Environment ― A British View”.
  • 2021–11–05 Gratifyingly, I was invited back to the Thingularity Radio Hour. So here is a retransmission of the show which originally went out 2021–11–04, 23z00, on WGXC 90.7 FM community radio, Acra, New York.
  • 2021–11–09 Almost the entirety (I could probably have finished it if I hadn’t taken time for my usual interjections) of a little booklet entitled A World to Gain, the Story of the Geneva Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, published in 1956 in Britain (price 1/6) by the Atomic Sciences Committee of the Association of Scientific Workers, in cooperation with the Labour Research Department.
  • 2021–11–12 Conclusion of A World to Gain ; “The Various Facets of the Nuclear Controversy” and the beginning of “The Windscale Inquiry’s Contribution to Public Understanding” from the 1979 FORATOM/ENC proceedings.
  • 2021–11–16 “The Windscale Inquiry’s Contribution to Public Understanding”, concluded ; “Nuclear Power in the Swiss Democracy” ; and “Nuclear Power, Public Opinion and Political Evolution in Sweden”
  • 2021–11–19 From the Proceedings of the Fourth Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, 1971 (the “Atoms for Development” conference), “Global Effects of Increased Use of Energy” by Alvin Weinberg & RP Hammond, and the first part of “L’énergie nucléaire et l’avenir” by S Andrzejewski. Every decade since the 1950s, Poland has announced a nuclear power progamme, but still has none.
  • 2021–11–23 Conclusion of the Andrzejewski piece ; “Nuclear Energy and World Peace” by Mitchell Sharp, Secretary of State for External Affairs of Her Majesty’s Canadian Government ; “Review of the Work of the Conference” (beginning) by NN Bogolyubov, Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
  • 2021–11–30 Conclusion of the conference review by Bogolyubov ; closing remarks by Sigvard Eklund (IAEA Director–General) and Guy Gresford (Director for Science and Technology, United Nations) ; opening address by Rudolf Gnägi (President of the Swiss Confederation) ; messages from U Thant (Secretary–General, United Nations) and various heads of state and government.
  • 2021–12–03 Opening Addresses to the Fourth Geneva Conference by Glenn Seaborg (Conference President), Sigvard Eklund, and II Rabi. Thanks to a bit of blather from me at the beginning, I don’t get quite to the end of the Rabi piece, & will have to finish it another time.
  • 2021–12–07 Conclusion of the address by Rabi, and messages from President Nixon (USA) and Minister Kosygin (USSR) ; from the same volume, “Resources of Primary Energy” by H Mandel ; and discussion of papers presented under Agenda Item 1·2, “Survey of World Energy Demand and Resources up to the Year 2000”. I had some telephone trouble on this one.

Author: publius

Fools! I will destroy you all!!