“A Step Farther Out” 2024 Shows

ASFO airs weekly at 19z00, with occasional bonus shows at 15z00 Tuesdays or Fridays. In this post you will find links to recordings of the shows from 2024, each accompanied by a brief description.

The Magic of the Atom

To understand what this show is about, and for the shows from 2021, go here. For 2022 shows, go here, and for 2023 shows, here.

  • 2024–01–06 First show of the year, and I manage to flub the date. No, I didn’t announce that it was 2024 ― I announced that it was January 7th! I mention a couple of money–related annoyances that may perhaps be relevant to the topic of robustness and resiliency ; and briefly wax rhapsodic about a piece of antique office equipment I bought ; before spending some time attacking the concepts of nationality and race which loom so large among the reasons why people today are willing to kill one another.
  • 2024–01–13 Following on from a perhaps–surprising observation last week, I try to consider the reasons why people might employ, in public discourse, racialized ideas which are clearly defective. Also, a gas explosion.
  • 2024–01–20 This should be the last I talk about “racism” for a good long while. I try to connect it with what appears to me to be the desire, among many people for a declarative social order. Also, news from Morris, Illinois, and the Moon ; and burning hoverboards, possibly the most futuristic–sounding calamity of the past few months.
  • 2024–01–27 This episode, in all honesty, slides off the rails fairly quickly. If you didn’t expect to hear the term “bronies” on this show, you’re scarcely alone ― I didn’t expect to use it! But it turns out to be relevant to the notion I explored last week, of a yearning for stability as expressed in a declarative order of society. And this seems to be connected to something I have discussed before, the fear of decay and collapse and catastrophic loss. So I spend a while discussing how this affects, and is in turn affected by, our prospects for space settlement. We have reasons to hope, we have the means to endow that hope with materiality, but we have to believe that or it is worthless. And that lack of belief leads to radical and destructive politics, which truly threaten us.
  • 2024–02–03 Hope is the necessary thing for making the world better! That’s a message you frequently hear from me, and the reason for it is that humans have immense power to re–shape the world in which we live, to make it better for ourselves. Therefore it is of vital importance to spread a message of hope, and it is very disturbing to see the efforts being made to spread despair, and the success they meet with. Hence I renew my pleas for support. Also I speculate on whether Washington DC local news might have more of an effect on US policy than electoral or strategic considerations, and propose steps which the Federal government can and should take towards a sound domestic and global energy policy.
  • 2024–02–10 Rickshaws (Japanese 人力車 jinrikisha, “human–powered vehicle”) considered ; the Myth of the Golden Age and its dangers ; and the real answer to the Nuclear Waste Problem. Also I get to make one of my utterly megalomaniacal statements. Plus, Mail Call!
  • 2024–02–17 Cryptocurrency ― leading contender for “scam of the century” before generative AI came along ― was estimated to account for approximately 2% of US electricity consumption last year. That is twelve times what was used by electrified railways, and exceeds the whole consumption of the States of Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont, and the District of Columbia put together ― more than seven and a half million people, in a country which uses more than half again as much electricity per head of population as the average for wealthy countries, and almost four times the average for the world as a whole. And to what end? Yet it is almost certainly one example among many.
  • 2024–02–24 Congratulations to Intuitive Machines for the soft landing of their Nova–C vehicle “Odysseus”. Also, economics, real and virtual – the subordination of the former, which supplies the goods and services people actually consume, to the latter, seems to be a major cause of trouble in our modern world, and inspires the question, what exactly is a market? Also, BANANAs on the march ; “Stranger Danger” a dogma in America ; and Mail Call!
  • 2024–03–02 The anodyne syrup of the “solar–hydrogen economy” keeps mankind suckling at the fossil–fuel teat when we should long since have moved on to adult foods. Also, computer programmers once again prove unable to deal with intercalation, even when it comes on a regular schedule, and has for centuries past ; congratulations to Georgia Power on first synchronization of Vogtle 4 ; and, who are your heroes?
  • 2024–03–09 De–extensification provides a better approach to environmental problems than de–growth, because it is more compatible with human aspirations and well–being, although it still seems as though a good en– would be preferable to any sort of de–. (More thoughts on this topic here.) It also helps to explain why nuclear energy is preferable to renewable energy. Also, Keller Independent School District is at it again, where by “it” I mean “providing a microcosm of American politics”. And I did get some scan files from Sandia. (Minor technical trouble at the beginning.)
  • 2024–03–16 The difference between disextensification (better name urgently needed) and degrowth is the difference between “doing more with less” and “doing less with less”. The former views the un–sustainability of economic expansion as primarily a practical, the latter as primarily a moral problem, and that in turn reflects the question of what value we place on human life and welfare. Also, is “building the world’s largest aeroplane for a single narrowly–defined purpose” an invariable sign of an idea that has been taken too far, and fallen into absurdity?
  • 2024–03–23 Is the Fifth US Circuit Court out to give me an aneurysm? Also, once more with feeling, battery–electric cars will not make cities any easier to live in ; new large–format scans ; and blast №1 is close to being ready.
  • 2024–03–30 Electricity is the only industrial commodity that must be consumed before it is produced — a koan for the modern age? Also, a warning against attempting to live in the world of signs, rather than of things signified ; and the case for a railway in Iceland.
  • 2024–04–06 Owing to a mishap, the actual show starts about 20 minutes into the recording. It’s just long enough for me to mention progress with blast, and compare the Coire Glas pumped storage scheme in Scotland, which will be the largest in the world with 30 GWh of capacity, to the daily output of one EPR nuclear generating unit, of which two are being built at Hinkley Point C, 38·4 GWh. The UK grid is already one of the best–provided in the world with storage, with 24 GWh. Since average electrical consumption of the UK (over the course of a year) is 36 GW, the total after this addition will be 90 minutes of average system load. A far cry from the 10 days or more that wind– and solar–heavy energy supply projections call for!
  • 2024–04–13 Not the most focused show, but no prevaricating about the bush from me! The Conquest of Pestilence in New York City, LCOE (Levelized Cost of Electricity) versus LCOLC (Levelized Cost of Load Carriage), intercontinental air travel versus atomic train travel, caloric value of food, its insufficiencies and excesses and its sources, and the problem of expectations generally.
  • 2024–04–20 Mostly progress reports, on blast and the Payphone Thing. I talk about the use of hypertext in conjunction with, or as a support for, printed text ; and the motivation for presenting information through an interface which may seem uniquely irrelevant in today’s world ; with a brief digression into one possible way I might use a substantially larger amount of financial support. I also spend a minute questioning what seem like senseless political choices, particularly when purported priorities conflict with actual policies, leading me back to the idea of “leaving room for Nature”.
  • 2024–04–27 Expectation versus reality — exploding vehicle batteries and other gray–market electrical gimcracks, nuclear wastelands, air–quality speed limits, and so forth.
  • 2024–05–04 Dragonfly, the probe–aircraft which NASA has decided will soon be sent on its way to Titan, the giant moon of Saturn, is in my thoughts today. In particular, I want to know where the plutonium–238 for its thermoelectric power source will come from. Otherwise, I mostly discuss my travel plans, both for returning to the USA and for this autumn ; Deutsches Museum, one of the greatest science and technology museums in the world ; and the curious railway station at Eisenstein, where the border between Germany and the Czech Republic is halfway along the platform.
  • 2024–05–11 Did you see the Aurora Borealis last night? It was visible quite far south. (There was Aurora Australis too.) Also, Mail Call! And economists (not for the first time) get the sharp edge of my tongue as I reflect on one of the world’s most baffling megaprojects, “Neom ‘The Line’”.
  • 2024–05–18 Commentary on the European political scene, housing, the costs of the renewable energy we have been assured is so very cheap, and the general problem of fitting the tool to the task. Also, I think I am ready to release the initial number of blast.
  • 2024–05–25 Can I solve all the problems of the Japanese economy? Absolutely not. But I might make a few suggestions as to how to reduce fuel use, to the benefit of the balance–of–payments and the value of the yen, and at the same time relieve the pressures that drive people from the rural areas to the cities. Also, US Customs and Border Protection leads me to talk about the problems of Internet social media, which is usually far off my path, and make comparisons with other forms of communication ; and a little bit of capitalism and its discontents. Also, a final version of blast №1 is now available (with extensive commentary).
  • 2024–06–01 More on “blast” and further efforts with payphones ; aspersions on the US education system ; a US Government press release which may be good news for nuclear, but not for anyone hoping for scientific and engineering literacy among the policy–making class ; and a somewhat abstract and poetic thought about one of the intersections of politics with engineering, in which I use the phrase “touched by the finger of Vulcan”. (Start is just slightly late.)
  • 2024–06–08 Nico–Clean? What in the world? Also, the engineered physical systems which make life in the modern world possible (often prosaically called infrastructure) and the obligation to keep them up ; the value of immigrants and refugees, and the stupidity (quite separate from any moral or human–right arguments) of refusing them ; and a lesson, in the context of Internet social media, in cause and reasonably–foreseeable effect.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2024–04–08 My live narration of the solar eclipse, from my backyard, which got about 2 minutes 50 seconds of totality.
  • 2024–04–23 Starting a little late, I read from the notes to blast №1, and then a couple of supporting articles from Architectural Record magazine (reprinted 1955 in a volume entitled Architectural Engineering). I subsequently called in to OpenVoIP to finish the second piece.
  • 2024–05–31 From The Fast–Neutron Fission Breeder Reactor, the Proceedings of a discussion meeting held 24 and 25 May 1989, reprinted from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Series A) : Introductory remarks by RS Pease, FRS ; The science of fast reactors and why it has been studied, by G Vendryes (CEA) ; and just the first little bit of Engineering and design of fast reactors by M Köhler (Interatom). Unlike The Breeder Reactor, this is not intended for a general audience, but as it is meant for the non–specialist, at least parts of it should be reasonably accessible, and those are the parts I mean to read for you.
  • 2024–06–04 Again from The Fast–Neutron Fission Breeder Reactor, I go back to the beginning of Engineering and design of fast reactors by Köhler and read the whole thing, and then some “General Discussion”.
  • 2024–06–07 More from The Fast–Neutron Fission Breeder Reactor : Environmental aspects of the fast reactor fuel cycle by GM Jordan and LEJ Roberts FRS. This is a bit less accessible, and narrowly-focussed on radioactive discharges to the environment, but the basic conclusion that most of the environmental impacts of atomic power are associated with uranium mining, and thus reduced 100-fold by the regenerative fuel cycle, seems clear enough.

Author: publius

Fools! I will destroy you all!!