ASFO 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.

ASFO 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!

ASFO 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.

ASFO 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?

ASFO 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.)

ASFO 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?

Cutaway model of a General Electric BWR-6 nuclear power reactor, mounted on a wooden plinth, with a plaque reading "Clinton Power Station Initial Criticality February 27, 1987".
Coming soon to a display near you

ASFO 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!

ASFO 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.

A strange red shape, square in cross-section and forming a twisted loop, against an indistinct background of diagrams
From my new film transfer, “Nuclear Fusion ― Research toward a new energy source” (German language, 1984)