ASFO 2022–09–24

In which I step outside my usual track and talk about Computers and “AI” for a bit. This is, if anything, a propos of the misguided efforts to tame inflation by depressing wages, when labour productivity has grown much more rapidly than wages since the 1970s, with the result that direct labour costs are a less proportion of the cost of providing goods and services than they ever have been. Also something about a video game and what it implies for our efforts towards space settlement. Maybe next week we’ll have a Double Asteroid Redirect Test or SLS launch to talk about.

Supplementary Show

2022–09–30 Readings (with my copious commentary) from a slim volume entitled The Breeder Reactor, published by the Scottish Academic Press, reporting a meeting at the University of Strathclyde, 25 March 1977. Foreword by JS Forrest FRS (editor), Setting the Scene by Sir Samuel Curran FRS (Principal and Vice–chancellor of the University), and the first part of The Birth of the Breeder by Lord (Sir Christopher) Hinton of Bankside, OM, KBE, FRS ― in which he admits to having essentially stolen enriched uranium from the weapons program.

This appears to be from 1970s IBM training materials
A desktop with a mailing envelope on which the recipient address has been obfuscated ; some pro-nuclear stickers and pamphlets ; and an accompanying letter
Sample parcel of stickers as mailed to a Reddit user

ASFO 2022–09–10

Back from the Worldcon, hopefully back to doing regular shows. Yes, I have a report to give on the convention (photos here), as well as opinions to express about people who think refrigeration is wasteful, and a campaign in the Netherlands to conserve gas by getting people to bathe less. But first : poetry!

Photo of the "Man and Atom" display at Chicon 8. There are two tables with exhibits on them, and hortatory table fronts. Above these are displays of art. In the background is the famous Lunar Orbiter low-angle photo of Copernicus, printed on cloth.
“Man and Atom” display at Chicon 8. That’s me in green.

Supplemental Show

  • 2022–09–13 After a little glitch at the start, I read two leaflets (“Monroe Faces Tomorrow” and “Atomic Power for Peace and Prosperity”) about the Enrico Fermi breeder reactor plant at Lagoona Beach near Monroe, Michigan ; and then I start on a coffee–table book entitled The Nuclear Age by Jacques Leclercq of Electricité de France. I get through the front and back jacket matter, and the preface by Marcel Boiteux of EdF. The recording cuts off just as I get to the end of the preface, but none of the text is omitted.
  • 2022–09–16 Foreword to The Nuclear Age by Lord Marshall of Goring (Dr Sir Walter Marshall, sometime head of both the Central Electricity Generating Board and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority), followed by reading the section headings and attempts to describe the accompanying paintings. According to the artist’s Web site, the paintings can now be viewed in the City Hall of the French town of Gravelines.

ASFO 2022–08–13

Does electrification lead to moral laxity? Pinball machines are electric–powered, after all! I give my account of a California public hearing on the possible life extension of Diablo Canyon, and muse on what seems to me the similarity between the anti–nuclear movement and cults or thought–reform movements. Also, mail call! And an acknowledgement of gifts of support.

Supplemental Show

2022–08–16 From Nuclear Energy and Alternatives, the conclusion of the Spinrad piece from last week ; Observations on Alternatives to the Breeders by Edward Teller and Relative Merits of Alternative Fuel Cycles by Hans Bethe.

ASFO 2022–08–06

My plans for the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, revealed! Also, two new films ; worries about the inexplicable Russian assault on the Zaporizhian Nuclear Power Plant, and the effect on world public opinion if something goes badly wrong there ; and a tiny bit of good news about the food supply.

Supplementary Show

  • 2022–08–09 Continuing with Nuclear Energy and Alternatives : the conclusion of the Nicholson piece from last time ; Views on Plutonium Breeder Development and Deployment, by John E Gray (International Energy Associates Limited), a rather tedious item with lots of numbered lists ; and the beginning of Plutonium–fueled Fast Reactors as Secure Fuel Cycles, by Bernard I Spinrad, Oregon State University. I am doubtful a reactor can itself be a “fuel cycle”, but aside from that, he seems to have some good things to say.
  • 2020–08–12 Somehow I convinced myself to start the Spinrad piece over from the beginning. And in the process, I managed yet again to almost finish it, running out of time before the final paragraph.

ASFO 2022–07–30

Financialization, the scourge of the modern world ; a distinction between directed and undirected growth ; “lifestyle environmentalists” ; why the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” is unlikely to do anything useful ; a brief animadversion on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ; and a mention of the situation in France (will have to get back to that next week).

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ASFO 2022–07–23

There’s a shortage of fresh water in the East Cape region of South Africa, and I (to employ a little contemporary argot) get salty about it. Also, the gas crisis continues, and the Europeans continue to avoid facing facts ; and I find myself working on something I call the Man and Atom Briefing Book.

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ASFO 2022–07–16

Why do people listen to Alex Jones, and not to me? how come, when you give people what they say they want, they don’t like it? and some musings on the surprising ineffectiveness of trying to make democracy work by picking the right people to participate in it. Also, two new films : one in French from France, and one in Russian from the USSR. Up soon will be one in Italian from Germany! (Live transmission started a minute or two late, unfortunately, but I think I made the best of the remaining time.)

As a reminder, if you want “Man and Atom” stickers which you can slap over stickers or graffiti promoting other, lesser cranks, just send a self–addressed stamped envelope to Post Office Box 1035, Fort Worth, Texas 76101, with some kind of note to indicate what you expect to receive in return, and I will happily send them to you. I’ll be even happier if you send money, but it’s not required.

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ASFO 2022–06–04

Western converts to Buddhism are somehow in my line of ire? Honestly, it’s more about writers who begin statements consisting of bare assertion with the phrase “we know that…” This show is notable for long quotations from people I whose positions I feel the need to assail. As Levar Burton always said on Reading Rainbow, “don’t take my word for it!” Also I use backyard swimming pools as an extended metaphor, or something.

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ASFO 2022–05–28

Speech! It is at the heart of what we do and how we experience the world, as humans, and yet it is inherently limited by distance and ephemerality. That is, it was limited until the second half of the 19th century, when the telephone and the phonograph utterly changed that key aspect of human existence. Was this the “real” Singularity? What kinds of technologies might come in the future which could have any such effect on the human condition?

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ASFO 2022–05–21

Doomsayers and death–cultists receive a stinging rebuke, as I explain why ― even if you are chary of trusting me with a billion dollars ― you ought at least to vouchsafe me a hundred million to rehabilitate the NS Savannah. Also, what is my beef with solar power, anyway?

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