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)

ASFO 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!

ASFO 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.

A billboard advertising conspiracy-theory Web site "The Epoch Times" and claiming "#1 Trusted News"
[citation needed]

ASFO 2024–01–27

This episode, in all honesty, slides rapidly off the rails. 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 and reassurance in the concrete form of a declarative social order. 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 for 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, perhaps the greatest threat to our future.

Two mailing envelopes, with space stamps on them, one with a space-station hologram cachet. Also, circular stickers with mottoes "Atomic Power to the People", "Split Atoms Not Wood" and "No Blood for Oil / Atoms for Peace"
Some of the contents of the envelopes pictured above, including a "coin card", a sample copy of "blast", and leaflets.
An example of premiums received by Patreon supporters

ASFO 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.

US Postal Service pre-printed postcards from 1989 (15c "America the Beautiful" issue), four to a letter-size sheet, overprinted with a "Man and Atom" return-address cachet, with 36c of postage added, and printed on the other side with a promotional message, and a "Split Atoms not Wood" sticker attached.
Outgoing mail!

ASFO 2024–01–13

Mail call! In this episode, I try (following on from a perhaps–surprising observation last week) to consider the reasons why people might employ, in public discourse, racialized ideas which are clearly defective. Also a gas explosion.

Coin card presentation folder, laid over the envelope it came in, in such a way as to obscure the address but show the postage stamps
Photo of a “Man and Atom” coin card, as received by a Patreon supporter

ASFO 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.

On a worktable, a white ceramic roller-moistener sits, accompanied by envelopes in manila, cream, and white, and the working end of a long-arm stapler
“The Moistener” sounds like a Silver–Age comic–book villain, but is actually a very useful piece of office equipment

ASFO 2023–12–30

As the old year passes away, I try to leave with hope, rather than dread and forebodings. A better future is ours to build ― we cannot depend on gods to bestow it upon us. And that means we must learn lessons from what we are doing now and have done in the past, and let the understanding so gained (sometimes most bitterly gained) guide what we do with the awesome powers we have developed through scientific technology. Unfortunately, (in a roundabout way) because I was nearly crushed by a falling shelving unit an hour before the show, I ended up talking at length about computer technologies and their applications and misapplications, which is not my usual topic nor my field of expertise.

Several folded letter-size sheets of cardstock, printed with text and images. One lies open, revealing a bright yellow card perforated with a hole, in which a coin is pressed. Affixed to the card is a blue "Atoms for Peace" postage stamp,
Coin cards (see last week’s post) in their presentation folders, ready to mail
A heap of booklets. In large hand-drawn letters, running vertically downward, is the title "blast". "Sample Copy" is stamped on them in red.
Sample copies of blast, also ready to mail

ASFO 2023–12–23

Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men! This is one of those shows in which I read poetry, so if you don’t like that, you are now properly warned. One poem is 160 years old, the other, more than 2400.

Supplementary Show

2023–12–29 Selections from “Let’s Talk About the Atom”, “Let’s Talk About Energy”, and “Energy and the Atom” with the general theme of future.

Nine cards of different colors in a three-by-three arrangement. Each shows a US 3-cent "Atoms for Peace" postage stamp of 1955, and a Greek 10-drachma coin depicting Democritus, father of the atomic theory. A tenth card is turned over to show the back.
Pick a colour!

ASFO 2023–12–16

A new film transfer for your viewing delight! A tease of something which patrons have seen and everybody will be able to see soon ; more about plastics recycling ; an extended discussion of the implication of rapid adoption of hand–held computers with radio data links ; and a few thoughts about the unexpected dystopian scenario in which so–called AI (which certainly is not “artificial intelligence” by any believable definition) is using humans as end effectors to destroy other humans. Skynet and its Terminators would arguably have been preferable!

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–12–18 DJ Marcus, in his “News to Me” timeslot, played a recording of US President Eisenhower’s famous “Atoms for Peace” speech, delivered 8 December 1953. We thank him for that!
  • 2023–12–22 “Atomic Year 25”, and some other selections from Argonne National Laboratory and the American Nuclear Society on the subject of breeder reactors, in an attempt to provide some kind of commemoration for EBR–I.
Photo of the French gaseous-diffusion plant at Pierrelatte, with superimposed text "La Separation des Isotopes de l'Uranium (Diffusion Gazeuse)"