Technology & Energy

NSA spying eye

June 23, 2017 | WashingtonsBlog

The government is spying on most Americans through our computers, phones, cars, buses, streetlights, at airports and on the street, via mobile scanners and drones, through our credit cards and smart meters, televisions, dolls, and in many other ways.

Yesterday, ZDNet reported that the NSA uses a trick to get around the few flimsy American laws on spying … they shuttle internet traffic overseas so they can pretend they’re monitoring foreign communications:

Pinocchio

James Corbett | May 20, 2017 | The Corbett Report

“I’ve got no strings
So I have fun
I’m not tied up to anyone
They’ve got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me!”

Pinocchio is the story of a marionette that dreams of becoming a real boy. He wishes upon a star, proves himself selfless, brave and true, and a kind fairy grants him his heart's one true desire.

When the history of the 21st century is written, it could very well be the story of real boys and girls that willingly become marionettes. They stare blankly into their smartphones, prove themselves selfish, cowardly and false, and a group of technocrats puppeteer them.

hacked

Paul Craig Roberts | May 15, 2017 | Institute for Political Economy

There is no such thing as cyber security. The only choice is more security or less security, as the recent hack of the National Security Agency demonstrates.

Hackers stole from NSA a cyber weapon, which has been used in attacks (at time of writing) on 150 countries, shutting down elements of the British National Health Service, the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, automakers Renault and Nissan, Russia’s Interior Ministry, Federal Express, the energy company PetroChina, and many more.

The news spin is to not blame NSA for its carelessness, but to blame Microsoft users for not updating their systems with a patch issued two months ago. But the important questions have not been asked: What was the NSA doing with such malware and why did NSA not inform Microsoft of the malware?

Opium den

| May 2, 21017 | Collapse of Industrial Civilization

…. The passing of empire.

The dank and musty allure of 19th century opium dens beckoned to those weak of will and lustful for escape. An opioid fuel of sorts, nature’s stock for an addiction that consumed its adherents in exchange for a state of nonchalant bliss, a temporary reprieve from the thousand paper cuts of life.

electric transmission towers

Gary Novak | April 29, 2017 | Science Errors blog

An electric auto will convert 5-10% of the energy in natural gas into motion. A normal vehicle will convert 20-30% of the energy in gasoline into motion. That's 3 or 4 times more energy recovered with an internal combustion vehicle than an electric vehicle.

Electricity is a specialty product. It's not appropriate for transportation. It looks cheap at this time, but that's because it was designed for toasters, not transportation. Increase the amount of wiring and infrastructure by a factor of a thousand, and it's not cheap.

Chernobyl reactor 4

Fairewinds Energy Education | April 26, 2017

Today (April 26th) marks the 31st commemoration of the disastrous nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, originally located in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The atomic core exploded and then caught fire, burning for 9-days straight and spewing deadly amounts of radiation into the atmosphere over an area covering 58,000 square miles. For those of us living in the United States, that area is larger than the whole State of New York. Now, its radioactive legacy is left to the Ukraine to manage for thousands of years while the world waits for the intense radioactivity to decay away. The USSR official government toll claimed that only 30 people died in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, but the disasters full impact on the health of the area’s residents is much worse than authorities are willing to admit.

Titanic Sinking

By Mark Robinowitz | March 3, 2017 | PeakChoice.org

As climate chaos intensifies, some environmentalists are focused on direct action protests to stop fracking, shut off tar sands pipelines and leave fossil fuels in the ground. These are worthy goals, but they come with an inconvenient price: fracking and tar sands delayed the arrival of energy rationing, which is likely to be an intensely unpopular permanent economic shock.

Conventional oil extraction in the US peaked in 1970. Fracking gave a second, smaller peak that that is ebbing now due to debt and depletion. The global peak of conventional oil was a decade ago.

Hal

The Financial Times’ Special Report (2/16/2017) published a four-page spread on the ‘use and possible dangers of artificial intelligence (AI)’. Unlike the usual trash journalists who serve as Washington’s megaphones on the editorial pages and political columns, the Special Report is a thoughtful essay that raises many important issues, even as it is fundamentally flawed.

The writer, Richard Walters, cites several major problems accompanying AI from ‘public anxieties, to inequalities and job insecurity’. Walters pleads with those he calls the ‘controllers of autonomous systems’ to heed social and ‘political frictions’ or face societal ‘disruption’. Experts and journalists, discussing the long-term, large-scale destruction of the working class and service jobs, claim that AI can be ameliorated through management and social engineering.

Fukushima Radiation Fallout Map

By

Year over year, ever since 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown grows worse and worse, an ugly testimonial to the inherent danger of generating electricity via nuclear fission, which produces isotopes, some of the most deadly poisonous elements on the face of the planet.

Fukushima Diiachi has been, and remains, one of the world’s largest experiments, i.e., what to do when all hell breaks lose aka The China Syndrome. “Scientists still don’t have all the information they need for a cleanup that the government estimates will take four decades and cost ¥8 trillion. It is not yet known if the fuel melted into or through the containment vessel’s concrete floor, and determining the fuel’s radioactivity and location is crucial to inventing the technology to remove the melted fuel,” (Emi Urabe, Fukushima Fuel-Removal Quest Leaves Trail of Dead Robots, The Japan Times, Feb. 17, 2017).

Amateur radio handheld

In natural or man-made disasters, ham-radio enthusiasts put their hobby to work.

There’s a sense of urgency in the air at a Virginia nuclear power plant. Everything within at least a five-mile radius is at immediate risk due to a critical meltdown. One of the emergency responders opens the envelope she’s holding, scans its contents, and announces the bad news: “We just lost 911 and the cell towers are overloaded.”

There are some groans, but the team of amateur radio operators knew this was a possibility, and they’re prepared. They have their radios at the ready to coordinate evacuations, making sure that no shelters are overwhelmed and that evacuees arrive at the right locations. Two detach themselves from the rest and make their way over to the lead coordinator. They’re acting as the points of contact for all emergency services, which means they’re responsible for relaying information about everything from fires to urgent medical care to illegal activities.

Read more...

boat in polluted waters

By Amy Leather | January 2017 | Socialist Review

With Donald Trump in the White House and the Tories pushing through damaging policies as fast as they can, the future for our climate looks bleak. But we have to look beyond individual politicians if we are to understand capitalism’s love affair with fossil energy, writes Amy Leather.

World leaders are failing on climate change. Theresa May’s Tory government has given the go ahead to a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, backed the expansion of Heathrow airport and overturned the local decision in Lancashire to stop fracking. Meanwhile climate change denier Donald Trump is heading to the White House.

The last decade has seen a massive expansion of so called “dirty energies” such as fracking, deep water drilling, and tar sand extraction. The pledges to reduce carbon emissions in the Paris Agreement, signed by 196 countries in December 2015, are only voluntary. Even if signatories kept to them we would still be on track for global warming far higher than is sustainable.

Civilization devouring earth

by Tim Radford | December 13, 2016 | Climate News Network

First attempt to measure the volume of stuff created by humankind reveals that it is at least 100,000 times heavier than the global human population.

LONDON, 13 December, 2016Scientists have calculated the mass of that unnatural achievement called the “technosphere”, demonstrating the scale of human activity that drives climate change. The bleak conclusion is that cities, factories, cars, railways, cameras, computers, ballpoint pens, swords, machine guns and all other manmade things now weigh about 30 trillion tonnes.

The scientists also estimate that the number of “technofossil” species is greater than the number of living species on planet Earth.

facebook police

By Phil Butler | December 8, 2016 | New Eastern Outlook

News that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook will collaborate to censor their definition of terrorism on their collective networks signals Orwellian times to come. New EU legislation, hints at McCarthyism in America and Europe, and the proven collusion in between Silicon Valley and governments should signal a counter-revolution. Here’s a look at why.

mind the gap sign

By Richard Heinberg | September 2016 | Museletter

Predicting the future is a fool’s errand, but everybody does it. As long as we’ve had language—for tens of thousands of years, at last estimate—we’ve been able to formulate the question, “What will tomorrow bring?” The answers have ranged from idyllic to hellish, though the reality has been, more often than not, “a lot like today.”

Airbus

By

We increasingly let computers fly planes and carry out security checks. Driverless cars are next. But is our reliance on automation dangerously diminishing our skills?

When a sleepy Marc Dubois walked into the cockpit of his own aeroplane, he was confronted with a scene of confusion. The plane was shaking so violently that it was hard to read the instruments. An alarm was alternating between a chirruping trill and an automated voice: “STALL STALL STALL.” His junior co-pilots were at the controls. In a calm tone, Captain Dubois asked: “What’s happening?”

Co-pilot David Robert’s answer was less calm. “We completely lost control of the aeroplane, and we don’t understand anything! We tried everything!”

by August 22, 2014 | Collapse of Industrial Civilization

I’ve become rather jaded at the stream of ever-worsening environmental reports these days. Surely if we had some sort of techno-fix to halt the cascade of biospheric tipping points we have breached, we would have deployed them by now. Nevertheless, the carrot of a civilization-saving technological breakthrough is forever dangled before our eyes. By all accounts, we appear hellbent on doing everything humanly possible to maintain and perpetuate industrial civilization by deploying “earth-friendly” renewable energy technologies which, in the end, turn out to be nothing more than “reconstituted fossil fuels”.

Oil Derricks

The peak oil controversy stages a comeback as the industry confronts a future of higher costs — and low prices.

By Richard Heinberg

Talking about “peak oil” can feel very last decade. In fact, the question is still current. Petroleum markets are so glutted and prices are so low that most industry commenters think any worry about future oil supplies is pointless. The glut and price dip, however, are hardly indications of a healthy industry; instead, they are symptoms of an increasing inability to match production cost, supply, and demand in a way that’s profitable for producers but affordable for society. Is this what peak oil looks like?

Back in the early years of the current millennium, I was among a handful of authors warning that world petroleum production rates would soon hit a maximum level and start to decline, and that the eventual result would be economic mayhem. But it’s now the latter half of 2016 and, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, world production of crude oil hit a new high in 2014 of almost 78 million barrels per day, while 2015’s average number was almost certainly higher still.

Yet something strange and ominous is indeed happening in the oil industry. And I’d argue that only those versed in peak-oil discourse are prepared to understand what that is, and what the likely emerging trends will be.