What’s all the fuss about Insight on Mars?

This is a nice Lockheed Martin piece animating everything Insight had to get right just to land on Mars. 3 minutes

This Australian scientist explains why the probe will be so groundbreaking — pun intended. 😉  5.5 minutes

Mars. It’s slowly happening.

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Imagine your car flying to Mars

Imagine being able to tell your sons “Look at the car in space. You guys have been in that car. I’ve driven you in that car!” as they watch the car float off to Mars on the big screen! I’ve time-set this National Geographic to the launch of the Falcon Super-Heavy. I like this coverage because it shows Elon laughing at the 6 sonic booms created by the 2 Falcon’s coming home to land. It’s science, but it’s also magic!
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The Californian fires and New Urbanism

New Urbanism uses 10% of the land of suburbia, housing a million people in 40 square miles instead of 400 square miles. With careful rezoning, suburbia could creep back in on itself over the next generation as the housing stock ages. Allowing for population growth the final city size might be half or even a quarter of the current city size. With normal attrition of the housing stock, suburbia could be replaced by New Urbanism within 60 years. As it collapses back in on itself it would free up heaps of space for natural ecosystems and parks and other firebreaks, and concentrate more wealth and resources in less area. Real Engineering reported that suburban sprawl wastes up to HALF their fresh water in plumbing leaks just because all that plumbing is spread out over such enormous areas. It’s just too hard to maintain in tip top condition. But concentrating everything means there is vastly more money covering vastly less area in such disasters. In other words, where suburbia would be lucky to have a few fire trucks racing around a whole sprawling suburb, New Urbanism is so compact that 2 fire trucks per neighbourhood could prevent most fires spreading. Every eco-apartment complex could afford to have an interior and exterior fire prevention spray system — and the water pressure saved (from suburban sprawl) could be allocated to wetting down a neighbourhood at risk of fire. It’s just another reason that New Urbanism is a superior city plan to suburban sprawl.
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Pacific Alliance a starting EU of South America

Hi all,

It seems that despite the dozens of crony gringo-bashing old-boys clubs in South America, one of the free-trade areas is starting to produce real results in increased trade and economic growth. It even has some political bite in creating the free movement of labour, and as we all know, that involves relaxing visas! Meet the Pacific Alliance. It’s even starting to raise eyebrows in other South American old-boys clubs, and if some of those member states make the move, could become the start of a South American EU. It’s another small step towards a better system of global democratic governance.

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The best of both worlds? Nuclear & solar friends?

What impact will Electric Vehicles have on this debate? I see automated EVs as being a huge new electricity consumer that could work for either a half renewable half nuclear grid, *or* an all nuclear grid. Let’s explore the 100% nuclear grid first. We would build enough nuclear power plants to supply today’s daily peaks and run them at full power. Everyone will still come home and turn on their heating in winter or cooling in summer and cook dinner and watch TV all at the same time every evening. But there will be new consumers on the grid – all these Electric Vehicles. They can demand-shift their charging to slowly charge on off-peak overnight electricity, ready to drive the next morning. And they can super-charge during the daytime demand valleys, quickly charging in half an hour. Another *massive* trend will be robot-taxis. Basically, many futurists see robot-taxis being so cheap to hire (because they eliminate the human salary costs) that most people will simply stop buying cars. It’s the end of private motor vehicle ownership for the masses! (Although your tradespeople like plumbers will still buy their own plumbing van, it will drive them to their next job while they catch up on paperwork and on their phone calls.) I’ve collected a few references here.

Now, of course, this robot-taxi company will be run by your smart EV corporations of the future. (Any guesses as to brand names? Apple “iCab”? Tesla “Sexy-cab”? Sorry, he’s always making everything sound sexy… like “Space-seX” — come on, it’s just the way it’s said! Let alone “Model S”, “Model 3”, “Model X” cars… what does the combination S3X spell?” Then there’s his BFR, but enough said!)

Your future Toyota taxi-clubs and corporate car plans will provide a mix of mini-buses to collect people going in roughly the same direction at the same time to work every day. This will cut traffic enormously, maybe by half, maybe down to a quarter of what it is today. (More on why below.) Not only will you catch a vastly cheaper taxi, not only will that taxi mean you’ll never pay for parking at work or in town again, effectively destroying the city parking towers and car lots and returning a third of cities back to us for development, but it means vastly less traffic! Driverless buses are already being trialled around Sydney Olympic Park and are being proposed to solve rural transport problems. Why? They’re cheaper! No salary to pay.

What does all this mean for the grid’s demand profiles? You don’t worry about the best time to charge your car anymore — they do. They have a fleet of cars and vans and buses and stretched limo’s and whatever else you could require, just like you can order an Uber or UberX or whatever. You’ll just program into your app what time you want regular trips to work. Or you just pick up your phone and ask Siri or Google about your sudden trip out, and their algorithms will program the rest. (Even keeping a track of your travel patterns if you’re too lazy to program your daily trip to work. They’ll know roughly when you’re ready!) When it comes to electricity, they’ll have daily feedback on the fleet performance and will coordinate the best and cheapest times to charge around that. That might involve their vans both slow-charging overnight to be ready for the 5 am trips to the airport and then running the early peak hour crowd in to start at 7 am or 8 am. Then the iCab might even smuggle in a second trip for the 9am starters. Depending on the size of the iCab — whether 6, 8, or 10 passengers per trip — this could mean the one iCab takes anywhere from 10 to 20 cars off the road!

Then the iCab starts suburban cruising for various shopping and medical and other errands. Somewhere between morning and afternoon tea it will need a drink. What does that make you think of? Midday? The sun? This is where solar PV’s ‘cheaper to the grid’ claim could actually come true.

(RANT: If some light green all renewables idealist ever talks about how Solar PV is  ‘cheaper to the grid’ without immediately qualifying it by discussing how expensive storage is — then call it out as greenwashing. They might not be intentionally lying, but it is an absolute lie that they have swallowed hook line and sinker! It’s greenwashing at its worst. Solar PV is only cheaper to the grid if we’re only going to use it for a little daytime power and have other means to get by during the 16 hours of the day it’s not really working. If they are raving about a 100% renewable grid because solar is cheaper than grid, then ask them how much they’ve costed the pumped hydro-storage at and the extra wind farms they’ll need to overbuild for when both the wind and sun are on strike?)

But if we’re talking about only using solar during the day as an extra electricity source for topping up cars, then maybe there can be a place for both nuclear and solar? We will also need to shift industrial heat from burning coal or natural gas for raw heat. Using clean electricity to do this while also charging all our transport and even splitting seawater to manufacture e-diesel will all require vastly more power. Some estimate it might triple electricity demand! Surely there is a way to coordinate our industries and robot-EV’s to charge on solar PV in a manner that won’t even impact on nuclear demand? Surely with a little demand shifting from the EV sector as to when they fast-charge during the day, we can work out a way to enjoy the best of both worlds?

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“Dark Tourist” highly inaccurate on Fukushima

‘Dark Tourist’ is a Netflix series that films tourists going through some of the more troubled places on the planet. It might be interesting for scenic shots, but seems to have very low levels of scientific input.  In other words, it’s sensationalised nonsense when covering important complicated scientific issues like radiation.

The moment the narrator said “It’s surprising that thieves haven’t looted the place. Maybe they know something we don’t,” I groaned out loud. “Here we go” I thought. “More pop-culture rubbish — what are they going to reference next, Godzilla?”

Then it happened. Apparently the tour guide had told them that their Geiger counter should read 0.2 for safe readings. 0.2 what? The show didn’t discuss the units of radiation, the worldwide background averages in Tokyo, New York, or Sydney, or what kinds of radiation the Geiger counter is even counting and how it is doing it!

No. That’s too hard for a Friday night ‘beer and pizza’ format show. Then they stereotypical highlighted a lady to hold up the Geiger counter and exclaims, “Oh my god! 0.72!” Then the camera zooms in, and it’s just jumped to 0.73! But the tour guide said it should only be 0.2.


The narrator says something about reconsidering whether radiation tourism is such a good idea, and they all stand around in an abandoned, dusty garage looking glum. But what does the Geiger counter even show, and what does it all mean?

First of all, let’s examine the reading. 0.73 μSv/h means 0.73 micro (μ) Sieverts (Sv) per hour (/h). You can read more technical information about it at the Sievert wiki, but it basically takes the 3 types of alpha, beta and gamma radiation in an area, and — because these 3 hit at different strengths — calculates their total biological impact on your body into one number.

But how bad is 0.73 μSv/h

0.73 micro Sieverts is 0.73 millionths of a Sievert an hour. Natural background radiation figures are presented as milli-Sieverts a year, so let’s convert it into millionths of a Sievert per year, then divide it by a thousand to convert to mSv/year or milli-Sieverts per year. 0.73 * 24 hours * 365 days a year = 6394.8 micro-Sieverts a year. Divide by a thousand and the reading is now 6.4 milli-Sieverts a year. How does Fukushima compare to global averages?

PBS summarises it as:

One sievert, the unit measurement for a dose of radiation, will cause illness if absorbed all at once, and 8 sieverts will result in death, even with treatment. According to the chart, the average person safely absorbs about 3.65 millisieverts (or 0.00365 sieverts) of radiation annually, through simple activities like living in a brick or concrete building (70 microsieverts a year) or sleeping next to another person (0.05 microsieverts). A person living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant absorbs 0.09 microsieverts of radiation per year, which is less than the amount absorbed by eating a banana.

It’s not even twice the normal mSv/year you are taking right now by living in Sydney! In other words, let’s back convert the 3.65 milliSieverts into hourly microSieverts to get a Geiger-counter reading for Sydney. Multiply it by 1000 = 3650 micro-Sieverts per year, then divide by 365 days = 10 micro-Sieverts a day, divide by 24 = 0.42 micro-Sieverts per hour. Sydney is ‘hotter’ than the tourist guide’s ‘safety limit’ of 0.2 mSv/h! So I don’t know where that tourist director got his information, but he would have you creeped out walking around SYDNEY with his Gieger-counter alarmism. “Hey, Mr Tourist guy, I thought it was supposed to read 0.20 something and oh my god! It says 0.42! Are we going to get sick? Maybe this SYDNEY tourism thing isn’t such a good idea!”

But the Charles Sturt University’s “Radiation Safety Committee” said that around the world some rare places have 50 milli-Sieverts (50 mSv) a year of natural radiation with no discernible health impacts.

Now let’s forget Chernobyl and Fukushima and discuss RAMSAR INDIA? What, never heard of it? That’s because there’s no nuclear power plant to boogey-man and freak out about. But people don’t understand that this is still radiation we’re discussing, and it still equates into milli-Sieverts of action on the body — whether the source is our nuclear power plants or natural radon gas from the decay of uranium and thorium particles. Here is the wiki as of September 2018, but the take home message is that Ramsar’s building materials have had doses as high as 143 µSv/h, or 909.48 mSv/year — nearly a whole Sievert a year! Lastly, people live at Chernobyl or Fukushima, yet RAMSAR is the most radioactive inhabited place on earth. So much for objective reporting about radiation! “Dark tourist” should have been touring Ramsar. I guess without an abandoned area and busted up nuclear power plant to blame, it just doesn’t make as good a story. Hey, showing people living in a vastly more radioactive environment with debatable — not obvious and horrific! medical impacts might even confuse the anti-nuclear zeitgeist of the modern world. We can’t go confusing the population with scientific data on this subject — because “Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My! Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Godzilla, Oh my!”

Over to the wiki:-


Two survey meters show dose rates of 142 and 143 µSv/h on contact with a bedroom wall.

Ramsar’s Talesh Mahalleh district is the most radioactive inhabited area known on Earth, due to nearby hot springs and building materials originating from them.[8] A combined population of 2,000 residents from this district and other high radiation neighbourhoods receive an average radiation dose of 10 mGy per year, ten times more than the ICRP recommended limit for exposure to the public from artificial sources.[9] Record levels were found in a house where the effective radiation dose due to external radiation was 131 mSv/a, and the committed dose from radon was 72 mSv/a.[10] This unique case is over 80 times higher than the world average background radiation.

The prevailing model of radiation-induced cancer posits that the risk rises linearly with dose at a rate of 5% per Sv. If this linear no-threshold model is correct, it should be possible to observe an increased incidence of cancer in Ramsar through careful long-term studies currently[when?] underway.[9] Early anecdotal evidence from local doctors and preliminary cytogenetic studies suggested that there may be no such harmful effect, and possibly even a radioadaptive effect.[11] More recent epidemiological data show a slightly reduced lung cancer rate[12] and non-significantly elevated morbidity, but the small size of the population (only 1800 inhabitants in the high-background areas) will require a longer monitoring period to draw definitive conclusions.[13] Furthermore, there are questions regarding possible non-cancer effects of the radiation background. An Iranian study has shown that people in the area have a significantly higher expression of CD69 gene and also a higher incidence of stable and unstable chromosomal aberrations.[14] Chromosomal aberrations have been found in other studies[15] and a possible elevation of female infertility has been reported.[16]

Radiation hormesis was not observed in a study that also recommended that Ramsar does not provide justification to relax existing regulatory dose limits.[17] Pending further study, the potential health risks had moved scientists in 2001–02 to call for relocation of the residents and regulatory control of new construction.[18][19]

The radioactivity is due to the local geology. Underground water dissolves radium in uraniferous igneous rock and carries it to the surface through at least nine known hot springs.[11] These are used as spas by locals and tourists. Some of the radium precipitates into travertine, a form of limestone, and the rest diffuses into the soil, where it is absorbed by crops and mixes with drinking water. Residents have unknowingly used the radioactive limestone as a building material for their homes. The stone irradiates the inhabitants and generates radon gas which is usually seen to promote lung cancer. Crops contribute 72 µSv/yr to a critical group of 50 residents.[20]

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Germany could have been 100% fossil free by now

Anti nuclear-FUD is so dangerous and frustrating! Just check the numbers below. Over to Shellenberger writing on Forbes41249029_6109427265531_3949396782869381120_n.png.jpg

Had They Bet On Nuclear, Not Renewables, Germany & California Would Already Have 100% Clean Power

Michael’s latest column for Forbes — please share!

Had California and Germany invested $680 billion into new nuclear power plants instead of renewables like solar and wind farms, the two would already be generating 100 percent or more of their electricity from clean (low-emissions) energy sources, according to a new analysis by Environmental Progress.

The analysis comes the day before California plays host to a “Global Climate Action Summit,” which makes no mention of nuclear, despite it being the largest source of clean energy in the U.S. and Europe.

Here are the two main findings from EP’s analysis:

— Had Germany spent $580 billion on nuclear instead of renewables, it would have had enough energy to both replace all fossil fuels and biomass in its electricity sector and replace all of the petroleum it uses for cars and light trucks.

— Had California spent an estimated $100 billion on nuclear instead of on wind and solar, it would have had enough energy to replace all fossil fuels in its in-state electricity mix.

The finding that Germany could have entirely decarbonized its transportation sector with nuclear is a significant one. That’s because decarbonizing transportation is considered a major challenge by most climate policy experts.

Electricity consumed by electric cars will grow 300-fold between 2016 and 2040, analysts predict. That electricity must come from clean energy sources, not fossil fuels, for the transition to electric cars to mitigate climate change.

As a result of their renewables-only policies, California and Germany are climate laggards compared to nuclear-heavy places like France, whose electricity is 12 times less carbon intensive than Germany’s, and four times less carbon intensive than California’s.

Thanks to its deployment of nuclear power, the Canadian province of Ontario’s electricity is nearly 90 percent cleaner than California’s, according to a recent analysis by Scott Luft, an energy analyst who tracks decarbonization and the power sector.

California’s power sector emissions are over twice as high today as they would have been had the state kept open and built planned nuclear plants.

California’s political establishment pushed hard to close San Onofre nuclear plant in 2013 — triggering an on-going federal criminal investigation — and later to close Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which generates 15 percent of all in-state clean electricity, by 2025.

The political leadership of California and Germany have encouraged other nations to follow their example, and the results have been — consistently, following the new EP analysis — counter to the ostensible goal of climate protection.

Over the last 20 years the share of electricity from clean energy globally has declined because the increase in electricity coming from solar and wind wasn’t enough to offset the decline of nuclear.

Carbon emissions rose 3.2 percent in California between 2011 and 2015, even as they declined 3.7 percent in the average over the remaining 49 states.

In 2016, emissions from electricity produced within California decreased by 19 percent, but two-thirds of that decline came from increased production from the state’s hydro-electric dams, due to it being a rainier year, and thus had nothing to do with the state’s energy policies, while just one-third of the decline came from increased solar and wind.

In the 1960s and 1970s, California’s electric utilities had planned to build a string of new reactors and new plants that were ultimately killed by anti-nuclear leaders and groups, including Governor Jerry Brown, the Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Fund (NRDC).

Other nuclear plants were forced to close prematurely, including Rancho Seco and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, while Diablo Canyon is being forced to close by California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which excludes nuclear.

It remains to be seen if recently-passed SB100, which allows 40% of electricity to be produced from any non-emitting energy source alongside the remaining 60% exclusively from renewables, will motivate the state to save its last nuclear plant.

Had those plants been constructed and stayed open, 73 percent of power produced in California would be from clean (very low-carbon) energy sources as opposed to just 34 percent. Of that clean power, 48 percent would have been from nuclear rather than 9 percent.

In 2016, renewables received 94 times more in U.S. federal subsidies than nuclear and 46 times more than fossil fuels per unit of energy generated. Meanwhile, a growing number of analysts have are admitting that an electricity grid that relies on nuclear power has no need for solar and wind. More troubling, adding solar and wind to a nuclear-heavy grid would require burning more fossil fuels, usually natural gas, as back-up power

As it’s become increasingly clear that Germany would not meet its climate targets, it is coming under criticism from leading renewable energy advocates, who may fear that Germany’s poor record on climate change discredits renewable energy as a solution for climate change.

“If I were a citizen of Germany, I would be concerned about Germany being left behind,” said Al Gore, who is a major renewable energy investor in addition to being a climate policy advocate, last June. “The leadership provided in years past created a reality that now no longer exists.”

“If the world is serious about climate change, we should be keeping existing, safe nuclear power stations open, not shutting them prematurely,” noted Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Michael Liebreich.

But the new EP analysis underscores that the problem is not just closing plants but also choosing to build solar and wind farms instead of new nuclear power stations.

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