Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9/11: What we have learned and What we should be doing


What a traumatic day! I remember being urgently awoken from a deep sleep by my frantic wife- there was something I needed to see. Indeed, what befell my eyes was some reality-version of a Hollywood science-fiction thriller. I was hypnotized for some time by equal parts terror and fascination, until the repetition broke the spell. This was obviously very important history in the making, and I was determined to comprehend it.

In my favor, I had portions of a scientific education and the luxury of not being gainfully employed, so my distractions were at a minimum. My thought processes immediately started to rule out the official explanation of some Eastern demon hell-bent on our destruction for religious reasons in some contrived conspiratorial plot, that would conveniently give our leaders the excuse to conduct a bold military venture into mineral-rich regions overseas, while curtailing essential freedoms at home. Questioning this version of events was being characterized as a form of treason by patriotic-minded pundits. Never mind that basic procedures of criminal investigation were completely circumvented in favor of a fantastic revelation by our “intelligence” agency, the same one responsible for this most spectacular failure of security. How much double-think can the reasonable mind endure? History is rich in deception, but those ominous precedents are not emphasized in common education. How many people remember the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and how it led to a major escalation of the war in Vietnam? Or COINTELPRO’s infiltration of the anti-war movement? Or the Iran-Contra Affair, and its connection to arms dealing and drug trafficking? Or Germany’s Reichstag Fire which had been instrumental in facilitating the rise of the Nazi regime. There are many more examples. How are we supposed to make better decisions in the future if we cannot properly assess the failures of the past? Do we honestly believe that our blind mania will lead us to a better future? Is that what the delusions of meth-addicts do for them? This persistent neglect of our history is just as likely to rot out our teeth.


So, now we have two opposing narratives: the dominate official view, and an alternative view that largely depends upon curiosity trumping fear. There are many things that are not very well known about what happened, and I will try to present the scientific perspective, which many people are not mentally prepared for.

If we are to be a society governed by reason, then we must invest the necessary effort to discuss the logical foundations of our viewpoint. We must also recognize that logic is not a trivial subject automatically mastered by all those who believe they are smart, but a discipline with its dedicated practitioners. Science has a long history of overturning conventional wisdom, much to the dismay of most people. But remember, as frightful as the truth may turn out to be, the lie that we adore is far worse, both in its robbery of our inheritance and its dulling effect on our minds.


9/11 was a criminal act, perpetrated by some persons with particular means, opportunity, and motivation. The purpose of an open investigation is to objectively determine these characteristics for all to see. As an advanced culture, we have routine procedures that establish best practices, so that when they are ignored by the incompetent or the malicious, we may point to these violations, and know that we have been cheated. The sophistication of our society and the pervasiveness of partiality means that we are particularly dependent upon those few individuals who are competent and have the Public’s interest in mind.

Some may have seen early news broadcasts of the collapses of the towers where commentators immediately compare their horrific observations of near free-fall collapse to the phenomena of controlled demolitions; involved procedures used to quickly dismantle structures. Additionally, there were many witness accounts of explosions preceding collapses. Of course, the official view completely dismissed this possibility, and the organizations tasked with explaining the manner of the destruction (FEMA, NIST) did not conduct any investigation, in violation of standard practices, for the presence of compounds capable of doing this. Instead, they proposed new highly controversial physical phenomena to explain these rare events. Now, one might interject that the “cause” of the collapses was obvious, but a scientist knows that “correlation is not causation”; that just because one observation preceded another, they are not necessarily directly related.

Years after that fateful day, volunteer scientists have analyzed WTC dust samples collected by private persons and organizations for the presence of unusual materials that might lead to a better explanation for the collapse of the WTC buildings. It turns out that a special material, the result of an advanced industrialized manufacturing process, was found to be present; so-called super-thermite. The sources of this material as of 2001 were very limited. This unreacted and energetic residue alone is enough to completely dismantle the official view. There is no question of whether these scientists may have secretly procured the substance themselves in a conspiracy to undermine the public. There is no question of the chain of possession of the samples, or whether they could be confused with something other than the WTC event. I repeat, the presence of an artificial and highly specialized explosive incendiary in the WTC dust is an undeniable scientific fact, which can potentially be confirmed again and again by analyzing more samples.

What necessarily follows from the above, regardless of how difficult it is to accept, is that some persons took months to carefully place this special material in sensitive areas of the destroyed buildings, presumably under the cover of a “modernization” project, coordinated a series of “attacks” on the country, and then when our society was gripped with fear, the perpetrators heavily promoted a planned legislative agenda to curtail our freedoms and expand our military presence abroad. This is another undeniable scientific fact. Many other things were done, which won’t be fully known until the time of a truly independent investigation, but the list of prominent suspects is striking and long, though I will not mention them here.


As a nation, we must face this reality and its implications, and the sooner we do, the better we will be for it. We need to ask ourselves why this has happened, and what we should do about it. Having looked at these issues for many years, I will offer my informed opinion.

Modern civilization has seen the development of electricity, Green agriculture, the growth of mega-cities, and a global population which has increased from less than two billion persons, to nearly 7 billion today in just the past century. This has been possible due to an incredible adaptation to the use of fossil fuels, a very limited and polluting energy source. Some varieties of this source are rapidly increasing in scarcity, which in turn is driving up costs. As with many things in science, this problem was anticipated decades ago, but the messenger was scoffed at, until one of his predictions came to pass in the early 1970s- then he was called to give testimony at a congressional hearing. Not everyone understood the implications of this scientist’s insight, but some individuals took careful note, which would later be used to form plans, some of them secret. By 1998, two scientists (Campbell and Laherrere) wrote an article for Scientific American titled, “The End of Cheap Oil”, about the peak of global oil production.

Back then, I assumed that we would have to adapt with the Plutonium Economy, and it was just a matter of time before the overwhelming logic of that course permeated through decision-making circles, eventually propelling us to blue skies. I was wrong. Instead high costs, political resistance to nuclear energy, concerns over weapons proliferation, and many other issues acted to retard its development. Alternatively, the Green Movement sought to free themselves from carbon through non-nuclear diffuse and expensive renewable sources including solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal. Meanwhile, development continues on the promising but decades-away ITER, and a myriad of other more far-fetched fusion projects. Unfortunately, what we need is something that is cheap, reliable, safe, abundant, carbon-free, energy-dense, and can be deployed across the world within a couple of decades. We need a silver bullet to slay this beast of a problem.

The implications of Peak Oil are profound. Everything we do and make depends upon energy, and as the cost of that fundamental commodity increases, the less freedom we will have. In fact, the higher the costs, the fewer people we can support. This revelation is somewhat akin to a scientific version of Armageddon, which, while not forecasting the end of the world as such, does portend the very high likelihood of a new dark age. The Dark Ages were a devastating period of ignorance, war, famine, and rampant disease, and we surely do not wish to revisit those trying times.


Fortunately there is something we can do right now that will make a difference. We have an abundant source of cheap, carbon-free energy that can power the entire world indefinitely. We have perhaps the greatest invention since fire that can make this a reality, and if it were not for the program being shut down some 40 years ago in one of the worst decisions ever made, many regrettable consequences would not have followed. Right now, we can resurrect that dusty dream by joining the Thorium Race, and lead the world into a new era of hope and prosperity. We are very much capable of overcoming corporate and political inertia in the interest of our survival, if we realize that this action is both necessary and urgent.

In laying blame for our current predicament, we would do well to note that our problem is not trivial. The transition to a scientific society is still ongoing and by no means certain, and with increasingly scarce energy it becomes ever less likely. Those individuals who were given the responsibility for maintaining our security, by us, could not solve this problem. In fact, they were driven mad by it, committing the most treasonous acts in a convoluted labyrinth of reason, collective delusion, and undue influence by the very powerful. Our psychological science, having been derailed by many false assumptions over the course of its evolution, lay impotent and incapable of identifying and understanding, let alone treating this illness. Our technicians, ever looking out for their own short-term survival, swam upstream in search of those precious dollars, taking them in directions often completely irrelevant to the larger picture. We are to blame for this mess, but we can now make up for our apathy and ignorance by embarking upon a great venture to secure the world for all children to come. Once upon this fruitful path, we will find ourselves hopeful instead of fearful, helpful instead of indifferent, and united in a way that we haven’t yet experienced. Many more obscure and wonderful surprises await to deliver us from resistant and enduring pains in that scientific basement, but we have to face our fear, and bring a light. If the events of 9/11 are going to teach us anything, let it be that we must forever hold a deeper understanding of the role of energy for our survival, and that ignoring nature can lead to catastrophe. Let us hope that we may unite in courage and intelligence to bring a timely end to our most pressing problem.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Super Solutions, the Economy, and the Energy Crisis

Many of us are familiar with a variety of social problems, whether it’s the obesity epidemic, the debt crisis, the energy crisis, the failing economy and high unemployment, the disparity of wealth, or a myriad of other ailments that one might attribute to our general condition. It is an incredibly frustrating time to be politically aware, because we’re all tempted to suggest something that must be done to fix our broken system, yet whatever happens, nothing seems to get repaired. It seems that the more desperate we are, the more conviction we have for whatever we think must be done, until...that point where we are so fed up, we support the most extreme measures.

We are captured by our own experience of reality, so much so that it becomes almost impossible to see our way out of it, and why would we? What worse incomprehensible insanity might lurk on the other side of that fence? Looking over it occasionally reveals enough confusion to discourage any contemplation of conversion, so we rest somewhat uncomfortably back into the familiar. Maybe we’ll display just a bit more fervor to strengthen our team, because bliss surely lies beyond victory.

But the mob is not a genius with a deep grasp of subtlety, but an obtusely frustrated and destructive cancer that must be avoided at all costs. Our general condition is one of preoccupation with the banality of everyday life: trying to pass a class, win a game, find a mate, raise a kid, hold a job, stay warm, alive, and sane, and eat in peace. For those of us who have escaped these distractions, we remove ourselves from the masses, spying from a distance the turmoil that engulfs those who live.

Our journey here has been a long one, where reality is continually obscured by mountains of inconsequential associations. Science is clarity in this precarious landscape, a morass of hard-won generalizations, which occasionally filter down to the masses in some, often distorted, form. If one can imagine the archetypal prodigy who trains his entire life to become a master, one can glimpse the theoretical scientist, those elite thinkers who carefully assemble models of reality, so that we might all benefit. Those ubiquitous hand-held computers are the inevitable result of a fundamental physical insight that is scarcely a hundred years old.

This rather recent method of thinking has had some serious consequences. We have been granted extraordinary and unprecedented perception of our condition. This “Fall from Eden” is widely regarded with horror, while the child-like quality of innocence is raised to the level of virtue. This celebration of naïveté presents a bit of a problem when discussing what goes on in the world; reality is rarely “family-orientated”. Furthermore, the habitual avoidance of mature and disturbing topics fails to train would-be decision makers with ambiguity, tragedy, and absurdity, resulting in an unchallenged “fairy tale” dogma. As this is the normal state of affairs, it is up to the scientific community to resolve the inevitable political problems that have arisen due to the failure of our social systems to adequately provide for the needs of the populace.

Peak Oil and Global Warming have produced the most serious challenge to Civilization yet, forcing us to completely reimagine our energy system for sustainability. The difficulty of this task is such that a great opposition to Science has developed, and now we have two unworkable plans for our future. One involves continued investment in depleting carbon-producing fossil fuels as our returns decrease, that not even the Bakken Formation can reverse. The other promotes “farming” for energy on an unbelievable scale through the use of renewable techniques, primarily solar and wind. Either way, energy will continue to grow in cost, carbon output will increase, and much of what we’ve struggled to build will be lost. This is the decline of net energy.

As energy is the fundamental input to all economic activity, our return on investment determines what kind of diversity we will have. The energy density of nuclear remains the only sensible source to power our society, but current technology leaves much to be desired. Fortunately, we can do far better. Decades ago, scientists wishing to improve upon conventional approaches to nuclear managed to develop a prototype reactor using a liquid-based fuel that demonstrated clear advantages in terms of safety, scalability, flexibility, cost, reliability, and efficiency. Though the program was terminated back in the early 70’s, this approach remains the most promising way to power our economy: the fuel (thorium) is very abundant, the high temperatures of operation eliminate the need for water cooling, the liquid-fuel configuration avoids any possibility of meltdown, it operates at atmospheric pressure dramatically reducing the need for containment, the efficiency of the energy conversion massively reduces the waste produced, and the excess neutrons allows for designs that effectively turn current waste into fuel. With this approach we can synthesize carbon-neutral or carbon-free fuels and fertilizers significantly cheaper than what the market provides today. Water shortages can be compensated for by cheap desalination. And finally, we can affordably sequester a century’s worth of accumulated atmospheric carbon, reducing the risk of climate-related damage to our communities. The drawbacks to this technology pale in comparison to its advantages, and I will not bother listing them here.

Joining the Thorium Race for the development of Green Nuclear is the Super Solution to the Economic Crisis. By doing this, we can unite the public in hopeful activity that will have major positive benefits within a generation. It remains the only way to quickly replace traditional fossil fuel power plants with something uncategorically superior. We will witness a new era powered by ultra cheap energy- this is the promise of nuclear finally realized.