Category Archives: skepticality

Energy Dominance

To say the least, the mood is not at its peak at the lab…

We have a new Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry (R), former governor of Texas –  who doesn’t seem to care much about science (e.g. he believe it’s fine to question climate change; at least there’s someone to tell him no, it’s not) and who is now on a crusade to ensure #energydominance, a concept that I try to comprehend, but really can’t.

Now see his incredible op-ed in Washington Times (the black mirror of the New York Post, I guess:), Paving the path to U.S. energy dominance:

Mr. Trump wants America to utilize our abundant domestic energy resources and technological innovations for good, both at home and abroad. […] An energy-dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and influence. Becoming energy dominant means that we are getting government out of the way so that we can share our energy wealth with developing nations. For years, Washington stood in the way of our energy dominance. That changes now.

Holy cow! That is a genius strategy!
Oh wait… what strategy? Selling coal and gas that will be worthless in three years?

Here’s what previous Secretary Moniz has to say:

Moniz: […] With some colleagues, we’re starting up a small non-profit in the energy space and this was also a question that we intended to look at.

However, a review of this type also needs to look at the emerging technologies. For example, the utility in Tucson recently announced a long-term, a 20-year purchase-power agreement for solar energy plus storage at a pretty attractive—stunning, actually in my view—price. They quoted less than 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, including the storage.

Madrigal: Wow. [In Arizona, the average cost of electricity in March 2017 was 9.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Electricity prices vary around the nation, but the U.S. average was 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in March 2017.]

Meanwhile, the office of science at the White House is now empty. zero. nicht. kaput.

It is quite incredible to hear that, while a mere six most ago it was populated by the finest people I know, like my (extended) friend Maya Shankar

imfine

Oh boy, the second half of the year starts even better than the first half.

I’ve got millenial problems but you ain’t one

“Millenials”…

 “We’re the future. And you don’t belong in it. Because we’re beyond you, and naturally, that makes you feel kind of bad. You have this deep-down feeling that you don’t matter anymore. You should be glad, though…  Do you want your kids’ world to be a step above yours? Isn’t that what we’re all doing? So, doesn’t it follow that if you’re a good parent, and your kids evolve, and are smarter than you, they’re gonna make you feel kind of dumb? So if you feel stupid around young people, things are going good.”


(Louie CK, video via Vulture (broken)view on facebook)

against “old guard”:

There needs to be a ‘maximum wage’ vs minimum wage ; instead of paying young kids with no family obligations $200,000.00 + a year to sit at Philz Coffee all day and play the latest Candy Crush’ mind chewing gum  game with their Lucy Liu wanna be’s, at beck’n call . (SFWeekly, comments added to print)

puzzled by generational drives:

I dropped out of college when I was 18. To move to Los Angeles. To become a rock star. It’s true. […] And lo, it was glorious.

Why share all this silliness? Because there appears to be a strange parallel afoot. Because I recently found myself entranced by Nellie Bowles’ terrific profile over in California Sunday magazine, a tale of the new hordes of “lost boys” of San Francisco, all these naïve, clean-cut, mostly white teenaged computer whizzes from affluent families who are dropping out of college (and, increasingly, high school) to move to San Francisco.

They’re here to code, of course. To found companies. To singe their brains with a million lame logos. Which is to say, not for the fame, or the girls, or the fun drugs, or the free love (different era, but still).

They’re here for the money.
Attention teen dropouts racing to SF: The tech bubble is lying to you
– Mark Morford

or working for funny companies :

The Greylock partners hear a lot of pitches from companies with cute one-word names and bright logos (Meerkat, Sprig, Nextdoor, Vessel, Operator) that aim at “disrupting” some existing set of economic arrangements. At least in conversation, nobody is safe: education, health-care delivery, media, national currencies. – The Network Man (The New Yorker)

Ubris

Living in the Bay Area has a lots of perks, notably the climate and the people who live here– some are driven, and some maybe too much.

The Silicon Valley became fertile and successful when entrepreneurs started bringing hardcore scientific advances to the masses, with companies such as Fairchild Semiconductors, or innovative technologies, with companies such as Xerox and its Palo Alto Research Center.

Nowadays, the silicon in the valley is mostly gone (I often joke that among my friends living in the Silicon Valley, I am the only one actually working on silicon… yet I don’t live in the valley:), and tech companies that have nothing to do with actual τέχνη. Yet the dreams of technology to save us all are still pretty alive. But it seems that it all has to do with hubris, or PR at best, and it is hurting actual science and those who make it.

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Bertrand Russell, on Free Will

Happy New year !

The notion of free will is a very interesting one, and as we are living in a time where people are talking of robot intelligence and where people are still adamant about religion and what they call or perceive as “freedom”, I think it’s only fair to remind this brilliant excerpt from “Religion and Science” by the late Bertrand Russell, that among all the great things he wrote struck me with its clarity and depth.

russell_color(yeah, I’m bootstrapping on Maria Popova’s Brainpickings !)

Psychology and physiology, in so far as they bear upon the question of free will, tend to make it improbable. Work on internal secretions, increased knowledge of function of different part of the brain, Pavlov’s investigations of conditioned reflexes, and the psycho-analytic study of the effects of repressed memories and desires, have all contributed to the discovery of causal laws governing mental phenomena. None of them, of course, have disproved the possibility of free will, but the have made it highly probable that, if uncaused volitions do ever occur, they are very rare.

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When the rubber hits the fan

Things are starting to look stark

when empty promises
Hot Startup Theranos Has Struggled With Its Blood-Test Technology – WSJ

meet empty markets
Techpocalypse is coming. Two questions remain: When and who? – Pando

perfectly_swell

There is no greater importance in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave crashes upon you. – Norman Mailer

There should be an app for that

Some days, it is hard to make a sense of the current times…

adverstisement tech startup muni facebook

All these people trying to sell me things that I don’t need…

A million guys walk into a Silicon Valley bar.
No one buys anything.
Bar declared massive success.
– Paul Stamatiou

skype                       twilio         wash.io
gyft         spotify        arduino        wise.io
lyft         appify         vimeo
Shyp                        venmo
swyft     

uber         paypal         box            youtube
tumblr       drupal         dropbox        roku    
flickr                      virtualbox     heroku
grindr       yo                            akamai
tinder       what's app     quora             
happn        wechat         pandora        pando
             snapchat                      mongo

tilt         vmware         airbnb         misterbnb
affirm       yesware        wevorce        homobile
stripe       xendit         spoonrocket    readability
square       squarespace    braintree      salesforce
slack        lifesum        meerkat        splunk
Wag          taskrabbit     periscope

Shiftings : from electronics to photonics ?

Photons and electrons like to play together in atoms, but much less so in computers…

Like EUV lithography, people have been talking about optical computers for a long time, and that still hasn’t materialized.
Like EUV, it seems that we’re on the verge of a major shift !

north-laserLet’s review some of the differences between electronics and optics !

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Love and Confidence in science

Recent events in the scienfic community – I’m thinking of the detection of primordial B-mode signal in the CMB polarization by BICEP2 (probable), the discovery of Higgs Boson (Nobel-prized) and of the faster-than-light neutrinos (ruled out as an experimental error) – invite us to draw a line between what is reasonable science and what is not.

Saul Perlmutter talking about exotic theories in astrophysics

Saul Perlmutter talking about exotic theories in astrophysics

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Messiahs and Invisible hands

Now that I have lived for over a year near the Silicon Valley, I have a better view of the local culture which is a strange mix of lefty utopian libertarian, lefty vegan liberals and all things that might seem contradictory in general, but not here.

Atlas Shrugged, in the liberal California

Atlas Shrugged, in the liberal California

I want to address here what I’ve learned in these months, so that European newcomers can sharpen their learning curve !

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MOOCs are a hoax

…said Dev Patnaik at Uncharted, and I believe he is probably right.

Big institutions (elite schools) have no idea how to deal with PR,  so MOOCs is a good way to increase their influence : it matters for the teachers only.
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