The grad students have a tradition (or used to) called “Thunch” (Thursday Lunch) where they invite someone to come have lunch and hang out every week. It was by far one of the highlights of my life — maybe 10 people in the room max, eating pizza, shooting shit with some of the most impressive and accomplished people you could hope to meet — Nobel prize laureates, Neil deGrasse Tyson, famous authors, whoever would respond to our invitation (people tended to say yes). Dyson was one of them. At the time he was already like 92 years old, dressed in a suit, occasionally using a handkerchief, and this guy had just published a result in Nature. The guy was SHARP at 92. Nicest, most interesting person I have ever met. Knew Einstein from his early days at IAS. Worked on an early version of the space program that looked into launching people into space with large spring loaded contraptions that were to be propelled with nuclear weapons. Those were the days I guess...
So sorry to see he’s gone, the guy was a living legend.
Unlike the other professors who were hard asses because: 1) they were still making a name for themselves or 2) they dealt with it in grad school, so you should too, he was the friendliest, most curious person. You could be a 2nd year undergrad and if you asked an interesting question, he’d get genuinely excited about it.
There were a lot of "solutions" using nuclear weapons looking for a problem. There was a proposal to blow a new canal through nicaragua, to blast harbors into Alaska, etc. My roommate's father showed me his paper that anticipated fracking: drill a deep well in oil shale, through a small nuclear weapon in the bottom, blow it up and watch as the pressure and heat extract the oil and have it flow through the fractured rock back to your oil well.
He almost got to test it.
If I remember correctly, the tests worked, in that they produced a large amount of gas from tight rock formations. However the gas was mildly radioactive and it was thought that it would not be marketable.
Edit. It was a gas well here’s the link https://youtu.be/S57Xq03njsc
"THE ATOM UNDERGROUND" is an educational video, available from https://archive.org/details/32212AtomUnderground (undated; likely late 1960s). It includes some video from the 1967 test of Project Gasbuggy that matthewmcg mentions.
This seems somewhat impolite. If you've met her one would presume you would remember her name. I would expect she wouldn't like being referred to as simply an 'other daughter'.
Also, Dyson had five daughters including Esther. Not two.
Dyson interview from 2016 on space colonies https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/home-on-lagrange/tran...
Rest in piece Mr. Dyson - you're a legend and you'll always be remembered.
Given what we have available to us. It gives us the most propulsive force. Lots of hard problems to solve :)
And now he's a legend.
For example if someone asks me if I want tea or coffee and I know I don’t like coffee then I’m always going to choose tea irrespective of my free will.
This is just a crude example though, our psychology is infinitely more subtle. We are a subject to our experiences and those experiences start out against our control (due to us being kids). We are also a subject to our biology. If your body produces too much of one chemical or not enough of another then our moods could be drastically affected. We have cravings that are often chemical. Diet also plays a part too.
So much of what we think of as “free will” is actually circumstance that happened before the decision and biological states happening elsewhere in your body.
these are not generally considered to all be equally plausible!
The more we know about the brain and mind, the less hiding room is left for free will and we haven't found it yet. It's looking pretty likely that free will just doesn't exist.
Dyson was a brilliant person, but I disagree with his quote there. I think we may develop a deep theory of consciousness (including solving "the hard problem") within the next century which will put some of these debates to rest.
“Life begins at 55, the age at which I published my first book,” he wrote in “From Eros to Gaia,”
Never got his PhD. Taught physics at Cornell.
Thoughts on climate change:
"Relishing the role of iconoclast, he confounded the scientific establishment by dismissing the consensus about the perils of man-made climate change as “tribal group-thinking.” He doubted the veracity of the climate models, and he exasperated experts with sanguine predictions they found rooted less in science than in wishfulness: Excess carbon in the air is good for plants, and global warming might forestall another ice age."
Lots worth reading in the NYT obituary.
> Indur Goklany has done a careful job, collecting and documenting the evidence that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does far more good than harm. To any unprejudiced person reading this account, the facts should be obvious: that the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide as a sustainer of wildlife and crop plants are enormously beneficial, that the possibly harmful climatic effects of carbon dioxide have been greatly exaggerated, and that the benefits clearly outweigh the possible damage.
I consider myself an unprejudiced person and to me these facts are obvious. But the same facts are not obvious to the majority of scientists and politicians who consider carbon dioxide to be evil and dangerous. The people who are supposed to be experts and who claim to understand the science are precisely the people who are blind to the evidence... I hope that a few of them will make the effort to examine the evidence in detail and see how it contradicts the prevailing dogma, but I know that the majority will remain blind... How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts?
When I read articles about species dying, ice melting, etc, I think to myself "what would it be like to travel to and live on that strange new world, with less ice, different species, wild weather?"
At the same time I've converted pasture into hedgerow and I plan to bury the wood in trenches.
How is it not "rooted in science" that excess carbon is good for plants? We're already seeing significant global greening, and yields are up. Excess CO2 also reduces the amount of water the plants need.
The statement is completely true, but it misses the point as to why people are concerned and glosses over a lot of negatives.
edit: the report has 18 pages on the benefits and 12 pages on the costs of elevated CO2.
I agree with what I think Dyson believed: that it's NOT obvious that global warming is net-negative (long term).
Another ice age would be pretty terrible too.
The most obvious cost is the threat to densely populated real estate along coasts as sea level rises. You have to build sea walls or move. Building walls is a huge direct cost. But forced moving creates huge indirect costs as the price of real estate above the new waterline soars--at the same the people with land under the waterline all file flood insurance claims (or go bankrupt).
Freeman Dyson was a brilliant physical scientist, but the problems of global warming will be primarily social, not physical.
Building sea walls is a trivial cost compared to moving (and giving up the real estate to the sea). Ask the Netherlands - 26% of the country is below sea level - up to (or down to) 6.7m below.
"The South Holland coast region is home to approximately 4 million people who live below normal sea level" https://www.ice.org.uk/what-is-civil-engineering/what-do-civ...
Roughly 1300 Euros per person protected. How much would it cost to move those people? And what is the total value of the real estate where they live/work/farm?
So yes, "Building sea walls is a trivial cost compared to moving (and giving up the real estate to the sea)."
Some of the disaster scenarios seem to assume people would just stay as the water rose, until they all drowned, shortest people first.
OK, but the next rational step would be to ask which scenario is presenting the greater risk. Just raising an issue without following through is not helpful, and, I am sorry to say, that is what Dyson tended to do on this issue.
However, I'm glad this is mentioned and how it shows that there are a lot of intelligent people who have concerns with the current science debate. Consensus isn't science, it's politics, and challenging ones ideas is how we both reinforce the truth as well as dispel myths.
That's what they said when Galileo Galilei was on trial for not trusting the "consensus" about geocentric view of the world.
To use a more recent example, that's what they said of Dr. Barry Marshall who discovered that it was Heliobacter Pylori, and not "stress" that's causing ulcers in the stomach. Dude was very nearly laughed out of his field, to the point where he had to take the unconventional step of infecting himself with h. pylori to prove the point, and then curing himself of it with antibiotics.
In a politicized field especially, it can very easily cost one their scientific career if they "disagree with consensus" if one is less prominent than Dyson, whereas "agreeing with consensus" is strongly beneficial.
"Freeman Dyson, renowned physicist and educator, today (May 17) received an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University"
Dyson said this while describing his time working on the Orion project. It had a profound effect on me and it has always stuck with me.
"We have no reason to think that climate change is harmful if you look at the world as a whole. Most places, in fact, are better off being warmer than being colder. And historically, the really bad times for the environment and for people have been the cold periods rather than the warm periods."
"...the computer models are very good at solving equations of fluid dynamics but very bad at describing the real world. The real world is full of things like clouds and vegetation and soil and dust which the models describe very poorly."
I'd rather remember Dyson for his significant contributions to physics, rather than for something he did not contribute to.
Did he live in UK? Yea the winter was milder I guess.
When the Iraqis set the Kuwait oil wells on fire as they left, it was predicted that they would burn for years and be a global environmental disaster. They were put out in six months. This was never celebrated. The news just moved on to something with more drama.
In the aftermath of the fires, the combination of ash and water used to put many of them out caused the desert to bloom like no one had seen in at least twenty years. This also was not widely promoted as some kind of good news.
When I was pursuing environmental studies, there was a cartoon in one of my textbooks depicting microbes giving off oxygen and some of the microbes protesting that they were destroying their environment and needed to stop. Microbes that off-gassed oxygen are how we got an oxygen atmosphere on earth.
One of my professors once said "We're like fleas on the butt of a dog trying to figure out which way the dog is going."
The truth is we don't really know as much as some people like to pretend we do and we do present stories in a biased fashion. The people who are convinced we are hurtling towards our doom generally don't want to have a rational discussion of the evidence. They are too busy trying to insist that our lives are in imminent danger and there's no time for rational discussion, we must do something to stop this.
Yes, that is called the Great Oxidation Event  and it was the Earth's first major extinction event.
The microbes were absolutely correct that their environment was being destroyed. The Earth then shifted to a new atmospheric makeup and new life blossomed but it was still a termination event for most life that existed prior to the event.
> The truth is we don't really know as much as some people like to pretend we do
Yes. Which means we shouldn't run a giant experiment with the atmosphere and the oceans. This is called the precautionary principle: if you're doing something that may result in systemic disaster then it's better to not do it. People who say that this giant global experiment won't do any harm (or go further and say it will be beneficial) are pretending knowledge that they don't actually have.
They are still cleaning up the oil from the sands on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia 30 years later though.
Still something to be celebrating I suppose, but less of an inconsistency.
At that time, it was not framed as "if nothing is done and we stand idly by and watch it burn." It was framed as "We simply don't have the manpower to resolve this and it's likely that many of these hundreds of oil well fires will end up simply burning themselves out while we try to get to them because the scale of this is just beyond what we have capacity to try to fix."
Then crack teams from around the world converged on Kuwait and developed new techniques on the spot that were more efficient and effective.
This comment is essentially self-refuting, since it would mean that you don't know as much as you like to pretend you do, and you are presenting a story in a biased fashion. Considering that its evidence includes a second-hand account of what one of your professors saying we are fleas on the butt of a dog, I'm gonna put it squarely in the "stories" category.
When I want to know what is happening with the climate and fires, I'm gonna trust billions of CPU hours of simulations based on computational fluid dynamics, numerical methods, satellite observations, and the laws of thermodynamics, economic modeling, and the scientific peer review process just a little bit more than the model your professor presents. Yeah, Earth is complicated. Fleas? Not helping the discussion.
Red Adair was already a celebrated oil well firefighter in the 1960s, when 'Hellfighters' was filmed. His fame continued to grow. I remember a number of pieces praising Red Adair Company and others involved in putting out the Kuwait oil well fires. Putting out an oil well fire with a jet engine made for eye-grabbing news.
Obituaries about him include praise like this, from CBS, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hellfighter-red-adair-dies-at-8... :
"Thanks in part to his expertise, an operation expected to last three to five years was completed in nine months, saving millions of barrels of oil and stopping an intercontinental air pollution disaster."
I therefore think you exaggerate when you write "never celebrated."
Do you have a citation for the desert bloom? I looked, but couldn't find any mention of it. Since much of the water for putting out the fires was sea water, pumped in reverse through oil pipes, I'm curious about salt water could be beneficial to a desert bloom. Was it downwind moisture?
It was far easier to find publications like "Remediation of Oil Contaminated Sludge and Soil in Kuwait":
"The destruction of oil fields in Kuwait during the Gulf War resulted in unprecedented large environmental damage. More than 500 oil lakes were formed covering more than 49 km2 area. The volume of contaminated oily sludge’s and soil, which needs to be treated in Kuwait, is estimated to be more than 20 million m3 ... Within Burgan, all lake beds, particularly the ones near the city of Ahmadi and in the working areas such as gathering centers in the oil field, are considered to be a threat to human health and harmful to all types of life, including native flora and fauna."
an "Ecology of Arabian deserts" (doi:10.1007/1-4020-3970-0_5 )
"Lakes of oil deliberately released in Kuwait by the Iraqi Armyin the 1991 Gulf War were up to 2.5 m deep and contaminated the environment, as well as the north-eastern shores of Saudi Arabia. The movement of armies and their vehicles during the first Gulf War in 1991 and the Iraq war in 2003–2005 has caused the fragile desert pavements laid down over thousands of years to be broken and destroyed over large areas of north-eastern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and many areas of Iraq. This caused a dramatic increase in the number of violent sandstorms and dust storms, new dunes blocked roads in northern Kuwait (El-Baz, 1992), and pilots reported a doubling of dust storms following the Iraq–Iran war in the 1980s."
so I also would like to know how well benefits like the desert bloom balances the many better-known negative effects.
It was something I saw in a print magazine a long time ago. I can't cite it.
It's easy to pull out a single phrase, like "never celebrated," and nitpick it. In comparison to the handwringing in the news at the time about the imminent global catastrophe we were facing, the success of getting it out out and averting the level of global atmospheric catastrophe that was expected wasn't really celebrated.
We did the same with Y2K. The world expected a financial meltdown. People were stockpiling guns and give years of flour in their basements and then it became "Gosh, I can't program my VCR."
We take success for granted. We don't celebrate that we have 7 billion people with long life expectancy and high standard of living compared to 200 years ago. Instead, we complain about overpopulation and global warming and how we are hurtling towards our doom.
"How to lie with statistics" is a terrific book about how we can take the same data and say different things with it. We tend to frame it quite negatively.
In the end, none of us is getting out of here alive. We're all just dancing on this Earth for a short while.
There are people literally trying to find ways to solve death and wondering if we can be frozen and brought back and so forth. We're never satisfied and there's some evidence that it's partly because we choose to focus on the negative and with 7 billion people there no shortage of bad news, but not because things are necessarily actually worse in absolute terms.
Sure. And it's easy to exaggerate. Why not say "underappreciated"?
"People were stockpiling guns and give years of flour in their basements"
Sure. And yet no one I knew did that. If one points to extremes and ignore the average case, isn't that an exaggeration?
"Instead, we complain about overpopulation"
Perhaps because Norman Borlaug was right in saying "But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution will be ephemeral only."
"it's partly because we choose to focus on the negative"
Perhaps you are the one to see a desert flower bloom in the midst of great environmental damage. Does that mean the damage is not there and there's nothing to do?
Small consolation if you live in one of the former places, of course. But he's not wrong. Earth as a whole is a bit colder than it would be in the best of all possible universes.
Other effects like ocean acidification are harder to hand-wave away. I hate cold weather, myself, but it's not just about terrestrial climate.
Under no reasonable time frame for human existence is his claim even close to valid.
The fact is, we've been coming out of an ice age for the past several millennia, and life has generally gotten better as a result. The rate at which that process happens is very important, though. If Dyson did overlook any important counterpoints, that seems like a big one.
We know exactly what the Arctic is going to look like and its impacts. We have known and are observing the melting of glaciers in the Alps, Andes and Himalayas to catastrophic effects in downstream environments.
Anything is subject to debunking if you're unwilling to look at the most sophisticated evidence available. Unfortunately, there is no model that will tell you that a 4 degree increase in average temperature won't end most of human society as we know it.
“Contrary to popular accounts, very few scientists in the world – possibly none – have a sufficiently thorough, 'big picture' understanding of the climate system to be relied upon for a prediction of the magnitude of global warming. To the public, we all might seem like experts, but the vast majority of us work on only a small portion of the problem.” (Roy Spencer)
I'm sorry but I'm not gonna take seriously people who want to criticize model sensitive as a reason to ignore climate change when the current glacial melt, the ongoing ocean acidification and all the phenomena that have already been unleashed by the existing levels of climate change continue unabated.
It also increases evaporation an even the size and geography at play they don't even come close to cancelling out.
>>seas taking over the cities
>Has not happened.
I'm sure Jakarta would like a word.
Which increases rain, as I said. The most highly productive ecosystems on the planet are hot. Rainforests are not scary bad things to be afraid of. California is running out of water because they draw too much water, not because of CO2. Huge portions of the planet are currently drawing water from aquifers and natural reservoirs faster than they refill, and rely on that inherently unsustainable practice to irrigate crops. In a few decades, we could see massive starvation in India as water runs out. And instead of even TALKING about this problem much less promoting sustainable agriculture, climate hysteria distracts from it so it goes unaddressed, allows these problems to continue, then blames them on CO2.
>I'm sure Jakarta would like a word.
Blaming every flood on "climate change" is precisely the problem. Has the number of floods increased? No. Has the severity? No. Has sea level rise accelerated? No. Have hurricanes increased in size or severity? No. Yet every time any of these events occurs now, we're blasted with "look its climate change how dare you deny it!" in the media.
> Are no hotter than many other years, decades ago.
Well there is a whole damn Wikipedia article about the subject if you are into reading. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_in_Australia
And yeah, the summers are ridiculously hot and are actually hotter than many other years, decades ago, and keep getting hotter. One outlier from the 1970s doesn't invalidate the overall trend that it's fucking hot as hell, year after year. The outliers from those decades are the new normal now. Droughts are multi-year trend. And yeah, that's climate change, dude.
>>seas taking over the cities
> Has not happened. The rate of sea level rise has been stable for the 120 years we have good data. It has not accelerated.
Bull [https://www.sbs.com.au/news/never-seen-anything-like-that-ve...]. Fucking [https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/08/08/analysis-s...]. Shit [https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2680/new-study-finds-sea-level...].
>>are all demonstrable effects of climate change
> None of them are. They are things people insist MUST be caused by "climate change", but do so only using "common sense", rather than any actual evidence. Demonstrable requires evidence, not "common sense".
Please go argue with the thousands of people whose work the distilled news articles and Wikipedia articles are based on. They aren't sitting around churning out hackernews comments using "common sense" but are undertaking a very serious and organized scientific effort to understand just what the fuck is going on instead of absurd denialism.
That Wikipedia article has 158 sources cited. You? Zero.
> Repeating it won't make it so.
I mean, you can go trawl through the data yourself. The graph is in the last expandable fold. The page describes the data collection practices, peer review, the entire god damn thing right there. But you know what? You don't care. Because it's gonna be another bullshit thing, one after another---oh that's not real data. That's not science. That's fake news, lalalala, you don't wanna hear it, and on and on and on.
> Why? What possible benefit would that have
Well TBH trolls like you have a net negative effect on the entire discourse and the culture here. I generally don't think it's good for the culture for people to engage trolls, but egad, I stepped on a landmine and here we are. It's not good when the community has to spell it out in black and white, but what I am basically saying is, stop embarrassing yourself and don't bother commenting if you can't offer anything positive. You haven't offered one goddamn source or citation, just your feelings. Please spare us!
Freeman Dyson's opinion is one of skepticism, not denial. Unfortunately I don't think he's deeped in the science or the messiness of climate modeling, so I think he's just not an expert here. Bright, even eminent scientists can be wrong, even in their areas of expertise. For example, Ernst Mach was famous for not believing atoms exist, even declaring it loudly after having heard a lecture by Boltzmann. Einstein firmly opposed the nondeterminism underlying quantum mechanics, refusing to believe that physics is not deterministic (this is the source of his famous "God does not play dice" quote.)
Ah yes, the same fires started by loony arsonists to promote climate change hysteria.
The sea level raise has been approximately 3 inches from the 1993 level. That is much less than the change due to the tides.
The location of certain geological features or bodies of water is a really poor indicator of environmental damage, because these things have changed constantly throughout time.
However the tons of plastic we dump into the oceans, the lakes of sludge outside of Chinese factory cities and the massive amounts of e-waste shipped every year to Africa where kids and adults extract metals and plastic in very unsafe conditions and smelters should be of great concern to everyone.
There is environmental disaster looming, and so much of it is much more radically evidence than CO2. We need to stop over-consumption. Consumerism and planned/negligent obsolescence is destroying this planet. Solving for the real problems will also reduce CO2, but focusing on CO2 is like trying to cure the sniffles when you're dying of the Flu.
It’s important environmentalists consider the whole and do cost benefit analyses of intervention.
I see much less of a cost to quality of life in reducing planned obsolescence and increasing the reusability of things than I do in decreasing carbon emissions wholesale. The transportation benefits of gasoline are enormous, and it makes less sense to restrict something so practical and beneficial than it does to try to reduce something as wasteful and pointless as intentionally making a product difficult to repair and maintain long term.
I’m very sympathetic to Dyson’s criticism of the status quo, although I don’t know enough to have an opinion on whether carbon emissions may be beneficial on net. He advocated for practicality rather than dogmatic belief, and was interested in simple interventions like changing land management and tilling practices if carbon emissions are actually as detrimental as are being touted, rather than dramatic energy reduction or conversion to expensive and currently less viable energy sources.
Regardless of whether or not people believe CO2 is on net beneficial for the planet, I think he was right in calling out the difficulty in having an apolitical, non-interested and practically minded perspective on climate change and environmental impact that goes against dogma. The science should speak for itself, and any candid and open good faith discussion to determine whether alternative perspectives are valid should be welcomed. Dyson’s argument that carbon emissions are probably good on net might be wrong, but his position was in good faith and well constructed. Any such position should be transparently engaged with rather than dismissed as uneducated.
But if the wind is blowing from the sea/river to the land, it can increase the level, specially during a storm, in some places a few meters. And the waves during a storm can be also a few meters high. [Hi from Buenos Aires! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudestada ] So a few inches was never enough to ensure that your city will not be flooded.
> Around 1979 Dyson worked with the Institute for Energy Analysis on climate studies. This group, under Alvin Weinberg's direction, pioneered multidisciplinary climate studies, including a strong biology group. Also during the 1970s, Dyson worked on climate studies conducted by the JASON defense advisory group.
There have been lots of advances in modelling complex systems, but it’s notoriously difficult to find models that work beyond a short timeframe. Dumb simple models often work better than cutting edge, complicated, much more realistic ones simply because there are less variables to get wrong. And every time you make an advance, the assumed accuracy of the model’s long term predictions needs to be reset: if model A predicted 1 year accurately, and you improved it so model A.1 predicted the next year accurately, you don’t have a model that accurately predicted 2 years; there is still only 1 unknown year that was predicted, and A.1 was just as accurate/inaccurate as model A at predicting that unknown year whether or not it took that past year into account.
We’ve seen how easy it is for sophisticated and complex models of chaotic systems like the stock market to fail despite people’s faith in them. His point seems as prudent now as back then; I think some systems are a lot more complicated than we’d like, and that we should have enough hubris to acknowledge that and be constantly testing our assumptions against empirical data.
He didn’t dismiss the value of models in helping understand chaotic systems, he was just wary about their long term predictions. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong, only that they should not be taken as Gospel for anything beyond a fairly short time frame.
I’ve watched a number of relatively lengthy interviews and presentations he’s given that have been about or have touched on the topic of climate change, and he consistently references measurements of carbon’s effects and emphasizes the importance of real world measurements. His criticism is of abstract models of climate that attempt to make long term predictions.
If you’re most familiar with his positions through quotes and third hand reporting, I encourage you to listen to videos of him. I found him quite enjoyable to listen to. He was not the partisan he was sometimes painted as, although he was interviewed by people that were, but rather seemed genuinely curious and interested in truth and exploration.
Here are a few videos.
His core claims appear to be that A) Increased CO2 has measurable, beneficial effects B) CO2 is one of many factors contributing to a complex system effecting climate that we don’t fully comprehend C) The positive or negative effects of climate change we’re observing depend on the region D) It is better to create a wide range of practical engineering solutions to deal with the effects of a changing climate than to think we can fully control it or know what effect our interventions or lack thereof will do in the future.
Some of those claims might be wrong, but I think it’s inaccurate to say they weren’t scientifically based.
There is also something of the motte-and-bailey fallacy when he claims that the modeling is not accurate enough to be trusted, while also telling us how things are going to work out.
He said we should teach children to genetically "play" with plants. He thought we needed that kind of creativity as a human species if we would ever be able to populate the asteroid belt. He said that most of the surface area of the solar system is in the asteroid belt -- but the only way we could really live out there was if we could create warm blooded plants.
 Alan Kay's explanation of Arthur Koestlers creative thinking (link will follow later).
John Cleese explains how . Point of view is worth 80 IQ points, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.
 Arthur Koestler (link will follow later).
 John Cleese explains why in a funny way.
Definitely not in common use - the parent comment is a top ranking result for a variety of relevant-seeming searches.
Freeman Dyson's the person after which the Dyson sphere is named, so the current (relative) "unusability" of asteroids or the fact that humans currently seem to "do really poorly in microgravity" are 'just' additional obstacles to be overcome sometime in the future from the perspective in which space megastructures are possible.
But yeah, I don't think "surface area" is the right angle to look at. More like "volume within a sufficient depth". A lot of (most?) asteroids and comets consist primarily of water ice, and water happens to be pretty darn good at radioactive shielding, so if we build habitats inside the asteroids we'd have a solid chance of significantly addressing that particular hazard (and also have plenty of water for drinking / agriculture / fuel).
"Science and religion are two human enterprises sharing many common features. They share these features also with other enterprises such as art, literature, and music. The most salient features of all these enterprises are discipline and diversity. Discipline to submerge the individual fantasy in a greater whole. Diversity to give scope to the infinite variety of human souls and temperaments. Without discipline there can be no greatness. Without diversity there can be no freedom. Greatness for the enterprise, freedom for the individual- these are the two themes, contrasting but not incompatible, that make up the history of science and the history of religion."
He imagined the Dyson Sphere that set me on my path to Science, Carl Sagan just gave the last push.
He imagined the space chicken and the Kuiper belt/Oort cloud plants.
His carbon cycle ideas have still not been researched seriously.
His essay on the origens of life (started by Gödel) are still ringing in my brain.
His view of big Napoleon versus small tabletop science is a very valid analysis of our current crises in science and his solution is to be kind to the mad scientists and heretics.
By far his best interview is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBjVHLBEsHI&list=PLzLGaX_Jvm.... It is also on bittorrent and Peertube.
The rest of the Glorious Accident series is worth it as well, especially the group discussion at the end.
Here are some of his most interesting tidbits (For a man like Dyson, I'm sure there's more)
1. Birds and frogs: https://www.ams.org/notices/200902/rtx090200212p.pdf (On two kinds of intellectual personalities)
2. The Scientist as a Rebel (essay collection): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51431.The_Scientist_as_R...
3. He has been thoughtfully articulate in his perspective on religion. While I can't find an appropriate link right away, definitely worth checking out.
I've heard occasional attacks on him over the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg. But I think this is worth a read. He speaks very frankly about what they did and his involvement. It's clear how he felt about it, but he never tries to make excuses for himself. That impressed me about his character in a way that's hard to explain.
Interestingly, this theorem can be used to prove the Wobbly Table theorem, that any square table can be rotated on a (possibly bumpy) floor so that all four legs touch the ground simultaneously.
I found the theorem interesting, and it has the flavor of the Borsuk-Ulam Theorem (commonly explained as "there are always a pair of antipodal points on the Earth that have the same temperature and pressure"), but it bugged me that the proof was not at all similar to the standard proofs of the Borsuk-Ulam Theorem.
So I found my own proof of Dyson's theorem, in the spirit of the Borsuk-Ulam Theorem. Wrote it up but didn't publish traditionally — it's at https://haggainuchi.com/wobblytable2.html — but it never occurred to me to send it to Dyson or that he might be interested.
Too late now, sadly.
from Dyson's 1962 memo on the Test Ban Treaty:
"The choice, whether or not to accept a test-ban agreement, is thus not a choice between two static situations, one without testing and the other with testing at some constant rate. This choice seems rather to be, either to stop tests, or to continue to double the rate of testing every three years ad infinitum."
"Mia Dyson says her father, at the age of 96 still regularly went to his office at Princeton University. On Wednesday, on such a visit, she says he suffered a fall and died of his injuries Friday morning."
TBIs and elder falling are a terrifying source of morbidity and mortality. So many old people start their terminal decline when they fall, for no particularly good reason. (Even when it doesn't immediately kill them, it can contribute to a downward spiral of ill health, less activity, and iatrogenics.) Who knows how much longer Dyson could have lived if his foot hadn't slipped?
Would a lifelong couch potato for whom their post fall movement is only a few percent less than what it was before the fall be less affected than someone who had been very active before their fall and had to cut their movement by 95%?
Movement helps with digestion is something I learned from firsthand experience. Due to a broken leg I was confined to a bed for nearly 2 months and remember bowel movements were extremely affected. Movement helps with arthritis,
helps the brain, helps the bones.
Also, the lymph system requires breathing and movement from the body's muscles to help move fluids and remove waste from the body.
To beat young whippersnappers!
I suspect reaction and bracing may matter more than human scale durability given sucker punches are especially dangerous because the body doesn't react or attempt to shield any vitals. Clearly healthy young men aren't durable enough to never die that way.
In the case of elders the decline in reflexes may matter more - although they certainly do take injuries worse.
oh.. Traumatic Brain Injury.
good point, let's make elders angle protection trendy and desireable
On Thursday, I saw Freeman Dyson speak at Cornell. He was so amazing I can't even describe it. I didn’t look at my watch once during the speech. Not long into the talk, the elderly gentleman next to me pulled a scrap of paper out of his pocket and began scribbling notes. He kept writing until the end of the speech. I glanced behind me during the question-and-answer period, and noticed that Schwartz Auditorium was so full that people were standing in the balcony and sitting on the railings just to hear Dyson.
The text of Dyson’s speech would have impressed any English teacher. He structured it as seven short stories, with each one slowly building on each other. The style of his writing––the way he chose his words and structured his sentences––would have been impressive if he had been giving a lecture in the humanities, much less a field stereotyped for less-able communicators. The way Dyson was able to convey the sheer wonder of science was an orgasmic experience equivalent to reading my first Carl Sagan book.
An 80-year-old physicist who had the energy of a young assistant professor, who delivered his speech fluidly and responded deftly to the audience’s questions––a scientist proficient in more than one science, and fluent enough in biology to give an entire lecture on biotechnology!!!! Oh wow...
In short, there's no practical way to stick an atmosphere, much less a civilization composed of life forms that depend on gravity, to the inside of the sphere, even if the other engineering challenges could be overcome.
* One thing that's suddenly more interesting to me now is if the space at any point is being "pulled" equally in all directions, resulting in zero force, or if the bends in space-time cancel out. In the limit, for example, could you "tear" space-time inside a dense enough and/or heavy enough shell of matter?
there is zero space-time curvature within the sphere, it's "flat", so there's no force. nothing is "cancelled out", force is the derivative of energy with respect to space. it's like a 3d pedestal (or rather, a cylinder excavated from the earth with a flat bottom)
Why not spin the sphere? Given the immense surface area, it wouldn't even matter that the centripetal force would only be strongest around the 'equator'.
So, the plan would be:
1. Create a giant rotating sphere around our Sun.
2. Create a ring world around the 'equator' of the inside of the sphere (i.e. a ring of walls high enough to hold in the resident's preferred atmosphere).
3. Install solar panels everywhere else.
It's been done, of course...
Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga independently discovered quantum electrodynamics. Then Freeman Dyson explained it -- to the first three!
Here’s an article: https://www.mainepublic.org/post/renowned-mathematician-and-...
> He appeared in John McPhee’s book “The Curve of Binding Energy” (1974), a portrait of Ted Taylor, the nuclear scientist who led the Orion effort, and in Kenneth Brower’s “The Starship and the Canoe” (1978). In a memorable scene, Mr. Brower wrote of Dr. Dyson’s reunion with his son, George, who had turned his back on high technology to live in a treehouse in British Columbia and build a seafaring canoe.
Both books are very much worth reading.
I can’t even begin to list his accomplishments!
edit: I'll leave this up for posterity, but the answer is no. The article explains the discrepancy.
I came upon parasitic numbers by researching Freeman Dyson one day. Very cool. Read up on them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasitic_number
This is actually quite rare at the very upper echelons of the scientific community.
Seems more complicated than that
> I am a practicing Christian but not a believing Christian. To me, to worship God means to recognize that mind and intelligence are woven into the fabric of our universe in a way that altogether surpasses our comprehension
Doesn't sound very falsifiable.
I think that everything is the light with different levels form of concentration. High concentration of the light transforms to physics matter. Low level of the light is vacuum, high is atomic energy, Large Hadron Collider for example. The light is universal transmitter & transformer. The light is concentrated knowledge that is transmitted from the sun to every particle of the planet and peoples, and thanks to the light, matter and a variety of life forms are created, which creates a variety of forms of matter.
The idea of Christianity about the resurrection of people is magnificent, then such great people as Dyson could be resurrected, why not? But technologies are needed in new physics and medicine, which would gain access to reality at the nanoparticle level. A 3D printer that prints the light and lays knowledge into the light to recreate a person. There is a pattern that the more we get access at the micro level, the more powerful chips we can build, and more powerful chips can calculate more hashes and allow us to bring in new gigantic machines, like telescopes and spaceships, which will give access to new macro-knowledge such as dark matter and black holes of matter-time consensus, which will allow us to create new petabyte flash drives based on light, and new the light based computers will be able to burn information directly to the points of space, and what it means to materialize any object, which will provide access to new knowledge and made new grand chips & telescopes. We already partially use the light in our rooms, networks and cameras and monitors to exchange information. New theories and machines based on the light will allow creating new machines for controlling the space-time continent and copying knowledge from any space-time, and then the task of resurrecting people becomes feasible and we can transfer the consciousness of this particular person from the past without distortion. If this happens in the next 5,000 years, then Dyson saw it right. To create such machines, we need new geniuses with Dyson's light.
I'm sure we are know less about physics & light, because we live on single planet in single point of universe and our theories can be expanded when we arrive to new points of universe.
For those not familiar:
At the time I thought it was likely because she wasn't _directly_ involved in computing and tried to write it off, but Freeman seems to be as related to the page as her. I bring it up because it really does speak to how a community decides who they want to include or not. Unless I've missed some specific guidelines, it sends unwelcoming signals to me.
Maybe Katherine Johnson just wasn't considered notable enough, or maybe the story just wasn't noticed. I wouldn't necessarily attribute it to sexism, though - there have been male obits that haven't gotten the black bar either.
I'm a woman and I'm painfully aware that women and other underrepresented groups face uphill battles to have a career at all and these battles are worthy of note in their own right.
I don't know what the solution is. I think about such things a great deal and wonder a lot what I would need to do to achieve recognition for my work and not for "a woman who did that kind of work."
I'm medically handicapped. I don't want to be remembered either as "a handicapped person who achieved something."
We don't remember Stephen Hawking that way. His work stood on its own for its merit. It didn't make news because he was wheelchair bound and did it. It would have made news even if he had been able bodied.
Certainly, a lot of underrepresented groups simply aren't getting the recognition they deserve. But I think about this problem space quite a lot and my first-hand experience has been that I tend to get attention for all the wrong reasons routed in my gender. My feeling is this is a factor in Theranos becoming such a debacle. I feel like men mostly either squee at women or dismiss them simply because they are women and women mostly don't get the kind critical engagement that helps one pursue excellence.
I don't know what criteria gets used to determine who deserves the black bar. I mostly don't think too much about that.
But I feel like this is about the worst possible way to pursue the subject.
Obits that posted get treated like a virtual wake. Discussion isn't off limits, but coming here to complain about this person getting recognition when someone else didn't seems like a pretty bad way to try to explore why the black bar is given and what we, as a society, can do to try to continue to reduce social injustice.
Besides the fact Kathrine Johnson's achievements start NASA stand up outside of her race and gender (literally being trusted over computers and programs that sent people into space)
Your analogy with Steven Hawkins is so incredibly stupid and insulting.
Her race isn’t relevant just because blacks are underrepresented.
It’s because SHE LIVED IN THE RACIALLY SEGREGATED SOUTH.
How foolish is it to act like her race is some aside like a fucking wheelchair when she lived in an era where her drinking at a certain water fountain was illegal because of her skin color.
And I mean, you don’t know about a lady who won a Presidential medal of freedom, has a building named after her by NASA, brought people back home from space safely, who was a subject of one of the most successful films of 2016 (a movie that Google shows as having almost 100x more reach than useless fiction like a Dyson Sphere btw) so what?
Kudos to the grandparent comment for doing what I wanted to do but wasn’t bold enough to.
Sure it doesn’t satisfy your delicate sensibilities that this is a post about someone dying, but damnit if I have thought the same thing, and damnit if this isn’t just as good a place as any.
There is no place where someone wouldn’t have tried to brush off their comment with some foolishness about “this is not the place”.
Because it’s never the right place or time when someone talks about something uncomfortable to you people.
I was talking about why I reflect a lot on such things.
>”that I tend to get attention for all the wrong reasons routed in my gender.”
You’re clearly trying to imply the merit for her would be the fact she’s a black female, why even bother trying to imply otherwise
I appear to be the highest ranked openly female member on Hacker News. I appear to be the only openly female member to have ever spent time on the leader board.
I was homeless for nearly six years. I hit the leader board about a month after getting back into housing. So I got most of that karma while homeless -- while I was extremely dirt poor and something of a social outcast.
I'm sympathetic to the OPs frustrations. I left the comment out of a desire to be supportive.
I realized I was taking a chance and the odds were fairly high that it would be wildly misunderstood to be the exact opposite of my intentions. I did it anyway because I felt it mattered.
I don't really intend to engage you further.
Personally I agree with that. The newspapers will have great obituaries anyway.
Forever the optimist!
It's not so much driven by climate changes as by potential agricultural profits, though. If it were the former, they'd make an algae 2.0 and drop it in the ocean. But as C3 to C4 modification could make a hotter, drier rice with 20%-50% higher yield, that's worth a whole lot of money.
Of course, that work has been underway for decades--even before CRISPR/Cas9--and golden rice got stomped for no good reason, so even if someone made a super-Sitka-pine exclusively for carbon fixation, it could still get blocked by politics.