Beyond the Cusp

August 13, 2016

Ecology the Economy and Global Pollution

 

There are so many arguments where it is apparent that much of the ecology demands are in direct conflict of interest with the state of the economy. Of course it does not need to be this way or even an actual issue for the Western and post-industrial world. Technological advancements have even led to coal powered plants in the advanced world putting out next to nothing in emissions into the atmosphere compared to those same plants forty or fifty years ago. We can excuse many of the youthful ecology warriors as they did not live when smog was an actual problem and those days where one really needed that gas mask they are so anxious to claim will be necessary at today’s standards. There were days where visibility in Los Angeles was limited to half a block and days when a temperature inversion turned Denver, Colorado into a city under an orange bowl of trapped air. There were any numbers of times when the Cuyahoga River actually caught fire and Lake Erie could not support fish. All of these were the real ecological tragedies of the past and where we are today carries no measure of comparison. The air and water quality today is a taste of what we considered would be heaven on earth back in the fifties, sixties, seventies and early eighties though much had been gained by the mid-eighties. One cannot imagine what it was like in those rough and tumble days when the ecology movement started and great and close to unbelievable gains have been accomplished.

 

What was it like back in those dirty and horrific days, you ask. Well, allow us to try and explain. Air quality was very much like Beijing, Karachi or New Delhi and rivers were close to the conditions of the Ganges, Yellow and Buriganga Rivers (see images below). The greatest ecological problems facing humankind today are not the cities and rivers in much of the United States or Europe as much as they are in the developing world, particularly China, India and other nations almost always exempted from United Nations and other ecological requirements. Giving the worst polluting nations a pass on meeting standards and instead demonizing and requiring ever more difficult and approaching impossible standards of the advanced nations is ignoring the real problems that are damaging health and the state of the world. The United States and Europe could cut their air and water pollution by fifty percent or even seventy-five percent and it would not come close to improving world air and water quality as it would require the developing world to improve their air and water quality by a mere five to ten percent. Cleaning up the air and water in the developing world, especially the rising industrial nations like China and India could make huge strides. It is not as if what is being asked is all that impossible or even difficult to achieve as the science and industrial know-how already exist and much of it is off the shelf and install and you are good to go. If the financial burden was demanded almost exclusively from the developed world it would be an investment which would indirectly and directly affect the quality of life in the post-industrial world as the air and water of these developing nations does have an influence on the air and water quality worldwide. If the cost of installing and manufacturing the necessary pollution control systems for many of the industries which have been shifted from the developed world to the developing world, in some cases simply to avoid the ever more stringent pollution demands and requirements which the post-industrial world had challenged their industries to meet, there could readily be made improvements leading to decreasing pollution in these parts of the world easily attaining halving their pollution which would be a giant stride and would exceed any possible reductions quantitatively than anything possible in the rest of the advanced world. As stated, the required technology already exists and would simply require production and installation which in many cases would simply be an add-on system to already existing power plants and industrial facilities. One example would be the carbon scrubbers for coal fired electrical generation facilities which could cut CO2 easily by fifty percent and the costs would not be exorbitant making such one easy place to begin. Water filtration systems placed between factories and rivers could make a huge difference and finally using more advanced systems and procedures for handling recycling and sorting of trash could not only benefit air and water quality but also lead to reduced costs on the society into the future with the gains in health being just one benefit which should be an aim for all humankind.

 

Examples of Worst Air and Water Pollution Today

Examples of Worst Air and Water Pollution Today

 

The problem is one of numbers which is easily explained. Any pollution standards have thus far been coming from the United Nations and related NGOs and other agencies. Many of these have their leadership and decision making committees predominantly made up from the member nations. The United Nations lists the developed (post-industrial) nations as being North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. They list the developing nations as Africa, Central and South Americas plus Mexico, Caribbean, Asia (excluding Japan), Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand. Of the nearly two-hundred nations in the United Nations there are approximately one-hundred-forty developing nations with only fifty-five post-industrial nations. It does not require a degree in higher mathematics to understand why almost all pollution requirements are placed on the fifty-five post-industrial nations while the one-hundred-forty developing nations are excluded from any and all pollution reduction or restrictive requirements. Until the developing world takes responsibility for the health and safety of their own citizens, this lopsided insanity of improving air quality and reducing water pollution in the post-industrial world manages to improve the measureable levels of pollution in the world by, at an estimated best case scenario, a mere five percent at the most generous of measurements, the most rudimentary and basic pollution controls put into use by the developing world would drop world pollution levels at near the exact same percentage as these nations would improve their air and water quality.

 

Let us assume the developing world installed the most rudimentary pollution controls equivalent to those installed by 1980 in the post-industrial world, with financial and production assistance from the post-industrial nations where the only investment these developing nations would provide was the manpower to install these devices and assure their working order, the world pollution levels would be reduced by approaching, if not exceeding, fifty percent. That is correct what you read, cut pollution worldwide in half or better. Imagine what a relief on the planet and that ever over-blown strawman of climate change. If the propaganda which claims that cutting pollution by fifty percent could save the planet, and then demand that the post-industrial world meet that challenge when their total pollution consists of less than ten percent of world pollution makes it impossible to clean the planet while granting the nations with the highest pollution contributions a complete pass, it makes no sense. If the United Nations Climate Control Agencies really want to protect the planet and truly reduce pollution levels, they will need to swallow hard and demand some accountability by those very same nations who exempt themselves despite contributing over ninety percent of the problem. It is not that they do not realize their double standard cheating makes cutting pollution impossible as they are adding to world pollution at many times the entire production of pollution in the post-industrial world’s yearly output monthly. Let us repeat that for clarity. The developing world’s monthly increase of pollution outweighs the entire pollution of the post-industrial world for the whole year. That is comparing increases against total output, a concept which is hard to get one’s arms around. Should the developing world simply hold the line on their levels of pollution, it would do over ten times the saving than if the post-industrial world somehow curtailed their entire pollution yearly output. That puts the entire problem into an easy context. Does the world think it could demand that the developing world at least improve the systems they are installing daily and have their pollution output reduced by a marginal amount which could do so much without even touching their precious systems already in place? Do you think you could be capable of doing that, please?

 

There has been a series of Olympics in recent years held in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, and the current Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; all summer games where air and water quality and safety of athletes and tourists is more challenging as people will be outside in and around the Olympic Park making security a definite challenge. Air quality and especially water quality were particularly poor in both Rio de Janeiro and Beijing. In the Beijing Olympics China found it necessary to actually suspend all manufacturing and limited electricity usage for two weeks before the games and still the air quality, though better than normal for the city, left something to be desired. London, was a city with a history in the early days of the industrial revolution for having no direct sunlight hitting the streets and windows tinted with coal dust and smoke permeating into homes and stores interfering with every activity and worsening the health of all within its metropolitan area. The modern day London is literally a walk in the park with clear skies, clean water and no foul aromas as in London’s past. London could be used as a model for places such as Beijing and Rio de Janeiro as well as the rest of the emerging world. The modern nations could encourage such a cleaning up of the air and water of these emerging cities by providing even previously used and now retired scrubbers, reverse osmosis units and other technologies demanding only that the receiving country provide workers to install and trained in managing and upkeep and the entire world would benefit. Unfortunately there are too many who make their living complaining and this would place many of the ecology fanatics out of work and having to find something constructive to make their living; though we are sure they could find a new cause to make their living complaining and never lifting a finger to remedy the situation.

 

Beyond the Cusp 

 

February 29, 2016

Northrop Grumman Long-Range B-21 Bomber Plans Unveiled

 

We could file this one under the it’s about time file, but perhaps we should wait and see what develops. We have heard of a new aircraft to replace the aging B-52 fleet which has been around almost as long as Donald Trump. John McCain announced Thursday he would block the Air Forces using the often used method of cost plus type of contract on the proposed plan as it would leave the government responsible for cost overruns with no incentive for Northrop Grumman to work to avoid such costs. The engineering and development phase of the program is valued at $21.4 billion according to the Air Force and is conditioned on a cost plus contract with incentive fees for coming in on budget. Such cost plus with incentive presumably works that if an incentive is juicy enough the contractor will produce the bid for project on budget in order to receive the incentive which would presumably be pure profit as no additional work is required within the scheduled time-frame. This, of course, begs a simple question as to whether the company is really doing any additional work to bring any project in under budget and gain the incentive is really more profitable for the company than having cost overruns and extensions on the delivery dates or whether running a project over budget and time is not more profitable as it also keeps employees on a project until the next project perhaps with the Navy or Army can be procured. The game of defense budgets and projects always appears as a nightmare in tricks, gadgets and more costs per-project as time goes by. Sure the aircraft today are far more intricate and sophisticated but so are design and production techniques. When the B-52s, now what one might call a venerable aircraft as it has served well past its intended time in service, were initially built the separate assemblies were built at the same location as the rest of the aircraft and the entire assembly had tolerances which today would be unacceptable but today half the fabrication of parts is performed by robotic units which produce part after part with what would be humanly intolerable accuracy. Robotic welding is common and do not even get started on the exotic materials used in these modern stealthy aircraft. So, without dragging this out, here is the artist’s rendering of the new B-21 bomber.

 

 

Northrop Grumman Corp designated the B-21 long-range bomber

Northrop Grumman Corp designated the B-21 long-range bomber

 

I can hear the reactions now; half of us are all but drooling on our keyboards while the other half are scratching their heads asking themselves, isn’t this just a slightly tweaked Northrop Grumman Corp B-2 Stealth Bomber? Well, of course not. This is an entirely different aircraft and can in no way be thought of as an aircraft utilizing the same airframe as the B-2 as the picture below demonstrates.

 

 

Northrop Grumman Corp B-2 Stealth Bomber

Northrop Grumman Corp B-2 Stealth Bomber

 

You can see the obvious differences, the air intake and more of a ‘W’ shaped body and there must be an unbelievably difference inside and in capabilities. Let us go to the source with comments by United States Air Force Secretary Deborah James who stated, “The B-21 will allow the Air Force to operate in tomorrow’s high end threat environment. Our fifth-generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor-shoot capability that will allow us to hold targets at risk in a way the world – and our adversaries – have never, ever seen.” Then Secretary Deborah James went on and clarified our confusion explaining, “The B-21 looks very similar to the B-2 and will employ existing technology.” Aha, it is made by the same company as who produced the B-2, it looks a lot like a B-2 and the B-21 will use the same technology as we currently have with the B-2 and we really need this new aircraft, a fifth generation aircraft which has so little to do with that old fourth generation B-2 aircraft. All right, I got it now, I think. Well, let us for argument’s sake compare them side by side and as all our searches for specifications produced this, ‘Very few specifics are known about the new stealth bomber,’ we are left to our own devices on this one for now. So, about the side by side and we are not going to label them.

 

 

B-2 vs B-21, What’s the Difference?

B-2 vs B-21, What’s the Difference?

 

We really should reserve final judgement on the B-21 until the specifications are made final. As I recall, there were munitions which could not be carried in the weapons bays (bomb bays) of the B-2 and it had to be one of the slowest bombers on the planet which made it completely unsuitable for daytime bombing for which there were fighter/bombers with stealth which could carry out such missions. Of course having a long-range bomber which is unsuitable for daylight raids apparently was not a concern to the Air Force when they contracted for the B-2 which once the B-21 hits production will be obsolete leaving the B-52, sorry, venerable B-52 as the long-range bomber of choice, unless it is a nighttime raid.

 

Perhaps it is just me but I thought the advantage of a long-range bomber was that it could reach almost any target from any airbase even if it literally had to fly half way around the globe, which, unless the physics have changed, means part of that mission going or returning is going to be flown in daylight conditions. Where this is all well and fine, when the missions one flies are in Iraq and the Iraqis have no aircraft which can be stationed in Europe, North Africa, Asia or on aircraft carriers, thus they were incapable of engaging a B-2 moving at the speed of well short of the sound barrier, makes it a lumbering fat and impossible to miss target. Even training targets would pose a greater challenge. Granted, the B-2 had speed all over a blimp but in daylight conditions it may as well have been a blimp. Hopefully they will have some really impressive thrust to weight ratios which will allow for some respectable speed with the B-21 and also have introduced new avionics and control circuitry and respective airfoils and wings making the B-21 at least marginally maneuverable. Perhaps the main reason for the B-21 is as a replacement initially for the B-2, it ended up being more of an experiment than an actual replacement for the B-52 fleet. This time they had better have gotten the mojo necessary to replace the high flying and initially invulnerable B-52 which still serves proudly well past what I like to call its air show and museum date. So, we will have to wait for more leaks which will tell us far more about the B-21 which, in all honesty, does appear to be a slightly tweaked B-2 stealth bomber. Without improved performance capabilities, they may as well as have put a new more stealthy advanced skin on a B-2 and saved development costs, but I am hoping for the American taxpayers that this bird can fly loops around both of its predecessors, the B-2 and the loud-n-proud old warrior which is older than its pilots, some of whose fathers also flew the B-52, a rarity in aviation. Even civilian aircraft do not have the lifespan of the average B-52 flown today. That will become one of the most respected and honored aircraft and will be a staple for museums, and if any get into private hands, impressive in a low and slow flyover at airshows; she will be missed.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 29, 2015

Social Fabric is Being Torn Apart

 

The social fabric since the urbanization caused by the industrial revolution has taken the majority of mankind out of a rural setting and thrust us into a more urban environment. The question which should be occupying a large part of those pondering the future is how will our society adjust the social fabric when approaching one third initially and within this century well over three-quarters of what we consider now as the workforce not only not having gainful employment but no opportunity for employment as more and more occupations are performed by robotic systems. In a recent study Oxford University researchers have forecast that machines might be able to perform half of all jobs in the United States over the next two decades, and by implication the same will be true for the rest of the Western and Industrial nations and beyond. Once robotic workers are capable of executing an occupation, that occupation will be on a fast track to making the human employee a luxury, no employer will be capable of wasting further investments and instead will automate or perish before the competitors who have automated their workforce. Our societies throughout the world will need to adjust to a permanent unemployable class which will far outstrip the active workforce projecting sufficient tax revenues no matter what the taxation rate to support the remainder of society. But do not fret as the price of production and delivery of most goods will be delivered at a great savings which will continually become more efficient and less expensive to produce.

 

One example I recently read of compared the human workers to a former workhorse which powered much of our production either by providing the raw power or was at least required to bring the products to the public. This power and transportation utilized animals such as plowing with an oxen or mule, horse drawn wagons transporting goods from production to the consumers and any other animals mankind once relied upon. In our modern age the sole use for animals is recreation or as a raw material such as sheep for wool and food, cattle for food, dogs and cats as pets and so on with the animals no longer being used as a source of power within modern and industrialized societies. Where the horse drawn wagons and carriages were commonplace on the city streets of New York, Washington D.C, London, Paris and across the world; now a horse within the city limits for transportation is relegated today as some form of recreational use normally reserved for tourists such as carriage rides offered around Central Park in New Your City or central tourist areas in London and Paris and so on. This has caused a drastic drop in the horse population where they have become something that relatively wealthy people keep for their own use and the noble steed has passed its use-by date. The most telling replacement was made painfully obvious when at the start of World War II some of the finest cavalry troops saw their last in the Polish Army until January 27, 1947, when the 1st Warsaw Cavalry Division was disbanded. The initial breakout of World War II saw the attempt to use horse cavalry, as pictured below, in the field against German tanks; one can guess the end result was not too good for the cavalry.

 

Polish Uhlan cavalry armed with the wzor 35

 

The use of machinery initially to aid and augment human workforce was the driving technology of the industrial revolution. Power was initially provided by draft animals or water powered systems some of which have been found dating back well before the Industrial revolution to the Roman Empire. Eventually animals were replaced with steam engines followed soon thereafter by more efficient engines such as the internal combustion engine and also the use of electricity to power the factories using electric motors. Whatever the use in the modern factories of the industrial revolution it could be traced back to either hydropower or petroleum and natural gas powered electrical generators or direct use of fossil fuels as in trains, planes and automobiles. The terminology often used to describe the current stage is the information age though one could make an argument for the full utilization of programmable mechanisms. Such systems can trace their history back to the card operated weaving machines which often were water powered used in the making of cloth fabrics. With the development of the microchip we have seen an explosion in the variety of automated machines and had their size drastically reduced and made more agile and adaptable. These robotic units can be programmed or taken through a routine by a skilled operator and then allowed to simply repeat the process it was ‘trained’ to perform. Electronic automating has taken leaps forward to a point where virtually any manual task can be performed by an automated system even to the point of self-driving automobiles, buses, trains, trolleys, trams and other conveyances. Modern airports have installed moving floors to remove the necessity of having to actually walk to your terminal to board or disembark your flight. The exacting standards can and will be facilitated, and will only become more versatile in material and intricacy, as 3-D printing continues to be developed and integrated into the modern, fully-automated factory with robotic employees and a minimal human presence to basically monitor operations and hit the ‘stop’ button in case of, what will be made less common, an emergency or breakdown. What is frightening is there are robots being developed which would facilitate the repair of such a breakdown.

 

One thing I can attest to from my own work experience is that the printed circuit integrated boards have reached a level of sophistication and the manufacture of the integrated circuits made so affordable that the vast majority of these boards, or even modules, are less expensive to replace the entire part of the unit and send the malfunctioning board to be recycled or even destroyed (in an environmentally sensitive manner, of course). One industry which has turned to automation in a big way has been the automotive industry, both in their products and the assembly of the product (pictured below). The muscle of a robot is one of its major benefits as it never tires of doing its assigned tasks, never takes a break, is rarely ill or out of commission, does not complain and is very efficient. The latest addition to the productivity and versatility of the robotic assembler is that the software is almost to the point where a robot will be fully capable of replacing the majority of service jobs as well. In the future there may well be some upscale stores which will offer their patrons a level of service advertised as the most personal service one could expect, and such a boutique would actually have real flesh and blood people. What will be amazing is those people may even approach the efficiency, attentiveness, level of service and any other category except for speed and acute knowledge of the entirety of products available but otherwise just as good service as one can get from an automated shop. The basic for such a machine requires a special set of electronics which will have a microprocessor board which will contain any number of required CPUs (central processing unit), Memory ICs (both read/write and worm, write once-read many), support data ICs holding the AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the various switching, logic gates, and drivers (all of which look a lot alike to the chip displayed below). The current form of Artificial Intelligence in a robot can take many various forms each with their own special abilities and limitations. Some you might choose to have around the home to do the cleaning and be a walking-talking data base to provide information or even take your selfies and post them on Instagram, Facebook or whatever is the latest and greatest once we all have our personal assistant. (see below)

 

Modern Automotive Robotic Assemple Line

 

CPU Central Processing Unit Integrated Curcuit

 

 

Robotic Personal Assistant and Augmentation Suit

 

The predictions are that humans as a part of the workforce will be limited to personal touch niche and specialty markets but manufacturing will be fully automated within the next fifty years. Some of the effects of just sending many manufacturing plants overseas have had a huge debilitating effect of employment and pay scale of average incomes. Additionally, the United States has faced this drain in particular and it is not simply the income of the workforce which has driven many manufacturers overseas but rather the additional restraints and extra costs of making many products which drove them from American soil. The cost of pollution controls are quite stringent by comparison to the near nonexistence of such laws and restrictions in China and other markets. Taxes are another driving force pushing these jobs overseas. One has to realize what the extra costs with compliance with all the labor laws, inspections, building codes, noise limitations and the additional costs of employees with the new addition of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which in and of itself has produced an expected quirk as far as new hires in the United States. Where part-time work for people employed from twenty to twenty-nine hours per week has increased measurably, some estimates place it as high as twenty-five percent with the average assessments placing it at approximately twenty percent but on the other end. Full-time employment figures have not only not increased as well but in most assessments has dropped approaching five percent. College graduates can expect lower starting wages with many even working in their field starting at below fifty-thousand dollars a year. This is after at the minimum of four years at an average cost of over one-hundred-thousand a year for room, board, books and other supplies and fees. There are also a record number of college graduates who have been forced to accept employment in other fields and at positions which do not require a college degree, and we are not talking about those who majored in Renaissance French Sonnets of the Sixteenth Century.

 

The coming explosion in robotics will be from two perspectives. The first will be the rapid advancement of AI (Artificial Intelligence) to levels where one would have some degree of difficulty determining if they are speaking with an actual person or a computed employee, basically a telephone operator robotic unit. There is work being done now that has computer programs that write the codes for use in robotic systems. There are cad/cam software programs which enable the computer to design the systems to meet specifications using modular designs which are becoming as complex and intricate as anything produced previously by human beings. The truly frightening thing is that we may soon have robots designing and programming their own improved models and able to implement the manufacture and production of their improved design. This also implies that robotic systems in the not too distant future will also be capable of rewriting their own software and improving themselves for their own purposes. Once the machines begin producing more powerful and more capable machines and are capable of writing the programs allowing these improved robots the ability to supercede the level of competence of the initial robot we will have, as the human race, made ourselves superfluous placing us beyond the cusp and onto the endangered species list as we will have just as much relevance to robots speaking their own invented language and, who knows, inventing their own programming language which will completely shut human kind out of the formula. Let us hope the robots of the future find us to be cute little humans and get a good laugh at the humans posting their exploits on the internet. The robots are coming, the robots are coming and many of them are here already and they are assisting the government in watching you.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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