Friday’s Forum

FILED UNDER: Open Forum
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    By now, it’s been reported by every major news source that something is going wrong with vaccine distribution. States are being told to expect half the doses they were promised. Florida hasn’t received anything yet. The Republican administration has, of course, started lying in a confused and shambolic way. No schedule or plan was ever published, so we have no real idea how much should have been distributed by now or when the next batches should arrive. You know who doesn’t publish a plan? People who don’t have one. People who are just winging it. Or, maybe worse, people who are diverting it to private entities or other countries and want to make it as difficult as possible to find out. After all, that’s what they did wit PPE. Or perhaps they simply screwed up the delivery chain and the vaccines are sitting in some warehouse, thawing.

    And of course, the administration has made it clear they won’t be subjected to oversight from the Democratic House, and the Republican Supreme Court has made it clear that they won’t expedite any ruling on such a contest but instead force it through years in lower courts. As for the Republican Senate? They don’t do any real oversight at any time, and don’t even attempt their sham oversight during Republican administrations.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Scientists looking for aliens investigate radio beam ‘from nearby star’
    Tantalising ‘signal’ appears to have come from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun

    Don’t get your hopes up:

    The latest “signal” is likely to have a mundane explanation too, but the direction of the narrow beam, around 980MHz, and an apparent shift in its frequency said to be consistent with the movement of a planet have added to the tantalising nature of the finding. Scientists are now preparing a paper on the beam, named BLC1, for Breakthrough Listen, the project to search for evidence of life in space, the Guardian understands.
    ……………………………………………..
    “The chances against this being an artificial signal from Proxima Centauri seem staggering,” said Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist and professor of science communication at the University of Westminster. “We’ve been looking for alien life for so long now and the idea that it could turn out to be on our front doorstep, in the very next star system, is piling improbabilities upon improbabilities.

    “If there is intelligent life there, it would almost certainly have spread much more widely across the galaxy. The chances of the only two civilisations in the entire galaxy happening to be neighbours, among 400bn stars, absolutely stretches the bounds of rationality.”

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan:

    By now, it’s been reported by every major news source that something is going wrong with vaccine distribution.

    Surprising absolutely no one.

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  4. CSK says:

    Latest theory out of Trumpkinland: John Roberts had Antonin Scalia murdered because Scalia knew too much about Roberts’ corruption.

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  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    Not only doesn’t Cult45 understand how elections work, they don’t understand the betting markets either. Trump isn’t the only one fleecing them.

    “We’ve got people living in two different realities politically, and we’ve got people betting in two different realities,” Sherwin says.

    Are the bookmakers totally innocent? Were they baiting Trump supporters all along, milking gullible gamblers for all they were willing to bet?

    Not in the beginning. The oddsmakers were living in the same simulation as the rest of us, unable to get Trump supporters to stop betting on their hero (and to stop adding to the sportsbooks’ liability). Both Bovada and BetOnline felt they were conservative with Trump’s odds, trying to slow down his backers.

    “If anything, we were baiting Biden bettors,” Mason says. “We were giving them the discount.”

    Only after the election did bookmakers reach the “taking candy from a baby” portion of the proceedings. Mason tweeted the day after the election, when Trump’s odds at BetOnline were +525 and 80 percent of the bets were still coming in on Trump, “Our massive liability continues to grow.”

    A fool and his money…

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  6. Sleeping Dog says:
  7. OzarkHillbilly says:
  8. CSK says:

    The Daily Beast reports that according to their sources, Trump is thinking of reviving or developing an iteration of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice when he leaves the White House. It would be called The Apprentice: White House. No kidding.

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: So far, all the “Wow!” moments (times when there seemed to have been a signal from aliens) have turned out to be false alarms. It really brings home Fermi’s question: “Where is everyone?” If the galaxy is billions of years old, and contains trillions of stars, why hasn’t intelligent life populated it already? Instead, so far at least, we seem to be alone. (I’m leaving out those amazing E.T.’s that visit us from time to time and seem to know just what kind of camera the witness is holding, staying just outside of the range where they would get a clear picture.)

    FWIW, I think there are four leading contenders: 1) Intelligence and mastery of technology are not survival traits over anything but the shortest term, 2) The physical limitations of the universe (speed of light, cube square effect, etc) are so absolute they simply cannot be overcome by biological life, 3) Intelligent biological species eventually modify themselves away from being biologically based and then find worlds that are more suitable to their physical characteristics than messy biological worlds, 4) They further evolve/modify to the point where we would not even realize they were alive and sentient even if we came across them.

    On my darkest days (or, in the last four years, all my days) I fear number one is most likely

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  10. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    It would be called The Apprentice: White House. No kidding.

    My prediction comes a few steps closer to fruition….

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  11. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: Here are a few other possible factors: (5) The beings are as far ahead of us as we are toward ants (6) The universe is indeed so vast that they tend not to pay much attention to minuscule grains of sands (e.g. every little rock-based planet orbiting perfectly average stars within every 100K-light-year-wide spiral galaxy).

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  12. Kingdaddy says:

    @MarkedMan: There are tons of good discussions of the Fermi Paradox. Here’s one by a science fiction writer who does some great YOUtube videos on a variety of subjects.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=aBf7uAxk6ds&feature=share

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  13. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    In fairness, King Donald the One-Term Loser is perfectly qualified to impart high level classes on how NOT to run an administration. He could just go about pretending he still has the Oval Office job, and students would observe closely and take notes, and do the exact opposite every time.

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:
  15. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan:

    FWIW, I think there are four leading contenders: 1) Intelligence and mastery of technology are not survival traits over anything but the shortest term, 2) The physical limitations of the universe (speed of light, cube square effect, etc) are so absolute they simply cannot be overcome by biological life,

    Evolved creatures are programmed to behave in ways that benefits their short term reproduction.They are not optimized to deal with problems like Global Warming. Shit, scientists have known about GW for 100-150 years and half this country pretends it’s not even real. We’ve had nukes for 75 years and almost blown ourselves up several times. The wrong DNA sequence in the wrong bioweapon in a lab in North Korea or Russia might make anthrax look like hay fever. So “intelligent” life just might not last long.

    But I think more likely is, shit’s just too far apart. The closest stars to us have some planets, possibly even liquid water on the surface, but i doubt we could just pop on down to the surface and take our helmets off. More than likely, a planet with a magnetosphere, approximately the right gravity, concentration of gases, unpoisonous soil, etc is much farther away. And even if those planets are carbon copies of Earth, rocket technology would need 80,000 years to get there, and that’s without any fuel to brake. Mars is 160,000 times closer, and that’s hardly worth going to.

    Star Trek fantasies aside, it remains to be seen if we can keep This planet habitable.

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: @Kylopod: Or 7, Intelligent species are so shortsighted they inevitably destroy themselves/their planet.

    It would not surprise me if we found microbial life deep underground on Mars, or under the ice of Europa. Finding intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy? I’m not holding my breath.

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  17. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Pence is an excellent example of someone who long before Trump was a symbol of everything wrong with the GOP (he was engaging in tobacco denialism back in 2000) and yet who is still capable of behaving as some semblance of a rational human being, enough to fool certain parts of the bourgeoisie into believing he is one. It’s a tradeoff, as I do think he would have handled the pandemic more competently than Trump (keeping in mind how very low a bar that is) but there are certain ways in which someone like him could be more dangerous than Trump, especially if he had more charisma.

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  18. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Today, my feelings on the Fermi Paradox are: nobody knows, and nobody knows enough to speculate intelligently.

    Usually I like to speculate half-blind like everyone else. But not today.

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  19. Kathy says:

    We had another positive at the office. Again, someone who’s been trying really, really hard to catch it.

    No word on whether we’ll all get tested again. ON the meantime, I’ve my life staked on KN95 masks and as much social distancing as I can manage in an office full of people.

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  20. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MarkedMan: I’ve theorized that humans are constricted by the sliver of electromagnetic spectrum we have the organic capacity to sense and process. Although we have tools that give us access to additional spectrum we didn’t know existed and can now study–those tool are also biased by our organic senses. Its not unreasonable to assume to that the electromagnetic spectrum is endless. Therefore, I think its a reasonable assumption that, like the narrow sliver we are constrained too, other forms of like are also constrained to their sliver of spectrum which is full of life that materialized on that particular channel of the electromagnetic spectrum dial.

    I suspect Earth and Humans are probably somewhere on the VHF dial of Universe. There simply has to be better programming on the EM waves than this.

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  21. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    It would not surprise me if we found microbial life deep underground on Mars, or under the ice of Europa. Finding intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy? I’m not holding my breath.

    The question is, if there are so many habitable planets in the galaxy and if microbial life is commonplace, why would it not have evolved into more intelligent life at least in some places? It seems like there’s a lot of resources and opportunities for it to occur.

    The problem is that we are judging from such a limited data set. There’s really no way to know from looking at Earth life how probable or improbable the evolution of intelligence really is. All we know is that (a) bacteria stayed bacteria for more than 3/4ths of Earth’s history (b) something we’ve called “intelligence” appears to have evolved independently twice: in vertebrates and cephalopods–keeping in mind that “intelligence” in this sense is still a far cry from sentience or the ability to produce complex technology.

    I tend to lean toward the idea that the vast space and the great barriers to interstellar travel are a major thrust for the reason we haven’t run across intelligent life. Imagine that now, as we speak, there are intelligent beings in Andromeda and they take out their super-telescope that’s powerful enough to observe a planet from close up and by chance they happen to hit Earth–what they would see would be the Earth of a few million years ago. They’d see plenty of animals tromping about, including some hairy bipedal creatures in savannahs, but nothing to suggest a society capable of getting at least as far as its own moon.

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  22. OzarkHillbilly says:
  23. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Intelligent species are so shortsighted they inevitably destroy themselves/their planet

    That’s what I actually meant by my number one. We tend to just assume that intelligence is a long term survival trait. So far, actual real world experience can only confirm that under certain circumstance (like ours) it leads to logarithmic growth. Sharks have been around forever, and exhibit very little intelligence.

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  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    A couple of thoughts, hopefully it is more benign than this, Trump is planning to start a war or Trump believes the military will support a coup.

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  25. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Kylopod:

    keeping in mind that “intelligence” in this sense is still a far cry from sentience or the ability to produce complex technology

    Nit-pick: “Sentient” means “having senses”. Dogs, mice, flies… they’re all “sentient”. The word you want is “Sapient”–having the ability of higher thought.

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  26. Kylopod says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Nit-pick: “Sentient” means “having senses”. Dogs, mice, flies… they’re all “sentient”. The word you want is “Sapient”–having the ability of higher thought.

    I’ve heard this argument before, and I was just following the common terminology in order to be understood, but it is worth pointing out that these terms are elusive and there’s no consensus on what they mean. “Sentient” is just the accepted shorthand for what we’re talking about–whatever it is humans have and other animals don’t that gives us the ability to create things like poetry, skyscrapers, and spaceships–even if none of us can clearly define what that is.

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  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: The question is, if there are so many habitable planets in the galaxy and if microbial life is commonplace, why would it not have evolved into more intelligent life at least in some places? It seems like there’s a lot of resources and opportunities for it to occur.

    The problem is that we are judging from such a limited data set.

    Asked and answered: Very limited data. I almost commented on this aspect in my last post and decided I needed to think about it a little more. So here’s my short and sour not yet fully formed thoughts on the subject of intelligent life.

    It’s a bit of an egocentric pov to think that intelligence is the natural endpoint of evolution, not to mention extremely myopic and anthropomorphized. Is it not possible that intelligence is more often a detriment? Which is more likely to survive the leopard attack: The gazelle that takes flight at the first peripheral tic it’s eye catches or the gazelle that takes the time to check whether it’s a leopard or a mole? And which one is more likely to eat better? It’s always a balancing act. Evolution isn’t a straight forward progression, running down many blind alleys on it’s way from A to Z.

    As of right now, who’s to say we aren’t the end point of one of those blind alleys? Cause to this hillbilly, it sure looks like we are running hell bent for leather towards a brick wall.

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  28. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: If, say, a 100 million years ago, gophers evolved to the level of the Neanderthals, and created simple tools, used weapons to defend themselves against large predators, raised crops, developed legends and stories and religion, and then 10 thousand years later they were ravaged by a disease and wiped out, there would be no visible record. I’m not saying this happened, but it could have happened, many times.

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  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao: @Kylopod: Heh, puts me in mind of the “scented meat” conversation between Rust and Marty in True Detective.

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  30. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Pentagon says it’s just for a couple weeks cuz holidays.

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  31. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Is it not possible that intelligence is more often a detriment?

    Okay. Let’s say it’s a detriment 99 out of 100 times. Or even 999 out of 1000 times. That would still mean that that if there are numerous planets with life happening numerous times, intelligence is bound to arise numerous times even if it happens relatively infrequently.

    Besides, there are many examples on Earth where “intelligence” of some kind would seem to carry advantages. Take cockroaches. They may not be “intelligent” in the way we normally think, but they’ve got extraordinary navigational abilities (among other things). If you look around enough, you find that a lot of creatures have developed ways of using their nervous system to their advantage.

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  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Well, I gotta point out that we do in fact have lots of evidence for the Neaderthals and if a race of gophers had advanced to a similar level we’d have evidence of that too.

    But your point is taken. Could have, should have happened with the dinosaurs considering how long they were here and evolving, if intelligence was the natural endpoint of evolution. The asteroid that wiped them out would not have destroyed all evidence of such an advanced society either.

    I’m just saying that for all we know, we are nothing more than a burp in evolution.

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  33. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: as you probably know biologists don’t talk about an endpoint to evolution or a direction of evolution or evolution’s progress, or anything like that. it’s a bushy, interconnected tree, not a line.

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  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: Okay. Let’s say it’s a detriment 99 out of 100 times. Or even 999 out of 1000 times. That would still mean that that if there are numerous planets with life happening numerous times, intelligence is bound to arise numerous times even if it happens relatively infrequently.

    Or maybe it’s 1 out of a 100,000? Considering the # of species that have ever existed on planet earth, who knows the true likelihood. All of which brings us back to rule #7, Intelligent species are so shortsighted they inevitably destroy themselves/their planet.

    This is another of those conversations where there is no way to settle the discussion. We can postulate till the cows come home, but the data is limited to this one single planet and that is no where near enough to draw any kind of conclusion at all. Intelligent life might be as common as fleas on a dog in the universe, or it might be a 1 in a trillion freak accident. We can’t know.

    And now I have to skedaddle, things to do.

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  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve: Yep, like I said, lots of blind alleys, reconvergences too, but it is hard for most people to get out of the straight line way of thinking.

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  36. Teve says:

    @AOC

    “You can either get stimulus money or unemployment but not both,” say Republicans demanding corporate immunity for worker abuse AND tax cuts for the very rich AND subsidies for friends AND total lack of oversight or accountability for their connected pals scamming PPP AND…

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  37. CSK says:

    What a difference a day makes. Tuberville is now walking back his statement yesterday that he would support a congressional challenge to Biden’s election. He says a liberal activist took him out of context.

    Guess he’s just another RINO squish.

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  38. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    That doesn’t make any sense. The Pentagon is going on vacation in mass.

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  39. Teve says:

    @AnneWheaton

    Over the past two years, I’ve had maybe a dozen random people reach out to apologize for how awful they’d treated me on social media in the past. All of them confessed they were struggling with personal issues and took it out on me. It happened again yesterday.

    The one from yesterday was pretty relentless at the time. So bad that I actually remembered his name (he created a new, anonymous account but told me his actual name from the account he harassed me from.) It makes me happy to see people find their way and want to make amends.

    In a time when people are causing so much pain to others, it’s comforting to know there’s also people working on themselves so they don’t contribute to the pain, but also want to do what they can to take away the pain they caused in the past. Gives me hope for humanity.

    The man who reached out yesterday to apologize sent me this link that helped him realize why he was going along with attacking others. He referred to himself as “a lonely idiot with no real identity” that led him down that path.

    The psychology of tribalism (30 min video)

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  40. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: “
    That doesn’t make any sense. The Pentagon is going on vacation in mass.”

    I don’t understand what you mean.

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  41. Sleeping Dog says:
  42. CSK says:

    More hilarity from Trumpkinville:

    Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh are now officially liberal commie traitors.

    Again, what a difference a day makes.

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  43. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    Stopping transition briefing for Christmas is about the lamest cover I’ve heard in a while. It is more of trump and his toadies trying to f#ck w/Biden and make life more difficult. More of the worst people.

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  44. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: I keep being reminded of the scene from Annie Hall:

    ALLISON: All right, so what are you saying now? That everybody on the Warren Commission is in on this conspiracy, right?

    ALVY: Well, why not?

    ALLISON: Yeah, Earl Warren?

    ALVY: Hey, honey… I don’t know Earl Warren.

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  45. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:
    What confounds me is how non-existent the short-term memory of Trump idolaters is. Yesterday they loved Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. They loved Tuberville. Today? The opposite.

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  46. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Doesn’t matter in the big scheme. Biden cannot make a decision on anything until Noon on 20 Jan. Things he could potentially have to nake decisions on would come from new developments highlighted through intel briefings he gets.

    These transitions briefing are very high level and not about day to day operations. They are also filtered through the outgoing Administration so the transition team must consider that because they dont get free reign to riam the hallways and engage with the action officers who do all the work until 20 Jan.

    If I were on a Biden Transition team I would put very little stock in tge Transition turnover and would be prepared to do a top down, bottom up deep dive into the Departments starting first thing on 21 Jan.

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  47. charon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think it’s simple – the distances are too great from one star to nearby suitable systems. Time, velocity constraints etc. make interstellar travel impractical to the point of being, in effect, impossible.

    There are no “jumps” “hyperspace” or whatever accessible in any practical way.

    Consider, for example, the outcome of a vehicle colliding with a grain of sand sized meteoroid at the high speeds necessary.

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  48. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: Another movie reference that just occurred to me: American History X. I’m talking about the scene where Edward Norton tries to tell his girlfriend he no longer wants to be part of the skinhead gang. He doesn’t go into detail as to why, he doesn’t even explain he’s now against racism–but she and his other “friends” from the gang immediately turn on him, call him by the N-word, and try to murder him right there.

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  49. charon says:

    @charon:

    I think the reason we even talk about this is inability to really appreciate, really visualize the distances involved.

    The moon is a bit more than one light second away. There are 72,000 seconds in one day, 26,200,000 seconds in one year, 113,004,000 seconds for light to get to Proxima Centauri.

    Such a distance is just numbers, I really can not visualize it.

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  50. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:
    They don’t need explanations. They don’t want explanations. They just know that no one would turn against them–or even disagree with them–without being a traitor/commie/liberal.

    But again, what gets me is the ease with which the Trumpkins seem to forget that their saviors of yesterday are their betrayers of today. It’s as if they literally don’t remember.

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  51. Kathy says:

    @charon:

    I find it easier to visualize some such distances as time. Thus if you lived in Alpha or Proxima Centauri, right now you wouldn’t have a clue El Cheeto won the 2016 election.

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  52. Mikey says:

    @Kathy:

    Thus if you lived in Alpha or Proxima Centauri, right now you wouldn’t have a clue El Cheeto won the 2016 election.

    This is the best justification for interstellar travel I have ever seen.

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  53. Jay L Gischer says:

    @CSK:

    It’s as if they literally don’t remember.

    I think this is intended to be a program of … tribal discipline(?)… via shaming and ostracism. The quality of “whatever you might have done before on our behalf has been forgotten because this transgression is so enormous” makes the whole thing more intimidating, and more powerful.

    And this probably works, right up to the point where it becomes ridiculous and collapses. Of course, there will be those who fail to realize that it isn’t working and will keep on with it, even escalating.

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  54. Mikey says:

    Senator Ron Johnson (R because of course he is) is blocking proposed $1200 stimulus checks. Why? He’s concerned about the deficit.

    These fuckers didn’t give a frog’s fat ass about the goddamn deficit when they passed Trump’s tax giveaway to the 1% that blew the deficit from $400 billion to $1 trillion in one fucking year but now that we’re in the worst part of a year-long generationally-upheaving epidemic, a measly $1200 payment to American working families is too much.

    I’d say I wouldn’t piss on this guy if he were on fire, but on the other hand, I’d be robbing myself of the chance to piss on him, so I guess I’d just decide in the moment.

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  55. Scott says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @Jim Brown 32:

    It did strike a nerve though.

    Statement on Transition Activities by Acting Secretary of Defense Miller

    The Department of Defense will continue to provide all required support to the Agency Review Team (ART) to keep our nation and her citizens safe. As of today, we have supported 139 interviews sessions more than 200 DoD personnel, 161 requests for information, and disclosed thousands of pages of non-public and classified documents, exceeding prior transitions. At no time has the Department cancelled or declined any interview.

    Our key focus in the next two weeks is supporting essential requests for information on OWS and COVID-19 information to guarantee a flawless transition. This is my major focus area.

    After the mutually-agreed upon holiday pause, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today.

    Again, I remain committed to a full and transparent transition – this is what our nation expects and the DoD will deliver AS IT ALWAYS HAS.”

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  56. CSK says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    I wonder if Trump himself will ever do anything to them that they think will constitute a betrayal? Or will they be able to rationalize it? They may have to rationalize it.

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  57. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    It’s as if they literally don’t remember.

    Of course the don’t. We’re at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia!

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  58. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    There’s always an Orwell quote when we need one, isn’t there?

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  59. reid says:

    @Mikey: There is a handful of really awful GOP Senators, and he’s one of them. I guess I can almost understand Kentucky having two of them, but Wisconsin? Come on, you guys can do better. Put Feingold back in already.

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  60. Teve says:

    @Teve: @charon:

    If you’re in a park in Atlanta, and the Sun is the size of a golf ball, the Earth is a grain of sand 12 feet away, and the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is in Ft. Lauderdale.

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  61. Mu Yixiao says:

    @reid:

    Put Feingold back in already.

    I wish.

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  62. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    O’Brien’s description of the Party’s purpose to be “a boot stamping on a human face, forever,” is about identical to Trump’s notions of power, minus the graft.

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  63. Teve says:

    @BrianSchatz

    We almost have a bipartisan COVID package, but at the last minute Republicans are making a demand that WAS NEVER MENTIONED AS KEY TO THE NEGOTIATIONS. They want to block the FED from helping the economy under Biden. It’s the reason we don’t have a deal.

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  64. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Ar first I read your comment as “minus the golf.”

    It works that way, too, I suppose.

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  65. Kathy says:

    I had a little altercation yesterday with a covidiot coworker, never mind the details. Today he tried to smooth things over. I went along only because he promised to keep social distance, even if only around me (like I said, covidiot).

    The thing is he said “I didn’t understand why you wanted me to take two steps back, but now I do.”

    I wonder, where has he been the past nine months?

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  66. dazedandconfused says:

    The Fermi Paradox begs the question of our limitations, like Hellen Keller determining there is no intelligent life on earth because she couldn’t find any in arm’s reach. We are just about blind and deaf. SETI admits they could not even detect the earth’s normal man-made radio emissions from just a few light years away.

    https://www.seti.org/faq#obs12

    It appears there will only be a small window of powerful RF signals from earth too. We are moving away from that mode of communication very rapidly.

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  67. Kathy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    There are quite powerful, content-free, radio pulses from Earth, in the form of military radars. whether we could detect that from a great distance, or conclude they are artificial, is a different question.

    And there are deliberate attempts to reach out. In the 70s, I think, a short message was sent out on the Arecibo radio telescope. I’m not sure if there were others. An older, more capable civilization might be sending such messages out non-stop. For all we know, tomorrow we’ll get pulses representing prime numbers (yes, that was the message in “Contact.” Yes, I’ve read the book, too).

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  68. Monala says:

    Police arguing for their own defunding again:

    Sheriff’s deputy in Kansas intentionally uses his truck to run over a Black man

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  69. Mikey says:

    @Kathy:

    There are quite powerful, content-free, radio pulses from Earth, in the form of military radars.

    I was thinking that would be Trump’s tweets, but military radar works too.

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  70. dazedandconfused says:

    @Teve:

    Collective punishment for electing a Democrat. That worked under Obama but this time they are trying to do it to another old white guy. It should be significantly more difficult. Will be if the Ds play their cards right.

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  71. Teve says:

    @therecount

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) objects to a relief bill, saying stimulus bills don’t stimulate the economy.

    He instead proposes “lower regulation” and “a competitive tax system.”

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  72. CSK says:

    @Monala:
    That’s horrific.

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  73. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy:
    “Take us to your leader!”

    “Come back in one month!”

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  74. Kylopod says:

    @dazedandconfused: Hey, the last time the Martians invaded, they got knocked out by the common cold which could have been a coronavirus, so….

    ReplyReply
  75. Teve says:
  76. Teve says:

    @mikeisaac

    There is an enormous demonstration going on at @Stanford Hospital right now carried out by staff, who are protesting the decision by higher ups to give vaccines to some administrators and physicians who are at home and not in contact with patients INSTEAD of frontline workers.

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  77. MarkedMan says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I really like that analogy (UHF vs VHF, which also gives me a rough idea of how old you are 😉 ) There is also the time thing. At the end of the day, human brains and nervous system are a bunch of chemical and electrical processes. Couldn’t there be other sentient systems that operate at time scales so much slower or faster than we do that we are completely unaware of their existence? Such sentience could actually exist right alongside us.

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  78. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: So this is, like, Trump lines up a bunch of “C” or “D” list legislative celebrities and runs them through a simulation of getting ready to run for Prez with the reward that the winner gets Trump’s endorsement?

    Can we get Ted Cruz as a contestant? Yeah, I might watch that for a week or three. The first two or 3 seasons of The (original) Apprentice were more interesting than other survival-type reality shows I’ve seen; this one wouldn’t be completely terrible until about half way through, I suspect.

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  79. Kathy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Isn’t Angela Merkel available now?

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  80. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: Like the Dwellers in The Algebraist

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  81. flat earth luddite says:

    @Mikey:

    I’d say I wouldn’t piss on this guy if he were on fire, but on the other hand, I’d be robbing myself of the chance to piss on him, so I guess I’d just decide in the moment.

    This just proves you’re a better human being than I am. Based on my past, I’m more likely to stroll over, pounding down a super-big-gulp sized water, gaze at him for a moment, and then piss on him, cackling all the while. Or maybe just gaze dispassionately.

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  82. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    That could certainly be the format for Apprentice: The White House.

    I was thinking that Trump could start with whoever he fired first (or resigned first) from his staff and the cabinet and force them to live through the degradation again. That should be good for about six seasons.

    Watch Jeff Sessions be publicly humiliated!
    Watch Rex Tillerson get canned while he’s on the can!

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  83. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    Tee hee. When I saw Facebook’s smug rational for attacking Apple, I needed to get a rag to wipe the coffee off the screen. Facebook is about as evil as tech company can be, though Amazon in close, I do hope this hurts them.

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  84. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Facebook and Google are very likely to be charged with felonies. They colluded to fix prices on the ad market.

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/12/new-suits-accuse-google-of-antitrust-evils-collusion-with-facebook/

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  85. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Couldn’t there be other sentient systems that operate at time scales so much slower or faster than we do that we are completely unaware of their existence?

    There have been a few attempts at this in SF, some of them pretty good. The most famous is probably this story by Ursula K. Le Guin, but the one I remember most vividly is the 1949 story “Alien Earth” by Edmond Hamilton. In that one, the indigenous people in a jungle somewhere take a drug that puts them into a coma. The investigating westerner tries the drug, and discovers that it slows metabolism and perception down to the same scale as the forest — which is sapient, and malevolent, and worshipped by the natives.

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  86. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: They may have to rationalize it.

    They already have rationalized it. 300,000 dead Americans and counting.

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  87. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    He should set up a White House University. I can see the course catalogue:

    Whining 101
    Lying 101
    Whining 102
    Lying 102
    Whining 103
    Lying 103
    ..
    Whining 255
    Lying 255

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  88. Jen says:

    @Kathy: I think if there’s one thing Trump excels at, it’s bemoaning. That’s an upper-level course, Bemoaning Everything 304. Prerequisites are Whining 101, 102, and 103, along with at least one additional 200-level, either Whining 255 or Bellyaching 242.

    With Bemoaning 304 under one’s belt, you can then take the self-directed 437 course, Griping for Fun and Profit.

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  89. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @flat earth luddite: Not me. I’d bring the bottle of lighter fluid.

    ReplyReply
  90. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: Don’t forget Introduction to FOX News 101, Introduction to OANN 201, Introduction to NewsMax 301 and a lab in Parler.

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  91. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Monala:

    Lionel Womack said he believes in the “blue brotherhood” and that most police officers are good.

    “But we have to hold law enforcement accountable when they cross the line,” he said “These rogue law enforcement officers give a bad name to the good officers, and we have to stop them. I never imagined that I would someday be the victim of excessive force by a fellow law enforcement officer. He could have easily killed me.”

    “I never thought the leopards would eat my face!”

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  92. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I wonder what rate of criminality is higher, that of police officers or that of the rest of the population?

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  93. sam says:
  94. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: It’s getting harder and harder to tell.

    ReplyReply
  95. DrDaveT says:

    I haven’t heard any discussion here today, but we are hours away from another government shutdown, and the closest thing to “progress” I’ve heard is a plan to pass a 2-day stopgap to extend government funding through Sunday, to give Congress the time they need to do what they should have done 3 months ago.

    Why is it that the most important jobs in the country are the ones you can’t be fired from for incompetence? Senator, Representative, Supreme Court Justice, President, …

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  96. JohnSF says:

    Regarding the Fermi Question, it’s tricky, and possibly silly to generalise from an example of one, but being silly has never stopped me before. 🙂 So…

    Our one example develops life pretty much as soon as the planetary surface stops being molten rock and the “heavy bombardment” ends, around 4 billion years ago, and the establishment of tectonics and gross hydrology (i.e. oceans).
    Since then some stages in the history of life seem to be linked to it’s own development and eco-geological impact. Such as eucaryotic cells, oxygenated atmosphere, possibly other chemical cycles, multicellar life, vision and mobility and predation.

    Even so, multicellular life has only been present for the past 1.5 billion years (“only” LOL) and “animals” for less than a billion, that is roughly 10% to 15% of the planet’s history.

    With conditions only marginally less favourable (higher bombardment levels, higher orbital or axial variation, different hydrology etc) you might expect the overwhelming majority of terrene planets to have life, but only unicellular.

    Then there are the next stages to get to a technological species; and at each it seems problematic to see inevitability, and the stage before is often much longer than the total period after:
    – life on land (45o million years Before Present
    – relatively large brains (amphibians 300 million BP) then amniotic dry-adaptation.
    – pre-adaptations for visual/hands (later primates 30 million years BP)
    – high sensory/manipulative/sociability capacity (early hominids 18 million BP )
    – tools/fire/language (later hominids c.2.5 million BP)
    – advanced tool sets and environmental cultural adaptation (recent hominids 300,000 years BP)
    – rapidly adaptive tool sets (late paleolithic homo sapiens 50,000 BP)
    – agriculture or other high-density sustained food sources (12,000 BP)
    – literacy, metallurgy, pottery, irrigation, cities etc etc (5000 BP)
    And even then “high” civilisations bumped around on more or less stable economic/social/technical basis for some five thousand years until the industrial/scientific “lift-off” begins c 1600 to 1700.

    All in all, it seems pretty reasonable to expect “space-capable” life to be a very, very, very tiny proportion of all life.

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  97. CSK says:

    @Kathy: @Jen: @OzarkHillbilly:

    Please do not forget:
    Intro. to Rage-Tweeting
    Intro. to Watching Cable News 8-10 Hours Per Day
    Advanced Rage-Tweeting
    Senior Seminar in Rage-Tweeting
    Garbling the English Language 101, 102, 201, 202
    Seminar: Techniques of Sucking Up to Genocidal Dictators
    Intro. to the Art of the Grift
    Intro. to Pussy-Grabbing
    Advanced Pussy-Grabbing

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  98. Teve says:

    This is a 31-tweet thread that does a fantastic job explaining to non-specialists how the Covid vaccines work. Really well-written.

    https://twitter.com/wheatnoil/status/1339624815137722368?s=21

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  99. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy:

    Today, my feelings on the Fermi Paradox are: nobody knows, and nobody knows enough to speculate intelligently.

    I find the version about von Neumann probes more interesting. We keep finding more reasons that space is inimical to humans, from radiation to being more specifically tailored live in a gravity well than we thought. There ought to be probes, though: much more tolerant of the conditions, better suited to thousand-year voyages.

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  100. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Maybe a von Neuman machine cannot replicate itself without setting up the kind of mining and manufacturing facilities that would require a small civilization?

    Here’s one more:

    Bill Bryson, who is not a scientist of any kind, once observed that the purpose of DNA is to make more DNA. Ok, suppose a planet were a DNA paradise. that is, no scarcity of resources, and conditions that made for a long, long DNA shelf life, with plenty of room for quintillions upon quintillions of DNA strands.

    Would even simple unicellular life evolve?

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  101. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnSF: I started to go down that particular rabbit hole, looking for the “calendar of earth,” couldn’t find it, and just didn’t have the time to unearth it. thanx for doing the hard work.

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  102. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:

    Would even simple unicellular life evolve?

    Quick guess: yes, due to competitive laziness.

    Why “work” to harvest other DNA strands from the amino-acid bases if you can more efficiently hijack pre-formed ones?
    And resources are always scarce, given exponential growth and a bit of time.
    Replicator competition seems inevitable; and “predation” a likely outcome.

    Second, IIRC, “naked” DNA is extremely vulnerable; devising a DNA friendly environment would seem very tricky. RNA less chemically fragile, but still vulnerable to hijack etc.

    Simple unicellurarity seems the obvious “quick” method to protect any replicator from the unwelcome attentions of another replicator, hence the sheer rapidity of it’s appearance on Earth.

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  103. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Bill Bryson, who is not a scientist of any kind, once observed that the purpose of DNA is to make more DNA. Ok, suppose a planet were a DNA paradise. that is, no scarcity of resources, and conditions that made for a long, long DNA shelf life, with plenty of room for quintillions upon quintillions of DNA strands

    Sounds like Earth, tho with shorter strands of DNA.

    ReplyReply
  104. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    How about a controlled DNA paradise environment? 😉

    Perhaps in the future we may select plants, animals, and even people for adaptations to lower gravity, or a weightless environment. Niven played with the notion in some of his Known Space stories,

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  105. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy:

    Maybe a von Neuman machine cannot replicate itself without setting up the kind of mining and manufacturing facilities that would require a small civilization?

    So, a bigger and more complicated probe. Still much easier for us, at this point, than breeding out the (now suspected) need for women to live under sufficiently strong acceleration in order to bring a baby to term.

    I play around occasionally with the question of how big a civilization does it take to sustain a society at our current level of technology. My estimates always come out at about 30 million people. You could reduce that substantially if you were willing to remove consumer choices enough and automate the hell out of things, but I don’t see how you ever get below 3 million. In passing, one of the few early science fiction writers who got this right was James Blish with his Cities in Flight books. And even at that, the flying cities had to do personnel trades in order to keep things balanced.

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  106. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    That’s a good thing.

    ReplyReply
  107. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: yep.

    ReplyReply
  108. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:

    a controlled DNA paradise environment?

    True, but, who’d bother.
    Except as a one off “planetary work of art”.
    Combine with a slow biocomputer function for added kudos among the interstellar art critics; final out = 43, of course.

    BTW, that sort of reminds me of of my response to Avatar: were I on the planetary science team, I’d have been screaming “Run away! Run away quickly! Run away now!” on the basis that it was obviously an engineered planet, and you would not want to be caught dicking about if the engineers turned up.

    Evidence of super-advanced technology engineering: two distinct biotypes (six-eyed hexapods, binocular bipeds) with a “neural interface” with no plausible evolutionary pathway; neural networked biosystems with information uploads at AI level plus.

    Run!

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  109. JohnSF says:

    @JohnSF:
    Why 43? Because its going one better than 42. 🙂

    ReplyReply
  110. Teve says:

    @polarBarrett

    .@GovWhitmer says she can’t get a straight answer from the Trump admin on why Michigan is receiving fewer COVID vaccine doses than other states.

    ReplyReply
  111. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    Passive-aggressive misogyny.

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  112. Teve says:

    @Kathy: Michigan didn’t go for Trump.

    (But who knows, no state is getting what the Administration said)

    ReplyReply
  113. gVOR08 says:

    @sam: Stephen Jay Gould used to talk about how much he loved Wagner. How the music existed separately from Wagner’s anti-semitim.

    ReplyReply
  114. Teve says:

    Ars Technica

    The average cost of a lithium-ion battery pack fell to $137 per kWh in 2020, according to a new industry survey from BloombergNEF. That’s an inflation-adjusted decline of 13 percent since 2019. The latest figures continue the astonishing progress in battery technology over the last decade, with pack prices declining 88 percent since 2010. Large, affordable batteries will be essential to weaning the global economy off fossil fuels. Lithium-ion batteries are the key enabling technology for electric vehicles. They’re also needed to smooth out the intermittent power generated by windmills and solar panels.

    But until recently, batteries were simply too expensive for these applications to make financial sense without mandates and subsidies. Now, that is becoming less and less true. BloombergNEF estimates that battery-pack prices will fall to $100 per kWh by 2024. Specifically, BloombergNEF projects that battery pack prices will fall to $58 per kWh in 2030 and to $44 per kWh in 2035. That’s roughly the level necessary for BEVs to be price-competitive with conventional cars without subsidies. Given that electric vehicles are cheap to charge and will likely require less maintenance than a conventional car, they will be an increasingly compelling option over the next decade.

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  115. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08:

    Stephen Jay Gould used to talk about how much he loved Wagner. How the music existed separately from Wagner’s anti-semitim.

    Cue this scene.

    ReplyReply

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