Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monkey Trap Nation

Lukas Brezek
A few weeks ago I flew back to Boston from St. Petersburg. Nine time zones is a lot to fly through in a day, especially when flying west. It all adds up to a single very long day that just won't end. When I had left Boston, I set up the boat to stay above freezing using a minimum amount of electric heat, so I expected to find a cold boat, but not a frozen one, in spite of the freezing cold and the snow, which was coming down quite heavily when I landed. But it turned out that while I was away the shore power cable's connection to its socket aboard the boat started arcing and burned, leaving the boat without power. (I was lucky; the boat could have burned down.) I spent an interesting couple of hours finding tools and supplies by flashlight, then stripping and splicing cables to restore power. As I finally went to sleep that night, wrapped in an electric blanket aboard a slowly defrosting boat, I thought to myself: “What have I done?” Sure, I flew to Boston because that's where my boat is, but there has got to be a better reason than that!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pray for an Asteroid

On the morning of February 15, 2013, a 500-ton meteor entered the atmosphere somewhere near the Ural mountains, in the vicinity of Chelyabinsk, Russia, an industrial city of over a million. The intensity of the blast was estimated at around 500 kilotons of TNT equivalent, or 30 nuclear bombs of the type the Americans dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The shock waves from the sonic boom it created blew out numerous windows. Around a thousand people were wounded, mostly with lacerations from flying glass; 40 of them remain hospitalized. The damage is being estimated at over one billion rubles ($33 million USD). Over 24,000 workers and volunteers, coordinated by Russia's Emergency Ministry, went to work on the clean-up. Their specific emphasis was on keeping buildings from freezing (the temperature in Chelyabinsk is around -20ºC). By February 17 much of the damage had been repaired. Schools, hospitals and other pubic buildings had their windows replaced and were reopened. The government is supplying replacement windows to residential buildings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Excerpt: The wrong math

This is an excerpt from The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors' Toolkit. Please order your copy for shipment in May.

An argument can be made that lending at any rate of interest above 0 percent eventually leads to a deflationary collapse followed by a quick but painful bout of hyperinflation thrown in at the very end. A positive interest rate requires exponential growth, and exponential growth, of anything, anywhere, can only produce one outcome: collapse. This is because it quickly outpaces any sustainable physical process in the universe, outside of a few freak cases such as a sustained nuclear explosion, where the entire universe blows up, taking all of us with it, along with all of our debts.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Book Excerpt: The Problem of Excessive Scale

This is an excerpt from The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors' Toolkit. Please order your copy for shipment in May.

(Although the order is placed through PayPal, you don't need to have a PayPal account; just click "Don't have a PayPal Account?" during check-out and enter a credit or debit card number. If you do have a PayPal account, please make extra-double-sure that the shipping address associated with it is up-to-date and correct, and will remain that way through May.)

In his excellent book The Breakdown of Nations the maverick economist Leopold Kohr makes several stunning yet, upon reflection, commonsense observations. He points out that small states have tended to be far more culturally productive than large states, that all states go to war but that big states have disproportionately bigger wars that kill many times more people, and that by far the most stable and advantageous form of political organization is a loose confederation of states, each so small that none can dominate the rest. Kohr arrives at his conclusions by a process of reasoning by homology (viz. analogy) by analyzing many of the problems of modernity as different manifestations of the same underlying problem: the problem of excessive scale.