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The Global Warming scam contains more lies per cubic politician than anything else going at the moment, and I for one am sick and tired of being “civil” to brazen liars. This is especially true of the bald-faced prevaricators who decry any disagreement as “incivility” and respond to “I don’t think that’s the case” with shrieking accusations of violent response.

Via CDR M at Ace of Spades comes the latest, a Reuters article summarizing research by a consortium led by Ulf Buentgen, of the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research. The headline is “Climate a factor in Rome’s rise and fall”. Go read it, and if you are too tired or too consumed by ennui at Yet Another AGW Article to curse, I am entirely prepared to do it for you. No problem. Happy to help.

Done? Good. Seems innocuous, doesn’t it?

I belong to, and am recruiting for, an apparent minority among “deniers” whose attitude can be summarized as “Yeah. So the fuck what?” I am perfectly prepared to admit — declare, rather — that the Earth is warming, and have been saying so since at least forty years ago, when the críse du jour was The Coming Ice Age with a side of Nuclear Winter. What I am NOT prepared to cede is (A) that the warming is anything out of the ordinary in Earth’s long history; (B) that the result of the warming will be extraordinary disaster(s); (C) that the warming can be laid entirely at the door of human activity, American or otherwise; or (D) that the proper thing to do in the face of the threat is to turn dictatorial power over light, heat, transportation, etc., etc., ad infinitum, to anybody in the current (or any other) set of politicians. (To clarify that last: If the Killer Asteroid were crossing the orbit of the Moon with the impact epicenter squarely on my house, I still wouldn’t be willing to crown Al Gore Emperor of the World and Master of Energy Use.)

Part of the evidence supporting my attitude is the historical, anthropological, and archaeological evidence, since confirmed (when the scientists are honest) by ice cores, tree rings, and other proxies, that there have been two warm periods within the evidentiary record: the Medieval Warm Period, roughly three or four centuries centered around the year 1000 CE, and what is sometimes termed the “Roman Warm”, which was lower in amplitude than the MWP but lasted much longer, almost precisely corresponding to the period when Rome was dominant. If you look around the world at the periods around 1000 CE and 0 CE/BCE, you will find the pattern repeated — it is not by chance that “lost cities” tend to be described as from a thousand years ago.

The pattern is clear. During warm times there is lots to eat, and people get around in the world and build things — houses, roads, bridges, temples, cities, Empires. When it gets cold people stay home, starve, and don’t build much, and the barbarians of the far North come calling with swords in hand, looking for piña coladas with fruit on little sticks in and getting surly and violent when their credit cards get rejected at the register. If we were going to try planetary engineering, the first project we should look at would be warming the place up a degree or two. On the evidence, it would result in better (and better distributed) nutrition, comfort, and prosperity for the entire human race.

Die Herr Professor Doktor Büntgen agrees:

Good growth by oak and pine trees in central Europe in the past 2,500 years signalled warm and wet summers and coincided with periods of wealth among farming societies, for instance around the height of the Roman empire or in medieval times.

Periods of climate instability overlapped with political turmoil, such as during the decline of the Roman empire, and might even have made Europeans vulnerable to the Black Death or help explain migration to America during the chill 17th century.

Which is what I said, right? Warm times are good times; cold times are bad times. But that’s not what the Big Thinkers conclude:

…the evidence, helping back up written records that are sparse in Europe more than 500 years ago, “may challenge recent political and fiscal reluctance” to slow projected climate change in the 21st century.

Yeah. It’s the Global Warming Mantra, pronounced in the face of the very research they did! Warm is good, cold is bad, warm is coming and it’s a disaster we have to “slow” by uprooting our way of life despite “recent political and fiscal reluctance”. Note that the article’s writer never uses the phrase “global warming”, nor does he quote Büntgen as using it. It’s all “climate instability” and “climate shifts” and other mealy-mouthed ambiguities, followed by a conclusion that directly contradicts the evidence. They take evidence against catastrophe and use it to promote extreme measures to prevent catastrophe.

Is it not wonderful?

The pattern is familiar. Whatever the crisis, the solution is that we must abandon any pretense or attempt at comfort and freeze, starving, in holes in the ground, while our Betters come by in their warm limousines to congratulate us for Saving the Earth.

Fuck that for a game of soldiers, and fuck Reuters, Büntgen, and the entire Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and all who sail in or alongside her, with a building timber containing tree rings from the year 1108, inserted sideways. That’s a fucking lie, you’re a pack of fucking liars, and I will say so early, often, and viva voce despite calls for measured responses and “civility”. Lies are not “civil” however genteelly expressed, and I feel no pressure to repay incivility with politesse.

 

Lies are not “civil”, however genteel the telling may be, and “civil discourse” is useless when confrontation is needed.

Just One Minute quotes Krugman:

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The blogger (I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten his name) goes on to mention the simultaneous release of another Krugman piece describing the downfall of European Social Democracy, and snarks about “two Krugmans for the price of one”. I, and I think he, would be happier with no Krugmans, even if they were free. Their quality is not improved by a quantity discount.

Unfortunately his response is ‘way too “civil”. The correct comeback to Dear Paul is That’s a fucking lie and you’re a fucking liar, and the same is appropriate for anyone who trots out that particular smug, self-righteous shibboleth of Teh Narrative.

It’s a lie by omission and implication, which makes it easy for the liars to make wide innocent Calvin-eyes at the accusation: nothing I’ve said isn’t literally true, and you are being rude and confrontational. This faux disingenuousness is a well-worn tactic. It’s still a fucking lie, and if I’m rude, confrontational, and “uncivil” for saying so, tough shit. I intend to continue, and to urge others to do so as well.

It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate. That implies that the “other side” — whoever that might be — does not believe that “the affluent” should help the “less fortunate”, and that’s a fucking lie. Charity — aid for the impoverished by those with more assets — is and has been an ideal of Western society since there has been such a thing as “Western society”, and to the ends of the Earth and back into the mists of time. Beggars are a feature of every society I’ve ever heard of above the level of the small tribe, and they couldn’t exist without an impulse of generosity on the part of the people who give to them. It’s true that many of the means employed in history to “help the poor” have been less than gentle, but I know of no society anywhere, any time — including that of modern conservatives — that lacks the concept, or does not consider such aid to be morally praiseworthy, at least in some ways.

The statement contains another, more subtle, lie by implication: pairing “the affluent” with “the less fortunate”. This simultaneously implies that “affluence” is a matter of luck, thus eliminating even the possibility that someone with assets might have made efforts that resulted in affluence, and that poor people never, never, ever have any behaviors that might result in their poverty — they are merely “less fortunate”. Both of those implications are flat fucking lies, and both are necessary setups for the Big Lie embedded in the statement, which is one of omission.

It’s only right for the affluent to help the less fortunate. But that’s not what they demand!

What they are actually demanding is that they be empowered to “help the less fortunate” by sending gangs of goons (euphemized as “police” or “tax collectors”) to collect the wherewithal. This is not “the rich should help the poor”, a proposition everywhere accepted. It is a call for wholesale robbery of anyone who has something that might “help the less fortunate”, with themselves as receivers of the swag. They promise to pass it on — with, of course, modest deductions to support themselves and the ones actually doing the robbing.

There are large practical objections to that program — what will you feed the poor when there are no rich no more? — but it is useless to argue them so long as the mealy-mouthed, lying assumption of moral superiority is in place. Being “civil” in the argumentation simply perpetuates that assumption, and it’s time to stop it. They’re a bunch of fucking liars with the ambition to rule a robber gang, and that needs to be said early, often, and forcefully, instead of equally mealy-mouthed attempts at “civil discourse”.

Repeat after me: That’s a [optional epithet] lie, and you’re a [repeat epithet] liar. Use as appropriate, which is almost always.

Much ado about “rare earths”, elements that aren’t actually rare but are sometimes difficult to extract from the ores and have some odd properties. China, the last remaining source of rare earths in quantity, has announced limitations on their export, and this has large implications in electric and electronic technology. Transistors (including the microscopic ones in integrated circuits), LEDs, and lasers require rare earth elements to “warp” the properties of semiconductors so that they do what is wanted; anything that uses magnets needs rare earths to make them smaller and more powerful; and there are many other places where rare earths are needed for efficiency, miniaturization, or some special function. Nowhere are large quantities required, but the small amounts needed are vital.

One of the principal users of magnets is electric motors, and a shortage of the rare earth neodymium (among others) would put a large crimp in electric motor production. Brian Foster at Chicago Boys notes that one of the things that happens when a shortage occurs is that people find ways to do without the item in short supply, including finding substitutes. His focus is the larger point that many people make the error called “static analysis”, assuming that the market follows simple supply-demand laws instead of accommodating the new conditions. To illustrate his point, he cites General Electric’s efforts to conserve or minimize the use of rhenium in jet engines and an announcement from Toyota regarding electric motors for cars:

The Japanese auto maker believes it is near a breakthrough in developing electric motors for hybrid cars that eliminates the use of rare earth metals, whose prices have risen sharply in the past year as China restricted supply. The minerals are found in the magnets used in the motors.

The examples are on point, but are flawed. Rhenium is not a rare earth; it is a platinum-group metal. Toyota’s announcement is an opportunistic attempt to seize a current issue and use it to garner favorable publicity, with only secondary connections to the supply of neodymium for magnets.

One of Foster’s commenters suggests that mining the works of Nikolai Tesla might spur useful innovation, but that would be redundant. One of Tesla’s main inventions, in terms of impact on later technology, was the polyphase motor — and much recent technology focuses on precisely that, although in ways Tesla might not have been able to anticipate. There has been a quiet revolution in electric motor technology in the past quarter-century or so, and a designer of electric motors brought forward by time machine from, say, 1980 would recognize the principles but be flabbergasted by the details.

An electric motor is an example of converting linear force or motion to rotary. In mechanics this function is provided by the crank, such as is found in every reciprocating engine and many other places (including Arizona, although the current example is a metaphor). The two are not precisely equivalent, because (to a first approximation) electromagnetism can only pull. When a crank is “top dead center” the force of the piston is equal in both directions, but the builder can always anticipate (or arrange) a disturbing force, and as soon as the metastable equilibrium is disturbed in the slightest the crank goes around. Once the electromagnetic force is  at top dead center a disturbance results in pushing it back to the starting point, and it holds firmly in place instead of going around. There are two basic ways to overcome this.

A “brush and commutator” motor, more commonly called simply “brush”, “DC”, or “universal”, has multiple coils and a set of switches. Each coil is offset somewhat from the line of force, so it is pulled toward that line. As soon as it gets close to equilibrium that coil is switched off and another engaged; the newly-engaged coil is again offset, so the force turns the motor. The switched fields exert their force on a stationary field, which is provided either by a coil with constant current or a permanent magnet. Coils dissipate power, making the motor less efficient, and have to be built, making it more expensive, so permanent magnets are preferred. The more powerful the stationary field is, the more compact the motor can be for a given power level. Powerful permanent magnets require additives to the basic material, and the best additive known is the rare earth neodymium.

The other way to do it is to have something outside the motor turn the magnetic fields on and off in sequence. Alternating current, pioneered by Tesla, turns itself “on” and “off” many times per second, which is almost there. If there is only a single “phase” — two wires, each taking turns to be positive and negative — it doesn’t help, though. First it pulls to the left, then to the right, but both pulls are at equilibrium, and the motor doesn’t turn. If you have three (or more) wires, again taking turns in sequence, and each is connected to its own set of coils, the motor is pulled to equilibrium at one point, then that phase goes off and another further along pulls it to the next point. That’s the polyphase motor.

The big advantage of the polyphase motor is something that seems almost like magic. A brush motor needs a constantly-existing magnetic field for the switches and coils to work with. Alternating current sent through a coil creates an alternating magnetic field, and an alternating magnetic field creates a current in any nearby conductive object. That induced current causes a magnetic field of its own, and the designer can arrange it so that the induced field is pulled by the magnetism created by the incoming electric current, which is what created the field it’s pulling — as I said, magic. That is the principle of the induction motor, the cheapest and most efficient type of electric motor. No switches, no magnets, no power-robbing “field coils”, no moving mechanical parts except the one that’s supposed to move.

The big disadvantage of the polyphase induction motor is speed control. A brush motor changes speed according to how much current it’s fed, and that can be varied almost infinitely. A polyphase induction motor turns at a rate that is controlled by the rate at which the incoming current alternates, and that is controlled by the people running the generator(s). It can be built to run at half, a quarter, and so on of the generator’s speed, at the expense of additional complexity (and therefore cost), but to smoothly vary the speed you’d have to call the power plant and ask them to change the speed of the generator — and they won’t do it, not least because your neighbor, running off the same current, wants a different speed.

And that’s where the revolution (!) starts.

Transistors and electronic controls enable us to turn current on and off without clunky mechanical switches. The first application of that to motors was to replace the commutator-and-brush system with transistors, to produce the brushless motor. Incoming electricity is divided up among three or more coils, each with a transistor that turns the coils on and off in sequence, and the motor turns. The classic brush motor has the constant field outside, on the stationary part, and the switches and changing field on the part that turns. It was quickly recognized that supplying current to something that’s turning is almost as complex as the commutator is, so the designers turned it inside out. The constant field is on the turning part, and the variable coils are on the outside — which is how an induction motor is built! That’s how computer fans and similar small motors are made nowadays. They’re really polyphase motors with a constant field rather than an induced one.

The limitation of brushless motors is that magnetic materials are relatively fragile. In the inside-out configuration the permanent magnet has to turn, and if it’s turning fast or exerting lots of force it’s likely to explode. If you want a powerful motor with easily-variable speed the magnets have to be on the outside, on the stationary part, and that means you need mechanical monkey-motion — a commutator or “slip rings” — to get the current past the interface between stationary and turning. That’s where we are with electric cars. A car needs a powerful, variable-speed motor that’s compact, and that calls for a motor with permanent magnets on the outside; whether the field-switching is done by transistors or a commutator is a design tradeoff based on expense.

Meanwhile the induction motor fans have been busy, too. Electronic controls also mean you can take the incoming power and convert it to almost any frequency you like, and electromagnetic induction works better at higher alternating rates. Divide up the incoming power among three or more phases, as with the brushless motor, but use an induced field instead of a permanent one, and presto! — a motor that turns at a precise speed controlled by the frequency at which the power is divided up, which can be varied if desired, and it needs neither heavy, expensive magnets nor any connection between the turning part and the stationary one. That’s how the motor in your disk drive works. It has many individual phases (always an odd number) which are turned on and off in sequence at a precisely controlled rate, and the disk platter turns at exactly the speed required to make the data read out at the proper rate.

As electronic controls became more robust, applicable to higher power levels, the next step was variable speed AC drives. Manufacturing plants are full of three-phase induction motors because that’s the least expensive way to get high power, but because the motors were locked in to the speed of the generators they needed expensive, complex gearboxes to get variable speed. An AC drive takes the incoming power, whatever it may be, and converts it to three-phase power at variable frequency. All those millions of old-fashioned three-phase motors can now be recycled, giving near-infinite speed variation without gears, pulleys, or other mechanical devices, and people needing high power at variable speed jumped on that like a pack of rats. As with the disk platter, the speed can be precisely controlled by varying the frequency. That’s what got the Iranians in trouble. Isotope-separation centrifuges require controlling speed very, very precisely, so they are turned by polyphase induction motors driven by AC drives; the “Stuxnet worm” gets into the computer-controlled AC drives and messes them up.

Variable AC gives another advantage: there’s almost no limit on how big and powerful the motor can be. Cajun Dale installs twenty-two thousand horsepower motors to run pipeline pumps, and the next generation of Navy ships will almost certainly have motors that size or bigger turning the screws instead of connecting the turbines to the propellers with big, heavy, expensive reduction gears — they need the electricity anyway for Space-age weapons like lasers and railguns. The only remaining disadvantage is that AC induction motors are somewhat larger than permanent-magnet motors of the same power — and that’s where Toyota’s announcement comes in.

Toyota are saying that they believe they can build an AC induction motor that’s almost as small and compact as a permanent magnet one. That’s big news, because it means the next generation of electric cars can be cheaper and more efficient, but the connection to the supply of rare earths in general and neodymium in particular is indirect. They aren’t finding new sources of neodymium or ways to use it more efficiently; they are doing away with neodymium-alloy magnets altogether. That will certainly affect the neodymium market, and it will certainly make electric motors better, so it isn’t surprising that they would leverage the announcement to get good PR.

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