Can We Make a Star on Earth

There was a recent Horizon episode that dealt with the current state of the art of nuclear fusion. It was mostly interesting because it bought the issue of energy production into sharp focus. In order carry on living the kind of high energy life that we currently live, we face a pretty stark choice: either we build prodigious amounts of sustainable capacity (to replace the un-sustainable resources that we are in the process of exploiting to exhaustion); or we find a way to control fusion.

Fusion has a long history, as long as i’ve been aware of it, something like 25 years, it has always been, “25 years in the future”. Back when i was a kid, and subscribed to the New Scientist, there were articles about the Tokamaks that would contain plasma streams at temperatures higher than the centre of the Sun… it just never seemed to get any further than being experimental, let alone being a net producer of energy.

Today there is news that significantly shortens the time horizon, down to two or three years:

The most energetic laser system in the world, designed to produce nuclear fusion–the same reaction that powers the sun–is up and running. Within two to three years, scientists expect to be creating fusion reactions that release more energy than it takes to produce them. If they’re successful, it will be the first time this has been done in a controlled way–in a lab rather than a nuclear bomb, that is–and could eventually lead to fusion power plants.

This is obviously not a tokamak, but a different approach using lasers to focus massive amounts of energy down into an extremely small space. If this actually becomes a reality, it will significantly change the path of human development. At this point i’m pretty jaded, and suspect that the engineering involved in building this thing may be well belong what we are currently capable of doing on a massive scale… but that is a hurdle that can be overcome. With a proof of concept build different talents can be bought to bear on those problems.

In all likelihood, a development such as this (an (effectively) unlimited power source) is our only hope for continuing our wanton destruction of the planet. Fingers crossed, eh?

Influences / Inspiration

Shamelessly inspired by a shot that Sean has now taken down…

There is a set of fine lines between copying / be influenced by / getting inspiration from other peoples work. My general feeling is that there isn’t much new and uncharted territory in art anymore… at least not within our current social structure – rip it all down and start again, then maybe we’ll see some new idea emerge. But, at this point we’ve all been steeped in the same juices for so long that it’s asking a lot of your subconscious to come up with anything pure and unique.

That isn’t to say that it’s alright to flat out co-opt someone else’s ideas, and make them your own. There needs to be some sort of reference back, some sort of acknowledgement of the debt of inspiration, a new twist that adds something of you… otherwise, why are you bothering? It’d be easier to just look at the original work.

The cross-pollination of ideas is just going to happen. You talk to someone about an idea that you’ve been developing, and by virtue of presenting the idea it develops. Not just in you, but also in the listener. It may not always be something that inspires the listener to go out and do something new, but it’s a new seed value for the chaos engine of their subconscious. Their reaction is reflected back in to you in the same way.

I guess this is why artists form groups or collectives: the influence of their peers opens up new ideas, new expression.

Tokyo Beats Show

combined-flyer

A bunch of degenerates i’m happy to call my friends are doing a show next month at a cafe / bar in Shibuya. It’ll be up for the entire month, but there is an “opening” on April 4th, Saturday night. If you’re in Tokyo drop in and say hello – would imagine that it’ll be a good chance to get to know some fun people.

私の友人たちが渋谷のカフェ/バーにおいて個展を開きます。4月いっぱい開催され、オープニングパーティは4月4日土曜日の夜に行われます。どうぞお誘い合わせの上、お立ち寄りください。


Delicate Balance

Living in Japan is a delicate balance for me. There are aspects of this society that i find repellant, difficult to cope with, and wish i could change, but know that i can’t. This results in the construction of a fairly complex set of interrelated “justifications” that make life bearable. This set is far from being consistent, not only in terms of my world view, but within itself. 

Consequently when events occur that upset this delicate balance the whole lot comes crashing down. This usually leaves me in turn, confused, angry, resentful, deflated, bitter, and finally… well, i don’t really know where i am when i’m back at peace. Denial? I sense a nasty cycle here somewhere…

This process isn’t unique to living in Japan; it was the same in England, and certainly in America. What seems to be hard to cope with when living outside of the anglo-saxon sphere is that the balance of societies actions does not always flow in my direction.

Is this how a black kid in Brixton feels when the police stop him every week for walking down the street? Or how Pakistanis in Birmingham feel when their idea of the law does match up with the reality of the british justice system? A migrant worker in L.A? A North African in Paris? A Turk in Hamburg?

None of those things have ever effected my on a personal level – by which i mean that  they have an impact on me, but not directly. They are aspect of those societies that offend my sense of justice, but they are someone else’s battle. This seems reasonable to me, other people are civil right organisers, fighters for equality, etc.

In Japan things get much closer to being personal. Whenever one of these ‘unbalancing’ events happens around me, the frustration drives me to want to get organised, fight back… there is a reason that the 在日韓国人 can get a better deal from the government than other permanent residents – they are organised.

For right or wrong (mostly the later) racial relations in Japan are more complicated than simple racism. There are certainly aspects of simple minded xenophobia, nationalism, racial hatred, and yes, it is institutionalised in the bureaucracy, police, justice system, but my daily experience in Japan isn’t a barrage of abuse, threats of violence, or even prejudice…

This cycle always ends with me thinking that i could always leave and start again somewhere else… but that’s eventually going to lead me to a similar but different set of justifications as i understand a new aspect of man’s behaviour towards man.

And here we are, back to constructing the structure of stupid generalisations, and half-truths that let me stop ranting and get back to work.

Distractions

For some rather convoluted reasons i’ve been doing some thinking about what it would mean for machines to gain consciousness… seriously, don’t ask why. This thinking lead me to Roger Penrose‘s work, in particular, Shadows of the Mind, and The Emperors New Mind.

It’s a somewhat guilty pleasure reading things that confirm your thinking, but it’s nice to have some rigour to back up what has previously been instinctual. I’m currently plodding through his thoughts on the implications of the Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, and beginning to wonder if i can’t just trust my instincts…

As an example of the kind of mindfuckery that we’re talking about here, in a section on intuitionism:

The most famous example of this occurs with Bertrand Russell’s paradoxical ‘set of all sets that are not members of themselves’. (If Russell’s set is a member of itself then it is not; if it is not then it is!)

I’d write more, but i need to go and clean-up the few chunks of my brain that are still stuck to the bathroom tiles… always good to read this kind of stuff in the bath.

Bear Entrails

Can you tell i’m catching up with my reading?

four-bears-large

Over on dshort.com there are updates of the Four Bad Bears, and Mega-bear Quartet. The first of those links to some pretty interesting looking datasets / discussions. In essence this is now the 2nd worst S&P / DOW market in a hundred years… I’m guessing the Great Depression record is going to be hard to beat. Despite all my cynicism, it does appear that some lessons have been learned in the preceding years.

That being said, the Swiss have started trying to devalue of the swissy, that doesn’t bode well.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the S&P tracks the 30s collapse. My feeling is that we’ll see a similar pattern of long decline, punctuated by ‘Sucker Rallies’. The peaks and troughs in those graphs are really maps of human nature, and despite what history tells them, people just want to believe!

Hope. Hope has bought us this far – far enough to shred our hearts to pieces.