Is Climate Change Inevitable?

Magdalenian Girl: a facial reconstruction by Élisabeth Daynès of a 24 year old woman whose ~15,000 year old skeletal remains were discovered in the Dordogne region of southwestern France in a limestone cave known as the Cap Blanc rock shelter.


Is Climate Change Inevitable?

Greg asks (28 April 2022):

(1) Do you believe that climate change is an inevitable consequence of our highly technical, industrial civilization?

(2) Is it necessary to abandon the American lifestyle to ensure the habitability of the planet?

I’ve asked this question to quite a few people recently, and the general response has been ‘if we don’t do anything drastic now, then yes’.

(3) Is there any data that particularly worries you?

(4) What do you make of this?


My response to Greg:

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes.

(3) Ocean acidification; ocean heating; seawater freshening in the North Atlantic; CO2 lifetime in the atmosphere (long); accelerating rate of deforestation; accelerating rate of carbon (CO2 + CH4) emissions; accelerating rate of fossil fuel use and planned use; expansion and severity of drought, aridity and “heat”; low use of regenerative agriculture despite increasing soil depletion and crop failures (food); biodiversity loss in general: plants, mammals, fish, insects; the low fraction of materials being recycled.

Forgive me for not quoting numbers for “data” here, but I am sure such can be found by any interested person with an Internet connection and who is willing to spend some time in the search.

(4) Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) is an inevitable result of the high volumes of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions exhausted by powering our highly technical, energy-intensive industrial civilization with fossil fuels. That “powering” also includes the use of extensive industrialized chemical and factory farming for soil-depleting and high water use/irrigated monoculture food production; and for huge production and polluting waste of (hydrocarbon-derived) plastics.

I believe it is possible to have a worldwide equalization of the standard of living to a high and “modern” level, by a combination of (a,b,c,d):

(a) using “green” (a.k.a., “sustainable”) sources of energy (solar-electric, solar-thermal, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal),

(b) commitments to lifestyles based on efficiency instead of consumerism,

(c) the use of technology (e.g., aided by electronics and computers) to improve the harvesting of energy and its distribution through linked local networks,

(d) a political consensus to democratic socialism (since capitalism, militarism and fascism are inherently anti-egalitarian and tied to high uses of fossil fuels, for “power”).

It is only a GWCC Earth-degrading zero-sum game of “survival” if calorie-and-kilowatt exclusionary tribalism is paramount. That need not be the case, but the alternative “green” paradigm would require a global consensus to deep cooperation of indeterminate duration, and to large-scale, long-term economic planning.

The many dramatic scenarios about “the collapse of civilization” and “human extinction” in ‘X’ number of years, published (like most everything) as hyperbole to get attention, all presume (and most desire) a continuation of current trends — “business as usual” — and are thus only useful to the extent they prompt wider thinking and action along the lines of the Green Paradigm (GP) that I described.

By direct observation of our social reality today, all those scary predictions have so far been useless. The American Way Of Life (AWOL) and extreme worldwide inequity seem safely assured of being able to continue plowing on as the unwinding story of our civilization for quite some time. Perhaps some serendipitous shock will alter world consensus thinking before it is “too late.”

We are each and all wedded to our ways of life, our “lifestyles,” our routines and our expectations, and even the thought of making profound and permanent changes to those is resisted because in essence such changes would mean changing how we think of ourselves, and changing how we actually “are” and act.

There are always some people doing this, individually, at any time: when confronted by a sufficiently “life-changing” event, or tragedy, or flash of enlightenment, and they are then compelled by their new outlook to deconstruct and then reconstruct themselves into a new form. Some call this “rebirth,” others “recovery,” and some “conversion” or “satori.”

The great challenge of transitioning our current civilization to the Green Paradigm (or, the Post-Carbon World) is that most of the worldwide us would have to make such personal permanent changes concurrently within a timescale of at most a decade, and cooperatively on nested geographical scales from local to national to international.

The planetary-scale problem of Global Warming Climate Change and Biodiversity Collapse cannot be “solved” in a haphazard, piecemeal, sporadic, short-term manner; the solution procedure must be a permanently sustained comprehensive effort of planetary scope. Climate Change science has shown us that the weaker that effort, and the longer the delay before starting it (which ideally should have been decades ago), the sooner and longer (centuries? millennia?) and worse will be the sequence of environmental challenges and disasters we and our descendants will have to experience.

On the basis of my own calculations of Global Warming — which are generally consistent with the results of the professional climate scientists, and which I have described in numerous articles posted elsewhere — I see global warming continuing for a long time regardless of what we do or don’t do about it. However, the more timely and extensive and sustained our counteractions against it — that is, the extent and promptness of the “greening” of our civilization — the slower the rate-of-rise of that global warming, the lower the ultimate temperature plateau at which it peaks, and the sooner the world average temperature cools back to the lovely pre-industrial level that nurtured the 15,000+ year development of our human civilization. But we should think in terms of centuries of committed effort in order to achieve that complete recovery.

Finally, I wish to make a positive sociological point. Anything we do to improve human solidarity, social cohesion, “economics as if people mattered,” the worldwide standard of living and its uniformity (the Human Development Index) — because such socio-economic changes are needed in order to construct our response to GWCC — would make the experiences of life better for every individual regardless of whatever subsequent geophysical-environmental challenges came our way, and for however long our Green Paradigm civilization managed to continue.

Instead of tribes competing to “live longer” than the rest, we would be cooperating to all “live well together” for whatever timespan of habitability Planet Earth would be willing to allow us.

My advice: be grateful, be kind, have fun, and give life and love your best efforts throughout your time alive.


Ada Lovelace, Women Scientists, Dorothy Day, and Lost Human Potential

Ada Lovelace, 1843 or 1850
Dorothy Day in 1916


Ada Lovelace, Women Scientists, Dorothy Day, and Lost Human Potential

The following summary of the life of Ada Lovelace (December 10, 1815 – November 27, 1852) is taken from the Sacrificium Intellectus website of 23 January 2022 (, which itself drew much of the story from the wikipedia article on Ada Lovelace ( I will comment after that account.

Ada Lovelace was a pioneer of computing science born two centuries ago, in 1815. She took part in writing the first published program and was a computing visionary, recognizing for the first time that computers could do much more than just calculations:

“The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of famed poet Lord Byron, and Annabella Milbanke Byron, who legally separated two months after her birth. Her father then left Britain forever, and Ada never knew him personally. She was educated privately by tutors and then self-educated but was helped in her advanced studies by mathematician-logician Augustus De Morgan, the first professor of mathematics at the University of London.

It may seem odd to call someone born in 1815 a computer scientist, but that is what Ada Lovelace became. Her life changed forever on June 5, 1833, when aged 17 she met Charles Babbage. This was not something many girls Ada’s age could ever do, but as an aristocrat she enjoyed better opportunities than most [and, commendably, took educational advantage of them — MG,Jr.].

Babbage was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a position once held by Isaac Newton and held more recently by Stephen Hawking. Babbage learned that both Lady Byron and her daughter were knowledgeable about mathematics and invited them to see a small-scale version of the calculating machine he was working on called the difference engine.

Babbage had become fed up with people making mistakes in lengthy calculations, and his idea was to build an infallible steam-driven or hand-cranked calculating machine: a “computer.”

[During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing in England built an electrical “analytical engine” to crack the German military’s Enigma Code, used by the Nazi Kriegsmarine submarines to coordinate their sinking of transatlantic Allied convoys. Turing’s decoding machine provided advance information on German military moves to Winston Churchill’s administration, which likely shortened the war in Europe by two years; and his theoretical and experimental innovations posthumously launched electronic computer science in the 1960s, after first being persecuted likely to suicide in 1954 by British legal homophobia — MG,Jr.]

Ada was completely captivated by Babbage’s concept, but there was little she could do to help Babbage with his work. However, she sent a message to Babbage requesting copies of the machine’s blueprints, because she was determined to understand how it worked.

An important part of Ada’s education was to see the Jacquard loom in operation. The Jacquard loom was a machine that produced textiles with patterns woven into them. Joseph Marie Jacquard had invented it in 1801. The Jacquard loom was controlled by punch cards, with one card equal to one row of the textile being woven. If the card was punched, the loom thread would be raised. If the card was not punched, the loom thread would be left alone. In other words, the punch cards issued instructions to the machine. They were a simple language, or putting it another way, machine code.

Ada continued her independent pursuit of mathematical knowledge. She became friends with one of the finest female mathematicians of her time, Mary Somerville, who discussed modern mathematics with her, set her higher-level mathematics problems, and talked in detail about Charles Babbage’s difference engine.

In 1841 Ada began working on mathematics again, and was given advanced work by Professor Augustus De Morgan of University College London. She also continued to learn advanced mathematics through correspondence with Mary Somerville.

All the time, she kept Babbage’s difference engine in mind:

“I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make me pre-eminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature.”

Ada Lovelace broke new ground in computing, identifying an entirely new concept. She realized that an analytical engine could go beyond numbers. This was the first ever perception of a modern computer – not just a calculator – but a machine that could contribute to other areas of human endeavor, for example composing music.

Ada had grasped that anything that could be converted into numbers, such as music, or the alphabet (language) or images, could then be manipulated by computer algorithms. An analytical engine had the potential to revolutionize the way the whole world worked, not just the world of mathematics. She wrote:

“Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose… pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”

Ada Lovelace died, probably of uterine cancer, at the age of 36 on November 27, 1852. Her health had deteriorated after she completed her work on the analytical engine, and she had suffered a variety of illnesses. She was in pain for several years, and was given opiates by her physicians to help her cope with it. She also drank considerable amounts of alcohol, affecting her moods.

MG,Jr.: The greatest emotional pains I ever experienced were drowned in considerable amounts of alcohol — which my internal organs still remember — and which somewhat works at times as a pain relief technique. The greatest physical pain I ever experienced was most wonderfully dispelled by a 4ml IV drip of morphine, which was administered by one of Earth’s true angels: an emergency room and surgical nurse. Versed is good, Fentanyl is great, but Morphine is perfection — all when administered by medical professionals doing their best for you at painful moments of crisis in your life. Nothing beats pain-free undoped conscious awareness: the radiant doorway to perception.

Reflecting of the life of Ada Lovelace, I came to the following:

Ada Lovelace had a fascinating and prescient mind, and was a woman well ahead of her time; a mathematician, a computer scientist, and an innovator — like Hedy Lamarr!

Ada’s story also reminds me that CO2 induced global warming was first realized — and proved by direct experimentation — by Eunice Foote (being her independent idea), and published by her in 1856 despite the indifference to her by the patriarchal science society of her times, her paper to the AAAS conference of 1856 had to be presented by a man (at least Joseph Henry did it).

There is no sex to the inquiring scientific mind, only curiosity and a logical perseverance in its pursuit.

This also reminds me of Rosalind Franklin, who actually made the X-ray diffraction measurements of the DNA molecule before the theoretical understanding of its structure was known, and who shared her photographs of the diffraction patterns with Watson and Crick, from which they deciphered the double helix molecular structure, wrote their paper on it without giving any credit to nor mention of Franklin (and in his book, which I read in High School, Watson, an irredeemable sexist, was quite gleeful in describing this subterfuge), and cruised their way with timeworn academic sleazemanship to Noble Prizes.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 was awarded to James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins (Franklin’s boss) for “their” discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, while Franklin, who actually mapped out the structure of the molecule by her direct experimentation, never was recognized (until much later, but still no secular canonization prize).

Another such story is that of Tatiana Proskouriakoff, an American-born Russian woman working since the 1930s as an illustrator at Central American archeological digs at Maya ruins. Tatiana Proskouriakoff was the first person to recognize the meaning of the ancient Maya glyphs carved on stone stelae, as sequences of historical accounts of kingships. She arrived at her insight by the early 1950s, based on her readings of Russian technical literature on the construction of languages. She pursued her groundbreaking work despite the sexist ridicule heaped upon her by her paycheck boss, the lionized (at the time) British egomaniac archeologist of Maya ruins (J. Eric Thompson), who got the entirety of ancient Maya culture, religion, history and worldview completely and stupidly wrong, and in the process, as he was the world’s leading academic authority on Maya archeology, set back those Maya (Central American) studies by at least 30 years.

We have lost so much time for human progress (and maybe now fatally so), by depreciating and wasting so much now anonymous talent, through racism and patriarchal sexism, and homophobia, and ethnic and religious tribalism.

Why will Dorothy Day, a 20th century equivalent to Saint Francis of Assisi, never be canonized a Saint by the Catholic Church?

Bureaucracies are always motivated by self-preservation as a hierarchical entity, to maintain the positions and status (and fortunes) of its tiered elites and retainers. They are not motivated by principles, ideals or morals, but those are useful as propaganda to corral, hypnotize and use on the masses.

Idealistic and messianic champions of those principles, ideals and morals — like Jesus, Joan of Arc, and many others — who can divert the masses’s allegiances from the established power pyramids — the Churches and Kingdoms supposedly promoting those principles, ideals and morals — are not to be tolerated by those power pyramids because their prime focus is their own preeminence, not popular liberation.

Such “dangerous” principled and independent champions must either be trivialized and harmlessly absorbed into subservient roles in the power structure, like St. Francis of Assisi (today’s Pope “Francis” is a Jesuit who took the name of the first Franciscan), or burned at the stake as heretics. Canonization is reserved for the former, not the later.

In our modern America, one leading champion of principles, ideals and morals — sociologist and religious minister Martin Luther King, Jr. — was first “burnt at the stake” of mass media managed public opinion from 1966 on, for speaking out against structural American economic apartheid, and after heeding Thich Nhat Hanh’s recommendation to speak out against the Vietnam War, and then literally killed by a volunteer lumpen White Supremacist seeking approval, like the killers of Thomas à Becket in 1170, after which MLK could be safely trivialized by the American power pyramid’s many privatized propaganda ministries, and thus safely canonized as an American Secular Saint.

So now “I have a Dream” and not “America is the greatest purveyor of violence” is the official image of Martin Luther King, Jr., and is now an eternal part of the American National Ethos as an aspirational idea for us all, an idea against which all the power of our Status Quo Power Pyramid (and its terrifying Ministry of Love: the US Senate) works ceaselessly to ensure that it never becomes a reality. Such is canonization.





VORTICITY, a beautiful fluid mechanics phenomena, but which can have devastating effects on human settlements, when of very large scale and very powerful.

The complete vortex has a “donut” shape. Fluid/wind sweeps in along a flat bottom (ground level, or sea level), increasingly curving as it converges to the central “funnel.” There, it spirals up and as it rises it also spirals outward, and the curvature of the “path lines” diminishes at further radial distances. “Out there” those pathlines (water flow, winds) cycle back down to the “bottom” plane, completing a circuit, and then flow in again.

Versions of vortices are everywhere: bathtub drains, river eddies, hurricanes, water spouts, airplane wingtip vorticies, Great Red Spot on Jupiter.

Herman Helmholtz (19th century physicist) published his conservation law of vorticity (Helmholtz Vortex Theorem), and the differential equation form of vorticity involves “the curl” (a differential vector cross product of the velocity field). Vorticity features in Boundary Layer Theory (for the thin viscous layers adhering to material bodies moving through fluid bodies, like airplane wings, and further explicated by Von Karman, in the early 20th century, about the trailing Von Karman Vortex Street behind airplane wings, a consequence of fluid viscosity).

The best (and still and forever likely to remain incomplete) theory/description of fluid turbulence is that it is a nested set of vorticies of increasing scale, from the nearly molecular up to larger and larger eddies until a macro-level of fluid mass circulation — like a tornado.

If the fluid is electrified, and consequently magnetized, like the atmospheres of the Sun and stars, Earth’s ionosphere and the Earth molten core, and so much of Space (nebulas, planetary rings, space plasmas: novas and supernovas and rarefied space dust), then electric and magnetic vortices can form: Earth’s magnetic field is one example of the outer “path lines” of Earth’s ‘magnetic tornado’ at its core.

Vorticity in its many forms is quite fascinating, but of course violent vortical weather like hurricanes and tornadoes can be so harmful to living creatures: plants and animals, including humans. The American Great Plains are a natural “Tornado Alley” because of the expanse of flatness allowing the geometry of the tornado vortex free reign to expand without restraint. Also, they form there because warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico is propelled northward (by its contained heat energy = “high pressure”) and over the Plains it collides with strong colder winds sweeping down eastward from the Rocky Mountains (the Front Range), and that collision of low hot moist northward wind with high dry cold eastward winds creates a counterclockwise circulatory motion of atmospheric masses, with moisture rising (in the central “funnel”), chilling, raining out, freezing into ice crystals and hail, and the friction of that creating electrical charge separation (“static” electricity) which sparks over as lightning.

The point about Helmholtz’s Vortex Theorem is that the continuous threading of the “path lines” into the vortex “spool” makes of the whole an integral energetic structure, and that integrity is maintained — conserved — despite forces imposed on the whole of it: which is why hurricanes and tornadoes move, intact, across the face of the Earth because of the imposition of pressure gradients from “high pressure” regions to “low pressure” regions.

Another aspect of Helmholtz’s theorem is that, like a spinning ice skater, the slow gradual circulation out at vast distance (ice skater with arms extended, spinning slowly) represents an angular moment that is maintained close to the center by a very rapid rate of spin (ice skater with arms pulled in, spinning quickly).

So it takes quite a bit to dissipate the vortex, in fluids it is the result of the build-up of friction (fluid viscosity) gradually breaking up vortical motion into randomized turbulence (in the absence of strong external — collisional wind — forces causing a macro “stirring” into counterclockwise circulation — in the Northern Hemisphere). Stirring cream in your coffee is a nice way to observe vortical motion and vortical mixing.

Back in the 1980s I had a lot of fun working out a theory of electromagnetic vortices (all based on the work of famous physicists, like Debye, Alfvén, Cowling, and their MHD and plasma physics predecessors), which I found were produced by nuclear explosions in magnetized spaces, and in very high current and high power electrical transmission lines as used for fusion power and particle beam research.

If you have a poetic inclination toward reading about vortices, look into the book ‘Sensitive Chaos’ by Theodor Schwenk, an anthroposophist — influenced by Rudolf Steiner — about the many intriguing patterns in fluid flows of all kinds (as in our blood streams, the swirled forms of some of our blood vessel junctions and valves).

Nature is endlessly fascinating and instructive.



Obsession: Climate Change Russian Roulette


Obsession: Climate Change Russian Roulette

“Vaisala, an environmental monitoring company that tracks lightning around the world, reported 7,278 lightning strokes occurred last year north of 80 degrees latitude, nearly twice as many as the previous nine years combined. Arctic lightning is rare — even more so at such far northern latitudes — and scientists use it as a key indicator of the climate crisis, since the phenomena signals warming temperatures in the predominantly frozen region. Lightning occurs in energetic storms associated with an unstable atmosphere, requiring relatively warm and moist air, which is why they primarily occur in tropical latitudes and elsewhere during summer months.” [1]

Global Warming creates more humidity in the air to form droplets and ice crystals, and with more heat in the oceans and in the air there are more and stronger updrafts — forming clouds, being storms — to loft and freeze that humidity. The rapidity of that process (thunderclouds) is the source of the charge separation that results in lightning: static electricity created by friction and held by ice crystals high and low.

How about geo-engineering to reflect sunlight back into space, and cool the Earth? A friend asked: Is Dr. Ye Tao’s mirrors-on-the-ocean-surface scheme to reduce solar influx and thus reduce global warming reasonable? [2]

My initial reaction: It’s like wearing a thicker helmet so you can keep playing Russian Roulette.

My pal reacts: Indeed, but it appears to buy time. Would you agree with that?

My testy reply (and, he is a good guy) is based on my entrenched anti-geo-engineering bias (if you want to call it a bias), and my pessimistic assessment about “us” really ever responding to global warming climate change (GWCC):

I have no doubt that every technological scheme possible will be tried, and that no reason will ever be found for curbing CO2 emissions or ever ending our fossil fuel extraction (a.k.a. “business as usual”). In fact, those technological ideas will be used as justifications for continuing to emit CO2 (and greenhouse gases) at current and even higher levels.

As long as CO2 is in the atmosphere, it will act as an absorber of infrared radiation (IR, heat energy) radiated upward from the Earth’s surface — land and water — day and night.

Water vapor and organic vapors also capture IR, and there are increasing concentrations of these with continuing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and consequently increasingly higher biosphere temperatures: regional, planetary average, and very (very) long-term.

Reducing sunlight shining down to the ocean means reducing light energy used by plankton for photosynthesis, and they are the largest generator — larger than land-based plants — of oxygen (O2) for our atmosphere, and our breathing:

“Scientists estimate that 50-80% of the oxygen production on Earth comes from the ocean. The majority of this production is from oceanic plankton — drifting plants, algae, and some bacteria that can photosynthesize.” [3]

Also, plankton is the base of the food chain in the oceans, and all higher forms of life depend on them for survival (even us, for seafood). Baleen whales, rays and whale-sharks scoop up plankton directly, and are thus huge repositories of captured carbon, whose bodies after death sink to the ocean bottom and slowly become part of the chalky seabed rocks (“sequestration” done automatically by Nature). Since oceans are about 3/4 of the Earth’s surface, if we kill them we die quickly (geologically speaking). Life on land will not survive with dead, acidified oceans.

As I said, I do not see “us” ever cutting back on our CO2 emissions (so, keep shooting ourselves in the head), but I do see “us” using every conceivable scheme — especially if it can be patented and someone can make big money on it, like with COVID vaccines — to “mitigate” (thicken up our Russian Roulette protective helmets) so we can keep on burning up the fossil fuels, making the big bucks, having the profitable wars, and having an exponentially growing capitalist “good life.” Until it isn’t.

So, yeah, “it buys us time.” It’s so hard not to keep shooting ourselves in the head, isn’t it?


[1] Another sign things are getting weird: Lightning around the North Pole increased dramatically in 2021.
Rachel Ramirez, 5 January 2022

[2] Mirrors for Earth’s Energy Rebalancing (MEER:refEction) | Dr. Ye Tao | 2019NSSUS.
Dr. Ye Tao, 2019

[3] How much oxygen comes from the ocean?
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Acclimation and Heat Stress of Plants, and Future Crop Failures

A field of sweet corn, Flat Rock, Indiana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

One of the most popular ideas that springs into people’s minds when mulling over remedies for slowing the advance of climate change because of the ever increasing accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is to plant more trees, bushes and grasses. Let a greater quantity of plant photosynthesis filter our atmosphere of excess CO2.

This is not an entirely bad idea — especially in its more nuanced formulation as multi-crop regenerative agriculture coupled with wildland, wetland and forest conservation and reforestation, ending industrialized chemical pesticide monoculture farming and drastically reducing the entire meat industry, along with a popular shift to plant-based diets — though it is an entirely inadequate tactic for absorbing the ever increasing load of CO2 in the atmosphere being fed by gargantuan torrents of anthropogenic CO2 emissions exhausted as waste products from the fossil fueled engines powering today’s capitalism and militarism, which remain requirements by our capitalists and militarists for the continuation of our present civilizational paradigm.

So, planting trees is being done and will continue because it is something that many people can do to try to help, and because it poses no real threats to capitalism or militarism. But one of the cruelties of global warming is that high concentrations of CO2 combined with elevated global temperatures reduce the rate of photosynthesis and plant growth. These effects are called “acclimation” and “heat stress” of plants, respectively (

Acclimation is either an enhancing or inhibiting effect on photosynthesis by high CO2 concentrations. Generally, photosynthesis is enhanced as CO2 concentration is increased from a low level. Then above an elevated threshold concentration, the rate of photosynthesis saturates and can even be reduced. The mechanism of the effect is involved and has been the subject of research for many years by agricultural scientists interested in maximizing crop yields (for example in greenhouses).

Elevated temperatures can cause heat stress in growing plants by dehydrating them: as in their fatally drying out in a drought. However, a growth inhibiting (and even growth killing) heat stress can also occur to well-watered plants by the high temperature “denaturing” of the enzymes that control the reaction rates (the chemical reactions) of the photosynthesis process within plant leaves.

Current research on plant growth under the combined effects of elevated temperature and high CO2 concentration shows that “in heat-stressed plants at normal or warmer growth temperatures, high CO2 may often decrease, or not benefit as expected, tolerance of photosynthesis to acute heat stress. Therefore, interactive effects of elevated CO2 and warmer growth temperatures on acute heat tolerance may contribute to future changes in plant productivity, distribution, and diversity.” (

There are now scientific projections of crop yield reductions for several agricultural regions, due to anticipated rises of CO2 concentrations and their related elevated regional temperatures. A report issued by Chatham House ( on 14 September 2021 describes the following:

“The planet could be struck by a wave of ‘unprecedented’ crop failures in the next 20 years if global greenhouse gas emissions continue as usual… researchers detailed a litany of risks that climate change could pose to [food security]… global agriculture will need to produce nearly 50 percent more food by 2050 to feed a growing population. But as global demand increases, crop yields could drop by 30 percent as farmers contend with a hotter and more volatile planet… By 2050, an anticipated 40 percent of the planet’s cropland will be exposed to severe drought for at least three months per year, and the breadbaskets of the United States and southern Russia could be among the regions most affected. Europe, the report said, is likely to experience the largest increase in agricultural drought, ‘with the central estimate indicating that nearly half the cropland area will experience severe periods of drought by 2050’… By the 2040s, the United States, China, Brazil and Argentina, which grow 87 percent of the world’s maize, could suffer a steep drop in their maize production — all at the same time. ‘The probability of a synchronous crop failure of this order during the decade of the 2040s is just less than 50 percent.’… Farmers will also have to contend with a decline in the length of crop seasons and long stretches of water scarcity… East and South Asia will be particularly hard hit, with 230 million people subjected to prolonged drought by 2040. Outside of Asia, Africa will likely have the greatest number of people facing drought, exceeding 180 million by 2050. Many regions also will have to manage coastal and river flooding. By 2100… 75 million people in East, South, and Southeast Asia will face coastal flooding every year. ‘Across these three regions around 11 times more people will be impacted by coastal flooding than under a scenario in which climate change is averted.’” (

This all leads to a bleak vision of our planet’s future, where lives are shorter, food is more scarce, and 3.9 billion people “are likely to experience major heat waves.”

My purpose in describing all this is not to feed into more self-indulgent wallowing in depression and flaccid fatalism over the anticipated ‘collapse of civilization’ and ‘human extinction,’ but to show how elevated CO2 concentrations along with elevated global-regional temperatures will physically reduce our food security — crop yields — and in that way very directly shorten human life globally. This is intended to prod the public mind to get on with the job of effectively responding to global warming climate change, by cutting through the many excuses for continuing to cling to the dysfunctional behaviors (fossil fueled capitalism and militarism) driving the planetary crisis, and to change those behaviors to ensure we all have sufficient good food and clean water in an enduring future.

[Thanks to Peter Carter for pointing me to the Chatham House report.]


Notes on Carbon Dioxide in Global Warming, Acidified Oceans, and Weathered Rocks

Notes on Carbon Dioxide in Global Warming, Acidified Oceans, and Weathered Rocks

Like CO2 (carbon dioxide), H2O (water vapor) is a strongly heteropolar molecule — having one end with a positive electrical charge, and another end with a negative electrical charge — and absorbs outgoing Infrared Radiation (IR) from Earth’s surface, thus capturing heat in the atmosphere. Homopolar molecules like N2 (nitrogen) and O2 (oxygen) are transparent to IR. Inelastic molecular collisions redistribute that heat (as kinetic energy) to other atmospheric molecules (N2, O2, mainly) and atoms (Ar, He, trace components).

Most of Earth’s surface heat eventually diffuses into the oceans. Heat flows along the heat gradient in the negative direction from warmer air to colder water. The heat capacity (storage ability) of the oceans is IMMENSE (this is where ‘global warming’ ends up), and their heat content takes centuries to diffuse into a stable stratified distribution, rearranged by thermo-haline currents (a solar forcing effect) and by geometry (oceans as a spherical shell with warm equator and cold poles, so ocean heat diffuses poleward).

The fundamental problem of global warming is the ‘excess’ capture of outgoing IR (infrared radiation), reducing the rejection of Earth heat (originally delivered by incoming LIGHT radiation) into space: causing an imbalance between incoming energy (in the form of light to which atmospheric molecules are almost completely transparent) and outgoing energy (IR, to which heteropolar molecules, like CO2, H2O, CH4, NOx, are all quite opaque — absorbing).

Water vapor is by far the ‘greenhouse gas’ (IR absorber) with the highest concentration in the atmosphere at any time (immensely larger than that of CO2). It has been found by a combination of climate modeling calculations coordinated with field measurements in many global environments, that though the whiteness of clouds reflects sunlight back toward space (a global cooling effect), their IR absorptivity overwhelms that cooling, so that water vapor has a net global warming effect. As the average global temperature increases there is more water vapor in the atmosphere and this mode for global warming grows in magnitude — this is a self-amplifying or positive feedback effect.

CH4 (methane) and NOx are ‘short lived’ because they are eventually oxidized (by O, OH, formed by UV breaking up O2 and H20, and by other chemical reactions), whereas CO2 is very long lived because it is an endpoint product/species of chemical reaction chains that oxidize carbon compounds in oxygen-containing mixtures. CO2 has a low “chemical potential” and is known as a “chemical thermodynamic sink”. CH4 is eventually converted to CO2 and H2O. NOx is eventually converted to HNO3, nitric acid, which attaches itself to water droplets, so it has an aqueous form and rains out.

The long-term ‘chemical sink’ nature of CO2 is why science focuses on it as the leading culprit in the long-term trends of global warming. With greater warming of the ocean surface, more H2O vapor rises and releases its latent heat when it condenses into droplets (liquid) and ice crystals, and that ‘extra’ heat adds power to storms (winds, hurricanes: mass motion), and ultimately that ‘extra’ heat energy finds its way back into the oceans (for the portion of atmospheric heat that does not escape as IR into space).

When analyzing global warming, it all comes back to CO2. I highly recommend the book ‘Thermodynamics’ by Enrico Fermi (available in a budget-priced Dover edition): a slim volume that is a classic on the topic of chemical thermodynamics, and one of the best books on science of any kind that I have ever read.

My highly detailed outline of the chemical thermodynamics of atmospheric global warming is ‘Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change’ at

The process of capturing atmospheric CO2 with rocks on the ground is one of rock weathering. CO2 in the air that brushes against the surface of carbonate and silicate rocks has a finite (and very low) probability of undergoing a chemical reaction with the rock surface, fixing the airborne CO2 onto a solid substrate. This is the longest term natural process of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere (10s to 100s of millennia).

A shorter term process is capture by the surface waters of the oceans, and that aqueous CO2 then combining with water molecules and already existing carbonate ions (CO3-2) in the water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), which is weakly bound and both acidifies the oceans and scarfs up free floating carbonate ions to both starve mollusks, corals and foraminifera of the easiest chemical species from which to grow their shells (CO3-2), and even dissolving such shells of existing organisms (most being part of the masses of plankton, the base of the oceanic food chain).

The surface (not too deep) load of absorbed acidifying CO2 is then slowly cycled to the ocean floor by the ~1,000 year vertical currents, and at the bottom it dissolves the chalk deposited as the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) remnants of dead sea life, basically bone, shell and foraminifera casing ‘fossils’ — an ocean acidifying effect. So ocean capture of CO2 happens all the time, but the intake rate can saturate as the ocean becomes more acidified; eventually this intake process could shut off, coral reefs being a long lost memory by then.

Loss of “excess” ocean CO2 requires a low CO2 concentration atmosphere that can accept the gaseous release (is not saturated with CO2) of ocean CO2 that slowly diffuses out on mainly kilo-year timescales. A technically accurate description of ‘the carbonate system in seawater’ is given at My more formal article than the discussion here, ‘Global Warming and Ocean Acidification Accelerate,’ is at

The next quicker process of fixing atmospheric CO2 is photosynthesis, and this is done both by plants on land and in the oceans, like: seaweed, giant kelp, and many small plankton-sized organisms; ocean based photosynthesis is a huge component. This happens all the time and fixes CO2 at the rate of plant growth. At a high enough CO2 concentration this process saturates, too.

What is not commonly appreciated is that there is an unbelievably gargantuan amount of fungal and bacterial ‘biome’ in the soil worldwide (as well as inside each of us in our intestines and colon) that interconnects plant roots and actually makes possible the fixing of CO2, by breaking down organics and minerals in the soil enabling plant roots to absorb nutrients they need to complete their growth cycles, which result in carbon being fixed into plant cellulose, and into soil carbonates. The TV show ‘Fantastic Fungi’ gives a visually stunning explanation of this, and is available here,, and here This plant-based natural process of “carbon capture” is disrupted and destroyed by chemical pesticide dependent industrialized monoculture farming.

I know it is a bitter pill to swallow, but the only real way to slow global warming in any noticeable way is to stop anthropogenic CO2 emissions FOREVER. There are no post-facto technological ‘capture’ or ‘remediation’ techniques that exist now or “could be developed” that would actually work as “silver bullets” of salvation; they would only ‘work’ as money making scams with which to gull those despairing of the ‘loss of easy living.’

Our best response to climate change is to change ourselves in every way possible and without ever looking back, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis — and to have fun doing so together. This has to be a willed conscious process because we do not have the luxury of a long timescale in a slowly changing world to allow the transformation of humanity to happen naturally through the unconscious genetically paced process of evolution.

But, with the right shared attitude, that much shorter timescale consciously willed personal and societal transformation could be more magical and take us to more wondrous new worlds than any fantasy of intra-galactic space travel at Warp Speed on the Starship Enterprise.


Belief, Truth, Science, Religion and 9-11

On 2 September 2021, Counterpunch published my article ‘Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911’ (

Some readers believe this story is entirely true, and confirms suspicions they “have always known to be true” about 9-11 being “an inside job.” Other readers believe this story is a hoax, something like the Piltdown Man fake fossil of 1912 that was only definitively refuted in 1953. And a third group of readers vacillate maddeningly with their uncertainties between these poles of true belief and complete non-belief. The present article is my reflection on all of this.

FIRST, about me

I gained a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 (Magna Cum Laude). I was awarded a Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Sciences by Princeton University in 1978. My graduate studies were centered on the classical and quantum physics of molecular and ion gas mixtures that in macroscopic quantities are fluid masses, and quantified by the branches of physics known as: fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, chemical thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, electrodynamics and magnetohydrodynamics and plasma physics. My thesis work focused on supersonic flow electric discharge molecular infra-red lasers, specifically with gas mixtures containing CO (carbon monoxide) or CO2 (carbon dioxide), and non-lasing inert species like diatomic nitrogen (N2) or helium (He, atoms). The following are images of my experimental apparatus: a supersonic windtunnel (flow is right to left), with a variety of electrodes for creating and spreading out ionization. The first image shows the unit in a static condition, the second shows it in operation, with blurred photo-images of vertical arcs being swept horizontally at Mach 2.2 (740 meters/second).

Image of Discharge Channel, static (#1)
Image of Discharge Channel, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (#2)

Because of my scientific knowledge about the molecular physics of the interaction (absorption and emission) of infrared radiation (IR) with heteropolar molecules like CO2 and CO, and its loss by them through molecule-molecule and molecule-atom inelastic collisions, and in this way mechanically transferring internally stored IR energy (held in excited rotational-vibration quantum levels) to other particles (like N2, O2, He, Ar, and unexcited heteropolar molecular species) as enhancements to the energy of motion (heat) of those other species — I have long been aware of the detailed physics of global warming through CO2.

Between 1978 and 2007, I had a physics experimentalist job that was dominated by nuclear radiation physics, as well as including aspects of plasma physics, magnetohydrodynamics, classical hydrodynamics, physical chemistry, and electronics. Also, throughout my entire scientific life, up to the present, I have done a great deal of mathematical physics modeling, mainly analytical but also computational, and based on the solution of systems of differential equations (both linear and nonlinear).

From 2003 to the present, I have written articles for the general public explaining physical phenomena in Nature (like global warming) and human society (like 9-11, and chemical warfare), and articles advocating antiwar, anti-racist, leftist-progressive political, and logical-rationalist orientations. Between 2006 and 2008, I wrote detailed reports — for the public — on my independent analysis of the many mechanical and thermodynamic phenomena that occurred during the building collapses of World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2 and 7. My original copies of those four reports are now collected at, and viewable from, the following webpage.

Since 2006, I have received many many e-mails expressing the full spectrum of ‘belief’ to ‘non-belief’ about my descriptions of the 9-11 phenomenology. I have also received the full spectrum of praise to condemnation that accompanies the entire ‘belief spectrum’ attached to the 9-11 events.

So all of this is the background from which I wrote ‘Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911.’

SECOND, what I have learned about you all

Most Americans (and many others) in these modern times live out their lives by employing 20th-21st century technology with minds mired in medieval conceptions and fearful superstitions. This closely-held ignorant conservatism more than anything else kills the promise of possible enlightened societal advancement. We are witch-burning gods-fearing emotionally reactive apes with nuclear weapons.

I have learned that people believe what they want to believe, because that is how they construct their images of themselves. Any outsider who tries to change that runs into furious defensive opposition. Any outsider who supports that is warmly received.

Also, it is impossible for me to “change your mind” about anything. Only you can decide if and when you wish to reevaluate a currently held belief, perhaps prompted by a dramatic or traumatic life experience that shifts your consciousness into doubting previously held certainties. Such life shocks are usually what prompt people to reorient their thinking about life and about themselves: we only ever learn from ourselves.

At most, the only influence an outsider like me can have on your “change of mind” is if in your personal ruminations you choose to include some of the facts or arguments I advance in my publications, to formulate the final synthesis of the new orientation you will now operate from.

So it is pointless for me to argue with people about their belief systems, and I will never be a missionary, but I will always be a scientist: rational, logical, empirical. (I will also always be a poet: lyrical, romantic, philosophical; but that is another discussion.)

Clear thinking — also known as critical thinking — is performed with a rational mind that employs logic and wields Occam’s Razor.

My advice to all younger people on how to live fulfilling lives is: have fun, think clearly, and be kind.

THIRD, belief spectrum on my “confessions” article

The tripartite split of responses within one day after publication was: 60% True Believers (TB), 20% Vacillators (V), 20% Great Joke (GJ).

Vacillators mainly wanted to be reassured that it was all true, so a bipolar characterization of the first day responses could be: 80% TB (with 3 out of 4 fully confident, 1 out of 4 apprehensive), and 20% GJ.

FOURTH, what my “confessions” article really is

‘Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911’ is a satire sprinkled with truthful incidental details to provide it with verisimilitude. You could think of it as Part II of Orson Welles’s radio broadcast on Halloween 1938 of the Mercury Theater’s play based on H. G. Wells’s novel ‘The War of the Worlds’.

Nearly every assertion in my article can be checked out against factual reality, with some internet searches performed with a rational mind that employs logic and wields Occam’s Razor, to slice away the elaborately improbable from the much simpler most likely.

A scientist allows preferred belief to fall before the superior force of verifiable facts, even if undesirable. A religious believer — for that is what all faith-dominant beliefs are: religions — will be undeterred by facts and hew to the faith, condemning all contradictions to it even if factual, and welcoming all agreements with it even if fabulous.

My “confessions” is a mirror to the reader’s chosen belief values on the reality or unreality of the 9-11 events, and on the believability or unbelievability of my elaborate “inside job” story about them.

Did I have fun writing “confessions”? You bet!

What parts are real and what parts are fake? That’s for you to decide.

FIFTH, what are my answers to your belief choices and “more details” questions?

In truth, at this point in my life I really don’t care what you believe about 9-11, or about what I’ve written on it.

To ‘truthers’ miffed at my tweaking of their noses: touché, for all your many troll e-mails to me over the years.

To people laughing at the satire: I’m glad you enjoyed it.

To vacillators anxious that I quell their doubts: stop being lazy, use your brains and work it out for yourselves; gaining knowledge takes work, and then it rewards you with confidence.

To most everyone (and especially those not scientifically minded) you doubtless take your set of beliefs as core elements that define your personality — not just to others but to yourself: your self-image. Thus it is very likely that anything anyone might say or write that contradicts one of your self-image defining beliefs will be met with hostility because you would experience it as a personal attack.

When a person takes a scientific approach to holding a set of observations and empirical and theoretical findings, synthesized into a unified hypothesis or body of knowledge (whether general or topical), as separate from themselves, then like all scientific knowledge such belief systems will be considered tentative-in-waiting until new information comes to light requiring you to gladly correct those beliefs.

This scientific process of evolving your belief systems insulates you from the emotional turmoil of feeling personally attacked when reality finds your ideas in error and dumps bad karma on you if you persist in failing to correct them. Remember, our goal as rationalists, realists and scientists (like Sherlock Holmes) is to maintain the most accurate description of reality available to us. That is what makes us happy to hold the belief systems we keep, and to change them as needed by the dictates of reality.

SIXTH, Science versus Religion, Rationality versus Irrationality

In his book ‘The Rebel’ (L’Homme révolté) Albert Camus made a very apt distinction between two orientations toward reality and meta-reality, those being a “rational” or “irrational” perspective. The conflict between faith-based people and “scientists” (characterized as agnostic or atheist: like Darwin, Einstein, Steven Weinberg, and many others, BUT NOT ALL) is of the type that Camus was describing in his book (which is superb). In my experience that conflict is entirely a result of believer insecurity.

Science is a method of logical and empirical inquiry. Results that have been shown to be reproducible by others are then taken as “scientifically proven facts” (e.g., enabling excellent engineering, invention and technological developments) until such time as new data calls them into question, as with supremely accurate Newtonian physics and Maxwell’s electromagnetics, which were refined with Einstein’s new revelations of 1905. Einstein’s corrections to 17th century mechanics and 19th century electrodynamics are essential for making late 20th century GPS satellite technology work.

So all science is always tentative in that scientists accept the possibility that new data and knowledge may require updating, correcting and refining old results; as for example with the refinement of Darwin’s formulation of the fact of evolution, with modern genetic science, which is essential for producing items like changeable flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Scientific “laws” are not legalistic restrictions, but simply facts that no one has yet found contradictions too (like: heat always flows from a hotter point to a colder one). Scientists are also aware (or should be) of the wider implications of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem: that no axiomatic-logical system can contain within itself all the elements (definitions, rules of transformation) needed to prove every fact or hypothesis that can be constructed from those elements contained within the system. Loosely: no one theory can prove everything imaginable.

So, items like arguments over “proofs” or “disproofs” that God (or gods) exists or doesn’t exist, are beyond the purview of science. Metaphysics (“beyond physics”) is a matter of belief, that is to say irrationality: faith, intuition, hunch, but not rational, logical, scientific analysis.

And on belief, people believe what they want to believe, especially about how they wish to mediate their personal connection to the infinite. What science does do is provide us with the most accurate description of reality that is currently available to us (which window of availability has steady expanded — with a few hiccups — throughout human history), knowing that the totality of reality is always beyond the limits of human knowledge.

It has been my experience that people uncertain in their irrational beliefs (“faiths”) are more likely to attack science and scientists (impugning their honesty, for example as “all” being paid-off shills) as a defensive-by-attacking acting out, rather than scientists being more likely to go out of their way to attack faith-beliefs/”believers” — unless they are doing public harm, such as with creationist pollution of public education, vaccine avoidance, promoting poisons as alternative medicines, and climate change denial.

Fantastical “inside job” conspiracy theories about 9-11 are minor obstructions to the public good, in comparison to the four public harms I just mentioned. But their damage to both the public good and the wellbeing of the individuals holding them is still real, like the damaging effects on our politics and society by the entire complex of biases and delusions and hucksterism that I would term the Trumpian Neurosis, or the Cult of Rage. This kind of stuff stymies a better running of our public affairs, and bogs down the potential for advancing enlightened societal progress.

It’s bad enough that malicious power-seeking politicians and special interests will work to divide the citizenry by appealing to their competing bigotries, fears, superstitions, mental laziness and ignorance — all for the sake of their careerist self-aggrandizing agendas — without us making that easier for them by deluding ourselves with irrational beliefs and conspiratorial fantasies. Thinking is freedom: when it is done right.

Again: how you formulate your personal relationship with the infinite and eternal is for you alone to decide. This is outside the bounds of science.

However, the damaging social consequences, or “collateral damage,” that your irrational beliefs may have on other individuals and on the public at large are rightly matters of public concern and enlightened containment by society. Obvious examples of this today, in dire need of correction, are the imposition of White Supremacy biases through violent policing on Black, Latino, Amerindian and refugee people, and the imposition of sexist domination of women by men intrinsically fearful of female sexuality and psychology, through legalisms (or worse yet ‘honor killings’) aimed at usurping women’s control of their own bodies, their reproductive functioning, and to whom they choose to direct their affections.

9-11 ‘trutherism’ is a minor secular cult, or self-willed mental weakness, and springs primarily, I believe, from a deep-seated desire for personal attention, and deep-seated insecurity. It is a symptom that it would be well for those who have it to recognize as such, so they can then choose to improve their experience of life by developing and strengthening their ability at critical thinking. Teaching oneself how to think clearly is how one gains reality-based self-confidence, and the equanimity that emerges from that.


Why Does the Physical Universe Exist?


Why Does the Physical Universe Exist?

Why do we even imagine we can ask such a question and find an answer?

The total energy of the universe exploded out of an infinitesimal pinpoint of reality erupting into the void of nonexistence, to cool and diffuse as the wake behind the expanding bow wave of the Event Horizon, precipitating into the swelling space-time of intergalactic, interstellar and interplanetary emptiness, and granulating into matter-energy that expresses gravitational potential by its mass distribution; that itself slowly contracts into accumulative material bodies, and ultimately into light-void centers of matter extinction that in their turn evaporate their confined energy by quantum flickering between existence and nonexistence, until those singularities of space-time pop back into nonexistence once voided of any reality.

Will that cycling between existence and nonexistence also be enacted by the Event Horizon? Will it just diffuse away into the void of nonexistence?, or will it rebound into a new universal contraction?, or will it oscillate in some as yet unknown Limit Cycle alternating existences and nonexistences? Could we guess that such a coiling and uncoiling was inherent in the Totality, as reflected in the eddies of reality shed behind the Event Horizon and which we see as the cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth?, down to the coiling and uncoiling of the very molecules that convey the persistent genetic patterns of which we each are momentary expressions and disposable links of Life’s transmission?

Why do we imagine there could be a Supreme Consciousness creating and controlling this dynamic? Why would such a Supreme Metaphysical Constant, beyond any limitations of space, time, materiality, personality, emotion, ego, boredom and need, bother with the triviality of creating a toy universe of existence to occupy and confine its unlimited awareness? Is this not simply a yearning on our part for magical extensions of our brief flashes of confused awareness of eternity: for a heaven, or even a hell? Isn’t our existential philosophizing just another vortex coiling and uncoiling in the human psyche tumbling us distractedly along our brief stretches of time?

For us the answers may all lie in our acceptance of tumbling along with grace and kindness, and without fearful clinging to the questioning. In doing that we may experience the constancy of the eternal during a few moments within our brief spans of conscious awareness. Of course we will never know, but miraculously we do have the choice to live as though that were true.


Why Blast Off Into Space?

The fantasy of rising above the surface of the Earth and flying out among the stars is as old as the human imagination itself. After Marco Polo brought back Chinese gunpowder to the 13th century Europeans, they were able to militarize it into firearms, and the technology of chemically-propelled ballistics took off so that by the early 20th century rockets intended to fully penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and drift out into Outer Space were being visualized and tested.

William Leitch in 1861 and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1903 expressed the idea of using rockets to enable human spaceflight. From 1920 Robert Goddard proposed improvements to rocket design, and in 1926 built and launched the first modern rocket. That modernity was marked by the first use of a converging-diverging exhaust tube — known as a de Laval nozzle — which enabled the hot exhaust gases emitted by the combusting rocket fuel to convert their heat energy into outward unidirectional motion at supersonic speed: thrust!

But with the exception of tinkerers like Goddard, rockets were used as military weapons — artillery — most dramatically by Nazi Germany from 1943 with its V2 ballistic missile rocket-bombs. The American space program began in 1945 with the use of captured German V2 rockets to send cameras and scientific probes into the upper atmosphere. The USSR’s independent space program began in the 1950s, making a dramatic breakthrough — shocking Americans — with the lofting of Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, which was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It orbited for three weeks before its batteries died and then orbited silently for two months before it fell back into the atmosphere on the 4th of January 1958.

The major thrust of both American and Soviet rocket development throughout the 1950s and 1960s was to construct intercontinental ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads, and have such capability presented as a threat display to deter aggression by other technologically advanced and militarily powerful adversaries: the Cold War. Putting men as the payloads in such large rockets and blasting them into Earth orbit, and eventually out to the Moon, was primarily a flagrant display to all, signaling the possession of awesome military power. Science exploration was a minor byproduct of the space race, but ultimately some of that scientific curiosity yielded the most beneficial results from the entire rocketry endeavor.

Now, 52 years after Neil Armstrong first set a human foot on the Moon, propelled by American public funding, at least three of our attention-seeking Billionaire Boys are competing to burn up disposable bundles of their money to launch themselves into space joyrides, and to then exploit the technology they have paid to have built as the basis of “space tourism” businesses.

On Tuesday, 20 July 2021, Jeff Bezos and three others were blasted in his rocket up to an elevation of 106 km above the surface of the Earth, for a two-way trip totaling 10 minutes and 10 seconds. To some this is a laudable achievement of the free market system, while to others it is a pathetic expansion of conspicuous consumption to a new exorbitant level. Many ask: could the billions extracted from the labor of Bezos’s exploited and precarious workforce not have been better spent to alleviate hunger and homelessness?, and could the massive amount of chemical energy expended to pull off this stunt not have been better used with much greater efficiency to power broadly beneficial purposes on the surface of the Earth? But such questions mistake applying standards of human solidarity and social responsibility to seek understanding billionaire’s egotistical behavior. Here, I will provide one answer to the energy question.

The minimum energy needed to loft any mass up to 106 km above the surface of the Earth is 1,022,842.066 Joules per kilogram (J/kg). So, for the total energy expenditure in any specific case, multiply the mass of the fully loaded rocket (in kg) by 1,022,842.066 Joules/kg. One joule is the energy required to lift a medium-sized tomato up 1 meter (3 ft 3 in), assuming the tomato has a mass of 101.97 grams (3.597 oz). Lofting a mass up to 106 km above the surface of the Earth requires as much energy as lifting it only 1 meter above the Earth’s surface 104,265 times.

Outer Space is considered to begin at elevation 100 km, which is called the Von Karman Line (after a renowned aerodynamicist). Satellites in Low Earth Orbit have elevations between 180 km and 2,000 km; in Mid Earth Orbit, 2,000 km to 35,780 km elevation; in Geosynchronous Orbit at 35,780 km elevation; in High Earth Orbit beyond 35,780 km; and the Orbit of the Moon occurs at a distance of 378,032 km from the Earth’s surface.

It requires 9.81 Joules of energy to lift a 1 kg mass 1 meter above the surface of the Earth (or 9.81 of those 3.597 ounce tomatoes, all at once). In terms of “g’s” pulling a mass “down” toward the center of the Earth, the g-force at the surface of the Earth is 1g, the g-force at 106 km is 0.968g, the g-force at 180 km is 0.946g, the g-force at 2,000 km is 0.579g, the g-force at 35,780 km is 0.023g, and the g-force at 378,032 km (the distance to the Moon) is negligible at 0.0002747g.

Satellites in stable orbits around the Earth need an additional energy to accelerate them up to an orbital velocity, and it is this boost to lateral momentum, in combination with the “centrifugal” (radial) pull by Earth’s gravity, that results in the curved trajectory that describes the satellite’s stable orbit, which can be either circular or elliptical.

I do not know the weight of Bezos’s rocket (I have not seen it published), but IF I assume it weighed as much as a fully loaded Boeing 707 jet airplane, 150,000 kg, then the total (minimum) energy to lift it up to 106 km would have been 1.534×10^11 Joules = 153.4 gigajoules (GJ). Whatever the actual weight was, lofting it to an elevation of 106 km requires at least 1.023 megajoules/kilogram (MJ/kg).

I am guessing that small rockets, perhaps comparable to Bezos’s, could weigh half as much (or less) as a Boeing 707 airplane (~10s of thousands of kg), and I am certain that Bezos’s rocket was much smaller than the the Saturn V rockets that lofted the Apollo Moon missions, and which initially weighed about 2.8 million kg.

The real issue is that blasting stuff up into space — away from Earth and against its gravity — is immensely energy intensive. Given that one has that energy in the first place, why use/waste inordinate amounts of it to loft small payloads into space? For a few items like weather and GPS satellites, space telescopes, and tiny robotic planetary probes, I think it is worthwhile for the expansion of scientific knowledge and the physical improvement of social conditions. But for almost all else, and most especially manned space flight, it is the total waste of space junk littering militarism and propaganda.

And now, symptomatic of our dysfunctional economics, manned space flight has also become just another item of supremely exclusive and very showy personal conspicuous consumption. As Eeyore would gloomily intone in the Winnie-the-Pooh books: “Pathetic.”

A short report in PDF form is freely available to anyone interested in the details of my calculations, at