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History

A Creation Story

 

In the beginning the Pacific Ocean was a formless void.  Then about 70 million years ago the Great God Vulcan said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters".  So he formed a great hot spot - a hole in the earth's crust through which magma from the mantle could leak, like air leaking from a netball.  Then Vulcan said,  "Let the dry land appear".

On the surface of the Pacific tectonic plate, below the water, a little pimple formed - pushing the land up until it became an island and with a 'pop', some red hot molten rocks and gasses squirted into the sky.  And Vulcan saw that it was good. 

But soon the Pacific plate drifted north, over his hot spot. So Vulcan repeated his trick again and again, creating a chain of islands.

 

Lyman Museum Lyman Museum
Lyman Museum Lyman Museum

Lyman Museum - the formation of the archipelago
 

Vulcan's hotspot is presently below Mauna Loa and Kilauea and the mere mortals a' top his other mountain have noticed that there's an almost linear relationship between the age of each volcano in the chain and its distance from Kilauea, the youngest, that emerged above water just 100,000 years ago.  They've also noticed that the island they call Oahu is over a million years older than their 'big island' of Hawaii.

 

Formation of the Hawaiian archipelago
Formation of the Hawaiian archipelago

Formation of the Hawaiian Archipelago - from the Hawaii Center for Volcanology website

 

Vulcan's islands were of pure sterile rock, born of fire. So Vulcan said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon my isles".  Thus during the millions of years that followed, sea creatures came ashore and flotsam from trees and plant life washed ashore. Then those new-fangled bird things evolved to bring seeds in their guts and defecate in the soil.  And Vulcan saw that it was good.

A long, long time later, after lying unmolested for many hundreds of millennia, just seven hundred or so years ago, Vulcan caused an eruption creating a long white cloud so that following it from far away the first human settlers arrived (or was that New Zealand?).  After humans arrived an avalanche of change took place.  With them they brought new plants and animals and a whole new ecosystem began to evolve.  The first settlers were soon followed by others of their species, who possessed even more advanced technologies, and thus they brought even more change. Some might say devastation.

But mighty Vulcan's not concerned.  He has more islands planned. Underwater nearby he's already building another, Loini, that's not yet emerged from the waters and over time he intends to sink the present lot.

Praise be to Vulcan.

 

 

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Travel

Laos

 

 

The Lao People's Democratic Republic is a communist country, like China to the North and Vietnam with which it shares its Eastern border. 

And like the bordering communist countries, the government has embraced limited private ownership and free market capitalism, in theory.  But there remain powerful vested interests, and residual pockets of political power, particularly in the agricultural sector, and corruption is a significant issue. 

During the past decade tourism has become an important source of income and is now generating around a third of the Nation's domestic product.  Tourism is centred on Luang Prabang and to a lesser extent the Plane of Jars and the capital, Vientiane.

Read more: Laos

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Atomic Bomb according to ChatGPT

 

Introduction:

The other day, my regular interlocutors at our local shopping centre regaled me with a new question: "What is AI?" And that turned into a discussion about ChatGPT.

I had to confess that I'd never used it. So, I thought I would 'kill two birds with one stone' and ask ChatGPT, for material for an article for my website.

Since watching the movie Oppenheimer, reviewed elsewhere on this website, I've found myself, from time-to-time, musing about the development of the atomic bomb and it's profound impact on the modern world. 

Nuclear energy has provided a backdrop to my entire life. The first "atomic bombs" were dropped on Japan the month before I was born. Thus, the potential of nuclear energy was first revealed in an horrendous demonstration of mankind's greatest power since the harnessing of fire.

Very soon the atomic reactors, that had been necessary to accumulate sufficient plutonium for the first bombs, were adapted to peaceful use.  Yet, they forever carried the stigma of over a hundred thousand of innocent lives lost, many of them young children, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The fear of world devastation followed, as the US and USSR faced-off with ever more powerful weapons of mass destruction.

The stigma and fear has been unfortunate, because, had we more enthusiastically embraced our new scientific knowledge and capabilities to harness this alternative to fire, the threat to the atmosphere now posed by an orgy of burning might have been mitigated.

Method:

So, for this article on the 'atomic bomb', I asked ChatGPT six questions about:

  1. The Manhattan Project; 
  2. Leo Szilard (the father of the nuclear chain reaction);
  3. Tube Alloys (the British bomb project);
  4. the Hanford site (plutonium production);
  5. uranium enrichment (diffusion and centrifugal); and
  6. the Soviet bomb project.

As ChatGPT takes around 20 seconds to write 1000 words and gives a remarkably different result each time, I asked it each question several times and chose selectively from the results.

This is what ChatGPT told me about 'the bomb':

Read more: The Atomic Bomb according to ChatGPT

Opinions and Philosophy

Population and Climate Change – An update

 

 

Climate

 

I originally wrote the paper, Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis, in 1990 and do not see a need to revise it substantially.  Some of the science is better defined and there have been some minor changes in some of the projections; but otherwise little has changed.

In the Introduction to the 2006 update to that paper I wrote:

Climate change has wide ranging implications...  ranging from its impacts on agriculture (through drought, floods, water availability, land degradation and carbon credits) mining (by limiting markets for coal and minerals processing) manufacturing and transport (through energy costs) to property damage resulting from storms.

The issues are complex, ranging from disputes about the impact of human activities on global warming, to arguments about what should be done and the consequences of the various actions proposed.

Read more: Population and Climate Change – An update

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