Climate Change: Inconvenient Fallacies

Climate Change: Inconvenient Fallacies

© 2017 Michael A Hill
Photo credits USGS

Al Gore, what a guy! First he invented the internet! Then he won the presidential election popular vote, but missed the office by only a hanging chad. As his crowning achievement, he invented climate change. Is there anywhere this man’s imagination cannot take us?

The Dual Premise

Al Gore once asserted, with the support of many climatologists, that the global climate is warming AND that humans are the cause. This two-part premise presents a logical difficulty, although it is not difficult to understand. Cognitive frisson arises because there are three other possibilities, none addressed, producing unexplained complexity. A more understandable approach would have been to first prove that the global climate is, in fact, getting warmer. If so, then prove that humankind causes observable warming. The dual premise is so much harder to prove that it probably has not yet been fully investigated.


Cycles of the Ice Ages

What if the global climate is warming, but it is NOT our fault? This is a much more likely scenario, due to Earth’s cycling ice ages. Our wobbling Earth causes cooling-warming glacial cycles. Volcanoes, sunspots, or maybe even internal combustion machines temporarily affect these cycles, but they do not cause them. Also, these climate change processes are not smooth. Spans of tranquility alternate with periods of rapid catastrophic change. Earth has been warming since the last glacial maximum over 25,000 years ago, and will continue to do so. Because the average glacial cycle may be over 80,000 years long, the current warming trend could continue for another 10,000-20,000 years.

Nature Abhors an Ideology

For the past 16 years and more, United States administrations subverted climate science, with the result that no conclusive findings ever came forth. The USGS and NOAA agencies, having the capability to measure unequivocal truth in the matter, were hobbled with politically appointed leadership commissioned to speak only preapproved findings in line with party policy. Not since the time of Soviet Lysenkoism has this heightened level of political ideology been used to force scientific pronouncements. We can only hope that the result is not as disastrous. Nature doesn’t care about our ideologies. It goes on doing what it will or won’t, without asking our input. Meanwhile chasing unproductive programs wastes our time. If global warming is our future, and we can’t slow its progress, then we should bend our efforts to more productive measures, as the Dutch have done for centuries. Seawall and levee infrastructures might be good investments now.


Should we clean up the polluted air and oceans? Absolutely! It stinks and it’s filthy. Any business flirts with bankruptcy if it can’t clean up its own mess as it goes, and doesn’t deserve investment. These are our best arguments! All the rest is vacuous, soul-sucking static. Why shouldn’t we work further toward tangible goals having real chances of success? We live in exciting times. The most exciting thing to do now is get to work tackling the challenges of adapting to a changing world.


Information Is Energy: One More thing

Information Is Energy: One More Thing

 © 2017 Michael A Hill

[Read beginning of article]

If it is a real thing, then informational energy should “be” someplace, shouldn’t it? Modern standard physics models do not have a place for it though. Information is usually treated as entropy, not energy. Entropy is always a function of energy, however, and not the other way around.  No particular form of energy has ever been named to accompany information entropy, though. What sort of energy should this be? Let’s speculate.

Vacuum Energy

hubble-images-2-2004In some places deep in the darkest intergalactic reaches of spacethat contain neither matter nor radiation, nothing else exists but space, time and gravity. Well, it has at least one other thing, and that is an inherent energy, called “vacuum energy.” It may also be named “zero point energy” or “cosmological constant.” Vacuum energy exists not just in intergalactic space, though, it exists everywhere. It’s not very noticeable because it is so small, having an energy density of only 10-8 ergs/cm3. But wait, there’s more! Because its energy density can be measured, vacuum energy also contains information.

Dark Energy

The universe is expanding, faster and faster. Vacuum energy might be sufficient to explain that, but cosmological equations indicate there should be even more stuff out there. That stuff is “dark energy,” which includes almost 70% of the universe. Nobody realized it was there until about 20 years ago. Sean M. Carroll [2] showed that dark energy should have 10120 times the energy density as vacuum energy. That’s a super-inconceivable-huge number, but it is based on the value of Planck’s constant.

Information Content of the Universe

Another super-inconceivable-huge number is the universe’s information content. By considering the universe to be like a giant computer, Seth Lloyd [3] determined that the total number of elementary logical operations that occurred since the universe began equals about 10120 bits of information. Since computation requires energy, information therefore contributes to the universal energy budget. A short back-of-the-napkin calculation shows that this corresponds to an energy capacity of approximately 1.78 x 1050 ergs/cm3.

Dark Energy = Information?

It’s not a good idea to equate big numbers like these just because they are big. They are approximations that can be off by a few orders of magnitude. Or they might even describe different concepts, like apples and oranges. However, the important thing is that imminent theorists, working separately and using different methods, came to similar conclusions about the total amount of energy in the vast cosmos. One group identified a gap in the universal energy budget, and another group found a way to fill that gap.

Even so, the energy densities still do not add up. It is difficult to compare information with standard energies when no firm theoretical basis linking them has been formulated yet. However, there exists a kernel of a hypothesis here that should be tested: Does information energy comprise the bulk of the universe’s energy budget? Or is there even more stuff out there? More work should be funded. After all, even 1.78 x 1050 ergs/cm3 is a whopping chunk of energy to go untapped!


An entertaining way of seeing the information-is-energy concept is by analogy with fictional “L-space” invented by satirical fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett [4]: “The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space…. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”


[2] Carroll, Sean M., “Dark Energy and the Preposterous Universe,” Cornell University Library arXiv Team, 2001, p.3-5.

[3] Lloyd, Seth, “The Computational Universe,” Edge, John Brockman, 2002.

[4] Pratchett, Terry, Guards! Guards! Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1989, p. 8.

Photo Credit: NASAESA S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

Information Is Energy: Product Management Example

© 2017 Michael A Hill

[Read previous article]

As a practical example, consider a couple of issues that often arise in managing product development: time to market and internal team rivalries.


First, remember the familiar story in song about the violin being sold at auction? The bids were low until someone picked it up and played a few strains of beautiful music. Then the bids accelerated higher and higher. A luthier had initiated the value chain through product development and a virtuoso finalized it with marketing. But one part would have no value without the other. The violin’s value was created first and then enhanced by adding information.

Time to Market

Long learning curves and slow adoption of new work methods frustrate nearing time-to-market deadlines. Product managers may complain of worker resistance to project urgencies. Resistance is good, though—it means that work is being done. Resistance makes the light bulb shine, violin strings sing, oysters encase pearls, and workers innovate. The product manager’s challenge is then to balance and channel the team’s creative energies to capitalize on resistance before it generates too much friction or waste heat. On-the-job mentoring can often smooth the work flow.

Team Harmony

Often, development and marketing each consider that their own contributions to product value are more important the other’s. Team disharmony arises from such misinformation, which is like just so much background noise. From an energetic information perspective then, the product manager’s focus is to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. Gerard Holzmann [1] proposes a particularly innovative way to highlight the team’s primary mission: Write the user manual first. This approach provides for better documentation, requirements, design, and testing; but it also focuses the development and marketing team members toward a shared vision of satisfying customer needs at project startup. The desired outcome is, of course, creating the most valuable end product, and recognition is shared among all team members.


By accepting the premise that “Information Is Energy,” we discover subtle changes in our perspective, providing us with advantages for recognizing new connections, finding process efficiencies, and identifying technology crossovers. Take this idea one step further—find your own applications for concepts of information flux, entropy, and equilibrium. Information invests our universe with value. It brings synergy to energy.

[1] Holzmann, Gerard J., “Frequently Unanswered Questions,” Computing Edge, vol. 2, no. 7, 2016, pp. 36-38.

Information Is Energy!

© 2017 Michael A Hill

Information is a distinct form of energy, just as electricity, magnetism, steam, nuclear, or solar radiation are also alternate forms of energy. To illustrate this, consider that information behaves similarly to other energy types. Many physicists agree that information is conserved, especially at the quantum level. Also, information contains entropy, which is the foundation of Information Theory.* Information flows at the speed of light, but it can also go slower via sound waves or nerve impulses. Like potential and kinetic energy, it converts to magnetic energy for storage on hard drives, and then back to electricity for flipping switches, sending signals, displaying photos, and playing pianos. At each step, information is converted to a different sort of energy, or else the other energy is converted to information. The transformability of information is a property of energy conservation.

A Nontraditional View of Information


In a traditional or classical view, information travels passively as it is carried along by some type of energy wave. In our new perspective, however, a radio or Wi-Fi signal combines two types of energy: electromagnetic and informational. Specific actions modulate and demodulate carrier waves, imprinting and extracting the information. That is, something must be added to the carrier wave in order to send a message, and that something is informational energy. This is true whether we send our messages via cell phone, fiber optics, or smoke signals.

Work and Heat

By definition, energy is the ability to perform work or generate heat. Information fulfills both criteria.

Consider the first case, work: Playing a piano requires work. A player piano powers up but sits idle until the encoded roll begins to turn. Only then, the music plays. Therefore, information performs work.

In the case of heat, suppose you just installed a computer server farm. The wiring is in, the computers are powered up, and the air conditioners are cooling. But the servers sit idle until information starts coming in. Then the air conditioner loads increase in order to dissipate the heat given off by the servers. Therefore, information generates heat.

So what, who cares?

Why does this idea make any difference? Well just for fun, let’s assume that knowledge is accumulated information. Recalling that power is the release rate of stored energy, we should be able to say now with new confidence that “Knowledge Is Power.”

* Information theorists will of course say that information is entropy. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Allowing a subtle paradigm shift here might allow us to get more work done.

Reflections on Pi Day, 2015

Pi-symbol.svgMarch 14 of each year is Pi Day, founded in 1988 by Larry Shaw and supported by a 2009 resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives. Those of us who use the date format like 3/14 can match up the digits with the first three significant digits of Pi, 3.14. I’m a number geek who enjoys a bit of silly fun with things like this.

This year brought a special treat because we could fit in more digits, aligning with the date 3/14/15. But wait, there was more! We could also determine the actual Pi hour, minute and second. So at 9:26:53 on that morning we had lined up the first ten significant digits of Pi, 3.141592653.

The Pi Moment

Astounding! But there are even more digits, and tinier bits of time! So, the actual Pi instant (Central Daylight Time) occurred within the 53rd second at 589 milliseconds, 793 microseconds, 238 nanoseconds (am I the only Bozo on this bus?), 462 picoseconds and additional minutiae. Twenty-two significant digits so far. You can take it further if you like. Others certainly have.


After writing out the Pi instant for myself, I prepared to celebrate and then moved on to other work. I tend to become very involved and focused on my work, so the next time I looked at the clock, it was 11:30 a.m. I had missed the Pi moment completely! Aagh! It is a good thing I had not invested in party hats, whistles and fireworks, let me tell you! The magical Pi instant had passed by me unbeknownst.

There is No “Now”

Reflecting back on the experience now, Continue reading

Restarting Space Exploration


Seat of the pants ventures are quite exciting!

The space race heats up again. Commercialization drives this new cycle, fueled by privatization of governmental space projects. Visionaries see vast economic potentials and corporate leaders map out new economic strategies and markets.

Space commercialization ventures may take on any number of forms. Various business models propose to transport passengers, to resupply space stations, to collect space junk, to divert near-Earth asteroid threats, to mine asteroids and the Moon, to colonize the Moon and Mars, to manufacture goods in low-gravity, to construct space-based military defenses, to generate power in space for Earth consumption, to expand communications and information processing, and to explore space further.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce recently launched an exciting public discussion to attract space commercialization ventures to its city. Additionally, the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business launched a Master of Science Program in Space Technology Commercialization this year.  Companies already locating resources to Austin, Texas, include Emergent Space Technologies, Deep Space Industries, New Worlds Institute, and Fathom Academy.

But why should space exploration need restarting? Because progress continues to be slow, programs cost too much, spaceflight risks lives and treasure, and efforts return low rewards and benefit too few people. Essentially, space exploration currently is unsustainable. However, exploration and commercialization are two faces of the same enterprise. So, let’s rethink long term commercialization strategies to expand participation and benefits, building on the successes of the past while employing innovation for the future.


“Sustainability” evokes many different ideas among many different people.

Continue reading

Deep Space: The Next Frontier


Asteroids will be mined for raw materials.

Space exploration accelerates now after decades of boringly intermittent progress, driven by private corporations setting up new industrial business lines. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic show us brilliant successes and dramatic catastrophes as they race to commercialize space and to make a lot of money from it. Boeing leads the race to provide new commercial crew transport systems for the International Space Station. Specialized space companies also proliferate to support, supply and service these efforts.

The serious side of space commercialization focuses on industrialization and manufacturing. The idea is to make stuff in space from other stuff we find there, and then sell it to folks back on Earth. Deep space is where the raw materials are to be found and where the mines and factories will be built. “Deep Space” spans the volumes above near-Earth orbits and reaches out to the edge of Jovian interplanetary space. It includes the Moon, Mars and the Asteroid Belt.


Space exploration and development will become increasingly automated and

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Simplicity Is Elegance, Not Stupidity

“Something that looks very simple indeed can be incredibly complicated, especially if I’m being paid by the hour. The Sun is simple. A sword is simple, A storm is simple. Behind everything simple is a huge tail of complicated.”Terry Pratchett

“Simplicity of reading derives from a context of detailed and complex information, properly arranged. A most unconventional design strategy is reveled: to clarify, add detail.—Ed Tufte

“God is in the detail.”—Mies van der Rohe, or Warburg, or maybe even Flaubert

“Simpleness is another aesthetic preference, not an information display strategy, not a guide to clarity. What we seek instead is a rich texture of data, a comparative context, an understanding of complexity revealed with an economy of means.”—Ed Tufte

“Ye said she’s a bit simple: find a teacher who can bring out the complicated in her. The girl learned a difficult language just by listening to it. The world needs folk who can do that.”Terry Pratchett

“The devil is in the details”—Common lore

“Confusion and clutter are failures of design, not attributes of information. And so the point is to find design strategies that reveal detail and complexity—rather than to fault the data for an excess of complication. Or, worse, to fault viewers for a lack of understanding.”—Ed Tufte

“If we’re going to be sapient, we might as well get good at it. Come on.”– Terry Pratchett 

Life & Plans, Part 2

“You try to make plans for people, and the people make other plans.” Terry Pratchett

“The planning fallacy occurs when individuals and groups try to plan complex projects and underestimate the true cost, expanse, and time of the project. Mario Weick and Ana Guinote found that people in a position of power are particularly vulnerable to the planning fallacy. Perhaps feeling powerful causes them to focus on getting what they want and to ignore hurdles, or having so much self-confidence causes them to avoid worst case scenarios.” – Michael A. Roberto, Transformational Leadership

“It is important that we know where we come from, because if you don’t know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you are going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.” Terry Pratchett

“Always remember where you are going and never forget where you’ve been.”  today’s cookie fortune

“The important question, which is rarely thought of, is ‘What do people need to do their best work?’” – David K. Johnson