This book focuses on the Gordian knot of our time, the closely coupled problems of electricity poverty for billions of humans, and global warming for all humans. The central thesis of the book is that nuclear power is not only the only solution, it is a highly desirable solution, cheaper, safer, less intrusive on nature than all the alternatives. Just about everybody, including most pro-nuclear folks, accept the fact that nuclear electricity is inherently expensive. Nuclear power is not inherently expensive. It is inherently cheap. This book argues that conventional nuclear power should cost less than three cents per kilowatt hour. But nuclear power is expensive, prohibitively so in most parts of the planet. The reason why nuclear power is so expensive is a regulatory regime in which the regulator is mandated to increase costs to the point where nuclear power is at best barely economic. The operative buzzword is ALARA, As Low As Reasonably Achievable. In such a system, any technological improvement which should lower cost simply provides regulators with more room to drive costs up. This same regime does an excellent job of stifling competition and technological progress by erecting layers of barriers to entry. The goal is not just to make nuclear electricity as cheap as coal or gas fired electricity. The goal must be to keep pushing the cost of nuclear power down and down, allowing us to replace fossil fuels almost everywhere. Imagine what we could do with 2 cents per kWh power in electrifying transportation and producing carbon neutral synfuels. This can only be done in a harshly competitive environment. We must force the providers of nuclear power to compete with everybody. If nuclear power is to be allowed to cleave the Gordian knot of electricity poverty and global warming, then we must completely change the way we regulate nuclear electricity. This book makes the case for this change and outlines what the replacement system needs to look like. ~
What if David Bowie really was holding the fabric of the universe together? The death of David Bowie in January 2016 was a bad start to a year that got a lot worse: war in Syria, the Zika virus, terrorist attacks in Brussels and Nice, the Brexit vote—and the election of Donald Trump. The end-of-year wraps declared 2016 “the worst ... ever.” Four even more troubling years later, the question of our apocalypse had devolved into a tired social media cliché. But when COVID-19 hit, journalist and professor of public policy Andrew Potter started to wonder: what if The End isn’t one big event, but a long series of smaller ones? In On Decline, Potter surveys the current problems and likely future of Western civilization (spoiler: it’s not great). Economic stagnation and the slowing of scientific innovation. Falling birth rates and environmental degradation. The devastating effects of cultural nostalgia and the havoc wreaked by social media on public discourse. Most acutely, the various failures of Western governments in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the legacy of the Enlightenment and its virtues—reason, logic, science, evidence—has run its course, how and why has it happened? And where do we go from here?
This collection of essays examines the ways in which disputes and controversies about the application of scientific knowledge are resolved. Four concrete examples of public controversy are considered in detail: the efficacy of Laetrile, the classification of homosexuality as a disease, the setting of safety standards in the workplace, and the utility of nuclear energy as a source of power. The essays in this volume show that debates about these cases are not confined to matters of empirical fact. Rather, as is seen with most scientific and technical controversies, they focus on and are structured by complex ethical, economic, and political interests. Drs. Engelhardt and Caplan have brought together a distinguished group of scholars from the sciences and humanities, who sketch a theory of scientific controversy and attempt to provide recommendations about the ways in which both scientists and the public ought to seek more informed resolutions of highly contentious issues in science and technology. Scientific Controversies is offered as a contribution to the better understanding of the roles of both science and nonscientific interests in disputes and controversies pertaining to science and technology.
Many technologies begin life as someone's vision of an ambitious, perhaps audacious, technology that is expected to have a revolutionary impact on consumers-whether families, companies, or societies. However, if this highly touted technology fails "prematurely" at some point in its life history, it becomes a spectacular flop. Employing a behavioral perspective, this book presents a sample of twelve spectacular flops encompassing the past three centuries-ranging from the world's first automobile to the nuclear-powered bomber. Because technologies may fail from many different causes, spectacular flops pose a special challenge to the author's long-term project of furnishing generalizations about technological change. Instead of constructing generalizations that apply to all spectacular flops, this book provides limited generalizations that pertain to particular groups of technologies bounded by parameters such as "long-term development projects" and "one-off projects." The reader need have no prior familiarity with the technologies because basic principles are introduced as needed.