Author Topic: Episode #710  (Read 1840 times)

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Offline mabell_yah

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2019, 05:19:10 PM »
Wasn't the energy storing train idea pretty much debunked? Can't find the reference now as Google is flooded with media coverage of the idea, but I'm pretty sure that someone worked out that the system would be very inefficient and would need a huge area of track and sidings to store a useful amount of energy.

Maybe I'm misremembering, and I really hope I'm wrong, but the energy storing concrete tower idea sounds a bit too good to be true. I wonder if the claimed 90% efficiency factors in the transport of concrete (recycled or otherwise) to the site of the towers. 

Another company - Gravitricity - is doing the same thing. Their angle is to lower the concrete into holes. I like that better as you can dig a really deep hole for more storage. I'm a little uncomfortable with towers of loose concrete blocks. I was unable to find a height for the towers, but it's got to be somewhat limited. I think the basic technology is sound, but I suspect that it's over-hyped and investors could get burned.

Offline Mr. Beagle

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2019, 06:05:22 PM »
I've studied ethics for a long time and taught it at the university level. If I did present "lifeboat" or "trolley" problems, I always made note that these both have the flaw of trying to convince people into believing that there is a "correct" answer. I personally dislike playing either game.

Ethics are a mesh of human brain and language constructions that we have tried to refine over centuries of trying to create a stable society. In effect the different ethical models (often conflicting) survive because often they have worked (and sometimes they have not).

But they will inevitably conflict because neurologically it is different parts of our brains trying to game out its host's survival, and different parts of the brain use different decision methods. I usually discuss four, but that is also simplistic. There is pretty good science, in my research, that says at least these four decision modes are "battling for dominance," likely in more than four physical parts of our brain.



The boxes indicate the basic decision rule while the arrows demonstrate the weakness in that rule.

Shankar Vedantam's NPR podcast Hidden Brain had an episode, mostly about left-right brain differences that hold up to study (many don't). One of these (confirmed by studies of stroke victims) is that the right hemisphere is more utilitarian and detail-oriented than the left, typically, while the left hemisphere typically exercises more of a "meta" approach to an ethical dilemma. The prefrontal cortex likes to process rules (though not exclusively), while other brain regions generate empathy responses.

These empathy regions are quite fragile, which is why it is one of "the first moral things to go", via stroke, tumor, Alzheimer's, psychopathy, or autism.

https://www.npr.org/2019/02/01/690656459/one-head-two-brains-how-the-brains-hemispheres-shape-the-world-we-see
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Offline 2397

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2019, 06:06:57 PM »
Another company - Gravitricity - is doing the same thing. Their angle is to lower the concrete into holes. I like that better as you can dig a really deep hole for more storage. I'm a little uncomfortable with towers of loose concrete blocks. I was unable to find a height for the towers, but it's got to be somewhat limited. I think the basic technology is sound, but I suspect that it's over-hyped and investors could get burned.

Conceivably, you could do more damage digging holes than building towers. It's where a lot of our freshwater is.

Online daniel1948

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2019, 07:23:39 PM »
Steve said that in answering the trolley problems, you have to assume that the premise is correct. This in response to the obvious fact that "maybe the fat man won't stop the trolley after all," etc. My problem is that I cannot hear a trolley problem without thinking first off, "How do you know that thus-and-such will stop the trolley?" The result is that any answer I give will be tainted by the fact that I do not, and cannot, accept the premise on faith. I can enter a fantasy world in my imagination, and build scenarios, and answer questions. But in the real world my actions will probably not be guided by any of the same considerations as are at play in the fantasy world.

The best you can get from a trolley problem is what I think a person ought to do. My own action will probably be very different. Maybe another way to put it is that my actions do not conform to my philosophical ethics. And is it ethical to establish ethical standards we ourselves would not follow?
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Offline DevoutCatalyst

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2019, 07:32:09 PM »
Steve said that in answering the trolley problems, you have to assume that the premise is correct. This in response to the obvious fact that "maybe the fat man won't stop the trolley after all," etc. My problem is that I cannot hear a trolley problem without thinking first off, "How do you know that thus-and-such will stop the trolley?" The result is that any answer I give will be tainted by the fact that I do not, and cannot, accept the premise on faith. I can enter a fantasy world in my imagination, and build scenarios, and answer questions. But in the real world my actions will probably not be guided by any of the same considerations as are at play in the fantasy world.

The best you can get from a trolley problem is what I think a person ought to do. My own action will probably be very different. Maybe another way to put it is that my actions do not conform to my philosophical ethics. And is it ethical to establish ethical standards we ourselves would not follow?

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Offline PatrickG

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Episode #710
« Reply #20 on: February 17, 2019, 08:31:03 PM »
Wasn't the energy storing train idea pretty much debunked? Can't find the reference now as Google is flooded with media coverage of the idea, but I'm pretty sure that someone worked out that the system would be very inefficient and would need a huge area of track and sidings to store a useful amount of energy.

Maybe I'm misremembering, and I really hope I'm wrong, but the energy storing concrete tower idea sounds a bit too good to be true.

Yes, we debunked the gravity train and Steve corrected the mistake later. So it is weird that that the rogues were so unskeptical about the basic claim of the energyvault.ch people. The website is suspiciously vague on technical details, but the presentation super slick.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations show that the numbers do not add up.

The claimed 35MWh storage energy in a single tower would be the equivalent of lifting a whopping  218,750 metric tonnes of concrete up an average of 60 meters (potential energy = m * g * h). So the tower would need to stack ~22,000 heavy concrete boulders of 10 tonnes each. The lower ones don’t store that much, the top is 120m so average is 60m.
That is a lot for 6 cranes on a tower. Also: think about what happens at the bottom of the tower. It seems to be doing a “towers of Hanoi” trick that would require even higher towers to get enough height differential.

And to generate the claimed 3.5MegaWatt output power it would have to drop 21,875 metric tonnes at the speed of a meter per minute. Or 219 massive boulders of 10 tonnes each simultaneously at a speed of 10 meter per minute. That would be 37 10-ton boulders per crane arm. I don’t see that happening.

Bottom line: there is not enough potential energy in lifting a weight. Only pumped storage can move enough water mass for gravity storage.
Weights are only good for powering grandfather clocks.

Either I made a mistake (please correct me), or these energyvault.ch guys as bad at physics, or they are frauds.

This is the promo video they made to scam investors. Notice that they confuse potential energy with kinetic energy.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2019, 09:57:27 PM by PatrickG »

Online arthwollipot

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2019, 12:29:31 AM »
I'm still confused why it's called a "trolley" problem. Surely it's a train?
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Online daniel1948

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2019, 10:03:10 AM »
I'm still confused why it's called a "trolley" problem. Surely it's a train?

A trolley car is a single car that runs on tracks and is powered by overhead electrical lines. A train has multiple cars and may be powered by an on-board engine or externally-supplied electricity. I remember trolley cars in L.A. when I was very little, before GM bought the system and dismantled it so people would have to buy automobiles. There was also a variation called the trolley bus, which had tires so it could pull over to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers, but still ran off of overhead power lines and so could not stray far from the lines.

There have probably been two-car trolleys, so the one-car/multi-car distinction gets blurry, but basically a trolley car was a single car that operated in a city the way busses do now. Being on a track allowed for scenarios where someone pulls a lever to re-direct the car onto another track, like a train. Another difference is that a train generally has many cars, not just one or two, and consists of one or more engines and separate passenger cars.
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Offline lonely moa

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2019, 12:17:11 PM »
Te trolley problem always makes me remember one of the very few lines my father related to me, about his time as a nineteen year old army ranger behind the German lines in the Battle of the Bulge, "sometimes we just couldn't take prisoners". 



"Pull the goalie", Malcolm Gladwell.

Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2019, 12:35:23 PM »
I'm still confused why it's called a "trolley" problem. Surely it's a train?
Part of the issue I think is that "trolley" is a bit of an obsolete term.  In the US anyway, it would be more clear to call it the "Street Car" problem. If you get rid of the less than half true conspiracy theory and past tense, daniel is basically right.

A trolley, streetcar, tram are generally single cars that run on tracks for intracity passenger transport, they still existing in a number of cities both inside and outside of the US.  There was a general shift away from railed intracity transit to buses around the world for a number of reasons that included but were not limited to efforts on the part of GM.  A train is typically a string of cars running on a track for either passenger transit or freight.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy

Offline Mr. Beagle

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #25 on: February 18, 2019, 12:50:40 PM »
I'm still confused why it's called a "trolley" problem. Surely it's a train?

This is a Britishism. British philosopher Philippa Foot first described this problem in the 1960s.
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Offline Mr. Beagle

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #26 on: February 18, 2019, 12:57:22 PM »
Steve said that in answering the trolley problems, you have to assume that the premise is correct. This in response to the obvious fact that "maybe the fat man won't stop the trolley after all," etc. My problem is that I cannot hear a trolley problem without thinking first off, "How do you know that thus-and-such will stop the trolley?" The result is that any answer I give will be tainted by the fact that I do not, and cannot, accept the premise on faith. I can enter a fantasy world in my imagination, and build scenarios, and answer questions. But in the real world my actions will probably not be guided by any of the same considerations as are at play in the fantasy world.

The best you can get from a trolley problem is what I think a person ought to do. My own action will probably be very different. Maybe another way to put it is that my actions do not conform to my philosophical ethics. And is it ethical to establish ethical standards we ourselves would not follow?

Ethics ideally represent the will of the collective for the preservation of its society. The example I give is capital punishment. Conceptually, I oppose capital punishment, but in practice and in the moment, I might advocate it for the guy who cuts me off in traffic. This is why we should NOT be "listening to the family" in capital cases, nor listening to me in my own specific case where I want retribution.

We saw this problem on torture in the Bush administration. People throw out the "What if a terrorist knows about a bomb?" rationale for excusing torture. The answer should be, whether we practice it or not, that torture is wrong. Otherwise, as we have seen, you start torturing everybody. 

The new Attorney General, William Barr, has asserted that he will be the final judge on his own ethics problems, which is a contradiction in terms.
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Online bachfiend

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #27 on: February 18, 2019, 02:06:32 PM »
Steve said that in answering the trolley problems, you have to assume that the premise is correct. This in response to the obvious fact that "maybe the fat man won't stop the trolley after all," etc. My problem is that I cannot hear a trolley problem without thinking first off, "How do you know that thus-and-such will stop the trolley?" The result is that any answer I give will be tainted by the fact that I do not, and cannot, accept the premise on faith. I can enter a fantasy world in my imagination, and build scenarios, and answer questions. But in the real world my actions will probably not be guided by any of the same considerations as are at play in the fantasy world.

The best you can get from a trolley problem is what I think a person ought to do. My own action will probably be very different. Maybe another way to put it is that my actions do not conform to my philosophical ethics. And is it ethical to establish ethical standards we ourselves would not follow?

Ethics ideally represent the will of the collective for the preservation of its society. The example I give is capital punishment. Conceptually, I oppose capital punishment, but in practice and in the moment, I might advocate it for the guy who cuts me off in traffic. This is why we should NOT be "listening to the family" in capital cases, nor listening to me in my own specific case where I want retribution.

We saw this problem on torture in the Bush administration. People throw out the "What if a terrorist knows about a bomb?" rationale for excusing torture. The answer should be, whether we practice it or not, that torture is wrong. Otherwise, as we have seen, you start torturing everybody. 

The new Attorney General, William Barr, has asserted that he will be the final judge on his own ethics problems, which is a contradiction in terms.

The ethics problem can be ignored by noting that capital punishment and torture just don’t work.  Capital punchment doesn’t deter murder.  Torture results in false confessions and the eliciting of wrong intelligence.  In the bad old days, when capital punishment was a public entertainment and inflicted on pickpockets, pickpockets used to ply their trade in crowds enjoying the spectacle of other pickpockets being hanged.

There’s also the non-ethical problem that you might be executing the wrong person for murder.  Or torturing the wrong person for possible terrorism.
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Offline seansand

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2019, 08:10:37 PM »
Was anyone else disappointed that the explanation for Ted Danson reference must have gotten cut from the episode?

It's a reference to "The Good Place", which is a show that everyone should binge-watch right now if you haven't seen it.  It's excellent.

There's a second season episode where they actually test the trolley problem.

Online arthwollipot

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Re: Episode #710
« Reply #29 on: February 18, 2019, 09:08:20 PM »
I'm still confused why it's called a "trolley" problem. Surely it's a train?

A trolley car is a single car that runs on tracks and is powered by overhead electrical lines. A train has multiple cars and may be powered by an on-board engine or externally-supplied electricity. I remember trolley cars in L.A. when I was very little, before GM bought the system and dismantled it so people would have to buy automobiles. There was also a variation called the trolley bus, which had tires so it could pull over to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers, but still ran off of overhead power lines and so could not stray far from the lines.

There have probably been two-car trolleys, so the one-car/multi-car distinction gets blurry, but basically a trolley car was a single car that operated in a city the way busses do now. Being on a track allowed for scenarios where someone pulls a lever to re-direct the car onto another track, like a train. Another difference is that a train generally has many cars, not just one or two, and consists of one or more engines and separate passenger cars.

Kind of like what we would refer to as a tram, then. Melbourne is the only city in Australia that still runs trams. Thanks for the comprehensive explanation. It's still a little weird to me, but it's cultural.
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