This article derives prognostic expressions for the evolution of globally aggregated economic wealth, productivity, inflation, technological change, innovation and growth. The approach is to treat civilization as an open, non-equilibrium thermodynamic system that dissipates energy and diffuses matter in order to sustain existing circulations and to further its material growth. Appealing to a prior result that established a fixed relationship between a very general representation of global economic wealth and rates of global primary energy consumption, physically derived expressions for economic quantities follow. The analysis suggests that wealth can be expressed in terms of the length density of civilization’s networks and the availability of energy resources. Rates of return on wealth are accelerated by energy reserve discovery, improvements to human and infrastructure longevity, and a more common culture, or a lowering of the amount of energy required to diffuse raw materials into civilization’s bulk. According to a logistic equation, rates of return are slowed by past growth, and if rates of return approach zero, such “slowing down” makes civilization fragile with respect to externally imposed network decay. If past technological change has been especially rapid, then civilization is particularly vulnerable to newly unfavorable conditions that might force a switch into a mode of accelerating collapse.(Submitted on 13 Nov 2012)
For those concerned with the long-term value of their accounts, it can be a challenge to plan in the present for inflation-adjusted economic growth over coming decades. Here, I argue that there exists an economic constant that carries through time, and that this can help us to anticipate the more distant future: global economic wealth has a fixed link to civilization’s overall rate of energy consumption from all sources; the ratio of these two quantities has not changed over the past 40 years that statistics are available. Power production and wealth rise equally quickly because civilization, like any other system in the universe, must consume and dissipate its energy reserves in order to sustain its current size. One perspective might be that financial wealth must ultimately collapse as we deplete our energy reserves. However, we can also expect that highly aggregated quantities like global wealth have inertia, and that growth rates must persist. Exceptionally rapid innovation in the two decades following 1950 allowed for unprecedented acceleration of inflation-adjusted rates of return. But today, real innovation rates are more stagnant. This means that, over the coming decade or so, global GDP and wealth should rise fairly steadily at an inflation-adjusted rate of about 2.2% per year.(Submitted on 3 Oct 2010 (v1), last revised 6 Jan 2012 (this version, v3))
In a prior study, I introduced a simple economic growth model designed to be consistent with general thermodynamic laws. Unlike traditional economic models, civilization is viewed only as a well-mixed global whole with no distinction made between individual nations, economic sectors, labor, or capital investments. At the model core is an observationally supported hypothesis that the global economy’s current rate of primary energy consumption is tied through a constant to a very general representation of its historically accumulated wealth. Here, this growth model is coupled to a linear formulation for the evolution of globally well-mixed atmospheric CO2 concentrations. While very simple, the coupled model provides faithful multi-decadal hindcasts of trajectories in gross world product (GWP) and CO2. Extending the model to the future, the model suggests that the well-known IPCC SRES scenarios substantially underestimate how much CO2 levels will rise for a given level of future economic prosperity. For one, global CO2 emission rates cannot be decoupled from wealth through efficiency gains. For another, like a long-term natural disaster, future greenhouse warming can be expected to act as an inflationary drag on the real growth of global wealth. For atmospheric CO2 concentrations to remain below a “dangerous” level of 450 ppmv, model forecasts suggest that there will have to be some combination of an unrealistically rapid rate of energy decarbonization and nearly immediate reductions in global civilization wealth. Effectively, it appears that civilization may be in a double-bind. If civilization does not collapse quickly this century, then CO2 levels will likely end up exceeding 1000 ppmv; but, if CO2 levels rise by this much, then the risk is that civilization will gradually tend towards collapse.(Submitted on 12 Nov 2008 (v1), last revised 27 Aug 2009 (this version, v2))
Global Climate Models (GCMs) provide forecasts of future climate warming using a wide variety of highly sophisticated anthropogenic CO2 emissions models as input, each based on the evolution of four emissions “drivers”: population p, standard of living g, energy productivity (or efficiency) f and energy carbonization c. The range of scenarios considered is extremely broad, however, and this is a primary source of forecast uncertainty. Here, it is shown both theoretically and observationally how the evolution of the human system can be considered from a surprisingly simple thermodynamic perspective in which it is unnecessary to explicitly model two of the emissions drivers: population and standard of living. Specifically, the human system grows through a self-perpetuating feedback loop in which the consumption rate of primary energy resources stays tied to the historical accumulation of global economic production – or p times g – through a time-independent factor of 9.7 +/- 0.3 milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 US dollar. This important constraint, and the fact that f and c have historically varied rather slowly, points towards substantially narrowed visions of future emissions scenarios for implementation in GCMs.
Published on Jun 28, 2013
Symbiosis (from Ancient Greek σύν “together” and βίωσις “living“) is close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species. In 1877, Albert Bernhard Frank used the word symbiosis (which previously had been used to depict people living together in community) to describe the mutualistic relationship in lichens. In 1879, the German mycologist Heinrich Anton de Bary defined it as “the living together of unlike organisms.”
The definition of symbiosis is controversial among scientists. Some believe symbiosis should only refer to persistent mutualisms, while others believe it should apply to any types of persistent biological interactions (i.e. mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic). After 130+ years of debate, current biology and ecology textbooks now use the latter “de Bary” definition or an even broader definition (i.e. symbiosis = all species interactions), with absence of the restrictive definition (i.e. symbiosis = mutualism).
Some symbiotic relationships are obligate, meaning that both symbionts entirely depend on each other for survival. For example, many lichens consist of fungal and photosynthetic symbionts that cannot live on their own. Others are facultative, meaning that they can, but do not have to live with the other organism.
Symbiotic relationships include those associations in which one organism lives on another (ectosymbiosis, such as mistletoe), or where one partner lives inside the other (endosymbiosis, such as lactobacilli and other bacteria in humans or Symbiodinium in corals). Symbiosis is also classified by physical attachment of the organisms; symbiosis in which the organisms have bodily union is called conjunctive symbiosis, and symbiosis in which they are not in union is called disjunctive symbiosis.[
Big changes await us. An unrecognizable economy. The main lesson for me is that growth is not a “good quantum number,” as physicists will say: it’s not an invariant of our world. Cling to it at your own peril.
Note: This conversation is my contribution to a series at www.growthbusters.org honoring the 40th anniversary of the Limits to Growth study. You can explore the series here. Also see my previous reflection on the Limits to Growth work. You may also be interested in checking out and signing the Pledge to Think Small and consider organizing an Earth Day weekend house party screening of the GrowthBusters movie.
Published on Sep 19, 2012
This video quickly covers the key points that you will find in the long version. Everyone needs to see the long version but many won’t because they don’t have the time. My hope is that people will watch this short version and then be motivated to watch the long version.
I came across “The Most Important Video You’ll Ever See” on YouTube and clicked on it. I didn’t realize that it was an eight part video that lasted over an hour but after finishing part one I had no choice but to watch the whole thing. It truly could be called the most important video you’ll ever see.
Published on May 3, 2012
If gravity is so attractive, why doesn’t the earth just crash into the sun? Or the moon into the earth?
The answer: Stable Orbits
hyperbolic funnel video: http://bit.ly/r5xhng
Minute Physics provides an energetic and entertaining view of old and new problems in physics — all in a minute!
Finnix is a self-contained, bootable Linux CD distribution (“LiveCD”) for system administrators, based on Debian. You can mount and manipulate hard drives and partitions, monitor networks, rebuild boot records, install other operating systems, and much more. Finnix includes the latest technology for system administrators, with Linux kernel 3.0, x86 and PowerPC support, hundreds of sysadmin-geared packages, and much more. And above all, Finnix is small; currently the entire distribution is over 400MiB, but is dynamically compressed into a small bootable image. Finnix is not intended for the average desktop user, and does not include any desktops, productivity tools, or sound support, in order to keep distribution size low.
Think floating pyramids are more metaphysics than physics? Think again. Results just in from an experiment that levitated open-bottomed paper pyramids on gusts of air reveal a curious phenomenon: When it comes to drifting through the air, top-heavy designs are more stable than bottom-heavy ones. The finding may lead to robots that fly not like insects or birds but like jellyfish.