Mad Teddy's Sixes and sevens page

Mad Teddy's web-pages

Sixes and sevens

(and a few related quantities)

This page commenced in early August 2011
and posted on Saturday, 20th August 2011

If you look up "six" in the Concise Oxford dictionary (1990 edition), among other details you'll find the definition of the term "at sixes and sevens", as follows:

“ confusion or disagreement.”

Well, there's plenty of that about at the moment. This page is an attempt to address, in a meaningful way, two of the current "bones of contention" - and to show that they are closely related: so closely, in fact, that they really ought to be considered together.

By way of introduction, let's play around with the numbers 6 and 7 for a moment.

If we multiply them together, we get 42 - which, if you're familiar with "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by the late Douglas Adams, you'll recognize as the answer provided by a super-intelligent computer to the big question of "Life, the Universe, and Everything". We needn't pursue this any further here, as (1) I've already made a few remarks about it in an earlier page, and (2) the kerfuffle surrounding the two very important matters I want to address here shows that we are nowhere near finding the answer to that "Ultimate Question"; we need to learn to walk before we can ever contemplate trying to run.

How about if we add 6 and 7 together? What can we say about 13, the answer in that case?

Well, for a start, this page is the 13th link in my Unequivocal ursine utterances menu page! So there's a connection, straight away.

But I'm thinking more about how the number 13 is often considered, in popular culture, to be unlucky. The way I see it, our world will be very unlucky indeed if we don't find a sensible solution to my twin "bones of contention" - and very soon.

- - - - - - - - - -

Let's just consider the number 6 by itself for a moment. One thing we can say about it is that it's the atomic number of the element carbon - i.e. the number of protons in a carbon nucleus. It also happens to be the number of neutrons in the nuclei of the vast majority of naturally-occurring carbon atoms (a little over 98% of them are "carbon-12"); almost all of the remainder - carbon-13 - have seven neutrons, so there's another connection for 7. (Carbon-14, a radioactive isotope which has eight neutrons and is important in carbon dating, accounts for only a tiny amount of natural carbon.)

     So what, you may ask?     

Precisely this: the word "carbon" is now heard everywhere - ad nauseum, in my opinion! - in the media, in connection with climate change.

Now, I know I've had quite a bit to say about this already, in some of my earlier web-pages. But the issue of climate change, and the "carbon-jargon" surrounding it, are not going away; and neither is the matter being resolved - which concerns me greatly. So I hope you'll be patient with me if I find it necessary to have yet another ursine growl about it here.

The two main carbon-containing greenhouse gases

Carbon dioxide, CO2                                      Methane, CH4       

The prior page in which I've had the most to say on this topic to date is my Charabanc ride page, which I posted in late June 2010. If you'd like to browse through some of those comments now, click on that link and scroll down until you see this graphic:

- and read on from there.

As I've hinted there, I firmly believe that all the "carbon jargon" is essentially nothing more than an attempt by politicians, some journalists, and - unfortunately - some in the mainstream scientific community to appear to be "science-savvy", while actually trying as hard as they can to promote the view that the climate problem is going to solved (if at all) via economic so-called "fixes" such as carbon emissions trading, carbon taxes, carbon pricing etc. etc. - at the same time giving little more than lip-service to the necessity of developing "renewable energy technologies", which will be funded - presumably - using the money raised from these financial schemes.

Even more unfortunately, it seems that a large proportion of the public are being hoodwinked into believing it all. I'm quite sure that there are many who are sincerely concerned about the very real global warming problem, but who are being lulled into accepting that such "market-based" schemes are somehow going to make everything come right.

It's become a big issue here in Australia in recent times.

Since Saturday, 24th November 2007, when the Australian Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd finally brought a very welcome end to eleven years of John Howard's right-wing "capital-L" Liberal/National Party régime, there's been quite a bit of drama in Aussie political life. As mentioned toward the end of my "Charabanc ride" page (see link above), Mr. Rudd - who had intended to initiate an "emissions trading scheme", but not straight away - had his prime-ministership curtailed (or "shortened", perhaps?) by a Labor Party coup, in mid-2010. His successor, Julia Gillard, at first promised that there would be no carbon tax, or carbon price, at least during her first term of office as PM. However, she changed her mind.

There was another federal election in Australia in late August 2010 (just under a year ago). The result was that Labor - with Julia Gillard as PM - was able to hold on by the slenderest of all possible margins, and only with help from the Greens and a few Independents who agreed not to initiate frivolous motions of no-confidence in the new Government.

When Ms. Gillard changed her mind about not introducing a "carbon price" - after the August 2010 election - a wave of resentment spread across Australia. There have been ugly demonstrations, with much anger - quite vitriolic at times - directed against Ms. Gillard and her government. It seems that many who were on-side with the former Rudd government feel betrayed, both by the manner of Mr. Rudd's removal from office and by the new tax.

Okay - we all know that governments break promises; no surprises there. It goes with the territory. There's always some very "good" reason why they come to see it as "essential" to go back on their word, as "circumstances have changed" and it would be "irresponsible" to stick with what they'd said earlier. (It's worth noting that back in Howard's time, there was no apology from that administration for having "core" and "non-core" promises.) So they all do it; they always have done, and they always will. It's the nature of the beast. Click here to see how blatantly this has been done in relation to the Gillard government's proposed carbon price.

It seems to me that what's different this time, and what has really got people's backs up, is that the cost of living has increased dramatically in recent times. For reasons that are far from clear to your average "Joe" (and I include myself in this regard), the price of essential services such as electricity and water have gone through the roof - and people are justifiably furious at the prospect of "just another tax".

- - - - - - - - - -

Just an aside on the escalating price of essentials, if I may:

Have a look at this page on the Hobart "Mercury" newspaper's website, to get some idea of where things stood down here in Tasmania as of 5th March 2011, with autumn upon us and cold weather on the way. (Believe me - it was quite cold by early June, with night-time temperatures regularly down to -2oC in my home city of Launceston, just 200km from Hobart, the state's capital.)

Well - on 9th August, with winter drawing to a close in a few weeks, on the front page of "The Mercury" was a story headed "POWERLESS", which tells how "Tasmanian households are going for days without electric power in a bid to stay on top of cost-of-living pressures", with "candles, takeaway food, blankets and the warmth of friends' houses being used as tools to survive".

Just a few days ago, on the news (I can't remember whether on radio or TV), came the story of how people are going to bed at 5.00pm as an affordable means of keeping warm.

     So much for living in a "first world" country...     

- - - - - - - - - -

Back on track, about Australia-wide anger against the federal government over the carbon tax/price:

In spite of everything, I don't believe that the rancourous behaviour we've seen toward the federal government will do any good at all. I think I've finally learned that venting anger and frustration without restraint is never a good idea.

All right: down to details. Please visit this page for an overview of how the Australian Government's "carbon price" policy is supposed to work. In particular: while there, do make a point of clicking on the YouTube link to Julia Gillard's "Address to the Nation", which went to air on Monday, 10th July, 2011 - and in which she used the word "carbon" 13 times, if I'm not mistaken ( correct me if I'm wrong) - and not once in clear, obvious connection with either carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4), the two common carbon-containing greenhouse gases.

Warning: if you don't like the feeling of being patronized, or "talked down to", I suggest you have a - uh - suitable container handy...

Next, visit this YouTube page to view Julia Gillard's press-released official announcement of the carbon price, which also occurred on 10th July. She begins her argument by saying - quite correctly - that "the science is in" regarding climate change and global warming, but again omits any mention of either of the relevant carbon-containing gases.

Here's a challenge: count the number of times the PM used the word "carbon" in that speech (I make it 20).

Just before moving on: I've found a web-page which takes the same position as I do on the very silly [ab]use of the word "carbon" in recent times, with respect to greenhouse gases, climate change and "all that jazz" - and manages to do it in a fairly light-hearted manner. There's a discussion section at the end, with contributions from people on "both" sides of the debate, which make interesting reading. (Of course, there are multifarious opinions about all this - not just two.) Check out that page here, and have a chuckle - as well as perhaps becoming better informed about some of the details.

Seriously, now: let's concentrate on a few of the salient points in Ms. Gillard's announcement. Referring to "about 500 big polluters", she says:

Because something they used to do for free now costs them money, they will innovate, they will change, they will find a way of reducing that bill - and in doing so, they will reduce their carbon pollution.

The question is: yes, but how will they innovate, change, and find a way to reduce their "carbon pollution" and its associated bill?

Let's face it: the "captains of industry" in the cut-throat world of the early 21st Century are only interested in such things as bottom lines, profit margins, and beating their competitors. They're not interested in "R&D" for its own sake, or anything "innovative", unless they can see that such things will deliver a quick buck, right now - not in a few years' or decades' time. They're certainly not interested in being at the forefront of pure, interest-driven scientific research into long-term renewable energy solutions. "Not my department, mate!"

So what will they do, when suddenly faced with big tax bills that eat into their profit margins?

In her speech, Ms. Gillard quite clearly expounds her faith in "market mechanisms" that will control how big companies operate when the carbon tax gives way to an emissions trading scheme after the first three years. (Now why am I concerned that this speech sounds very much as though it could have been written for someone like former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard to deliver?)

Acknowledging that these companies will pass "some of the costs" on to the householder (you and me, basically), the government pledges to use at least 50% of the money raised by the tax to assist said householders, by way of "tax cuts and payment increases" - and also commits to "work to supporting Australian jobs".

Pardon me, but I just don't believe it will happen anything like the government claims it will. What I think will happen is that many large companies, irritated by the cost imposed upon them by the government, will simply make the decision to leave Australia and take their operations offshore - almost certainly to developing nations where they can avoid the annoying costs and employ cheap labour under sweat-shop conditions, continuing to pollute to their hearts' content in those other countries which can't afford to alienate such businesses as are prepared to operate there by slugging them with such costs themselves. The net result for Australia will be that many Aussies will lose their jobs, and that the government will not collect anywhere near as much as it currently hopes in tax revenues - and thus will not be in a position to help Australians (especially the newly-unemployed Australians) anywhere near as much as they imagine. So everybody - the whole world, really! - will lose.

It may well be highly significant that, with Federal Parliament re-assembling in mid-August to debate a number of issues including the carbon tax, the news has come that Australia's major airline, QANTAS, has announced its intention to "restructure" its international arm, citing the need to retrench over 1000 Aussie staff, while employing people in other countries. On 16th August, the ABC's "7.30" current-events program covered the story. Click here to read the transcript of the introductory story, and here for the transcript of an interview with QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce.

In that interview, Mr. Joyce claims that QANTAS is "not outsourcing jobs offshore", but is "creating new businesses" in Asian countries. He claims that it's necessary to do so because of QANTAS's "poorly-performing international business".

What seems certain is that this is brewing as a classic management-versus-union stoush. It should be very interesting to see how it all pans out.

Ms. Gillard claims that some of the carbon tax revenue will be channeled into research into renewable energy. Again, I'm sceptical; I don't believe there will be enough revenue to do a lot in that direction. (Also, frankly, I doubt that the sort of science that may be done under government auspices will be truly innovative; elsewhere within this website, I've expressed my belief that what I call "science by committee" rarely if ever comes up with anything truly ground-breaking. That is done by individuals, or small groups of like-minded individuals, who have a spark of genius; "mavericks", if you will - something no government can legislate for.)

Worse: when all this comes to pass, and the scheme is seen to have little or no positive effect, the Australian electorate - already fed up with what is sees as lack of true representation by its government, not to mention disloyalty and betrayal within its own ranks - will react as it did when it felt disenfranchised back in 1996, simply throwing a less-than-relevant Labor government out and installing another rabid right-wing outfit like the one it finally managed to boot out in 2007, after eleven miserable years. Perish the thought that we have to go through that again! Do we really imagine that such a right-wing administration would not, in very short order, return to the lies and abuses we saw under Howard's leadership, with such things as "work choices", more "children overboard"-type outrages, and the spectre of nuclear power, thus setting us back in the world community by many years?

Worse still: do we really imagine that, if and when we do in fact get a "Howard mark II"-type government, that they will repeal Julia Gillard's "carbon tax"? When Howard's Libs/Nats won government in 1996, the first thing they did was to invent the term "Beasley black hole" to refer to what they claimed was a huge debt left by the previous Keating "Labor" government (Kim Beasley was the treasurer at that time), and declare a period of austerity and government cutbacks. Now, leopards don't change their spots, so you can guarantee that any such new right-wing government will manufacture an excuse to keep the so-called carbon tax; they'll just badge it as something else - and probably increase it, while making sure that the lion's share will be paid by Jack and Jane Citizen, rather than by their corporate mates in heavy industry. Can you doubt it for a moment?

“Now Jack, he is a banker,
And Jane, she is a clerk.
They hope they'd save their moneys, honey,
When they come home from work...”

You'd have to wish them luck, in these times when - in so many ways - life does increasingly seem to be "made of dirt", wouldn't you? (Maybe Jack knows a few tricks... )

(UPDATE, Saturday, 5th November 2011: Check out this YouTube video to see the sort of thing I'm thinking about here; also, follow some of the links there to see some other examples of how these two characters have actually been able to find something humorous in what really is no joking matter, when you boil it all down.)

Hence this page. I make no secret of the fact that I'm hoping to persuade some of the Independents in the House of Representatives (the government house) to vote against this dopey carbon tax proposal, and thus defeat it - in the hope that the current government may somehow survive the next election (scheduled for 2013) - and finally get its act together sufficiently well to regain the respect of the Aussie people, ultimately to take some actions that will do some real good regarding the dire peril in which our planet currently finds itself, before it's too late.

UPDATE, Monday, 28th October 2013: Today, while listening to ABC Radio National, I heard the news that Lou Reed had died at the age of 71. A controversial character, Lou was the founder of rock band Velvet Underground, and perhaps most famous for their song "Take a Walk on the Wild Side". While I'll admit that I don't know as much about Lou and the Velvet Underground as I perhaps should, I must say that I've enjoyed over many years their song "Sweet Jane" (click on the "Jack and Jane Citizen" link above to see a YouTube video of the band in concert performing the song). At a first hearing, this perhaps seems to be a fairly innoccuous song, with somewhat obscure lyrics; however, a closer listen may reveal a surprising level of irony, wit and wisdom.

Thanks, Lou - you made an important contribution to the music of our times. Your wry humour, sharp wit, and social conscience have provided the world with a memorable breath of fresh air.

I can hear some people saying: "Now hang on a minute - it's all very well criticizing the government; but to be fair, what about some commentary on what the other side is saying?"

Funny you should ask; I was just coming to that.  

Click here to watch on YouTube the response by the Leader of the Opposition, Liberal Tony Abbott, to PM Julia Gillard's announcement. (This also went to air on 10th July.)

So what do I make of that?

I'll be honest: on the face of it, I think that most (but not all) of what he has to say there makes perfect sense! Much of it is basically what I've said myself, above (even if it is couched in more "suit and tie" language than I'm inclined to use myself). I'm not going to pretend otherwise!

"Okay, then," you may say, "in that case, why don't you just support him and his Liberal / National Party colleagues, and work with them to stop the carbon tax by simply helping to get the Labor government out?"

If only things were ever really that simple.

I've already mentioned the fact that Julia Gillard changed her mind about not introducing a carbon tax/price in her first term of office after the election which saw her become the Prime Minister within a very well-hung parliament , pointing out that this is precisely the sort of thing that party politicians do. Well, guess what? Tony Abbott is a party politician too!

Please, please, pretty please - click here to view on YouTube a 2009 interview with Tony Abbott, to see what he thought about the relative merits (or otherwise) of an emissions trading scheme - which Labor's Prime Minister Kevid Rudd was promoting back then - versus a carbon tax or price, which Julia Gillard is trying to get into law now.


Pardon my cynicism, but it at least appears that Mr. Abbott is taking the exact opposite position to the government's, at any given time, just to engage in opposition for opposition's sake. (Note that I'm far from the first person to suggest this; it's been all over the media down here in the land of Oz on a regular basis in recent times.) It seems to me (and, I suspect from what I've seen and heard in the media recently, many others also) that Mr. Abbott wants so desperately to be PM that he is quite prepared simply to undermine anything at all the government tries to do, causing as much disruption as he possibly can, in order to fulfil his ambition, come what may - even if he ends up looking downright silly in the process. (Or is he simply out of his depth, really wishing that he was somewhere else altogether?)

When you've stopped laughing, having viewed that video, go to this YouTube video of another Tony Abbott interview - and then you can start ROFL-ing all over again. (If you look at other related YouTube videos while you're at it, you'll find that there are plenty there which throw this issue into sharp relief. Take a bit of time to watch some of them, just to convince yourself that I'm not trying to sell you a porky pie here.)

Then, of course, we should never forget that Mr. Abbott is forever on the record as having described the science surrounding climate change as absolute crap - even though he later tried to downplay the remark by saying that he was engaging in a bit of "hyperbole" at the time. The question remains: what does he really think about it all? I don't know! Do you? (What does he really think about anything? Is he really just "Phoney Tony", nothing more than an empty vessel, simply making lots of noise - or are there some hidden depths in there somewhere?)

As mentioned above, much of what Mr. Abbott had to say in his reply to Ms. Gillard's carbon tax/price announcement on 10th July seems to make quite a bit of sense, to me at least. But does he really mean any of it? - or is it all just a ploy to try to get himself taken seriously at last?

Questions, questions...

OK - so there's not much to choose between the major party leaders really, is there? How can we be expected to take anything either of them says with no more than a mere pinch of salt?

That's why I'm so glad that, for the moment at least, we have a parliament in which neither side can hold complete sway. For the present, both party machines have to take serious notice of the fact that for the first time in living memory for most Australians, the parliament really is a true Parliament - a place where it is necessary to talk, to discuss, to engage in genuine communication in order to achieve legislative results, rather than merely a rubber stamp for whichever party happens to hold a majority. As I see it, that's worth hanging onto for as long as possible! - and of course that's part of the reason I'm hoping to persuade the Independent members to vote against the carbon tax, so as to allow our country to draw its collective breath and "count to ten", and thus (hopefully) prevent the Liberal / National coalition from romping back into unbridled power at the next federal election and re-establishing the nightmare vision of "Howard's Way".

The longer we can hold on to a truly representative parliament, the more chance there is that people of goodwill - both inside and outside parliament - will be able to work towards a real solution to our world's biggest underlying environmental problem, perhaps even with Australia taking a leadership rôle - a solution based mainly on real, truly imaginative science, rather than on the dull-witted, stultifying, dead-wood approach of what "economics" has come to be all about in recent decades.

That's the dream, or vision, or quest, I'm trying to share with you. Don't expect me to apologize for it, not for a moment. It's come to be the main thrust of what this website is all about.

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I haven't yet mentioned the place of the Greens in all this. The sad fact is that I wish I didn't have to - but I do. So here goes.

As documented in my It's still not easy being green web-page, I've been around for long enough to have witnessed the birth of the international Green movement right here in Tasmania, way back in 1972, when the big issue that started it all was the imminent flooding of Lake Pedder.

The Green movement started out as a very positive force for good, at last giving distressed people in the community a voice as they wondered what they could do to halt the wanton destruction of what was best about Tasmania in the name of unfettered "progress". But the Greens began to lose the respect and confidence of much of their support-base some years ago when they took on, as part of their platform, issues that have little or nothing to do with their main raison d'être.

Nobody was more disappointed than I when the Greens decided gleefully to back Julia Gillard's carbon tax/price, thus giving the nod to a fundamentally economics-based approach, rather than a fundamentally science/engineering-based approach. I'd really hoped for better than that from them. It seems to me that they, like the two main forces in Aussie politics, are more interested in ideology than in real nuts-and-bolts solutions to real problems. However did that happen?

- And now the Green members of federal parliament have basically hitched their wagon to that of the Labor Party, for the duration of the current parliament at least - so that they and Labor are, for practical purposes, indistinguishable from each other.

To any Green federal MP's reading this:

May I urge you to have a serious re-think. We need you like never before; but the way you are going now, you run the risk of alienating the Australian public - even perhaps wiping out all the good you have done for the past several decades. (I believe that there's a real danger that you could go the way of the earlier third force in Aussie politics, the Australian Democrats, who until quite recently - for some three decades - were a real breath of fresh air in this country's political life, only losing that "edge" when they started to align themselves too closely with what one or the other of the major parties were doing.) Please - consider getting back to basics, so that you can increase your support base and once again become a real, respected alternative force in Aussie politics.

*      *      *      *      *      *

As a way of trying to put all the controversy about climate change into some kind of perspective, may I ask you to click here to read a piece by the Sydney Morning Herald's Ian Verrender, which I believe addresses the matter very fairly and reasonably from "both" sides. (While not necessarily suggesting any solutions, the article does shed considerable light on the very real problem - and that's always the best way to start to tackle any puzzle, wouldn't you say?) Highly recommended.

- - - - - - - - - -

Well, so far I've had something to say about "sixes" (two of them), i.e. 6 + 6 = 12, with a brief mention of "a six and a seven" along the way, i.e. 6 + 7 = 13. What about two "sevens", i.e. 7 + 7 = 14?

I'll return to 14 shortly; but first I'd like to talk about somewhat larger numbers.

A litre is a volume of 1000 cubic centimetres, i.e. 1000cm3, 1000cc, or 1000 millilitres (ml); those units are equivalent. We can visualize a litre as a cubic box with each side 10cm in length, with 10 layers each of volume 10 × 10 = 100cc stacked up.

Similarly, we can visualize a cubic metre as a large box filled with 1000 of these one-litre boxes. Thus a cubic metre contains 1000 × 1000 = 1,000,000 (one million, or 106) cubic centimetres. (Using commas from here on makes things neater.)

Again, it's possible to visualize a cubic centimetre as a small cubic box containing 1000 tiny cubic millimetres in the same way. So it's easy to see that a cubic metre contains 1000 × 1000 × 1000 = 1,000,000,000 (one billion, or 109) cubic millimetres.

Just to give you an idea of how small a cubic millimetre (mm3) is, I laid ten matches side-by-side with a ruler over them, to show a total width of about 2.15cm. So an approximation for the width of a single match is 2.15mm. If we cube that figure, we obtain a figure of 9.938375 - or 10, near enough. Thus if you were to carefully cut a small cube off the end of a match, its volume would be about ten cubic millimetres. So one mm3 is just a tiny crumb, really.

Let's now consider a much bigger volume - an Olympic swimming pool. The standard size is 50m long by 25m wide by (a minimum of) 2m deep. The volume is thus 50 × 25 × 2 = 2500 cubic metres.

Since one cubic metre contains a billion cubic millimetres, it follows that the Olympic pool can hold 2.5 trillion cubic millimetres. Note that a trillion is a thousand billion, or a million million - i.e. a 1 followed by twelve zeros:


(If we only filled our pool up to a height of 80cm, i.e. 0.8m, the volume would be 50 × 25 × 0.8 = 1000 cubic metres, i.e. exactly a trillion cubic millimetres.)

Let's come back to 14 again - in fact, let's see what the volume of 14 trillion cubic millimetres might look like. If we had a very deep rectangular hole in the ground, 50m long by 25m wide (just like an Olympic pool in cross-section), and filled it to a depth of 14 × 0.8 = 11.2 metres, that would be a volume of 14 trillion cubic millimetres:

(You can also visualize this as 5.6 fully-filled 2m-deep Olympic swimming pools, stacked vertically.)

Where's all this leading?

*      *      *      *      *      *      *

Over the last couple of weeks, the media have been full of what appears to be "GFC part 2". We've seen the emergence of the US "debt crisis".

In the unlikely event that you haven't heard anything about this, click here to get a Wikipedia perspective.

It's about whether or not the US government gives itself the right to go into debt beyond a certain amount in order to pay its bills - which includes paying its own public servants. Until a few days ago, the allowable "debt ceiling" was approximately 14 trillion dollars.

I don't know about you, but I find trying to understand how this kind of thing can have any bearing on the reality of life for the ordinary person in this world to be a mind-numbing experience. I know I'm far from stupid, but I find myself shaking my head and thinking: "Whaaat the...?" (Scroll up to the top of the Wikipedia page just mentioned, read down to the bottom, and see if has the same effect on you!)

So that's why I've taken the trouble to present the graphics above as a (perhaps somewhat nerdy) way of trying to illustrate just how big things get when we start talking in trillions: how 14 trillion tiny crumbs can fill a volume probably big enough to serve as a quite respectable aircraft hangar.

But if you don't particularly like my approach, help is at hand. You may prefer another page with graphics showing how this can be expressed in more obviously "financial" terms. Have a look at this beauty, to which someone close to me drew my attention a few days ago:

(which, incidentally, also refers to aeroplanes as an aid to size comparisons ).

*      *      *      *      *      *      *

Are you still finding it all a bit hard to get your head around? Here's one more attempt to help put it in perspective:

I'm sure you must have withdrawn money from a bank and been amazed at the speed with which an experienced bank-teller can riffle through a stack of bank-notes while counting them. (Probably ten notes per second is a good average.)

Well, imagine how long it would take to count a trillion dollars, in $100 notes at ten notes per second. That's $1000 per second; so it will take a billion (one trillion divided by one thousand) seconds to count. How long is that?

Here's the calculation:

1,000,000,000 / 60 / 60 / 24 / 365.25 = 31.688 years

Note that this is without having any sleep, or breaks for eating or attending to other essential bodily functions.

So how long would it take our intrepid bank teller to count $14 trillion?

... × 14 = 443.633 years

Now have I made my point?

*      *      *      *      *      *      *

There's been a lot of hand-wringing in the US as the politicians on both sides of the political divide have tried to grapple with what this all means. Apparently, it seems, it came down to whether Congress (the US parliament) was prepared to vote itself a bigger "debt ceiling" or not: if it did, people would get paid; if it didn't, they wouldn't. In the end, it did; so, with an even bigger national debt, at least people won't starve (not just yet, anyway).

So how are they going to deal with it?

I did a double take - and almost choked laughing - a few days ago when I saw on my television screen Dr. Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, looking straight at the interviewer and saying:

“We can always print money...”

Yep - out of their own mouths, as the saying goes! I'll admit this was a godsend for me, when I was casting about trying to find a way to put these points across in a clear unambiguous way within this page - and bingo, there he was! "Thanks, Alan - couldn't have put it better myself..."

 × 10n
As a trillion = 1012, n=12 currently; but how big will it eventually get? (How long is a piece of string?)
For example, compare the lyrics of Tom Paxton's song I'm Changing My Name to Fannie Mae
with those of his earlier song I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler (as both sung by Arlo Guthrie).

How did the US - and the rest of the world along with it - ever come to be in this ridiculous situation?

As I write this, there are several YouTube videos featuring the good doctor saying this. Some of them are basically half-minute grabs, but there are a few longer ones which have it in context. Perhaps one of the best in that regard is this one, almost five minutes long, in which that classic statement occurs just past the one-minute mark.

Is it remotely possible that Dr. Greenspan hasn't heard of how, in pre-WW2 Germany, people were quite literally taking wheelbarrows full of nearly worthless money to the shops to buy food? Surely not, you'd think! Surely, the Weimar Republic's huge economic problems would have been covered in "Economics 101" (or similar) in Dr. Greenspan's B.S. degree, so that he must know; but in that case, does he really want the US - the whole world, perhaps - to undergo anything like that hyper-inflationary agony ever again? Give me a break...!

If you watch that almost-five-minute interview right through, or at least until just past the 3.5 minute mark, when the interviewer asks Dr. Greenspan if there will be a double-dip recession (i.e. "GFC part 2", which I predicted just over a year ago), he answers:

“It depends on Europe, not the United States.”

He has got to be kidding...

It's pathetic, really. I can't remember ever having heard any major figure in US public life ever having declared anything other than that the US is the world leader in everything, with the US dollar the most widely-held currency in the Allocated Reserves - but now, when it comes to the crunch and it's entirely possible that the whole world is going to be led by the US power-brokers down the path to economic ruin, here we have "Johnny on the spot" trying to blame someone else!

Granted, the Eurozone countries in general, and Italy in particular, have some serious financial issues at the moment; click here to read a transcript of ABC-TV's "7.30" program of 10th August 2011, which reported on the matter. But to blame America's woes on Italy's problems is just a joke. As we say "down under":

“Fair go, mate!”

While on the subject of the European situation: can you spare a little less than ten minutes to watch this YouTube video, entitled "Global Financial Crisis 2011: Prophecy Fulfilled"? It features someone described as "Endtime Prophet Dr. Owuor" (of whom I'll admit I've never heard), but includes worthwhile, very graphic footage which shows how the citizens of countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are responding to the increasing cost of living.

I think it's absolutely tragic that Greece has been dragged into this. My heart sank a few weeks ago when I saw on my TV the news that the Greek government, in defiance of its people's wishes, had caved in to pressure to inflict austerity measures in order to get a bailout from the IMF.

Greece has long been recognized as the cradle of democracy. Greek citizens' rights to have a say in their government were established well over 2000 years ago, and set a standard for the world to follow. During the Second World War, Greece - a small country in the modern scheme of things - stood up first to Fascist Italy and then to Nazi Germany, and helped to give the free world hope that victory was possible (see this very interesting web-page to read more). How ignominious, then, that Greece (famous not only for its early democracy, but also for its many contributions to civilization: logical thought, art, literature, theatre, music, science, and mathematics) should now have to cave in to the ugly, very anti-democratic monster known as the "global economy" - which is nothing more or less than a blatant attempt to turn the whole world into a single dumbed-down hyper-capitalist state.

I make no secret of the fact that I despise the "global economy", and everything it stands for. I've expressed this in several other pages within this website - none more so than in my The Loan Sharks page which I originally wrote over a decade ago, in the wake of the protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle and the related subsequent events in 2000 in Melbourne, when I was just beginning to try to come to terms with what it all meant and express it in my own way - and which I incorporated into this website when I launched it in mid-2006. If you haven't visited that "Loan Sharks" page before, may I invite you to do so now. I'd like to think that my writing style has evolved a bit since then , but I still stand by everything I said there.

Wednesday, 21st September 2011: Just over a month after first posting this page, I've decided to copy a verse from "The Loan Sharks" song here (which I can do with impunity; after all, I own the copyright!) - simply because it is so appropriate in context:

“They think that people cannot see,
They think that we peasants don't know,
As on their despicable cynical way
The rich and powerful go.

The price of their gain is the whole planet's pain -
Her agony increases with each sov'reign state they overthrow.”

Go ahead - click on the link above to hear the entire item. Just a thought: if you can sing (which I can't, since a bout of 'flu pretty much destroyed my vocal cords several years ago), perhaps you'd like to record yourself doing so and post the result on YouTube? Feel free to use either or both of my musical accompaniments, and/or the chord guide, posted there. Let me know if you do...

[Incidentally - while on the subject of how the amount of money in the world can apparently increase without limit - just by printing more, if seems! - the subject of economic growth is perhaps worth a mention here. The usual spiel by our leaders is that it's essential; that its opposite, rather than being economic stability, is economic stagnation.

We live on a small planet about 8,000 miles (12,800km) in diameter, whose resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. At what point do we accept the truth of Edward Abbey's assertion that "growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell"? For more on this, do have a look at this most interesting web-page:

- in which many quotes from other thinkers are presented, along with its author's own thoughts on the topic.]

- - - - - - - - - -

In ABC Radio's Science Show program of Saturday, 20th August 2011 (the day on which I am posting this page), respected science journalist Julian Cribb presents an item entitled "Homo sapiens - time for a new name?", in which - at 6 min. 49 sec. into the 9 min. 57 sec. item - he says:

“...we are in the process of destroying a great many things which are real - [he gives a list] - for the sake of a commodity that mostly exists in our imagination: money.

While money has its uses as a medium for exchange, humanity is increasingly engaged in mass self-delusion as to what constitutes real wealth, as is quite clear from the current financial crisis.


- a sentiment with which I agree absolutely, and which I have expressed myself in various pages within this website over the past several years.

Here's an article which attempts to examine exactly what money really is, written by someone who saw trouble coming a long time ago (it's been on the web since 1998). Well worth a look.

- - - - - - - - - -

To my mind, it's quite clear that the new false religion of economic globalization - whose foul god is the unholy trinity of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the World Bank - is broken beyond repair, and has absolutely nothing to offer the world to help it clamber out of the mess in which it now finds itself.

So what do we do? Do we take the stand of the "Endtime Prophet", preaching about how the current situation fits biblical prophecies about the "end times", and (depending on which view of these events one believes) perhaps trying not to look too gleeful about how the true believers will be transported - or raptured - out of it all, while the rest of the world goes through years of pain and suffering?

Well, of course, we can if we want to - and I'll admit that, in years past, I went along with that basic idea. But I've since come to believe that one can do better.

As I've pointed out in earlier pages (here and here), these may indeed be the "end times", and all the biblical prophesies may indeed be spot-on for today's world - but that we have no way of knowing for sure. Jesus himself said that "no-one knows the day or the hour", and encouraged his followers to go about their normal activities to the best of their ability - but to be always aware that the "end times" could begin at any time, and thus live their lives accordingly.

So my take on all this is that one does what one can while there is still time. That's what this website is very largely about: I'm trying to share a vision of what we can do in the world, just as we find it right now - at sixes and sevens - to try to make it a better place to live for our children, and for theirs. I'll leave it to the "Endtime prophets" to jump up and down about all the other stuff!

Okay, then - so what, specifically, am I suggesting?

We can start by admitting at an international (not "global"!) level that the global economy is a disastrous, failed "one size fits all" experiment, and allow for individual countries to resign from it, thus resuming their right to sovereignty over their own political and economic affairs. If and when more and more countries jettison it, it will become increasingly irrelevant and will ultimately die a natural - and very welcome - death.

After all, the monster has only been around for a few decades; a saner, more just world is well within living memory for anyone over the age of thirty. The unfettered global economy is certainly not part of any long-established "natural order", and it needs to be got rid of - and the sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned. So let's just do it!

As part of this process, it will be necessary to abolish the "unholy trinity", which - initially - will need to be restructured and given something useful to do with that slice of the world's wealth which it currently controls, thus redeeming itself to some extent on the world stage before being finally dismantled, wound up, and consigned to history. I've got some ideas...

By way of introduction, I'd like to present here a few quotes from one of the great minds of the not too distant past, Albert Einstein. This web-page is the first in a series of eleven which present quite a lot of the wit and wisdom of the founder of the Theory of Relativity and early researcher into quantum mechanics. They're all worth reading; here are some which appeal to me:

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"You never fail until you stop trying."

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

"Creativity is intelligence having fun."

"I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right."

"To invent something, all you need is imagination and a big pile of junk."

     Yeah - I can really relate to that one!     

"Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed."

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."

     Just two more:

E = mc2

... and ...

"Concerning matter, we have been all wrong.
What we have called matter is energy,
whose vibration has been so lowered as to be
perceptible to the senses. There is no matter."

As you can see, I've deliberately given my "ripples" animation yet another airing in this page, and for a very good reason. As I've mentioned in an earlier page, I use that animation as a kind of logo for zero-point energy, about which I've already had a great deal to say in this website.

If energy - the  mc2  of Einstein's famous equation - is indeed the fundamental reality in the physical universe, then all the trillions of dollars - whether in the form of gold (or other metals such as brass or nickel), paper, plastic, or nothing more substantial than glowing pixels on computer screens - pale into insignificance by comparison. (Just by the way: I've had a few choice words to say about gold - and such limited value as it actually has, in real, practical terms - earlier in this website; click here to visit my "All that glisters..." page.)

The idea that playing "money games" is ever going to fix our troubled world is simply an illusion - or "Maya", to use the Sanskrit word that George Harrison used in his beautiful song Beware of Darkness:

“Beware of Maya.
Watch out now, take care -
Beware of greedy leaders;
They take you where you should not go...”

There is nothing to love about money. Indeed, as the Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all evil". How long is it going to take humanity to understand the truth of this?

Ultimately, it's all about energy. As Einstein pointed out, there is no other physical reality in the universe.

It is my firm belief that if we are ever going to sort out this world's environmental problems - if we don't want the world to enter another dark age (quite literally, as Weimar Republic-type inflation drives the price of electricity out of many people's reach) - we will have to come to grips with this in a meaningful way, and very soon.

Since its inception, this website has had a lot to do with the work of Nikola Tesla, who a century ago had the dream of developing a way for the entire world to have access to clean, cheap energy. I've made numerous references to this in several pages; rather than reproducing all the links here, may I recommend that you click on this link which will take you to a short but well-written page which summarizes the story of Tesla quite well. (If you'd like to read more, you'll find some relevant links at the top of my page about quasars.)

I first became aware of Tesla and his work in the 1960's, when I found a book in my high-school library which gave instructions for building a small bipolar Tesla coil somewhat similar to the one shown here; also have a look at this YouTube video. (If you're interested, you can find more information about my own early interest in this kind of thing in my Electrical stuff menu page.)

Around 2000, having been on the internet for a year or two, I remembered my schoolboy interest in such things and started digging - and was surprised to find lots of information there provided by fellow nerds. As I continued to "bone up" on these matters, I found references to something called "zero-point energy" - and came to realize that, far from being "crackpot science", it has a great deal to do with how the entire universe functions. Ultimately, it became the main focus of this website, which I launched in mid-2006.

I learned that Tesla, and other researchers following in his footsteps, had encountered stiff opposition to their efforts to bring clean, cheap energy to the world - and it was always about what Einstein described as "stupidity, fear and greed" (see the purple comments above; dare I suggest that these three terms correspond respectively pretty much exactly to my own three P's: "pride, politics and power"?). Unfortunately, nothing has changed. Those who run the "global economy" don't want this knowledge to become widespread, because they know that it will mean the end of their "vision" for the world if it does.

Well, with that "vision" now being seen as the nightmare it really is, the time has arrived to replace it with a real vision - one in which adequate, clean, affordable energy is made available for all the world's citizens, as a serious first step towards mending our broken planet.

Of course, it won't happen overnight. If we start now, it will take some years to put everything in place - and it is going to cost quite a lot.

So do we simply slap yet another tax on the long-suffering people of the world? Or is there a more creative way to go about it?

Here's what I believe needs to happen:

1. Admit that the global economy - with its obsession with everlasting growth - has done colossal damage, is going nowhere, is now on its last legs, and needs to be scrapped as soon as possible.

2. Channel the vast amounts of money currently controlled by the "unholy trinity" into research, involving the best original scientific and engineering minds the world has to offer, to develop the ZPE technology we are going to need to give us a meaningful clean-energy future. As part of this process, wind up the global economy, thus restoring sovereignty and true democracy to individual nations.

Of course, this will have to involve huge changes to the way the world operates. I'm under no illusions: I know that human nature is basically selfish, and that there will be many who detest the fact that their lust for power and unlimited wealth can no longer find a foothold. No doubt, there will still be huge problems to overcome for those of us who long for a world in which fairness, justice, and mutual respect play the biggest part.

But what's the alternative?

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