Thursday, August 18, 2022

Rule of law

By Nick Anderson 

Big 8 Unemployment at 40 year low

 My calculation of unemployment for the 'Big 8' (US, Europe, UK, China, Japan, India, Brazil, Russia ― about 75% of the world economy)  shows that unemployment has fallen to lows not seen for 40 years.  Part of that is a consequence of the 'sugar hit' of massive fiscal and monetary stimulus, part is because the labour force has contracted because of Covid.  

Tory war on woke

The Tories are the Conservative Party, in the UK.  The Party is having a leadership contest.  I love the demented drawings, which capture exactly the essence of the two very unattractive contenders,

The cartoon is by Steve Bell

The resurrection of the Tasmanian Tiger

From The Guardian

Scientists in Australia and the US have launched an ambitious multimillion-dollar project to bring back the thylacine, a marsupial that died out in the 1930s, and reintroduce it to its native Tasmania.

The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger, is the second undertaking by Colossal, a Texas-based biotechnology “de-extinction” company that last year announced it planned to use genetic engineering techniques to recreate the woolly mammoth and return it to the Arctic tundra.

Its new project is a partnership with the University of Melbourne, which earlier this year received a $5m philanthropic gift to open a thylacine genetic restoration lab. The lab’s team has previously sequenced the genome of a juvenile specimen held by Museums Victoria, providing what its leader, Prof Andrew Pask, called “a complete blueprint on how to essentially build a thylacine”.

The thylacine was Australia’s only marsupial apex predator. It once lived across the continent, but was restricted to Tasmania about 3,000 years ago. Dog-like in appearance and with stripes across its back, it was extensively hunted after European colonisation. The last known survivor died in captivity in 1936. Despite many reported sightings in the decades that followed, and some quixotic attempts to prove its ongoing existence, it was officially declared extinct in the 1980s.

The scientists aim to reverse this by taking stem cells from a living species with similar DNA, the fat-tailed dunnart, and turning them into “thylacine” cells – or the closest approximation possible – using gene editing expertise developed by George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and Colossal’s co-founder. New marsupial-specific assisted reproductive technologies will be needed to use the stem cells to make an embryo, which would be transferred into either an artificial womb or a dunnart surrogate to gestate.

Pask said the partnership was the most significant contribution ever made to marsupial conservation in Australia as more than 30 scientists worked to accelerate the “massive grand challenge” of bringing the thylacine back from the dead. He believed the first joeys could be born in 10 years.

Colossal’s chief executive and other co-founder, the tech and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm, was more bullish, believing it was possible in less than six years, the timeframe that the company had set itself to produce the first set of mammoth calves.

“I think it’s highly probable this could be the first animal we de-extinct,” Lamm told the Guardian.

The challenges faced by the project are significant, and the scientists acknowledge several breakthrough steps will have to land for it to succeed. On reproductive technology, Pask said: “We are pursuing growing marsupials from conception to birth in a test-tube without a surrogate, which is conceivable given infant marsupials’ short gestation period and their small size.”

If successful, the plan would be to introduce the animal in a controlled setting on Tasmanian private land with an eventual goal of returning it to the wild. Pask said the researchers said they saw the work as not just bringing back long-dead species, but helping develop technology that could be applied to addressing today’s global extinction crisis.

The last known Tasmanian tiger in footage digitised by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. An ambitious genetic project aims to recreate the thylacine. Photograph: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Nuscale's SMR reactors get much more expensive

SMR stands for Small Modular Reactor, and the argument was that because all the parts can be built on an assembly line in a factory, SMRs should produce much cheaper electricity than the giants we have tended to build so far.  Unfortunately, estimated costs have more than doubled in 5 years.

From a tweet by @NuclearEngnrng

Estimated cost of NuScale 12-pack SMR is $6.1B in 2020, was $3.6B in 2017.

Estimated cost of NuScale 6-pack is $5.3B in 2022.

HT for chart: @ecopolitain

The chart doesn't estimate the LCOE, but in 2017 Nuscale estimated it at below $60/MWh. Estimated costs have doubled, so that suggests $120/MWh now.  That may still be acceptable if nuclear turned out to be necessary for the last 10% of de-carbonisation of the grid.

Two years before the great crash

Extreme inequality tends to be followed by economic catastrophe, social chaos and war.  The huge inequality of the 1920s worsened the Great Depression and, as the depression spread round the world, led to the rise of Hitler and right-wing parties in other countries.  

Autralia's inflation also at 30 year highs

 Inflation is a global phenomenon now, driven by supply chain issues, oil and gas prices, war, covid stimulus in 2020, and climate change.  After allowing for the spike caused by the introduction of the GST (General Sales Tax) in 2000, inflation was last at these higsh in 1991.

As an aside, it's depressing that the Ozzie government (both main parties) refuses to fund the Bureau of Statistics adequately, so we are obliged to rely on a private sector body to calculate monthly CPI indices.