AI Can’t Write Poetry

One of the things people have asked the chatbots to do is to write poetry. I will admit to not reading every chatbot clip that comes across my timeline. Every time I read one, I can feel brain cells dying from the vacuity.

But I love poetry and probably have read more of those clips than others. So far, they have all been very bad.

We can start with a conversation on Twitter, a response to an observation that what the chatbots write is very bland. A commenter said that he requested a poem on a pandemic in the style of T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” and it wasn’t bland at all. He shared the poem with us. Indeed, it was not bland. It was “The Wasteland” with the word “pandemic” dumped in at maybe five or six places, and ended with a doggerel rhymed couplet about a plague being in the air, thus combining plagiarism with blandness.

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Biden Budget Boosts Direct CO2 Capture

The United States is offering grants and tax credits to help develop technology to remove carbon dioxide from the air. This is the most difficult way to deal with carbon dioxide, our greatest source of global warming.

Carbon dioxide is currently 412 parts per million of the Earth’s atmosphere. in 2000, it was 370 parts per million.

The mass of the atmosphere is 5.1480 × 1018 kilograms. That means that it contained 1905 x 1012 kg carbon dioxide in 2000 and contains 2121 x 1012 kg now. To get back to 2000 levels, which were way above what we had before the Industrial Revolution, we would have to remove 216 x 1012 kg.

The biggest plant to date captures 4000 tonnes (4 x 106 kilograms) per year. We would need 54 million of such plants to remove  the excess over the year 2000 in one year. If you spread it out, you can do with fewer plants, but don’t forget that we are adding to the total every year.

Plus that carbon dioxide has to be sequestered somewhere so that it can’t get back into the atmosphere.

We need everything we can do to decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide. The bills passed by Congress last year do more than has ever been done before to deal with global warming. We need more. Which is yet one more reason to vote Republicans out of office. We can’t afford their culture war distractions.

Graphic credit

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Stanley Foundation Collects Nuclear Adventure Stories

Last fall, the Stanley Foundation held a meeting in Santa Fe to collect stories of nuclear adventures. It was great fun, with us old talky folks and younger enthusiastic listeners. I met a number of people I knew only through social media!

They recorded some of us old talky people and have just published a number of recordings.

Here’s my story of my adventure in Estonia.

And here’s the whole project.

Their pull quote from my story:

It was was an enormous tailings pond, 1 km long & .5 km wide. Right on the Baltic… It was set on a base of cambrian blue clay. The problem of having all those tons of material on it was that the whole thing could just slide into the sea.

I am so proud of what the Estonians have done, pictured above. The green area is the stabilized tailings pond. And one of the things that the Estonian government wanted was economic development, hence the growing port around it.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Destroyer of Worlds

Two not entirely parallel threads this morning, on nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence.

The question came up again

It’s been answered by historians, but Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project have so much mythology attached to them that I’m sure it will be asked again.

Alex Wellerstein, one of the best historians of the Manhattan Project: Oppenheimer probably didn’t say it at the time, and the most noted source of the quote is from a video made toward the end of his life.

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Asia’s Nuclear Future

Katie Putz, editor of The Diplomat, asked me to write an article looking at potential nuclear proliferation in Asia. The Diplomat is an online magazine that focuses on foreign policy issues in Asia. If you are interested in Asia, it’s worth subscribing.

The article is the April feature: Asia’s Nuclear Future and is behind the paywall.

I tried to look at the issues from the point of view of the countries involved, rather than an Americentric approach of What It Means For Us. I included Iran, and things look a little different there when you focus on Asia.

My bottom line is that I don’t expect any new nuclear weapons nations in the near future, but the situation is very fluid.

Several states in Asia have motives to proliferate, inspired by complex regional conflict dynamics and domestic ambitions alike. North Korea tests missiles. China builds up its nuclear arsenal and patrols the South China Sea aggressively. India, Pakistan, and China contest borders. Iran ratchets up its uranium enrichment. The mix of nuclear and non-nuclear nations and the complexity of the conflicts in Asia can make nuclear weapons look attractive.

On the other hand, Asia has nuclear weapon free zones too. The Treaty of Bangkok covers Southeast Asia, and Central Asia has its own treaty against nuclear weapons.

Japan and South Korea could build nuclear weapons relatively quickly, probably within a year. Iran seems to find the threat of building nuclear weapons most useful for its negotiations. Myanmar and Taiwan look like long shots. The temptation of nuclear weapons is always there, but so are the downsides of making oneself a target and the expense and opportunity costs of a program.

Figure caption: This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a ballistic missile in North Pyongan Province, North Korea, on March 19, 2023. North Korea says that its ballistic missile launch simulated a nuclear attack against South Korea. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Credit: Korea Central News Agency/ Korea News Service via AP and The Diplomat.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

The Latest Classified Document Leak

There has been too much happening this week for me to do a deep dive into the latest leak, which showed up on a Discord in early March but was only noticed this week. And then another tranche of documents came out. I’m basing this mostly on the latest NYT article (gift link) and random tweets I’ve seen.

The fact that the material is a month or more old limits the damage. None of what is revealed in the documents, or at least what has been reported, seems like a big deal. Most of it has been reported qualitatively. In some cases, numbers have been attached that are pretty much what has been guessed at. I’m agreeing with Adam Silverman at Balloon Juice on this.

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If Ukraine Had Kept Soviet Nuclear Missiles

Bill Clinton has joined the chorus of “If Ukraine had kept its nuclear weapons, Russia would never have invaded.” Bill never was good at foreign policy. He was right in 1994, and he’s wrong now.

What people mean when they make that claim is “If Ukraine in January 2022 (or January 2014) had nuclear weapons that could be used against Russia, then Russia would never have invaded.” This claim is based on two big assumptions: that a Ukraine that retained the nuclear weapons on its territory in 1994 would have followed the same path as the Ukraine that signed the Budapest Memorandum, and that Ukraine could have repurposed those weapons into a defensive stand against Russia. I’ve written about this in the past.

For a history of what actually happened, check out Mariana Budjeryn’s “Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine.” It’s the most complete history of these events. Let’s consider how Ukraine might have developed if it had kept those nuclear weapons.

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I’m going to Trinity Site today. It’s one of the two days in the year that you can visit the site of the first atomic bomb detonation. So here are some nuclear pictures and videos for your amusement.

The National Security Archive has obtained several nuclear-related videos.

A U.S. B-52 bomber flies in low over “Soviet” territory in a declassified dramatization of a U.S. nuclear strike.

Kim Jong Un showed off his nuclear arsenal – or part of it; we don’t know – last week. NK News has lots of photos.

I’ll try to get some photos at Trinity Site. They won’t be like either of these.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money