Do the Math

The article I linked to earlier by Mims sent me to Do the Math, which I find very intruiging.  It’s written by Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at UC San Diego.  He writes about growth, energy and economics, but from a physical science point of view, which is fascinating.  Some most-read posts include Galactic-Scale Energy, Can Economic Growth Last and Sustainability Means Bunkty to Me.

If you only read one post, read Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist.

Act One: Bread and Butter

Physicist: Hi, I’m Tom. I’m a physicist.

Economist: Hi Tom, I’m [ahem..cough]. I’m an economist.

Physicist: Hey, that’s great. I’ve been thinking a bit about growth and want to run an idea by you. I claim that economic growth cannot continue indefinitely.

Economist: [chokes on bread crumb] Did I hear you right? Did you say that growth cannot continue forever?

Physicist: That’s right. I think physical limits assert themselves.

Economist: Well sure, nothing truly lasts forever. The sun, for instance, will not burn forever. On the billions-of-years timescale, things come to an end.

Physicist: Granted, but I’m talking about a more immediate timescale, here on Earth. Earth’s physical resources—particularly energy—are limited and may prohibit continued growth within centuries, or possibly much shorter depending on the choices we make. There are thermodynamic issues as well.

They go all the way through dessert.

He’s also obsessed/extremely dedicated to reducing his personal energy use footprint, and writes about his exploits pinching therms in graphic detail.

The only downside to Tom’s blog is that he doesn’t include full text articles in his RSS feed.  But you should subscribe anyway.

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