A major Dutch publication has written a text on the topic "is physics a Ponzi scheme?". My once co-author Robbert Dijkgraaf and Juan Maldacena are the only voices that actually and calmly explain the state of theoretical physics now. They're overwhelmed by critics who don't understand the field at the technical level at all and who are being presented as if they were equal – Maldacena is the top theoretical physicist of his generation and Dijkgraaf is, among other things, the director of IAS Princeton where Einstein used to work.
Those special attributes don't seem to matter to the journalists anymore. Random angry activists and hecklers who are allies of the journalists are often made more visible.
The critics say it's very important that they're receiving supportive e-mail from other scientifically illiterate laymen and the journalist implicitly agrees with that. Meanwhile, Robbert is correctly pointing out that research works when it's not constrained by a thought police. These witch hunts against physics are obviously just another part of the thought police that is gaining strength in our society – and theoretical physics is naturally another expected target of the far left movement, as something evil because it has been overwhelmingly built by the white males. People who don't have the ability to do meaningful science are being happily hired by the fake news media as the inquisitors who are presented as equal to the top physicists.
This anti-meritocratic distortion of the life, Universe, and everything in the media affects all fields and all age groups. A hysterical (adjective chosen by Czech president Zeman), inarticulate, brainwashed, psychologically troubled 16-year-old Swedish girl who believes that the Earth is burning – probably much like an impolite Bill Nye with a flamethrower – is presented as a celebrity. (Sorry, the IQ of the people who are affected by these things by Bill Nye has to be so low that I refuse to count them as full-blown members of the homo sapiens species.) Readers are supposed to be interested in her book deal – she can obviously write just a worthless incoherent rant because she is not an intelligent girl, and this rant will be written by some older but almost equally unremarkable environmentalist activists, anyway.
Meanwhile, the contemporary teenagers are way more conservative and sensible than the millennial generation. Everyone who cares about the future of mankind must make sure that this generation will grow into a pro-Western, sane, mostly right-wing bunch. And it's possible. We must only start to care about the education!
OK, there's a wonderful comparison of Greta Thunberg with someone on the other side. If you don't know her, look at the videos by Soph. Soph is a 14-year-old (*9/23/2004 as Sophia Totterman) girl – two years younger than Greta Thunberg – whose YouTube videos (don't be afraid and try the latest Be Not Afraid) get three hundred thousand views per video in average. (Update: hours after this blog post was posted, this particular latest excellent video by Soph was removed by some nasty YouTube aßholes as "hate speech". It was far from the only one. Here you have a backup.) And she is discussing rather adult topics, indeed (starting with the co-existence of cultures and high school students' life). By the counting of the viewers, this girl is a self-made millionaire (OK, I still believe that there are some adults helping her with her videos – she says the older brother is a key but they say she's more radical than he is – but the result looks both more true, more impressive, more entertaining, and more authentic than Thunberg's). Do the media celebrate an actually brilliant girl who has achieved something by herself, without the media machinery?
Not at all. In fact, the answer "not at all" is far too optimistic. Yesterday, Joseph Bernstein wrote a disgusting hit piece against the 14-year-old girl at BuzzFeed News. Using a giant media machinery to attack teenage girls is how your far left movement defines a Gentleman today, isn't it?
Mr Bernstein, it hurts when someone is 14-year-old and more sophisticated and smarter than you and all your far left comrades combined, doesn't it? She makes you realize where (in the political sense) are the people who have some talent – and which remainder of the mankind is just a field of weeds that fail to achieve anything remarkable despite their usage of all immoral and illegitimate tools and weapons we may think of. And you dislike the truth, don't you? Soph's sentence that follows your "or how about, simply" is spot on.
In two or three decades, if the likes of Soph happen to be outnumbered by the brainwashed sheep of her generation, Soph et al. will have the duty to fully appreciate that she's equivalent to 100 or so sheep, and adjust the rules of democracy accordingly. It will be your world, Soph, and you can't allow sheep to overtake it.
But I want to talk about a relatively lighter topic, the electric vehicles (EVs). OK, so we have exchanged some e-mails with Gene about the advantages and disadvantages of EVs and cars with internal combustion engines (ICEs). I won't cite the precise sentences but I needed to mention the e-mail conversation for you to understand why I was surprised by Gene's comments posted a few hours ago that indicated that I should celebrate Brussels for encouraging Audi to produce EVs.
What? Surely you have understood that I am absolutely against this push to spread EVs by now, Gene. And indeed, this push is largely empowered by the European Union. It's another example of the criminal behavior of that international organization, a reason why most of the powers that this organization has acquired must be reversed, another reason to disband the EU in its current form.
Just days ago, I translated Ondřej Neff's essay which clearly stated that the statements by the Volkswagen Group that they only want to produce EVs in 2030 or something like that are terrifying, sick, ideologically driven, and directly threatening at least a quarter of the Czech economy. You won't get any support of mine for the EVs from Audi. They may produce some, the products may have some good characteristics, they will probably lose money on them, but the idea that this should be supported – and maybe even by the likes of me – is absolutely insane.
Gene pretends to be more open-minded and less ideological than the rest of Northern California and maybe he is. But I still find his PC virtue signaling unbearable way too often. He must have understood that I am generally against the expansion of the EVs at the moment because the disadvantages clearly trump the advantages. Have I been unclear about this elementary point? I don't believe it's possible. So why would Gene assume that I am going to praise the EU for Audi's EVs? Let me tell you why.
He doesn't really believe it but he's one of the promoters of this ideology – and a part of the strategy of such people is to create the atmosphere in which it is "believed" that all the people, perhaps including your humble correspondent, support the transition to EVs. He likes to strengthen the perception that the preference for ICEs is an unthinkable heresy, a thought crime – and he personally helps to nurture this atmosphere of non-freedom. I don't support the transition to EVs. Do you need this simple sentence to be translated to many languages? Sensible people who have thought about the issue know that the ICEs are superior at this moment and the EVs are inferior and if someone is telling you something else, he is not saying the truth.
The price that the actual buyer pays for an EV – when the vehicle is bought in the first place – is about twice as high than for an otherwise comparable ICE right now. This is the primary difference which is enough to conclude that the EVs are simply not competitive with the ICEs now. But even if the progress were much faster in EVs than ICEs – there's no reason to believe so – and EVs became as cheap as comparable ICEs, ICEs would still have other, secondary but very important, advantages.
These advantages of the ICEs, if I include the lower price, are e.g.:
- lower price of the vehicle in the first place
- much shorter refuelling times of the ICEs than charging times of EVs
- existing network of gas stations, minimum of superchargers
- environmental disadvantages of EVs: toxic elements
- safety involving some special processes, e.g. self-ignition of EVs
- a centennial experience with the ICEs showing that there's no time bomb waiting for us
Now, you only recharge an EV if you're lucky and there's a nearby supercharger. Are these networks comparable? Czechia gives us a shocking example. We have over 7,000 gas stations and 3 Tesla superchargers – in Prague, Humpolec, and Olomouc. That's where you recharge the car as "quickly" as in 30 minutes. Outside these places, you find at least overnight chargers where you need to be connected... you know, overnight.
Now, will the network of superchargers grow? It will. Will it be fast? Are there good reasons for the growth? There aren't because the number of EVs is small. So it's clearly too bad an investment to build too many chargers for too few EVs. This is a vicious circle. A century ago, a similar "vicious circle" arguably slowed down the growth of the normal gas stations. But there was a difference. A century ago, ICEs were competing against horses, and cars are more convenient than horses even despite the rare network of gas stations.
Now, the EVs are competing against the ICEs which are really comparable – it's not a difference similar to the difference between a horse and a car. So the construction of a dense network of superchargers is clearly an investment that will create a financial loss for quite some time. The belief that it's worth to do it is just a belief. And it is clearly a belief that is driven by an ideology right now.
I mentioned that there are 7,000+ gas stations and 3 Tesla superchargers in my country. The ratio looks huge. But what about the ratio of the cars? In 2018, Czechs bought some 250,000+ new cars, about 30% of them were diesel, a drop from 37% in the previous year. Aside from petrol and diesel, all the other cars are negligible: 5,000 hybrids, 2,000 CNGs, 1,000 LNGs, and 1,000 purely electric vehicles, including 85 Teslas. In 2018, 0.03% of the cars sold in Czechia were Teslas. 3 superchargers are 0.05% of the 7,000 gas stations – so within a factor of two, it's fair.
There is absolutely no reason to think that the EVs will naturally beat the ICEs anytime soon. In particular, the market obviously wants to keep the petrol/diesel gas stations up to 2030 because in 2030, there will still be lots of cars purchased recently because it's normal for many people to keep the same car for a decade.
Now, the environmental advantages of ICEs. They produce just H2O (water vapor) and CO2, harmless and beneficial gases. There's some NOx, nitrogen's oxides, in the diesel case. This must be compared to the noxious elements that are used in the production of the batteries for EVs, that occasionally burn when a car self-ignites (Hong Kong saw another self-igniting Tesla yesterday) or when a whole EV factory burns (which seems to be a frequent event, too). People don't really know whether it's possible to safely deal with the worn old lithium batteries.
Gene admits that the real pollution from ICEs is much smaller than it used to be – a drop by 97%, using his numbers. But even the world with the high pollution was OK enough. When it drops to 3% to what it used to be, should we still consider the situation unacceptable? I don't think so. This opinion is nothing else than an extremist ideology. Look at the death rates.
Every year, some 1.3 million people die in the world as a result of a car accident – some mechanical damage to the body. It's estimated that the NOx emissions may be blamed for 10,000 deaths in the EU per year. The total for the world is probably below 100,000. Now, is it too high? It's clearly not too high. The deaths blamed on the fuel are less than 10%, and maybe around 5%, of the deaths caused by the vehicles in total. In what sense could we claim that it's too much?
Every year, some 55 million people die globally. Those 50,000-100,000 from NOx are between 0.1% and 0.2% of the deaths. If you eliminated petrol and especially diesel cars, you would reduce the deaths by 0.1%-0.2% or so. Great. Temporarily, of course. After some time, the population would be upgraded to a higher life expectancy and the same number of people would be dying at a higher age as without the reduction of NOx.
But imagine that the ratio of the deaths is comparable to the increase of the life expectancy – it's not quite so but it's a good order-of-magnitude estimate. So the NOx emissions from cars may be reducing the lives of the people by 0.1% or 0.2%. Great. What about the waiting times in front of the superchargers? If you recharge every other day, you waste 30 minutes per 2 days (48 hours) in front of the supercharger. That's about 1% of your time! To a large extent, this has shortened your useful life. And 1% is 5-10 times larger than 0.1% or 0.2%.
The result is that the superchargers are robbing you of a greater portion of your life than the NOx car pollution in average!
Even if CO2 emissions were a problem, and they're not, one may show that in the present real-world conditions, the total CO2 emissions connected with the production and usage of an EV actually trump those of a diesel car.
It's similar with all such comparisons. If you actually compare the variables on both sides fairly, you may see that the ICEs are superior than the EVs. It may change in some time – as the technologies evolve – but the difference is so significant that it's unlikely to change for many years. But this discussion has been largely hijacked by dishonest ideologues who are close to the environmentalist movement and the deceptive "mainstream" media of the present. Because they have decided to stick this particular EV agenda mindlessly, they only push memes about advantages of EVs and disadvantages of ICEs down into their viewers' and readers' throats. Virtually all of this is garbage. People intuitively know it – they subconsciously perform many of these calculations which make them keep their ICEs and avoid EVs. But the massage by the media and their allied ideologues is unbelievable. The percentage of the EVs in a given country or state may be considered a very good measure of "how much the population of that territory likes to be brainwashed".
Now, advocates of EVs also say that the EVs are simpler, and therefore less likely to break.
This is another totally demagogical sleight-of-hand. EVs have fewer mechanically moving parts but they have a greater number of "transistors" and other electronic parts. Can they break? You bet. The electric cars depend on lots of software and it can break – and cripple your car – too. It's happening. Functionalities of cars are often broken after a software update. It's completely analogous to the mechanical breaking of an ICE. More importantly, the probability that an engine breaks isn't a simple increasing function of the "number of parts". It depends which parts, how well they're made, how robust the material is, and other things.
In practice, the breaking of the ICEs is not such a problem. Many problems may be fixed. It's been business-as-usual for a century. And we don't really want to assume that the cars serve for more than 20 years or something like that. Cars that are this old look obsolete. They have other disadvantages. People usually prefer to buy a new car after a shorter time – perhaps 5 years in such cases – and carmakers obviously want this "refreshment" to take place sufficiently often, too. So the "simplicity advantage" of the EVs only exists under assumptions that are utterly unrealistic.
Even more conceptually, simplicity is heavily overrated. I have also often said that I preferred things to be simple. But I saw others saying similar things – and saw that their reasons for saying such things are totally bad. In most cases, people say "they prefer simple things" because they're lazy or intellectual limited. They want "things" to be simpler because harder things mean extra work for them and they don't like it! It's that simple. My explanation is actually simple which is why you should appreciate it! It's also true. That's why schoolkids prefer a simple homework, for example. There may exist legitimate justifications of "simplicity" but they're rare.
But does it mean that "simple" is "superior" in general? Not at all. The schoolkids and their adult counterparts are doing some work. And if the work were "simple", it probably means that they didn't do too much work, and that's "bad" for the client or buyer. The buyer has a completely different perspective than the producer. If something is simple, it should often be expected to be cheap and unremarkable because not much work has been done! There is almost nothing inside the Tesla Model 3's interior which is why it should be an extremely cheap car. An extensive essay should be written about the simplicity in fundamental physics – which is a sufficiently different topic than simplicity in engineering. We prefer as simple things as possible, but not more so, as Einstein wisely said. Again, the laymen usually want things to be simpler than possible and that's too bad.
This "simplicity" has been added to the preferred buzzwords of the Luddite movement, too. "Simple" things are supposed to be preferred. That may include organic food. But much of this "simple" stuff is the same as the "cheap stuff before the technological advances reshaped the industry". So the "simplicity" often directly contradicts "technological progress"! It's not a shame for an engineer to design complex engines. If someone denies that this is really the bulk of the work of every engineer, then this someone is a Luddite who fights against the technological progress in general. And even complex engines may be made more reliable, more resilient, and more lasting. "Complexity of an engine" isn't any insurmountable lethal flaw.
An ICE has a lot of parts, especially if it has various gadgets to reduce emissions of various compounds or particles. But that doesn't mean that it's bad. Complex engines are the standard product of engineering. Engineering also wants to keep things simple if all other things are equal. But the "if" condition isn't obeyed here – it is almost never obeyed. Things aren't equal. You can't compare things that aren't commensurable. And the "number of parts in an EV or an ICE" is not commensurable. To achieve certain things, a certain degree of complexity is often needed – EVs and ICEs mainly have a different kind of complexity, not a different amount. So we just don't want things to be too simple. At the end, a car or a phone should have "many functionalities" and some complexity is necessary for that. In the 1980s, I was surely happy that my watch received from my Australian uncle had a calculator, stopwatch, and many other functions. Whoever thinks that a small number of functions is a universal advantage is simply a Luddite.
Now, Gene and others say that "the market will decide". But sadly, that's not what is happening today. Liars and charlatans in the media and unelected EU officials who are actually controlled by brain-dead members of various NGOs and other pig farms owned by the likes of George Soros are determining whether companies – perhaps, by 2030, including Škoda Auto – will be allowed to produce proper cars that the consumers actually want at all, and whether the buyers will be "allowed" to buy the cars of the kind they prefer. It's too bad.
In 2019, EVs are a niche market and every argument building on the assumption that the EVs are as important as or more important than the ICEs is just self-evidently fraudulent. If it is allowed to speak, the market will speak but to some extent, it has already spoken, too. Both EVs and ICEs have been around for more than a century but ICEs became and remained dominant. Given the political atmosphere and the amount of lies and illegitimate pressures that we see everywhere around, it seems very likely that a hypothetical suppression of ICEs and proliferation of EVs may be explained by the emerging totalitarianism, not by the natural and legitimate market forces.