Saturday 29th of July 2017

of engineering, carbonising, fracking and politics...

carbonised leaf

This leaf got "carbonised" by the recent record heat in Sydney. I was assured that it was healthy and the plant had been well-watered by 9 am. but by 3 pm parts of it had "carbonised" from the direct hot sunlight. 46.5 degrees Celsius in the shade was the record temperature where the plant was. A rain shower around 3:45 stopped the carbonising. Picture supplied to Gus.

The first train line in Sydney to be paid for and built under the Rudd and Gillard governments opened on Monday, $700 million over budget and three years after it was promised to be finished.The 36km Southern Sydney Freight Line will allow extra freight trains to run between Macarthur and Chullora in the city's south west and will increase rail freight capacity along the entire Australian east coast.

Read more:
Straight away one can note a slight journalistic snigger despite presenting proper reasons why the project was over-budget and overtime: blah blah, the government could not run a chook raffle or get out of a paper bag... I can smell Alan Jones, though I have not heard him babble on on this subject... 

But when one knows engineering, one knows PROBLEMS. 

First let's be realistic here, in constructing something like a railway line there are unknowns, known unknowns and unknowns unknowns, even with the best of feasible studies — as whatiszname used to say when there was a cock up in his little wars. 

But when one is building stuff on long (or short) distances, the nature of the terrain and the direction of the wind can have major impact on projects. Have a look at the building of the railway between Johannesburg and Pretoria... This 50 kilometre long railway track had to deal with unpredictable sink holes, loose soil, crossing eight lanes motorways many times, drill through tunnels and blow up small hills from 30 metres below... New stations... Not only that there was about ten different contractors — all using different methods to beat the contrary elements... Sure the doco on the project was over-dramatic but then it tried to simplify a three-year project into a one hour viewing.

Usually, politicians will allow a budget for a project and they pray to the god of construction that the project won't go over the original cost by more than three times... So I would say that the rail line is bang on target for budget predictions, but should the original estimate had been one billion, the project may not have left the drawing boards. "You with me?"

So pollies usually under-estimate costs, over-estimate value and in the end a good project sees the light of day... It's part of the OLD way NEW things are pushed through. We would still be crossing the harbour in row boats otherwise. 

Deadlines also become elastic like jelly... unless one has slaves motivated by whip-masters — and this alone does not warranty anything. We might die young anyhow, before the completion of our tomb.

When building such large pyramidal-sized projects, many NEW assessments and decisions have to be made on the run daily and one wants to see the finished product stand the test of time beyond tomorrow... Quality is the essence. Speed always interfere with quality when cutting corners. A shoddy job with several thousand tonnes rolling atop spells disaster.

I am with Albanese on this one. One needed a more efficient way to move containers out of Botany by trains, rather than by trucks that in large numbers destroy the roads... Though this new system will place some extra strain on old existing freight lines. Sure, one could always say that one could have trimmed a bit of the fat, but, on account, many such projects actually run lean and hungry. And the fat helps clearer thinking... No cholesterol and the brains go cranky.

One had to avoid the problems that upset some tracks in southern NSW, when an update program with more efficient long-lasting concrete rail slippers created a new problem of their own. The train vibration used to be absorbed to a POINT by the wooden slippers... The new concrete slippers passed-on the vibrations to the ballast that transmitted it to the subsoil that "liquified" like soft soil in earthquakes... The tracks started to become roller-coaster-like after having been realigned perfectly... 

In many situations there are various "critical" points, even in global warming... Observations have shown that with an ambient shaded temperature over 45 degrees Celsius, some plants start to "carbonise" (see picture at top)... The natural engineering of the plants is not designed for such high temperature which correspond to their leaves being exposed to some 75 degrees Celsius or more in direct sunlight. There is a bio-break down pass this critical point.  

Various inert and bio substances have "memory" that can be affected by heat... During the recent "heat wave", the trains around Sydney had to be slowed down as tracks were starting to buckle. The surface of the tracks would have been well over 110 degrees Celsius... Pour a glass of water over it and the water would have vaporised instantly. Sometimes, the heat creates lengthening distortions that affect the mechanical "memory" and the tracks need to be totally realigned. 

As more record temperature will happen in Sydney say within ten years, more species of plant will be affected by "carbonising"... Hell knows what will happen by 2100, when records reach around 50 degrees Celsius in the shade. Entire rail networks in need of realignment, melting road surfaces, the greenery, for which Sydney is famous for, becoming ghost-like through carbonising and incessant bush-fires from which the tiring vegetation would not be able to regenerate.

Apparently, there is a section of the Princess Highway, on the way to Brisbane, that has a soil substrate that is very difficult for engineers to come to terms with — unless vast sums of moneys are thrown into big holes filled with cement on location... One might have to place deep piers at angle, joined together at the top and support a semi-elevated roadway. Recently, the Yanks were doing the same in San Francisco Bay for a very long bridge designed to withstand earthquakes but the construction was massive and very expensive... The roadways in the bayou (swamps) near New Orleans are in the same vein and massive, yet some spans got displaced by Hurricane Katrina... 
This brings me to another engineering feat: FRACKING...

Alan Jones is opposed to fracking, hates Julia, curses at gas exploration and gay marriage, not so much because he knows much about the subjects, but most of his rich mates and himself are acreage owners in beautiful valleys and country estates and they don't want the blight of gas exploitation on their land where they mostly breed tax losing race-horses.

But one has to look at the real problems here... In the US, the fracking companies hide the chemicals used in the process. One has some inclination that they use benzene and nasty petroleum derivatives as one has said by allegedly analysing the runoffs from such works. 

In Australia, we are assured by the prospecting lobby that no dangerous chemicals are used. Fracking in Australia is done with "common" household products... substances that fills 99.9 per cent of your Spray and Wipe bottle or are used as anti-freeze for your lovely car cooling system, as well as cosmetics... So there.

The list is interesting and presented to us as benign...:
fracking chemicals

A few of those products are not benign, even if we use then daily to wipe our kitchen bench tops with... I don't. I hate the smell and I DON'T WANT TO KILL 99.9 per cent of germs — as often we kill "good" germs and the nasty ones become super resistant by overdoing it.... A bit of water and it's clean as new... 

Acids, presented to us as "swimming pool cleaners"... We know what happened to an octopus being "pool cleaned", don't we? And there is a big range of "acids"... from diluted acetic acid in vinegar to fluoridric acid that is used to etch glass... So, which acid(s) is it?...

Table salt? I live on the stuff... The sea is full of it... but we know what happens when too much of it gets into the soils, don't we? It's not called the white death for nothing...

PolyacrylamidePolyacrylamide, though I would not drink it, is apparently "not toxic", except it can contain residues that are strong neurotoxins. It's a bit like a flocculent or in some jargon it's like dishwashing liquid or surfactant, but it's not...

Ethylene Glycol is an alcohol that is dangerous to drink or even to breathe fumes of. It's basically a poison to life forms. It is used for anti-freeze in cars — not that we need any at the moment. 

Borate salts are a bit like phosphate... Too much of it and natural balance gets upset... Same again we're looking at washing powders that are often blamed for surge of algal blooms from effluents in rivers.

Sodium/potassium carbonate  is used as an anti-caking agent or as a replacement for bicarb of soda  and acts as a dehumidifier...

Glutaraldehyde is a powerful "disinfectant" (life-killer) used in hospitals and serious protection needs to be used to avoid skin contact... To have this product running wild from runoffs and seepage in the environment ain't going to do any good...

Guar Gum is basically a form of sugar from the sap of a tree, a substance that is used in food IN SMALL QUANTITIES and as an E number...

Isopropanol is a solvent. It is what's in your Spray and Wipe bottle... It's a nasty little alcohol as well except when used as "rubbing" alcohol... The salt will help the separation of it away from water when mixed... Thus all these chemicals would be used at different times for different purposes in the fracturing of rocks and coal seams
The environment may be able to cope with small quantities of these "benign" substances...

Now, we need to have documentation to know at which point and which accumulated time, the balance of nature becomes very upset by too much of them and at which point other factors such as increasing environmental temperature could combine to kill off entire eco-systems... ? Especially rivers as the water oozes from the lower water table, "polluted" by fracking?

Our future is written mostly in what we do now... Our choices are effecting what is happening next. 
But there is far more money to be made in frothing up harsh solution to problems — creating the next batch of problems in the process — than to find simple costless ways to stop compounding disasters in the making, like choosing to do less crap... or using less energy. No money in that, though, is there?...

We're in for a self-inflicted hiding and it's going to cost heaps. 

I can see happy bankers already bidding for the next lot of problems coming our way. The more crap, the bigger flow of cash, the more employment... the more slaves we need to build pyramids to protect us from death... Ah ah...

It's about money, isn't it?...

Gus Leonisky


made in china...


Next month [July 2011], four enormous steel skeletons, the last of the 12 segments of the bridge, will be shipped 6,500 miles from Shanghai to San Francisco before being assembled on site.

The bridge, which will connect San Francisco to Oakland on the other side of the bay, is a sign of how China has moved on from building roads and ports in Africa and the developing world and is now aggressively bidding for, and winning, major construction and engineering projects in the United States and Europe.

After building forests of skyscrapers in Beijing and Shanghai, showpiece buildings like the Bird's Nest stadium and the Guangzhou Opera House, and a high-speed rail network that is the envy of the world, Chinese construction companies are flush with cash and confidence. This week, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, lobbied David Cameron to give the contract for the UK's new high speed rail link to a Chinese company.


old ice in nature's whisky

By analysing the ice, the team, led by the University of Copenhagen, hoped to get an insight into how hot it was during the Eemian period, and how the planet coped.

Drilling through almost 3,000 metres of ice layers, they measured temperatures, greenhouse gas concentrations using air samples trapped in the ice, and took a closer look at how sea levels rose when the planet was warming.

Dr Rubino says the team found that the last interglacial period "was eight degrees warmer than today."

"Eight degrees warmer is a big difference and it's actually bigger than it was previously thought to be," he said.

He says the sea level at the time was four to eight metres higher than it is today, and the sample gives an insight into "a number of environmental climatic conditions that could possibly be reproduced in the future."
IMPORTANT NOTE from Gus: One has to remember that the sea level and the atmospheric temperature THEN were under "normal natural" levels of CO2 which has oscillated between 180 (cool) to 300 (warm) ppm for the last one million years.
Presently we are already at 400 ppm of CO2 levels.
Some skeptics would say that this has not affected the present temperatures by much — but one has to realise that there is a "lag time" between cause and effect on this subject. There is a complex slow erratic domino effect of which the end result is quite predictible, but the exact progress between "critical points" is not due to the vagaries of weather... 
One thing is for sure is that the planet is going to go warmer and the rate of warm is likely to accelerate while producing greater weather instability.
See ice in our whisky...

welcome to the next instalment...


As many as three tornadoes have hit Queensland coastal towns, as the state is battered by severe weather and flooding caused by the remnants of cyclone Oswald.

One tornado hit Bargara, east of Bundaberg around 1pm and a second passed through Burnett Heads to the city's north-east at 4pm local time, while there were reports of a third tornado at Coonar, 20km to the south.

Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey, who lives in Bundaberg, said 150 homes had been damaged at Burnett Heads.


Read more:


Anyone who doubt that global warming is happening should have their heads examined... Presently January is running at about 3 degrees Celsius above average in Sydney... The present humidity is savage and the heat record a few days ago (45.8 in the city and 46.5 in the sunburnt suburbs to the west and the airport) has left a trail of carbonised plants, not just on the day, but some plants that suffered enough on the day are now showing signs of major damage, a few days later... The next instalment isn't going to be pretty...

the ice is melting...

Last week, a much discussed new paper in the journal Nature seemed to suggest to some that we needn’t worry too much about the melting of Greenland, the mile-thick mass of ice at the top of the globe. The research found that the Greenland ice sheet seems to have survived a previous warm period in Earth’s history — the Eemian period, some 126,000 years ago — without vanishing (although it did melt considerably).

But Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box isn’t buying it.

At Monday’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, D.C., Box, who has visited Greenland 23 times to track its changing climate, explained that we’ve already pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide 40 percent beyond Eemian levels. What’s more, levels of atmospheric methane are a dramatic 240 percent higher — both with no signs of stopping. “There is no analogue for that in the ice record,” said Box.

And that’s not all. The present mass-scale human burning of trees and vegetation for clearing land and building fires, plus our pumping of aerosols into the atmosphere from human pollution, weren’t happening during the Eemian. These human activities are darkening Greenland’s icy surface, and weakening its ability to bounce incoming sunlight back away from the planet. Instead, more light is absorbed, leading to more melting, in a classic feedback process that is hard to slow down.

I know what this mean and I have furiously blogged about this for a while, now I leave it to you to understand...

january was hot...

Australia's year of extreme weather has collected a fresh record with January posting the hottest average temperatures for the month on record.

With just a day's data to be collected, the average of maximum and minimum temperatures for the month was 29.7 degrees. That tally was 1.79 degrees above the long-term average.

Almost certainly there'll be a hotter, longer, more extreme spell (in February) that we'll get next week 

Short of a remarkably frigid final few hours for the month, January was all but certain to beat the previous record set in 1932, the weather bureau said.The monthly result means the September-January period was also the hottest on record, beating the previous three highest in 2002-03, 2006-07 and 2009-10.

Those earlier years “were all El Nino and drought years, whereas that hasn't been a factor this time,” said Blair Trewin, senior climatologist with the bureau's national climate centre. “That makes it even more remarkable.”

Read more:


See image at top...


in your dreams...


New Mexico Farmers Seek ‘Priority Call’ as Drought Persists


CARLSBAD, N.M. — Just after the local water board announced this month that its farmers would get only one-tenth of their normal water allotment this year, Ronnie Walterscheid, 53, stood up and called on his elected representatives to declare a water war on their upstream neighbors.

“It’s always been about us giving up,” Mr. Walterscheid said, to nods. “I say we push back hard right now.”

The drought-fueled anger of southeastern New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers is boiling, and there is nowhere near enough water in the desiccated Pecos River to cool it down. Roswell, about 75 miles to the north, has somewhat more water available and so is the focus of intense resentment here. Mr. Walterscheid and others believe that Roswell’s artesian wells reduce Carlsbad’s surface water.

For decades, the regional status quo meant the northerners pumped groundwater and the southerners piped surface water. Now, amid the worst drought on record, some in Carlsbad say they must upend the status quo to survive. They want to make what is known as a priority call on the Pecos River.

As I mention global warming to people in Sydney, they shy off... They don't want to know... They don't want to acknowledge it publicly.... They would know it's happening, especially the good folks of Sydney where late March has become "torrid"... But they still don't want to discuss it. 

It's hard to know why... but I can have a good guess...:

Accepting the present anthropogenic global warming makes all of us GUILTY. As simple as this... Thus we don't want to know. We have enough guilt in our life, with our religion being the main provider, then we screw the neighbour's wife and feel guilty about it...

We resent the carbon tax (pricing) that seems to have made our electricity bills go through the roof when it was the privatisation of poles and the renewal of tired wiring that have made the bills jump sky high... And if we look around, we should discover that the problem is not just in Aussiedom... The poms, the Yourpeans have their energy price hike too...

And should global warming be rampantly accelerating, that would make Gillard correct to impose a carbon price... We'd hate that... We don't like her being correct... 

We can't wait to see the alternative: the fake solution devised by Tony Abbott on the back of an envelope full of cash for the polluters. We want to compare it with the carbon pricing to see if this would make a difference to our billing of electricity... and  say stuff our emissions of CO2 which we don't really care about... "because the science is not settled about it, right?"... Wrong...

But really, how can we really believe that, in the last 150 years, humanity has created this mess which we can't really feel yet apart from a few storms here and there. Nothing new, is there?... The last big universal mess was that of CFCs and the ozone layer... Scientists fixed that quickly, so why don't we fix global warming in a jiffy, like that?...

We know humans have created other messes before, but these were localised blunder, like Bohpal or world wars we could not avoid... We should know by now that the Iraq war was a blunder of Rattus proportion, but we're still divided on the result... "Are we safer, now?" We'll never know... But in order to go to war, we had to fudge our morals and forget our international obligations. We now push the resulting dirt under a thick carpet... as if nothing ever happened... we're hypocrites...

We'd like to do the same with global warming but, the thingster festered ALL SUMMER here... And now continues into the beginning of Autumn... We're waiting for the "cool-off" so we can say with a half-baked certitude that this will balance the heat off...

It won't. It has NOT done so, for THE PAST 336 MONTHS... Or if it does, that is go cooler than "average", it will be a one off, with more global warming to bite our bums later on... We guess that much... but we don't want to know...

We're haggled on the liar-waves, by spruikers like Jones and Bolt... They talk with such confidence about scientists being wrong that we "believe" them and now they bring more "science" to "prove" that the science of global warming is wrong... Of course we should know that the "new scientists" the spruikers bring in their argument are false prophets of "all's well". They are paid off by the carbon industry but this does not concern us... nor do we peel off the layers of lies from their pseudo-science, because we don't know enough. 

Lord Monckton is so confident! The dear count...

And those scientists, who hesitantly tell us global warming is happening, could not talk under wet cement like Ray Hadley does... And Mr Murdoch tells us it's not happening... Well, not him directly, but his very knowledgeable scribes like Janet, Miranda, Bolt again... 

So, we're in two mind and, to a great extend, we know zip about science, except how to make bad smells by mixing vinegar and chlorine, producing a toxic gas that could kill us, but we're still alive, coughing...

So we believe that some smart arse scientists will come up with a solution — other than reducing our carbon usage which we've already cut with those funny globes, while our air conditioning is at full bore because it's hot outside......

And we really don't want to know beyond our next electricity bill... We don't like Julia becasue she said "no tax" and she hammered us with a "carbon tax" (carbon pricing). The bitch...

For example, Alan Jones would tell us that since the "carbon tax" (pricing) was introduced, global warming (which does not exist at all in his radio station) has not stopped accelerating, so the carbon tax is useless, ineffective, waste of time, crap... And we believe him because he talks at a hundred miles an hour using our own worries about our electricity bill, as a platform for more scepticism... Deeply we're in two mind... but we still don't want to know...

And the issue does not make a hoot of difference when one is stuck in an overcrowded train running late with its air conditioning kaput or when we are caught in a traffic jam... The spruikers on the radio tell us with certainty we should blame the former State Labor monkeys and the present Labor dudes in Canberra (who have nothing to do with our predicament, but hey). We certainly can't blame the present honourable right-wing managers of the glorious Packer casino — who are now in charge of the glorious cock-up and will fix it in the next 15 years, when by then, there will be ten times more cars on their already too narrow roads and the trains would still be running fucking late... The spruikers don't tell you that last bit... They love the right-wing... They love Tony Abbott.

And global warming is not happening...

In your dreams...

Gus Leonisky


frack this ....

Rachel Maddow takes a look at a catastrophic fracking failure at a site in Hemp-Hill County, Texas.

fire, burn & cauldron bubble ….

A team of federal and university geologists have linked a series of unusual earthquakes, including a destructive 5.7-magnitude shocker, to oil-drilling wastewater-injection wells in Oklahoma.

The earthquakes occurred near Prague, Oklahoma, in 2010. The largest quake left two people injured, destroyed 14 homes, damaged a federal highway and was felt as far away as Milwaukee, according to a Columbia University release.

Columbia geologists partnered with the US Geological Survey to produce the report, which revealed a "potential" link between drilling wastewater injection and the massive earthquake.

The wells suspected of causing the earthquakes were in operation for at least 18 years, and the seismic events indicate that there can be decades-long lags between drilling wastewater injection and seismic events, according to the report.

The injection-well operations linked to the earthquakes were relatively small and involved filling oil wells with waste fluids, but over the years, pressure in the wells increased and eventually lubricated a known seismic fault.

"There's something important about getting unexpectedly large earthquakes out of small systems that we have discovered here," said Geoffrey Abers, a co-author of the study.

Abers said the team's observations indicate that the risk of humans inducing large earthquakes from even small injection activities is "probably higher" than previously thought.

The findings come at a time when geologists are reporting an uptick in minor earthquakes across the country linked to unconventional hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Fracking has facilitated an oil- and gas-drilling boom across the country, and the process produces large amounts of liquid waste that is most often injected into underground wells for disposal.

In the last four years, the number of earthquakes in the central United States spiked by 11 times compared with three decades prior, the authors of the Oklahoma study estimate.

The wells suspected of causing the massive quake in Oklahoma were not disposing of unconventional fracking waste, but the report raises new concerns about the long-term impacts of underground drilling-waste disposal.

Oklahoma state officials have not officially determined the source of the earthquakes. In response to the report, a state geologist said the findings could link the wells to earthquakes, but the Oklahoma Geological Survey still suspects that they were naturally occurring, according to the Columbia University release. Well operations continue at the site.

Every day, the oil and gas industry injects two billion gallons of liquid waste into any number of 144,000 underground wells, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Earthquakes related to wastewater injection are rare, but in recent years, fracking-waste-injection wells have been linked to earthquakes in several states, including Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas and California.

Between the spring of 2011 and early 2012, a fracking-waste-injection well caused more than a dozen minor earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio, including one 4.0 magnitude earthquake that was felt for miles.

A Truthout investigation found that Ohio regulators permitted operators of the Ohio well to raise its maximum injection pressure twice, once shortly before and once again after the well-caused two initial earthquakes on March 17, 2011.

The Ohio well has been shut down and state regulators have worked to reform their injection-well policies.

Injection Well Linked To Destructive Earthquake In Oklahoma, Raising New Fracking Fears

more than warmer: hotter...


Human health – and that of other animals and even plants – is likely to become an ever more pressing public issue as temperatures rise with global warming, cities grow and populations age.

Until recently, public health authorities would issue a warning whenever the temperature was likely to exceed a certain level.

However, heatwaves are also related to the conditions people are accustomed to. To reflect that, the Bureau of Meteorology last year pioneered a heatwave service that predicts the severity of coming heatwaves based on both how far temperatures are likely to deviate from historical averages but also taking into account the previous month's weather.

read more:


After allowing for all climatic factors from earth wobbles to the fact that we should be going towards an ice age, as noted until 1959 when engineers were planning to build a huge dam between Newfoundland and Iceland by 1984, the only major culprit left for us to observe "warming" of the surface of this planet is CO2 in the atmosphere.

Science is very precise on this annoying fact. Burning coal, gas and petroleum products that produce CO2 are creating this problem. In the last million years, nature's variations of CO2 were limited to a maximum of 300 ppm in the atmosphere, this in step with a warming of between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius during cool period when the level of CO2 was around 180 ppm. 

Presently, human activity — humans having discovered a "cheap fuel source" in "fossil fuels" — has been adding at least 100 ppm onto the maximum CO2 recent (+1My) natural levels. Fossil fuels fuels are the remnant of greater activity on the planet when it was warmer and then cooled, killing off some of life on earth. We are exhuming the dead bodies of trees in coal and exhuming the dead bodies of animals in oil, and gas is also part of this decomposition of living organisms. This coalification, this gasification, this oilification happened mostly in sinks that were eventually covered with mud, sand and stones that eventually stratified. This "fossil fuel" carbon has not been part of the atmospheric equation for millions of years... 

Now as we release this EXTRA carbon as CO2, it is replicating past aeons of the planet when the temperature was warmer towards hotter. One can expect that when the ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere goes beyond 450, that the climatic conditions will be changing dramatically. With 400 ppm of CO2 now present of the atmosphere we can expect a gradual heating towards 9 degrees Celsius by 2250... Should this level of CO2 continue to rise as we add approximately about 1 to 3 per cent of CO2 in the atmosphere per year, when this level reaches 500 ppm in the atmosphere, temperature on the planet could go more than 15 degrees Celsius than present. This is not science fiction. This is only strong possibility already marked for about 3 to 4 degrees rise by 2100... 

Have a happy season and please do you best to convince our governments to do far more to reduce emissions of CO2, methane and other warming gases. Read articles from top.


the science of scientific nobel prizes...


Upon winning the Nobel Prize, immunologist J. Michael Bishop reflected on his journey in a facetiously titled book, How to Win the Nobel Prize. Bishop acknowledged not only that he had “no formula for winning the Nobel Prize” but that he couldn’t have written “an instruction manual for pursuit of the prize,” even with the benefit of hindsight.

Bishop’s befuddled account of his own success is part of a broader misperception—that scientific brilliance is the province of solitary geniuses so unusual in their profiles and curiosities that such brilliance is impossible to predict or engineer.

Yet exceptional scientists, distinct as they may be, are products of a larger context. True, scientific achievement requires a baseline level of genetic aptitude. But it seldom emerges absent a particular kind of cultivation. When great scientists come to the fore, their success is not a fluke; it’s a testament to the broader social forces that provide the “appropriate foundations for genius to appear and shine.”

Nobel Prize winners offer a useful sample to assess trends in scientific achievement. They constitute a unique database, a broad sample cutting across time and countries. The criteria for the prize have remained relatively constant, and the choice of recipients has been, by and large, non-contentious.

The backgrounds of Nobel laureates show that scientific innovation stems from social ecosystems that cultivate three key attributes: cognitive ability, achievement-oriented cultural values, and research collaboration among top scientists.

For the United States, this creates a dilemma. The ability of American institutions to produce and attract top-tier talent provides the country with a distinct advantage over its national competitors. However, the “narrow cultural base” that produces Nobel scientists provokes egalitarian unease that could erode the United States’ willingness to invest in its scientific elite.

Cognitive Ability

Nobel prize winners in science almost invariably register IQs within the top 1 percent of the bell curve. By one estimate, the average Nobel laureate in chemistry has an IQ of 136; in physics, 143; and in physiology or medicine, 147. Double Nobel laureate Linus Pauling is rumored to have had an IQ of 170. Luis Alvarez, Richard Feynman, and William Shockley scored under 140 on IQ tests, but theirquantitative abilities were considerably higher than their verbal skills.

If a high IQ and quantitative ability (both partly heritable) are prerequisites to win a Nobel Prize in science, this helps explain why Nobel Prize winners in science are predominantly firstborn sons with upper class fathers.

The fathers of Nobel scientists are overwhelmingly from professional and business families. A plurality of science Nobel laureates are the children of either university professors or doctors. This trend is consistent with research findings that the top 10 percent of male college professors have IQs above 120.

Highly intelligent, upper class fathers are well situated to preside over the types of stable households from which Nobel science laureates tend to emerge. Whereas a disproportionately high percentage of Nobel laureates in literature come from “disturbed” childhoods—marked by such tragedies as the loss of a parent or financial impoverishment—only a small fraction of science laureates experienced any remarkable form of “disorder and early sorrow.” Nor have they typically suffered from physical disability or “serious or prolonged illness” as children. This may be related to the association between high childhood IQ and longevity—an important factor given the ongoing increase in the mean age of science Nobel laureates. Unlike other domains, where peak achievement is prevalent well before middle age, 93 percent of Nobel Prize-wining scientific breakthroughs have come from researchers above age 26. In physics, the mean age of Nobel Prize winning achievement has climbed to 48 years. Those who can avoid the declines in health and cognition that inhibit scientific productivity have a growing advantage in pursuit of the prize.

Firstborn sons, who are more likely to become science Nobel laureates than younger siblings, may benefit in particular from the undivided parental attention of distinguished fathers. Eldest sons generally have an IQ three points higher than their closest sibling. Three points, even without other environmental enrichment, is the “difference between a high B average and a low A”—one, as the New York Times, puts it, with a “cumulative effect that could mean the difference between admission to an elite private liberal arts college and a less exclusive public one.”

Nor are first-born sons constrained by cognitive limitations—rooted in brain size,structure, and function—that face first-born daughters. Among the top 2 percent of scorers on intellectual aptitude tests, there are almost twice as many males as females. This ratio, according to a 2007 paper in Intelligence, largely accounts for “sex differences in intellectual eminence”—as measured by gender gaps in Nobel Prize winners and other distinctions. Only two women since 1900 have won the Nobel Prize in physics, and just four have won in chemistry. (Two were from the Curie family—Marie and her daughter Irene.)

Achievement-oriented Cultural Values     

Beyond raw cognitive ability, Nobel science achievement is inspired by a particular culture of achievement. Telling are the commonalities among the three U.S. ethnic groups overrepresented among science laureates: white Protestants, Jews, and Asians.

Between 1900 and 1977, about 60 percent of American Nobel laureates in science came either from New York City or the Midwest, largely due to the disproportionate achievements of their respective Jewish and Protestant communities. Since then, Asian-Americans have garnered a greater share of prizes. Of the 20 American physicists to win a Nobel Prize in physics in the 21st century, East Asians, who represent less than 4 percent of the U.S. population, have won 15 percent of prizes.Three science Nobel prizes have been won by Indian-Americans, a minority that did not arrive in the United States in large numbers before the immigration reforms of 1965 and still makes up less than 1 percent of the population.

Cognitive ability may be part of the equation. In a 2009 study of white American IQ differences by denomination, Episcopalians registered an average IQ of 113, compared to Roman Catholics at 107. And in 2015, the Asian-white divide on the SAT grew to 78 points, a gap that is even wider between whites and outlier Asian groups such as Indian-Americans.

These IQ gaps alone, however, cannot explain the full extent to which the aforementioned groups are overrepresented. Sociologist Gerhard Lenski reported in the early 1960s that Protestant scientists were about six times more productive than their Catholic counterparts—a difference reflected in the fact that Protestant societies have generated considerably more science Nobel laureates than Catholic ones. Jews, comprising less than 0.2 percent of the world’s population, have won 21 percent of Nobel Prizes in chemistry and 26 percent of prizes in physics and physiology or medicine. And Asian-Americans in recent years have dominated in competitions that historically have produced Nobel laureates. Since 2009, Asian-American teenagers have won about half of all top prizes in the Society for Science and the Public’s “junior Nobel Prize”—a competition from which twelve alumni have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. At the Bronx High School of Science, the alma mater of more Nobel Prize winning scientists than any other secondary school,more than 60 percent of students are Asian.

In their 2014 book on the rise and fall of U.S. cultural groups, Yale Law School professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld found a common pattern underlying Protestant, Jewish, and Asian success in the United States. All three groups were defined by a “triple package” of three tendencies: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control.

The Episcopalian establishment created in the United States the ultimate “triple package” nation. America became a country “convinced of its exceptional destiny, infused with a hard work ethic inherited from the Puritans, seized with a notorious chip on the collective shoulder vis-à-vis aristocratic Europe, and instilling a brand-new kind of insecurity in its citizens—a sense that every man must prove himself….” Even as the “achievement syndrome” of America’s Protestant elite weakened, its historic legacy intersected with new “triple package” cultures such as Jews and Asians, fueling, in professor James Flynn’s words, “achievement beyond IQ.”

Research Collaboration

Regardless of their baseline capabilities and cultural influences, even the most talented scientists need to acquire a tremendous amount of human capital before they can make Nobel-worthy contributions. Not even the most precocious scientists have been able to produce Nobel prize-winning research before the age of 19.

The reason is that Nobel Prizes in science recognize a particular type of achievement—voluminous research published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals. By identifying scientists who rank in the top 0.1 percent by citations and write “multiple high-impact reports” over at least two decades, Thomson Reuters hascorrectly predicted 43 Nobel Prizes over the last 14 years.

Nobel scientists tend to emerge from regions with the institutions and “group research power” necessary to produce groundbreaking publications. American dominance in Nobel Prize-winning science reflects the fact that since the early 1920s, the United States has been the world’s only “scientific center”—defined as a country that produces more than a quarter of the world’s scientific achievements in a respective period. Within the United States, just a few elite research universitieshave produced a disproportionate share of Nobel laureates in science. Notable among them has been the California Institute of Technology.

Even as scientific talent has expanded around the globe, the United States has benefited disproportionately because its institutions have continued to draw and facilitate collaboration among the world’s top-tier researchers. Only 25 American immigrants won Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine, and physicals between 1901 and 1959, but that number jumped to 79 between 1960 and 2016. Forty percent of American Nobel Prize winners in science since 2000 were immigrants and all six American winners in science last year were immigrants.

Can the United States Maintain Its Lead?

If cognitive ability, achievement-oriented culture, and research collaboration remain the main ingredients for scientific progress, the United States will need to navigate a delicate set of political issues if it hopes to preserve its lead. Group disparities among Nobel science laureates sit uncomfortably in a society with an egalitarian, assimilationist ethos.

On the gender front, American society has doubled down on its quest for gender equality. Affirmative action has produced parity in the ratio of men and women getting PhDs in the sciences. STEM diversity programs are receiving multi-million dollar federal grants. And as Christina Hoff Sommers documents in The Atlantic, boys across the ability spectrum are languishing in school systems defined by instruction modalities better suited for the cognitive profiles of girls. These initiatives have continued in the face of overwhelming evidence that social engineering cannot override the biological drivers that deter women from making both the initial investments as well as the long-term sacrifices needed to prevail in the competitive world of scientific academia. Indeed, even against the backdrop of greater social equality, sex differences on the right tail of the quantitative reasoning distribution have actually increased over time. In the realm of science reasoning, for example, males in the top 5 percent of ability, as measured by SAT and ACT scores, are showing evidence of “increasing advantage.”

America’s egalitarian anxieties are also apparent in the country’s ambivalent attitude toward Asian-American success. This is a group uniquely poised to achieve breakout success in scientific research. The United States has provided Asian immigrants and their children with opportunities that would be all but impossible in other countries with fewer resources and less meritocratic cultures. But so too has an undercurrent emerged in American society that Asian achievement threatens, as White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon has put it, the integrity of America’s “civic society.”

Academic administrators at elite universities prefer the term “diversity,” but as Ron Unz has described in these pages, they effectively use the same rationale to discriminate against Asian-Americans in zero-sum admissions processes. They have done so despite losing out to Caltech in Nobel scientific achievement, where, in the relative absence of affirmative action, the student body has become over 40 percent Asian.

America’s assimilationist culture meanwhile could erode the “ethnic capital” that inspires Nobel Prize winning achievement. A case in point is the high rates ofacculturation, culminating in intermarriage, that pervade “triple package” cultures in the United States. The rate of non-Orthodox Jewish intermarriage is 5 percent in Israel and 40 to 45 percent in Britain and France. By comparison, the rate is 58 percent in the United States—a nation where Pew found that only 9 percent consider rising interracial marriage rates to be a “bad thing for society.” From the standpoint of Nobel class science, even a slight increase in intermarriage rates among Ashkenazi Jews could alter the global distribution of Nobel talent given how overrepresented they are on the far right of the bell curve. Whereas only 4 per 1,000 northern Europeans have an IQ over 140, the rate is 23 per 1,000 among Ashkenazi Jews.

The challenge for the United States is to reconcile its liberal aspirations with a hard reality about scientific achievement: In the elite class of researchers that can reasonably hope to attain eminence, neither innate talent nor advantageous cultural influences are distributed equally among groups.

Pratik Chougule is an executive editor at The American Conservative. Follow him on twitter @pjchougule. He can be reached via email Sign up for his email list here.

read more:


Read from top. Politicians are idiots. IQ is strongly related to curiosity, imagination and understanding of what is observed. Women are at a disadvantage in number because most social conventions, including religious myths, limit the curiosity and the scope of observations for women. This status will change, but it will need the eradication of the religious belief disease.