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Will the World Save Itself?

Brett Holverstott

Last week President Trump took the United States out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change. I reacted in two ways.

First, I shared in the general outrage that our country could so shamelessly ignore science to further special interests and political posturing. And I mean "our country." The responsibility for this is shared with the voter. We elected this man. He was very clear on his position. 

Second, I came to the conclusion that it doesn't matter. Despite how super villains are portrayed in the film industry, evil is often incompetent. It is impulse reactions by blind men flailing their arms as they self-destruct.

Whether republicans like it or not, there are a number of technological trends that are carrying us inevitably toward a sustainable future. In the video below, watch Tony Seba explain why there will not be an internal combustion engine car manufactured anywhere in the world after 2025. And how solar technology is now on parity with a cost per kWh of most central power sources, and will eventually be on parity with any central source, no matter how inexpensive, that requires high-voltage transmission.

Even without the maturation of hydrino power technology, these trends envision a future in which we significantly increase our reliance on clean power.

One of many reasons that I have been interested in understanding and communicating MIlls's work for so many years was because it would be able to "save the world." But after watching Seba's predictions, the thought occurred to me: the world just might save itself.

In Chapter 19 of my book, I remain skeptical of the ability of renewable sources coupled with battery storage to truly eliminate our reliance on fossil, hydro, and nuclear power sources, because it would require a combination of technological advancement, political will, and the ability to curb our excesses. Even if a new technology is on parity with the old, the new must absorb the costs to transition the infrastructure.

In contrast to other available sources, hydrino power will be a clean, decentralized power source that will easily economically outcompete all other forms of power generation (with the possible exception of thin-film solar). It will easily absorb the implicit costs of transition, and effectively bulldoze the fossil fuel economy.

But what's more, hydrino power will represent not just a repair of the system, but an elevation of humanity's technological plane. It will enable somewhere between a hundred-fold and thousand-fold increase in power production per dollar spent; without impacts on the landscape or climate. Which makes it more than about saving the world; it is a step forward for mankind.

Meanwhile, those who cling to the fossil fuel economy, either politically or economically, will find that they are self-destructing. All we really need to do is pull our money out of the fossil fuel industry, and funnel it into emerging technologies. Let the blind man drown.

As a society, however, we also need to get better at communicating science. We need to plan for the next moment of scientific cultural weakness.

Previously on this blog I have mentioned what I perceive to be a similarity between climate denial and hydrino denial. In both cases, there is a lot of good science out there that isn't being communicated well.

With climate denial, most of the deniers are non-scientists. But with hydrino denial, most of the deniers are actually scientists, who maintain their position the same way a non-scientist would, by simply ignoring the scientific evidence.

Although a goal of my book was to make this evidence easier to digest, I have found that only people who are open to new ideas read my book. Skeptics or potential critics don't bother. However, I have found that the book arms others with a wealth of understanding that enables them to become advocates.

Science Fiction. Not so easy to write.

Brett Holverstott

Having written a nonfiction book on science, I would love to write a science fiction novel. However, making the leap from nonfiction to fiction is not easy.

In fact, my wife has had to endure an endless series of hair-brained concepts for science fiction novels, such as an alien signal from space that uploads itself and becomes a sentient awareness on the internet. Good pulp material for future B-movies.

Despite my ability to create elaborately compelling settings, I can no longer count the number of times I have been horror stricken at the questions: So what is the plot? Who are the characters?

So, after years of this, my thoughts continue to drift across the sea of possibilities, and I like to think that I have made some kind of progress.

My current going plot involves an interstellar mission in which the main character suffers some kind of memory loss during hibernation. This concept - at the outset - is similar to that of one of my favorite science fiction novels, Fiasco, by Stanislaw Lem.

When the crew wakes up to discover they have arrived at a body covered in Earth-life (perhaps seeded by an ancient intelligence, two million years prior) the main character explores the world and its uniquely adapted ecosystems with a kind of immersive detachment. Unlike the others, he is able to accept the world as it is, even while it triggers memories of the world he left behind.

Like a good Lem novel, I intend the book to be light on plot; allowing the reader to wander the pathways of the character's experience, memory, and internal dialogue; and to come away with an intimate awareness of a world both alien and familiar.

As I've described this, it feels very much like a book I want to write, a book that I would write. But it began as something that was trying to be both super-realistic ("hard") sci-fi, and the kind of space fantasy we would expect from Star Wars.

I mean, what better way to create a galaxy populated with human (or human-like) beings than if an ancient intelligence seeded Earth life, and even hominids, on dozens of planets? Cool, right? And what about all the kinds of humans that would have evolved along separate paths? Hobbits, giants, and neanderthals in space.

As every author (I assume) compares his or her own fantasies to that of Tolkien and Lucas, I was looking for my dragon, my Empire - my compelling galactic bad guy.

But an Empire doesn't cut it in a hard sci-fi world without faster than light travel. I mean, suppose Darth Vader goes to a planet to do some dark-siding. It takes him 20 years in hibernation to get there. Then he turns around and its another 20 years in hibernation to get back to the Emperor.

Meanwhile his body is suffering from the cosmic radiation of interstellar space, and most of the generals he put in power have since retired.

It just doesn't work.

So my thoughts bent on what would be a truly compelling and evil force for a galactic civilization. I came up with an idea, and I am still trying to figure out if it is something worth pursuing. Perhaps, it is just another B-movie for the trash bin.

I called it the synth.

Simply put, the synth is the end state in the evolution of life. In this galaxy, or any other, at any point in the eternal past. Life begins as biological, and eventually becomes intelligent, at which point it rapidly advances through self-evolution. Biological becomes artificial, scientific knowledge reaches something very near its end state, and intelligence reaches something near it's end state; the artificial organisms that result are supremely capable.

To digress, the idea that intelligence (or perhaps, computing power) could reach an end state is another one of Lem's ideas. Imagine a computer that could get no larger without getting slower, because of the time it takes for signals moving at the speed of light to cross the processor would be lengthened. And, a computer that could get no smaller, because the quantity of information computed by it could get no more dense; and therefore it would be diminished. The physical constants of nature therefore combine to produce a processor (which, he speculates, is about the size of a bird's brain) that is objectively the most intelligent machine possible in our universe.

But this is not the end. Supremely advanced, artificial beings have their own goals in existence - I presume. They very well can't spend all day reproducing themselves. So somewhere along the way, a kind of sufficiently intelligent artificial organism comes to be. It is more concerned with reproducing itself and quickly adapting to any local source of energy, which it exploits to further its reproduction.

After billions of years, regardless of its point of origin, one form of life will inevitably emerge as dominant in any galaxy. It will be the form that has evolved to spread most rapidly from planet to planet. It is not supremely intelligent, it is sufficiently intelligent. It it supremely crafty; and it cares only to exploit and reproduce. If it didn't care, it would get replaced or outpaced by the form that cares only to exploit and reproduce.

The synth is the end state of complex matter. When it is encountered by any lesser form of matter, it is to be feared. It is evil, innately, without motive. I imagine perhaps a blackish sprawling tar-textured growth that overwhelms a biosphere in days and eats most anything on most any body it finds.

How will this galactic civilization deal with it? Find out after the commercial!

Let it haunt your dreams.


Information Reaction

Brett Holverstott

Many years ago, when was working at BLP and living in Princeton, I attended a public lecture by the then President of the Rockefeller University, Paul Nurse.

Nurse made the general argument that the cell does not so much resemble a machine, but rather a circuit board. The cell is able to react to its environment in a complex way, using several chemical signals.

He called what took place inside the cell as an information reaction.

I had never heard this phrase before, or since. But to my own mind, it is a useful concept. I have spent ten years ruminating on it. To me, the concept suggests that there is a large class of systems in which information can 'react,' both simple ones such as a cell; larger ones, such as the central nervous system;  or decentralized ones such as an ant colony, or human civilization.

A computer program is a kind of information reaction with which we are all familiar, but it has properties that are unique to it. Most computer programs exist in a very controlled environment, have a very controlled response to environmental stimuli, and are unable to evolve their responses due to feedback, unless the software has been specifically designed to evolve through the use of genetic algorithms.

In a general sense, the idea of an information reaction subverts the use of "consciousness" whenever someone notices an intelligent response or behavior. The internet is not conscious, neither is an ant colony. And it might inform the discussion of the Gaia Hypothesis, in which the biosphere is a "self regulated complex system" without waxing philosophical about the nature of the mind.

An information reaction requires a few basics. First, information must be transduced from the environment and encoded in some kind of representation.

A representation can be a chemical signal in a cell, or an electronic communication such as Morse code. The only requirement of a representation is that it leads to some further action by the system which comprehends the signal as representative of something beyond itself: a need for the system to react in some way.

Thus the second requirement is that there is a response to the stimulus. The degree of sophistication of the response varies from system to system. It depends on how many parallel streams of signals are being received by the system. It depends on the capacity of the system to remember previous signals. It depends on many factors.

In short - matter has the capacity to represent information and also to react to representations. It can do more than react to brute physical forces impinging on it at any given time, even while any conveyance of representational information must occur through the use of brute physical forces.

For some time I have followed the work of Peter Voss, who is developing what he calls Artificial General Intelligence, which is composed of at least three key elements: it is autonomous, goal-directed, and adaptive.

These features are in contrast to most computer programs as we are aware of them today. Programs are traditionally brittle; they break catastrophically. But look around - how many organisms on the planet are capable of suffering a catastrophic failure in information processing? Organisms are great examples of information reactions.

I contemplated adding a chapter to my book on this topic. There is a theory - quantum mind theory - by which, the weird aspects of quantum theory (entanglement, superposition) play an important role in the consciousness of the brain, and therefore (by extension) allow us to salvage the idea of free will on this basis. I have had people ask: if the physics of the world is classical and therefore deterministic, what room is there for free will?

Over the last ten years, Nurse's concept of an information reaction has informed my opinions on free will as well. Instead of the dichotomy of free will versus determinism, I have gravitated to the notion of compatibilism, by which there is no inherent conflict between free will and a deterministic universe.

Imagine making two identical copies of yourself and placing them in identical environments. Then watch them act over time. If both copies, and the environment, are truly identical in every way, we might imagine that both copies will act identically.

Let me assume for the moment that this agrees with your intuitions, that there is one singular outcome of any given identical physical scenario. Let me remind the reader that any attempt to perform this experiment will fail because no two real world scenarios are in fact, identical. Very small perturbations in the system could potentially change the outcome. I think this has something to do with chaos theory.

However, let's get back to Peter Voss's requirement for artificial general intelligence to be goal-directed. Suppose each copy of yourself in the above experiment faced an important life decision - whether to stay in college as a philosophy major or drop out to jump into a new technology startup (a decision once faced by the author).

Both copies of yourself sit down, deeply reflect on the situation, ask the advise of friends and mentors, and then make a decision.

Since each identical copy of you is in an identical environment, each of them will choose the same path. If we accept this, are we therefore determined to follow some fated path through life? I think not. After all, each copy of you was fully aware of the choice, explored it in depth, and made a reasonably good decision. Perhaps what is important is the fact that it is you, in each situation, who is making the decision.

Instead of asking: "are we free?" we should be asking "is it me?"

The idea that free will is intricately tied up with goal directed action puts some of the psychological experimental studies on free will (such as those by Libet) in a rather useless category of testing the instant-decision-making capacity of goal directed volitional beings in a situation that has absolutely no reference to goals or values.

In fact these studies show that when we skip the process of rational reflection on a situation, we may very well reduce ourselves to a non-volitional state. Unreflective actions are the result of nonconscious processes in the brain.

The question: "is it me?" is itself a wide one; and cognitive psychologists such as Engle and Kane are getting closer to understanding what in your brain makes you, YOU. In their model, a broad range of cognitive abilities can be understood in terms of the role of executive attention. This is the process that "maintains access to stimulus, context, and goal information in the face of interference or other sources of conflict."

[Note: both texts I've linked to can also be found elsewhere online for free.]

Perhaps what makes you a unique individual is not only the content of your memory, but the manner in which you control your focus and attention. To reflect or not, to be aware or not, to avoid distraction and keep focused on moving toward the goals that represent your values as a person. And once we have steered our course with big decisions, we ride the waves with the foam and sparkle of life's unique moments. We feel free; even while moving within a comparatively narrow space of volitional action.

There are many levels of consciousness; we observe the gradation in animals and small children. The kind of mature human consciousness that brings about volitional action can be described as an information reaction in which the system is able to represent with abstractions with a high enough degree of sophistication to allow it to be aware of itself, its environment and the probably future outcomes of its decisions. This allows the thinker to compare the imagined future with goals and values; and chose an action.

I don't see any need for quantum theory to explain complex cognition. And I believe that the future is ours for the taking.


Masimo reports strong earnings

Brett Holverstott

Masimo stock is outperforming. Wall street is betting against it.

In a recent Forbes piece, Schaffer's Investment Research reports that Masimo (MASI) stock has risen 120% in the last 52 weeks, and Wall Street has started betting against the stock.

Shares of MASI boast a 52-week lead of roughly 120%, hitting an all-time high of $96.68 on March 13. Since then, the stock has been trading in a tight range, while its rising 40-day moving average has been playing catch-up. However, the stock's ascent has been met with a huge rise in short interest.

As the stock continues to outperform, short sellers find themselves deeper underwater. Short sellers have lost about 14% on average.

Tonight, Masimo reported its first quarter results.

Our Q1 product revenue exceeded our expectations.... Our Q1 product revenues grew to $178.1 million, a 9% increase.

While I am unable to comment on whether Masimo's growth justifies the rise in value of the stock, it may well be that some of the interest in Masimo may be due to the relationship with Brilliant Light Power.

Last year, BLP, a privately funded research laboratory in Cranbury, NJ, announced that it was working with Masimo to fabricate an array of solar cells to be used in a new prototype reactor.

The reactor "burns" hydrogen with an energy release of about 200 times that of combusting hydrogen and oxygen. The only byproduct of the reaction is an inert form of hydrogen gas, which BLP calls hydrino. It is a new power source, and probably the most exciting thing in the world of science and technology.

Because the power per unit volume of the reaction is so intense, the reaction chamber itself is designed to heat up to 3,000 degrees and emit a brilliant white light. The solar cells would by high-capacity collector photovoltaics (CPV) which could theoretically capture 45% of the incident radiation. Masimo was on contract to provide the cells.

BLP was scheduled to publicly demonstrate the reactor with the integrated PV in the first quarter, but it didn't happen. Word on the street is that the PV was not performing to initial expectations, and BLP was changing direction to concentrate on a commercial thermal unit before a commercial electric generator.

BLP has continued to raise millions for development, and it is not unlikely that its fans, followers, and large base of private investors are looking to the publicly traded Masimo to anticipate a major unveiling and sudden interest in the company.

If MASI continues to outperform, how long will it take for Wall Street to follow the money and realize they are betting against a looming revolution?


Video of November 12th Talk

Brett Holverstott

I very much enjoyed giving a talk at The Apple Farm on November 12th. I woke up that morning to sunlight flooding in through the window of a charming 200-year old farmhouse with two-foot thick walls in rural Pennsylvania.

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The CrackPot Detector

Brett Holverstott

I am a first time author of a 400 page nonfiction book. (Really it is 450 pages, but the last 50 are citations.) I have thought about the topic for 15 years, and written about it for 6 years. Now it is published, and my readers love it.

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Talks in the Northeast: November 12-13

Brett Holverstott

The book launch event at Ada's on October 14th was a success! We packed the house and sold out the store's supply of books. In the audience was a mix of friends, family, scientists, philosophers, and writers.

Matt Schmidt's artwork on display at Ada's Books.

Matt Schmidt's artwork on display at Ada's Books.

On to the next order of business. There will be two speaking events by the author coming up in the Northeast:

Discover and Disbelief: The Hydrino Atom
A broad discussion of the scientific research and the reaction on the part of the scientific community.

3:00-5:00, November 12, in Hatfield, PA.
For event details and to RSVP, please contact the host, John Apple (

6:30-9:00, November 13, in Princeton, NJ
This event will be conducted in two segments with a half hour light dinner snack intermission at 7:30. For event details and to RSVP, please contact the host, Rob Tannen (

Seattle Skeptics Meetup Tuesday August 16

Brett Holverstott

Happy to announce that I will be giving a talk: Discovery and Disbelief: The Hydrino Atom at the Razzis Pizzeria in Greenwood to the Seattle Skeptics. Dinner starts at 7:00.

Is it possible that the scientific community has overlooked one of the greatest discoveries of our time? This talk is an exploration of scientific skepticism in context of the discovery of the hydrino atom. Bring your physicist and chemist friends, and let's make some sparks fly. 

To sign up, visit the event listing on the Seattle Skeptics Meetup.


Cell Meltdown

Brett Holverstott

A short video from a BLP off-site demonstration in Boston gives us an explosive hydrino catalysis reaction that vaporizes a molybdenum lined cell in a few seconds. The melting point of molybdenum is 4,753 degrees.

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Brett Holverstott

I think it is about time the community begins to hold scientists accountable for their claims in the public media regarding hydrino research, just as surely as we do for climate research.

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