November 20, 2011

Six years have passed since Munich and this is a vastly different world than you’d expect.

As Archy Carson said early on:

“Of course, it would be lovely wouldn’t it to wave a magic wand, such as this pseudo scientific vanity project we’re being force-fed right now.  But it’s not useful to… in fact, it’s downright damaging to go down that path.  Showering money indiscriminately at every crackpot inventor?  No, resources are too scarce to squander on some wild goose chase… especially not now.  Look, we’ll get to all that in good time.  Market forces have proven to be the best way forward in these matters.”

And Archy again last month:

“I’m always amazed at how we, as a species, rise to the occasion when we most need to.  Would that we had greater belief in ourselves.  I wouldn’t, for a moment downplay the significance of science and technology as a factor in the resolution of our very recent and very challenging issues – you’d expect that… I am a scientist after all.

But even more important was the manner in which we navigated the changing political landscape. It was hard, hard negotiation.  It was herding cats.  It was putting arms around shoulders.  It was bruising.  I was … I am… extremely proud to be part of it.  And I have to say it’s been very successful… so far… there’s much more to be done.

And no, no, you can’t write this remarkable story without Layla.  She certainly provided the colour.  Right?  Certainly… certainly… no, maybe uncertainty is the more fitting ‘ingredient’.  With her, we never knew what was around the next corner… but no matter, we love her, and on some level, we probably need each other.

But the takeaway point from the last few years is that the… sensible amongst us were right. There was no need to panic.  We were not ‘deniers’, that derogatory label flung about by those free range chicken littles.  And they still fling!  They can’t handle the reality that the ideological solution of their choice… solar, wind, thermal… is no longer in vogue.  In whose interests were they working?  Well, I don’t really care now.  Mine is an inclusive approach… this world is for all of us, including them, and I say let bygones be bygones.

I’ve always found it more productive to keep it simple.  Truth is found in simplicity.  More haste less speed. Too many cooks.  In the end of the day, get the right man for the job and leave him alone to do it.  We stuck to our principles.  We were rewarded.”

Expletive.  That Archy Carson.  How do we fall for him popping his head up when the bullets are long gone?

Confidence Sapping Journey

It’s been a big six years.  Layla’s outrageous “Munich moon wager” garnered enormous, Kool-Aid support amongst the marginal seat masses.  Many liked the “fix it now” spotlight being shone on climate change work… most were giddy at the prospect of extraterrestrial reality TV.

The coffers of the multitudes opened… and funded a number of Layla’s girly, girly global collaboration adventures centering mainly on Open Source Science and Technology.

Unwilling to cede relevancy, governments and corporations made great show of handing over 100 million or a billion or some other set of zeroes to Layla on TV.  To them, this was a tax paid to keep her busy and at bay.

Riding this wave of fevered enthusiasm, thousands of diverse projects sprung up within this cashed-up Open Source infrastructure.  Many thrived.  And cool advancements proliferated.  “Apple Glass”, the eye-driven holographic technology, was a great favourite.

Hmmm, smaller, faster, prettier.  Unfortunately, these were incremental and derivative improvements.  Some of them kinda could argue they helped with the CO2 numbers… kinda.

There was great hope when the “Layla stable” announced they were to begin production of a machine that ate up CO2.  Unfortunately, it would have taken a wind farm the size of Canada to provide enough energy to suck up 5% of the yearly increase in emissions.  Of course, no-one dared to suggest fossil fuel based energy be its driving force.  Still… it did something… and much more than the various market-based Carbon pricing schemes.

In short, the moon remained red.

Three years in and it became safe to say to a crowd that there “is blessed little to show for these expensive initiatives ineptly managed by the…  ‘unelected friends’ in the WCA”.

Taunts from the global politic towards the iconic one-world-warrior increased.  Plans to consult on implementing more empowered global structures for security and finance… turned into “dangerous adventures to eradicate hard-fought-for sovereignty”.

Yes, they were circling.  A suffocating cacophony of circling.  Layla wasn’t used to losing.  And this felt like losing.  It was a losing streak.  Every time she played a hand… she came up against a bigger one.

Like, even the welcoming inclusive nature of her Open Source institute was being taken advantage of.  Fruitful wins, such as the science behind holographic technology and the try-hard CO2 eater, were being sucked dry by so-called lurkers.  These parasites joined a project, waited for breakthroughs and then siphoned them off to their paying corporates.  Open Source collaboration was becoming no more than a cheap sand-box for established opolies.

Layla had almost become used to the constant physical assailments made on her from every side.  But the increasing intensity of the mental battering weakened her defenses.  Pippy seemed powerless to help and, for the first time since her drinking days, she woke daily to incapacitating nausea.



Oh Please

“Nothing’s working Pippy.  Will you help me?  Please!”

Pippy said he couldn’t help her.  He said it downcast… as if his hands were tied.  And, one more thing.  The Pearl Planets prize was not his to offer.   It had been turned down.  He had over-promised in an attempt to win back her trust, her love, her respect.  But maybe, no harm no foul?  It doesn’t look like they’ll reach the target anyway and the natural consequence of that is no prize.  Isn’t it?

What a game of soldiers.  Layla decided not to hope for a default but to put this bad news out there.

The next day, an ashen Layla announced the annulment to so many people broken with disappointment.  There would be no alien audiences to perform for or glimpses of heavenly bodies to revel in.  “We can still try”, she said “to reach for the target”.

Of course, we can try Layla. We always try.  But we were hoping for some sugar for a change.  Looks like you’ve dried up alright.

Picking Up Pieces

Fallibility.  Fallen idol.  Fantastic for some.

With the waters now well-tested, the powers-that-be decided it was time to put a bit of a wiggle on.  Time to put this Layla myth back in its box.  There was a need to secure the future for their people you know. And we could start by removing funding from this ridiculous Open Source Empire she’d built… and concentrate on education, hospitals, jobs and transport.  As you were!  It felt good.  It was all coming back to them effortlessly.  Better than ever.


In the midst of Layla’s bad luck, something very unlikely happened.  Cold fusion.  Or Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) as it was termed.  Its story as badly-planned as any game-changing event.

Black Cat Energy, a team of nuclear physicists led by Italian engineer, entrepreneur, inventor and all-round scientific bad boy Leonardo Russo was not part of Layla’s Open Source initiative.  In fact, when Russo submitted the pro-forma web-based application for admission to the program it was refused.

Russo had a history of hare-brained inventions that he’d over-sold to naïve investors.  He’d had several runs-in with the legal system including a period of incarceration for fraud.  And, in his current incarnation as spruiker of a commercially-viable cold fusion device, he was the laughing stock of the scientific community.  Cold fusion was a pathological science.  It had been proven false… completely impossible within the laws of physics.

Cold fusion had ruined the reputations of far more credentialed scientists than Russo.  Yet, Russo, the alchemist, dared to say his device converted nickel into copper producing self-sustaining energy.  There was a magical secret catalyst but how it happened was a mystery even to him.  He adamantly refused to submit his device to independent evaluation citing commercial confidences and past betrayals.  Yes, I’ll buy ten of those off you Leonardo.  Wouldn’t you?

Regardless, Russo managed to attract to his circus a small but vocal fan base of pumped-up idealists.  They dreamt of the limitless, free energy.  And they drooled over the democratization of “power” that this invention would inevitably deliver.  The corporations and regimes that currently maneuvered the energy lever for their own enrichment would hoard it no more.

He carried this fan base along for a year or so by having so-called public demonstrations of his LENR device.  Russo always declared these demonstrations successful.  His committed followers were spell-bound at the results but others pointed out the woeful lack of transparency and scientific methodology employed… a kettle would have done the job better and, for all they knew, it had.

Russo declared that he would demonstrate, in Bologna, a much larger one megawatt version for a secret customer. Notable persons would be invited to attend this auspicious occasion.  It would be all good.

Not more secrets Leonardo!  Many of Russo’s rusted-on backers began to tone down their hyperbole and move into the “cautiously optimistic” camp.

So it was, on a fresh October morning, in the city of Marconi and Maserati, twinned with Coventry and Portland, that a rag-tag bunch of thirty invitees, devotees and dour-dressed introverts bobbled slowly and independently over cobblestones to congregate at an industrial looking building.

They were received by Russo and ushered into an untidy shed-like enclosure where the one megawatt game-changer was hosted in a shipping container.

They stood around shifting their weight and rubbing their arms to keep warm.  Shortly before the scheduled test time, the assembled audience were astonished when the inimitable Layla, herself with arms folded and braced against the cold, joined them.  She nodded respectfully to the group at large before approaching each with a more intimate greeting.  Wow, nice one Leonardo.  He knew how to throw a party.  So, Layla was his secret customer.  And those independent testers… must be WCA people.  This must be real.


Russo, in his Italian manner, addressed the group deferentially but with passion before taking Layla aside.  Way too close to her ear, he confided something.  Layla listened awkwardly before shrugging and nodding optionless approval.  For technical reasons, the target of the days testing was to be halved… half a megawatt of self-sustaining energy.  It was as if Russo cried “Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp Shtick, right?”  His wide smile desperate and panicked.  Nodding and then nodding faster, Layla returned to the fold without the kind of enthusiasm you’d expect at this pivotal moment.

The WCA testers began.  The small crowd watched as Russo hopped around chicken style inspecting pipes and annoying the testers before being escorted under duress to a safe distance.

Not much went to plan.  Some gaskets leaked.  How was it possible that people who claim to have made the most amazing discovery in history could get the gaskets so wrong?  In plain sight another unaccounted for power source remained attached to the device throughout.  “To heat this area” Russo disclaimed, waving animatedly.

Well, if so it wasn’t working.  Still very chilly.  It was an amateurish production.  Not slick.  You could just about see the strings and wires holding the act together.   Layla looked uncomfortable.

And it was boring.  Time passed slowly as there wasn’t much to see.  If Russo was a scam artist surely he could provide some pizzazz.

After about 5 hours, Russo announced that enough time has passed and the test must end.  The testers turned off the device and without any high fives moved away to combine and finalise their data.  Russo thanked everyone for being there but insisted they should go now because the time had come to talk with Layla.  He would post the results as soon as he could.  The glum, sore and mostly disappointed guests sidled off… hopefully to sample some of Bologna’s more tangible wares.

What Next?

Layla went to an adjoining room with Russo.  A tester soon joined them.  She made a signal for the tester to state the outcome.  The tester self-consciously steadied his self.

“Well, yes, there was a lot of excess heat measured.  About the level of the amended target.”

And, losing his steadiness, he darted a look to Russo before fixing again on Layla.

“I’d have to say conditions weren’t perfect… for conclusive results.  There was quite a lot outside our control… so… question marks remain.  That other generator being there was… unfortunate.”

Layla thanked and excused the man. Russo hastily jumped in before she could address him.

“It does work.  Really!  Believe me.  But there are, aahmmm, instabilities.   We haven’t perfected the continuity of input energy for example.  Minor things Layla.  Minutiae. But we can’t say these things openly.  People don’t understand.”

After a pause.

“And the catalyst can be temperamental.  Sometimes we need to replace it with more conventional means… but it is only a matter of adjusting its consistency.  No problem really.”

And then Russo beseeched.

“What do you think Layla?”

Was this man a genius or deluded?  Both?  Very little added up.  Russo waited child-like.  So difficult.  Layla looked like she was analyzing the situation but really she didn’t have the smarts to begin to untangle the technicalities of this.  You’d have to say no and wish him well wouldn’t you? Come back a bit later mate when you’re a bit further on.  But she knew that was not going to happen.  She felt she had to bring him in under her tent despite this unconvincing performance.

Unbeknownst to Russo, there had been a wall of WCA security surrounding him for the past 6 months.  This was a response to intelligence received.  His brazen claim had roused a number of entities that saw danger in the man and his invention… true or not.  They wanted to eliminate this danger.

“Leonardo, God bless you.  This is a momentous moment.  An astounding achievement.  Let’s get this out there.”

She hugged him hard.  Russo reciprocated.

There was plenty of reaction when word got out that Layla was in league with Russo.  Politicians and lobbyists questioned her judgment and state of mind.

“Pitiful.  Is this the best she can do to distract us from the abject failure of her white elephants and her back-flip on ETs?  Fall into the arms of a recognized con-man? “

Those involved with alternative energy solutions were furious.  Why had she been taken in by this impossible gimmick?  Investment in reputable, clean energy sources would be decimated.  And what about the livelihoods of the people who had already invested so much in it?

Black Cat Production

Layla brought hundreds of the top Open Source scientists to Melbourne to polish up the LENR machine.  The large WCA manufacturing center in Leongatha just outside Melbourne was to focus completely on its production.  They named the machines “Black Cats”.

Within 3 months, there were enough large units to supply the Wonthaggi desalination plant.  A further 3 months and 2 product iterations later, Black Cat installations were providing the energy for Melbourne’s entire power grid.

The Melbourne trial, though miraculous, was roundly condemned by numerous unions and politicians due to the accompanying job losses and share price decimation of energy related companies, many of whom were a large component of people’s pension portfolios.

“The secret catalyst is obviously Pippy dust.  And we all know how unreliable Pippy is.”

But the cat was out of the bag and a number of WCA manufacturing centers around the globe went into production.  The designs to produce the Black Cats were released to all allowing some hope for the big energy companies to get into a vastly reduced energy market.  Russo and the WCA remained sole provider of the secret catalyst for long enough to become super rich.

Now just 3 years on, because of amazingly accelerated production and adoption, there are billions of the things in every shape, size and colour.  Even the world’s newly-clean centralized grids had to be decommissioned as smaller decentralized plants took over.  Wherever power was needed – residential, commercial, industrial, road, rail, air or sea – products built around Russo’s initial Black Cat design found a way to provide it.

We use much more energy now but it is bountiful and mobile – not scarce.  Energy is easy.  Cities are being built in deserts, on oceans, under oceans.

As swift and sudden as this transition was, the corporate old order didn’t take it lying down.   Armies, assassins and lobbyists were engaged.  But the most powerful military countries such as the US and China organized to ensure that disruptive opposition was snuffed out.

There was, after all, a net gain for them in an energy security that was so cheap and plentiful.  The equilibrium had changed such that some previously powerful structures could be removed from their decision making process.  Yes, a lot of dominoes are falling in this shifting balance of power.

Sadly, more than this scientific silver bullet was fired.  Last year, just before the opposition petered out, Russo’s private plane was brought down en route to Italy.  He joined many other people who were maliciously lost during the Black Cat rollout.

Following Russo’s State Funeral, a saddened Layla nudged Pippy and murmured

“He never fully knew how it worked you know.  No-one knows.”

Snuggled Pippy, a spirit on a high replied

“They’ll figure it out sometime.  But for now, I’m glad to have been of service.  This one, this one I could do.”


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