Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cherry Blossoms

My mother-in-law typed up this memory on a manual Royal typewriter. She was 5 years old in 1923. When she visited Japan, it was the early 1950s.

Please check out her story at:

Photo from

Monday, May 25, 2009


Congratulations! We covered key points of the first two speakers of the the 2009 EntConnect conference. And it only took 12 blogs.

Time for a break? Here are some memorable quotes between speakers.

About entrepreneurs:
“My job is to make your money, my money.”

About email:

“Email is where knowledge goes to die.”

“Email is like popping popcorn without a lid.”

Next, blog we will take a short break from EntConnect.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

There must be an answer

Winston Churchill once said, “It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required.”

For the energy crisis, what is required?

The previous five blogs covered key points from Dr. Bartlett’s “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” speech at the 2009 EntConnect conference.

In summary,

(1) To find the doubling time for any percentage of steady growth, use this simple formula: 70 divided by the percentage (70/%). Hence, 7% steady growth per year equates to a doubling time of 10 years.

(2) We saw with the case of the doubling of grain on a chess board and the splitting bacteria in a jar, steady growth equates to huge escalations over short periods of time.

Simple arithmetic tells us that population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained. Understanding the consequences of growth, we can see trouble coming and take proactive action to avert disaster. Most important when acting early, we are more likely to control the factors to sustain living in an ethical and healthy way.

If we ignore the red flags, zero population growth will happen anyway. As we do nothing, factors, out of our control, will suppress life and promote death. The resulting human suffering could be incalcuable.

Space confines detailed solutions. Thoughtful community planning and education are a start. Exploring and developing renewable energy resources are another. And let’s not forget one of the most important factors, people who are willing to think.

Solomon expressed this timely wisdom:

A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it.
Proverbs 22:3
(New International Version)

On that spiritual note, instead of "In Growth We Trust" may we choose "In God We Trust" when we tackle our great challenges.

Related links:

EntConnect website:

Dr. Bartlett links:

Sir Winston Churchill link:

Photos from
Sir Winston Churchill:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Apocalypse Now?

Remember Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol when Ebenezer Scrooge offered his “final solution” to the poverty problem? “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”


In his “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” speech at the 2009 EntConnect conference, Dr. Bartlett regarded overpopulation as “The Greatest Challenge” facing humanity. If steady growth continues unchecked, zero population growth will happen, anyway, as we expend our non-rewable resources. High birth rates will drop and low death rates will rise until they are equal. How this happens may not be pretty.

What are our options to control population growth?

First, let’s look at some factors that promote overpopulation: motherhood, immigration, medicine, public health, sanitation, peace, law and order, scientific agriculture to produce more food, safety, clean air and water, etc. What we consider as good is bad because it makes the problem worse.

Now consider what curbs overpopulation: abstinence, contraception, abortion, small families, no immigration, diseases, war, murder, euthanasia, ethnic cleaning, violent crime, famine, accidents, disasters, pollution, smoking, AIDS, etc. Most of what we consider bad is good because it “decreases the surplus population.”

Good grief!

Dr. Bartlett regards sustainability as his “Great Challenge." “Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?”

He got me there.

How do we sustain living without unleashing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

There must be a way to promote a more pleasant outcome. And that will be the subject of the final blog on this topic.

EntConnect website:

Dr. Bartlett links:

Photos from
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Peak Oil

During the energy crisis, Peak Oil was quite the buzz in the blogosphere. Remember when gasoline approached, if not passed, $5.00 per gallon? The gnawing thought in the back of my brain is when gas will shoot up like that, again.

Dr. Bartlett articulated the Peak Oil concept during his “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” speech at the 2009 EntConnect conference. Actually, I first heard Dr. Bartlett’s lecture during the 1970s energy crisis and he still had many of those same charts. Key indicators pointed that, at a steady rate of consumption, the world’s oil production would peak, sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s. That is, like, now, and we are living on borrowed time.

As shown in the doubling of grain on the chess board, consumption during the next doubling period is always greater than all that of previous history. Therefore, even a modest growth of consumption can escalate very quickly.

At a convention of petroleum geologists and engineers in 1956, the late Dr. Hubbert presented his calculations that “the peak of US oil and gas production could be expected to occur between 1966 and 1971.” No one took him seriously then. Yet, the data from the Department of Energy showed that the actual peak was 1970, followed by a very rapid decline.

Professor Bartlett put forth his famous quote on the public perception of energy consumption: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

Remember the last blog of the splitting bacteria in the jar? Assume the world’s oil reserves equal the amount we have already used in the history of the planet.

What time is?


One more doubling time (10 years for 7% growth), the world’s oil reserve will be consumed.

As the legendary Chinese curse says – May we live in interesting times.

EntConnect website:

Dr. Bartlett links:

Photos from
Peak Oil:
Peaked Oil:

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's later than you think

It’s 11:00 PM. One bacterium sits alone in a jar. At 11:01 PM, the bacterium splits in two. Then these two bacteria split again at 11:02 PM, becoming four bacteria; then these four divide at 11:03 PM, becoming eight bacteria; and each resulting bacterium splits every minute until the jar is totally filled up at midnight.

When the jar is half full, what time is it?

11:59 PM.

It’s later than you think.

Assume you are a bacterium in this colony and you just realize your jar is a quarter full. Not to worry. The remaining open volume is triple the space of what your colony now occupies. Right?

What time is it?

11:58 PM.

Again, it’s later than you think.

The clock has struck midnight and your jar is completely full. Luckily, exploring bacteria have found another jar in which to continue growing and save your colony from decimation.

What time is it when your colony fills up the second jar?

12:01 AM.

But wait! A miracle happens. Two more jars suddenly materialize, an incredible volume of space for your ever growing colony. You are saved, again!

What time is it when your colony completely fills up these next two jars?

12:02 AM.

Dr. Bartlett drove home the overpopulation dilemma with this type of story at the 2009 EntConnect conference. In his “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” speeches over the years, he considers the greatest challenge facing humanity as overpopulation and promotes sustainable living.

Next time you read an article about a new housing growth rate of, say, 7% per year, consider this. When half the area of a desirable open space has been populated, what time it is?

11:59 PM.

Next doubling time, 10 years, the open space will be urban sprawl.

Joni Mitchell sang it best in “Big Yellow Taxi” – “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

EntConnect website:

Dr. Bartlett links:

Photos from
Bacteria in a petri dish:
Ticking clock:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Double Trouble

As writers strive to tell a good story, Dr. Bartlett retold this classic at the 2009 EntConnect conference to illustrate why sustainable growth is such an oxymoron.

In the 6th century AD, Indian King Balhait was concerned about the prevalence of gambling games based only on luck. He tasked his mathematician Sissa to create a game which would sharpen mental acuity and encourage virtue. Thus, the first game of chess was invented played on a 8 x 8 checkered board, totaling 64 squares.

So pleased with this new game, the king wished to reward his mathematician. Legend has it Sissa only asked for one grain on the first square of the board, then two grains on the second square, four on the third square, eight on the fourth square, etc., so that the next square doubled the amount of grain on the previous square till the board was filled.

This request seemed like a modest amount of grain, but the table below shows how this doubling scheme worked out.

-- Square # --Grain on Square -- Total # Grains--

------1 ------------- 1 ---------------------- 1 ----------
------2 ------------- 2 ---------------------- 3 ----------
------3 ------------- 4 ---------------------- 7 ----------
------4 ------------- 8 --------------------- 15 ----------
------5 -------------16 --------------------- 31 ---------
------6 -------------32 --------------------- 63 ---------
------n ---------- 2**(n-1) --------------- 2**n - 1 ------
------… -------------…-------------------------…--------
------64 --------- 2**63 ----------------- 2**64 - 1------

From the table we see the eight grains on the 4th square are more than the total of seven that are on the previous three squares. The 32 grains on the 6th square are more than the total of 31 on the previous five squares.

The trend is clear. The growth in any doubling time is greater than the total of all the preceding growth. So by the 64th square, the number of grains on the board is 18,445,744,073,709,551,515. That is 400 times the world wheat harvest in 1990 and possibly more wheat than humans have harvested in the entire history of the earth!

A modest percentage growth (7% growth per year, doubling time of 10 years as discussed in the previous blog) can equate to huge escalations over a short periods of time.

Double trouble? Just ask Captain Kirk. In the original Star Trek episode – The Trouble with Tribbles - those small furry creatures seemed to multiply without end!

For screenshot of Captain Kirk half-buried in Tribbles: click here

Dr. Bartlett links:

Chess links:
Origin of Chess:

Star Trek links:
Trouble with Tribbles, plot summary:
Screenshot of Captain Kirk half-buried in Tribbles:

Photos from
Ancient chess board:
Wheat grains:

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Numbers Game

Consider the two headlines:

(1) Violent Crime Doubled in 10 Years

(2) Violent Crime Grew 7% Per Year over Decade

Which is more alarming?

My gut reaction is that (1) is more troubling. While (2) does not present great news, it is nothing to get that excited about.

The second speaker at the 2009 EntConnect conference, Dr. Albert Bartlett explained the meaning of growth statistics in his presentation: "Sustainability 101: Arithmetic, Population and Energy." Dr. Bartlett, an emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has lectured on this topic over 1,600 times since September, 1969.

His message? Some very simple ideas about the problems we are facing are all tied together by arithmetic, and the arithmetic isn't very difficult.

For any entity growing at a steady rate, the doubling time T(double) = 70/(k%), where (k%) is the growth rate per unit time. (For you mathematical types, the derivation of this formula is done in the footnotes.)


Growth rate ------Doubling Time
--per year ------of Initial Quantity
----k%--------T(double) = 70/(k%)--

---1%------------- 70 years----------
---5%-------------14 years-----------
---7%-------------10 years-----------
--10% -------------7 years-----------
--35%------------- 2 years-----------
--70%--------------1 year------------

In headline (2), the growth rate is 7% per year. Therefore its doubling time is 70/7 = 10 years. We see both headlines (1) and (2) reflect the same statistic. Yet, how these statistics are presented impact the emotions of the reader differently.

The following blogs will look at using arithmetic to write with more clarity and more accurately decipher what we are reading.

Quiz time:

If you now have $1000 in your savings account at a 1% interest per year, what year will it be when it doubles to $2000?

(a) 2019
(b) 2034
(c) 2079
(d) Time to get a new bank account with a better interest rate.

Related links:

EntConnect website:

Dr. Bartlett links:



For the mathematically curious, to show this formula, T(double) = 70 / k%, was not pulled out of a hat:

N = number or quantity of an entity, such as a population, statistic, resource, etc …
dN = differential change in the number
k = a constant
dt = differential change in time
T(double) = the doubling time
k% = constant percent, that is k x 100

The exponential function of the size of something growing at a steady rate of k:

(1/N) dN/dt = k or dN/N = k dt

Using calculus to find the doubling of quantity N, integrate N from N to 2N, over time period 0 to T(double):

ln(2) = k T(double)
100 ln(2) = k% T(double)
T(double) = 100 ln(2) / k%

100 ln(2) = 69.3 or approximately 70

T(double) = 70 / k%