The New Materialist Radical Energy Proposal, Part 2: Interview With Kevin Mequet
I got to chat with Kevin about his big idea, philosophy, how science has been compromised by capitalism in some respects, and what it might take to test his theory, among other things. If anyone has further questions and is interested in discussing what is presented here, I know Kevin loves to answer questions, so please comment.
Me: So this is obviously pretty informal, my goal is just to ask questions that I have that clarify your theory in a way that I can explain it for friends who aren’t into science, although I have to say after going through the chapter a few times it gets clearer with each subsequent read.
KM: Excellent. That is the one thing most important to me. Fire away.
Me: Well just on a personal note of curiosity, how did you get into this work? Someone told me you don’t do this for a living?
KM: No. My training is architecture and I worked on projects around the globe. I’ve always maintained an intense interest in science and math. Einstein is a passion for me.
Me: Pretty incredible. And you have training in religion?
KM: Yes, I have studied at PSR GTU Berkeley with Bishop John Shelby Spong, who goes by Jack.
Me: So how did you get to know Clayton and Jeff and get linked up with the project?
KM: I moved to Conway to provide long-term care for my Mom. She had a medical incident in 2005 that threatened her live. So serendipity brought me back to AR. Clayton had just moved the year before to UCA. He and my Mom bonded over the Kerry campaign 2004.
I was searching for a project to occupy myself with I saw Roscoe Bartlett’s presentation on Hubbert and peak oil in 2006. I talked to Clayton about it and it turned out he was studying it too. Clayton heard a presentation on Spong and the Easter Moment where I used Heidegger in an intriguing way. We hit it off.
Me: was there a moment where you realized that traditional approaches were never going to work? Was there a catalyst of sorts that launched you out the box in order to think in such a novel way?
Me: Could you say a little bit about what philosophy has to offer the “hard” sciences? One thing about the chapter in the book is the linking of a continental philosopher with physics. Analytic philosophy seems to be the handmaiden of “science,” but rarely to you see someone like Deleuze talked about in the same breath as physics.
KM: That is the primary problem. Deleuze’s synthesis is not appreciated generally. Analytics presents a problem. It becomes a circular vortex of confirmation/disconfirmation bias shutting off new innovative thinking. I liken it to my experience at CommArts Boulder. First a good idea must be visualized then the execution must follow. Most people just jump to execution and cut off critical thinking.
Me: So the kind of creativity that comes with Deleuze’s view of philosophy, i.e. the creation of “concepts” that he talks about in “What is Philosophy” might be missing in other disciplines? A more positivistic view does seem to shut off innovation…
KM: Right, it’s self-reinforcing leading one further astray.
Philosophers are reading him analytically and missing him completely. Mathematicians and physicists can’t read his philosophy. With the exception of Manuel DeLanda who is an architect too, not coincidentally, I think.
Me: Could you say more about what they are missing?
KM: What they’re missing is what Dick Feynman said of Einstein. He did his greatest work when he was visualizing the problem first then working the math.
ME: Ok. So now to the theory. The chapter says that 19th century thermodynamics was only concerned with a specialized circumstance of equilibrium thermodynamics that lead to a steady state of heat. Could you clarify for those of us who were in remedial physics what equilibrium thermodynamics are?
KM: Deleuze visualizes the limitations of Platonic/Aristotlean dogma and proposed new ideas. Then those ideas could have an effect of influencing math and physics if they would listen. That’s a big problem. In the laboratory mechanical engineers were interested in making better steam engines. So early physicists were universalizing that work in inappropriate ways that led to the false conclusions of ‘disorder’ and heat death. Earth systems and the universe are diverse processes of energy flow far from equilibrium or steady state or death.
Me: So scientists were lead astray it seems via capitalism, more efficient engines for transportation and commerce and that lead the entire discipline away from seeing earth systems in an appropriate way?
KM: Exactly so, Bo. The key insight is that all systems tend from a gradient to reduce it by the most efficient means. This is what the Principle of Least Action is all about. Spontaneous structure formation to most efficiently degrade gradients. Self-organization and Nature Abhors a Gradient.
Me: Can we get back to Deleuze? What do you mean that he figured this out in 1968? You mean when in D&R he talked about the world as an “egg”?
KM: Sort of. The chapter #5 Asymmetrical Synthesis of the Sensible is not understood or appreciated to the degree it should be. He did all the non-equilibrium thermodynamics above in the chapter but well before the nomenclature and work existed.
Me; So about the two major problems you attempt to solve in this chapter. Essentially, ferromagnetic materials need a magnetic driver to be paramagnetized, or made magnetic, above the curie temperature?
KM: Well, yes, but with caveats of course. There are serious caveats because the fields or material physics, condensed matter physics and quantum state physics, are evolving as we speak.
Ferromagnetism is the property of an element to become conventionally magnetized and retain that magnetism. I just want to be careful here because it sounds like science fiction and could be dismissed as such.
Me: Why is the earth’s core and mantle paramagnetized and ordered, not jumbled and what is the natural process that does this?
KM: This is where the storm in a bottle experiment is helpful. This is my favorite one because it communicates across disciplines and generations.
Me: And I see how the “nature abhors a gradient” / principle of least action plays here.
KM: The interior of the earth is not static like an experiment in the lab. Just like equilibrium thermodynamics in the lab isn’t what’s happening in the world.
Me: So the mantle/core materials are in motion just dozens of storms in a bottle?
KM: Right. Huge siphon structures organizing the magnetic moments.
and entropy is much different at that scale than in a lab. The nuclear element decay chains are heating the materials and paramagnetizing them too. First, during planet formation in the solar nebular phase there’s a transition from heat/collision agglomeration into gravity well formation and accretion.
Me: What causes the transition?
KM: For the inner rocky, or ‘geo,’ planets, the first one to get to the gravity accretion phase sucks up the lion’s-share of heavy elements in the solar nebular disc
Accumulation of materials related to volume of that accumulation.
Our contention is that Earth reached that transition first and gobbled up the majority share of fertile/fissile materials in the so-called terrestrial zone. We talk about this in the book.
During formation most of the heat is generated by collision and gravity well compression. Lots of heat but very little from the nuclear decay chains. That happens later.
Earth was spinning much faster and closer to sun during this phase. When a crust began forming 500 million years later that blanket began insulating the heat inside trapping it. It’s at this time the siphons begin forming, the decay chains start interacting and internal heating transfers from majority compression to minority compression — majority nuclear decay chain interactions.
Today compression/insulation accounts for 48% of heating. Nuclear decay chain interactions 52%, the rotation of Earth keeps the siphons spinning
Me: Ah like the bottle experiment…
KM: Just like the boy rotating the bottles a bit at right angle to the vertical axis of rotation of the syphon, yes!
Me: ok, we have lots of these huge siphons creating about half the heat?
KM: While all this is happening the materials are also paramagnetized by the same interactions — side and VERY important benefit.
Me: paramagnetized by the siphons, not the compression/insulation?
KM: The siphons don’t create the heat. They are resultant from the heat/density gradients.
The siphons self-organize the paramagnetism into a coherent global dipole effect that evolves over time. Vast time.
Me: Ok, so compression/insulation creates all the incredible heat, but incredibly powerful siphons are formed to correct the gradients that such compression causes? And if the siphons are organizing the paramagnetism, what is it again that is responsible for its
creation in the first place?
KM: Perfect. You now have the exact chicken-&-egg scenario. Hard to distinguish what happened first. Coincident happenings. Interrelated and interdependent
Me: ok. so curie temperature means the core is way too hot for magnetism, but somehow, the material was paramagnetized around the time of these siphons form…
KM: Ferromagnetism, yes.
Me: which are a product of the heat and the abhorrence of gradients created by all of that heat and pressure
KM: Yeah. That’s right. But they have been evolving. Remember the pole reversals?
KM: I have an animated pole reversal in the ppx to illustrate. And images of computer modeled siphons too.
It might be possible to engineer my generator to take advantage of the pole reversal as an alternating current format.
Me: Ok but this brings us to radioelectromagnetism which doesn’t behave like electromagnetism and produces the paramagnetism?
KM: Yes. Exactly right.
Me: Ok, so that would be the second problem, the natural process that electrifies the magnetohydrodynamic materials. Without the siphons the paramagnetism would cancel out — not global magnetic dipole
Me: So the mistake is thinking all of this in terms of electricity and not the magnetism given off by certain nuclear events?
KM: Yes. Fissile/Fissionable/Fission elements are spontaneously unstable, only U235 and Pu239.Fertile materials are almost but not quite unstable. All other nuclear elements and isotopes. There can be no electricity in the interior of the earth because of the heat. And iron is very poor piezoelectric material. Piezoelectricity is the property of an element to carry an electric current.
KM: Meaning another process is at work that doesn’t behave like electromagnetism. That’s what Feynman & Gell-Mann’s Theory of the Fermi Interaction is all about. Substitute electromagnetism for radioelectromagnetism. Clayton wouldn’t let me get that technical in the book! Every nuclear interaction produces a pack of ‘strange’ magnetism > paramagnetism, by nuclear decay means.
Me: And scientists missed that before because of theories of electromagnetism and not radioelectromagnetism? The connection between nuclear decay and magnetism was overlooked?
KM: Radioelectromagnetism is mine if things go well. I give full credit to Feynman/Gell-Mann! Exactly right. Overlooked. For 55 years.
Me: so these nuclear decays are always happening in the materials of the earth’s mantle and core? Because they’re so hot? Or does it have to do with the gradient
KM: They decay chains are making the heat and density gradient.
Me: Gotcha. So what kind of resources would be necessary to create the kind of model you talk about at the end of the chapter? What are the practical ways forward?
KM: A few labs with robotic manipulation for crafting radio armatures. A couple of year to prototype test the idea. Need to get buy-in from a couple of universities and entrepreneurs, push both directions. Strangely enough, the very thermal nuclear powerplants we’ve been building for more than 60 years, now approaching decommissioning would make excellent candidates for testing and eventually manufacturing these very generators. Don’t forget. When the fertile elements are converted the unit needs to be refurbished to put the new fissile elements into new fertile-converting generators. One can easily see the benefits of pursuing this technology. We can clean up the previous technology’s mess as we introduce an improved way to generate electricity going forward.