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April 15, 2019

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A friend of a friend reports from Paris:

Most of the movable treasures have been relocated safely.

One of the Rose windows is damaged, the others are (hopefully) OK.

So, not the worst possible. The spire is gone, but is actually relatively modern, 19 C.

My attachment to Notre Dame is as the home of the ars antiqua, the very very beginnings of European polyphony, which was the very very beginning of 900 years of European art music.

It is also just a brilliant example of French Gothic architecture. Those guys were geniuses.

I'm not, remotely, a Western Civilization chauvinist. The world is full of treasures. All of that said, Notre Dame is one of them, and its role in the flowering and formation of what became Europe cannot be overstated.

Best wishes to the French and especially to the folks doing their utmost to save what can be saved.

The medieval cathedrals took generations to build. I harbor a hope that the French will decide that it is worth making an effort to rebuild. (Probably go faster with modern logistical support. But I hope they maintain the traditional construction mode.)

Awful news in Paris. Glad so much was saved.

The Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem also burned today.

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2019/04/15/in-other-breaking-news-that-the-networks-didnt-carry-there-was-a-fire-at-the-al-aqsa-mosque-today-too/

For all kinds of reasons, the fire is an incredible tragedy.

My deep condolences to the French, and especially Parisians.

I tought of the Buddhist sculptures that were destroyed by the Taliban. Then I thought of the Mayan temples destroyed by time.

And Canterbury Cathedral, bombed in the war.

I belie the French will rebuild it and I believe they will make it a unifying effort of master craftspeople, working as closely as they can within tradition and this event will become part of Notre Dame's history.


If the experience is anything like York Minster, which was severely damaged by fire in the 80s, the rose windows, while intact, might need comprehensive restoration, as the glass is very likely to have cracked in the heat.

The Minster, which is quite glorious, is if anything improved since the fire.

Canterbury Cathedral was not restored, and the old medieval centre is now an ugly mix of ancient and not very well designed modern, surrounded by a misconceived inner ring road. The epitome of poor planning.

God, if she exists, seems to have no interest in stopping cathedrals from burning. Possibly she never liked the 19th-century spire anyway.

I harbor a hope that the French will decide that it is worth making an effort to rebuild.

As of a few hours ago, €600M had been publically pledged by various giant companies and individual billionaires.

Much of what burned was the 700-year-old oak support structure for the lead roof. I wonder if they'll wind up using something more contemporary and fire-resistant? It's not like the wooden structures were routinely visible.

I think rather they will do what has been done elsewhere, and treat the oak beams replacements with fire retardant, and fit sprinkler systems. But who knows at this point.

It was a close run thing, and the pompiers were heroic almost to th point of foolhardiness:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/16/notre-dame-came-15-to-30-minutes-close-to-complete-destruction

Interestingly, it has been suggested lessons had been learned from the Miinster fire, and avoided spraying water on the rose windows, the rapid cooling of which cause much of the damage to them in the York fire.

I wonder if they'll wind up using something more contemporary and fire-resistant [than oak]?

Although we have no data on how enduring some of those alternatives actually are. With oak, we know it will last for centuries.

There might be a problem sourcing all those tall (and therefore old) oak trees.

Well they did plant oaks at Versailles back in the 19thC specifically for that purpose, but they’re perhaps not ready yet.

Still, commendable long term planning.

But given how long cathedral projects take, those Versailles oaks may still be ready by the time they are needed.

The usual suspects are trying to persuade the deplorables that the Notre Dame fire was islamist arson. How utterly predictable.
Let me guess: the suspected arsonists are Qasi ibn Modo al Parisi and his Egyptian accomplice Esma om Meralda al Gudula.

The cost of church building in the high medieval period:
https://fau.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fau%3A1433/datastream/OBJ/view/How_much_did_Gothic_churches_cost_.pdf

Guesstimate around 20% of (local) GDP for a continuous period of 150 years....

And an interesting paper on the behaviour of sandstone under heating:
http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/112020/1/Sandstone%20IJPMG_Lintao%20et%20al_final.pdf

Which suggests that the bulk of the structure might be OK.

Some interesting items regarding Notre Dame and the firefighting protocol:

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2019/04/17/wednesday-morning-open-thread-notre-dame-is-still-there/

i've read that the 'Versailles oaks' thing is more myth than fact.

Yes, it sadly it likely is - and it seems to be a not uncommon one...
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2013/oct/02/david-cameron-oxford-college-trees-myth

Having said that, a large number of oaks were planted in the early nineteenth century, though primarily intended for future naval shipbuilding.

Clearly the French government, at least, is not planning on a meticulous historical recreation of what was there: Macron says they'll finish in five years, and the prime minister has announced an international competition for a new spire design.

Myself, I'd like to see them use the best of modern technology for the frame for the roof, with an eye towards ease of piece-by-piece replacement in the future, rather than do a modern approximation to the oak supports that burned. But that's just me.

a nice light but durable aluminum frame covered with Con-Tact™ brand Light Oak adhesive covering should be more than adequate to fool tourists.

Bummer, I have passed the Notre Dame hundreds of times, but have never been in there (didn't want to queue or get up really early, a bit like the Mona Lisa). Serves me right.

Parts of Twitter were at their best as the fire was burning. I saw firefighters and others with experience pointing out things most of us would have missed. Like, in those horrendous night-time shots of the whole roof on fire, the experts noted, the interior below the roof was very dark, with no flames behind or pushing through the windows. It was intellectually educational and emotionally darned good relief from fears of the very worst.

Notre dame will be rebuild.

The Great Barrier Reef will not. The forests of the Rockies will not. The jungles of the Amazon will not. We are enterining a period of mass exitinctions

All over the world the greatest monuments to creation are being destroyed and they will not be recovered ever.

All over the world the greatest monuments to creation are being destroyed and they will not be recovered ever.

This is true. But as sad and hopeless as everything is, we are just sitting around being miserable, and pretty much nothing else. (Obviously, we're voting for whomever, wherever.) Other people, in other times, for other causes, did other things. I have no idea how they did that.

Just saying.

But as sad and hopeless as everything is, we are just sitting around being miserable, and pretty much nothing else

There is a very good paper just published on the feasibility of a global 100% renewable energy system by 2050:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320934766_Global_Energy_System_based_on_100_Renewable_Energy_-_Power_Sector

It's a very long read, but on a quick skim, it looks as though their assumptions terms of the technology are far from heroic, possibly overly conservative.

One thing it does imply is quite a low marginal cost of energy, which would make other things like recycling more easily done economically.

Reading up on the remarkable French architect responsible for the last restoration of Notre Dame (and many of its gargoyles and grotesques), I came across this nice piece of irony:
"In such a project, one cannot act with too much prudence or discretion...A restoration may be more disastrous for a monument than the ravages of centuries..."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugène_Viollet-le-Duc

..A restoration may be more disastrous for a monument than the ravages of centuries..."

indeed.

my little town has a courthouse with a copper domed roof. copper being copper, it was looking old and tarnished and was starting to leak. so a few years ago they undertook a restoration project. this meant putting on a whole new copper cap - lots of soldering.

of course one of the workmen left his soldering iron on one evening and the courthouse roof burned up.

http://pboparks.blogspot.com/2010/03/pittsboro-nc-courthouse-fire.html

Regarding the Great Barrier Reef, I want to urge everybody to watch the doc "Chasing Coral"
on Netflix - it is truly heartbreaking and had a profound effect on me. It also offers some hope at the end.

https://www.chasingcoral.com/

...it looks as though their assumptions terms of the technology are far from heroic...

"Energy storage will meet nearly 23% of electricity demand and approximately 26% of heat demand. Batteries will emerge as the most relevant electricity storage technology and thermal energy storage emerges as the most relevant heat storage technology by 2050."

The costings seem to imply that battery storage will be hundreds of times cheaper than today. That strikes me as distinctly optimistic.

The costings seem to imply that battery storage will be hundreds of times cheaper than today. That strikes me as distinctly optimistic.

I suspect that they are looking at the trend in the cost of computer processors and computer storage in guessing what it possible. Certainly nobody, in the 1950s, would have dared guess how cheap (and how small!) a transistor would become over the next few decades.

I hope the analysis is better informed than that.

Here's something about the problems with reaching very high levels of renewable energy.

This is about projected storage costs.

Pro Bono, while the document on projected storage costs notes that battery cost are "falling rapidly", it's too bad that they didn't actually document how far and how fast they have been falling the past few years.

Costs had been essentially flat for decades, in no small part due to lack of demand for improvement. But the advent of electric cars has driven a great deal of work in the field in the past couple of years. As a result, battery capacity has gone up and costs have come down. Laying out just what the trends have been would have contributed a great deal to understanding just how much improvement could be expected over the coming decade.

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