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World Energy 2.0

by melo Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 06:11:02 AM EST

Bob asked me to make a couple of comments in the open thread into a diary, so here are some quotes and pix from these web pages to get the ball rolling...

Matthias Loster

Solar power systems installed in the areas defined by the dark disks could provide a little more than the world's current total primary energy demand (assuming a conversion efficiency of 8 %). That is, all energy currently consumed, including heat, electricity, fossil fuels, etc., would be produced in the form of electricity by solar cells.

From the diaries (with format change) ~ whataboutbob & Jérôme


The colors in the map show the local solar irradiance averaged over three years from 1991 to 1993 (24 hours a day) taking into account the cloud coverage available from weather satellites.

Solar irradiance data

The spatially resolved solar irradiance is calculated with an algorithm developed by Bishop and Rossow [1] based on data made available through the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) [2] which provides calibrated data collected by geostationary weather satellites around the world. The solar irradiance shown is a three year average from 1991 to 1993 and provides the total irradiance in a grid of 2.5° spacing in lattitude and longitude.

All data points are plotted in orthogonal lattitude and longitude coordinates. In consequence, distances, areas, and angles are increasingly distorted towards the poles. The coastline overlay was obatined from the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) [3].

Land areas

Photovoltaic systems installed in the areas indicated by the dark disks on the map would produce an average electric output of 18 TWe, i.e. 3 TWe each when assuming a conversion efficiency from incident sunlight to electricity of 8 %. This corresponds to an energy output of 13,567 Mtoe per year (world total primary energy supply (TPES) in 2003: 10,579 Mtoe [4]). The following table lists the locations in the map to give an idea of land area requirements and availability, although the particular scenario shown is suboptimal for many political and technical reasons.

Location / DesertDesert Size /km2 [5]Irradiation /W m-2Area required km2
Africa, Sahara9,064,960260144,231
Australia, Great Sandy388,500265141,509
China, Takla Makan271,950210178,571
Middle-East, Arabian2,589,910270138,889
South America, Atacama139,860275136,364
U.S.A., Great Basin492,100220170,455

then there was this beauty...

this is how much african desert it'd take to power....a whole bunch of stuff

[Wikipedia]

The DESERTEC Concept

For illustration: Areas of the size as indicated by the red squares would be sufficient for Solar Thermal Power Plants to generate as much electricity as is currently consumed by the World, by Europe (EU-25) and by Germany respectively. (Data provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), 2005)

Satellite-based studies by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have shown that, using less than 0.3% of the entire desert areas of the MENA region, Solar Thermal Power Plants can generate enough electricity to supply current demands in EU-MENA, and anticipated increases in those demands in the future. In addition, it has potential to alleviate shortages of fresh water in the MENA regions. The trade winds of southern Morocco may be harnessed to generate additional supplies of electricity. Clean electricity can be transmitted via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines throughout EU-MENA with overall transmission losses that would be no more than 10-15%. The Club of Rome and TREC are both supporting this DESERTEC concept of putting technology and deserts into service for energy, water and climate security. Countries like Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and the United Emirates have already shown a strong interest in this kind of cooperation.

The Technology

Sketch of a parabolic trough collector. (A simplified alternative to a parabolic trough concentrator is the linear Fresnel mirror reflector.)

The best solar power technology for providing secure capacity is Solar Thermal Power Plants (also called Concentrating Solar Thermal Power, CSP). They use mirrors to concentrate sunlight to raise steam and generate electricity. Excess heat from additional collectors can be stored in tanks of molten salt and then be used to power the steam turbines during the night, or when there is a peak in demand. In order to ensure uninterrupted service during overcast periods or bad weather, the turbines can also be powered by oil, natural gas or biomass fuels. An interesting by-product that can be a great benefit to the local population is that waste heat from the power-generation process can be used to desalinate seawater and to generate thermal cooling.

With the technology of High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) power, transmission losses can be limited to only about 3% per 1000 km. The better solar radiation in North Africa outweighs by far the transmission losses across the Mediterranean of 10-15% to Europe. Although hydrogen has in the past been proposed as an energy vector, this form of transmission is very much less efficient than HVDC transmission lines.

snip

Capacity, Costs & Space:

Possible indicators of the total EU-MENA High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) interconnection and Concentrating Solar Thermal Power (CSP) plants from 2020 - 2050 according to the TRANS-CSP scenario.

The technologies that are needed to realise this concept are already fully developed and have been in use for decades. HVDC transmission lines up to 1.5 GW capacity have been utilized for many years by ABB and Siemens. If more power is to be transmitted, more than one line can be used. At the World Energy Dialogue 2006 in Hanover, Germany, both companies have confirmed that the implementation of a Trans-Mediterranean energy cooperative is, technically, not a problem at all.

Solar Thermal Power Plants such as, for example Parabolic Trough Power Plants, have been in use commercially at Kramer Junction in California since 1985. Further solar power plants are actually planned or in construction e.g. in Nevada and Spain, with German, Spanish and US companies playing a major role. Solar Thermal Power Plants can generate electricity in the deserts of MENA at all times of the day and night, throughout the year. The DLR has calculated that, if Solar Thermal Power Plants were to be constructed in large numbers in the coming years, the estimated cost (including transmission cost) will come down from 9-22 EuroCent/kWh to about 5 EuroCent/kWh.

In order to establish, by 2050, a transmission grid and a capacity of 100 GW of exportable solar power, over and above the domestic needs of Sunbelt countries, the required governmental financial support would be less than 10 billion Euros. Given that level of support for feed-in regulations, the construction of the solar power plants and the necessary transmission grid would very soon be attractive to investors, both private and public. The total investment that would be needed would be about 400 billion Euros over 30 years. An exact investment forecast for the TRANS-CSP scenario has been researched by the DLR.

seems like we need a G35 meetup to agree to do something like this.

i bet they wouldn't need to surround the meeting with billions of euros of thugsecurity either...

sheesh, there'd probably be billions of muslims carrying flowers...

can you imagine, crowds of people, coming to celebrate the good, humane decisions those with the most responsibility, our so-called leaders were making?

 what a world that would be...

Poll
do you think it's going to be up to us to pull our leaders' heads out of the sand?
. yes, waiting for pigs to get their heads out of the trough long enough to save a biosphere is naive and unpragmatic 76%
. no, someone else will always do it. 0%
. nah, just build more nukes 7%
. we'd be better off studying up how to live like bushmen, pass that solar-baked maggot casserole, it sure looks tasty 0%
. don't bother me, i'm busy beefing up my denial about global warming 7%
. no, i want big brother to guide and arbiter my subservient relationship with the electric grid for ever and ever, amen 7%

Votes: 13
Results | Other Polls
Display:
any gnomish html guru want to disappear that space please, i tried, but no luck, duck.

or better, tell me how to fix it meself!

cheers!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 03:19:51 PM EST
Did my best with it, me duck. The table was full of line breaks and spaces that needed stripping out, but I doubt if you actually typed them in, so it must be the way the software decided to handle things. Computers taking over etc... Probably sulking now... :-)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:05:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks afew, i appreciate it.

i c&p'd, dipping my toes into the wonder of html...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 04:09:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, Melo!! This is excellent!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 05:10:10 PM EST
Given the choices I just couldn't resist voting in a politically incorrect way. I'm sorry I didn't mean it.

On a practical note: What happens with cloud cover or sand storm? Do we get world-wide blackouts? What type of overcapacity must be built to realistically handle the world's demand for electricity being met by solar? If we have a major volcanic eruption do we go without electricity for a year?

I am assuming that we also would need transatlantic cables. What type of power loss would that entail?

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 07:32:41 PM EST
i don't have the link any more, but i read recently that the underwater cable is not a problem.

as for cloud cover, i think that area wishes it had more clouds, and sandstorms would undoubtedly be an issue.

i hope someone kicks in here with some more facts,

if we have a major volcanic eruption we could have all sorts of problems, isn't that a bit like worrying about nuclear sites built on geological fault lines?

while the links and images sounded authoritative, i, most assuredly, am not.

i will hopefully learn more from others here.

if not, bob's happy anyway, and while i didn't offer much, i do think the material needs to be seen and possibly debunked, or disseminated more widely.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 08:11:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For volcanic eruptions and the long winters that follow...we have nuclear...which would have to be underground, with all of us lot...at least our food would have to be...or else protected from the elements by huge greenhouse constructions...enough to feed everyone.

Which is a great boon--that we are developing nuclear, I mean, if we're thinking long term.

But before the next big explosion...my tech. question would be: what kind of material resources are needed to build these huge solar power stations?  Are all the materials around at adequate levels?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 08:23:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I definitely find the topic fascinating. I'm quite happy this post went up.

When I was talking large volcanic eruption I guess I was thinking Mount Pinatubo size or something. I think we had a maximum 3 days without rain that summer and the wheat rotted in the fields because it was too wet to harvest.

I find the thought of having a backup system - nuclear power to be an odd type of redundancy. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of getting your energy from solar - if you already have nuclear why bother with solar?


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 09:08:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was talking large volcanic eruption I guess I was thinking Mount Pinatubo size or something. I think we had a maximum 3 days without rain that summer and the wheat rotted in the fields because it was too wet to harvest.

Mount Pinatubo had a Volcanic Explosicity Index of 6. 200 years ago there was an eruption with a volcanic explosivity index of 7, at Mount Tambora:

Tambora erupted in 1815 with a rating of seven on the Volcanic Explosivity Index; the largest eruption since the Lake Taupo eruption in AD 181. The explosion was heard on Sumatra island (more than 2,000 km or 1,200 mi away). Heavy volcanic ash falls were observed as far away as Borneo, Sulawesi, Java and Maluku islands. The death toll was at least 71,000 people, of which 11,000-12,000 were killed directly by the eruption; most authors estimated 92,000 people were killed but this figure is based on an overestimated calculation. The eruption created global climate anomalies; 1816 became known as the Year Without a Summer because of the effect on North American and European weather. Agricultural crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century.
The Year Without a Summer, also known as the Poverty Year or Eighteen hundred and froze to death, was 1816, in which severe summer climate abnormalities destroyed crops in Northern Europe, the American Northeast and eastern Canada[1][2]. Historian John D. Post has called this "the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world."
I wonder whether John D. Post used the fact that this was the "last subsistence crisis" as an argument to demonstrate the wonders of industrial capitalism, or to underline that a single natural event can cause widespread economic hardship through crop failure.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 04:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, sorry if I came across as snappy.  I'd put your question the other way round:

If you have solar (all it needs is maintenance), why bother with nuclear.  The long winter scenario is a reason for maintaining nuclear development, but my thought is that nuclear power stations demand certain things from society that solar power stations don't, so I'd rather see nuclear as part of a long-term "worst case" development plan (linked to trans-national university research depts.--something like that) rather than a day-to-day (nation state) working policy.

Maybe I mean that solar is scaleable and, linked to wind and wave tech., can produce energy from the one-person unit up, whereas nuclear needs a state to start with...or sommat!

I went at a tangent to super volcanoes because I was recently reading about the toba catstrophe theory, which suggests that we are all related to the 10,000 humans who survived, and 75,000 years...is a long time ago, but not all that long...

...was my point.  Sorry if I came across negatively!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:12:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Solar is down-scaleable and mobile, compared to nuclear and even wind.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:15:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're talking a solar thermal using a steam cycle, not so much.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 10:53:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
jeez, that's a sinister projection...

mankind surviving in subterranean nukepowered bunkers.

to emerge, grublike, decades later into a mars-scape...

have a nice day!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 04:36:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not a projection, it's contingency planning.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:15:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Should we station nukes in space for the contingency of a comet heading for the Earth?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:58:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think either "solution" can be deployed on a relatively short notice.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 06:04:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When the big blow happens, we're gonna need caves, extra-terrestrial homelands, or....?

Coz something big will probably happen in the next 100,000 years or so.

I don't find the "underground living" idea inherently sinister.  It could just as likely be "spaceship earth" but where we've built human-satisfying living environments (I know, unlikely!)...a sort of state of the art "arc" project.

Also, I don't imagine that we'd re-enter to a mars-scape; I'd expect plenty of plants to survive.  It's more a case of making sure that the plants we eat are--the seeds are--available for when the sun's back.

"grublike"--all covered in dirt!

I'm imagining underground gardens!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:18:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, I've now come up with a better idea.

Retractable greenhouses!

When we get the warning that the volcano is about to blow, we all push our respective buttons (and those living nearby get on the already-laid-on transport)...and

Whoooooosh!

The greenhouse covers roll over our terrains, like the covers at...yes!...Wimbledon when it starts to rain.

Coz as someone (Dodo?) wrote,

"Their is not a significant drop in solar radiation"

or words to that effect....

So greenhouses...with retractable roofs...on a worldwide scale...

...harnessed to renewable energy...plated with the latest in solar technology...

...Here's a silicon crystal...



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 07:46:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We'd kill ourselves in a nuclear war before we are hit by a mega-volcanic-explosion, I'd think. Or colonise Mars. Or invent a way to stop the erruption...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:57:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope you're not right about the nuclear war(s).

Interesting quake by quake info from Yellowstone here:

http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/

http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/2006/uplift.html

Imagine the tech needed to calm a supervolcano!  Huge shafts to release the pressure?  Sinks to pour the magma down?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 07:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wonderful ... Desertec (and by other names) has been a thing that I've been reading of as a promising possibility for something like 30 years. ...

It is about time we move from the promising possibility to the budding reality.

One of the real benefits of CSPs (and other solar systems) is that the electricity generation doesn't need to wait until the entire system is built. Every section built (perhaps rated in 100s of kilowatts) can start sending power into the grid (HVDC or otherwise) immediately.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Sun Jun 24th, 2007 at 10:06:55 PM EST
if the obscene amounts of moola being spent on killing and 'pacifying' iraquis were instead used to set up desertec, we'd have a good chunk up and running, i bet.

it would be the most concrete way of showing our good and democratic intentions viz a viz foreign policy and resource respect.

and it quite graphically shows up the difference between waging peace and the usual rampant destruction we have become used to as a daily diet, purtroppo.

thanks for the positive comment, adam.

i trust your experience.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 04:07:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if the obscene amounts of moola being spent on killing and 'pacifying' iraquis were instead used to set up desertec, we'd have a good chunk up and running, i bet.

But where's the fun in that? Being in power means proving you're the biggest dick around, and no one can do anything about it.

This solar crap - it's just boring compared to another war, you know?

More seriously, I'm looking for technical nitpicks in the Desertec plans, and I can't find any. The only worry I can see would be political vulnerability - it would make sense to build more than one station for both political and physical stability.

Otherwise it seems like a luminously (sorry...) sane idea.

The real issues, as always, are political. Big oil and especially OPEC would rather murder the designers than have something like this happen.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yeah it's fun to drive around all carefree-like...

who gives a monkey's about how it got in the tank?

we might just have to redefine 'fun'.

murder the designers.....might as well add them to the list.

can't spoil the funbiz, can we?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 01:20:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remain sceptical of mega-projects. First, such concentration makes supply vulnerable, some reasons were named by edwin (I note BTW that the sunlight reduction caused by volcanic eruptions is minor: a few percents of blocked sunlight are enough to change the climate.) Second, such concentration is also a concentration of power, and don't bet on it not being wielded for political reasons. Third, solar power is so plentiful that we could concentrate on rooftop installations. Fourth, to reduce vulnerability, it's best to have multiple sources -- if beyond solar, you have wind, geothermal, wave where available, small hydro, air and hydro pumped storage, and link it up all over large distances, then some intermittent source will always give power.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:54:55 AM EST
I am entirely in agreement with your points on concentration and risk.

I read melo's piece more as a striking indication of what can be achieved with existing technologies. If the world goes for a portfolio of options, as you prudently suggest, then there is no technical barrier for our economies to become carbon-neutral in less than 50 years.

It is amazing that we our political establishment is talking about 25% reductions in the same timeframe as if it is a stretch goal...

Orthodoxy is not a religion.

by BalkanIdentity (balkanid _ at _ google.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 09:16:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's solar thermal they're talking about.  Big is better, from an efficiency standpoint.  Covering the desert with PVs instead of mirrors is still outrageously expensive.  And considering how PVs are made, they will probably never get that cheap.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 10:48:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Big is better, from an efficiency standpoint.

That depends on what type of solar thermal power you want to build. If you build a tower of power model I agree that bigger is better but if you go for parabols or parabolic trays there are size limitations that make a decentralized approach resonable. With solar thermal panels size is not an issue really so you can have a large or a small structure.

Agree about the PVs.

And welcome to ET!

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 01:27:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French Themis Solar Plant to be restarted after 20 years unused:

http://www.lefigaro.fr/sciences/20070604.FIG000000145_la_deuxieme_vie_de_la_centrale_solaire_themis. html

La deuxième vie de la centrale solaire Thémis
De notre envoyée spéciale à Perpignan CAROLINE DE MALET.
 Publié le 04 juin 2007

 Fermée il y a vingt ans, elle est réhabilitée pour produire de l'électricité et y poursuivre des recherches.

L'HISTOIRE de la centrale solaire Thémis, inaugurée par EDF en 1983 à Targasonne près de Font-Romeu et fermée en 1986, aurait pu être définitivement close de­puis vingt ans. À l'époque, ce projet avait été abandonné lorsque l'opérateur avait réalisé, après avoir investi presque autant que dans une centrale nucléaire, que la production d'électricité d'origine solaire n'était pas rentable en période de pétrole bon marché.

[...]

by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:57:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 03:57:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that's very true, dodo.

i also wonder if setting up all this infrastructure...giant boilers, basically, over in africa to power our electric kettles over here....has something more than slightly absurd about it.

it's still vastly superior to what we have now, and what our leaders are suggesting so feebly.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 01:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See how the entire contiguous US is green or better, while in Europe only the Mediterranean basin is?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:57:25 AM EST
The US has more of both the wind and solar resource. But Europe still has enough for itself, if well developed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 06:00:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Besides Dodo's problem of concentration. I ahve two question I ahve no clue about. what about material .. is there enough material to supply those megaprojects right now and the extra inputs coming from the growth in the sector in the last year?

And do desert storm influence the luminescence? The presence of clouds is not really a big problem.. but the presenc of solid particles? Is it a problem?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 06:44:29 AM EST
I imagine sandstorms can wreak havoc on the surface of the solar panels themselves. Would they be usable afterwards?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 06:49:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Protection can be very good... although it coudl make it a little bit more expensive... but I do not know the state of the art on this issue.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 10:16:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in his prison diaries, while doing time in western china in the 80s for his part oin the democracy wall movement in 78-79. a couple solar farms out in qinghai could power a lot of homes that currently use coal. ditto for wind power on the flat and blustery north china plain.
by wu ming on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 02:40:50 PM EST
mirrors, boilers and simple turbines don't require very heavy tech -- you could build one in your back yard actually;  I know some off-grid types who use a big parabolic reflector for cooking in the summer.  neat to see it silently boiling water, or at a slightly less intense focal range slow-cooking soup.

have you ever vaporised a penny with a big Fresnel?  serious fun :-)  and a reminder of the incredible power output of our only safe nuclear source (the sun).

I think there's a case for large to midsize plants for powering concentrations of habitation and transport, and a case for ubiquitous rooftop and back yard installations as backup and for extra power;  could imagine a scenario in which the state guarantees X hours of power per diem, plus keeping the trains and subways running, and if you want more than that you can   put up your own windrotor or sundish...

I've been thinking that "golden retriever" is actually a pretty good icon for solar power -- sunlight being kind of golden, and all that.

when ya think about it there are few locales that won't yield power from at least 2 renewable sources.  in the desert you can't do hydro but you can do wind and solar;  in the arctic you can do wind, solar, and wave depending on the season;  and so on.

but this idea of tailoring energy generation to local conditions contradicts the industrial mania for "one size fits all" and imposing standardised top-down solutions regardless of local conditions.  the Cult of the Three Ring Binder may be our second most dangerous religion, right after the Cult of the Cornucopia.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 05:35:10 PM EST

hey, i think you might be onto something there, de!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 09:32:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sun, a "safe" power source? I've been reading on red giants and that kind of thing, and the sun is our only power source that promises to eventually destroy our planet, unless we can feed it enough hydrogen...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 05:39:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't even work long. More hydrogen = faster burning, more radiated power, and shorter lifetime than with fewer hydrogen. The stuff that can extend the life of a star, would be pumping out the accumulated helium (make it lighter, to reduce pressure and hydrogen burn rate).

But I think any super-advanced techno-civilisation will be able to move to a different star much earlier (and will find it more cost-effective and low-risk.

Anyway, note that the sun gives us 4+ billion years, not the biggest threat to the solar system. In 2-3 billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide. This will result in tremendous shock waves in the interstellar gas, comets falling from every star's oort clouds into the inner star systems, creation of new young & massive stars and subsequent supernovae (which sterilize space in a radius of 30 l.y), ejection of some pieces of galactic arms into new satellite dwarf galaxies, etc, etc

Most inhabitable star systems will go through a period of chaos at this time. But I certainly won't be there to watch.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andromeda-Milky_Way_collision

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 06:33:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been suggested that the galactic disk is a hazardous place to live and that advanced civilisations might decide to relocate to a globular cluster in the halo. However, the halo is generally of low metallicity.

Even a slow-travelling civilisation can colonise the galaxy in 1M years or so.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 06:50:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but it's the Fermi paradox: where are these advanced civilizations ?

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 08:11:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. in the halo
  2. they chose not to colonise the galaxy
  3. they are keeping us in quarantine
  4. they're too advanced for us to detect them
  5. they are on their way
  6. their colonies are too sparse for us to have detected them; or they don't have outposts within 100lyr of Earth so they haven't been able to pick up our first radio programs; or within 50lyr of Earth so they haven't had time to reply
  7. we could be the first


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 08:25:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
   1. in the halo

Why go to the allow if you won't find enough CHON there ? Even a slow moving civilization could anticipate bad changes in each star system and move, possibly even in a coalescing galaxy

   2. they chose not to colonise the galaxy

This amounts to slow suicide: all H1 stars go extinct after a few billion years. OK, may be theirs hasn't yet pushed them out of home.

   3. they are keeping us in quarantine

possibly.

   4. they're too advanced for us to detect them

possibly, but still, if they have bio-formed many worlds, lots of planets in the galaxy should exhibit the spectral signature of life (e.g. oxygen and photosynthetically reduced elements). And we will soon be able to detect and analyze many of these exoplanet specters. Time for a surprise ?

   5. they are on their way

highly improbable. as you noted, the "way" lasts 1M years. We have been around for about the same time, on a planetary life of 4By. For the two to coincide is far fetched.

   6. their colonies are too sparse for us to have detected them; or they don't have outposts within 100lyr of Earth so they haven't been able to pick up our first radio programs; or within 50lyr of Earth so they haven't had time to reply

They would certainly be sparse. See 4. However, note that nobody gets detected by radio signals in space, unless they want to. This is a point I have never seen addressed in discussions of the Fermi paradox: signal processing tells us that the best use of comm spectrum is with "spread spectrum" modulations, which incidentally are "steganographic" by design - the signal-to-noise ratio is <1 at every point in the spectrum, and you cannot demodulate if you don't know it's here and the key used by the emitter.

The time from no-wave civilization (19th century) to spread spectrum civilization (now in used in 3G, Wifi "n", Wimax, etc... in a form that is still detectable, but even that won't last) is just a negligible radio "blip".

As a civ' advances, it will try to max out its comm bandwidth, which will have the side effect of making all of its comms perfectly "stealth". They can only be detected because of oxygen in their atmosphere, or because they use Arecibo-like beacons. And some claim advertising biocompatible worlds like this might not be very prudent...

   7. we could be the first

Worrying.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:24:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
2. they chose not to colonise the galaxy

This amounts to slow suicide: all H1 stars go extinct after a few billion years. OK, may be theirs hasn't yet pushed them out of home.

You could say that colonising is a way of hedging your civilisation's survival chances against unforeseeable planetary risks. And, also, if someone else decided to colonise after you decided not to, you'll be overwhelmed by the time you figure out what's happening.
4. they're too advanced for us to detect them

possibly, but still, if they have bio-formed many worlds, lots of planets in the galaxy should exhibit the spectral signature of life (e.g. oxygen and photosynthetically reduced elements). And we will soon be able to detect and analyze many of these exoplanet specters. Time for a surprise ?

That qualifies as still too advanced, but maybe not for long. However, finding planets with life (i.e., atmospheric signatures very far from thermal equilibrium) doesn't mean finding intelligent life.
6. their colonies are too sparse for us to have detected them; or they don't have outposts within 100lyr of Earth so they haven't been able to pick up our first radio programs; or within 50lyr of Earth so they haven't had time to reply

They would certainly be sparse. See 4. However, note that nobody gets detected by radio signals in space, unless they want to. This is a point I have never seen addressed in discussions of the Fermi paradox: signal processing tells us that the best use of comm spectrum is with "spread spectrum" modulations, which incidentally are "steganographic" by design - the signal-to-noise ratio is <1 at every point in the spectrum, and you cannot demodulate if you don't know it's here and the key used by the emitter.

You can detect radio signals coming from Earth even if you don't know how to decypher them. As radio and TV start becoming digital and stop being broadcast (cable used instead) we're increasingly deploying wireless communication devices. I think the power radiated by earth is still increasing. The question is whether that's enough to show up against the sun's spectrum. But if we can see extrasolar planets, so can other more advanced civilisation. So they might be able to tell there's a dark radio emitter in the vicinity of a yellow dwarf star.
7. we could be the first

Worrying.

Yes, and I was going to say "are" but decided that was getting ahead of ourselves. We might yet be the first.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:36:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can detect radio signals coming from Earth even if you don't know how to decypher them. As radio and TV start becoming digital and stop being broadcast (cable used instead) we're increasingly deploying wireless communication devices. I think the power radiated by earth is still increasing. The question is whether that's enough to show up against the sun's spectrum. But if we can see extrasolar planets, so can other more advanced civilisation. So they might be able to tell there's a dark radio emitter in the vicinity of a yellow dwarf star.

That's the whole trick with spread sptectum: you can't. Most wireless systems already used OFDM and other spread spectrum techniques, and they can discover each other by trying all possible keys of the standard (less than a dozen keys in any existing standard at this point). When things will get more crowded, they will use accurate clocks to keep in sync with the key clock, and some (wired) PKCS to update their own private key among the billions in use.

The power radiated does indeed increase, but it remains everywhere below the pre-existing noise, and it has the same profile (spectral power density), because that just the way spread-spectrum gets optimum noise-tolerance. So there is no way to tell the difference with a planet that has a sligthly more agitated ionosphere.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:42:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is very interesting, not so much for the Fermi paradox but for SETI itself.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 10:33:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it means SETI will never hear anyone but those who shout out loud. And I'm not sure anyone would do that: OK to spend lots of power in business communications, but just to advertise your presence ? And as I mentionned, it might be dangerous (inhabitable planets being pretty sparse and desirable).

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 10:51:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This takes us back to the question of whether we will be "heard" because of the initial burst of broadcast radio and TV or not, and also to the question of sparseness of colonies and whether "they are on their way" from within 100lyr.

We have had an oxygen signature in the atmosphere for no less than 2 billion years, so that's plenty of time to be found regardless of the density of colonisation if "people" are on the lookout for "rare" life-supporting planets. So I think the quarantine hypothesis should be seriously considered.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:05:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming they like oxygen, of course.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:17:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think they will do. Or they will like place where photosynthesis will work, which happens to be places where you find oxygen (as a byproduct).

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:23:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a whole pile of untested assumptions in there: we just don't know enough to generalise usefully yet.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:26:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, actually we know quite a few "can't" and "must"

Liquid water seems a must, for no other solvent comes close to its versatility.

Carbon molecules for the same reason. CHON as a whole for their relative abundances in metallic systems.

Lipidic membranes stem from that (you need hydrophobic molecules to make cell membranes in water).

Then you need a durable energy source to provide reduced chemicals. Which is either the sun (via photosynthesis) or geologic (like e.g. sulphur reduced by crust chemistry...)

As the planet cools down and tectonics settle, only the sun will allow life to spread on the whole surface (although it is clearly too complex to be the source initially).

So you have a photosynthetic life. It could be reducing something else than CO2, but reducing something C-based doubles up a source of structural carbon, so it's most likely CO2.

But spectroscopy would be capable of detecting other atmospheric anomalies relative to thermodynamic equilibrium, anyway.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:39:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting article in New Scientist on that, talking about enzymes working nicely in liquids they didn't expect, like hexane and liquid CO2. And those were enzymes that evolved to work in earth conditions, slightly modified.

Also talking about DNA substitutes and such things.

Life probably requires a source of energy and a "rich enough, stable enough" environment. What complex life requires we don't know: we're generalising from one example, which is seldom a reliable way to proceed.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:30:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but you need thousands of enzymes to work well in the same solvent to have a living creature.

Of course, it does not need to use DNA. We probably started off with RNA. Having a totally different support molecule does not eliminate the possibility (and likely necessity) of genes.

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:51:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, but you seem to be assuming that there can't be thousand of enzymes and proteins working well. Again, overgeneralising from one example.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:53:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is just that, at this moment, water is the only solvent with demonstrated ability to host so many reactions. Of course, industry isn't searching too hard for other solvent outside of specialty stuff that precisely water can't do: water is indeed the most abundant solvent on earth.

Pierre
by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 06:27:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you familiar with Stuart Kauffman's ideas on autocatalysis and universal enzyme kits? It's doesn't follow from what I've read from him that it has to happen in water.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:56:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I mean is that the atmosphere has been measurably out of equilibrium for over 2 Bn yrs. Whether "they" like oxygen is immaterial to whether Earth has had an opportunity to be found out.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:06:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That just tells them that there's life there: we don't know if that's unusual enough to be remarkable.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:16:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My guess: (dumb) life is very common. But a planet with life is the first place you go if you want to conquer a galaxy (it'll be easiest to adapt the planet and/or yourself to establish a viable colony there).

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:21:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, however I have the following problems with the "quarantine" hypothesis:

  • if intelligent species are frequent, more than one must cohabit in the galaxy, with contacts between their multiple colonies

  • if they are to quarantine low-level civilizations, then they must all agree to do so. Just one bad ass is enough to mess up and squish easy preys.

  • the probability that there is zero hostile bad ass is low: all species will be the product of an evolutionary competition which guarantees a fair amount of predatory imperialist behavior... for all to keep it in check via institutions if not probable. And if some modify their predatory drive by genetic engineering, they are at a loss against those who do not !

Ergo, the first galaxy conqueror must be benign for other lifeforms to survive it. And it must ensure that all lifeforms it has quarantined during its expansion are not allowed to break their quarantine unless they know how to "behave". This would mean either coercion or manipulation.

So, if we are no the first, considering that we are about to detect other inhabited planets if they exist (matter of decades) and move out (matter of centuries if we don't starve to death after peak oil), we should soon face one of two possibilities:

  • aliens will blow our ships until we figure out that we should become eugenists and not allow the likes of Bush Co to be borne,
  • aliens will beam Zorg-rays into our brains to make sure we don't build ships, not even have the idea...

Ever considered that aliens could be preventing the disclosure of peak oil to make sure that only the community-minded survive the die off ?
:-]

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:22:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, if we really are the first, we will kill absolutely everything in the galaxy except a few frozen amoeba and call these a "wildlife reserve".

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:24:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More seriously: I think the density of intelligent species is below 1 per galaxy. That is the easiest solution to the Fermi Paradox. And it forecloses all hopes of ever making contact, even remote.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:26:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or that the psychology of most intelligent species leads them to stay at home.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:28:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a problem with the "stays at home": all stars eventually burn out and make their system very inhospitable. And at that point, you feel the urge to move on if you're still alive. It takes 3-5 By for a sun-like star to burn. The galaxy is older than that, has had multiple generations (mostly of much-shorter lived stars in the beginnning).

It's not perfectly clear whether star generations before ours had already created enough metals to make life possible. You have to assume "no" if you believe that apparition of intelligent life is easy once the physical requirements are met.

But still, there are many stars of the same generation as the sun, where life has had By to evolve, and some are just 1-2 By more advanced in the star lifecycle. They would have been pushed out by now if they really were intelligent and survival-minded.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:44:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the odds of any species lasting for a billion years?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:04:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it could be that the odds of a evolution-crafted specie (hence expansive) to survive the peak extraction rate of natural resources is close to zero.

This could solve both the Fermi Paradox and the Doomsday Paradox at once (like in: there is no Doomsday Paradox, population follows a bell curve, in which case most people ever to live during the whole life of a specie, will experimence the "end of civilization", and the original Doomsday argument is simply true in its simplest form).

As for spectral signature of exoplanets, we are about to find out.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:13:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It has also been suggested based on the fossil record that the longer a species has been around, the longer it's likely to last.

Once a civilisation starts colonising the galaxy it is unlikely to go extinct. However, there will be an evolutionary radiation as each colony becomes its own isolated pocket and inbreeds for hundreds, if not thousands of generations.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:25:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I think a succesful colonist civilization will go straight for genetically modifying itself in order to better fit the new planets they find (resistance to local parasites, better ability to digest local crops, air, tolerance to local pollens...)

Nobody wants to live in a cocoon or suit forever on a new world, and it very long and expensive to terraform a planet, especially with the resource available to a colonisation fleet. Whereas bringing in a biotech lab is almost free.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:29:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am reminded of Ursula LeGuin and her Hainians.

From their center they colonized many worlds by way of genetic engineering and also utilised present genetic material to form their offspring into suitable beings. Lacking any means of faster then light communication the empire collapsed, leaving their genetically modified offspring stranded. Many survived, among them the humans of Earth...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 08:37:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is not going to be a galactic empire without faster-than-light travel. Even trying to keep a colony in Proxima Centauri under political control would be a nightmare, and an "invasion force" would take a couple of decades to get there. Same thing with trade. There would be none. The only thing there would be is slow transfer of cultural advances.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:16:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Travel ?

And what about faster than light Communication ? It is a lot more likely to be feasible (using EPR pairs for instance), and I guess it would enable most of the social conventions of an Empire to be maintained. Western societies are de facto bound together by television. It is TV and the media which convey the fact that there is still "some system all around" (police and politicians, judges, etc... after all, few people really have to deal with judges and power holders by themselves) and so everybody makes arrangement as if this system was real and reliable, even if looking out with their own eyes would show them it is not doing very well.

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:48:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EPR pairs don't allow for faster-than-light communication.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:50:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you have a slower than light mean of carrying one member of the pair to a distant location (this is still very unrealistic considering you'd have to prevent measurement by interaction for thousands of years), and different flavors of pairs (actually two flavors are enough), then when you "measure" a member of a pair of flavor A, the distant member will experience a wave packet reduction at the same time. There are hypothetical communication schemes based on this.

Pierre
by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 06:24:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but the people holding the distant member won't be able to make anything out of their own measurements unless they receive communication from you about what measurement you made. So there is no superluminal transfer of information.

In other words, all the nonlocality in the EPR paradox requires data from both ends to be brought together, otherwise there's no way in hell to tell even whether a measurement has taken place at the other end.

Communication it is, but not superluminal.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 06:33:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And there is the reason nobody comes knocking. Why should they? No possibilities of invasion or trade and trying to get across cultural advances to lower lifeforms is hard work (though I saw some article about teaching dogs to read in Nature).

Maybe there is no embargo, just no reason to contact us. Without faster then light travel the best way to spread might be small ships with just the essentials to develop genetically modified offspring and get them going. Then worlds without races that can fight them off would be prefered.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 11:45:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes indeed. The ideal place to guarantee the survival of your offspring and cultural heritage is a planet with pre-existing life, but no intelligent life.

However, note that the Earth has met this criteria for 3 bn years and there is good evidence that we are descended from original Earth life, not the offspring of colonizers (who would surely have spotted the oxygen signature in the atmosphere of the planet).

Also, as I noted, an advanced civilization (being, just us +2 centuries if we survive the tough times ahead without rejecting technology) will have no remotely detectable signature: they will blend in nicely with their environment, emitting lower-than-noise signals and scooping renewable energy.

Therefore, when colonizer set sail to an inhabitable planet, they may discover (very) intelligent life at the moment they brake in-system. And what do they do at this point ? Nice ones move to another planet. Bad ones strike. It only takes one bad specie to make quite a lot of rampage...

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 12:01:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think askod's point is that it is easier to go to a dead planet and terraform it than it is to go to a live planet and fight all the local life, even if unintelligent. So maybe this explains the "quarantine": inhabited planets are a "biohazard".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 12:06:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
mmmm. If I were to plan such an expedition, I would definetely go for the live planet. But instead of fighting local life, I would adapt and blend in with GM (staying 1000 y in orbit tuning GM is no big deal for an expeditionary corp spending 10ky in interstellar flight). And it is cheap: no need to bring along big supplies, you are sure to find oxygen and water locally all over the surface, you are sure the temperature will be OK and stable, orbit is stable, etc...

If you go to a dead planet, you could find out that it is dead for a good reason: like unstable orbit wreaking climate, meteor showers, no enough liquid water...
All of this is hard to spot from your starting point.

And terraforming requires you to build an industrial base to change the atmosphere, oceans, etc... Of course, you could also GM microbes to finish for you as soon as you get within a window compatible with microbe life (= liquid water ?). But the microbes may then need a million year to create an acceptable biosphere.

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 12:27:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You only need one intelligent species which decides to get out. And we get back to the estimate that it takes 1 Myr to colonise a galaxy.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:03:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
5. they are on their way

highly improbable. as you noted, the "way" lasts 1M years. We have been around for about the same time, on a planetary life of 4By. For the two to coincide is far fetched.

They could be on their way from 100lyr away.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:37:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't follow you ? this is very close, making the trip even shorter ?

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 09:44:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm assuming that's their closest colony (go back to: sparse colonies - this depends on the density of habitable planets)

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 10:32:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, we might be in an uninteresting part of the galaxy. After all, nearer to the center there are more stars...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 10:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But they're also bigger, so novaes are more frequent. and they're closer to each other, so comets are more frequently thrown in-system. I'm not sure the core is where you want to be. Our boring suburb is quite nice after all.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 10:48:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. As toolmaking industrial civilisations move towards achieving Type I on the Kardashev scale they blunder into an ecocide and collapse.
  2. If you manage to avoid (8) the distances/energies/timescales required for interstellar colonisation make it too hard to do.
  3. If can mobilise the energy levels and time required by (9) you've got more interesting things to do with them than spend several centuries getting to somewhere that's much the same as where you are, except without a habitable planet.

Regards
Luke

-- #include witty_sig.h
by silburnl on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:27:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
8)

Yes, basically the doomsday argument from my other post

9)

Here we disagree: there is very serious evidence that it is very cheap energy-wise (using slow-moving colony ships made from hollowed-out asteroids), and not so long, to colonize a galaxy (less than a million years)

10)

Indeed, but eventually comes the day the sun dies. At that point, would stick out there and die ?

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:32:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For 9) I have to say it doesn't matte whether it makes sense. Given billions of individuals and millions of years, someone (most likely a band of fanatics) is bound to try and succeed.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:36:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True if you're talking about humans.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:43:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, Colman, but given billions of individuals and millions of years, anything that is not forbidden by the laws of physics is bound to happen.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:45:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you expect some humans to develop wings, flight and sonar at some stage?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:47:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I am saying that once the energy to fly to a nearby star is available, someone is going to try, if that someone can be anyone in the following million years.

It's not like human cultures haven't done just about everything that their physical environment and technological ability has allowed to do. And other eartly life forms also colonise every single niche they have physical access to.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:50:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily.

Lets make an experience of thought:
If the atmosphere were to become inhospitable before we can leave the planet, and the oceans remained habitable, those seeking to survive would go there. At first in pressurized habitats. And when they realize their chances of maintaining their civilizations would be greatly enhanced by bolder moves, they will improve their biological capacity to live underwater. First by resisting higher pressures, then by going cold blooded (to withstand the heat loss in cold water and still be able to recover), then by breathing with gills (although the water would have to be hyper-oxygenated to enable 37°C body temperature and full brain performance)

I don't think changes will be made just for the fun of it. But if you must leave your planet for another one, and maximize the survival of your descendant on new worlds, GM quickly becomes the most effective way to achieve this.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 01:07:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I once wrote an essay (must have been 15 years ago) in which I speculated that the best way to test our ability to live in space would be to build a semi-permanent colony under the ocean (the continental shelf would do nicely).

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:13:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thought Experiment.

Interestingly, I always associated the phrase Gedankenexperiment with Einstein, but wikipedia attributes it to HC Ørted and doesn't mention Einstein, but Ernst Mach.

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 06:01:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I associate it with Einstein too.

Pierre
by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 06:07:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
HC Ørsted

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 06:09:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I entirely agree with you that someone somewhere would try, but i don't know about it necessarily being fanatics. It might turn on a linguistic concept they posess making a virtue of movement, or a biological imperative to seek out brighter light.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:55:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Zealots?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:57:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aren't 9. and 10. encompassed by 2.?

And 8. is related to 7. We might be the first if we make it past 8).

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:34:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"mirrors, boilers and simple turbines don't require very heavy tech -- you could build one in your back yard actually;  I know some off-grid types who use a big parabolic reflector for cooking in the summer.  neat to see it silently boiling water, or at a slightly less intense focal range slow-cooking soup."

Your comment reminded me of this engineering student who had the idea to build full-fledged solar generators for communities in Africa out of car parts and plumbing supplies for a fraction of the cost. The key to low cost was to use mass produced parts (sheet metal, alternator, pumps) instead of solar industry designed components. Cost could be slashed even further by using recycled parts.

by Fete des fous on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:32:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how interesting, serious geekspeak, thanks guys, for expanding the parameters of the discussion.

maybe adopting a plan like desertec would go some way to getting us out of quarantine!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:41:32 AM EST
Sorry for going totally OT.
But yes, it would really help in lifting the quarantine.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 11:46:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anyway, desertec would be great because it's all off-the shelf technology, it would create a job-intensive industry in northern Africa and thus stabilize an area which terrifies our dear leader, possibly reversing an immigration trend which terrifies them even more.

It's deployable over a timeframe in decades compatible with a slow phase out of nuclear after G3 if you really can't stand it, etc, etc...

But, I think our dear leaders are simply scared of the idea that our energy, even renewable, would again come from countries full of brown people: they feel that would simply take us full circle, from Saudi oil to Saharian sun. It's a rule of biology that everywhere there is a lot of sun, people tend to be darker: the melanin thing. This will be the greatest hurdle to overcome in order to kickstart such a plan.

It would have to start small, which cheap short links from a very stable country (eg. Morocco to Spain via Gibraltar, but these three often mess together), and demonstrate many years of succesful business operation, before northern investors and governments would consider going full scale and putting Algeria, Lybia in the deal.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:02:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a solar energy idea based on even lower technology, very little infrastructure and topographic relief: Would this work?
by Fete des fous on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 12:49:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read somewhere one is being built in Spain, but it's the tower variant, not the one on the mountain side. Also, it's not so low tech: materials sturdy enough to withstand storms, yet light, and let just the right amount of light through, etc, are rather sophisticated I think. But the economics and full-scale yields are yet unknown. Concentrating solar and HVDC are perfectly mastered techniques today, so if something is to start at this moment it would focus on these.

Pierre
by Pierre on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:11:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
actually, i don't feel you did go OT, as it flowed seamlessly from and back onto topic.

and to emulate the way in which this diary was born, may i suggest you formulate some of the fascinating speculations that you've shared in this thread, into a diary of its own?

i have never 'gone' to these kind of intellectual places; it's consciousness-expanding, to say the least.

thankyou

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 08:30:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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