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    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2012

    I definitely think the combination of a global smart grid with local energy production feeding into the grid would be the way to go. You would, of course, still have big companies supplying the vast majority of energy, but this would mean that you could never 100% kill the world's energy. Just like you can't shut the internet off. Unless all the energy companies shut down, that is. :D
  1.  (10574.2)

    So, like the internet, make the energy production a series of smaller networks that all link up to one big network.

    I emailed this idea to the National Grid a while ago [yes, I'm a crackpot] and I hope they're putting it in place but who knows:

    step 1) reinforce our pylons
    step 2) put solar panels suited to each country [in my case the UK] on those pylons
    step 3) put enough tech at the bottom of said pylons [a battery, an oscillator, an amplifier, a computer regulator, and a transformer]
    step 4) source that energy the local area
    step 5) reap the benefits

    If I had the manpower and money, this is one of the things my #TravellingRenewableCommunitiesTeam would do and teach how to do.
  2.  (10574.3)

    The future isn't here, though. If there is one thing that we know for absolute fact about Earth, it is that it is a fucking death trap. It won't be in our lifetimes, and it probably won't be in our childrens' lifetimes, but at some point in the future the universe is going to decide to try to fucking kill everything on this rock again. All the recycling and green energy technology in the universe won't mean dick in the event of a supervolcano eruption or large asteroid collision.

    Robots are well and good, but when the thinking is 'we can send robots and they'll do it cheaper, better, safer, and happier than if we send people' then the development of technologies to do it cheaper, better, safer, and happier with people will continue to go by the wayside. Why should money be spent on the development of more efficient and faster thrusters, better re-usable orbital entry craft, and lighter and stronger radiation shielding? Robots don't need those things. And it's not like technologies originally developed for space travel have worked their way into our day to day lives. [/sarcasm] (And frankly the idea that the robots can do it better isn't totally true. People don't get stuck on rocks and just sit while their solar cells get covered in dust and their batteries run down, and if the Mars Climate Orbiter had been manned it wouldn't have burned up in the upper atmosphere because the people on board would've checked and triple checked the figures and said 'WTF, are you using English measurements?' before initiating orbital insertion).

    And the fact is, we have had the technology to put people on Mars for decades. What we haven't had is the economic and (much more importantly) political will to do so. If we'd started in the late seventies/early eighties, we'd have passably comfortable habitats by now. It probably wouldn't be a colony in any meaningful sense, but it would certainly be laying the groundwork for one.
  3.  (10574.4)
    You know another way to fix this problem that should happen but probably won't? Rather than telling people not to have kids?
    Why isn't space travel, colonizing Mars and all that, something that's going to happen? It needs to happen for our survival as a species if something goes terribly wrong on Earth. How can we fix this idea that space is a waste of money? I want this to happen. So do a lot of you, I think. So how can we as a group of people that believe in the future encourage another space race? " - fishelle

    Centuries of mass immigration to the Americas and Australia didn't stop Europe's population growth. In fact population grwoth in Europe only stopped around the same time that mass immigration stopped.

    It's going to be a very, very, long time (if ever) before space immigration is going to be anywhere near as cheap and easy as buying a steerage class ticket from Dublin to New York.

    Space travel can make us all much, much richer which will help greatly to reduce population growth and manage oru impact on the environment but we aren't going to solve overpopulation by a brute force mass immigration.
  4.  (10574.5)
    "The fact is, small, lightweight, overengineered robots do it better. They just do."

    That depends on what "it" is.

    The Appolo astronauts achieved far more in a total of about two weeks on the lunar surface than therMars rovers have achieved in almost a decade,

    On the other hand, if you're talking about fly-bys of the jovian moons, for example, robots are clearly superior - on economic grounds not technical ones.
  5.  (10574.6)
    "Maybe a #TravellingRenewingCommunitiesTeam would only go to places within its cultural-political realm then: say going to run down cities like Detroit and giving everyone who wants it the knowledge on how to grow your own food and, more specifically, what food types suit that area's soil."

    Ever stop to think that maybe the oens to teach those skills are thep eopel in the Favelas on Brazil and the slums of Nairobi who've been solving those same problems for generations?

    And why go there when you have telecommunications?
  6.  (10574.7)
    #big energy

    If we are to develop space power satellites we need highly efficient ways to transmit power wirelessly over thousands of kilometres.

    If you have that, you can build a grid by bouncing power off satellites in low orbit. (Or you can build a virtual grid by switching powersats between different ground receivers.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 5th 2012 edited
    Guys, I'm seriously sleep-deprived here. I foudn this thread and commented on stuff of interest as I went through it.

    I hope none of my comments come off as overly snarky.
  7.  (10574.9)
    To me, it feels like those 2am at the coffee shop conversations where we have these amazing exchanges but the next day can't remember shit about them; but here they're saved and readable later to help expand the thought and fine tune it until it becomes a great idea. So keep it up; I don't have much to add at the moment, but I'll spectate and comment when appropriate.
    • CommentTimeMay 5th 2012
    Regarding the notion of the earth being a "death trap", frankly that's one big nihilistic misconstruction.

    Yes eventually an asteroid will hit again, especially if we haven't managed a capability to detect and deflect ( things which absolutely do NOT require manned space flight), but seriously, there is no place else we can go.

    There are no reachable habitable places. Terraforming is unachievable science fiction for the foreseeable future. Leaving the atmosphere for any length of time is an expensive garauntee of death by cancer. Any time a human being is launched into space 99% of the mission is keep the human being alive, and then 1% is some science but mostly bullshit. There is no new world we can reach. There will be no Martian colony. People cannot live on Mars. Dreaming of that as any kind of a solution to anything is fantasy, full stop.

    Whenever you think of people off the earth, remember - cancer, cancer, cancer. Finite water. Finite air. No rescue. Plus more cancer.

    People say things like "Apollo astronauts achieved more in a few days than robots did for years" but I'd like to see some proof of that. Really? They did? They collected some rocks, planted flags, knocked a golf ball around, drove a little car and came back alive. I don't actually think that was better than things the Mars rovers have accomplished. It is much, much cheaper and safer to keep building more capable rovers than to send one human along with a couple of years worth of consumable earth environment all the way there.

    Manned space flight is a terrific stunt, but it is a dead end as a future because there is no place to go where we can live.

    #big energy - wireless transmission of mass power - now that is something to talk about! I read a treatment once of a plan to beam solar collected in orbit to microwave antenna farms in deserted areas on earth as a way to massively concentrate he collection of solar energy. I wonder about secondary effects of something like that though. Would th passage of a large continuous blast of microwaves through h atmosphere have noticeable climatological impact? Radioactivity? How expensive would it be?
  8.  (10574.11)
    "People say things like "Apollo astronauts achieved more in a few days than robots did for years" but I'd like to see some proof of that. Really? They did? They collected some rocks, planted flags, knocked a golf ball around, drove a little car and came back alive. I don't actually think that was better than things the Mars rovers have accomplished. It is much, much cheaper and safer to keep building more capable rovers than to send one human along with a couple of years worth of consumable earth environment all the way there."

    David Scott who was on the Apollo 15 mission wrote a book in which he discusses at length the gelogicial science he did. It's well worth reading. Because he was on the spot he could modify the planned operation as he went along based on his observations. At one point, he spotted a particularly valuable specimen well off his planned route - so he decioded on the spot to change his route and in doing so exceeded the standard safety criteria - he cut way into his Oxygen reserve by extending the EVA time.

    There's no way a robot could make that real-time decision, assess the importance of the data potentially available and exceed mission parameters like that. The sample he brought back is one of the oldest known rocks from anywhere and is one of the msot valuable geological specimens of any sort anywhere.

    Meanwhie, the Mars rovers spend weeks or months navigating obstacles that a human could step right over - their speed is measured in metres per day.
    • CommentTimeMay 5th 2012
    And yet they get better every time, are directed by humans, and don't require billions of dollars worth of environmental support infrastructure be transported along with them. David Scott's very old rock is interesting no doubt. Was it worth the risk to the lives of all the Apollo astronauts and the immense expenditure to send them to the moon to get it when we did? I believe no. Is it possible for us to make such discoveries with robots? Absolutely yes.

    We have to give up a foolish and narrow aspiration to human space flight if we ever hope to break out of the 1950's stagnation in our dreams for the future. It is choking our imaginations. It is just not going to be a significant factor in any foreseeable future. Not. Going. To. Be.

    Every time someone brings it up here it's all, we must, we have to, etc. - sorry, I really am, because I loved this once too, but it can't work barring changes to the human condition so radical that we wouldn't be human any more. It is not going to be a factor.
  9.  (10574.13)
    So it's okay in imagining this new and better future to assume whatever advances in robotics are necessary for them to exceed human capabilities in this one particular area?

    That "very old rock" led directly to our current understanding of the formation of the moon and the history of the Earth. Information derived from our study of that "very old rock" is used daily by people in about half a dozen fields of science and technology ranging from astronomy to petroleum engineering.
  10.  (10574.14)
    And you keep saying 'cancer' as if it's this instantaneous death sentence where as soon as you have it your life is over. It's not like we're constantly making new and better methods of treatment or anything.

    [edit]Here's a thing: NASA's Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health, which shows no statistically significant increase in cancer rates amongst 195 astronauts who had been in space between 1959 and 1991 in comparison to non-astronauts with similar health and fitness levels in the same period (adjusted relative risk of 4.26 percent for astronauts vs. 3.19 percent for non-astronauts). Accidental death is actually the only cause of death with a significant increase.
    • CommentTimeMay 5th 2012
    God this us the most frustrating conversation I've had here since the health care one long ago!

    If you insist on placing human travel in outer space in the middle of your expectations of the future, exactly what do you expect those people to be doing that will return to their sponsors (state, private, whatever) the cost of maintaining them in an environment utterly hostile to human life.

    Don't toy with colonization fantasies. What exactly is going to make the unbelievable expense worth while?
  11.  (10574.16)
    Didn't a bunch of rich people just start a company for asteroid mining? I assume there must be a profit in that.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 5th 2012 edited
    "Don't toy with colonization fantasies. What exactly is going to make the unbelievable expense worth while? "

    How is it "toying with colonization fantasies" to point out that their are human capabilities that are unlikely to be matched by robots any time soon?

    I'm not arguing for mass human colonization of space- in fact I pointed out the impracticality of such an idea as a solution to overpopulation.

    I am saying, for example, that it took human astronauts to repair the Hubble and that building a robotic mission capable of that, if it were possible at all, would have cost more and taken longer.
    • CommentTimeMay 5th 2012 edited
    @kosmopolit, right, but LEO satellite repair is not what people who keep bringing up humans in space as a future to aspire to are talking about. Also, the Hubble repair trip was only possible because the existing space shuttle program could eat the cost of sending people, as the government was already dumping money out it's exhaust flues. That has stopped, and getting a manned satellite mission funded going forward will be more problematic. Ultimately using humans for satellite repair only makes sense when the satellite is more expensive than the cost of the mission to repair it, and it's doing something deemed to be important enough. Barring those things, if a cheaper robotic mission cannot repair it, it will be more cost effective to let the satellite fail and send up a new one later.

    I'll be very surprised if there is a replacement for the shuttle program in 10 years.

    EDITED TO ADD: I'm not arguing that robots match human capabilities. I'm arguing that they are orders of magnitude cheaper and safer, and that it is very difficult to justify the expense and risk of launching people when much much cheaper robots are good enough. You can see this actually playing out in the world. It is the way things actually are.

    @govspy - interestingly, that asteroid mining venture is robotic. Also, I expect it will fail to be profitable at it's stated goal, but may push some improvements in robotics that are spun off for other uses.

    I stand by my initial statement. We are not going back to the moon, except maybe as private citizens doing a stunt on par with what climbing Everest used to be. We are not going to Mars for a couple of generations at least. We will not have a colony there. Our futures are here, on Earth, and placing space travel in he middle of our dreaming of the future is one reason why our imaginative futures are so bankrupt. It's a distraction. There is a better future to be dreamed than these fantasies of humans on Mars.
  12.  (10574.19)
    "I'll be very surprised if there is a replacement for the shuttle program in 10 years."

    A replacement in what sense: a reuseable human-rated vessel capable of reaching LEO?

    I'll be surprised if there isn't one within 5 years.
    • CommentTimeMay 5th 2012 edited
    @kosmopolit - I'd bet against it. But what I mean by a replacement of the shuttle program is a routine series of human missions into low earth orbit that each last several days. I don't think that is going to come back here (in the USA, either as a public or private venture) in under 10 years. I think the effort being maintained now by Russia and the ESA that keeps the ISS manned will wither over the next decade, not expand.

    I am a pessimist about human space flight because I no longer see a way for it to sustain itself. I do not believe governments will remain flush and stable enough to maintain it. I do not see a profit source to enable private industry to maintain it.