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Archive for the ‘sustainability’ category: Page 168

Sep 19, 2010

American Institute of Physics reveals more cost-efficient selenium photovoltaic cells

Posted by in categories: business, sustainability

Did you know that many researchers would like to discover light-catching components in order to convert more of the sun’s power into carbon-free electric power?

A new study reported in the journal Applied Physics Letters in August this year (published by the American Institute of Physics), explains how solar energy could potentially be collected by using oxide materials that have the element selenium. A team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, embedded selenium in zinc oxide, a relatively affordable material that could make more efficient use of the sun’s power.

The team noticed that even a relatively small amount of selenium, just 9 percent of the mostly zinc-oxide base, significantly enhanced the material’s efficiency in absorbing light.

The main author of this study, Marie Mayer (a fourth-year University of California, Berkeley doctoral student) affirms that photo-electrochemical water splitting, that means using energy from the sun to cleave water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, could potentially be the most fascinating future application for her labor. Managing this reaction is key to the eventual production of zero-emission hydrogen powered motors, which hypothetically will run only on water and sunlight.

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Sep 19, 2010

The Politics and Ethics of the Hall Weather Machine

Posted by in categories: futurism, sustainability

Abstract

J. Storrs Hall’s Weather Machine is a relatively simple nanofabricated machine system with significant consequences in politics and ethics.

After a brief technical description, this essay analyzes the ends, means, and circumstances of a feasible method of controlling the weather, and includes some predictions regarding secondary effects.


Article

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Oct 1, 2009

Post-human Earth: How the planet will recover from us

Posted by in categories: existential risks, futurism, human trajectories, policy, sustainability


Paul J. Crutzen

Although this is the scenario we all hope (and work hard) to avoid — the consequences should be of interest to all who are interested in mitigation of the risk of mass extinction:

“WHEN Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the word Anthropocene around 10 years ago, he gave birth to a powerful idea: that human activity is now affecting the Earth so profoundly that we are entering a new geological epoch.

The Anthropocene has yet to be accepted as a geological time period, but if it is, it may turn out to be the shortest — and the last. It is not hard to imagine the epoch ending just a few hundred years after it started, in an orgy of global warming and overconsumption.

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Jul 1, 2009

Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication process — progress toward self sustaining structures

Posted by in categories: complex systems, engineering, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

For any assembly or structure, whether an isolated bunker or a self sustaining space colony, to be able to function perpetually, the ability to manufacture any of the parts necessary to maintain, or expand, the structure is an obvious necessity. Conventional metal working techniques, consisting of forming, cutting, casting or welding present extreme difficulties in size and complexity that would be difficult to integrate into a self sustaining structure.

Forming requires heavy high powered machinery to press metals into their final desired shapes. Cutting procedures, such as milling and lathing, also require large, heavy, complex machinery, but also waste tremendous amounts of material as large bulk shapes are cut away emerging the final part. Casting metal parts requires a complex mold construction and preparation procedures, not only does a negative mold of the final part need to be constructed, but the mold needs to be prepared, usually by coating in ceramic slurries, before the molten metal is applied. Unless thousands of parts are required, the molds are a waste of energy, resources, and effort. Joining is a flexible process, and usually achieved by welding or brazing and works by melting metal between two fixed parts in order to join them — but the fixed parts present the same manufacturing problems.

Ideally then, in any self sustaining structure, metal parts should be constructed only in the final desired shape but without the need of a mold and very limited need for cutting or joining. In a salient progressive step toward this necessary goal, NASA demonstrates the innovative Electron Beam Free Forming Fabrication (http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/electron_beam.htm) Process. A rapid metal fabrication process essentially it “prints” a complex three dimensional object by feeding a molten wire through a computer controlled gun, building the part, layer by layer, and adding metal only where you desire it. It requires no molds and little or no tooling, and material properties are similar to other forming techniques. The complexity of the part is limited only by the imagination of the programmer and the dexterity of the wire feed and heating device.

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May 3, 2009

Swine Flu Update: are we entering an Age of Pandemics?

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, nanotechnology, space, sustainability

May 2: Many U.S. emergency rooms and hospitals crammed with people… ”Walking well” flood hospitals… Clinics double their traffic in major cities … ER rooms turn away EMT cases. — CNN

Update May 4: Confirmed cases of H1N1 virus now at 985 in 20 countries (Mexico: 590, 25 deaths) — WHO. In U.S.: 245 confirmed U.S. cases in 35 states. — CDC.

“We might be entering an Age of Pandemics… a broad array of dangerous emerging 21st-century diseases, man-made or natural, brand-new or old, newly resistant to our current vaccines and antiviral drugs…. Martin Rees bet $1,000 that bioterror or bioerror would unleash a catastrophic event claiming one million lives in the next two decades…. Why? Less forest, more contact with animals… more meat eating (Africans last year consumed nearly 700 million wild animals… numbers of chickens raised for food in China have increased 1,000-fold over the past few decades)… farmers cut down jungle, creating deforested areas that once served as barriers to the zoonotic viruses…” — Larry Brilliant, Wall Street Journal


Mar 7, 2009

The ‘Sustainability Solution’ to the Fermi Paradox

Posted by in categories: human trajectories, space, sustainability

Jacob Haqq-Misra and Seth D. Baum (2009). The Sustainability Solution to the Fermi Paradox. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 62: 47–51.

Background: The Fermi Paradox
According to a simple but powerful inference introduced by physicist Enrico Fermi in 1950, we should expect to observe numerous extraterrestrial civilizations throughout our galaxy. Given the old age of our galaxy, Fermi postulated that if the evolution of life and subsequent development of intelligence is common, then extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) could have colonized the Milky Way several times over by now. Thus, the paradox is: if ETI should be so widespread, where are they? Many solutions have been proposed to account for our absence of ETI observation. Perhaps the occurrence of life or intelligence is rare in the galaxy. Perhaps ETI inevitably destroy themselves soon after developing advanced technology. Perhaps ETI are keeping Earth as a zoo!

The ‘Sustainability Solution’
The Haqq-Misra & Baum paper presents a definitive statement on a plausible but often overlooked solution to the Fermi paradox, which the authors name the “Sustainability Solution”. The Sustainability Solution states: the absence of ETI observation can be explained by the possibility that exponential or other faster-growth is not a sustainable development pattern for intelligent civilizations. Exponential growth is implicit in Fermi’s claim that ETI could quickly expand through the galaxy, an assumption based on observations of human expansion on Earth. However, as we are now learning all too well, our exponential expansion frequently proves unsustainable as we reach the limits of available resources. Likewise, because all civilizations throughout the universe may have limited resources, it is possible that all civilizations face similar issues of sustainability. In other words, unsustainably growing civilizations may inevitably collapse. This possibility is the essence of the Sustainability Solution.

Implications for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
If the Sustainability Solution is true, then we may never observe a galactic-scale ETI civilization, for such an empire would have grown and collapsed too quickly for us to notice. SETI efforts should therefore focus on ETI that grow within the limits of their carrying capacity and thereby avoid collapse. These slower-growth ETI may possess the technological capacity for both radio broadcasts and remote interstellar exploration. Thus, SETI may be more successful if it is expanded to include a search of our Solar System for small, unmanned ETI satellites.

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Jan 15, 2009

What should be at the center of the U.S. stimulus package

Posted by in categories: existential risks, geopolitics, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

The projected size of Barack Obama’s “stimulus package” is heading north, from hundreds of billions of dollars into the trillions. And the Obama program comes, of course, on top of the various Bush administration bailouts and commitments, estimated to run as high as $8.5 trillion.

Will this money be put to good use? That’s an important question for the new President, and an even more important question for America. The metric for all government spending ultimately comes down to a single query: What did you get for it?

If such spending was worth it, that’s great. If the country gets victory in war, or victory over economic catastrophe, well, obviously, it was worthwhile. The national interest should never be sacrificed on the altar of a balanced budget.

So let’s hope we get the most value possible for all that money–and all that red ink. Let’s hope we get a more prosperous nation and a cleaner earth. Let’s also hope we get a more secure population and a clear, strategic margin of safety for the United States. Yet how do we do all that?

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Oct 26, 2008

Refuges and bunkers

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, cybercrime/malcode, defense, existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, sustainability, treaties

Here I would like to suggest readers a quotation from my book “Structure of the global catastrophe” (http://www.scribd.com/doc/7529531/-) there I discuss problems of preventing catastrophes.

Refuges and bunkers

Different sort of a refuge and bunkers can increase chances of survival of the mankind in case of global catastrophe, however the situation with them is not simple. Separate independent refuges can exist for decades, but the more they are independent and long-time, the more efforts are necessary for their preparation in advance. Refuges should provide ability for the mankind to the further self-reproduction. Hence, they should contain not only enough of capable to reproduction people, but also a stock of technologies which will allow to survive and breed in territory which is planned to render habitable after an exit from the refuge. The more this territory will be polluted, the higher level of technologies is required for a reliable survival.
Very big bunker will appear capable to continue in itself development of technologies and after catastrophe. However in this case it will be vulnerable to the same risks, as all terrestrial civilisation — there can be internal terrorists, AI, nanorobots, leaks etc. If the bunker is not capable to continue itself development of technologies it, more likely, is doomed to degradation.
Further, the bunker can be or «civilizational», that is keep the majority of cultural and technological achievements of the civilisation, or “specific”, that is keep only human life. For “long” bunkers (which are prepared for long-term stay) the problem of formation and education of children and risks of degradation will rise. The bunker can or live for the account of the resources which have been saved up before catastrophe, or be engaged in own manufacture. In last case it will be simply underground civilisation on the infected planet.
The more a bunker is constructed on modern technologies and independent cultural and technically, the higher ammount of people should live there (but in the future it will be not so: the bunker on the basis of advanced nanotechnology can be even at all deserted, — only with the frozen human embryos). To provide simple reproduction by means of training to the basic human trades, thousand people are required. These people should be selected and be in the bunker before final catastrophe, and, it is desirable, on a constant basis. However it is improbable, that thousand intellectually and physically excellent people would want to sit in the bunker “just in case”. In this case they can be in the bunker in two or three changes and receive for it a salary. (Now in Russia begins experiment «Mars 500» in which 6 humans will be in completely independent — on water, to meal, air — for 500 days. Possibly, it is the best result which we now have. In the early nineties in the USA there was also a project «Biosphera-2» in which people should live two years on full self-maintenance under a dome in desert. The project has ended with partial failure as oxygen level in system began to fall because of unforeseen reproduction of microorganisms and insects.) As additional risk for bunkers it is necessary to note fact of psychology of the small groups closed in one premise widely known on the Antarctic expeditions — namely, the increase of animosities fraught with destructive actions, reducing survival rate.
The bunker can be either unique, or one of many. In the first case it is vulnerable to different catastrophes, and in the second is possible struggle between different bunkers for the resources which have remained outside. Or is possible war continuation if catastrophe has resulted from war.
The bunker, most likely, will be either underground, or in the sea, or in space. But the space bunker too can be underground of asteroids or the Moon. For the space bunker it will be more difficult to use the rests of resources on the Earth. The bunker can be completely isolated, or to allow “excursion” in the external hostile environment.
As model of the sea bunker can serve the nuclear submarine possessing high reserve, autonomy, manoeuvrability and stability to negative influences. Besides, it can easily be cooled at ocean (the problem of cooling of the underground closed bunkers is not simple), to extract from it water, oxygen and even food. Besides, already there are ready boats and technical decisions. The boat is capable to sustain shock and radiating influence. However the resource of independent swimming of modern submarines makes at the best 1 year, and in them there is no place for storage of stocks.
Modern space station ISS could support independently life of several humans within approximately year though there are problems of independent landing and adaptation. Not clearly, whether the certain dangerous agent, capable to get into all cracks on the Earth could dissipate for so short term.
There is a difference between gaso — and bio — refuges which can be on a surface, but are divided into many sections for maintenance of a mode of quarantine, and refuges which are intended as a shelter from in the slightest degree intelligent opponent (including other people who did not manage to get a place in a refuge). In case of biodanger island with rigid quarantine can be a refuge if illness is not transferred by air.
A bunker can possess different vulnerabilities. For example, in case of biological threat, is enough insignificant penetration to destroy it. Only hi-tech bunker can be the completely independent. Energy and oxygen are necessary to the bunker. The system on a nuclear reactor can give energy, but modern machines hardly can possess durability more than 30–50 years. The bunker cannot be universal — it should assume protection against the certain kinds of threats known in advance — radiating, biological etc.
The more reinforced is a bunker, the smaller number of bunkers can prepare mankind in advance, and it will be more difficult to hide such bunker. If after a certain catastrophe there was a limited number of the bunkers which site is known, the secondary nuclear war can terminate mankind through countable number of strikes in known places.
The larger is the bunker, the less amount of such bunkers is possible to construct. However any bunker is vulnerable to accidental destruction or contamination. Therefore the limited number of bunkers with certain probability of contamination unequivocally defines the maximum survival time of mankind. If bunkers are connected among themselves by trade and other material distribution, contamination between them is more probable. If bunkers are not connected, they will degrade faster. The more powerfully and more expensively is the bunker, the more difficult is to create it imperceptibly for the probable opponent and so it easeir becomes the goal for an attack. The more cheaply the bunker, the less it is durable.
Casual shelters — the people who have escaped in the underground, mines, submarines — are possible. They will suffer from absence of the central power and struggle for resources. The people, in case of exhaustion of resources in one bunker, can undertake the armed attempts to break in other next bunker. Also the people who have escaped casually (or under the threat of the comong catastrophe), can attack those who was locked in the bunker.
Bunkers will suffer from necessity of an exchange of heat, energy, water and air with an external world. The more independent is the bunker, the less time it can exist in full isolation. Bunkers being in the Earth will deeply suffer from an overheating. Any nuclear reactors and other complex machines will demand external cooling. Cooling by external water will unmask them, and it is impossible to have energy sources lost-free in the form of heat, while on depth of earth there are always high temperatures. Temperature growth, in process of deepening in the Earth, limits depth of possible bunkers. (The geothermal gradient on the average makes 30 degrees C/kilometers. It means, that bunkers on depth more than 1 kilometre are impossible — or demand huge cooling installations on a surface, as gold mines in the republic of South Africa. There can be deeper bunkers in ices of Antarctica.)
The more durable, more universal and more effective, should be a bunker, the earlier it is necessary to start to build it. But in this case it is difficult to foresee the future risks. For example, in 1930th years in Russia was constructed many anti-gase bombproof shelters which have appeared useless and vulnerable to bombardments by heavy demolition bombs.
Efficiency of the bunker which can create the civilisation, corresponds to a technological level of development of this civilisation. But it means that it possesses and corresponding means of destruction. So, especially powerful bunker is necessary. The more independently and more absolutely is the bunker (for example, equipped with AI, nanorobots and biotechnologies), the easier it can do without, eventually, people, having given rise to purely computer civilisation.
People from different bunkers will compete for that who first leaves on a surface and who, accordingly, will own it — therefore will develop the temptation for them to go out to still infected sites of the Earth.
There are possible automatic robotic bunkers: in them the frozen human embryos are stored in a certain artificial uterus and through hundreds or thousand years start to be grown up. (Technology of cryonics of embryos already exists, and works on an artificial uterus are forbidden for bioethics reasons, but basically such device is possible.) With embryos it is possible to send such installations in travel to other planets. However, if such bunkers are possible, the Earth hardly remains empty — most likely it will be populated with robots. Besides, if the human cub who has been brought up by wolves, considers itself as a wolf as whom human who has been brought up by robots will consider itself?
So, the idea about a survival in bunkers contains many reefs which reduce its utility and probability of success. It is necessary to build long-term bunkers for many years, but they can become outdated for this time as the situation will change and it is not known to what to prepare. Probably, that there is a number of powerful bunkers which have been constructed in days of cold war. A limit of modern technical possibilities the bunker of an order of a 30-year-old autonomy, however it would take long time for building — decade, and it will demand billions dollars of investments.
Independently there are information bunkers, which are intended to inform to the possible escaped descendants about our knowledge, technologies and achievements. For example, in Norway, on Spitsbergen have been created a stock of samples of seeds and grain with these purposes (Doomsday Vault). Variants with preservation of a genetic variety of people by means of the frozen sperm are possible. Digital carriers steady against long storage, for example, compact discs on which the text which can be read through a magnifier is etched are discussed and implemented by Long Now Foundation. This knowledge can be crucial for not repeating our errors.

May 6, 2008

Will Today’s Landfills Be Tomorrow’s Energy?

Posted by in category: sustainability

(Hat Tip: IsraGood)

Garbage. No matter where you go or how far you travel, it seems that every society has a means of acquiring it and dumping it in vast landfills–a fitting tribute towards humanities pursuit of a better future.

While recycling and “reducing” can help diminish the amount that goes into these trash havens, it may not be enough to counter the vast amount people throw away everyday.

Since convincing people to throw away less is a never ending battle (especially in this day and age), why not instead turn these “mountains” of garbage into energy?

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Apr 15, 2008

$153 million/city thin film plastic domes can protect against nuclear weapons and bad weather

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, defense, existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, military, nanotechnology, nuclear weapons, sustainability

Cross posted from Nextbigfuture

Click for larger image

I had previously looked at making two large concrete or nanomaterial monolithic or geodesic domes over cities which could protect a city from nuclear bombs.

Now Alexander Bolonkin has come up with a cheaper, technological easy and more practical approach with thin film inflatable domes. It not only would provide protection form nuclear devices it could be used to place high communication devices, windmill power and a lot of other money generating uses. The film mass covered of 1 km**2 of ground area is M1 = 2×10**6 mc = 600 tons/km**2 and film cost is $60,000/km**2.
The area of big city diameter 20 km is 314 km**2. Area of semi-spherical dome is 628 km2. The cost of Dome cover is 62.8 millions $US. We can take less the overpressure (p = 0.001atm) and decrease the cover cost in 5 – 7 times. The total cost of installation is about 30–90 million $US. Not only is it only about $153 million to protect a city it is cheaper than a geosynchronous satellite for high speed communications. Alexander Bolonkin’s website

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