Constraints on growth even in a world with cheap electricity

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:16 pm

Was about to say what 93143 says above. Cheap enough energy should mean we can synthesize these hydrocarbon products.


Exactly and there are many ways to do that.

Torulf2
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Postby Torulf2 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:06 pm

Zero growth will not necessary means deindustrialisation. With zero growth in economy and population you can have sustainable industry. Small losses of necessary elements can be gained from sea water with cheap electricity. Losses threw corrosion and erosion, after some time ends up in the sea. The techno sphere can be coupled to the cycles of nature.
Of Corse there can be absence of some compounds, making crises for some segments but not making the collapse the civilisation as a absence in energy will do.
Hydro carbons from air CO2 can be used for construction materials (plastic + CNT) and some electrics materials. The Losses goes back to the CO2 in the air.

Nydoc
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Postby Nydoc » Thu May 05, 2011 9:05 pm

chrismb wrote:Raw materials just aren't there any more like they were. And if you have no industrial infrastructure, then you can't extract and make use of these deep, very lean deposits. Which means if we loose our industrial infrastructure we just won't have the raw materials available to access those remote deposits and recover again to a technological species. We'll be locked into the stone age until the earth's plates refresh the whole of the earth's crust, and more fossilised biomass hydrocarbon deposits reform.

Wikipedia wrote:According to Cassini data, scientists announced on February 13, 2008, that Titan hosts within its polar lakes "hundreds of times more natural gas and other liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth." The desert sand dunes along the equator, while devoid of open liquid, nonetheless hold more organics than all of Earth's coal reserves.

Cassini's radar data has shown that prominent features on Titan's surface have shifted as much as 30km. The most likely explanation proposed is that Titan has a subsurface liquid ocean. Models estimate the volume of this liquid to be 12 to 40 times the volume of all of Earth's oceans. The hydrocarbons on Titan may not be a renewable resource, but they might buy humanity enough time to figure out something better.

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Thu May 05, 2011 9:34 pm

...and how would we get to Titan if we have no industrial infrastructure?

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Thu May 05, 2011 9:58 pm

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008AGUFM.P11D..09K

Whereas the original images (except for a few pairs obtained at similar orbital phase, some of which we have mapped previously) were offset by as much as 30 km, the new versions align much better. The remaining misalignments, typically <1 km, can be removed by a least-squares adjustment of the spacecraft trajectories before mapping, which also ensures that the stereo digital topographic models (DTMs) are made consistent with altimetry and SAR topography profiles.


Unfortunately.

Nydoc
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Postby Nydoc » Thu May 05, 2011 10:14 pm

Thanks for pointing that out that paper, Betruger. A 30km shift in 6 years didn't make a whole lot of sense to me anyways. I still think it could be profitable to visit Titan's poles sometime in the future. I don't know how we could do it, but I think we will.

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Thu May 05, 2011 10:55 pm

You and me both :)

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Mon May 09, 2011 5:48 pm

http://arstechnica.com/science/news/201 ... obbles.ars
Saturn's moon Titan appears to be a very active place, with evidence of liquid hydrocarbon rains and surface features, along with things like mountains and dunes of some sort. But all of that's on the surface, and evidence has been building for years that something interesting is going on deep underneath it all. A paper that is set to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics adds to the evidence that the "something interesting" constitutes a large liquid ocean that sits between the moon's surface and solid core.

MSimon
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Postby MSimon » Wed May 11, 2011 6:55 pm

What motivation would mining have to carry on doing so whilst it is easier to extract these materials from old products?


Quantities required?
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

MSimon
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Postby MSimon » Wed May 11, 2011 7:04 pm

chrismb wrote:You are thinking hundreds to thousands of years, whereas I am thinking that techno-man will be all but wiped out at the next ice age in a few 10,000's years. Will your iron ore stocks be enough to last Austria for 10,000 years?


Ice age?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiVvA9YQpiI
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

CharlesKramer
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Postby CharlesKramer » Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:21 am

chrismb wrote:Charles, I am right there with you on the question and worries of sourcing raw materials.
But I don't understand the connection with your comment
Cheap electricity from fusion = a dream to be devoutly wished. But like all great things, it will create problems as well as solve them, and it may not stop the end of industrial civilization.

What is the problem fusion energy would create, with respect to raw material supplies?

Did I say problems? (I'm not criticizing your interpretation). I'm not sure what I meant back then, but I don't see fusion causing identifiable problems. It will cause unforeseeable problems (everything does):

-- fusion will cause so many changes, they cannot be calculated. That's no reason to dampen speculation about them, but the changes are potentially huge, and any disruption of that magnitude effects everything else -- geopolitics, music, marriage fidelity, the habitat and range of wild wolves, the ease of purchasing a "lime rickey," whatever.

-- fossil fuels are industrial feedstocks, and electricity, however cheap, won't substitute except to the extent it enables new sources of those feedstocks or substitutes for them. For example, cheap electricity might facilitate the electricity-->ocean water-->ammonia production that Matthew Simmons planned (and claimed to have funded for a test run -- before he died). Cheap electricity might make aluminum cheaper (the cheaper the electricity, the crummier the ore can be and still be viable).

But I don't mean for a second to suggest any of that creates reasons not to strive for fusion with all of our resources. Fusion will solve more problems than it creates -- for the short term.

Fwiw, here's my latest quick list of possible consequences should Polywell or Focus Fusion or TriAlpha (or whatever) will succeed. If this list has any merit, it's as an incomplete optimistic prediction of FIRST TIER results. Speculating on the next level (the consequences of consequences) is much more... speculative. And challenging.

- CBK

===== TAKE TWO: IF CHEAP ANEUTRONIC FUSION BECOMES REAL =====

Fusion could make electricity indefinitely at 1/10th the current price, and the machinery could be cheap and simple to build. Some fusion fuels directly yield electrons; that means the expensive hardware of water--> steam -->turbines won't be necessary. Fusion electricity would overnight:

-- free up the natural gas and coal used to make electricity now

-- because oil in part competes with Natural gas (they are partly interchangeable) the freed-up natural gas would act as a constraint on the price of petroleum

-- end the coal industry and damage the railroad (freight train) industry that services it

-- end worries about global warming and acid rain (as a result of coal usage stopping)

-- possibly make superconducting hi-speed levitation railroads more practical (they exist now, and they're FAST, but expensive)

-- end the Navy's use of petroleum (some fusion devices would be small enough to fit into a ship -- which may be why the Navy is funding the Polywell effort)

-- end fission reactors for electricity, and thereby decrease the plutonium available for the arms race

-- facing declining oil revenues, the Middle Eastern petroleum states would face a crisis

-- all of the above would interact in unforeseeable ways -- because consequences would breed consequences would breed consequences

That combination of ingredients -- very cheap, very easy to build, and very much cheaper than existing electricity generation -- would all be needed.
================================
CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer

kurt9
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Postby kurt9 » Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:10 pm

Cheap energy allows for two things:

1) Synthesis of hydrocarbons by thermal process

2) Extraterrestrial resource utilization

The resources of the solar system are millions of times greater than those of the Earth.

In short, cheap energy will eliminate the currently foreseen limits on economic growth.

CharlesKramer
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Postby CharlesKramer » Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:43 pm

kurt9 wrote:Cheap energy allows for two things:
1) Synthesis of hydrocarbons by thermal process

Care to explain that?

Fusion, at its most optimistic best, means cheap electricity, and indirectly, cheap heat and cheap light. So those are your tools: electricity, heat, light.

What are you going to apply them too? Organic matter is no answer. You can get carbon from them, but never enough. The world shifted from wood to coal to oil for a reason. Oil and coal represent thousands of years of accumulated sunlight and other energy (such as pressure from the Earth); nothing that can be grown is capable of running industrial society the way it's run now (with or without fusion electricity). You can't take solace from a vague statement ("synthesis of hydrocarbons") without the details (Synthesizing WHAT and HOW?).

Bottom line: for the short term, fusion electricity may free up the coal and natural gas used to make electricity now, but coal and natural gas are also feedstocks for industrial materials, and fusion is not a substitute for them.

kurt9 wrote: 2) Extraterrestrial resource utilization
The resources of the solar system are millions of times greater than those of the Earth. In short, cheap energy will eliminate the currently foreseen limits on economic growth.

Now you're literally off the planet.

Some fusion technologies may also be useful for space propulsion (Polywell among them) but neither that nor cheap electricity are going to allow mining asteroids to replace a coal mine or iron mine.

Do you have any clue how many TONS of rock come out of mines every day? Or how expensive it might be to return one asteroid to earth in useable form?

The USA used to have the Messabi range -- a series of mountains that were 60% iron. That plus cheap oil and cheap coal is what made America a steel and industrial giant. Now the good (Anthracite) coal is gone, and the good iron ore is gone. What's left is 35% iron in a more difficult mineral to extract metals from.

You can't turn electricity into iron any more than you can change it into hydrocarbons.

I'm a big fusion fan, but the biggest enemy we have isn't he depletion of oil or coal or global warming... it's the pervasive cornucopia dreamland that results in people accepting as inevitable that "growth" will continue and industrial society will continue forever. This has been called the "consensus trance" -- the assumption that what we know will continue. But that's a myth contradicted by the geological and physical facts.

The far more likely reality is fossil fuels, and the industrial society they made possible, will be a brief blip in the timeline of human history.

Time to buy a bicycle.

While they're still being made.

and... PS...

Perpetual grown is unsustainable. To now understand that is not to understand the math. Google Albert Bartlett and see.
================================
CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:11 am

If you have cheap electricity and space propulsion, you shouldn't need to return things to Earth. Just stay in space.

What I'd say will limit freedom of space bound expansion are trouble makers and government. Trouble makers will make it hard to argue that men can be free -unless governments manage to correspondingly ramp up their means of war-making/defense of their constituents- and governments, out of habit, will probably do their best to keep people under their control.

CharlesKramer
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Postby CharlesKramer » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:58 am

Betruger wrote:If you have cheap electricity and space propulsion, you shouldn't need to return things to Earth. Just stay in space.
What I'd say will limit freedom of space bound expansion are trouble makers and government. Trouble makers will make it hard to argue that men can be free -unless governments manage to correspondingly ramp up their means of war-making/defense of their constituents- and governments, out of habit, will probably do their best to keep people under their control.

Good gawd.

Do you realize fossil fuels are running out? They won't disappear entirely (maybe ever) but they're in decline, which means the energy per capita that's been rising for 150 years is now also in decline.

And that means our world inevitably will change radically -- 20 years from now, civilian air travel will likely be finished, the ability to get a hot bath anytime you want will remain only as a luxury for the very rich, and the Interstate highway system (which costs billions to maintain) will be falling apart (and why not? There won't be many cars on them).

And then the grid will start to fail... LOOK: here's what the future looks like. http://www.dieoff.org/synopsis.pdf

Peak oil was a theory in 1956; by 1970 it was proven when the USA in fact peaked...

We could have postponed that fate if we made a determined effort 20 years ago to transition to a sustainable society.

My comments may sound crackpot, but they're as mainstream as the USA Department of Energy (go find Robert Hirsch's reports -- he made two -- for the DOE). And Robert Hirsch should be well known to this crowd -- he is the same Hirsch behind the Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor, which is a predecessor to Polywell.

The BEST known hope we have to avoid such a future is fusion. And the subject of this thread is: to what extent could fusion change the future? And to what extent might it NOT solve all problems -- at best it promises cheap electricity, an end to acid rain....

but that does not add up to a substitute for petroleum.

And your best answer is "stay in space" and Ayn Rand fantasies.

Yikes!
================================
CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer


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