Category Archives: Future

What does the future hold for us?

Abundant Energy / Untraconductors

Maybe it’s just me but my BS detector is going clang-clang-clang when I read about either of the following two topics.

The first is a supposed device for creating electricity from zero point or vacuum energy created by a company called Magnetic Power Inc. And then another company, Room Temperature Superconductors Inc, claims to have invented a polymer, specifically a form of polypropylene, that conducts electricity 100,000 times better than copper, at room temperature.

I’ve seen so many of these miracle technologies arise over the years but no product is ever produced. You have to ask yourself why? Conspiracy theories would say because the oil companies and the power companies want to keep energy expensive. However, an alternate explanation is that no real technology of these natures ever existed and it is simply nothing more than a scam to bilk investors out of a few million in probably not so hard earned cash.

I want to see these things work, we could use an energy breakthrough or two, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Middle East… It Just Keeps Getting Better

Iran’s announcement that they had no intention of discontinuing their nuclear program did not come as any big surprise to me today. They know it’s hard to get respect if you’re not in the nuclear club these days.

I think it may not be as terrible as people think. Look at Pakistan and India, they were constantly fighting over Kashmir. They were always at each others throats, firing machine guns at each other. But once both of them demonstrated that they were nuclear capable their ability to get along improved quite substantially.

I’ve conversed with some people in Iran over IRC in the past, and you know they didn’t come across at all like the media portrays them. They seemed fairly ordinary, they went skiing. The pictures you see on the media makes them look like a bunch of desert rats, but they’ve apparently got mountains and snow and ski resorts.

I really wish more people would attempt to have personal experiences with people in other countries and then ask your media why they are providing such a tainted picture of reality.

Post Apocalyptic World

Scientific American online has a blog with an article entitled, “Doomsday: Not As Much Fun As You’d Think”. It’s interesting in that it points out the difficulties of rebuilding a destroyed civilization. Particularly, that the first generation would be too occupied with survival to teach the next generation to read. Once that chain of literacy was broken, written language would have to be re-invented.

The more I learn about our past, the more I am convinced that a previous advanced civilization existed, perhaps more advanced than our present civilization, and was wiped out by some disaster. In short, when it comes to post apocolyptic eras, we are presently living in one.

In 1910, Peter Freuchen, “married” a Greenlandic Eskimo and lived with them for some time. He later recounted his experiences in a book entitled, “The Book of the Eskimos”.

At the time the Eskimos did not have a system of writing. They did have an extremely explicit oral language which they used to pass down information from generation to generation. A village would have an individual called an angokok, the Eskimo equivalent of a shaman. The angokok had the job of memorizing and passing down this knowledge and interfacing with spirits on behalf of the village.

Peter Freuchen documents aspects of the stories they’ve passed down that date back some 30,000 years, and accurate descriptions of animals like the woolly mammoth and saber toothed tiger. These legends also documented a time when people traveled about in flying houses.

When Admiral Perry made his attempt to reach the geographical north pole (whether he did is still a subject of debate, many are doubtful that his account can be accurate), he took back to New York a couple of Eskimo guides that had accompanied him on part of the journey. When they returned, they referred to the early cars of the time as people moving about in rolling houses.

The similarity of the description of cars as rolling houses to the description of an earlier time when people moved about in flying houses suggests that they were describing some kind of flying vehicle.

Another aspect of this that intrigues me, at the time when people moved about in flying houses, the angokok’s also believed that words had great power. Things could be made to happen by speaking them, but words lost their power with use and so angokok’s would invent new words for everything so that they would again have power.

Ancient Indian Vedic texts describe vimanas which are flying machines. Some of these descriptions resemble airplanes, others more like a flying saucer.

I had seen photographs of old Mesopotamian batteries, or more correctly, cells. Clay-pot devices, not indicative of a very advanced technology. I had heard of ancient Egyptian batteries and had expected something quite the same.

Instead I saw something that was comparable to a modern flashlight cell. If you remember the lantern batteries that used to be longer than the current generation with two screw posts on top, internally they were comprised of four F cells. F cells resemble long D cells.

The Egyptian cell had a strong resemblance to the internal F cells in the older style lantern batteries. Like a modern day cell, it had a carbon positive electrode and a zinc negative electrode. I don’t know what they used for an electrolyte, but the top was sealed with a tar just as are modern cells.

The symmetry and precision of the electrodes was impressive suggesting that the ancient Egyptians possessed machining capabilities that were relatively advanced.

Similarities in the early Chinese written language and ancient Egyptian suggested a common precursor language.

Legends of Lemuria or Mu, and then later Atlantis, describe advanced ancient civilizations. Lemuria was not advanced technologically but spiritually or psychically, Atlantis was scientifically and technologically advanced. But both continents sank, or so goes the legends.

You find many different cultures with stories of prior advanced civilization, advanced either technologically or spiritually, followed by world-wide flood myths.

This suggests that we’re not the first, we’re living in a post apocolyptic era. Many suggest that the flood myths relates to floods caused by the melting of the last ice age, but such melting would have been less sudden.

I suspect a deep ocean impact event. That is, an asteroid impact somewhere over deep ocean displacing a huge amount of water into the atmosphere, and even past the atmosphere out into near space, initially much of it as vapor or supercritical water, which then is attracted back by gravity, condenses and rains out around the planet.

I am of the belief that not only did a previous civilization exist, but that it was global (at least) in scale, and both more technologically and spiritually advanced than we are today. Nearly all traces of this civilization save for some stories passed down via oral tradition and a handful of monuments so large and robust that they survived, were erased.

I believed this probably happened approximately 12000 BC, and that for the next 6000 or so years, all knowledge was passed orally and it wasn’t until about 6000 years later, when early Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, and Arabs had invented writing and recorded some of the oral stories in writing.

If this happened to mankind before, it can, and given enough time will, happen again. I think there are a couple of lessons in this. First, we should prepare for such an event so that some continuity of civilization can survive. In particular knowledge should be stored and encoded in such as way that a civilization having to re-invent written language again could understand it and make use of it. We should also establish self-sufficient colonies on the moon and later Mars. Colonies that are capable of living off the land.

Latest Projects

I’ve been somewhat preoccupied getting a new photo gallery online (using CopperMine) and a new Bulletin Board.

I’m still populating the photo gallery but the Bulletin Board is ready to go.

It’s completely totally FREE, give it a try at:

Living in Fear and Hatred

I am excited by all the cool things happening in the technological arena. Advances in the controlled hydrogen fusion arena, advances in solar cell technologies, and new nuclear fission technology that can destroy existing nuclear waste, hold the promise of a sustainable infrastructure for the world with the capacity to eliminate pollution and poverty.

How people relate to each other threatens to withhold those promises. The ongoing conflicts between Israel and the rest of the Arab world is a case in point.

Israelis want to be able to live without threat of attacks, to not have to worry about incoming missiles, or car bombs, or kidnappings. Reasonable enough.

Palestinians want to live with freedom and dignity and to have the respect of their neighbors. That’s also reasonable.

Israelis deny the Palestinians their freedom and dignity. They refuse to recognized their elected government. They continue to hold around 10,000 Palestinians prisoners in their jails.

The Palestinians deny Israel security. After Israel withdrew from Palestinian land and granted the right to self-determination, Palestinians continue to lob rockets, blow up shopping malls, and kidnap Israeli citizens.

Both parties have denied the other that which should be a fundamental human rights. Many innocent parties get caught in the cross-fire. They are killed, maimed, or their livelihoods destroyed.

Technology isn’t going to fix this problem. Humans need to learn to live with trust, forgiveness, respect, compassion, and love of our fellow man. Technology will only help us travel down the path of destruction faster if we continue to live in a state of hatred and fear.

We Should Be Doing This

The Chinese are not content to wait until 2016 for ITER to come online to start working out the final issues involved in bringing fusion power online.

The Chinese are building a reactor called EAST which is expected to see first plasma around August 15, 2006. They began construction earlier this year which gives you an idea of the ambitious timeline.

EAST will be the first Tokamak to use superconductive coils to generate the magnetic plasma containment field. Copper coils used in existing research reactors have electrical resistance which consumes power producing heat limiting power shots to about sixty seconds. Commercial power reactors must operate continuously dictating the use of superconductive magnets.

Using superconductive coils, EAST will not be subject to coil heating. Power shots over fifteen minutes long allows some remaining questions to be addressed.

One major unanswered question relates to the performance and endurance of the diverter. The diverter is a device that skims the helium waste off the outer surface of the plasma. Helium removal is necessary in an operating reactor because a build up of helium absorbs energy squelching the fusion reaction. Questions relating to heating and abrasion of the diverter can only be answered by longer power shots.

Another concern for commercial reactors is long term plasma stability issues that may not present themselves in existing research reactors. EAST will allow power shots to last long enough to either reveal those instabilities or to determine that they do not exist.

East is not as large as ITER will be and so will not operate at full scale commercial power generation levels. It will allow testing and characterization of all the requisite technology that ITER will require.

It doesn’t bother me that the Chinese are doing this. It does bother me that we, in the energy hungry United States, are not. The Chinese understand the urgency of getting away from fossil fuels for their energy needs. For some reason, we, in the west, do not.

High Power (Breakeven?) Fusor

A fusor is a device which uses an electrostatic field to accelerate deuterium (or a mix of deuterium and tritium) ions and cause them to collide with sufficient energy to overcome the coulomb barrier and fuse.

A fusor consists of two concentric grids placed into vacuum chamber with deuterium introduced at a very low pressure. The outer grid is charged positively, the inner grid negatively. Deuterium ions are accelerated by the voltage gradient towards the inner negative grid. Most of them pass through the grid towards the center of the device where some of them collide and fuse.

The ions impacting the inner grid heat the grid. This heating limits the power level and fusion rate which can be obtained. The current amateur record is 5×10^6 neutrons per second, which equates to about .03 watts of fusion power using 4 kw input power.

The original inventor, Philo Farnsworth (also the inventor of the cathode ray tube) and his team created a device that achieved 10^12 neutrons using a deuterium tritium mix. Breakeven, requires on the order of 10^14 to 10^16 neutrons per second would be required. Even 10^12 neutrons per second requires shielding.

The present state of the fusor device makes it useful as a neutron source but not as a power generation device. To achieve breakeven the reaction level would have to increase from between 100 and 10,000 times the present record. Even if you replaced the grids with very heat resistant materials these power levels could not be achieved with the existing design.

For a deuterium-tritium mix the ideal energy of the colliding deutrons (neutron + proton) is approximately 60 KeV. The present fusor designs comes close to this, accelerating deutrons through fields approaching 30 KeV. Deutrons that hit head-on have enough energy to overcome the coulomb barrier and fuse. Present devices are operated at very low pressures so there are few collisions.

If the grid could be made to repel deutrons just as they were passing, then the ions would be deflected through the holes between the grid wires instead of colliding with the grid. If this could be achieved then all of the energy would go into accelerating the ions instead of heating the grid.

My idea is to operate the fusor more like a particle accelerator. Operate it in pulsed AC mode instead of DC. The frequency would be chosen so that just as the particles get to the outer grid, the outer grid is supplied with a positive voltage and the inner with a negative, but just as the pulse of particles is passing the inner grid, the polarity is reversed and the ions are repelled away from the grid and steered through the openings between the grid wires. The repulsive force after they pass they will accelerate them further.

Eliminating the collisions would allow you to operate at the optimal voltage and density necessary for maximum fusion yield. With an AC system you could even use multiple concentric grids in what would basically be a concentric version of a linear accelerator.

If the heating from the fusion reaction heats the grids excessively, you could build them out of small diameter tubing instead of wire and run a coolant through the tubing which would allow you to simultaneously cool the device and extract thermal energy.

I don’t have the means or skill to build such a device so I am throwing this idea out in hopes that someone experimenting with fusors might find this approach interesting and give it a try.

Here are some related links:

Brian McDermott’s device is probably the most well constructed amateur fusor. At this point he still hasn’t achieved anything close to Farnsworth record fusion rate but it’s still in process.

Recent Developments in Photovoltaics

BP Solar supports research into ribbon silicon.
UCLA engineers create plastic solar cells.
Nanotech center makes flexible solar cell breakthrough.
Quantum dots promise next generation solar cells.
Indium nitrate and gallium nitrate can absorb full spectrum.
Advances permit solar cells on very thin substrates.
CIGS solar cells promise promise high efficiency and low cost.

Solar Works Even In Seattle

I took these pictures of a solar installation at the Carkeek Environmental Education Center in 2005. This installation provides 3.6 Kw of peak power and provides for about 50% of this buildings energy needs.

I was recently contacted for permission to publish the following photograph in a book dealing with the subject of sustainable energy. The reason the author was interested in this particular photo is that it dispels many of the current myths regarding solar energy.

For example, it is often said that solar energy can only work in areas that receive a lot of sunlight such as southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Nevada. This installation is in Seattle Washington, only about one hundred miles south of the Canadian border, and Seattle has the distinction of being the US city that receives the least sunshine in a year. Even with these handicaps, this installation generates half of the energy requirements of this building.

Another commonly held belief is that a solar installation requires defoliation to provide adequate exposure to the panels. This installation is surrounded by lush plant life.

Silicon solar panels are expensive, presently around $5/peak watt for small to medium sized installations, but silicon solar cells are extremely stable and last virtually forever so your initial investment will generate returns for decades. After about five years silicon solar cell output typically declines by about 10%, remaining constant after that. You will want to take this into consideration when you size your solar array.

If you are a do-it-yourself and willing to build your own panels, very reasonably priced solar cells can often be obtained through E-bay or surplus electronics dealers.

Shell Oil and Eskom Meters The Sun

While searching the web to find out what the latest developments in solar technology were, I ran across this article relating to Shell Oils rather disgusting approach to solar power.

In South Africa, Shell International Renewables Limited and Eskom are working on a system to provide electricity to customers in rural and remote areas using solar power collected on their roofs.

So far doesn’t sound too bad does it? But here’s the rub, they’ve designed this system so that the panels and batteries can’t be connected to any other device and only work with their controllers which have a metering unit, security device, token reading unit, and pre-payment device. The unit can not be activated without a compatible magnetic card or token.

I guess it comes as no big surprise that if anyone could find a way to meter the Sun, it would be an oil company.