The Future of Energy is Stateless

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 07:49 -- webmaster

I'm a member of an interesting group of wildly diverse futuristic thinkers that are discussing what to do about potential existential threats to humanity. You can describe it as a think tank for ensuring our survival as a species. As you can imagine, much of the talk is either about protecting the planet from things like huge asteroid strikes or how to get enough people living off the planet that its destruction wouldn't cause our extinction.

The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.

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One of the latest topics to come up is how to deal with power (i.e. electricity) generation and distribution and all the deleterious effects of the current and near-future methods. One of the geekiest and coolest sounding proposals is to put large reflectors or solar collectors in space that will beam down energy to distribution stations on Earth's surface. It has been described in detail in science fiction - I remember first reading about it in Isaac Asimov's robot series.

Much of the talk about space based planetary energy has been about potential benefits and pitfalls. One person is arguing that by bringing more energy onto the planet than is naturally falling on it, it will accelerate global warming. Others are more interested in deriving values for how much additional power this could bring to people, or how the windfall will be redistributed to ensure fair access. Some are exploring which different technologies make the most sense to implement such a system.

But this whole discussion about space based power generation and collection for terrestrial uses seems so short sighted and ridiculous to me. This planet is just the incubator for humanity, and it has become our cradle; but we need for it to not be our prison and our coffin.

People want power to make their lives better, and they will always want more. IMHO the ultimate answer is not simply to try to expand the amount of power available to a growing population trapped on this tiny planet, but to get the population expansion to expand outward. Sure, as a near-term strategy creating newer, safer, and more distributed sources of energy will allow more economic growth and political stability that could make more resources available for futuristic endeavors. But I think its much better to expend research and development resources into efforts to build colonies in space, on the moon, and on Mars; as a first step into our adolescence as a species.

"Stab that bloody thing in the heart!" - Elon Musk referring to space based solar power

And as far as the discussions on what types of power generation we should be pursuing, those are also a bit disheartening. I've been hearing far too much anti-nuclear moaning from people who should be smart enough to know better. The main problem with nuclear technology has been the public perception that it is a bad thing, which leads to excessively expensive insurance (due to fear of lawsuits) and overly complex government regulation, both of which have slowed research and development of newer and safer nuclear technologies. The general fear of nuclear has even gotten so ridiculous that people I know (who should know better) are avoiding the use of microwaves for cooking and are instead using less safe and more carcinogen creating methods of food production.

I've heard enough about thorium and pebble bed type reactors to know that there are much better ways of producing electricity than our current reactors use, but again the fear of some nuclear hobgoblin has caused politicians to harshly dissuade even attempting to change to better and safer tech. Thorium and/or pebble beds might not be the solution we need, but they are probably worth trying and other solutions could arise that are even better if people will let scientists and researchers do science and research.

IMHO, the biggest threat to humanity's continued existence is the belief in the need for a monopolistic government with the power to force compliance. That is the one common thread I see in pretty much every existential threat keeping us from finding and implementing solutions.

Any form of cooking will destroy some nutrients in food, but the key variables are how much water is used in the cooking, how long the food is cooked, and at what temperature. Nutrients are primarily lost by leaching into cooking water, which tends to make microwave cooking healthier, given the shorter cooking times it requires.

Spinach retains nearly all its folate when cooked in a microwave; in comparison, it loses about 77% when cooked on stove, because food on a stove is typically boiled, leaching out nutrients. Bacon cooked by microwave has significantly lower levels of carcinogenic nitrosamines than conventionally cooked bacon. Steamed vegetables tend to maintain more nutrients when microwaved than when cooked on a stovetop. Microwave blanching is 3-4 times more effective than boiled water blanching in the retaining of the water-soluble vitamins folic acid, thiamin and riboflavin, with the exception of ascorbic acid, of which 28.8% is lost (vs. 16% with boiled water blanching).

Here's a reasonably balanced article on microwave cooking. And for Pete's sake people, stop believing posts on Mercola and Natural News and similar FUD sites. They're making money from people's unfounded fears of the unknown.

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