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Archive for the ‘sustainability’ category: Page 141

Nov 17, 2012

Is Failure to Prepare Our Silent Existential Event?

Posted by in categories: education, existential risks, lifeboat, sustainability

Note: The below is exclusively about the United States of America, yet the theme is international.

Each time an extreme weather event takes place humanity is reminded again that basic preparation for an off-grid experience did not take place across large swaths of an affected population. Ironically, it does not begin to take place, publicly and en masse, after the event.

Saving humanity will have a lot to do with teaching a kid to build a fire, in the near term. More esoteric “preservers” and “shields” have their place, but “Scout” knowledge can produce immediate quantitative and qualitative improvements in humanity’s survival capabilities, fast.

After weather-induced disasters, our tendency is toward construction of physical things – better towers, more resilient dams, improved architecture. Seldom do we do anything to improve ourselves. Thousands remain helpless and dependent in the face of the Hurricane “Sandy” aftermath.

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Nov 12, 2012

Our Youth, Thinking Outside the Box

Posted by in categories: business, defense, economics, education, engineering, human trajectories, military, philosophy, space, sustainability

Recently I attended the AIAA Rocky Mountain Region’s First Annual Technical Symposium, October 26, 2012. Link to Symposium Photos, here. Link to Symposium Presentations, here.

I must congratulate many of the presenters, our youth, our next generation leaders, for thinking outside the box. And I congratulate their supervisors, advisors and team members for facilitating a supportive environment that nurtures outside the box thinking.

Here is why. Several remarkable papers were presented. For example, Tom Joslyn (Lt. Col, PhD) presented “Use of Liquid Droplet Stream Momentum Transfer for Lunar and Interplanetary Missions”. By using liquid droplets to conserve and transfer momentum between the momentum storage spacecraft and the lunar landing spacecraft, one could reduce the LEO mass from 200,000 kg to 24,500 kg. The presentation wasn’t about theory. It was about the how such a concept would be Engineering Feasible. The type of liquids required, and the ejection and capture systems required. That is impressive.

Second, “Cockpit of the Future” by the Capstone Team. They presented many new concepts like Palm Piloteer, haptic feedback suits, wrap around displays and seat designs.

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Nov 2, 2012

Atlantica Undersea Colony — Undersea Colonization and Research

Posted by in categories: education, engineering, futurism, habitats, space, sustainability

It may have gone unnoticed to most, but the first expedition for mankind’s first permanent undersea human colony will begin in July of next year. These aquanauts represent the first humans who will soon (~2015) move to such a habitat and stay with no intention of ever calling dry land their home again. Further details: http://underseacolony.com/core/index.php

Of all 100 billion humans who have ever lived, not a single human has ever gone undersea to live permanently. The Challenger Station habitat, the largest manned undersea habitat ever built, will establish the first permanent undersea colony, with aspirations that the ocean will form a new frontier of human colonization. Could it be a long-term success?

The knowledge gained from how to adapt and grow isolated ecosystems in unnatural environs, and the effects on the mentality and social well-being of the colony, may provide interesting insights into how to establish effective off-Earth colonies.

One can start to pose the questions — what makes the colony self-sustainable? What makes the colony adaptive and able to expand its horizons. What socio-political structure works best in a small inter-dependent colony? Perhaps it is not in the first six months of sustainability, but after decades of re-generation, that the true dynamics become apparent.

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Oct 26, 2012

Radioactive Pollution: Fishing for Answers off Fukushima

Posted by in categories: engineering, nuclear energy, policy, sustainability, treaties

A recent article in Science Daily reported on efforts to measure Cesium-137 and Cesium-134 in bottom dwelling fish off the east coast of Japan to understand the lingering effects and potential public health implications. As the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history, it is not surprising that many demersal fish are found above the limits for seafood consumption. What is more significant is that the contamination in almost all classifications of fish are not declining — suggesting that contaminated sediment on the seafloor could be providing a continuing source. This raises a concern that fallouts from any further nuclear accidents would aggregate over time.

One would question if the IAEA is taking a strong enough position on the permitted location of nuclear power stations. It perplexes me that the main objections to Iran attaining nuclear power are strategic/military. Whilst Iran is not at risk to the threat of tsunamis as Japan is, Iran is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, where destructive earthquakes often occur. This is because it is crossed by several major fault lines that cover at least 90% of the country. How robust are nuclear power stations to a major quake? The IAEA needs to expand its role to advise countries on what regions it would be unsuitable to build nuclear power stations — such as Iran and Japan. Otherwise we are risking a lasting environmental impact to eventually occur — it is only a matter of time.

How the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which sits just miles away from the notoriously active San Andreas fault was allowed to be located there let alone operate for a year and half with its emergency systems disabled (according to a 2010 safety review by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission). It seems as if there’s a missing link worldwide between the IAEA and regional planning authorities. Or perhaps it is simply down to responsible government.

Oct 14, 2012

The Kline Directive: Economic Viability

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, defense, economics, education, engineering, finance, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, scientific freedom, space, sustainability

To achieve interstellar travel, the Kline Directive instructs us to be bold, to explore what others have not, to seek what others will not, to change what others dare not. To extend the boundaries of our knowledge, to advocate new methods, techniques and research, to sponsor change not status quo, on 5 fronts:

1. Legal Standing. 2. Safety Awareness. 3. Economic Viability. 4. Theoretical-Empirical Relationship. 5. Technological Feasibility.

In this post I will explore Economic Viability. I have proposed the Interstellar Challenge Matrix (ICM) to guide us through the issues so that we can arrive at interstellar travel sooner, rather than later. Let us review the costs estimates of the various star drives just to reach the velocity of 0.1c, as detailed in previous blog posts:

Interstellar Challenge Matrix (Partial Matrix)

Propulsion Mechanism Legal? Costs Estimates
Conventional Fuel Rockets: Yes Greater than US$1.19E+14
Antimatter Propulsion: Do Not Know. Between US$1.25E+20 and US$6.25E+21
Atomic Bomb Pulse Detonation: Illegal. This technology was illegal as of 1963 per Partial Test Ban Treaty Between $2.6E12 and $25.6E12 . These are Project Orion original costs converted back to 2012 dollar. Requires anywhere between 300,000 and 30,000,000 bombs!!
Time Travel: Do Not Know. Requires Exotic Matter, therefore greater than antimatter propulsion costs of US$1.25E+20
Quantum Foam Based Propulsion: Do Not Know. Requires Exotic Matter, therefore greater than antimatter propulsion costs of US$1.25E+20
Small Black Hole Propulsion: Most Probably Illegal in the Future Using CERN to estimate. At least US$9E+9 per annual budget. CERN was founded 58 years ago in 1954. Therefore a guestimate of the total expenditure required to reach its current technological standing is US$1.4E11.

Note Atomic Bomb numbers were updated on 10/18/2012 after Robert Steinhaus commented that costs estimates “are excessively high and unrealistic”. I researched the topic and found Project Orion details the costs, of $2.6E12 to $25.6E12, which are worse than my estimates.

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Oct 12, 2012

The Kline Directive: Safety Awareness

Posted by in categories: cosmology, defense, engineering, life extension, military, particle physics, physics, space, sustainability

To achieve interstellar travel, the Kline Directive instructs us to be bold, to explore what others have not, to seek what others will not, to change what others dare not. To extend the boundaries of our knowledge, to advocate new methods, techniques and research, to sponsor change not status quo, on 5 fronts:

1. Legal Standing. 2. Safety Awareness. 3. Economic Viability. 4. Theoretical-Empirical Relationship. 5. Technological Feasibility.

In this post I will explore Safety Awareness.

In the heady rush to propose academically acceptable ideas about new propulsions systems or star drives it is very easy to overlook safety considerations. The eminent cosmologist Carl Sagan said it best “So the problem is not to shield the payload, the problem is to shield the earth” (Planet. Space Sci., pp. 485 – 498, 1963)

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Oct 8, 2012

We are as Gods and have to get Good at it [video]

Posted by in categories: climatology, complex systems, engineering, ethics, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, philosophy, sustainability

The shift that has happened in 40 years which mainly has to do with climate change. Forty years ago, I could say in the Whole Earth Catalog, “we are as gods, we might as well get good at it”. Photographs of earth from space had that god-like perspective.

What I’m saying now is we are as gods and have to get good at it. Necessity comes from climate change, potentially disastrous for civilization. The planet will be okay, life will be okay. We will lose vast quantities of species, probably lose the rain forests if the climate keeps heating up. So it’s a global issue, a global phenomenon. It doesn’t happen in just one area. The planetary perspective now is not just aesthetic. It’s not just perspective. It’s actually a world-sized problem that will take world sized solutions that involves forms of governance we don’t have yet. It involves technologies we are just glimpsing. It involves what ecologists call ecosystem engineering. Beavers do it, earthworms do it. They don’t usually do it at a planetary scale. We have to do it at a planetary scale. A lot of sentiments and aesthetics of the environmental movement stand in the way of that.

Continue reading “We are as Gods…” and watch the video interview

Oct 7, 2012

50 months to avoid climate disaster – and a change is in the air

Posted by in category: sustainability

At the halfway point to a climate gamble, 50 contributor ideas give just a taste of the creativity and innovation available to us

“One or other of us will have to go,” Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said on his deathbed to the hated wallpaper in his room. The perilous acceleration of Arctic ice loss, and the imminent threat of irreversible climate change poses a similar ultimatum to the economic system that is pushing us over the brink. For society’s sake I hope this time we redecorate.

Fortunately, many people are queuing up to propose better designs, rather than just cursing the interiors, as you can read about here.

Monday 1 October marks the halfway point in a 100-month countdown to a game of climate roulette.

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Oct 1, 2012

Liquor & Glass — Sellafield/BNFL Keeping a Lid on It

Posted by in categories: engineering, ethics, nuclear energy, policy, sustainability, transparency

Fukushima reawakened the world to the dangers of nuclear power, and reading back over Fearing Sellafield (2003) by Colum Kenny recently, I reflect back on how deflective and dishonest industry can be to steer clear of critical opinion. Seeing parallels suggested in other industries today, I wonder if much has really changed.

Highly Active Liquor (HAL) produced by the reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel at Sellafield, reached a level of 1,500 cubic meters in storage at its peak circa 2001, the capacity of a 50 meter Olympic swimming pool. Particularly unstable, a disruption to electricity & water coolant could result in such liquor boiling, overloading the ventilation filtration systems and leading to a nuclear accident. Containing about 80 times the amount released during the 1986 Chernobyl accident according to a report for the European Parliament at that time, we are rather fortunate such a serious accident never occurred. This analysis was provided by what became known as The WISE Report — so called due to associated with the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) in Paris. In response BNFL set out to reduce this liquor to a solid form known as ‘glass’ — borosilicate glass — much safer than when kept in liquid form, and put in storage — though much of it still remains to be vitrified.

In 2000/2001, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) of the HSE published a number of reports on aspects of Sellafield that led to causes of concern. One report in particular entitled ‘an investigation into the falsification of pellet diameter data in the MOX demonstration facility at the BNFL Sellafield site and the effect of this on the safety of MOX fuel in use’ suggested deliberate dishonesty in keeping records. BNFL subsequently complied with most of these recommendations.

Authors of the WISE report however still had concerns regarding increases in levels in certain sea discharges and aerial releases, and inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the OSPAR Convention. It stated that the deposition of plutonium within 20km of Sellafield attributable to aerial emissions has been estimated at 160–280 billion becquerels — several times the plutonium fallout from all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, and that 250kg-500kg of plutonium from Sellafield has been absorbed as sediments on the bed of the Irish sea ‘representing a long-term regional hazard of largely unknown proportions’. The report had been treated with caution by the European Commission and conveniently dismissed by the National Radiological Protection Board in the UK by claiming that some of the conclusions drawn in the report were based on ‘lacking objectivity’. It seems that governments are always bent towards safeguarding industry first, leaving environmental concerns and the health of our Mother Ship as a secondary issue.

Sep 26, 2012

What are End Of Humanity (EOH) events?

Posted by in categories: defense, ethics, existential risks, lifeboat, philosophy, physics, space, sustainability, transparency, treaties

EOH events are events that cause the irreversible termination of humanity. They are not events that start the physical destruction of humanity (that would be too late), but fundamental, non-threatening and inconspicuous events that eventually lead to the irreversible physical destruction of humanity. Using nations and civilizations I explain how.

(1) Fundamental: These events have to be fundamental to the survival of the human species or else they cannot negatively impact the foundation of humanity’s existence.

On a much smaller scale drought and war can and have destroyed nations and civilizations. However, that is not always the case. For example, it is still not know what caused the demise of the Mayan civilization.

The act of war can lead to the irreversible destruction of a nation or civilization, but the equivalent EOH event lay further back in history, and can only be answered by the questions who and why.

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