[FoRK] Malthusian machinations

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Tue Jun 15 06:44:34 PDT 2010


On Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 07:59:34AM -0500, Jeff Bone wrote:

> >You think? I'll believe it when you can buy them as a commercial
> >product. So far, they're part of the nuclear failure. I don't think
> >they'll get a second chance. There's no longer time nor money for  
> >that.
> 
> Okay, here is an actionable bet.  I'd put something on the prospects  
> for a commercial concern generating non-trivial revenu either making /  

Not good enough. Let's make the target 1% of all electricity world wide
produced by thorium reactors, by 2020. Or make it 1% by 2030, though no
doubt nobody cares about that by then. 

> selling or employing Th reactors by the end of this decade. Too lazy  

Remember, if we don't fix the problem by 2050, the problem gets
fixed. This way or the other.

> to write up the Long Bet, but if somebody else does it reasonably, I'm  
> in.  How 'bout it, Eugen? (Obligatory disclosure: I'm aware of at  
> least two credible efforts along these lines already, both beyond the  
> whiteboard stage.)

I'm aware of several. All shut down by now. Including even
one molten salt one.
 
> Re Ken, your point is entirely valid re transportation,  
> infrastructure, etc. That's part of why I rather insist on an  
> incrementalist approach, as the end-game Eugen advocates, while  
> absolutely the only possible positive end game, represents a complete  
> phase change from where we are at today.  That ain't going to happen,  
> because we can't stop the bus for long enough to change the tires,  
> much less fab the replacements.  We've got to both fab the tires AND  
> change them while the bus continues to roll on down the highway.
> 
> Tricky proposition.
> 
> BTW, the cold fusion bit was a troll.  I don't think there's any real  
> bullet there, silver or otherwise.  Now, re Th, I do.  Re seawater U,  

I cannot rule out thorium molten salt won't work (though in terms
of material science, hot fluorides under high radiation flux does not
strike me as something I'd want to tackly myself). I will reserve
my judgement until somebody actually starts selling them. Meanwhile,
we need to start spending money *now*, starting the transition *now*.

We've already blown this once in 1970s, now we won't get another
chance at blowing it.

> less so, but still not a non-starter;  a little coral / sponge  
> engineering and we can *grow* the harvester plant onsite in the  

A little machine-phase, and solar panels grow like trees.

> appropriate places and trivially process the required amount of water;  
> collecting the proceeds is slightly trickier but a little clever  
> bioengineering could solve that, too --- have em detach and float once  

The problem with bioengineering is that none of it works on a large
scale. And releasing GM organisms into world oceans to produce megastructures
(from what, aragonite? pH criticality is approaching) does strike me
as a far less viable proposition than machine-phase. And if you have
the latter, then all our current problems completely disappear with
a puff of smoke (and boy, will we wish we had the old problems, and
not the new ones). 

> saturated, then just scoop em off the surface and process them.  I'd  
> put that in the 20-year timeframe of practicality, though of course  
> the idea of heavily GM'd radioactive sponges spreading around the  
> ocean is probably a political non-starter for now, at least and  

Oh, yes.

> probably a bad idea anyway without some substantial further  
> safeguards. (Insert handwave here.) When oil hits say 200 / barrel and  

When oil hits 80, economy tanks. And the problem is not just price,
the problem is supply. Fuel, and petrochemicals. 80 years from now
burning fossil hydrocarbons for heat will be as quaint as hunting
whales to light your living rooms.

> supply chains start to crumble, maybe less so.
> 
> $0.02,

-- 
Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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