Davis Aurini has an interesting article on Technological Illiteracy and Wireless Power Transfer - about how his novel "As I Walk These Broken Roads" is really set in the present, not in the future. Because the population of the world lacks curiosity:
...sure, they might have skills that can be easily transferred to motorcycle repair, building maintenance, electrical grid setup, you name it - but they'd rather rely on exhaustive, brute force to accomplish tasks than spend five minutes thinking of a new solution.This is so much people these days that it's not funny. Despite all the rah-rah "think outside of the box" buzzword crap spouted by businesses, they simply don't. If you think outside the box, you are either punished - or you get so sick of having to toe the line that you say fuck it and get the hell outta dodge. Or go do your own little startup on the side.
Business is ossified.
Aurini uses wireless charging technology as an example, about how the inverse-square law reduces the energy available the further away from the charging-source you are. So as an example, if you have a very large induction coil (bifilar, perhaps?) and say that 6 inches/0.5 ft from the coil you have 1kw available. Go to 12 inches/1 ft and the energy available isn't halved, it's 1/4 - ie you get 0.25kw or 250 watts of power. It gets worse from there.
Of course, this doesn't take into account that that is just *one* side of the coil - the same amount of energy goes out the other side. By definition, at least half the power you're throwing into this form of "wireless charging device" is thrown away. If you're lucky you get something like 80% efficiency for the charging side - only it's halved, 40% efficiency, when you realize that double the power is used in the fields and half the total power is automatically wasted. (Short of a cradle that sandwiches the thing between two phones or the like - then you'll get closer to your 80% overall efficiency.)
Wirelessly charge your car? Fuck no! Plug that piece of shit in.
This is the sin of our modern civilization: we don't understand reality. We don't take the time. We don't look. As Aurini states, we have lost - have punished out of ourselves - the curiosity which makes us spend 5 minutes thinking about another possible way to attempt to do something.
This is my small and very incomplete attempt to show what needs to happen now to advance our civilization to the next level. Even the one beyond that. Math and some science is involved. Will we do it? I think not, not for our current civilization! Not with our social obsessions with the Karcrapdians and Mz Jenner!
Perhaps the next civilization will get their shit together enough to reach the next stage - though sometimes I wonder if they will have enough basics left over from the opportunities which we are squandering at a high rate...the risk of total collapse of our species is very high in my opinion. We may end up as eternal Easter Islander's on a ball of semi-contaminated rock floating around the sun.
(Go right down to the end for the TL/DR if your eyes start glazing. I suppose that some of it is fairly heavy-going.)
The basic rise and development of civilization has generally involved the harnessing of energy. Human muscle was first, probably coupled with simple nature: water (near-frictionless transport) and wind (free though intermittent energy). Fire, like burning wood and charcoal. Using animal muscles to draw loads (near-frictionless transport with the wheel on decent, flat roads).
Multiplying the effects of muscles with levers, pulley's, the wheel. Multiplying the effects of fire with steam-engines, then internal combustion engines. Hydroelectric dams to harness the rain (powered by the sun). Tidal dams to harness the tides (powered by the gravitational energy of the sun, moon, and orbit of the earth). Windmills, ditto. Geothermal energy, drawing upon the natural fission processes that occur in the depths of the earth. Developing new sources of energy: fission, fusion.
One reasonably fit male laborer produces about 75 watts of power. That's right - the same amount as the old 75w incandescent lightbulbs you used to buy. A properly-harnessed-and-yoked horse or oxen produces about 746 watts of power (1 horsepower): 10x what a fit male can manage.
Here is a short list of how much energy you get from fire, depending upon the fuel (the oxygen in the air is basically free-to-use, though we toss the crap byproducts of burning into the air):
* TNT = 4.6 megawatts per kilogram (that's right, bugger-all ain't it)
* Wood = 16 megawatts per kilogram
* Protein = 17 megawatts per kilogram
* Coal = 24 megawatts per kilogram
* Ethanol = 26 megawatts per kilogram (this weak shit is supposed to replace gasoline?)
* Gasoline = 44 megawatts per kilogram (a middle finger to the ethanol fuel industry)
* LPG = 46 megawatts per kilogram
* Diesel = 48 megawatts per kilogram (which is why trucks use it)
* Hydrogen = 142 megawatts per kilogram (but it takes electricity to produce from water)
Sobering. Diesel, LPG and Gasoline are generally the easiest to find, we just dig them up from the ground - purify a little - and ship the stuff around to where we need it. Wood (and charcoal) is relatively clean, and we used to use a shitload of it - until we started running short, then we switched to coal and all the crap byproducts it has in the form of smog and sulphides and the like.
Hydrogen? That's good, right? The only by-product from burning it is water, like rain and the stuff you drink from the tap? Forget it. You still need to create the stuff, and that takes electricity - often gotten from coal-fired plants. You'll be burning at least 6kg of coal to get 1kg of hydrogen, depending upon how efficient your energy-conversion is. It's only useful as an interim chemical energy-store.
We are reaching our limits of density for easy chemical-energy sources and are badly in need of the next-generation of energy supply. Sure, we can dig more up - from deeper - as our technology improves, etc etc etc. We can continue to throw the burned byproducts into the air we breathe. At about 7 billion human beings on this planet, we're in the early process of drowning in a cesspool of shit that we're sitting in and filling slowly while we take a hundred-billion fucking duckface selfies a day and press the "like" button on FaceCrap as we go.
We need to step up to nuclear - probably fission first, then shifting up to fusion as soon as we figure out how. Which thought is where Leftism on the whole and the greenies and academia in particular start screaming and vomiting out stanzas of insane hatred. A purely emotional reaction, rather than looking at cold hard reality. The cold hard reality that is maths.
Reality: 1kg of U-235 (atomic mass of 235.044) is 4.255 moles or 2.562E+24 atoms. The U-235 fission-chain averages to 215 MeV (at 1.602E-13 watts/MeV) of energy release per fissioning atom¹. Start doing the multiplication:
2.562E+24 * 215 * 1.602E-13 = 8.826E+13 watts
88,260,150 megawatts per kilogram
88 terawatts per kilogram
Which if you can fission the lot of that in under a second gives you about a 19 kiloton atomic bomb. It's more useful being burned slowly though, and holds the equivalent energy of roughly 3,677 tons of coal. While having loads less crap left over and pumped into the atmosphere that we breathe. (Yes, radiation and actinide wastes and secondary radiation, etc. Yes, you can't fission every single individual atom. It's STILL less physical amounts of crap, only a few kilograms vs kilotons.)
Our next step up is fusion: 1kg of Hydrogen-1 fuses to 0.993kg of Helium-4, the remainder (0.7% or 7 grams) turning into energy via E = mc² and a big thank-you to Einstein for the easy math. When we multiply things out:
0.007 * 3E+8 ^ 2 = 6.474E+14 watts
647,400,000 megawatts per kilogram
647 terawatts per kilogram
Or a bit over 7x as much as good-old U-235 fission produces. There's also even less crap waste products from the process.
But we're still babies yet.
¹ Reference: Mulligan, Joseph F., Practical physics: The Production and Conservation of Energy, McGraw-Hill, 1980
The old Saturn-V that took America to the moon burned several metric shittons of chemicals to get into space, to the moon, to land, and then come all the way back again. Stage I: 770,000 liters of kerosine and 1,200,000 liters of liquid oxygen. That just got the basics of the thing (130 tons) into orbit (for comparison: that's about 10x 20' containers with 10 tons of cargo in each of them - we put hundreds to thousands of containers on a container-ship and there are hundreds of container-ships going around the world). [Edit: *hundreds of thousands* of container-ships going around the world. - BPS]
Kerosene has a hair more energy than gasoline: say 45 megawatts per kilogram or 37 megawatts per liter according to Wikipedia. Doing the math: 28,490,000 megawatts/28.49 terawatts. A bit under a third of a kilogram of uranium in terms of energy. Just to get ten containers into orbit, once.
You could plate everything you send into orbit with platinum, the energy-cost is going to massively outweigh the value of the item. Which most people don't grasp, so that's why peeps get shitty with NASA for thousand-dollar hammers and wrenches. That's nothing to the cost of actually getting it up into orbit, plus the damn things need to be able to withstand vacuum-welding and extreme heat/cold variations.
You want to get those 10 containers from the orbit of Earth to the Moon? On a regular supply-run basis, say for a moonbase? Chemical shit doesn't cut it. Even nuclear (fusion) barely manages it, and you need something better than Newton's laws of action-reaction too (unless you are willing to wait months to years per container - or use something like Project Orion/Daedalus).
Too bad for solar power from orbit, being beamed to the earth. Getting each station up there is prohibitively expensive for fuck-all return in comparison. Star travel? Like in the movies, or in what is considered SF books? HAH!
We can get bigger, though.
The greenies go on and on about "sustainable" and "renewable" energy. They're actually on to something, though not in the way you'd think. These things are all minuscule driblets of energy from the biggest fusion-reactor we have around: the sun.
The sun sends energy our way all the time, powering plants and the atmosphere and seas and rain and damn-near every speck of life on the surface of this planet. This is the equivalent of 1.362 kw per square meter up in orbit, less at the surface. The armchair academics get all gooey-eyed and dribble on about shoving huge solar arrays into orbit and microwaving power down to earth - see above for the energy requirements per plant.
However, there is one interesting thing: the entire planet is a huge-ass solar array that is 6,371 km across - bigger, when you look at the ionosphere. Reach out there to tap that, as pie in the sky as it sounds, and you get yourself a ginormous amount of energy. Using the old pi-arr-squared formula:
3.1415 * 6371000 ^ 2 = 127,512,357,201,500 square meters
* 500 watts per square meter (very inefficient) = 63,756,178,600,750,000 watts
63,756 terawatts of energy every second, 24/7/365
That's what they call a Type I civilization.
Yeah, I've exposed my inner geek with this lot. I won't blame you in the slightest if you've skimmed all that to this point. Or not even gotten to this point.
The TL/DR boils down to: this shit, none of it, ain't gonna happen - while as a species we're listening to the stupidest parts of our society. Leftists and those who run on emotion, those who think the world runs on elves and unicorns, those who happily act as parasites upon the system as a whole. Not while our justice system looks at mentally-subnormal murderers and whine and wring their hands about "he/she didn't really understand what he/she was doing" - instead of just locking the murdering piece of shit away from the more productive members of society.
Nope. This is why we decline.
The sooner that reality hits people upside the head, the better. We are in a race against stupidity, and I'm pretty damn sure that we've already lost. One thing is shit-sure: there's no way that 7 billion people are going to be living on the energy-production of slowly-growing wood.