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(Network World)   Like Hollywood, the military and the White House are out of ideas. Unlike Hollywood, they're actively soliciting big new ideas for science and technology, instead of making 7 sequels to nuclear fission   (networkworld.com) divider line 31
    More: Cool, nuclear fissions, White House, science and technology  
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1173 clicks; posted to Geek » on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:41 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-10-11 11:10:12 AM
"Manhattan Project" -style program to develop and mass-produce a feasible replacement for fossil fuels.
 
2012-10-11 11:14:34 AM

give me doughnuts: "Manhattan Project" -style program to develop and mass-produce a feasible replacement for fossil fuels.


Mr. Fusion!!! We just have to wait 3 years for it...
 
2012-10-11 11:53:40 AM

xanadian: give me doughnuts: "Manhattan Project" -style program to develop and mass-produce a feasible replacement for fossil fuels.

Mr. Fusion!!! We just have to wait 3 years for it...


I wish.

Fusion power has been "Just 10 years away!" for about 30 years. Paul Moller makes more reliable predictions.
 
2012-10-11 12:46:57 PM
Grand Challenges are compelling and intrinsically motivating. They should capture the public's imagination. Many people should be willing to devote a good chunk of their career to the pursuit of one of these goals.

For fark's sakes, this! They should pump up the PR of hard Science and Engineering up to 11, in such a way that makes celebrity PR look like a lemonade stand. If you get people interested in science, good things will happen.
 
2012-10-11 12:47:51 PM

give me doughnuts: "Manhattan Project" -style program to develop and mass-produce a feasible replacement for fossil fuels.


So, Ghost-rock bombs?.

/Obscure? My junker hopes not
 
2012-10-11 12:49:36 PM

CygnusDarius: Grand Challenges are compelling and intrinsically motivating. They should capture the public's imagination. Many people should be willing to devote a good chunk of their career to the pursuit of one of these goals.

For fark's sakes, this! They should pump up the PR of hard Science and Engineering up to 11, in such a way that makes celebrity PR look like a lemonade stand. If you get people interested in science, good things will happen.


While simultaneously farking our education system.
 
2012-10-11 12:52:37 PM
"4. How can U.S. energy stakeholders achieve cost parity across the nation's electric grid for solar power versus new fossil-fuel-powered electric plants by the year 2020?"

And when that happens, the nation's private railroad carriers will collapse, as coal transport accounts for half of their current cargo.

/not that this would be a bad thing
 
2012-10-11 12:53:37 PM
There's ideas a plenty.
What there isn't is enough funding behind any of them.
 
2012-10-11 12:55:51 PM

GranoblasticMan: CygnusDarius: Grand Challenges are compelling and intrinsically motivating. They should capture the public's imagination. Many people should be willing to devote a good chunk of their career to the pursuit of one of these goals.

For fark's sakes, this! They should pump up the PR of hard Science and Engineering up to 11, in such a way that makes celebrity PR look like a lemonade stand. If you get people interested in science, good things will happen.

While simultaneously farking our education system.


And there's that too. There would be a need to completely re-do all the educational system. I don't know if it's possible, since I'm no teacher, but I'd try to make the teaching of hard sciences to be more interactive, even fun, and engaging in the early years, so it sticks. That's just one idea.
 
2012-10-11 12:56:11 PM
Wireless power over 200 miles seems like a REALLY bad idea.
 
2012-10-11 12:56:20 PM

give me doughnuts: "Manhattan Project" -style program to develop and mass-produce a feasible replacement for fossil fuels.


My god if I finished my Ph.D. in time, I would love to get in on the ground floor of something like that.

/Dunno if Nanophysics would be releveant or not, but hey!

give me doughnuts: xanadian: give me doughnuts: "Manhattan Project" -style program to develop and mass-produce a feasible replacement for fossil fuels.

Mr. Fusion!!! We just have to wait 3 years for it...

I wish.

Fusion power has been "Just 10 years away!" for about 30 years. Paul Moller makes more reliable predictions.


Actually, good news is that, if I remember right, they are *actually* building a large-scale fusion reactor in France (that, yes, won't be completed for about 10-18 years?). I do wonder if the reason previous things couldn't break even was simply due to scale. I should look into that, actually. Does energy cost for containment go up by the square (area), while energy produced go up cubically (volume-based?).

Of course, I imagine it's not easy to simply scale it up...
 
2012-10-11 12:58:18 PM

the_vicious_fez: Wireless power over 200 miles seems like a REALLY bad idea.


Tesla thought otherwise.
 
2012-10-11 01:05:58 PM

MrSteve007: "4. How can U.S. energy stakeholders achieve cost parity across the nation's electric grid for solar power versus new fossil-fuel-powered electric plants by the year 2020?"

And when that happens, the nation's private railroad carriers will collapse, as coal transport accounts for half of their current cargo.

/not that this would be a bad thing


Assuming they go mostly fission (no way solar can match fossils without a huge fission base), this still doesn't imply that much of a gas/diesel replacement. If people cared enough to build the fission and solar plants, moving as much trucking on to the rail lines would be trivial.
 
2012-10-11 01:07:20 PM

CygnusDarius: the_vicious_fez: Wireless power over 200 miles seems like a REALLY bad idea.

Tesla thought otherwise.


My skepticism here comes from the dangers of high powered radio frequency (see also: RF burns). After 10 minutes of googling, I don't know enough about the subject in general to understand the broader safety concerns of non-RF power transmission.
 
2012-10-11 01:24:07 PM

yet_another_wumpus: Assuming they go mostly fission (no way solar can match fossils without a huge fission base), this still doesn't imply that much of a gas/diesel replacement. If people cared enough to build the fission and solar plants, moving as much trucking on to the rail lines would be trivial.


You realize that in about 1/6th of US states, solar power has reached grid parity and costs less than new powerplants . . . right?
 
2012-10-11 01:36:35 PM

MrSteve007: You realize that in about 1/6th of US states, solar power has reached grid parity and costs less than new powerplants . . . right?


Citation? I don't think that's actually true, based on what I've read.
 
2012-10-11 03:58:08 PM
Nuclear Fusion II: This time, it's personal!
 
2012-10-11 05:05:12 PM

Ambitwistor: Citation? I don't think that's actually true, based on what I've read.


It's not too difficult to do the math:

Cost of electrical energy by state - Link

Current cost of solar panels installation in the USA, pre-incentives: $4.44 a watt Link

Average solar insolation by city: Link

Warning, math ahead: Lets take the current cost of a 5KW installation in the USA, which is $4.44 a watt. 5,000 x $4.44 = $22,200 (remember, this is without *any* of the current incentives applied, including the 30% federal tax rebate).

Then figure the output of said 5kw array. 5 x annual average insolation x .80 (a 20% derate for wiring & inverter losses). Example. Los Angeles has annual average insolation of 5.03 sun-hours x 5KW x .80 = 20.12 kWh a day of output. Multiply that by 365 = 7343.8 kWh a year.

And lets figure out the lifetime cost of that power. The panels are warranted for 30-years, so 30-years x 7343.8 kWh a year = 220,314 kWh

Divide $22,200 for the installed cost by 220,314 kWh of 30-years of operation and you have $0.10076 a kWh.

Current cost of electricity in California? $0.1539 a kWh. Solar power, without any incentives, averaged over the warranted life of the panels is currently 2/3rds the cost of average retail power in CA. In places like Hawaii, where electricity costs $0.38 a kWh, it's a ridiculously good deal. Pretty much in any area below the 40th parallel, where electricity costs are above $0.12 a kWh, it currently makes financial sense to install solar on rooftops. When you include local and Federal incentives, it's pretty much a no-brainer.
 
2012-10-11 05:38:04 PM
Let's start with some easy ones:

1) Solar-powered hydrocracking, to provide a cheap source of hydrogen fuel
2) Thorium-cycle fission, to replace U/Pu-cycle methods
3) Tidal-powered water filtration/distillation, to provide inexpensive clean water
4) Switchable, targeted GM organisms that can break down complex polymers (Emphasis on the switchable and targeted here: we don't want hospitals falling apart. Better it not work at all, than that it work too well.)
5) Finish investigating Bussard's polywell model, to see if it might really pan out.
 
2012-10-11 05:39:14 PM

give me doughnuts: xanadian: give me doughnuts: "Manhattan Project" -style program to develop and mass-produce a feasible replacement for fossil fuels.

Mr. Fusion!!! We just have to wait 3 years for it...

I wish.

Fusion power has been "Just 10 years away!" for about 30 years. Paul Moller makes more reliable predictions.


Well, so was flat-screen TV, when I was growing up. The fact that something may take longer than we hoped or expected doesn't mean it won't happen eventually.
 
2012-10-11 05:41:04 PM

MrSteve007: "4. How can U.S. energy stakeholders achieve cost parity across the nation's electric grid for solar power versus new fossil-fuel-powered electric plants by the year 2020?"

And when that happens, the nation's private railroad carriers will collapse, as coal transport accounts for half of their current cargo.

/not that this would be a bad thing


If coal is replaced with hydrogen, I doubt CSX will notice or care much. They might even like it better, since it's not as messy to handle, and believe it or not, is less risky to handle (despite what everyone assumes).
 
2012-10-11 05:45:31 PM

CygnusDarius: GranoblasticMan: CygnusDarius: Grand Challenges are compelling and intrinsically motivating. They should capture the public's imagination. Many people should be willing to devote a good chunk of their career to the pursuit of one of these goals.

For fark's sakes, this! They should pump up the PR of hard Science and Engineering up to 11, in such a way that makes celebrity PR look like a lemonade stand. If you get people interested in science, good things will happen.

While simultaneously farking our education system.

And there's that too. There would be a need to completely re-do all the educational system. I don't know if it's possible, since I'm no teacher, but I'd try to make the teaching of hard sciences to be more interactive, even fun, and engaging in the early years, so it sticks. That's just one idea.


It can be done. It was done before, very successfully, in my father's generation. After the launch of Sputnik, there was a massive, urgent, nationwide push for science and math education. That's the generation of students that gave us the apex of our space programme, but probably the more important part was that the public was so supportive of it, which they aren't now.
 
2012-10-11 05:46:50 PM

MrSteve007: Ambitwistor: Citation? I don't think that's actually true, based on what I've read.

It's not too difficult to do the math:


I dunno. Take, e.g., this analysis (also a map). Superficially it seems to be using many of the same assumptions as you (cost of solar installation, average cost of electricity per state, etc.), but it comes to a different answer (no state is currently at solar parity, though some may soon reach it). I'd have to pore into the math in more detail to see where your assumptions differ.
 
2012-10-11 06:51:17 PM

Ambitwistor: MrSteve007: Ambitwistor: Citation? I don't think that's actually true, based on what I've read.

It's not too difficult to do the math:

I dunno. Take, e.g., this analysis (also a map). Superficially it seems to be using many of the same assumptions as you (cost of solar installation, average cost of electricity per state, etc.), but it comes to a different answer (no state is currently at solar parity, though some may soon reach it). I'd have to pore into the math in more detail to see where your assumptions differ.


It's a good article, using numbers for 2011 - which are old in the rapidly changing market. Since then, the USA installed cost of solar has dropped from 6.40 to $4.44 (a reduction of nearly 1/3rd). In your article, they assume a 5% rate to borrow money (I refinanced my house for 3.15%, pulling money out to install my array this June) - which is 37% lower than they assume. And at least for the same comparison, they show average rates in CA being 14.8 a Kwh - it's now 15.4 - 4% higher. All of my info is sourced in my previous links.

They also make a low-ball assumption that PV panels will only last 25 years. Most on the market these days have warranties that last at least years, so that's a patently false number (does your car quit working after 3-year/36,000 miles?). You can expect the panels to last 40-50 years - but for ease of estimation, 30-years is a good number to start out with.

They should do the math again, cutting the cost of PV by 33%, lowering the cost of financing by 37%, increasing the life of the panels by 20%, increasing the current cost of utility power by 4% - and you'll see that grid parity is already starting to happen.
 
2012-10-11 07:56:29 PM

MrSteve007: It's a good article, using numbers for 2011 - which are old in the rapidly changing market. Since then, the USA installed cost of solar has dropped from 6.40 to $4.44 (a reduction of nearly 1/3rd).

They use $4.40, not $6.40, for their levelized cost calculations.

In your article, they assume a 5% rate to borrow money (I refinanced my house for 3.15%, pulling money out to install my array this June) - which is 37% lower than they assume.

I'm not seeing rates that low here, but ok. And I don't know if you can really count on rates staying that low, so parity is a fluctuating target.

They also make a low-ball assumption that PV panels will only last 25 years. Most on the market these days have warranties that last at least years,

At least how many years?

 
2012-10-11 08:16:59 PM

Ambitwistor: At least how many years?


Oops, what I meant to say is that almost every major manufacturer has a warranty of at least 25 years - with a number now offering 30 year/80% warranties (as in, after 30 years, they'll still produce 80% of their original output). Most panels last much, much longer. I've personally seen several rooftop systems operating near peak performance after 30 years. Some work 40-years, easy.
 
2012-10-11 08:22:02 PM

Ambitwistor: I'm not seeing rates that low here, but ok. And I don't know if you can really count on rates staying that low, so parity is a fluctuating target.


My loan was a 3.15% 15-year. My local bank is currently offering 2.962% APR on a 15-year. 3.46% on a 30-year. Link

The Federal Reserve said they'll keep lending rates at nearly zero until at least mid 2015.
 
2012-10-12 12:44:26 PM
Funding general research with beneficiaries other than General Dynamics? "War is the father of all things" because it seems to get most of the funding.
 
2012-10-13 05:31:17 PM

Sylvia_Bandersnatch: 5) Finish investigating Bussard's polywell model, to see if it might really pan out.


I'm pretty sure Naval Weapons is still working on that one, they just classified it...again.

At least there's a funded classified project at the same location with the same project number, and the same manager.
 
2012-10-13 05:36:50 PM
Ken Edwards did this out of Eglin AFB in 2004 - he was trying to get ideas for using a device the AF had in hand. He pitched the thing as "what would you do if you had 'x'?",

Got a few fairly good approaches. Once the brass thought about it a while, they freaked out, shut the tour down, and classified all the contributions. Ken didn't get in as much trouble as I expected, which was sort of odd.
 
2012-10-14 03:22:23 AM

erewhon: Ken Edwards did this out of Eglin AFB in 2004 - he was trying to get ideas for using a device the AF had in hand. He pitched the thing as "what would you do if you had 'x'?",

Got a few fairly good approaches. Once the brass thought about it a while, they freaked out, shut the tour down, and classified all the contributions. Ken didn't get in as much trouble as I expected, which was sort of odd.


Out of curiosity, what sort of advanced alien technology was device 'x'?
 
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