Sunday, July 24, 2011

Throw Another Virgin in the Volcano, Would You Mate?

Seasteading's Missing Link?

Images from Gizmag

Humans are accustomed to living on land. Getting large numbers of people to consent to living offshore on seasteads may require some skilled salesmanship. For example, making at least part of the seastead resemble a landscape, rather than a ship.
The main deck is a beach "cove" of cabanas surrounding a massive ocean view swimming pool, with a waterfall falling nearby from the volcano. _Gizmag

You can throw as many virgins into the volcano as you like, by the way. They will only slide down the waterslide and gentle waterfalls, to land unharmed in the pool below. What mad adventurers as you may find at Al Fin Potpourri are as protective of their virgins as anyone alive.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Terrafugia -- Not Exactly a Flying Car -- Gets US NHTSA Approval

...the Terrefugia Transition has gotten regulatory approval to fly and drive in the US. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration really calls this a "roadable aircraft" meaning it's more a plane that taxis really really well than a great car that can fly above traffic jams. But "flying car" sounds so much more James Bond, doesn't it? _itworld
Terrafugia Gets US Approval to Drive On Roads
Carl Dietrich's Terrafugia team has worked hard for several years to develop, build, and test a vehicle that is both road-worthy and air-worthy. The Terrafugia appears to be both -- in skillful hands -- and generally inexpensive to fly and drive. The $200,000 purchase price is more than your typical compact economy car requires, but if you are going to spend that much money for a vehicle, you are more likely to give it the type of care that it will demand.

Meanwhile, the EU is taking a different approach toward uplifting the daily commute:
The intent of myCopter is to set up a framework in which even the most idiotic drivers will be able to take advantage of personal air vehicles (PAVs). The key, of course, is making sure that the aforementioned idiots have as minimal a role in the operation of their vehicles as possible, which is why the EU wants PAVs to be mostly (or fully) autonomous. Initially, they'll stay out of controlled airspace (i.e. areas around airports where they risk tangling with a 747), but eventually the idea is to have them completely integrated into our existing infrastructure. _Dvice

The US DARPA wants to develop something similar to the EU's concept of an "idiot-proof" flier, and has the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Dept. to help develop their version.
...the U.S. government is also pursuing the idea of a flying car. The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded a 17-month, $988,000 contract to Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute to develop an autonomous flight system for the Transformer (TX) Program.

The TX program aims to develop a robust ground vehicle that can transform into an air vehicle with vertical take-off and landing capability, while offering significant operational flexibility with the ability to travel 250 nautical miles on land and in the air, or a combination, while carrying up to 1,000 pounds.

The Pentagon's DARPA has selected six vendors. AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin Company are the prime system integrators. Carnegie Mellon University and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne are developers of critical enabling technology. Aurora Flight Sciences partnered with ThinGap, and Metis Design Corp, two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) recipients to participate in this 12-month effort. _IBT
The DARPA version is far more robust and multi-purpose than the EU version, but then the US Defense Department personnel often see much rougher duty than the fat-bottomed bureaucrats of the EU. ;-)


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Small Fusion Reactors: An Alternative to Fission?

General Fusion

General Fusion is a small startup headquartered near Vancouver, BC. The compression of plasma to achieve fusion is accomplished by a coordinated spherical plasma compression, using pneumatics and advanced switching.

Helion Energy is located in Redmond, Washington. It is based on a principle of "colliding plasmas," and like all the rest of the small fusion approaches, it is a long shot.
Bussard IEC Fusion

Bussard inertial electrostatic confinement fusion (EMC2 Fusion) involves an electrostatic plasma confinement to achieve fusion. The history and development of the concept is explained in a video reached via the link above. The Bussard IEC has been financed almost entirely by the US Navy. EMC2 is based near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Dense Plasma Focus Fusion

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is based in New Jersey. The dense plasma focus approach uses a special pulsing "spark plug" to ionise a gas, and to form a plasmoid "pinch," with the emission of high energy photons, ions, and fusion neutrons.

Hyper V Technologies utilises a spherical array of mini railguns to accelerate plasma beams into a central target of deuterium or deuterium-tritium, to achieve fusion (hopefully).

TriAlpha is an Irvine, California venture, which has been fairly successful in the venture capital game. TriAlpha is a bit secretive with non-investors, but you can read their patent for yourselves. The concept seems to involve the highly sophisticated evolution of an earlier colliding beam fusion approach.

Fusion reactors can be prolific neutron generators, and could be utilised for the transmutation of nuclear wastes into harmless compounds. They could also generate a number of differen highly energetic particles and high energy photons, and used for a number of purposes -- including as space propulsion. Another potential product of fusion reactions is heat. But what is most desired from fusion reactors is abundant, cheap, clean electrical power.

The energy from fusion is higher than the energy from fission, so that less fuel is required to generate equivalent energies. Fusion is generally safer, with less radioactive waste remaining to be disposed of.

Many billions of dollars have been spent by governments in a vain attempt to master the power of the stars on a more human scale. If one of the small startups manages to achieve with $millions what huge government budgets of $billions could not achieve, a revolution would have been ignited which would likely not stop with just cheap, clean, abundant energy.

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How to Survive an Apocalypse in the Suburbs

The suburbs may not seem to be the best place to survive an apocalypse, but some people think it can be done.
Who knows how everything will shake out when the world goes to hell, but the suburbs may be well positioned to thrive with fewer resources, as Brown points out. Suburbs are close enough to the city to be convenient and encourage community building, yet spread out enough to offer yards and substantial garden space. (Suburban soil is also usually less contaminated than urban soil.) The houses are large enough to accommodate multigenerational households and cottage industries, which some demographers predict as coming trends. _CityPaper


But you and I know that to well and truly survive an apocalypse in the suburbs, you are going to need a lot of juice -- in more senses than one. You will need plenty of fluids, true. You will also need plenty of heat and electrical power to survive the winters and power air conditioners through the summer. In a third sense of the word "juice", you will need plenty of clout and respect. And what better way to gain the respect of one's extended neighbors, than to have your own functioning nuclear power plant in your backyard?

Consider the thorium molten salt reactor, pictured above:
The MSR design has two primary safety advantages. Its liquid fuel remains at much lower pressures than the solid fuel in light-water plants. This greatly decreases the likelihood of an accident, such as the hydrogen explosions that occurred at Fukushima. Further, in the event of a power outage, a frozen salt plug within the reactor melts and the liquid fuel passively drains into tanks where it solidifes, stopping the fission reaction. “The molten-salt reactor is walk-away safe,” Kutsch says. “If you just abandoned it, it had no power, and the end of the world came--a comet hit Earth--it would cool down and solidify by itself.”

Although an MSR could also run on uranium or plutonium, using the less-radioactive element thorium, with a little plutonium or uranium as a catalyst, has both economic and safety advantages. Thorium is four times as abundant as uranium and is easier to mine, in part because of its lower radioactivity. The domestic supply could serve the U.S.’s electricity needs for centuries. Thorium is also exponentially more efficient than uranium. “In a traditional reactor, you’re burning up only a half a percent to maybe 3 percent of the uranium,” Kutsch says. “In a molten-salt reactor, you’re burning 99 percent of the thorium.” The result: One pound of thorium yields as much power as 300 pounds of uranium--or 3.5 million pounds of coal.

Because of this efficiency, a thorium MSR would produce far less waste than today’s plants. Uranium-based waste will remain hazardous for tens of thousands of years. With thorium, it’s more like a few hundred. As well, raw thorium is not fissile in and of itself, so it is not easily weaponized. “It can’t be used as a bomb,” Kutsch says. “You could have 1,000 pounds in your basement, and nothing would happen.”

Without the need for large cooling towers, MSRs can be much smaller than typical light-water plants, both physically and in power capacity. _PS
And the advantages of the thorium molten salt reactor go on and on. Even many greenies are on board for thorium MSRs.

It is likely to be touch and go to get Obama's nuclear regulatory commission to license the safer, newer, cheaper nuclear plants, but nuclear engineer Kirk Sorensen has founded a company named Flibe, to build and market the devices. Even if he has to go to China to build the reactors, you can always have one smuggled into your country of choice and installed in your back yard under a small carnival tent -- to hide it from annoying satellites.

Remember, if you have a reactor like this, you will have all the juice you could possibly need. You could even build a giant dome over your entire neighborhood and give it the climate of Tahiti year-round, if you like. Tropical fruits taste quite good, particularly in the middle of typical apocalyptic mass food shortages.

But don't get cocky. Once residents of surrounding suburbs and neighboring cities catch on to the fact that you had the foresight to prepare for the apocalypse, they will want a large piece of what you have. That is where juice -- and knowing how to use it -- truly comes in handy.

More on this topic in a future posting.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Fuel-Electric Hybrid Flying Car from Trek Aerospace

This ducted fan beauty aims to utilise a fuel-electric hybrid power system, the first flying car to do so.
Michael Moshier and Robert Bulaga of Trek Aerospace are forming a new company to develop the hybrid Air Car, which will combine recent technological advances in materials and electronics with the kind of duct-fan technology that was used in the now-retired Springtail single person vertical take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle.

Moshier and Bulaga are currently on the lookout for funding partners to help the multi-person transport project take off (sorry!) and a number of real world scenarios for its use have been suggested - from being useful for emergency services such as search and rescue, police patrol and medical support, to providing vital lifelines for those areas of the world where established transportation systems are lacking.

Given the probable cost of the first vehicles to roll off the production line, it's more likely that thrill-seekers with bottomless bank accounts will be amongst the very first to power up the four fans and take to the skies. _Gizmag
But who are they kidding? The only ones with bottomless bank accounts are governments who can print their own money. Military organisations are likely to see such vehicles first after production.

Contrast the Trek hybrid above with the Euro- "MyCopter" pictured below:

EU bureaucrats have mulled over ways to keep their cities free of automobile traffic, and may have settled on one possible solution: the flying car taxi and commuter.
A European Union project known as myCopter has set aside funds of €4.2 million (US$6.2m) to investigate the possibility of introducing Personal Aerial Vehicles (PAVs) into the skyways of many congested European cities. This coming age of the "flying car" where vehicles leave the roads and launch into the skies promises to solve problems like dramatically rising urban traffic congestion...

..."We aim to develop technologies that could be used to form a new transportation system for personal travel that uses the third dimension, and which takes into account questions surrounding the expectations of potential users and how the public would react to and interact with such a system," Prof Heinrich Bülthoff of the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, told Gizmag.

The myCopter project envisions that the PAVs and PATS (personal air transport systems) would initially be used to fly at low altitudes for domestic travel between homes and working places. By flying below 2000 feet, the new traffic system hopes to operate outside of controlled airspace, without ground-based traffic control and without impacting on existing air traffic. _Gizmag

Another approach, from Australia, is tailored to the flying motorcyclist.


Sunday, July 03, 2011

Climate Hockey Stick From a Distance: Where to From Here?

Prolific and innovative thinker and scientist J Storrs Hall takes a look at where the climate has been, compares current climate with similar climate curves in the past, and slyly invites readers to guess where the climate is likely to be heading.

First -- Where the climate has been over the past 10,000 years or so... :
Images from WUWT

Next -- Comparing our current climate curve with similar climate curves from the past, to get an idea of a possible trajectory... :
Here I’ve plotted the 400 years following each minimum in the record that leads to a sustained sharp rise. There were 10 of them; the first five are plotted in cyan and the more recent 5 in blue. You can see that in the latter part of the Holocene the traces settle down from the wilder swings of the earlier period. Even so, every curve, even the early ones, seems to have an inflection — at least a change in slope — somewhere between 200 and 250 years after the minimum.

The hatched black line is the average of the 5 recent (blue) spikes. The red dots are the uptick at the end of GISP2 and HadSST, spliced at 1850. Note that ALL the minima dates are from GISP2. _WUWT

Then Josh invites readers to guess what will happen next, if history is any guide.

For some parts of the northern hemisphere, it may be time to get out the summer parkas.

Climate simpletons who believe that the global climate is controlled by one trace gas which constitutes less than 0.04% of the planetary atmosphere, have controlled the microphones, printing presses, funding agencies, and public stage for far too long. It is time for science to displace the politically convenient (and economically lucrative) climate hysteria, so that ordinary people can make rational plans.


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