Archive for August, 2008

Super yachts

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Humanity’s technical prowess provides wondrous opportunities. The super rich can buy super yachts. These vessels’ staterooms cocoon the journeyers with opulent luxuries whether symphonic sound, culinary bliss or coital passion. Glass bottoms, helicopters, submarines and dry docks for tenders keep super toys near to hand. With all this, there’s no wonder that construction costs approach or exceed a million dollars per metre of boat length. Technology has enabled over 4000 of these super extremes to be built to pleasure the rich.


And, providing pleasure completes the boat’s function. What other reason than animal gratification would see members of our species apply so much of the Earth’s resources for so trite and aimless a goal. The boats don’t add to humanity’s knowledge, they don’t provide security and they don’t provide food. This application of the Earth’s resources instantly and briefly gratifies a few to the detriment of the many.


Given the typical cost per construction metre, the average length of each and the number of boats then the estimated fleet cost is $50B. Its annual operating cost approaches 15 percent or about $8B. The space shuttle costs about $0.5B per launch. So, when your daughter comes up to you and asks, ‘Mom, why did we never reach past the planet?”, you will know the answer. You will also know to what benefit humanity used the Earth’s resources.

  1. Super Yachts

design

Rainsford Saunders Design


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Efficiency Ratios

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Obtaining energy takes effort after all energy doesn’t just lie about the ground. As energy is a potential to do work, we must take actions, we must unleash and focus the potential. But these actions take effort as well. Therefore, to obtain energy we must expand energy. As long as we obtain more energy than we expand then we benefit.

The life cycle analysis (LCA) technique gathers up all the energy expenditures and the energy products. In so doing, we can determine the net energy yield. Results exist for a few nuclear power plants (NPP). One shows an NPP providing 93 units of energy for every unit of energy expanded, a great efficiency. Note, some questions arose regarding the values for decommissioning and waste disposal. Nevertheless, useful efficiency ratios are being amassed for a number of energy sources.

Yet, the ratios have an underlying reliance. In particular, the energy expenditure is low when there is a ready and effective transportation infrastructure. Imagine the effort to move mountains of coal across a continent! Transportation relies almost exclusively upon non-renewable petroleum. As depletion approaches, then transportation efforts will rise. Given this, how much will the efficiency factors change?

  1. NPP
  2. Ratios

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Butterfly Tactics

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Summer days while away as butterflies gently, sporadically flap their wings in the soft breeze. Yet, there’s a certain urgency belying their apparent calm. These insects go dormant when the ambient temperature drops too low. Thus, for survival, they migrate thousands of kilometres to perpetuate their species. For example, with a lifespan sometimes as brief as two months, the monarch butterfly seems fated for extinction.

Yet, this fragile creature exists. Somehow, through two, three or four generations, this creature’s descendents retrace their ancestors’ path to return to their northern realms. Through evolution or instinct, each generation knows which direction in which to fly and what actions to take so as to ensure future generations.

Having a goal that extends across generations ensures the monarch butterfly’s existence. Can human beings, with a much grander mental capacity, beget similar goals that extend past an individual’s current needs and desires? Or, will we use the resources of Earth, energetic and other, to satisfy current whims and desires? If we choose the later, we will have already set a limit to civilization’s future.

  1. Monarch

Not a monarch


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Hi-ho Silver

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Ready, convenient transportation moves food and consumer durables all across our Earth. Its capability empowers the merchant class and gives the fortunate a new form of entertainment; tourism. Almost miraculously, the people of the United States travelled about 5.5 trillion passenger miles (8.8e12 km) in 2005 using trains, planes and automobiles.

Petroleum and its distillates lie chief amongst the sources of transportation’s energy. Yet, at one time the horse reigned (reined?) supreme. But, a typical horse can average only about 20 miles (32 km) a day if they had to travel every day of the year. Therefore, the people of the United States would need over 75 million horses to carry them the equivalent distance, assuming all travel was across land.

But, horses need care and maintenance. Principally, these herbivores need vegetation. Each working horse needs at least 2 acres (08. ha) of land upon which to graze. Therefore, to replace the mechanical machines by horses, the people of the United States would need 1.5 billion acres (6 million square kilometres). Their country currently uses 5 million square kilometres for both crops and pasture and has about 5 million horses. Little land remains for conversion to pasture land let alone the tenfold increase needed.

We can’t go back to yesterday’s technology to support today’s or tomorrow’s transportation needs. We will need to be smarter than that, or have much less movement.

  1. Distance
  2. Land Cover

Horse

Author’s picture


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