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Outer space thread


It wasn’t serious, just pointing out in a jokey way that China is on the other side of the planet from the Sahara.

Seriously though, solar panels with cell storage is probably the best of the renewables options generally.


China has the Gobi desert though…

I have never heard a solid argument why it wouldn’t work, but maybe I am seeing things too simple.


I know.

Plus a worldwide grid is possible, heating losses are not that great, just expensive to capitalise.


Here’s a thought though: what are the side effects of 10% of the Sahara desert not receiving the expected amount of sunlight because its albedo is altered by giant black solar panels? It must have an effect on how the desert is heated, and that will have an effect on how the heat is released to the atmosphere, and that’s got to affect the weather, surely?


Short answer is no. Or at least, not much.
First of all, the area involved even to power the entire planet’s electricity requirement, is very small.

The effect of it would be to cut off direct sunlight under the panels or reflectors used. That means sunlight energy would be lost in those shadow areas which would otherwise have gotten it.

That will have an effect on the bio balance of life within the array area, but again, a small area.

The energy that is lost there will find its way back into the atmosphere when the electricity is used elsewhere.

So a very small relocation of the total sunlight energy on the Earth would be relocated but the overall energy absorbed into the atmosphere would be the same.

The big effect it would have would not be an albido one but a drop in the greenhouse gas emmissions, CO2, that this would have. But then that is the main point in doing it in the first place.

The main issue with World electricity production coming from desert areas is political.

A World powered by such arrays via Global grid is simply not politically acceptable at the present time or for the foreseeable future.

It would leave those countries served by such arrays very vulnerable to terrorist or political attacks.

Sad but true.


The biggest benefit fusion will bring to humanity, if we survive long enough to get to that point, is that all countries will have equal potential to create and use it.

Think about what that means compared to energy sources which have a specific geographical distribution, as we have always had in the past. How much has that fucked up international power plays?

Next biggest benefit will be saving the planet environmentally. Hell we might even get to the point where we have to deliberately burn stuff simply because we have gone too far in terms of reducing CO2.

With that and the other big techno revolution - cybernetics, which will essentially automate the means of production of just about everything - the World is heading towards a much more egalitarian future.

Provided, of course, that the sociopathetic ruling elite which we currently have and to whom this would be a complete anathema don’t decide they would rather blow the planet up than let it happen.


I doubt that. Sure terrorists can take out some panels, but they can also attack a nuclear site, or an oil installation like they do all the fucking time.

I think the real reason we don’t have a 100 % renewables energy sector is there are a lot of oil people who got the rights to a lot of crap in the ground that they want to dig up and sell to us.


Terrorists and/or political entities of various kinds could, very easily, take out the transmission lines and repeatedly.

They do not need to interfere with the arrays.


Unfortunately I believe that fusion plants will likely be huge, vastly expensive facilities, requiring massive expense and technical skill to maintain- my guess (and I hope to be proven wrong on this) is that they will be the playthings of richer countries. I doubt very much they will be the environmental panacea many imagine them to be.

I also doubt (and I hope to be proven wrong on this, too) that we’ll ever get to the point where global cooling ever actually becomes a thing- even assuming we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, we’re already at a point where we’re going to need to take carbon out of the atmosphere at some point in time.


Fusion reactors may well end up being cheaper to build than fission because they will not require the same safety systems that fission does. Furthermore, the ongoing costs in terms of basic fuel cost and the costly dealing with hazardous waste and decommissioning costs will be very much less.

No doubt ‘richer’ countries will be the first to install them but since the concept of being rich itself is based on energy and the hitherto limited nature of it, the word ‘rich’ will become increasingly meaningless with time.

Carbon is removed from the atmosphere by natural processes.

I have not mentioned a likely other development which may be temporary or quite long lived.

Hybrid reactors. This is where a smallish fusion reactor, possibly even below ignition size, is used to ‘burn’ fissile material in a surrounding blanket.

While this involves using hazardous fuels it is intrinsically much safer because the the material in the fissile blanket is not critical path generating in geometry. It cannot support a chain reaction on its own.

The fissile material’s atoms are split using neutrons supplied by the fusion reactor.

The reason for having those hybrids would be two fold.

First, to burn up the spent fuel waste from legacy fission activity, thus effectively rendering it safe within a sane time frame as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of years otherwise. i.e the mess created by fission could be cleaned up.

Second, fuels other than Uranium could be used thus extending the resource life time for recoverable fissile material.


While we should all hope for a post-scarcity economy, counting on one is perhaps not the best strategy.

Fusion would avoid the problems of waste and safety inherent to fission, but it would likely start off as (and likely remain) a far more technically involved process, requiring extreme technical expertise with very narrow margins of error to make work economically. It may well always require an extreme startup and maintenance cost that prohibits its viability for smaller economies. This may improve in time, but it’s entirely possible that this could be inherent to the technology. It’s certainly how it looks at the moment.

Yes, very, very, very slowly. Current estimates for the amount of time for the Earth’s natural processes to remove the carbon we’ve pumped into the atmosphere over the last two centuries are running at 400,000 years.

Given that most of the climate literature available is pointing to 350ppm being the “safe” level of CO2, and given that we’re currently at 400ppm, and given that we will we be significantly above 400ppm by the time we eventually go carbon neutral (one way or the other) I’d imagine that we’re unlikely to wait four hundred millennia for Mother Nature to sort it out.

Hybrids, should they be practical, would be a very useful technology. This assumes two things, however: 1) that they can produce enough energy or industrial products to be economically viable, and 2) that the problems with shielding materials (also a major technical problem with fusion and many alternative forms of fission reactors) inherent to the technology can be worked out. Neither of those are certain.


Terrorists are gonna terrorize, how is that any different from how it is now? How would the effect be worse if the energy is solar, compared to whatever we use now?


I’m hardly counting on one. At my age I’ll be lucky if I see Cadarache get to ignition stage.

However, I see no reason to be pessimistic about fusion being too complicated or costly, at least in comparison to fission. It has been very complicated in the past and it still has things to optimise, mainly plasma profile options and chamber lining material but there is no reason to presume that once an optimised reactor has been designed that its construction or operation will be other than routine.

The estimated total lifetime cost of a fission power station is currently well north of £20 billion, 90% of it for decommissioning, waste management and fuel.

ITER at Cadarache will come in at about the same, but Cadarache is very much a special case. DEMO will be much cheaper and the ensuing commercial stations cheaper still.

I’ll take your word for it on the natural sequestration rate of CO2, my knowledge on that extends only to the fact it used to be several 1000s of ppm in prehistoric times and fell to about 300 just before the Industrial Revolution (when we were getting mini Ice Ages in NW Europe) and that plant life will cease to be possible in about a billion years time due to insufficient CO2. That is, of course, a very long term trend mainly due, I presume, to reducing volcanic activity and various entrapment methods. I had presumed, with little conviction (hence the lack of a number), that more short term sequestration processes like dissolving in the seas, and sequestration from the bio sphere (enhanced perhaps by increased rain fall) would be a quicker bounce back phenomena.
But I have no expertise in that field.


The difference is that in a scenario where all the electricity is produced in desert areas and then transmitted to the rest of the World, the transmission lines become an easy target for terrorists or an easy off switch for politicians in countries at source or en route with which to threaten the rest.

There is no current (sic) analogy, energy production is by multifarious means and with sources distributed globally.

The nearest analogous situation I can think of would be Russia’s gas pipeline to Europe disruption of which would cause considerable energy issues but not total.

In a sane World, desert based solar would make sense.


Yup and that is a problem with single solutions. Our energy needs have to be tackled on numerous fronts. Desert solar farms could be part of that, wind power is doing great stuff in northern Europe, tidal looks perfectly feasible. Fusion should be explored but we can’t sit there waiting to see if it can work and be affordable.


Absolutely, given that the best scenario for fusion roll out is around 50 years hence, we need to do what we can to minimise fossil fuel usage in the interim.


We need to minimise energy usage generally.

The technology we have now is much more efficient that it was in the past, but we’re still increasing our energy demands and that not going to go into reverse without an apocalypse.

But we can use energy better, and more carefully.

We know that of course, and we benefit financially by reducing our own energy bills when we do it.

But we get complacent.


On this day in 1957, the space age began;




If @Todd doesn’t want the credit, I’ll post it here…

And I’ll add stuff (but haven’t looked at anything).
Just did a search for “planet 9” and posting links from the last couple days

And what is all this about?
If the world is going to end, It’s a good thing I got my ticket for Justice League Nov. 16th (3 nights before)…