Fantastic summary video of robot-cars

Everything I’ve been saying about robot cars for years now, all in one brilliant 10 minute report!

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Vox news 8 minute summary of new nukes!

I love this piece: reactors that *eat* nuclear waste, and where the law of gravity kicks in to shut down a reactor in a power failure.

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China should have a full MSR by 2031

  • China are putting $300 million a year into researching MSR’s
  • Full scale prototype in just 15 years.
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The end of the chicken and egg Catch22!

I just added the following point to my Robot-Car summary page.

3. The end of the ‘chicken and egg’ Catch-22.

You know the ‘chicken and egg’ problem — no company wants to build a hydrogen highway because there are no hydrogen customers, and no customers want to buy a hydrogen car because they is no hydrogen highway yet. The companies don’t want to lose a billion dollars building infrastructure that may not get used, and the customer doesn’t want to invest $25,000 in a car that may not have fuel. The robot-cab-as-service solves all this. The car company already has guaranteed customers hiring their vehicles on an as-needs basis. The company just needs to figure out the most efficient technology to supply this, and can change car systems over gradually. Robot cars on the new charging or filling system will do what they can within the allowable range of their charging or fuelling infrastructure. If cars are limited one afternoon, they may even drive someone to the edge of their filling range, and then let the person swap robot-cabs into one on the established filling system. There would probably be an established discount if you have to car-swap on a trip. It will be that flexible.

Consumers are not making a decision about what car they’re buying for the next 14 years, but what car they are hiring for the next 14 minutes! Because we will just spot-hire the latest state of the art robot car, we will not care what the car runs on or how it was recharged. Think about what that means. Robot cars are expected to clock up so many miles they only last a year or two. They’ll always be running on the latest tech, and we’ll always be hiring the latest thing! So what kind of robot-electric will you hire? Will you care, as long as it is clean and gets you there on time, allowing a short nap in the meantime?  You’ll be too busy reading, talking, or snoozing. This is an essential point: if a robot-cab company decides to change their charging infrastructure over to some new plug or gizmo (or even hydrogen hose), does it mean all the car charging ports in America have to change? I can’t see any reason it has to. They can test it on a small fraction of their customers in one city. They’ll have plenty of cars on the existing network to pick up any problems. You’ll just jump in and hire that car that day, and may not notice anything different. If there was a charging problem and the new robot-cab breaks down, another will be along to serve you. Indeed, one city might have dozens of different companies running dozens of different charging systems or hydrogen hoses, and we just would not care one way or the other. We’re just hiring that car for that trip. Even the hypothetical hydrogen economy actually becomes easier when a company decides they’re going to wean off expensive lithium in a (hypothetical future) world approaching lithium limits. They’ll move to a model where they just produce the hydrogen they require in their warehouses the night before they need it. After all, all a hydrogen fuelling station needs is water and a power source! Nuclear has the EROEI to drive all this.

 

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Scientific American says IGNORANCE main reason people are anti-nuclear

I’m not being rude, as the vast majority of my life I was anti-nuclear out of sheer ignorance as well! There are 4 other reasons people are anti-nuclear, but from personal experience I this first one is the most powerful! As the Scientific American article says:
1. Ignorance: This simple reason remains remarkably pervasive. I am not trying to sound preachy or elitist here but reading two or three books would greatly benefit people who have a gut reaction against nuclear energy. The whole set of beliefs about any kind of radiation in any proportion being harmful, about nuclear plants releasing large amounts of radiation (when in reality they release fractions of what everyone naturally gets from the environment), about nuclear waste being a hideously convoluted and insoluble problem (the problem is largely political, not technical) can be dispelled by reading some basic books on radiation and nuclear energy. The most important revelation in this context is how, in our daily lives, we face risks that are hundreds of times greater than those from nuclear energy (transportation, air pollution etc.) without being nonplussed.
In the half century during which almost 500 nuclear power plants have been steadily humming and providing energy to millions, there have been only two serious accidents – Chernobyl and Fukushima – one of which was a truly rare event and the other was entirely preventable. The number of deaths from these two accidents are a small fraction of the number from almost every other energy source, not to mention from indoor and outdoor pollution arising from chemical and fossil fuel sources. In addition coal-fired plants emit much more radioactivity than any nuclear power plant. The small casualty rate from even the two worst nuclear accidents in history attests to the generally outstanding record of nuclear safety all over the world and in the US in particular. The large-scale adoption of nuclear energy in the US has been thwarted more by political inertia and gut fears rather than by a sound assessment of the costs and benefits. The high costs are mostly capital and have stemmed from unrealistic standards and layers of bureaucracy. If you typically think of problems like waste reprocessing or disposal that on the surface seem like insurmountable technical difficulties, delving deeper will usually reveal that the real issues are political and social. Nobody thinks that waste disposal and making nuclear plants failsafe are trivial issues, but deeper investigation almost always reveals that the situation is much better than most people think and that the principal opposition has been human, not scientific.
There’s several objective books that presents a balanced view of the topic. As a starting point I would recommend Richard Rhodes’s article in Foreign Affairs and his book Nuclear Renewal which talks about the extensive and safe deployment of nuclear energy by countries like France. Samuel Glasstone’s timeless classic Sourcebook on Atomic Energy is still excellent on basics, so is Bernard Cohen’s book. Gwyneth Cravens’s very informative “Power to Save the World” is particularly noteworthy since Cravens was vociferously against nuclear power before she educated herself and found herself in favor of it; it’s a remarkable example of how someone can change their mind in the face of evidence. Another informal, breezy and excellent treatment is Scott Heaberlin’s A Case for Nuclear-Generated Electricity: (Or Why I Think Nuclear Power Is Cool and Why It Is Important That You Think So Too). For those who are ok with a slightly heavier dose of science, I would strongly recommend David Bodansky’s Nuclear Energy. In addition there’s some very promising new technologies on the horizon in the form of advanced new-generation reactor designs and new thorium-based fuel cycles. These developments are geared toward increasing safety (both passive safety and proliferation resistance) and efficiency and reducing cost. Liquid fluoride thorium reactors are especially noteworthy in this regard and Richard Martin’s “Superfuel” does a very good job of explaining their function and advantages. The main obstacle to the testing and use of these designs is again political rather than scientific.
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Martian flag

Mars already has its own flag! It’s based on the Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, and is an ambitious statement about the journey towards terraforming Mars into another Blue planet.FlagOfMars-OriginalColors.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Mars

The thing I love about the story of terraforming Mars is how fast the first stage can happen! Let’s call “Green” Mars a Mars that can at least start growing plants on the surface, protected by radiation and the beginning of a hydrological cycle. (Rain!)
“Blue” Mars is the hardest part, creating a breathable atmosphere. But “Green” Mars is certainly a far easier place to enjoy than sterile “Red” Mars as it is today! And “Green” Mars might only take 200 years!

Let me explain: all the ingredients are there to give Mars an atmosphere (not breathable yet) if we just warm it up! And we know how to warm a planet, because we’re already doing it here on Earth! Warming up Mars will move it to the start of the “Green” phase and give us 5 massive benefits within about 200 years!

This includes the first 100 years to build our first city of a million people and create a significant industry! According to Zubrin, it might only take 100 years to build a city of a million people, and then another 100 years of that city producing super-greenhouse gases to ‘cook’ Mars up. If we warm the poles, so many things change. Mars has enough frozen carbon dioxide at the poles to start a cycle that would eventually heat CO2 out of the Mars regolith and give it 30% of Earth’s atmosphere. 30% earth’s atmosphere gives us 5 huge advantages over the near vacuum on “Red” Mars today.

1.  RADIATION PROTECTION: Just like water, atmosphere can protect us from solar and cosmic radiation! No magnetic field is necessary to protect us from radiation at 30% earth air pressure! An artificial magnetic field would help, as it would stop the solar wind blowing the atmosphere away over millions of years. A satellite or space station at the Lagrange 1 point could broadcast a magnetic field which would protect the Martian atmosphere — and this itself would accelerate the warming process, as Mars has  tiny volcanic emissions that would help build an atmosphere. https://goo.gl/417YKW
2. CLOTHES on the surface of Mars! We could rug up in warm clothes, and not need space suits. We would still need breather masks because the atmosphere would be mainly carbon dioxide. But imagine Matt Damon in “The Martian” being able to wear normal (warm) clothes as he worked around his base? Outdoor work would be safer and easier without a heavy, constricting, pressurised  space-suit.
3. RAIN! The frozen water on Mars would start to melt and form the basis of a hydrological cycle. Rain on Mars! Amazing! The start of the hydrological cycle would probably generate massive erosion events, especially as Mars has no plant life holding the soil together. They’d have to build their city somewhere safe from all that, and it might even require large walls around it.
4 FARMING! Start farming on the surface! The radiation protection of an atmosphere and the start of rain on Mars would eventually allow farming on the surface.  And there are nutrients on Mars, but just as on Earth, we might need to mine them and apply them as fertilisers. Just the ability to start growing forests for construction materials would be a huge relief to Martian colonists. And of course, trees would begin the long journey towards an oxygen rich world.
5. SAFER HOMES! Again, remember “The Martian”. Matt Damon’s potato habitat exploded because there was a massive pressure imbalance between maintaining one earth atmosphere inside against near vacuum outside. A third earth atmosphere would allow larger, safer habitats.
BUT HOW TO WARM A PLANET? ‘Easy’, do the same thing we’re doing on earth! Once a reasonable sized city is built on Mars, we can manufacture super-greenhouse gases that are 17,000 times more powerful than CO2. That alone would eventually do the job. There is enough thorium on Mars to power our civilisation forever. But when Mars has its own space industry it can build giant space mirrors to reflect abundant sunlight down to the planet for growing crops more efficiently, also warming Mars and the poles. Future Martians might even build giant rockets on large ice asteroids and fire them into Mars to aerobrake high in the Martian atmosphere, adding heat and water. Eventually they will walk on the surface in normal clothes and a breather mask. That is just the start. Farming on the surface opens up easier food, faster soil creation, and the start of the 1000 year journey towards a breathable atmosphere — which would finally become “Blue Mars”. But that’s a whole other story!
MarsTransitionV.jpg
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Sceptics v denial

“The first is to doubt and question, and the second is to listen to the answer,” he said. “Sometimes that requires some intellectual hard yards and I think some people who call themselves sceptics don’t want to do those hard yards. Calling themselves sceptics is a badge of honour they haven’t earned.”

Barry Jones, former science ministerthinkers

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