Saturday, April 04, 2009
Buckminster Fuller designed this tetrahedronal floating city for Tokyo bay in the 1960's. He wrote:
"Three-quarters of our planet Earth is covered with water, most of which may float organic cities...Floating cities pay no rent to landlords. They are situated on the water, which they desalinate and recirculate in many useful and nonpolluting ways. They are ships with all an ocean ship's technical autonomy, but they are also ships that will always be anchored. They don't have to go anywhere. Their shape and its human-life accommodations are not compromised, as must be the shape of the living quarters of ships whose hull shapes are constructed so that they may slip, fishlike, at high speed through the water and high seas with maximum economy...Floating cities are designed with the most buoyantly stable conformation of deep-sea bell-buoys. Their omni-surface-terraced, slop-faced, tetrahedronal structuring is employed to avoid the lethal threat of precipitous falls by humans from vertically sheer high-rising buildings...The tetrahedron has the most surface with the least volume of all polyhedra. As such, it provides the most possible 'outside' living. Its sloping external surface is adequate for all its occupants to enjoy their own private, outside, tiered-terracing, garden homes. These are most economically serviced from the common, omni-nearest-possible center of volume of all polyhedra...When suitable, the floating cities are equipped with 'alongside' or interiorly lagooned marinas for the safe mooring of the sail- and powerboats of the floating-city occupants. When moored in protected waters, the floating cities may be connected to the land by bridgeways.
In 1966 my Japanese patron died, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development commissioned me to carry out full design and economic analysis of the floating tetrahedronal city for potential U.S.A use. With my associates I completed the design and study as well as a scaled-down model. The studies showed that the fabricating and operating costs were such that a floating city could sustain a high standard of living, yet be economically occupiable at a rental so low as to be just above that rated as the 'poverty' level by HUD authorities. The secretary of HUD sent the drawings, engineering studies, and economic analysis to the Secretary of the Navy, who ordered the Navy's Bureau of Ships to analyze the project for its 'water-worthiness.' stability, and organic capability. The Bureau of Ships verified all our calculations and found the design to be practical and 'water-worthy.' The Secretary of the Navy then sent the project to the US Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, where its fabrication and assembly procedures and cost were analyzed on a basis of the 'floating city' being built in a shipyard as are aircraft carriers and other vessels. The cost analysis of the Navy Department came out within 10 percent of our cost - which bore out its occupiability at rental just above the poverty class. ``At this point the city of Baltimore became interested in acquiring the first such floating city for anchorage just offshore in Chesapeake Bay, adjacent to Baltimore's waterfront. At this time President Lyndon Johnson's Democratic party went out of power. President Johnson took the model with him and installed it in his LBJ Texas library. The city of Baltimore's politicians went out of favor with the Nixon administration, and the whole project languished."
The technical considerations indicate that such a structure is possible. The basic unit of Triton City is a neighborhood-sized community which will accommodate 3500 to 6000 people and which will support an elementary school, a small supermarket and local convenience stores and services. Three to six of these neighborhoods will form a town which will include a high school, more recreational and civic facilities and possibly light industry. When a community reaches the level of three to seven towns (90,000 to 105,000 population) it becomes a full-scale city with more specialized industry and a city center module to accommodate government offices and medical facilities. The high density occupation results in great economies in transportation service and other utilities.
Well if it was technologically feasible in the 1960s it certainly is now. Equally the cost of housing is even more a function of regulation than it was then. So if it was financially viable then it certainly is now. I haven't seen costings of this & I suspect no up to date ones exist but assuming construction costs of £100,000 per family (which if anything i suspect would be on the high side now) and about 2.500 families we have a cost of about £250 million. To run this as a deep sea seastead would probably cause some redesign but in fact shorelines are more dangerous to shipping than deep sea, both because it gives them something to hit & because waves are much higher on shores. Moreover seas on the equator are particularly calm ("the doldrums").
A Seastead based on a Triton unit powered by an OTEC & using the deep sea water to grow algael oil, as I have previously discussed, could probably be done for about £500 million. You can't make a smaller OTEC because the energy used to pull up water depends on the diameter of the tube & thus below a certain size it uses as much power as it produces. Thus this seems to be a minimum cost. This explains why it hasn't yet been done. £500 million is a lot for any business to risk, though relatively little for a government. " possible 1st steps would be:
1 - An OTEC based on an old ship, which would otherwise be scrapped, used to create algael oil.
2 - A Triton City design used as Buckminster Fuller originally conceived, to provide housing. There are many cities where land is in short supply, such as Singapore or Shanghai where this could be done. Abu Dhabi, where land is in short supply & money isn't has already contracted to do so, though on a somewhat smaller scale.
Sww also http://www.seasteading.org/seastead.org/commented/paper/review.html#TritonCity
Friday, April 03, 2009
It is not often that the first anniversary of the publication of a bureaucrat's biography deserves discussion, however this is one. A year ago Carla del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal published her biography. In it she confirmed having, 8 years previously, investigated reports from western journalists that NATO "police," formerly known as the KLA, had kidnapped & dissected, while still alive, at least 1,300 Serb teenagers & that the presumably 10s of thousands of body parts had been flown out of Tirana airports to western destinations. Her team had indeed found a building where 300 of these murders took place together with forensic evidence proving this atrocity. Then she stopped the investigation.
Since then there have been further investigations proving that such dissections were more extensive than thought & still going on. The EU even appointed a lawyer to look into the matter.
Over the last year we have seen leader writers & front page articles denouncing the Chinese government for their "heavy handed" breaking up of riots in Tibet in which less than 2 dozen died, most of them ethnic Chinese. We have seen headlines & denunciations of Russia's action which prevented a Georgian attempt to "ethnically cleanse" the entire South Ossetian population. We have seen massive reporting of the Israeli war against Hammas in which about 800 people died, overwhelmingly Hammas combatants.
How shameful that atrocities worse in numbers, infinitely worse in cruelty & forming only a part of the crimes carried out under NATO authority have gone virtually entirely unreported by British Press & broadcasters.
Del Ponte's initial report http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/ips040108.htmSubsequent investigation http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/dcn100108.htm
PS Its OK I don't expect you to publish this. The only paper to publish even one previous letter on the subject was the Scotsman. The late Josef Goebbels managed a similar level, of censorship but then he could send journalists to concentration camps. How fortunate that today's journalists are sufficiently sensitive not to such threats to prevent them reporting.
List of US newspapers which are censoring this
San Francisco Chronicle
New York Times
Wall St Journal
& all Scottish & UK national papers
If anybody sees this letter, even in severely edited form, published, or even if any of them report the basic facts in any way please send me a link & I will put it up here. If a single journalist, anywhere in any NATO country feels able to defend their record as being honest on this, or even explain why they are to some extent honest on any other subject I will be happy to see their comments.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Over the last year or so I have been taking an informal survey of a key news metric - Google news searches for the term “global warming.” A year ago, the ratio of alarmist/skeptical articles was close to 100/1. About six months ago, the ratio was 90/10, Two months ago it was 80/20, and today it hit 50/50 for the first timeGoogle News searches mainly show US results but we are notoriously a bit behind the US in fashions. It has long been obvious that alarmists were very much in a minority on newspaper online comments but then they are, relatively, uncensored. Indeed George Moonbat has regularly railed against the fact that this vast majority, even in the Guardian, dares to disagree with him. However if even the newspapers themselves are finding their promotion of this swindle so unpopular that they can't keep pushing it then the game is indeed up.
Well not on the BBC where they do not yet aspire to even 1% accuracy.
Now beware of the next eco-fascist scare story coming up. Here are some pld ones I put up as an April fool threat 3 years ago. Since then I have found out acid rain & obviously last years claims that we had reached peak oil were lies too. Will 1 or more of the old ones get a retread from the eco-fascists or will it be a new one?
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
With the Information Commissioner's Office website having an undertaking to answer any questions about any refusal to act on any Freedom of Information Act inquiry I got an email from them yesterday afternoon (ie 14 days after I appealed to them) saying it was a Scottish matter & I should therefore contact the separate Scottish organisation. I note that the ICO site does not mention only covering England, indeed it actively claims the opposite.
the ICO is the UK's independent public body set up to protect personal information and promote public access to official information.On the other hand they are merely stretching the law to protect SEPA. Their claim to have proven the radioactivity at Dalgety Bay, they are allegedly so worried about, isn't simply normal background radiation there since before humans arrived there is clearly untrue. The ICO aren't actually breaking their own rules.
However the ICO must, on a purely population basis, be finding that about 15% of queries from the public (I assume journalists will know the rules) are having to be returned, after a 14 day delay, on the grounds that they come from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. One would have thought they could run it better :-)
I have emailed the Scottish Information Commissioner repeating the email I sent to the ICO with this cover:
2 weeks ago today I put this on the Information Commissioner's Office site by their complaints form
Since they guarantee to come up with a response in 14 days they have, today, said it was nothing to do with them & I should contact you. How unfortunate that the 2 organisations are not on speaking terms or they could have sent you this automatically & how unfortunate that absolutely nobody in the ICO was aware, with anything less than 14 days investigations, that no such contact was possible.
A cynical person might think they had deliberately been delaying & finding a pretext purely to protect civil servants in SEPA who have clearly & deliberately broken the law.
Please acknowledge receipt of this & whether your organisation will be able to reach a decision as to jurisdiction & everything else within 14 days.
Hopefully they will acknowledge later today.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Algae Ventures claims to have a method of lowering the cost for harvesting, dewatering, and drying algae by Over 99.75% to 1.2 cents a gallon.
The best news is that it isn't the only company making amazing progress in this area.
As a general rule in engineering if you only have one theoretical way of doing something you will have unforeseen problems - when you have several methods it is going to work. This is a corollary of Murphy's law. Algae production of oil at commercial levels is going to work & fairly soon too. In due course it will very seriously undercut present sources. It would take quite hard work to remain in recession in such circumstances (though I have no doubt the eco-fascists will come up with reasons for doing that work).
SIDE EFFECT 1
I blogged previously about the Aquarius project of a floating city in equatorial waters using the temperature differential between surface water & deep ocean water to generate power & as a side effect allow this deep water, which is rich in nutrients (being heavier than water such elements sink) to grow algae in surrounding containment ponds covering square miles. This seasteading programme now looks to me to be very feasible indeed. The great attraction to ideological seasteaders is that it gets them out from under conventional governments. The attraction for the non-ideological is equatorial sun & the happy chance that on the equator there are no Coriolis forces & thus no hurricanes. The attraction for scientists & bankers is no regulation. If seasteading gets going it will provide a major alternative to present government & laboratory conditions for small unit government systems. We may well find conventional governments trying to strangle this even when there is no possible benefit to them eg
"The only reaction he got was from the Kingdom of Tonga, Minerva’s closest neighbor. A box of supplies was dropped on the new land which said “supplied and maintained by the government of Tonga”, an action said to be supported by other nations in the area. His Majesty then ventured to Minerva with a gang of convicts and a four-member band. They planted the Tongan flag, played the Tongan national anthem, and claimed the sandy patch for Tonga. After they left, the forces of nature did their work, and the sand of Minerva returned slowly to the ocean from whence it had sprung"
International waters at the equator come to 14,000 miles. If an island itself is meant to have a radius of 2.75 miles which means the 1 mile floating ponds beyond it would cover 20.4 square miles. That could produce 30 million barrels worth. That would allow 2,700 such islands on the equator & the same again 5 miles to the north or south.
Thanks to Al Fin & Next Big Future for 1st reporting this.
SIDE EFFECT 2
Anybody who has read Heinlein's Friday (I regard Heinlein as a political philosopher who could run rings round Rand) will have seen that a subplot, of this incredibly densely plotted book, is that the company that invented a battery that can hold far more energy than conventional batteries effectively runs the world. Well guess what - - oil does that, scalable unlimited producible oil does it better.
SIDE EFFECT 3
If simple largely unmodified algae can do this then in due course "Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter." There seems to be few material needs which could not thus be satisfied.
Monday, March 30, 2009
"On Saturday evening, the WWF Earth Hour campaign asked for lighting in homes, public buildings, monuments and structures to be switched off for 60 minutes, providing a temporary return to a world of pre-industrial darkness. We were told by WWF that "switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming"...
Perhaps instead of sitting in the dark, we should have been celebrating human inventiveness and the overwhelmingly civilising influence which large-scale energy production has brought to society...
Providing a copious and resilient supply of low-cost clean energy is entirely possible, dispensing with the need for socially regressive demand reduction measures. We only have to look to France, with cheap, near-zero-carbon electricity production to see the result of innovative, long-term and technically well-informed decision-making. In contrast, since deregulation, innovation in the UK energy sector has largely consisted of combining electricity and gas bills, a displacement activity of financial engineering rather than practical engineering and a symptom of the wider malaise in the UK economy...
Switching off lights ... represented a wave of darkness sweeping round the globe, dimming symbols of genuine human achievement at a time when we need to call on our technical ingenuity and inventiveness to meet the challenges of the future."
To be fair though government owned buildings may have switched off I don't know anybody else who did.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
On that morning, he was capturing the likeness of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of blinding white light appeared over the sunspots, intensified rapidly, and became kidney-shaped. Realizing that he was witnessing something unprecedented and "being somewhat flurried by the surprise," Carrington later wrote, "I hastily ran to call someone to witness the exhibition with me. On returning within 60 seconds, I was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled." He and his witness watched the white spots contract to mere pinpoints and disappear.
It was 11:23 AM. Only five minutes had passed.
Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.
Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.
What he had seen was the most massive solar flare over the last 500 years. Fortunately for the people of 1859 electrical equipment was not common nor as finely engineered & thus subject to electromagnetic pulse (EMP) damage as nowadays. Today miles of wires are common & all our machines are much more sensitive. There has been no flare anywhere close to matching this but a "huge solar flare on August 4, 1972, knocked out long-distance telephone communication across Illinois. That event, in fact, caused AT&T to redesign its power system for transatlantic cables. A similar flare on March 13, 1989, provoked geomagnetic storms that disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Québec generating station in Canada, blacking out most of the province and plunging 6 million people into darkness for 9 hours; aurora-induced power surges even melted power transformers in New Jersey. In December 2005, X-rays from another solar storm disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals for about 10 minutes"
None of these are catastrophic but none of these flares are in the same league as Carrington. According to a report in New Scientist (hat tip to Al Fin & Jerry Pournelle):
it is clear that a repeat of the Carrington event could produce a catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen. "It's just the opposite of how we usually think of natural disasters," says John Kappenman, a power industry analyst with the Metatech Corporation of Goleta, California, and an advisor to the NAS committee that produced the report. "Usually the less developed regions of the world are most vulnerable, not the highly sophisticated technological regions."
According to the NAS report, a severe space weather event in the US could induce ground currents that would knock out 300 key transformers within about 90 seconds, cutting off the power for more than 130 million people (see map). From that moment, the clock is ticking for America.
First to go - immediately for some people - is drinkable water. Anyone living in a high-rise apartment, where water has to be pumped to reach them, would be cut off straight away. For the rest, drinking water will still come through the taps for maybe half a day. With no electricity to pump water from reservoirs, there is no more after that.
There is simply no electrically powered transport: no trains, underground or overground. Our just-in-time culture for delivery networks may represent the pinnacle of efficiency, but it means that supermarket shelves would empty very quickly - delivery trucks could only keep running until their tanks ran out of fuel, and there is no electricity to pump any more from the underground tanks at filling stations.
Back-up generators would run at pivotal sites - but only until their fuel ran out. For hospitals, that would mean about 72 hours of running a bare-bones, essential care only, service. After that, no more modern healthcare.
The truly shocking finding is that this whole situation would not improve for months, maybe years: melted transformer hubs cannot be repaired, only replaced. "From the surveys I've done, you might have a few spare transformers around, but installing a new one takes a well-trained crew a week or more," says Kappenman. "A major electrical utility might have one suitably trained crew, maybe two."
Within a month, then, the handful of spare transformers would be used up. The rest will have to be built to order, something that can take up to 12 months.
Even when some systems are capable of receiving power again, there is no guarantee there will be any to deliver. Almost all natural gas and fuel pipelines require electricity to operate. Coal-fired power stations usually keep reserves to last 30 days, but with no transport systems running to bring more fuel, there will be no electricity in the second month.
...With no power for heating, cooling or refrigeration systems, people could begin to die within days. There is immediate danger for those who rely on medication. Lose power to New Jersey, for instance, and you have lost a major centre of production of pharmaceuticals for the entire US. Perishable medications such as insulin will soon be in short supply. "In the US alone there are a million people with diabetes," Kappenman says. "Shut down production, distribution and storage and you put all those lives at risk in very short order."
Help is not coming any time soon, either....
"I don't think the NAS report is scaremongering," says Mike Hapgood, who chairs the European Space Agency's space weather team. Green agrees. "Scientists are conservative by nature and this group is really thoughtful," he says. "This is a fair and balanced report."...
Europe's electricity grids, on the other hand, are highly interconnected and extremely vulnerable to cascading failures.
The chances of this are 1 in 500 each year not that one will come around every 500 years & that we need only worry in 2358AD. Now if this is scary & it should be lets not overplay it. Firstly we are now in a period of low sunspots so the odds of it any time in the next few years are far lower. Secondly it can be avoided:
"The good news is that, given enough warning, the utility companies can take precautions, such as adjusting voltages and loads, and restricting transfers of energy so that sudden spikes in current don't cause cascade failures. There is still more bad news, however. Our early warning system is becoming more unreliable by the day." Transmission systems might also work less efficiently if more breakers were in place. In the same way banking works more efficiently if banks don't have to keep large reserves - right up until things go wrong.
If we update infrastructure over the next 10-15 years as part of routine maintenance it should be possible to protect systems at a reasonable cost. The risk is not that nothing can be done but that since we have no experience of this, governments will simply ignore it, as indeed they have up to now. Unlike Y2K there isn't a deadline to stimulate thought, however it is clearly a much more real problem than that & a more imminent problem than catastrophic warming. I also think more real but certainly more imminent is unarguable. This is not the sort of scare that can be easily visualised by Luddites which is the problem.