The Ergosphere
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
 

Nuclear energy and evolution vs. nihilism

There's no such thing as an infinite power source.  The Sun isn't infinite.  Hell, the entire visible universe isn't infinite.  Even if we get off this ball of mud and power ourselves using the longest-lived of red dwarf stars, the best we can hope for is a few trillion years before the lights go out.

If you're a nihilist, stop reading here and log off.  Killing yourself over the pointlessness of it all is optional, but please... GO AWAY.  The rest of what I have to say will only upset you.

Still reading?  Here's the rest of the story for readers who can handle nuance.

No civilization on Earth has lasted more than a thousand years or so.  Nuclear energy can support more than our current standard of living for longer than that; on the time scale of civilizations, that IS infinite.  But more to the point, the century-scale supply of fossil fuels has bootstrapped us to the hundred-plus century scale supply of nuclear fuels.  Even that's not the limit; we're on the edge of gaining inexpensive access to directly-converted solar energy.  That will last as long as Earth can support life, and a few billion years beyond.  The problem is that we've blocked the progression to nuclear power for political reasons, and now depletion of fossil fuels threatens to bring down the whole edifice before we can bootstrap the next leap.

People who say it's wrong to use nuclear energy make me think of some single-celled moralist not long after the emergence from the primordial goo, as everything else ate up the abiotic organics and were left with the "sustainable" flows of energy-rich chemicals like hydrogen sulfide from volcanic vents.  "Stop trying", it cried.  "Be content with what we've got."  The rest said "Nuts to you, we'll evolve if we want to" and one went on to invent bacteriorhodopsin.  Running its proton pump on sunlight, it went on to be wildly successful and beget uncounted trillions of photosynthetic offspring tapping the hitherto-wasted energy from the Sun.  The rest is, as they say, history.

(taken from a comment on The Oil Drum)

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011
 

Quote without comment

Honors and AP classes are for kids who are intellectually curious, and have been since they were elementary school students. Intellectually curious kids read, explore, study and remember facts on their own because they are intrinsically motivated to find things out. Higher learning cannot take place in a brain that’s essentially a vacuum.
BadaBing posting at JoanneJacocbs.com.

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