Tag Archives: efficiency

Infinity – Infinite Energy

Power. Electricity. The Holy Grail of modern technology.

I say this because the information revolution completely depends on electricity, whether it’s batteries, hybrid motors, or the grid. Everything we do depends on converting some naturally occurring resource into power to drive our lives.

I was thinking about power recently while watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Everything they do depends on an infinite (or nearly so) source of energy. Their warp core powers the ship for a 20-year mission. Each device they have is self-powered. From what? Do they need recharging? I imagine not, but it’s been a while since I’ve read the technical manual.

In any case, much of that world (and other Sci-Fi worlds) depends on powerful, long-lasting, disconnected energy sources. For one example, think of the energy required to power a laser-based weapon. And it has to fire more than once.

The truth is that having such a power source is more than world-changing. It has the potential to completely rebuild society from the ground up. If you think about it, much of the world’s conflict is over sources of energy. Authority and power is derived from who controls the resources. If energy was infinitely available, it would be infinitely cheap (at least in some sense). I almost think it would change society from being so focused on worldly gain, to more on pursuit of knowledge, enlightenment, and improvement. We wouldn’t have to worry about how to get from one place to another, or who has more oil, or what industries to invest energy resources in. So much would come free.

When I speak of “infinite” power, don’t take it literally. What I mean is “So much to be practically unlimited.”

Of course there are different types of infinities:

  1. Infinite magnitude – Can produce any amount of power you desire. Not very likely. Something like this would be dangerous. “Ok, now I want Death Star phasers. ok. Go.” Boom.
  2. Infinite supply – There’s a maximum magnitude in the amount of power it can generate, but it can continue “forever” (or at least a reasonable approximation of forever). This is the useful one.

And there are a few other requirements we should consider:

  1. Non-destructive. Environment. Mankind, etc.
  2. Highly-efficient.
  3. Contained and controlled. Obvious.
  4. Portable. Sometimes microscopically so.

It’s nice to dream about such things…

  • Cell phones and Laptops that never need recharged
  • Tiny devices everywhere that never need an external power source (GPS, sensors, communications devices, robots, etc.)
  • Cars that do not fuel. Ever. We’d probably keep them a lot longer. They could do more, be larger, more efficient, faster, safer.
  • Vehicles that can expand the boundaries of their current form. How big can you make an airplane if you don’t have to worry about using up all its fuel? (not to mention the weight)
  • Easier to get things into orbit–space program suddenly becomes much more interesting. Maybe we can develop engines that produce enough power to escape gravity, without using propellant (a truly ancient technology).
  • Devices that can act more intelligently, and just do more than current devices. Think if your iPod that turns itself off after a few minutes of not using it. That scenario would be a thing of the past.

With such a power source the energy economy of devices that we have to pay such close attention to now goes out the window. Who cares how much energy it uses if there’s an endless amount to go around (and since we’ve already established that the energy source is non-destructive and highly-efficient, environmental factors don’t enter in). There would be no need for efficiency until you started bumping up the boundaries of how much power you needed.

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Getting Green Off the Grid

Going green is something I am slowly becoming more interested in. I’m not really sure what steps exactly we need to take–I don’t think we have an inordinate impact on the environment, and to be honest, right my pocketbook is far more important. That said, I do drive a Honda Civic that I’ve been able to get more than 42mpg out of. We try to use everything we buy, and dispose, give away, recycle, sell, etc. everything we don’t need. We try to walk places where we can.

Thank you to Eric for his contribution to BuyMeALego. He has a genuinely interesting site. Getting Green Off the Grid is a blog about both more sustainable living and living independently.

About the site:

This is a journal of my research into becoming more independent, away from the power grid. My goal one day is to live out in the middle of nowhere, dependent upon none but myself and my family. That dream is a long way away, but every little step counts.

I think that is a very enviable position to be in–completely independent. Independent power utility in particular fascinates me. Or better, being able to sell your power back to the power company.

I don’t think it’s possible to turn off our dirty technologies or habits all at once, but having people like this who do the research, who advocate, who publicize the next big clean technology is absolutely vital. We need to start down the path and have smart people working on it hard. We’ll get there, eventually.

Anyway, I think I will subscribe to his blog for a while and check it out–the posts I’ve read are interesting and he links to some good stuff.

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Check out my latest book, the essential, in-depth guide to performance for all .NET developers:

Writing High-Performance.NET Code, 2nd Edition by Ben Watson. Available for pre-order: