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Why are modern societies so energy inefficient?

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posted on May, 15 2008 @ 12:28 AM
I was browsing the Nikola Tesla: First contact with alien thread, and took the link to the collection of Tesla's writings, and began to read the ones from Newspapers and so forth; short articles about his ideas and inventions. As I read I admit that I was struck by Tesla's "level" of ability when dealing with the sciences. Particularly, some ideas were so "out-there" or fabulous at first that I laughed, thinking where did he get this idea from? Well this one in particular caught my attention, and I think it really reflects on our inability to be efficient with energy as a society. Which, I must admit, is one of our collective largest problems, threatening us with our own eventual destruction, and planetary destruction or negative change.


Scoffs at Normandy’s "Speed"
Sees Success for His Plan to Use Stratosphere Ray
Would Light Sea at Night
Says French Liner's System Copied His in U. S. Boats

Dr. Nikola Tesla, scientist and seer whose discoveries in the fields of polyphase electrical current and wireless place him in the front rank of modern inventors, refused yesterday to be awed by the record speed achievement of the French liner Normandy in crossing the Atlantic in 4 days 11 hours 42 minutes and predicted that enormous ships would cross the ocean at far greater speeds by means of a high-tension current projected from power plants on shore to vessels at sea through the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

In his room at the Hotel New Yorker, dressed in a blue bathrobe, blue socks and red slippers, Dr. Tesla expounded the principles of his fabulous method of power transmission--a method which he has been developing at irregular intervals from as far back as 1897. The virtues of stratosphere transmission, he said, lay not only in its potential increase of a vessel's speed but also in its power to eliminate the dangers of nocturnal navigation.

In short, high-tension currents of electricity passing through the stratosphere would light the sky and to a degree turn night into day. With power plants stationed at intermediate posts such as upon the Azores and Bermuda, vessels could cross the Atlantic, propelled and safeguarded at the same time by electricity generated ashore. There would no longer be danger of boiler explosions nor hazards of collisions at sea. Even on moonless, cloudy nights, there still would gleam overhead the faint rays of surging electrical currents, so strong that pilots would be able to distinguish objects miles away.

At first read I was kind of surprised at the man's audacity for ideas, this is really .. ahead of his time, big thinking, out-there, etc. In his day, the word would likely be "dreaming" or "impossible". So in this article, Nikola Tesla proposes to propel sea going vessels with energy projected into the sea around them via a "dish" or "ray", causing a level of water tension around the vessel, which I understood to be the rate at which the water surrounding the vessel is moving in the forward, proper direction. The faster the water, the faster whatever is on top of the water. If localized to the sea going vessel's immediate surrounding water, so long as all vessels are kept constant track of with something akin to radar via global positioning systems, there would be little to no risk of danger, boats ramming each other, or other unexpected dangerous events, damage causing events, etc.

Essentially, we'd have a satellite beaming the "energy" down from the Stratosphere? Or did he mean that we'd bounce it "off of" the stratosphere from the Earth at a certain angle, thus the energy coming back down at a precise, ever changing location (ie: where the sea going vessel is currenty located while moving)? I'd think something like a satellite would be much more effective for this, but I'm unsure if this was his original intention. There would be two control stations for the Atlantic Ocean, one in the Azores, and one near Bermuda. The concept is the same regardless, energy being beamed from fixed locations into the water surrounding a vessel causing that vessel to move at intense speeds over the ocean to its' destination. In doing so, the limit would be much like the limits of air travel, in this I mean ships in the sea would travel at speeds of slower aircraft in the sky; very fast.

How all this would come into being would be quite fabulous and audacious, the creators would have to perfect the measurements for how much energy is required per weight and size of each sea going vessel. It would also have to account for changes in the natural tides and also, water depth. Port dockings would have to be done with extreme precision, but in theory would be no different than a key entering a door knob. But the sheer notion of it back in the 1930's and 40's is amazing. I can barely grasp such a concept in the sense of how to implement it in a realistic, functional fashion. And this is with today's technology.

The main reason I am writing this however is due to the implications of such a system. If such a system were implemented, all sea going vessels would emit zero energy waste, would no longer require an engine, diesel motor, or nuclear reactor, and would effectively be as efficient environmentally as a Cog or a Trireme or some other sailed vessel which relies upon wind and/or manpower. But instead, we as a collective society have instead invested in technologies that pollute the very water we travel, that we drink, that we use for everything. For what result? To achieve very unimpressive speeds, in comparison to air travel, or even ground travel? There's got to be a better way, and it has to be a way that could be implemented with today's technology. This is a system that I think should be looked at again by some modern inventors, government contractors, and other such people as a possible solution to reducing not only carbon emissions immensely, but also to reduce heavily the pollution of our water. A similar system could then be implemented for all major freight transit cross-country; the age of the 18 wheeler and the truck driver would be over. It would all be controlled without room for manual error at the driver's seat. While this would require a different means of propelling, a similar guiding overhead system could be implemented relatively easily. Kind of like auto-pilot.

Was Tesla dreaming, am I dreaming? Are you dreaming?

posted on May, 15 2008 @ 02:37 AM
Actually, such a technique, *if even possible*, would be hundreds, if not thousands or millions of times less energy efficient than simply pushing boats around by having them push water around with propellers. Doing so is far more efficient than using directed energy to change the surface tension of water, and it's far, far more efficient than tesla's original idea of turning the stratosphere as a plate of a world-capacitor. Furthermore, I'd say it's almost certainly a horrible idea on many levels, not least of which is the direct threat it would pose to all the multicellular life on earth that doesn't live on the ocean floor and eat chemicals.

First: He's suggesting we electrify the ENTIRE EARTH'S STRATOSPHERE. And people on ATS worry about the HAARP project. If they think that piddling little setup could cause any major effect, imagine what the class of machine it'd take to charge the entire atmosphere as a capacitor would do? I'm not the type who worries about HAARP, but a machine that lights up the sky, the entire world over with electric arcs? That's the point at which we'd have to seriously worry about a significant portion of the world's breathable oxygen being turned to ozone, and everyone dying from the UV radiation created by the effect.

And I'll have you know that all that energy that's lighting up the sky is being wasted. And being an electric arc, it isn't just visible light either. It will run all the way from radio to UV.

Oh, and I hope you don't mind never being able to use a radio or broadcast television again. Honestly, I'd put good money on a system that turns the atmosphere into a kind of parallel plate capacitor that ships and planes and cars and such can tap into for power would probably kill all electronics that aren't specially hardened against EMP.

Now, air is a pretty good insulator. Or at least an OK insulator. It depends on the humidity, pressure, etc. But it's not a great insulator. This system would be horrendously lossy. Unbelievably so. Like, on the order of less than one tenth of one percent. Even a crappy car can reasonably hope for 20% efficiency at the wheels. Not to mention that it would take several times as much power as the entire world uses today. Even with all the power everyone on earth uses directed to the goal, I don't think we could maintain a usable potential difference between the stratosphere and the ground.

Finally, all the power is going to come from solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear, wind, coal, biomass, wood, oil, or natural gas power plants. Mostly coal, nuclear, and natural gas, anyway. At the sizes ships come in, turbines on power plants won't be much more efficient than the turbines on ships. Wind, and solar, of course, don't pollute, and nuclear is almost as clean as that. But the overwhelming majority of power comes from coal (except in certain parts of Europe)

You'd be better off using something like a huge vaccuum bearing'd flywheel to store electricity from a land based power plant and using that to power ships for short trips. Or, if you want to be far fetched, beaming down solar power from space with microwaves onto the ship. Or using sails. Or fixing yokes to domesticated whales and having them pull you around. Or just about anything, really. I'm rather a pro-science kind of person, but really, it's not every day you run into an idea that could accidentally cause mass extinctions when being used properly for peaceful uses.

Honestly, If I wanted to do away with over the road trucking (seriously, I do. It's so wasteful), I'd just build more rail. Diesel hybrid locomotives would be quite efficient, and we all know trains can pull quite a bit of stuff around.

Furthermore, if your idea has a control station on either side of the ocean beaming power at ships, you'll be warned that if you plan on doing this in a fashion that makes any sense at the ridiculous power levels involved, you're going to have to have line of sight with the ship. Which is a little hard to do considering how round the earth is.

I have to give props to Tesla, the man was brilliant. He was practically the basis of my entire field of engineering before the 60s. He had some brilliant ideas to his name. AC generators, motors, transformers. Radio, even. But he was certainly a dreamer. Many of his ideas were vastly overstated in their capabilities. His turbine, for instance. Classy, yes. Clever, yes. Noteworthy in performance? No.

Many more of his ideas were simply unworkable. His death/peace ray, for instance. It was startlingly similar in concept to a weaponized particle beam, which still have yet to be made, and could very well be useful. But the invention itself would have been worse than useless, giving everybody around mercury poisoning, and never doing a thing to. Decent for science fiction, but unworkable in real life.

This idea is clearly unworkable, and even if workable, it would pose a major threat to life as we know it. Tesla was one of the first to put serious effort into solving the problem of wireless power transmission, but he and all his successors to this very day have met with nothing but mediocre results at best.

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