Energy and Civilization - A History
333.7909 SMI Beaverton Library 2017
Index skimmed. I might check this out again if I need some of the data, but more likely I'll use original sources.
- p12 Energy density MJ/kg
- Vegetables very low, grains high, oils and fats very high
- Just the thing if I'm hiding food before a famine - not if I'm planning a healthy diet
- p13 Preindustrial northern cities required 100x wooded area for charcoal
- p253 Diesel compression ratio 14-24, efficiency 50%, Otto Cycle gasoline ratio 7-10, efficiency 25%
- p339 "junction field effect transistor invented by Shockley" ... heh
Invention and Innovation
A Brief History of Hype and Failure
600 SMI Beaverton Library 2023
Read whole book. Perhaps should have read something else.
- Inventions that turned from welcome to undesirable
- 019 Thomas Midgley Jr. (1889-1944) (antiknock) leaded gasoline, chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants
- 036 Paul Hermann Müller 1939 DDT dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
- 066 Airships / dirigibles
- 069 LZ-1 1900 / LZ-13 Hansa 1912 45K km 399 flights / LZ-17 bomber 1914, 77/115 shot down in 1917
- 071 1928-1937 Graf Zeppelin 1.7M km / 1936 LZ-129 Hindenberg 1937 Lakehurst catastrophe
- 075 recent proposals mostly vaporware
079 Nuclear Fission: Nautilus 1952-1955 launch --> Shippingport 1957
- 085 Fast breeders
- 086 power demand doubled every decade before 1970, 50% in 1970s, 33% in 1980s, 25% 1990s, 9% 2000s, no growth 2010s
- 089 France 80% nuclear energy, lower recently (last reactor order 1991)
- 093 Germany shut down nuclear (Green party), deployed more coal instead
- 093 Supersonic flight
- 095 Concorde Air France 4590, 25 July 2000
- metal debris on runway from prior DC-10 departure, tire punctured, fuel tank ruptured, fire and power loss
- aircraft was overloaded, took off with wind
wp resumed 7 Nov 2001 to May 2003 (Air France) November 2003 (British Airways)
- wp 810 kg overload (negligible effect)
- wp Continental DC-10 wear strip fallen off, incorrectly manufactured and installed Houston 9 July 2000
- wp many other contributing causes
- wp 70 other tire-related incidents on Concorde after 1976
- wp Continental paid 70% of compensation claims
- 100 drag coefficient square of speed, peaks just above Mach 1, most airliners fly Mach 0.85 L/D 18, M1 15, M2 10
- 100 787 maximum range 14000 km, Concorde 6700 km, less than transpacific
- 100 claustrophobic, payload 10% of gross weight, half of 747
- 101 3x more fuel per passenger than 747, sonic boom 50x louder than 747 takeoff
104 Boom Supersonic Smil smells ridiculous hype
- book says new factory in 2022, first 1/3 scale Overture rollout in 2025, certification in 2029
- website says factory production launch in 2024 ... and lots of CGI pictures
- 095 Concorde Air France 4590, 25 July 2000
- 109 Vacuum tube travel (2013 Musk Hyperloop) 200yo concept
- 111 Hyperloop 100Pa vacuum
112 1825 Edinburgh Star article promised London to Edinburgh (600 km) in 5 minutes
khl calculates to average speed 7200 km/hr (2 km/sec) peak accel > 2.7 gees
- 115 Brunel
- 116 Freshman Robert Goddard essay 1904 maglev NYC to Boston (310 km) in 10 minutes, posthumous patent
- 116 French immigrant electrician Emile Bachelet filed maglev train patent in 1910 (issued 1912), got more attention
- 117 Siberian physicist Boris Petrovich Weinberg 1911 to 1913,
- 32 cm diameter 20 m radius ring tunnel, 10 kg carriage, 6 km/hr (100 meter/minute, 1.6 meter/second )
- proposed 800 to 1000 km/h full-scale
- 120 Branson proposed Virgin Hyperloop from Cheyenne to Houston
- 123 Nitrogen Fixing Cereals
- 127 bacteria decompose nitrates to N₂O , 300x worse greenhouse gas at 100 year scale
128 legume crops nodules containing nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria
133 Azotic Technologies Envita (gluconoacetobacter diazotrophicus) claims 5% to 20% yield increases, Practical Farm Research claims varied results from a few percent to significant yield loss
- 134 in the end, Smil claims transgenic crops won't be acceptable in the market (never ever EVER?)
- 135 Controlled Nuclear Fusion ... dismissed because progress is slow and expensive
- 152 BCI (noninvasive) Brain Computer Interface, self driving cars, electric cars, electronic health records
- 155 Aduhelm (aducanumab) based on amyloid hypothesis
- 150 Yann Lecun NYU "All of AI has a proof-of-concept-to-production gap"
- 164 2021 IBM announces 2nm chip, 10 atoms wide, thus Smil argues the end is in sight
- er, no, we are also stacking transistors vertically (like the Samsung 2TB SSD in this computer), which also makes system interconnects smaller and faster. In the (seemingly absurd) extreme, a one millimeter full-3D cube can hold as many 4 nanometer pitch transistors as a one-layer "planar chip" 0.5 meters on a side ... and use 160 times less power, since there is far less capacitance to drive.
- I don't know how to do that, but I did not know how to make 8 trillion 2-bit memory transistors for less than $50 in 1988, when I spent more than $1000 for an 80 MB Seagate hard drive. As Feynman taught us, there is plenty of room at the bottom.
- 165 rapid increase in population and starvation in Africa - yep. It is politically incorrect to speculate why populations increase faster in starvation areas. It is seemingly NOT incorrect to speculate how China went from famine to relative prosperity in tandem with below-replacement-rate birthrates. Indeed, with 25% of young people unemployed, at ages usually corresponding to the start of families, a skeptic might assume that this is the intent of the Chinese leadership. Me, I believe one should never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by distraction.
- 167 comparison of other advances with Moore's Law - yes, most things advance more slowly. However, biotech is advancing faster than Moore's Law, and will bring surprises, hopefully mostly desirable surprises.
A useful counter-opinion to Vaclav Smil is (well, was) Hans Rosling and his Gapminder Foundation (which still is).
My own opinion is that our Sun produces 3.8e26 watts, the Earth's biosphere harnesses about 2.8e15 watts with photosynthesis, and 8 billion 20-watt human brains use 1.6e11 watts. Seems like there is plenty of room for improvement, as opposed to doing the same dumb things that kill us in a few parts per billion of the universe's lifespan to date. Yes, we try all the stupid things first, and there are MANY stupid things to try, but occasionally we fail to fail.
Pessimistic? Optimistic? Which is more likely to fail to fail?