Wednesday, August 15, 2007

From Ars Technica: The 'greenness' of alternative energy sources

The 'greenness' of alternative energy sources

A couple of posts ago, I was wondering whether the benefits of fuel cells and Lithium Ion batteries overcompensate for issues with disposal and recycling. Looks like some researchers had the same thought in mind. Apparently wind and geo-thermal energy make the cut as really "green" alternative energy sources. Solar looks OK too. None of the others make the grade, though.

Click on the link for interesting information. BTW, the article points to a journal paper which should satisfy the needs of the more research inclined on the research methodology.


parijata said...

True, green alternative energy sources do exist. But how many people really make use of them? We want cleaner atmosphere, but refuse to take even a few small steps towards it.

I had seen the ad for a scooter that ran on solar energy. That was pretty promising. I do not know if they are still being marketed.

Aram said...

I seem to be taking up Ayn Rand's name quite often.


The following is an extract from

Dagny and Hank find the remnants of a motor that turns atmospheric static electricity into kinetic energy, an astounding feat; they also find evidence that the minds (the "Atlases") of the world are disappearing because of one particular "destroyer" taking them away. Dagny and Hank deal with the irrationalities and apparent contradictions of their atmosphere, and search for the creator of the motor as well as "the destroyer" who is draining the world of its prime movers, in an effort to secure their ability to live rational lives.

The question "Who is John Galt?" is also answered towards the closing of the novel - John Galt is a man disgusted that non-productive members of society use laws and guilt to leech from the value created by productive members of society. He made a pledge that he would never live his life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for him, and founded an enclave, separate from the rest of the country, where he and other productive members of society have fled.

John Galt invented a new type of electrical apparatus described in the book as a motor. This motor is revolutionary because it uses static electricity from the atmosphere as its main source of energy, requiring only a small amount of conventional fuel to run the conversion mechanism. This approximates a perpetual motion machine of the second kind, a machine which spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work (versus conventional heat engines, which convert thermal energy into mechanical work by transferring thermal energy from one reservoir to another). The theory is that the power is drawn from the environment (possibly approximating the Casimir effect, though that was extremely obscure and scientifically controversial at the time Atlas Shrugged was written).

The book gives the source as static electricity from the air, and suggests that a new physics was necessary to tap it.

Dagny discovers a discarded prototype of the motor, and it is superficially described in section Part 1, Chapter 9. In Part 3, Chapter 1, Dagny learns that Galt is using a working version of the motor to generate electricity for Galt's Gulch.

Aram said...


(further extract from wikipedia)

"Rand also mentioned technologies that were unavailable at the time, (1957?) but which have since been invented.

"Examples are voice activated door locks (Gulch power station), palm-activated door locks (Galt's NY lab), and shale-oil drilling."

(the wikipedia notes are worth reading in full.)

nIlagrIva said...

Scooters on solar energy would be awesome. I don't know where these were advertised.

You're a big Ayn Rand fan. Even after coming across her name for over 10 years now, it is surprising that I have barely read her. Next on my list will be fountainhead. And after that, her magnum opus, Atlas shrugged.

Aram said...

Atlas... is a 1000+ small print book. Yet, I must have read it at least 3-4 times. I have also bought and presented some 5-6 copies to my friends and superiors. I wish you would allow me the pleasure....

I feel like reading it again.

What she wrote way back in 1950s, we have seen actually happening in India during the socialistic permit, license days with the consequences just the way she wrote, culminating finally in our then PM Chandrashekar pledging the country's "family" gold with the IMF (?).

But, techies like you, might wonder at her remarkable imagining about technologies that were unavailable at her time.

The most relevant in the present context of your post is the John Galt's motor drawing energy from the atmosphere -- the greenest alternative energy source.

Aram said...

A heartening news to the eco-green brigade

Introducing a new, vibrant blogger - Bhelpuri and SeekhKabab
who has so aptly started his new blog with an invocation to the Lord Ganesha and a topic related to green environment.

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Aram - thanks for the vote of confidence. Btw, I own every Rand book written. But that is the topic for another post.

nIlagrIva - you bring up some interesting points. I am curious about your views on nuclear energy. One of my pet themes is the bad reputation that nuclear energy has, and how it can solve a lot of our environmental problems. But it will require some radical changes in reactor design. I would be interested in your views on this article:

Aram said...

Impressive article on China.... never thought their scientists and decision makers were so brilliant. Thanks for the URL, BPSK !

Just trying to imagine what might happen when this nuclear dream comes true for the whole world at large and pollution is fully under check. What then?

This question arose in my mind after reading in some blogsite yesterday about the possible causes for the Angkor Wat ruins.

"Angkor was the centre of the vast Khmer empire that controlled much of southeast Asia between the 9th and 15th centuries, before falling to the Thais in 1431.

"...the city was serviced by an extensive and sophisticated water system. The reliance on this network could explain the collapse of Angkor as the land was degraded "radically enough to cause them problems," Evans said.

"It is an engineered landscape that hasn't been matched anywhere else in the pre-industrial world."

As Nilagriva said earlier here "there is no such thing as a free lunch."

What will be the price of prosperity and what might be its aftereffects?

Aram said...


The new analysis of the irrigation system also sheds light on the civilization's collapse in the 14th century.

"We saw signs that embankments had been breached and of ad hoc repairs to bridges and dams, suggesting that the system became unmanageable over time," Mr Evans told the AFP news agency.

In addition, deforestation, over population, topsoil erosion could have contributed to the population's sudden disappearance.

Aram said...

Finding alternative energy source is all the more urgent because apart from solving the green concern, it would also reduce the income for the fundamentalists.