Mendeley Brainstorm – The Future of Energy – We Have a Winner!

Will the future of energy look more like this?

Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to The Future of Energy; picking a winner was not easy, however in the end, we selected Neil Frandsen’s post:

Folks, I write from the viewpoint of a mountain-born, high plains of Alberta raised, retired Seismic Surveyor. For ye Urb-folk, this means that I experienced heating using coal & wood, thru adding large Coleman Heaters burning diesel fuel, on to Natural Gas heating the water in a low-pressure (<25psi) steam radiator system, thru forced-air heated by natural gas, with an excursion to All-Electric Sleigh Camp (supplied by Borek Construction, of Dawson Creek, BC, Canada fame). All Electric heat, at temperatures below -30°C, suffers from DiHydrogenMonoxide’s nasty Hoarfrost Trick, which formed on the grid over the intake fresh air opening, and choked it off! The fuel consumption, of the 4 diesel-driven alternators, really drove home the efficiency hit that converting a hydrocarbon to electricity, then the electricity to heat, makes on your fuel stocks, be it on the High Arctic Ocean Ice, or be it 65 miles south of High Prairie, Alberta, in -40°C (and colder) temperatures. Yes, I experienced that Camp twice. I can easily imagine how Great Britain’s pensioners were making the harsh choice, between freezing to death, or starving to death, when the pricing of Electricity soared!

In the long term, Orbital SolarEnergy collectors, transforming the sun’s energy to microwaves that traverse our atmosphere thru the Low-Loss Window, are the simple solution. The Rectenna Farms may be placed on top of 15 meter tall supports, allowing farm machinery, and domestic animals free passage. The antennas of the Rectenna Farm do not block very much of the incoming daylight, allowing farming, dairy cows, and ranch animals the growth of useful plants. In treed areas, using the tops of hills makes logical sense, and only requires poles 25, or 30 meters high, so tree farming can carry on with little to block the growth of trees.

I see the soy-distant ‘Fast Charging’ of current battery-powered vehicles as risible.

For real fast charging, a pair of 4″ diameter copper cables, well insulated, and solidly clamped to massive granite blocks (reinforced concrete’s rebar would not react well to the electromagnetic fields made during real fast charging), would have to have coolant circulated under their insulation. The Battery in the vehicle would also have to be connected to a powerful coolant circulating system during charging, which must be left doing cooling until the battery had settled down!

In winter, ordinary batteries suffer a performance hit from cold temperatures.

The battery must also supply energy to heat the passenger cabin, plus defrosting air that must be heated, and blown across the glazings, so the driver may see where he/she/it is going.

Self-driving vehicles must be able to ‘see’: I suggest a multi-spectral arrangement: across visible light; IR; and a useful short wavelength radar, to enable distinguishing among solid ground, snow-covered ground, and either snow, or ice that has naught but air beneath it.

The ‘battery’ that uses propane, CH4, or H2, as fuel, the Fuel Cell, is actually a better bet than a mere battery bank, due to the exothermic nature of the Fuel Cell’s work = in winter, especially in Arctic Winter, Propane will effectively stop self-converting to propane gas, because the tank’s environment is not supplying enough heat! The simple device that controls the pressure-drop, from Tank to Fuel Cell’s fuel line, has a bellows. That bellows gets warmer/colder than the ambient air, thus collecting H2O, which freezes, and may build up enough to stop the work of the Bellows. Which is why you see 100W incandescent light bulbs carefully arranged under duct-taped cardboard windshields affixed to each Pressure-Reducer device, to keep the Bellows warm, and free from ice.

I challenge the Fuel Cell folk to create a device which keeps each Fuel Call vehicle from dribbling water along the road, thus enhancing the black ice cover for following vehicles to cope with!

We asked Neil what inspired him, he wrote:

The question of Energy Supply is a very complex situation, and has given rise to lots of different “Solutions”!

I first looked into WindPower, and Solar Power, and lots of Batteries, as a solution to the huge cost of flying in all the Gasoline, Diesel Fuel Jet Fuel, and Propane, to our Petty-Ray seismic camp on the Alberta Forestry DFB-6 emergency E-W Grass-surfaced Airstrip, of DC-3 length, built upon a nice level-topped, very wide Esker, in the summer of 1964. I was 25 that summer, and pitchforked from being a simple Field Clerk, to being the Seismic Crew’s Manager, when Dick (the regular Manager) had to go to Calgary, Alberta, then into the NWT to set up his Winter seismic crew’s barge-delivered supplies, on the Mackenzie River.

We were approximately 90 miles WNW of High Level, Alberta, which was still using the original High Level Airport (three gravel-surfaced runways, iirc). Our supply-run aircraft were Cessna 185; Beech-18, and DC-3, with an actual twin-engined Boeing 247 (yes, thick wings, no flaps, and electric-screws for retracting the main gear, I do not remember the arrangement for the tail-wheel). The costs, of flying-in everyone, and all supplies, was horrible, such that even our Seismic Crew, which recorded 10 miles per day, was running a cost per mile of over C$5,000.00, charged to our Client.

Therefore, I checked into how much windpower, and solarpower would cost, including the costs of setup, and collapsing the towers, and the rotors, the costs of unfurling, and furling, the folded solarpanels, and the costs of hauling the extra weight & volume of equipment to a new Camp Site.

Unfortunately, the reliability of wind, and of solar, power was such that the Battery Bank needed was excessively costly. Adding a supplemental Diesel-fueled Power Plant allowed the battery bank size to drop down to ‘only’ a 40-foot-long semi-trailer full of lead-acid batteries, but the Diesel-fueled Power Plant had to be the size of the one we were already running!

I continued to follow the improvements in WindPower Turbines, and in Solar Power systems (the German engineering company, who erected the 50kW updraft windpower in Spain is the only one to work out a reliable solution, to harvesting tamed windpower by using solarpower to heat the ground under the extensive glazing surrounding the Power Tower).

A few years back, we energy eaters, in Baen Books “Baens Bar” website, chatted about practical ways to harvest the floods of energy roaring past our Globe. The consensus was for the Orbital Collectors, converting the energy into microwaves that used the least lossy ‘window’ in Earth’s atmosphere, to energize Rectennas on top of poles, in Rectenna Farms. The Down-going ‘Beam’ could be sent using a phased array of emitters, thus avoiding the weight of a parabollic antenna, plus using a Beam Energy intensity too low to hurt any animals, or hurt any plant life.

To get the electricity to customers, burying a Cryo-temperature loss-free cable inside a Natural Gas pipeline, in existing Pipeline right of ways, was suggested, and one of us (not I) created a well-thought-out plan to improve the North American Power Grid, by utilizing such Power Lines. I see that method as a way to save a lot of electricity nowadays lost to the realities of long-distance A/C 60-cycle transmission.

My educational background includes only 2 of the 4 years needed to pass the University of Alberta (Edmonton) Engineering courses. That is where I learned my Surveying Theory, my Drafting Skills, and honed my abilities to extract information from books, periodicals, and brain-picking of fellow workers. The Borek Construction folks included Catskinners with experiences in Antarctica, as well as the Canadian Arctic, and their own home forests, and fields, around Dawson Creek, BC.

Those who didn’t win this time are encouraged to respond to the latest Mendeley Brainstorm, regarding The Gig Economy. Thanks again to all our participants.

Mendeley Brainstorm – The Gig Economy: Potent or Precarious?

The gig economy has made services cheaper and more convenient; but is there a downside?

The “gig economy” is a fact of life. To “Uber” has become a verb. Airbnb is ubiquitous. People sell their skills in short term engagements via freelancing websites. This has opened up a world of low-cost services; however, is the gig economy’s destruction of secure employment worth it? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes July 12, 2017.

A New Economy

People used to “take a taxi” or “get a cab”, now they just as readily “Uber” to wherever they want to go. This shift in language is indicative of a broader change in the economy: with Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and other services, people are becoming accustomed to ordering services online from contracted individuals who are “paid by the gig”.

The Upsides

Anyone who has had trouble getting a cab in the middle of a crowded city can appreciate the convenience and low cost of utilising Uber. Airbnb offers real experiences of living in a location rather than a sanitised venue. Being able to hire a freelancer to do everything from design birthday cards to editing manuscripts is extremely convenient and much cheaper than it once was.

The Downsides

Employment in the gig economy is precarious and not necessarily well paid. Furthermore, secure professions like taxi driver and employment in hotels is under threat. Competing in a world, online marketplace tends to favour lower cost providers.

The Future?

Is the Gig Economy just a fact of life? Or can we make changes to lessen its downsides? What is your view? Tell us!

About Mendeley Brainstorms

Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research.  We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.

Mendeley Brainstorm – The End of Driving – We Have a Winner!

Driving can be put beyond the reach of human error; but is that a mistake?

Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to The End of Driving; picking a winner was difficult, however in the end, we selected Anikó Tóth’s post:

Repeatedly through history, we’ve built machines that do what we do, better. Today, we’ve progressed from labor-saving to IQ-saving devices: machines that think and act so that we don’t have to ourselves. Do I believe that driverless cars would eventually make transportation safer? Absolutely. They will follow the rules, react lightning-fast, and simultaneously integrate input from multiple sensors. We still face challenges, of course. You know when that schmuck in the BMW is about to cut you off…but how to teach such intuition to a machine? Then there’s the cyber battle, crucial for the security of these devices. As we accept driverless cars, we must understand that many will inevitably become helpless without them—and this, not the engineering, is our chief peril. I know people who couldn’t drive a manual to save their lives, or get lost en route to the supermarket without a gps. Where does it end?

We asked Anikó what inspired her, she wrote:

My answer actually had nothing to do with my research (I’m a paleontologist/macroecologist phd student). It stemmed from a personal and family philosophy that is equal parts old-fashioned and progressive. As a scientist who comes from a family of mathematicians, engineers, and scientists I believe deeply in the power of technology to change the world. I also believe it is vitally important to understand and remember the things that made us human (Who do you know that can build a fire? Cook/bake from scratch? Read a map? Wire up a radio? Defend themselves physically? Have a meaningful conversation with a stranger? Sew? Do maths? First aid? Change a flat tire? the list goes on). Of course, making forward progress while keeping in touch with your roots is challenging, but challenges bring out the best in us, do they not?

Those who didn’t win this time are encouraged to respond to the latest Mendeley Brainstorm, regarding The Future of Energy. Thanks again to all our participants.

Mendeley Brainstorm – The Future of Energy

Britain stopped using coal for a day; will a day come when it is no longer used?

On the 21st of April, Great Britain experienced its first day without burning any coal since the 19th century. According to the National Grid, the energy was provided by natural gas, followed by nuclear and renewables. Given this example, what will our future energy mix look like? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes June 14, 2017.

Making a Fossil of a Fuel

Coal powered the industrial revolution in Great Britain. However, as of the 21st of April, it was clear that the country is no longer dependent upon this once ubiquitous fuel. Britain’s energy on April 21, in descending order, came from natural gas, nuclear, wind, biomass and solar.

Back to the Past?

Not everyone is so keen on this development. In March, US President Donald Trump lifted a temporary ban on coal leases; his popularity in states like West Virginia was based on the promise to bring coal mines back into operation.

Powering the Future

However, the continued use of fossil fuels has a significant environmental cost. The World Health Organisation estimated in 2012 that up to 7 million deaths in that year were attributable to air pollution. Additionally, most climate scientists state that burning fossil fuels is wreaking havoc with the Earth’s climate.

What Next?

Given that Britain has shown that we can stop using at least one fossil fuel, what’s next? What will be the energy source of the future? Tell us!

About Mendeley Brainstorms

Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research.  We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.

References

Fears, D. (2017). Donald Trump promises to bring back coal jobs but experts disagree. The Independent. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-coal-mining-jobs-promise-experts-disagree-executive-order-a7656486.html [Accessed 8 May 2017].

Golson, J. (2017). Britain goes a day without coal-fired power for first time since the 1880s. The Verge. [online] Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/23/15395754/coal-great-britain-electricity-power-plant [Accessed 8 May 2017].

Mendeley Brainstorm – Send in the Clones – We Have a Winner!

Is cloning going to be part of our future?

Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to Cloning; picking a winner was problematic, however in the end, we selected Preston Whisenant’s post:

Genetic engineering has been happening, is happening, and will continue to happen regardless of how people feel about it. Science won’t stop, and shouldn’t stop, it’s exploration into genetics and its quest to save humanity from unspeakable, terrible, genetic diseases and complications simply because some people are against it! Even if banned, genetic research would still take place, it would simply take place with less oversight, less well-meaning intentions, and less sophistication (Kurzgesagt, 2016).

Health is the top priority; it is unethical to stop research that could save people from unnecessary complications and lifetimes of suffering! Kant, a philosopher, maintains that it is not only the action, but the intention of the action that determines virtue (Kant, 1785). To therefore deny people freedom from such suffering simply because one’s ‘value system’ makes one uncomfortable when considering it may not be malicious, but it is sheer ignorance and it is cruel!

We asked Preston what inspired him, He wrote:

I was particularly interested in the sociological and ethical implications of the development or lack thereof of this technology and how it should be utilized. I wonder then, if that technology had existed earlier if it could’ve been utilized to spare many from all kinds of problems and inconveniences caused by genetics.

Thank you, Preston!

Those who didn’t win this time are encouraged to respond to the latest Mendeley Brainstorm, regarding The End of Driving. Thanks again to all our participants.

Mendeley Brainstorm – The End of Driving: Getting into Gear?

Are we ready to entrust our transport to autonomous machines?

The driverless vehicle is one of the most significant practical applications of Artificial Intelligence. It will change how we travel from place to place and how our supply chains are managed. But is humanity ready to trust machines with something so vital? Or would we be taking too much a risk? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes May 10, 2017.

Taking the Wheel

Perhaps one of the most significant changes wrought by Artificial Intelligence to our daily lives will be the arrival of driverless vehicles. In addition to Google’s Waymo project, which aims to replace passenger cars, autonomous lorries will transform how goods are shipped.

Are We Ready?

The chief executive of FedEx Freight, Michael Ducker, recently stated his company could soon rely on self-driving vehicles. He told the Financial Times: “It is coming faster than many people think, just because technology is advancing so rapidly…I think technology will lead, and sociological issues will lag, in this particular case.”

Green Light, Yellow Light

In theory, autonomous vehicles should be an improvement; machines are immune to the misjudgements that human beings make out on the road. Furthermore, they don’t tire like human drivers do, and thus the movement of both people and freight should be faster and more efficient. Nevertheless, the car is viewed as a means to achieve personal independence; many people’s livelihoods depend on the transport industry.

Get into Gear?

Is humanity ready to entrust transport to machines? Or are we taking too much a risk? What about the impact to employment? What is your view? Tell us!

About Mendeley Brainstorms

Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research.  We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.

References

Hook, L. (2017). FedEx Freight calls for US self-driving truck regulations. The Financial Times. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/b14abc72-1e4b-11e7-b7d3-163f5a7f229c [Accessed 11 Apr. 2017].

Waymo. (2017). Waymo. [online] Available at: https://waymo.com/ [Accessed 11 Apr. 2017].

Mendeley Brainstorm – Science and Politics – We Have a Winner!

When politics and science collide, is it time to go on the march?

Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to Science and Politics; picking a winner given the well thought out answers was particularly difficult this time, however in the end, we selected Isaac Alcón Rovira’s post:

To me the problem is a bit deeper. I think something that must change in science today is the capacity to reach people who is out of science. By “reaching” I mean being able to transmit what science is. Out of the scientific world, people have no idea what science is, and I believe that if everyone would have a scientific point of view (even not being a scientist at all) that would be very beneficial in their life in many senses. However, scientists, at the moment, have not idea about how to transmit science. In fact, to all conferences that I have been so far (not many, but some) around 80% of talks have been so opaque that I have not got more than a glimpse of what that person tries to achieve with his/her research. As a consequence, I come back home with the feeling I have wasted 80% of my time. Now, if scientists are not able to fully transmit, even to the colleges of their own field, their research, then, let’s forget about transmitting our science to the rest of the world, to people who are not familiar with what an atom, or a molecule, is (now thinking in Chemistry, of course).

In my opinion, the day scientists are capable of transmitting what science is to the rest of the world, we will get the power to reach people, to touch people and, eventually, to move people. That day, probably, we will not really care what politics do or whether they believe in science or not, because 80% of people will do care of science, and that will be far enough.

Isaac is a PhD student at the Universitat de Barcelona, He wrote:

My research is not about communication skills, or politics, I am a chemist and I am designing 2D materials for possible future applications in organic electronics. What inspired me? … I have become quite passionate with Beatles during the last year and, to me, there is a common factor in all most successful songs by Lennon and McCartney: all of them are tremendously good but, at the same time, tremendously simple. I am sure many scientists would tell me that Science cannot be transmitted in such a simple way as Music, because of its more complex nature. Well, I think it is possible, and it is just a matter of caring about it, and putting the effort to make it happen.

Thank you, Isaac!

Those who didn’t win this time are encouraged to respond to the latest Mendeley Brainstorm, regarding Cloning. Thanks again to all our participants.