Friday, April 24, 2009

God Created Nuclei For A Reason

He gave us a great gift. We're too delusional to use it.

This American Thinker piece demolishes the magical thinking behind all of the current "alternative energy" pipe dreams, and then points to something whacky that just might work.


Or as Oliver Morton, chief news and features editor of Nature, has expressed it, "If Silicon Valley can apply Moore's Law to the capture of sunshine, it could change the world again."

Unfortunately, we can say with absolute certainty: "It ain't never gonna happen." There is absolutely no chance that all the money in Silicon Valley is ever going to discover a "Moore's Law" that will allow us to miniaturize the generation of energy the way it has miniaturized the storage of information. Why? The answer is simple: energy and information are not the same thing.

The marvelous miniaturization embodied in Moore's Law was accomplished by using less and less energy to store each individual bit of information. Think of an abacus. The position of each bead represents a 1 or a 0, and the amount of energy required to move the bead across the wire frame is the cost of storing that information. If we move down into the microcosm so we are storing information by the energy used to change the state of a logic gate or a group of molecules or a single molecule or even a single electron, we are using less and less energy at every level. That is the essence of Moore's Law.

BUT WHAT IF WE ARE SEEKING TO generate energy? We cannot move down the molecular scale in the same way. At each and every stage we will encounter less energy. There is only so much energy stored in a chemical bond or in a flow of photons or electrons. This is easy enough to calculate. The amount of energy stored in a single carbon-hydrogen bond in a fossil fuel is about 1 electron volt (eV). The amount of energy in a photon of visible light is in the range of 1.7–3.3 eV. When we break one of those chemical bonds—through the process of "combustion"—or capture a photon in a photovoltaic cell, we can generate about 1 to 3.3 eV of energy. In fact, we already do a pretty efficient job of capturing and converting these sources of energy. A liter of gasoline, for example, can produce 9.7 kilowatt- hours (kWh) of power—probably the densest form of chemical energy we will ever encounter. Anthracite coal produces 9.4 kWh, liquid natural gas 7.2 kWh, methanol 4.6 kWh, and wood around .5–.9 kWh, depending on its moisture content. "Biofuels"—crops that are less dense and more saturated than wood—produce even fewer kilowatthours per liter.

Sunup to sundown, the sun's rays shed about 400 watts per square meter of ground in the United States. By theoretical limits, only about 25 percent of this can be converted into electricity. This means that solar electricity can light one 100-watt bulb for every card table. Covering every square foot of every building in the country with solar panels would be enough to provide our indoor lighting—about 4 percent of our total electrical consumption—during the daytime. Other forms of solar energy flows—wind, hydroelectricity, or biofuels—are [even] more dilute...

[read the rest!]

Alternative Energy is yet another socialist pretext. Given that its advocates show no actual interest in the real physical/economic facts behind what is possible and feasible, what else should one conclude?

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