Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A normal and terrifying thing about chemistry


The pork industry was looking for a humane way to slaughter pigs, so they tried having the pigs breathe pure nitrogen which did the trick.   This has been suggested as a humane way to do capital punishment, and there is a political movement of people who support suicide for terminally ill patients who were encouraging people to breathe pure helium, which is easy to obtain, as a painless way to die.

There is gas exchange between the oceans and the air.   CO2 in the oceans forms carbonic acid, which is used by calcifying marine organisms to combine with calcium to make calcium carbonate to create shells.  This process is sequestering atmospheric CO2 over the long term, turning CO2 into limestone deposits, which is why atmospheric CO2 has been on a serious decline over the last 40 million years.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Predictions for the year 2122

In 1922, author W. L. George wrote:

"There is a good old rule which bids us never prophesy unless we know, but, all the same, when one cannot prophesy one may guess, especially if one is sure of being out of the way when the reckoning comes."

Good advice.

"I suggest a picture of this world a hundred years hence, and venture as my first guess that the world at that time would be remarkable to one of our ghosts, not so much because it was so different as because it was so similar. In the main, the changes which we may expect must be brought about by science."

"It is easier to bring about a revolutionary scientific discovery such as that of the X-ray than to alter in the least degree the quality of emotion that arises between a man and a maid. There will probably be many new rays in 2022, but the people whom they illumine will be much the same... I am convinced that in 2022 the advancement of science will be amazing, but it will be nothing like so amazing as is the present day in relation to a hundred years ago. A sight of the world today would surprise President Jefferson much more, I suspect, than the world of 2022 would surprise the little girl who sells candies at Grand Central Station. For Jefferson knew nothing of railroads, telegraphs, telephones, automobiles, aeroplanes, gramophones, movies, radium, etc.;"

To follow up on the predictions made by W. L. George, I am going to make an educated guess as to what things might be like in the year 2122. The problem is that it is not hard to see where trends will take us over the next 50 years, or to a much lesser extent to the year 2100, but new trends will emerge that we cannot predict, making any prediction about the year 2122 far from complete.

For example, George knew nothing of computers, the Internet, and how they would change the world. He knew nothing about television, but he did imply that new communication methods would be possible.

Unlike the prediction made by George about the year 2022, technological change will accelerate over the next hundred years to such an extent that our ghosts might find the world unrecognizable a hundred years hence. Within 50 years machines will be smarter than people, but even before then, they will help us develop new technologies at a faster pace. We will see huge advances in material science, medical technologies, energy, and anything digital. Medical technology will improve our health, our mental state, and our abilities. It is very likely that in the year 2122, people will age very slowly or not at all.

All transportation will be automated. Airplanes will not need pilots. Cars, trucks, trains, and ships will not need drivers. A driver's license will be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, most jobs will also be automated, with a fraction of the population supervising the machines that do all the work. Society will have to be reorganized, with many people not being able to obtain work. This could create great political turmoil, along with booms and busts and financial collapses, causing a few nations to fall apart and reorganize into something else.

War will not go away, but it will be mostly carried out by machines. It is very likely that nuclear weapons will be used over the next century, with devasting consequences over large areas, which will greatly increase the need for defensive systems.

Most fossil fuels will be gone by the year 2122. The future will depend upon whether we can develop nuclear fusion, which is likely. If so, we will have abundant relatively-clean energy, although not necessarily cheap at first. If we can't develop cost-effective nuclear fusion, and this is a distinct possibility, then a hundred years from now we will be facing energy shortages, and relying mostly on nuclear fission power and some coal, while maximizing renewables which by themselves won't be nearly enough to supply all our energy needs. Every home and business will have solar panels. We will see more windmills, more hydroelectric, and more geothermal energy production.

Material science might solve the energy storage problem, but maybe not completely. We might also have to rely on synthetic fuels, because this may be the most efficient energy storage method.

Natural resources will become more strained and therefore more expensive. The world population will expand slightly, level off within decades from now, and then slowly decline as resources become more scarce.

People will find their behavior more tightly controlled, not just by the government, but also by other people. Surveillance will be everywhere, including in the home. Crime might become impossible to get away with, but personal freedom will suffer. I predict that there will be a backlash against this, and perhaps a political movement to protect privacy.

Movie theaters will disappear within decades. Movies will be more like video games, or video games will replace movies altogether, with the user participating in the story, possibly with multiple endings depending upon the choices the player makes. Realistic virtual reality should be possible, with many people spending most of their lives in virtual reality. Some stories could take weeks to finish.

More computer technology will be integrated into people, allowing them to experience augmented or virtual reality, and increase their access to information.

People might choose robotic pets, or even virtual ones, which could be made realistic but easier to care for. Robotic pets might have additional features, serving as crude household robots, in addition to the other household robots that people will most certainly have in a hundred years' time. Some people will have robotic friends which will provide emotional support almost as well as a person, if not better. And they will have relationships will robots.

"Reality" in the future is going to be much less real, with people spending much time in virtual worlds, having artificial companions, and experiencing the world through augmented senses.

John Coffey

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Electrical carbon capture

There are an octillion phytoplankton that are the basis of the ocean food chain, plus all the other plants that are the basis of the terrestrial food chain, all of which take CO2 out of atmosphere.  Atmospheric CO2 is plant food and it has been in a sharp decline over the last 40 million years.  What a pity to waste it.  It is a valuable natural resource. 

All of human civilization arose over just the last 12,000 years after we came out of the most recent period of mass glaciation.  Geologically it is not a very long time.  In just 10,000 years from now, half of North America will covered by a mile of ice and this period of mass glaciers will last another 80,000 years.

We will run out of most fossil fuels by the year 2100 and we will run out of coal by the year 2150.  Then the natural sequestration of CO2 by calcifying marine organisms will continue to deplete atmospheric CO2 until it eventually gets so low that it threatens all terrestrial plant life.  This has come close to happening already during the ice age 20,000 years ago.  If it happens again then we will have to generate CO2 from limestone deposits to survive.  

We are not the enemy of nature; we are its salvation. 

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Begin forwarded message:

From: Larry 
Subject: Electrical carbon capture

It would be great if we could go back to using coal with this carbon capture.
Allowing the demand on natural gas to drop lowering the price.
It would be interesting to see if this could be eventually used in personal gasoline cars so that the world doesn't also try to phase them out.

BYU Molten Salt Reactor