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Sunday, March 13, 2011

How To Become An Internet Legend Without Even Trying

I've been hanging out at DU trying to talk sense into them. I have just realized that it is hopeless. These are not the people who flunked algebra, geology, long division and biology. These are the people who flunked algebra, geology, long division and biology, and attempted to burn down the school as revenge, failed, and are now attempting to expunge those ways of thinking from the known universe.

But I did get a laugh out of it, which I am mentally filing away in "It's an engineering problem".

A DU denizen demands that engineers just stop being so sloppy and lazy and work out a way to generate energy from earthquakes:
Laugh if you want, but someone needs to figure out how to harness the energy in earthquakes

Seriously. I'm no engineer so I can't even begin to think about this in real terms, but just imagine if that energy were somehow able to be captured and stored for use.

Then we'd be looking forward to earthquakes. Of course, then we'd also not have to have nuclear power plants around to worry about during quakes.

Nobel prize goes to the person who figures this one out. Ready, set, GO. Get on it.
I'm thinking MBA. This person was trained to manage! inspire! create! herd stupid engineers!

A poor soul still trying to wrestle the soul of DU into rationality (the fact that his name is MadHound predicts the result) responds:
1. It's the same problem of trying to harness the energy in lighting-
First, how to predict where such an event will happen. Second, it is a massive amount of energy, how are you going to store it?
The original poster responds:
2. The difference is that quakes strike on faults - those are known locations. As for storing it, as I said, I'm no engineer so I have no idea. But I do know that some engineers are incredibly creative.
See! Mad management skillz invoked once again. At this point, I'm thinking Dilbert. Specifically, "And don't stand where the comet strikes oil!"

Madhound tries again.
3. But where on those faults, that's the key.
Will it blow on offshore Oregon, or onshore LA
The original poster, nothing daunted:
6. Just start anywhere and expand -
Once the technology is available, you just start implementing it in as many locations as possible.
Okay. Pyschology degree, flunked out of first business course, now a teacher. Cost/benefit ratios are an absolute mystery to this person. The Mad Hound just whimpered and ran off.

Another tremendously happy bystander posts a picture of an LED flashlight and:
4. Just throw a pile of these in the San Andreas fault...
This earns a dignified silence from the first poster. Behavior modification.

But another person, Tridim, tries to 'splain the facts of life:
5. Let's start simply, try to capture the energy from a rock AFTER it is pushed off a cliff

That's basically the challenge, times a billion.
I think it would be easier to harness the Earth's rotational energy, which is also impossible.
The original poster invokes the motivational spell again (please, god, let this person not reproduce):
9. Not really. It's not only motion, but friction.

I don't think it's impossible. It only seems so because nobody has done it yet.
Way, way too much science FICTION.

Tridim tries again to enlighten the dim one:
13. The friction makes heat, and that heat can be used to drive turbines, but..

The power plant would also destroy itself whenever there's a quake.

We're already generating geothermal power on more stable crust.
This is where I doubled up laughing, because the original poster is not daunted:
15. If a quake would destroy it, it was not designed correctly (OMG)

What I'm talking about is a paradigm shift, a whole new way of looking at problems like this. If I knew the answer or if it were based on existing concepts, it would already be done.

Scientific discovery sometimes occurs in quantum leaps and that's what would be required for this, imho. It would take some major thinking-outside-the-box. (And outside the known universe!)
Awed into silence, Tridim pauses too long, and another DUer jumps on the bandwagon. Who knows, this idea could end up in the next State of the Union speech:
7. You could have energy capturer thingies sort of like flappers that
could crank up a ratcheted spring thingie and put them where earthquakes commonly happen. Sort of like those inertial self-winding watch mechanisms.

I'm not a mechanical engineer so I don't know how to describe what I am picturing.
They would have to be able to capture multidirectional energy waves from quakes, so they could be arrayed in a circle.
A drum circle!!!!!

The original poster, much encouraged by the rational response:
10. But you know what I mean, I can tell.

Neither of us are engineers, maybe that's why it's easy for us to imagine? But then, some amazing discoveries are made by people who are uneducated just enough to not know that something is impossible.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the pessimists are in second place.... If only our engineers were uneducated enough not to know it's impossible - what wonders we could achieve!!!! The educated engineers are the source of all our problems!!! I see it now!!
Tridim, still trying:
11. The problem is the energy is spread out as a wave over the entire Earth.

If all of the energy was concentrated in an acre it could probably be done.
Energy capturer earthquake flappies back again, much enthused:
18. If you put your quake energy capturers in the most seismically active zones you
will catch more fish.
A sage, Zen-like observation.

Now others have noticed, and begin to respond to the original post, apparently charmed by the original, out-of-this-world thinking. For example,
16. And Hurricanes
Startled at this obvious confusion, the original poster responds:
17. Well we already have wind farms. Don't they capture hurricane energy?

Or maybe they're not located in those places?
Yet another engineering oversight!!!!

Another response to the original post:
19. Look to Europe
especially Sweden. They think forward and out of the box when it comes to energy.
It's a beyootiful thing. There's more - visit the thread. The dog showed up to ask why I was screaming with laughter.

Oh. my. God.
I doubt there are any engineers anywhere who would admit to being on DU.

Precious few economists, too, I might add.
They need outreach. They need therapy. They need a calculator.

They need a time machine to get back to the sixties.
This earthquake-energy thing, it has potential. This guy should meet up with the homeless guy I met on the bus once, who had the idea that we could take all the pennies out of circulation and melt them into copper wire, which could then be used to bring free electricity to all the homes in America-- and it would be paid for by the pennies. Between their two genius minds, they could make the world a better place.
DU is part of the progressive whack a noodle liberal democrat crowd that is every bit as dangerous as the ultra conservative republicans, both of these fringe elements spend their time demonizing each other.

Meanwhile, the much much larger crowd that is more of a Hillary Clinton type of moderate has no news base to refer to on a daily basis.

All there is is Fox News, and MSNBC, and a whole not of nothing for Hillary Clinton moderates.
Well, Alessandro, there was just a hydrogen explosion at reactor 3, Daiichi. Life is not really improving in Japan.

I don't really think DU is what you say. I think it is a giant eclectic mix.

Heck, with any large group, if you post a shamrock, people who love green with congregate around that issue. So at any one time, any group LOOKS imbalanced.

I think my frustration is twofold:
The first part stems from really poor news coverage over the Japanese situation. We could really learn something but we get pictures instead of facts, videos instead of research, and sensationalism instead of reporting.

The second part is that somehow so many seem to be concentrating on the minor, fringe possibilities instead of the great big elephant in the middle of the room. Japan has 50 some reactors. We have over 100. Japan just recommissioned reactor 1 at Daiichi. The US is recommissioning plants.

I neither want to die in the dark cold of winter nor wander around glowing. The middle course is what we need.
Part of the problem is that it's more important to scare people about nuclear energy than to try and report what's actually happening. And it requires some knowledge of science, which few reporters have.

And will someone tell me why they have to say "Japan is the only country to have first hand experience with the affects of nuclear weapons." What does that have to do with anything?
I work with idiots like this every day. Probably why I don't find it as amusing as you.
We have over 100. Japan just recommissioned reactor 1 at Daiichi. The US is recommissioning plants.

I can practically guarantee what happened because the exact same thing happened to my father. There was roughly 30 minutes of warning about the quake/tsunami; I am willing to bet that at least one reactor engineer suggested an orderly shutdown take place immediately and was overruled by a non-engineering manager who worried about losing money.

Hell, hours before the blizzard in Chicago last month the top manager at my company was walking around complaining that the media was getting everyone all worked up over a coming storm that was never going to happen. Two days later he complained about how long it took the snow plow to show up and clear his driveway; God forbid he actually lift a shovel himself.
I'm no engineer, but if we could have just captured the sexual energy of the parents of these idiots instead of letting them create said idiots, we'd be able to harness a lot of otherwise wasted energy.
Charles - all I can think about is Challenger.

If Moses were getting the tablets today, there'd be an eleventh one - Thou Shalt Not Ignore The Safety Warnings Of YOUR ENGINEERS!!!

But even the infinite and all-knowing Almighty did not believe humans could be this stupid.... That's because we're not. We're just addicted to ignoring reality, which was basically covered in One.

But you can be sure that in the end, it will be the engineers who get the blame.
If we had a method to store the energy from an earthquake, we would have so much stored energy from solar and wind that we wouldn't need to.
Charles King said: I am willing to bet that at least one reactor engineer suggested an orderly shutdown take place immediately and was overruled by a non-engineering manager who worried about losing money.


EVery single plant that was online there was SCRAM'd before that tsunami hit.

I recall reading that they did so automatically, in fact, when the earthquake hit.

What they've been dealing with over the last week is residual heat in the cores and lack of coolant pump for their fuel rod storage.

So, no.
For engineers to harness the energy of earthquakes we'd have to figure out how to change the linear motion of the plate tectonics into rotary motion and then deal with the variable frequency (infrequency?) of the earthquakes. We've done it before just not to the planet-size scale of the plate tectonics. That problem of not knowing WHEN or WHERE the next earthquake will strike might be a little tough. BUT, if we throw enough money at the problem, we can solve it. And I'm one of the sane engineers. The money problem might be a tad tough since the U. S. Gov'ment is too deep in the hole already.
A) Shutting down a nuclear reactor is not like turning the key in your car's ignition off. A lot of residual heat is still there. And even spent fuel rods emit heat as they decay. Eventually, enough decay occurs that they cool down, but that takes a very long while.

That's why you have all these fuel rods in pools. The fuel rods in the reactors are more radioactive and generate more heat.

This is true on a much shorter timeframe of many industrial furnaces. They have backup sources for electricity too, because even if they are not active, enough residual heat remains to cause a very severe problem if it is not dissipated.
For storing the energy derived from earthquakes, we could use peanut butter. Kind of taking George Washington Carver's ideas just a bit further! Stop laughing- I have a BS in Economics so I know what I'm talking about.
First, gather up a whole bunch of money from, like the government, or China, or The Bahamas; it doesn't really matter where.

Ummm, I'm a bit reluctant to descibe more since I haven't patented the process yet, or copyrighted the manual of instructions either.

Oh yeah, we'd have to do it in Florida, and use non-union labor.
Anonymous - no you can not solve the problem by throwing enough money at it. Let's assume you picked up 15% of the energy. How do you store it?

I admit that it is fun to think about energy capturer flapper thingies, but eventually you have to get enough usable energy out to justify the money you put in. Otherwise you are merely a joyous geek with an unlimited budget. I admit that sounds like paradise to many geeks, but we have a budget problem and eventually starving individuals might make such a paradise a less than pleasant place. It is hard to do good design work when you are constantly being interrupted by the necessity to shoot down the waves of despairing peasants attempting to raid the lab.

The long time gap between the intermittent releases of the energy that the energy capturer flapper thingies and the technical problem about storage of the energy theoretically captured would mean that, like fusion, it would be fun but you would never net positive. Even if we get over the storage/collection problem by making our process flow look like
Energy Capturer Flapper Thingie->and then a storage miracle happens->slow distribution out w/ no storage losses (that's a physicist's problem),
you STILL have the materials problem and the financing problem.

Assume you put 10K into the ECFT unit for construction costs. Assume that you can get 150 MW out from each ECFT unit each quake. Assume that you can store that for future use with only a 5% loss a year. So you build 100 of them, which theoretically nets you 15,000 MW for 1 million. Now wait for 40 years...

Even assuming that your units do not degrade, that your storage infrastructure was really cheap and does not degrade, and a discount rate of 2%, this investment looks worse than Greek bonds. Once you get the power out, you've got to leach it out over the next few decades. The very long average time between initial investment and actual energy generation dooms it.

Your post is proof of why accountants are about as essential as engineers to the basic functioning of our society.

I admit I am having fun imagining the giant flywheels towering over half of CA, but I fear that people would merely end up praying to them in some sort of regressive cargo cult. I envisage it similarly to that occurrence in Spain in which some of the solar arrays were generating energy during the night because the owners set up giant light banks. The subsidies....
I have some applicable experience in this subject, as I once assisted my 4th grade daughter in designing and building a copy of a 17th century perpetual motion machine, which won 2nd place for 4th grade entrees in the Austin, Texas, district-wide Science Fair.

Yes, really, we entered a perpetual motion machine in her science fair. And yes, she got 2nd place among all 4th grade entrees.

Yes, it was awesome. Thank you.

Now, on to the problem of harnessing energy from earthquakes: First, we need a planet-sized storage system with a solid but fragmented crust several tens of miles thick, and a rotating, liquid core (perhaps molten rock?)

Once you have that storage system set up, connecting it to the Earth/s fault zones is a comparatively minor engineering problem.

Then you just wait for the terrestrial earthquakes to transfer their energy to the storage system. Using that energy will be easy. Just wait for the crust of the storage system to slip and slide, and remove the energy using your connection to the Earth's fault zones.

I suggest we find somebody named Slartibartfast to run this project.
Funny, we had a large flood here in Brisbane some months back and one very experienced journalist said on TV, "Well they just released 150mm depth of water from the dam and putting this in perspective, a can of coke has about 375ml in it so it's not much water really" end quote.

I kid you not.
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