Space, the final frontier

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kholmar's picture
kholmar
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Space, the final frontier

The most important thing that Dr. Martenson said in the entire 'Crash Course' was this:

There is nothing wrong with living in a world of exponential growth as long as the world has no boundaries.

All  one has to do is look up in the sky to realize that we do indeed live in a UNIVERSE that has no boundaries.

and I am not just talking about space to grow, a recent probe to Titan, one of Saturn's moons discovered what is believed to be LAKES of methane. Titan is 50% bigger than our moon. Methane is THE major component of Natural Gas, about 87% by volume. Burning Methane in the presence of Oxygen produces CO2 and water.

yeah, I know it would be terribly expensive to develop the infrastructure to exploit Methane Lakes on the surface of Titan but hadnt we better be starting to produce this infrastructure NOW, while we can still afford it?

I submit to you that it is our ONLY CHANCE to avoid the eventual crashes that Dr. Martenson is warning us about.

The other option seems to be to let most of us die off and the rest can become subsistence farmers.

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SteveW
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Re: Space, the final frontier

There are 7 billion people on this planet with say an average weight of 70 kilos and doubling every 50 years or so. Since we are mostly water this mass of 4.9 X 10 exp 11 kilos occupies a volume of about half a cubic kilometre which if spread equally over the entire surface of the Earth would form a layer 1 micrometre thick (assuming I haven't goofed in my calculations).

I think the most important thing that Dr. Martenson said in the entire 'Crash Course' was the story about the drop of water doubling every minute in Fenway park.

Our initial hypothetical 1 micrometre thick human population will after about 82 doublings or 4100 years be expanding outward at the speed of light, illustrating again that exponential growth is unsustainable.

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Vanityfox451
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Re: Space, the final frontier

Hello Kholmar,

Welcome to CM.com. Steve and I, just like you, want to have a future. We all three, along with our families and friends, want guarantee's that we have as much certainty with the future as we did, in the most part, with our pasts. Yet, sad to say, there isn't the time or energy to take on the insurmountable planning involved that would be necessary in implementing such a task as you describe.

I've recently had the pleasure of meeting Dan Densham who lives’ locally to me. Do a Google and you'll find him fascinating. Over the past week we've had long discussion about his ideas, circulating around cold fusion. Yet even he has to admit that it will take years for all the hope he has in creating such an energy form. He also took note of another aspect, which are limits to growth.

On two counts:-

 If cold fusion could be implemented today, some say it would take upwards of thirty years to begin to compete and take over from fossil fuel. By which time there will have been a guaranteed die-off of the population.

If cold fusion could be implemented within an instant (obviously impossible), and we could begin using it as a total exchange for oil by tomorrow morning, we'd still have a population of close to 7 billion, adding 90 million people every year to the planet, where a new limit to growth would be met inside of a decade, I'm sure.

Have a watch through this lecture below. Chris Martenson describes him as someone for whom he highly respects and admires. He was also part of my journey in finding CM.com. He will answer many of your questions, but sadly, I'm sure, he’ll create quite a few more...

Arithmetic, Population and Energy ~ Dr Albert A. Bartlett

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4364780292633368976

My Very Best,

~ VF ~

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sofistek
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Re: Space, the final frontier

kholmar,

Search for articles on EROEI. For instance, the EROEI of Canadian tar sands is reckoned to be 2 barrels of energy out out for every barrel of energy input (some have it lower, some higher). Convential oil and gas had high EROEI numbers (100:1) a century ago but they have slumped to possibly only 10:1 (i.e. it now takes 10 times as much energy to get the same quanitity of oil or gas as it did a century ago). And that is on earth. Imagine what the energy investment would be to produce methane from Titan and what might be the maximum rate of production. It's quite likely that it will take more energy to produce than you get from the methane, even if you could eventually get all of that energy from the methane itself (which you couldn't if the EROEI is less than 1:1).

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Re: Space, the final frontier
kholmar wrote:

 

All  one has to do is look up in the sky to realize that we do indeed live in a UNIVERSE that has no boundaries.

Gee, when I look out to the sky I realize I'm built to explore, discover and create where I am, with those, of all kinds, around me.  Not humans, but what humans have built arbitrarily needs what is insufficient here.

Why not be a subsistence farmer, or trade with one, if it is a reliable way to well-being, wisdom and celebration?  That combo comprises the frontier that calls to me.

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V
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Re: Space, the final frontier

I'm on the wrong bus. When does the next one leave for TItan?

V

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Vanityfox451
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Re: Space, the final frontier

I'm sorry, but I don't question Kholmar's logic. We've come a long way, only to fall so very far ...

~ VF ~

 

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V
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Re: Space, the final frontier

I do not question his logic either Paul. He is probably just 6 billion years too early. However I am starting an investment group that some of the more savvy investors here on this site might be interested in. Hugo Koch made a claim to the US claims office for Saturn in the 60's and I am sure if we could track him down he would be willing to part with it for some  oh say gold.

V

 

Prebiotic conditions and possible life

While the Cassini–Huygens mission was not equipped to provide evidence for biology or complex organics, it showed an environment on Titan that is similar, in some ways, to ones theorized for the primordial Earth.[110] Scientists believe that the atmosphere of early Earth was similar in composition to the current atmosphere on Titan. Many hypotheses have developed that attempt to bridge the step from chemical to biological evolution. The Miller-Urey experiment and several following experiments have shown that with an atmosphere similar to that of Titan and the addition of UV radiation, complex molecules and polymer substances like tholins can be generated. The reaction starts with dissociation of nitrogen and methane, forming hydrogen cyanide and acetylene. Further reactions have been studied extensively.[111]

[edit] Possible subsurface habitats

All of these experiments have led to the suggestion that enough organic material exists on Titan to start a chemical evolution analogous to what is thought to have started life on Earth. While the analogy assumes the presence of liquid water for longer periods than is currently observable, several theories suggest that liquid water from an impact could be preserved under a frozen isolation layer.[112] It has also been observed that liquid ammonia oceans could exist deep below the surface;[10][113] one model suggests an ammonia–water solution as much as 200 km deep beneath a water ice crust, conditions that, "while extreme by terrestrial standards, are such that life could indeed survive".[11]Heat transfer between the interior and upper layers would be critical in sustaining any sub-surface oceanic life.[10] Detection of microbial life on Titan would depend on its biogenic effects. That the atmospheric methane and nitrogen might be of biological origin has been examined, for example.[11]

[edit] Methane and life at the surface

It has also been suggested that life could exist in the lakes of liquid methane on Titan, just as organisms on Earth live in water.[114] Such creatures would inhale H2 in place of O2 and exhale methane instead of carbon dioxide.[115] In 2005, astrobiologist Chris McKay predicted that if methanogenic life is consuming atmospheric hydrogen in sufficient volume, it will have a measurable effect on the mixing ratio in the troposphere.[114] Evidence for this form of life was identified in 2010 by Darrell Strobel of Johns Hopkins University; an over-abundance of molecular hydrogen in the upper atmospheric layers, which leads to a downward flow at a rate of roughly 1025 molecules per second. Near the surface the hydrogen apparently disappears, which may imply its consumption by methanogenic life forms.[116][117][114] Another paper released the same month showed little evidence of acetylene on Titan's surface, cited by Strobel as further evidence for life, as such creatures would also subsist on acetylene.[116] However, McKay cautions that the possibility that the results are due to human error, or the presence of some as-yet unknown catalyst in the soil, is currently more likely than life.[115] There is debate about the effectiveness of methane as a medium for life compared to water or ammonia;[118] while water is a far better solvent then methane, enabling easier transport of substances in a cell,[116] methane's lesser chemical reactivity allows for the easier formation of large structures akin to proteins.[119]

[edit] Obstacles

Despite these biological possibilities, there are formidable obstacles to life on Titan, and any analogy to Earth is inexact. At a vast distance from the Sun, Titan is frigid (a fact exacerbated by the anti-greenhouse effect of its cloud cover), and its atmosphere lacks CO2. Given these difficulties, the topic of life on Titan may be best described as an experiment for examining theories on conditions necessary prior to flourishing life on Earth.[120] While life itself may not exist, the prebiotic conditions of the Titanian environment and the associated organic chemistry remain of great interest in understanding the early history of the terrestrial biosphere.[110] Using Titan as a prebiotic experiment involves not only observation through spacecraft, but laboratory experiment, and chemical and photochemical modeling on Earth.[111]

An alternate explanation for life's hypothetical existence on Titan has been proposed: if life were to be found on Titan, it would be statistically more likely to have originated from Earth than to have appeared independently, a process known as panspermia. It is theorized that large asteroid and cometary impacts on Earth's surface have caused hundreds of millions of fragments of microbe-laden rock to escape Earth's gravity. Calculations indicate that a number of these would encounter many of the bodies in the solar system, including Titan.[121][122]

[edit] Future conditions

Conditions on Titan could become far more habitable in the future. Six billion years from now, as the Sun becomes a red giant, surface temperatures could rise to ~200 K (−70 °C), high enough for stable oceans of water/ammonia mixture to exist on the surface. As the Sun's ultraviolet output decreases, the haze in Titan's upper atmosphere will deplete, lessening the anti-greenhouse effect on the surface and enabling the greenhouse created by atmospheric methane to play a far greater role. These conditions together could create an environment agreeable to exotic forms of life, and will subsist for several hundred million years. This was sufficient time for simple life to evolve on Earth, although the presence of ammonia on Titan will cause the same chemical reactions to proceed more slowly.[123]

[edit] See also

soulsurfersteph's picture
soulsurfersteph
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Re: Space, the final frontier

Not to get political, but I have to say I was really surprised when Obama pretty much shut down NASA.

And I'm fairly tickled that a nobody LaRouche-loving Democrat in Texas won her primary in part because she has a big vision to take us to Mars in 50 years:

http://kesharogers.com/

Unfortunately, without oil we won't be flying to outer space whatsoever anymore. Sad.

 

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Re: Space, the final frontier

Hi Kholmar,

It's so rare that my aerospace engineering background ever has relevance to the forum discussions I felt I had to respond!

As Chris Martenson often asks of any new technological solution, what is the time, scale, and cost of the solution?  Unfortunately, to tap the methane and hydrocarbons of Titan for Earth's use, all three are insurmountable obstacles at this time.  Time is an issue not only to develop the space vehicles, but the travel time (assuming a minimum-energy orbit transfer and existing propulsion technology) there and back is measured in terms of many years.  Scale is a problem because most of any space vehicle's mass (counting all the vehicle stages as a whole) is composed of the fuel and oxidizer needed to make the journey, so even assuming your vehicle can make use of the methane on Titan to fuel the return trip you're only going to get a relatively tiny amount of methane back home.  And as for cost, even assuming we have a next-generation spacecraft using nuclear thermal propulsion or the like you'd use up far more energy than you'd ever get out of the methane.  Sofistek's reference to EROEI is extremely relevant... the (relatively speaking) low energy density of the methane makes it uneconomical to transport to Earth.  Now if one were to set up a research station or colony on Titan, that methane and such could certainly come in handy for local use, but not for export.

Now as for your larger question of the universe having no boundaries, that's technically correct.  But in the context of our ability to access the off-planet resources, the limits of our technology and the laws of physics are a major impediment.  Impossible to reach or extract?  Not necessarily.... but in many cases simply not feasible from an economic or energy standpoint.  Now there are some resources like Helium-3 that could be feasible for extraction and such, but that's something that's decades away and couldn't help with our current difficulties.  I absolutely think we should still pursue such avenues of research and continue to develop our space-based infrastructure though.... not for our sake so much as for the generations to come after us.  I realize it is a somewhat self-serving position given my career path, but if we let our space-based research and infrastructure crumble or stagnate now, it will be much harder to try to continue where we left off in the future when energy and raw materials are more scarce and costly.  It would take a lot of time and energy to create a largely independent space-based infrastructure and economy, so IF we ever desire to have such a thing in the future now is the best time.  I think of it as one of the better long-term investments of our limited supply of fossil fuels, one that may not pay off now but maybe in a couple generations.

- Nick

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Re: Space, the final frontier

Nick, dont want to argue with an expert, which you so obviously are, but I doubt that heavy hauling within the solar system will be done with rockets. Seems that sails would be the more likely solution.

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Re: Space, the final frontier

Hi Sam-

Depends on where you are going to and coming from and how fast you want to get it there.  Magnetic sails or solar sails could have some utility here (the latter especially if you have a moon-based laser to propel the craft faster to it's destination), but you would still need some form of more conventional propulsion, chemical or electromagnetic, to arrive safely at your destination and for the return home.  But really the reason I didn't mention sails was that I was being conservative in assuming initial efforts would involve flight proven technologies, and sails as a means of primary propulsion still aren't quite there yet.  One of the things they beat into us at school is to never assume a technology will become available unless it's flight-proven or at least flight qualified... try to promise or design anything involving a less developed technology and you're just asking for trouble down the line (a painful lesson learned by many aerospace engineers numerous times Wink).  But you're right in that sails could have a place; they just would likely be implemented in some of the successive generations of cargo craft.

- Nick

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Re: Space, the final frontier

Thanks Nick. I appreciate the feedback.

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Re: Space, the final frontier

Obviously Dr M was talking about the practical implications of limited energy and resources here and now on Earth, but since we're discussing it...

I'm sure there was once a time when the earth's resources would have been considered 'virtually' unlimited, which probably meant something like, "There's so much of the stuff and so few of us little earthlings that one little oil well won't make much difference, will it?". Although we might scoff today at this comment, it would have been said then in all sincerity. This same argument can be applied to the 'final frontier' of space; and even though we, too, might genuinely feel it is 'virtually' unlimited, tomorrow's time-warping humans will scoff at us.

And for those who want to bother: an object having no boundary does not always mean it has no limit; eg, a sphere is a curved surface with no boundary but with definite area. An ant could walk 'forever' around a ball and not find a boundary. Similarly, 3-dimensional space has volume but no boundary in time (theoretically), and when we talk about 4-d (and above) space-time, well... then we really need to get a life.

 

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Space is the place*

You can't defend space exploration simply in terms of EROI any more than you can defend climbing Mount Everest.  You know, "because it's there."  Does a manned flight to Mars have an EROI?  No, because it's more like Knowlege returned on Investment.  But there are asteroids between the earth and Mars which reportedly have "more aluminum, gold, silver, zinc and other base and precious metals than have ever been excavated in history or indeed, could ever be excavated from the upper layers of the Earth's crust."   Before traveling to Mars it would be smart to develop the robotic and propulsion technologies to needed mine and transport these resources. At least with the objective of being used in outer space.

I don't know of course when this will happen but I doubt within the next 30 years.  And a lot of bad things may happen between now and then.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/401227.stm

In 2001 the Shoemaker spacecraft landed safely on Eros and took pictures and recently the Japanese Hayabusa probe returned from an asteroid, 3 billion miles away:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE65C0EA20100614
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE65C0EA20100613

The size and boundary of the Universe - it has a boundary - is defined by the Big Bang is my understanding...

 

* apologies to Sun Ra.

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Re: Space, the final frontier
johnf wrote:

Obviously Dr M was talking about the practical implications of limited energy and resources here and now on Earth, but since we're discussing it...

John,

The limited energy depends upon how you look at our circumstances. We are currently madly devouring an archeological resource of oil, largely as energy for transportation, that has better uses for fabrication of products.

Now our energy supplies are only limited by the output of the Sun (which was ultimately responsible for our oil deposits). It is up to us to learn how to use this energy, since apart from radioactivity, it is all we have. I don't see why we can't go back to sailing ships with sophisticated computerized sail technology, for example.

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Re: Space, the final frontier

By "energy supplies", I assume you mean "energy supplies available for our use". In this case, they are not only limited by the sun's output but also by how much is not otherwise utilised in the environment in which we live, and by how much of the extra we can utilise without negatively impacting our habitat. Currently all the solar energy hitting the earth is used in some way. Perhaps some could be safely diverted for additional human use but our energy supplies are, most certainly, not only limited by the sun's output.

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Re: Space, the final frontier
sofistek wrote:

Currently all the solar energy hitting the earth is used in some way. Perhaps some could be safely diverted for additional human use but our energy supplies are, most certainly, not only limited by the sun's output.

Solar output incident on Earth is 10(exp17) watts of which 0.1% is consumed for photosynthesis. So there seems to be plenty available that is used to heat up the planet that could safely be temporarily diverted, stored and used later to heat the planet by, for example, driving a car.

Apparently the US mean 10 kilowatt consumption rate is the same as the amount of solar power incident on the average home roof.

http://www.ocean.washington.edu/courses/envir215/energynumbers.pdf 

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sofistek
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Re: Space, the final frontier

I don't think "there seems to be plenty" is a good enough argument these days. Truth is, there is a paucity of studies on this sort of stuff and we've seen what happens when we make assumptions about resources and the environment. By the way, solar power isn't magical, it takes non-renewable resources to access.

The complacency over solar is astounding, but understandable as people grasp at anything that might keep BAU going a bit longer.

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