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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2018 edited
     
    Nuclear fusion on brink of being realised, say MIT scientists

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/09/nuclear-fusion-on-brink-of-being-realised-say-mit-scientists

    “If we succeed, the world’s energy systems will be transformed”

    For the sake of considering deeper implications, let's say they do succeed. Will we be happy, or will we mourn the end of

    a) efforts to reduce energy consumption

    b) gathering energy only from 'renewable' sources?

    And what will such hi-capital, centralised energy cost, when all indications are that renewable energy will become decentralised, distributed, autonomous, almost free?

    This is deeply political, a big determinant in what kind of broad future humans face.
  1.  
    Sounds good - they target 15 years to get energy from fusion into the grid, but then ..."any project will over run both time and budget" !!

    One potential early benefit, it would seem, will be high field magnets which will have implications for electric motors both size and efficiency - think EVs
    • CommentAuthorKenny_M
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2018 edited
     
    Speculating, the implications could be, anything - collapse of oil rich economies, major war in the middle east. Or collapse of oil rich dictatorships, leading to democratic, liberal...

    One possible negative outcome of being on the 'brink' of being realised, as opposed to actually being realised, is an excuse for governments to take their foot off the pedal in relation to renewables/insulation etc. A statement like this could give leverage to an argument that says, 'well fusion is coming in a few years so lets just abandon all the green initiatives and start using up the oil' - and then a few years comes and goes and fusion remains, in the future.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2018 edited
     
    Hmm, so a private company and a commercially-minded university have a new magnet design. That may reduce the costs of building a tokamak and may reduce the minimum power output required from a fusion power station, but I don't see how it will solve all the other problems on the roadmap to fusion. So it sounds like good news, very good news if it actually works, but not a magic bullet. Having a small independent group working on the project may also speed up development versus the behemoth of an international collaboration, or even the government run National Ignition Facility. Full marks to the grauniad for picking up the press release before the mainstream science feeds.

    See e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-40558758 for an alternative view of the state of play.

    Note that super-powerful magnets are also very interesting to the military for railguns and catapults etc, so we can expect some distractions along the way.
    • CommentAuthorbhommels
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2018
     
    @djh: all the equations describing the limits of fusion systems have the magnetic field B in them to a power 2, 3, or even 4. So even a modest increase in field strength will bring down the required chamber size, while increasing plasma lifetime, power density, and thus will bring down the cost of a reactor by large factors.
    The higher field strength is propagated by the invention of REBCO tapes, industrially engineered and produced metal tapes featuring a layer of high-T superconductor. They can be relatively easily wound and shaped in the desired chamber configuration, and have already started to make waves in the super-high B field research areas. with long standing field strength records broken recently. Maybe no magic bullet I agree, but a very, very significant step towards viable fusion reactors. It will probably make ITER obsolete before it even becomes operational.
    I am not sure whether I should start betting on this initiative delivering power before Hinkley Point C or Bradwell?
  2.  
    Well, I suppose its a step forward. But it is still "Vapourware" as they say.
    The old joke is that Fusion is 30 years away - and has been for the last 50 years. Maybe its now only 15 years away!

    There will be the usual tired protests from the Renewable Lobby who are just against anything that does meet the "purity" test. Which I find depressing (I am an engineer after all) .

    I welcome it, its certainly an arrow we should have in our quiver, so to speak. I am ove the viewpoint that we should try everything - Fracking, Nuclear, Fusion, Solar, Wind, Tidal, Everythng.

    But in the end, it'll be down to money. Will it be affordable or not.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2018 edited
     
    Posted By: dimengineerthe Renewable Lobby who are just against anything that does meet the "purity" test. Which I find depressing (I am an engineer after all) .
    You're not the only 'engineer' so far in this thread who sees only the thrilling technology of it and/or belief that such 'progress' is invariably beneficial and/or lack of interest in the deep-political choice that this starkly illustrates (a politics far profounder than Kenny_M's 1st para).

    Does humanity at this stage want continuation/intensification of cost-rationed primary services centrally-controlled by the usual suspects, or to promote decentralised, distributed, autonomous, almost free opportunity-juice?

    I'd hope that GBF members, of all people, would be keenly interested in such deep-future stuff.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Walkaway-Cory-Doctorow/dp/1786693070/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520625506&sr=8-1&keywords=walkaway
    • CommentAuthorKenny_M
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2018
     
    Posted By: fostertom(a politics far profounder than Kenny_M's 1st para).


    Not sure how I should take this.

    My point was that the future impact of this is unknown. I am sure those who first drew oil and coal out of the ground thought that it heralded a bright future for humanity, with no drawbacks.
  3.  
    I'm not convinced that Renewables are particularly "decentralised, distributed, autonomous, almost free opportunity-juice".
    In the end the whole point about renewable will be that they have to be gridded together to give the required diversity to give continuous supply. So you'll still need a centralised grid control, which in the end wont be too much different from a heap of CCGTs or Nukes, or Fusion reactors. You still need engineers, big installs - Acres of Solar farms (square miles even), huge farms of huge wind turbines.

    And as for it being free.... I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before......
    • CommentAuthorKenny_M
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2018
     
    Posted By: dimengineerYou still need engineers, big installs - Acres of Solar farms (square miles even), huge farms of huge wind turbines.


    Surely that depends on advances in energy storage. Heavily insulated homes could potentially run on solar/wind if storage was up to it, big 'if' I know.

    However, advanced factories will still be required to produce the PV cells, energy storage, IC's etc. When I worked in the semiconductor industry about 15 years ago I think the startup costs for a factory were $2 billion, so your point stands and people would remain at the mercy of the big corporations.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2018 edited
     
    Posted By: Kenny_MNot sure how I should take this.
    Not badly - I was just pointing to a deeper layer of 'politics' than the nationalistic and/or left-right ding-dong entertainment that's designed to divert our attention from more dangerous fundamentals.

    For a mind-opening (but easy) near-future read, I seriously recommend
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Walkaway-Cory-Doctorow/dp/1786693070/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520625506&sr=8-1&keywords=walkaway
    which may well be fanciful nonsense - or not - but ... well, read it.
  4.  
    As Tom said, there's a policial/philosophical aspect to all this.
    My view is that it's all in the meaning of society.
    For sure we "could" get to a situation where its possible to create small scale autonomous "villages" totally indpendant of the rest of the world (think of the Island of eigg). But why would you want to?
    What would happen is that the village would realise quite quickly that there would be economies and efficiencies in linking up with the next door village - share its electrical grid, have just the one team looking after it rather than the 2. And so it goes on. So rapidly you are back to a very similar situation to now.

    And that has been the story of mankind to date - society, cities, political structures etc. etc... I can't really see it changing.

    Where it gets quite strange (to my mind) is where the left wing (I use the term loosely) renewables lobby, in their desire to escape "the man" loop all the way round the back of the left/right continuum and start to espouse almost exactly the same stuff as the right wing survivalist nuttters.
    • CommentAuthorKenny_M
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2018
     
    Posted By: fostertomthe nationalistic and/or left-right ding-dong


    That's not really what I meant by my comment, it was just an example. I was saying that you can speculate about the future, and how a technology will affect it, but we often end up surprised at how it turns out, for good or for bad. Technology nearly always has a positive potential, but people and politics can alter that. dimengineer is right, societies that isolate themselves don't last for long, there is either a hostile takeover, or they reach out and connect.

    Sci-fi is great for playing around with the possibilities, so I agree with you Tom. I read a lot of Iain M Banks Culture novels, and most good sci-fi is just a mirror back on today's society, but it is ultimately just fiction. People can read the books, and talk about it, but does it change anything? We should already have learned all these lessons from history, but we still elect psychopaths, we still repeat the mistakes of the past. We have been putting insulation in our houses since the seventies and then turn up the heating so that we are still using the same amount of energy. When I say we I of course mean other people, no-one on this forum. ;)

    What is it that is going to change all of this - I don't know. I don't think isolation is the answer, because at least for now there are aggressive powers in the world that will take advantage of that. I can go off grid and completely renewable, but does it make any difference if they are still using coal fired power stations in China or the USA. Surely the solution has to be a global, political one or we are all doomed.

    Bit heavy for Saturday morning!
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2018 edited
     
    Posted By: Kenny_MBit heavy for Saturday morning!
    When better - when we're supposed to be earning a living or something?!

    Posted By: Kenny_MPeople can read the books, and talk about it, but does it change anything? We should already have learned all these lessons from history
    Don't you feel that humanity is on the brink of something quite unprecedented - 'technology' in a word (meaning not steam engines, but world brain etc)? From instinct-run animals, to hunter-gatherers, to agricultural/scientific revolution, now to hyper-distributed centreless world brain. Maybe some part of society has, bang on cue, at last learned not to elect psychopaths (sociopaths more accurate) - that new cat is out of the bag - and here's world brain, to make it feasible to act on that new wisdom.

    Posted By: dimengineerFor sure we "could" get to a situation where its possible to create small scale autonomous "villages" totally indpendant of the rest of the world (think of the Island of eigg). But why would you want to?
    What would happen is that the village would realise quite quickly that there would be economies and efficiencies in linking up with the next door village - share its electrical grid, have just the one team looking after it rather than the 2.
    Autonomy is very far from being same as 'isolation'. Self-inventing, self-manufacturing, self-running systems, information-networked but not necessarily physically gridded together, mean that the economies of 'just one team' will be irrelevant - the challenge, the danger of re-conglommeration, will be creation of new, world-brain-style ways to negotiate with one another.

    Dare I say to 'put oneself in the other's shoes', on a global (not just family/tribal) scale. At root, that is humanity's next big step, however it's done.
    • CommentAuthorKenny_M
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2018
     
    Posted By: fostertomDon't you feel that humanity is on the brink of something quite unprecedented


    I wish I could be more positive, but I would have to say no, I don't. Many people are still ready to follow a leader that encourages them to blame someone else for their ills, many others are passive. The print and broadcast media are controlled by a handful of individuals pushing their own point of view, on the internet no-one knows whats real any more and what's fake. I'm not sure how this world brain is meant to communicate and not be influenced by all of this?
    • CommentAuthoralexc
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2018
     
    For whats its worth:

    good place to follow fusion is here:

    http://www.talk-polywell.org/bb/viewforum.php?f=10
    • CommentAuthorTimSmall
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2018
     
    One of the leading private firms in this field (i.e. small, high field tokamaks) is Tokamak Energy in Oxfordshire, which is betting on the spherical tokamak varient (initially high field with cyro-cooled copper electromagnets, then moving to high temperature superconducting magnets)...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8XDbaCvfLs

    Here's an MIT video on the state of research about various fusion initiatives:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0KuAx1COEk


    ... here is a contrasting article detailing some obstacles to be overcome. I don't know enough about about the topics discussed to say how insurmountable of otherwise they are...

    https://thebulletin.org/fusion-reactors-not-what-they%E2%80%99re-cracked-be10699

    ... if it turns out that we can do it, but only at 150% of the cost of fission, then it's a dead-end, but OTOH, it could end up being cost effective. No problems having many different research initiatives into the same problem.

    Finally oil isn't just used for fuel, about 10% goes to synthesising other product (plastics etc.), and since demand for those is only growing it perhaps (I hope) wouldn't be all war and revolutions in oil producing states.
    • CommentAuthorwookey
    • CommentTimeMar 16th 2018
     
    Ah, Tim beat me to posting the excellent Zach Hartwig talk on fusion. Denis Whyte (also from the MIT team)'s talk is also very good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkpqA8yG9T4, and this talk in Cambridge (Steve Cowley) explains why holding the plasma together is so hard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loRegU0zuTY

    I think it's fair to say that the MIT and Tokamak Energy teams are both very serious. They co-operate closely, and have quite realistic plans for progressing the state of the art without waiting for ITER. The Oxford team are on their 3rd reactor experiment (ST40) in a series of 5.

    Thorcon is another new reactor design which is well-progressed and a hell of a lot more practical than Tokamaks - it needs no new technology, and could clearly be built, using ship-building modular techniques, for a reasonable amount of money: http://thorconpower.com/ This is still, fission, not fusion, but if you read their design details, it's a nicely thought-out design. They recognise that given the general paranoia they've never get permission with reasonable time or money in the developed world, but are hoping they can get the go-ahead in a less officious country. Indonesia is current favourite. Their chances aren't great, but it's nice engineering, SFAICS.
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