What if's...the positive shift of y2k

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I've been thinking of the positives that might come either before or after disruptions occur. After all, within the next year as pressure for a fix to avoid certain failures in certain industries occurs, we may see a panic of the establishment and a drop of certain unwritten codes. When ever there is big money in the bottom line such as in oil for example, it is obviously apparent that technologies that could literally kill that industry by offering high output, low pollution or no pollution solutions are either killed off, discounted, or discredited by the powers that be. A shift in thinking would destroy and industries and jobs in some industries but create whole new industries in the process.

In the latest issue of Wired there is an article about Cold Fusion. The prospects of such an energy source are incredible. The gist of it is that there may be a way to create energy by stimulating a low level nuclear reaction. In essence, "you can stimulate nuclear reactions at room temperature" and the energy produced would be "clean" energy. These theories aren't new either.

I've heard rumors that shortly there will be a revelation within the energy industry when a product comes to the market that does just this. All you need is water and you can produce your own energy with no pollution. If you're an Art Bell fan, you may have heard the same two doctors speaking about this technology just about a month ago. They went on the show to notify the listeners that such a prototype exists and they were acting to ensure their own lives and the life of the project would not be killed off. Such technology is both dangerous and revolutionary at the same time. Now, there is a whole article in Wired (11/98) which speaks of this same technology.

What if this comes to pass? What if, in the heated pace in which governments and business and society must move in order to avoid a collapse, such technologies were able to be pushed into the mainstream. What if the worry over y2k disruptions actually serves to break the hard line thought and practices of the power brokers and corporate scientists and allows for new and wondrous secret technologies to become realities?

I keep holding on to hope. I'm forever the optimist.

What is your what if?

Mike _______________________________________

-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), October 25, 1998


I just finished Wired's Cold Fusion article last night. I'm still thinking about it. I had read a bit on this when the Pons/Fleischman (sp?) debacle orinally occurred and had pretty much concluded it properly belonged in the "Journal of Irreproducible Results".

This article, which on the surface appears to have been fairly well researched, does raise some very interesting questions. If 'cold fusion' is as clearly impossible as the mainstream contends, why has so much money been spent over the past few years by several different organizations?

I found the helium concentration results and the trace metals particularly interesting. If this result can be verified SEVERAL times, then it is clearly worthy of being investigated.

As for rumors and products, believe it when you see.

But I would very much like to research this further. Just who are these people who claim to be getting results? On the surface, they appear to be very knowledgeable folks but I would have to investigate further before being sure. Can others duplicate those results?

Unfortunately, more immediate concerns (Y2K preparation and awareness) must take precedence at this time. Still, I do not dismiss the article out of hand as I did Wired's original Y2K article. It was only after I read Ed & Jennifer Yourdon's book and then followed that up with hundreds of hours of supplemental reading and investigation that I became convinced of the severity of Y2K. Initial skepticism followed up with hard research and independently verified results is how I approach most controversial issues.

I just don't have that kind of time to dedicate to this very interesting issue now. Still, the article has made me back up and re-examine my original and perhaps too-hastily drawn conclusions.


-- Arnie Rimmer (arnie_rimmer@usa.net), October 25, 1998.

As a followup, I've been wanting to spend some time thinking about this somewhat related question:

What would be the impact of extremely cheap, essentially limitless energy (whether from 'cold fusion' or some other technology)?

I'm NOT talking about 'power from nothing'/'perpetual motion' devices, but rather, a way to harness and use a resource which is today inaccessible -- e.g. vast amounts of solar energy.

It poses some very interesting questions.

-- Arnie Rimmer (arnie_rimmer@usa.net), October 25, 1998.

Solar power is nice in it's limited way, but can't be used industrially.

Ever try to run a blast mill or a foundry from solar power?

Those who can use solar power, should. There is a lot of ways we can improve energy conservation, but the current tax laws don't reward avings - either industrialy or commercially or personally (in the home.) But it is very limited, and good for only a few things. Not for a economy-wide (grid enhancing) level.

For one thing, where would you put the collectors, with affecting the ecology in that location? Roof tops aren't big enough for power, only marginally big enough for one familiy for hot water, and if you use a solar hot water heater, you run out of space for your solar electric cells.

Why should I cut down the 80 trees in my yard to get 63 cents worth per day of hot water? Why should I invest 2500.00 dollars in roof strengthing and a solar water heater (plus backup and alternate heater) when I can keep the Sear's gas water heater I already have paid for?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (cook.r@csaatl.com), October 25, 1998.

>>What would be the impact of extremely cheap, essentially limitless energy (whether from 'cold fusion' or some other technology)?<<


In a few short words, such a technology would have an effect more revolutionary to our society than any y2k scenario imagined.

Money is commonly defined as a store of value, but if we think of it as a store of *energy*, then the concept of [nearly] free energy has profound implications.


"TANSTAAFL" - Robert Heinlein

-- Elbow Grease (Elbow_Grease@AutoShop.com), October 25, 1998.

Good observation, Michael. I beleive that the price of gasoline will soar to over $10 in gold per gallon by mid-2000, because of supply and transportation disruptions. So right now is a great time to for manufactures of solar and wind-powered energy systems to start gearing up production. The mass movement of the private sector to these technologies will make everyone finally realize how much better they are than fossil fuels. Over the following years, public pressure will force industry to also convert, and we will finally begin to breathe non-toxic air again, hopefully by around 2015. I wish it were a lot sooner, but they have been resisting for decades. Now they will have no choice but to change and I am looking forward to it!!

-- chris davidson (cpd850310@hotmail.com), October 25, 1998.

This is going to be an interesting thread. Let's keep it open for a while. The questions you pose need some "think" time.

I can think of examples of superior technologies and products that never get to market because of large, entrenched companies. I can also think of examples of poor technology that, once entrenched, can't be pushed aside.

The "Not Invented Here" syndrome is a powerful barrier - I'm sure you will agree, Mike. The larger the organization, the stronger the syndrome. In addition, the public (excluding the people participating in this forum and thread, of course) are easily led. The public perception of the value of a product or service is based on the information they have. Which sells better - A mediocre product with great marketing and sales, or a great product with mediocre marketing and sales?

Some quick examples (don't have time this morning!):

1) Great product but NIH and market controlled by a large company: My cellular phone is the lightest and smallest in the world. Digital, under 80 grams, double the features of any phone in the U.S., well over 100 hours standby time and well over 100 minutes talk time and the cellular operating system is far superior in voice clarity. The last time I was in the U.S., people refused to believe that what they were holding in their hands was a telephone. It's not a Motorola. And it is almost two years old! Recently, a U.S. magazine did an article on the hottest, coolest cell phones... None of the ones featured came close...

2) Is Windows the best O/S technology?

3) Intelligent people still pay extra for an MMX Intel. Companies still advertise MMX. How many MMX programs do you run?

4) If you spell naive backwards, it's evian (Evian). Who says water is cheaper than oil? People pay more for a gallon of water than they do for a gallon of gasoline. No drilling, no supertankers, no refineries, no "water stations."

Gotta go!


-- PNG (png@gol.com), October 25, 1998.

While solar power might not run a foundry or power a blast furnace, every home that uses solar power is one more house that isn't using a non-renewable fossil fuel...one more house that is that much more independant of the power grid. Even in the grey, rainy Pacific Northwest, solar power is a viable option, if you talk about passive solar power and don't think of running your hairdryer or the broiler off of your solar panel. Unfortunately, utilities can't think of a way to charge you for the use of the sun...

-- Karen Cook (browsercat@hotmail.com), October 25, 1998.

Karen, I think what you MEANT to say was;

"FORTUNATELY, utilities can't think of a way to charge you for the use of the sun... "

-- chris davidson (cpd850310@hotmail.com), October 25, 1998.

"I beleive that the price of gasoline will soar to over $10 in gold per gallon by mid-2000, because of supply and transportation disruptions."

Thank goodness I live in a small town. A tank of gas generally lasts me 5 weeks!


-- Rick Tansun (ricktansun@hotmail.com), October 25, 1998.

I think you've got it partly right Mr. Grease. However, money or any other representational medium of exchange is not the same thing as the thing, in this case energy. The only store of energy is potential energy. Be it wood, coal, oil, running water, wind or elbow grease, each stores only one form of energy---solar radiation.

Sunlight comes to us at the rate of about 120 watt/hr per square meter. It takes about 150 watt/hr to operate a typical 70 kilogram mammal like a human. I'll leave it to you to do the math. How many hectares would be required to sustain one person even at wildly optimistic 10% efficiency.

The energy ratio (the amount of energy you put into a system relative to the amount you get out) determines which sources are viable. Every conversion of energy from one form to another entails a certain amount of loss. Things run down and run out. Entropy always wins. This even applies to fission and fusion. Perhaps Robert Cook, PE might elaborate further. As a mere tinker-toy ME, I lack the typing or compositional skills to explain in depth.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is non-negotiable, inarguable and as implacable as the law of gravity. That's why it's not called the Theory of Thermodynamics, or the hypothesis or the conjecture.

The most salient statement on this thread so far is the Heinlein quote. RAH truly understood. TANSTAAFL


"Sometimes one has to stand up to reality... and ignore it." --- Garrison Keillor

-- Hallyx (Hallyx@aol.com), October 26, 1998.

Alternative energies have been around for ages and have no connection with the y2k issue. A more believable scenario is that of business transference, ie if a non-compliant company simply goes out of business due to insoluble computer failure, the customers will be picked up by another (assuming they have not lost too much in the process). I am surprised I haven't seen the tactic, "go with us we'll be OK in y2k". Knowing little about science,I can't believe they'll ever be any significant role for solar power (especially in N Europe!), still less can I believe about cold fusion (or any sort of fusion for what matter). I'm prepared to be proved wrong though.

-- Richard Dale (rdale@figroup.co.uk), October 26, 1998.

I mean devloping a method of harnessing fusion for practical and safe energy production. Surely it will take years, the technology will be too expensive. Robert can help out here.

-- Richard Dale (rdale@figroup.co.uk), October 26, 1998.

wow, thanks for the response!

I guess I'm an individual who wont conform to a box. I don't dismiss an idea simply because our science says it can't be done. After all, we're still technologically immature as a species. We're advanced, but how advanced in the grand scheme of the cosmos?

One thing that y2k clearly demonstrates is how the constriction of is how we got here in the first place. There was a shortsightedness that brought us here, regardless of how smart we thought we were.

The point I wanted to make with this thread and the thoughts I hoped to provoke were in essence; what would happen if the box fell apart and there was no constriction of thought?

I don't think that in one year new technologies will pop up and save the world. However, there is a shift coming and it may well disrupt the rules that typically govern the way things are done. Perhaps it will force some to rewrite the rules in an effort to survive. _______________________________________________________________

-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), October 26, 1998.

Slow down would ya? I'm still getting used to the idea that the world is round.

-- Uncle Deedah (oncebitten@twiceshy.com), October 26, 1998.

What do ya mean it's round?

Are you one of those weirdos who actually believes that Elvis is dead?

-- Craig (craig@ccinet.ab.ca), October 26, 1998.


Not sure if I should tell you this but someone has to break the news. Elvis wasn't dead... at least not until he got too close to the edge of the world and fell off... and he was planning a comeback at a Year 2000 party... darn it!

-------------------------- Y2k killed Elvis -----------------------

-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), October 26, 1998.

To bring the conversation down to my intellectual level: I think cold-fusion was the technology focused upon in a Keanu Reeves/Morgan Freeman movie within the last 2 yrs. The basis of the plot had the CIA working to keep cold fusion either to themselves or from the rest of the world. After you get over the general Hollywood crafting, it seemed fairly possible for that kind of movement to be stopped. Look at how the battery cars are finding oposition from oil companies, etc.

-- Slick (slick@hucheemama.com), October 26, 1998.

Mike------------ All I remember about cold fussion is, it's a good idea, and two guys somehow faked it a couple years ago...

But I did read an article in "reasonmagazine.com" on Nanotechnology. It quoted extensivly from a report given to some Senate subcommittee by Dr. Eric Drexler.

Not being a scientist, I'll explain what I understand it to be. Basically, nanotechnology uses the Building Blocks of life (such as carbon) to build *everything* else from (seeing as *everything* is comprised of these basic elements). Nanotechnology are tiny little robots (can't see without a microscope), that will shape (or build) the basic elements (say dirt) into whatever is necessary.

This can be food, building materials, paper, clothing, whatever...

Eric Drexler and his students/coworkers (?) have already developed (invented?) Carbon 60, which is a particle of carbon that has 60 sides and is, for all sakes and purposes, round. (The fact that it's round is the major accomplishment here.) They call it a Bucky Ball. They've also developed a "bucky tube." These basic shapes can now be made into other, more complicated shapes.

Sorry for being vague here, but it's been about 18 months since I read the article. I guess, to put it in more understandable terms (what an awful sentence...) it kind of like a sci-fi "replicator" Who watches Star Trek? If you do, you know just what I mean.

So, I think alternate energy ideas are definately out there...All over the place...! Does the government "hold them back" like in the X-files...who knows? However, didn't someone say something like "There's no holding back a new idea whose time has come..."

-- Okum (ws000@aol.com), October 26, 1998.

To Robert Cook: I know you are an engineer, but I think you underestimate the potential of solar power. Check out solarex.com or search the web for solar electric generators, you may be surprised.

PNG: The cell phone you describe is widely available in the US. Also, nobody is selling MMX computers except at bargain basement prices. The baseline PC has moved up to 300 MHz Pentium II. It sounds like you haven't been in the U.S. for awhile.

As for this thread, the old adage is appropriate:

"Necessity is the mother of invention."

It's quite conceivable that problems brought on by Y2K will be solved with new technology, in fact quite likely.

-- Buddy Y. (DC) (buddy@bellatlantic.net), October 26, 1998.

>>I think you've got it partly right Mr. Grease. However, money or any other representational medium of exchange is not the same thing as the thing, in this case energy. The only store of energy is potential energy. Be it wood, coal, oil, running water, wind or elbow grease, each stores only one form of energy---solar radiation.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is non-negotiable, inarguable and as implacable as the law of gravity.<<

Mr Hallyx,

Of course, you are right, in the strict, technical, scientific sense. (Except for one point)

The question asked was in regard to the effects of new energy technologies on our society. My response was framed thus: Science is to society as Energy is to Money as the second law of thermodynamics is to TANSTAAFL. (I think Heinlein viewed TANSTAAFL more in its societal sense than in the scientific sense, and that is how I was applying it.) Our language illustrates my meaning. When we speak of "power" we must qualify it because we apply the word to policics and wealth as well as electricity or energy. The term "Work" likewise has a strict scientific definition but also the generic definition by which we earn Money. OK? The parallels are apparent. Would society be the same if it was not necessary to _pay_ to fill up at the pump each week, or connect to the electric utility for light/heat, or do all the miriad of things that require energy?

Returning to new energy technologies, the First Law of Thermodynamics is more appropriate. Technology does not create energy, but *transforms* it, whether the store of energy is wood, coal, oil, running water, wind or elbow grease. ;-)

BTW, cold fusion, if real, and nuclear energy in general, can NOT be traced back to solar radiation. And then there's the big rock at the top of a hill...

-- Elbow Grease (Elbow_Grease@AutoShop.com), October 26, 1998.

Solar works in some areas, and once there is no electric powere or very expensive electric power, people living in those areas can take advantage of solar energy. I agree that gas will be very expensive post-2000. Shipping, refining, distribution will be messed up.

-- Bill (bill@microsoft.com), October 29, 1998.

In the early 1990s I consulted to Southern California Edison for a couple years in computer imaging. One group was working on the electric transportation area and alternative energy options. We used to chat a lot about some of the long range implications of SCEs internal strategic planning. Two areas that were their achilles heel: 1) Counties/Cities taking back their right to distribute and in some cases generate their own power. 2) New technologies that could make SCE obsolete in 10 years. All I can say is at that time they were quite concerned about option #2. Id speculate that its still a key survival concern of theirs.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), November 01, 1998.

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