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« Drexler on Physics and Computation | Main | Evolution? Or Revolution? »

April 12, 2006


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I've been giving some additional thought to the rollout of the molecular manufacturing devices. If we have a tabletop device and the likelihood of an initial rollout, in major cities most likely. Although perhaps a test rollout in a given area could be done peaceably and controllable. I would like to address the issue of power as the devices will require energy and one can assume the available energy at the time based on good probability in energy growth statistics over the future and the next 20-25 years. Based on current energy output and potential energy output if all facilities were activated that is to say if we turned every single power manufacturing facility on and leave it on. Also looking at the growth rate of energy abilities and production capabilities in the near future we should be able to derive a reasonable number as the total production energy here in the United States. We might be able to consider additional sources from both south of the border and north of the border as demand grows substantially. My concern follows the timeline if the device is deployed in perhaps the top 10 metropolitan area's first a likely scenario. And the corresponding energy spike in those areas occurs. It is my opinion we are likely to see the grid fail in these areas causing widespread unrest. I'm also concerned at the availability of energy in rural areas where the device is deployed later. There is a scenario where I perhaps will be able to acquire a device brought in from elsewhere and not be able to obtain power from the grid to produce the first products I will wish to build. Just as a general statement I do intend on being prepared and I would recommend everyone else is prepared although perhaps everyone is a unattainable goal.

Recommendations are as follows

one possess a six-month supply of food.

Two possess a 10 acre plot of land outside of the dense population centers.

Three possess secondary power generation capabilities either in the form of solar wind or in last resort some sort of generation through fossil fuel.

There are likely additional recommendations dealing with issues of medical and dental as well as transportation concerns. Not to mention issues to security and general well-being of individuals thrust into circumstances described above.


Did you read the Op-ed in the WSJ yesterday by Richard Lindzen? Seems the debate on climate change has not been as open as some in the field suggest.

Mike Treder, CRN

Sorry, Joel, but those poor "scientists" who are being "harrassed" for their doubts about global climate change probably are the same ones who contend there is no evidence for Darwinian evolution. Most likely they're also members of the Flat Earth Society.


Sorry, Mike, but that is absolutely not true. Nobody doubts Climate Change. The idiocy lies in trying to stop climate change, which is simply similar in trying to stop weather change. You can also call it hubris, if you like. The point is that 1) there is such a thing as alarmism, 2) this lies extremely well with most dumbed down media (a Dutch expert on America lately called it 'continuous hysteria') and 3) last but not least: there is something called the short term and another thing called the long term. In the long run Earth will most definitely get Cold. What happens until then is up for grabs. No one really knows. But to secure funding they might air entirely absurd predictions. The End.

Phillip Huggan

There are about a dozen feedbacks that can be tripped which will accelerate climate change. There are a few that would deccelerate or reverse it too. Actions in the years or decades ahead could result in some feedback mechanisms not being tripped, even if the atmospheric CO2 ppm quantities involved seem negligible.

As greenhouse gases hang around for quite some time, apparent "alarmism" now is likely a moderate response when the effects of present CO2 emmisions are amortized.


Does this sound like a "world is flat" guy?

Lindzen, Richard S.

Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Professor Lindzen is a dynamical meteorologist with interests in the broad topics of climate, planetary waves, monsoon meteorology, planetary atmospheres, and hydrodynamic instability. His research involves studies of the role of the tropics in mid-latitude weather and global heat transport, the moisture budget and its role in global change, the origins of ice ages, seasonal effects in atmospheric transport, stratospheric waves, and the observational determination of climate sensitivity. He has made major contributions to the development of the current theory for the Hadley Circulation, which dominates the atmospheric transport of heat and momentum from the tropics to higher latitudes, and has advanced the understanding of the role of small scale gravity waves in producing the reversal of global temperature gradients at the mesopause. He pioneered the study of how ozone photochemistry, radiative transfer and dynamics interact with each other. He is currently studying the ways in which unstable eddies determine the pole to equator temperature difference, and the nonlinear equilibration of baroclinic instability and the contribution of such instabilities to global heat transport. He has also been developing a new approach to air-sea interaction in the tropics, and is actively involved in parameterizing the role of cumulus convection in heating and drying the atmosphere. He has developed models for the Earth's climate with specific concern for the stability of the ice caps, the sensitivity to increases in CO2, the origin of the 100,000 year cycle in glaciation, and the maintenance of regional variations in climate. In cooperation with colleagues and students, he is developing a sophisticated, but computationally simple, climate model to test whether the proper treatment of cumulus convection will significantly reduce climate sensitivity to the increase of greenhouse gases. Prof. Lindzen is a recipient of the AMS's Meisinger, and Charney Awards, and AGU's Macelwane Medal. He is a corresponding member of the NAS Committee on Human Rights, a member of the NRC Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, and a Fellow of the AAAS1. He is a consultant to the Global Modeling and Simulation Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Ph.D., '64, S.M., '61, A.B., '60, Harvard University)

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Todd, a nanofactory would be able to rebuild the power grid pretty rapidly, as well as building huge amounts of solar collectors. I would not worry about the existing grid in a nanofactory scenario.

Rik, Mike, less heat and more light please. Let me try a middle summary:

1) There is evidence from several directions that climate is getting weird. Several feedback loops have been proposed, including some involving atmospheric gases.

2) There is concern that human activity might be pushing us close to a vicious cycle--perhaps even on a time scale of decades. Some scientists, mainly in the US, discount or deny this possibility.

3) There has been a movement to modify human activity to reduce its possible impact on climate drivers. This movement has largely been outside the US, though some US states are starting to join.

4) The current US administration has been widely accused of politicizing and distorting the scientific process in several areas; the current US administration has strong fossil fuel ties.

5) The US has accused the climate-change worriers of trying to hurt its economy in favor of developing nations.

Now, my opinion: I'm inclined to agree with points 1, 2, and 4. Point 3 looks at first like a good idea, but I think the problems (if any) can't be solved without new technology. (Developing solar tech cheaper than oil is the best way to cut oil consumption.) Point 5 looks like a red herring.


Mike Treder, CRN

Chris, I'd revise your summary as follows:

1) There is strong evidence from several directions that climate is getting dangerously weird...

2) [snip] Human activity might be pushing us close to a vicious cycle -- potentially on a scale of just decades. A few scientists, mainly in the US, discount or deny this possibility.

3) 4) 5) [unchanged]

In my opinion, even though we may not be able to make a huge dent by following point 3, it's still a good idea because a small amount of course correction on the way toward the tipping point might end up making a big difference.


Sorry Chris. Thank you for taking me this seriously.

1. What exactly is weird? If we had frost in mid July, that would be weird. But the problem is: you have to wait and see how it develops. I think there is climatic variation on every timescale.

2 & 3. The words "might" and "possible impact" say it all. There is so much error and uncertainty, that one is almost naturally driven to what I think is the Bush-pov: more research and developing better technology. As I understand it, both could use more funding, but I'm simply trying to bring it down to something manageable. The denying of this is, I hope, good science. The desire to line everyone up behind a single pov is politics.

4 & 5. Perhaps, but how relevant is it? As for hurting the US economy: CO2 emission is apparently going down in the US. Other nations, who did sign 'Kyoto' are failing their target.

In my opinion, we need MM asap (dangerous or not). A lot of greenies seem to have a problem with industrial civilization, which is too bad, since MM will probably propel us to the next level. I think it's much more logical to expect that MM will enable, say, fifty billion people to live the American Lifestyle. Not necessarily on planet Earth, of course. Whatever: MM provides the best options. Whether we have to face Cold or Warming, MM makes us versatile beyond pretty much anything. Or am I thinking too magical here?

On his blog Kevin Kelly wrote against one singularity. He expects more than one, perhaps a series. One could apply this to climate and peak oil as well. In that case, there would be never be a single tipping point. As if one change landed us in a valley of zero fitness, sort of, from which there is no escape. But humans are very good at adapting and climate is always changing.
So, the real question would finally become: what can we expect - in climate change - beyond reasonable doubt?

Phillip Huggan

Rik, you are arguing that temperature spikes in perfect concert with rising industrial CO2 emissions are a coincidence. This would be thinly tenable if we didn't know about a simple process oft dubbed "The Greenhouse Effect". But we know enough about how CO2 blocks outgoing infrared radiation to render your position ridiculous.

As a result of global warming, sometime in the 21st century the Eastern seaboard and especially Western Europe may have frost in mid-July.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Rik, humans are adaptable, yes; we could likely survive in a desert or glacier world, with sufficient technology; but it would be a crying shame to tip the biosphere into mass extinction and live in bubbles thereafter.

I'm a little more precautionary than you are (though I certainly don't like the more extreme paralyzing forms of the Precautionary Principle). I don't see "reasonable doubt" as the standard. Even in civil legal proceedings, that's not the standard. If the preponderance of evidence indicates that we're pushing the world toward a different climatic attractor, then we should look very hard for ways to avoid that. Even if there's only a 5% chance, that may not be enough to act on (premature action could make things worse), but it is certainly enough to justify major concern and intensive study.

Assuming technology development continues, then in less than 50 years:
1) We will have enough data and enough compute power to make really solid climate models;
2) We will have enough manufacturing capacity to do planet-scale engineering projects.
So I'd like to start by getting agreement that when those are available, we will act to prevent anthropogenic climatic destruction.

The next question is: How much less than 50 years? Some people think we know enough to act now. At least to make policy choices like developing solar (and maybe nuclear) rather than tar and coal to replace light sweet crude.

"Don't act until you're sure" is exactly what most people dislike about the extreme environmentalist/Precautionary position. It is no more attractive on the other side.



I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. I'm sure there are many among us lay people who are also not familiar with the implications of nanotechnology. Sites like this sure help!

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