Published January 19, 2010
science , tech
Tags: avatar, future, research, space, thorium
I’ve been thinking plenty about the Future lately. Not about my personal future, not any more than normally, but the Future Of People and Where We’ll Go, and mostly about how I hope it will be pretty cool with spaceships around, and to that we can pull together long enough to make that work. This is partly because I went to the Air and Space Museum this weekend, and that conjures all sorts of cultural memories of what the Future should look like. This is also because 2010 is the first year we’ve gotten too that’s a good, round, space-age sounding year. Also I saw Avatar today, and if that doesn’t make you want some cool space gadgets, and then remember to worry about how humans make moral choices, nothing will. Not that it’s a morally nuanced movie or anything, but in portraying people as either so flatly evil or so inherently good it reminds you we’re not.
Anyway, we’re getting there, to the Future with the Gadgets, day by day. Since I’m probably a bit to early to catch the first wave of immigration too the outer planets myself, I’ll have to be content just reading the neat stuff we come up with on the way. Dig this: self-assembling solar cells! That could be cool. Meat grown in petri dishes! Barbecue without guilt. Though Barbecue is so delicious that it’s really hard to feel guilty eating it anyway. And check out this article on using thorium instead of uranium for safer, cleaner, and cheaper nuclear energy.
In conclusion, I am looking forward to the Future, especially if we get those neat wraparound screens like they have in Avatar. And if we remember to behave politely once we get into space.
As a reminder that we’re not doomed yet, here are a couple of articles on large investments in research and development in clean technology. Both are from Wired.
First, especially to please the conservative/free market types, Formula One car racing is requiring its teams to make their cars more energy efficient and look for alternative sources of power, by banning engine development for the 2008-2018 seasons. Hybrid technologies, alternative fuels, and recapture of heat and exhaust to be converted to power are some of the systems to be developed to make the race cars racier in the future. Formula One is to the world like NASCAR is to Middle America, it would seem, and they’re sponsored by some major car companies to demonstrate cutting-edge technology, which then quickly trickles down into the everyday-driver market. This could have a pretty fantastic impact on the efficiency of cars available to the public, and it’s a great demonstration that efficient cars aren’t lame, for those more interested in smoking other cars at stoplights than conservation.
For those interested in the viability of government investment in research and development of new technology, Russia’s $5 billion investment in a state nanotechnology center is worth watching. Nanotech is good for lots of things (everything, according to those involved in nanotech research), but the director of the facility Mikhail Kovalchuk is mostly interested in the applications of his research on efficiency and clean energy technologies. Even more exciting, since Russia’s budget surplus that allows them to make this investment is mostly due to their incredible gains in the oil and natural gas markets (holding Eastern Europe over the barrel, har). The article points out that this investment is at least in part meant to stave off the effects of the certain collapse of the fossil fuel economy on Russia’s economy.