Eric Drexler writes about the beautiful Gravity and Steady State Ocean Explorer on his blog:
I’m glad to see that someone finally found an excuse to launch a streamlined spacecraft that will cruise above Earth, steadily firing its engines to keep it moving. (Aristotelian physicists take note.) The European Space Agency will soon launch this sleek piece of hardware on a mission of gravity measurement with unprecedented accuracy: The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) will carry accelerometers able to sense accelerations as little as 10–13 of what we tolerate on Earth.
Apparently because GOCE will orbit much lower than usual it needs to be streamlined to cope with the thin upper atmosphere and generate thrust to keep itself aloft.
Anyway it’s a very pretty piece of kit: surely the MacBook Air of spacecraft1.
[via Eric Drexler][image from ESA]
1: In that it’s solid-state and sleek.
For this year’s Edge Question “What will change everything?” Eric Drexler’s answer is simultaneously depressing and heartening:
In the bland words of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “only in the case of essentially complete elimination of emissions can the atmospheric concentration of CO2 ultimately be stabilised at a constant [far higher!] level.” This heroic feat would require new technologies and the replacement of today’s installed infrastructure for power generation, transportation, and manufacturing. This seems impossible. In the real world, Asia is industrializing, most new power plants burn coal, and emissions are accelerating, increasing the rate of increase of the problem.
Drexler dismisses the “magic nanotechnology” trope and suggests what technological developments could do for us:
According to fiction and pop culture, it seems that all tiny machines are robots made of diamond, and they’re dangerous magic — smart and able to do almost anything for us, but apt to swarm and multiply and maybe eat everything, probably including your socks.
A solar array area, that if aggregated, would fit in a corner of Texas, could generate 3 terawatts. In the course of 10 years, 3 terawatts would provide enough energy remove all the excess carbon the human race has added to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began. So far as carbon emissions are concerned, this would fix the problem.
Drexler has further discussion of his essay on his blog, Metamodern.
[at Edge.org with further comment at Drexler’s blog][image from ktylerconk on flickr]
I dare say a lot of you will have seen this already, but for the rest: Eric “Engines of Creation” Drexler has launched his own blog, Metamodern. [image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
Drexler is one of the leading thinkers in molecular nanotech, so there’s one reason to follow along and see what he has to say. But Drexler has more to offer:
Metamodern isn’t intended to be “a blog about nanotechnology”; its scope includes broader issues involving technologies with world-changing potential. For example, looking well downstream in technology development, I will sketch the requirements for large-scale systems able to restore the atmosphere to its pre-industrial composition. Closer to hand, social software and the computational infrastructure of our society are high on the list.
I think we can safely assume that Futurismic readers will find something of interest in his output.