Interesting: take the two things deserts have an abundance of – bright sunlight and sand – and use it to make stuff. Solar powered 3D-printing, basically. [via m1k3y]
Now, this is an art/design project, so more of a spur-for-thought than a realistic business proposition – I wouldn’t wanna have to maintain all the bearings and drives on that machine in a sandy environment, for a start – but the underlying point is sound: materials and energy are abundant. We just need to think of new ways to source and use them.
Speaking of 3D printing, though, there’s definitely a whole new flotilla of work coming down the pike for hungry IP lawyers. Via BoingBoing, we find Paramount Pictures sending a C&D notice to some guy who knocked up a rendering file for a gimcrack from the movie Super 8; apparently some other outfit will shortly be selling “official” versions of the box, but I’d be willing to bet the idea never occurred to Paramount until they’d seen this dude had taken the time to do it himself. But just how similar would the reproduction have to be to be considered a breach of copyright, anyway? I rather suspect that line will get drawn by whoever can afford to take it to court for longer than the other.
This isn’t the time for another debate on the validity of IP law – I think most of you know my stance on that already – but it’s always a good time to point out that this stuff is going to get harder to police and/or enforce at a geometric rate, assuming fabbing and rendering technologies continue to cheapen and mature as they are at present. We’re slowly approaching the Napster moment for physical objects, and I remain to be convinced that anyone in line to be steamrollered by the rise of ubiquitous reproduction of 3D objects has any plan in place beyond “sue ’em until they go away”… which is their choice to make, of course, but it’s not a strategy that seems to have worked very well so far.
Get yourself over to Pink Tentacle right away; they’re hosting a bunch of mega-engineering promo images and design concepts from Japan’s Shimizu Corporation, who plainly aren’t afraid to think in directions with strong science fictional undertones. Directions such as floating lily-pad cities, million-citizen pyramidal cities, space hotels… and turning the moon into a gargantuan solar power station.
This one’s the winner for me, because any image of a planetary satellite re-engineered into a solar power plant that has the words “MASTER PLAN” masked onto it in large letters is, by any sane and reasonable metric, better than pretty much any other image. Of anything.
Bonus! Compare and contrast with these images of Russian space-race installations and rolling stock decaying the middle of nowhere [via Chairman Bruce]. Maybe one day in the deeper future, people will tut and shake their heads at images of Shimizu’s lunar power station, pocked with impact damage and slowly drowning in lunar dust…
One of those brilliant ideas that I wish I had thought of first: paving roadways with electricity-generating solar cells. Idaho-based startup Solar Roadways have been awarded $100 000 to develop their road-based solar panel technology:
The 12- x 12-foot panels, which each cost $6,900, are designed to be embedded into roads. When shined upon, each panel generates an estimated 7.6 kilowatt hours of power each day. If this electricity could be pumped into the grid, the company predicts that a four-lane, one-mile stretch of road with panels could generate enough power for 500 homes. Although it would be expensive, covering the entire US interstate highway system with the panels could theoretically fulfill the country’s total energy needs.
Furthermore the panels would create road markings with embedded LEDs.
It occurs to me that roads are the perfect media for ground-source heat pumps as the constant passage of cars heats up the road surface, even on cold days. When a new road is laid down (or an existing road is resurfaced) you fill it with the necessary pipework and plug it into the heating systems of nearby houses. Heat pumps would be more useful in urban areas of more northern, colder countries than solar panels due to shorter days in the winter.
[via Physorg][image from Physorg]
The Japanese government has taken another step towards actually building a space based solar power plant. Mitsubishi Electric Corp and industrial design company IHI Corp are to develop a design for a SBSP plant to be up and running at some point in the next three decades:
By 2015, the Japanese government hopes to test a small satellite decked out with solar panels that beams power through space and back to Earth.
There are still a number of hurdles to work through before space-based solar power becomes a reality though. Transportation of the solar panels into space is too expensive at the moment to be commercially viable, so Japan has to figure out a way to lower costs. Even if costs are lowered, solar stations will have to worry about damage from micrometeoroids and other flying objects. Still, space-based solar operates perfectly under all weather conditions, unlike Earth-based panels that are at the mercy of the clouds.
It makes sense to start moving in this direction, but will practical implementation arrive fast enough to help reduce global warming emissions?
[from Inhabitat, via Slashdot][image from Wikimedia]
OK, folks, here’s your weird and way-out patent application for the week: a method for destroying or weakening hurricanes by beaming a heat ray at them from an orbital platform.
Maybe it is crazy, but that same company, Solaren, took a first step in that direction this week when it inked a deal with the northern California utility, PG&E, to provide 200 megawatts of power capacity transmitted from orbit in 2016.
That’s just the start though:
By heating up the upper and middle levels of an infant hurricane, they say they could disrupt the flows of air that power the enormous storms. Air warmed by tropical waters flows up through a hurricane and is vented through the eye into the upper atmosphere. Theoretically, you could heat up the top of the storm and lower the pressure differential between layers, resulting in a weaker storm.
Thanks to regular commenter Robert Koslover for tipping me off to that one; I think HAARP just got a serious relegation in the tin-foil hat weather-modification paranoia league. And it makes the Vatican’s planned solar plant look a bit pathetic by comparison, eh? [image ganked from linked article]