Atom Wave: Money In The 21st Century

Atom Wave

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Money In The 21st Century

How many of you have heard the analogy that energy is equivalent to money? The wealthy have more energy than many people; therefore they are hotter in a thermodynamic sense. In typical thermodynamic systems, this corresponds to them transferring energy to the cooler people in the population. Now as many of you Americans know, this rule seldom applies here. This is not in any way a fault of the analogy, but it requires another. In gravitational bound systems like galaxy and star clusters, an increase in energy drives the particles apart and raises their potential energy.

Now I know that a lot of you would like to be wealthy. You could fulfill your dream of a home in Malibu and get that Gulfstream jet that you have put off buying. I know where the money is.

This young century will see the rise of new billionaires, maybe trillionaires. In this market, it is energy where the money is. As many of you know, the oil that drives our economy today will not last forever. The United States already burns through 19.6 million barrels of oil per day, which equates to 25% of the world’s total. Aside from the direct costs, we are polluting the Earth for centuries to come.

Now energy is a fundamental quantity, it does not matter where you get it. Already on the horizon a number of technologies are competing for the prize of becoming a world power.

Many of you are aware of solar power. One of the many challenges with solar energy is that it is difficult to store the energy generated when night or storms arrive. One possible solution to this is batteries, but they are inefficient. One solution to this is compressed air technology. During daytime the solar arrays drive compressors forcing air into underground caverns. Then when night arrives the compressed air is tapped to drive turbine generators along with the burning of a small amount of natural gas. This system consumes only 40% of the natural gas that the turbines alone would burn.

Another possibility is nuclear fusion, which in theory can produce the equivalent energy of fission reactors without the annoying radioactive byproducts. These reactors are still years away from being commercially practical due to the stringent energy-intensive requirements needed to heat hydrogen to fusion temperature. They do have the advantage of having plentiful fuel supplies from the oceans and the practical impossibility that one could melt down catastrophically.

The future possibilities are endless, as is the potential for great wealth to the developer.


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