G-7 Pledge: No carbon by the year 2100.

June 13, 2015

white-semi-truckThe G-7 or Group of 7 major industrialized nations at their summit this week pledged to reduce the carbon footprint in their economies, and further to completely remove all carbon by the year 2100 or 85 years from now. The G-7 includes Canada, the United States, European countries like Germany, France and the UK, and Asian powerhouse Japan. Eighty-five years sounds like a long time, but think for a moment what no carbon would mean to our society and our lifestyle expectations.

It means no carbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel allowed. Planes, trains and automobiles will no longer exist in our world unless they were powered by non-carbon fuels. That means no coal, no natural gas and no crude oil in any form. They’re all are carbon-based.

Hydrogen, nuclear, solar or wind power are the potential alternatives. Visualize cars and trucks adorned with sails moving on our highways much like the sailors of old. Perhaps solar panels will be much smaller and more efficient by then and drivers will have vehicles constructed of solar panels top to bottom. When the wind dies we’ll be stranded, becalmed like sailors of old, or if it’s cloudy or when night falls drivers will be unable to go further that day.

Electric cars are also an option but remember the power to charge them is generated now by fossil fuels (carbon). Proliferation of electric powered cars means more power to be generated.

Nuclear power is non-carbon but we’d have to develop compact nuclear reactors to power our vehicles. Would we really want millions of nuclear cores traveling down our highways and byways at high speed. Accidents might result in nuclear explosions or at best meltdowns and radioactive releases to the atmosphere on a routine basis. Massive amounts of nuclear waste would be generated as a byproduct.

Hydrogen is a non-carbon fuel. Best of all it can be sourced from water an abundant resource. Water is H2O, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Separation is an expensive process today, but could become cheap if there was a demand. The biggest disadvantage to hydrogen is his extreme explosiveness. It is downright dangerous to handle.

boeing-787-dreamliner_100416655_mAirplanes will be drastically smaller and slower powered by solar or wind power. Traveling around the world will take a vast amount of time. Tourism will become localized. Trips to faraway places will be a thing of the past.

Unless a viable non-carbon alternative fuel is discovered between now and 2100, society will be forced to live a slower pace and stick closer to home. The goods we enjoy today that come to us over long distances will no longer be available. As an example fresh fruit and vegetables in the winter will be a thing of the past.

Society will be markedly low-tech. Our high tech society will cease to exist. Carbon based chemicals are a necessary part of our computers and high tech toys and tools. Replacements don’t presently exist for those chemicals derived from carbon.

I’m not a scientist or an inventor, but I have a hard time imagining where the cheap, abundant alternative to carbon-based fuels and chemicals will come from. I’m not saying a complete phase out of carbon-based fuels and chemicals can’t be accomplished, but it’ll take a complete reinvention of our society and its expectations.

Writing: Resources and Ideas

March 26, 2008

I love to write and am a freelance writer who is into history. I use my blog as incentive to write and to hone my skills. My goal is to get published in mainstream magazines and to get my book project published.

Recently on the advice of others I obtained some excellent sources of ideas that also serve as quick references. I highly recommend having them close at hand.

1. Almanac: New York Times World Almanac
Not only a truly awesome book of facts, but if you leaf through it at random with notebook and pen in hand it’s surprising the ideas you can come up with.

2. Desktop Concise Encyclopedia: The Penguin Concise Encyclopedia.
Although only one volume, it is amazing how much info this contains. Again take the time to read it at random every now and then, ideas will be found.

3. AP (Associate Press) Style Guide.
A must in my opinion and at around $12 US it’s a bargain. Most of the major news sources and modern publications use it.

4. World Atlas: I have an 8 1/2 x 11″ size one that fits into my backpack and yet is very well done. It is indispensible for seeing where countries fit into the world. Not only do you need to know about the country, but its setting in the neighborhood, for example what countries are adjacent to it.

5. National Geographic Magazines.
I am fortunate to have a large collection of these. Great for finding article ideas. I also have the 100 year index they published in 1988. Invaluable quick search for subjects that they have covered, especially on the obscure.

6. Time/Life Yearbooks.
These are usually on the newsstands yearly and older issues can be picked up cheaply at garage/yard sales. Nice source of information for a specific year. They are a great addition to your reference library.

7. Dictionary and Thesaurus.
This goes without saying. Far better than those in word processors.

So with these in hand I can now write, write, write……….if only I can find the energy and time. Seriously though, I highly recommend these as excellent items to add to your writers library.

10 Things You Should Know About Human Genetic Engineering

March 18, 2008

dna_overview.pngI just read a novel by Michael Crichton titled, “Next”. Crichton is best known for his techno-thrillers such as “The Andromeda Strain”, “Jurassic Park”, and “Prey”. He is also a medical doctor so quite a few of his books have been based on some kind of medical or scientific research. “Next” is a science-fiction novel set in the near future where human genetic engineering is part of everyday life. The possible ramifications and misuse are addressed via the fictional plot. However, Crichton always bases his books on science. The book was well-researched and based on factual information. He cites his sources in the back and has an afterword outlining his predictions and opinions on the entire subject. I highly recommend it. After reading this book I wanted to know more and thought some basic facts I uncovered would be worth writing about. (Left, above: human DNA structure)

1. What is genetic engineering?
Simply stated, it is the controlled modification of some part of the genes or DNA of a person. In other words, it is now possible for scientists to change human capacities, physical, cognitive, or emotional.

2. What techniques are used?
There are two types genetic engineering, Somatic and Germline. Somatic involves adding genes to cells other than egg or sperm cells. The treatment of diseases caused by defective genes through gene replacement is an example of this technique. These changes are not be passed down to offspring.

Germline engineering consists of changing genes in eggs, sperm, or very early embryos. Such changes are inheritable. This technique could result in perpetual and irreversible changes in humans. For this reason, it is very controversial.

3. What benefits could come from human gene manipulation?
Possible cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, MS, and others. Great progress is already being made.

4. What is a “gene patent”?
Genes that have been manipulated into a new form can be patented in some countries. Companies and researchers are allowed to do this in the United States. Many other countries do not recognize these patents.

5. What are “stem cells”?
These are the basic cells of life that have not developed into a particular type of cell yet. For example cells being in the development of a human being from stem cells to heart cells, liver cells, skin cells, etc. The advantage of stem cells is that scientists can “tell” them to develop into whatever type of cell they need for therapy. New brain cells could be created and used to replace damaged ones, at least that is the theory.

6. What is cloning and is it possible to clone humans?
Cloning is reproduction of a species without cells from both sexes. Sheep, frogs, cats, dogs and other animals have been successfully cloned. Human beings are animals therefore it is entirely possible. No one is saying it would be easy, but possible – Yes.

7. What would be the main reason for cloning humans?
So organs could be harvested. Of course this would mean death for the clone.

8. Isn’t it illegal to clone humans?
Yes but not in all countries.

9. How soon could we see humans successfully cloned?
Likely within five years.

10. Do stem cells have to come from human embryos?
Not anymore. Scientists are now able to obtain stem cells from other organs within the body.

Wikipedia: Useless or Useful?

February 14, 2008

Wikipedia is useful. Just remember that this is a site that can be edited by anyone, yes anyone. That means that it is not an accurate site. If that is the case, then what good is it to a writer or researcher?

The answer is that it is an extremely useful tool provided you remember the nature of the site.

For me and other writers it is a fantastic starting point for ideas and as a pointer to other sources of information. It always gives me a good overview of a topic. Then I go from there to other sources to confirm facts or to find more reliable sources. I take the key info from Wikipedia about the subject and list them in point form. From there I either disprove, confirm, or add more facts from other sources. As a starting point though I find Wikipedia invaluable.

Wikipedia is NOT an reliable, accurate source. Remember this and then use it as just another tool. Good journalists always confirm facts with multiple sources wherever possible. The same holds true here. For me it is a powerful tool to uncover ideas. I just have to remember to use the complete toolbox to write the articles that are sometimes inspired by my Wikipedia searches.

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