Unlimiting Growth

Running Out!!!!

It is shouted by the modern day Chicken Littles of the world as though it were a sin to have breakfast since no chicken will ever lay another egg. Yet it begs the question:

Running out! of what? Exactly?

The claim is extended to a variety of resources. Everything from metals to ores to minerals and even food and water. Yet we don’t really care about things like hematite, we care about the iron we can extract from it. Or even more often, the things we can make from that iron and even more than that, the services we can perform with those objects made of iron.

Do I care about the hematite, the iron, or the knife?

The truth is that for most of us, we think about the set of kitchen knives and not very much at all about the iron in them.

So it isn’t a shortage of iron, so much as a shortage of kitchen knives that would cause us some grief.

When our old knives wear out, do they “go away”? And just where is “away”?

No, they stay right here on earth. They might be resharpened (perhaps after a visit to the Goodwill Store) or they might be recycled into a new set of knives (or even a new car). Even if we throw them away, over a much longer time period that iron will rust and return to the natural soils or the oceans and eventually become ore again. Geological processes have not stopped just because we exist. They are slower than our recycling processes, but they do still work.

So first off, we need to realize that what we are really caring about is various devices and services, not any particular element or material. Even then, the elements never “go away”.

For that reason alone, the Running Out! Scare is a broken concept. Simply because what is a resource changes over time. The devices we want, the materials we make them from, they are in constant flux. 3000 years ago, knives were bronze and copper was the important resource. Then the Iron Age came along when we started making them from Iron (copper having gotten a bit expensive). Eventually stainless steel. Now my kitchen knife set is made of a Zirconia ceramic. Does that mean Zircon is now Running Out!!!? Or does it just mean we can make knives from all sorts of metals and ceramics, as we feel like it, based on price and performance? The stone age did not end for lack of stones. Nor the Iron Age for lack of iron. Nor will the Space Age end for lack of space.

The simple fact is that “what is a resource?” depends only on our creativity in making things. Since creativity is unlimited, resources are also unlimited. We find ever better ways to extract various atoms from the earth around us, and ever more interesting things to make with them, at ever lower real costs. That is technological progress and it applies to raw material resources as well as to end products.

The Limits To Growth – Meadows et. al.

This book was written back in the ’70s. When it had currency, I studied it. Literally. There was an Economics class at my university that was entirely devoted to the study of that book and the various critiques of it.

The general motif of the book is a Computer Scare Story. They take the then-known economical to produce quantities of resources and did a linear projection of their extraction. Against this they plotted an expected exponential growth of demand from an expected exponential growth of population. At the point where these crossed, they screamed DISASTER!!! DOOM IN OUR TIME!!! but via a computer program running the math, so as to make it look all scientific.

There are a great many problems with that approach. A brief list is in the top page that collects links to the various “Not Running Out” postings: https://chiefio.wordpress.com/nro/. Their basic faults being failure to notice that growth is S shaped, not exponential, and that what is a resource changes over time with technical change and price. Compounded by a complete failure to understand that resource economics defines the present resource as what is economical at the price now and not at higher prices or with new extraction methods. Raise price a little, you get a lot more “reserves” to mine or pump as more dilute sources become economical to produce.

Since what is a resource changes over time, to focus, as they did, on specific resources in isolation is fundamentally flawed. Using only then-known resources is also a broken idea. Clearly demonstrated by natural gas. As I recall it, they predicted (or “projected” if you prefer their Politically Correct distinction without a difference) that we would run out of natural gas in the 1980s. Well, 30 years later we are awash in natural gas and the prices are depressed.

But despite all that, many folks have bought the Running Out! Scare story hook line and sinker. Just expect it. People love to be scared. They love to have a Mission. They love to be part of a cause, especially one that is to “save the planet”. They really love being in the role of hero. When you inform them it is a silly waste of time since we are NOT running out, they don’t take kindly to it. Expect that, and ignore their protests. They are delusional and seduced by the need to be a messiah and important somehow.

So what’s the real state of things?

Open Your Eyes and Look Around

Really. Just do it. What do you see? Books? Book cases and furniture. Appliances, TV sets, rugs, windows, cups and dishes, pots and pans, maybe cars and trains, skyscrapers and airplanes, houses and streets. THOSE are the things we want, not lumps of iron or cubic feet of gas. We can make them in very many ways and from very many other things.

Now look a bit deeper. Of what parts are these things made?

Nails, screws, bolts and nuts, wood, fabric, surface sheets & finishes, paint, beams, panels and foundations, wires, semiconductor chips, glass moldings, buttons and knobs.

But what are THOSE made of?

A much shorter list of basic materials. Often called “raw materials” for the most primitive sources and “processed materials” for the more refined and fabricated ones. Mostly that consists of a variety of rocks (sand, gravel, rock, aggregate, muds & clays), plants (wood, fibers for paper and cloth, food), metals (iron, copper, zinc, tin, cobalt, calcium, aluminum…) and non-metallic elements (oxygen, nitrogen, sulpher, carbon, chlorine, argon, boron, …) for the base materials. Some fabricated ones are things like glass, ceramics, plastics. While some natural complex materials are things like oil, bones & hides.

We then use those things to fabricate all the other things we want in life. Sometimes with making special materials along the way, like “petro” chemicals and artificial fertilizers, cement / concrete and semiconductor materials. We also use farming to produce foods and animal products from little more than dirt and work.

From those materials we build up the rest of our economy.

When you focus on the basic raw materials, rather then the intermediate products (man made or natural) and look at how they map to the desired end products and services, it becomes much more clear why “Running Out!” is just silly.

Take the toilet as an example. We can make them from ceramics and plastics (most in our modern society today are those kinds). So mud to make the ceramics (or bones for fine ‘bone china’…) and any carbon source to make the plastics. Yet I’ve also seen them made from stone, metal, and even wood. So are toilets critically dependent on the supply of ceramic mud? Nope. It is like that for almost everything in our society. There are a few odd bits at any one time in technical history that are dependent on some particular element or raw material, but we then invent new methods and new designs that don’t need that material when (and if) it becomes an issue. Rubber is an interesting story.

Sidebar on Plastics and “Petro” Chemicals:

Many of the Chicken Littles get excited about “saving the oil for plastics”. Why can only be explained by ignorance. Originally the organic chemical industry was based on coal. Eastman Chemical still uses it last I looked. During the ’60s, oil became VERY cheap, so we used it as ‘feed stock’ to make a variety of chemicals. The term “petrochemical” was born to signify it was made from petroleum. Yet nothing prevents making those same chemicals (like plastics) from any OTHER carbon source.

In fact, the first step of the process is typically to turn your carbon source (coal, oil, natural gas, garbage, poultry byproducts have all been used commercially) into something called “Synthesis Gas”. A mix of Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen. Using that standard gas, you can make all the “petro” chemicals you want. There is zero need to “save the petroleum for petrochemicals” and in fact after the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s, the USA industry substantially converted to using natural gas.

Sidebar on Rubber:

Tanks and trucks and airplanes and such use a LOT of rubber. At the start of World War II it was all made from the sap of the rubber tree. This became a big problem when Japan captured the plantations that were the source of most of the rubber in the world. Can’t fight a war without it, and Japan had it. So we set about trying to fix that. Ford had set up a plantation in South America some years earlier, but it was not a rousing success.

The eventual solution was found in isoprene and neoprene artificial rubbers. Now nobody talks about a shortage of rubber anymore. We can make it anytime we want. We still use some natural rubber in the mix in most rubber items as it has some qualities that make it better in some uses, and since doing the work to make a complete replacement is just not worth it. Yet.

History is just chock full of stories like rubber. Where one material was suddenly critical, so folks set about finding ways to replace it, and did. There are now whole categories of materials where we can make as much of it as we want at any given price, so they are effectively unlimited. Plastics and rubbers are two of them. Glasses and ceramics are another. Some sands and muds work better than others, but the supply is functionally unlimited. Cement and concrete are another group (including the newest member of that group, the geopolymers) as are native rocks. Most of the periodic chart of the elements is metals, so the earth is mostly metals. Extracting any particular metal at the lowest possible price takes some care, but absolute supply of metals is functionally unlimited. Similarly, extracting oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide (and through it carbon if desired), and argon from the air are unlimited compared to demand. Pure water and salts from the sea are also made if needed. With just those things we could build an entire technological society, if needed.

What is the earth made of?

Well, it has a lot of water on the top in the oceans. We can now turn that salty water into fresh water at acceptable prices, so “water shortage” is really just a question of how much money you want to spend. The bottom of the oceans are littered with everything from calcium carbonates (useful for cement) and clays, to ‘manganese nodules’ that also contain a lot of copper and other metals. Several hundred pounds per person and far more than I could use in my share.

The next layer is a variety of rock types. These give us all manner of metals and non-metal resources. The geological process of the planet are still working (though geology is slow) and is still sorting more magma into things like gold, silver, zinc, copper, and more. The various rocks can be used to make all manner of ceramics and glasses too. Some parts of the planet are soaked in oil and some have vast fields of carbon as coal. That carbon is in addition to truly gigantic fields of various carbonate rocks.

Above all that is a layer of air. Mostly nitrogen and oxygen (both harvested for various uses as liquid air) and a smaller amount of argon and other noble gases (also harvested via air liquefaction).

Most of the middle of the planet is an iron / mixed metals core. For that reason volcanic magma is often very iron rich. We have more iron than we could ever even imagine using.

Literally, the entire planet is a big ball of resource.

In space, there is much more stuff available, if desired or needed. The entire solar system is a resource. But it would be better if we went there, since there isn’t enough room to bring Titan here. ;-)

Making Things From Stuff

All the various fields of Engineering are devoted to the job of taking those piles of stuff and using them to make the things we desire at the lowest cost and with the best things. We’ve been at this job for thousands of years and now our Engineering skills are really quite remarkable.

So what we do is to take those basic materials, and from them make the things we want. That processing from materials to products takes “know how” (that we now call technology) and energy. That know how is often embodied in various tools and machines, but sometimes is still done by hand. A rock on the ground is a useful tool as it sits. It can be a hammer stone, an anvil, a corn grinding implement, even a seat (to sit on while a smaller stone is the weight on your fishing line); depending on size, shape, kind of rock, and any shaping we have done to it.

Our earliest technologies were about ways to use rocks, plants and animal products as raw materials, or “resources”, to make things. You can build a pretty good life using just those materials. As animals and plants reproduce, we need never “run out” of them. The entire land surface of the planet is made of rocks and their erosion products, so not going to run out of those either. For generations folks made comfortable homes using rocks, plants, and animals. We can still do that today, though we now often add some more modern bits like windows and electric wiring. Yet a typical suburban home is made of sticks (wood frame), rocks (usually processed a bit to make cement / concrete), and ‘finishes’ that are substantially like the old plant and animal based ones, even if made from oil or natural gas. (Rugs, paints, curtains).

Early on in history we learned how to farm animals and plants instead of just hunting and gathering them, so as to increase supply and reduce the cost (or work) to get them. We now apply even more know how and make machines to do a lot of the farming for us.

So from the beginning of history, people have been using resources and finding ways to make the supply bigger and the costs lower.

That trend continues to today.

Today we no longer worry about where to get more hides to make shoes and coats. Each person is so well fed that the real question is what to do with all the hides from so many farmed animals. I have one sheep skin rug that I’ve used for about 35 years. During that time I’ve eaten far more than one sheep as dinner.

There is no shortage of hides, bones, leather and other animal resources and materials. In fact, each year huge quantities of those things are made into fertilizer and plant foods. We simply could not use that many leather coats, sets of bone china, or similar products.

Farming has advanced to the point where we now plough under loads of stems, leaves, and more. We only eat the flower of the broccoli plant, for example, despite the leaves being edible too, and we don’t care at all about eating the stems for fiber in the diet (Yes, I’ve tried them!)

That story can be repeated for most crops. From corn (maize) stalks to rice hulls, the problem is not a shortage of plant fibers, but how best to be rid of them. (Folks have made ‘pressed board’ out of stems and grasses and built houses from it, they have turned it into fuels, and much more).

There is no shortage of plants, plant fibers, and plant products. The advance of technology has increased the supply faster than the demand can use it all up, and land needed to produce has dropped, not risen. We now feed a huge chunk of our corn production to automobiles instead of to people and animals and we still have too much.

There is no shortage of the land on which to grow it either. We can now make arable land as desired and even grow plants without any land at all, using methods like hydroponics and aeroponics. There will be more on that in another chapter.

On Rocks

When it comes to rocks, our use of rocks as rocks has become fairly small. We no longer spend days searching for a nice big chunk of obsidian to make a good blade, scraper or arrow head. We can make various ceramics and glasses as desired, using rocks turned into feedstock to ceramic and glass factories and chemically or physically rearranged. There are mountains of clay and sand to use for various ceramics and concretes too, and nature is constantly making more via erosion processes.

The example of the stone knife vs a modern ceramic knife may seem a bit trite, but it really is a profound example of technical advance creating resources. In the stone age, we find tribes with good obsidian deposits trading chunks with other tribes, and those pieces found great distances away from their source. It was a precious and rare resource. Now glass is ubiquitous and we hardly think about it. Working obsidian into a fine blade took hours of highly skilled craft work. Now in my kitchen is a set of “ceramic knives” that are the same basic product as the old stone knives of obsidian. But we make them cheaply with little labor and the edges are finer and stronger with overall superior quality. We do this by creating the rock we want, in the shape we want it. Creating the material and the product in one operation.

Instead of one hard to make obsidian knife, I have a superior set of a half dozen knives. (Plus 2 peelers!)

Similarly, we no longer build water viaducts by stacking up natural rocks, mile after Roman mile. Instead, we cook limestone and then use that to make a kind of liquid rock, concrete, that is used to make concrete pipes. These kinds of manufacture pipes are used all over to carry water to cities and carry waste away.

We learned to mix sand, gravel, and burned limestone to make concrete. There is so much sand, gravel and limestone it literally covers the planet. We could not possibly use it all.

Yet there is another point here. Cement and concrete do not leave the planet. There is no such place as “away” and it can not go there. Old concrete can be simply ground up and reused to make new concrete, so we will never run out of the materials needed to make that liquid stone, or the products made from it. Even if some cement eventually erodes to atoms and washed out to sea, the oceans turn it back into new limestone.

We have a perpetual supply of limestone, cement, sand, gravel and other stones as the natural processes that creates them continue to act. The present quantity is so overwhelmingly large we could never use it all.

There is no shortage of stones, rocks, sands, gravels, marble, limestone, etc. etc. And thus no shortage of the products made from them. Among those products are the major roads, freeways, bridges, buildings, infrastructure of pipes and even power poles and dams for fresh water year round. The Civil Engineer is abbreviated C.E. and sometimes in jest called the Cement Engineer as so much civil engineering work is based on cement and concrete structures. We use so much of it precisely because it is so ubiquitous in supply and low in cost.

A Tiny Bit Of Chemistry

The elements of the universe consist of a few groups. One divide is into metals and non-metals. Some elements where those two meet are semi-metals and are used to make semiconductors.

Think on that for a moment. Rocks are made of a mix of metals and non-metals. How can you ever run out of metals if you can’t run out of rocks and they are made of metals and non-metals mixed? Especially when the metals you extract can not “go away”. The same reasoning applies to non-metals.

We do spend a good amount of time looking at the rocks all over the globe. Finding the rocks richest in the particular metals and non-metals that we want, available at the lowest costs to produce. Geologists do a lot of that. That does not mean those rich low cost rocks are the only source of supply, just the best and cheapest. For now… And our present technology level…

As an example, let’s look at feldspars.

Feldspars (KAlSi3O8 – NaAlSi3O8 – CaAl2Si2O8) are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals that make up about 40% of the Earth’s continental crust.

So it has K Potassium used in plant fertilizers, Al Aluminum useful to build things and as a replacement for copper in electrical wires. Ca Calcium used in making cements and for nutrition too. There is also a lot of O Oxygen and Si Silicon. So much we don’t really need it. But that’s basically what you use to make glass and various abrasives. Some do have Na Sodium in them, but that’s everywhere. Still, it is useful for making lye and soaps and in a variety of chemical processes.

So just in that one most common rock, we can make everything from rock buildings to glasses and ceramics, and extract metals for everything from fertilizers to electrical wiring and much more. Even build pickup trucks, motors, and bikes out of it, along with pots and pans. We do look for other rocks as our preferred source of Aluminum and Potassium, but that is for our convenience and lower price, not because it is impossible to use this more common rock.

Production and uses

About 20 million tonnes of feldspar were produced in 2010, mostly by three countries: Italy (4.7 Mt), Turkey (4.5 Mt), and China (2 Mt).

Feldspar is a common raw material used in glassmaking, ceramics, and to some extent as a filler and extender in paint, plastics, and rubber. In glassmaking, alumina from feldspar improves product hardness, durability, and resistance to chemical corrosion. In ceramics, the alkalis in feldspar (calcium oxide, potassium oxide, and sodium oxide) act as a flux, lowering the melting temperature of a mixture. Fluxes melt at an early stage in the firing process, forming a glassy matrix that bonds the other components of the system together. In the US, about 66% of feldspar is consumed in glassmaking, including glass containers and glass fiber. Ceramics (including electrical insulators, sanitaryware, pottery, tableware, and tile) and other uses, such as fillers, accounted for the remainder.

Hmmm… From fiberglass insulation to glasses and ceramics, pottery and tiles and even a variety of chemicals. All from THE most common rock on the planet. Tell me again how we can “run out”?

Metals

Now this matters more than one might think. Aside from just how much cement and concrete is used in the modern world, the simple fact is that the supply of metals comes from rocks, as does the supply of other materials. That the supply of rocks is not limiting means those other materials are also not limiting. We use the easiest to use kinds of rocks first, but we could use the most common rocks to yield metals if we needed to do so.

So underlying all the metals, like iron, aluminum, cobalt, lithium, copper, etc. etc. – you find some particular kind of rock (or a dirt or a salt deposit) that is the easiest from which to extract the metal. We could get the metal from other kinds of rocks, but at a higher cost or a somewhat more complicated process. We may do that someday, but don’t need to do it just yet.

Now again, we have to ask: Where is ‘away’?

All those metals ever mined (aside from a trivial bit shot out of earth orbit) are still here. It does not “go away”. It may become dilute enough that we find it cheaper to extract it from native rock instead of scavenging the dump, but it IS still here should we need to go there.

If we used up all the richest easiest ores of silver laying on the surface, do we “run out” of silver?

Well, no. We’ve already used up the “native silver” where pure silver was found free on the surface. We’ve also used up the richest surface ores. Each time we found ways to extract silver from even more dilute ore, and so a lot more silver became a ‘resource’ and available to us. We’ve done this several times, so we know what happens. We recycle the exiting silver. We dig deeper and develop better ways to use more dilute deposits. We develop better ways to know where to dig. As of now, most sliver production comes as a byproduct of copper refining, so it doesn’t even take a mine and silver ore.

Why search the land, drill holes, move hillsides, haul silver ores, just to get more of something you get for “free” from refining copper?

If, for some reason, we suddenly needed a lot more silver, we could go looking and mining. But until then, we really need zero new silver mines. That is a very important point.

Resource Economics Is Important

The economics of resources says the supply depends on the price. It is just wrong to say “There is THIS much silver” to mine without saying at what price. As price rises, more expensive to work deposits pay to work, so you suddenly get more resource. It really does work that way.

Raise the price a little, you get a lot more supply of resource. This basic fact makes it stupid to talk of “running out” of known supply. As supply gets scarce, the price rises, and more supply becomes worth finding and producing. In some cases, the prior mine tailings have become the current mine ore due to price rises and technical advances.

We stop looking for more supply when we have found enough and the price is too low to justify looking for more. We look, and find more, when prices rise enough to pay for it.

Similarly, a bit higher price pays for new extraction methods. Mining and ore enrichment technology has regularly produced new supply out of rocks that were ‘useless’ before. Each more dilute source contains exponentially larger quantities of the desired metal than the prior more concentrated ore, simply because there are vastly more rocks with a little of something in it than there are rocks with a lot of that metal in them.

To claim “running out” is to claim “no new inventions, ever”.

Energy As Key Resource

Plants, animals, rocks, ores, metals, non-metals, ceramics, glasses, masonry, cement and concrete, water, salts and fertilizers. All essentially unlimited.

What is the last, ultimate, resource sort not on that list? Energy sources.

All those changes, refining, reforming, extraction, transportation processes and more all need an energy source to operate. It is fairly trite but true that with technology and enough energy you can make anything else you need. So are we running out of energy?

Much noise is made about running out of oil or having an ‘energy shortage’. It is basically non-sense. The only shortages that happen are man-made and often artificially so to raise prices. This inevitably fails in the long run as higher prices lead to more supply, but in the short run it can gain $Millions.

We already have, in hand, technologies to provide all the energy needed for the global economy for all foreseeable time and at acceptable prices. Millions of years worth of energy, at least. At prices not significantly different from today. There are several forms and sources for this energy, but I will mention just one here. Ocean uranium.

How was this done? Well, some very clever Japanese researchers found a way to make a plastic mat that adsorbs Uranium from sea water. The cost is about double the cost of that from mines on land, so we don’t use it at present, but the cost is still so low it would not change electricity prices if we were to use this method. It is well inside the range to run the economy at a profit. There is more U in the oceans than we can use and more erodes in every year from the mountains of the world.

There is no energy shortage, there can not be one, and there never will be one. We just use cheaper more convenient land sources at present. (Yes, there can be local temporary shortages due to stupidity, government mistakes, and lack of will to use the available Uranium. But that is a shortage of intelligence, not of energy.)

But what about Oil? Isn’t it limited, running out, and needed to make plastics and fertilizers and chemicals? Well, no. Some decades back we learned how to make oil if needed. Germany ran their W.W.II war machine on synthetic oil made from coal.

More importantly, what we use is not crude oil. We use fuels, lubricants, plastics, organic chemicals. All those products can be made from other carbon sources. We have made them all from other sources in the past, and many are made from natural gas today. Using nuclear process heat, we can continue using gasoline, motor oil, Diesel fuel, and plastics forever.

Even garbage can be used as the feedstock to make fuels and “petro” chemicals. At least one company has done it. There is no risk we will run out of garbage.

The source I find most interesting is the farm. We can, and do, grow plastic feed stocks. “Bio-plastics” are relatively common now. Rayon and your kitchen “viscous” sponge are two early plastics made from plants. Cellulose makes cellophane, rayon, and the “viscous” fluid used to make the sponge. George Washington Carver made plastics from soybeans used in early Ford Automobiles

The founding president of Israel used a bacteria to grow chemicals.

Chaim Azriel Weizmann (Hebrew: חיים עזריאל ויצמן‎‎ Hayyim Azri’el Vaytsman, Russian: Хаим Вейцман Khaim Veytsman; 27 November 1874 – 9 November 1952) D.Sc, Sc.D, LL.D was a Zionist leader and Israeli statesman who served as President of the Zionist Organization and later as the first President of Israel.
[…]
Weizmann lectured in chemistry at the University of Geneva between 1901 and 1903, and later taught at the University of Manchester. He became a British subject in 1910, and while a lecturer in Manchester he became known for discovering how to use bacterial fermentation to produce large quantities of desired substances. He is considered to be the father of industrial fermentation. He used the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum (the Weizmann organism) to produce acetone. Acetone was used in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants critical to the Allied war effort (see Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath). Weizmann transferred the rights to the manufacture of acetone to the Commercial Solvents Corporation in exchange for royalties.

See also: Acetone–butanol–ethanol fermentation

All that was before the age of genetically engineered bacteria. Simply put, we can ferment all the industrial organic feed stock we want and the fuels we want. There are some algae that produce up to 1/2 their weight as oil. It is just cheaper to pump and refine fossil oil instead. For now…

Simply put, organic chemicals (those with carbon in them and often called “petro” chemicals) can be made from any carbon source (gas, oil, coal, trees, garbage) by many processes. Typically those things are first turned into synthesis gas to make all the rest, but some of the desired chemicals can just be fermented or grown directly. Similarly, we have several methods to grow, ferment, refine, or synthesize fuels if desired or needed.

There is no shortage of plastics, the ubiquitous chemicals from which so much is made today. We can grow them, and make them from all manner of other things. Similar things can be done to ‘grow fuels’ if desired. We can use nuclear power to generate all the electricity we could need to power all those other chemical processes, and we can use nuclear electricity to directly drive oil pumps (long after the energy needed to lift the oil exceeds the energy in it, we can turn it into motor fuel as the form of the fuel matters) and we can use nuclear process heat to manufacture motor fuels if desired.

Given that nuclear power is unlimited, that means motor fuels are also unlimited. We need only build the factories and pay a modestly higher price for the gasoline and Diesel (or alcohols or…) based fuels.

In Conclusion

Engineering is the art and science of using what you have to make what you want. Engineers look at the prices of different materials, and their properties, then choose the best way to make the desired product at the best price. This means that what is a needed resource changes with the price and desires.

Take a look at power or telephone poles. They can be made from wood, or concrete, or aluminum or steel (and likely a few other things I’ve not seen). We could make them from plastics, garbage, geopolymer (a kind of synthetic cast rock), laminated wood, straw (suitably processed) or even lake mud. We don’t since we have cheaper choices in wood and concrete and aluminum. But it IS a choice.

We have a few thousand year history of technical change in what resource or material is used for which products. We never “run out”, we just change the preferred material. The stone age ended when we learned to make tools from copper.

The copper age ended when we learned to add tin and zink to make bronze and brasses.

The Bronze age ended when a scarcity of copper made it expensive (after what looks like a natural disaster wiped out the shipping culture mining and supplying copper to Europe) so we started making swords and tools from iron.

Today, my kitchen is slowly converting from iron and stainless steel based tools back to a special kind of stone. Customized at the molecular level to make superior ceramic knives and ceramic coated aluminum pans.

We have not run out of rocks, copper, bronze, iron, or ceramics. All those materials are still here on the planet and still used. No rocket has sent them out to space and out of the solar system. We do not run out, we change.

The next chapters will look at specific raw materials and resources in more detail. Folks who wish to poke at any particular resource are best served by going to that chapter first (once written).

Along the way, various products and services will be profiled, but with an eye to showing the variety of materials used, or that could be substituted. In some cases, input-output charts with choices may be shown. (So, for example, [corn, trees, coal, gas, oil] can all become synthesis gas used to make [oil, Diesel, plastic, alcohols…] and more.)

The point being that if any one input becomes dear, we just shift to a cheaper one or invent something new. We have at least 10,000 years of doing this under our belt, so I see no reason to think it stops with us.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Earth Sciences, Economics - Trading - and Money, Energy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to Unlimiting Growth

  1. pearce m. schaudies says:

    Hi Chief. Bravo! very interesting. I love recycling. repurposing.

    Regards,
    Pearce M. Schaudies.
    Minister of Future

  2. rms says:

    Masterpiece.

  3. As regards energy running out, it should be noted that since energy is conserved that can’t actually happen. All that happens when we “use” energy is that we change the incoming stream of directional energy to a situation where the energy now has random directions, which we call waste heat. If we use conducted heat, then in order to get a direction of movement of that energy (and thus be able to move things in a particular direction) we need both a source and a sink for that random heat energy, and thus we’ll be limited by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2LoT).

    If instead we look at radiated heat, then we already have devices that will change IR radiation into electricity. Devices such as a nantenna array will change long-wave infra-red radiation into electrical power. Admittedly the amount of power these will produce (around 1W/m²) is not currently that useful, and the array is currently expensive to make, but in principle this shows that the 2LoT does not apply to radiated heat, and that what we are currently regarding as “waste heat” and thus unusable is in fact a limitless resource of usable energy if we can make a better way to give it back the directionality we need to perform useful work.

    I’m currently working on such a device that should do this job a lot better than the nantenna array (orders of magnitude). This, if it works as hoped, should make energy an almost-free resource, and that in turn will make all sorts of recycling and resource-recovery economically viable where currently the energy-costs are too high to be worthwhile. That will really put the lid on that idea of running out of anything. We should have data this year as to whether the device works. We’ve had the technology to make these devices for at least 50 years, and it seems the only reason we haven’t made them is the belief that 2LoT is universally applicable, even though the fault in the logic is pretty obvious once you’ve seen it. Since other people I know are working on alternative methods of environmental energy-rectification, I expect that in the next 2-3 years we’ll be seeing recycled energy as a major source of the energy we actually use.

  4. omanuel says:

    The fountain of energy that powers the Sun and the cosmos has been hidden from the public by a logical error made by Weizsacker in 1935 and later endorsed by Chadwick
    on receiving a Nobel Prize in Dec 1935.

    A 19 year old student at the Imperial University of Tokyo, Kazuo Kuroda, noticed the error on 13 June 1936, but it remains in physics textbooks today to mark the 1935 dominance of “Consensus models” over rational analysis by the scientific method.

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10640850/Nuclear_Energy_Error7.pdf

  5. philjourdan says:

    Minor point of contention (not necessarily disagreement). We are not sitting on a big ball of resources. We are sitting on a big ball of dirt! That is what the wolves see. That is what the sheep see. It is the ingenuity of man that turns “dirt” into something useful, and only then does “man” define it as a resource. Without the use, it is only dirt. With the use it is a resource.

    I am not the first to say this (and I recently read it on WUWT by another poster), but there is no such thing as “running out” of a resource. Man will never run out of ANY resource! Simple economics. As the supply (read: recoverable amount) of a resource shrinks, the price increases. Until such time as the price of the resource exceeds the value of the end product. Or an alternative source of materials that makes as good or better products is found (and aint the whales happy for that!) at a better price. Copper did not “disappear” at the end of the bronze age, but the supply (that which could be mined by the people of that age) became prohibitively expensive to use, so man found iron. Which is exceeded only by aluminum as far as prevalence around the dirt ball.

    What we kick around in the dirt today, will find a way into the mainstream once a use is found for it. If the use outstrips the amount of the item, alternatives will be found. history is a text book of that happening with all resources! Hence, we will not run out of resources.

    Except one. Intelligence. That one appears to be exhausted as the latest chicken littles demonstrate.

  6. Simon Derricutt says: 20 April 2017 at 10:36 am

    “As regards energy running out, it should be noted that since energy is conserved that can’t actually happen.”

    In what way is “energy” conserved? Energy is but an accumulation of “power” (stored power), in many forms. Sometimes that energy may be converted to a different form in a reversible process. Generally that stored power is converted to ‘work’, not a different accumulation of power but a conversion of power into structure. This in every case (even plowing a field) some of that power is lost to “entropy”, the specific heat of the matter with the lowest temperature (gone)!
    Thermal radiative electromagnetic flux, powered by only sensible heat,o is always spontaneous and always in a direction of lower radiance. How is this ‘energy’ ever conserved?

  7. llanfar says:

    Earth is not an unlimited resource…given that term has no terminus… ;)

    According to https://www.universetoday.com/12648/will-earth-survive-when-the-sun-becomes-a-red-giant the sun will be 10% brighter in about 1.1 billion years at which point earth will experience C(non)AGW. I’m not positive this will happen – earth has a pretty good heat pump in the form of the ocean/cloud cycle. In 3.5b years, the sun will be 40% brighter – I place good odds that that will be more than enough to overcome earth’s capacity to cool. And in about 4.5b years the sun will go red giant. At that point earth will quickly dwindle away.

  8. omanuel says:

    If mass (m) is energy (E), what will remain when you run out of energy?”

  9. Will – thermal radiation (EM waves) does not go only from hotter to colder, but also goes from a colder object to a hotter object. Check the Stefan-Boltzmann equation for the truth of this. It is however precisely that logical error that makes people think that recycling energy is impossible. However, for a practical demonstration of the fact that all objects radiate energy, you only need to consider a thermal camera. If objects only radiated towards other objects at a lower temperature, then a thermal image would not be possible. All objects above absolute zero thus radiate energy, and those photons can be translated into electrical energy.

    Energy is thus not lost, and can be recycled into the directional energy we actually need to do work with. 2LoT does not apply to radiant energy. We are taught that it does, but this is simply wrong.

  10. David A says:

    Illanfar, talking in billions of years is not cogent to todays political chicken littles.

    With regard to society our resources are, for all practical purposes, without limit.

  11. Another Jim says:

    Kior was making money turning tree stumps into synthetic oil when the price was $100 a barrel. At $30 a barrel, they went broke. As long as the sun shines, and atmospheric CO2 is high enough, we can have plenty of tree stumps, and at some price, oil.
    Around 2010, I looked at landfill waste to oil companies. It turned out that several had developed feasibility engineering test systems. The ones that worked were purchased by Waste Management. At some price, mining landfills for energy, and metals recovery will become an important economic activity. Until that time, the landfills will serve to sequester carbon. Not that we need to sequester carbon, but that is a different topic.

  12. gareth says:

    Tim Worstall has had a few goes at the “Running out” panic. Every so often some arts graduate notices that there are only 30 year reserves of some mineral or other and writes a scare piece that we are going to “run out” in 30 years.
    I even caught myself “tut-tut”ing about some scheme to take tourists into near-space under helium balloons because helium is “rare” so we shouldn’t be wasting it. Then someone pointed out the implications of all the LPG being shipped round the world and I went “doh!”
    Worstall’s “No Breakfast” fallacy can be read here: https://www.adamsmith.org/research/the-no-breakfast-fallacy
    Cheers, gareth

  13. p.g.sharrow says:

    The de-industralization of America for the last 10 years and the decline of the middle class is illustrated in the electrical energy generation and usage in the U.S.;
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-12/the-de-electrification-of-the-u-s-economy
    increased efficiency and direct on site conversion has also reduced demand on electric power generators…pg

  14. Gary says:

    E.M., add some illustrations and tight editing and this would make a wonderful kids book. I was looking at one yesterday on DISASTERS! that had nowhere near this level of intelligence.

  15. catweazle666 says:

    Engineering is the art and science of using what you have to make what you want.

    Indeed so, Chief.

    Without engineers, the human race would still be cowering in caves, freezing and terrified of the wolves.

    Unfortunately, these days engineers are very much despised as second-class citizens, and engineering studies come a very poor second to subjects such as “Black-Palestinian Queer Reciprocal Solidarity”, whatever the hell that may be.

    And no, unfortunately I didn’t make that up!

    http://freebeacon.com/culture/harvard-grad-students-start-resistance-school/

  16. tom0mason says:

    Too often these alarmists use figures from published data that list ‘world-wide reserves’ or ‘known reserves’. The alarmists fail to understand what for and why these figures are amassed.
    Usually insurance companies compile this type of data for industry, and it shows not the whole picture of a particular resource availability but only snapshot of what will probably be available at particular price points based on past and current data for that resource. These figures are just a tool to help governments and industry plan for the (short-term) future — usually 5 or 10 years but sometime longer.

    An illustration of the prevalence this bogus idea is shown in this wonderful graphic from New Scientist (or should that be New Alarmist magazine?) https://www.newscientist.com/data/images/archive/2605/26051202.jpg

    A simple question for those alarmed by the ‘known reserves’ question…
    Glass can easily be made from sand, however try as you might there are no ‘known reserves’ of sand. There’s just not any figures!
    Maybe we have run out of sand? :)

  17. Steven Fraser says:

    Chief: What a tour-de-force! Bravo! What a wonderful exposition on the history of civilizations and their stuff. I loved Gary’s idea… it would make a great childrens book.

  18. Simon Derricutt says: 20 April 2017 at 1:03 pm

    “Will – thermal radiation (EM waves) does not go only from hotter to colder, but also goes from a colder object to a hotter object.”
    If you are writing of actual power transfer (flux not radiance) That thermal EMR power is “only” emitted in the direction of lower radiance at each frequency. There is not one experiment, demonstration, that has ever shown any EMR power transfer in the opposing direction. To due so would violate at least 6 of Maxwell’s equations, describing all field and flux of electromagnetic potential! Flux φ is not Power/area, but W(power) normalized by area! ε ε σ σ

    “Check the Stefan-Boltzmann equation for the truth of this.”

    Indeed do that! S-B equation: φ = εσ(Ta^4-Tb^4) . Note the required parenthesis containing the difference in Temperature functions (Δ radiance), to be evaluated firstly with the sign indicating direction of singular flux.

    “It is however precisely that logical error that makes people think that recycling energy is impossible. However, for a practical demonstration of the fact that all objects radiate energy, you only need to consider a thermal camera. If objects only radiated towards other objects at a lower temperature, then a thermal image would not be possible.”

    BS The camera can create an image independent of flux direction just by correctly using the same S-B equation above! There is no ambiguity as to temperatures or direction of flux.
    .
    “All objects above absolute zero thus radiate energy, and those photons can be translated into electrical energy”

    More BS!! Only surfaces at zero Kelvin have zero “radiance” at every frequency! The difference in ‘radiance’ of the two surfaces is always a limit to such flux. Goody (64) got that way way wrong!
    EMR flux is not heat, but can be transformed int whatever power form the receiver is capable
    .
    “Energy is thus not lost, and can be recycled into the directional energy we actually need to do work with.”

    Any work not ‘isentropic’ must generate ‘entropy’ so is indeed lost!

    “2LoT does not apply to radiant energy. We are taught that it does, but this is simply wrong.”

    Gee! Even though is is not heat, Maxwell himself commented that thermal EMR flux is always spontaneous and always complies with 2LTD!

  19. omanuel says: 20 April 2017 at 12:48 pm

    “If mass (m) is energy (E), what will remain when you “run out of energy?””

    Cold Fe56!! :-)

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gary:

    Well, the idea is to make a book, one chapter at a time and as postings here. Then see if it can be edited into a coherent whole. As for “for kids”: I’m aiming for a reading level suitable for the Left Wing Scared Malthusians to ‘get it’, so yeah ;-)

    I plan to retrofit pictures at some point. I just wanted to get this text up while it was ready in my brain. The pictures in prior Unlimiting postings were just grabs of whatever link looked good. This round I want to make sure the images are available longer term AND save a copy in my own archives. (The prior postings have had some link-rot and loss of image sources…) Since doing that is going to take some time and work, I decided to let it happen async and over time. But eventually images will come. Likely as I review the prior postings, fix their bit-rot, and download / archive images; while adding the posting link to the NRO top page. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time.

    @All:

    I’m glad you like it. Gives me some motivation to press on into the next 100 pages ;-)

    @LoT:

    Note that low energy flux as sunlight can turn into very high energy flux as rocket fuel with some various “rectifying” and concentrating steps. Nothing prevents turning a low energy photon into “something else” then using that to pump energy up hill. All of life depends on it. From photons to chlorophyll to ATP to sugars to alcohols to rocket fuel… Energy CAN be pumped up hill; and used. That some goes down hill in the process is unimportant in the short run.

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G.:

    Golly, drive up the price of an input to the economy and we find ways to use less… who knew? /sarc;

    Driving the production of aluminum and similar high electricity demand operations overseas with high electricity costs. Forcing folks to use LED and CFL bulbs even in places where a bad choice. Making it VERY much more economical to use natural gas or LPG for cooking and heating instead of electricity. The advent of home and office co-generation where you make your own electricity as a by product of heat production from cheap gas, due to excessive regulation and forced high prices for that electricity if someone else makes it. And they think this reduction in demand is some kind of surprise?

  22. Lars P. says:

    Mostly the ‘running out’ crowd do not consist of engineers but all kind of other ‘sciences’. The problem is with projections based on a statist environment.
    Well… we do have in the EU the stupidity of limiting the power of the vacuum cleaners to save energy. Now you need two times the time and the job is not properly done…

  23. Dan_Kurt says:

    Here is a PDF of Julian Simon’s The Ultimate Resource. Don’t miss it:
    .
    http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/

    Dan Kurt

  24. Will – if you have two bodies of different temperature, and the radiated heat only goes from the hotter one to the colder one (and definitely not the other way) at a rate of the difference between the 4th power of their absolute temperatures, how does the hotter body know what temperature the cooler one is (and the solid angle subtended) so that it can set the amount it radiates (and only in the direction of the cooler body) with just the right amount of heat? What happens when you have 3 or more bodies? What happens when they are a significant distance apart so that the time of flight of that EM radiation becomes significant?

    If you spend some time trying to solve this paradox of how the inanimate body gets all the calculations correct, you will likely end up with the reality of the situation in that each body will radiate according to its own absolute temperature alone, and takes absolutely no account of whatever other bodies may receive that radiation or at what time that radiation is stopped.

    What you quote as the Stefan-Boltzmann equation is simply the elided version that gives the net energy flow. However, each body must radiate according only to its own temperature, and receive radiation from all other bodies that are radiating. If it receives more energy in radiation than it is emitting, it will warm up, if less then it will cool down.

    This logical error of only seeing the net energy flow and saying that is all the energy that is being radiated, rather than seeing that the energy-flow is actually bidirectional and that the colder body is radiating energy and that the hotter body is receiving it, is unfortunately what is taught. It is wrong, and it is obviously wrong. That radiation cannot be in one direction only, but must be multi-directional.

    The random movements of the heat in a hot body are thus translated into EM radiation. The EM radiation is photons, which we can convert fairly easily into electricity to do work. We can receive and convert this radiation even from something that is at a lower temperature (as measured using a thermometer or thermocouple) than the receiving device.

    It is definitely heretical to say that the 2LoT is wrong. However, it only applies to conducted heat and not to radiated heat. If we recognise that loophole, then we can drive a truck through it. Literally. In the meantime, though, I expect people will be upset about the idea that a theory can be wrong when it has stood for 150-odd years. However, there it is, and that faith that 2LoT is absolutely unbreakable has stopped most people from even trying to find the error.

  25. John F. Hultquist says:

    About sand:
    When most folks think of sand they have in mind silica (SiO2), but it is defined by size, being finer than gravel and coarser than silt.
    Making glass is more efficient if the “sand” is clean silica sand, that is very white [look for: “soda-lime glass”].
    Still, there exist black sands, such as that from basalt, the stuff of Punaluʻu Beach, Maui.

    The recycling of glass is common but the separation of types is expensive. Colored glass gets that way by mixing in trace amounts of elements or compounds. Think of “Cobalt” glass (deep blue) – used with some wines; also brown from Rheingau; green Mosel.

    Glass that is crushed and ready to be remelted is called cullet.
    There is not a shortage.

  26. wizz33 says:

    on energy
    combine http://sorlox.com/company.html with http://www.infinityturbine.com/rot24.html and you have unlimited energy.
    brilliant light power is 18 months away from going commercial
    http://brilliantlightpower.com

    and https://focusfusion.org/ is hoping for break even this year

    and robbert murray-smith is going to stun the world with his ultra cheap durable seperater less, painted battaries
    http://www.youtube.com/user/RobertMurraySmith

    and the ultimate backup is the KISS molten salt reactor of moltex
    http://www.moltexenergy.com/

  27. tom0mason says:

    I wonder if all those that believe we are running out of whatever are the same people who believe that if the rich get richer the poor must get poorer? Those same people who only think of finite sized pies and cakes being shared around.

  28. beththeserf says:

    It’s not limiting the power of the vacuum cleaner the EU has in mind,
    but limiting the power of the human cornucopians.

  29. poitsplace says:

    Yes, some time ago I realized that “sustainability” was not the problem most people thought it was. Indeed for many things it likely could not EVER be a problem. The earth’s crust too thick, the number of alternative materials/methods too diverse. Even where energy is concerned, yes we may well “run out” of fossil fuels…but there are thousands of years worth of easily accessible nuclear fuel before we have to figure out the problems of taming fusion, which I’ll wager can’t stay “30 years away” for more than a few hundred years.

    The things people worry about running out is mindboggling sometimes. I have seen several articles in my life complaining that we would run out of aluminum ore…even though aluminum is 8% of the earth’s crust. There is literally enough aluminum to cover the planet in nearly a kilometer of it. By definition if we “ran out” of ore, we would have literal mountains of the raw metal just laying around.

  30. Larry Ledwick says:

    Not to mention that soon (in the context of human history) we will be able to mine an entire solar system for resources and rare metals.

  31. Larry Ledwick says:

    Trump secures the release of an aid worker who had become an Egyptian political prisoner that sat in jail there for 3 years under Obama.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/freed-egyptian-american-prisoner-returns-home-following-trump-intervention/2017/04/20/d569fe1e-2608-11e7-bb9d-8cd6118e1409_story.html

  32. R. Shearer says:

    Another Jim,

    Kior’s technology was so inefficient it wouldn’t have made money at $300/bbl oil, as least up to the point it went bankrupt. Even Khosla didn’t want to risk any more to keep it going. Below is a good synopsis:

    http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2016/05/_kior_the_inside_story_of_a_company_gone_wrong.html

  33. Larry Ledwick says:

    Drat above post was supposed to go to tips.

  34. beththeserf says:

    Kinda fits here, but, – saving a valuable human resource.

  35. E.M.Smith says: 20 April 2017 at 8:56 pm

    “@All: I’m glad you like it. Gives me some motivation to press on into the next 100 pages ;-) ”

    Please do keep up your excellent work! Looking forward to it. All the Best!

    “@LoT: Note that low energy flux as sunlight can turn into very high energy flux as rocket fuel with some various “rectifying” and concentrating steps. Nothing prevents turning a low energy photon into “something else” then using that to pump energy up hill. All of life depends on it. From photons to chlorophyll to ATP to sugars to alcohols to rocket fuel… Energy CAN be pumped up hill; and used. That some goes down hill in the process is unimportant in the short run.”

    Indeed! That some down hill is very important in the long run, else CAGW! All the downhill would stack up if not for the spontaneous effective EMR to space. If this ‘energy’ is ‘conserved’ and comes back; (collapsing universe), all the CAGW nonsense will be trivial! :-)

  36. pearce m. schaudies says:

    @All- OT, but china bombers an fighter planes on full alert. 8am edt.
    Minister of Future

  37. Simon Derricutt says: 20 April 2017 at 10:15 pm

    “Will – if you have two bodies of different temperature, and the radiated heat only goes”

    Simon, Woha! There is no such thing as EMR (heat) or energy! Such is only power or flux as for EMR there is no such thing as your fanciful ‘time!

    “from the hotter one to the colder one (and definitely not the other way) at a rate of the difference between the 4th power of their absolute temperatures, how does the hotter body know what temperature the cooler one is (and the solid angle subtended) so that it can set the amount it radiates (and only in the direction of the cooler body) with just the right amount of heat?”

    I wrote that the Enclosing parenthesis is a representation of Δ radiance both magnitude and direction. This is but a summation over all wavelengths and is proportional to ΔT^4 from Planck’s equations as done by Boltzmann. No knowledge is required only the invariant proper solution to Maxwell’s field equations. There is no requirement for surfaces to have knowledge.

    “What happens when you have 3 or more bodies?” Each surface is treated separately as to magnitude and direction!

    ” What happens when they are a significant distance apart so that the time of flight of that EM radiation becomes significant?”

    The electric field is time invariant and exists as a function of T^4. This is the part where stupid Richard Goody (64) misinterpreted the work of Bose as flux rather than field strength!!
    The corresponding magnetic field carries the flux and can only be ‘measured’ by the time\space modulation of said flux! The ‘modulations’ also can be measured simultaneously in both directions even when there is zero flux over a time epoch of both modulations. This effect James Hansen knew well before his deliberate corruption of science! I was there when such was carefully explained to him.

    “If you spend some time trying to solve this paradox of how the inanimate body gets all the calculations correct, you will likely end up with the reality of the situation in that each body will radiate according to its own absolute temperature alone, and takes absolutely no account of whatever other bodies may receive that radiation or at what time that radiation is stopped.”

    If you would spend some time trying to understand Maxwell’s equations you would discover that there is none at all of your illusory paradox!

    “What you quote as the Stefan-Boltzmann equation is simply the elided version that gives the net energy flow. However, each body must radiate according only to its own temperature, and receive radiation from all other bodies that are radiating. If it receives more energy in radiation than it is emitting, it will warm up, if less then it will cool down.”

    You and your cohorts are the ones eliding the extremely well verified ‘whole’ Stefan-Boltzmann equation for your own personal gain!

    “This logical error of only seeing the net energy flow and saying that is all the energy that is being radiated, rather than seeing that the energy-flow is actually bidirectional and that the colder body is radiating energy and that the hotter body is receiving it, is unfortunately what is taught. It is wrong, and it is obviously wrong. That radiation cannot be in one direction only, but must be multi-directional.”

    “This is your logical error of imagining bidirectional energy flow something that has never been observed nor measured. Such is unfortunately what is taught now since the post normal revolution. It is wrong, and it is obviously wrong.

    The random movements of the heat in a hot body are thus translated into EM radiation. The EM radiation is photons”

    The EM radiation is unidirectional power flux, which is easily rectified into electricity to do work, or stored as electrical energy; Such is also converted into chemical energy by lower radiance plants.

    “We can receive and convert this radiation even from something that is at a lower temperature (as measured using a thermometer or thermocouple) than the receiving device.”

    Can you please show even one demonstration of such nonsense!

    “It is definitely heretical to say that the 2LoT is wrong. However, it only applies to conducted heat and not to radiated heat.”
    True as there ts no such thing as ‘radiated heat’, only EMR flux.

    ” If we recognize that loophole, then we can drive a truck through it. Literally. In the meantime, though, I expect people will be upset about the idea that a theory can be wrong when it has stood for 150-odd years. However, there it is, and that faith that 2LoT is absolutely unbreakable has stopped most people from even trying to find the error.”

    No such loophole only your Richard Goody fantasy\brainwashing that you refuse to correct!
    All the best! -will-

  38. pearce m. schaudies says: 21 April 2017 at 12:07 pm
    “@All- OT, but china bombers an fighter planes on full alert. 8am edt. Minister of Future”

    Thank you! Any clue as to intended targets?

  39. pearce m. schaudies says:

    @Will- article didn’t mention, but suggested NoKorea may do another missle launch 25 Apr, mil holiday.
    Stay tuned, heh. Also Russian troops gathering NoKo border.
    Minister of Future.

  40. Will – have you ever heard of photons? Have you looked up what a nantenna does? This is mainstream physics, and is in Wikipedia. As is the speed of light…. Time does pass during the transition of the photons. If you stick to 19th century ideas you’ll get 19th century answers, and thus you’ll see no way to rectify the photon energy for re-use. If you’ve used a scintillator or a photomultiplier, then you will know that we can detect individual photons, whereas if you’re using wave equations then you would not expect quantisation to occur.

    You can find examples of how to make a nantenna and the measurements from it at http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/handle/1903/13528/Yesilkoy_umd_0117E_13795.pdf if you want to – this is a doctoral thesis (pdf download) from 2012. I’m working on what should be a higher-power idea, and with a bit of luck should know this year as to just how much power we can harvest from environmental heat. This is obviously possible, since it’s been done by a number of people. The problem is only in getting a useful amount of power in the watts to KW range without the device being too expensive.

  41. E.M.Smith says:

    Um, we have an open Korea thread. Can we keep the Korea events and discussion there?

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2017/04/16/korea-a-legal-context/

  42. Simon Derricutt says: 21 April 2017 at 4:45 pm
    “Will – have you ever heard of photons? Have you looked up what a nantenna does? This is mainstream physics, and is in Wikipedia. As is the speed of light…. Time does pass during the transition of the photons.”

    Yes and yes! The so called ‘photon’ is some imaginary four-space EMR energy density sufficient to overcome the work function of “emitting an electron” for some mass at some temperature. For room temperature Ni that is about 5-7 cycles of 450 nanometer (nm)em flux., At the lower quantum level 550 nm flux the four space energy density is not sufficient for such electron emission..
    The nantenna is a room temperature tunneling device that can detect 10,6 micron emitted from a CO2 laser with 10^6 higher ‘radiance’! So what?

    Time itself is relativistic! Germanium (Ge) with an optical index of 4 appears to delay the passage of 10 micron wavelength amplitude modulation. Is that because the distance through Ge is four times the Ge thickness measured in air! Or is it because speed of flux is four times slower in Ge?
    All the best! -will-

  43. E.M.Smith says: 21 April 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Um, we have an open Korea thread. Can we keep the Korea events and discussion there?

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2017/04/16/korea-a-legal-context/

    OK!

  44. Simon Derricutt says: 21 April 2017 at 4:45 pm
    “If you stick to 19th century ideas you’ll get 19th century answers, and thus you’ll see no way to rectify the photon energy for re-use. If you’ve used a scintillator or a photomultiplier, then you will know that we can detect individual photons, whereas if you’re using wave equations then you would not expect quantization to occur.”

    How condescending! Most 19th century demonstrations are currently reproducible. Doped silicon (Si) has since 1955,. always rectified incident EM flux at wavelengths less than 3 microns. This is used to charge batteries all over the world. I have not personally observed any ‘action’ by the energy of one cycle of EM flux. Electron microscope images of 10 Kelvin (Me:Cd:Te) surface detectors does indicate, minority carrier generation, at very few cycles of EM flux.
    Have you found even one error in what I have posted? What is it? Can you explain such error in physical\measurable terms? Do you only call such an ‘error’ because it conflicts with your religious beliefs?

    “You can find examples of how to make a nantenna and the measurements from it at http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/handle/1903/13528/Yesilkoy_umd_0117E_13795.pdf if you want to – this is a doctoral thesis (pdf download) from 2012.”

    Thank you! I find no error in what he has measured, His claims not so much!

    ” I’m working on what should be a higher-power idea, and with a bit of luck should know this year as to just how much power we can harvest from environmental heat. This is obviously possible, since it’s been done by a number of people. The problem is only in getting a useful amount of power in the watts to KW range without the device being too expensive.”

    I wish you much luck in demonstrating EMR flux (power) in a direction of higher ‘radiance’ at any frequency!.! You are going to need it! -will-

  45. Will – the appearance of condescension is simply a mirror; re-read what you wrote. You are sticking to the idea of an un-quantised flux which mostly gives the right answers if you ask questions it can cope with, whereas I’m working on the measured reality that EM energy is emitted in packets (photons) that carry a specific quantum of energy. Those photons travel at the speed of light and therefore are logically separate from the source as soon as they are emitted. There will be no exchange of information between two entities where one is moving away from the other at c. A single photon thus will not tell you what temperature the source of it was. It is simply a moving packet of energy that also acts as if it is a particle.

    In a PV, the incident photons will knock electrons across the band-gap leaving a hole behind, and the electron/hole pair is split by the inbuilt electrical field, giving a current. This is not rectification of a wave, and if you make the PV area small then you can track the incidence of an individual photon. For MerCaT sensors, the band-gap is of the order of 100meV, and so photons above this energy will produce a current at around 100mV. Since the internal heat will also produce this current, in use they are cooled to liquid Nitrogen temperatures and the circuit needs to calibrate out that base current in order to see the signal from the incident IR. If instead you run the MerCaT sensor (they cost around $1500 last I looked) at room temperature, it will develop power in the pW range, and this power will be produced from the environmental energy. It breaks 2LoT, and if you have the money you can test this. The die size is either 0.5mm² or 1mm², so the power produced is somewhat small and very expensive, but it is there and is measurable.

    The problem of 2LoT has bothered me for over 40 years, and it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve come to the understanding of why it normally works and the existence of the loophole for radiated heat (photons). Your rejection of the idea is not unreasonable as such – it is always taught that there is no way around it. Though there is experimental evidence that it can easily be broken, this is not seen for what it is because of the faith in 2LoT – anyone who points out that the emperor is naked is shouted down. As such, the only real way to prove my point is to make something that exploits the loophole and produces an undeniable quantity of energy and in the process cools below the lowest temperatures it can see.

    This doesn’t need luck, just using a theory that more-closely describes what actually happens. All theories are “the best we know so far”, and we have a lot of evidence that solar panels do actually work (you can buy them in the hardware store). If we use a semiconductor with a small-enough band-gap, then we can convert the longer wavelengths into available power in exactly the same way as we currently convert visible and near-IR light. Actually making something that does this is a technical problem rather than going against theory.

  46. A C Osborn says:

    Mr Derricot, I have to agree with Will, you have come across as a condescending Know it All.
    Your last explanation is very enlightening, you admit that these devices are producing “background noise” levels of power.
    The mere fact that you have to freeze the device to get more measurable amounts immediately reinforces the traditional position in as much that you have created conditions of a massive Temperature difference from ambient.
    There have been many controlled experiments that show that the only useful work that can be obtained from DWILR is to convert a Solar Still or Oven in to a DWILR Refrigerator. ie you can COOL objects using nothing but DWILR. It cannot be used to “warm” anything.

  47. A C Osborn – the MerCaT devices are normally cooled in order that they perform the function they were designed for, which is measuring incident radiant IR. If you don’t cool them, then the power they produce from their own temperature overwhelms the wanted signal. Where they are at ambient temperatures, they will produce a small amount of power and will also cool themselves very slightly.

    I’m giving practical experimental evidence of this, and Will replied with a theoretical reason why it can’t happen. He also used an old theory from before we knew about photons and quantum theory. Experimental evidence trumps theory, as Feynman said. The essential problem is how you can turn random-direction energy into a unidirectional energy again. We do already have technologies that perform this function, with nantenna arrays being the easiest to understand (it’s much the same as a TV aerial and diode at a much smaller scale) and solar cells being a bit harder.

    It is somewhat difficult to persuade people that such a well-established rule as the 2LoT has a loophole and that we’ve been using that loophole for a while without recognising it. Even (now) Dr. Yesilkov talked about harvesting the LWIR from ambient temperatures without mentioning the fact that doing that breaks 2LoT, and she produced the measurements that experimentally prove that it can be done. We can recycle the energy in the environment to give us usable power, but the currently-available methods of doing that are very low-power (and expensive) and thus not that useful practically. Getting more-useful amounts of power is now a technical problem, but solving it requires that we recognise the nature of the problem and that it is not theoretically impossible.

    The reason for explaining this here is that since we can recycle energy, then it’s not something we’re going to “run out of” either. At the moment, solar cells could provide enough power to run our society, but of course they only produce power when the Sun shines. Without a cheap and high-capacity storage we can’t run 24/7. Environmental heat is however available 24/7 and does not need long-term storage. Since I know of several people working on devices to harvest environmental heat in various ways (which all therefore are against 2LoT) and a couple of those are looking good, I’d expect that within the next 5 years or so you should be able to buy such a device to run your house. We’re thus very close to the point where we won’t need to burn fuel to produce power, and where such power will be almost free (buy the device once and get power for life). Though this sounds like science-fiction, the experimental evidence at low power levels is already available. We just need to push the current technology from the mW level to a few orders of magnitude higher.

  48. M Simon says:

    Exponential population growth? I don’t think so. When per capita income goes above $x,xxx a year (the number used to be $4,000 – it could be a bit more these days) reproduction goes to a break even level. Above that population declines eventually.

    The answer to the population “problem” is more resources.

    Resource use peaks and then it declines.

  49. E.M.Smith says:

    @M. Simon:

    There are vast excess resources already. It isn’t MORE resources that are needed, it is distribution of those excess resources such that the poor become middle class… when the poor of Nigeria have enough money from the national oil wealth, the birth rate will drop. As long as the corrupt government prevents that and the wealth accumulates in a few top players hands at major oil companies and political players, population grows until, well a Venezula like mess happens…

  50. Larry Ledwick says:

    The only retirement insurance for the poor subsistence farmer is a lot of children. That is the cause of exponential growth in populations. Once the average person has a reasonable possibility of not starving on a street corner when they are too old to work birth rate drops to the level that satisfies the nurturing need of men and women who want to and can afford to have children. For the poor children are either the intentional effort to ensure survival or the accidental consequence of relationships.

    It helps birth rate if there is also a cultural demand for children and suppresses birthrate when there is a cultural demand for being free and independent and unencumbered by children. The sum of those drives determines birth rate.

  51. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry:

    Quite true. (Somewhere in a box I have a paper I wrote on it in college – about the demise of the population growth vs Social Security meaning you didn’t need kids to support you in your old age as you could leach off other’s kids. Why take the personal cost of raising kids if you could poach other folks kids money…)

    But THE one thing that correlates most with low birth rate is educational level of women. (It incorporates some of your points – like you don’t go to college if you don’t have food and some income security).

    The unfortunate fact is that the more education, the fewer children. As an inevitable consequence of this, smart women are removed from the gene pool (either by having no children or having genetic swamping from the dumb ones with 10 kids…)

    The end game of this will be stronger sexual dimorphism (since somebody will need to be smart enough to keep society running and that only leaves men) with dumber women and smarter (potentially more cynical and dominant) men.

    (Hey, don’t blame me. I just report that facts, not advocate them. Want to fix it? Then tell your smart women friends to have more kids.)

    In those cases where both sexes become dominated by dumb, those societies will collapse or be overrun by those that don’t and they will be extirpated. So you end up back at the same place in the end.

    Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly…), the Islamic culture keeps women uneducated and has high male dominance, also high birth rates. So most likely they will come to dominate any culture that advocates for lots of “women’s equality” and sends the bright ones to college and work…

    Again, don’t like it? Then act to change it. “Reality just is” and that is the reality of things as they stand now.

  52. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve been standing aside from the 2nd Law Th. Debate since it is one of those things that can go on forever… but this point is nagging at me to be said.

    S.B. Law says a spectrum of energy is emitted. That means some photons have below ambient energy and some fewer have above.

    Nothing prevents intercepting those higher energy photons and making electrons move rather than returning to molucules moving (heat).

    It is quantum mechanical randomness pumping some photons higher, coupled with selectively returning those photons to electron volts rather than molecule motion that enables energy harvesting from ambient IR.

    Note this does NOT create energy. It sorts into some electrical that can be pumped up hill, and some molecules getting colder as they only get to absorbe lower energy photons after emitting higher.

    Like an inertial water pump (ram pump) that with no power supply connected, can turn lots of momentum of water at low pressure, into a little water at high pressure that seems like magic… but in fact just converts lots of low head into a little high head… slowing the average flow and energy a bit in the process.

  53. R. de Haan says:

    Talking about water…fascinating.

  54. E.M.Smith says:

    Yes, fascinating video. But is it true? The claims are extraordinary…

    Yet if true it would explain homeopathy, and many folks claim to have seen it work.

    My only “What?” Moment involves their EM. Sensor. It is a standard stick on magnetic coil for telephone recording by the looks of it. About 20 Hz to 15,000 Hz max. If water were commonly humming in the audio range, I would have expected someone to notice by now… If E.M. fields in that range caused polymerase to make DNA things, I would expect every musician and telephone addict to be a mutant. So clearly something is missing…

    The most likely explanation is an error. DNA contamination. Stray EM fields. All sorts of things. They seem bothered by the lights, but not the laptop that puts out enough AM EM signal to screw up radios in the same room.

    In the end, I’m very skeptical. But wish them well in the research. I’d like to see some work with much more precise and accurate EM gear to show just what those signsls are, and inside a metal room with only DC Incandescent lighting… the test gear similarly shielded or remotely connected.

  55. p.g.sharrow says:

    Yes, thanks to the works of Tesla as well as the EMF pulses of lightning discharges and the RF output our nearby star, we live in a soup of energies. Add to this the electrostatic warpage that is gravity, small wonder that modern equipment can detect things not understood…pg

  56. p.g.sharrow says:

    I should have added there is a point where physics and psychics meet. By the very nature of things, everything has an EMF soul created by the charge fields of the material that is made of. This soul signature can be modified through impressing “intent” in it. …pg

  57. A C Osborn says:

    P G you might be interested in this new piece of “Electric Universe” information.

    https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/when-swarm-met-steve/

    Quite fascinating, a temperature jump or 3000 degrees C is an awful amount of energy conversion.

  58. EM – about your nagging point…. At room temperature, photons are actually produced of high-enough energy that a standard Silicon solar panel will translate them into electricity. Unfortunately, this is somewhat hard to measure since there are only around 18 photons per square metre per second at that relatively high (~0.9eV) level. The general point is however valid, and quantum physics quite often produces answers that are initially counter-intuitive to classical physics but nevertheless actually work. Though it would be nice if more people saw the loopholes, since then I’d be able to go out and buy a device rather than get the kit together to make one, I figure most people will only be convinced by that commercially-available device. As such, the argument, such as it is, will be finished in a few years anyway.

  59. M Simon says:

    Islamic culture? Even it is having birth rate problems.

    http://www.newenglishreview.org/Ibn_Warraq/Demographics:_Why_Islamic_Societies_are_Dying/

    Review of a book by David Goldman (Spengler)

  60. M Simon says:

    p.g.sharrow says:
    23 April 2017 at 5:15 am

    Intent? This is the age of Will.

  61. M Simon says:

    A C Osborn says:
    23 April 2017 at 10:03 am

    3000°C is equivalent to a change of about .26 eV.

  62. M Simon says:

    Want to fix it? Then tell your smart women friends to have more kids.

    That is what I told my wife. 4 Kids.

  63. M Simon says:

    Simon Derricutt says:
    22 April 2017 at 2:26 pm

    The second question to ask after “is it possible” is hardly ever mentioned.

    “Is it economical?”

    “What are the odds it will EVER be economical?”

    Zero point energy is real. It has been measured. The odds of it ever being economical are very near zero.

    So let us posit a “dark” space of 1 cu m. at 25°C. How many greater than .9 eV photons will be in that space? How many per second will be collected by a photocell? (How many photons are normal to the cell).

    Is it feasible to make a refrigerator by extracting >.9eV photons from a 25°C space? How long would it take to cool 1Kg to 0°C? Assuming the box and photocell are zero mass.

  64. E.M.Smith says: 23 April 2017 at 2:28 am
    “I’ve been standing aside from the 2nd Law Th. Debate since it is one of those things that can go on forever… but this point is nagging at me to be said.”

    I agree with ‘go on for ever’, but perhaps it should; the equivalent of ‘I do not know’! Please consider the Rudy Clausius version of the LAW, “stuff don spontaneously go uphill”.
    The ‘does not spontaneously proceed’, seems to have an agreed upon ‘meaning’, although a negative. Can we agree on that meaning for some construction of a law? The reason I ask is because, that would leave only ‘stuff’ and ‘uphill’ to ponder ’till hell freezes over’. What is the ‘stuff’ and ‘uphill’ that Rudy pondered?

    E.M.Smith says: “S.B. Law says a spectrum of energy is emitted. That means some photons have below ambient energy and some fewer have above.”

    Such ‘law’ was created by Wm Connolley while corrupting the ‘S.B. equation” for Wikipedia!! The Stefan Boltzmann equation, by Boltzmann never Conolley, remains useful for calculating the upper limit of ‘thermal’ radiative EMR flux in the direction of lower radiance at all and every frequency attributed to the sensible heat of matter, via the product of two human unphysical concepts (specific heat times temperature).
    What can you possibly mean by either “photons” or “ambient energy”? Do your ‘blue’ photons have more accumulated power than your ‘red’ photons; or only the same accumulated power within a lesser time interval (assuming somehow relativistic time). Can you even define energy: or is power\energy\action ‘only’ some different POV of ‘time’? Time exist only before “now” the future is all 1/time!

    E.M.Smith says: “Nothing prevents intercepting those higher energy photons and making electrons move rather than returning to molecules moving (heat).”

    So true! If your so called thermal ‘photon’, is ever emitted in the direction of higher ‘radiance’; thermally (temperature at that frequency). Never ever been observed nor measured.

    E.M.Smith says: “It is quantum mechanical randomness pumping some photons higher, coupled with selectively returning those photons to electron volts rather than molecule motion that enables energy harvesting from ambient IR.”

    Quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics, deal only with ‘probability’, never statistical randomness.. If Planck’s equation determines;the maximum spectral flux’ in a direction of zero opposing spectral radiance. than any returning absorbed spectral flux ‘must’ oversuscribe the probility of such quantum event. QED -> BS

    E.M.Smith says: “Note this does NOT create energy. It sorts into some electrical that can be pumped up hill, and some molecules getting colder as they only get to absorbe lower energy photons after emitting higher.”

    Please notice the graphs of Plank’s ‘radiance'(field strength vs frequency vs temperature (sensible heat)) At no frequency is the ‘radiance’ lower for increasing temperature. Many, many scamers normalize that to peak spectral radiance with temperature.What a hoot!

    E.M.Smith says: “Like an inertial water pump (ram pump) that with no power supply connected, can turn lots of momentum of water at low pressure, into a little water at high pressure that seems like magic… but in fact just converts lots of low head into a little high head… slowing the average flow and energy a bit in the process.”

    Why the claim of “inertial”? For the water jet cutters the lovely ‘tool’ transformed city water pressure x mass flow rate (work) into 60,000 PSI potential work, but with almost no mass flow.

    That ‘tool’ did the job, but had obseine efficency! Mostly such genersted sensible heat (entropy) that must be spontaniously dispached to low radiance ‘space’ by atmospheric EMR. If not so dispatched to space, the entropy must accumulates, (so called conservation of energy) truly causing some CAGW, however that does not happen!
    All the best! -will-

  65. M Simon says: 23 April 2017 at 3:06 pm

    “So let us posit a “dark” space of 1 cu m. at 25°C. How many greater than .9 eV photons will be in that space? How many per second will be collected by a photocell? (How many photons are normal to the cell).”

    Interesting conjecture! Your 0.9 ev is the apparent power density of EMR at a wavelength of one micron, energy density within one cycle, what are the 3 dimensional units of length with such a concept? If time itself is relativistic such remains fantasy\conjecture! This physical is totality different. If this nice horsey (good girl) transfers her gravitational mass to the front hoof that happens to be on your inside toes\foot, please deny the pain! another earthling concept!
    What can you do about it? You can pray for a near apple, more interesting to nice horsey than your pain!

  66. M Simon says:

    Will,

    I think Maxwell’s Demon ought to get an honorable mention.

  67. E.M.Smith says:

    @Will:

    In QM some energy states do go “uphill”. It is a distribution. That is the key bit. On average nothing net goes up hill, but in particulars, some do.

    BTW, I’m not relying on Wikis. Take a look at:

    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/mod6.html#c3

    Beyond that, the rest will have to wait. I can’t multitask it with watching Spanish news and the coverage on Venezuela is compelling right now.

  68. M.Simon – at 0.9eV there’s so little radiation from room-temperature it’s not worth looking at, practically. It is calculable, but I haven’t bothered. By the time you get below around 100meV, however, there’s enough to be worth looking at. The cost of the device is critical, as you imply, and I expect that the cost will be roughly equivalent to a high-end PV at the moment for the same power per m², with delivery of that power 24/7 (though of course less power when it’s colder, since available power scales as fourth power of absolute temperature). There would be little point in making something that was more expensive than this, after all. Projected working life is indefinite – there’s nothing to wear out, and barring manufacturing errors this should be a one-off purchase.

    Maxwell’s Daemon (and his limited-size notepad) was always an imaginary entity. It is depressingly easy to make something that demonstrates the ability to sort energy levels from an incoming wave and thus negate the Daemon argument. Even the humble diode is such a device. Give me a wave and a way of rectifying it, and I’ll give you power.

    I wouldn’t have mentioned it on EM’s blog if I hadn’t done the calculations, since inaccurate claims would be shot down pretty quickly. All the previous attempts at free energy that I’ve looked at are failures because they try to deal with random-direction energy in bulk and the statistical probabilities end up as even, whereas if you change the method to dealing with each individual energy-transaction one-by-one you can affect the probability of each transaction to change the direction of the energy to the desired direction. Creating energy seems to be impossible, but redirecting energy that’s already there is something we do as a matter of course. Incidentally I’m not certain about the ZPE experiments, and I suspect that any claimed positive results may be a redirection of energy that is already there rather than creation of energy. It’s easy to fall into confirmation bias, and the results may be real while the explanation for them is wrong. When you’re working at dimensions for the Casimir gap, you’re also working at distances comparable to the mean-free-path of atmospheric air, and thus we might expect non-random reflections to happen.

    As far as I can tell, devices that use conducted heat will be limited by 2LoT since I can’t see a way to bias the individual energy transactions to rectify the available energy. To produce a unidirectional flow of energy (which is what we need in order to do work) you’ll need a hot sink and a cold sink, and to allow the energy to do what it naturally does which is move from the hotter to the colder volume. For radiated energy, though, any body above absolute zero will radiate photons, and those photons can be both redirected and turned into electrical energy fairly easily. We’ve had the technology to do this for many years, and the only reason I can see that we haven’t made specific devices to give us usable power from room-temperature radiation is the belief that it’s impossible.

  69. E.M.Smith says:

    I notice you refer to the 0.7 vdc band gap of silicon in your examples. But there are many lower band gaps
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_semiconductor_materials

    Lists some alloys, like mercury zink telluride, have zero band gap and grey tin at 0.08 ev. I presume your device uses one of the very low band gap materials (and finds a way past their technical challenges)?

    Down at 0.0x range band gap the population of photons energetic enough to harvest ought to be large enough to be of interest.

  70. hE.M.Smith says: 24 April 2017 at 5:33 am

    “@Will: In QM some energy states do go “uphill”. It is a distribution. That is the key bit. On average nothing net goes up hill, but in particulars, some do.”

    Perhaps in nuclear decay but never electromagnetic radiant flux. For any EMR flux “uphill is in a direction of higher electromagnetic field strength, “radiance” when normalized to fourspace. This is only the potential for flux, never flux itself. The power part the magnetic field as limited by the reactive permittivity and permeability of local space and any opposing radiance at each and every frequency. The flux though quantized by (hv) is never emitted in a direction of higher radiance as both the probability emission plus absorption at the SB sigma would oversuscribe quantum probability for such an event.
    With nuclear decay only the gamma rays are EMR with no rest mass but with an apparent brightness temperature of several million Kelvin. The emission of EMR flux whether thermal or powered in a direction of higher radiance at any frequency has never ever been measured or even detected!
    The fantasy of thermal EMR flux proportional to own T^4 without regard surround temperature is indeed the crux of the CAGW scam! Without this fantasy of atmosphere radiating flux to a higher temperature surface the CAGW mime disappears.
    The Planck equation is a Bose-Einstein distribution; but a distribution of ‘what’ under what circumstances? See that factor hv/(e^(hv/kt)-1) Evaluate that over the range of frequencies and temperatures of your choice. See if you can find any frequency (v) except zero where such evaluates to a lower value with increasing temperature. This is the scaled expression for spectral radiance. Even in space where the fake ‘two-stream’ gives the same answer as the limited single stream flux. There is no frequency where the uphill radiance is not greater. There is no ‘particular’ that ‘may’ go uphill. Note: no thermodynamics was used at all, ‘only’ quantum electrodynamics! the specialty of Dr. Richard Phillips Feynman!

    E.M.Smith says: 24 April 2017 at 3:17 pm
    “Down at 0.0x range band gap the population of photons energetic enough to harvest ought to be large enough to be of interest.”

    These tri-metals are not diodes and have not a band gap The 0.09ev work function, needed for 10 micron detection is the power density needed to generate a minority carrier from lattice defects. They do not generate any power but both voltage and current are required to detect such events. Near room temperature the Nyquist noise completely swamps any GR effects. You would be better off using a resistor that can generate thermal noise with sufficient AC power to operate a lower temperature device.

  71. EM – yes, I’m using a very low band-gap material, where there is a reasonable amount of power to harvest. I think I know and have solved the technical challenges, but I won’t know for certain till the job is done. There may be an excessive amount of recombination because of the crystal structure, but I think there’s a way around that if it happens. Using a PV may not be the best way to convert environmental energy, but the construction is relatively simple. Other methods require micron-scale engineering or smaller, and would thus need a very large investment up-front.

    An example of a commercially-available PV is made from Tellurium-doped Mercury-Cadmium alloy. Nasty stuff and hard to deal with, but produces around 100mV using a PN junction.

  72. Simon Derricutt says: 24 April 2017 at 10:42 pm

    “An example of a commercially-available PV is made from Tellurium-doped Mercury-Cadmium alloy. Nasty stuff and hard to deal with, but produces around 100mV using a PN junction.”

    Sorry Hg:Cd:Te detector material is not photo-voltaic, and has no PN junction. It is a surface detector with photo-conductive gain down down to 27 Kelvin, liquid neon temperature. With the proper recipe can have a work function of less than 0.07 ev! Why don’t you go talk to the folk that use such devices. BTW; at room temperature the stuff has the consistency of a banana!

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