Light Friday: Why Overpopulation Will Not Destroy the Planet
October 4, 2013
As human beings increase their lifespan with advanced medical technology and better understanding of care for the body, could we approach a point where the Earth simply cannot support the global population? A recent io9 article suggests: no.
The impact of every human life is growing, and the population of those living, breathing footprints is growing, concerning scientists about the ability of the planet to support human life. Numerous factors complicate the problem further: humans generate trash, use pollutants and fossil fuels, require space to live, and require farmland for sustenance.
As io9 suggests, we will deal with “perpetual population growth” in a variety of ways, many of them socially inspired. For instance, as gender equality improves, more women will pursue careers and forgo reproduction, leading to a small but significant lowering of global birthrate.
Finding places to live is relatively simple. Researchers have developed concepts of “arcologies,” or megacity pyramids, which would stretch populations skyward in an optimized shape and space. Additionally, other researchers have developed methods of expanding underground, or expanding up even further -- into space stations.
Sustainable power generation can help power these planned megacities, which can provide agricultural production through vertical farming as well. And the prospect of nanomolecular food production or 3D printing your dinner is approaching reality.
To read the entire fascinating article about humanity’s plans for coping with population expansion, see here.
Focus 192 laser beams in billionth-of-a-second pulses inside a cryogenetically cooled, hollow cylinder the size of a pencil eraser that holds a tiny capsule containing two hydrogen isotopes.
The result: the isotopes implode at temperatures and pressures much like those found at the center of the sun.
Creating such a mini-star on Earth is basically the concept of a fusion reaction, a much-hoped-for means of producing energy that is getting closer to reality. Researchers at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California report that they have made great strides in achieving a stable fusion reaction since 2010 when experiments began. However, at least one significant obstacle needs to be overcome, they say.
The “major hurdle” in question is the premature breaking apart of the capsule containing the isotopes, John Edwards, an NIF associated director, explained on the phys.org website.
A goal is to attain ignition, the point at which fusion produces more energy than is needed to initiate the reaction. To reach ignition, the laser beams create an “X-ray oven” inside the cylinder which implodes the two isotopes, deuterium and tritium (D-T).
“What we want to do is use the X-rays to blast away the outer layer of the capsule in a very controlled manner, so that the D-T pellet is compressed to just the right conditions to initiate the fusion reaction,” Edwards said.
He told phys.org that his team is attempting to design an improved, stronger capsule. If successful, it should lead to further advances toward a controlled ignition, he said.
From the dustbin of Cold War ideas to pulverize those Commies in the Soviet Union comes this gem: the Pluto Project.
Engineers designed the project, dubbed “the Flying Crowbar,” as what might be described as a nuclear-powered cruise missile that could single-handedly decimate an entire country and its inhabitants, according to the Jalopnik website.
The locomotive-size missile would be capable of thundering across the planet at supersonic speed at tree-top altitude and deliver a payload of 16 or more hydrogen bombs. And it could stay aloft indefinitely, thanks to its nuclear-reactor engine.
This doomsday machine was even deadlier in that it spewed radioactive exhaust. It could therefore unleash its arsenal of bombs and then continue to fly above its targets, dusting any survivors with deadly radiation. Of course, that presented the problem of launching and flying the weapon across the U.S. or Europe and leaving radiation sickness in its wake.
Still, it was considered quite an engineering feat. Despite successful tests of its so-called ramjet engine, the Pentagon deemed the Pluto Project too provocative and cancelled it in 1964, seven years after it began. It was feared that if the weapon came off the drawing board, the Soviets would come up with one of their own.
For most of us, a “quick” health check-up usually involves what seems like a never ending wait at the doctor’s office followed by a succession of old school medical devices that take our vital signs. But patients who visit Sharp’s medical pod -- a device that looks like a cross between a salon dryer chair and a simulated ride -- find out their weight, pulse, blood pressure, temperature and oxygen saturation in the blood, all at once, in a more futuristic setting.
Although the health pod looks ultra modern from the outside, a person's blood pressure is taken the old-fashioned way: a cuff on the arm. The results involve no paperwork though, with vitals projected on 3 flat screen displays in front of the patient.
The pod prototype was available for testing at the Cutting-Edge IT & Electronics Comprehensive Exhibition in Japan (CEATEC), which runs through October 5, and IDG News Service was there to see how it works. In the future, these pods could be used at gyms or at healthcare departments at companies, and maybe, one day, they will cut out all that waiting time.