Friday, December 31, 2010

Climate change

This assumes we just stop outputting CO2 at some point and are passive. But humans are anything but passive, this is what got us into this mess in the first place.
So the article doesn't take into things like sequestration and other active attempts to reverse the trend.
I am confident in 50 year we will be able to completely re-terraform earth back to normal.
We will be able to deliberately control the amount of atmospheric gases, solar radiation reaching earth, and chemistry of the oceans and become the masters of our climate.

Why do I think this?

GA, AI, super computers.

And progress in Material science, renewable energy, Self replicating robotics, genetics and artificially accelerated evolution, Computational chemistry and simulation of quantum molecular dynamics.
The machines (beyond computers) under human guidance will do the research needed to reverse things.
So it's will be just a matter of energy required needed to do this.
I believe it will take more power to put the CO2 back then when we released it from burning fossil fuels.

Essentially give back that energy that we used for the past 100 years + interest.

As much as I disagree with Kurzwell on many things, some parts of his Singularity theory are dead on and will be able to reverse this trend.
So getting fusion working, space solar or some other massive power source going is critical to do this.
The key here is to use the amount of available resources as best as possible to devise future solutions before we get wiped out as a species.

I have faith that technology will save us.
But it may get a lot worse before it gets better.

Project - Mc Lab / Magic Chemist, in a Box.

Maybe I was a bit naive when I drafted this. Or maybe I am just lacking the right letters after my name.

Project - Mc Lab
Magic Chemist, in a Box.
John L. Sokol - Jan 2009

Magic Chemist, in a Box is the simplest way to explain something that is right out of Star Trek. Magic Chemist is a supercomputer that explores chemical space and detects new chemicals, and formulas then catalogs them in a database.
Once complete, Magic Chemist is capable of performing; a quantum simulation of the atoms in the chemicals interacting, determine the properties, existence and variation of these molecules, how they interact with other molecules. It can report their physical properties, chemical changes and stability.

More importantly it can intelligently search for chemicals that are optimal for different applications. In addition Magic Chemist will perform stimulated experiments without a lab or wet chemicals, thus preventing; fumes, toxins, disposal, regulations and human resource needs. This can and will be done with incredible speed and accuracy.

This could lead to large improvements in super conductors, semi conductor, solar cells, carbon sequestration, water purification, bio-fuels, batteries, super capacitors, paints, dyes, food and medical applications.

Is There Currently Anything On The Market Like This?
Initial research shows that there is nothing currently like this on the market. The fields of computational chemistry and computational biology use these types of simulations, however they are usually run on PCs or small computers in hopes of providing some understanding of things that have already been discovered or isolated in other research. The field of computational chemistry date back to the late 1930's and by the 1950's it was used to understand the benzene ring. Today there are about 20 off the shelf applications for running these types of simulations.

One of the largest is "protein folding at home", it uses Distributed Computing. A process where people around the world participate by leaving the application running on their PCs thus donating time to the project.

What is Unique About This Project
None of the current projects are pragmatic. In addition, they are not searching for practical profitable formulas that can revolutionize entire industries. In addition, there hasn’t much attention has been given to chemists by computer people. In general they seem to just get to borrow some CPU cycle on a super computer but don't generally get to purchase that level of hardware for just their application. However, this is currently being done by geneticist and biologists.

What Are The Steps To Achieve This?
  1. Design and build hardware capable of performing the required simulations very quickly. I estimate I can build create a 2 to 4 Petaflops for $1M USD.
  2. Log these results. (Chemical Space) of the infinite possible molecules and chemical interactions possible. This information can continuously be data mined for gems. In addition, revenues could be generated by selling copies or charging for access to the database. This would require a copyright and/or patent as well.
  3. Set the system up in a feed back loop to a targeted search for the most likely chemicals to try.

Project Financing
I am seeking $500,000 for an initial design feasibility study.

This initial design feasibility study would include further investigation of the hardware design, investigation of the code available and what needs to be written. The next step is to get demonstration code working to understand the CPU requirements of the system. We would next hire several technical consultants in the fields of physics and computational chemistry to assist and verify the accuracy of our design and plans. Ideally later these would be early hires in to our company.

The next round of financing would require another $30M in funding to proceed towards the completion of final design.

I am expecting that the first major discoveries could be within 3 to 4 years after funding, less than 12 month after turning on the system. I would like the first target to be "the" optimal dielectric for use in Super Capacitors that would replace batteries technology in almost everything from laptops to Electric vehicles. They charge almost instantly, never wear out, and are non-toxic.

Exit Strategy
Because of the nature of the project, advantages don’t lie within typical business strategies. In essence the plan is not to exit because of the value of information and discoveries produced.

This is a Golden Goose.
Supply electricity and some manpower in one side and out pops a stream of new discoveries that can be sold, licensed or rolled in to another company to produce and sell it. You will not want to patent this internal technology, publish or press release this. It would be best to keep all traces of the existence of this secret.

Compare this to a stock predictor that works, as long as no one knows about it, you have the advantage. In some respects this is like a pharmaceutical company but without the regulations. It's a long research cycle with huge payoffs. But after we discover something we could know very quickly if it will pay off or not commercially.

Responses and Addition discussions. 

Dear John,

I don't have the reference, but about a decade ago I saw an estimate  on how many petaflops it would take to solve the Material Science Inverse Problem:  i.e., input the desired characteristics of the  material, be it "transparent aluminum" from the Star Trek movie, or a super dielectric or cheap room temperature superconductor that would found an industry and make you a billionaire, and have some  supercomputer cluster grind away with numerical solutions of quantum mechanics and output the chemical formula and structure of the desired super-material.

I don't think that we're quite at the computational power needed, yet, but I'll bet we're getting close.

There are dozens of Quantum Mechanics software packages that do minimum energy and minimum entropy and so forth.

I've written a (not accepted) paper on those relevant for Computational Biology, and what is needed to break through.

We are still learning what questions to ask, as well as the design  requirements for the needed software.

This is at the fractal border between theoretical and applied and computational research.  Institutions with good track records keep submitting grant applications for this.  We, as de-institutionalized  outsiders, are pretty well kept away from the feeding trough. Except that great enough research papers can be done once in a while, and published, and then one can bid on who gets the administrative overhead for research in which one is Principal Investigator.
But cool research is cool research, and I'll do it even when somebody pays me.

Good questions, John. I know you as a prolific and brilliant inventor whose ideas you can reduce to practice, and hence you are deeper in Pragmatism than Theory.  But I've found you a quick study at Theory,


The rewards for something like this can be priceless for the Human race.  From Carbon sequestration to solar panels and all the way to construction of the space elevator.

Yea, I am winging it here on the theory, it is over my head. That why I have friends like you around.
I don't think that we're quite at the computational power needed, yet,but I'll bet we're getting close.

Digging up computational power, now this is something I can do.
And petaflops aren't that hard to reach these days, I can get there on 1 million if I build an application specific machine based on FPGA's or some sort of Cell processor like they are using for computational biology.  I agree using off the shelf PC parts wouldn't get us that far unless we did the SETI at home, where we take advantage of people's unused PC's computing power.

There are probably all kinds of short cuts we could also take too for reducing the calculations to be able to eliminate molecules that are clearly not suitable, this would also speed things up a whole lot.

I find most college code to be terrible, and inefficient unless they are specifically CS students and even then it's rare.

But if I can get some working code from some place, I can clean it up, optimize it and even work on some custom HW platform to run it.   Also Genetic Algorithms could really speed the discovery process.

I mean how much computation would be required to simulate say an H2O molecule and test it's properties?



Youtube: The Parallel Revolution Has Started: Are You Part of the Solution or Part of...   
Quantum Simulations Group at Lawrence Livermore National Labs
simulations [modeling material processes using quantum molecular dynamics methods]
For example, nanoscale materials could improve cooling technologies in military equipment and reduce the size of gamma radiation detectors being developed for homeland security.

Why sustainable power is unsustainable
Founder of IdeaLab TED speech
Used Genetic Algorithms to develop solar collector design.

Bill Gross of Idealab Talks About his Dream of Cheap Solar Power
This company
is doing something similar to what you have suggested, except that they do this internally, for the pharmaceutical industry.

GPUs Used To Crack WiFi Passwords Faster

Applications of Quantum Mechanics

computational chemistry/supra molecular polymers

Below are links relating to nanotechnology/supra molecular polymers, etc.
french patent
netherlands patent
ibm patent

article on materials applications,M1

google book

I believe Supercaps will win out over battery technology

Article: Graphene-based supercapacitor hits new energy storage high


I'd like to know about longevity. Does it continue to store energy after 100 charges or 1000 charges? No mention made of that.

Caps don't have any degradation with charge discharge cycles like batteries.

They never wear out!

There are electrolytic caps that that are used in TV's and they dry out with heat, that's not usage related.  There life is depended on the oil used evaporating and not the capacitor itself.

But a graphene based supercap can charge almost instantly. can also discharge just as fast.

Caps typically can't hold a charge as long as a battery though.  So maybe a month or two sitting idle it would loose much of it's charge where a battery would still keep it.

From a theoretical side, of a cap was made from layer of superconductor and super dielectric, then it would have an almost unlimited storage capacity, limited only be the electrical breakdown of the materials.

When I was studying materials it was interesting to find that the best dielectrics had superconducting "zones" in them that would hold repelling charges.  I didn't quite understand it all, but it seemed that it was a similar problem to making superconductors.

So I suspect a cryogenic capacitor device if developed could hold massive power.

As I mentioned in my reply that was the electrolyte causing problems in just that one type of cap. There are many types of caps most will last for ever or to be more precise do not degrade from use.  Think of a radio circuit.  The caps charge and discharge million of times per second. 

The fundamental operation of a cap is two conductors with an insulator.   The charge is determined by distance and surface area.
Nothing deteriorates.
With electrolytic the insulator is the boundary between a coated metallic surface and the electrolyte that form a super thin insulated layer in only one polarity. Before. Nanotech it was the most efficient way. Is it still dirt cheap.  Paper and foil soaked in an oily electrolyte


If there are super conductors, then are there are there super non-conductors?

Like a super dielectric?

Is this possible, what would it look like? Is cold better for dielectrics?

If this is possible then battery's are dead.

The capacitors energy storage goes up at the square of the voltage.
EEStor a vendor to GM for the volt came up with super caps that operate at 3600V while most super cap research was going for  thinner and lower voltage dielectrics.  The EEstor is the first supercap to be at 400 Watt hr per KG where Li-Ion batteries are at 200 and 1700 in the lab.

With a super dielectric we could do 1Million Volt caps that could store enough energy to power an electric vehicle for months with far higher power to weight ratios then hydrocarbons or batteries.

I had an idea to use computational chemistry to explore this, but maybe there is already something in the literature?

Dear John,

"If there are super conductors, then [are there] super non-conductors?"--JS

   Heaviside calls a "conductor" an "obstructor". It obstructs the passage of electromagnetic energy. The superconductor has a zero propagation speed for electromagnetic waves. The degree of obstruction is the ratio of the speed of light in vacuum to its speed in the dielectric- the index of refraction. This is the source of the dielectric constant, which is simply another way of expressing the index (~lost knowledge, by the way).  So THE "super" dielectric is the vacuum, since the speed of light in vacuum cannot be exceeded.

"The capacitors energy storage goes up at the square of the voltage...
With a super dielectric we could do 1Million Volt caps that could store enough energy to power an electric vehicle for months with far higher power to weight ratios then hydrocarbons or batteries." --JS

Only if it also has a "super" dielectric breakdown strength. Resend-
  It a common misconception that raising the voltage of a capacitor increases its energy storage density. This isn't true!

There are four major variables- the plate area, the gap , the dielectric constant ( a ~linear function of permittivity), and the dielectric breakdown strength, which is the maximum do-not-exceed electric field strength, in e.g. volts/meter,  for a given material.

Consider the equations for capacity and for energy stored-

(1) C = constant1*A/d  , where the constant1 is material permittivity, A is the plate area and d is plate gap, and for energy

(2) E = CV^2/2  (This is what makes increasing the voltage look very tempting.)

Substitute (1) into (2) to get

(3) E = constant2*A*V^2/d  (with the 2-factor absorbed into constant2)

Multiply through by A/A to get

(4) E = constant2* (AV)^2/Vol

 Assume that the volume of a capacitor made out of materials X and Y is proportional to its mass, i.e. constant density for any size, then

(5) Vol = A*d   (and mass = Vol* density)

Remember, to increase the voltage means that the gap, d, has to increase in linear proportion to maintain the same safety factor for a give dielectric breakdown strength.

> Only if it also has a "super" dielectric breakdown strength.

That's really what it's about a crystals (most likely) ability to resist conducting electricity and also have the mechanical strength to resist the mechanical forces to punch a hole through.

Vacuum doesn't make for a good HV capacitor.

JVP you'd appreciate this link, seems there is some geometric structures that make this material Super-K CCTO CaCu3Ti4O12 a very good dielectric, it has some interesting properties at low temperatures too.

The point of a super dielectric is to keep the gap distance as small as possible while increasing the voltage.
One article I found



>It's a common misconception that raising the voltage of a capacitor increases its energy storage density. This isn't true!

>Remember, to increase the voltage means that the gap, d, has to increase in linear proportion to maintain the same safety factor for a give dielectric breakdown strength.

The problem is with manufacturing.  With ultra thin dielectrics the smallest imperfections will kill the device.  So building thick dielectrics are less affected by defects.

 It's the difference between clean rooms where a spec of dust will kill your device vs. something that can be made in a machine shop and full of dust and debris with no affect what so ever.

I'll never forget back in High School we made a Induction heater, the powersuppy was running at over 10KV and we made a massive bank of capacitors from sheets of glass and aluminum foil.  Point being is that had we used lower voltages and thinner dielectrics then the precision and defect tolerances would have dropped accordingly.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Once-Darling Ethanol Losing Friends In High Places

From Slashdot:

"It's now conceivable, says BusinessWeek's Ed Wallace, that the myth of ethanol as the salvation for America's energy problem is coming to an end. Curiously, the alternative fuel may be done in by an unlikely collection of foes. Fervidly pro-ethanol in the last decade of his political career, former VP Al Gore reversed course in late November and apologized for supporting ethanol, which apparently was more about ingratiating himself to farmers. A week later, Energy Secretary Steven Chu piled on, saying: 'The future of transportation fuels shouldn't involve ethanol.' And in December, a group of small-engine manufacturers, automakers, and boat manufacturers filed suit in the US Court of Appeals to vacate the EPA's October ruling that using a 15% blend of ethanol in fuel supplies would not harm 2007 and newer vehicles. Despite all of this, the newly-elected Congress has extended the 45 cent-per-gallon ethanol blending tax credit that was due to expire, a move that is expected to reduce revenue by $6.25 billion in 2011. 'The ethanol insanity,' longtime-critic Wallace laments, 'will continue until so many cars and motors are damaged by this fuel additive that the public outcry can no longer be ignored.'"

African Villages Glow With Renewable Energy

From Slashdot:
"The NY Times reports that as small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries playing an epic, transformative role. With the advent of cheap solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights, which can light a room with just 4 watts of power instead of 60, these small solar systems now deliver useful electricity at a price that even the poor can afford. 'You're seeing herders in Inner Mongolia with solar cells on top of their yurts,' says energy adviser Dana Younger. In addition to small solar projects, renewable energy technologies designed for the poor include simple subterranean biogas chambers that make fuel and electricity from the manure of a few cows, and 'mini' hydroelectric dams that can harness the power of a local river for an entire village. 'It's a phenomenon that's sweeping the world; a huge number of these systems are being installed,' says Younger."

Friday, December 17, 2010

‎ Who needs Uranium when you can have "clean" Thorium?

An obscure metal that could energise our world... It's called thorium, it's eco-friendly, and there's lots of it. Many scientists say it could even replace uranium as a nuclear power source. But despite its potential, the metal is yet to gain a foothold in the market. RT's Laura Emmett explains why...