...or maybe "Outside the Globe" would be more accurate.
Bret Cahil has recently posted three different thoughts/questi 1. What's the cheapest way to move Mississippi River water West across the great divide?
- The water Bret's drinking now is 15,000 year old ice melt - not exactly a renewable resource.
- The folks at NIAC/NASA want to find cheap ways to get stuff into space.
To answer such questions, or to address such concerns and needs, engineers (and the civilization that depends on engineering) tend to think in terms of new technologies, inventions, or methods, to solve the problems which are piled on our desks right now. What we DON'T seem to do often enough (in my personal opinion) is look deeply and carefully at WHY our problems and challenges exist, or whether they might not BE problems or challenges if we just looked at them from different perspectives.
Water ALREADY moves from the Mississippi to the West Coast - for free. It flows down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, then is evaporated into the air, and carried westward by the prevailing Easterly winds in the tropics. Then it falls as rain into the Pacific Ocean, or in other places whose rivers eventually drain into the Pacific. The Pacific, which is the largest body of water on Earth, literally rolls right up onto the shores of the Western-most US states. Those states already HAVE more water, right in their own back yards, than anybody in the Mississppi valley could ever hope for. The REAL problem is that the water gets mixed with salt during the delivery process.
Ice melt IS a renewable resource. We just need to be real patient about the renewal rate. Glaciers and ice-caps have come and gone countless times during Earth's history; and they'll very likely come and go countless times in the future.
NIAC/NASA doesn't really need a cheap way to get stuff into space. There's already stuff in space. Most of it, as a matter of fact. The real issue, if NIAC/NASA were to state it accurately, is to get some very specific kinds of stuff out of Earth's atmostphere and gravity well, so that it can be used for purposes that NIAC/NASA thinks are important at the moment, or in the near future.
We, as a species and a civilization, seem to think that if Mohomed won't go to the mountain, then we should figure out how to move the mountain to Mohamed. That's NEVER the cheapest, easiest, or most efficient way to do things.
Where I live, in Eastern Pennsylvania, most of our water comes from rivers, which are fed by plentiful and relatively constant rainfall - the ideal situation. But even here, I can't drink the river water. It has to be treated and cleaned and purified - at substantial cost, and with conisderable commitments of capital, energy, space, and long-term planning. Even the water needed for livestock, industrial processes, or to irrigate farmlands, often needs to be a lot cleaner than most of our major rivers, and to be free of certain kinds of crud and poisons. So water treatment is a fact of modern life. And even in places where human pollution isn't the problem, nature herself often needs some help (from a human perspective, anyway). Old-growth forests - which many people imagine to be perfect, pristine examples of Earth in it's best and most hospitable form, are often populated by hemlock trees, which poison rivers with tannic acid, and make it unfit for human consumption. Water treatment systems, even in "God's country", are pretty common.
If we're willing to spend money, energy, planning, real-estate, and more, to treat the water that falls on our heads, then maybe we should think carefully about doing the same kind of thing with the water that splashes over our feet when we walk on a beach. De-salting sea water might be a whole lot cheaper, and more reasonable, than trying to work directly and incessantly AGAINST nature's own plans for how and where water ought to travel.
Glaciers are going to melt anyway - at least till we get to the end of the current ice-age, and see the re-cooling that signals the beginning of another one. So, we might as well drink the water and consider ourselves lucky. What we probably SHOULDN'T be doing is spending non-renewable resources like oil to move water around unnecessarily, and to produce pollution that might screw up nature's normal cycles. We could cause more problems than we solve.
Getting stuff into space is a foolish idea. What we really need is to strap Mohamed to a rocket and send HIM into space, so he can use all the stuff that's already there. If we have to send some air and water and tools along with him - just to get things rolling - then that's ok; but we shouldn't confuse short-term expediency with real, serious, long-range plans for the exploration and exploitation of space.
Someone once said that pollution is just resources in the wrong place. There's wisdom in that, because it's an example of thinking about how and why things got like they are; before attempting to figure out the best way to change them. It's important, for engineers in particualr, to practice looking at things in ways that aren't driven only by short-term, near-sighted ideas about what we think we need at any particular instant. Sometimes - maybe even most of the time - we'd do a lot better to think about the big picture first, and THEN to engineer solutions that are truly efficient, and truly conistent with our overall needs and goals as a species.
KG __ I'm sick of spam. The 2 in my address doesn't belong there.