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Old 13 June 2008, 05:30 PM
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Flame Thomas Edison on solar power

Comment: Is this true?

"I'd put my money on solar energy...I hope we don't have to wait till oil
and coal run out before we tackle that." Thomas Edison, in conversation
with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, March 1931
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  #2  
Old 16 June 2008, 06:36 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Where there even any viable techonlogies for harnessing solar power in 1931?
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Old 16 June 2008, 07:42 AM
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I was suspicious that the notion of running out of oil would have even been very well formulated in the thirties, as well as the term "solar energy" (The OED lets us down in terms of tracking "solar energy" -- it doesn't include it among its collocations for "solar").

But clearly I'm very wrong. This article outlines the history of the development of solar power, and though it doesn't include the Edison quote, it shows the identical sentiment being expressed in the last third of the nineteenth century:

Quote:
The earliest known record of the direct conversion of solar radiation into mechanical power belongs to Auguste Mouchout, a mathematics instructor at the Lyce de Tours. Mouchout began his solar work in 1860 after expressing grave concerns about his country's dependence on coal. "It would be prudent and wise not to fall asleep regarding this quasi-security," he wrote. "Eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion. Coal will undoubtedly be used up. What will industry do then?" By the following year he was granted the first patent for a motor running on solar power and continued to improve his design until about 1880.
So it sounds entirely plausible that Edison might have said this in 1931.

--Logoboros
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  #4  
Old 17 June 2008, 01:14 AM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
"I'd put my money on solar energy...I hope we don't have to wait till oil
and coal run out before we tackle that." Thomas Edison, in conversation
with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, March 1931
Well, if he put $100 into solar energy in 1931 it would be worth what today? A couple pennies?
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  #5  
Old 17 June 2008, 02:41 AM
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Originally Posted by jimmy101_again View Post
Well, if he put $100 into solar energy in 1931 it would be worth what today? A couple pennies?
Heh. This is Thomas Alva Edison. We'd have a fusion-based energy economy. We'd have a Mars base. We'd have quantum computers.

We'd all have those flying cars that we were supposed to have.

And Nikola Tesla would be considered a wash-out and a might-have-been. Oh, wait...

Silas
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Old 17 June 2008, 05:46 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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So it sounds entirely plausible that Edison might have said this in 1931.
On the other hand, we have since found new oild deposits and make more efficient use of oil, so what is the relevance even if he said it?

Quote:
And Nikola Tesla would be considered a wash-out and a might-have-been. Oh, wait...
To be fair, Tesla has been re-evaluated recently and recognized as the brilliant scientist he was. Many of Edison's inventions were actually made by Tesla, for example.

What I find so amazing with Tesla was that he was not locked down into his speciality field. If he needed something outside it, he made brilliant inventions there as well, such as my favourite, the Tesla valvular conduit ( http://patimg2.uspto.gov/.piw?Docid=...iew+first+page ).
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  #7  
Old 17 June 2008, 06:44 AM
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True quote or not, I think this book is the origin of the story:
Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindbergh(p. 31)
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  #8  
Old 17 June 2008, 05:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
On the other hand, we have since found new oild deposits and make more efficient use of oil, so what is the relevance even if he said it?
Seriously? Unless I'm really misunderstanding your interpretation, this would be like saying an ancient philospher's claim statement that all men die is "irrelevant" because we've added as much as forty years onto the average lifespan since his day!

--Logoboros
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Old 17 June 2008, 05:30 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Seriously? Unless I'm really misunderstanding your interpretation, this would be like saying an ancient philospher's claim statement that all men die is "irrelevant" because we've added as much as forty years onto the average lifespan since his day!
Well, at least we've bought ourselves some time. Sometimes, that's enough for something else to come along.

Personally, I still believe that the ultimate power source would be to harness the force of continental drift.
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Old 17 June 2008, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Well, at least we've bought ourselves some time. Sometimes, that's enough for something else to come along.

Personally, I still believe that the ultimate power source would be to harness the force of continental drift.
In a way, that's what geothermal energy does, if a bit indirectly.

Has the notion, espoused by one renegade theorist (whose name I can never remember,) that oil is formed by geological processes, not by biological ones, been properly tested? I'm all but certain he's wrong, but nothing is "wrong" in science until shown to be wrong.

("A shark is not a shark if you cannot prove he is." Brecht)

Silas
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Old 17 June 2008, 08:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
In a way, that's what geothermal energy does, if a bit indirectly.

Has the notion, espoused by one renegade theorist (whose name I can never remember,) that oil is formed by geological processes, not by biological ones, been properly tested? I'm all but certain he's wrong, but nothing is "wrong" in science until shown to be wrong.

("A shark is not a shark if you cannot prove he is." Brecht)

Silas
I heard the theory. It's a tough one to 'test' though. The best I can think of would be to predict the presence of oil in places that the 'sedimentary' theory would not, and then drill there and find it.
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Old 17 June 2008, 09:50 PM
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I did hear an interview on the show Radio Lab with geneticist George Church who had made progress towards creating bacteria that excrete diesel. I don't remember what you had to feed them. But the idea was that you might ultimately be able to use bacteria to essentially synthesize petroleum products without the "millions of years" and "tons of pressure" approach.

--Logoboros
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  #13  
Old 06 October 2008, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Logoboros View Post
I did hear an interview on the show Radio Lab with geneticist George Church who had made progress towards creating bacteria that excrete diesel. I don't remember what you had to feed them. But the idea was that you might ultimately be able to use bacteria to essentially synthesize petroleum products without the "millions of years" and "tons of pressure" approach.

--Logoboros
Given that biodiesl is just moderatly filtered vegitable oil, creating backteria that create liquid vegitable fats (or animal fats now that I think of it) from either the processing of sugars or cellulose, or even from photosynthesis is not improbable in the least.

Genetic engineering has the real potential to change our world in the same way that mechanical engineering changed our world over the last 100,000 years. One hopes we don't have to wait the full 100,000 years to go from simple leavers and screws to jet engines and computers on a genetic level, but the potential is seemingly there.

Tweaking an algea or orther such single celled lifeform to produce a natural chemcial is relativly easy (the simple leaver of genetic engineering). Whether or not we can coax it into producing the chemical at a quantity and a cost we woudl find efficient is another story.
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  #14  
Old 06 October 2008, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Well, at least we've bought ourselves some time. Sometimes, that's enough for something else to come along.

Personally, I still believe that the ultimate power source would be to harness the force of continental drift.
Really? I thought it was generally accepted that the way forward is Nuclear Fusion. As soon as we crack that we're home free.
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  #15  
Old 06 October 2008, 04:19 PM
zerocool zerocool is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
In a way, that's what geothermal energy does, if a bit indirectly.

Has the notion, espoused by one renegade theorist (whose name I can never remember,) that oil is formed by geological processes, not by biological ones, been properly tested? I'm all but certain he's wrong, but nothing is "wrong" in science until shown to be wrong.

("A shark is not a shark if you cannot prove he is." Brecht)

Silas
It's called the abiogenic theory, and it's not very well regarded by most in the field. I mean, it happens, there are places where petroleum is produced abiogenically, and the chemistry for it certainly happens in the lab, but as far as I know it isn't used in the exploration and production of commercial quantities of oil. There are rumors that the Russians got somewhere with it, but I'm more involved with what's above the ground than under it, so I can't judge the truth of that. Of course it would be nice if there was lots of oil underground, continuously being generated, but I think the more likely situation is that we have (literally) burned through millions of years of organic deposits in a less than two hundred years...
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Old 06 October 2008, 04:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dactyl View Post
Really? I thought it was generally accepted that the way forward is Nuclear Fusion. As soon as we crack that we're home free.
That's a big "as soon"
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  #17  
Old 06 October 2008, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarquin Farquart View Post
That's a big "as soon"
Actually, it's not that big of a "as soon"...we have mastered nuclular fusion...we just can't make it sustainable in any way, nore achieve it withought startting with an uncontrolled fission reaction.

The principle we've got down cold, it's just those pesky laws of thermodynamics that keep mucking up our flying cars.
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  #18  
Old 06 October 2008, 05:23 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarquin Farquart View Post
That's a big "as soon"
It's ten years away, just as it was in the 1950s (and probably will be in the 2050s).

Nick
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  #19  
Old 06 October 2008, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocool View Post
It's called the abiogenic theory, and it's not very well regarded by most in the field. I mean, it happens, there are places where petroleum is produced abiogenically, and the chemistry for it certainly happens in the lab, but as far as I know it isn't used in the exploration and production of commercial quantities of oil. There are rumors that the Russians got somewhere with it, but I'm more involved with what's above the ground than under it, so I can't judge the truth of that. Of course it would be nice if there was lots of oil underground, continuously being generated, but I think the more likely situation is that we have (literally) burned through millions of years of organic deposits in a less than two hundred years...
The problem with abiogenic petroleum is the same as with biogenic petroleum, there is a finite ammount of carbon on the planet.

Even if abiogenic petroleum proves to be the accurate cause of petroleum creation, it is no more practical to think of that as limitless either.

Unless (which I've never heard suggested) petroleum is formed by CO2 reentering the earths crust and being processed with hydrogen to create hydrocarbons (which if it were true would make for a very interesting possibilities on the creation of early life) you are still stuck with the fact that only so much oil can be produced by this system at a given time, that time period may still be millenia, and once we put all the carbon in the earth's crust into our atmosphere, we'er again out of petrochemicals. If there is a Carbon reclaimation system by which CO2 sinks into the earth is turned into oil, you might get oil back eventually, but again the time this process takes doesn't seem to be overnight. If it were, we'd be up to our armpits in oil.
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  #20  
Old 07 October 2008, 12:34 AM
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Comment: Supposedly Thomas Edison while talking to Henry Ford in 1931,
said "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of
power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we
tackle that."

Is this really true?
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