Sunday, March 31, 2019

Bend the Light

Beginning in the early 90's, roughly 12 years after the 1981 announcement of the Reagan EPA that climate change was real and a danger to all of global civilization, I began to wonder if the world would actually act.  Early in the decade, we had the first of many UN sponsored meetings under the framework convention adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio in June of 1992.

I had gone to New York that spring to participate in talks sponsored by the International Solar Energy Society.  There was talk of carbon pricing and carbon cap and trade, but no one was talking as radical as the actual EPA report which called for a 400 % tax on carbon and abolishing the use of coal altogether if we were to actually stop this climate train wreck in its tracks.  Obviously our regulators were more impressed with the end of the world as we know it back then.

It was during that time that I began to write about climate change ultimately publishing "Lightland: Climate Change and the Human Potential" in 2001.  It was also during that time that I began building my city of the future.  I called it Argonon.  It was a city designed to have it's own energy system, it's own food supply, an inner protective world, and a host of other sustainable features that would support its inhabitants through a very dark period of human development.  It was an Earthship for 250,000 earthlings of all ages and race. It would be full of the best engineers, scientists, farmers, artists, musicians, and dreamers.

The finished model ultimately took over the majority of my converted two car garage since turned into a futurelab.  (Today Argonon sits in its museum crates in the corner of the design lab)

But the key technological invention of the city was what I called an EMASER.  This Electro Magnetic Assisted Solar Energy Receiver was a laser device that would emanate energy into the atmosphere for the purpose of controlling incoming light.  It literally would intercept solar energy thousands of feet into the atmosphere and like the common place mirage on our highways and flat deserts, reflect the light by a few degrees.

These atmospheric mirages would be of dual purpose.  One, they would reduce the amount of energy hitting one part of the earth's surface, while increasing the energy on another part.

The strategy of Argonon was straightforward enough.  Because it was designed for the latter half of the 21st century when Climate Change had rocketed through the 2 degrees C set by global treaty, it had an array of EMASERs around its perimeter that projected laser induced mirages into the sky thus controlling the ground and air temperatures in the city.

And in addition, that bent light was shunted to the solar fields surrounding the city thus increasing the production of the panels through more solar flux.  It was a creme rinse and a floor wax.  But it was also a dessert topping.  An array of lasers of this power would also have immense defensive potential.

I rarely tell this story because it sounds like a NBA sized tall tale.  To document it, I even shot a video of our tests, but somehow my director lost the footage.  Nevertheless, with the help of several UT Professors in Engineering and Physics, we procured a small DARPA grant to test the concept of lasing the atmosphere to create a mirage that would bend incoming light.  If you don't know what DARPA is, you should.

We used a carbon dioxide laser and hoped to vibrate the carbon dioxide molecule in the experimental atmosphere to create the effect.  After several days of testing, our results were inconclusive. But I was not too discouraged.  By the time we had set up the experiment and the testing bed somewhere in the basement of the University of Texas Physics department, I had already determined that we would have to use an Argon laser.  After all, CO2 in the atmosphere is only 410 parts per million,  (headed to 500) while Argon is 30,000 parts per million.

Now, 30 years after the  Earth Summit, and 40 years after Dan Rather warned us on CBS evening news of impending calamity,  we have a minority elected US government that disdains the perils of Climate Change while simultaneously demanding a wall to stop Central Americans who are fleeing it.

And I find myself thinking and writing of EMASERS and EARTHSHIPS once again.

And thanks to advancements in Laser science since these tests,  lasing the atmosphere to control climate while powering solar fields might prove to be a solution for a world that because of 40 years of inaction, has traded mitigation for adaptation.

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