Monday, July 11, 2011

Dilithium Crystals 'most likely' to power next generation

June 18, 2012 -- CAMBRIDGE, MASS --

In a Gallup poll released today, Americans chose dilithium crystals as the "most likely" fuel to run future cars and power plants, with 84% of Americans choosing the crystals over other options including nuclear, hydrogen, corn ethanol, shale gas, and photovoltaic solar panels. Respondents indicated that dilithium crystals are popular for providing quiet, clean energy, with a proven track record of seven-hundred twenty-six episodes in four different Star Trek television series.

Professor Stephen Palmer, of MIT, claims that dilithium crystals have "literally unlimited potential" for the future of energy, reporting, "Based on my research, which includes careful observation of over ten thousand hours of Deep Space Nine and Voyager re-runs, dilithium crystals have a virtually infinite capacity for power generation."

Palmer explains, "The crystals provide power for starship warp drives by channeling electro-plasma released by the mutual annihilation from extremely high temperatures and electro-magnetic radiation. And since Spock and Scotty solved the problem of gradual decrystalization during their time travel mission to the twenty-third century, all we have to do is harness this energy, and BAM! - we're set for the next five thousand years."

Results from the poll led several U.S. Senators to call for increased funding of NASA, which has languished in recent years due to budget cuts. Anthony Baden (R-NY), said, "According to several popular television shows, dilithium crystals are the fuel of tomorrow. Our only problem seems to be obtaining the crystals from the planet Rura Penthe in the Klingon Empire. If we can get hold of a warp drive, maybe from the Chinese, we can pop these dilithium puppies in our nuclear plants by the next election cycle."

Although some skeptics called the crystals "unproven technology," a majority of respondents identified environmentalists, big government, and big oil as the top culprits preventing the United States from switching to this low-carbon fuel. Sarah Train, a student in Massachusetts, said, "Permanently free power? Seems like a good idea to me. So I'm not really sure why we're not using the crystals yet, but I'm pretty confident it involves treehuggers or bureaucracy. Maybe both."

Transition US, a grass-roots sustainability group, called dilithium crystals "science fiction," instead suggesting that communities re-localize in the face of the energy and financial crises that have plagued the U.S. since 2007. Raven Baker, spokesperson for TUS, says, "Don't wait for the government or corporations to deliver a miracle at some undetermined time in the future. Grow some food. Build low-tech, distributed energy solutions. Conserve. Reorganize cities so travel is less necessary."

Joe Burns, an engineer in Atlanta, scoffed at these recommendations. "Community - ha! Somebody explain how I can fill up my SUV's 40-gallon fuel tank with community. And growing a garden, c'mon. Who do they think I am, an immigrant?"

"I need a realistic answer to my problems, and dilithium crystals seem to fit the bill. So if I have to sit on my butt while the government spends half a trillion dollars and thirty years chasing a pipe dream until every other option has evaporated ... well, I've gotten pretty good at that."


Brad K. said...

I find myself siding with Transition US on dilithium crystals. Just like wind power farms, last generation's wave motors, and the albedo-destroying massive solar craze, the diversion of time, energy, materials -- including burning fossil fuels for a pittance in return -- just doesn't make sense.

Corner stores for groceries and other shopping within a few blocks, in urban areas, schools and employment within walking distance, and weatherizing residences and places of business, these things will help ward off "smart" electricity (where the government turns off the US to keep the lights on in California) and other hallmarks of the end of the age of abundant energy.

But the biggest part of "relocalizing" will be in careers -- or the end of endless ambition. As times approach that fuel and repair parts, including tires, become too expensive to use and too scarce to depend upon, modern agriculture will have to change. Where a modern farmer (nearing retirement, with an average age between 55 and 60) may farm 320 to 1500 acres, a non-mechanized farmer may only be able to farm five (5) to fifteen (15) acres, depending on how many hired hands and children he has available. That will mean a lot of people moving from corporate and union expectations of "merit raises" and promotions, to living season to season with ambitions to keep food on the table all winter.

Here is an idea. Require everyone involved in merchandising, marketing, and advertising to be drafted to develop dilithium crystals as a power source. This single change might provide (futile) hope for the future, while addressing the sources of ADHD, ADD, and profligate and unrealistic spending habits. After all, they might get lucky; the rest of us surely would benefit.

Above all, we have to decentralize and de-consolidate public school systems.

tubaplayer said...

Ha! Hahaha :) Excellent, Christine

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

If anyone missed the future dateline, file this under "humor/satire"

Eleanor @ Planned Resilience said...

Hmmm... Interesting ideas. I think the biggest problem with relocalizing will be work being too far from people's homes, and lack of convenient mass transit to get there. I checked out taking the bus, and it took an hour and a half each way. Further, there are no bus stops located within convenient walking distance from my house. I'm going to try taking the bus later this Fall, after it cools off, just for the experience.

I have been wondering what ever happened to telecommuting? I could do that, but my employer won't let me. I could try moving, but I am in a profession where there are only a few jobs. To find another job, I would have to uproot my family and move to a much more expensive city on one of the coasts (where the jobs are not stable at all).

With technology having come as far as it has, telecommuting is a good option for those of us who are highly educated in a technical field who primarily write for a living. This would not work for similarly educated people who have to go to a laboratory facility or similar place to do their work.

Brad K. said...

@ Eleanor @ Planned Resilience,

I think, IRL, in the not-so-distant future when we are scrambling for something to replace the cheap oil we have been squandering for the appearance of affluence, when all that cheap oil and coal go up in a *poof* of smoke, and we cannot get those dilithium crystals into sync, then the issue won't be about using private or mass transit.

The issue will be localizing our work. Owner-occupied shops used to be the norm, once upon a time. If the parts for modern machinery become scarce (most have been outsourced overseas) because there is no oil to transport them to the repair shops and farms where they are needed, then "relocalizing" could take on a much more stringent and personal meaning.

Why would "localizing" overlook changing/choosing jobs to work close to where you live, or move close to where you work?

Anyway. Yes, Christine, I did ken the satiric nature of your speculative story. Thanks!

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Brad K - that was a nudge for everybody :). I could tell you "got" it from your comment.

Anonymous said...

The bad thing about being a chemist is that I know dilithium crystals are a really bad idea (unstable!), as well as probably impossible to make. OTOH, I know why solar cells work... :)

Anonymous said...

If you go to eBay you can find dilithium crystals at pretty reasonable prices. Someone is even selling a dilithium mine online. No more need to buy it from Klingons.