Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fusion Reactions and Economic Reactions

In the imaginary sci-fi world that lives in my brain, power is often generated by "micro-fusion" reactors. In the real world, containing fusion reactions requires a massive amount of power and huge electromagnets to create the magnetic fields that keep the plasma fuel where it needs to be. This contributes to the continued failure of fusion plants to produce more power than they consume. A new theoretical discovery may begin to change that, if it works. A different configuration may allow fusion reactors to use magnetic fields an order of magnitued less powerful than current designs. They could also be much smaller, which would be nifty because smaller could also mean cheaper.

Speaking of cheaper, the economy is driving some interesting reactions as well. While these things aren't strickly "green" they have some green side effects. The money crunch in the California government has lead the govenor to call for the use of online textbooks instead of dead tree versions. If I had any sway at Amazon, I'd be attempting to get Kindles into the classrooms right now. Even at nearly $500 a pop for the big, fancy version, it wouldn't take long for them to be cheaper than textbooks. In any case, taking advantage of electronic resources just makes good sense, as long as concessions are made to ensure those resources are available to all students.

Some areas in the U.S. that have been emptied by the decline of manufacturing have started looking into even more extreme greening. They are talking about razing unused sections of cities and allowing them to be reclaimed by nature. This is one of those things that for me sounds both wacky and profound. One way or the other, the economy is certainly going to play a huge part in the changes that come over the next decade or two.

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