14A054 Far Out! by Jim Davies, 11/6/2014    


Forecasting the future is formidably difficult (forecasting the past is hard enough) but I'll try anyway. There are good things coming.

That thought was inspired by, though not limited to, a recent article by Gary North. I've noted before that Gary is not quite infallible, but I join his optimism on this one. He celebrated a recent announcement by Lockheed Martin that they have cracked the hard problem of how to make hydrogen isotopes fuse into helium, without traveling to the sun.

The significance, as he observed, is that the world will change almost beyond recognition.

When that fusion occurs, a small amount of mass converts to a large amount of energy, and that energy is what makes the sun shine so brightly and enable us all to live. There's an abundance of hydrogen available, so that offers an inexhaustible supply of power. The only snag is that to get the process started, one needs to warm up its isotopes to several million degrees Celsius, and to fashion a vessel able to hold it all without melting. Happily, no harmful radiation is involved; with practice and a good sun-blocker, one can work (or bathe) in blazing sunshine all day long... given a supply of Margueritas to replenish lost moisture.

The government has been spending billions of your dollars to solve that problem, and more honest scientists have been spending a few bucks of their own, but until the Lockheed announcement of October 15th, there's been no success.

Lockheed's biggest customer is the FedGov, and the latter is in bed with so many interests drawing revenues from existing sources of energy that it must have been a delicate matter to say they were about to cut the ground from under all their feet. That may be why the company is distancing itself a little from its "Skunk Works" and asking for outside partners to complete the work.

Those interests will continue to try to impede development because government exists; there are power levers available to be grabbed. When it ceases to exist, those interested parties may huff and puff but will be unable to postpone human progress. The excuses for the nightmare of Mid East wars, and pollution and expense for all forms of fuel, will vanish. All fuel costs will become negligible. The enormous release of talent - human and financial - which that will produce is beyond my ability to calculate. Our children and grandchildren have a wonderful future waiting.

Gary North named desalination as another technology just waiting to be exploited for huge benefit, and he's right again; what a profound irony that California, with over 840 miles of ocean coastline, is chronically short of water!

In the same week came news of another flying car prototype, this one from Vienna. The more the merrier, and may the best performer win. I've been impressed by the Terrafugia - and note that the latest design is a VTOL model, with a swivel engine on each wing tip. These are exciting ideas, which will play a useful part, I believe, in the coming zero government society. The one already built and flying needs an airstrip; the new model will not.

The concept has been around since the 1930s, but government regulations have stopped it breaking through. Comments on the Viennese project were typically of the form "sounds great, but I'd have to get not just a drivers' license, but a pilot's license, and file a flight plan each time, and wait for FAA clearance... what a hassle."

Exactly. The technology to dump all that is in place today - or very soon will be - even on terra firma, the Google Car can be told where to go and it will find its way there without further intervention, choosing the route and avoiding collisions. There are different hazards in the air, of course, and a third dimension, but the density of traffic there is mostly thousands of times less dense so design of a self-fly airplane, adapting technology already in place with many airlines, should be a doddle.

But jobs are at stake in government, airlines and the whole transportation industry and while government continues to exist, it will lobby furiously to keep them. Meanwhile the malodorous TSA is making commercial flying ever less attractive and more time consuming, so the latent demand for personal air transportation, direct from point to point, is building up pressure. It needs only that government gets out of the way. It need not take long

All these innovations - abundant, cheap, safe energy and water, flying cars, and un-dreamed of others besides, depend for success on the disappearance of government. Some good things will just be delayed while it continues, others may be prevented arriving altogether.

That is therefore the point at which I must part company with the admirable optimism of Dr North. He makes no mention of that key condition, and offers no fix whereby it can be fulfilled. We do.


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