When the world found out about the nuclear bomb -- a single bomb that could destroy an entire city -- the world wanted reassurance. Scientists and technology buffs turned out in force, spinning dreams of a world in which nuclear reactors were the perfect way to provide clean, limitless energy (which some people would argue is still possible) while others said that nuclear bombs would be perfect for glorious, large-scale construction projects... And underground nuclear testing showed that a bomb would make an entire mountain buck a few inches up and down... Construction industry officials, used to large-scale projects being accomplished by blasting away rock, saw this as an opportunity… Out of this came Project Gnome, a 1961 test of whether or not nuclear bombs could be used in all the ways envisioned by the atomic utopianists. They decided that they would set off a modest nuclear explosion near an underwater aquifer near Carlsbad Caverns. The explosion would cause the aquifer to be steamed instantly, clearing out the space for human use… A single bomb might be able, they thought, to provide hydroelectric energy more efficiently than an entire power plant… This did not work. The blast sent heat, smoke, and radioactive material barreling up one of the shafts to the surface. The radiation on the surface quickly decayed. The inner cavern wasn't as immediately usable -- in fact, the government didn't send anyone down there to take readings until six months later. When they did, scientists found that the blast had created pillars of melted salt... The cavern was still 140 degrees Fahrenheit. No one was going to either live, or drive through, that place. Despite the lack of success of the initial project, the concept of nuclear bombs as construction tools was tested another half-dozen times before being abandoned.Paging Peter Diamandis! Hello, Ray Kurzweil? C'mon, you futurological innovators, stop slacking, surely now's the time for steaming aquifers for "human use" with nukes. Somebody set up an X Prize over here. Where's kickstarter on this? Time for the techno-green thought leaders to get some buzz going at Long Bets. The Future Was Now.
Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All
Friday, May 11, 2012
Sooper Genius "Geo-Engineers" of Yesterday's Tomorrow!