Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, September 17, 2010

Futurologist Andrew Maynard Wants Nano-Santa to Solve the Climate Crisis With A Geo-Engineering Technofix

Global warming may require not just one futurological fantasy to solve it, but two futurological fantasies in combination:
[The] idea is to engineer discs around 10 micrometers across and 50 nanometers thick, with a core of aluminum, a top layer of aluminum oxide, and a bottom layer of barium titanate. Injected high enough

What could possibly go wrong?
into the atmosphere (so Brownian motion didn’t muck things up)

What could possibly go wrong?
the discs should align

What could possibly go wrong?
with the lighter aluminum/aluminum oxide side facing up, and the heavier barium titanate side facing down. This is important

Very Serious!
because the way these two surfaces interact with air molecules when the particles heat up -- as they would do in sunlight -- means that there would be a net force pushing the discs up

What could possibly go wrong?

In effect

As it were.
the particles would levitate to a stable position

What could possibly go wrong?
in the atmosphere, while keeping their shiny side to the sun -- thus reflecting sunlight away from the earth (or increasing albedo)….

By engineering nanoparticles appropriately

What could possibly go wrong?
it might also be possible

Might be possible? Hell, sign me up!
to control where they go even further -- by introducing a magnetic component

Wingardium leviosa!
for instance, so they follow the Earth’s magnetic field. The idea is an intriguing one

Very Serious!
which admittedly is broad brushstrokes science

Nevertheless, Very Serious!
is plausible

Very Plausible!
The forces on discs the size he suggests should be sufficient

What could possibly go wrong?
to keep them aligned in the upper atmosphere -- even when the Sun isn’t present for short periods of time. And if sufficient quantities could be produced

What could possibly go wrong?
they should have a measurable

cooling effect….

A Special Effect.
Around 10 billion kg of these nano-discs would be needed.

What could possibly go wrong?
That’s a lot

Ya think?
but probably economically viable

Steal underpants… Profit!
with large-scale investment in production

After all, it's not like we could spend that money on wind-turbines, solar-rooftops, high-speed rail, energy-efficiency retrofitting, education programs, soot filters, subsidizing suburban appropriate/edible landscaping, or anything else actually known to be useful that doesn't pretend the climate crisis is a plot point in a science fiction novel.
If the use of such particles was ever explored seriously -- even at the laboratory scale – it goes without saying that parallel studies would be needed to understand how they might interact with the atmosphere, environment and people in less than helpful ways.

What could possibly go wrong?
What if the particles were engineered to have a finite lifespan, so that potential adverse impacts were minimized?

What could possibly go wrong?
This might

What could possibly go wrong?
be done… by designing particles that degrade over time under UV radiation and a constant assault from oxygen radicals in the atmosphere. Safety by design.

After all, who needs regulations when corporate-military engineers working for profit or national security however the cowboys conceive of it at the moment can always be trusted to produce the safest most wholesome most efficient possible result for all stakeholders.
At present, geoengineering the climate using engineered nanoparticles is just an idea

You don't say!
but it is a plausible one

You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it does…
and shows

Wait, something has been "shown"?
what can happen

Wait, something is "happening"?
when different technologies

Different, and also, not that it would matter to a futurologist, non-existing.
and ideas begin to converge

Look! Ideas converging… into also an idea.
One to watch in the future I suspect.

Yes, this is a line in futurological hype I suspect we all need to be watching for in The Future, and with all due diligence.

For more, have a look at "Geo-Engineering" As Futurological Greenwashing, "Geo-Engineering" Is A Declaration of War That Doesn't Care About Democracy, and other posts corralled together under the heading Futurology Against Ecology and see also Nanosantalogical Feasibility and Superlative Futurology.


jimf said...

> Ya think?

JCo said...

I miss you scathing wit. Too good.

I love the near psuedo-science of so many geo-engineering proposals (and not to mention ideas that are just plain terrible... just awfuk). What's that? You want to inject horrible chemicals into the atmosphere that are "known to cause debilitating health problems and could lead to massive droughts and famines" so that you can make the sky darker to shade us from the sun? Sure, no problem. It'll kill off all the "'useless eaters,'" i.e. millions in developing nations (

Or, hey, why don't we dump tons and tons of iron shavings into the oceans to promote plankton growth? It'll kill and poison other wildlife and possibly limit the growth of plankton, but it's probably fine (

It would all be a lot more funny if I weren't so worried about all the people who believe this incredibly experimental, wasteful, and expensive crap.

On a related note, to help us remember how well we always judge the future, here are a few things we got wrong: