Scientific Sense Podcast

Friday, November 23, 2018

Look Ma, No Hands!

Recent news from MIT(1) that electro-aerodynamics has successfully powered a small aircraft over 60 meters is an interesting development. Such a vehicle has no moving parts and makes no noise. Since the arrival of steam powered automobiles, humans have been noisy - in water, air and everywhere. Their machines in water create such cacophony they do not let whales and dolphins communicate with each other. Their aircrafts and drones have been creating so much noise leading to health issues for themselves and the structures they have erected. And, on the ground, their pollutant puffing slow vehicles have been pushing the planet to the edge.

It is about time. Propulsion by burning fossil fuels, the most inelegant engineering idea ever, has to stop. The band aid on the ground, "electric vehicles," is not a solution - just a hype that allows shifting pollution from one spot to another. The electric motor and the internal combustion engine, massive inventions that propelled humanity to the adjacent step, ultimately could be their Achilles heel. They have been keeping warm, blazing the night sky and moving in space by burning fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow. They could be right.

Lagging innovation in materials, propulsion and computing has kept a lid on human progression. They have been stuck in a level 0 society from their arrival. More recently, they have become experts in the implementation of the status-quo, with available materials, propulsion systems and computing resources. That has been easy but it is unlikely to help them escape the known and move to the next level.

To survive, humans need innovation, not efficiency. They have to find materials that are many orders of magnitude lighter and stronger, they have to move without burning fuels and they have to compute infinitely faster without spewing heat. Then, they could attempt for the next level.


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