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No More Electricity! Answered

This is more of a discussion then a question. Lately I have been wondering about the small amount of space that we have on Earth. In those thoughts, I began pondering about Thermodynamics (particularly, of course, the first law). Since energy can't be created nor destroyed - it only changes form - that most certainly means there is a limited amount. There's a capacity. Much like a battery, it can only hold so much energy. The Earth is essentially, then, one huge battery holding millions upon billions upon trillions upon trillions of energy units (it cannot be specified to electricity since it can change form).

If that is correct, then my theory makes sense. If there is only so much energy, and electricity is energy, then one day we will reach that capacity, right? Let's create a hypothetical situation - we massively overbuild the world with the biggest skyscrapers that, with the newest technology, go thousands of feet in the air. Standard homes no longer exist, and the smallest of homes are at least four stories. These conditions cover every corner of the world. Power-plants are at a massive draw.

Now everybody knows that you can't really "use" electricity for good, for it always returns to another form of energy - it can't be destroyed. So what if, with this extremely advanced society, electricity was used quicker then it was replaced? And this massive usage was continued until all of the energy that is "stored" in planet Earth is being used at one time.

That brings me to the real question of debate - doesn't that therefore mean that all power-plants will one day, when this "Complete use of energy" comes, will no longer generate electricity? Is it impossible to believe that they will have no energy left to "grab" (electrical power plants don't create electricity, just generate and convert it"?

Now, I may be entirely wrong. This theory could be 153(nice even number) percent wrong, but it's what I brainstormed. Any feedback or debate is appreciated ;)


Transmutation of elements is not creation of energy. The energy released as 116 decays to 115 is less than that required to create 116 in the first place.  116 is not produced by firing protons at 115.  It is formed by firing streams of calcium ions at a caesium target (most of which miss), a process which has the energy demands of a small town, and so far has only produced around 30 atoms, the decay of which produced enough energy to be detected by incredibly sensitive instruments, but no more.

Unstable elements do not create energy, they release energy originally stored as matter.

Despite what Bob Lazar claims, element 115 is completely unstable (half life of around one fifth of a second),116's half-life is a quarter of that. 

Elements 115 & 116 provide no feasible prospect of interstellar travel.  You're better off with good old fashioned uranium or plutonium (or even solar panels) powering ion rockets.

And, please, don't even suggest that aliens would use 115 /116 to travel faster than light...

Ah, Kiteman, I love reading your replies ;) Always learn something new.

Question, though, what are your beliefs on traveling faster then the speed of light? Do you believe it can ever be possible? I recall reading that (I forget the scientist who said it - really credible of me, eh?) if you were to travel faster then speed of light, it'd create a black hole. Hehe.

Science is not a matter of "belief".

The facts are that superluminal travel is impossible, and the various shortcuts proposed are purely speculative.

In the farthest foreseeable future, the only way to get living humans to another star is in a generation ship.

More precisely, one experiment (OPERA) on one beamline (CNGS) claims to have subtracted all of their known readout delays from their event timestamps, then subtracted the flight time of neutrinos on that beamline, and gotten a negative time delay as a result (which could be due to a flight time shorter than expected, or to readout delays shorter than assumed).

A second experiment (ICARUS) on the same beamline has not observed the massive deviation in energy distribution of those neutrons which you would expect if they were superluminal.

Yeah, I am kind of withholding my opinion until it is repeated a few times more and all probably outside influences and personal determinations are eliminated for either side.

Permit me to play devil's advocate for a moment:

We _think_ the facts are that superluminal travel is impossible, etc. We also thought the buck stopped at Newtonian physics and you could endlessly add and subtract velocities.

To be clear, I am certainly not saying I think it's possible to go faster than C, nor arguing that we don't actually know anything about anything because science continually advances, but I question the reasonableness of being so dogmatic about a point of a theory which contradicts the last theory. I'm not expressing doubt about quantum mechanics, but it just seems strange to proclaim that there's no possible way anything could ever contradict this point of QM when QM itself contradicts points of classical physics.

Energy can be created! But not destroyed!

Not according to the Law of Conservation of Energy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy

well i also forgot to say that some energy cant be created but most types of energy can be created

Energy is energy. It cannot be created. Ever. We can only convert it into other forms, as Kelseymh pointed out.

No form of energy can be created. Energy can be converted from one form to another. Some forms of energy are more useful than others.

and hydoelectric power plants will always create power.

and also water runs into hydoelectric power plants creating electricity and did you think of nuclear power plants?

Hydroelectricity plants divert energy from the water cycle, which is powered by the Sun. No energy is created.

Nuclear power plants convert energy stored as mass.

Basic middle-school science.

In that case, you also mean "generate", not "create".

The "power plant" itself would be destroyed at a sub-atomic level

you are wrong on this one but I have to admit it is a good topic.

It must be very liberating to believe you know what you're talking about.


7 years ago

Thanks to solar radiation, the Earth isn't a "closed system."

(and don't get caught up in the idea that electricity==energy. There are other, more fundamental ways to exhaust chemically-stored energy)...

So that essentially means we have to use up all of the energy that is available in the universe? Hmmm.

You can't "use up" energy, only change it, conservation of energy.
But so far we're fairly inefficient with the energy we can use convert, so that'll take a while.

Incorrect terminology, on my part. But even still, if you can't create or destroy energy, doesn't that mean there's a limited amount in our universe?

If you want to get technical about it, yes and no. We haven't found it all and we know there's a limit to what we can see and that there *should* be stuff beyond that limit (all matter being energy carriers), so in that capacity no, there isn't a limit. However, the fine folks in the space studying fields have offered up multitudes of calculations to describe a limited amount of stuff beyond what we can see based on what we can observe, meaning there is an energy limit, however it is most likely flawed in the sense that if theres a physical limit imposed on our sight, than there is a possibility that there is stuff so far away it has no measurable effect on what we can see in which case there could be even more stuff which could prove there is no actual limit to what we understand is the universe, also meaning unlimited energy.

However, there is a severe practical limit (compared to the universe's total energy) on accessible energy and also a limit on the matter we can bend to our will with that energy. As the great Carl Sagan said "The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff." Matter itself is born of stars, and stars are a phenomenal, if not our only real source of energy.

In conclusion, I must agree with you in a practical sense, but I also feel that I must add that with the amount of extra-planetary energy available to us, for the time it is available and with the limited amount of matter we have that necessitates the capture of that energy, we're not going to run out.

"have to" ??

We don't have to do anything. Stars and planets form,exist and die without our intervention. But on a scale of time so long that it's likely no consequence to humans. So even if we could "exhaust" the Earth, there are billions of galaxies out there...

Your thought experiment by another name is Entropy. And a very interesting, slippery concept it is...

As Gmoon points out, the earth isn't a closed system. The sun probably deposits every SECOND more energy than we use in a YEAR.

Iirc, it was something like 1 hour of solar output equals 1 year of global consumption.

Yeah, actually doing the maths works out at 3/4 hour of sun = 1 year of terrestriall energy generation in all forms,

We generate 15TW, the sun puts in 174000 TW.


Think of it this way, if energy can not be created nor destroyed (in essence), then we have the situation that can be seen in analogy to say, water on the earth.

We boil some water to cook food, it "disappears" but does not "go away".  It turned into another form.  If that form condenses and rains back  into rivers / streams, we "get it back".  If something (acid for instance) is added, then we get back unusable water (it is still water however; and with the addition of some outside force, can be made clean again).  This comes back to The Ideanator's ideas of "practicality". It really isn't "limited" since it never gets "used up" i.e. made to vanish; it only gets converted. 
This is why, if we can make sources like H2 practical, it would be great, since we (might) get H2 from water, and it would return to water again upon burning.   All this, at greater and greater uses of other energy sources of course.