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"The Next Industrial Revolution" A lecture given to St Dominics Sixth Form College, Harrow-on-the-Hill, London

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Abstract

Every step in the development of life has been a step in the use of energy: from static plants to mobile animals with internal energy supply: then with mankind's intelligence the use of external energy from other creatures and the power of wind, sun, flame and water; then with fossil fuels the Industrial Revolution with energy 24/7. Without fossil fuels this is now at an end. The next Industrial Revolution is now upon us. Its simple science and extraordinary benefits are misunderstood. The younger generation should overcome the failngs of their elders and pin their future on this science and phase out fossil fuels and renewables as soon as possible.
The Next Industrial Revolution
Wade Allison
Emeritus Professor of Physics, Oxford
wade.allison@physics.ox.ac.uk
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Introduction
Life has taken a number of momentous steps in its use
of energy in the last three billion years.
What is this story and why has the time now come for a
new step?
Looking at physics, biology and civilisation as a whole
what are the options?
Its Hallowe’en. But far from being scary, the prospects
are immensely reassuring, if only we can persuade
everybody to engage them.
Life is a treat, not a trick. That should be our message
for Greta Thunberg.
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Plans and flowers get energy from sunshine
Animal life: This enthusiastic follower of nature uses food
energy internally and stores it for winter.
What should we do?
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The development of life
1. Plant life. No mobility, energy direct from sunshine.
2. Animal life. Mobility using food
fuel producing energy inside the body by digestion
3. Early man. Supremacy by using intelligence and sources of
energy outside the body: other creatures, wind, water, sun
4. Industrial Revolution. Engines burning fossil fuels,
external energy on demand, 24/7.
5. Next Revolution. Green house gases and Global Warming
Invaded environment and turbulent weather.
A turning point
What should we do now? Stop using fossil fuels?
Open study of options: pure science, medicine, sociology.
At stake:
- the stability of the environment and the viability of life;
- the doubling of life expectancy and quality of life achieved
as a result of the Industrial Revolution.
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Messages from physical science
1. Energy cannot be made. All fuel comes from somewhere.
Similarly energy cannot be destroyed. It must go somewhere.
[First Law]
2. When fuel is used it runs downhill dissipates.
It doesn’t run up again by itself! [Second Law]
3. Wanted: useful sources of fuel must be a) plentiful, b) stable,
c) available 24/7, d) have been “put there” by some superior
source.
4. Available agents work on three distinct time scales:
daily/seasonal sunshine and tidal forces;
geological fossil fuels laid down by ancient growth;
primeval products of supernovae older than Earth.
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Most boulders have already
rolled downhill.
Exceptionally. such energy is
accessible.
Safety may conflict with
ease of access.
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Energy may
be unstable
and
dangerous
Energy and
stored energy
are really no
different
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Where is energy to be found?
Moving and falling “stuff. Intuitive and transparent.
In Mechanics: 𝐸 = ½𝑚𝑣2and 𝐸 = 𝑚𝑔ℎ
So energy density at 30 mph = 0.000027 kWh per kg
Also 100m high hydro dam density = 0.0003 kWh per kg.
Wind at 30 mph has 330 W per sq metre
Sunshine (no clouds) average 300 W per sq m.
Food?
“2018 kJ per 100g serving” printed on the packet.
Energy density = 5.6 kWh/kg, but no machinery seen.
Ten thousand times hydro! How is energy hidden?
Electrical energy.
Electrons travel through solid copper wire?
No clockwork. Something non-intuitive going on!
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Greater energy density Quantum kinetic energy
Heights over 100m? speeds over 60mph?
Not often available or safe.
Hot gas molecules - higher speeds (speed of sound).
For 200K temp rise, energy density of steam increases
400kJ/kg = 0.1 kWh/kg.
Not a primary source and still 56 times less than food.
Extra energy? Modern basic Quantum Mechanics (1920s)
All matter is described by waves.
Electrons pass through solid copper as waves.
An electron trapped in an atom has kinetic energy ½mv2,
similarly a proton or neutron trapped in a nucleus ah!!
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Stepping down by factors of 100,000!
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Quantum kinetic energy
All matter is described by waves
with wavelength = h/mv,
where mv = momentum
and h= Planck's Constant.
For a particle trapped in a box of
size L, the wavelength = 2L=h/mv.
Thence kinetic energy: E = ½mv2 =h2/(8mL2), roughly.
1) Each electron wave must fit within its atom. 10-10 m
the chemical/battery/laser/food energy scale is
E = 7 10-19 joules = 4 electron-volts = 7 kWh/kg for carbon.
2) Each proton/neutron wave must fit within its nucleus. 10-15 m
the nuclear energy scale is
E = 3 10-12 joules = 20 million electron-volts
Just by putting in the numbers for each case.
L
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Three kinds of energy
and their relevance to the current environment
Classical: Kinetic and Potential Energy according to Newton.
Moving and falling objects, motion of Sun and Moon, sunshine,
wind, hydro, tides, waves, solar. Clockwork!
Quantum Atomic, aka Chemical: Atomic structure of all matter.
Energy density many thousands X classical:
Chemistry, food, electronics, fuel combustion, batteries, fire.
Quantum Nuclear: Energy from nuclear structure of all matter.
Energy density some millions X Quantum Atomic:
Fission, fusion (the Sun), radioactive decay, volcanic activity, etc.
Also gravitational collapse (not now accessible on Earth)
Even greater energy density in supernova explosions
creating all atomic nuclei heavier than iron, including the
residual unstable forms: U238, U235, Th232, K40.
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“Modern” example: the “Crab” Supernova, 6300 light years away.
Seen for 23 days in daylight by Korean astronomers in July 1054
and pictured today by the Hubble Space Telescope
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2. How did we get energy in the
past and how should we get it in
future?
Animal era
(only own body)
Pre
-
industrial era
(“renewables”)
Industrial
Revolution
(chemical/carbon)
Next Revolution
nuclear.
fission, later fusion
Fuel Foraged food
Other creatures,
water, wind, solar,
vegetation
Fossil fuels
Uranium and
thorium
(later hydrogen)
Typical energy
density (kWh per
kg)
1 To 7 0.0003 1 to 7 20 million
Lifetime fuel per
person Life too short
Hydro: 10 million
tonnes over 100 m
dam (not available)
500 tonnes coal,
1800 tonnes CO2
emitted
1 kg = 1/1000
tonne
Points in favour No debate
Supremacy,
familiar,
accepted
24/7 availability,
standard of living
24/7 availability,
compact, resilient,
no harm to life or
nature
Points against Survival only
Intermittent,
weak (huge plant
damaging nature)
CO2 emissions,
poor safety
Popularly feared,
unfamiliar,
education lacking
Energy primed by
Daily sunshine Daily sunshine ancient sunshine
ancient
gravitational
collapse
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Solar, environmental?
A meadow near Abingdon lost to
nature!
1. Not “green”. Huge footprint,
thanks to low energy flux.
2. Unreliable and intermittent
long breaks for weeks at a time.
3. No viable intermediate
battery storage likely on the
scale required.
4. Vulnerable to extreme
weather.
5. Short panel life.
Not a suitable primary energy
source.
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Resilience in a world with more turbulent weather
Trashed by a hurricane in Puerto Rico…
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1. Low energy density, low
flux, huge plant. Not “green”
2. Unpredictable, variable,
unreliable.
Wind, reliable?
3. Power as wind speed cubed. hence
“shock” if tripped at high speed
4. Capacity factor 22%, off shore 37%.
“No” to Wind as primary source.
From p 18, “Wind Energy in Europe 2018” WindEurope.org
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Hydro, environmental/safe?
1. Low density, invasive footprint.
2. Available 24/7, but vulnerable to
climate change.
3. Safety. High mortality for dam
failure.
Example 230,000 (1975)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam
and threatened
http://www.ibtimes.com/california-oroville-
dam-evacuation-update-nearly-200000-
people-evacuate
also Whaley Bridge (Derbyshire2019)
4. Few new suitable locations.
No major expansion of hydropower
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3. Should we worry about the
safety of radiation?
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Placebo Effect and Nocebo Effect
Placebo: A diseased patient is given dummy medication.
He believes he is being treated.
His chances of recovery improve significantly. True!
Nocebo: A healthy person is told falsely that he is diseased.
His physical and mental health will often genuinely deteriorate in
many ways.
(The effect of voo-doo or a curse by a witch doctor is an example.)
When people are told they have been irradiated,
as at Chernobyl and Fukushima, they become deeply affected.
To find true effect of radiation without Nocebo,
first study subjects who are unaware or unworried:
1) humans living in high radiation background regions;
2) clinical evidence taken in conditions of trust;
3) animal data;
4) considerations of evolutionary biology and “test tube”
evidence.
Only then consider data influenced by fear or compensation.
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Animals at Chernobyl are blissfully unaware
Do they know something that we don’t? To this Dr Watson might say
But they know nothing!”
and Sherlock Holmes might reply
Quite so. But may be something that we think we know is not so.
Conclusion: Nuclear radiation is harmless at low and moderate doses.
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Nuclear energy is safer than fire
except at extreme levels. The recommended safety regulations
are too cautious by a factor about 1000, as experienced by the
public if receiving monthly radiotherapy to cure cancer.
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Why is it so safe? (1) Physics isolates nuclear energy
Nuclei are kept apart by +ve charge and never meet
except in laboratory experiments and:
- once in 10 billion years in the Sun;
- frequently in supernova, neutron stars, etc.
Only neutrons can penetrate into nuclei and cause a
reaction. But there are no neutrons in the wild,
because they decay with 10 min lifetime.
So nuclear reactions almost don’t happen.
Hence nuclear activity not discovered until 1896.
Matter is 99.98% nuclear, but nuclei do nothing at all
for billions of years
(exception some rotate, hence MRI).
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Why is it so safe? (2) Life is vaccinated for radiation
Life on Earth evolved in a radioactive environment, even
more so in the past.
The reason for a) mortal individuals, b) mortal cells.
Multi-level cellular protection by:
-quenching “hot” molecules;
- repairing;
- replacement;
- surveillance by immune system.
Necessary for us to be here now.
For any other life form too, from single cellular organism
up.
Also, radiation does not “catch” and spread, like fire or
infectious disease.
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Evolve and Adapt
To defend life against the effect of radiation, biology has
changed and adapted.
But radiation has never changed.
So in 3000 million years life has learnt how to win!
Image from: https://www.photobox.co.uk/shop/small-gifts/personalised-playing-cards
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As Aesop's Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare illustrates
The natural protection of life, eg from ionising radiation, provided by slow
evolution wins easily against regulation determined by committee
Protection and safety by Darwinian evolution
or the deliberations of a UN committee
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4. Our message for Greta Thunberg
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1. Renewables: weak, inadequate, harmful to nature.
Fossil fuels: pollute.
Nuclear energy: the ideal solution.
All should learn about nuclear in school - not hard.
2. Record shows nuclear is safer than fire.
3. Radiation is natural and good for personal health.
Life is well protected by evolution.
4. Rather we should be concerned about global risks
that affect everybody and the natural world:
- Infectious diseases with no protection;
- effects of climate change;
- ignorance that leads to panic/unrest.
… for more read books and explore links on
www.radiationandreason.com
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