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Old 06-16-2018, 08:31 AM   #31
Benway
 
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Default Re: Solarpunk World Building

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
It was possible in the past, but isn't any more.

I exploited that in the setup for a Steampunk campaign...
I remember reading that it couldn't happen anymore but, as you stated, it is possible in a game setting.

I also remember when it dawned on me that we still have one foot in the Age of Steam.

I'm not a scientist or an engineer, but it seems we're pretty much stuck with muscle power, radiant heat, moving fluids, steam pressure, electricity, and combustion. (Did I miss anything?)

Many people seem to see it all as magical crystalline engines that push cars and tv shows.

In the context of a Solarpunk rpg setting, barring the supernatural and handwavium, what else might there be?
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Old 06-16-2018, 08:57 AM   #32
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Default Re: Solarpunk World Building

Also, it might be possible for a solarpunk civilization to harness the power of volcanoes and lightning- not as in machine generation, but directly, i.e. volcano mills, lightning catchers, &c. Whenever you add -punk to the setting, exotic seems to be the standard.
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Old 06-16-2018, 09:07 AM   #33
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Default Re: Solarpunk World Building

A world without fossil fuels can develop along a familiar path, more or less, until charcoal becomes inadequate for the amount of metal smelting, ceramic firing, and so on that's needed. In our history, that gap was filled by coke, and the need for coal to be mined to make coke grew vastly as the industrial revolution got going.

With no coal, having our kind of industrial revolution is impractical. Jumping to nuclear power is too much of a stretch, IMHO. Something that could be built is a solar furnace, with a large number of mirrors, each pointed by hand. "Sun-miners" have different occupational diseases from coal-miners, but the job is likewise dull and difficult.
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Old 06-16-2018, 09:19 AM   #34
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Except all solar power is originally fusion. :)
Yes, other than generating geothermal energy through the decay of radioactive isotopes in the depths of the Earth, fission is just a rounding error for natural energy production. It is fusion, specifically the proton-proton fusion process, that drives the production of energy in the Sun (and it was more energetic fusion processes or exotic processes like photoerosion that created everything larger than helium-4). And quite frankly, any rational society would have made the necessary investments to replicate solar fusion instead of trying to develop a form of fusion that could consume the products of fission (tritium) as the major fuel.

I can imagine a society without fossil fuels avoiding fission entirely and focusing its efforts on fusion. Without the nuclear armed nations forcing researchers to focus on DT fusion, they would have likely developed nuclear fusion by their equivalent of the 1990s. With a smaller population of 2 billion or so, a higher percentage of their people could have been devoted to R&D rather than being wasted doing subsistence farming or urban scrounging (the two of which 'employ' fifty percent of the global population in 2018). The resulting world could be a more advanced world by their equivalent of 2018, but it would look much more different than our 2018.
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Old 06-24-2018, 11:33 PM   #35
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Yes, other than generating geothermal energy through the decay of radioactive isotopes in the depths of the Earth, fission is just a rounding error for natural energy production. It is fusion, specifically the proton-proton fusion process, that drives the production of energy in the Sun (and it was more energetic fusion processes or exotic processes like photoerosion that created everything larger than helium-4). And quite frankly, any rational society would have made the necessary investments to replicate solar fusion instead of trying to develop a form of fusion that could consume the products of fission (tritium) as the major fuel.
Protium fusion is non-trivially more difficult than deuterium/deuterium or deuterium/tritium or even He3 fusion. It's much harder, and we haven't really mastered even the easier reactions yet. I don't think it's necessarily a question of how much we invest for solar fusion.
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Old 06-25-2018, 08:40 AM   #36
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Actually, that is incorrect. Proton-proton fusion takes advantage of quantum tunneling (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ethansi.../#1a4da57c43f7). It is because of quantum tunneling that proton-proton fusion occurs at much lower temperatures than other forms of fusion. Otherwise, 95% of stars would be too cold to undergo fusion and would just be large masses of cold matter.
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Old 06-25-2018, 08:48 AM   #37
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Actually, that is incorrect. Proton-proton fusion takes advantage of quantum tunneling (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ethansi.../#1a4da57c43f7). It is because of quantum tunneling that proton-proton fusion occurs at much lower temperatures than other forms of fusion. Otherwise, 95% of stars would be too cold to undergo fusion and would just be large masses of cold matter.
We still can't do it, though, as far as I've heard.
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Old 06-25-2018, 09:30 AM   #38
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We still can't do it, though, as far as I've heard.
Matter of perspective perhaps. I think solar levels of p-p fusion are doable in the lab, but the problem is that the rate is just too slow to be *useful*. The actual amount of fusion taking place in stars is after all very, very low, but since stars are also very, very large, the product of really slow x really huge comes out to be significant.

To get 100 MW of luminosity (a rather small power plant these days) out of the material in the solar core, you need more than 10^11 kg of it - so at the current (roughly 70 cents a kilogram) price of hydrogen that's $70 billion just for the fuel, never mind the cost of heating and containing it. And containment on a chunk of super high density plasma a kilometer in diameter isn't a trivial problem either....
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Old 06-25-2018, 10:04 AM   #39
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Incidentally, as a minor technical note, a significant part of the heat from the Earth's core is not radioactive in origin; it's the heat of crystallization of impure iron accreting onto the Earth's solid inner core as the outer core cools.
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Old 06-26-2018, 09:46 PM   #40
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And containment on a chunk of super high density plasma a kilometer in diameter isn't a trivial problem either....
It might solve the problem that fusion has of losing a lot of the energy you put in to get the plasma hot enough to fuse to radiative and conductive heat loss. Get it that big and the square cube law is on your side.
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