As a young lad of six or seven, I used to think of all the cool things that I could create. I could make things, implement ideas and change the world. Pretty heady stuff for a 1st grader. Of course, I also was going to be an Astronaut, a Mad Scientist, a Magician and an Explorer, too.
So I thought I’d toss out some of my childhood ideas to see what you thought of them. I know they’re mostly impractical and in general wholly improbably hard to even implement. So don’t worry about their naiveté – it’s the intent and the idea itself I’d like you to consider.
First Big Idea: I guess I was about ten when I thought this one up. You know how we’re always hearing in the news that such and such a part of the country is being hit by intense drought, while at the same time, another area of the same country is getting flooded, right? It seems it’s always happening. Every other year some other place is having the worst drought in their history. At the same time, some other part of the country is having it’s worst floods in it’s history.
So I’m thinking:
Wouldn’t it be smart to have like ten thousand railroad cars and maybe another ten thousand tanker trailers that had these large doors that could open up? Wait for it. Wherever there was all this unprecedented rain, you’d take all these tanker railcars and truck trailers and ship them over there. When they arrived, they’d be placed all over and you open the doors. Bam, the rain fills up 20,000 tanker cars with rain. Flood averted, hooray!
It gets better, though. Now that all those tanker cars have averted disastrous flooding, they’re full of water. So now you take them by rail and road to the place in the country now having a drought and dump the water into the reservoirs in that area – drought staved off, hooray!
Hey, I was ten years old. I know how impractical that idea is now. It would take more than 20,000 cars. Maybe 50,000. (I’m kidding, people, okay?) Also, by the time most trailers and tank cars were in place, the rain would already be moving somewhere else, the damage would be done and it’d be a day late and a dollar short.
I even figured that out at ten. So then I thought, you’d have to have a couple hundred at different places all over the country, ready at a moment’s notice to at least put a dent into it. Sounds like a little kid idea, doesn’t it? Do you think you can figure something out that might actually work in such a fashion? You know, some way to help prevent flooding by sucking up that water, and then use that excess water to help prevent a drought?
Second Big Idea: I had this one when I was about thirteen. This was right at the height of the Oil Crisis in the 1972-75 time frame. While reading the papers, I could see how there were all these companies suddenly popping up, trying to make solar power work, increase geothermal power technology, make vehicles more fuel efficient, come up with new ways to generate power.
One evening, during all this, there was this huge lightning storm. I love lightning storms. So I watched it as long into the night as I could. Bolts of natural electrical energy being discharged every few seconds for miles around. It’s such an awesome natural display and it’s hard to imagine the amount of electrical power being spent in the atmosphere and the ground. And then, it struck me – we had to harness this energy somehow.
I knew that the power in each bolt runs into the Gigawatts. It’s freaking awesome to imagine that much power being discharged in a fraction of a second. Enterprise’s phasers would have a hard time expending that much energy in the same time frame. So how do you harness that kind of energy when it’s so intense it can melt metals and vaporize lesser materials in a tenth of a second?
So I’m thinking:
Okay, it’s a tough nut to crack, I admit. Even at thirteen, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I figured, maybe we could build this network of lightning rods, all connected in a web of large cabling, all leading to a central bank of storage capacitors. These capacitors would accept the initial surge and help mitigate it by absorbing the initial discharge fed into them by the lightning rods, dispersing them across the network to reduce the overall load on the system. Once the capacitors were surge charged, they’d discharge that same energy into a series of large storage batteries where they’d be able to sit and help feed the energy grid at peak times.
I still like this idea – hell, I still like the first one. I realize they are impractical, but not out of simple childhood naiveté. They are technically impractical and financially impractical. We just don’t have the technical wherewithal to implement such a storage technique. Does that mean we shouldn’t be putting some of our finest minds on the challenge anyway? Maybe they’ll actually figure something out?
I know, as I said, these ideas are impractical. I was just wondering, though, what you thought of them in general. Not how silly they are, or how impractical they are, because that’s obvious that I know that. I’m wondering what is it about these ideas that make them stick in my head all this time? It’s not that I had these ideas in the first place, it’s that after I realized how highly improbable and impractical they are, I can’t seem to let them go. Do you think there might be something to them? Anything at all?
I encourage your thoughts on these ideas, even if they amount to how silly you think they are.