dunniteowl's post-modern philosophical musings

The More Familiar I Become, the Stranger I Get


Bastrop, Texas, USA
October 11
Supreme Commander of the Universe
The Best Company in the World
Matriculated from: School of Hard Knocks and Diablo Valley College (AA in Communications Tech.) Done all kinds of things for work. Painted sidewalk curb address numbers, sold shoes, USAF Radio Electronics Tech, Semiconductor Tech for AMD, Intel & SEEQ Technologies, worked at Stanford Linear Accelerator upgrading motherboards for Beam Current Magnet Control, IBM building "Industrial Strength" Voice Activated Dialing networks, server systems and intranets, sold greeting cards, nuts, grapes, newspapers and found pets, janitored, worked in fast foods, pizza and data entry. I even clerked at a 7-11 and also ran a big searchlight for those events at night. Also worked at a zoo, where I pretty much did everything you can do at a zoo other than be eaten. Some of those critters do bite. I write and have been since 1972. I have written poetry, fantasy, science fiction and horror stories. I also have come to enjoy essays relating to human experience, the future and being good stewards of this planet. I believe I'm funny sometimes, so chuckle occasionally at my weird jokes and allusions. Very into science and technology, love logic and reason. For some reason, though, I am also a certified Shaman. I can cast horoscopes and read Tarot cards as well (from the expressions on people's faces and their responses, I am apparently quite accurate most of the time.) Love photography: You can find me here: http://s52.photobucket.com/albums/g31/dunniteowl/ and here: http://www.viewbug.com/my-account/photos (if those don't work properly, just go to the main pages and do a search for 'dunniteowl' I am the only one on the internet as far as I know.) I also love game design, starting with board wargames, card games and RPGs. Please comment if you feel like it. I don't care about being "tipped" and don't even really understand it as a function. I signed up on Open Salon so I could have a wider outlet for my writing and hope that you find it of interest at all. This bio is a reflection of things to come, so be prepared.


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FEBRUARY 18, 2012 1:56PM

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Social Engineer

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     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.

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I was still trying to figure out how to ties my shoes at 13. Damn man, those were great ideas for a kid~
Dear Owl, I don't think these are bad ideas at all. Instead of making pipelines to bring all that shale oil from Canada to Houston, they should put Americans to work making those pipelines bring water to the Southwest. Once the snow melts in the north theyll be having floods again. The oil pipeline should go to refineries in Washington state, not as far, and less cost.
As far as the batteries to store gigawatts of lightning energy, I don't know when that will be possible. The energy is released so fast and the heat is so high. I think I read it's hotter than our sun. It's a great idea though.
Remember, I'm not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV. I just like to watch the Science channel a lot!
Scanner, thanks. I was a precocious kid. You know the type, I had my hand up all the time, I always got As and the other kids hated that once started, I couldn't stop talking. I wasn't trying to be mean, I just had so much I wanted to share. I was sorely lacking in social skills, though.

ccdarling, I know about the heat/energy factors. That's what I meant about how do you capture energy that can melt metals and vaporize lesser materials in less than a tenth of a second? Maybe some other science head will figure something out with superconducting materials and dissipation techniques we have no knowledge of? If we could manage it, though, wow.

thanks for reading and commenting!
Dear Owl - yes, you did write that! Having a "duh" moment, me!
i just like to read the stuff you write while i marvel at how busy your brain must be all the time. harnessing lightning, hmm? all i know is that i have an easier time understanding the internal combustion engine and the drilling for and transportation of fossil fuels than i do the concept of charged electrons making my toaster get hot. it may seem simple to you ... :)
metaphorically this is what we osers do:
"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 "
candace, thank you so very much. I have to admit, I have one of the noisiest heads I know of -- while still maintaining some semblance of sanity. I'm always thinking of how we can do something better, new, different. Ever since I can remember, I've been doing that. Sometimes it's like a convention in my head of ideas. I don't think I'd trade it in for any other mind I can think of.

I live pretty much in a state of wonder and I highly recommend it to anyone who can visit once in a while.

James: what a wonderful metaphorical analogy to OS! Did I say that? :)

Thanks, you guys, I have another post coming up soon I hope you'll like. It's a blend of practical, useful and oddly offbeat knowledge packaged in a shorter than usual (for me, anyway) synopsis.

And, as always,
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Owl, these are really imaginative solutions to real problems. What new ideas are you working on now?
A busy mind has no room for evil thoughts. Your ideas are always interesting and intriguing. Now pardon me if I didn't understand correctly, but :

1. Why couldn't permanent flood (or excessive rain) receptors be built in their places rather than have mobile ones on the move all the time? Consider the economy on transportation, time, and energy.

2. If the electricity from the lightning can melt metals in nano seconds, the what kind of materials would you use for the cables leading into the central bank of storage capacitors?

Please try to keep your answers short because my mind does not function too well on innovative fronts like yours. Thanks, C. :o)
Honestly Owl, I am impressed and don't actually think the ideas are as farfetched as you seem to think. Afterall, during the oil spill someone came forward with a machine that amounted to nothing more than a huge vacuum cleaner. I'm certain at one time someone thought the idea of stringing tin cans together to hold a conversation was absolutely insane.
Thanks, Daniel. I would tire you out with my list of ideas. They now range from saving the world to saving me time or organizing my life a bit better. Maybe at some point in time I will list a few of the things I thought of and am designing. Rest assured, I am still tinkering with ideas and inventions from the simple to the sublime and from small to supersized. More on those later.

FusunA: I don't know how to convert the electricity with metals, but semiconductors on a large scale do come to mind. When lightning discharges from the tip of a tree (most people may not know this, but lightning actually goes up from the ground into the sky) it splits the tree.

Lightning really is a giant static shock. You ever have shock fights with anyone on a nice nylon carpet? Same principle, different scale.

I'm thinking placing the lightning rods into the ground, packed with silica, doped with impurities (at that scale of energy, it may not matter what the materials are to some degree) to act like a giant electrical sponge to some degree.

You know, now that I think of it, if the electrical energy is actually built up from the ground and discharges into the air -- and it's static electricity, then putting in discharging stations might actually help generate the electrical power and get diverted into the storage systems, thus preventing actual lightning discharges?

Sorry, FusunA, that's about as short as I can circuit that idea. :)

You know, Fay, I hate hearing, "If it were such a good idea, someboday would have done it already."

Archimedes in circa 200 BCE built a working steam driven vehicle that tooled down the streets of Athens. We wouldn't see another self powered vehicle for nearly 2000 years.

Da Vinci drew designs of tanks, helicopters, gliders and many other cool devices -- AFTER he had gone to Alexandria and studied, culling materials that were once part of the Great Library, now destroyed, most of it's contents lost to man forever.

If they were such great ideas, how come someone else had to reinvent them instead of us accepting them right away?

Sometimes, we just have to look at things differently and two ideas from different directions collide in someone's brain and voila! A new idea based on two or more older ideas synergized.

I like the idea now of having some sort of large series of spreadable covers, like tarps, that capture excess rainwater and drain it into some form of underground reservoir (or pumped from something like a portable pool into a tank) and then just pop that into a local reservoir or a National Pumping Station. It's still a huge job, no matter how you look at it. I also still think it's worth figuring out.

Last thing and this mostly for Daniel to give an idea of my thinking and scale at times:
A giant rotating series of rings in space, built like a giant alternator, full of magnets and wires. One inner ring spins clockwise (or anticlockwise, doesn't really matter) and the outer ring spins anticlockwise.

As the rings rotate in opposite directions, the magnets' fields cross the banks of wires, creating electrical energy. Solar power's great, but building something like this could allow some sort of energy generation far from the sun, on the dark side of Mercury, say, to provide power for mining Mercury, colonizing Mars or allowing power generation in the Rings of Saturn or the Asteroid Belt so mining operations and gas collection methods can be carried out, then the resources shipped back to Earth.

See? Not really practical, but the ideas could allow some other more dedicated rocket scientist to figure something out.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
The cool part is that you had all these ideas. I love the lightning rod idea, it would probably be amazing to watch them in a storm.
rated with love
Sometimes the dreams of a 13 year are great!
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Thanks Romantic Poetess and Algis! You know, one of the things I feel that has always been my "saving grace" is that I seem to have more than one "mind" if you will. I love science and technology, I am just as happy reading about biological processes, molecular biology, astronomy, physics, engineering and I can even do a decent job of working my way through schematics, diagrams and such. Hell, I was trained for that.

At the same time, my first forays into writing were poetry and I was always getting in trouble in class for drawing pictures of knights fighting dragons, space ships cruising along the edges of my papers, and the occasional stick figure army storming the castle of my english papers.

Perhaps it is this "bridging" of two distinct mental disciplines that allows me to be able to come up with such strange (and, in my opinion really cool, sometimes beautiful) ideas. I always thought that discovery and exploration should lead to invention and creation. If you're going to make a really cool new piece of technology, why not make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye as well?

You two keep me aware of that other side.

Thanks for reading and commenting!