What would you do with infinite energy?

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scratch123
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What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby scratch123 » Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:55 pm UTC

What scientific experiments would be possible? Would having access to infinite energy make string theory falsifiable? I am pretty sure infinite energy would allow you to make a laser that could actually kill people.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Anaximander » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:00 pm UTC

I would open my own multiverse.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Xanthir » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:30 pm UTC

The energy density that you can extract is what really matters. If it can go arbitrarily high, you can just point it at something and it goes boom. If it's a more reasonable trickle, then it's just a normal generator that happens to never need fuel.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Diadem » Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:36 pm UTC

Indeed. A magical black box that gives off 10W of energy without ever needing any fuel at all is just a convenient battery, but nothing else. And if it gives off megawats that's enough to make you rich, but not enough to change the world.

However if it gives off terawatts or more, then you're talking. That's enough to vaporize buildings and ships, or to power an army. Or if you're more peacefully minded (the madness!) to significantly impact the global economy positive, as well as the enviroment.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Jorpho » Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:45 am UTC

scratch123 wrote:I am pretty sure infinite energy would allow you to make a laser that could actually kill people.
Really now, isn't it entirely possible to do so with very much finite energy? Especially if you don't mind doing it slowly? :twisted:

Given that exploiting a source of perfect energy would require an enormous amount of infrastructure one way or another (short of just hooking it into the local power grid), the first vaguely-practical thing that comes to mind is high-yield water desalination plants. And maybe massive CO2 conversion?

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Arariel » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:25 am UTC

Diadem wrote:Indeed. A magical black box that gives off 10W of energy without ever needing any fuel at all is just a convenient battery, but nothing else. And if it gives off megawats that's enough to make you rich, but not enough to change the world.

However if it gives off terawatts or more, then you're talking. That's enough to vaporize buildings and ships, or to power an army. Or if you're more peacefully minded (the madness!) to significantly impact the global economy positive, as well as the enviroment.

So basically, true power require... power? :D

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Sagekilla » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:09 pm UTC

Arariel wrote:
Diadem wrote:Indeed. A magical black box that gives off 10W of energy without ever needing any fuel at all is just a convenient battery, but nothing else. And if it gives off megawats that's enough to make you rich, but not enough to change the world.

However if it gives off terawatts or more, then you're talking. That's enough to vaporize buildings and ships, or to power an army. Or if you're more peacefully minded (the madness!) to significantly impact the global economy positive, as well as the enviroment.

So basically, true power require... power? :D


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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Proginoskes » Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:37 pm UTC

Anaximander wrote:I would open my own multiverse.


Why stop at one?

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Tass » Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:03 pm UTC

Proginoskes wrote:
Anaximander wrote:I would open my own multiverse.


Why stop at one?


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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Scyrus » Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:16 am UTC

I would most certainly destroy its magical source and prevent it from slipping into the wrong hands (probably mine).

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Nautilus » Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:43 pm UTC

Jet packs. Why has no one mentioned jet packs?
If the device is small enough and produces enough energy to lift itself, that is...

Scyrus wrote:I would most certainly destroy its magical source and prevent it from slipping into the wrong hands (probably mine).


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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby curtis95112 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:17 pm UTC

Nautilus wrote:What's the worst that could happen? 8)


Erm... Anything not expressly forbidden by physics?
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby mfb » Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:26 pm UTC

Any random object in space receives 12µW/m^2 of blackbody radiation from the cosmic microwave background. So in some way you could argue that we have infinite energy - we just have to wait long enough. As the energy density decreases over billions of years, increase your surface area.

I would prefer infinite negative entropy, as that means you can actually do something with the energy.
Or infinite power, which is even better as you have both at the same time.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Scyrus » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:11 pm UTC

mfb wrote:I would prefer infinite negative entropy, as that means you can actually do something wiht the energy.
Or infinite power, which is even better as you have both at the same time.


Unlimited power, you say?


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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Soralin » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:27 am UTC

Scyrus wrote:I would most certainly destroy its magical source and prevent it from slipping into the wrong hands (probably mine).

But then what will you do in a few quintillion years or so, when we've run out of stars and such?

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Ianfitz » Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:35 pm UTC

Make gold. Lots of it.
And other precious metals.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:22 pm UTC

Soralin wrote:
Scyrus wrote:I would most certainly destroy its magical source and prevent it from slipping into the wrong hands (probably mine).

But then what will you do in a few quintillion years or so, when we've run out of stars and such?

Kids these days. Short term thinking all the way.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Aelfyre » Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:43 pm UTC

scratch123 wrote:What scientific experiments would be possible? Would having access to infinite energy make string theory falsifiable? I am pretty sure infinite energy would allow you to make a laser that could actually kill people.


Avoid using it in order to avoid collapsing the universe.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby The Geoff » Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:43 am UTC

With infinite energy comes infinite responsibility, divided by however long it takes you to be responsible.

Me? I'd go for interstellar travel. If you've got a stupid amount of power you can just ramp up a particle accelerator to give you as big an impulse as you need from very little fuel. Couple it to an Orion style ship with shock absorbers and all of a sudden we can cross the galaxy in years. OK, you can't get around relativity, so nobody's going to be coming back with good stories, but that's no good reason not to let people go.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Gagundathar The Inexplicable » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:15 pm UTC

Has anyone suggested hookers and blow, yet?


Just wondering.


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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby krogoth » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:01 pm UTC

I never thought of it like that - infinite personal energy?

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby webgiant » Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:27 am UTC

scratch123 wrote:What scientific experiments would be possible? Would having access to infinite energy make string theory falsifiable? I am pretty sure infinite energy would allow you to make a laser that could actually kill people.

I suspect I'd collapse spacetime, regardless of whatever else I wanted to do with infinite energy.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby xkcdfan » Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:18 am UTC

Am I really the only one who'd use it to end world hunger and provide free healthcare for everyone in the world?

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Frenetic Pony » Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:38 am UTC

Travel through time, assumedly to other dimensions in the infinite possibility of universes, reading those "other" great books Neal Stephenson could have written. Maybe pick up some new tunes from Jimi Hendrix. There would, assumedly, also be a perfect beach resort with a perfect cafe at which to read/listen to this.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby krogoth » Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:05 pm UTC

I suppose if you have replicators from star trek you can made the food, or say automated farms because of the 'free' energry, but how do you get the free services known as health care from energy?
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:40 pm UTC

I've been trying to come up with decent ways of supplying infinite energy that would have a low likelihood of ending the world.

The best I've been able to come up with so far is a new fundamental particle that is, bizarrely, about 30cm in diameter, weighs a ton, and has a constant "surface" temperature of 1000K. This is hot enough to easily generate energy from, cool enough to be easily transported, small and light enough to be usefully transported, but large and heavy enough to not be too useful as a weapon. Get it into space, and you've got a bad-ass ion drive. Keep it for a quadrillion years, and you can still compute during the heat death.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Arariel » Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:01 am UTC

Xanthir wrote:I've been trying to come up with decent ways of supplying infinite energy that would have a low likelihood of ending the world.

The best I've been able to come up with so far is a new fundamental particle that is, bizarrely, about 30cm in diameter, weighs a ton, and has a constant "surface" temperature of 1000K. This is hot enough to easily generate energy from, cool enough to be easily transported, small and light enough to be usefully transported, but large and heavy enough to not be too useful as a weapon. Get it into space, and you've got a bad-ass ion drive. Keep it for a quadrillion years, and you can still compute during the heat death.

If it had a constant surface temperature of 1000K, how would you ever get any energy from it? And how would you ever measure its temperature anyway?

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Jorpho » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:21 am UTC

Arariel wrote:If it had a constant surface temperature of 1000K, how would you ever get any energy from it?
The same way you get energy from anything warm: dump water on it and use the steam. Or maybe at that kind of temperature you could do better with a fancy thermocouple of some sort.

And how would you ever measure its temperature anyway?
More thermocouples, or spectroscopy or something. It's not like it's impossible to generate that kind of temperature on Earth already.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Arariel » Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:18 am UTC

Oh, never mind, I thought it was constant at 1000K as in there would never be any heat exchange. Silly me. So it would just magically create the energy needed to bring objects touching it into thermal equilibrium?

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Jorpho » Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:51 am UTC

Arariel wrote:So it would just magically create the energy needed to bring objects touching it into thermal equilibrium?
Presumably. Kind of alarming, come to think of it: wouldn't you have to set up something to dump the excess heat into outer space to avoid wreaking havoc with the local atmospheric temperature.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby orderlyAnarch » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:38 am UTC

my first idea was that long-distance electric skateboard races would suddenly be practical.

The other idea starts with making a lot of money from the energy and resulting tech. Then I put all of that into getting nanobots(the entire world working together, with no other problems, should be able to make something before I get too old for the rest of the plan). I upgrade myself with said tech so I'm not vulnerable to those little biological things like disease, age or hunger. A high power rail/coilgun gets 10 tons of grey goo(the gift that keeps on giving) and power sources to Mars, where it sinks to the core and gets to work. A few years later, I go to the red planet and launch thousands of relativistic ships using a rail/coilgun built into the planet in every direction(planets are easy to turn and aim, right?), carrying my mind(in grey goo form and an organic backup) and possibly colonists. They are given the rest of their velocity by Bussard ramjets. If I happen to achieve a few more impossible things along the way, like FTL or reactionless drive, everything is more fun. :twisted:

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Soralin » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:09 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:
Arariel wrote:So it would just magically create the energy needed to bring objects touching it into thermal equilibrium?
Presumably. Kind of alarming, come to think of it: wouldn't you have to set up something to dump the excess heat into outer space to avoid wreaking havoc with the local atmospheric temperature.

Not really, physics handles that on it's own fairly well, radiation scales with temperature as T4. So, if you were to increase the temperature of the Earth slightly, the amount of energy it would radiate off into space increases by a lot. So a stable continuous input of energy only leads to temperature going up by x number of degrees, no matter how long you run it, and when you turned it off, it would go back down again. It just moves the equilibrium temperature up a bit, rather than the temperature continuing to go up over time.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby mfb » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:46 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:The best I've been able to come up with so far is a new fundamental particle that is, bizarrely, about 30cm in diameter, weighs a ton, and has a constant "surface" temperature of 1000K. This is hot enough to easily generate energy from, cool enough to be easily transported, small and light enough to be usefully transported, but large and heavy enough to not be too useful as a weapon. Get it into space, and you've got a bad-ass ion drive. Keep it for a quadrillion years, and you can still compute during the heat death.

To use that to generate electricity: Surround it with copper (k~400W/(m*K)). The particle has a surface of ~0.3m^2, if you want to harvest 1MWth from it, you have an initial temperature drop of P/k=2500K/m or 375K in 15cm. For larger distances, the surface grows with r^2, so delta_T ~ 1/r, that means a sphere with very large radius will still have a total temperature drop of only ~375K (with 1MW flow). That is fine, just make the copper large enough to connect some power-generating devices to it (steam, stirling motors, thermoelectric elements, ...). The best efficiency you can get is ~300K/600K = 1/2, which means about 500kW electric per particle. This is much better than the blackbody radiation of the particle itself (17kW). Do it in space with large radiators, and it is possible to come closer to 1MW.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Jorpho » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:39 pm UTC

But why would surrounding the particle with copper and then immersing it in water be more efficient than putting the particle itself in water? Presumably a copper shell would not be able to maintain a constant surface temperature of 1000K.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Yakk » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:20 pm UTC

You want to conduct the heat away from it as fast as possible.

The faster the heat is conducted away, the more energy you have.

Boiling water directly might not conduct heat away from it fast enough.

Or so goes the hand-wave.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:36 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:You want to conduct the heat away from it as fast as possible.

The faster the heat is conducted away, the more energy you have.

Boiling water directly might not conduct heat away from it fast enough.
But couldn't you vary the power quite a bit by adjusting the rate at which water flows past to be boiled?
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby Sagekilla » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:35 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:But why would surrounding the particle with copper and then immersing it in water be more efficient than putting the particle itself in water? Presumably a copper shell would not be able to maintain a constant surface temperature of 1000K.


Leidenfrost effect.

I'm fairly certain that the water would almost immediately vaporize and form a steam barrier around the surface of the particle.
Such a thing would be extremely inefficient at transferring heat. You wouldn't quite want the copper shell to maintain 1000K either
for the same exact reason, but presumably it would operate at a low enough temperature to efficiently heat up the water.
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby mfb » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:58 pm UTC

Well, it would be possible to use other liquids or supercritical water (but the density there may be bad). 1MW can heat 1mm of surrounding material (some random liquid metal) from 300K to 1000K in ~1/10s assuming 1J/(K*g) and 4g/cm^3. So you have to exchange the whole contact area in O(1/10 second). The millimeter would require some more investigation, i.e. how much is the outer part heated within 1/10s.

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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby WarDaft » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:55 pm UTC

Isn't 1000k enough to make copper pretty weak? Could not the particle, weighing a ton and not being that large, begin to force its way out of a purely copper sphere?
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Re: What would you do with infinite energy?

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:28 pm UTC

So rotate it slowly.
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