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Author Topic: What makes up energy?  (Read 1497 times)

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Offline InkiduTopic starter

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What makes up energy?
« on: February 14, 2014, 10:11:33 AM »
So I'm trying to sketch out this form of FTL travel for a book. (I removed the original thread because I felt perhaps it wasn't ready).

I hit on the idea that humanity has discovered a technology that allows for the wireless transmission of energy a la Nikola Tesla.

Now, I know that the most efficient device we currently have is transformer. It's something like 99.9% efficient. So I knocked around the idea of wireless transformer tech called apertures and the concept of Wireless Energy Conversion (WEC).

Now, I'm not saying this is rock hard physics by any stretch of the imagination, but what if there was a way of converting all energy into one form transmitting it where it needed to go, and then reconverting it to its original form (or some other form) and using it in more traditional methods.

For instance. The electricity created by a orbiting solar collector would beam it down in a harmless form of energy (as a concession of fiction is probably some as of yet undiscovered form of energy) beams it to the planet's surface receiver where it goes out for planetary consumption.

So is it even feasible that pure energy of one form could be converted to another without some kind of analogue converter (i.e. a generator of mechanical to electrical energy)?

Like solar energy is converted straight to electricity.

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2014, 11:09:06 AM »
Have you looked into any of the things mentioned here?  (Particularly near the end - I've seen news-flashes about this kind of work.) 

Electricity is essentially moving electrons.  The trick about making it wireless is keeping the electrons moving in the same tight path, so that you can pick them all up again at the other end.  Energy is always conserved - it just usually diffuses through the system and the universe is a pretty big system.  :P

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2014, 11:22:44 AM »
Have you looked into any of the things mentioned here?  (Particularly near the end - I've seen news-flashes about this kind of work.) 

Electricity is essentially moving electrons.  The trick about making it wireless is keeping the electrons moving in the same tight path, so that you can pick them all up again at the other end.  Energy is always conserved - it just usually diffuses through the system and the universe is a pretty big system.  :P
Hmm that magnetic field thing has promise. It's a brief blurb but they're trying to make wires using magnetic fields from what I understand.

I feel kind of bad because as a writer, magnetic fields would cause a host of interference issues though. Thanks Oniya. :)

My idea is basically that if you can change elements by removing or adding protons and electrons, why can't you change energy via a similar process.

EDIT: You're allowed to tell me I'm wrong. :)
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 12:39:07 PM by Inkidu »

Offline Kythia

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2014, 01:33:00 PM »
You're not wrong.  You are going to run into thermodynamics issues that might require a particularly enthusiastic wave of the hand though.

The issue is wastage.  Perfect conversion of energy from one form to another and transmission thereof is another way of saying "perpetual motion machine".  Think of it this way.  A solar collector collects electricity through solar panels.  It then beams it down to the ground in the form of energy X.  100% of it is captured on the ground and reconverted back into electricity.  Fine so far.  The problem is with the beam though.  That beam is made up of particles.  Those particles have mass.  Therefore the ones at the solar collector have a higher potential energy than the ones on the earth's surface (with me?  Don't want to be patronising, just not sure of your background). 

So the particles lose energy when they "fall" from the collector to the earth - as shown by the loss of potential energy.  So either you're not collecting 100% at the base or you're somehow adding extra energy in to the system, meaning the thing is running at a net loss.

There's no reason that can't be 99.999carryonaslongasyouwant% efficient.  But not 100%

As for transference, though, sure.  That's essentially what a radio broadcaster is.

Offline Vekseid

Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2014, 01:51:20 PM »
Why the need for 100% conversion?

Something that's easy to overlook is the fact that entropy is also information. Entropy is why we are able to perceive the flow of time in the first place. A perfect energy conversion process means that, should it happen, we wouldn't know how it got to its current state.

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2014, 02:02:16 PM »
I didn't see any mention of a 100% conversion anywhere - only that the transistor (which uses wires as physical conduits) was 99.9% effective.  I interpreted the question as to whether there was a way of doing it at least as efficiently without the need for physical conduits.

Offline Kythia

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2014, 02:16:58 PM »
As we're talking FTL travel, I'm assuming inkidu is talking about either converting travellers to energy or converting them into information and beaming that.  As some of it will be lost (because less than 100% efficiency), the travel will result in people showing up with parts of their bodies missing.  I'm struggling a little to decide whether efficiency will necessarily decrease with distance but it doesn't actually matter.

Offline Vekseid

Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2014, 02:29:40 PM »
I misread Inkidu's post, pay it no mind :-p

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2014, 02:50:15 PM »
Considering the various methods currently used in science fiction for FTL travel, there's questions of powering the devices from a distance (since it takes a boat-load of energy to get up to light speed, even if you give quantum physics a miss), or withstanding extreme environments (which would likely be more traumatic to delicate circuitry).

As far as 'beaming' technology, there's a lot of redundancy in biological structures, as well as the ability for minor damage to be repaired.  Getting the transfer up to 99.99999whatever% would probably be sufficient - although excessively frequent use could result in problems (which could be a plot point, actually.)

Offline Kythia

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2014, 03:14:36 PM »
This is putting me in mind of an Isaac Asimov short story whose name I cannot for the life of me remember.  The concept was that that (beaming) was the only way to break FTL but that computers were shutting down when they tried to process it.  The issue being that converting the human into energy killed them and thus broke the laws of robotics, so they stopped processing that as a viable option.

Anyway.  Sure, redundancy and repair could mitigate a lot and further presumably the "reconstruction" process could also repair some damage ("Dude should have a kidney.  Better put one in")  not to mention, if information that allows reconstruction is beamed rather than the traveller themselves, various methods of putting redundancy into the message itself. But without that impossible 100% efficiency you are going to run into problems and, practically if not necessarily (haven't worked it out yet, but my gut is "no") increasing ones with distance.

As a random side issue returning to the solar collectors - why use wireless technology for that at all? Have them as the orbital end of a space elevator, use the cable as the wire.  More efficient transfer of power and makes maintenance a lot easier.

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2014, 03:24:25 PM »
Anyway.  Sure, redundancy and repair could mitigate a lot and further presumably the "reconstruction" process could also repair some damage ("Dude should have a kidney.  Better put one in")  not to mention, if information that allows reconstruction is beamed rather than the traveller themselves, various methods of putting redundancy into the message itself. But without that impossible 100% efficiency you are going to run into problems and, practically if not necessarily (haven't worked it out yet, but my gut is "no") increasing ones with distance.

I was thinking that DNA is full of redundancy, and that the 'repair' would be done on the organism level.  If you get your efficacy up high enough, then the errors are more likely to be at the cellular/chromosomal level, and not 'coming out with organs missing' level.  (Dammit - 'chromosome error' just gave me a plot-bunny.)  However, with the distance thing, my gut is thinking that your gut is right.  Even a laser shows some 'blur' when aimed at something as close as the Moon.

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2014, 03:49:49 PM »
I misread Inkidu's post, pay it no mind :-p
No actually, You've got a valid point, but in order to eschew or avoid those nasty temporal paradoxes and time dilation in general wouldn't you need something that gets as close to zero entropy as possible? If only for as long as it takes to get from point A to point B.

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2014, 04:05:08 PM »
You're not wrong.  You are going to run into thermodynamics issues that might require a particularly enthusiastic wave of the hand though.

The issue is wastage.  Perfect conversion of energy from one form to another and transmission thereof is another way of saying "perpetual motion machine".  Think of it this way.  A solar collector collects electricity through solar panels.  It then beams it down to the ground in the form of energy X.  100% of it is captured on the ground and reconverted back into electricity.  Fine so far.  The problem is with the beam though.  That beam is made up of particles.  Those particles have mass.  Therefore the ones at the solar collector have a higher potential energy than the ones on the earth's surface (with me?  Don't want to be patronising, just not sure of your background). 

So the particles lose energy when they "fall" from the collector to the earth - as shown by the loss of potential energy.  So either you're not collecting 100% at the base or you're somehow adding extra energy in to the system, meaning the thing is running at a net loss.

There's no reason that can't be 99.999carryonaslongasyouwant% efficient.  But not 100%

As for transference, though, sure.  That's essentially what a radio broadcaster is.
I actually know that :D

I've an English degree, but hey writers are always giving the scientific community its next benchmark. >,>

I don't need something that's 100% effective, 99.9-- is good enough. I need to achieve what we have in transformers now in a "wireless" capacity. Or at least as few moving parts as possible.

Because I'm thinking that if the concept of wireless energy conversion/transmission is possible then that allows you to turn say nuclear radiation into something as harmless (radiation wise) as electrical energy (which can be grounded). It would have a lot of applications in a science fiction setting.

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2014, 05:26:58 PM »
The idea of a solar collector is one I toyed with before and I had a few theoretical design solutions. I won't get into too much detail, but the first solution a solar collector would be what I call the kite solution. Its where you have a tether to the solar collector orbiting around earth and have the energy transmitted down. You would have a long enough line that is light weight and strong enough (something carbon tubes) and keep the collection in a certain stationary position of orbit relative to the earth. High complicated, but doable. 

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2014, 07:05:04 PM »
The idea of a solar collector is one I toyed with before and I had a few theoretical design solutions. I won't get into too much detail, but the first solution a solar collector would be what I call the kite solution. Its where you have a tether to the solar collector orbiting around earth and have the energy transmitted down. You would have a long enough line that is light weight and strong enough (something carbon tubes) and keep the collection in a certain stationary position of orbit relative to the earth. High complicated, but doable.
How would you deal with air-traffic issues? :\

Offline Ephiral

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2014, 08:14:41 PM »
If you're talking about beaming people... well, by that point, a person is essentially information, which means everything we know about messag redundancy and error correction comes in. We can ensure that all of the message gets through even if the process is extremely lossy. You might need more energy input on the transmitter side, but... that shouldn't really be a huge issue.

As far as temporal paradoxes go, don't sweat it too much. FTL inherently breaks causality, but audiences tend to ignore this if writers do.

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2014, 08:32:54 PM »
If you're talking about beaming people... well, by that point, a person is essentially information, which means everything we know about messag redundancy and error correction comes in. We can ensure that all of the message gets through even if the process is extremely lossy. You might need more energy input on the transmitter side, but... that shouldn't really be a huge issue.

As far as temporal paradoxes go, don't sweat it too much. FTL inherently breaks causality, but audiences tend to ignore this if writers do.
You'd think that. Writers ignore it, readers don't. :P

They tear that kind of stuff apart. It's not exactly beaming people (I personally don't like teleporters, and that's a little too advanced for the setting I want to craft as paradoxical as it sounds).

It's more like humans learn through this technology (which is originally designed to solve the energy crisis) that when you coat a non-organic substance is coated in it (I'm thinking about making it more specific than that, probably paladium coated or something) it can basically bore their own wormholes and cross large amounts of space in a few minutes (making temporal issues non-existent). It is fairly slow in the energy-collection part of it though. Taking hours to charge out in space.

Offline Vekseid

Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2014, 09:47:36 AM »
No actually, You've got a valid point, but in order to eschew or avoid those nasty temporal paradoxes and time dilation in general wouldn't you need something that gets as close to zero entropy as possible? If only for as long as it takes to get from point A to point B.

Entropy has nothing to do with time dilation and eliminating it won't let you avoid paradoxes. It just means more energy is converted into getting stuff done than normal, at a cost of a less complete understanding of how it gets done. Entropy is how we perceive time, with the rather odd conclusion being that if time were moving backwards, we'd still perceive it moving forward, because that's the direction entropy takes.

To avoid FTL paradoxes, you either need to break relativity in some way (a common reference frame can work if it is not a fixed point within the Universe), use a cosmic censor (most straightforward way to do this is to construct your FTL mechanism such that all transfer across them must use the same inertial frame, however widely separated. Ends of a wormhole or jump points that are fixed in space with respect to each other, for example), or permit time travel but either use the multiverse method or another version of censorship ("If you go back in time before your birth you do not kill your grandfather.").


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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2014, 09:55:19 AM »
You'd think that. Writers ignore it, readers don't. :P

They tear that kind of stuff apart. It's not exactly beaming people (I personally don't like teleporters, and that's a little too advanced for the setting I want to craft as paradoxical as it sounds).
I suppose it depends on the fandom - Eclipse Phase fans have had detailed discussions on the exact science of causality violations and the practical uses of them, but I don't see Trek or Wars fans arguing that the solution to every problem is to fly back to last week and nip it in the bud.

It's more like humans learn through this technology (which is originally designed to solve the energy crisis) that when you coat a non-organic substance is coated in it (I'm thinking about making it more specific than that, probably paladium coated or something) it can basically bore their own wormholes and cross large amounts of space in a few minutes (making temporal issues non-existent). It is fairly slow in the energy-collection part of it though. Taking hours to charge out in space.
For that... well, honestly, pick your handwavium and run with it. In general, having an idea how it functions but not the exact principles behind it is fine - after all, if you knew the science behind how it works, you'd just build one and cash in, right? As far as the specific implications of wormholes go... well, depending on how restrictive or difficult it is to create them, and whether or not they can easily be moved at high velocity relative to each other, you're mostly worried about informational violations of causality. Which means that stock markets might be a little complicated in your world, but there aren't likely to be masses of people spending their vacations killing Hitler.

Offline meikle

Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2014, 12:10:54 PM »
You'd think that. Writers ignore it, readers don't. :P

Readers will ignore it unless you try to present it as being realistic.  You think anyone actually gets upset about Element Zero in mass effect?  -- the ones who do aren't the target audience.  If your target audience is, like, straight-up hard sci-fi fans, well...

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2014, 12:36:54 PM »
Readers will ignore it unless you try to present it as being realistic.  You think anyone actually gets upset about Element Zero in mass effect?  -- the ones who do aren't the target audience.  If your target audience is, like, straight-up hard sci-fi fans, well...
It's semi-hard by virtue of being set as close to Next Sunday AD as I possibly can. I'm thinking of shooting for 2060 for the start of the book (I'm an Alpha Centauri fan) and 2024 for the discovery of apertures and WEC.

I think the greats of science fiction have pretty much explored much  of what is currently available for the truly hard stuff.

So I want to get as much real science behind it as I possibly can.

EDIT: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness

Shooting for about a 4 to 4.5.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 12:53:49 PM by Inkidu »

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2014, 01:43:35 PM »
On a completely unrelated note, I saw 'Mohs' and 'Hardness', and immediately started with 'Okay, talc is 1, gypsum is 2...'  *curses brain*

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2014, 01:47:53 PM »
On a completely unrelated note, I saw 'Mohs' and 'Hardness', and immediately started with 'Okay, talc is 1, gypsum is 2...'  *curses brain*
::) Oh you, of course you know the whole scale. :P


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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #23 on: February 15, 2014, 01:51:29 PM »
Nah - I'm hazy from about 3 to 8.  9 is carborundum and 10 is diamond.  I did have a large rock collection as a kid, though.

Offline InkiduTopic starter

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Re: What makes up energy?
« Reply #24 on: February 15, 2014, 01:58:33 PM »
Nah - I'm hazy from about 3 to 8.  9 is carborundum and 10 is diamond.  I did have a large rock collection as a kid, though.
I was more interested in crystalography as a kid. I used to use those Smithsonian crystal-growing kits and all that junk.