DailyDirt: Unobtainium Will Save Us!

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Some folks are worried about Peak Oil. Others are worried about “Peak Helium” when most of the Earth’s resources of the lightweight element have vanished into space. There are also all kinds of metals that are getting harder and harder to find. Where will we be able to replenish precious, finite materials? Duh, just go get some from other celestial bodies. You only need to be a billionaire with a few other billionaire friends to start this project. Estimated time for completion: 10 years in the future.

By the way, StumbleUpon can also recommend some good Techdirt articles, too.

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Companies: astrobotic technology, nasa, planetary resources

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Unobtainium Will Save Us!”

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14 Comments
Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Why Are Power Lines Not Made Of Silver?

People who worry that we are running out of ?resources? should remember that a ?resource? is whatever we say it is.

For example, silver is a better electrical conductor than copper. So why are power lines made out of copper, not silver? Because we never had enough silver to make it economically viable. Imagine if, in times past, silver had been as plentiful as copper, so we used silver in power lines everywhere, people might have been worried what would happen once the silver ran out, the inferior copper would never work as well.

The point is, we adapt to what?s available. If something gets scarce, its price goes up, and other alternatives become more economically attractive. The world will not suddenly run out of oil one day; its price will have pushed us onto alternatives long before then.

The only constant in all this is that our most valuable resource is people. The more brains we have on this Earth, the more clever ideas they come up with.

abc gum says:

Why Are Power Lines Not Made Of Silver?

There may be other mitigating factors besides cost in the decision making process about what materials would be best suited for electrical power transmission. For example, silver oxidation can be a problem, more so than copper. Aluminum is cheaper than copper and is used in high tension wires.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Space Law...not likely

Ownership of asteroids and the legalities of mining them could be a lucrative field someday!

I suspect mining asteroids in space is going to be more like Eve Online than United Nations and International Law. If you aren’t willing to live on/around and defend your rock, you’ll have no way to claim in as yours. It is doubtful there will be any space police to help you out, and except for those who can afford to protect themselves from pirates, there will be plenty of folks out there living off of other’s hard work.

Not that I think it is a bad thing…I want us off this rock because either mother nature or ourselves are going to kill us off. For a while, mining in space will be as safe as living in an environment with a lot of radiation and no air outside of a thing shell, but eventually lots of people will be out there… Lawyers will be more for target practice than anything else.

Rekrul says:

If gold was as abundant as aluminum, what would we do with it?

There was an original Twilight Zone episode called The Rip Van Winkle Caper. A group of thieves steal a load of gold and then plan to sleep in suspended animation for 100 years. When they wake up, there’s a problem with the truck and since they’re in a remote location, they’re stranded. They start walking, trying to carry the gold bars between them. Eventually, they start killing each other out of greed. The last guy is dying by the side of the road when a futuristic car (the transport from Forbidden Planet) pulls up and a guy gets out. The crook offers him the last gold bar for some water, but dies before the guy can help him. The guy takes the bar back to the car where his wife is waiting. He says that the guy tried to give it to him as if it was worth something. His wife asks if it has any value and the guy replies that it used to, before they figured out to manufacture it. He then tosses the gold and gets back in the car. 🙂

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re:

> why the disparaging attitude

Because they are idiots. I’ll illustrate it with one quote:

“extracting water and refining it for spaceship fuel”

Water =/= fuel. That’s like saying an empty tank of gasoline is “fuel”. Turning water into hydrogen and oxygen _requires_ energy; more than you get back when you combine it. It is almost as bad as Stephen Hawking suggesting colonizing other planets is humanities only hope, because its going to get so “hot” here.

A Guy (profile) says:

Why Are Power Lines Not Made Of Silver?

“The point is, we adapt to what?s available. If something gets scarce, its price goes up, and other alternatives become more economically attractive. The world will not suddenly run out of oil one day; its price will have pushed us onto alternatives long before then.”

No, the point is we can either plan for a smooth transition to alternate technologies, or have a very rough “adaptation period” where lots of people die.

FarSide (profile) says:

The gold thing

is starting to get a little annoying. What would be the cost to mine and return an oz of gold from an asteroid?

I have no idea, but my hunch is, a lot. Even after they’ve been doing it for 20 years.

Somehow I’m not too worried about it blowing the bottom off the gold market. Of course I don’t own any gold, but even if I did I wouldn’t be too worried about it.

Then again, maybe they’ll bring it back 1000 tons at a time. And I’d be able to get that solid gold toilet.

Either way, the future looks cool.

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