Re: Gamma Ray Bursters

Eugene Leitl (
Sun, 4 May 1997 11:52:18 +0200 (MET DST)

On Sat, 3 May 1997, Michael Lorrey wrote:

> [ ban GRB power in the local supercluster! ]
> I concur. Outside of waste heat and carbon dioxide, at least on this
> planet, it is a recognised pattern that as a society becomes more
> advanced economically and technologically past the early industrial
> stage, the per capita amount of waste and pollution produced goes down.

Sorry, Mike, but I think there are several weak points in your analysis.
For one, I consider excluding carbon dioxide a sleight of hand. We haven't
even begun our first steps towards a zero overall CO_2 release energy
economy (i.e. photovoltaics, hydrogen, and methanol from
biomass/carbonates). That exponentially rising atmospheric greenhouse gas
content is a gamble, is not open to doubt. Antarctic palaeoice samples
show our climate to be intrinsically nonlinear, and we are giving it major
shove. How's that for a global experiment. Globally stupid.

Earlier sources of pollution, starting with medieval metallurgy, were
intense, but localized. As local wood, ore, and energy sources were
depleted, we started to forage overseas. Now we are the heart of the
furnace, the focus of material streams converging from all around the
globe. At the origin, in the underdeveloped countries, there is zero
environment protection, the wages are very low so only a tiny fraction of
the cake remains there. We are skimming the cream off the global milk
bowl, in more than one aspect.

This effect is only sustainable, as long there is milk in the bowl, and
the world is not equilibrated, underdeveloped world patches ready to take
the olympic fire of industrialization still exist. But both the patches
are running out, and the milk is progresively turning sour by the
equilibration metabolites. A 1 GPeople to join the happy-select-few-throng
will produce a _lot_ of metabolites. Sustainability of progress?

I say: let's turn our eyes to sky. The Mother of all Milkbowls: Galactica.
Let's move industrialization into orbital factories, us following on the
heel. Autoreplicating systems are cheap, and there are lots of
unequilibrated matter/energy patches out there. Let's.

> The turnaround point is somewhere around a per capital income level of
> $8,000.00 per year. Once you get to that point as a nation, your average
> personal pollution goes down.
> Extrapolating this, considering that gamma rays are about the nastiest
> form of pollution one could produce, I highly doubt that a highly
> advanced civilization would be party to widespread pollution of parsecs
> of space by gamma ray bursts.