Isqua Istari

The Wise Wizards

PS Cast, Ocean Living

Posted in Articles,PSCast:S1 by Ziggy Wednesday June 25, 2014 at 15:09

Living on the ocean. Why we don’t do it, and why we might want to start.

Ocean Living

[Same Old Intro]

So, for a while I’ve been thinking about how we live on the land, but the ocean is practically empty. So why don’t we just live there?

And obviously there’s some reasons for this. If you step out of your house on the land, you can walk on the land… most places. But if you step out of your house on the water, you can’t walk on the water… or at least most people can’t. So, you can drown… and that’s bad. Also the ocean is very caustic, er, it’s not caustic, it’s not acidic, it’s just… corrosive! It’s very corrosive.

The ocean is very corrosive, and that makes it a bad place to build things. If you build a city there it will rust if it’s got any iron in it. And it’s also moving all the time, it’s full of energy. It’s sloshing around, so it batters stuff and smashes things against eachother. So there’s mechanical weathering. There’s chemical weathering. There’s also lots of rain, so it’s not even just salt water, it’s salt water and fresh water, and some things react badly to salt water that don’t react to fresh water, and vice-versa. And there’s lots of sunlight, and there’s reflected sunlight. So on the surface of the ocean… just a terrible place to build anything.

But it has a high energy density. I mean, there’s nothing around to block it except the clouds. It’s got lots of water, which is important, I mean, you need water. It’s got fresh water, because it rains a lot.

The main problem is that the ocean, the open ocean, is lacking in nutrients. It’s got a very low nutrient level because, basically what happens is if there’s some nutrients on the surface of the ocean, it gets turned into plankton. The plankton replicate really quickly and turn it all into plankton. And then the plankton get eaten by little animals, and those get eaten by bigger animals. And then the bigger animals die eventually and they sink to the bottom of the ocean, and all the nutrients just stay there at the bottom of the ocean.

And then very slowly the ocean currents will move the nutrients around and they’ll make it wash up in areas that are called upwelling zones. And upwelling zones are incredibly rich in aquatic life because they have these nutrients, and so the fish have something to eat. So the rest of the open ocean, it’s pretty much a desert. Its got a very low density of animals and things.

But there’s all this stuff on the bottom of the ocean! And if we could just get it up to the surface…

We need to get the nutrients at the bottom of the ocean, and the sunlight at the top of the ocean, together somehow. So, you could (in theory, I suppose) build a long light tube, like a fiber-optic column, that extended from the surface, you’ve got a big old collector at the surface, concentrate a bunch of this light energy into the fiber-optic column, and then hang it all the way down to the bottom of the ocean, and just shine it around down there and maybe get some plankton, or whatever you want to grow, and seed the ooze at the bottom of the ocean with this stuff, and make a garden. So you could farm in that way. You could also reach down there and grab the nutrient rich water and suck it up with a big long hose, or with some buckets or something.

You could forget both of those things and just suck the water onto land and have a land garden. But that’s the worst, I think, of all the solutions because the slope at the shore is pretty shallow. So you end up using a lot more tube, or buckets, or rope (or whatever it is you’re using to haul up the water with) than you really need to. And also land is expensive! I mean, we use land! We like to build houses on land because we can’t drown there. So, land is very useful for things other than water farms, aquaculture.

So I think one of these two solutions. Or you could do halfway in-between. You could have a mid-way station where you’ve got a fiber-optic column from up above, and nutrient water pulled up from… or sludge, pulled up from the benthic areas, and kinda mix them up in the middle, and have this, you know, central area where you’re doing all your farming. However you end up doing it. But at some point in the future it’s going to end up being worthwhile and people are going to start doing it and it’s going to produce a lot of food, a lot of fish, a lot of plankton, or sea-weed, or whatever it is you want to cultivate. And there will be weeds, obviously, there will be blooms of stuff that you don’t like. But, I think this is the way to go forward with producing food.

And the cycle is going to be closed, because those nutrients aren’t going to leave the planet. The nutrients are just sitting at the bottom of the ocean un-utilized at the moment. They’re sitting down there not doing anything. They’re not doing any work. They’re out of the loop. They’re out of the cycle. And if we can pull that stuff into the cycle, we’ll have a lot more stuff to work with. We’ll have a lot more biomass to work with.

And you can do all kinds of other things. You can build all of this biomass and then… Because people are all talking about how we need to get the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere so the planet doesn’t turn into Venus or whatever… Which is absurd, but whatever. It would solve that problem of “okay, you want to eliminate the carbon dioxide? Fine. You build a bunch of these plant things.” You suck the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere using algae. Which is… Hah! It’s a machine designed to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turn it into a solid material. It’s perfect for that kind of thing! I mean, it’s much easier than growing trees and cutting them down and sequestering them somewhere.

So I think we should look into this, or do it, or someone should go make it happen. Now, I mean, it does cost a lot of money to build stuff.

Instead of building giant oil-rig style platforms… ’cause oil rigs are there because they need to have a solid platform to put a bunch of large equipment on. But if you didn’t need all that large equipment, if all you were doing was pumping up sea-water, and you didn’t need drilling and oil storage and all the stuff that you have on an oil rig, you wouldn’t have to build a giant monolithic structure that was way above the surface. You could build a bunch of pods and rope them together using tensioning structures like… um… Freeman Dyson (Editors note: I meant Buckminster Fuller. Sorry.) came up with this idea a while ago. He called it “tensegrity” but basically you use long sticks and ropes, and you can hook things together using just ropes, where they’re connected only using ropes. So that the tension goes both ways, and you can hold them apart using ropes. And so then, you’ve got all these things roped together, and ropes are very durable on the ocean. I mean, they’re not perfectly durable, but they’re much more durable than, say, steel hinges, or bumpers that are always bumping and rubbing against each-other.

So you can hook your pods together in this way. And then you can build as many pods as you want, make it as big as you want, have it all be modular, move your stuff around. You could expand cities in this way, just by building these pods out onto the ocean, and have them… Now, you’d need to be careful near the shore, because, of course, the shore is made of solid matter and so you can’t just slosh around over the shore, they’re going to get wrecked on the shore line. But I’m sure we could figure this out. Moor them close to shore and then you can have housing off-shore, or storage, or whatever it is that you’re looking for to move off-shore.

And people complain about having their view wrecked or something like that. But you can make ’em look nice. You can make ’em look like flower petals or something. Or a bunch of lillies. It’d end up looking like a mat of houses basically, floating on the surface of the ocean.

And you can use these to drive things, you can move them forward and backward and sideways using latching… Basically you latch them to the surface of the ocean so that they have flaps or hinges or channels that open when the water’s flowing one way and close when the water’s flowing the other way. And so you can pull yourself along up-flow or down-flow. And then you can have, sails basically, so you can sail across-flow. And so you can have this whole thing moving around… not very fast, but it doesn’t need to move very fast… without expending any power.

So now you’ve got a mobile city that’s modular, it’s producing a huge amount of food, it’s absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere… the only problem (Editors note… the only problem? What was I thinking?) is that you have to build it somewhere. Although there are ways to build concrete out of sea water, they are not very well researched and we’re not really sure if they are going to work very well, and I wouldn’t really trust them, at least initially, so you’d have to have some sort of place to build these pods. Or build structures out of concrete, or fiberglass, or whatever it is you want to build a boat out of really.

But we build houses already. I mean, it’s not like we’re going out and chopping down trees wherever we are and building a house right on site. We build all our houses, basically, off-site. We ship in all the lumber and ship in all the stuff and construct it so you can just do the same kind of thing. Especially since it’s floating on the ocean, so you can just build it wherever you want and then tow it to the location of whatever city you want to be a part of.

And, like I said, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but I haven’t done anything about it because I don’t have the resources to try it out. Basically you’d need to be able to build a set of pods to live on. Have enough rope to rope them together. Have enough pipe to reach down into the ocean, or fiber optics to reach down into the ocean. And then enough food to last long enough to try out all kinds of stuff. ‘Cause I don’t know if anyone’s tried this before so you just have to experiment and see what happens, see what worked and what didn’t. And that takes time. So you’d need several months worth of food, and, probably, $100K, $200K worth of construction materials and-or labor. And expertise, and then the money to tow it all out into the ocean or time to use the wave-drive to get it out into the ocean somehow. And you’d need some expertise in designing this kind of stuff. You wouldn’t want it to sink.

I could probably design it all, and I could probably build it all, but I just haven’t had the resources until recently… maybe. I mean, even now if I sold my house and sold everything, and took my family out there, I mean, maybe I could do it? But it’s kind of a long shot. I feel like, without more research, without knowing if it was going to work or not, I wouldn’t want to try it.

And maybe that’s why no one’s tried it!

‘Cause everyone’s like “Well, I don’t know if it’s going to work! Is there any way to figure out if this is going to work?” And yeah, there is, you can get a big research ship and put it out in the middle of the ocean and, you know, try this. Pump water up and down from the bottom of the ocean and play around with making blooms and stuff like that, but I guess that no one’s thought that it’s worth while?

Or maybe someone tried it and it just didn’t work, and I haven’t been able to find that research paper.

The way that research papers are posted on-line is just shameful. We should really, as a culture, be more free with the information that we’re paying… we’re publicly paying to have done! Like, if it’s payed for with government money, uh, that means it should be available to the public… it seems?

Anyway. Enough politics.

I think it would also be very useful for experimenting with different types of government. Because if you had a system of construction that was modular. If you roped your stuff together with ropes and you could un-tie at any time and just float off and go somewhere else… then you really could move your stuff to another country. You know, you could have a cluster of pods over here and a cluster of pods somewhere else. You would be like, “Well, I don’t really like the way things are going here so I’m going to to go somewhere else. And you could literally cut your ties and move off somewhere else! Be on your own, and be your own independent state or something like that.

I think it would really encourage governments, even terrestrial governments that are based on land. If they accept this kind of citizenship, or this kind of ownership of pods, where they’re not owned by the government, they’re owned by the individuals, then I think it would really encourage governments to treat their citizens much better. Because if they can just up and move and leave, and be like, “well, I’m taking not only my family, my expertise, and my belongings, but my house and my land and all my capital and going somewhere else!” It seems like that would encourage governments to be more civil toward their own citizens.

But, maybe not! Maybe they would just be even be more tyrannical than ever, and demand that you’re not allowed to leave without paying taxes on all your stuff, or something like that. Who knows? It never ceases to amaze me the absurdity of the expectations of governments and what they expect people to put up with.

We’re doing okay. We’re going to make it. Things have been a lot worse.

“‘Why were the former times better than these?’ It is not in wisdom that you ask this.” That’s Ecclesiastes somewhere. (Editor’s note: 7:10) It’s not a very smart question, “Oh, why were things better long ago?” Well, turns out they weren’t better long ago. They’re pretty good now!

So something else you could try (You. The listener! No, but… Someone could try) is instead of being fixed on this idea of floating on the surface of the ocean, which, I mean, it is really nice. It’s stable. You have access to air. You have access to water. But, instead of floating on the surface you could submerge the whole thing, or make it capable of submerging, like a submarine. And if you submerge a few hundred meters, you basically become immune to wave action, because the cycloidal action gets much smaller so that, basically, if you’re one wave-length below the surface, cycloidal action is basically nothing. And cycloidal is just the wave motion. The circular motion of waves as they travel across the surface of the ocean.

So then all you have to worry about… You don’t have to worry about sunlight because the sun doesn’t really reach down that far. You don’t have to worry about wave action. You don’t have to worry about wind. You don’t have to worry about oxidation from the air… But you do have to worry about getting air to breathe… because presumably this is staffed by humans, and humans need to breathe.

Excuse me, I’m getting some orange juice. Stopped by a convenience store and got some orange juice and, uh, some sort of pudding roll. Mmm.

There are drawbacks to living on the ocean too. You get seasick. The ocean moves around a lot and sloshes back and forth and up and down and it’d be moving all the time. So if you weren’t on a giant oil-rig-style stilt platform which… ultimately that kind of thing is only going to work for very concentrated endeavors, like oil drilling. I don’t think it’s really going to work for colonizing the ocean and building farms and stuff. So if you’re not on a structure of that kind, you are going to move with the waves and so you’ll get sea-sick unless you’re acclimated to it. And it seems like you could get acclimated pretty quickly. Sailors, back in the old days, got acclimated to sea motion. I guess maybe they were just sick all the time, but it seems like they would get used to it.

And everything would be moving around.Your fancy plates would be prone to falling off of things. There would be adjustments. But people live on sailboats. It’s not an impossible challenges. It can be done. And you can, I’m sure, design something to last a long time in the ocean. It’d accumulate barnacles, although I’ve heard that barnacles don’t accumulate very much away from shore. So, if you were out a few hundred miles, seems like you could get away with not having barnacles grow on everything.

Again, I’m not an expert. I’ve done some research on it but the sources are not very forthcoming. For obvious reasons, they don’t want to share their secrets. And also because I don’t think anyone’s really tried to do this. Everything is designed around shipping or fishing, and both of those, you end up coming back to the shore pretty frequently to refuel and re-stock and load and unload.

(Editors note: Rather an abrupt end!)

[Same Old Outro]


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