Beyond Electricity?

Discussion in 'SFF lounge' started by Omnis, Jan 28, 2012.

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    Omnis

    Omnis New Member

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    While reading the novelization of "Battlestar Galactica 1980: Galactica Discovers Earth" several years back, I vaguely remember coming across a passage where one of the main characters states that a sophisticated computing device used by the Colonial Fleet "is not powered by electricity."

    This brings me to my question: would it be theoretically possible for a civilization to advance technologically beyond the need for electrical power in the same way that our civilization has advanced beyond the need for, say, steam power? Are there any alternative forces we could use in powering our machines? Magnetism? Gravity? Sound waves? Some force not yet discovered? Perhaps some type of ultra-sophisticated mechanics? Thoughts would be appreciated.
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    hopewrites

    hopewrites Happily Ever Aftering

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    the only thought I can come up with is nuclear power. Following the pattern of steam driving electric generators, then reversing the engineering (which is different then reverse engineering) that allows nuclear power plants to run electric generators.
    That or telepathic control of electron movement to shape worlds, and give items the needed charge to create power.
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    Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I would expect that what they meant by that was that it was something organic; something biological. In the same way that Star Trek: Voyager had Bio-neural gel packs http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Bio-neural_gel_pack
    Which would not really be true to say because, in a way, nervous systems in animals 'are' powered by electricity.

    As for your actual question, I doubt that we could find anything as useful to transport as electricity. Again, Star Trek uses a system of electro-plasma conduits to direct Warp drive plasma throughout the ship from matter-antimatter reactions at the heart of the Warp Core of the starship drive. That has always struck me as a highly dangerous idea. I'd very much doubt it would pass health & safety regulations. In fact, there were regular accidents during the various series including one in Garak's tailor shop. However, such large amounts of energy transported as electricity would probably be equally as dangerous.
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    Metryq

    Metryq Cave Painter

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    "Not powered by electricity" is the sort of vague generality a TV writer would use to sound futuristic. I recall an episode of Buck Rogers where Buck was something of an expert on electricity since Mankind used it way back in the 20th century but had forgotten about it by the the 25th. (Cue eye roll.) Electricity, oh yeah, that primitive stuff.

    "Electricity" is a fundamental interaction of all matter. One might generate electricity in a variety of different ways, but electricity will never become "obsolete" or forgotten, or whatever.

    This does not mean that a futuristic computer must switch and perform operations with electricity the way we do today with electronics. An advanced computer might have light-based switches, or use quantum computing, or anything else a writer might dream up.
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    Foxbat

    Foxbat I am a number

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    I agree with Metryq - electricity and the electromagnetic force are fundamentals and will never be obsolete. Electricity in itself is not what it's about, it's all about the transfer of energy in a method that we can use.

    The irony being that steam is not obsolete - we still use this method for generating electricity (including Nuclear Power). All we do is convert the energy from steam to electricity and pass it down the wires.

    It is quite possible that our methods of distribution may change however. Perhaps a tight beam of energy instead of all those pylons and cables.
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    Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    Never mind "no electricity".


    What happened to that golden future in which power would be so cheap to make that we end users wouldn't get charged...?

    :rolleyes::eek::)
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    Foxbat

    Foxbat I am a number

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    Oh Dear!

    How things change as our Brave New World crumbles into dust:(
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    Starbeast

    Starbeast Benevolent Galaxy Being

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    It would be a miracle if humankind can get beyond nuclear power and oil.

    Check out the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, so you can see for yourself how hard it is to push forward for clean (and hopefully inexpensive) energy.
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    Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    Biotech. We are reaching the point now where we can create new cells from a biological "programming language" that connects bio modules together to do whatever job you want the cells to do. These modules can literally be bought online today and enthusiastic amateurs are putting together new cells in garage labs. A bunch of goats have been produced (is that the right word) that have genes for producing spider silk in their milk (note this one was a university project rather than a garage lab). The silk is extracted and used to make material of incredible strength to weight ratio (much much better than say Kevlar).

    Bearing all that in mind I consider it quite plausible that everything from computers to engineering projects may be done in this way in the future. That begs the question how such thngs would be powered. Would you feed your computer rather than plug it into electricity?
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    Interference

    Interference Destroyer of Words

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    Our brains have electrical fields, don't they? The five forces (weak, strong, light, sound and gravity) are electro-magnetic forces. I wonder if it is possible to get away from them very far.

    My first thought, though, was that light (generated I know not how) might be a feasible and acceptable alternative.
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    Metryq

    Metryq Cave Painter

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    Uh, no, they're not, otherwise we wouldn't have physicists feverishly seeking the holy grail—a Grand Unified Theory.

    Sound and light are not forces of nature. My cat is, when she wants to be fed.
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    Metryq

    Metryq Cave Painter

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    Okay, you're grounded for a week!

    Well, let's see—there's that "zero point" energy that can't be used because it has no "potential." Then there's the free energy from another universe discovered in Heinlein's "Waldo." And the home hydrogen extraction plant from the movie Chain Reaction...:rolleyes:
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    Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    The four known forces Stong, Weak, Electormagnetic and Gravity. There are some that have postulated an as yet unknown fifth force.

    So in that sense, we will always use electricity (or at least electrical fiels - ie. electromagnetism), we can't really not use it. However I am assuming the original question is about whether we will move onto some other power source. Steam, then electricity, then.... Though I guess that leaves out fossil fuels.
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    mosaix

    mosaix Active Member

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    So, Vertigo tell us more about the Stong and Electormagnetic forces. :D
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    Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    Ooops - teach me to post in a hurry! :eek:
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    Foxbat

    Foxbat I am a number

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    There are some that postulate that the weak nuclear force and electromagnetic force are one and the same, this means there may only be three - Gravity, Strong Nuclear and Electromagnetic. Bio computers would still use electricity (just as our own brain does for transferring info over synapses) so, even if you fed your PC it would, ultimately, still use electricity.

    Zero Point energy harnassing is a complete and utter myth - the wave/particle duality of matter completely negates any opportunity to use this. Electricity is the one fundamental force we can harnass in a constructive and useful manner. But, in truth, we are still using steam (to generate electricity) so we are not as far advanced as some may think.
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    andyw1691

    andyw1691 New Member

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    I was under the impression that what we perceive as the force of gravity was due to the effect that matter had on space-time, or to put it another way matter curves space-time. Gravity may not therefore be a force at all :)

    I think it is likely that future computers will use light for some of their switching and communication. They will also use quantum effects for some of their computational resources.

    I'm not sure that there will be a place for organic computers. Anything organic relies on an on-going chemical reaction which is expensive to setup and maintain. Stopping the reaction and restarting it might also be difficult. It is difficult to see what the advantages organic computers would have over non-organic ones.

    Andy
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    Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    ...the force that attracts voters to the polls....
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    Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    You sure it isn't the force that repells voters from the polls?
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    andyw1691

    andyw1691 New Member

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    Back on topic, the BBC ran an artical on the 8th of Feb about scientists who had managed to reduce the size of a laser light source to 200 millionths of a millimetre high. They produce visible light and work at room tempertures.

    The full artical can be found in the Science & environment section of the BBC News website.

    Andy
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