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As we all know, Venus’s atmosphere & temperature makes it too hostile for colonization: 450°C temperatures and an average surface pressure almost 100 times that of Earth. Both problems are due to the size of its atmosphere — massive — and 95% of which is CO2.

The general consensus is that Venus was more like that of the Earth several billion years ago, with liquid water on the surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect may have been caused by the evaporation of the surface water and subsequent rise of greenhouse gases.

It poses not just a harsh warning of the prospects of global warming on Earth, but also a case study for how to counter such effects — reversing the runaway greenhouse effect.

I have wondered if anyone has given serious thought to chemical processes which could be set in motion on Venus to extract the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The most common gas in the Universe is of course hydrogen, and if sufficient quantities could be introduced to the Venusian atmosphere, with the appropriate catalysts, could the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere be eventually reversed back into solid carbon compounds, water vapor and oxygen? The effect of this would of course not only bring down the temperature, but return the surface pressure, with 95% of its atmosphere removed, to one more similar to that of Earth. Perhaps in adding other aerosols the temperatures could be reduced further and avoid a re-runaway effect.

I’d like to hear others thoughts on this. It would be a long term project — but would perhaps make our closest planet our most habitable one in the future — one we could turn into a habitat that would be very accessible, with ample oxygen, water and mineral resources… The study of such a process would also greatly benefit Earth in the event that theorized runaway greenhouse effects start to occur on our own planet, the strategies learned could save it. Other issues to address regarding Venus: lack of magnetic field and its slow rotation would have to be considered, though hardly off-putting, and 150ppm sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere would need to be cleansed — surely not insurmountable.

Nature News reports of a growing concern over different standards for DNA screening and biosecurity:

“A standards war is brewing in the gene-synthesis industry. At stake is the way that the industry screens orders for hazardous toxins and genes, such as pieces of deadly viruses and bacteria. Two competing groups of companies are now proposing different sets of screening standards, and the results could be crucial for global biosecurity.

“If you have a company that persists with a lower standard, you can drag the industry down to a lower level,” says lawyer Stephen Maurer of the University of California, Berkeley, who is studying how the industry is developing responsible practices. “Now we have a standards war that is a race to the bottom.”

For more than a year a European consortium of companies called the International Association of Synthetic Biology (IASB) based in Heidelberg, Germany, has been drawing up a code of conduct that includes gene-screening standards. Then, at a meeting in San Francisco last month, two of the leading companies — DNA2.0 of Menlo Park, California, and Geneart of Regensburg, Germany — announced that they had formulated a code of conduct that differs in one key respect from the IASB recommendations.”

Read the entire article on Nature News.

Also read “Craig Venter’s Team Reports Key Advance in Synthetic Biology” from JCVI.


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November 14, 2008
Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA

Organized by: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and the Lifeboat Foundation

A day-long seminar on threats to the future of humanity, natural and man-made, and the pro-active steps we can take to reduce these risks and build a more resilient civilization. Seminar participants are strongly encouraged to pre-order and review the Global Catastrophic Risks volume edited by Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic, and contributed to by some of the faculty for this seminar.

This seminar will precede the futurist mega-gathering Convergence 08, November 15–16 at the same venue, which is co-sponsored by the IEET, Humanity Plus (World Transhumanist Association), the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the Immortality Institute, the Foresight Institute, the Long Now Foundation, the Methuselah Foundation, the Millenium Project, Reason Foundation and the Accelerating Studies Foundation.


  • Nick Bostrom Ph.D., Director, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University
  • Jamais Cascio, research affiliate, Institute for the Future
  • James J. Hughes Ph.D., Exec. Director, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
  • Mike Treder, Executive Director, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky, Research Associate. Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
  • William Potter Ph.D., Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Before Nov 1: $100
After Nov 1 and at the door: $150

Cross posted from Nextbigfuture

Click for larger image

I had previously looked at making two large concrete or nanomaterial monolithic or geodesic domes over cities which could protect a city from nuclear bombs.

Now Alexander Bolonkin has come up with a cheaper, technological easy and more practical approach with thin film inflatable domes. It not only would provide protection form nuclear devices it could be used to place high communication devices, windmill power and a lot of other money generating uses. The film mass covered of 1 km**2 of ground area is M1 = 2×10**6 mc = 600 tons/km**2 and film cost is $60,000/km**2.
The area of big city diameter 20 km is 314 km**2. Area of semi-spherical dome is 628 km2. The cost of Dome cover is 62.8 millions $US. We can take less the overpressure (p = 0.001atm) and decrease the cover cost in 5 – 7 times. The total cost of installation is about 30–90 million $US. Not only is it only about $153 million to protect a city it is cheaper than a geosynchronous satellite for high speed communications. Alexander Bolonkin’s website

The author suggests a cheap closed AB-Dome which protects the densely populated cities from nuclear, chemical, biological weapon (bombs) delivered by warheads, strategic missiles, rockets, and various incarnations of aviation technology. The offered AB-Dome is also very useful in peacetime because it shields a city from exterior weather and creates a fine climate within the ABDome. The hemispherical AB-Dome is the inflatable, thin transparent film, located at altitude up to as much as 15 km, which converts the city into a closed-loop system. The film may be armored the stones which destroy the rockets and nuclear warhead. AB-Dome protects the city in case the World nuclear war and total poisoning the Earth’s atmosphere by radioactive fallout (gases and dust). Construction of the AB-Dome is easy; the enclosure’s film is spread upon the ground, the air pump is turned on, and the cover rises to its planned altitude and supported by a small air overpressure. The offered method is cheaper by thousand times than protection of city by current antirocket systems. The AB-Dome may be also used (height up to 15 and more kilometers) for TV, communication, telescope, long distance location, tourism, high placed windmills (energy), illumination and entertainments. The author developed theory of AB-Dome, made estimation, computation and computed a typical project.

His idea is a thin dome covering a city with that is a very transparent film 2 (Fig.1). The film has thickness 0.05 – 0.3 mm. One is located at high altitude (5 — 20 km). The film is supported at this altitude by a small additional air pressure produced by ground ventilators. That is connected to Earth’s ground by managed cables 3. The film may have a controlled transparency option. The system can have the second lower film 6 with controlled reflectivity, a further option.

The offered protection defends in the following way. The smallest space warhead has a
minimum cross-section area 1 m2 and a huge speed 3 – 5 km/s. The warhead gets a blow and overload from film (mass about 0.5 kg). This overload is 500 – 1500g and destroys the warhead (see computation below). Warhead also gets an overpowering blow from 2 −5 (every mass is 0.5 — 1 kg) of the strong stones. Relative (about warhead) kinetic energy of every stone is about 8 millions of Joules! (It is in 2–3 more than energy of 1 kg explosive!). The film destroys the high speed warhead (aircraft, bomber, wing missile) especially if the film will be armored by stone.

Our dome cover (film) has 2 layers: top transparant layer 2, located at a maximum altitude (up 5 −20 km), and lower transparant layer 4 having control reflectivity, located at altitude of 1–3 km (option). Upper transparant cover has thickness about 0.05 – 0.3 mm and supports the protection strong stones (rebbles) 8. The stones have a mass 0.2 – 1 kg and locate the step about 0.5 m.

If we want to control temperature in city, the top film must have some layers: transparant dielectric layer, conducting layer (about 1 — 3 microns), liquid crystal layer (about 10 — 100 microns), conducting layer (for example, SnO2), and transparant dielectric layer. Common thickness is 0.05 — 0.5 mm. Control voltage is 5 — 10 V. This film may be produced by industry relatively cheaply.

If some level of light control is needed materials can be incorporated to control transparency. Also, some transparent solar cells can be used to gather wide area solar power.

As you see the 10 kt bomb exploded at altitude 10 km decreases the air blast effect about in 1000
times and thermal radiation effect without the second cover film in 500 times, with the second reflected film about 5000 times. The hydrogen 100kt bomb exploded at altitude 10 km decreases the air blast effect about in 10 times and thermal radiation effect without the second cover film in 20 times, with the second reflected film about 200 times. Only power 1000kt thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb can damage city. But this damage will be in 10 times less from air blast and in 10 times less from thermal radiation. If the film located at altitude 15 km, the
damage will be in 85 times less from the air blast and in 65 times less from the thermal radiation.
For protection from super thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb we need in higher dome altitudes (20−30 km and more). We can cover by AB-Dome the important large region and full country.

Because the Dome is light weight it could be to stay in place even with very large holes. Multiple shells of domes could still be made for more protection.

Better climate inside a dome can make for more productive farming.

AB-Dome is cheaper in hundreds times then current anti-rocket systems.
2. AB-Dome does not need in high technology and can build by poor country.
3. It is easy for building.
4. Dome is used in peacetime; it creates the fine climate (weather) into Dome.
5. AB-Dome protects from nuclear, chemical, biological weapon.
6. Dome produces the autonomous existence of the city population after total World nuclear war
and total confinement (infection) all planet and its atmosphere.
7. Dome may be used for high region TV, for communication, for long distance locator, for
astronomy (telescope).
8. Dome may be used for high altitude tourism.
9. Dome may be used for the high altitude windmills (getting of cheap renewable wind energy).
10. Dome may be used for a night illumination and entertainment

The New York Times reports that Jeffrey Martin and William L. Kubic Jr., two scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratories are proposing a process by which the carbon dioxide — the primary greenhouse gas considered responsible for contributing to global warming — emitted from cars and other polluters would be captured and converted to gasoline, methane and jet fuel.

The bold proposal, which the duo have named “Green Freedom” would create a closed cycle from the emission of greenhouse gasses resulting in the creation of a vast source of renewable energy where today we have an open ended cycle that is considered a global threat.

They say the science is relatively simple and straight forward. Polluted air would be blown over potassium carbonate which would sequester the CO2, a chemical process would then remove the trapped CO2 and via a number of established chemical processes it would then be converted to various types of fuel.

Although the process has not been demonstrated and no prototypes have been built the pair claims that the required steps or other chemical processes that they say are close cousins to those required are already in use. In addition, none of the processes violate any known laws of physics and a number of other top researchers have independently made similar suggestions for the sequestration and reuse of emitted CO2.

This concept is not without its share of controversy and detractors however. With claims of everything from the fact that the economics of the process make it unfeasible to concerns that it will encourage further over–population and sprawl not to mention the worry that proliferation of nuclear power brings with it, it is nevertheless an interesting concept and proves — if nothing else — that through continued investment in breakthrough technologies we can overcome all challenges be they environmental or societal.

Today, the University of Colorado at Boulder made an announcement regarding a very promising technology:

Known as optical frequency comb spectroscopy, the technique is powerful enough to sort through all the molecules in human breath and sensitive enough to distinguish rare molecules that may be biomarkers for specific diseases

Combined with other rapid-response technologies, this could be part of the detection side of a BioShield, a technological immune system for humanity.

The optical frequency comb is a very precise laser for measuring different colors, or frequencies, of light, said Ye. Each comb line, or “tooth,” is tuned to a distinct frequency of a particular molecule’s vibration or rotation, and the entire comb covers a broad spectral range — much like a rainbow of colors — that can identify thousands of different molecules.

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

Many of you have recently read that a research team at the University of Illinois led by Min-Feng Yu has developed a process to grow nanowires of unlimited length. The same process also allows for the construction of complex, three-dimensional nanoscale structures. If this is news to you, please refer to the links below.

It’s easy to let this news item slip past before its implications have a chance to sink in.

Professor Yu and his team have shown us a glimpse of how to make nanowire based materials that will, once the technology is developed more fully, allow for at least two very significant enhancements in materials science.

1. Nanowires that will be as long as we want them to be. The only limitations that seem to be indicated are the size of the “ink” reservoir and the size of spool that the nanowires are wound on. Scale up the ink supply and the scale up size of the spool and we’ll soon be making cables and fabric. Make the cables long enough and braid enough of them them together and the Space Elevator Games may become even more exciting to watch.

2. It should also lend itself very nicely to 3D printing of complex nanoscale structures. Actually building components that will allow for the bootstrapping of a desktop sized molecular manufacturing fab seems like it’s a lot closer than it was just a short time ago.

All of this highlights the need to more richly fund the Lifeboat Foundation in general and the Lifeboat Foundation’s NanoShield program in particular so that truly transformative technologies like these can be brought to market in a way that minimizes the risks of their powers being used for ill.

If you can, please consider donating to the Lifeboat Foundation. Every dollar helps us to safely bring a better world into being. The species you help save may be your own.


Via the Global Security Newswire:

WASHINGTON — The United Kingdom announced today that it had finished destroying thousands of decades-old chemical weapons (see GSN, June 6, 2002).

The elimination of the last known “legacy” munitions containing agents such as sulfur mustard and phosgene is in keeping with the nation’s obligations under the Chemical Weapon Convention, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The British military began using chemical weapons in World War I, and maintained an offensive program until 1956. The Porton Down research facility was already regularly destroying weapons when the treaty entered into force in the United Kingdom in 1997. A total of 7,000 munitions have been destroyed since 1989, with work ending on March 7.

The 3,812 weapons eliminated at Porton Down over the last decade were recovered individually or in small numbers from existing or former military sites. Most dated from 1939 to 1945, The Herald newspaper reported. The artillery and mortar shells were “rusty, old, they couldn’t be used,” the Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Some weapons were drained of agent and then incinerated, while others were detonated if they were found not to contain any dangerous substances. The entire project cost nearly $20 million.

Though chemical weapons are not really an existential threat today, when combined with nanotechnological delivery vectors they could become effective across incredible ranges. Relinquishment of chemical weapons is also proof that nations are willing to give up a class of weapons when it is this inhumane.


Using lasers and tuning forks, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a chemical weapon agent sensing technique that promises to meet or exceed current and emerging defense and homeland security chemical detection requirements. The technique, called Quartz Laser Photo-Acoustic Sensing, or “QPAS,” is now ready for prototyping and field testing.

PNNL, a Department of Energy national laboratory, has demonstrated QPAS’s ability to detect gaseous nerve agent surrogates. In one test, researchers used diisopropyl methyl phosphonate (DIMP), which is a chemical compound that’s similar to sarin. QPAS detected DIMP at the sub-part-per-billion level in less than one minute. The miniscule level is similar to letting one drop of liquid DIMP evaporate into a volume of air that would fill more than two Olympic-size swimming pools.

“QPAS is an extremely sensitive and selective chemical detection technique that can be miniaturized and yet is still practical to operate in field environments,” said Michael Wojcik, a research scientist at PNNL. “The laser, tuning fork and other technology needed for QPAS are so simple, and yet robust, that further development is a low-risk investment, and we’re eager to take it to the next level.”

The instrument is based on Laser Photo-Acoustic Sensing, or LPAS, and infrared Quantum Cascade Lasers, or QCLs. LPAS is an exquisitely sensitive form of optical absorption spectroscopy, where a pulsed laser beam creates a brief absorption in a sample gas, which in turn creates a very small acoustic signal. A miniature quartz tuning fork acts as a “microphone” to record the resulting sound wave.

It would probably be a good idea to have these installed all over major cities. Such an action would radically improve the government’s ability to quickly respond to a chemical disaster.