Welcome to 2015! You may have already noticed that the hover boards and flying cars we were promised in “Back to the Future Part II” have failed to appear. There also seems to be a severe lack in the teleportation and time machine department. That summer home on Venus? Better use that money on something a little more practical.
Fortunately, the future is brimming with possibility. All one needs to ask is: what if? That’s what drove the authors in the latest issue of World Future Review. Can genetic modification ensure the survival of humanity? Will the internet evolve into a “global brain”? What role will intelligence machines play in the workforce?
Thomas Simko and Matthew Gray even apply the question of “what if” to the current energy crisis in their article “Lunar Helium-3 Fuel for Nuclear Fusion: Technology, Economics, and Resources.”
Nuclear fusion of helium-3 (3He) can be used to generate electrical power with little or no radioactive waste and no carbon emissions. Some forty-four tons of this fuel could meet the electricity needs of the United States for a year. Although rare on Earth, an estimated one million tons of 3He has collected on the surface of the moon. While it would cost approximately US$17 billion to develop a mine producing one ton of 3He per year, such an operation is commercially viable over the medium term given the estimated value of that ton of fuel: US$3.7 billion. This article outlines the technical and economic issues related to 3He and its extraction, and it presents a novel approach to estimating the worth of the fuel. The potential of 3He as a future energy source is set in the context of global energy forecasts and international efforts to investigate lunar 3He resources—including a recent Chinese mission.
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