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Artificial Tornadoes

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the turn-on-the-weather-machine dept.

Science 267

An anonymous reader writes "This inventor is working on a method of creating artificial tornadoes to generate electricity which he calls the "Atmospheric Vortex Engine". He is claiming that it is possible to create a man-made tornado and use wind turbines to capture the energy from the tornado. On the website there is some video footage of some experimental tornadoes that were generated in a prototype vortex tower in Utah. There seem to be several recent media references to his work including The Economist and The Guardian. Sounds like an interesting idea for a renewable energy source, but what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?"

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267 comments

Conservation of Energy (5, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178864)

Where is the energy for these tornadoes coming from? To be more specific, how much energy is needed to start up one of these things?

The Sun (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178880)

The big yellow ball in the center is the sun!
 
That line always killed me, but yeah - this is a new approach to solar power.

Re:The Sun (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179136)

Every kind of energy generation is a form of solar power, actually (except for fusion, but that's only because we'd be making our own sun).

Re:Conservation of Energy (5, Informative)

TeacherOfHeroes (892498) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178901)

At the risk of getting a "you must be new here" comment, RTFA

"Heating the air within the wall using a temporary heat source such as steam starts the vortex. The heat to sustain the vortex once established is provided in cooling tower bays located outside of the cylindrical wall and upstream of the deflectors. The continuous heat source for the peripheral heat exchanger can be waste industrial heat or warm seawater. "

It looks like they're trying to recycle energy that has bled off as heat and move it back into a usable form.

Re:Conservation of Energy (1)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178981)

"Heating the air within the wall using a temporary heat source such as steam starts the vortex. The heat to sustain the vortex once established is provided in cooling tower bays located outside of the cylindrical wall and upstream of the deflectors. The continuous heat source for the peripheral heat exchanger can be waste industrial heat or warm seawater. "

so in other words this is not a alternitive source of energy because it still depends on the current oil and gas infrastruture, unless you don't relize the industrail heat will most likely be from coal or gas burning plants as for the warm sea water what do you think they would use to warm the water?

Re:Conservation of Energy (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179081)

Why are they limited to waste heat from coal or gas burning plants?

You realize how limited your imagination is? A huge variety of industries generate massive quantities of waste heat. Shit, you could tap geothermal energy from deep mine shafts using this technology.

While ultimately, a large portion of the power which is being used to generate the waste heat comes from coal/oil, the idea is to get more efficient usage from whatever source it is you use. Think about it... even a 1% gain in efficiency (if cost effective) would save countless money.

As for it not being an alternative, consider a situation in which an industrial plant sets up one of these and sells power to other companies in its industrial park. For everyone else involved, this qualifies as an alternative energy source and no extra fossil fuels are burned.

Re:Conservation of Energy (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179145)

Then I supposed you could call gas/oil a form of solar energy since gas/oil comes from plant matter, and plants get energy from the sun.

Natural disasters on demand! (5, Funny)

martinultima (832468) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178867)

Maybe we should sell this to FEMA and put them in charge of creating all natural disasters in the United States. (You know, they could change their name to the Federal Emergency Making Agency...) That way we'd have hurricanes that could destroy the world, but it would take six to eight weeks before anything actually happened, giving us plenty of time to actually prepare for the disaster when it finally did arrive.

Mobile applications? (2, Flamebait)

yog (19073) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178967)

If they could mount this thing on a trailer and deploy it rapidly to trouble spots around the globe, they could really blow away mischief makers. Imagine for example unleashing a few mini-tornatos on a terrorist training camp or on advancing enemy soldiers.

The U.S. Army could also position them offshore of an annoying country like Venezuela, issue an ultimatum that their leader submit to fair elections, and then just release hundreds of these things onto their coastline. The havoc wreaked will be tremendously out of proportion to the cost of the construction and deployment, and at no danger to our personnel.

It could also be used to clean up an area after a dust storm; the vortex would literally whisk away the particles.

There are probably a lot of other uses but right now I'm only thinking of military ones.

Re:Mobile applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179029)

issue an ultimatum that their leader submit to fair elections,

You mean, issue an ultimatum that their people submit to fair dictatorship ? "Democracy is electing the guys we want you to vote for"...

You mean "Mobile home applications" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179053)

Don't worry, the tornado will naturally mount itself onto a trailer, based on all video footage I've ever seen of twisters.

Re:You mean "Mobile home applications" (1)

Woldry (928749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179389)

Onto, into, under, between, through ... whomping the bejeebies out of ... pick any preposition you prefer.

Re:Mobile applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179211)

"It could also be used to clean up an area after a dust storm; the vortex would literally whisk away the particles."

This one statement should clue everyone in on the intelligence level and reasoning skills involved in generating the preceding statements. ...get out of a hole by digging deeper.

Re:Natural disasters on demand! (1)

illumina+us (615188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179193)

Sim City FTW =D

That idea just blows me away (2, Funny)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178869)

I hope it's a roaring success.

Re:That idea just blows me away (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179176)

Now we know the real cause of the tornado that killed the kid-Q's parents! They lived too close to a power generation facility!

[I think it was Q's kid that were killed by a rogue tornado, right?]

Re:That idea just blows me away (4, Funny)

madaxe42 (690151) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179227)

Nah, this sucks. What kind of total airhead comes up with this kind of thing? I think he's full of hot air. Anyhow, his entire paper is just twisted facts. Wait until the media frenzy blows over, and you'll see that this is just another investment siphon.

Re:That idea just blows me away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179242)

My head is spinning from all the twists and turns of your short-winded post.

Re:That idea just blows me away (1)

Woldry (928749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179400)

People who make puns this bad require psyclonetherapy.

Hmmm... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14178872)

My only question is: can it destroy LA like in The Day After Tomorrow? God that place blows. And...fp?

Great for Electricity but... (5, Insightful)

PlayfullyClever (934896) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178875)

Wind, Hydro, Nuclear... great for electricity but does nothing about Gas and Oil.

Until electric cars become efficient enough to run all day on a single charge with half a day of stored energy still available, petrol is the energy source we need to replace.

I'm betting on Biodiesel. It's still more expensive to refine than crude oil but that gap is closing fast. With current subsidies you can actually buy biodiesel for cheaper than Gasoline...

Re:Great for Electricity but... (2, Funny)

kyle90 (827345) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178898)

I dunno; stick one of these turbines on top of a car and not only would you have a tornado-powered car, you could use it to suck up the traffic in front of you!

Re:Great for Electricity but... (2, Insightful)

paterthorn (597879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178913)

Well if generating electrical power becomes trivial enough it would probably be easy to mass produce hydrogen via electolysis to be used to vehicle fuel.

Re:Great for Electricity but... (5, Insightful)

maswan (106561) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178986)

And every time someone comes up with the idea of electric cars, I usually see here the argument that there is no point, because "electricty is made by burning oil anyway"...

The fact that fossil fuels are being burnt to generate electricity should give you a hint that better ways to generate electricity is really needed.

Well, that or people getting happy about having a nuclear power plant in their back yard.

Re:Great for Electricity but... (5, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179066)

Well, that or people getting happy about having a nuclear power plant in their back yard.

If better safety controls and protocols were applied, I would be. Maybe I just don't know enough about it, but I think a lot of the problem with nuclear power is the same sort of mistaken impression as flying-vs-driving, or microwaves-vs-stovetop. With nuclear, the damage in the case of a failure can be much more catastrophic, and the risk factors are strange and scary, but the net ecological damage versus something like coal or fossil fuels is actually less, provided nothing goes Chernobyl or TMI. Of course there is the risk of a Chernobyl or TMI, but if people could actually work on the problem, solutions could be found. Me? I'd rather have nuclear now than wind, water, or solar that's always just over the horizon.

Re:Great for Electricity but... (1)

kyle90 (827345) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179209)

If it would curb the use of fossil fuels, I'd take a reactor in my backyard. Hell, I'll take two. Unfortunately, I am in the minority of people that don't shit their pants whenever they hear the word "nuclear".

Along the lines of biodiesel (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178996)

While it would probably be more efficient to use direct solar light instead, in theory one could create an artificially lighted algae farm that could be used to produce biodiesel. Almost surely, it would be better to simply collect solar energy directly from an algae farm though.

Re:Great for Electricity but... (1)

pin_gween (870994) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179152)

Don't undersetimate the value of producing electricity -- coal fired plants create tons of emissions every day. The plant that supplies electricity in my area unloads 2 trains worth of coal EVERY day. Additionally, in 2001, all coal plants in NC released 2956 lbs of mercury [cleanenergy.org] in 2001. See the same site for some of the other pollutants released by coal burning plants.

Re:Great for Electricity but... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179290)

No they don't. They simply need to have the 300 mile range that all cars already have. Then you can find fast recharge stations easier ( yes this can work Ford proved it that you can recharge an electric car in 20 minutes. )

To hell with 1/2 a day charge capacity. I want 300 mile capacity. Then I only need to charge my personal vehicle once a week (or better yet why cant I have inductive charging when I pull in the garage so the car is topped off all the time?

The hard part is convincing the typical american they do not need 8 person seating and the ability to carry 80 cubic feet of groceries while having the ability to do a 0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds. The moment american consumers get realistic about their driving needs the electric vehicle can start to meet our needs.

Re:Great for Electricity but... (1)

h4x0r-3l337 (219532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179317)

"Until electric cars become efficient enough to run all day on a single charge with half a day of stored energy still available ..."

Why? What gasoline-powered car can run all day and still have a half tank left?

Re:Great for Electricity but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179363)

Bah, all I need is a 150 mile per day car. It's rare to never that I drive more than 100 miles in a day. My typical drive (on a day I do drive) is something less than 25 miles. A 150 mile car would be more than enough, as long as I could charge up over night.

I wouldn't be able to use my car for a cross-country trip, but hell, I'd rather fly than drive all that way.

I just don't know how cost-effective or energy-efficient it is to charge up with electricity from the mains.

I saw this on Sliders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14178879)

It didn't work out well.

1st post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14178888)

my very first 1st post?

Cereal Box? (4, Funny)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178893)

Yeah, I got one of these out of a Frosted Flakes box when I was a kid. It's a little plastic widget and you screw it in-between two 2-liter soda bottles, and when you flip them over, instant tornado! I don't know how you get power from it...

Ummm, so about that second law of thermodynamics. (1)

Mailleman (823839) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178894)

It's a real bitch, ain't it?

Re:Ummm, so about that second law of thermodynamic (3, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178896)

Yeah, you know, like how burning coal never returns more energy than you used to ignite it...

Re:Ummm, so about that second law of thermodynamic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14178905)

your point is?

Re:Ummm, so about that second law of thermodynamic (5, Interesting)

0xC0FFEE (763100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178985)

You're missing the idea. The idea is that a tornado is a natural mechanism for evacuating large quantities of energy contained in warm water. Since warm water contains a lot of energy, it could be possible to invest just a little more energy to provoke a tornado and harness the wind power. Also, warm water is heated up by the sun and not by other non-renouvelable energies. It might actually be more efficient than heating water to boiling point (as is done in nuclear/thermal plants) since water is such a good heat capacitor that the difference between warming a little and boiling is huge.

So, hopefully the laws of the universe are respected. But what you missed is the 2nd law of business: A good deal is when you reap the benefits of other's investments.

Re:Ummm, so about that second law of thermodynamic (1)

rspress (623984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179264)

In order for this to spawn a real tornado it would have to tie into the jet stream. I doubt this device could spawn even a half way powerful whirlwind.

A bonus, if it could produce a decent amount of convective upflow it could be sold to farmers for use in orchards to create airflow and prevent a hard freeze. I doubt it would be any more energy efficient than the currently used devices.

Re:Ummm, so about that second law of thermodynamic (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179341)

They've already got fairly efficient ways of turning solar energy into power. Turning it into a tornado and then into power probably won't be as effective. So we'll assume they plan to use already-warm water... From where? The oceans? We've got people complaining about windmills and weather patterns, you think maybe messing with the temperature of the ocean won't be a bigger problem? I can't see this being anything other than a scam or a 'really cool idea' that just isn't practical.

If it gets away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14178895)

Then it's just like sim city 2000 all over again...

Runaway tornados? I think not.. (2, Insightful)

shbazjinkens (776313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178900)

Sounds like an interesting idea for a renewable energy source, but what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?

They would dissipate quickly, not having the proper weather conditions to support a tornado. It's not like these things pop up sporadically, even after living in Oklahoma for 21 years I've never actually seen one.

Re:Runaway tornados? I think not.. (2, Funny)

Weasel5053 (910174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179002)

Move to a trailer park. One will be along shortly.

Slashdot Submissions Must End With Stupid Question (2, Insightful)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179175)

Don't waste your time on the gems that end many Slashdot stories.

Vortexes (5, Informative)

azav (469988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178907)

What is most interesting is that vortexes are not really understood in common culture and just how inportant thy are in terms of power to many daily facts of life.

DaVinci studied cadavers and found out that it is the vortexes in blood flow through the years that close the heart valves as blood flows through.

Bumblebees can fly due to the uplifting forces of vortexes on their wind edges.

A pulverizer driven by vortex power was mentioned here on /. many years ago that was able to take mostly anything 'cept fat and turn it into dust.

One of the common effects in nature that has great potential and is right before our eyes is being ignored by most - possibly because they are poorly understood.

This article is an example of someone paying attention to the vortex and finding out what could be done with it for mankind.

Sure sounds like something REALLY interesting to learn about.

and then...
PROFIT!

Re:Vortexes (5, Interesting)

Council (514577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179402)

As a physics major, this is one of my favorite passages in any book:
There was no room for dust devils in the laws of physics, at least in the rigid form in which they were usually taught. There is a kind of unspoken collusion going on in mainstream science education: you get your competent but bored, insecure and hence stodgy teacher talking to an audience divided between engineering students, who going to be responsible for making bridges that won't fall down or airplanes that won't suddenly plunge vertically into the ground at six hundred miles an hour, and who by definition get sweaty palms and vindictive attitudes when their teacher suddenly veers off track and begins raving about wild and completely nonintuitive phenomena; and physics students, who derive much of their self-esteem from knowing that they are smarter and morally purer than the engineering students, and who by definition don't want to hear about anything that makes no fucking sense. This collusion results in the professor saying: (something along the lines of) dust is heavier than air, therefore it falls until it hits ground. That's all there is to know about dust. The engineers love it because they like their issues dead and crucified like butterflies under glass. The physicists love it because they want to think they understand everything. No one asks difficult questions. And outside the windows, the dust devils continue to gambol across the campus.
-- Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

This begs for the... (5, Funny)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178909)

... obligatory demanding of ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Seriously, what evil overlord would miss such an opportunity?

Re:This begs for the... (1)

NotoriousQ (457789) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178980)

ONE MILLION DOLLARS of grant money, that is. That is not even illegal, similar to owning Starbucks.

Diabolically clever.

"What happens if..." (5, Insightful)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178911)

"What happens if one of these tornados gets away?"

This question is about as ignorant as "what happens if a nuclear reactor blows up?" A vortex created and sustained by the energy from the tower wouldn't be able to escape - if it did, it would have no energy source to sustain itself.

Re:"What happens if..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14178957)

"what happens if a nuclear reactor blows up?", call me stupid, but why is this a stupid question?

Re:"What happens if..." (2, Insightful)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178979)

"what happens if a nuclear reactor blows up?", call me stupid, but why is this a stupid question?

A nuclear reactor cannot blow up like a nuclear bomb (maybe my statement was unclear). Chernobyl "blew up" in the sense that the coolant failed and the heat built up to the point that things got out of hand - but any "blowing up" that happened was just steam busting pipes and stuff. The nuclear material used in reactors is not pure enough to fission fast enough to actually blow up itself.

A nuclear reactor is in just as much danger of blowing up as any other type of power plant - the only difference is that if you have a problem with a coal plant, you just have coal dust everywhere, and everyone gets dirty. If you have a problem with a nuclear power plant, you get radioactive material everywhere, and everyone grows extra limbs.

Re:"What happens if..." (1)

peculiarmethod (301094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179049)

Re:"What happens if..." (2, Informative)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179165)

That link is from 1997. Check this out:

While most species on the reserve show no physiological indications of mutation, many, particularly lactating mammals and amphibians, have undergone astonishing genetic changes.

"In certain cases, chromosomal mutation of the animals has accelerated by a factor of 30," says Mikhail Pikulik, director of the Minsk Institute of Zoology. "The same species just 30km away remain practically unchanged. At the moment, these changes have been confined to the area of chromosomes and genes."

One particularly interesting example is that of voles, a kind of field mouse now thriving. While they look exactly the same as before, an analysis of their DNA has revealed a phenomenally high rate of mutation. Under normal circumstances, a gene found in the cell's mitochondria called cytochrome b changes at a rate of one mutation in every million letters of genetic code per generation. However, voles on the exclusion zone are producing one new mutation for every 10,000 letters of DNA code per generation. The genetic differences between these voles and others living outside the exclusion zone are greater than those normally found between mice and rats, species which diverged around 15m years ago. Evolution has been shunted into overdrive.

Why these changes haven't resulted in abnormalities and sickness on a massive scale may be an indication that nature is far more adaptable than previously imagined. It might also signify that the limits of its resilience have yet to be fully tested, though scientists on the reserve readily admit that even they don't know what is really happening deep in the forests: "If an animal dies of cancer in the wild," says Mikhail Pikulik, "it is simply eaten by wolves. The deaths of two or three animals of the population is not a grave matter. The health of an animal population is reflected in overall numbers."

Source is here [guardian.co.uk]

Re:"What happens if..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179070)

Breathing coal dust is not conductive to a healthy lifestyle.

Re:"What happens if..." (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179377)

A nuclear reactor cannot blow up like a nuclear bomb...
FWIW: according to one graduate-level textbook I've read about nuclear reactor design, a poorly designed fast-fission reactor can indeed explode "like a nuclear bomb" given the right type of accident. The design mentioned did not require highly enriched fuel, but it would be a "wimpy" explosion as nukes go (maybe only a few hundred tons of TNT), but that would still be very nasty as a conatamination spreader.

Re:"What happens if..." (5, Funny)

modecx (130548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178984)

Oh sure, you can say that all naively--until the tornados from various towers, fed up with their oppression, form a union and combine into one giant-ass tornado that's hell-bent on giving you the Judy Garland treatment!

Fear the artificial vortices!

Re:"What happens if..." (1)

knipknap (769880) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179056)

Exactly, that's also why a matches stop burning immediately when you no longer rub them.

Re:"What happens if..." (1)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179383)

Exactly, that's also why a matches stop burning immediately when you no longer rub them.

Tornados are not anything like hurricanes, they are sustained by the super cell above them, whereas hurricanes are self-sustaining, and driven by the energy from the warm moist air. The vortexes as described by the papers require energy to keep them going from below. If you shut down the power plant, the vortex would very quickly dissipate.

Re:"What happens if..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179302)

It's like someone asking Sir Humphry Davy: "And what if the Lightning should perchance escape from this Arc Lamp of yours?"

Finally... (1)

Nolkyan (845268) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178925)

...my plans for world domination are being realized! Alfred, recover the vortex machine for me!

Re:Finally... (2, Funny)

Dante Shamest (813622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179142)

You've had too much to drink, Master Bruce. And Master Grayson is still waiting for you in your bedroom.

Similar to Australia 1km tower. (4, Insightful)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178934)

This sounds somewhat similar to the 1km high Solar Tower in Australia [peswiki.com] Both use convection to power turbines. This one though uses man-made vorteces while the Austrailian Solar Tower uses hot rising air.

If they escape... (3, Funny)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178937)

Simple, you film a new reality show about the runaways, the sequels write themselves...

ask hollywood (3, Funny)

Main Gauche (881147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178940)

"what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?"

I don't know, but I'm sure Jerry Bruckheimer will tell us, one of these years.

Utah = Runaway Tornadoes + Cold Fusion (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178950)

... but what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?

I would be more worried by a cold fusion reactor running out of control than the salt flats being redistributed throughout Utah.

In Other News (2, Funny)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178953)

Blizzard Entertainment has launched their torpedo and commenced a submarine patent attack on the man trying to create artificial tornadoes. Blizzard claims prior art on the idea of man-made weather phenomenons, citing the "Blizzard" spell found in hit titles such as "WarCraft", "WarCraft II", and "WarCraft III". From the depth of their lair, they pulled out a letter from the US patent office granting them rights to all ideas concerning the control of weather by man. In a Double Whammy ruling, Blizzard was also granted rights over all forms of "death and decay" techniques by an evil entity. Talks between Blizzard and Microsoft is currently underway on how Microsoft can license such technology.

Re:In Other News (1)

Trigulus (781481) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179204)

prior art? What about populous?

Re:In Other News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179394)

In Populous you play a god. Warcraft was an example of weather control by humans. Duh.

Interesting or ... (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178978)

irrelevant [atmospheri...xtower.com]

Last Updated: Dec 3, 2005 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14178987)

It looks like one Webmaster, Eric Michaud [vortexengine.ca] did his job getting the company a little publicity the day after completing an update.

Nice...

It is already a weapon. (3, Funny)

Talinom (243100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14178993)

I mean really people. The proof is right here [usatoday.com] !!!

If a weatherman from Pocatello, ID can figure it out surely you can too! Now we know the technology exists to have a tornado take out anyone, anywhere at anytime.

Theory and reality, explanation. (4, Informative)

Alsee (515537) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179003)

Ok, I Read TFA.

The theory behiond it was actually better than I expected. He's not trying to violate the second law of thermodynamics or anything. He's trying to use the tornado as dynamic heat chimney (an imaginary pipe carrying air up into the high cold atmosphere). Once he gets the tornado going he wants the warm air at the ground to naturally rise inside the chimney, then to harness this natural flow to extract energy.

I'd put the odds of him actually getting the functional vortex established at all at maybe 10%, getting it reasonably stable and self sustaining at maybe 1%, harnessing appreciable power out of it at maybe 0.1%, and harnessing useful cost effectie power at maybe 0.01%.

Of course I'm probably being way too generous and wildly overestimating those figures, chuckle.

In otherwords I would not advise buying stock in this crackpot scheme. It is an interesting concept and interesting physics though.

-

Re:Theory and reality, explanation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179111)

quick question. who the fuck are you?

Re:Theory and reality, explanation. (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179273)

Ok, I didn't RTFA.

But if this guy really deserves any credit, you are hugely superestimating your probabilities. Creating a tornado is an incredbly hard task, nobody seems to have even invented a way to do that already without spending a significative fraction of all the energy that mankind produce. But if he can understand the tornadoes well (note that everybody else think that we need much faster computers and better math to do that) he may be able to do that. It may be something that someone can create on his/her lifetime. So, a nonzero chance that he can make this step.

Then, he needs to control the tornado. That requires even faster computers and better math than just creating it, and the ability to create it. So he can't work on this second step without going into step 1 before. Almost impossible that someone can overcome those 2 steps. You can guess that there will be at least a generation between them.

Then comes step 3: Producing a machine capable of getting the energy out of the tornado. This research can't start before someone do steps 1 and 2. And it requires huge engineering advances. Well, when we have steps 1 and 2 done, somebody may be able to do that, but we'll almost certainly see a generation or more between that.

And, then comes step 4: Getting positive net energy out of the machine. Well, we need step 3 to be completed before that, but one can expect both to be made by the same generation.

Re:Theory and reality, explanation. (2, Interesting)

Plunky (929104) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179319)

The theory behiond it was actually better than I expected. He's not trying to violate the second law of thermodynamics or anything. He's trying to use the tornado as dynamic heat chimney (an imaginary pipe carrying air up into the high cold atmosphere). Once he gets the tornado going he wants the warm air at the ground to naturally rise inside the chimney, then to harness this natural flow to extract energy.

I read TFA also, and was similarly impressed - but what I didnt see mentioned, and what struck me as a potential risk was that when you set up quite a few of these, you are in effect setting up pipes to pipe surface air up into the troposphere or ionosphere or whatever it is and will be setting up a circuit of sorts. Now, I am not a meteorologist but I'm fairly sure that the layers in the atmosphere are exactly that - layered - and usually there is not a lot of inter layer flow except for very light elements like hydrogen that pass right through.

I dont want to appear as an ignorant naysayer but I have read of 'issues' that people have as regards to water vapour introduced by jet engines and it strikes me that this could have a similar effect. I would like to know what that effect would be and how destructive in reality it could become if practiced on a large scale.

Tornado Hot Poney (4, Funny)

FerretFrottage (714136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179022)

Just create a mobile home park within about a mile and you'll know exactly where a runaway tornado will go. Set up a net there, catch it and return it to its turbine cage. Maybe give the tornade a three strikes rule and after its third runaway, just turn it back to slow moving air, or threaten to send it to the jet stream in Canada because we know how much tornados hate the cold.

Re:Tornado Hot Poney--Honey Pot ? (0)

FerretFrottage (714136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179041)

damn, violated /. rules
1. never submit to /. while having sex and playing cowboys and indians with the wife
2. don't expect /.ers to believe you have a wife

Energy source for vortex (5, Informative)

the_povinator (936048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179027)

The vortex can be sustained by either a specific heat source, like seawater or an area covered by greenhouses [as in the Australian solar tower/solar chimney], or if the atmosphere is sufficiently humid it can be sustained by the inherent instability of the atmosphere. However this instability is not generally always present. This instability is called the CAPE (convective atmospheric potential energy). It is the energy source that feeds thunderstorms. The reason the atmosphere can store energy is that the bottom layer of the atmosphere tends to be heated by the sun. If the air is damp but not at 100% humidity you can get a situation where the air column is stable, but as soon as it is perturbed enough for some of the air to start releasing moisture (when it reaches 100% humidity) the situtation becomes unstable. This is because the air that rises high enough to release moisture, starts getting warmed up when the moisture precipitates and then rises even higher. Theoretically, this could be exploited by a vortex. The vortex is performing the same function as a very tall tower, but hopefully more cheaply. It's like a siphon that siphons gasoline out of your tank. The vortex has lower pressure at the center, much like a siphon. However, it is far from clear whether this idea could be made practical. There are issues like how stable the vortex would be in wind, etc.

Re:Energy source for vortex (1)

SteveAstro (209000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179105)

AFAIK the Australian suntower doesn't "create a vortex" -its a giant, force fed chimney. Convection caused by air heated at the base of the tower pushes huge amounts of air up through a tower filled with turbines.

Steve

I'll use it for blackmail... (1)

The I Shing (700142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179045)

People of Green Pastures Trailer Park, I will unleash the fury of my tornado machine unless you hand over all your commemorative Nascar plates and pro wrestling magazines!

What about the noise? (1)

Dr. Cam (20341) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179061)

Tornadoes are not quiet.

Where would you put these? In any inhabited area the neighbours will complain. Truly isolated areas will require long transmission lines, with consequent power loss.

Re:What about the noise? (1)

gears5665 (699068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179168)

I'm sure that it would be possible to sound-proof the structure

Superman could help with this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179072)

What if one of those tornados got away? Didn't something like that happen with Superman and Lex Lothor? IIRC Lex built a solar power station that would solve all the world's energy problems but then it threatened to incinerate Metropolis. Maybe a comic book expert can help me with this. It seems to me that that particular comic is really old.

We worry about this kind of thing when we do anything. Weren't they worried that the original atomic chain reaction would spread out of control and destroy the entire world.

If they made even a drop of 'super water', wasn't that supposed to catalyze all the other water in the world and result in the destruction of life as we know it.

A stray tornado sounds almost tame by comparison.

What will hapen? (0)

blindcoder (606653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179083)

It will wreak havoc on the landscape. Sheesh, that question was about as intelligent as: What happens if I throw a lit cigarette into dry hay?

Here is someone who built one (2, Informative)

eww (211414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179086)

Some interesting photo's and video's
http://atmosphericvortextower.com/ [atmospheri...xtower.com]

Spin Cycle (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179093)

It doesn't sound like an interesting renewable energy source. To anyone who understands basic physics, it sounds like a fictional perpetual-motion machine. The energy to create the tornado has to move all that air in circles, then less gets captured by the turbines, wasting energy, not generating any.

Synthetic tornadoes are useful if they're actually like natural tornadoes. Especially if we can develop machines to safely capture energy from the natural ones. But people who think we can "create" energy by transducing it ought to be more like spectators in this research, just like watching _The Wizard of Oz_. Newton, he man behind the curtain, might not be a wizard, but the laws he noticed still apply, even in Kansas and Utah (though perhaps no longer in their schools).

Re:Spin Cycle (2, Insightful)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179218)

There's energy coming in the system though, right? The sun heats the air on the bottom.

It is a bit like the guy who wanted to run a tube from the ocean floor to the surface, and use the temperature differential to do work.

The thing can be terribly inefficient (in terms of wasting the solar energy) -- the thing that matters is just the price of the kWHs that come out of it.

Re:Spin Cycle (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179280)

That's mostly true. But what also matters is the price of the joules captured by other technologies, given the same energy and dollar investment (among other resources). Like other solar tech, such as biofuels.

Subject (1)

baudbarf (451398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179131)

"This is Scorpio. I have the doomsday device."

nice illustrations (1)

YOND R BOY (463829) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179135)

technology aside, I think its cute that he let his little kid do those sciency diagrams in microsoft Paint

This is not a new idea (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179144)

There is another company that is doing almost the same thing (VDS: Vortex Dehydration Systems, LLC).

There is not too much info on their website: http://vortexdehydration.com [vortexdehydration.com]

But the following two articles provide a good summary:
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4723367/ [msn.com]
http://www.zpenergy.com/modules.php?name=News&file =article&sid=1312 [zpenergy.com]

In other news... (2, Funny)

mcknut (759166) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179166)

Michael Crichton is hard at work on his next book..... a Tornadoe gets out of a ultra-secret lab and a scientist, a child, and a surprisingly militarily trained caretaker have to track it down and stop it.

What happens if one of these tornadoes gets away? (1)

MST3K (645613) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179220)

Sounds like a case for... Team X-Treme! [discovery.com]

TOMADOES? (2, Funny)

RequiemX (926964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179223)

The way the title kerned-out on this horrible school LCD, I thought it read "Tomadoes". I was like, WTF are tomadoes?

Energy source... (1)

rew (6140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179245)

Where does this thing run on?

"surround the construct by 10-20m of black concrete or gravel". Right! It is a solar energy collector. And a bad one at that.

A normal solar collector will work whenever there is sun. This thing will only work if there is sun AND the atmosphere is unstable. In that case it might be able to "amplify" the solar energy by about a factor of two. If it becomes more than a factor of two, then "shutting down the base" which the inventor claims to shut the thing down, won't be effective anymore. And your vortex might escape.

This depends on the weather. i.e. is inherently unpredictable.

Efficiency? (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179272)

So as a non-scientist...I have to wonder what the efficiency of this thing is. I mean, it seems to me like he would need to put a lot of energy in to maintain a stable vortex, so I'm wondering how efficient this would be compared to extracting energy from other sources.

what happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14179367)

Sounds like an interesting idea for a renewable energy source, but what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?

Well, since it happens to be in Utah the most likely scenario if the tornado escapes is that it kills mormons. It may be a good thing because it would eventually lead to a decline in bicyle related accidents.

The web site ... (1)

JoeGee (85189) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179385)

... looks like it was illustrated by an eight year old using a Disney paint program.

It's been done (1)

Winlin (42941) | more than 8 years ago | (#14179398)

Dr Heller already invented this...in a can no less.
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