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6 Terrible Ideas That Science Says Will Save the Planet

#3.
Polluted Oceans? Populate the Waters With Robot Fish

Last year, a group of engineers from the University of Essex combined their concern for the environment with their love of insane science by designing and building "cutting edge" robotic fish programmed to seek-out pollution off the coast of Spain. The carp-shaped Terminators' job will be to find contaminated areas in the ocean and report them to us via Wi-Fi.


Also, look like some sort of undead alien demon.

Initially the fish will mainly keep an eye out for damaged underwater pipelines, but in the future they might be equipped with systems allowing them to neutralize pollution on the spot. We assume with lasers because, hey, once you've already designed autonomous underwater droids, weaponizing them seems like the next logical step.

A single fish will cost over $30,000 and only move at a rate of two miles-per-hour, but the robots will be advanced enough to help locate surface chemical spills and contaminants that have already dissolved in the water. This doesn't necessarily indicate that the fish's A.I. will be sophisticated enough to one day rebel against their human masters... but it might.

The experiment has already gotten lots of support from the European Commission, and if successful they want Nemo 3000 to be placed in rivers, lakes and puddles all around the globe, monitoring the waters and totally not spying on people or blowing them up.

#2.
Melting Polar Ice? Give the Glaciers Blankets!

Recent studies put the Arctic melt-rate at 46.7 cubic miles a year (that's 47 trillion "Jesuschristareyouserious" gallons). This side effect of Global Warming creates a whole series of problems, from messing up the temperature of ocean currents to (eventually) flooding coastal cities.

A bunch of exclusive ski resorts in Switzerland have found a band aid solution to the problem (ice loss is a more immediate problem for them--if the Alp glaciers turn to water there will be less skiing which will translate to less monogrammed caviar for the resort owners). Having the most to lose, they contacted a local textile company who produced an answer to their thawing livelihood issue.

They gave them the "Ice Protector", a thermo-regulating fabric and the least imaginatively named product in the universe. The material is wrapped around the melting sites, insulating the white snow on the inside and protecting it from the colorful Sun rays on the outside.

A 2005 experiment was conducted, during which the Swiss Gurschen glacier was blanketed with the "Ice Protector" for two years. During that period, old Gurschen amazingly showed over 80 percent less leakage than its bed-wetting neighbors.

So we can just cover the whole Arctic with these, right? Uh, well, the blankets cost $12 million... per square mile.

There has to be a better way, right? Well, Canadian industrial engineer Peter Flynn of the University of Alberta says we should go up North and start dropping ice in the local waters to control Earth's climate.


Yup, again just like in Futurama.

This plan would call for over 8000 ice-making barges to be sent near the glaciers off the coast of Greenland in the winter and start spraying them with salty water. Due to the extreme cold, the saline would freeze up into a huge ice cube the size of New Mexico. Thus solving the problem once and for all.


Now we wait for photos of dead, ice-glazed whales to come pouring in.

#1.
Asteroid Again? Tether It!

If we don't like the "throw it at the Russians" asteroid plan (and why wouldn't we?), aerospace engineer David French says he has one of his own: Simply tether a gigantic counterbalance to the celestial bullet using a 500-50000-mile long rope. It should effectively change its course and together with the weight transform the space stone into a monstrous pair of intergalactic cajones.


Basically this.

Admittedly, we don't really understand the mechanics of getting more than twice the Earth's girth worth of rope and (we assume) a giant iron ball into space--much less to lasso an asteroid cruising at 30,000 miles-per-hour--but actual experts seem to seriously be considering this approach. That's why French's tether ball proposal was reviewed and accepted for presentation at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SPACE 2009 Conference and Exposition in Pasadena, CA--and you know they don't just let any asshole speak there.

Besides, if the plan fails and French's project results in not one, but two projectiles slicing the Earth in half with their massive tripwire, what are we going to do? Fire him?


It's not like it's the only one we've got.

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