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Google Funding the Next Big One? 295

Posted by samzenpus
from the mole-men-approved dept.
wdavies writes "According to this New York Times article, Google is funding a controversial deep drill geothermal project north of San Francisco. Apparently the company, AltaRock, omitted to disclose that the same deep drilling caused a major quake in Basel, Switzerland when it was last used. Given the notorious geological instability of the Northern Californian coast, this strikes me as kind of dumb — and given the known likelihood of this technique producing earthquakes, somewhat EVIL."
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Google Funding the Next Big One?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:15PM (#28461897) Journal
    Yes, Google's given these guys $6.5 million. But the United States federal government has given them $200 million--especially the Department of Energy. If you're a United States citizen, you should be aware that you are also funding "the next big one."

    Also the article says it's "nearly the same" drilling technology as the one that caused the quake in Basel while the summary says it's the same. It seems it's not the same though. The article goes on to say:

    Officials at AltaRock, with offices in Sausalito, Calif., and Seattle, insist that the company has learned the lessons of Basel and that its own studies indicate the project can be carried out safely. James T. Turner, AltaRock's senior vice president for operations, said the company had applied for roughly 20 patents on ways to improve the method.

    I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

    • by sonamchauhan (587356) <sonamc@noSPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:21PM (#28461963) Journal

      > I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

      Why don't you read the article?

      Alarmed, Mr. Häring and other company officials decided to release all pressure in the well to try to halt the fracturing. But as they stood a few miles from the drill site, giving the orders by speakerphone to workers atop the hole, a much bigger jolt shook the room.

      "I think that was us," said one stunned official.

      Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 -- modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt -- often out of proportion to the magnitude -- rather than a rumble.
      Triggered quakes are also frequently accompanied by an "air shock," a loud tearing or roaring noise.

      The noise "made me feel it was some sort of supersonic aircraft going overhead," said Heinrich Schwendener, who, as president of Geopower Basel, the consortium that includes Geothermal Explorers and the utility companies, was standing next to the borehole.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sonamchauhan (587356)

        Forgot to add ... why aren't they drilling in some desert area... some abandoned nuclear test site? Sure, the power transmission losses will be larger, but so will the safety (especially compared to SF)

        • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:47PM (#28462197) Journal

          Forgot to add ... why aren't they drilling in some desert area... some abandoned nuclear test site? Sure, the power transmission losses will be larger, but so will the safety (especially compared to SF)

          First of all it's "north of San Fransisco" and by North they mean it's actually North of Santa Rosa. And it looks to be about 20 miles north of that up near Clear Lake. And if you go to their project site [altarockenergy.com] and look at the map at the bottom, you'll notice in the past week there's been 3.0 or larger earth quakes in that region. The 3.4 they had in Basel looks to be just another daily occurrence in those parts.

          If you look where they're drilling, there's not a whole lot of homes around there. I'm not sure what the radius of destruction is from the epicenter for a "big one" but I don't think it's massive enough to hit a lot way out there. I could be wrong. But you know, I bet if they see a 3.4 like Basel, they shut it down if the government doesn't first. I do like the interactive map on their site so you can see the earthquakes relative to their drilling.

          Who knows? They could have determined that unstable areas are safer for drilling since the region around you is having 3.0+ earthquakes all the time? Not like you're going to screw anything up if the plates are shifting constantly anyway, right?

          Also, the government funded stuff is all over the place (Utah included) so don't worry, they want this energy source available to all and non centralized. I'm not sure what your motivation is here or why the summary labeled this as pure evil Personally, I'm interested in what this could do for non-polluting energy. I think in order to get the drilling permits and convince backers it was safe enough for America you would have to show a lot of proof. But I'm not a seismologist. Looks worth a shot to me though.

          Lastly people take risks in the name of discovery and production. It happens every time a human leaves Earth's gravitational pull, it happened in the early days of a lot of technology until it was perfected. I'm not arguing we should risk human lives, I'm just pointing out that we might be blowing a risk out of proportion that, since non of us are seismologists, none of us really understand. Is it like drilling a pinhole through a one inch slab of marble or drilling the pinhole through one millimeter thick pie crust? I highly doubt they'd be wasting their time if they didn't know the ground would remain stable long enough for their tunnel to remain intact. It looks like they're taking precautions and claim to have refined the process to make it safer at least.

          • by Curlsman (1041022) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:49PM (#28462911)

            Born and raised in California, earthquakes tend to be boring:
            Magnitude 3.x is what the news programs talk about in between the weather and highway traffic.
            4.x tends to be somebody says something fell over.
            5.x is when you start to notice...

            Loma Prieta was 6.9 and the epicenter about 60 miles from my home, about the same distance to the houses that collapsed and burned in San Francisco. It's not the distance but the local ground conditions that made the difference: the only thing that happened at my house was an empty soda can fell over. In the Marina District, the landfill (from the 1906 earthquake) turned to jello, something like that happened in Oakland to the freeway, and my house on a natural slope was fine.

            Besides, there is no "if" about a coming large quake, only "when", and to a lesser extent where: most likely the northern end on the Hayward fault. Santa Rosa would be the San Andreas fault.

            • by kramulous (977841)

              That's awesome! I've never experienced a quake. I remember once there was this 'pop' but that's it. But I love that you guys have become desensitised. Kinda like us and killer animals everywhere.

              Just loved the perspective. Thanks.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by TheRaven64 (641858)
              It's worth reminding everyone that the Richter scale is logarithmic, so a 4.0 quake is ten times more powerful than a 3.0, and so on. The largest Earthquake we've had in the UK in my lifetime has been a 5.2, and it was barely noticeable by anyone more than a few miles from the epicentre (and even there, about the worst thing to happen was a few chimneys got cracked; Victorian houses aren't really designed with earthquake-proofing in mind). We get one in the 3-4 range every few years, and the only way most
          • by wdavies (163941) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:58AM (#28463255) Homepage

            The area does have quakes, BUT if you look at where they STARTED to cluster once drilling started it becomes really obvious that the drilling and water insertion causes additional (like a lot more) quakes. The geologists know this is the case. The issue at stake is what happens when you drill way deeper into the rocks below -- here's thge video from the times showing what happens.

            http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/06/23/us/Geothermal.html [nytimes.com]

          • First of all it's "north of San Fransisco" and by North they mean it's actually North of Santa Rosa. And it looks to be about 20 miles north of that up near Clear Lake. And if you go to their project site and look at the map at the bottom, you'll notice in the past week there's been 3.0 or larger earth quakes in that region. The 3.4 they had in Basel looks to be just another daily occurrence in those parts.

            I live in the region we're discussing, which is the most geothermally active spot in the inhabited world. We have a superfund site down the road where they buried the arsenic pressure-washed off of the turbine blades. The geothermal power site itself is storing Arsenic and other major toxics in open concrete pits near the generators. When the pits fill up, they are covered over with concrete, and the walls raised so that they can put more toxics in.

            Assuming they'll be accessing the same system of vents, the water that they are pumping into the ground and heating it will probably be contaminated with the same stuff that comes OUT of the steam vents which run Calpine Geothermal Power, thus creating another serious environmental catastrophe. We were starting to have cows born with two heads and shit like that; they ended up digging up [most of] the Arsenic-contaminated soil and containing it on the same site with a rubber liner.

            Most so-called "green power" is anything but.

            I highly doubt they'd be wasting their time if they didn't know the ground would remain stable long enough for their tunnel to remain intact. It looks like they're taking precautions and claim to have refined the process to make it safer at least.

            That depends. Have they been paid yet?

    • by mini me (132455) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:29PM (#28462039)

      Yes, but unlike Google, the government's motto is "Do evil." At least I'm pretty sure it is.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        You're correct. That's why limited small government is so important.

      • Yes, but unlike Google, the government's motto is "Do evil." At least I'm pretty sure it is.

        They combined and transformed into a small potato that doesn't give a shit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)

      Yes, Google's given these guys $6.5 million. But the United States federal government has given them $200 million--especially the Department of Energy. If you're a United States citizen, you should be aware that you are also funding "the next big one."

      And what am I going to do with this knowledge? I can't exactly refuse to pay taxes, nor in our convoluted sense of "freedom" elect any officials with real (positive) tax reforms. Sure, I could complain to congress, but honestly the entire internet has been complaining about many, many, many laws with little to no response about them (the DMCA, prohibition of certain drugs, copyright reform, etc).

      I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

      All releasing pressure does is make the next earthquake less powerful. Really, if you cause an earthquake in

      • And what am I going to do with this knowledge? I can't exactly refuse to pay taxes, nor in our convoluted sense of "freedom" elect any officials with real (positive) tax reforms. Sure, I could complain to congress, but honestly the entire internet has been complaining about many, many, many laws with little to no response about them (the DMCA, prohibition of certain drugs, copyright reform, etc).

        Well... hold on here. when you say "the entire Internet has been complaining", you mean a couple-few hundred thousand people have been bitching about these things on blogs, twitter, email, useless "e-petitions", and in some cases mass form emails sent to congresscritters -- form letters indistinguishable from spam for all intents.

        How many of "the entire Internet" have actually written a letter to their representative, or even know who their representatives are?

        People do have power, but they have to use it. And sitting around complaining to others who already agree with them doesn't count.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darkness404 (1287218)

          Well... hold on here. when you say "the entire Internet has been complaining", you mean a couple-few hundred thousand people have been bitching about these things on blogs, twitter, email, useless "e-petitions", and in some cases mass form emails sent to congresscritters -- form letters indistinguishable from spam for all intents. How many of "the entire Internet" have actually written a letter to their representative, or even know who their representatives are?

          Yes, and those few hundred thousand usually happen to be the ones most affected by it. Its similar to putting a bunch of restrictions on dairy farmers and watch how the public doesn't seem to care much about it yet dairy farmers do, but using that reasoning to keep the legislation in effect because most of the population doesn't know how it works. Same with the DMCA, the people who complain about the DMCA are usually those affected by it, plus, I consider it part of congress's duties to check out what the

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by servognome (738846)

            So really, my beliefs are not represented at all in congress and those who are supposed to be listening to me don't, nor do they even take the time to check what their actions did to the world.

            Elected officials aren't going to listen to everybody. They listen first to the people who helped them get elected, the people who voted for them, then their own gut feeling. Rather than trying to influence your representative directly, educate and organize your neighbors. Unless you can deliver a congress person v

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Anecdotal evidence saying how you personally write to your reps doesn't cut it. I write to mine to -- but the real problem is that we're in the minority. A very, very, very small minority. Until people start doing more than complaining to each other, it will remain that way.

            The best way for that change to occur will be for the people who who complain to each other start complaining to others outside of the choir. Logically, coherently, and in a way that makes them both aware of the problem and willi

            • I'm always mildly concerned when I can tell a staffer had time to actually respond to *MY* email. While the impersonal canned mass email reply is disconcerting in its own way... if they take the time to even write up a single paragraph for *ME* I worry there aren't enough people communicating with their senators and congressmen/women.

            • I occasionally write to US Senators thanking them for passing laws like DMCA and their current patent law, which give a competitive advantage to non-US corporations. Perhaps someone in Canada could do the same with my MEPs, thanking them for the EUCD?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wdavies (163941)

      Note - the $200 million is not for AltaRock, its the total investment in all Geothermal. Not clear that there is ANY US government money for them. It's an aside really, who's funding them, its more that they seemed to misrepresent the technique as being safe to Fed Agency overseeing it. To the comments below, about the tons of existing earthquakes, the thing to read/watch is the pop out explanation - the existing low-level geothermal ops are causing those quakes -- and the companies have admitted as much. T

  • Under Pressure (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:19PM (#28461943)

    It seems to me that the only thing a large drill may do is release the pressure that's building up. It's not going to "cause" an earthquake per se, it's going to release one before it happens natually, which will likely be less intense than if it had been allowed to build up pressure in the first place.

    • by ls671 (1122017) *

      Hmm... they say they ADD pressure in order to fracture the hot rocks, this added pressure would never occur otherwise.

      • by Miros (734652)
        and, once those rocks are fractured, water is then supposed to be injected so that it can be turned into steam (the mode through which the power will actually be extracted) which I would imagine would increase the pressure. There is the section of the article where they describe a similar process taking place close to the surface in another part of the state where it has caused a significant increase in seismic activity, all of which is apparently close to the surface. the article suggests that more destr
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 4D6963 (933028)
        I believe it's not the same pressure. The pressure that builds up before an earthquake is I believe the pressure between the two sides of the fault that as they grind against each other. Adding pressure to fracture the rocks adds nothing to that, however fracture the rocks/turning the underground into a fractured muddy mess would make the other kind of pressure between the two sides of the fault get released earlier, so in a way you're helping triggering the earthquake, but because you lower the threshold b
  • "the next big one" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by seifried (12921) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:20PM (#28461949) Homepage
    Is going to happen sometime in the future regardless of what we do (baring some major advances in geological technology and the ability to control earth quakes which from a geek perspective would be pretty damn cool, but I'm not holding my breath).
  • by An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:20PM (#28461951)

    Plate tectonics causes quakes! Sometimes, however, drilling *releases* stress, triggering quakes that were already going to happen, the drilling just throws the straw on the camel's back, so to speak.

    In fact, technologies like this could be useful in doing controlled release of earthquakes, such that you can pick the time it can occur so people are ready for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ls671 (1122017) *

      In TFA, they say they add pressure to the system, what you are talking about could be valid if it wasn't for that fact. By artificially adding pressure, I would assume that they may cause something to move which would NEVER have moved otherwise.

      • Yes the steam they are making is adding pressure, but the question is if we are capable of adding enough pressure to amount to more than the proverbial straw on a camel. That doesn't seem likely to me, although since they are using large amounts of heat energy already stored in the crust I suppose it is possible.

        • by Miros (734652)
          yeah, i feel like the pressure is the point of the project and it's not the pressure added by injecting the water, but by the heat coming through the rock turning that water into steam. essentially creating a steam explosion several miles underground in under conditions that probably have more unknowns than knowns, all in an area with known levels of significant instability seems like a prospect deserving of extreme scrutiny.
          • That's a good point...

            "essentially creating a steam explosion several miles underground in under conditions that probably have more unknowns than knowns, all in an area with known levels of significant instability seems like a prospect deserving of extreme scrutiny."

            Let's try the experiment and scrutinize the results.

            -- Terry

    • Heady questions (Score:5, Interesting)

      by StreetStealth (980200) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:47PM (#28462191) Journal

      In fact, technologies like this could be useful in doing controlled release of earthquakes, such that you can pick the time it can occur so people are ready for it.

      This is a really interesting idea, the kind of stuff that makes for thoughtful sci-fi and even more thought in real life. What if we could tell the Big One was coming in the next decade but had the technology to loose its destruction at a time of our choosing?

      How would such a thing be done? How would you convince the populace and governing bodies that it was necessary? How could you make absolutely sure it was necessary?

      How would insurers decide to react? Where would everyone go? What about those refuse to leave? Are there temporary measures that could improve structural stability for 24 hours? What about people who couldn't afford them?

      What are the potentials for abuse? How would the specifics of the release be affected by politics? If there were a way to control where the greatest damage would occur, how would it be chosen? Who would choose? Would the people in the way have a say? What kind of legal liability would those involved at different levels have?

      A controlled quake release could save thousands, even tens of thousands of lives. But once there's an element of human control to unexpected disaster, all bets are off as to how our civilization deals with the responsibility.

      • Yeah, anyone else kind of reminded of the Xindi? I can't wait until we can turn this into a weapon!
      • Re:Heady questions (Score:5, Insightful)

        by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:26PM (#28462773) Journal

        You asked...

        What if we could tell the Big One was coming in the next decade but had the technology to loose its destruction at a time of our choosing?

        Then folks would be ready for it, just like OP said.

        How would such a thing be done?

        RTFA.

        Where would everyone go?

        Vacation.

        What about those refuse to leave?

        Give them video cameras, clean water, some canned goods, and a P38.

        Are there temporary measures that could improve structural stability for 24 hours?

        Yes. Tape the windows, close the doors. Remove things from shelves. And avoid doing this in dry season or rainy season, whichever is worse for the upper layers of the crust.

        What about people who couldn't afford them?

        Help them.

        How would insurers decide to react?

        They'd act like cowardly children with solid cherry desks, country club memberships, a trophy wife, and a new German car, just like they do any other time something expensive happens.

        How would the specifics of the release be affected by politics?

        Poorly. Just as every other case where a politician gets involved.

        If there were a way to control where the greatest damage would occur, how would it be chosen?

        Whatever's cheapest.

        Who would choose?

        Maps. And clinical, heartless engineers.

        Would the people in the way have a say?

        They had a say when they elected the government.

        What kind of legal liability would those involved at different levels have?

        Who cares? If we can print enough money to bail out the economy, we can print enough to cover everyone's ass in a man-made Teh Big One.

    • injecting high pressure water CAN trigger them. And make them much worse. And yes, this is about injecting water to be heated. With that said, I suspect that they have done their homework and figured things out. The venture in EU was a disaster, because the company did not do their homework and literally hit a known fault.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625)

      Pulling a trigger doesn't CAUSE people to get shot!

      Making the bullet causes people to get shot! Sometimes, however, pulling the trigger *releases* the bullet.

  • by rhook (943951) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:21PM (#28461957)
    And just how do they know that the drilling caused the quake?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by unfunk (804468)
      That's what I'm curious about;

      "I think that was us," said one stunned official. Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 - modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt - often out of proportion to the magnitude - rather than a rumble.

      Yup... that's some nice reasoning behind that claim. How about we see this seismic data that's mentioned but not linked to

    • by jayhawk88 (160512)

      Well, they were drilling, and then there was an earthquake. So obviously the drilling caused the quake, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ls671 (1122017) *

      In TFA, they say artificially caused quakes are easy to identify:

      Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt often out of proportion to the magnitude rather than a rumble.

      Triggered quakes are also frequently accompanied by an air shock, a loud tearing or roaring noise.

      The noise made me feel it was some sort of sup

  • Probability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shatrat (855151) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:21PM (#28461959)
    Probability of a major earthquake if google drills for power: 1

    Probability of a major earthquake if google does not drill: 1

    If there is a quake, at least it will release some tension now rather than a year from now when it will be greater.

  • It should be possible to avoid the Big One and instead have a lot of small quakes at predictable places and times.
  • by iCodemonkey (1480555) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:24PM (#28461991) Homepage
    Does this mean google is now a super-evil corporation(TM). Will we have James Bond types trying to bring it down? (disclaimer: not enough sleep, lack of coffee and to much TV are my excuses)
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:27PM (#28462481) Homepage

      Does this mean google is now a super-evil corporation(TM).

      No, you all have it exactly backwards. Look at this - California is bankrupt, they're planning on paying creditors IOUs. No money. Nada. They've already asked the feds to help and Obama has said 'No'.

      Google knows this and knows that the only other ways to get money out of the feds is either to wage war on them or have a (presumably) natural disaster. Wars take time and are all sorts of messy, not to mention ethically marginal. A natural disaster on the other hand - who can argue with an Act of God? This is just a small down payment to help rescue the entire fucking state from themselves.

      Brilliant, I say. Absolutely brilliant.

      • No, you all have it exactly backwards. Look at this - California is bankrupt, they're planning on paying creditors IOUs. No money. Nada. They've already asked the feds to help and Obama has said 'No'.

        Don't you mean the USA is bankrupt ?

  • 3.4? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macshit (157376) <miles.gnu@org> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:31PM (#28462061) Homepage

    Apparently (it's hard to say for sure, since all the stories I found were kinda sensationalist) the project in Basel caused a magnitude 3.4 quake.

    That's an extremely small earthquake.

    Big trucks going a construction site also rumble and shake the ground when the go past. People bitch, but it's not considered a reason to stop construction projects (except perhaps in very exceptional circumstances).

    Frankly the furor seems to be more the "OMG they're doing something we don't understand which doesn't involve overeating and reality television! Stop them!" sort than it does a well-grounded and considered opposition.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by linzeal (197905)
      It was a 3.4 earthquake in an area without significant fault lines. That is 'significant'.
      • Re:3.4? (Score:5, Informative)

        by e9th (652576) <e9th@t[ ]dex.com ['upo' in gap]> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:01PM (#28462303)
        Without significant fault lines? This article [sciencedaily.com] seems to suggest otherwise.
        • by jrumney (197329)
          The fact that Switzerland is covered in mountain ranges seems to suggest otherwise too.
          • by khallow (566160)
            I was thinking the same thing. A mountain exists because at some point something pushed it up. And there's been a lot of pushing in Switzerland. A quake doesn't in itself mean much. This fault could generate these things every few years or every few centuries. If there's a 3.4 quake on a fault line with a lot of pressure that hasn't sprung in centuries, then that's worse than something that generates quakes of this strength all the time.
      • Not really. We get one about that magnitude in the UK every few years, and you'd be hard pressed to find any major fault lines around here. I was a few miles from the epicentre of one a few years ago, and only found out about it when I walked in on a discussion the next day with people asking each other if they felt the quake (answers ranging from 'no' to 'maybe').
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by scubamage (727538)
      I think they're more worried about a massive series of quakes being set off, like the ones in China which they're pretty darn sure were caused by water pressing down at a newly built dam.
    • If you read the article, the 3.4 magnitude earthquake was closer to the surface than normal earthquakes. The effect was correspondingly higher. For Pete's sake, there was a sonic-boom-like burst of wind that accompanied the earthquake.

  • The allure of limitless energy from beneath the surface of the earth is enticing, but we have such short memories. Do nobody behind this project remember the ill-fated British INFERNO project from the 70s?
  • I'm shocked at how good people feel about this, and how much license many of the commenters are willing to give to this venture even if it is known to possible trigger a significant seismic event. What if this were being funded by Exxon instead of KP + Google? I doubt people would be as dismissive of the risks involved. also, filing for patents on improving the process is the whole point of funding something like this, not building a single power station, but gaining the know-how and experience necessary
  • B Movie (Score:2, Funny)

    by haggus71 (1051238)
    This sounds like one of those really bad disaster movies of the 70's starring Charlton Heston. Oh wait... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071455/ [imdb.com]
  • Terminator (Score:3, Funny)

    by basementman (1475159) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:54PM (#28462267) Homepage

    I think this is will be skynet's first strike against mankind.

  • by stox (131684) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:01PM (#28462305) Homepage

    I would rather have a number of small quakes rather than one large one. If this results in pressure being gradually released from a fault zone, I would consider it an asset, not a liability.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      What if the large one isnt due for 150 years.. do you still feel the same?

      Personally, I feel that people alive 150 years from now are imaginary people, and would thus gladly shove the big one at them instead of taking a bunch of smaller ones now.
  • any crazy ideas on how to harness energy of triggered quakes? mine: carve a large pattern around the area to direct the quake at a giant pendulum which will then swing the gays straight... and the straights gay. for science!
    • Interesting idea. Harnessing energy from earthquakes isn't usually practical for the same reason that harnessing energy from lightning isn't; they deliver a lot of energy, infrequently. If you're triggering small earthquakes more often then it might be worth investigating. A seismograph is basically a device for harnessing energy from earthquakes to move a needle over some paper. You could scale it up to swing a much heavier weight and extract energy from it. I suspect that the fact that the quake is o
  • Their Fatal Mistake (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rally2xs (1093023) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:03PM (#28462331)
    was drilling in La La Land. They should have drilled in Montana, the Dakotas, anywhere where people are semi-reasonable about things. This project will be stopped, bet on it. It will join the power line that was stopped from connecting a large solar farm to San Diego, the LNG seaports that were stopped from being built anywhere along the left coast and wound up in Mexico, the area where they refused to build powerplants for about 10 years and not only caused themselves rolling blackouts but made their competitive position in the electricity market so weak that Enron could easiy butt-F them, as well as their being one of 5 states with diesel fuel standards so stringent that it is impossible for anyone to import or build a diesel car clean enough to be sold there, and on and on. California as a political entity is non-viable, it's just taking a while to totally collapse...
  • Someone check to see if Google has been buying up useless desert land in Arizona and Nevada!
  • It's not evil at all. They are secretly buying up land in Nevada and Arizona and hoping that the entire state of California will drop into the ocean. Then they will own the western coast, build a new silicon valley, and set up massive off-shore server farms driven by wave power. From there it's a small leap to world dominance! Evil? I think not... just Genius! Just don't tell Superman or he'll spin the earth backwards until the Internet is back to Mosaic and Excite.
  • Google is combining forces with Hulu. "An evil plot to destroy the world. Enjoy!" Google rationalizes their participation on the grounds that there's too much information in the world to efficiently search, so by eliminating one rich source of data (California), they can reduce the amount of information they need to index and thus keep their search results more relevant, which they consider a good thing.
  • Cause we will be screwed by LHC loooonnnggg before

  • Steven E. Koonin, the under secretary for science at the Energy Department, said the earthquake issue was new to him, but added, "We're committed to doing things in a factual and rigorous way, and if there is a problem, we will attend to it."

    I have zero understanding of the technology being used here, nor of what might constitute rigorous risk identification, monitoring and response. The article doesn't help much in that it appears to focuses on the polar - people who assert little or manageable risk(s) and on the other end those who think just about anything (bad) could happen.

    At the risk of trivializing something complex that I know jack shit about, I'll note I can't tell whether Mr. Koonin's comment is indicative of solid forethought and co

  • The Big One sponsored by mysterious billionaires? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090264/ [imdb.com]
  • Thing is, there's high probability that a 3.x earthwuake will happen in the drilling area around the time of the drilling, whether they drill or not, and most certainly people wouldn't even notice. Unless, of course, seismologists will especially listen to that moment and say the drilling caused the quakes, which they won't be able to prove, since such quakes are so common it's not even news.

    Fear of quakes should not justify dropping the idea of using drilled geotermics, it's stupid.

    Unless you ask commo
  • Yes, google is now evil, they're finding projects that use RFC 3514 -- the Evil Bit.

    Well, the evil drill bit anyway.

  • If you want to see some really great informative graphics look at the what is presented along with the article: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/06/23/us/Geothermal.html [nytimes.com]
    I'm amazed to see such well presented, interesting and informative 3D and 2D graphics in a "mainstream" (non-technical) periodical. Take a look!
    Anyway, back to the topic. The article also said that advanced geothermal power could produce "as much as 60,000 TIMES the nationâ(TM)s annual energy usage!" (Emphasis mine).
    Doesn't an

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