Capitalizing on the Concorde
This article is the second (out of four) in replies to Chip's
arguments in this blog post of mine
, as well as this one
. My first reply, attempting to combat some of his futilitarianism, is here
. (I miss usenet, it was far more suitable to long, winding conversational threads, but I digress)Chip wrote
Things like the Concorde, and its ilk are basically (like today's 'globalism) accidents of cheap non-renewable and polluting energy in the form of oil and coal. Today's standard of living, with all its problems is temporary.
Yes, today's standard of living is temporary. It may well be that humanity as a whole has peaked, and is headed towards a downward spiral, or it may still be on an upward one. One thing I am sure of is that the standard of living will change
. It may get better in China, and worse in America. Or both systems decline, and South America and Africa see their day in the sun. Secondly I disagree with the concept of a "standard" of living entirely. Does it mean two cars in every garage, a 50 inch tv, and sushi every night? A "standard" implies that there is a universal evaluation of the valued items of living itself. I, personally, am a million times happier now that I no longer have to work 18 months out of the year to keep a roof over my head. There are plenty of things I miss, however. I'd like to get some more advanced vehicle in my house than sandals, and could use an x-ray on my knee. And I wouldn't mind if I could find some agency willing to fund some of the things I think are important for the survival of the species
. Chip then wrote
Non-renewable and polluting energy is remarkably handy stuff, and we've squandered it, and are continuing to squander it. If you are going to use it, then use it if the your life, and the lives of everyone you know and love and care for including the generations yet to come depended you not wasting it. The Concorde was an interesting experiment. But it was also a huge waste of resources, energy and time [bold mine] .
I heartily disagree with your last two sentences. For starters, an "experiment" is an experiment. By definition, you don't know what the results are going to be.
At the time of Concorde's
development, no-one knew the full extent of our oil and gas resources. We still don't, although current surveys appear compelling. We didn't know, when Concorde was started, how efficient such an airliner could be. We couldn't forecast demand accurately, and we didn't know the extent to which sonic booms would inflame the populace against overland crossings
. These are some of the direct results of the supersonic experiments. More:
Concorde pushed Duralumin
based construction to its limit. More use of titanium would have helped, but in the 1960s the state of the art in use of that material only existed in the SR-71 Blackbird
. Over the past 30+ years the use of titanium, has gone from that very specialized use into laptops, and cars, and a variety of everyday devices, including pens. The upcoming Dreamliner aircraft (as well as SpaceShipOne, Two, and Three) make extensive use of composite materials to further reduce weight and fuel consumption.
When operating Concorde at its design point at Mach 2, it was the world's most efficient jet engine.
The amount of fuel used by all the supersonic aircraft in history is a drop in the bucket compared to our "normal" energy uses.
Concorde travelled, per passenger, 17 miles (27 km) for each imperial gallon of fuel — 17 miles per imperial gallon (17 L/100 km; 14 mpg-US). This efficiency is comparable to a Gulfstream G550 business jet (16 miles per US gallon (15 L/100 km; 19 mpg-imp) per passenger), but much less efficient than a Boeing 747-400 (91 miles per US gallon (2.6 L/100 km; 109 mpg-imp) per passenger).
The Dreamliner is expected to be 20% more efficient than the 747.
Research continues into supersonic flight. Aerion
has 3 billion dollars in pre-order sales on it's supersonic business jet
Discarding an idea because it didn't work the first time is a false efficiency. I believe in constant, incremental change, and experiments to determine future directions for that change. Research also continues into hypersonic flight
, as well as into aircraft that emit a more minimal sonic boom
[I will have more to write about this later, I am just trying to break a very long email reply into more sane component parts right now]