Equinox Summit

In response to my post asking What To Do?, Lee Smolin pointed out this conference on energy technologies:

Equinox Summit, 5-9 June 2011, Perimeter Institute/Waterloo University, Waterloo, Canada.

The idea:

The Equinox Summit will bring together leading top scientists in low-carbon technologies with a panel of industry and policy experts and the next generation of world leaders to pool their expertise and create a realistic roadmap from the energy challenges of today to a sustainable future by 2030.

These visionary researchers and decision makers will collaborate both in closed-door sessions and in free public presentations about the next generation of low-carbon energy solutions.

The public events are free but a ticket is required. Confirmed participants include these people:

Yacine Kadi CERN researcher Yacine Kadi, who is leading efforts to build next-generation nuclear reactors that eat their own waste.
Linda Nazar Canada Research Chair in Solid State Materials, Linda Nazar, who is researching new nanomaterials that could store more energy and deliver it faster.
Alan Aspuru-Guzik Harvard chemist Alan Aspuru-Guzik, recognized as one of the “Top 35 Under 35 Young Innovators” by the MIT Technology Review in 2010.
Cathy Foley Australian science agency chief Cathy Foley, whose research into superconductivity could lead to technological leaps in transportation and energy production.
Ted Sargent University of Toronto Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Ted Sargent, who has devised paint-on solar cell technology that harvests infrared energy from the Sun. His 2005 book “The Dance of the Molecules: How Nanotechnology is Changing our Lives” has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Korean, and Arabic.

Summit advisors and speakers include:

Robin Batterham Robin Batterham, President, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineers (ATSE), Former Chief Scientist of Australia, Former Chief Scientist, Rio Tinto.
Vaclav Smil Vaclav Smil, author of “Energy Myth and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate” and “Transforming the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations and Their Consequences” – the first non-American to receive the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology.

These descriptions of participants are from the conference website, so they’re a bit more gushy than anything I’d write, but it looks like an interesting crew! If you go there and learn something cool, try to remember to drop a line here.

8 Responses to Equinox Summit

  1. streamfortyseven says:

    “A panel of scientific experts representing different approaches to energy production, distribution and storage will present and debate on their visions for viable sources of renewable energy.

    Over three days of working sessions, the Quorum will produce a shortlist of recommendations that policy makers can use to guide investment in science and technology over the next 20 years.

    To foster a free and open collaboration process, these sessions will be held in private, with select members of the media reporting.

    Members of the public and additional media will have access to this process through a daily series of public presentations by some of the members of the Quorum.”

    Gas prices may hit $5 to $6 per gallon by the time they hold this conference, and I don’t think that many people will travel a long ways to be shut out of the majority of the proceedings. I’m surprised they are not using teleconferencing for this, they could do their summit online, and provide far greater and denser information than the old format which requires people to spend money for travel and housing. Apparently some of the “public” sessions are by invitation only, which strikes me as unnecessarily elitist. If they want to get broad support, they need to find another way to do it.

    • John Baez says:

      Most lectures at the Perimeter Institute are videotaped, but you’re right that this calls for some sort of real-time online presence—I’ll ask Smolin if they’ve thought of that.

    • John Baez says:

      Actually there will be a real-time online version of the public sessions:

      Each day, Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 will feature two free-to-the-public afternoon presentations as well as a televised panel each evening on key energy issues.

      All public events will be streamed live online, and archived for future viewing.

      A detailed list of public events will be posted in the upcoming weeks. Sign up for the Equinox Summit Newsletter to receive public programming announcements and information on how to order tickets.

      I don’t know why you think some public sessions are by invitation only.

  2. Tim van Beek says:

    The Equinox Summit will bring together leading top scientists in low-carbon technologies with a panel of industry and policy experts and the next generation of world leaders to pool their expertise and create a realistic roadmap from the energy challenges of today to a sustainable future by 2030.

    Do we already know who belongs to the next generation of world leaders? I hope it’s the Illuminati…

  3. John Baez says:

    You can see Andrew Revkin blogging about the Equinox Summit here:

    • Andrew Revkin, Shaping energy menus through 2030, Dot Earth, 8 June 2011.

    He writes:

    I missed two important contextual presentations, but luckily they’ve been captured on video:

    The first was by the inimitable and formidable Vaclav Smil, who examines resources and risk from his perch at the University of Manitoba. (I was lucky to be able to spend an hour interviewing him onstage at this same venue in 2009.) Here’s his summary:

    Energy transitions: future without fossil energies is desirable, and it is eventually inevitable, but the road from today’s overwhelmingly fossil-fueled civilization to a new global energy system based on efficient conversions of renewable flows will be neither fast nor cheap.

    I also encourage you to read Smil’s essay in American Scientist earlier this spring on Global Energy: The Latest Infatuations.

    Then came a talk on Energy, Complexity and Human Survival by Thomas Homer-Dixon of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation and Balsillie School of International Affairs, who studies global risk, governance and change and is the author of The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization and Environment, Scarcity, and Violence.

    You can watch a live stream of David Keith, an energy and environment researcher at the University of Calgary, giving his climate and geo-engineering talk here.

  4. John Baez says:

    Here’s another report on the Equinox Summit:

    • Alan Boyce, Experts lay out energy game plan, Cosmic Log, msnbc.com.

    A simple but important message from Martin Hoffert, professor emeritus of physics at New York University, to any scientists or science-loving kids reading this blog:

    “I think that this is basically a political problem,” he said. “People who have backgrounds in science and engineering have to get more involved in the political debate. We don’t want to do that. By nature, we’re geeks. Why do we have to deal with those entities instead of sticking to technologies that we can understand in a rational way? But the world could be destroyed by irrational people, so we have to find a way to make that connection.”

  5. nad says:

    Since in Boyle’s article the “Advanced nuclear power” plans looked quite exposed (in comparision to other energy production means, which were partially not even mentioned) some comments to this “Advanced nuclear power” plans and in particular to the in the article mentioned accelerator-driven, thorium-based systems and integral fast reactors :

    The mentioned advanced nuclear power is quite in research state, in particular the accelerator driven systems – see e.g.http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf35.html:

    What was claimed to be the world’s first ADS experiment was begun in March 2009 at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute (KURRI), utilizing the Kyoto University Critical Assembly (KUCA).

    (you may also eventually want to read the russian comments on that technology linked to from our blog randform).

    But also the other two mentioned technologies can’t be called “developed”.

    Amongst others Nuclear.org (a pro-nuclear site) writes on “Developing a thorium-based fuel cycle”:

    The problems include:

    The high cost of fuel fabrication, due partly to the high radioactivity of U-233 chemically separated from the irradiated thorium fuel. Separated U-233 is always contaminated with traces of U-232 (69 year half-life but whose daughter products such as thallium-208 are strong gamma emitters with very short half-lives). Although this confers proliferation resistance to the fuel cycle by making U-233 hard to handle and easy to detect, it results in increased costs.
    The similar problems in recycling thorium itself due to highly radioactive Th-228 (an alpha emitter with two-year half life) present.
    Some concern over weapons proliferation risk of U-233 (if it could be separated on its own), although many designs such as the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor address this concern.
    The technical problems (not yet satisfactorily solved) in reprocessing solid fuels. However, with some designs, in particular the molten salt reactor (MSR), these problems are likely to largely disappear.

    Much development work is still required before the thorium fuel cycle can be commercialised, and the effort required seems unlikely while (or where) abundant uranium is available.

    Fast breeders are currently not as common as other types of nuclear power plants (according to world nuclear there have been altogether 20 fast neutron reactors since the fifties, very few of them for commercial power generation – as a comparision there are currently some 440 nuclear power reactors in use, I couldn’t find a number how many reactors were in use since the fifties, but according to world nuclear there are (as of today) 14170 reactor years of civil nuclear power and 390 reactor-years experience with fast reactors. (see randform post http://www.randform.org/blog/?p=3249)
    Concerning the Integral Fast reactor (IFR): The coolant for a fast reactor is a liquid metal (normally sodium). For the IFR it is sodium.
    A sodium leak which caused a fire let to the shut down of the Monju plant in Japan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monju_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    Nuclear.org writes:

    In 2008 France, Japan and the USA signed two agreements to collaborate on developing sodium-cooled fast reactors. These were initially focused on using Phenix until it shut down in 2009, then on Japan’s Monju (a loop type), and they extend to aspects of fuel cycle.

    I hope the collaboration doesn’t include to accidentally have a cup of tea of this type:

  6. [...] 26, 2011 Alan Made it to the Azimuth Blog of John Baez due to his participation in the upcoming Equinox Summit at the Perimeter [...]

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