Air, water, fire and earth. In fact, the theory of four elements is not so bad; because each one reflects how we control our energy. Air and water return the mills of the past, and today’s wind and hydro turbines. I do not even count fire. The use of energy in the earth is agriculture itself and it provides our biologic energy needs itself, so we can say that with the increasing consumption of bio-fuels, it is candidate for having a considerable share of our not a biological but mechanical energy consumption.
With the classical definition in physics, energy is a measure of the ability to do business. When electricity is cut off, we feel it deeply: what it will make if you have TVs, smart phones, computers, if there is no power… Each one turns into a talentless circuit. If all the power plants are gone in one night, you will be willing to give a truck of iPhones for an ax in the woods. In other words, the assurance of the civilization we have built is to find the energy necessary to maintain it every time. Everything we see in our surroundings is what we can fabricate thanks to the energy we can control as civilization. The factories do not work with water, they are not lit by the sun, the water of the mill does not come from the watercourse.
When we look back, we see that the way we used energy made the revolutions happen. The agricultural revolution represents our competence to control the ability of plants to store chemical energies. And the industrial revolution is related to our ability to use steam firstly, and then fossil fuels. This also made the previous revolution step in the new age: The ideal of mechanization in agriculture was not related to carrying out much work in short time, but not taking the villagers’ breath away.
Although we cannot connect the information revolution that has not yet been completed to the control of a new energy (although the nuclear energy is very suitable for this age, it has safety drawbacks), we know that we need to stop generating energy with fossil fuels in order to complete this revolution and survive this period. Because the world cannot stand any more. We know that if we want to bring our knowledge scale and life bounds to the level of the Solar System or the galaxy, we have to get out of the world. The reason that we cannot settle on Mars today is that we need more time to supply energy to strengthen it; otherwise it is theoretically possible to build a pressurized and oxygenated shopping center there. But in practice the fact is not so: We are spending a considerable amount of energy – and money! – while we escape the World’s gravity. Where the population we settle there will make shopping is not a hard question but how they will be fed is a complicated question. And yes, when we look at it from this point of view, we actually understand that feeding is not a form of abdominal satiety, but a way of providing energy. So, when can we do this? That is, do you think that the day when we can make joy in the whole Solar System will come? If we give up taking ourselves to the center; do we have any alien brothers who did this?
There is a categorization that is considered to be speculative but based on scaling the energy issue at the galactic level. According to this idea of Soviet astronomer Kardashev in 1964, “space civilizations”, which we are certain that only one exists yet, can be divided into 3 according to the amount of energy they consume. This distinction, honored by Kardashev’s initials, is referred to in the literature as K1, K2 and K3 (on the left, below). If we summarize with a few words; K1 civilizations are the civilizations capable of using all the energy resources on their planet. K2 civilizations can absorb all the energy of the star that the planets revolve around. K3 civilizations seem to have far exceeded these two: they are highly economical, technological and capable civilizations that do not waste even a single star energy in the galaxy. Although it seems that the numbers are growing from K1 to K3, in terms of development, each one is a drop on the bucket near the other one.
In 1973, Carl Sagan developed a formula using numerical methods, based on what Kardashev said, and using this formula, he calculated the current Kardashev level of mankind as K0,7. Actually, being K1 is not so easy. To calculate with Einstein’s equation, to be K1 means to convert 2 kg of matter into energy in a second, or to converting 280 kg of hydrogen into helium by fusion. It is to say “We are spending a considerable amount of energy – and money! – while we escape the World’s gravity. Do you think that the day when we can make joy in the whole Solar System will come?”
It looks like that we cannot be K1 without creating new and alternative sources like anti-material, or covering the entire surface or the entire orbit with incredibly efficient solar panels to produce energy. According to the famous physicist Michio Kaku, we will be able to reach K1 level within 100 to 200 years since remedies in democracies will not diminish. Although I think that the problem of waste to be generated by producing this much of energy is not taken into consideration by everyone sufficiently, I want to add “civilization” section onto our galactic identity cards and write K1 within 100 years. Let us suppose that we have finished K1 – or the “great silence” ended and that some of the peers we met have exceeded K1. What do you need to be K2? Not 3 photos, a residence certificate, and an identity card showing you are K1.
If we are to proceed with the known methods, we have to establish a system of power plants that you can use all the energy of your own star and wrap it all around like the Dyson Globe. If we are to take into account the resources that we have not yet been able to use, we need energy sources such as anti-material or black hole energy, if possible. (In theory, it is possible to produce energy with a counter-substance since the conjunction of the anti-material and material releases energy to absorb energy from a black hole in much more crazy ways.
Do not say that we have become K2, and we have to think of K3… The day we can use all the energy of our star, we can now assume that we can build and live in balloon cities even in Jupiter. After a while, however, there will be no land to buy, and perhaps we will set our eyes on the coupon lands in the near stars. Because, depending on population growth and lifestyle, the need for energy will not go round in circles. Assuming that we are some kind of virus, we know that we will need more space to spread. When it becomes a requirement to become a K3, how will we manage that or how did the ones manage that? These are the questions we will look for answers. If we have developed as to start absorbing the other stars in the galaxy, it might be predicted that we have started to use energy sources that we have never known.
Super-mass black holes in the centers of the galaxy, or all the mysterious materials in K2 are perhaps the necessary resources so that we can survive.
Everything was so beautiful up to here but we may ignore suffering when we think of enjoying the energy. Consuming so much energy leads to waste production as well. We know that using fossil fuels bloodthirstily presents us global warming. We also know that these wastes pollute the seas, that Eskimos who are totally fed from the sea can no longer bring a healthy baby to the world, that breast milk is poisonous in Dilovası in Izmit, and that heavy metals are discovered in baby stools. So it is not possible to say that there are five meatballs for three pennies.
That is why Kardashev’s classification of civilization is closely related to the paradox of Fermi who asks, “Well, but where are they, teacher?” The reality of “great silence” in the universe contradicts to the reasoning that we must be able to detect their traces more easily if there is a civilization in the universe at level of K2 or K3. There are, of course, many answers to the question of “Where are they?” (I suggest the book “Where Are They” by Stephen Webb in which 75 responses were compiled). The most populous thing is that maybe civilizations drown in their own waste and die without reaching K1 or K2. Or they come to such a critical point that they cannot develop further; just as the bacteria that are over multiply will limit themselves with their own wastes after a while.
What I can say based on all of these is that the important thing is not how much energy we consume, but how we can do it without harming ourselves.
Kaynak: ODTÜLÜ Sayı 57 Temmuz – Eylül 2015