Hi, thanks for reading my Blog. Here I will try to describe a little of the reasoning behind the blog and how the idea for it came about.
First of all a little about me. I am a research scientist at the
Being a scientist isn’t just what you do from 9-5 however. A scientist is what you are. I am a scientist. Whether a scientist is hiking, buying groceries, raising a family or working on an experiment at a lab bench we are always a scientist. A bit like how a doctor still has all the skills, habits and thoughts of a doctor, even when they are not at their surgery, or how a lawyer still has and uses their knowledge of law and reason even when they are not at their practice.
As scientists we are trained, and are particularly good at, solving problems. The techniques we use to do that are referred to as the scientific method. To explain, for those who do not know what this is.
Solving problems start by making an observation. You see something; this is usually an object or the condition something is currently in. As a non-scientific example, you see your child in the kitchen with dirt all over his hands. That is the observation. You then form possible explanations that would account for this observation; in this case your child has most likely been outside playing in the dirt and has then come inside. This tentative explanation for what you have seen is referred to as a model.
The next step to see if this is the correct explanation for what you observe is to test the model. You do that by creating hypotheses, which are testable statements, usually describing a task that you can perform which will provide a yes or no answer to the question you asked. In this case our hypothesis would be, if you walked out side you would be most likely to find a patch of disturbed soil somewhere around the house. This would provide evidence that your model is correct. Another hypothesis would be that if you asked your child whether he had been outside in the garden he would say yes.
The next step is to perform the actual experiment which will provide the yes or no answer, either accepting or refuting your hypothesis. So you ask your child, have you been out side in the garden. If he says yes, the hypothesis you put forward is accepted and you have evidence to confirm that your model was correct. If he says no however, which in many cases is more likely, you must then modify your model to account for this new information, form new hypotheses and test them etc until you solve the problem.
This is the scientific method. Most people will naturally use this series of steps to solve problems, what scientists are good at is using it consciously and stripping away all subjectivity and assumption about what may account for an observation and thinking about a problem from all possible angles.
Now why I mention all this is to help explain the reason for this blog. When I was growing up I use to love documentaries and I would often hear it mentioned in these that
The sun puts out 4 × 1026 watts every second. It would take 2.5 x 109 (2.5 thousand million) 5000 megawatt power stations a whole year to put out that much power, but the sun does that every second (Nick Strobel, Astronomy notes, http://www.astronomynotes.com/starsun/s3.htm, retrieved 27/3/08). Only 0.0000000215% of this reaches the earth’s surface however, but even that is more than 7,500 times the world’s total annual energy consumption (
At a time when petrol prices are increasing, and everyone is wondering how we are going to provide power for the increasing population it is comforting to know that is there, even if we don’t currently know how to use it to satisfy our power needs. So that is one problem we are currently faced with. How to better use renewable, and in particular solar energy.
The other problem that I noted growing up is that as the population increases, where are we going to put everyone? Economists for some reason like perpetual growth, which is odd given that we have a finite amount of space and resources with which to support that population. In other words it is simply not possible to keep growing forever. Now most people like a temperate climate, not too cold, not too hot, with good rain fall, so this is where everyone builds their houses. Thus cities are constantly expanding in area. Unfortunately this land is also the best land for growing the crops we need to feed this increasing population. So as population increases the amount of arable land decreases. The problem then, is how to increase the amount of arable land we have available to grow food.
I remember in high school learning about the process of desertification. How marginal agricultural areas can be transformed into deserts by removing vegetation resulting in increased soil temperature, reduced evapotranspiration and therefore reduced rain fall etc. In other words we were taught how a desert forms. It always seemed to me that this process should be reversible.
With all this in mind then, while I was doing my PhD in neuropathic pain up here in Sydney, I came up with a plan to establish a research station in the desert of South Australia to investigate ways of making desert land more arable, ie reversing desertification, and to investigate how solar energy could be integrated into that system to satisfy our energy needs.
I decided it would become my life’s work to establish this research station which I call the Arid Environment Research Station (AEReS – pronounced Aries). For this I estimate that I would need approximately $20 million to get it up and running. For the last few years I have developed a 10 year plan as to how I would raise this money, by establishing a series of businesses and companies which would generate the money that I would inturn put towards establishing AEReS. This year (2008) is the first year of the 10 year plan and I have started this blog to record and chronicle the various aspects which make up the plan. This is the AEReS Project.
It will be a long and interesting trip, but one I hope you will make with me. I also hope it will stand as an example of how simple ideas are all you need to change the world.
27th March, 2008