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How Surfatron could save the world from global warming

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Chalk dust – the answer to global warming
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Actually, there's another one which I'm also interested in, and this one I'm less sure about in terms of the underlying science, but if it is indeed true that we are heading toward near-term global warming. And certainly we have global warming going on. How fast it's going or what effect it's having I think is all very unclear. But we just don't know enough yet. But let's say it turns out that the worst predictions are true and ocean levels are going to start to rise. I think that what we're going to need to do is actually increase the reflectivity of the Earth. And that's a relatively easy thing to do, by putting aerosols up. So we could put up... well, sulphur dioxide is the one that we know works, but I think there are better things. We could use chalk dust or people have proposed using diamond dust, but I like chalk dust, let's say, because it's plentiful and it actually reduces acid rain. So I think that we'll end up putting dust up into the stratosphere. That is politically incorrect to talk about right now, because the moral hazard... people feel like if there was a fix to this problem, then they would keep on drilling for petroleum. But guess what? They are keeping on drilling for petroleum and coal and so I'm pretty sure that's going to happen. And I think it's unfortunate that we refuse to look at that solution.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Earth, global warming, reflectivity, chalk dust, aerosols, acid rain, diamond dust, sulphur dioxide, petroleum, coal

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017