What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

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What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby chris857 » Wed May 07, 2014 1:47 am UTC

Pyramid Energy

"What took more energy, the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Apollo Mission? If we could convert the energy to build the Great Pyramid, would it be enough to send a rocket to the Moon and back?"

Ah, but the question asked about sending "a rocket" to the moon, not necessarily Apollo. Quick, is there a rocket the pyramid could send?

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby teelo » Wed May 07, 2014 2:07 am UTC

What if we could gather the energy that everyone ever has and ever will spend on reading todays what-if and attempted to use it to send a mission to the moon?

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby rhomboidal » Wed May 07, 2014 4:07 am UTC

I'm sure there's a theory somewhere that the Great Pyramid WAS a spacecraft -- used by ancient aliens to travel through space and time.

The Sphinx was probably a skycap luggage cart.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby teelo » Wed May 07, 2014 5:51 am UTC

It was a landing pad for spacecraft according to the original Stargate movie.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby speising » Wed May 07, 2014 6:23 am UTC

15000 hours?

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby keithl » Wed May 07, 2014 6:52 am UTC

Aaargh. Doesn't anyone read L. Sprague de Camp anymore?

In "Ancient Engineers", de Camp points out the discovery of "rockers" in passages in the pyramids, large semicircular blocks of wood, like a 90 degree slice off the side of a cylinder. Slicing four of these off the sides off a cylinder would leave a cubical block of wood ... the same size as a pyramid stone.

The archeologists assume these big rockers were teeter-totter toys for the children of pharoahs. Never mind they are too big for kids to move. de Camp (an engineer as well as science fiction writer and polymath) claims they wrapped 4 of these around a big stone with a LOT of rope, then rolled the assembly up the pyramid. Then they wrapped 8 rockers into a semi-filled wooden cylinder (diagonal stabilizing ropes not shown) and rolled it back down.

pyramid2.png

Far, far less effort. This wasn't an overseer and whip deal. It was more like Burning Man, a "hold my beer and watch THIS" party. But then, nobody has paid much attention to engineers since the ancient egyptians. I bet we will find out those big stone blocks were part of irrigation projects during the growing season, and the pyramids were a fun way to dispose of them when everyone had spare time to kill. Look between the stones with powerful chemical analysis - I bet we will find petrified beer stains.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby PayasYouDraw » Wed May 07, 2014 7:11 am UTC

I really had a good chuckle at the 2nd and 3rd diagrams. With the pyramid, the ? machine and the spacecraft. Imagining the scene... :lol:
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby keithl » Wed May 07, 2014 7:23 am UTC

speising wrote:15000 hours?
I get a number closer to 300 million hours. I think Randal's adding machine slipped a cog.

teelo wrote:What if we could gather the energy that everyone ever has and ever will spend on reading todays what-if and attempted to use it to send a mission to the moon?
I did a similar calculation - if we took all the time Americans spend watching television (half a trillion hours per year) and put it into rocket building, we could send five Apollo missions to the moon per day. I bet the world spent more time watching the missions on TV than making them happen.

BTW, the energy well difference between the Earth and the moon is about 50 million joules per kilogram. 36 tons to the moon ( command, service, and lunar excursion modules, astronauts, and golf balls) is 1.8E12 joules, 500 megawatt hours. At 10 cents a kilowatt hour, that is $50K. Don't you wish we had cheap, efficient electromagnetic launchers?

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby speising » Wed May 07, 2014 8:21 am UTC

if we divide the spent effort by the countrys population, i bet the pyramids win over even the three gorges dam by orders of magnitude.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Whizbang » Wed May 07, 2014 10:33 am UTC

What if we use the pyramid as a counterweight in a massive trebuchet? Would that get the rocket to the moon?

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby McBee » Wed May 07, 2014 11:09 am UTC

Whizbang, I like the way you think. :P

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Plasma_Wolf » Wed May 07, 2014 11:52 am UTC

For some reason, the idiot who wants to build a mountain in the Netherlands hasn't given up yet :roll: . The plan is completely moronic by any standards, the question about what it would do to the Dutch surface is the least of my concerns. What happens to the Dutch climate if you suddenly put a mountain of 2 to 3km in here. Looks like I've got another question to submit. Especially considering Randall's highly accurate doomsday thinking, I hope that the ridiculous mountain builders forever give up.

Also, it's impossible to get the resources for a 2 to 3km mountain, but still. I want such stupid plans to be shot down before someone even talks about it.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby a_cat » Wed May 07, 2014 12:00 pm UTC

Where would the human race be if stupid plans weren't even spoken of? Probably still banging together a few rocks.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Whizbang » Wed May 07, 2014 12:02 pm UTC

a_cat wrote:Where would the human race be if stupid plans weren't even spoken of? Probably still banging together a few rocks.


Indeed.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby mathmannix » Wed May 07, 2014 12:31 pm UTC

Can someone please fully explain to me the "immer gerade aus" joke? My google-fu seems to be weak on this one. (It appears to be a Dutch joke in German?)
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby speising » Wed May 07, 2014 12:48 pm UTC

"just straight ahead". i'm not sure there's more to it.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby mathmannix » Wed May 07, 2014 1:01 pm UTC

Well yeah, that's the translation, but I think it's the punchline to a joke making fun of Germans...?
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby martinxx » Wed May 07, 2014 1:31 pm UTC

During World War II whenever a German soldier asked for direction, a Dutch person was supposed to point to the east (Germany) and say "immer geradeaus" as small token of resistance against the occupation. It is indeed a very obscure joke and I was surprised to see it here.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby mscha » Wed May 07, 2014 2:46 pm UTC

I'd translate “Immer gerade aus” as “Keep going straight”. Remember, it's on a sign pointing to “Duitsland” (Germany).

I'm not entirely sure about the joke, but it used to be a standard phrase after (and during) WWII to send German tourists (or soldiers) asking for directions anywhere else than here, preferably in a completely wrong direction.
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby nfb » Wed May 07, 2014 3:14 pm UTC

It's a joke that only Dutch people would get.

The story is that during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in WW2, the Dutch would prank German soldiers asking for directions by pointing them in the direction of Germany and saying in German "immer gerade aus" meaning "keep going that way". Basically a subtle way of saying "go back to Germany".

I'm finding it a bit difficult explaining why it's still funny to Dutch people. I think you have to have grown up hearing this story to still find it funny. But I think part of it is that saying it to Germans now is basically a variant of saying "all Germans are Nazi's", which is obviously wrong and offensive, and thus funny.

A similar joke is "I want my grandfather's bike back!". At the end of the war the Germans would confiscate bikes (and a Dutchman's bike is his pride) to be send back to Germany to be used as scrap metal in the war industry. Afterwards people would humorously attack the Germans (themselves now under American occupation) by shouting "I want my bike back!". But that was then, obviously it's absurd to still be wanting a bike back three generations down the line, which is what makes it funny.

Sorry for so thoroughly killing this joke for everyone. :lol:

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed May 07, 2014 3:18 pm UTC

keithl wrote:BTW, the energy well difference between the Earth and the moon is about 50 million joules per kilogram. 36 tons to the moon ( command, service, and lunar excursion modules, astronauts, and golf balls) is 1.8E12 joules, 500 megawatt hours. At 10 cents a kilowatt hour, that is $50K. Don't you wish we had cheap, efficient electromagnetic launchers?


Even expensive, efficient launchers would be handy....

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby cellocgw » Wed May 07, 2014 3:23 pm UTC

teelo wrote:It was a landing pad for spacecraft according to the original Stargate movie.


Well, to be exact, I think the Earth-pyramids were essentially Cargo-Cult landing pads. There was no evidence of spacecraft-capable pyramids until much later on in the SG-1 series.

I think.

:oops:
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed May 07, 2014 3:25 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:
teelo wrote:It was a landing pad for spacecraft according to the original Stargate movie.


Well, to be exact, I think the Earth-pyramids were essentially Cargo-Cult landing pads. There was no evidence of spacecraft-capable pyramids until much later on in the SG-1 series.

I think.

:oops:


You get a spaceship landing on an Abydos pyramid in the original movie - I don't recall any ever landing on Earth, but I haven't seen every episode.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby mathmannix » Wed May 07, 2014 4:57 pm UTC

nfb wrote:It's a joke that only Dutch people would get.

...

Sorry for so thoroughly killing this joke for everyone. :lol:


Not at all, many thanks to all for the explanations. Understanding an explained joke, via orphaned punchline (which might still bring a smile or small chuckle) may not be as good as hearing the joke and getting it in the intended way, but it's better than not understanding it at all and going "Huh?"
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby operagost » Wed May 07, 2014 5:05 pm UTC

Anyone else bothered by the fact that the question wasn't answered (again)?

"What took more energy, the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Apollo Mission?"

The question is a two-parter, and he never quite answers the first question. However, I'm pretty satisfied with the substitution of man-hours for comparison.

"If we could convert the energy to build the Great Pyramid, would it be enough to send a rocket to the Moon and back?"

The energy TO BUILD the Great Pyramid-- not "the potential energy currently stored within." As he states, great amounts of energy were lost to friction. He doesn't indicate whether that's rolling or sliding, but even if we assume they used simple machines there would have still been much energy lost to friction. That's far more than 1012 joules.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby J L » Wed May 07, 2014 5:15 pm UTC

Being a German I feel compelled to point out that "geradeaus", like most of our longish words, has to be written in one word, else it would translate to something like "straightly off", a command not even an occupying Nazi could make heads or tails of.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed May 07, 2014 5:24 pm UTC

Obviously, pyramid energy stores time. That's how the bodies stay so fresh. Just don't build 'em too big.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby TheNumberScott » Wed May 07, 2014 7:28 pm UTC

Thank you operagost. That's exactly why I came here. As my AP English teacher taught me, read the essay prompt multiple times as you write to make sure you're answering the right question. He interpreted the question one way, and ended up answering the wrong question. We do not care about how much potential energy is stored in the pyramid, we care about how much energy it took to make it.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby SecondTalon » Wed May 07, 2014 7:41 pm UTC

operagost wrote:The energy TO BUILD the Great Pyramid-- not "the potential energy currently stored within." As he states, great amounts of energy were lost to friction. He doesn't indicate whether that's rolling or sliding, but even if we assume they used simple machines there would have still been much energy lost to friction. That's far more than 1012 joules.


But in order to answer that question, wouldn't we need to know the way they built it? Did they use rollers, slide the stones, sing them in place, use alien emitters, teleporters, ask J'hmeal The Giant to move them, etc?
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed May 07, 2014 8:52 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
operagost wrote:The energy TO BUILD the Great Pyramid-- not "the potential energy currently stored within." As he states, great amounts of energy were lost to friction. He doesn't indicate whether that's rolling or sliding, but even if we assume they used simple machines there would have still been much energy lost to friction. That's far more than 1012 joules.


But in order to answer that question, wouldn't we need to know the way they built it? Did they use rollers, slide the stones, sing them in place, use alien emitters, teleporters, ask J'hmeal The Giant to move them, etc?


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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby teelo » Wed May 07, 2014 9:18 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
cellocgw wrote:
teelo wrote:It was a landing pad for spacecraft according to the original Stargate movie.


Well, to be exact, I think the Earth-pyramids were essentially Cargo-Cult landing pads. There was no evidence of spacecraft-capable pyramids until much later on in the SG-1 series.

I think.

:oops:


You get a spaceship landing on an Abydos pyramid in the original movie - I don't recall any ever landing on Earth, but I haven't seen every episode.

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It was an epic scene when O'neill ring transports the nuke up to Ra's ship while its in orbit. The look on Ra's face when he sees the timer :twisted: :twisted:

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Bounty » Wed May 07, 2014 9:44 pm UTC

keithl wrote:I did a similar calculation - if we took all the time Americans spend watching television (half a trillion hours per year) and put it into rocket building, we could send five Apollo missions to the moon per day. I bet the world spent more time watching the missions on TV than making them happen.


I fear what would happen if you put everyone who's wasting time watching TV to work building Rockets. Best case scenerio is probably that we blast America off the face of the planet, with nuking the moon to kill them illegal aliens a close second...

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nfb wrote:A similar joke is "I want my grandfather's bike back!". At the end of the war the Germans would confiscate bikes (and a Dutchman's bike is his pride) to be send back to Germany to be used as scrap metal in the war industry. Afterwards people would humorously attack the Germans (themselves now under American occupation) by shouting "I want my bike back!". But that was then, obviously it's absurd to still be wanting a bike back three generations down the line, which is what makes it funny.


At about the same time as the above, the US was interning citizens of Japanese ancestry. Reparations were made by the governement in 1992. That's 50 years, or about 3 generations, later. So maybe not as absurd as all that, at least not to Americans...

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby keithl » Wed May 07, 2014 10:24 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
keithl wrote: ... Don't you wish we had cheap, efficient electromagnetic launchers?
Even expensive, efficient launchers would be handy....
Sadly - if you go through the math for a pulse-driven electromagnetic launcher, with side constraints like not melting the vehicle, the dominant costs scale as the 4th power of exit velocity. Times the payload mass, of course. So an electromagnetic launcher that could send 1000kg to the moon would cost trillions of dollars. Except 1000kg wouldn't make it far through the atmosphere, even from a mountaintop. Long and skinny? Learn about Euler's column formula.

A really, really inefficient continuous wave electromagnetic launcher is a lot cheaper (but still billions). And it wastes more energy than a rocket - which really aren't all that bad, but too scarce to benefit from economies of scale.

I learned this in the late 70s, and invented the launch loop to get around the mass driver power scaling and atmosphere drag problems - replacing them with a dozen smaller ones. Ah well, gravity is an annoying way to hold down an atmosphere, but we're stuck with it, and mostly stuck in it. Get revenge - burn carbon! If you can't get to Venus, have it delivered!

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 07, 2014 10:30 pm UTC

teelo wrote:It was an epic scene when O'neill ring transports the nuke up to Ra's ship while its in orbit. The look on Ra's face when he sees the timer :twisted: :twisted:

That was O'Neil, with one L. O'Neill with two Ls is a different guy with a much better sense of humor.
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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby keithl » Wed May 07, 2014 10:45 pm UTC

mscha wrote:I'd translate “Immer gerade aus” as “Keep going straight”. Remember, it's on a sign pointing to “Duitsland” (Germany).

I'm not entirely sure about the joke, but it used to be a standard phrase after (and during) WWII to send German tourists (or soldiers) asking for directions anywhere else than here, preferably in a completely wrong direction.

I worked with a manager employed by a semiconductor fab in (formerly East) Germany. If an idea wasn't working, and wasn't ever going to work, we were nonetheless to "keep going straight" until the budget was gone. We called this "marching to Stalingrad".

So, to all my Dutch friends, mixed thanks. This particular German took your advice to heart, and kept marching east until the project was doomed. With far less loss of life and slightly less loss of money, thankfully.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby PM 2Ring » Thu May 08, 2014 11:13 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Obviously, pyramid energy stores time. That's how the bodies stay so fresh. Just don't build 'em too big.


Thankyou, Ptyndmyr.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Jackpot777 » Thu May 08, 2014 1:09 pm UTC

Plasma_Wolf wrote:For some reason, the idiot who wants to build a mountain in the Netherlands hasn't given up yet :roll: .


You say 'idiot', I say 'legitimate attempt to stop their plan of world domination by having them deal with more sea, not less' (What If #53).

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby Jackpot777 » Thu May 08, 2014 1:38 pm UTC

operagost wrote:Anyone else bothered by the fact that the question wasn't answered (again)?

"What took more energy, the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Apollo Mission?"

The question is a two-parter, and he never quite answers the first question. However, I'm pretty satisfied with the substitution of man-hours for comparison.

"If we could convert the energy to build the Great Pyramid, would it be enough to send a rocket to the Moon and back?"

The energy TO BUILD the Great Pyramid-- not "the potential energy currently stored within." As he states, great amounts of energy were lost to friction. He doesn't indicate whether that's rolling or sliding, but even if we assume they used simple machines there would have still been much energy lost to friction. That's far more than 1012 joules.


But then you have to factor in the energy used to build the Saturn V rockets too, not just get them into space. It wasn't just cutting and transporting rocks, we're talking about the energy needed to make, say, a bulkhead out of two aluminum sheets separated by a honeycomb structure made of phenolic resin (Bakelite is a phenolic resin, and pool balls are made of similar stuff), then transport the manufactured components using vehicles and their internal combustion engines. And the energy needed to keep the lights on, run the AC, etc. I'd say that the energy to build a modern multi-piece object like a Saturn V dwarfs the energy to build a pyramid ...I'd even wonder if the energy necessary to get a smartphone into your hand, from conception to manufacture to transportation from China to delivery into your hands in a well-lit store, takes more energy than to build the Giza pyramid.

But then we divide that by all the smartphones made the same way.

I think this is why Randall avoided that way of answering it... it was a quick answer but researching HOW MUCH more energy a Saturn V took to build isn't easy to access, and the mental acrobatics needed to make a full web page meant it was easier to deal with the energy used to launch the rocket versus the energy stored in a Great Pyramid.

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu May 08, 2014 2:08 pm UTC

Guys, I think we're overlooking some important energy consumption here - you've got to not only perform the manufacture, nor even just feed, clothe and house the workforce that performs/controls the manufacture, but also perform the required R&D to develop the technology, and provide food, shelter, etc to all the people busy providing essential supplies to the primary workforce, and so on...

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Re: What-if 0095: "Pyramid Energy"

Postby steve_i » Thu May 08, 2014 4:05 pm UTC

"The Berg" does exist. When the battery powering the SEP field needs changing, it can be seen quite clearly...


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