Cheap and clean fuel in plenty by 2048: Arthur Clarke

March 22nd, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by admin  

By P.K. Balachandran
Colombo, March 22 (IANS) Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the renowned British science fiction writer and visionary who died here Wednesday, had predicted that cheap and clean fuel might be available in plenty by 2048. “Scientific research carried out by dozens of teams across the world during the past few years - much of it in secrecy and away from the sceptical eyes of the media - now indicate that the age of cheap and clean energy may be imminent: well ahead of my predicted timeframe,” Clarke wrote in the Dec 16, 1998, issue of the Sri Lankan weekly Sunday Observer.

“If commercial applications become feasible in the coming decade, nobody in 2048 needs to worry about a shortage of energy,” he predicted.

Clarke was indeed alarmed by the world’s dependence on oil and coal as sources of energy.

He said on his 90th birthday last year, that he did not want the world to be “baked by the burning of coal and oil”.

Clarke advocated clean and cheap sources of energy because he wanted all to get it.

“Options such as wind and biomass have all been proven, while other methods such as Ocean Thermal Energy Conservation (OTEC) - for which Trincomalee harbour (in eastern Sri Lanka) is well suited - are less widely known and tested,” he said.

It is interesting that Clarke did not mention nuclear energy. He did not give it as an option even for Sri Lanka, which is energy starved acutely. Perhaps in his view, nuclear energy was too costly and fraught with dangers.

Known as the father of satellite communication, which he predicted in 1945, Clarke believed in communication facilities being made available to all, but he believed communication alone would not solve the world’s problems.

He said the North Ireland problem would have been solved long ago, if improved communication was the panacea. The problem lingered because of a lack of political communication, a meeting of minds, he pointed out.

On the conflict in Sri Lanka, his adopted home since the 1950s, Clarke said: “The biggest challenge for all Sri Lankans in the coming century (2000s) would be achieving better communication and understanding among the different ethnic, religious and cultural groups and sub-groups all of whom call this their mother land. For material progress and economic growth would come to nothing if we allow the primitive forces of territoriality and aggression to rule our minds.”

But he was confident that Sri Lanka would eventually find peace because it had shown “tremendous resilience over the centuries and practices a rare type of tolerance”.

On why he chose to settle in Sri Lanka rather than in his native Britain or one of the more beautiful and peaceful Pacific islands, Clarke said that Sri Lanka was warm, beautiful and intellectually stimulating.

Fifty years of the British winter was more than he could bear, he said. And as for the tropical islands, the ones in the middle of the Pacific were idyllic, but had little culture and no sense of the past, nothing to engage the intellect. But Sri Lanka was alive and stimulating.

“Its 25 hundred years of written history and the abundant ruins and archaeological artefacts, are testimony to the great technological and philosophical civilization that once thrived on the island,” he noted.

“Perhaps it is the density of all these factors that makes Sri Lanka unique. In almost half a century of travel, I have not come across another land which concentrates so much of intensity and diversity into so little a land mass,” he said.

“Ironically, it is this very density and multiplicity that now threaten to tear apart the once idyllic nation,” he lamented.

Arthur Clarke was busy working right up to the time he was admitted to the Apollo hospital here following respiratory trouble.

He was reviewing his last book, ironically named “The Last Theorem”, when he died. The book, co-authored with American Frederik Pohl, is to be published later this year.

He would be buried Saturday in the General Cemetery at Borella in central Colombo at 3.30 p.m. In a rare honour to a private person, the Sri Lankan government asked the nation to observe a minute’s silence at that time.

A committed atheist and rationalist, he had willed that there should be no religious ceremony of any kind at his funeral. But he believed in extra terrestrial life and predicted that one day, intelligent creatures from outer space would land on earth “in the lawns of the White House” as he put it.

He had donated six strands of his hair to a Houston-based American company that plans to launch human DNA into space. Clarke said that in the future, he could well be cloned by an alien race, which might find his DNA in the sea of stars.

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