A dialog of thoughts and ideas about software, usability, and products, with random science and wacky ideas thrown in for good measure.

As I previously discussed, there are really only four types of energy: solar, nuclear, geothermal, and gravitational.

Some of our energy sources are actually the accumulated potential of these types of energy. For example, fossil fuels represent solar energy collected over a long period of time.

Let's say that by using fossil fuels, we can effectively put the power of 1 million years' worth of the sun's energy to work in supplying our day-to-day energy needs (probably a conservative estimate). Every day, maybe we use 10 months worth of collected fossil energy (the actual numbers are less important than my point).

Now, let's suppose fossil fuels run out.

Can the sun itself supply all of the world's energy needs in real-time? Is the amount of energy that we can collect and use per second greater than the total power consumption of the world per second?

If not, there's a lot of opportunity for scientists and corporations to improve devices that collect energy, and optimize devices that use energy.

I have a question for companies like BP, ExxonMobil, Sunoco, and so on:

Are you an oil company, or an energy company?

Because if you're an energy company, it's in your vested interest to honestly and thoroughly explore alternate forms of energy. You want to pour money into research and development, because you can see that we're heading away from oil and towards renewable energy sources. You want to be the first to develop facilities that can store solar energy for use at night; you want to be the first to devise ways to transport energy from the Arizona desert to Alaska during the winter. You - not GM, not Ford - YOU want to build the solutions that let cars run on something other than gas, so you can lock us into "HydroGen(TM) from ExxonMobil" or something like that, and license the engines to the auto industry. You see decentralization of energy on the horizon, as more homes and businesses generate energy at their location with localized solar and wind generation, and you want to tap into that market. Solving those problems will put you ahead of the competition. From a business survival perspective, you want to make sure that your company continues to exist if oil runs dry, if public opinion moves away from oil, if evolving national security concerns make it unrealistic to rely on foreign oil, and so on.

If you're an oil company, you're already a dinosaur. We'll see your demise in the coming decades.

As a software project manager, understanding risk and having risk mitigation plans to fall back on is extremely important to me. If someone said to me, "There's a 99% chance that we'll get this software complete by the deadline, but a 1% chance that, if we blow it, we'll lose our funding," I'm going to ask, "Okay, how to we manage that 1% risk? What are the warning signs, what do we do to prevent it, and if we happen to miss the deadline, what can we do so we don't lose our funding?"

Risk is a part of every project, and it must be recognized. Some semblance of an effective risk mitigation plan must exist.

Now, on to the oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

"There's a 99% chance that our oil operation in the Gulf will go off without a hitch, but there's a 1% chance that if something goes catastrophically wrong, we'll fuck up the entire Gulf with thousands of barrels of oil a day spewing out of a hole that could take months to close up, followed by decades of clean-up. It will  severely alter the ecology of the area, and it will affect the livelihood of thousands of residents."

I'm going to ask to see your risk mitigation plan. And if it's not good enough, you're going to make it better.

It looks like there was no risk mitigation plan in the first place.

Nice job, guys. Way to be responsible. No triple bottom line for you, huh?

There are really only four types of energy: Solar, nuclear, geothermal, and gravitational. Every other source of energy we know of - fossil fuels, switchgrass, wind, waves, and so on - is based on one of those four.

Let's skip the middleman of fossil fuels and wind and get our energy straight from the sun.

(I'll even go so far as to suggest that the sun is really nuclear, and gravitational depends on the initial energy of something blasting the Moon out of the Earth's crust... so, I'll refine my list to two types of energy: nuclear and galaxial. And, yes, these both can be factored into "physics," but let's stay practical, people!)