back to article Considering the colonisation of Mars? Werner Herzog would like a word

Film-maker Werner Herzog has upended the scorn bucket over billionaire electric car and space firm mogul Elon Musk's plans to create a city on Mars. In an interview with Inverse, Herzog described Musk's dream of colonisation as "an obscenity", and compared humans to locusts, emptying one planet of resources before moving on to …

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  1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alien

    Fitzcarraldo

    One could argue there are parallels between the tasks Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald and Elon Musk set themselves

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzcarraldo

    icon: Musk is yet to engage the services of the natives

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fitzcarraldo

      I was thinking more along the lines of

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aguirre,_the_Wrath_of_God

  2. Gonzo wizard
    Go

    There’s hope yet!

    I mean nobody thinks that colonising Mars is easy. And yes, I agree with Werner that from the outside we will look like locusts flocking from planet to planet. I’m also hopeful, though, that being forced to face and deal with global warming and global pollution will bring forward better, less environmentalLy disruptive and more sustainable ways of working that will have a big effect on what happens as and when we start ‘doing more’ off-planet. It won’t stop us using resources elsewhere - I mean, if everything were going swimmingly we probably wouldn’t be thinking about doing it at all, right? Certainly not with the level of urgency Elon is bringing.

    And I love how he’s doing large scale R&D in public. Just awesome to watch.

    Elon thinks big and aims very, very high and I applaud him for that. Even if he misses his original target he’ll still have achieved more for the human race than most. He’s already single-handedly shown us that you can mass produce electric cars (and roll out your own charging network) even though the incumbents are dragging their heels and building hybrid abominations (an emotional term, yes) that allow people to feel good about the batteries they haul around while still polluting and costing a fortune to maintain.

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: There’s hope yet!

      "that allow people to feel good about the batteries they haul around while still polluting and costing a fortune to maintain.". Because you think that building and recycling batteries is non pollutant? And neither is electricity production?

      I agree cars using fossil fuels have to disappear, but battery-powered EV are not the solution for everybody, just for urban people who don't need to travel.

      1. Gonzo wizard

        Re: There’s hope yet!

        Tesla batteries are already good for over 300k miles and the target is 1 million. Battery components are already almost 100% recyclable back into... more batteries. Tesla are also developing batteries that use more common elements that are less polluting to extract. On the fuel front, Tesla are shifting their charging network over almost entirely to solar energy. These facts are easily obtainable and you’re not offering any constructive alternatives here.

        I’m also not sure why you label EVs as suitable only for urban people when there is already a choice of several cars at different price points that can travel 300+ miles between charges.

        1. Gonzo wizard

          Re: There’s hope yet!

          No, I don’t care about the down-votes but if you want to shoot down a company that is having a real and significant impact it’s only fair that you put up an alternative, even if it is a straw man.

          1. Wellyboot Silver badge

            Re: There’s hope yet!

            I agree he's done a lot towards making life cleaner and yes the batteries have a very high recycle %, the recycling issues are that reprocessing the Ni,Co & Al in them requires some nasty chemicals in no trivial amounts which themselves have then to be disposed.

            With no way to provide an open breathable atmosphere, the first few centuries of any off-earth colonisation will mostly be underground for safety. Natural light on Mars is more or less earth twilight, On the Jovian Moons we'd need permanent artificial light.

            1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

              Re: There’s hope yet!

              reprocessing the Ni,Co & Al in them requires some nasty chemicals in no trivial amounts which themselves have then to be disposed.

              It's not like we've never used nasty chemicals before. The semiconductor industry uses chlorine trifluoride FFS!.

              hypergolic with sand and asbestos.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                "hypergolic with sand and asbestos".

                And test engineers!

              2. Tomato42

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                ah, yes! the chemical for which there is a very simple way to with its fires: a good pair of running shoes

                also, that list is incomplete, it's also hypergolic with ash, concrete and asphalt

            2. MJB7

              Re: There’s hope yet!

              "hypergolic with sand and test engineers" - that's not ClF3, that's the description of FOOF (which is also used in semi-conductor processing and as a rocket propellant).

              1. John H Woods Silver badge

                Re: FOOF

                is that an onomatopoeia?

                1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

                  Re: FOOF

                  From FOOFter: a chemical engineer or scientist who's behaviour mimics that of one portrayed in a 1980 sit-com.

              2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                Nope, definitely not FOOF. For FOOF Wikipedia says Uses: The compound currently has no practical applications, but has been of theoretical interest.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There’s hope yet!

          can travel 300+ miles between charges

          We don't have the same definition of "travel distance".

          1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

            Re: travel distance

            EPA testing showed 391miles. Presumably the car was tested driving round a circuit so the final distance moved on one charge could easily have been half a lap. You are welcome to use your own definition but the EPA range is at least an independently verifiable standard.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: travel distance

              He may mean in comparison with an ICE car. I can do 1000km on one 5-minute fill of liquid fuel.

              A bigger issue with EVs is that the electrticty supply network in places like the UK (and other W. European countries) hasn't got the capacity to generate or deliver enough energy to allow EVs to travel the same total distance as the conventional fleet over a full year.

              1. Mage Silver badge

                Re: travel distance

                Synthetic LPG. Made using waste carbon. Less energy loss in transit. No new infrastructure. LPG been in use for cars maybe 50 year ago.

                Unless you live in Norway, or have as yet not invented fusion power, the battery vehicles are a niche for rich people.

                1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

                  Re: travel distance

                  I would think that, in terms of the total consumer car market, that customers that have to drive more than 300 miles in a day would be in the minority. That's not to say that there would not still be significant demand for cars and other vehicles that have a longer daily range.

                  1. Tomato Krill

                    Re: travel distance

                    No I think you are exactly wrong - so for example I drive around 35k miles/year as does almost everyone else in a similar job. I do 300 mile round trips every week.

                    How many of those are there? Judging by the roads, lots. Lots and lots, and the combined total is of significance

                2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: travel distance

                  "Synthetic LPG."

                  Where so you get the energy to make sich a substance?

                  This is the fundamental problem. Yes, it;s easy to transport but once you have the resources to make the stuff why not add some more carbons and make a room-temperatire liquid fuel wihch is easier to transport and doesn't risk Bleves in a crash?

                  (Motonui did this. It was an economic disaster due to the energy requirements)

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: travel distance

                > I can do 1000km on one 5-minute fill of liquid fuel.

                Single driver?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: travel distance

                  Single driver?

                  No, usually 2 of us plus a bootfull of holiday luggage, and 70-80MPH on the motorway.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: travel distance

                    How often do you go on holiday?

              3. jmch Silver badge

                Re: travel distance

                How often do you travel 400+ miles in a day?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: travel distance

                  How often do you travel 400+ miles in a day?

                  What does that matter? Why buy a car that only meets 90% of your needs, when you can buy one that meets 100% of them?

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: travel distance

                    Why buy a car which meets 100% of all possible needs when one costing 50% as much can cover 90% of them and you can hire a vehicle (or fly) for the remaining bits yet still have cas left over? (expecially when factoring in that the one covering 100% of your needs costs 3-5 times as much to run for the 80% requirement than the cheaper vehicle (it's not JUST fuel costs))

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: travel distance

                      you can hire a vehicle

                      Only possible if there are vehicles to hire. Fine today, when electric cars are a niche market & most hire fleets are ICE. If 90% on the road are EVs, no hire company is going to maintain a fleet of ICE vehicles which lie idle most of the time, and are then massively oversubscribed for holiday weekends.

              4. Gonzo wizard

                Re: travel distance

                That’s like saying 1920’s Britain didn’t have the capacity to supply petrol for all the cars driven in 1990. EVs aren’t going to replace all ICE cars overnight so we don’t need all that capacity right this second do we? Do we need it in the future? Yes. But that spoils your “point”. So you make a false equivalence.

                Capacity can be added. As the government is banning new ICE cars from 2030, capacity will be added.

                Still no constructive alternative suggested. The closest we’ve got to so far is “it’s not my problem I’ve plenty of range”. How many of those 1000km can you safely drive before needing a rest break (legally or just physically)? I can use my rest time to recharge my car; my SatNav routes me via reliable rapid charges automatically.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: There’s hope yet!

            Does it help that I make a 1,200 km trip by road once a month *and* I am going to buy an electric vehicle? I have already checked and it can do the trip in the same wallclock time that I'm currently doing (13.5 hours). And that at lesser cost and in quiet comfort (I hate the sound of internal combustion engines).

            1. Down not across Silver badge

              Re: There’s hope yet!

              Each to their own. I'm rather fond of the sound of a V8. I suppose you could synthesize the audio.

              The charging network is an issue. With ICE, at least you can take along extra fuel in containers should you anticipate scarcity of petrol stations. Not quite so feasible with electric cars unless you pack a genny and jerrycans of fuel for it.

              Another concern I have (I am happy for it to be proven nothing to worry about or pointers given) is with regards to colder climates. Battery performance traditionally suffers as temperature falls and in colder climates you need lot more heating/defrosting and in EV you don't get the advantage of heating as byproduct. So the way I see it, in cold climates your range is reduced, potentially substantially, by effect of cold (sub-zero) temperature on battery and again by needing battery for heating.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                > I'm rather fond of the sound of a V8. I suppose you could synthesize the audio.

                I OTOH hate the sound of my current six cylinders (but love the driving). I did think about synthesising the audio though… of a 2CV, just for the laughs.

                > Not quite so feasible with electric cars

                Never saw one of those wind-up torches? Well…

                > in colder climates you need lot more heating/defrosting and in EV you don't get the advantage of heating as byproduct

                As I'm on the market for a Tesla (they're not great, I've been holding for the last three years for something better to come along, but I've run out of patience), I did research this. It appears that what people do is get the car to warm itself up (battery temperature, defrosting, etc.) while still plugged into the mains. Obviously it's not a car that you can just park out on the street but at their price level not many cars are not properly garaged. There are some Tesla drivers in here that might want to share their first-hand impressions.

                1. Dagg

                  Re: There’s hope yet!

                  EV you don't get the advantage of heating as byproduct

                  The whole process is NOT 100% efficient, the waste is heat and that could be used to heat the passenger compartment.

                  The big issue is in the hot climates you will need to use energy for cooling. It is not fun in a car with no cooling at 40c plus.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: There’s hope yet!

                    > It is not fun in a car with no cooling at 40c plus.

                    Try the Middle East, 50°+¹, no A/C² and too small a radiator to actually cope with the ambient temperature. Then you have to stop, face upwind, and stay inside the cabin revving up the engine slightly to push air into the radiator while turning the heat on at full blast to help cool down the engine compartment. Rinse and repeat every 3−4 km until dusk.

                    The worst bit is that I actually miss those days.

                    ¹ Yes, I know what the official record is.

                    ² Creature comforts are one more thing that can break down so we don't have that.

                    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                      Re: There’s hope yet!

                      Radiators on EVs tend to be needed to cool the circuitry when charging,not when moving - not having a 50kW+ heater upfront helps a lot in hot climates... :)

                      (remember, an IC engine - AT BEST - is producing 2kW of heat for every 1kW of traction power - and that's ONLY at full load, wide open throttle. it's not at all uncommon for it to be 5-8kW of heat per kW of work produced under nortmal driving conditions

              2. GraXXoR

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                Some are calling electric cars fringe vehicles for rich people, but I postulate that having to travel so far that you are required to carry extra petrol in canisters in the boot is actually a fringe case.

                For the vast majority of people who only need to travel two digit distances (in km OR miles) one way, an EV is the way to go.

                Soon, ICE vehicles will be the “vinyl records” of the vehicle world fringe vehicles for aficionados, collectors and military/exploration/service vehicles that are expected to travel off the beaten path or relics handed off second hand to poorer people in developing countries.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: There’s hope yet!

                  > I postulate that having to travel so far that you are required to carry extra petrol in canisters in the boot is actually a fringe case.

                  A few times I had to set off with extra fuel in the form of two 200 l barrels, in addition to the two fuel tanks already in each of the vehicles, for a total of about 600 litres per vehicle.

                  I might as well have been in Mars, I tell you. The landscape looked remarkably similar at times and there was just as much life.

                  Yes, I would consider that a fringe case. Unless you're going deep into the Sahara or travelling across Australia or Antarctica, you'll probably be fine without those jerrycans.

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: There’s hope yet!

                    "A few times I had to set off with extra fuel in the form of two 200 l barrels, in addition to the two fuel tanks already in each of the vehicles, for a total of about 600 litres per vehicle."

                    Leyland P76? That much might get you from Sydney to Melbourne :)

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: There’s hope yet!

                      > Leyland P76?

                      Nah, J79 Toyota. Niger, Chad.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                "I suppose you could synthesize the audio."

                Ford already does this in the F150. Apparently a 6-cylinder engine with a turbo didn't sound manly enough for a pickup truck, so they pump sone rumble over the speaker system.

                Kind of like the "millitary grade aluminum" they use on the body.

                Also similar to how (American) footballers and other athletes are occasionally sidelined with a "sports hernia". What's makes it a "sports" hernia instead of a regular hernia, you ask? Nothing except the occupation of the patient. Sports hernia just sounds better. Maybe we should all do that. "Sorry boss, I'm foggy today, I have a programmer's hangover."

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: There’s hope yet!

                  Buy any sufficiently powerful car from any of the usual suspects and you will get a choice of exhausts. I understand that some people like it, but I would have appreciated if they did a version for those of us who like the engine power but detest the noise.

                  I will, not without some embarrassment, admit however that the motor whine in the Tesla Plaid videos sounds fabulous.

                  1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
                    Thumb Up

                    Re: There’s hope yet!

                    motor whine in the Tesla Plaid videos sounds fabulous.

                    I miss the Screaming Valentas of the IC125s on the UK rail network. The sound of the turbo charger on the Paxman Valenta V12 engine

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: There’s hope yet!

                      Funny you should mention, because the Plaid motor noise does remind me of locomotive noise.

                2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: There’s hope yet!

                  "Ford already does this in the F150"

                  Many EVs have an external noisemaker for low speeds. A favourite mod is to change the sound away from white noise or "engine" to something like George Jetson's flitter.

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnT1VgeXOF0&list=PLVktvkAOvSGck9O6aJBLqdcitvjXC5j2e

              4. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                "Another concern I have (I am happy for it to be proven nothing to worry about or pointers given) is with regards to colder climates."

                The standard solution is "webasto" - People who've installed them have found them surprisingly cheap to use as they tend to only be needed for a few minutes at a time

                Newer EVs use heat pumps for warming the cabin instead of electric elements

            2. hoola Silver badge

              Re: There’s hope yet!

              Cost is a red herring and only relevant until fuel duty is reworked.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: There’s hope yet!

                That is true (and not that electricity is so much cheaper anyway). The Danish are already making noises in that sense.

          3. Gonzo wizard

            Re: There’s hope yet!

            Your definition of people who will buy electric was “urban people who don’t need to travel”. If I don’t need to travel I’m not going to run a car, am I? And still no constructive alternative offered, I note. Nothing to have a decent discussion around.

            “Urban people” - how big does my town have to be before I’m an “urban person”? Never mind, I live in a suburb of London. And I (gasp) travel a lot by road. All around the country (obvs not this year). Condescending much?

            If all you can do is throw insults... in doing so you’re admitting you’ve no real counterpoint and have already conceded. Thanks for clearing that up at least.

        3. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: There’s hope yet!

          100% solar energy for HOW many cars? 10 million in California?

          without going into the details, if there were 10 million cars consuming 15kwH per day of electric power [let's say daily commute and around town travel normalized to a 7 day week], and the sun puts 1.4kw per square meter onto the earth, when you work out efficiencies of conversion and other less than ideal energy conversion, you end up with around SEVEN SQUARE METERS OF SOLAR PANELS FOR EVERY CAR BEING CHARGED (according to my figurin'), if you want it ALL to come from solar panels [and they wouldn't be able to power anything else, and you'd have storage issues for varying demand and sunlight,yotta yotta].

          I'll leave it to someone else to work out how much that infrastructure might cost... cloudy days, seasonality, latitude, and night time notwithstanding.

          [and producing solar panels is NOT an "environmentally friendly" process]

          This is, at least to some extent, relevant to colonizing Mars. Solar energy density THERE would be less half as much, and be subject to periodic dust storms and their aftermath.

          1. John Jennings Bronze badge

            Re: There’s hope yet!

            Not that simple.... That works between the Tropics (Cancer and Capricorn) - you need more solar area further north. In addition, you need capacity to generate surplus during days of no production - add 150% to your 7m^2 for places where consumers actually are. Plus batteries. Infeasible in most places in the world. A more feasible approach is to use Solar/wind (offshore or deserts) to crack water, and transfer the H2 to where its needed. Use the H2 in either fuel cells or turbine generation and use an uprated grid. Libya, and the Med could provide enough surface area to provide Europe with enough to replace all of Europe's energy needs (and likely Africas too at the moment).

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