Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Solar FREAKIN’ Scam! – Politics Gone Crazy

In the previous posts, we’ve examined the science behind Solar Roadways and the economic and environmental implications it would have. Now it’s time to take a look at politics, because this is where all reasonable faith in humanity is lost.

bandicam 2016-05-06 11-00-40-856

Where there is a well-presented scam that creates visually realistic samples of the larger plan, such as with Solar Roadways, there is always at least one group of scientifically illiterate investors willing to buy into it.

The Department of Transport in the United States is one such example. In 2009, they awarded the Solar Roadways company a $100,000 grant simply to determine whether this is a feasible plan (https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/355952).

It doesn’t take $100,000 to figure out that this isn’t possible. I demonstrated why this plan isn’t economically or environmentally sustainable in the previous two blog posts with a budget of exactly nothing. Yet a major government branch can’t seem to emulate this to demonstrate its complete unreliability.

Perhaps even more depressing, the Department of Transport again funded the idea of a solar powered car park in 2011, this time with a grant of $750,000 (https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/362311). It takes simple common sense to recognise that a solar powered car park is unrealistic and completely pointless.

During the day, the car park will be full of cars, which will prevent the sunlight from getting to the solar cells. And then the car park is empty at night, but there is no sunlight, which means there’s no point in putting solar panels in the car park in the first place.

The Indiegogo campaign for this project was started in 2014, and raised $2.2 million, far exceeding their $1 million goal (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways#/). Regular people, no different from you or I got suckered in to giving their money to a completely unfeasible project.

As can be seen in the image below, nearly 50,000 people have donated to this project, one payment being made as recently as 4 days ago.

bandicam 2016-05-06 11-20-28-562

Seeing people continue to give money to a lie is unfortunate, but what’s even more unfortunate is that individual politicians have spoken out in favour of the Solar Roadways plan.

U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (yes, that is his real name) released a statement saying that Solar Roadways would lessen America’s dependence on fossil fuels and create jobs.

I’m sure it would, but that doesn’t mean that those jobs will be contributing anything to society except for a very expensive joke. If we want to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, all we need to do is switch to a solar system that isn’t in one of the harshest environments humans have ever created: roadways.

Finally, let me say something about scientific illiteracy: it’s everywhere. From every ‘fat-burning miracle pill’ to vitamin-measuring smart sticks (http://www.vitastiq.com/) to solar powered roadways, the average citizen will get suckered in if it simply promises results.

In science, it is taken that any idea stands on its merits and the evidence, not on whether its creator is a family man (an emotional appeal used in Scott Brusaw’s original video), or inspirational music used in the background of an Indiegogo video.

The scientific method won’t fail us, but Solar Powered roadways most certainly will.

References:

https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/355952

https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/362311

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways#/

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This entry was posted on May 6, 2016 by in Geelong - Friday 3pm, Uncategorized.

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