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What a Joker!
July 30, 2008 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Back in 1978, Jack Nicholson was ahead of his time.
posted by gman (49 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love how unfamiliar with things they are. "The 'hy-dro-gen' is produced by 'so-lar pow-er'."

Meanwhile, he's driving a compact car that's at least 50 ft wide and 100 ft long with a suspension made of bungee cords.
posted by DU at 4:55 AM on July 30, 2008


I like the speculation in that first link: Imagine if we listened to him back then!!!

Why not take it back further: Imagine if we all listened to Tesla in the 1930s!!!

We've had the technology and the ideas for a long time now. The problem is that we're still only beginning to listen and to prefer non-gasoline vehicles. It's just now that the cost (in dollars and blood) of oil is forcing us to reconsider these previously rejected technologies.
posted by rmless at 4:57 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or Stanley in 1906.
posted by DU at 5:08 AM on July 30, 2008


The clip linked to "ahead of his time" is just awesome! ty
posted by rmmcclay at 5:26 AM on July 30, 2008



Or Jakob Ammann.

Seriously. I hear horses get ten miles to the carrot.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:35 AM on July 30, 2008


It's a hydrogen kyar!

Cool vid! Great find!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:42 AM on July 30, 2008


Yeah the "ahead of his time" is great. It kinda made me think though how 30 years have past and still no commercial hydrogen car, who killed the hydrogen kyar.
posted by stbalbach at 5:43 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want to drive a standard shift hydrogen-solar power steaming behemoth, because it would be green while running over all the non-hydrogen SUVs in my way.
posted by wundermint at 5:50 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Stanley Steamer was powered by steam generated by burning gasoline or kerosine, so unless that was more efficient than burning gas directly in an internal combustion engine you would still have the same pollution problems. Plus you would have to wait around for the burner to build up a sufficient head of steam before you could go anywhere. Not very convenient.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:11 AM on July 30, 2008


The Tucker '48 mentioned in the clip is a pretty good story in its own right... thanks, Jack!
posted by anthill at 6:19 AM on July 30, 2008


That trunk full of hydrogen tanks, held in place with just a strap, made me nervous even from 30 years out.
posted by echo target at 6:27 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


...burning gasoline or kerosine, so unless that was more efficient than burning gas directly in an internal combustion engine...

Which it is, so there you go.

Not to mention the fact that, since the engine itself doesn't require petroleum, you can swap out some other fuel whenever you want without retooling the entire fleet.
posted by DU at 6:30 AM on July 30, 2008


There were so many interesting technologies that were being researched in the seventies and early eighties that got abandoned. I was big reader of Popular Science and such back then and every month seemed to have new ideas in alternative energy. Things like using high-speed carbon-fiber flywheels to store electrical energy in cars or early experiments in gas-electric hybrids. Then, in the Reagan era, we just abandoned all that and went back to big dumb overpowered gas powered monsters. It's sad to think that we could be 25 years ahead of where we are now in energy technology.

Yea, I know that Popular Science isn't exactly a research journal but it does tend reflect the general direction of research interest of its time
posted by octothorpe at 6:34 AM on July 30, 2008


Double...but deserves a second posting given these crazy times we live in.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:37 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Imagine if we all listened to Tesla in the 1930s!!!

We'd all be getting the power for our electric lights wirelessly, harnessing the oscillations induced in the resonating magnetic field of the entire planet. Of course, everything made of metal would be pulsing with tiny voltages. That wouldn't be so bad for the electric toasters and sewing machines, but it would be hell on computers.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:40 AM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


The problem is, and has always been, that when you drive a hydrogen-powered car, we have to generate all of the power you use. When we use gasoline, we get about a 10:1 return on power invested to power delivered. So, gas is enormously cheaper, and everyone uses that.

That's what markets do -- they find the most efficient solution. They're very good at it. But the true costs of that solution aren't visible in the price, so in this case, the market chose poorly.
posted by Malor at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2008


Wow, that kyar's cool. That shit goes on my Bucket List.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2008


malor, but Click and Clack just told me that gas engines only get 1% of the potential energy to the wheels. Put that in your HyDroGen pipe and smoke it.
posted by Gungho at 6:54 AM on July 30, 2008


That trunk full of hydrogen tanks, held in place with just a strap, made me nervous even from 30 years out.

"OH, THE HUMANITY!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:55 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even farther ahead of its time.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:56 AM on July 30, 2008


...burning gasoline or kerosine, so unless that was more efficient than burning gas directly in an internal combustion engine...

Which it is, so there you go.

Please provide a citation backing this up.

Not to mention the fact that, since the engine itself doesn't require petroleum, you can swap out some other fuel whenever you want without retooling the entire fleet.


Like what kind of fuel, coal or wood?

As far as I know, steam power for vehicles is used only on ships with nuclear reactors nowadays. Most ships have diesel engines. Even trains abandoned steam decades ago.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:57 AM on July 30, 2008


The Hydrogen Hoax
The Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass says that she could believe “six impossible things before breakfast.” Such an attitude is necessary to discuss the hydrogen economy, since no part of it is possible.

posted by designbot at 7:00 AM on July 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


Please provide a citation backing this up.

Um, it's pretty common knowledge that a continuous combustion process is very much more efficient than one where you start and stop combustion many times per second.

Like what kind of fuel, coal or wood?

Or ethanol. Or any reaction that produces heat.
posted by DU at 7:07 AM on July 30, 2008


Frank: Who would you rather bone, Meg Ryan or Jack Nicholson?
Billy Madison: Jack Nicholson now, or 1974?
Frank: '74.
Billy Madison: Meg Ryan.
posted by diogenes at 7:08 AM on July 30, 2008


If it's common knowledge there should be no trouble finding a source. Of all the proposed replacements for gasoline or diesel powered vehicles, is anyone advocating steam power? If so, please provide some links.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of the peeps getting out of the car looked liked Francis Ford Coppola.
posted by dobbs at 7:59 AM on July 30, 2008


It's depressing that people are still talking in the same unrealistic way about hydrogen.
posted by bhnyc at 8:08 AM on July 30, 2008


Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the carbon emissions, bring me the car, give me a bill for an SUV, and you haven't broken any rules.

Waitress: You want me to hold the carbon, huh?

Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, steam power as a method of heat energy reclamation is a technology that has been explored, Daddy-O.

However, straight up steam power is not a practical portable, on-board power supply for modern transportation, stop goofing around, DU. There's a reason the steam-powered train is unequivocally a thing of the past.
posted by nanojath at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2008


A quick reading of designbot's link should stop all discussion right-quick.
posted by Student of Man at 8:19 AM on July 30, 2008


Thanks, nanojath, interesting article. I wonder if that reclamation process will ever become standard on cars.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:27 AM on July 30, 2008


If it's common knowledge there should be no trouble finding a source.

Are you serious? Random link.

Of all the proposed replacements for gasoline or diesel powered vehicles, is anyone advocating steam power?

Not that I know of. But my point about continuous combustion is not dependent on steam (and if it were, it would not be dependent on the number of people advocating it).
posted by DU at 8:42 AM on July 30, 2008


A quick reading of designbot's link should stop all discussion right-quick.

That article is hardly definitive. While I pretty much agree that politically, hydrogen is a sort of gee-whiz technology politicians trot out for show, on the technology side Zubrin (who is certainly no expert in the field) is just setting up a straw man in that article but restricting the possible methods of generating hydrogen to two, electrolysis or cracking fossil fuels. Scientists who are interested in the possibilities of hydrogen as a medium for energy exchange are looking at a much broader range of possibilities in production, storage and utilization.

As a short-term solution for transportation, Zubrin's analysis does a pretty good job of debunking hydrogen. The technology is just not there to make it efficient today. But throwing out hydrogen as an energy exchange tool is not practical. Its potential as a closed-loop, zero-emission (in use, independent of the question of how it is generate) form of energy storage has enough interesting qualities to justify its continued research.
posted by nanojath at 8:58 AM on July 30, 2008


The narrator sounds like SNL's Kristin Wiig doing her Target Lady Character.

"Nicherlson and Erd Bergley Jr. [sic] - It's a match!"
posted by ericbop at 8:59 AM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dm, the random article you linked shows a graph showing loss of efficiency of increasingly intermittent combustion heating a boiler, it in no way sheds any light on steam boiler versus internal combustion engine efficiency.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:16 AM on July 30, 2008


OOPS, DU, not Dm.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2008


After less than 2 minutes of research, I found this article.

It says:

05)The efficiency of Internal combustion Engine is as high as 35 to 40 % as compared to that of Steam Engines which have efficiency is near about 10 to 15%.

Advantages of Internal combustion Engine over Steam Engine.

01)It has higher efficiency

02)It has low weight to power ratio because of its compact design.

03)It can be started instanneously,in Steam engine Boiler has to be fired and Steam raised before the Engine can be started.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:29 AM on July 30, 2008


A quick reading of designbot's link should stop all discussion right-quick.

As a non-chemist who had always thought of hydrogen power as something at least broadly plausible I found this to be a pretty devastating demolition job. In the long term somebody might come up with a more economical way of making hydrogen- but to work it would have to be competitive with that era's electric, bio-fuel and hydrocarbon driven vehicles.
posted by rongorongo at 9:29 AM on July 30, 2008


Wait, so is this related to Marketplace, the show on NPR? Like, did they have TV version that migrated to radio, or radio to TV to radio, or...?
posted by dismas at 9:35 AM on July 30, 2008


I think you've gotten fixated on the "steam" aspect of my comment. I'm not at all talking about steam power. (I realize this is confusing because I linked to a steam car, but that was just in response to the Tesla thing. I know next to nothing about the Stanley Steamer.)

I'm talking about pure combustion question raised in your comment:

...burning gasoline or kerosine, so unless that was more efficient than burning gas directly in an internal combustion engine...

Compare two processes, one continuously burning and the other intermittent. The first one is going to be more efficient. If you are constantly heating and cooling the fuel to/from the ignition point, you are wasting power. If you can't completely combust all the products and sub-products, you are wasting fuel. Both of these are the case for intermittent combustion, therefore it is less efficient.

All else being equal, a continuous combustion engine is going to be more efficient than an intermittent combustion one. Getting all else to be equal is hard, which is why I'm limiting my comment to the pure combustion aspect.

As for steam: It's not really fair to compare efficiency, because so much technology has gone into making one of them more efficient. Although I still don't believe that 10-15% figure--steam power plants (i.e. most of them) are better than that.
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on July 30, 2008


Wait, so is this related to Marketplace, the show on NPR?

Marketplace is on APM, not NPR, and no, it was created in 1989 and as that article discusses its name was chosen from scratch.
posted by nanojath at 9:50 AM on July 30, 2008


Wait, so is this related to Marketplace, the show on NPR? Like, did they have TV version that migrated to radio, or radio to TV to radio, or...?

No relation I know of. Marketplace is a long-running mainstay of CBC TV, hosted these days by the pixie-ish Wendy Mesley. It leans toward fairly hard-hitting investigative stuff on the crimes and misdemeanours of the corporate world, with Mesley doing a pretty fine job of disarming corporate shill types with her diminutive looks and charm; they don't seem to anticipate the hard question coming.

It's a hydrogen kyar!

The narrator sounds like SNL's Kristin Wiig doing her Target Lady Character.


What you're hearing there is actually a classic Maritime Twang. My guess would be South Shore of Nova Scotia, but it could be Cape Breton or even a Newfoundland accent that's been half-buried with practice. One of my East-Nova-Scotia-raised aunts has lived her entire adult life in southern New Hampshire, and my wife thinks she's got about the zaniest accent in North America. There is no known grammatical symbol for the way she pronounces the long "o" sound in "shoes."
posted by gompa at 9:51 AM on July 30, 2008


DU, I agree that continuous INTERNAL combustion, like a gas turbine, is more efficient than intermittent internal combustion like piston or Wankel engines. I guess we can stop arguing now that we have cleared all of this up!
posted by Daddy-O at 10:02 AM on July 30, 2008


That was back when there was a gasoline "shortage" and people were queueing up for hours to buy gas.


So he was not really "ahead of his time", was he.
posted by Zambrano at 12:16 PM on July 30, 2008


What you're hearing there is actually a classic Maritime Twang.

It's getting to be really, really rare, but oh god is that accent ever awesome. In my decade-plus time here in Halifax, I have only ever encountered one person so strongly afflicted: My grade 9 Home Ec teacher, who actually looked a heck of a lot like that woman (and Target Lady). My only clear memory of her was the time one recipe called for nachos, which she repeatedly referred to as "tack-oo chips."

The guy's accent is extremely common around here, but only among pudgy, middle-aged newsmen. I'm not even kidding. It's bizarre.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:46 PM on July 30, 2008


Aren't nuclear reactors essentially big steam engines, using fusion for heat instead of burnt wood? I wonder what their efficiency is... (Which should probably be measured in terms of power produced vs. energy lost as heat.)
posted by kaibutsu at 1:48 PM on July 30, 2008


(In case you were curious.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2008


Eh, just put solar panels on top of every building everywhere, and concentrate that power into rapid-charge terminals at filling stations and other key locations, and of course in our garages, then use it to power our electric cars.

Of course, that'll require a huge solar panel infrastructure, and the ability to rapid-charge (which I consider to be the true blocker for electric cars, not the range itself) doesn't exist. But that's just one breakthrough and a lot of money, versus several breakthroughs and a lot of money for hydrogen.
posted by davejay at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2008


Why not take it back further: Imagine if we all listened to Tesla in the 1930s!!!


what do signs messing up the scenery and breakin my mind have to do with....on 1930's.

(just to pre-empt it, I know the Five man Electrical band did it first and better)
posted by jonmc at 4:47 PM on July 30, 2008


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