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Beer May Save the World #KillerSerials

Killer Serials a partnership between Theoblogy and Pop TheologyRyan Parker and I are tackling a new mini-series, Breakthrough, airing Sunday nights on NatGeo. Read on for our thoughts on the final two episodes.Inline image 1Find all the posts in the series HERE.


TJ: I really like the subject of this episode, “Energy on the Edge.” I cannot imagine a more important topic than finding clean energy for the future. I think every day, as my phone battery wears down. On the one hand, it’s amazing that I can suck energy from a wall and store it in my phone battery for the day. On the other hand, how can we still be so reliant on batteries that are recharged by the burning of coal?

Using the heat that’s trapped inside the earth is cool. So is using the energy of the sun. But using a 139 lasers to cause nuclear fusion is both thrilling and, to be honest, damn frightening. They are actually making a mini-star — or attempting to — in hopes that entity will be self-sustaining and limitless.

But I wonder, what’s wrong with limits? Isn’t limitation endemic to the human experience?

RP: Limitation has been a central theme of every episode this season and one that we’ve returned to in each post. Making a star on earth from a process that literally extends beyond the laws of physics is scary as hell. But, given the enormity of the problems we face, I think pushing those limitations is worth the risk, especially if we consider the cost of not doing so.

I’m intrigued by the differences between the alternative energy options we have. There seems, to me, a difference between exploiting solar, wind or waste powered energies that take “passive” advantage of–as Bateman said a couple of times–the energy already around us and the invasive acts of penetrating (mining) the earth to get at resources that are more difficult to obtain. One seems purer to me than the other.

TJ: True, but what do we know? You and me, I mean. One of the things I’ve thought about in every episode of Breakthrough is how huge the gap is between the scientists making these breakthrough discoveries and me. With the advance of science, the gap between specialists and plebs like us is greater than it’s ever been.

And that, I think, leads to the moral quandary in every episode: Are these scientists going too far, and how the hell would we know if they were? It’s funny how quickly the Icelandic researcher brushes off the fears about earthquakes as a result of him pumping cold water into the earth’s crust to hit molten rock and generate steam. It’s not even a concern, he says. And what are you and I to do, other than to take his word for it?

There is, however, one thing that I can understand: beer!

RP: Yes, I was pleased to see the potential for beer to “save the earth,” and the notion of breweries (and other factories) powering their operations with their own waste seems like a logical next step in addressing our energy crises.

I was interested to hear the language the episode repeatedly used when describing the work of these scientists and engineers as “saving the world?” Didn’t Jesus already do that? 😉

Finally there’s something inspiring about what these scientists and engineers are doing as they devote their lives to projects that they’ll most likely never see come to fruition. Are we tending to things that will outlast us? And their willingness to “fail up” is something inspiring as well.

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