[Beowulf] Underwater data centers -- the future?

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Fri Sep 9 08:44:06 PDT 2016

On 09/09/2016 07:20 AM, Tim Cutts wrote:
> 2. Surely, we heat up
> the oceans regardless of whether it's directly by cooling with the
> sea or indirectly by cooling in air, and atmospheric warming slowly
> warming the oceans.  Ultimately it will all come to equilibrium (with
> possible disastrous consequences) whichever way we do it.  There was

Actually, it is already at equilibrium (or we'd be in serious trouble). 
Equilibrium doesn't mean uniform, but that gains - losses == constant 
(at least to first order).

Heat gains:  insolation, radiation from decaying elements
Heat losses: thermal radiation (Stefan-Boltzmann) goes as the 4th power 
of temperature (assuming the earth is a "black body" in the physicists 

AGW would effectively change the reflective properties of the atmosphere 
(perversely providing a higher albedo to reflect insolation which would 
be a "loss" or cooling mechanism), while potentially altering the 
effective heat capacity (Cv) of the atmosphere.  The latter is tiny 
compared to the heat capacity of the ocean ( Cv("air") << Cv(ocean) ).

This said, if FB dumped all of their data centers into the ocean, and we 
all started posting cat videos, and then doing analytics on them ... 
doom would be impending ...

> quite a nice point made in the late David MacKay's book pointing out
> that  it doesn't really matter even if we found an abundant source of
> almost free energy; the atmosphere still has a finite surface area
> from which to radiate the waste heat to space, which imposes a
> significant upper limit on how much power the human race can safely
> use.

True ... but these limits are way ... way out there, and the loss 
mechanisms are quite efficient.  We are in a pretty good eq right now, 
even if we shift it a little each way ... I have my doubts as to whether 
or not we could seriously dump enough waste heat energy into the 
ocean/atmosphere to significantly impact the equilibrium.

Happy to be shown to be wrong, but I think we are (many orders of 
magnitude) away from that point where it really starts to become a concern.

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics, Inc.
e: landman at scalableinformatics.com
w: http://scalableinformatics.com
t: @scalableinfo
p: +1 734 786 8423 x121
c: +1 734 612 4615

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