Unit 2.9 The relationship between technology, science, society and ideology

Unit 2.9 The relationship between technology, science, society and ideology 

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The relationship between technology, science, society and
Consumption of the Earth's resources
There are many forms of energy but two of the most important are:
kinetic energy, associated with movement
chemical energy, which is stored in fossil fuels or food
Central to the development of society has been the ability of humans to convert various forms of
energy, enabling them to adapt their environment to best advantage. They began this pattern by
converting the energy of wood into fire, which provided a means of both keeping warm and cooking.
The industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries harnessed energy on a large
scale. Initially, water was used widely to power mill wheels and the chemical energy of coal was
used to turn water into steam and eventually into the kinetic energy that by the late 1820s powered
steam locomotives. Michael Faraday did much of the early pioneering work in electricity, inventing
both an electric motor and a transformer. The internal combustion engine emerged in the second
half of the century and a petrol engine was available in the 1880s.
As society has become more industrialised and transport systems have become more
sophisticated and expensive, the world demand for energy has risen sharply. Changes in lifestyle,
the quest for higher living standards, greater emphasis on consumerism and the speed at which
fastgrowing and heavily populated nations like China and India are industrialising mean that the
amount of energy used globally is constantly increasing.
This trend is expected to continue, increasing carbon emissions and increasing the dangers
associated with global warming, although the European Union is seeking to reduce energy use by
18% by 2020. Conversely, the International Energy Agency predicts a 50% increase in world energy
demand by 2030, with much of the increase coming from carbonbased fossil fuels. Much will
depend on the ability of scientists to find ways of using fuel more efficiently, reducing carbon dioxide
and other harmful emissions and developing the technology to allow largescale and commercially
viable ways of using renewable sources to generate electricity.
Nonrenewable fuels
Energy resources tend to fall into two categories: renewable and nonrenewable. Nearly all the
energy needed to support a modern industrial economy, often to generate electricity or for

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These fossil fuels have a negative effect on the environment because they
release harmful carbon dioxide emissions -- the most prevalent and harmful of the gases known
as 'greenhouse gases'.
Oil and natural gas
Oil and natural gas are made from both plant and animal remains and are chemicals made from
molecules containing just carbon and hydrogen. Natural gas and oil can be found in many parts of
the world. When they burn they produce mainly carbon dioxide and water, releasing energy.…read more

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Earth's surface, having been formed millions of
years ago from dead animals and plants, Once they are used they cannot be replaced.
Advantages of fossil fuels
Very large amounts of electricity can be generated, relatively cheaply, from small
amounts of fuel.
For historical reasons, the infrastructure is wellestablished and fossil fuels are readily
available -- changing the infrastructure would be extremely expensive.
Transporting oil and gas to power stations, using an extensive network of pipes at
source, is relatively easy.…read more

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These offer considerable potential, not least in environmental terms,
but their use so far has been limited and the UK government has targeted a significant increase in
the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources.
According to a report by the Energy Saving Trust, British people were among the worst offenders in
Europe for wasting energy.…read more

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There are plans in Cornwall, which has limited gas supplies to many areas and 300 miles of
coastline, to develop the largest wavepower project in Europe at a cost of £21 million, using a site
some 10 miles off the north Cornwall coast and linked to the shore by an undersea cable. However,
according to the Carbon Trust, wave power is up to ten times more expensive than wind power.…read more

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The sun is extremely powerful and solar energy can be harnessed from the sun's rays. There are
many types of solar power applications, from calculators to plants capable of generating electricity
on a large scale. Central to solar power is the 'photovoltaic' (PV) cell.
In the UK, solar panels containing PV cells are sometimes used on the roofs of houses and these
can absorb the light coming from the sun.…read more

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In the UK, sugar beet is being used to create ethanol
for a petrol mix and, in the USA, maize is a widely used raw material in ethanol production. The
USA and Brazil (where sugar cane is widely used) are the world's leading producers of ethanol.
At present, no bioethanol is on general sale in the UK, but there are a few outlets for biodiesel,
which can be produced from recycled waste vegetable oil and oil crops such as rapeseed. (Such
ideas are not new.…read more

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Tidal and hydroelectric power have high startup costs.
Wind turbines often meet with opposition because they can be noisy and visually
How the UK government sees it
Towards the end of 2007, it was announced that a new agency was being
established to manage Britain's commitment to the development of biofuels.
Starting in 2008, the Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the daily
running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation.…read more

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Pressure groups generate a lot of publicity, but the dangers are mostly in the longer term and
governments have a short life. Some longerterm planning and target setting is inevitable but most
people are more concerned about themselves than about future generations.
We cannot safely predict future scientific and technical developments, so perhaps of more concern
is the possibility of financial and political collapse.…read more

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It is estimated that between 8 and 10 million plastic bags are issued each year. The taxing of
nonrecyclable plastic bags in the Irish Republic led to a significant reduction in their use but few
supermarkets in Britain charge for their plastic bags. Other places are planning to follow the
example of Modbury, in Devon, which became the first place in Britain to ban them from, its mostly
independent shops.…read more


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