This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
Colin has spotted the difference between real engineering and playing in the sand tray. A real engineer instinctively appreciates the importance of stress concentration, whether it is mechanical or electrical. These buffoons think you can just stick a couple of wires in some gunk and send electrical power down them over several kilometres. A real engineer would consider nothing other than a coaxial system; and would then come to the conclusion that it is too heavy to work.
On a rather less flippant note, they are relying on Kevlar, which is claimed to have five times the mechanical strength to weight ratio of steel. What is known about its fatigue performance? Can it be made free of defects over great lengths? Bear in mind that one microcrack in 5,000 metres means destruction of the whole system. Megawatts pouring into a discharge channel of the order of a centimetre in length is not a spark, it is an explosion.
Well, it was a nice idea while it lasted.
Not knowing the first thing about power transmission i guess I fall into the same camp as most of the public who may equally have thought this a good idea.
I guess we all get so used to the "advances" made in science and engineering that we think a problem is something that will be solved with time and money.
Blind optimism that a solution will be found is no substitute for facing the facts and they seem pretty insurmountable. I guess the problem is that some quango will feel that a some tax money will solve the issue and someone will take it and deliver nothing and the blame will go to the ones who delivered nothing, not the government who invest our money.
Bit of a shame that Prof Roberts et al have wasted 20 years of their lives, unless they consider their 15 minutes of fame or the learning experience worth while.
Some random off the wall thoughts:
If they are making a sample of cable they could test on landline power systems at an early stage of the process ... good go/no go point for the investment they will have attracted.
If the cable worked why not just harness the electrical power in the atmosphere rather than battle against it? Focus on storage of huge instant power inputs. Might change the climate though ...
It will never happen, even if some form of technology can be developed, if the Greens manage to get laws passed that in effect make the entire US landmass and beyond a protected environment.
On the other hand the potential for mass death and destruction for mostly human victims may appeal to them.
Invoking the precautionary principle, have they thought what might happen to the weather?
Let's get the important things decided before we get on to engineering and science ...