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The Big Sheet

5:30 PM -- I’m not one of those who thinks that human activity alone causes global warming. Rather, the combination of the accumulation of carbon dioxide along with what is likely a natural warming cycle of the Earth (driven by increased solar output) is to blame. We’re maybe 30 to 50 percent of the problem, but that’s more than enough to motivate us to take action –- and now. We should be more responsible with respect to our use of energy, regardless, and be exploring the use of non-oil electricity generation. I personally like nuclear power. I have a client that tells me fusion power might be possible is less than 40 years. Things are looking up.

In the meantime, it in addition makes sense to investigate how we might reduce the effect of solar output. One idea proposed is to orbit large amounts of reflective chaff. Such might reduce the absorption of solar energy, but it might also play havoc with satellite communications. It’s safe to assume that humans will not sacrifice the economy -- read: our lifestyles -- just to save the planet. I’m a big fan of XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR), and I’m likely to switch to satellite TV if Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) doesn’t hurry up and bring me FIOS.

So... How about we send up what is in effect a large white bedsheet -- perhaps several million square miles in area. This will orbit around the earth reducing light hitting the earth on a rotating basis, kind of like a big cloud. And such a material would be transparent to radio waves, so no worries about losing your DirecTV signal. Of course, how to orbit such a structure is still a challenge. In fact, launch vehicles in general remain a huge issue for the satellite industry overall -- witness the recent spectacular failure of a booster carrying a communications satellite being fired off by Sea Launch. Hopefully, the real rocket scientists will solve that one over the next few years.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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