Dear Breakthrough Energy Enthusiasts, Advocates, Evaluators and Developers,
I'd like to introduce myself and tell my story of how I came into this arena of Breakthrough Energy Technology Research & Development. My name is Todd Ridolph, and among other things (and truly not because I'm into titles), I am Vice President, Board of Directors, New Energy Movement. I graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, in 2000 with a B.S. Industrial Engineering after having grown up a few hours north of New York City in the fertile God Country that is the Hudson Valley, NY. After college, I spent 13 years in Southern California where I worked with several corporate outfits, mainly working with manufacturing supply chains and database systems, etc (aka as a young ladder climbing corporate stooge, not that I'm into stereotypes any more than I am into titles). I'm now back in New York.
My earliest memorable conscious venture into advanced energy generation came during my couple years an upperclassman at Georgia Tech, 1999-2000. During this time I had the great pleasure of rooming with a graduate level PhD student in the 14th street graduate dorm (since demolished for new construction), which was about a 10-story building pirched up on a hill enough to overlook the midtown Atlanta skyline.
During this time, I became fascinated with what I repeatedly saw out my seventh story window, the Bank of America building in particular, I would sit and watch as the skyscrapers would be frequently struck by lightning during the numerous lightning storms in the city of Atlanta, Georgia during the summer months.
I asked myself, "why can't that big building have a device in its basement that captures that electrical energy instead of just grounding it and letting it go for not?" Clearly these buildings had solved the first question of whether they could be struck by lightning frequently enough, it happened with regularity (for lightning), at those times - quite spectacular to watch.
At that time little more came of this question than some basic research and the rather entry level physics calculations for electricity and power I was capable of performing. I learned that lightning strikes the earth (something like) 50 times per second, with places like Tornado Ally in the Southeast US (where I was) and the Horn of Africa (where they have the space for grand engineering projects coupled with the overall lack of distributed forms of energy generation) being some of the places on earth with the greatest frequency of lightning storm occurrence (good news for America and the world!).
I learned some basic numbers, which I still remember to this day in a general sense, "it would take about 1000 average lightning strikes to power California for a year", not bad really. My feeling at the time that still persists now is that this was a "macro-material-science" problem. Of course, my roommate was studying "nano-scale" physics, as it seemed(s) so much of the R&D investment is. It was hard to find any experiment or theories exploring how maybe very large and even larger quantities of copper (or something) might part of a capture technology.
Obviously a 10 acre pond of copper wouldn't be practical for downtown Atlanta, and as I always have maintained, this is no easy physics question. But, I'm saddened, even more so today, as we seem to be able as a collective society to spend trillions on schemes too big to fail and endless war, but not on such a "crazy quackery idea as this"!
I see a scientific research world that right now if fixated on the nano-scale in material sciences, for supercomputing, etc, but I strongly believe that if more research attention was given to the macro scale material sciences, a breakthrough in lightning harvesting would have increased odds. With recycling of metals like copper at all time highs, their prices and availability make them abundant, and with a geographic location like the Horn of Africa fertile ground for such a project, why can't the "power plant" be a grand lake of material, if need be to handle the immense burst of energy that is lightning?
This said (rather redundantly, and because we all know Todd, everyone proved this isn't possible), I tabled this thought, moved out of that apartment, got on with life resigned to the fact that I wasn't the physics PhD in the room that was going to solve this problem.
So, fast forward quite a few years later, all the way to September 11, 2012... I really didn't explore this topic of Breakthrough Energy Technology again until an extremely profound and memorable day I would certainly describe as "a moment of awakening", if there ever was such a thing, I experienced it on that 11th anniversary of 9/11.
For me, this day, aside from my birth, certainly must be among the most profoundly changing single days of my life, so profoundly shifting for me, I still look back in awe on how instantaneous the shift occurred, literally in a night...Not that we don't constantly evolve, and not to say it wasn't in the making, that I was asleep all along or that I see it all clear now....but:
I was living in Oceanside Harbor, CA, literally on the water, in just the most amazing condo, I could spit into the harbor from my balcony and my car parking spot was almost literally on the beach on the front side of the two building complex. Aww, I can't even explain the 7.5 years of living there, basically in the Mighty Pacific Ocean, I digress, but I just have to confess what a God's blessing that place of residence was for 7.5 years. There is something about water.
One seemingly regular night, but to put into a timeframe context, at a time just days after I had bought my first iPad, when I had just recently joined Facebook and when I was literally just discovering YouTube, it was bedtime and I was laying in bed just "scrolling through my feed"...
It all seemed so innocent, but I remember it so vividly. Again, this was 11 years to the day since the "Events of September 11, 2001" had occurred, so as is the custom on Facebook on such anniversaries, the "Never Forget" type posts were plentiful.
It was a childhood friend, Stefan Bozydaj, who in my life's folklore forever now, will go down in infamy (to me) for sure, I can still remember the title of the post, innocent really, something to the effect of "sick new footage of September 11", it was an NYC couple who just happened to live midway up (they were like 20 stories up my memory says) in an NYC high rise a few blocks over from the Twin Towers. The couple, who had finally released their camcorder footage from that day, from out their living room window, which captured the events of that day from a vantage point just different from what iconic images we were accustomed to that point seeing, this is all it was really, just a different perspective of something I had digested the regular iconic images of repeatedly for a decade now...
This had to be about 10 o'clock PM, and so I watched, again, innocently, laying in bed, and it wasn't this video that did anything other than remind me of my own horrors from that day. There was nothing conspiratorial in it, just a couple videotaping themselves as they were watching in horror, as most of us were.
It was however, that cool feature of YouTube that always triggers once you finish the current video, the "you might also be interested in..." feature, you know what I'm talking about!
Next thing I know, it's 1:30am, I just finished watching "Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth" and I'm pacing back in forth in my condo, my worldview totally obliterated, smashed to pieces by questions I hadn't asked, impossible to put back together by the answers I find, even to this day.
What to do, what to do...the only thing you can do, call on someone you love and ask them to tell you if you are crazy, if that's what was going on. It was only 11:30pm or so back in New York so I call one of my best friends in the world, Tom Muff and insist that he "tomorrow do me a huge favor and watch this Architects & Engineers YouTube for me".
Tommy graciously obliges me, with the follow on conversation going something like this:
Tommy, "naw Todd, you are not crazy" in a calm, matter of fact kind of way. Todd, "I never even thought about this before, not once, I never once questioned the official story of 9/11, I didn't even know anyone ever did!!!!!!" Tommy, 'yeah man, I have thought about it before, I've heard people question it". Todd, "What? You did? Really? You know other people that have questioned the story of 9/11?" Tommy, "Yeah, sure, man." Todd, "Why haven't any of you ever told me about any of this???"
I forget exactly how this conversation went ended, aside from what I love so much about Tommy, his nonchalant attitude toward things that blow my mind, but for me, this was it, my "awakening moment".
From that day forward, so in the fall of 2012, I went into a bit of research mode, I was asking every new question that were the ones you had to ask for certain things that never made sense to finally start making sense, like I guess all the types they would say a "conspiracy theorist" ask.
It wasn't long before I was asking, from a different perspective now, a greater question about the one I was asking back in college watching the lightning; this awakening developed this question, broadened it and shed new light onto what I was really asking.
Here is what those energy generation questions look like for me today: -Why haven't we publicly had any real breakthrough in energy generation technology in past 100 years, despite us currently being in the middle of technology revolution in so many other areas? -Had technology been developed and suppressed, brought into black budget military applications (maybe even hidden in plain sight or by national security top secret designation), or just plane shelved, protected by the richest oligarch? -Are there some real claims worth exploring in the Internet world of free energy technology truly worth spending our time and money on? -In a world where we see money wasted by big corporations and governments like never before in a hundred years, why can't we see more money "wasted" on such an outlandish idea as a "new energy technology vetting mechanism", what's the big deal if it's a waste, at least we tried!? -Why is such an important idea and those Average Joes like you and me that pursue it on our personal time, gaining little to nothing in the process (except scorn and head shakes), why are we left to ourselves in the still mostly Wild West of the Internet, to sort through all the "free energy claims" that are made, with not enough acknowledgment and support from our government and big corporations?
(There are so many questions, I'll be back to refine and edit this part, it's so important to articulate these in a way to effectively open other people's mind, while also not poking the bear so to speak by taking too directly an accusatory tone towards a government we all depend on, most likely filled with good hearted people, even if it is corrupted from the top down, being used amazingly, to keep us from technology capable of changing the world in a way not advantageous to those oligarchs and their Corporatocracy
I started studying the new energy field deeply and with an open mind. Lucky enough to be in San Diego for so many reason, not least of which was I quickly found myself in Daniel Sheehan's office. I had been on the Internet and even took a road trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles to a couple esoteric forums, I wanted to find real people in the field, locally. This was Southern California, they had to be here.
I remember googling something to effect of "Break 2nd Law of Thermodynamics San Diego" and being amazed at Daniel Sheehan's bio, found directly on the University of San Diego .edu website. I hadn't been down the rabbit hole long, but I already knew, you can't say what he was saying on a .edu website, so I had to see this guy!
Daniel is so gracious and I was able to visit him at his office on campus. We discussed several things, I told him my lightning story, he gave me a copy of his paper among other topics. My take home and what was impactful from this meeting for me personally was it sparked an idea in me to be part of fundraising within the new energy space.
Sheehan explained how research is all about the dollars, like the rest of the world that made to go around by it, his lab could need more, if I remember correctly. Going back to my thoughts in Atlanta imagining how lightning could be captured, I always felt I was never going to be the inventor, the physicist was not going to be my role. But, this visit to USD helping me see the vision for what my role was a little more clearly, fundraising.
At that point, I started thinking of about the structure and approach of a non-profit that might be part of moving this new energy field forward. Shortly thereafter I found that the New Energy Movement, rich at the time with a nine year history, having been started by some amazing people who did some amazing things in their time for this cause My journey doesn't end here, I hope it doesn't end here. But at this point on it, I'd at this point I'd like to give a big thank you to X-Prize, HeroX and those who are working to make this project to happen. The existence of this contest marks another new chapter in this quest, marked by some new qualities and a new approach I hope will make a significant difference. I'm grateful to have been able to contribute some to this wiki, knowing the history, where we've come from, what we've experienced and learned is likely essential to the future.
Sincerley, Todd B Ridolph