Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Posted on Jan 26, 2008 in Blog, green technology | 3 comments

A return to the Age of Sail

If there’s a technology that actually gets my geek on, it’s sail. It’s non-polluting, it’s elegant, and it’s a proven technology, particularly for transport. So I’m rather excited about this news item related to a return to the use of wind with something called a SkySail, a sort of giant kite that tows a ship. For centuries, we used wind to power global trade, and then with access to cheap coal and oil, we just stopped doing it. Back to the future, it seems. Here’s a link from BBC, as well:


When I think about where we’re headed in terms of being energy constrained, I often think of us moving toward supercharged versions of historical technologies, the ones where we were still using a lot of muscle power and a lot of wind, and hadn’t gotten deep into coal and oil, yet. Now with things like computer-aided design and a better understanding of physics we can do things with wind power that we never could have done before. It’s enough to almost make someone feel optimistic.


  1. I saw that and it did look pretty cool. I envision drone cargo ships just lolling about on the ocean behind their sails.

    Now when do I get my robot car?

  2. Very cool. We’re not doing nearly enough with wind power, and so it’s heartening to see stories like this.

  3. Our greatest chances at success are taking the best from all human development. Technology shouldn’t be abandoned, but used together with what comes next. There’s still a place for radio in today’s internet/television/iPhone world. There’s still places near my family’s home where horses navigate the terrain better than motorized vehicles. Wind power has too many advantages to abandon.

    I agree, optimism is warranted.