Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG

BOOK REVIEW

Fresh Water from the Ocean, by Cecil B. Ellis et al.

Kirtley F. Mather

Vol. 42, No. 2 (APRIL 1954)

FRESH WATER FROM THE OCEAN, by Cecil B. Ellis et al; xi + 217 pages; 41 figs.; $5.00; Ronald Press, 1954.

This Conservation Foundation study by members of the staff of Nuclear Development Associates is a highly readable account of the remarkable progress made in recent years toward utilizing sea water as a source from which to meet the expanding needs of mankind for fresh water. The prospects for salt-water conversion in quantities sufficient to meet the needs of a modern city or of a large irrigation project, at costs that are not prohibitive, are competently analyzed. Each proposed conversion method is described, explained, and evaluated. For the first time, all aspects of this potentially epoch-making development in science and technology are brought together in a single volume.

“Of the many processes now known for purifying sea water, the electric membrane method is expected to be the cheapest.” This method has been developed only within the last few years and it is not possible to determine with precision the costs for a large plant that might be built with the new membrane materials at some future date. Nevertheless, the prediction seems justified that further research and pilot-plant tests will make possible, in the near future, the extraction of fresh water from the ocean on a scale of a thousand million gallons per day at a total cost of about 30 cents per thousand gallons at cheap-power locations. This price level may be within the reach of many large cities and industries, but it is far above that at which irrigation can be economically practiced.

The next cheapest method, especially for plants producing a million gallons per day or less, is compressive distillation. Competing processes are the multiple-effect distillation method, the supercritical distillation method and the freezing method. None of these “seems likely to better the 70-cents-per-thousand-gallons level by any means foreseeable at this time.”

Perhaps the most hopeful note sounded by this investigation pertains to the use of slightly brackish water, sources of which are numerous throughout the world, rather than sea water. The electric membrane method should be quite economical for this conversion in most locations. Small-scale industrial, irrigation, and stockfarm use of brackish water seems to be within the range of practical development.

Kirtley F. Mather (1888–1978), the first editor of American Scientist's Scientists' Bookshelf, was a geologist and professor at Harvard University. He served as president of AAAS in the 1950s, during which time he also spoke out against the McCarthy-era inquisitions. This was not the first time Mather had advocated for freedom of expression: In the 1930s, he refused to take a "teachers' oath" proposed by the Massachusetts state legislature. In a 1996 biographical sketch of Mather for GSA Today, Kennard B. Bork notes, "Mather was happy to pledge allegiance to the federal government when he was inducted into the U.S. Army, but he rebelled against state fealty oaths for faculty members at private universities." Among Mather's books are The Earth Beneath Us (1964) and, with coauthor Dorothy Hewitt, Adult Education: A Dynamic for Democracy (1937). Bork's 1994 biography of Mather is titled Cracking Rocks and Defending Democracy.


comments powered by Disqus
 

Connect With Us:

Facebook Icon Sm Twitter Icon Google+ Icon Pinterest Icon RSS Feed

Sigma Xi/Amazon Smile (SciNight)


Latest Multimedia

ANIMATION: Hydrangea Colors: It’s All in the SoilHydrangeaAnimation

The Hydrangea macrophylla (big-leafed hydrangea) plant is the only known plant that can 'detect' the pH level in surrounding soil!
One of the world’s most popular ornamental flowers, it conceals a bouquet of biological and biochemical surprises. The iconic “snowball” shaped hydrangea blooms are a common staple of backyard gardens.
Hydrangea colors ultimately depend on the availability of aluminum ions(Al3+) within the soil.

To view all multimedia content, click "Latest Multimedia"!


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

  • American Scientist Update

  • An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.

  • Scientists' Nightstand

  • News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.

    To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.


EMAIL TO A FRIEND :

Of Possible Interest

Book Review: Of a Feather

Book Review: Don't Try This at Home

Book Review: The Cheese Plate Stands Alone

Subscribe to American Scientist