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MIT Professor Stares Down Hurricanes

Illustration for article titled MIT Professor Stares Down Hurricanes

Biologist and chemical engineer Robert Langer won the $1.2 million Millennium Technology Prize earlier this year for his work fighting cancer and heart disease with advanced drug delivery systems. Now, he's setting his sights on sinister weather, and he hopes to win. Langer revealed at a recent talk that he has been working for almost a decade to raise money for research in "hurricane mitigation," ways to tame severe weather using familiar chemistry. His classroom lectures at MIT are memorable for his fearless and often hilarious opinions, and he offered one here, saying, "It's hard for me to understand why more people don't work in this area."Controlling the weather may seem godlike, but as Xconomy reports, Langer begs to differ:

Langer says he believes hurricane mitigation is a chemical engineering problem. Hurricanes draw energy from the heat of evaporated seawater, gaining power as they move over tropical oceans, often not slowing down until they hit land—and devastate populated coastal areas in the process. Langer is thinking about ways to interfere with the energy transferred from the ocean up to the hurricane. It’s a tough nut to crack, however.


I'll say. But if Langer believes we can do it, I'm pretty well sold — and if anyone needs me to fly planes filled with carbon particles into the eye of the storm, consider this my statement of interest. MIT’s Langer, Renowned for Inventing Solutions to Medical Problems, Strives to Do the Same for Hurricanes [Xconomy]

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Does anyone else think that changing the environment is NOT the answer? If he were truly a genius, wouldn't he be beyond reactionary thinking, and instead focusing his mental abilities on developing ways to live/build around the problem of severe weather? Why is it that Americans (even the smart ones) have militant responses to nature? You can't win, you can't beat nature. You can try. And for a time it may seem to work, but there will be some unforeseen consequences. I'm sure it's possible to chemically alter the properties of the air in these regions, and I'm sure you could measurably diminish the strength of hurricanes; but it will just create new problems.

You can't violate the laws of physics out side of our beloved science fiction. And those laws say that energy has to go somewhere. You can change its form, but it'll come back to bite you even worse someplace you might not expect.

He might be right, but should you do it?