Lichtenberg Figures are branching electric discharges that sometimes appear on the surface or in the interior of insulating materials. Which is a fancy way of describing what is happening here. And you can do it too! (though please be extremely careful).
Slate discusses one of the most pernicious extant threats to our electrical grid, one that costs the US millions annually in power outages...Squirrels. (SLSlate)
The case for optimism on climate change - "I'll finish with this story. When I was 13 years old, I heard that proposal by President Kennedy to land a person on the Moon and bring him back safely in 10 years. And I heard adults of that day and time say, 'That's reckless, expensive, may well fail.' But eight years and two months later, in the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, there was great cheer that went up in NASA's mission control in Houston. Here's a little-known fact about that: the average age of the systems engineers, the controllers in the room that day, was 26, which means, among other things, their age, when they heard that challenge, was 18." (via; previously) [more inside]
Neodymium magnet falling through the interior of a copper pipe.
Explanation. [more inside]
Explanation. [more inside]
Tesla Powerwall Battery Economics: Almost There - "Elon Musk announced Tesla's home / business battery today. [video] tl;dr: It'll get enthusiastic early adopters to buy. The economics are almost there to make it cost effective for a wide market... That said, for large scale grid deployment (outside of the home), it still looks like flow batteries and advanced compressed air are likely to be far cheaper in the long run." [more inside]
What's It Like To Live Without Electricity? Ask An Indian Villager One study has found that India’s indoor pollution contributes to disabilities and early death to a greater degree than tobacco, high blood pressure and heart attacks. “It disproportionately impacts those who are indoors a lot, which is women and children” [more inside]
Inside the Strange New World of DIY Brain Stimulation. "Inspired by scientific studies, ordinary people are buying and building devices to send electrical current into their brains. Some say it has improved their memory and focus. Others have found relief from depression and chronic pain. But are they getting ahead of the science?" [Via]
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Alex Boese is interested in hoaxes, as you can tell from his Museum of Hoaxes website (lots previously), but he also enjoys tracking down weird science stories like Evan O'Neill Kane's self-appendectomy and Allan Walker Blair's black widow bite experiment on himself, as collected at the Mad Science Museum online.
Installed solar capacity is growing by leaps and bounds, led by Walmart and Apple, and helped by bonds backed by solar power payments,[*] which have sent industry stocks soaring, even as molten salt and new battery technologies come on line to generate storage for use when the sun doesn't shine. Of course we could always go to geostationary orbit -- or the moon -- as well we may (if politics allow it) as thirst from the developing world grows beyond the earth's carrying capacity. [more inside]
"While DC continues to race through San Francisco power lines at nearly the speed of light, it does so anonymously. You’ll find no reference to DC power distribution in PG&E’s annual reports or on its websites. Even some utility engineers are unaware of its existence, which raises a curious question: Why is the inheritor of this legacy, the mighty and sophisticated PG&E, still bothering with DC distribution 133 years later?" [more inside]
Cloud services that power email and other technologies we use each day are themselves massive energy consumers. Gigaom reporters have written a pair of in-depth articles about efforts by Amazon and Apple to build infrastructure and source their own energy.
Form and Landscape - Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Basin, 1940-1990 - is a series of themed exhibitions that tell the story of how Los Angeles 'became modern' by using photos from the comprehensive archives of Southern California Edison. The photos portray the many roles that electricity has played in the development and modernization of Californian life and culture (domestic life, signage, streetscapes, etc.). Part of the Getty's Pacific Standard Time Presents initiative.
Early in the 19th century, gas lamps first illuminated city streets, not long after the potential for gas lighting was publicly demonstrated. Less than a century later, electricity was seen as the future of lighting public spaces, thanks in part to technology that was demonstrated around the time of gas lighting. Arc lamps, the predecessor to filament bulbs, were much too bright for lighting homes and businesses, but a single arc lamp could light a whole town. [more inside]
How beautiful it is when you allow high voltage electricity to burn it's way through wood? Very beautiful.
Engineering question: say you only had one generator with multiple places that needed power in real time. How to get power to them? Caveat: do it mechanically with no electricity. Low Tech Magazine brings you the Jerker Line System and the Stangenkunst, for all your post-apocalyptic / steam punk power distribution needs. Some are still in operation: Jerkerline Field wheel near Oil Springs Ontario (video), and Oklahoma (video).
How We Happened to Sell Off Our Electricity is James Meek's dissection of the systematic re-privatisation of the UK power industry.
Are you an enemy of liberal principles if you question the fact that, when local electrical engineers dig up the roads in London, they’re working for East Asia’s richest man, the Hong Kong-based Li Ka-shing? In north-east England, they work for Warren Buffett; in Birmingham, Cardiff and Plymouth, the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company; in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool, Iberdrola; in Manchester, a consortium of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and a J.P. Morgan investment fund.
Audio recordings usually include a low-level background noise caused by electrical equipment. The hum contains small frequency fluctuations which are propagated consistently over entire power grids. By storing the pattern of grid-wide fluctuations in a database forensics experts are able to use the hum as a watermark. This can determine when the recording was made, where it was made and whether it was recorded in a single edit. [more inside]
ELECTRICITY FIGHT! (slyt- some audience responses NSFW)
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
Incandescent lightbulbs are now banned across the entire European Union as of September 1. "Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong." It is predicted to save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across the EU annually by 2020. "The phase-out has been very smooth." BanTheBulb said "..the vast majority of the public have adjusted to using the next generation of lighting technologies with the absolute minimum of fuss and drama." [more inside]
While you'd never know from the US media, the US wind energy industry has breezed past a 50GW milestone. That's enough to power 13 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association. [more inside]
A Post-Mortem on India's Blackout: IEEE Spectrum's energy, power, and green tech blog gives an excellent overview of what led to the devastating blackouts that occurred in India on July 30th and 31st leaving more than 600 million people (approx 10% of the world's population) without electricity. Bonus: BBC's Soutik Biswas gives us 10 interesting factoids on India's power situation to chew on.
These each take about 1/2 second but have been expanded to ~30 seconds. I read a book about Tesla awhile ago, and he seemed to view lighting almost like a fluid (and electricity in general). This is a really cool, really interesting way to view it, and the videos here are mesmerizing.
In the year and a half since the earthquake and tsunami caused an industry-wide Japanese nuclear shutdown , Japanese consumers and businesses have been urged to conserve energy whenever possible. Although a few reactors are being brought back online temporarily, the Japanese government has pledged to move away from nuclear power sources. Yesterday the Japanese government announced what may be the world's highest solar photovolatic feed-in tariff at 53 cents per kWh generated. [more inside]
Earth Faces 12% Chance of "Catastrophic Solar Megastorm" by 2020 The last gigantic solar storm, known as the Carrington Event, occurred more than 150 years ago and was the most powerful such event in recorded history. [more inside]
When New York State sentenced convicted murderer William Kemmler to death, he was slated to become the first man to be executed in an electric chair. Killing criminals with electricity “is a good idea,” Edison said at the time. “It will be so quick that the criminal can’t suffer much.” He even introduced a new word to the American public, which was becoming more and more concerned by the dangers of electricity. The convicted criminals would be “Westinghoused.”
The failure to fix electricity infrastructure in Afghanistan. IEEE Spectrum published a damning investigation into the ongoing incompetence, corruption, and waste of the USAID and its murky cost-plus contracts, some 'so vague that it did not require the contractor to provide "specific deliverables with concrete delivery dates."' [from here] Not surprisingly, they spend a lot of money. previously
The best wind in America is in Wyoming. It is a door-snapping, heart-pounding wind that barrels in from the west, chasing the truckers along Interstate 80 as they race to make Omaha by nightfall. It is sometimes described with words ordinarily associated with dark chocolate or exceptional pinot noir. It has been called dense, world-class, consistently extraordinary, special, and fabulous.. Advocates of wind power though are faced with a conundrum. [more inside]
Most of the talk about renewable energy is aimed at electricity production. However, most of the energy we need is heat, which solar panels and wind turbines cannot produce efficiently. To power industrial processes like the making of chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips, we need a renewable source of thermal energy. Direct use of solar energy can be the solution, and it creates the possibility to produce renewable energy plants using only renewable energy plants, paving the way for a truly sustainable industrial civilization. [more inside]
-Only an 'energy internet' can ward off disaster
-We must electrify the transport sector [more inside]
-We must electrify the transport sector [more inside]
As you may know, Japan's prime minister Naoto Kan announced two days ago that plans for new nuclear power plants in Japan are to be scrapped (NYT). Meanwhile, a landmark study from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says renewable energy can power the world (Guardian - article includes many related links). Here's a summary of the IPCC Special Report.
"A practical [inexpensive] artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades. We believe we [Sun Catalytix] have done it." Video: Professor Daniel Nocera at MIT
Andrew Crosse (June 17, 1784 – July 6, 1855) was a British poet, naturalist, local magistrate, and "gentleman scientist" who may or may not have created life in an electrocrystallization experiment. [Post inspired by TheophileEscargot on MetaChat] [more inside]
Around one year ago we saw some of the recent events in solar power. At that time solar panels topped out at a peak efficiency of around 290W for a 1.99 x 0.99 meter 72-cell module, with a lone rare and expensive 315W module that was used to build team Germany's solar decathlon winning house. Since then prices have dropped a lot, and China is advancing in commodity tech. [more inside]
Get the Energy Sector off the Dole - Why ending all government subsidies for fuel production will lead to a cleaner energy future—and why Obama has a rare chance to make it happen.
The History of Nikola Tesla - A Short Story. In celebration of the 154th anniversary of Nikola Tesla's birth. [Via]
Who knew that dams worsen global warming? Long ignored "run of river" or streaming hydro power now offers an alternative by avoiding a large reservoir. [more inside]
Shocking photos of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 and more volcano pictures from Marco Fulle taken on April 14th, 16th, and 17th.
A 1999 Texas electricity deregulation statute included, almost as an afterthought, a requirement that the state develop 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2009. This past February, wind generators delivered a record 6,242 megawatts of power to Texas population centers -- 22 percent of all the electricity consumed in the Texas grid. Could their model transform the nation's utility sector?, Or will it be derailed by special interests and politics? [more inside]
It feels best at 220 volts. But with the provided replacement plugs, the Vilcus can also be used at 110 volts. Makes a great gift for those special friends. (from the people who brought you the LCD keyboard)