EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Tag Archives: energy
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Two common complaints dog the sustainable energy movement: first, energy generated from the sun and wind is not always present; second, renewable energy is too costly. A new study debunks these notions, and shows that cost effective renewable energy could power our needs 99 percent of the time by 2030.
From ars technica:
You’ve probably heard the argument: wind and solar power are well and good, but what about when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine? But it’s always windy and sunny somewhere. Given a sufficient distribution of energy resources and a large enough network of electrically conducting tubes, plus a bit of storage, these problems can be overcome—technologically, at least....read more
Monday, December 3, 2012
Despite what seems to be an overwhelmingly digital shift in our lives, we still live in a world of steam. Steam plays a vital role in generating most of the world’s electricity, steam heats our buildings (especially if you live in New York City), steam sterilizes our medical supplies.
So, in a research discovery with far-reaching implication, scientists have succeeded in making steam at room temperature without actually boiling water. All courtesy of some ingenious nanoparticles.
From Technology Review:
Steam is a key ingredient in a wide range of industrial and commercial processes—including electricity generation, water purification, alcohol distillation, and medical equipment sterilization....read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Two recent studies report that the world (i.e., humans) could meet its entire electrical energy needs from several million wind turbines.
From Ars Technica:
Is there not enough wind blowing across the planet to satiate our demands for electricity? If there is, would harnessing that much of it begin to actually affect the climate?
Two studies published this week tried to answer these questions. Long story short: we could supply all our power needs for the foreseeable future from wind, all without affecting the climate in a significant way.
The first study, published in this week’s Nature Climate Change, was performed by Kate Marvel of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with Ben Kravitz and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Their goal was to determine a maximum geophysical limit to wind power—in other words, if we extracted all the kinetic energy from wind all over the world, how much power could we generate?...read more
Monday, July 2, 2012
A fascinating article by Nick Lane a leading researcher into the origins of life. Lane is a Research Fellow at University College London.
He suggests that it would be surprising if simple, bacterial-like, life were not common throughout the universe. However, the acquisition of one cell by another — an event that led to all higher organisms on planet Earth, is an altogether much rarer occurrence. So are we alone in the universe?
From the New Scientist:
UNDER the intense stare of the Kepler space telescope, more and more planets similar to our own are revealing themselves to us. We haven’t found one exactly like Earth yet, but so many are being discovered that it appears the galaxy must be teeming with habitable planets....read more
Sunday, October 16, 2011
A simplistic but nonetheless useful infographic below highlights the comparative energy footprints of our most common means of transportation. Can’t beat that bicycle.
From One Block of the Grid:
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Saturday, August 13, 2011
In 2007 UPS made the headlines by declaring left-hand turns for its army of delivery truck drivers undesirable. Of course, we left-handers have always known that our left or “sinister” side is fatefully less attractive and still branded as unlucky or evil. Chinese culture brands left-handedness as improper as well.
UPS had other motives for poo-pooing left-hand turns. For a company which runs over 95,000 big brown delivery trucks optimizing delivery routes could result in tremendous savings. In fact, careful research showed that the company could reduce its annual delivery routes by 28.5 million miles, save around 3 million gallons of fuel and reduce CO2 emissions by over 30,000 metric tons. And, eliminating or reducing left-hand turns would be safer as well. Of the 2.4 million crashes at intersections in the United States in 2007, most involved left-hand turns, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration....read more
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Energy efficiency sounds simple, but it’s rather difficult to measure. Sure when you purchase a shiny, new more energy efficient washing machine compared with your previous model you’re making a personal dent in energy consumption. But, what if in aggregate overall consumption increases because more people want that energy efficient model? In a nutshell, that’s Jevons Paradox, named after a 19th-century British economist, William Jevons. He observed that while the steam engine consumed energy more efficiently from coal, it also stimulated so much economic growth that coal consumption actually increased. Thus, Jevons argued that improvements in fuel efficiency tend to increase, rather than decrease, fuel use.
John Tierney over at the New York Times brings Jevons into the 21st century and discovers that the issues remain the same.
From the New York Times:
For the sake of a cleaner planet, should Americans wear dirtier clothes?...read more
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
By Robert H. Socolow and Stephen W. Pacala, From Scientific American:
Getting a grip on greenhouse gases is daunting but doable. The technologies already exist. But there is no time to lose.
Retreating glaciers, stronger hurricanes, hotter summers, thinner polar bears: the ominous harbingers of global warming are driving companies and governments to work toward an unprecedented change in the historical pattern of fossil-fuel use. Faster and faster, year after year for two centuries, human beings have been transferring carbon to the atmosphere from below the surface of the earth. Today the world’s coal, oil and natural gas industries dig up and pump out about seven billion tons of carbon a year, and society burns nearly all of it, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). Ever more people are convinced that prudence dictates a reversal of the present course of rising CO2 emissions....read more
From Scientific American:
If efficiency improvements and incremental advances in today’s technologies fail to halt global warming, could revolutionary new carbon-free energy sources save the day? Don’t count on it–but don’t count it out, either.
To keep this world tolerable for life as we like it, humanity must complete a marathon of technological change whose finish line lies far over the horizon. Robert H. Socolow and Stephen W. Pacala of Princeton University have compared the feat to a multigenerational relay race [see their article "A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check"]. They outline a strategy to win the first 50-year leg by reining back carbon dioxide emissions from a century of unbridled acceleration. Existing technologies, applied both wisely and promptly, should carry us to this first milestone without trampling the global economy. That is a sound plan A....read more