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Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives
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Welcome to Plugged In!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Welcome to Plugged In, a new addition to the Scientific American blogging family! This blog brings together four authors – Robynne, Scott, Melissa, and David – who will explore the connections between energy, the environment, and our lives.

People are intrigued about the Smart Grid (whatever that turns out to be), complex new wireless applications (however they work), and new environmental crises or breakthroughs (whenever they occur). But we sometimes miss the minor events that collectively create changes of great significance – changes in how we’re connecting and sharing information, ways we access and use energy, and changes in our environment.

Through this blog, these four authors will use their experiences living with, researching, and writing about energy and the environment to examine the interconnections between these topics. Together, they will examine some of the developments that connect us to energy, our planet and each other.

Robynne Boyd

Robynne Boyd began writing about people and the planet when living barefoot and by campfire on the North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii. Over a decade later, now fully dependent on electricity, she continues this work as a writer and editor for IISD Reporting Services covering sustainable development. When not in search of misplaced commas and terser prose, she writes about environment and energy. Her writing has been published for such websites as Scientific American, Mother Nature Network and HowStuffWorks. Her writing has also appeared in a number of magazines, including Atlanta Magazine, Earth Island Journal, and O: The Oprah Magazine. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and can be found at

Scott Huler

Scott Huler is a writer of nonfiction books and journalism who has addressed everything from the stealth bomber to bikini waxing for such newspapers as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times and such magazines as ESPN, Backpacker, and Fortune. His award-winning radio work has been heard on “All Things Considered” and “Day to Day” on National Public Radio and on “Marketplace” and “Splendid Table” on American Public Media. His most recent book, On the Grid, traced the many infrastructure systems that support an average house to their sources or outlets. He lives in Raleigh, NC, with his wife and two boys. He can be found at and tweets @huler.

Melissa C. Lott

Melissa C. Lott is an engineer who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. As a researcher in the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin, Melissa studies the economic and environmental tradeoffs of energy systems. She also works as an energy systems engineer and consultant for YarCom, Inc. Her work has appeared at technical conferences, in blogs at Scientific American and Discover, and in publications including the Austin-American Statesman, Construction News, The Austin Post, and The Baines Report. Melissa has interned at the Department of Energy and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She holds a B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering from UC Davis and two masters degrees – in mechanical engineering and public affairs – from UT Austin. Melissa can be found on twitter (@mclott) or at

David Wogan

David began writing at an early age in Austin, TX, amid piles of Legos and reams of masking tape, about nearly anything and everything he could think of. Over the years, David took interest in how people use energy and interact with the environment, and realized that there were stories and ideas to share with everyone – not just technical people. His writing has been published in scientific journals and on web sites such as Scientific American, The Austin Post, and The Baines Report. David holds masters degrees in mechanical engineering and public affairs from The University of Texas at Austin, and was a member of the Energy & Climate Change Team at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. You can follow David on twitter (@davidwogan) or at

Melissa, David, Scott, and Robynne would like to thank Matt Mangum for designing Plugged In’s banner art.

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Rs4austin 11:52 pm 07/11/2011

    I look forward to your blog. Great start. A couple of points: 1. Cooling is used to condense the spent ( low pressure) steam to water for creating more high pressure steam in the boiler or reactor to drive the turbine generator. This is cost saving to conserve the very expensive water used in high pressure boilers and reactors. 2. Shale gas requires fracturing ( cracking) to dissolve salts and fracturing the shale formation with sand/gel mix. The thick gel turns to water viscosity in a day and the water flows back and leaves the sand in the fractures to provide a path for the gas and or oil to flow to the well production tubing. Un fortunately some wells can require up to 13 million gallons of fresh water for the fracking

    Link to this
  2. 2. Rs4austin 12:01 am 07/12/2011

    This site Inadvertently sent my comment before I could correct ( cracking) to fracking. Sorry.

    The numbers on wind were most interesting. ~15% is awesome. As the smart grid evolves we will also generate solar from our roof and yard. To conserve water a solar panel spaced for 85% shade will provide for garden growth with less water. No one talks about the benefit of reflecting a significant portion of the solar radian from the roof giving a lower cooling load.

    Link to this

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