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Posts Tagged "electricity"

Anthropology in Practice

Let There Be (Living) Light: Bioluminescence in Nature

Photographer Tsuneaki Hiramatsu combined slow–shutter speed photos to produce stunning images of firefly signals. This image was photographed in Okayama prefecture, Japan. © Tsuneaki Hiramatsu, digitalphoto.cocolog-nifty.com

In the 17th-century, although the English had the opportunity, they chose not to make land on Cuba. They bypassed the island because they saw flickering lights that they believed were the campfires of the Spanish. Those lights were actually fireflies. The humble, yet brilliant firefly probably changed the course of history, which isn’t surprising since [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

When the Lights Go Down in the City

Ed note: This post originally appeared on the original home of Anthropology in Practice. It seemed appropriate to share in light of the SciAm cities feature – particularly as I’m traveling. See you Friday! As the sun sinks over the Hudson River, New York City doesn’t power down. Lights flicker on and soon the famous [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Beyond the Light Switch Wins 2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award

Beyond the Light Switch, a Detroit Public Television two-part documentary hosted by Scientific American Associate Editor David Biello, has been awarded a Silver Baton 2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, it was announced today. Biello and the production team of Ed Moore, Bill Kubota, Paul Dzendzel, Genevieve Savage and Jordan Wingrove spent more than a year [...]

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Observations

How Many More Coal Ash Spills?

dan-river-coal-ash-ponds

What is the largest type of trash produced in the U.S.? It’s not whatever you’re thinking, most likely. It’s coal ash. Burning coal produces more than 100 million metric tons of coal ash per year—the gray or black sooty aftermath of our fossil fuel habit. Even though a good chunk of it is turned into [...]

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Observations

What Questions Do You Have about Energy Efficiency?

On Tuesday, September 20, I’m set to moderate a panel on energy efficiency, specifically as it applies in New York City. As part of Climate Week NYC, the panelists will explore what the local utility Consolidated Edison—and some of its partners—are doing to manage electricity use in the city that never sleeps (which means we [...]

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Observations

Stop Mining for Oil (and Coal), Start Drilling for Heat

The center of the Earth is a roiling ball of heat, roughly 6,000 degrees Celsius as near as we can tell without a sci-fi tunneling effort. The closest humanity has come to that molten core is some 12 kilometers beneath the continental crust in Russia, which isn’t even halfway through said crust and akin to [...]

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Observations

What is the smart grid anyway? [Video]

The smart grid. Sounds good, right? But what exactly is it? And does that mean we have a dumb grid now? "The grid, it is smart today," Laura Ipsen, a senior vice president at Cisco, told the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-e) conference on March 2. "The weaving of IT [information technology] and [...]

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Observations

The future of electricity: Going beyond the light switch

For the past year or so, I’ve been working on a documentary project with Detroit Public Television called "Beyond the Light Switch." It’s taken me from the ARPA-e conference in Washington, D.C., to the frack fields of North Texas. I’ve interviewed folks ranging from the McCulloughs, a wheat and wind farming family, to U.S. Secretary [...]

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Observations

Massive offshore wind-power backbone inspired by marine scientist’s model

offshore wind turbines

Renewable energy made big national headlines October 12 as a group of investors, including search engine giant Google, announced plans to build a 560-kilometer offshore wind power transmission "backbone" off the U.S. eastern seaboard. The developers of the plan say it will make wind power more economical and enhance the reliability of the existing grid. [...]

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Observations

Harness lightning for energy, thanks to high humidity?

Eyjafjallajökull-eruption-lightning

Why do the roiling, black clouds of a thunderstorm produce lightning? Ben Franklin and others helped prove that such lightning was discharged electricity, but what generates that electricity in such prodigious quantities? After all, storms generate millions of lightning bolts around the globe every year—even volcanoes can get in on the act as the recent [...]

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Observations

String of offshore turbines along East Coast could provide steady supply of wind power

offshore-wind-turbines

The problem with generating electricity by harnessing the wind is that it doesn’t always blow (though it may seem that way at times). And, typically, consumers remain intolerant of power interruptions. But there may be a way to ensure a steady supply of wind, according to a new study in the April 5 Proceedings of [...]

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Observations

Sunshine is free, so can photovoltaics be cheap?

Here’s how to make a solar cell from silicon: take one solid block of doped silicon, saw it into thin wafers, layer said semiconductors beneath a panel of transparent glass, connect them to a metal electrode that can channel away the electrons knocked loose by incoming photons and turn it into a photovoltaic device. That [...]

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Observations

Storing megawatts: Liquid-metal batteries and electricity

Making aluminum requires a lot of electricity. That’s because the metal bonds tightly to oxygen and it takes a lot of energy to break that bond. In essence, the process of making aluminum is a giant battery with the silvery metal being reduced to purity at the cathode while oxygen bonds with the carbon anode [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

New Octopus Disguise Material for the Human World [Video]

It’s no doubt that, with a repertoire of everything from colorful coral to a poisonous sea snake, the octopus could win any costume contest handily. But while most of us are picking our way through fake fangs and unnecessarily revealing outfits, one team of researchers is working to bring the octopus’s camouflaging skills to the [...]

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Plugged In

So What Direction Should Solar Panels Face?

SolarPanelSmall

The following is a guest post by Dr. Joshua Rhodes, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in The Webber Energy Group and the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. There has recently been a lot of buzz about which direction solar panels should face. It seems the initial conversation was prompted by a Pecan [...]

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Plugged In

How Does Oil and Gas Drilling Raise Electricity Prices in West Texas?

Often, oil and gas drilling occurs in rural areas without sufficient electricity infrastructure. (Photo by Richard Childress)

In July 2012, Frontier Texas, an Old West museum located in Abilene, received an electric bill nearly $4,000 higher than expected. Oddly enough, the museum hadn’t used an unusual amount of power that month. Rather, the cause of the high bill was the fact that Abilene lies in Texas’s western power trading zone, which happens [...]

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Plugged In

An Introduction to Electricity Markets

Each day, the grid operator collects information from electric generators, and then uses an optimization algorithm to decide which generators should be online to minimize overall electricity costs while maintaining electric reliability. (Source: ERCOT)

So many debates about our transforming electricity system surround the economics of electricity production. The solar advocates continually remind us that the price breakthrough for solar panels is just around the corner, while industry advocates insist the economy will suffer if we place any meaningful limits on carbon pollution. I find it’s often difficult to [...]

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Plugged In

Photo Friday: Electric Utilities for the Household

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This Westinghouse advertisement was published in The Literary Digest on November 30, 1918. The text reads as follows: Westinghouse ELECTRIC UTILITIES FOR THE HOUSEHOLD Fuel and Labor Many are the steps that electrical appliances save, and many the tasks they lighten. More important, however, under present day conditions are the saving of feel and the [...]

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Plugged In

Map Monday: 50+ Shades of Air Pollution

One-fourth of the world is breathing unsafe air. Courtesy of Hsu et al/The Atlantic

In today’s installment of Map Monday, I wanted to focus on air pollution as mapped by Hsu et al and The Atlantic. Go to this link to see the full interactive map, which details air pollution by country and city. Below, I have copied in a global snapshot with some perhaps unsurprising shades of pollution [...]

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Plugged In

New 2012 data show that 3 states used 23% of U.S. electricity

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 10.00.45 PM

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its latest Electric Power Annual report, with data through the end of 2012. According to this organization, Texas, California, and Florida topped the nation in total electricity sales. Of the almost 3.7 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in retail states throughout the United States in [...]

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Plugged In

Vanadium Flow Batteries Could Become a Cost Effective Solution for Balancing Texas’ Power Grid

FR_transmission_385

An emerging technology called a vanadium redox flow battery could become a cost-effective solution for balancing electric grids.

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Plugged In

Imagine There’s No Garbage. I Wonder If I Can.

In the U.S. we throw away about 70% more garbage per person than in Sweden.

In John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine,” he paints a world without war, greed or hunger. I’d like to add garbage to his list. Yup, plain ol’ trash. It’s everywhere. It’s persistent, and as the name implies, it’s dirty. When scanning the globe to check out ways different countries address this problem, I pause at Sweden. [...]

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Plugged In

Summertime and the Dams Come Down

Dam removal in Brownsville, Oregon.

Summer is called dam removal season by those who cherish the notion of dams being demolished. The hotter, dryer weather limits a river’s flow and seasonal fish migrations  pause, providing the necessary conditions for demolishing the commonly aging infrastructure once erected to provide irrigation, water storage, hydropower and/or flood control. The summer of 2013 is [...]

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Plugged In

Obama Looks to the Clean Air Act as Inspiration for Tackling Climate

480px-The_Blue_Marble

A little while ago, President Obama revealed the details of his Climate Action Plan, which describes the first-ever federal regulations on restricting carbon dioxide (CO2). The plan has three main prongs, and many minor ones. The first is to cut CO2 emissions stateside. The second is to “prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate [...]

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Symbiartic

Wait, Electricity Isn’t Harmful To Health?

13-017FEATURE

Sometimes, the list of things to be paranoid about feels endless: BPA in your water bottles, pesticides on your food, prescription drugs in your drinking water, and nanotechnology in your donuts. Luckily, most of these things will not statistically be responsible for your ultimate demise (you can likely credit heart disease and cancer for that). [...]

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