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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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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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Plugged In

California’s Second Carbon Auction Today: An Explainer on Cap-and-Trade

Photo courtesy of California Air Resources Board

At the beginning of this year, the Golden State officially launched its long-discussed market-based system to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. California’s GHG cap-and-trade program is not the first of its type. Carbon trading schemes are popping up around the world. But, it’s only the second program to takeoff in the U.S. The first, the [...]

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Plugged In

The Quest for Vertical Axis Wind Turbines Despite Failures

Wing Power Energy's small-scale vertical axis wind turbine. Image courtesy: Wing Power Energy

The vision is beautiful, if not somewhat tried: a large cluster of 360 foot tall towers encircled with long, slightly cupped blades, similar to airplane wings, spinning in the wind like a wind vane. The result? An outpouring of clean electricity at the Megawatt (MW) scale. That’s what Harry Ruda, CEO of Wing Power Energy, [...]

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Plugged In

Beating Traffic with Trained Mammals

My favorite element of the electric grid is the method by which it gathers information about power outages. It seems the electric utilities have legions of trained mammals, and when power goes out, mammals in different areas press buttons, and the buttons make a bell ring at the utilities. For pressing the right button the [...]

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Plugged In

Tax credits – the wind in wind energy

For wind power, 2011 was a great year. California added more new wind energy to the grid than any other state, according to a report published Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy. A number of other states received high honors as well. These include Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Colorado, which churned out at [...]

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Plugged In

Get Used to It

Today’s suggestion? Get used to it. Days of unspeakable heat? The heat taking the usual storm systems and turning them excessively violent? Lack of investment in infrastructure making recovery from those storms lengthy and piecemeal? Check, check, and check. Remember the “Snowstorm of 88” narratives we all grew up listening to? The next generation of [...]

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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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