Everything is energy, including Earth and everything in and on it. Awesome look at the interwoven energetic systems of our planet from TED-Ed.
I see miles and miles of Texas …
Hey! That’s where I’m from!
ISS astronauts recently captured this night-time view of Texas’ largest cities from orbit. A cloud-covered Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is near the top, ever-expanding Houston to the lower right, San Antonio to the far left, and just to the northeast of that? The greatest city on Earth: Austin, TX!
Something else caught my eye in this photo. See that cluster of lights below San Antonio and Austin on the left side of the image? Those are natural gas wells, as part of the expanding Eagle Ford Shale project. You can almost overlay them on this map of approved wells. It’s like a metroplex of its own, only full of gas instead of people. Fracking remarkable.
The energies flowing through these things are, interestingly, becoming more and more dense. If you take the amount of energy that flows through one gram per second in a galaxy, it is increased when it goes through a star, and it is actually increased in life…We don’t realize this. We think of the sun as being a hugely immense amount of energy. Yet the amount of energy running through a sunflower per gram per second of the livelihood, is actually greater than in the sun… Animals have even higher energy usage than the plant, and a jet engine has even higher than an animal. The most energy-dense thing that we know about in the entire universe is the computer chip in your computer. It is sending more energy per gram per second through that than anything we know. In fact, if it was to send it through any faster, it would melt or explode. It is so energy-dense that it is actually at the edge of explosion.
I’m not usually taken in by futurist brain-dumps like this, but I did like the comments on how current technology is pushing the physical limits of energy density. I mean, wow … we are beyond suns! This excerpt is from a Jason Silva essay called “We Are Information Experiencing Information” that is typically Silva-esque in its breathlessness and excitement. A good read, though.
I’m not what you’d call a pure “singulatarian”, but I am fascinated by the coalescence of our minds and technology into these sort of super-organisms of connected thought and perception, at least as an idea if not in practice. I am not at all sure that we will one day exist completely beyond our meatspace as a result of that cooperative tech, but imagine what will be possible when our experience and the world which we can create is no longer limited to our solitary experience! When we become so self-aware that these technological mini-minds we all carry allow us to enrich our lives rather than merely distract ourselves from them.
“In 1960, mathematician, physicist, and all-around genius Freeman Dyson predicted that every civilization in the Universe eventually runs out of energy on its home planet, provided it survives long enough to do so. Dyson argued that this event constitutes a major hurdle in a civilization’s evolution, and that all those who leap over it do so in precisely the same way: they build a massive collector of starlight, a shell of solar panels to surround their home star. Astronomers have taken to calling these theoretical megastructures Dyson Spheres. Dyson’s insight may seem like nothing more than a thought experiment, but if his hypothesis is sound, it has a striking implication: if you want to find advanced alien civilizations, you should look for signs of Dyson Spheres.”
Meet Penn State’s Jason Wright, embarking on a two-year search for the solar energy plants of alien civilizations. Sci-fi meets sci.
Do you think alien civilizations have a special name for them too? Like, instead of “Dyson Sphere”, they call them “Blarglock Sphurgles”, named for famous alien storyteller Glibglack Blarglock?
Would Blarglock’s stories have predicted that there would be a planet somewhere without one, like us?
I’m taking this too far.
Don’t Worry, Drive On: Some Real Talk About “Peak Oil”
I’ve received a couple of questions from you fine folks about whether it’s true that new technologies have opened up access to untapped oil resources, and that “peak oil” is no longer something we need to worry about.
It’s wonderful news when innovative science and new technologies improve how we harness and use energy, but only when it’s based in reality. So yes, technology has provided new ways of accessing hard-to-reach oil and fossil fuels, and there’s a lot of oil left in the ground. That is true.
But when cost, environmental policies and climate change are added to the equation, just because we can get at it doesn’t make it good, or right, or worth it. We can’t afford it, financially or scientifically. Let’s keep moving forward and come up with a way to stop pumping the biomass of the Jurassic into our gas tanks and power plants.
This is what an innovative energy policy looks like. Wind energy was second only to natural gas in new energy projects in 2011. This is just fantastic news for green energy and shows real progress in moving toward clean electricity and trying to reduce our impact on the climate.
Be sure to check out the full report from the Department of Energy, with lots more infographic goodness.
Transparent Solar Cells: Clearly Amazing
Imagine a skyscraper, gleaming with polished glass, that was generating electricity with every square inch of window space. Thanks to these UCLA nanochemists, that is a pretty realistic image.
By impregnating plastic with silver nanowires (atomic-scale conductors) that are small enough to be invisible, and absorbing infrared light while allowing visible light to pass through, these solar cells (right, above) are 70% transparent.
They take a slight hit in efficiency compared to traditional solar, but can be deployed almost anywhere. Within a decade, we could have buildings supplying their own electricity via building materials!
Source: Los Angeles Times
Another great entry in XKCD’s “What If?" series, which you need to subscribe to now, or else I just don’t even know.
A walking human gets about 75 MPG (miles of travel per gallon of food energy). A biking human? Even better, at 290 MPG.
But when you factor in all the fossil fuels that go into making that food, we only get 18 MPG walking and 70 MPG on a bike. Check out the full rundown of the energetic calculations at Do The Math.