Category Archives: Sustainable Energy

Atmospheric Electricity

“To give a further example of the magnitude of the problem, the fair weather current density is stated from several sources to be approximately 3E-12 amps / meter2. This means that if a square meter of conducting material was placed horizontally in the air, approximately .000000000003 amps would flow through that surface. To illustrate the problem further, if a wire (1/32inch diam., for example) was used instead of a square meter of material, the current flow would be approximately (4.95E-7meters2) *( 3E-12amps / meter2 ) = 1.5E-18 amps, or .0000000000000000015 amps.” — Clifford E Carnicom, Measuring Atmospheric electricity

So much for charging a phone with energy from the ambient air.

Faraday’s spiral

Earlier this semester I presented a model based on an Alexander Calder mobile.  It was fun to build and, oddly, I learned a lot.   During presentation Artist-Professor Eric Hagan made a remark which resonated to what another professor said to me during my first semester at ITP.   While I forget exactly what he said, both comments expressed the same thought:  “OK that’s great.  But I’d like to see you go further.”   My immediate reaction was, “further than Calder?  Not possible.”  But it was still a challenge that preoccupied my semester.

Time in graduate school has given me the space to examine much of what has been an endless source of fascination for me since I was six years old, which is pretty much everything!

Specifically though, just now, the preoccupation is with nuclear forces; the movement of sub-atomic parts/units/fields/packets/waves/quanta of energy (electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.) which I am trying to wrap my consciousness into.  This is a world whose architecture would seem to be modeled after a celestial map of creation.  Every detail seen, appreciated, and missed,  possesses significance.  I cannot begin to imagine a world as complex as human society on an atomic, cosmic, human-sized scale: that’s more than my pea brain can comprehend.  For now I am trying to understand one tiny phenomenon at a time.

This past year I have been thinking more about magnetic fields and how it is that non-magnetic objects are physically moved through space using otherwise invisible energetic agents.

Wandering the streets of London about ten years ago, I discovered a museum which featured Michael Faraday’s laboratory in the basement of a London townhouse.   Seeing his old wooden work bench, the tools which he used, a letter to him from Galvani, and a model of the first toroidal transformer, was an extra-ordinary experience.  I couldn’t help but think that his work area looked a lot like mine, except that he had more things made with wood, brass, and style.

Faraday discovered a lot things.  Electrolysis and electroplating for one (two?).  Another find (besides the dynamo generator) was the movement of electrons through copper wire.

That’s the background, how I arrived at creating sculptural objects from something simple while learning and discovering so much in the process: thank you  Erics Rosenthal and Hagan for leading this horse to water.

…. the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible ….” – Albert Einstein

Watching the wire repeat an eccentric orbit without gears, flywheels, pulleys, or sails is fascinating.  Magnet + Electrochemical Cell (source of electrons) + Conductive metal (non-magnetic wire) + correct arrangement = Motion.

When I worked on repeating Faraday’s experiment, I learned more than I ever did through reading about him and his work.  Experimenting with varying strengths of magnets and cells as well as the diameter of the wire, and how these variables  with affect the speed and strength of movement is very interesting.

The demonstration on this page would have been cause for burning at the stake in 1693
The demonstrations on this page would have been cause to be burned at the stake in 1693

Putting these experiments in an historical context is interesting for other reasons.

The Wonders of the Invisible World:
The misguided at Salem’s Witch Trials missed the mark.  Real magic occurs at the subatomic level.   It is a realm where forces which would otherwise remain invisible are made manifest through intensive research, theory, and experimentation.

Every technology which we interact with has beginnings which are no less inspiring now than when they were first discovered.

Without these discoveries, Duracell batteries (cells), copper wire, and magnets would not be the common objects which they are today, as well as the foundations of still developing machines which are fundamental to the world which we inhabit.


Arithmetic, Population, and Energy

Economic success is traditionally measured by positive increases in growth.  The  United States economy isn’t any different.   Economists report on the numbers of new jobs, sales of durable goods, auto sales, houses built and sold, and more.  All of these economic signifiers are reported in percentages.   The higher the value of these positive percentages, the better things look.

U.S. economic growth sustainable, rates to rise in third quarter 2015

The Washington-based forecast for 2015 is a “sustainable” economic growth rate of the United States economy between 2.4% and 3% per cent per year.  A rate of 3% means that our economy will double in twenty-four years.   This certainly sounds good, but as Faust would have you know, there is a price tag for everything.

If the phrase “sustainable growth” has always sounded like slick, political double-speak, Physics Professor Albert Bartlett’s lecture will confirm that your reptile brain’s survival response continues to work correctly.

Albert A. Bartlett Los Alamos wartime security badge (c. 1944)
Albert A. Bartlett Los Alamos wartime security badge (c. 1944)

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”Prof. Albert Bartlett, 1923 – 2013

According to a Wikipedia entry, Professor Albert Allen Bartlett gave the lecture “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy” 1,742 times.

In this lecture Professor Bartlett examines the simple arithmetic of steady growth, continued over modest periods of time, within a finite environment.  The concept is applied to populations as well as to fossil fuel.

World human population (est.) 10,000 BC–2000 AD.
World human population (est.) 10,000 BC–2000 AD.

“Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global,
whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?”

Prof. Albert Bartlett

Oil prices adjusted for inflation 1861 - 2006
Oil prices adjusted for inflation 1861 – 2006

Populations effect an impact on environments and resources.   Unchecked population growth amplifies these effects.    On a cellular level, unchecked continuous growth(cancer) will destroy the host organism.   The corollary here is that unrestricted influxes of people into any location will effect change upon the environment and resources.

Gaylord Nelson, originator of Earth Day, had this to say about human populations and the environment:

“The link between population growth and environmental degradation is made often in retrospective studies, which is why they aren’t really considered valid, but clearly more people living better lives is the hallmark of progress.  Activists worried about the environment don’t want better lives unless it means fewer lives too.  More people means more cars, trucks and buses, more air pollution, more parking lots and less green spaces.  In their progressive dystopian future, there are more chemicals, more trash and more runoff cascading down super sewers into our streams, lakes and oceans means more damage to California’s biodiversity hot spots.  Plus, more people means more pressure on declining water supplies.3

Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth DayIssues regarding energy aside, unchecked growth of any population will degrade the environment and its resources until the colony fails.   One way to understand the impact of population on the environment is through an equation which was developed by ecologists in the 1970s.

“The IPAT equation, though phrased mathematically, is a simple conceptual expression of the factors that create environmental impact. IPAT is an accounting identity stating that environmental impact (I) is the product of three terms: 1) population (P); 2) affluence (A); and 3) technology (T). It is stated I = P x A x T or I=PAT.”2




Now Disputed Model of Easter Island Collapse May Yet Contain Messages for Today
Fifty lane traffic jam
Fifty lane traffic jam

Resource wars are beginning to flare up:

April  7, 2016Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti led the blowing up on Tuesday of 23 foreign fishing boats caught poaching in Indonesian waters. Susi, as commander of the 115 Task Force, led the destruction of the boats from her office through live streaming. The force consists of officers from the ministry, the Navy and the National Police. “The sinking of the boats is to enforce the law and to protect the sovereignty of our territory to ensure that the sea is the future of our nation,” said Susi as reported by The 13 boats were registered in Vietnam and 10 in Malaysia. The sinking began simultaneously at 11 a.m. in seven location across the country and is legal under Law No. 31/2014 on the fisheries industry, she added. In West Kalimantan, two boats were sunk in waters around Datok Island, Mempawah regency. “The fishing boats were seized in late February,” said West Kalimantan Police chief Brig. Gen. Arief Sulistyanto on Tuesday. The two boats were among dozens of fishing boats caught fishing illegally by the water police, said Arief, adding that he appreciated local people’s efforts to inform the police about the foreign boats’ illegal activities.

San Onofre to close, no thanks to KPBS

“Sempra Energy (SRE), which had a 20 percent stake in San Onofre, expects California regulators to allow it to recover its $519 million investment from ratepayers, the San Diego-based company said in a filing today. The company’s San Diego Gas & Electric Company utility will likely record an after-tax charge of $30 million to $110 million in the second quarter of 2013 related to the plant.”Bloomberg

As someone who has been involved in the effort to shut San Onofre down for years, this news is good news.  Constructed on top of a geological fault line, a couple of hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean and from Route 5, ground-breaking for the nuclear plant began in 1964.

San Onofre construction LA Times

By 1966 the beach had been excavated and concrete poured for the signature “beach ball” containment vessels.  The top pop song for 1966 was the Ballad of the Green Berets, cigarette advertising looked like this, and Star Trek debuted on television (the original one, that is).

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 9.27.05 AM





What isn’t good news is the way that public radio has acted to support the financial interests of a public utility over the safety over a captive population.

Alison St. John, a reporter from KPBS San Diego has been covering this story for several years. Never an advocate for anyone but industry, a recent article of hers refers to, “howls of protest from people.”

“San Onofre: How did it come to this?” – Alison St. John

Between the article title and closing statement it is clear that Alison St. John has little regard for issues of health, safety, or quality of life for the families and our environment which would be affected by a nuclear event from San Onofre:

“The public and political wrangling going on now is likely part of an elaborate chess game, adding leverage to the real negotiations going on behind the scenes.”

Given Ms. St. John’s track record of advocacy for other SDGE/Sempra projects, I am surprised that she didn’t use industry terminology when referencing the public and call us “ratepayers.”

Public radio has become the PR machine for Sempra Energy, SDGE, Sunrise Powerlink, and Granite Construction Company.    Alison St. John is one their spokespeople, proving once again that advertising is the second oldest profession.

MIT 2013 Cold Fusion Lectures +

I came across the video and reports appearing later in this post which are interest not only because of the subject matter, but that they originate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  It was MIT which issued the report which irrevocably damaged the reputation and claims of discovery by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons within the United States and the greater community of scientists and general public.

Literature surrounding table-top nuclear pheomenae fusion suggests that investigation into the phenomenon first began with Dr. Tandberg (Sweden, 1927) whose electrochemical cell construction was (unknowingly) used by Fleischmann and Pons sixty-two years later.

In 1887 Heinrich Hertz observed that sparks were emitted from a piece of metal struck by ultraviolet light. In 1927 Albert Einstein came up with an explanation of what became known as the photoelectric effect. A hundred and twenty-seven years after Hertz’s discovery, Bell Laboratories built  the direct ancestors of today’s solar cells to power spacecraft.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
— Arthur Schopenhauer

The more that I read the more it is revealed that the laws of physics, reason, and common sense can be altered when money enters the picture (not unlike how money can cause water to run uphill in the American west).  The financial assault on reason is  especially penurious as we are living within the unfolding of history.  People living during the years between discovery of the acceptance of research by Galileo, Leeuwenhoek, or the Wright Brothers, may have felt the same way.

Billions spent on Big Science fusion research a relative pittance spent on examining something which may possibly be on a par with the Peltier-Seebeck, Photoelectric, or other now better understood nuclear-level effects.

Separating the wheat from the chaff on-line isn’t easy.  I have found myself looking at posts referencing UFOs, the fourth Reich (don’t ask), Yeti vs. Bear videos, and more.   I believe that this will change with time.  The petroleum industry is the largest and wealthiest industry in the history of mankind.  It is unlikely that they will allow their hegemony over the world’s energy economy to be eroded by any technology that they do not control.

The videos on this page are interesting and worth watching.

Peter Terezakis
ITP • Tisch School of the Arts



MIT Cold Fusion 101 Introduction to Excess Power in Fleischmann-Pons Experiments

Hagelstein demonstration

MIT Cold Fusion report Eugene Mallove 2003

LENR Condensed Matter Nuclear Science

Timeline for photovoltaic technology

1839 – Nineteen-year-old Edmund Becquerel, a French experimental physicist, discovered the photovoltaic effect with two electrodes in an electrochemical cell.

Becquerel’s 1839 PV cell

1887 The photoelectric effect was first observed by Heinrich Hertz.

In 1905 Einstein created the mathematical and theoretical framework to explain the photoelectric effect.

1915, after ten years of experimentation, Millikan proved Einstein’s photoelectric theory correct.

In 1921 Einstein received a Nobel Prize, “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.

1954 Bell Labs (New Jersey) developed the direct ancestor the silicon solar cell.
Solar Cell Patent from 1957

1955 – Western Electric licensed commercial solar cell technologies.  Hoffman Electronics-Semiconductor Division created a 2% efficient commercial solar cell for $25/cell or $1,785/Watt.

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“12 Volts from one reflector? Do you know what this could mean?”

“It means that if we knew enough about that electrical field, we could operate every appliance in Oak Ridge by sunlight.”

“[Do] you mean it converts light into electric current just like that?”

“Just like that.” – Cosmic Man, 1959

2013 – Fossil fuel businesses introduce legislation in nineteen states to curb the use of photovoltaic/renewable technology.

It has taken over one hundred and seventy-five years for the observations of a nineteen year-old electrochemical experimenter-scientist-tinkerer to develop into a technology which has begun to threaten the hegemony of petroleum-based public utilities.

We can only wonder about other discoveries which languish at the periphery of physics waiting to be developed for the betterment of humankind.   I’m not quite certain why the discussion of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) causes a problem in so many areas: many common day events of our physical world exist due to sub-atomic actions occurring at room temperatures.

Since the photoelectric effect took nearly 200 years to become a useful technology, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that something positive will come from the observed, poorly understood phenomena  known as Cold Fusion.  If the investor in the Fortune article below is correct, we may see something truly marvelous in a very near future:

They missed that heat was the main by-product. In addition, I learned that there have been nearly 50 reported positive test results, including experiments at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, EPRI, and SRI. Q: The conventional wisdom is that LENR violates the laws of physics. A: That’s right. To create fusion energy you have to break the bonds in atoms and that takes a tremendous amount of force. That’s why the big government fusion projects have to use massive lasers or extreme heat—millions degrees centigrade—to break the bonds. Breaking those bonds at much lower temperatures is inconsistent with the laws of physics, as they’re now known. Q: What changed your mind? A: Scientists get locked into paradigms until the paradigm shifts. Then everyone happily shifts to the new truth and no one apologizes for being so stupid before. Low temperature fusion could be consistent with existing theories, we just don’t know how. It’s like when physicists say that according to the laws of aerodynamics bumblebees can’t fly but they do.

Energy Poverty

Even though worldwide wind power has grown at an average rate of 25 percent and solar energy at a rate of 11.4 percent since 1990, those two forms of renewable energy—along with geothermal, waste, and marine energy—contribute barely 1 percent of global energy consumption.   Instead, 80 percent of all renewable energy generated comes from hydropower. – World Bank
 Five Surprising Facts About Energy Poverty Business as usual "will not remotely suffice" to meet goals of clean and universal energy, says a World Bank-led report.

Solar power outpacing conventional nuclear?

“Last year, U.S. utilities interconnected nearly 90,000 net-metered solar projects totaling almost 1.2 GW-ac, a 46-percent increase over 2011. In total, there are currently 3.5 GW of net-metered projects in the country, the capacity equivalent of 3.5 nuclear plants.” – Calm Before the Solar Storm

Given that the half-life of nuclear waste is longer than the history of humanity by many orders of magnitude, solar is a much better way to go.  If Germany can see the end of their nuclear program why can’t the United States?

After the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, Germany embarked on an ambitious "energy revolution", deciding to phase out its nuclear power plants by the end of 2022 and bolster renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power.  Read more at:

(Reuters) – Germany exported more electricity last year than it imported, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed on Tuesday, dispelling fears about possible power shortages due to its transition from nuclear to renewable energy.

Europe’s biggest power market imported some 43.8 terrawatt hours (TWh) of electricity and exported 66.6 TWh, resulting in a surplus of 22.8 TWh, figures based on information from the four biggest grid operators showed.

“The year 2012 saw the biggest surplus in the last four years,” said the Statistics Office, adding it was nearly four times the 2011 surplus.