“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.
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.
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.
Three simple items and you can repeat one of Michael Faraday’s discoveries!
Bend a point into the wire. This is where the wire will sit.
Power source. I whacked the top with a blunt nail. Your experience may vary…
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.
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.
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.
“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
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
Issues 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
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
ITP • Tisch School of the Arts
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:
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
“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?
(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.