The US electrical system is not 120V
> It’s more than 120V. It’s even more than the other 120V! It is the sum of the two (and sometimes a different two!) that makes us who we are. Learn about the US electrical system in this not-at-all snarky video!
Wanted: Somewhere, Anywhere, to Store Lots of Cheap Oil
> Storage schemes get creative, with would-be investors looking to sock it away in giant pools, caves or anywhere else
Tiny transformer inside: Decapping an isolated power transfer chip
> I saw an ad for a tiny chip that provides 5 volts of isolated power: You feed 5 volts in one side, and get 5 volts out the other side. What makes this remarkable is that the two sides can have up to 5000 volts between them. This chip contains a DC-DC converter and a tiny isolation transformer so there’s no direct electrical connection from one side to the other. I was amazed that they could fit all this into a package smaller than your fingernail, so I decided to take a look inside.
> “Japanese researchers are closing in on understanding why electrical storms have a positive influence on the growth of some fungi,” Physics World reported last month, with some interesting implications for agriculture.
Some cool pictures.
Dramatically reduced power usage in Firefox 70 on macOS with Core Animation
> In Firefox 70 we changed how pixels get to the screen on macOS. This allows us to do less work per frame when only small parts of the screen change. As a result, Firefox 70 drastically reduces the power usage during browsing.
> Every Firefox window contains one OpenGL context, which covers the entire window. Firefox 69 was using the API described above. So we were always redrawing the whole window on every change, and the window manager was always copying our entire window to the screen on every change. This turned out to be a problem despite the fact that these draws were fully hardware accelerated.
> Core Animation is the name of an Apple framework which lets you create a tree of layers (CALayer). These layers usually contain textures with some pixel content. The layer tree defines the positions, sizes, and order of the layers within the window. Starting with macOS 10.14, all windows use Core Animation by default, as a way to share their rendering with the window manager.
Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout
> We are pleased to submit the Final Report of the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force. As directed by you, the Task Force has completed a thorough investigation of the causes of the August 14, 2003 blackout and has recommended actions to minimize the likelihood and scope of similar events in the future.
> The report makes clear that this blackout could have been prevented and that immediate actions must be taken in both the United States and Canada to ensure that our electric system is more reliable. First and foremost, compliance with reliability rules must be made mandatory with substantial penalties for non-compliance.
Where oil rigs go to die
> When a drilling platform is scheduled for destruction, it must go on a thousand-mile final journey to the breaker’s yard. As one rig proved when it crashed on to the rocks of a remote Scottish island, this is always a risky business
Planned Obsolescence: Innovation Versus Preservation
> We keep making old stuff significantly less useful in the modern day, sometimes by force. We cite problems things such as security, maintenance, and a devotion to constant evolution as reasons for allowing this to happen. But the net effect is that we are making it impossible to continue using otherwise useful things after even a medium amount of time. I’m not even exclusively talking about things that are decades old. Sometimes, just a few years does the trick. Today’s Tedium ponders planned obsolescence and how it theatens preservation.
How to wring power from the night air
> Solar power is all very well, but it is available only during daylight hours. If something similarly environmentally friendly could be drawn on during the hours of darkness, that would be a great convenience. Colin Price, an atmospheric scientist at Tel Aviv University, in Israel, wonders if he might have stumbled across such a thing. As he told a meeting of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, held in Montreal in July, it may be possible to extract electricity directly from damp air—specifically, from air of the sort of dampness (above 60% relative humidity) found after sundown, as the atmosphere cools and its ability to hold water vapour diminishes.
Visit a Crumbling, Soviet-Era Floating 'Oil City'
> Sail out into the western Caspian Sea and you’ll soon encounter an incredible sight: spires of steel rising from the waves, connected with miles of decrepit pipes and wooden bridges. This is Neft Dashlari, an inhabited, Soviet-era structure that’s said to be the “largest and oldest offshore oil city in the world.” It remains a productive source of petroleum to this day, as well as a token of interest to esoteric-architecture fans or parents wanting to punish bad children with the worst theme-park vacation ever.
Building the Wind Turbines Was Easy. The Hard Part Was Plugging Them In
> There was a snag and it was a big one. We have 21st-century technology to produce the power, but we still have a 20th-century power grid that can’t move it from the windy and sunny parts of the country to the urban markets. The American power grid isn’t set up for it. It’s old-fashioned and parochial when it needs to be continental and forward-looking. It’s like the nation’s roads before President Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the construction of the Interstate Highway System seven decades ago.
> Skelly was regularly visiting TVA’s headquarters and received a warm reception from the TVA head. Negotiations seemed to be going well. But the TVA was getting a decidedly different message from Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican who had a longstanding dislike for wind turbines. He had bought a vacation property on Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts coast, in 2001. The week he closed on the property, news broke about Cape Wind, a plan to build 170 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound. A year later, after being elected to the U.S. Senate, he introduced a bill that would make life difficult for offshore wind developers. Over the next few years, he kept up his campaign against them.
Advanced Nuclear Power
> The basic idea of a nuclear reactor is really simple. In fact, you could make a toy to explain it to kids.
Which Programming Languages Use the Least Electricity?
> Last year a team of six researchers in Portugal from three different universities decided to investigate this question, ultimately releasing a paper titled “Energy Efficiency Across Programming Languages.” They ran the solutions to 10 programming problems written in 27 different languages, while carefully monitoring how much electricity each one used — as well as its speed and memory usage.
Methodology may have flaws, but interesting topic.
The 26,000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight
> On the western flank of the Hoover Dam stands a little-understood monument, commissioned by the US Bureau of Reclamation when construction of the dam began in 01931. The most noticeable parts of this corner of the dam, now known as Monument Plaza, are the massive winged bronze sculptures and central flagpole which are often photographed by visitors. The most amazing feature of this plaza, however, is under their feet as they take those pictures.
> The plaza’s terrazzo floor is actually a celestial map that marks the time of the dam’s creation based on the 25,772-year axial precession of the earth.
Fixing photosynthesis by engineering it to recycle a toxic mistake
> And photosynthesis depends on an enzyme called RuBisCO, which uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to build sugars. So, by extension, RuBisCO may be the most important catalyst on the planet.
> Unfortunately, RuBisCO is, well, terrible at its job. It might not be obvious based on the plant growth around us, but the enzyme is not especially efficient at catalyzing the carbon dioxide reaction. And, worse still, it often uses oxygen instead. This produces a useless byproduct that, if allowed to build up, will eventually shut down photosynthesis entirely.
How an Explosion (Not Aliens) Turned New York’s Night Sky an Electric Blue
> The bizarre illumination was sparked by an “electric arc flash” tied to faulty equipment at a Con Edison substation, a spokesman for the utility, Bob McGee, said early Friday. The equipment, located about 20 feet above the ground, contained cables that transmit 138,000 volts of electricity — a staggering amount compared with the 120 volts supplied to American households.
Using molten salt to store electricity isn’t just for solar thermal plants
> Malta’s business pitch is that its thermal pumped storage system can be located anywhere (unlike hydroelectric pumped storage, which requires elevation changes, or compressed air energy storage, which has been primarily deployed near natural underground caverns). It can be expanded easily, and unlike chemical batteries, such a system is made of common and cheap industrial materials that have 20-year lifespans.
Here Comes ‘Smart Dust,’ the Tiny Computers That Pull Power from the Air
> The idea of a perpetual machine—one that, once set in motion, never stops—is preposterous. The energy it needs must come from somewhere. But a twist on the idea, where energy is sponged from the environment to power ultra-efficient devices, isn’t a fantasy. Some people even call it perpetual computing.
The Deepness in the Sky is nigh.
What's a CPU to do when it has nothing to do?
> Idle states are not free to enter or exit. Entry and exit both require some time, and moreover power consumption briefly rises slightly above normal for the current state on entry to idle and above normal for the destination state on exit from idle. Although increasingly deep idle states consume decreasing amounts of power, they have increasingly large costs to enter and exit. This implies that for short idle periods, a fairly shallow idle state is the best use of system resources; for longer idle periods, the costs of a deeper idle state will be justified by the increased power savings while idle. It is therefore in the kernel’s best interests to predict how long a CPU will be idle before deciding how deeply to idle it. This is the job of the idle loop.
1968 Jaguar E-Type Zero: Revamping the Vintage Roadster as an Electric Car
> This, Mr. Hannig engaged politely, is a Jaguar E-Type Zero: a 1968 E-Type Series 1.5 roadster sympathetically converted by the factory to an electric car. Under that famous louvered hood is a 40-kWh battery pack sized to fit the space vacated by the 4.2-liter inline six. In the space where the four-speed Moss gearbox used to live is a compact 295-hp, 332-lb-ft AC electric motor (the voltage inverter is in the back, in the previous spare-tire well). A single reduction gear drives a prop shaft to the E-Type’s original differential.