Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Ace of Spades Part II, Electricity


Some people claim that an image is worth a thousands words. Indeed. At first, I thought what a beautiful photo! Until, upon further inspection, I saw it captured the transmission lines..However, the more I looked at it, it too spoke a thousand words, like what a beautiful blue sky near the lines and how gloomier the sky was going away from them. Surely a sunset, marking the end of the day. Also the very dark forest beneath them.......

I'll never forget one day back at the old school house, the instructor had the classmates hold hands around a circle, as he cranked up an old WWII radio. Well, when the business ends were held at each end of the circle, we were all in for a shocking experience! The instructor was just grinning from ear to ear, as he delighted in continuing to crank! None of us could let go and the hair was starting to raise on our heads! Such began our study of electricity, and this particular instructor would not let go of this topic for the better part of two years. It wasn't so much about electricity itself but just how dependent our society was to it. When he did stop cranking and we were finally able to let go, he screamed, "This is how you will feel when the power goes down for good and before then you will not be able to let go!" This happened over 35 years ago and he was right about us not being able to let go of this kind of power, yet.

Actually, electricity is a vehicle that delivers the power that electrical generators convert from the real energy the powers them. That energy can be from coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, etc., that drives the generating plant. In other words, it takes power to make power. Electricity is then a byproduct of real energy that conveniently transforms that energy into a more usable form that products can use such as, PCs, TVs, and other appliances. You cannot run your TV on gasoline for example. Electricity powers a lot more than just appliances, it powers your vehicle also, by detonating the compressed gas in the cylinder by a electronic spark. It also delivers your water, power to pump your gas, produce and deliver the food you eat, and on and on. It's not only the power of fossil fuel that keeps you alive but the power through electricity that is derived from it. Furthermore, you cannot have one without the other....
The instructors thought, (and apparently almost everyone else), that if our modern society should collapse, that it would be the lack of electrical power that would characterize it. In fact, our human population didn't explode until fossil fuel was coupled with electrical generation, as discussed earlier. This is what actually defines our modern society or modern environment. Nothing has changed our world like this, not even the splitting of the atom. To put this into prospective, the gasoline combustible engine, the way your water and gasoline is pumped, the way your food is produced and delivered, the way your appliances and lights work are virtually the same as it was fifty years ago. That is, how many home and cars are nuclear powered?
Most people alive today can't remember a time without electrical power, in fact, most of us just take it for granted. Most people have no idea what life without power would be like. I like to play a little game with people, illustrating this fact. This is how the game is played, describe to me what you think you and you're family's life might be like during the first day without power. Be complete as you can by starting with waking up and end by going to bed. Almost like a diary of you're what doing, all day long. Include, what you think your neighbors are doing, if you want to. Make it as complete as you can and about the length of this article. Send it to me and I'll comment. The next step, the same thing but describe a diary like day of events on day two of a power outage, again I'll comment. Then describe the events of day three without power, I'll comment and so-on....I have done this many times and it usually does'nt last past day three. I will not make a fool of you! There where two people that were brave enough to do this on BNB, including the good doctor from Oxford. That was in front of hundreds of daily readers! Of course, this was a real eye opener not only for those involved but the entire crowd that was watching on! This event alone, perhaps indicated a level of play that my fellow players around the table could not match. This is when Kentar, almost stopped communicating with me entirely, at that point he left the conversation altogether. Sharon was just astonished, and our good doctor turned into Lord Rothschild.
This is one of my best ways to lift the veil, so to speak. Does anyone want to play?


FARfetched said...

I don't have to imagine a multi-day power outage. I've dealt with a couple of them: one 9-1/2 days, one 5-1/2 days. :-)

The dorm cafeteria at MTU was well-prepared for power outages. I was standing in line for supper one evening when the power went THUD — they pulled lanterns out from under and kept serving.

A more permanent outage would be not so good. I'd have to learn how to play solitaire with real cards again, for example. But I think things would be more like the scenario I lay out in FAR Future: increasingly long outages, seasonally based (at first, anyway).

Oh… your instructor had a rather wicked sense of humor.

yooper said...

Hey Far! When and where did those multi-day power outages occur? Interesting, I can only remember a three dayer here in the U.P.and that during the summer in the mid-1960's.

Yes, I think the scenario as in FAR Future's increasingly long and more frquent outages will occur at first. At some point the whole system might go down.

Hang in there with me Far!This will be an exciting series with some twists. Yes, this instructor had a wicked sense of humor, and one of the darkest people I've ever met. He was also the one who thought if we could harness "green" gas, that might become useful in the future.

There is not a doubt in my mind, that it will be people like yourself who has been educated and trained that will ease us into this transition. My wife's grandson is dating the daughter of two MTU grads, right around the time you were there. Another, a brother of this couple, has a business in thermodynamics in New England. Btw, I tried to answer your question about why some populations are declining, back in "Demography". Thanks.

FARfetched said...

Both of the long outages were here on Planet Georgia. The first was after we had a blizzard(!) in March 1993 — 18 inches of snow, 40mph winds — it was like being at MTU again, except that trees don't fall down and take out power lines so much up that way. I refused to believe the forecasters saying "computer models predict blizzard conditions" until it actually happened. We greeted the spring equinox in the dark.

The second was after an ice storm in January 2000 (more trees down). That one we were better prepared for, with a generator and plenty of firewood.

I'll go down & check out the Demography comments. Thanks for the heads-up.

Nicholas said...

I am fortunate (?) enough to have lived in a country where power out(r)ages were normal either for several hours at a time, or (further away from the capital) weeks at a time. The latter is like being without power, you have kerosene and / or gas lamps, torches, pehaps a solar powered lamp, candles. You get used to not being able to do certain things, perhaps have a kerosene or dual power fridge, forget TV coz the signal didn't reach that far; go to bed earlier, cook with bottled gas, cook enough food, not too much and give the leftovers to the dog (or eat it for breakfast) if the kerosene runs out as well; buy fresh stuff at the market every day (if the lorries got thru). Of course many of those things require oil for transport, or are oil themselves. But I guess I am fortunate in being a step ahead of those who have never lived in such conditions.
Sorry this is months behind you, I just started reading yr blogs. FYI I'm almost 54, male, living in Wales UK, previously in Uganda for 20 years.

yooper said...

Hello Nicholas! Thanks for stopping by. Yup, you're a stap ahead after living under those conditions. Most people alive today here in the U.S. and I suspect in the U.K., have never known what a life without power might be like.

Ha! ha! I suppose I'd rather be in Uganda without power than say New York City with 8 million people! ha!

Thanks, yooper