Stories tagged Energy Transformations


Why, it's Lil' Scotchie!: His original motto was "Don't use me in a vacuum, or I'll give you cancer!" I never understood it until now.
Why, it's Lil' Scotchie!: His original motto was "Don't use me in a vacuum, or I'll give you cancer!" I never understood it until now.Courtesy Roadsidepictures
It’s a monumental day, Buzzketeers, a monumental day. Not only will y’all shortly have your cerebral cortexes blown like Kleenex, but I will also soon have the great honor of presenting the “Hey, Scientist, That’s Funny!” Award.

Physics, it seems, is everywhere. It’s like glitter, really—you use it once, for a craft project, or something, and then it’s in your clothes and on your skin for the rest of your life. And, as with glitter, sometimes I think I could really do without physics.

How did physics corner the market on awe? Seriously, what can physics do that I can’t? Light up a room? Please—I’ve got that. You practically have to scrub the charm out of the carpet after I smile. What else you got, physics? Gravity? Um, I can pop, lock, and drop, so it’s going to take more than a falling apple to impress me.

So I say to physics, “Physics, give me something good! Give me something I can bring to show and tell!”

And physics does. Physics delivers, and I remember how it got to be the top dog.

Scotch tape emits x-rays when it’s unrolled. When you grab a little piece of tape to stick your Ben Affleck magazine clippings back next to your J-Lo clippings (where they belong), you are toying with the same radioactive energy that can see through your clothes and give you cancer of the everything.

But you don’t have to worry about that, because unrolling Scotch tape only produces x-rays when it’s done in a vacuum chamber.

Scientists found that tape, as it’s being unspooled, actually releases kind of a lot of x-rays, enough that one of the researchers was able to create an x-ray image of one of his fingers.

When tape is coming unstuck from thee spool, electrons jumped about two thousandths of an inch from the non-sticky outside of the spool to the sticky underside of the tape. When the electrons hit the tape, they are forced to slow down very quickly, and they release energy in the form of x-rays. But, again, it only works in an airless chamber.

Juan Escobar, a graduate student who worked on the research, believes that the process could be refined to create cheap x-ray machines for use in areas where electricity is expensive or hard to get.

When asked whether or not x-rays from everyday tape peeling posed any sort of hazard he said, “If you're going to peel tape in a vacuum, you should be extra careful. I will continue to use Scotch tape during my daily life, and I think it's safe to do it in your office. No guarantees.”

And for that Juan Escobar has earned the Hey, Scientist, That’s Funny! Award. Because, hey, scientist, that’s funny. And you’ve got this bizarre discovery about Scotch tape emitting X-rays! What a day!


Music for the heart
Music for the heartCourtesy Public domain
That's right - the Bee Gees, the Brothers Gibb, those high-pitched Kings of the Disco Era! Well, to tell the truth it's not really the Bee Gees, per se, but rather one of their songs - the classic (and in this case appropriate) "Stayin' Alive". Researchers at Illinois College of Medicine have determined that the number of beats in that particular song (103 per minute) is almost exactly the number you want to count out while performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on someone. Bottom line: if you have that song looping through your head while you're doing heart compressions on a heart attack sufferer, you'll keep the recommended per minute rhythm and triple the victim's chances of survival. Read more here.


A long shot: This goose hunter had plenty of success using the Quiet Gun on a hunt. The extended shaft of the shotgun includes vents that slowly release gases that cause loud sounds of typical shotguns.
A long shot: This goose hunter had plenty of success using the Quiet Gun on a hunt. The extended shaft of the shotgun includes vents that slowly release gases that cause loud sounds of typical shotguns.Courtesy The Quiet Shotgun
I used to live in a small town along the Mississippi River. Each fall, on the opening day of every waterfowl-hunting season, I’d be rattled awake at sunrise with the booming of shotguns of hunters getting in their first shots of the season. To put in mildly, I was never enthused to hear the start of another hunting season.

With increased housing development of rural areas, the noise of hunting is encroaching on the quiet and relaxation of people wanting to live in the country. But Wendell Diller, a Twin Cities area hunter and inventor, has come up with a device to reduce those conflicts. Here's a link to his website about his latest invention: the Quiet Shotgun.

I saw a report on his quiet gun on a recent episode of Minnesota Bound. While the main focus of the report was on hunting mentorships for urban kids, the guns they were using in the goose hunt were Diller’s Quiet Gun shotgun. Click here to see the guns in action in the video report.

Here’s how the shotgun works.

The Quiet Gun reworks gun technology to reduce a shot gun’s usual boom to the “whoof” similar to an air-rifle. Diller likes to describe the sound as “an air-rifle on steroids.”

To do this, a barrel extension is put on to the shotgun. Along the extension are port holes that allow the high-pressure gases of the shooting action explosion to leak out along the chamber rather than erupting out in one loud belch at the end of the gun.

Buck luck: This hunter used the Quiet Gun to bag a deer.
Buck luck: This hunter used the Quiet Gun to bag a deer.Courtesy The Quiet Shotgun
The extension also greatly reduce the amount of kick a shotgun fires back into the shoulder of a hunter. How effective are these guns? Quiet Guns are being used with the group Capable Partners – a group for disabled hunters who’ve been proficient in both hunting trips and trap shooting events.

So far, the Quiet Gun is not commercially available yet. And for safety concerns, Diller strongly discourages anyone from experimenting with this new shotgun technology on their own.

So what do you think? Is this a good application of science for easing a growing problem with the outdoors sports? Will the Quiet Gun be featured in a upcoming Coen Brothers’ film? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.


Jobs in the wind
Jobs in the windCourtesy BIGRED_50

Local economies benefit from global crisis

Buying locally not only saves transportation costs, but also puts money into local economies. Wind turbine gearbox manufacturer, Moventas, based in Finland, is going to build components locally. In addition to about 90 jobs and an initial annual payroll of roughly $4 million, the construction of the $9 million dollar facility will mean more employment for Faribault area workers. Faribault Daily News

Iowa benefits, too

In Newton, Iowa, TPI Composites opened a wind turbine blade manufacturing facility that hopes to provide 500 jobs. The Faribault factory hopes to add 30 jobs per year to total 200. Click here to read about more wind energy jobs created.

Bailout package includes renewable energy incentives

The American Wind Energy Association was relieved by the passage of the Economic Stabilization Act.

These tax credits are essential to the continued growth of wind energy, to the economic and energy security of the United States, and to a successful beginning in the fight against global warming.

Solar gains longer term benefits

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) also was happy to see the legislation extend the 30-percent federal investment tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installations for 8 years.

“This long-term extension of the solar tax credits will create a domestic solar industry with hundreds of thousands of jobs while providing clean, affordable, carbon-free energy to millions of American families, businesses, and communities.” SEIA press release


i would count this video as a video that contains "current science". It's all in methods and g-force. If ya wanna see MORE videos like this, again, c ya all!


A mighty duke: and very powerful, although not a favorite at parties.
A mighty duke: and very powerful, although not a favorite at parties.Courtesy Albedo-ukr
San Antonio has made a deal with the duke. A particularly mighty duke, too, and one that has often been overlooked, despite this duke’s ability to deliver great power.


Rock-Tenn paper recycling plant loses steam

Neighbors against the burner: Rock-Tenn neighbors organize to promote better choices.
Neighbors against the burner: Rock-Tenn neighbors organize to promote better choices.Courtesy Art Oglesby
The Rock-Tenn Company paper recycling plant (at Hwy. 94 and Cretin Ave. in St. Paul) lost their cheap source of steam energy when the High Bridge coal plant was closed. My Buzz post from May 3, 2007 explained how the Saint Paul Port Authority proposed building an incinerator at the Rock-Tenn plant to burn RDF (refuse derived fuel - garbage) for fuel.

Neighbors Against the Burner

A group called "Neighbors Against the Burner" explain why incineration is not the best solution for Rock-Tenn. This page on their website has lots of links to local media coverage about the Rock-Tenn burner controversy. I also recommend looking at their "freqently asked question" page for more information on refuse derived fuels (RDF).

After a year of study and 24 meetings with citizen volunteers participating as members of the Rock-Tenn Community Advisory Panel (RCAP), as well as input from other interested citizens and the City of Saint Paul, the Saint Paul Port Authority is recommending re-powering Rock-Tenn with discount-priced natural gas, utilizing carbon offsets from renewable biogas. The biogas would be produced at an anaerobic digestion facility to be built in out state Minnesota. The anaerobic digestion facility required would be the largest of its kind in the US.
Rock-Tenn Renewable Energy Report (81 pg pdf)

Learn more, ask questions, give advice

Community members are invited to attend a brief presentation and share their comments and questions on the Rock-Tenn Renewable Energy Report and recommendations. Click here for more information

Public Meeting
Monday, September 15th beginning at 6:30 PM
Wilder Center, 451 Lexington Pkwy N

Want to know more?


Solar cells that work at night

Solar cells become ineffective when the sun goes down. At night, the earth radiates heat back toward the sky. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory are working on a device to turn infrared radiation into electricity.

Nanoantennas convert infrared rays into electricity

Billions of nanoantennas printed onto thin, inexpensive sheets will transform heat energy into electricity. The physics behind this conversion is the same as that of a radio antenna. The only difference between radiowaves and infrared light is wavelength. Antennas 1/25 the size of a human hair resonate when bombarded with heat radiation. If the resulting alternating current can be passed through a rectifier (one way valve) the current can charge up batteries. The infrared rays create alternating currents in the nanoantennas that oscillate trillions of times per second.

"Today's rectifiers can't handle such high frequencies. "We need to design nanorectifiers that go with our nanoantennas," says Kotter, noting that a nanoscale rectifier would need to be about 1,000 times smaller than current commercial devices and will require new manufacturing methods. Another possibility is to develop electrical circuitry that might slow down the current to usable frequencies." Eureka Alert

If these technical hurdles can be overcome, nanoantennas have the potential to be a cheaper, more efficient alternative to solar cells. Computer models of nanoantennas predict up to 92% efficiency (compared to solar cells around 20%).

Learn more in this video, "Harvesting the sun's energy with antennas"


Proposed power grid for wind and solar: clipped from American Electric Power document
Proposed power grid for wind and solar: clipped from American Electric Power documentCourtesy U. S. Dept. of Energy

Is our power grid ready for wind and solar?

Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal show promise for breaking our addiction to oil. One big problem, though, is moving this new energy to energy users. According to a recent New York Times article,

many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them.

The grid today is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Upgrading our power grid faces multiple obstacles

Our power grid, with about 200,000 miles of power lines, is divided among about 500 owners. Upgrading transmission lines often involves multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Property owners often fight new power lines saying "not in my back yard".

"Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,” said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, in a speech last year.

Dept. of Energy recommendation

I recommend reading the Department of Energy report titled, "20% wind energy by 2030" (30 pg pdf). The United Sates plans to add 300 GW of wind power by 2030 (I figure that equals about 200,000 1.5 MW wind generators). They recommend an interstate power grid to carry electricity similar to how our interstate highway system carries cars and trucks.

American Electric Power also has recommendations

In an 8 page pdf document titled, "Interstate Transmission Vision for Wind Integration" American Electric Power, working at the request of, and in partnership with, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), presents a "high-level, conceptual interstate transmission plan that could provide a basis for discussion to expand industry infrastructure needs in the future".


Electricity from wind was cheaper: I saved 44 cents on my July electric bill because 100 per cent of my electricity is from wind power.
Electricity from wind was cheaper: I saved 44 cents on my July electric bill because 100 per cent of my electricity is from wind power.Courtesy ARTiFactor

I saved money because my electricity comes from wind

About two years ago I signed up for Windsource (click to see my Buzz writeup). Windsource is an Xcel Energy program that allows customers to have all or part of their electricity come from wind (click here for details about windsource charges).

Benefits of wind energy

I did not sign up for Windsource to save money. I was willing to pay extra for wind generated electricity because wind energy has multiple benefits.

  • No carbon dioxide emissions
  • No sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, or mercury emissions
  • No water consumption requirement
  • Creates jobs
  • Creates income for farmers
  • Wind is forever (renewable)
  • Wind energy reduces need for importing energy and exporting dollars

Want to help promote wind energy?

Renewable energy credits have provided incentives for investments in wind energy. A federal production tax credit (PTC) has an expiration date less than five months from now. If you agree that continuing incentives for renewable energy is wise,

Urge your Members of Congress to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC)

Click the link above for help on how to take action.