Sustainable Energy – without the hot air

I’m currently reading through Sustainable Energy – without the hot air by David J.C. MacKay, FRS, which I recommend to anyone interested in energy or energy policy. I’m particularly impressed by the graphs and diagrams in the book, both for the laboriously-collected data they represent and for their power to convey important points quickly and clearly. (Example).

The visual imagery evoked by the prose is powerful too: in a section discussing the merits (and lack thereof) of having a large number of people make a small saving each, here is what MacKay has to say:

The “if-everyone” multiplying machine is a bad thing because it deflects people‚Äôs attention towards 25 million minnows instead of 25 million sharks. The mantra “Little changes can make a big difference” is bunkum, when applied to climate change and power. [link]

Recommended.

Citation: David J.C. MacKay. Sustainable Energy – without the hot air. UIT Cambridge, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9544529-3-3. Available free online from www.withouthotair.com.

Wet Revolution

Over the past 18 months I have been reading up in my personal time on water, its availability, requirements, usage and distribution. I believe it to be a particularly important problem for systems engineers to examine, since it needs to combine aspects of purification technology with energy analysis, human practices, policy and politics, and one which I believe mainstream media does not report on as much as it perhaps should.

I was therefore happy to read a well-written BBC article by Richard Black that describes the problem and complexity of modeling water as a resource. If you’ve been trained in chemical engineering or systems engineering, the material is probably not new to you, but it’s presented very well.