The Fibonacci Spiral
Someone recently said the words “Fibonacci” and “solar panels” to me, and my ears immediately pricked up. I’ve always been intrigued by the Fibonacci sequence and my first thought was of the PBS show Square One and its segment, MathNet, where I first learned about it.
But this decade’s reference to Fibonacci isn’t fiction. A seventh grader from New York named Aidan recently won the 2011 Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History for his work identifying how the Fibonacci sequence can help increase electricity output of solar panels. continue
June 7, 2011 • Current Events, Electricity
by Hannah Miller
With election season nigh upon us, it’s pretty common to open up the news and see a handful of issues that only get pulled out a few times a year. Suddenly, they are dusted off and take center stage in the public debate. Financial concerns, moral and legal issues, and of course energy debates will be a part of this year’s election coverage – and it’s not hard to understand why. Small changes in any of these arenas can bring about big change in public life. continue
March 7, 2011 • Perspectives, Sustainability
by Hannah Miller
Every morning on my way to work, I pass a large shopping center with a Barnes and Noble store. This morning it got me thinking about how much the book business has changed in just the last few years. Back then, if you’d asked someone where they got their copy of Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand or the latest Stephen King novel, the answer would have undoubtedly been somewhere around town – a small, locally owned shop or one of the big players such as Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc.
A few weeks ago, a lot of people were surprised to hear that Borders had filed for bankruptcy and will be closing quite a few stores across the country. How could a company that used to hold such a market share be in trouble? Quite simply, it’s because the market changed and they didn’t change with it. continue
February 4, 2011 • Energy's Lighter Side, Perspectives
by Hannah Miller
I love a good puzzle. When I see something in pieces and I know it should fit together into a whole, I can’t resist picking it up, turning it around in my hands, fitting the pieces up against each other and figuring out how to make it all come together. This week I rediscovered a favorite game in smartphone form called WoodEnigma and have been captivated for days.
In this game, you’re given several small, oddly shaped pieces and a large shape outline, and you have to manipulate all the small pieces to fit exactly within the large one. For a few of the puzzles, I looked at the outline and the pieces and could immediately see how they fit together. Others took days of slowly working through all the options I could see, walking away, and coming back to try again before I finally figured it out and got the validation of seeing the word “Solved!” flash across the screen.
Although it doesn’t come with the same immediate gratification as a smartphone puzzle, energy management can pose the same kind of challenge. continue
January 6, 2011 • Perspectives
by Hannah Miller
Perhaps that sounds like a killjoy title, but you know what I’m going to say next: If you try sometimes, you just might find that you get what you need. [Thank you, Rolling Stones.]
Besides the catchy tune and the almost irresistible urge to play air guitar, I find this song wandering around in my head for another reason. I often feel caught between being an idealist and a pragmatist. I love to dream about what’s possible and figure out a plan to get there. I believe that, with a little determination and creativity, there’s almost always a way to get what you want. But then there’s the pragmatist in me. If the idea isn’t going to work in reality, then it’s time to move on and find something that will.
It’s pretty easy to be caught in this same tension when considering energy management. continue
A favorite show of mine years ago was “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” At the beginning of every show, an eccentric thief would steal a priceless treasure and go on the run. You never knew where in the world you’d find them at the end of the show – maybe France, maybe Argentina. Maybe Egypt, if you were lucky. These days, if you look for what’s going on in the world of renewable energy, you’ll find yourself in much the same situation: You never know where in the world you’ll end up.
You could, for example, end up in Philadelphia continue
Next time you visit the Windy City, you may walk into a building that not only knows to dim the lights when people aren’t around, but also knows when the city as a whole is using too much power and the AC should be turned down – and then gets paid for it.
It has become clear that companies large and small alike can’t afford not to know their energy consumption, spend or greenhouse gas emissions. And once they know it, they can’t afford to leave it unmanaged, following the whim of the weather or the market. Energy management is a fact not only of corporate life, but also of city life. Recently New York City installed real-time wireless water meters in 834,000 homes in the city to better know and track the water usage in the city. ComEd in Chicago hosted a competition for some of Chicago’s suburbs to see which neighborhood could reduce their power consumption by the greatest amount, with 34.9 million kilowatt hours saved throughout the yearlong competition across nine areas in the city. continue