Where did our electric grid come from? It's a complicated question to answer. That's because the grid we have today didn't come from any single place. Instead, its origins are scattered, distributed geographically, technologically, and philosophically.
Different people built different parts of the grid in different ways and for different reasons. For many years—up until the 1970s in some places—individual towns and cities were independent grids that weren't connected to anything else around them. They functioned as little islands, incapable of reaching out for help when things went wrong.
More importantly, the grid wasn't designed. It evolved. Nobody ever really sat down and thought about how to build the best grid possible. The grid as we know it was assembled from bits and pieces, from mini-grids that were often built to be cheap and to go up quickly. Quality wasn't always priority number one.
I think the story of the electric grid in Appleton, Wisconsin—the second centralized electric grid in the world and the first hydroelectric power plant in the world—is a great example of all of this history in action.
Last month, I got to talk about Appleton at a Barnes and Noble in the Bay Area. The video of that talk went up on CSPAN Book TV yesterday. It's not available for embedding, unfortunately, but I encourage you to give it a watch. The talk covers not only history, but also the importance of writing about science online, rather than in print. You guys, as commenters at BoingBoing, have made my writing better—and for that you get a shout-out. (Plus: At the 5 minute mark, you can see a little cameo of Dean and Pesco in the audience.)
Watch the video at Book TV
Learn more about the history of the electric grid, and how the grid works today, by reading my book, Before the Lights Go Out.
Image: The Electric Highway, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from tomsaint's photostream
The amazing suckers on octopus arms aren’t just for sucking. They also are used to smell and taste. To deal with all that sensory input, the vast majority of an octopus’s brain cells are in its eight arms! “It’s more efficient to put the nervous cells in the arm,” neurobiologist Binyamin Hochner, of the Hebrew […]
Cold welding is the phenomenon of two pieces of metal fusing on contact. It’s a big problem in space, but it can even happen on earth at room temperatures with the right metal, as Cody demonstrates.
Magdalena Cerdá and Garen Wintemute are epidemiological researchers with US Davis’s Violence Prevention Research Program; when they witnessed the Trump administration’s mass-deletion of publicly funded EPA research, they feared gun violence stats would be next.
Python is immensely popular in the data science world for the same reason it is in most other areas of computing—it has highly readable syntax and is suitable for anything from short scripts to massive web services. One of its most exciting, newest applications, however, is in machine learning. You can dive into this booming […]
Learning new skills is a great way to improve your resume and stand out from other candidates. Especially in a workforce in which many job-seekers have a wide variety of qualifications. With lifetime access to Virtual Training Company, you won’t have to choose a specific focus. You can pick up new expertise whenever you deem it […]
Instead of throwing out all the empties after your next party, why not transform them into some new DIY glassware? Cut back on waste and add some home ambiance with the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter and Candle Making Kit.The Kinkajou is designed as a clamp-on scoring blade to make precise cuts. Just slide a bottle in, tighten […]