The Watt?: Great Kickstarter project aims at helping people better understand energy

The Watt? is an interactive energy primer aimed at making the complicated and completely non-intuitive world of energy use a bit more understandable to laypeople.

I wholeheartedly support any effort to make this stuff make more sense. In the course of researching my book, Before the Lights Go Out, I stumbled across tons of extremely important information that was basic "duh" knowledge to energy experts—but not to you, me, and everybody actually doing the decision making on energy issues.

I ended up focusing on the story of the electric grid, how it works today, and where it might be headed in the future. But there's no way I could cover everything. The Watt? promises to fill in some of those gaps—fleshing out the details on everything from physics and terminology, to economics and technology. There will be some really lovely-looking charts and graphics, guest "speakers" embedded into the e-book, and lots of other cool surprises.

The team behind this is trying to raise funds now through Kickstarter. Their deadline is in 18 hours. If you want to better understand energy systems (or you want to help other Americans better understand them) I suggest making a donation.

The Watt? on Kickstarter


  1. In the 1950s electronics still ranked below electricity. Degrees were in electrical engineering with an electronics major. Now electronics is so complex that electrical theory, as it applies to transmission and motors etc. has been minimized. As an example, do you know about “power factor” , “split phase”, or the relationship between line and phase voltages in “delta” and “wye” systems? Today, not as many engineers specialize in purely electrical systems but those who do earn good money.

    1. Maybe electrical engineering has changed in the last decade, but those are all things that were covered when I received my bachelors in 2002.

      I will say that there is a difference between designing all digital circuits/chip layout than there is power systems or even the application of said circuits and control theory.  With an ever expanding selection of digital and analog pieces to work with, the level of specialization pretty much has to increase. 

      Same goes for computers.  It’s not like there aren’t a dozen or more programming languages actively being used today.  Plus on top of all the old semi-obsolete ones still being used and maintained.  It’d be very hard to be really good at everything from assembly and Cobol, to C# and Ruby.

      1. Computer science majors, however, are expected to pick up new computer languages on their own, as needed, from a book in a couple of weeks or so.

        The difference in knowledge between electronics and purely electrical engineers seems substantially larger. More like the difference between a mathematician and a statistician.

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