Tag Archives: electricity

Deaths That Don’t Have to Happen: The Relationship Between Knowledge and Health

Editor’s note: As part of  a writing class I took this summer, I had to do a group project addressing a social issue within our society.

Part of that assignment was writing an essay that promotes activism to address the issue.The research inspired me, so I decided to share that essay with you. Hope you enjoy! 

Knowledge, and the desire to use it to better our own lives, as well as the lives of everyone else. This is what has made our species so great.

Fire, the wheel, internal plumbing, electricity, refrigeration. All of these creations were the result of intelligent people with an insatiable drive to solve major problems that affected everyone within their communities.

As the world progressed into the modern era, more and more of these advancements came from the realm of medicine. For thousands of years, smallpox was a scourge that regularly plagued populations all over the world.

A close-up of the smallpox virus. Click to enlarge. Magnification: x28,500

In the 19th century, the disease was killing 400,000 Europeans every year. In the 20th century, it accounted for an estimated 300 million deaths worldwide.

Now, consider this: the vaccine for smallpox was discovered, by a man named William Jenner, in 1796. However, it took more than 160 years for the World Health Assembly to pass a worldwide resolution to eradicate the disease in 1959, and another 20 years for the disease to be completely eradicated.

There hasn’t been a single documented death from smallpox since 1980, but it took nearly 200 years to make that happen.

Click to enlarge

Our modern world is no different. Every year, 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases, half of that being children 5 years old or younger.

Other preventable diseases, like diarrhea and pneumonia, claim the lives of another 2 million children who are simply too poor to afford things like clean water and basic treatment.

If you’re keeping track, that’s 3.5 million children dying every year from basic problems that we solved ages ago. Another way to think of it: imagine every kid enrolled in public school in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston dying this year. Imagine, just for a second, all the human potential that we are losing along with these children.

I know you may be thinking that it’s somewhat inevitable that developing countries lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to new vaccines, treatments or procedures, so chew on this for a second: out of a list of 18 developed countries, the United States was at the very bottom when it came to deaths from preventable causes.

For people under the age of 75, these preventable causes account for 23% of total deaths for men and 32% of total deaths for women.

Preventable disease per 100,000 citizens. Click to enlarge

How many more people are we going to let die simply because they lack access to resources that are so plentiful that they are taken for granted by the rest of us?

We have to always remember that the position of privilege we find ourselves in only exists because someone at some point in history fought for our right to good healthcare.

So now, it is our responsibility, our duty, to use this position of privilege to extend this same basic human right to health to the countless people still living without it, not only in our country but across the globe.

India Continues to Lead the Solar Industry By Building A Huge Floating Solar Power Plant

India has been at the forefront of the solar industry for the past few years now. They are currently in the process of building by far the world’s largest solar power plant, and newly elected Prime Minister Norendra Modi has announced a plan to bring electricity to every home by 2017, using solar power.

Now, India is taking another huge step in the development of their solar infrastructure.

The idea of floating solar panels is not a new one. India already has a number of solar installations floating on canals across the country. And just last year, Japan opened up its new Kagoshima Nanatsujima plant, a floating solar plant consisting of 290,000 solar panels floating off the coast of Kagoshima, a city at the southernmost point of Japan.

Japan’s Kagoshima solar installation. Click to enlarge

India’s new plant will be similar to the Japanese one, though slightly smaller. It will cover an area of  1.27 million square meters (about 0.5 square miles), and generate 50 MegaWatts of power.

For comparison, Kagoshima, which generates 70 MWs, is able to power 22,000 homes with a little extra power left over (which goes back into the grid).

Gon Choudhury, chairman of India’s Renewable Energy College, recently spoke with Gizmodo about the plans. He pointed out that the plant will have little environmental impact on the ecology of the body of water, and that the solar installation will also reduce evaporation, helping to conserve water during the hot summer.

He also pointed out that floating solar panels are more efficient than those on land:

“Solar panels installed on land, face reduction of yield as the ground heats up. When such panels are installed on a floating platform, the heating problem is solved to a great extent,”

Choudhury says. India hopes to complete the project by the end of the year.

Read the original story from Gizmodo here.

Note: The feature image is of a floating solar installation in Okegawa, Japan.

Watching Electricity Flow Through Wood Is Truly Mesmerizing (Video)

You don’t typically think of wood as being a very good conductor of electricity. However, if you turn the voltage high enough, you can force an electric current to flow through the wood.

The current splits into endless fractals, creating Lichtenberg figures which resemble trees growing in realtime- the effect is amazing. Check out the video below to see for yourself (the current is at 15,000 volts):


India’s New Leader Has A Bold Plan: Using Solar Power to Bring Electricity to Every Home By 2019

After 2 moths and more than half a billion votes, India’s marathon of a presidential election ended last Friday, with historic results. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), India’s opposition party for the past 10 years, won a landslide victory.

Not only did the party win a clear majority in the lower house of parliament (the first time a non-Congress party has done so since India won its independence in 1947), but their candidate for prime minister, Norendra Modi, came out on top as well.

New Indian President Narendra Modi (Photo: Forbes)

Before being elected prime minister earlier this month, Modi was the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat.

In 2009, Modi pioneered the country’s first large-scale solar power project in Gujarat, including the construction of Asia’s largest solar power plant. India also recently began constructing what will be by far biggest solar power plant in the world.

Asia’s largest solar installation, located in Gujarat

His administration plans to use Modi’s work in Gujarat as a blueprint for expanding solar power across the nation.

“We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space,”

says Narendra Taneja, an official from the energy division of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The plan is to enable every single Indian home to power at least one light by 2019. As of right now, about 400 million of India’s 1.2 billion residents lack access to electricity.

Modi visiting one of the solar installments in Gujarat

Expanding solar power and the clean energy sector is a major priority for the new government for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will help India avoid some of the pollution problems that China is currently dealing with as the country’s industries develop and modernize. Also, it will create new jobs and supply electricity to millions of scattered Indian households that can’t be connected to the power grid because of their remote locations.

Taneja says that if the project is completely successful, solar power could provide each home with enough energy to run two light bulbs, a solar cooker and a television set.

Check out the original article from Bloomberg here. Read more about India’s recent historic elections from the Asia Foundation here.

Wait… Toyota’s New Electric Fuel Cell Car Can Power My House, Too??

On Monday in Las Vegas, all of the biggest and baddest new cars took center stage at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But one car in particular has really caught people’s attention.

At the show, Toyota unveiled a new fuel cell car called the FCV-R  that looked…well, sort of like a Prius. However, this car can do something that no other Prius (or any other car, for that matter) could ever even dream to do: power your house.

The interior isn’t too shabby either

Engineer’s are currently working on designing an adapter cable to connect the car to the home’s power grid, but according to Toyota, the vehicle will be able to power your house for about a week when fully fueled. Toyota hopes this special feature will prove invaluable in times of emergency when power goes out.

If you’re wondering, hydrogen fuel cells work by combining hydrogen gas (H2) stored in the car’s “fuel” tank with oxygen gas (O2) from the air. The chemical reaction that combines these two gases to form water (H2O) releases electrical energy, which is then used to power the car (or the house, I guess). Water is the only by-product, which makes this form of energy extremely clean.

Ok this thing has got a seriously luxurious interior

Toyota plans to start selling the car in the United States next year. Here’s Bob Carter, Toyota’s VP of Automotive Operations here in the United States:

“Fuel cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe, and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.”

Read more from the L.A. Times here.

India Building BY FAR the World’s Biggest Solar Power Plant

The project will be more than 10 times larger than any other solar project in existence today.

6 different state-owned companies will take part in the joint venture, which has a price tag of $4.4 billion.

Lake Sambhar (courtesy of NASA)
Lake Sambhar (courtesy of NASA)

Solar cells will stretch 77 square kilometers, an area larger than the island of Manhattan. The aerial image above shows Lake Sambhar, the designated site of the new plant.

The plant will have a capacity of 4,000 megawatts, about 4 times more than an average full-size nuclear plant.

According to Parimita Mohanty, a fellow at the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, the new project could reduce the country’s carbon emissions by more than 4 million tons per year.

Read the full story from the journal Nature here.

What Are Earthships and Why Do They Look So Cool?? (Picture Gallery)

According to earthship.com, earthships are,

the epitome of sustainable design and construction. No part of sustainable living has been ignored in this ingenious building.”

The term was popularized (and trademarked) by Mike Reynolds, an architect who is the leading pioneer in the field. Check out some pictures of some of the coolest earthships already in existence (click an image to enlarge):

Earthships are built using 6 fundamental design principles:

  1. All heating and cooling uses natural thermal or solar energy;
  2. Electricity is independently generated using solar or wind power, with excess stored in batteries for later;
  3. ALL water must be collected naturally (through rain, snow melt, etc.) and used 4 times;
  4. ALL water is recycled, with sewage water being treated on-site and reused as gray water for the flushing of toilets for example, and other used water (like from washing dishes and clothes) re-used for things like small-scale food production;
  5. All materials must either be naturally available locally or recycled (earth-filled tires, for example, are a popular material);
  6. Food is produced organically using recycled water with the goal of reducing or completely eliminating reliance on supermarkets

For more, check out earthship.com.