Reality Blind - Vol. 1

galaxy are also doing so, there isn’t any useful kinetic energy there to be tapped.

Potential energy, on the other h and, isn’t relative to objects in its environment. For instance, something at the top of a hill has gravitational potential energy because the nature of gravity means that it exists in a higher-energy-position state from which work could potentially be extracted. An example of this is hydroelectric power, in which the gravitational potential energy in water is tapped and converted into transmissible kinetic energy. There’s also elastic potential energy, like the energy stored in a pulled-back slingshot; chemical potential energy such as that stored in a car battery, electrical potential energy such as that stored in a capacitor, and nuclear potential energy deriving from the possibility of intentionally accelerating the rate of fission and fusion reactions. In most cases it’s highly ineffective to use “kinetic energy” directly, because the nature of living systems is that we want to utilize energy to do specific things at specific times, but direct transformation of kinetic-to-kinetic energy generally isn’t always available on our timetable. Sailing ships are a good example of both the benefits and limits, as are windmills for grinding grain. They work great...but you must do your fast sailing and meal-grinding when the wind blows. These days we’re big on co nvenience, so we like energy that jumps at our command. This means we use nearly 100% “potential energy” carriers and are converting “kinetic energy” into some sort of “potential energy,” even though that also means wasting a lot of energy in the process. For example, rather than drying our clothes when the sun shines, it’s more convenient to dry clothes in the dryer whenever we feel like it, rain or shine, day or night. That requires a power grid backed by vast amounts of chemical potential energy whose output may be easily adjusted to maintain our option to do anything at any time. Rather than relocating our industry to exist in places with reliable sun or wind, and to operate in the daytime, we can put it wherever we want, again thanks to the power grid. “Baseload power” means “on demand.” On a small scale your battery - powered flashlight provides light “on demand” when the sun has set. On the large scale, we rely on potential energy carriers of some sort, be they fuels or batteries, to operate continuously and provide power over long distances. Baseload power is largely incompatible with simple kinetic - energy-based electrical systems, and when the process of conversion to and from potential energy systems occurs, it is lossy 180 and costly.


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