(yay! internet finally restored!)

Why 50 million smart meters still haven’t fixed America’s energy habits

The upshot: Right now, smart meters aren’t waking Americans up and making them conscious of their energy use — because they aren’t being paired with what behavioral research shows us is needed for that to happen.

This is the story of why the smart meter revolution has, thus far, fallen short — and how we can better use one of the most pivotal innovations in the electricity sphere to save energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions and save a lot of money.

I can vouch for the notion of immediate feedback being an important component to changing behavior — something that’s discussed in the article. My new-ish car tells me my instantaneous gas efficiency and reminds me of things that I know but would not necessarily be thinking about, such as how wasteful it is to romp on the gas when speeding up, or how hitting the brakes means you are bleeding away your kinetic energy as heat. So it’s modified how I drive — smaller accelerations. Less gas when speeding up and coasting to slow down, when it’s appropriate to do so. So I can see how this would work for home energy use, too.

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Boom Boom

Sodium’s explosive secrets revealed

The explosion, say Pavel Jungwirth and his collaborators at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, is not merely a consequence of the ignition of the hydrogen gas that the alkali metals release from water. That may happen eventually, but it begins as something far stranger: a rapid exodus of electrons followed by explosion of the metal driven by electrical repulsion.

Neat. It’s not the hydrogen reacting with air that causes the alkali to explode. That reaction doesn’t cause more surface area to be created as the reaction unfolds, so it can’t “accelerate”

Video in the link, including slow-motion views of the explosion.

It Was Good

Let there be light! Celebrating the theory of electromagnetism

There was also another controversy raging at the time, concerning the nature of light. It was known that light travelled through space with a finite speed, rather than leaping instantaneously from its source to our eyes.

But no-one knew, a century-and-a-half ago, what light was actually made of.

Most physicists agreed it travelled through space as a wave but they didn’t know what these light waves were made of, and they didn’t know how they got from one place to another. Maxwell was about to solve all these mysteries.

3D, but not Greased

3D Lightning

Having two pictures of the exact same lightning bolt lets you do something pretty amazing; reconstruct its path in 3D. In this case because the precise location and elevation of the photographers isn’t known this is slightly more art than science, but it is still fun!

The First Grandpa Simpson Sighting of the Year

I haven’t done much fist-shaking from the porch recently, but here’s to changing that. Today’s curmudgeonly two-fer have one thing in common: overselling the product, in a way. The thing is, I don’t think they need the false advertising, whether it’s on purpose or owing to some comprehension gap. Ignore the rant if you wish, and just enjoy the technology/math-based artistry of these pieces.

Fascinating 3D-Printed Fibonacci Zoetrope Sculptures

These 3d-printed zoetrope sculptures were designed by John Edmark, and they only animate when filmed under a strobe light or with the help of a camera with an extremely short shutter speed.

… just like any other object would. Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds like the author is implying this is special to this particular class of structures — it’s not. That’s just how the strobe effect works.

Marvellous rube goldberg mechanical lightswitch covers

These are wonderful. But having a few gears doesn’t turn it in to a Rube Goldberg device; it’s not just a matter of being slightly more complex than it needs to be — in this case, mostly by adding one layer of complexity. There are no chain reactions and no diversity of mechanism, two hallmarks of such devices.

Spot Was Observed to Run

How to write your first scientific paper

First advice is to take it seriously. Science isn’t science unless you communicate your results to other people. You don’t just write papers because you need some items on your publication list or your project report, but to tell your colleagues what you have been doing and what are the results. You will have to convince them to spend some time of their life trying to retrace your thoughts, and you should make this as pleasant for them as possible.

Lots of good stuff here. Make sure you know something about the journal to which you are submitting, too. Details vary — this ties in with the “pick a level of discussion and stick with it.”

Bee also mentions that students often write as part of a group. Feedback from colleagues is important and usually makes for a better paper. My advice is drop the ego and be receptive to criticism. And hope that you work with people who will give you honest feedback (a situation I have been fortunate to be in for many years)