Browsing: Energy

I recently had the chance to talk with the legendary Vint Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the internet. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the past, present and future of the internet, network security and what it would take to successfully, safely and reliably merge the digital and physical worlds, a concept known as the “Internet of Things,” or IoT. As its name suggests, the internet of things will connect all kinds of things, bringing us a wealth of data about, well, everything that we can use to improve our lives. For example, internet-connected smart parking meters are helping people find available parking spaces, saving time, fuel and probably more than a few relationships. People are using fitness…

First, let me say that I’m totally energized by the good press my dear acquaintance Wonder Woman has been receiving lately. It’s absolutely electrifying to see a strong woman get good publicity! And she has done some wonderful things, what with defending the world from evil-doers and all. Maybe with her around, superheroes like me will get a little more recognition. For those of you who haven’t heard of me, I’m Ms. Ampere of the Measurement League. My fellow superheroes and I make sure that the basic measurements that make modern life possible—time, temperature, length, amount of substance, mass, brightness, and electric current—are as accurate and precise as they can be. Without us, you’d have a tough time describing the…

I think curiosity is at the root of all scientific careers. That, and insecurity. In my formative years, I felt compelled to assign a rational explanation to everything. I didn’t know it then, but I was practicing to be a scientist—and having lots of fun. I remember entertaining numerous misconceptions. Looking back, I think in many cases the misconceptions made a better story than the truth. For instance, as a child, I thought that when you dropped a letter into the mailbox on the corner, it was delivered to the correct address through one of a multitude of underground channels connecting all mailboxes to all residences. Then I grew up a little. It’s definitely more fun making things up, but…

Welding is said to be more art than science. In part, this is a nod to the vital, skilled work that welders perform. It’s also recognition of the fact that the physics of the process is really, really difficult to understand. I joined a NIST project on laser welding about two years ago. Before this, I had studied materials for solar panels and had done some work in laser processing, but I had little interest in laser welding. What eventually drew me in, and what motivates me now, is just how complex laser welding is and the opportunity to contribute to the understanding of a process that is so intertwined with everyday life, yet so mysterious. Act I: Creating a…

Do we really need hot stuff? I’m not talking about Donna Summer’s disco hit of 1979 or global warming. I’m not talking about anything so lukewarm as the surface of our sun—a mere 6,000 kelvins. I don’t even mean something as hot as 1,000,000 kelvins. No, the kind of hot stuff I’m talking about is closer to an unimaginable 200,000,000 kelvins! What possible use could we have for something so hot? It should be of no surprise to anyone that we have an insatiable appetite for energy, and that appetite is only going to grow. But how are we going to feed this need for energy? One of the most promising potential ways to generate a practically inexhaustible supply of…

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