Posts Tagged ‘energy’

New book blog: How energy shapes society in ‘Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels’ by Ian Morris

April 29, 2015

Farmers, Foragers and Fossil FuelsIt’s not steeped in technology, but this updated book based on the Tanner Lectures delivered by Ian Morris at Princeton University manages to highlight a link with big social issues that could have significant implications for humankind’s future.

Everyone’s at least aware of the disparity between access to energy that exists around the world, and how precarious the security of supply is, even in the industrialised West. It’s clear we’re reaching a crucial point where a system based on fossil fuels isn’t going to work in the long-term, but what does that mean for society as a whole?

As Morris eloquently illustrates, the situation today is the latest stage in a story that began with hunter-gatherers before developing into a more sophisticated structure with the arrival of agriculture. As the primary source of energy changed, so did human values.

The slightly unpalatable truth is that while regarding democracy and gender equality and non-violence as virtues works in contemporary society, for the ten thousand years before the Industrial Revolution, most people thought the opposite. Archaeology and observations of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies show that while groups need to value equality to succeed, they also have to be prepared to settle problems quickly and violently. For farming communities, there’s less pressure to resort to violence, but a need to have a well established hierarchy in which everyone knows their place and everyone very definitely isn’t equal.

The idea that a community’s primary source of energy will be one of the most significant factors in shaping its rules and laws isn’t a startling one. It’s a straightforward case of natural selection in which groups that can’t find an appropriate way of working will literally die out. What’s so thought provoking about the analysis by Morris, who as a professor of classics and archaeology fellow at Stanford University doesn’t get preoccupied with the mechanics of energy transfer, is the suggestion that we should be anticipating what happens in the next stage of this story.

If a reliance on fossil fuels has allowed the pendulum has swung as far as it can away from violence and towards equality, what will happen as we shift to smaller-scale renewable resources? If nuclear is going to be part of the mix, how do we resolve where it’s going to be based?

Not comfortable reading, but a thought provoking look at an aspect of energy resources that’s often neglected and which will make you think carefully about how your behaviour would change if one day you turned on the gas or electricity and it wasn’t there any more.

The new, updated edition of ‘Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve’ by Ian Morris is published by Princeton University Press, price £19.95, ISBN 9780691160399

New Pyrenees pipeline to help cut dependence on Russian gas – an annotated infographic

March 4, 2015

The leaders of Spain, France and Portugal are expected to strike an accord in Madrid to build a new pipeline through the Pyrenees that would allow Spain to pump almost 15 billion cubic metres of gas a year northwards – approximately 10 per cent of the supply currently coming from Russia.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

It's a gas gas gas

It’s a gas gas gas

A #librarian writes – news from the IET archives about #fracking and #shale gas

January 10, 2013

Now for the latest installment in our occasional series of news from the IET Library archives, direct from the librarians who archive stuff there…

Shale gas

So, what’s all this rumpus about shale gas?  It’s highly topical at the moment – and E&T has been covering the fracking issue since it first surfaced.  It’s all about extracting natural gas trapped in shale formations via the method known as fracking. It’s controversial for all sorts of interesting reasons, but congruently a potential major source of alternative energy. Big in the States and Canada but also being tested out in the UK.

If you want to know how it’s done, good news:  we added a highly educational infographic on how to frack a while back. Check it out!

Shale gas drilling rig

Shale gas drilling rig

If you want to read more about this new technology, try the IET Virtual Library resource.  Knovel has two Engineering Cases:

Shale Gas: The Facts about Chemical Additives by Henry Craddock © 2012

What to Do with the Brine? A Zero-Discharge Solution from CLLEEN™ Water and Power by Anthony Migyanka © 2012

And take a look at these articles and many more on EbscoHost databases

Benefits of Shale Gas Outweigh Risks; 8 In 10 Americans Connect Natural Gas with Jobs.  Pipeline & Gas Journal, March 2012.

Impact of Shale Gas Development on Global Gas Markets. By Medlock III, Kenneth B. Natural Gas & Electricity, April 2011.

Is Shale Gas Shallow or the Real Deal? By Maize, Kennedy in Power, December 2012.

Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations. By Howarth, Robert W.; Santoro, Renee; Ingraffea, Anthony. Climatic Change, 2011.

Splitting rock vs. splitting atoms: What shale gas means for nuclear power. By Levi, Michael. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 2012.

The Shale Gas Extraction Process and Its Impacts on Water Resources. By Reins, Leonie. Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, 2011.

In March, the IET’s Clerk Maxwell lecture is on this topic so why not read up about it before you attend?

If you have a specific research enquiry please see and use the online form to send your request.

Happy searching in 2013!

The global switch to LED lighting – a handy infographic from Honeywell

July 31, 2012

The boffins at Honeywell Electrical Devices & Systems have called for a worldwide switch to LED lighting, claiming that organisations across the globe have a responsibility to seriously consider energy-efficient lighting in the drive to save energy.

To shore up their argument, they’ve produced this neat infographic, the facts of which appear hard to argue with.

They’ve also put together a nifty online tool for calculating the energy savings between fluorescent and LED tubes: access it at

LED vs fluorescent lighting

LED vs fluorescent lighting

There’s also this much bigger infographic detailing much the same information. It’s a whopper, but we include it here anyway for the sake of completeness. Enjoy!

And will the last one to leave WordPress this evening please turn out the light!

Fracking for shale gas – an annotated graphic

November 23, 2011

What with fracking being all over the news of late – including on E&T’s news pages, as we look at the controversy over the fracking process – it seemed a timely opportunity to share this illustrated graphic on how to frack.

Essentially, it’s a two-stage hydraulic process in order to extract natural gas from prehistoric shalebeds thousands of metres below ground. Enjoy the instructions presented here – but don’t try this at home.

Shale gas fracking

Shale gas fracking

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Can Energy be appropriated in Art? Find out at Beyond Entropy exhibition, AA school London

May 20, 2011

Beyond Entropy: When Energy becomes Form, 3-28 May 2011
AA School, 36, Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3ES

The Architectural Association School in London is currently hosting a thought-provoking exhibition, showcasing the work of eight trios of world-leading scientists, architects and artists brought together with the aim of translating energy into its artistic form.

Beyond Entropy is part of an ambitious two year research project and features eight prototypes, each exploring a different type or aspect of energy. The exhibition comes to London after displays at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010 and Societe de Lecture, Geneva.

Works on display include a working time machine, thermal replication, the concept of the ownership of air and energy, and a giant self-balancing mechanism.

The exhibition continues until 28 May.

Erika Burrows


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,562 other followers