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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Before the Lights Go Out by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Maggie Koerth-Baker has written a wonderful book. In Before the Lights Go Out she presents a whole lot of very important information about how energy is generated, transmitted and used. In the hands of a lesser writer this subject matter could be mind-numbingly dull, but Ms. Koerth-Baker's enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and ways with words made this a most delightful bit of non-fiction. On my Kindle I found myself highlighting a wide range of little nuggets of info or particularly wonderful turns of phrase.

At one point Maggie (OK, I have to call her Maggie, after reading her book I feel like I've just been on cross country car trip with a really smart friend) quotes Ogi Kavozovic: "You have to give people insights, not data." That's what Maggie does and her book is chock full of insights.

Here's Maggie explaining kilowatts & megawatts:

"This stuff can get confusing. In particular, it's often hard to wrap your head around what the steps between the scales of measurement really mean. Here's one analogy I've found helpful: the difference between kilowatts and megawatts is like the difference in salary between somebody who brings home $40,000 a year and someone who pulls down $40 million. That gives you an idea of what we're talking about, but it doesn't really tell you much about the proposed Holcomb generator. One megawatt of capacity is enough to supply all of the electric needs of 750 average American households during..."

Folksy, chatty & memorable.

And funny. Here she is writing about coal:

"In 1865, England was a coal-powered giant. It was the world's largest economy, and everything it did depended on coal. Coal ran the factories and the trains. It heated homes and cooked food. Little English children probably ate Coalios for breakfast. Yet already, some people were starting to think that England might not have infinite supplies of coal, and they were worried about what might happen if the all-important energy source ran out. The generally accepted solution: improved technology that would make more efficient use of coal."

I've been raving to my friends about this book. Consider this a continuation of that rave. I learned a lot from Maggie's book and I had a great time reading it. I think you will too.

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