Tag Archives: Energy Entropy Joules

Energy: The concept of energy influences our lives so profoundly we often do not even realize it is happening. Also, posts on the difference between energy source vs. energy storage and transportation.

Entropy: Order tends to disorder. Complexity requires energy. The concept of entropy can frame the world in interesting ways. Entropy connects many seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts by unifying two extremely broad ideas: complexity and energy.

Joules: Energy can and should be represented using one unit. That unit is the joule.

Heat Capacities of the Atmosphere and the Oceans

  • Volume of the atmosphere: not really meaningful.
  • Volume of Earth’s oceans: 1.335×1018 m3
  • Mass of the atmosphere: 5.15×1018 Kg
  • Mass of the oceans: ~1.4×1021 Kg
    • Average salinity: 0.035 Kg salt per Kg water, so 3.5% by mass.
  • The oceans are 272x the mass of the atmosphere.
Specific Heat
  • Specific heat of “air” at 250K is 1005 J/KgK
  • Specific heat of ocean water is ~4000 J/KgK
Total Heat Capacity
  • Total heat capacity of the atmosphere: 5.2×1021 J/K
  • Total heat capacity of the oceans: 5.6×1024 J/K
  • The heat capacity of the oceans is ~1,077x the heat capacity of the atmosphere.

I think it’s interesting that the ocean is only 272x the mass of the atmosphere. That is knowable intuitively if you know the approximate pressure deep-sea subs deal with or know that 10m of water is equal to about 1 atmosphere of presure.

Another interesting scale to put in perspective is that the hydrosphere is about 0.023% of Earth’s total mass. So the Earth mass is about the mass of 4,300 oceans.

Gone Sailing

On 2 November 2020 I decided to depart the corporate career path (energy engineer) for the rest of my life. My knee-jerk solution was to learn to sail and make sailing my occupation somehow. Regardless of what I do, I made the decision because of a fundamental idea: I am convinced that true progress in the next several decades will not be in new technologies, but in learning to use the existing technologies in a more wholesome way. As I went down the list of categories on my blog, I realized my decision affects almost every category.

Brazil Now What Migration Series: I once again do not know where I will go.

English Lessons: language is basic. Will I teach English from a sailboat?

Industrial Change Surfing: Industrial Change Surfing is about decisions – this was an enormous decision based on industrial changes.

Rage and Frenzy Politics: I believe the current polarized divisive politics partly arise from frustration with the diminishing returns of tech. (A pause for sailing is in order!)

Real Estate: boats are floating real estate. (the tax is maintenance!)

Travel: Sailing is the oldest form of long-distance water travel!

Ventures Quarterly: I have not been faithful to quarterly updates lately, but this obviously represents a ventures update.

Who’s Who of Electrical Engineering, and Physics, and Science

1564-1642: Galileo Galilei, Italian, father of observational astronomy, phases of Venus, Jupiter’s satellites, observed Saturn’s rings

1596-1650: René Decartes, French, philosopher, logical method

1623-1662: Blaise Pascal, French, fluid dynamics

1629-1695: Christiaan Huygens, Dutch, Saturn’s rings, pendulum clock

1642-1727: Isaac Newton, published Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687

1646-1716: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, French, differential and integral calculus, especially modern conventional notation

1700-1782: Daniel Bernoulli, Swiss, fluid mechanics, probability, statistics

1745 – 1827: Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta, Italian, the battery

1766-1844: John Dalton, English, chemist, physicist, meteorologist, atomic theory of chemistry

1775 – 1836: André-Marie Ampère, solenoid & electrical telegraph

1776-1856: Amedeo Avogadro, Italian, equal volumes of gases under equal pressure and temperature contain equal numbers of molecules

1777 – 1851: Hans Christian Ørsted, Danish, electromagnetism

1789 – 1854: Georg Ohm, German, direct relationship between voltage and current

1791 – 1867: Michael Faraday, English, various, electric motor

1824-1907: William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, thermodynamics, measurement of absolute zero temperature.

1831 – 1879: James Clerk Maxwell, Scottish, electromagnetic radiation

1846 – 1914: George Westinghouse, American, AC electric power

1847 – 1931: Thomas Edison, American, light bulb, various, DC electric power

1856 – 1943: Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American, AC electric power

1879-1955: Albert Einstein, physicist. Born in Germany. 1895 moved to Switzerland. 1896-1901 stateless. 1901 obtained Swiss citizenship. 1905 wrote the Annus Mirabilis papers. 1907-1915 developed general relativity. 1933 cancelled trip to Germany forever and renounced his citizenship at German consulate in Antwerp. 1939 sent the Einstein-Szilárd letter to FDR. 1940 settled in the US and became a US citizen.

What to Watch 24: Energy of an Industrialized Society – How Many Joules 3

How Many Joules?

  • 2,000 food Calories = 8.4 million joules = approximate energy usage of the human body in one day
  • One Tesla Model S battery charge ~ 36x this amount
  • One 2017 Honda Civic gas tank ~ 177x this amount
  • Typical furnace (100,000 BTU / hr rating) operating for 1 hour ~ 12x this amount
  • US energy usage per day (referenced in my post here) ~ 33.5 billion x this amount, or ~ 102x the US population*
  • Global energy usage per day (referenced in my post here) ~ 129 billion x this amount, or ~ 17x the global population*

*Relating the energy consumption of the modern world per person to the energy consumption of just the human body by itself is ambiguous, I realize. However, it puts in context the massive numbers that are constantly thrown around in the media on this subject, and consolidates the hype and various units into one unit.


Start at How Many Joules 1



What to Watch 23: The Tesla “Gigafactory” – How Many Joules 2

Tesla’s Introduction Speech to the Gigafactory in Nevada, Elon Musk, 4 September 2014

How Many Joules?

  • Tesla Model S with large battery pack, 265 mile range = 306 million joules
  • 2017 Honda Civic 12.4 gallon gas tank,  (2017 best selling car in US) = 1,490 million joules
  • Energy from 1 barrel of oil (BOE unit) = 5.86 billion joules
Go to How Many Joules 3
Start at How Many Joules 1

What to Watch 22: The Lithium-Ion Battery – How Many Joules 1

Intro to 18650 Li-ion Cells, by LDSreliance

How Many Joules?

  • 1 Food Calorie (the one on nutrition labels) = 4,180 joules
    • Note: 1 food Calorie defined as amount of energy to raise the temperature of 1Kg of water 1°C at sea level
  • Typical smartphone battery charge: 41,760 joules
  • One 18650 Li-ion cell: 43,074 joules
  • 1 kBTU = 1.06 million joules
    • Note: 1 BTU is defined as the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1°F. 1 kBTU = 1,000 BTU.
    • The rating system on appliances that we are familiar with that is shortened to “BTU” is actually BTU or kBTU per hour.
  • 1 Kilowatt-hour = 3.6 million joules
  • 2,000 food Calories = 8.4 million joules
  • 1 gallon of gas equivalent = 120 million joules
Go to How Many Joules 2

What to Watch 14: Fusion Energy, 16 Minutes

1. Fusion Explained in a Nutshell by Kurzgesagt

2. JET, Joint European Torus, largest magnetic confinement fusion reactor.

  • JET is the current record holder for controlled fusion energy production by most measures. The record was set in 1997. See video.
  • Located in Oxfordshire, UK.
  • Annual budget 2014-2018 = 145.6 million euros ~ $175 million per year. Source.
  • Video is from 2014.

3. National Ignition Facility, was the largest effort at inertial based fusion.

  • The fusion ignition effort ended in April 2014, but is still one HUGE laser. Do not point this laser at your eye.
  • Located in California, USA.
  • NIF total cost was ~$3.5 billion. Source.
  • Video is from 2009.

4. More References


Click here for the historical context of fusion, fusion in the Cold War.

Click here to search fusion on this site.

What to Watch 12: More Drones, History and Future of Drones, 29 Minutes

The videos in this post (click here) best explain the entropy concept.
For more posts related to entropy, select the entropy tag.


As you see this technology progress, it is natural to think, “Oh, we are so smart now, we know how to make tiny drones fly.” Alternatively, consider our (humanity’s) success within the concept of entropy. The law of entropy (Second Law of Thermodynamics) states that all systems tend toward disorder, and that energy is required for complexity to develop. Applying this broadly, improved drone flight is complexity. In order for drones to improve, energy must be applied in the form of human thought, manufacture, etcetera. Also, at the drone level, the drone must have energy on board both to fly and to power the tiny computers to control itself. Controlled flight is complex! Put this way, it is not that we are so smart to make these drones, or that the drones are so smart to control themselves. We have the excess energy to dedicate to engineers and academics to think about this complex stuff, and the drones have great modern batteries to deliver energy to efficient tiny computers to fly in totally cool complex ways!

1970s: The CIA’s Insectothopter, The CIA’s Own Channel on YouTube

Notice that battery life (lack of energy) was a major limiting factor.

2014: In What to Watch 2, I Recommended this Drone TED Talk

Notice that some of the flight control computing was being done on computers in the room, not on board the drones themselves. Energy is a factor here as much as or more than the size and weight of the processors. Computing all of the complex control on-board the drones would consume more power. The battery would be larger and heavier, and/or drain faster. Energy!

~2016?: Drone Swarm Dropped from F-18s

There is not a whole lot to see in the video, but it looks real to me.

2018: 8 January, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas by Intel, posted by LV Sun

This was the best drone show video I could find. How appropriate that it’s in Vegas. US’s gambling capital => $$$ => energy => spectacularly complex drone show!

The lights in Vegas have always impressed me. Walk through any normal US city with a normal number of lights, and at any given time, you can find some lights that are burned out within sight. Now try that walking around Vegas with 100s of times as many lights as a normal city and you will go hours without finding a single burned out light. The energy being expended in Vegas is spectacular. (Do they have an ordinance or something? If so, expensive to maintain.)

20__, Future (…?): Dramatization of the Potential of Weapon Drones

This video is a dramatization, but it’s not that we don’t know how, we’re smart enough, … we just need a better battery.

What to Watch 6: Science on the Formation of our World, 32 Minutes, Entropy Explained

The History of our World in 18 Minutes, David Christian TED Talk

What is so Special about the Human Brain? Suzana Herculano-Houzel TED Talk

TED.com has great videos, that’s why I recommend them. Click here for TED’s website.

For more on entropy, click here.

All Nate TV episodes, click here.

What to Watch 2: Drones and Guitars, 23 Minutes

Drones TED Talk, The Astounding Athletic Power of Quadcopters, Raffaello D’Andrea

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Tamacun, Awesome

Rodrigo y Gabriela on TED

Check out more TED Talks at TED.com.