back to article People-powered Olympic shopping mall: A sign of utter tech illiteracy

It's just about certain, now: Almost everybody in the world has no idea of the most basic facts regarding energy use. Most people don't even know that the words "energy" and "power" have different meanings1, and just about everyone is so massively ignorant on the subject that they actually consider that the use of special floor …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
MJI
Silver badge

Re: NEWTON METRES

This is what torque wrenches use

Wheel bolts 110Nm

I do not use cm, but will use cm3

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Hmm...

People in general do indeed know sod all about energy use. This doesn't stop commentators on the register banging on about how stupid an idea smart metering is and even how worthless just showing people a number representing their energy use is.

1
9
Mushroom

Re: Hmm...

I think the part you are missing is that the "smart" meters have nothing to do with actually providing people with meaningful energy consumption information. If you really wanted to show customers what is consuming energy, then they would be provided with a gadget that goes between the consuming device and the mains, and which could clearly show the impact of each and every device measured. As opposed to a "smart" meter which shows that, well, you use electricity. Only dumb people think that smart meters have any benefit for them*.

*"them" being the average person, as opposed to politicians (who love having more power over people - in this case, to remotely shut off your electricity supply because they have screwed up the nation's power supply) and smart meter salespeople.

12
0

Re: Hmm...

Those energy meters ARE worthless...I've had two.

You switch off everything you can, and you're still using energy. And then the fridge kicks in and throws your efforts to see how much power your house is burning in its 'standby' state. And then a month later the display runs out of batteries. The second or third time you realise that the display is actually eating its way through more batteries than anything else in your house and you pop it in the bin.

Its probably saved a lot less carbon than was spent during its manufacture and distribution.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Smart meters

Indeed.

The primary benefit of supplier-installed smart meters is selective remote disconnect capability, ready for when the rolling brownouts become necessary. Which for Joe Public is not a benefit at all.

The primary benefit of supplier-provided plug-in smart meters is convincing Joe Public that supplier-installed smart meters are benign devices. Which, for Joe Public, they aren't.

6
0

Re: Smart meters

"The primary benefit of supplier-installed smart meters is selective remote disconnect capability, ready for when the rolling brownouts become necessary. Which for Joe Public is not a benefit at all."

Just out of interest, how do you think *not* being able to do controlled power reductions to specific properties will be better come the brown outs?

It would appear the smart meters give a measure of specificity - the power co's can choose particular properties, whereas at the moment they choose entire estates. Smart meters allow more ppl to have a little of a limited resource, as opposed to the current meters which allow a few people to suck all of the power from an 11Kv when it gets low, and everyone else gets nowt.

In other words, would you be happier (it;s all relative after all) if we lived on the same estate and smart meters meant we both had just enough 'leccy to keep the fridge/freezer going during a brown-out, or if I whacked everything on and your fridge-freezer didn't have the juice to keep going and you wasted a weeks worth of food?

Ofc most ppls answer will be "build more generators", but that ain't an option in this scenario -

A) controlled brown-outs; or

B) every man for himself?

0
0

Re: Smart meters

@Ross 7

"Ofc most ppls answer will be "build more generators", but that ain't an option in this scenario -

A) controlled brown-outs; or

B) every man for himself?"

..or more likely...

We aren't currently generating enough power, what shall we do?

A) Turn on a generator that emits more than our legal (and made up) quota of carbons and invoke the wrath of the hippies; or

B) implement controlled brown-outs because we can!

mb

0
0

Re: Smart meters

Well done - you answered the question I told you not to ^^

Carbon credits are irrelevant - it's the distinct lack of things we can burn that's the issue. What are you going to use to make that CO2? Coal is getting even more expensive to come by (presuming you don't want the high sulphur **** that China is selling). Gas is inevitably going to go the same way - if we burn more and more of it at a time, the reserves don't last as long.

Energy is not unlimited - I know, we've all got used to treating it like it is, but some form of control over usage is inevitable. There are two ways it can go (even if we build more generators) - smart meters to phyiscally restrict usage at certain times, or the market route (charge a **** load more for it so ppl reduce their usage).

The gov don't want to be seen to be making your bills even higher than they are, so we'll have smart meters within 15 years. Sorry :(

0
0
Joke

Are Americans that much more energetic than Brits?

I followed the link in the Article to the MIT 'crowd farm' thing (which I somehow missed at that time). There they state that 1 (one) step would generate 120Ws, The Stratford Mall Pedestrian Generator is believed capable of 7W per step. That would then mean that British pedestrians have to walk at a rate of ~900 steps per second to catch up with the left-lake-siders @60 steps per minute.

Or am I understanding something wrong here?

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Are Americans that much more energetic than Brits?

2 things come to mind..

The average merkin is VAST, ergo more joules per footfall :-)

if the american idea was to use an array to catch all footfalls in an area whereas the pathetic waste of british taxpayers whiskey vouchers just uses a couple of stripes of the pietzo-placebos

0
2

Re: Are Americans that much more energetic than Brits?

There's got to be a screwup in the MIT crowd farm thing. A somewhat fit unit American (a remark I resemble) can pretty happily produce 100 watts on a bicycle for an indefinite amount of time, but that is ALL the energy, and a moderate sweat results. 200 watts for "a while", and much more sweat results. 300 watts for a minute or two. Anything that is harvesting "spare" energy, as opposed to annoying the energy producers, has to be at the rate of 10 watts or less (at 60 steps/min, 10J/step, at 120, 5J/step). 120 watts might be the entire energy expended in purposefully walking.

2
0
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Are Americans that much more energetic than Brits?

> 1 (one) step would generate 120Ws

Only if everyone is jerking off in resonance with the floor infrastructure!

1
0
Silver badge

Hope for the best

Maybe the most fortuitous outcome from this publicity stunt could be the widespread adoption of these "magic" tiles by the ignorant, innumerate and terminally trendy. With luck they'll be so in awe of this new way of getting so little much energy at so high low a price that they'll rush to install them in their own homes. Then, come the time of accounting: when the invoice for the tiles' supply and installation doesn't match (or even come within 0.1%) the cost of electricity consumed they might just begin to ask questions.

Although the obvious question they'll probably ask is "why weren't these tiles installed properly, to get the savings I thought I should have?" it might just come to pass that one or two of the II&TT's would start to question the whole premise of energy-saving wheezes that are targeted at them, as a whole. If that does happen, at least the monumental cost and complete fallacy the exercise was based on will have some, small (about as small as their energy "saving") benefit.

0
0
Silver badge

No Maths Requirement

Bit harsh! A review of the page suggests that a GCSE grade C or above is required!

Mind you an A-level grade B in Art is more important looking at the list :-|

0
0
Gold badge

The problem is kiloWatt-hours

This unit should be banned from public use. It is evident that the vast majority of the population do not know what it is and the name serves merely to oscure a valuable distinction between energy and power. Anyway, it's only a factor of 3.6 different from the proper SI unit, which even has a shorter abbreviation -- MJ.

This is probably more important that anyone's metrication fetish. A continuining use of miles has not led the average driver to confuse speed with distance. Neither has our love affair with the traditional pint led us to speak of yards of ale, except in jest. The next most dangerous unit, in fact, is probably the pound, but since weight and mass *can* safely be confused in the majority of terrestrial scenarios, even this dimensional dumbness pales against the kilowatt-hour.

Technically minded authors and publications could lead the way. (El Reg, do you fancy making a New Year's resolution?) Over time, we'd arrive at the happy state wherein any article that used the kWh unit could be safely dismissed as innumerate. (To be honest, we are pretty much there already.)

3
3
Silver badge

Dimensional analysis

But kiloWatt*hours are a useful unit, as they have a direct connection to people's experience and their consumption of electricity. It's easy to know that if you run a 1kW electric fire for one hour how much electricity that equates to in the units that it's billed in. From that follows the cost of your action.

In the same way, we measure petrol consumption in miles per gallon, km per litre, litres per 100 km or some other variant of distance and volume. We don't feel the need to consider that distance is measured in units of length and the "per" is dividing that length by a volume (i.e. length cubed) unit. That would mean that logically petrol consumption should be stated in "inverse square feet" or some similarly meaningless definition.

5
1
DN4

Re: Dimensional analysis

"the units that it's billed in"

And that's the nonsense Ken Hagan suggested to fix. The unit in the bills should be MJ.

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Dimensional analysis

Actually it's not quite meaningless. If you do the division the other way, you get an area. That area is the cross-sectional area of a 'solid tube of fuel' that a vehicle must 'nibble up' as it goes along in order to sustain its motion.

1
0
Thumb Down

Re: The problem is kiloWatt-hours

"This unit should be banned from public use. It is evident that the vast majority of the population do not know what it is and the name serves merely to oscure a valuable distinction between energy and power."

No, the "-hours" tells you it's energy not power. However the problem is that the gumment if obsessed with "units". They assume that people are innumerate imbeciles and are incapable of understanding anything vaguely scientific or mathematical. That's why we have "units" of alcohol. I've no idea what a unit is. I understand %ABV and I can read the contents of a bottle or can so I can easily work out how many ml of alcohol I'm consuming. It would be even easier if pubs went metric.

With energy the problem is slightly different. The electricity boards and theur successors have always used kilowatt hours, but the gas industry used therms. So instead of converting everyone to the proper SI units i.e. Megajoules, they made the gas suppliers convert energy to kilowatt hours. This is unhelpful. I know the power consumption of electrical equipment - it's on the rating plate or I can monitor the current, but I don't know the power of a gas ring, oven, fire or boiler. I can't compare the cost of boiling a kettle on the gas with using an electric kettle.

That's another beef. Npower gave me one of those clip on thingy's with a transmitter and a display thingy that plugs in somewhere else. The ONE AND ONLY thing that it measures is current. The ONE THING that it does not display is current. So it must assume that the voltage is constant. If there's a brown-out it will show the wrong power.

0
1
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Re: The problem is kiloWatt-hours

Emphatically not. Energy = Power times time. Kilowatts times hours for this unit. It should help remind anyone with a few brain cells to spare that the cost will relate to the power of the appliance multiplied by the amount of time it's turned on (or unnecessarily left on).

It's not a metric unit, but it's a useful one. Are the metrication fanatics seriously contemplating abolishing the hour, day and year (and birthdays!) and measuring time exclusively in kilo- mega- and giga-seconds? If not, they should accept the logical consequences, that units with time measured in hours or days may make a lot more sense in appropriate contexts.

Even scientists do this. When it comes to the distance of stars and galaxies, they work in Light-Years, not petameters (and exa- and zetta- and yocta- ). Why? Because the light-year makes perfect sense in cosmological terms. Ten billion light-years means what you are looking at happened ten billion years ago, when the universe was much younger.

1
0
Gold badge

Re: The problem is kiloWatt-hours

"No, the "-hours" tells you it's energy not power."

Congratulations. You've missed the point of my post, which is that the vast majority of the population *don't* understand that (or simply don't hear the "-hours" suffix). The two units (kW and kWh) *sound* similar and therefore when people hear about something involving a few hundred of either they jump to the conclusion that this is comparable to a few hundred of the other.

We have two options. We can improve the quality of science education and wait for an entire generation of arty types to die off, or we can choose units for energy and power that sound different. Guess which is easier?

1
0
Gold badge

Re: The problem is kiloWatt-hours

"It should help remind anyone with a few brain cells to spare ..."

Yes, it does, but when it comes to "Hard Science" such as this, most people apparently don't have a few brain cells to spare, so I suggest that those who do should adopt language that is less gratuitously confusing.

To judge from the replies, the El Reg readership is populated by an enormous number of people who are very eager to demonstrate that *they* understand the concept, but not remotely concerned with ideas about why so many others don't. Perhaps this is why we live in a society where the vast majority go through life in scientific ignorance and the situation does not improve from one generation to the next.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Ah, you've finally discovered greenwash.

Well done, do try and keep up - environmentalists have been pointing out this pseudo-green nonsense for years. The people who do these kinds of things are NOT environmentalists, they are businesspeople working for large international corporations. Any corruption or hypocrisy in their actions is a problem with capitalism's response to environmental problems, not with the principles of environmentalism. Will look forward to reading your future articles with greater interest if you're finally learning to tell the two apart.

12
2

Fine

So how long do I need to spend walking around the mall to earn my fifteen milion merits and a better life?

3
0

It reads as if the energy is free.

It comes from the food eaten by the walker. The tiles can only work by making it slightly harder to walk by requiring it to generate electricity too.

And El Reg made a similar mistake yesterday in the article on Tablet accessories in saying you could charge one free from a car's cigarette lighter. Not unless the petrol/diesel was free.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: It reads as if the energy is free.

Surely the energy is free though, at least for the owners of the mall?. Cutting the costs of their electricity bill by increasing the food bills of their customers... sneaky bastards.

0
0

Re: It reads as if the energy is free.

True. And if there was a gadget that could drain visitors' cellphone batteries, I expect they'd install one.

0
0
Gold badge

The only green tech that has really worked ..

.. isn't green, it's white and depends on yellow.

The Urimat waterless urinals actually seem to work (and the mechanics underneath are Swiss, so it'll probably last as well).

For the rest I have seen so much BS sold in the name of "going green" that it tends to set off an allergic reaction when I read it. Take a simple example, hybrid cars. Yes, they may save you some money and fuel - but if you buy a decent modern engine you get about the same savings, but the car is massively cheaper (so the higher use is paid for by the $$ you save), and it has no dependency on chemical components that can only be mined chemically.

FYI, to extract the base ingredients of a lithium battery from ore, you need MASSIVE titanium vats and heaps of energy, so somewhere else on the planet, huge belching clouds of a mining extraction process undo the alleged greenness many times over.

3
0

Re: The only green tech that has really worked ..

Numbers I've seen (sorry, link missing) suggest that the whole-life energy consumption of a hybrid auto nicely beats that of a similar internal-combustion alternative. Don't forget that used lithium batteries are recyclable (and are expensive enough that one would do so), so it's also unfair to ding them for their entire refining cost. Here's one discussion: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2759/are-electric-cars-really-more-energy-efficient

That said, the dollars don't work so well, unless you expect the price of oil to spike, or perhaps if you have an "optimally" long commute (i.e., round trip is 90% of the one-charge range, or even better if you get to charge at work and round trip is 180% of the one-charge range).

There IS other green tech that works. In many places, bicycles work for transit and transportation, and with very sensible assumptions about diet (i.e., not making up the extra calories with 100% beef protein) they net out to a huge energy savings. Green building practices (typically, loads more insulation, and control of air exchange) also work. In some parts of the world this is simply "the building code", though here in the US it is common for a new building to still be relatively underinsulated and leaky. In both cases, however, you don't see near the rah-rah-gee-whiz advertising these useless step-energy tiles get. An energy-saving bicycle is a Raleigh rescued from someone else's trash and repaired, fitted with a Wald basket for your stuff.

4
1
Silver badge

Easy Solution

Nuclear reactors for everyone. One in each home, each mall and each baby crib. Hell, we should cram them in cows too! There can be no other solution and no research into other options.

By the time Mr. Page figures out he's done the math wrong he'll have forgotten his rant anyway and be on to the next thing that can't work because anything that doesn't run on fissile material is stupid.

I love how the knocks on the guy for not having a maths focused degree, but preaches about nuclear like he has physics or chemistry knowledge. He doesn't.

2
16
Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: Easy Solution

"Nuclear reactors for everyone. One in each home, each mall and each baby crib. Hell, we should cram them in cows too!"

Your enthusiasm is great, but we don't need quite that many nuclear reactors. If we wanted to meet our entire UK electricity consumption by nuclear power, then 25 new designs such as the European Pressurized Reactor being built in Finland at the moment, would meet those needs. That could replace the 9 existing nuclear, 14 coal power plants, 44 gas powered plants, 3 oil powered plants (!), 4 open gas turbines, 35 hydroelectrics plants, 4 open gas turbine plants, 4 misc power plants such as landfill and, for the sake of completeness though their actual electrical contribution is small: the 15 offshore windfarms and 226 onshore windfarms.

"There can be no other solution and no research into other options."

What is this strange figure made of straw I see approaching? Sure, put research effort into solar, geothermal, wind (appropriately), but whilst doing that, let's keep ourselves running on nuclear power which is cleaner and has far longer and safer fuel supplies than fossil fuels, yes?

"By the time Mr. Page figures out he's done the math wrong he'll have forgotten his rant anyway and be on to the next thing that can't work because anything that doesn't run on fissile material is stupid"

The argument put forward was not that the tiles wont work because they don't "run on fissile matieral". It's the idea that (a) energy just comes from nowhere for free, i.e. that this doesn't create a harder to walk on surface and (b) that the energy returned is in any way comparable to the energy being spent.

9
0
FAIL

Joules are very small people

=============================> " As Joules are very small people often use watt-hours (one watt for one hour, ie 3600 Joules)... "

Joules are not very small people, but commas are very small yet do so much if used well just like another old friend the apostrophe.

From a 'techy' point of view, this brings to mind the Aphex aural exciter quote, strap line,

'not noticed by its presence, missed by its absence.'

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Its nice to visit a section of the internet where the average IQ isnt that of my 3 month old cousin.

0
0

Hah!

I think you missed the post by Don Jefe, above.

2
0
Unhappy

Well said Lewis

You were pretty restrained. This utter idocy makes me weep. Apart from it being a pathetic quantity of energy, faced with walking on tiles that extracts energy from your motion (presumably they give a bit so you have to work that bit harder to take the next step) I for one would walk round the side just like I won't wade through snow if there is a clear path to walk on. I suspect 99.9% of the population would do the same.

Morons.

6
0

Re: Well said Lewis

If you walk around it they'll make you wear a hat with a little wind turbine on it.

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Mackay: Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air

99% of what needs saying on the subject of numeracy, energy, power, sustainability, etc has already been said better than I ever could (probably even better than Lewis) by Professor David Mackay FRS (Professor of Physics in Cambridge, fwiw), and is in the form of a freely downloadable full length book, fully referenced. Or if you prefer, there's a 10page executive summary.

http://www.withouthotair.com/

Never mind the kindergarten colour scheme, what matters is the content of the book not the presentation of the website, and although there may be a few things to disagree with in the content, it's vastly superior to anything else I've seen.

Nice work, your professorliness, even if you did accept the Blair shilling at one stage.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Mackay: Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air

It's an invaluable resource to correct people who are convinced that a couple of solar panels on every roof will provide all the power we could ever need. Fully referenced, calculations all worked through (almost all the maths is GCSE level, which is more than sufficient to show that we CANT run the UK off wind power and good will) and simple enough for people to understand. Should be made a school textbook or something IMO.

1
0
Facepalm

Wonder if it's feasible to...

...power a gym by the users expended energy.

Well, at least the lights & music, I imagine heated showers would consume far too much energy.

And for bonus points you could make it a ridiculously up market gym catering to rich people who like to feel like they're doing something for the environment, to counter balance the ridiculously oversized vehicles they drive 500m down the road to the local school to pick up the kids.

Oh crap, already been done.

1
0
Happy

I've had a brilliant idea

Why doesn't the government bung this company, say, £100bn of our electricity bills to fit a strip of these tiles along all of the railway lines in the country. Trains are big and heavy so they'll generate so much energy that they can power the trains with them! And have enough left to power some of those windmills polluting the countryside so they'll look nicer by spinning all the time!

When somebody works out induction charging for electric cars, they can do it on motorways too!

1
0
Bronze badge
Trollface

Re: I've had a brilliant idea

You don't need that. You only need 1 train on a small circular track. If you power the train on a picoelectric tiles, then it will run it's self for ever... right?

/sarcasm

1
1
FAIL

Wrong idea, wrong place

Its a dumb idea on multiple levels, but if they have to do it any where, do it somewhere that makes sense. Like a kindergarten, a gym or roads. Kindergartens have 20-30 small children running in circles and jumping, a gym has 'roid nuts lifting 500 tonne weights, and roads have cars. All of which would generated way more juice than a civilised establishment.

0
2
Stop

Re: Wrong idea, wrong place

I don't mind the idea of a gym or play area, since in both cases these folk are deliberately wasting energy for other reasons (fitness, being three), so some of it is potentially trappable - particularly in a spinning gym where it's directly available as a circular motion (cue Charlie Brooker, as someone else has already hinted at).

But the idea of putting this on roads is as ludicrous as the idea a couple of years ago of putting wind turbines in the central reservation. You would essentially be forcing cars to roll uphill all the time, even on a flat road. This would just burn more fossil fuels, hugely less efficiently than just putting diesel in a generator, never mind the astronomical energy and financial cost of building the thing.

Someone will no doubt now suggest it would be OK if they were electric cars...

3
0
Silver badge
Go

Re: Wrong idea, wrong place

"Someone will no doubt now suggest it would be OK if they were electric cars..."

See a few posts above (though I'm pretty confident they were taking the Mick.)

1
0
Bronze badge
Joke

Re: Wrong idea, wrong place

"Someone will no doubt now suggest it would be OK if they were electric cars..."

You beat us to it!

0
0
Bronze badge
Pint

I tried to fix it

Excellent article, Mr Page. As someone else remarked, it is good to have a small corner of the Internet which is not dumbed down.

In 2009 British MPs were exposed as a bunch of expenses fiddlers, and David Cameron reopened the Conservatives' list of wannabe MPs. They expected about 300 applications, but got 4000, including mine.

They turned me down. Obviously a science degree and a career in industry count for nothing against their A-list material. Hence the stupid policies which put sentiment above science.

Ye gods, I could have a good rant about this. Not exactly on message, but far more entertaining, for me and even for you. Vote for me, chaps and honorary chaps. Details later.

6
0
Silver badge
Pint

Re: I tried to fix it

Beer for someone who tried to get involved rather than just sit around complaining about the politicians. Hopefully you'll have another go sometime.

0
0
TWB

For once

Lewis writes something I agree with.

What he did not appear to say was that sadly the World seems to be run by rule makers and those who like working around those rules (lawyers, bankers, journalists, wankers etc)

I wish there were more scientists in power, though there has been one major exception in the past....

3
0
Silver badge

Re: For once

Merkel has a PhD in quantum physics.

Just so you know.

And both engineers and physicists can be as stupid as the next person when working outside their area of personal expertise and/or prejudice.

If you want good government, you have to create some well-defined goals without lying about them to the public (which eliminates all of our current crop of pols) and apply feedback loops with solid peer review to make sure you're heading towards them.

And then you need to add further feedback loops that provide further social feedback to keep the primary loops stable.

You might start getting intelligence out of collective decision making then. (If something else didn't go wrong.)

Throwing everyone who works in marketing and advertising into the nearest volcano likely wouldn't hurt either.

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: For once

Merkel's election slogan was „Politik ohne Lüge”. That is: "Politics without lies".

Everyone in East Germany knew the authorities were lying to them; but had no idea how outrageous those lies were until after the fall of communism. Hence Merkel's slogan.

Good on yer, Angie!

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums