Energy

A few weeks ago, one evening the kids and I had one of those magical dinners. Jo was back at Lariat Ridge hanging out with Carol who is recovering nicely after her second knee replacement surgery. I had taken the kids to Havalah for their haircuts straight after school. We stopped at Central Market on the way home and bought a loaf of freshly baked rosemary bread and two juicy prime ribeyes (32,000 liters of water down the hatch). I thinly sliced the steaks across the grain like Japanese yakiniku. Everyone liked it. My cheap wine tasted great. We sat in the lovely spring evening outside and chatted for a couple of hours.

It took me about 20 minutes to get the grill hot and cook the ribeyes. I spent less than a pound of propane, say 500 grams in the metric world.

When we backpacked in the Ouachita National Forest over spring break, I used 100 g of propane over four days from one of those pocket sized gas canisters that directly screw into an ultralight stove to cook. We boiled water each night for Vivian, Evan and my dinners and for Princess Vivian’s oatmeal in the morning (Evan and I ate cold granola for breakfast). We consumed 25 g of propane per day compared to 500 g to grill the ribeyes in the backyard. The energy in 25 g of propane can be stated in many different ways. Let’s drop into my teacher Daniel Sam’s physics class back at HPS for a quick review, ‘de man.

Energy is defined in physics as the capacity to do work. Work is the force applied on an object times the distance that the object is moved. Force is measured in newtons (N) in Système Internationale (SI) units and distance in meters (m). The unit of work in SI is joules (J) – one J is a force of one N applied to move an object by one m. So a J is also a N-m. As force is mass times acceleration, work and energy are mass x acceleration x distance, or mass x distance2 / time2 which makes a joule the same as a kg m2/s2. If you pick an average sized lemon which weighs exactly 102 g and move it from the floor to a table 1 m high, you have worked against gravity which has a downward acceleration of 9.8 m/s2. You have done 1 m x 102 g x 9.8 m/s2 or 1 J of useful work and if you used a 100% efficient machine it needed 1 J of energy. If you personally did the work you also moved your upper body’s weight against gravity, so you did a lot more work.

Speaking of doing work for no good reason, a calorie is another way to measure energy. We run into the calorie mostly when we are trying to burn more of it or eat less of it. Officially it is the energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water through one degree Celsius. A calorie is equal to about 4 J or four lemon pick-ups. A kilo calorie (kcal) is a 1000 calories. When a 12 oz can of Coke says in contains 140 Calories, it really means 140,000 calories. But because no one wants to drink that many calories we drop a few zeros like the peso. Food labels in the US frequently call a kcal a Calorie and spell it with a capital C.

Back to the lemons. When I pick a lemon off the floor to a meter tall table I expend about 0.1 kcal. Don’t quote me on this – I went through some approximate calculations involving toe touches and other stretches because lemon picking isn’t yet an Olympic sport. So 0.1 kcal is 100 calories with a small c or 400 J. Remember we said that the useful work done on the lemon was just 1 J. My body spends 399 J bending down and straightening up while doing 1 J of useful work on the lemon.

I burn about 1860 kcal or 7440 J even when I sit on my ass all day which does not happen infrequently. This number is based on my gender, weight, height, age, and other factors. This is the energy needed to pump blood and maintain my body temperature and think and digest food and do other stuff that keeps my body alive. My liver, spleen, and brain account for almost half of my body’s resting energy needs. If I get off my ass moderately, I need to absorb about 2400 kcal or 20,000 J of energy from food per day. Remember this number. There will be a test later.

One somewhat basic definition of you is that you use energy to create order from chaos. Living things are more organized compared to the world outside them. The chemical energy stored in food along with oxygen from the air we breathe is converted into complex ordered molecules. Some of these molecules do the work associated with living, like reproducing, growing, digesting, healing, and moving. Some molecules store excess energy in my belly fat. And like everything else in our known universe, some of the incoming energy is lost as heat, increasing the entropy of the universe forever. Plants additionally use energy from the sun. Other living things eat them thereby absorbing a portion of the sun’s energy stored in complex ordered plant molecules as chemical energy. The sun and other stars get their energy by smooshing hydrogen atoms into helium atoms. CSNY sang that we are star dust. A less lyrical addendum is that we live on star power.

Recall that energy is the capacity to do work. Power is the rate at which work is done. Returning to our trusty lemon, if a 100% efficient machine moves the lemon very slowly over the course of a year, and another one moves it in a second, the amount of work done by both is 1 J. But the fast machine uses a lot more power. To be exact, it expends 1 J per second, or 1 W (watt) which is the SI unit of power. Conversely, one W-s is one Joule because multiplying power with time gets you back to energy. Think of energy as the capacity of a tank of water and power as the flow rate of water out of the tank. A common measure of energy is the kWh (kilo watt hour), and is 1000 (for the kilo) x 60 (for the minutes) x 60 (for the seconds) J or 3.6 x 106 J. Electrical energy is often measured in kWh. If you loaded up a 100% efficient battery with 1 kWh and powered a 100% efficient lemon picking machine, the machine would be able to pick up 3,600,000 lemons. A fully loaded Tesla car battery stores 100 kWh of energy to move you and itself through 640 km.

There are other units used to measure energy. A British Thermal Unit or BTU which should be renamed to an American Thermal Unit is an archaic unit used in less advanced places and is similar to the calorie except that uses pounds and Fahrenheits instead of grams and Celsius. A TOE or Tonne Equivalent of Oil is the energy released with you burn a tonne of crude oil. Consider it the calorie content of one big ass can of oil. A megaton is the energy released when you explode one million tonnes of TNT. A BTU is equal to about 1000 J or 1 kilo J. A TOE is approximately 42 giga J. A giga is a billion or 9 zeros. A megaton is 4.2 peta Joules (15 zeros). The biggest nuclear bomb, the Tsar Bomba, released 50 megatons of energy during its explosion.

Last year the world used 1.4 x 1010 TOE or 588 exa Joules (18 zeros) of energy. That is approximately 200 x 106 J per man, woman, and child per day. Do you recall how many joules we decided you need to eat to stay alive and engage in moderate activity each day? Of course you do because like me you find all this utterly riveting. So that explains 1/10,000th of my daily energy consumption. Where do I use the remaining 199,980,000 J per day?

I’m looking into it. Feel free to leave a comment with the answer.

Evan’s 11

Happy birthday to my favorite male child.

You see those “I march to different accordion” type bumper stickers. You’ve always had your own accordion. Or tuba, or something that only you can hear. And often that means you aren’t easy to parent and even harder to teach, but you are teaching me the virtues of patience. You may construe that as a backhanded compliment. So here are some direct ones. You are caring. You are funny. You never carry a grudge. You laugh easily at the world and yourself. You try to come across as a thick skinned stoic, but you are a lover. You’re a nerd. You’re a turd. You think my jokes are funny.

What did one ass tell another? I love you to Uranus and back.

Ships

I find ships and things related to marine transportation eternally amazing. That the rest of my family doesn’t is eternally disappointing. Here’s a photo of them standing by the bay with Ouiser in Port Aransas. There’s all kinds of stuff in the water behind them. To the right of Evan is one of the ferries that run back and forth between Port Aransas and the mainland, a short 5 minute free service provided by TxDOT. We took it on the drive back to Austin even though it wasn’t on the fastest route. It’s nothing like the ferry that swallowed up our entire train on our trip from Hamburg to Copenhagen in 2014 but a ferry trip is fun.

To the extreme left of the picture there’s a construction barge with the yellow crane on it doing something to one of the ferry slips on the island side. And to the left of Jo, a ship owned by G2 Ocean is unloading what look like really giant pipe sections. The ship is the Gingko Arrow and arrived here from the port of Tuticorin in south India, carrying wind turbine towers. A few months ago it carried a load of wind turbine blades from India to here. It travels around the southern tip of India, sails across the Arabian sea through the Suez canal into the Med, out through the strait of Gibraltar, across the Atlantic, and to Port Aransas. It is amazing what you can look up on the internet about ship tracks, something we got familiar with during the Ever Given stuckage in the Suez. I love the photos of the tiny backhoe working away against the giant hull of one of the largest container ships in the world. And the memes for the backhoe and the hull with pairs of labels like “my New Year’s Resolutions” and “my Life”, or “the Paris Accord” and “Climate Change”, or “Reason” and “QAnon”.

A few minutes after I took that photo of the family on the bay in Port Aransas, we were treated to this marine parade. Jo captured it in the time lapse video. It was a giant offshore oil rig being carried on a giant ship pulled by a tugboat out front and restrained by two tugs in the back.

This is bp’s newest production platform for the gulf and is named the Argos. It was built in South Korea in the Samsung shipyards and then transferred to one of the world’s biggest heavy lift ships called the Boka Vanguard. How on earth do you transfer a giant oil platform on to a ship? By partially submerging the ship and then floating the cargo on top of it and then unsubmerging the ship again. Here’s a picture taken during the process in South Korea. The hull of the Vanguard is fully submerged, with portions of it’s white and grey superstructure visible like floating towers. The biggest one in left foreground contains the bridge and the accommodations and is located to the portside of the ship’s giant lift deck. The Argos is being towed into position over the Vanguard.

Here are a couple of photo of the same heavy lift ship, the Boka Vanguard, loading and carrying a cruise ship to dry dock in the Bahamas in 2019. And a link to a pretty fun video to watch the operation unfold.

The Argos is going to stay in Ingleside, a port next to Port A, for the next several months where it will be made ready for operations. Then she will be towed to a site 190 miles south of New Orleans and situated over on a very lucrative oil producing area called Mad Dog 2 (hence the name Argos, Odysseus’ dog). When fully functional next year, she will pump out oil from 14 wells almost a mile underwater and produce 140,000 barrels of crude a day. She is a new generation of oil platforms designed to function ultra efficiently and will be profitable even at crude prices of $30/barrel (West Texas Intermediate is trading at around $60 a barrel as I type this). bp has invested $9 billion into the Argos, and she has already taken over a million hours of work to put together. It is possible that when I pump gas at the Rosedale Market a year from now, it may have been sucked out of the ocean floor by the Argos.

When we see Evan heading for a disaster, we often joke that he was born during a disaster. The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform blew up in the gulf on the day of his birth. Eleven people died. Five million barrels of oil spilled into the waters of the gulf creating the worst ecological disaster in the history of oil exploration. It took six months to cap the oil well situated more than a mile underwater. bp paid almost $40 billion in fines, penalties, and expenses to clean up the mess. Oil slowly continues to leak out even today.

While Deepwater Horizon and Argos fulfil two very different functions (Deepwater drilled for oil, Argos extracts the oil from wells like the ones Deepwater drilled), they both indicate the incredible risks, engineering, and financing that go into satisfying our ever increasing need for energy. If all goes according to plans, Argos is expected to be pumping away till 2050, the year Evan turns 40!

Port A

This time of the year is particularly hard on the weekend calendar. Evan’s soccer ramps up. There is Easter and the Rosedale Ride. It is birthday season with Jo’s birthday, Karen’s birthday, Evan’s birthday, and Michelle’s birthday. Then there is Mother’s Day. And I’m sure there are other events lurking quietly only to leap out unannounced on a Saturday morning. So we got a head start on screwing up the calendar and went to Port Aransas for an early celebration of Jo’s birthday.

We had a lovely time. Ouiser, our water loving baby didn’t. Turns out she isn’t a beach puppy. She loves playing in the sand but wants nothing to do with the waves. We think she thinks the water is out to attack her.

Port A has it all – a bay side, fine sand, hours of sunshine, and a gently sloping gulf beach that is miles long. But we need to be reminded every few years that somehow these elements come together in North Padre in a less than perfect combination. And then there are the trucks. Texans legally drive on the beach which flattens out the sand and reduces the usable width of the beach to less than half even at low tide.

But the kids had a great time boogie boarding and Ouiser took lots of walks along the beach far away from the attacking water and we celebrated Jo’s birthday.

Easter

We usually do Easter pretty well. It used to include Pastor Scott’s service for Nicolle’s church at the outdoor pavilion at Slumber Falls, an egg hunt with the cousins, photos in the blue bonnets, and a huge family dinner. I often look back at my previous Easter posts for some of the cutest photos of the kids with their Grandma. Here are some memories from 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018, and my favorite Easter photo of Vivian and Evan from 2015.

This year the older kids organized and ran the egg hunt, and the adults restricted ourselves to celebrating with a stupor-inducing dinner. Carol is recovering from her knee replacement surgery, and perhaps in a show of strength, we didn’t step foot outside. So no pretty photos of the family in Easter outfits sitting amongst the blue bonnets. Instead I do have a stunning picture of a loaf of bread that Vivian and Grace baked. And an amazing photo of Vivian with her floral wreath.

Happy Easter.

Speaking of which, the back in 1993, Alabama banned their public schools from allowing yoga. The kids in PE class can stretch but have to use English names for the poses. And saying Namaste is also banned. Recently an Alabama lawmaker tried to get the law repealed, saying that he was a devout Christian and practicing yoga has not made him less Christian. One group protesting against the repeal argued that teaching yoga violates the constitution’s Establishment Clause. The repeal failed. Whew. I’m so glad to see a conservative group work hard to make sure religion doesn’t spread it’s tentacles into our public education system. And did I really say Happy Easter? I am less atheist now. Jesus! It works.