This blog takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth. The approach is often playfully quantitative, with the aim of arriving at a fresh perspective on our world. Posts stress estimation over exactness, because in many cases a reasonably complete picture can be developed without lots of decimal places. Estimations of this type can be used to bring clarity to complex issues, or to evaluate the potential of proposed energy solutions. Hopefully, readers will gain the courage and techniques to start making valuable estimations of their own. The blog begins with a two-part assessment of the implications of continued growth, then settles down to tackle a variety of cute questions relating to energy storage, biofuels, home energy, transport, climate change, etc.
Many estimates will leave out small contributions to the problem, but these tend not to change the overall conclusions: ballpark is often all we need. Also, it is usually not hard to find thorough, detailed analyses of these same problems elsewhere. Part of the point is that we don’t always need thorough, detailed studies to arrive at a useful understanding. There is power in being able to assess the broad-brush aspects of a problem using things you already know, and putting relevant numbers together. We don’t have to rely on what experts tell us if we have the power of useful estimation at our disposal.
The content of this blog site does not represent the view of the UCSD physics department. Tom Murphy is responsible for the content, though may not himself share the views contributed within the discussions.