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My Courses, In-Depth: Alternative Energy Sources

January 29, 2010

“If you have a nice red wine, and say you urinate in it about 5% … You ruin the wine” – My professor, in response to his rhetorical question “Does a 7.9Gt increase in CO2 emissions affect the state of the atmosphere”

Alternative Energy Sources (in Physical, Environmental, and Economical Perspectives) is by far the nuttiest course that I have ever taken.  The aim of this course is to “discuss what energy is, why we need it, the harm we are doing to the planet and future generations, the current range of energy technologies and fuels, [and] attempts by the international community to create treaties to reduce emissions and future sustainable energy technologies.”  Now how exactly are we going to do that?

Through a crash-course in thermodynamics and power, of course!  The first real lecture of the course ended with Jan, our physics prof for the course, throwing a raw egg on the floor to demonstrate the Second Law of Thermodynamics (basically that only certain energy flows can happen in nature).  I may be understating when I say that this is different than Ivey.  Alternative Energy completely encapsulates the reason why I am here in Norway – a desire for different thinking, passionate profs, and a new experience.

Homework has consisted of calculating kinetic energy from running water, total velocity of air particles on a hot day, and total energy required to heat water.  Thank you, grade 10 physics class!  I was proud to remember the constant for gravity’s acceleration (9.8 m/s², whaddup?).  There has been a small portion dedicated to some economics concepts – elasticity, monopolies, and production costs – but science has stolen the show, yet again.

The course follows a textbook called Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air (click here if you want to read it, it’s free and was meant to be disseminated!).  This is great stuff, and can be read like a book before bed, if need be.  Did you know that your cellphone wall-charger draws energy, even if you haven’t plugged your phone in?  And vacuum-cleaners are crazy power hogs.

Next week consists of a seminar for me: Communicating in the Energy Sector.  Basically, a seminar is an intensive full week of classes devoted to the subject.  Master’s students get a week off from classes to attend.  I will try my hardest to keep everyone updated, but that is dependant on the workload of the course.

Until then, vi sees.

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