Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Late entry by The Times for the 2009 Hot Air Oscars

In July 2009, I nominated two newspapers for the Hot Air Oscar for Most inaccurate numbers in a right-wing newspaper.
A late submission has arrived, nominating The Times for their laughably inaccurate statement about solar power.
The US Energy Department has calculated that a 62-square-mile (160 sq km) parcel of the Mojave [desert]... receives enough sunlight to power the entire country.

Anyone who has seen SEWTHA page236 will know this statement is wrong. The average power of tropical desert sunshine is about 250 W/m2 [see page 46]. Multiply by 62 square miles and you get 40 GW. That is far smaller than US power consumption, which is about 3700 GW (if they mean power in all forms) or 420 GW (if they mean electricity only).
Being more realistic, we should use a power per unit area of 15-20 W/m2, since that's what real solar power stations offer. At that power per unit area, 62 square miles would give you just 2.4-3.2 GW.
What is it about journalists, areas, and squares? One of the ealier nominations for this Hot Air Oscar also featured an incorrectly reported area!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eat bacon and ride a bike!

About 8 months ago, I made a short video with the help of Cambridge University, called "how many lightbulbs" [1]. This week, Cambridge University has published another 6-minute video in the same series - it's fantastic, and it's called Professor Risk. ← click this link to go to the movie in its own page.