Heliophage


The Worldfalls
August 22, 2012, 10:39 am
Filed under: Nature writing, samples/work in progress

I’m fascinated by the fact the Earth-system is a massive conduit of power, with energy flowing into the system in the form of sunlight, flowing out of it as infrared. The flow involved is simply extraordinary: 120,000 terawatts. That’s 10,000 times the amount that flows through our industrial civilisation – all the world’s reactors, turbines, cars, furnaces, boilers, generators and so on put together. Yet so firmly are we tethered, and so smooth is the flow, that we hardly notice this torrent thundering past and through us. It just feels like the world.

So here’s an image to try and capture the immensity of the flow in which we are embedded. Picture Horseshoe Falls, the most familiar, forceful and dramatic cataract in Niagara Falls, in full spate.

Now increase the height of the falls by a factor of 20; a kilometre of falling water, a cascade higher even than Angel Falls in Venezuela.

Now increase the flow by a factor of 10. Instead of 30 tonnes of water falling over each metre of the lip of the falls every second, allow 300 tonnes of water per metre.

Finally, widen the falls. Stretch them until they span a continent, with billions of tonnes of water falling over them every second. And don’t stop there. Go on widening them until they stretch all around the equator: a kilometre-high wall of water thundering down incessantly, cutting the world in half, deafening leviathan in the abyss.

That is what 120,000 terawatts looks like. That is what drives the world in which you live.

About these ads

9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Reblogged this on Reconciliation Ecology and commented:
When I saw Christopher Mims’ tweet about this, I thought: hey, new infographic showing the world’s energy, cool! But this is an infographic that is so mindboggling that you will have to build the image it in your own head, using just the word picture in this post. Astonishing, this world we live in and take for granted.

Comment by aranyak

The beauty is more than 99% of the suns energy is radiated back into space!

Comment by Krish

[...] means fewer molecules drifting in the atmosphere and blocking the escape of heat radiated by an Earth warmed by sunlight. The bad news is no one knows [...]

Pingback by Current Event News - CurrentEvent.co

[...] means fewer molecules drifting in the atmosphere and blocking the escape of heat radiated by an Earth warmed by sunlight. The bad news is no one knows [...]

Pingback by QuestioScientia.com &raquo Oil Companies May Have Been Helping Combat Climate Change (A Little)

[...] means fewer molecules drifting in the atmosphere and blocking the escape of heat radiated by an Earth warmed by sunlight. The bad news is no one knows [...]

Pingback by A Bit of Good News about Climate Change « Passing Through . . . .

[...] Energy Around Us Posted at 11:00 on August 29, 2012 by Andrew Sullivan Oliver Morton considers the earth as "a massive conduit of power, with energy flowing into the system in the [...]

Pingback by The Energy Around Us | The Penn Ave Post

[...] use the Earth as a test case. As Oliver Morton has pointed out with a lovely metaphor, the sun beams a total of 120,000 terrawatts per day onto our planet. [...]

Pingback by The Best Way to Find Aliens: Look for Their Solar Power Plants | The Shrike.ca

[...] use the Earth as a test case. As Oliver Morton has pointed out with a lovely metaphor, the sun beams a total of 120,000 terawatts per day onto our planet. [...]

Pingback by The Best Way to Find Aliens: Look for Their Solar Power Plants | GAVWEB Design

[...] its energy literally making life possible. How much energy? A flow of 120,000 terawatts, which is, as science writer Oliver Morton puts it, “10,000 times the amount that flows through our industrial civilisation – all the [...]

Pingback by Visualizing How Much Energy The Sun Shines Onto the Earth | The Atlantic | Road To Abundance




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers

%d bloggers like this: