Environment Forum

Harry Potter, horcruxes and Steven Chu

Anyone familiar with Harry Potter knows as least two things: 1) this is the U.S. opening weekend for the final movie in the blockbuster series about the boy wizard and 2) ultimate villain Voldemort uses horcruxes to hold bits of his soul and extend his life.

Leave it to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to riff on horcruxes to explain energy storage.

“While I confess I haven’t yet seen all of the Harry Potter movies including the “Deathly Hallows Part 2,” a staff member (who might be a bigger nerd than I am) was telling me about Lord Voldemort’s “horcruxes” — objects he used to store his life energy.  Without them, he lost his power and couldn’t survive,” Chu said on his Facebook page.

“In the ‘muggle’ world, energy storage is crucial to our future as well, but for more positive reasons.  It is the key to greatly expanding the use of renewable energy sources that are intermittent like wind and solar power. Better batteries will mean longer range, lower cost electric vehicles, and will make our entire electricity generation and distribution system more efficient by smoothing out fluctuations in demand.”

Check out what the Nobel laureate says about the seven “clean energy horcruxes” in the rest of his post.

“The Harry Potter theory of climate”

USA/Climate doesn’t change by magic.

Just ask Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. On a conference call with other scientists and reporters, Serreze and others linked climate change to the last two harsh winters over much of the United States and Europe. And they squarely blamed human-caused greenhouse gas emissions for the rise in world temperatures that got the process going.

“Climate doesn’t change all by itself,” Serreze said. “It’s not like the Harry Potter theory of climate, where he flicks his magic wand and the climate suddenly changes. Climate only changes for a reason.”

He crossed off other possible drivers for climate change one by one.

“Could it be that the Sun is shining more brightly than it was? No, that doesn’t work. We’ve been monitoring energy coming from the Sun and apart from the 11-year sunspot cycle, there’s not much happening.

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