Society: Arts and Science – December 14

Today is International Thanksgiving Day! A day to celebrate your life in a special way…

Swedish and Norwegian committees bestow Nobel Prizes in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. In 1895, the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Edward Lawrie Tatum was born on this date in 1909. He was an American geneticist. He shared half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1958 with George Wells Beadle for showing that genes control individual steps in metabolism. The other half of that year’s award went to Joshua Lederberg. Beadle and Tatum’s key experiments involved exposing the bread mould Neurospora crassa to x-rays, causing mutations. In a series of experiments, they showed that these mutations caused changes in specific enzymes involved in metabolic pathways. These experiments, published in 1941, led them to propose a direct link between genes and enzymatic reactions, known as the “one gene, one enzyme” hypothesis. Tatum went on to study genetics in bacteria. An active area of research in his laboratory was to understand the basis of Tryptophan biosynthesis in Escherichia coli. Later, Tatum and his student Joshua Lederberg showed that E. coli could share genetic information through recombination. Tatum was born in Boulder, Colorado. He attended college at the University of Chicago and received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1934. Starting in 1937, he worked at Stanford University, where he began his collaboration with Beadle. He then moved to Yale University in 1945 where he mentored Lederberg. He returned to Stanford in 1948 and then joined the faculty of Rockefeller Institute in 1957. A heavy cigarette smoker, he died in New York City of heart failure complicated by chronic emphysema.
Nikolay Gennadiyevich Basov was born on this date in 1922. He was a Soviet physicist and educator. For his fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics that led to the development of laser and maser, Basov shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with Alexander Prokhorov and Charles Hard Townes.

More than a hundred years ago, the Republic of China was just getting organised by Mao following the abdication of Emperor Pu Yi. The Scouts had just been formalised by Royal Charter. The Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin had broken away from other socialists and the first issue of Pravda was in planning. The African National Congress had been announced a couple of weeks ago, still waiting for the arrival of Nelson Mandela. The Robert Scott expedition was already lost on its way back from the South Pole. Wow, what a leap year! We have our own problems today and our own accomplishments are ahead of us. Today, we can improve our personal energy situation.

Residential solar power has been within the reach of us for decades. Depending on your location, passive solar devices like correct window selection, have been used by savvy homeowners. Some have been in situations where they could use solar water heating systems. Most of us have thought about photovoltaic solar panels for generating electricity. As our electrical needs continue to grow, we can help ourselves to the watts bouncing away from our homes and businesses. The expense or complete independence runs into tens of thousands of dollars and the savings can take more than a decade to pay back on the investment. However, partial independence is offered if we use government subsidies effectively.

As the cost of living continues to go up, our utilities are a big part of our personal cost of living. Like with so many things for which we need to plan, doing it now will pay us back when we need it most. Reducing our utility costs can be a way to stay in our homes longer and more comfortably. There are even some pundits who calculate that those of us that install residential renewable energy systems will have an income stream in the decades ahead. Under advisement, I recommend that you consider a renewable energy project as a part of your next renovation or repair.

You can start your planning today. On the internet, you will find a plethora of online guides, videos, and e-books if you are do-it-yourself inclined. Because most are sponsored by garage-based renewable energy enthusiasts , these are efforts to create awareness by making the information free. Be careful. Not everyone can teach, not every video or guide tells you everything you need to know. Do your due diligence, do your research, be serious about what you want to achieve. Whether you will do it yourself or contract the work, you can’t expect that the project will be as simple as picking out an appliance and having it delivered. Fortunately, you can expect that your renewable energy project will deliver on its promises for decades. Here are some early considerations for you.

  1. Be honest. How skilled are you at building and installing things? This will affect the quality and efficiency of your installation. Remember that the best installation is at the highest point of your property. How comfortable are you with roofing work? Are equipped to prevent injury to yourself or others?
  2. Check out the instructions from several perspectives. What are you being asked to do? How will those instructions lead to providing you with renewable energy? Each step should lead you to several questions and concerns. Are these questions and concerns answered? Can you get feedback and support from the consultants you use? This will affect how well your system will function.
  3. What is the total cost of ownership? Kits cost significantly less than professionally built systems but will they function at the same efficiency level? Will you need to purchase other parts? Will you need to purchase permits or inspections? What ongoing costs or services are required?