Sunday, June 22, 2008

JJNN 30 June 22nd, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday June 22nd, 2008. Today I want to talk the environment and the crazy things people do to try to help out the environment.

Before I get to the news, I just want to say that I had my birthday party yesterday and I am still extremely messed up because of it. That means that this post will probably not be the easiest one to read, but please bear with me.

OK. The story can be found here. Tokushima, which is a prefecture and a city in southern Japan, has what they call "candle night" every year on the summer solstice and on the winter solstice. The candle night has been going on in parts of Japan for about 5 years.

The goal of the candle night is to have 1000000 people turn off their lights from 8:00 to 10:00 and use candles as a replacement to electric lights. That sounds great, right? Well, actually, not really. Let's think about it from the perspective of saving the environment. In order to save the environment the greenhouse gasses that we release have to be lowered. But, does turning off the lights in your house and using candles really do that?

Before getting into the number (and the fun) let's talk about greenhouse gasses. What exactly is a greenhouse gas? A greenhouse gas is any gas that will stop heat from the earth escaping into space. This is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. Without these greenhouse gasses all the heat from the sun and the heat from the earth itself would escape into space and earth would be a very cold place. On the other hand, if there is too many greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere the earth would get very hot. As with everything, there needs to be a good balance. There are many types of greenhouse gasses, but the one I want to deal with is carbon dioxide.

So, how much carbon dioxide does a burning candle produce? I didn't really want to do the math myself so I poked the answer out of the internet here. It turns out that a candle can produce about 10.7g of carbon dioxide an hour. Candle night lasts for 2 hours a night from 6/21 to 7/7 which is a total of 34 hours. That would be 363.8 grams of carbon dioxide. And if they reach their goal of 1000000 people that would be 363800000 grams of carbon dioxide. That is of course assuming that everyone has only one candle. It could be a fact that everyone is using 2 candles because the light that is produced by a candle is poor. In that case that amount of carbon dioxide would be doubled.

So what does that big number mean? Well, let's assume that everyone that lit up a candle did so after turning off just one light. This is not such a stretch for Japan. I have one light for every room in my house. A good average light bulb is a 40W bulb. W stands for watt and is a measure of energy use or production. 1W is one joule of electrical energy per second. So, if a person shuts off a 40W bulb for 2 hours they are saving 40W*2hr*60min/hr*60sec/min or 288000 joules of energy. How many grams of carbon dioxide does that end up being? Well, most of Japan's electric energy comes from nuclear power, which produces no real amounts of CO2.

So, that means that burning those candles puts 363800000 grams of carbon dioxide into that air that would not have been there in the first place. But, what if Japan were powered by gas coal. gas coal is 85% carbon and 1 gram of it produces 35000 joules of energy. That means to get that 288000 joules of energy for turning off lights 8.2 grams of coal have to be burnt. 8.2 grams of gas coal is 6.97 grams of carbon dioxide. Multiply this by 1000000 to get 6970000 grams of carbon dioxide. This is much less than what is produced from the candles.

So, it turns out that people that are trying to save the environment by turning off lights are actually killing it with all of the carbon dioxide they are producing. Ironic, but in the end a little sad. People have to find better ways to hug trees.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 蝋燭(ろうそく). It is pronounced rosoku and means candle. I always liked candles, but I can't bring myself to use one after my apartment burnt down a couple of years back. The fire wasn't caused by a candle, but still fire inside is not always a good thing.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

1 comment:

  1. In the blur of my hangover I made one little mistake yesterday. I said that the 8.2 grams of coal would be 6.97 grams of carbon dioxide, but that is wrong. It is actually 6.92 grams of carbon. Using Avogadro's number and knowing that carbon is just about 12 grams per mole we can get that there are 3.4 * 10^23 atoms. Carbon Dioxide has 2 oxygen atoms per carbon atoms so that would be 6.8 * 10^23 atoms. This is close enough to a mole, so it would weight 16 grams. Adding this to the 6.97 we get 22.9 grams of carbon dioxide, or 22,900,000 grams for all the people. This is still less than 363,800,000 by a factor of 10. Sorry for the mistake guys.