Pencil Lines Can Turn a Piece of Paper Into a Simple Sensor

The graphite that slips from the point of your pencil onto a page may be of more use than simply writing and drawing. A team of researchers has shown that simple pencil lines can be used as an accurate sensor to measure the deformation of objects. » 3/19/15 8:15am 3/19/15 8:15am

Before 1948, LA's Power Grid Was Incompatible With the Rest of the US

Before 1948, there was something funny about the Southland's electricity. Plug in a clock from New York and it would lose 10 minutes every hour. Spin a record on a turntable from San Francisco and it would sound deep and drowsy. Some gadgets wouldn't work at all. » 2/10/15 2:25pm 2/10/15 2:25pm

This Flexible Skin Patch Could Use Friction to Power Your Wearables

The idea of capturing some energy from you constant writhing and wriggling ins't new—but this small, flexible device certainly is. The postage stamp-sized circuitry, once attached to the skin, could generate electricity to power the gadgets secreted about your person. » 1/29/15 5:45am 1/29/15 5:45am

Incandescent Bulbs, 135 Years Ago and Today

On January 27th, 1880, Thomas Edison was awarded a patent for an incandescent lamp. It was still two years before his first power grid would flicker to life in NYC, and Edison was living on the precipice of a new age. Oh, how things have changed. » 1/27/15 7:20pm 1/27/15 7:20pm

The Forgotten Story of NYC's First Power Grid

Lower Manhattan of the 1880s was a wonderland of futuristic technology and engineering: The city's first cable car arced over the harbor. A spindly new steel bridge was forming to connect Williamsburg to the city. And on the Lower East Side, Edison was tearing up the streets to build the first permanent power… » 1/26/15 4:13pm 1/26/15 4:13pm

California's Grid May Soon Store Energy in Giant Ice Packs 

California wants better batteries, which is why the electric company Southern California Edison is planning a set of, let's say, unconventional energy storage solutions, including huge 450-gallon ice packs. Why? It all has to do with a little-known problem with California's wind-reliant electric grid. » 12/22/14 4:55pm 12/22/14 4:55pm

Your Cable Box Is an Energy-Sucking Monster (But It Doesn't Have to Be)

An innocent little cable box can suck up more electricity than your actual TV. The most galling part though? Up to two-thirds of its power-hogging actually happens in "idle" mode, when you're not even using it. The good news is, device makers have the technical ability to make cable boxes that don't waste so much… » 12/03/14 12:00pm 12/03/14 12:00pm

Watch How the World's Largest Solar Farms Get Built

Large-scale solar plants are monstrous construction projects, that cover hundreds or thousands of acres of land in photovoltaic goodness. This amazing video shows how they go from concept to reality. » 11/27/14 6:00pm 11/27/14 6:00pm

This Kid-Proof Outlet Wouldn't Power Up Until You Plug Something In

Any household with small roaming humans inevitably has to block its electrical sockets from tiny probing fingers. But most of the childproof measures out there—plastic plugs, sliding faceplates—can still be impregnated by determined hands. This outlet prototype wouldn't supply any electricity to its sockets until a… » 11/19/14 5:40pm 11/19/14 5:40pm

Your Smartphone Could One Day Be Powered By Jet Fuel

Battery life on modern gadgets sucks—so why not power your mobile devices with something a little more potent like, err, jet fuel? That's the idea of researchers from the University of Utah, who think that fuel cells could efficiently be made to run using the same fuel as fighter jets. » 11/06/14 4:15am 11/06/14 4:15am

This Was An Electric Razor (And Face Massager!) in 1926

As electricity invaded American homes in the 1920s, everything imaginable was becoming electrified. From electric clocks and coffee percolators to electric dishwashers and stand mixers, every gadget was going electric. Even the sacred ritual of shaving one's face was getting the electric treatment, as you can see in… » 11/03/14 3:12pm 11/03/14 3:12pm

This Giant Searchlight Once Scanned L.A. From the Mountains Above

As twilight faded over Pasadena on September 9, 1894, an artificial sun flickered to life for the first time. High above town in the San Gabriel Mountains stood a wonder of the new electric age: a 60-inch General Electric searchlight, by many accounts the largest in the world. This massive projector first dazzled… » 11/01/14 6:26pm 11/01/14 6:26pm

Report: Solar Is Way Worse Than Other Renewables

Solar is an established—and constantly improving—form of renewable power. But according to a new report by the European Union its economic impact is incredibly costly, and far worse than wind and even hydroelectric power. » 10/22/14 7:00am 10/22/14 7:00am

Rooftop Solar Panels Are Almost All Facing the Wrong Direction

If you're thinking that solar panels face south to capture the most sunlight and thus the most energy, then you'd be absolutely correct. Yet, solar experts are saying that rooftop panels should be installed facing west. This surprising turn can be explained by quirks in our electrical grid. » 10/09/14 6:11pm 10/09/14 6:11pm

The World's Biggest and Best Gas Turbine Can Power 400,000 Homes

If you thought the GE90 aircraft engine was a masterpiece of modern engineering, just get a load of this beauty. General Electric's 9HA is the most advanced and efficient gas turbine available today and though it may not be able to lift a 787 off the ground, this potent electricity producer can easily power a mid-size… » 10/03/14 11:40am 10/03/14 11:40am

The president was afraid of the first White House light switches in 1891

The first president to install electric lighting at the White House was Benjamin Harrison in 1891, but he never touched the light switches himself, for fear of being electrocuted. This was a reasonable fear, given how crude household electric wiring could be at the time. » 10/02/14 3:09pm 10/02/14 3:09pm

This portrait made with electric sparks is the ultimate homage to Tesla

Phil Hansen is a multimedia artist "who specializes in representative portraiture using media that connect to the subject matter." This portrait of Nikola Tesla using electricity is the perfect example of that. » 9/30/14 8:06pm 9/30/14 8:06pm

This Flapping Device Makes Electricity From Wind Rushing Past Your Car

As far as car accessories go, we have to admit this one looks pretty silly. But the Samsung scientists who made it could also be onto something. The flapping tongues inside are actually coated with gold, and when they rub up against a smooth plate, electricity is created through something called the triboelectric… » 9/23/14 8:30pm 9/23/14 8:30pm

Touch-Sensitive Outlet Shuts Down Power To Protect Kids From Shocks

Here's a wonderful mashup of existing technologies that promises to make it all but impossible for little kids to get shocked by a power outlet. The Guardian Angel Shockproof Safety Outlet uses similar technology as your smartphone's touchscreen to detect when it's being touched, and then automatically shut down power… » 9/22/14 2:59pm 9/22/14 2:59pm

This Is Where Your Electricity Comes From

Ever wondered where those electrons come from when you plug something into your wall? Well, the Wall Street Journal has a lovely map which shows the main sources of electricity in each of the U.S. states. » 8/15/14 8:08am 8/15/14 8:08am