Between Two Nerds #7 | Electricity & Solar Energy | Science Podcast


Hello and welcome to another episode of Curiosity
Lab’s Between Two Nerds, where each week, if you’ve watched or listened to us before,
you will know that we invite a tiny human being to sit between us and have a little
chat about science. This week our tiny human being is… Spatika and I am six years old. Awesome! That is my favourite age. I love six years old. And you know the nerds. I am Mo. And I am Eugene. Okay, Spatika. What would you like to talk about? Electricity. Good. Electricity. Good, okay… What about electricity? What’s your first question? So, who makes electricity? That’s a great question! Yeah, it’s a good question. Well, you mean the electricity we use to power
our homes and everything? Yeah. So that’s usually — That would be made by
— Well, here in Dubai it’s made by the government, right? They have a special branch of the government,
I guess, that would be making the electricity for us. Right? In other countries there are companies that
do it, right? Like in England, you have separate electricity
providers. So how do they make it? What do they use? What do they use to make electricity? Yeah? Well, little electricity machines. Yeah. They get a bunch of hamsters, right? A whole bunch of hamsters that run around
on these — And each of them has a wheel, right? And they get them to run around. [Laughs] I don’t know why you’re laughing, but I’m
going to power through! Each hamster has a little wheel, right? Yeah. And they feed the hamsters lots of, no, not
chocolate. That’s bad! Lots of sugar. Yeah. These are your top 5% of hamsters in terms
of athleticism. Right? And they run around these wheels and as they’re
running around the wheels they make electricity. Next question. But, why hamsters? Hamsters are actually really good when it
comes to cost of feeding them; very, very low in cost. Why not rats? Well, rats are a bit yuckier. Less stamina. Hamsters look chubby, but they’re actually
svelte. We did ask the rats, but the rats said no
so there’s hamsters. But then, how does it come to our houses? Ah! Now — It’s the pigeons! In my head I was rattling around which bird
to use. So the pigeons, right? You’ve seen pigeons flying around — Yeah. — Well, they’re carrying little bags of electricity
and they’re just dropping it off and… Yeah. Actually — Does that sound true? No! No it doesn’t. Does it? Okay, fine. In the last few years, because of animal rights
and all that, we have moved away from hamsters and pigeons and there are a few different
ways we’ve come up with to make that electricity. So one of the ways — Okay. So the main way that we still use is we use
this machine called a generator, okay? That’s because it generates — Do you know
what the word “generate” means? Like, to make? Very good. Good job, Spatika. So a generator, we use that to make electricity. Do you know a generator? I don’t really know how it looks, but I know
that it means like, it makes stuff. Yeah, it does. So an electricity generator has two key components
inside. Now one of them — Have you heard of a magnet? I’ll bet you have. Yeah. Yes. So magnets are massively important when it
comes to making electricity and the other thing is a metal. Do you know what metals are associated with
electricity a lot? Because they’re conductors? Ah! Very, very good! So it’s a conductor metal and it’s normally
copper. And steel? Yeah. So you could use steel as well or certain
types of steel, but copper — Copper is really good at conducting electricity and it’s cheaper. Actually you could also use gold. But that’s really not cheap. That wasn’t a joke. It’s also expensive. Yeah, it’s super expensive. Even copper is actually quite expensive, but
not as much as gold. So — And water. And water? Water is a conductor, yeah. Yeah, so you have a coil of copper, right? Yeah. So basically a generator would be a magnet,
right? A big magnet. So you need a magnetic field. So you have these magnets all around this
coil of wire. Yeah. Right? Yeah. And the important thing that you need the
coil of wire to do is to move, constantly move around in that magnetic field. There you go. We’re making electricity here. Okay? We’re making a wind turbine turn. Yeah, so that’s — It’s similar. Yeah. In a wind turbine you would have a little
tiny — Well, not tiny, but a generator inside it. So you have — As long as that conductor is
moving inside the magnetic field, it creates electricity and the way it does that; because
that magnetic field pushes the electrons inside the conductor along the wire and that’s really
what electricity is. It’s a flow of electrons. Just like how water flows in a river, right? So electricity is the flow of electrons inside
that conductor. Yeah. And the reason why a magnet can be used to
make electricity is actually because of — Michael Faraday, who was a very great scientist, discovered
that if you move any piece of wire next to a magnet, right? You would be making electricity inside that
coil of wire, okay? Because electricity and magnetism are actually
part of the same force which we call the “electro-magnetic force”. So it’s like you have this one force and on
one side you have electricity and the other side you have magnetism and it’s kind of like
a coin. You know, the coin, you’ve got your two sides. Head and tails, right? And in the same way, so electricity and magnetism
are the two sides of the same force because they both depend on electrons. Have you heard of electrons? Yeah. Yeah? So electrons spin, okay? Around the protons. Yeah. So they’re travelling around the nucleus of
the atom, or kind of like orbiting around the atom, the nucleus of the atom. At that same time they can spin — Yeah. — And it’s the spin, depending on which direction
in which the electron is spinning, that gives something it’s magnetism. Okay? And also the movement of electrons is electricity. So they both depend on how the electron is
moving. Yeah. Okay – and actually, like in a magnet, the
reason why it’s a magnet and you can feel that magnetic force is because all the electrons,
or just about all the electrons, in that magnet are spinning in exactly the same direction. Whereas me, I am not a magnet. Am I? Not that type. No, I’m not a magnet. That’s because all the electrons in my body
are spinning in different directions. So that’s why I do not have a magnetic field
around me. All right? So we use the generators. That’s how we make our electricity. Now you would take a generator — So the way
that we have been making electricity so far has been burning fossil fuels, right? That’s a bit bad. Yeah, that is a bit bad. That’s not just a bit bad! It’s very bad, right? We’ve done it a lot. So we burn fossil fuel like oil and coal and
natural gas. We burn that, use the heat that’s generated
from that, from burning those fossil fuels, to heat up water. You get the water to boil and turn it into
— What does water turn into when you heat it up? Steam. Steam! That’s very good. So you get that steam, you take that steam,
take it through pipes and then on a generator you’d have a fan on there and you blow that
steam onto that. It’s called a turbine and it turns the coil
inside the magnetic field and that’s how you make it. So that’s how we do it with fossil fuels,
but then with a windmill or a wind turbine right, you’d just use the wind straight away
to turn the — What do you call them? The rotor? To turn the – Yeah, the blades. Yeah. What do you call it? The blades? The blades of the windmill, yeah. The wind turbine; and that turns the generator. Okay? Or you can use — You can build a dam on the
river, right? And inside the dam, you have the generators
and the water rushing through the dam will push and will make that generator turn. That’s the hard part. So the hard part, or the expensive part and
the part that sort of modern and what we call “renewable energies” are all looking at doing
is changing the way we create that movement in a generator, because that’s — We’ve got
to get it moving. Earlier I thought that it was a generator,
but it didn’t generate electricity. It generated hamsters! All right! I love the hamster answer. The hamster answer! Yeah. And — Google it, that’s true. Also, there are a couple other ways that don’t
— There’s one way that I can think of that doesn’t actually use a generator to make electricity
and it’s probably what is, in my opinion, the best way of making electricity, which
is using solar power. Oh, that’s — Yeah. That’s — Yes, go on? Like, the best way! Yeah, it is the best way. It is! Because it’s like, we have — In the sky,
we have this big giant nuclear reactor sending energy our way. For free, right? You don’t have to pay the sun to do its job. And then all we have to do — It’s not alive. Yeah. And then so there’s all this energy beaming
down onto our planet and with a solar panel, right…. It’s made out of materials that, when light
hits it, it actually pushes the electrons through a circuit and that’s how it generates
electricity. Then if you have lightning one day, how do
you store that electricity? Oh, that would be quite hard. Yeah. I don’t know if we do? Do we? Have we done that? It’s too much in one go. We throw that electricity. So the thing with lightning, is what we want
to do is we want to get that electricity not to hit us or to hit a building that we are
in or to go through that building. So it’s all about getting that lightning strike
and all that energy down into the ground. We just want to throw that energy into the
ground to keep us safe. If you could harness it, you’d have to predict
it pretty impressively. Well, yeah. I mean, I guess it’s the problem with even
like, solar power and everything. How do you store it? But if you throw it in the ground, then if
you step on the place where you threw it in the ground then will it just come in your
body? You would think so, right? Actually, so the Earth is giant. I don’t know if you know. Right? It’s massive. It’s really big! So we think that… The Earth can store almost an unbelievably
large amount of charge. Okay? So if the lightning hits the ground, right,
it just — All that electric charge just disperses into the Earth. So it can store a large amount of this electric
charge, which is why the lightning has kind of hit the ground in the first place. Yeah. So solar power has my vote. So what’s the problem? One of the hardest things — So it’s an easy
assumption. So we live — Where are we living right now? Dubai. Yeah, absolutely – and Dubai is fairly famously
sunny. Dubai Media City. So it should be, and it is. It is a great place for solar farms, effectively. Lots and lots of these panels taking their
energy from the sun; but the other thing about Dubai is we’re in the middle of a massive
desert and if you get sand and you’re constantly covering those panels, those panels become
deeply inefficient. So you need to find a solution that allows
you to have this huge area with solar panels, but where you are constantly keeping them
clear of the sand that is everywhere. Yeah. Which is actually a huge challenge. Yeah. Yeah and it’s also — If it gets really hot,
those solar panels don’t work as well. They don’t. So when Eugene said efficiency, that means
how much of the energy — Do you know what efficiency means, actually? Like when you do something quick or slow? It can be! Yeah, yeah. So efficiency with a solar panel is how much
energy, how much of the energy that’s hitting it is getting converted into electrical energy. Right? So if they are covered with sand then they’re
obviously not going to be very good. Right? But also when they get hot as well, the efficiency
goes down. Right? Another problem is, with solar power, right
— Can you think of another problem with solar electricity or solar power? Is it always sunny? I don’t know. Was it sunny when you went to bed last night? No. Why? It was dark? Because if it’s dark, we can’t. Yeah. So when it’s dark — Because you need sun. Yeah. So now and we still use electricity at night
time, right? Yeah. Yeah? So what we’d have to do is to store that electricity,
right? So that we can use it when it’s night time. Is this why people just don’t use solar panels
enough and they just think we can give up? No, it doesn’t. That’s why they are trying to invent ways
of overcoming these challenges; so making batteries to store the electricity. So you can make all the electricity you need
during the day and store the amount that you’d need for night time in a battery and at night
you take the electricity out or the battery, or even when it’s cloudy. That’s another time when — But then if we have some leftover electricity,
for example… Mm-hmm? Then why don’t we give it to people who don’t
have electricity? Very good! They do do that. So one of the things that you can either do
there are those things called “national grids”, which is that all that electricity has to
run along — A grid that’s national? Yeah. Well, that covers a country or a large area;
and that’s all those wires, those running tracks for those electrons. So if I had a big house and I covered my roof
in solar panels and I started getting more energy than I needed to run my house… So I had all the electricity I needed and
loads more. Unless I am connected to the grid that allows
it to run backwards, I can’t give that energy to anyone. So you have to have this — We call it an
“infrastructure”. So the bit that you can’t see when you look
out at that city… “Is this connected to something else?” So in the United Kingdom there’s quite a good
national grid because it was done over many, many decades ago and has been built and built,
but it’s very hard to reverse-engineer and say “Right, we’re going to connect everything
to one grid that allows that flow to go both ways”. Yeah, but if you have that you can actually
sell it back to, you know, the government here that makes the electricity. So in other sunny places like in California
in America, which is also another very sunny place — But then if you just give it back, they just
might make more and give it to the rich again. No, no. Actually you sell it back. You sell it to the grid. Yeah. So instead of you paying an electricity bill. No, you wouldn’t have to be doing that, right? But instead of you paying an electricity bill
— The electricity company. The electricity company will give you money
for selling them electricity. Yeah. Yeah? Yeah. It’s win-win. It’s worth having. Yeah! So a lot of the schools… any building. It’s pretty much any building that’s being
built now; will have some sort of solar panels in its plans. Yeah. On it’s roof. A lot of the schools will have those. They even have — I don’t see any. Actually, you will see them. Even here, like the parking meters. They have solar panels. So you’ll see a solar panel above the parking
meter. At Mall of the Emirates, actually. The parking lot upstairs. I don’t know what they’re powering but there’s
all those solar panels over, as shades over the cars. Are they just powering those big TVs inside? Yeah, but still… Shop! They’ve got 27 TV’s on the wall all blaring– Having a go– That’s a lot of energy. Yeah, yeah… but that would have been used
anyway, so at least they have the solar panels to be powering that. But how do you know that your amounts of electricity
are needed and then you won’t have to waste that electricity? Yeah, so engineers would calculate this. It’s like yeah, going back to many, many,
many years ago when I was a kid. So the national grid and the energy company
would have to know when demand was going to really increase. It was the kettle. And it was the kettle. So the famous TV programs… when the TV program
stopped and went to an advert — Yeah. — They knew that millions of households across
the country were going to go into their kitchen and turn the kettle on, which suddenly created
this huge demand in electricity. So they had to plan for when everyone was
going to put the kettle on to watch their favourite TV program. So you’d literally — You look and you study
and you look at data — Yeah. — and find out when people are using most
electricity. Yeah. You mean the kettle on the stove? Yeah. So that was it… the kettle on the stove. Or the electric kettle. The electric kettle. I’m not that old. Or maybe I am! All right, Spatika! Did you enjoy that? Yeah. Yeah? Did you learn something? I did. Yes? Hamsters and pigeons! That’s how we make our electricity. Fact. Not now. Google it. Yeah, in the past. Actually, we should correct that. There was never a time, right? Just in case! But maybe there will be? So there was never a time that anyone used
hamsters and pigeons to power their houses. I knew that! Just in case, if there’s anyone watching that
didn’t pick up on sarcasm. All right? Okay? So, thank you so much Spatika. You’re welcome. You were awesome. Thank you very much. You’re welcome. And thank you guys for listening and watching. Okay, let’s wave at the camera. Bye! Bye-bye! Just keep waving… just keep waving! Never stop. Never stop waving.

3 Comments

  1. Vikram Kumar said:

    Intellectual Discussions but Sound Quality needed to Improve. Your 105th Subscriber 🙂

    December 10, 2019
    Reply
  2. DVSS said:

    Hey! One suggestion: Can you pls include Time-Stamps? it will be much easier for the viewers to go through the podcast and get an overall idea

    December 13, 2019
    Reply
  3. DVSS said:

    I really never watched any podcasts, but this is really cool! I'll binge watch all the episodes, keep them coming!

    December 13, 2019
    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *