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Thomas Edison’s thoughts about solar power


“Sunshine is spread out thin and so is electricity. Perhaps they are the same, but we will take that up later. Now the trick was, you see, to concentrate the juice and liberate it as you needed it. The old-fashioned way inaugurated by Jove, of letting it off in a clap of thunder, is dangerous, disconcerting and wasteful. It doesn’t fetch up anywhere. My task was to subdivide the current and use it in a great number of little lights, and to do this I had to store it. And we haven’t really found out how to store it yet and let it off real easy-like and cheap. Why, we have just begun to commence to get ready to find out about electricity. This scheme of combustion to get power makes me sick to think of–it is so wasteful. It is just the old, foolish Prometheus idea, and the father of Prometheus was a baboon.”

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3 thoughts on “Thomas Edison’s thoughts about solar power

  1. Fred Magyar says:

    While I agree with the gist of what Thomas Edison says about Solar Energy, I disagree with this particular observation though, I will liberally cut him some slack on it, given the cultural context and the views held by society during his particular moment in history.

    ““When we learn how to store electricity, we will cease being apes ourselves; until then we are tailless orangutans.”

    Aside from the fact that orangutans are already tailless, that in a nutshell, IMHO, seems to me to be the source of many of our problems for as has been clear for quite some time now, our ancestors were great apes, we are great apes and whether we like it or not our descendants will necessarily be great apes. To deny this is pure wishful thinking and hubris.

    In other words it is time to accept the fact that humans are part of nature and are not exempt for natural laws, be they the laws of thermodynamics, evolution or the non linear dynamics of feedback loops in complex systems such as our global ecological support systems which we are now degrading at our own peril.

    To say Homo ‘sapiens’ is a misnomer for our species, is what I would call the understatement of all time…

  2. TC Brakebill says:

    Very nice. Here is what Sir Charles Darwin has to say:
    The fifth revolution will come when we have spent the stores of coal and oil that have been accumulating in the earth during hundreds of millions of years… It is to be hoped that before then other sources of energy will have been developed… Whether a convenient substitute for the present fuels is found or not, there can be no doubt that there will have to be a great change in ways of life. This change may justly be called a revolution, but it differs from all the preceding ones in that there is no likelihood of its leading to increases of population, but even perhaps to the reverse. — Sir Charles Galton Darwin, 1952
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  3. He goes on to say:

    “When we learn how to store electricity, we will cease being apes ourselves; until then we are tailless orangutans. You see, we should utilize natural forces and thus get all of our power. Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are manifestations of energy. Do we use them? Oh, no! We burn up wood and coal, as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property.”

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