SuperBlog

Home

Front Page

Contact Me

Publications

Presentations

SuperGrid

An evolving, and reverse time-ordered, selection of my articles and opinions on various energy related topics, e.g., climate change, population, government energy policy, and emerging energy science...both sound and unsound (visit my TrapDoors page)!  All, and much more than you'll ever want to read, can be found on my Publications page. Please feel free to send your comments and criticism back to me at w2agz@w2agz.com.  BTW, you can also find backup visuals (and even videos) on some of these pieces in Presentations and SuperGrid.

Feature Articles Published in Nature, Scientific American, The New Scientist and Physics World
Various Commentaries Published in Nature and Elsewhere
"Outpost on the Endless Frontier" - Selected Pieces
Articles in Trade Journals
Book Reviews
 
"Letters-to-the Editor"
"Pure Opinion"
 
 

Feature Articles

"Extreme Energy Makeover," P. M. Grant, Physics World, October 2009, pp. 37-39. [The latest on the SuperGrid vision...maybe the best popular piece I've written.  It even got reviewed by Anjana Ahuja, science writer for The Times (of London), the weekend of 3 October 2009.  Go online to http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/earth-environment/article6856957.ece, or the PDF Version here.]
"A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy," P. M. Grant, C. Starr and T. J. Overbye, Scientific American, July 2006, p.76.  [Explores the vision of cryogenic, superconducting conduits connected into a SuperGrid that would simultaneously deliver electrical power and hydrogen fuel.]
"Hydrogen Lifts Off - With a Heavy Load," P. M. Grant, Nature 424, 129 (2003).  [Inspired by President George Bush's 2003 State of the Union address proposing a $1.2 B R&D effort to kick off a US program on hydrogen powered vehicles, this Commentary addresses the stark realities of putting American personal transportation on "water wheels."]
"Do-It-Yourself Superconductors," P. M. Grant, New Scientist 115, 36 (1987).  [The story is about my daughter Heidi's 8th grade science demonstration and the verification of superconductivity at 91 K in YBCO by a chemistry class at Gilroy High School in California, three months after its discovery and four months before the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Bednorz and Mueller.  I was told it was distributed by UNESCO to some 15,000 third world high schools, as well as to all members of the US Congress.  This was the first "education" paper on high-Tc and subsequent "levitation kits" made available to the general public.]

Back to SuperBlog


Commentaries

"Coming in from the Cold," Paul Michael Grant, Cold Facts 30 (5), October 2014, p. 36. [This is a followup to my Cold Facts piece in 2011, "Out into the Cold," here addressing when, where and how can we expect practical application, especially in the power sector, either at present temperatures (90 - 150 K) or at the Room Temperature Dream.]
"Out into the Cold," Paul Michael Grant, Cold Facts 27 (1), Winter 2011, p. 4. [A celebration of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity by Gilles Holst (no, not Kamerlingh Onnes!  See the "Day Before Yesterday" 1991 review by Vitaly Ginzburg.  Also, note the conversation I had with my Dad back in 1953 on my first experience I had with superconductivity.]
"The Great Quantum Conundrum," Paul Michael Grant, Nature 476, 37 (2011). [In this harangue, I take on my community regarding their failure, to date, to provide the community with a computationally testable model for the occurrence of high temperature temperature superconductivity in the correlated transition metal oxides-chalconginides-pnictides...or even the linear R vs T dependence in the normal state.  As David Mermin was advised as a Harvard student (me too), "..just shut up and calculate!" ]
"Upbraiding the Utilities," Paul Michael Grant, Cold Facts 27 (3), Summer 2011, pp. 4, 6. [Despite all the successes since the discovery of HTSC in 1986-87, including the development of practical wire and demonstrations of power equipment, why hasn't the US investor owned utilities adopted it?  This article issues a, so far unanswered, challenge.]
"Extreme Energy Makeover," P. M. Grant, Physics World, October 2009, pp. 37-39. [The latest on the SuperGrid vision...maybe the best popular piece I've written.  It even got reviewed by Anjana Ahuja, science writer for The Times (of London), the weekend of 3 October 2009.  Go online to http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/earth-environment/article6856957.ece, or the PDF Version here.  But...go here to see my my favorite Peer Review!]
"Prospecting for an Iron Age," P. M. Grant, Nature 453, 1001 (2008).  [The discovery and development of the ferrous pnictide superconductors in 2007-08 set off a flurry of activity not seen since 2001 with MgB2, or the 80s with the cuprates.  Right now, the highest Tc measured is in the mid-50 K range and has remained there for over a year and I believe that's the limit.  The etymology of the term "pnictide" is rather obscure, apparently deriving from the Greek verb "to choke," perhaps from campfires in the Spartan army depleting the oxygen locally leaving only nitrogen to breathe. :-)]
"Hydrogen Lifts Off - With a Heavy Load," P. M. Grant, Nature 424, 129 (2003).  [Inspired by President George Bush's 2003 State of the Union address proposing a $1.2 B R&D effort to kick off a US program on hydrogen powered vehicles, this Commentary addresses the stark realities of putting American personal transportation on "water wheels."]
"Scientific Credit and Credibility," P. M. Grant, Nature Materials 1, 139 (2002).  [I was honored to be asked to author one of the commentaries in the inaugural volume of Nature Materials.  Among issues raised by the "Batlogg-Schoen Affair," and discussed in this article, were the relative responsibilities of co-authors in preventing or exposing fraud by their colleagues, and how to recognize and assure more competent reviews by selected referees.  I'm happy to say that the American Physical Society now recognizes those referees who exhibit outstanding performance.]
"Woodstock of Physics Revisited," P. M. Grant, Nature 386, 115 (1997).  [The discovery of superconductivity above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen caught the organizers of the annual General Meeting of the American Physical Society (the "March Meeting") by surprise.  What transpired was a hastily organized all night session subsequently dubbed the "Woodstock of Physics."  This Commentary chronicles the author's experiences, observations and predictions during this memorable event.  If you "were there," check this out.]

"Superconductivity and Electric Power:  Promises, Promises...Past, Present and Future," P. M. Grant, IEEE Trans. Appl. Super. 7, 112 (1997).  [Based on a Plenary Lecture at the 1996 Applied Superconductivity Conference held in Pittsburg. An in your face review of where power applications have been, were at in 1997, and where they might be going.  Contains a description of the "electricity pipe" concept of Grant, Schoenung and Hassenzahl]

"Counting the Ten Year Returns," P. M. Grant, Nature 381, 559 (1996).  [The 10th anniversary of the discovery of high temperature superconductivity in the layered copper oxide perovskites by Georg Bednorz in January, 1986.  Where are we now, and where do we go from here?  Stay tuned, and check out articles below.]
"Another December Revolution," P. M. Grant, Nature 367, 16 (1994).  [Commentary on a report of a French group of superconductivity at 8 degrees Celsius. It was published in the eminent journal Science, and was praised by my friend and fellow skeptic, Bob Park.  It turned out to be complete nonsense, a textbook example of Richard Feynman's maxim, "In science it is easy to be fooled, and the easiest one to fool is yourself."  I was humbly honored by Nature to be awarded Nature's "In Praise of the Scientist as Writer" 1994 prize.  Go here.]
"High-Temperature Superconductivity: Four Years Since Bednorz and Müller," P. M. Grant, Adv. Mat. 2, 232 (1990).  [A review of the past and prediction of the future for high temperature superconductivity.  Some of the predictions were right on and some way off...you'll have to read the article to find out.  This paper contains beautiful 3D structures of all the known layered copper oxide perovskites at the time, computed by the graphics group at the IBM Winchester Science Center.]

Back to SuperBlog


Outpost on the Endless Frontier

"Nearer, My God, to Thee," No. 13, 31 December 1999.
[The story of Fermilab and the CERN Large Hadron Collider and the quest to understand our physical origins and the relevance of their technology to the overall energy enterprise.  Writing this column gave me the seminal inspiration for what later became the SuperGrid vision ((BTW, Bill Foster, formerly of Fermilab and originator of the "pipa-a-tron" concept, is now a Member of Congress).]
"Retro Chautauqua," No. 12, 24 October 1999.
[“Do you want free electricity?” shouts Dennis Lee.  “Yes!” rejoins his audience of true believers, an assembly that sort of reminds you of the worst of the turn of the century pseudo-science, semi-revivalist traveling roadshows.  In the fall of 1999, the New Tesla Electric Company put on a 20-odd city tour demonstrating the coming era of free energy for all.  This column narrates my own impressions gained from attendance at one of Mr. Lee's "Chautauqua" performances.]
"Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want You!," No. 11, 2 September 1999.
[The hardware backbone of internet communication is comprised of principally four technologies:  twisted copper pair, coaxial cable, fiber optics and satellite.  However, it is in principle possible to use electric power lines for this purpose as well.  The main barrier has been the overall low bandwidth.  In 1999, a company called Media Fusion came out of the woodwork with claims to have overcome this obstacle accompanied by considerable fanfare, including backing by an important member of Congress.  OutPost investigates.  Today (2009), Media Fusion's original website seems to have disappeared and the name is now associated with Media Fusion, Inc., a quality multimedia service firm.]
"Too Good to Be True," No. 10, 25 August 1999.
[A personal primer on the Scientific Method drawing from my own lifetime pursuit and application of its methodology.  How to tell fact from fiction, from the discovery of high temperature superconductivity to the reports of cold fusion, are the lessons taught us by the Greats, from Galileo to Semmelweiss to Feynman.  This is a must read for those journalists wanting to avoid the pitfalls dug by those who promise to have in their possession the energy salvation of mankind.]
"Dolly and Deep Blue," No. 9, 2 July 1999.
[What do cloning sheep and chess-playing supercomputers have in common?  This article explores the connection between genetic and artificial intelligence, their most likely future directions, and their mutual impact on the human energy culture and society in the 21st century.  This was the most controversial OutPost I wrote and I was "asked" to make several modifications, especially in the areas of climate change and genetic engineering, by EPRI senior management, before it was distributed to EPRI members.  If you'd like to see the "unexpurgated" version, click here.]
"Why Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," No. 8, 5 March 1999.
[A homily on the unique properties of that face-centered "diagonal" substituted crystal based on carbon on the planet...aka diamond.  Actually, it's an introduction to several IV-IV and III-V "alloys" that could provide the materials basis to embody future "Smart Grid" technology."]
"Return to Death Valley Days," No. 7, 3 November 1998.
[There's a canard that goes, "The future of energy is fusion...and always will be!"  One of the dark secrets of fusion-derived power is that no radioactive waste is produced...not so for deuterium-deuterium or deuterium-tritium reactions, whose energetic neutrons must eventually be used to boil water, thus turning any containment vessel "radioactively hot as hell" requiring disposal every five years or so.  However, some fusion reactions, such as protons with isotopic 11-boron, produce relatively harmless charged alpha particles (helium nuclei) whose motion, in principle, can be used to generate electricity directly.  This OutPost examines the promise of this reaction, concluding its deployment is too inefficient to be practical.]
"Squeeze Play," No. 6, 25 September 1998.
[High pressure. Typically, the application of pressure to conventional low temperature superconductors reduces their Tc.  However, the copper oxides are "deviants," in that their Tc rises.  Now, similar behavior is observed when the copper oxides are deposited as thin films on substrates which "compress" their lattice along particular unit cell directions.  It this the path to "home plate?"]
"Sun, Sea and Sand:  Solar Energy Stored in Hydrogen Controlled by Silicon Semiconductors," No. 5, 3 September 1998.
[This article discusses the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project located at CSU Humboldt on the northern California coast.  I once visited the project, and it partly inspired a commentary I later wrote for Nature and also, in the form of solar roofs, became part of the SuperGrid vision.  Although not realized on any significant scale as yet, storage of solar-generated electricity in the form of hydrogen chemical potential energy remains, in my opinion, the practical implementation of this essentially limitless energy source.
"Journey Down the Path of Least Resistance," No. 4, 17 July 1998.
[In the summer of 1998, researchers at SUNY Buffalo reported "negative resistance" in samples of fibrous graphite (perhaps carbon nanotubes or graphene).  Such an observation, if true, would have constituted an egregious violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  This column suggests an alternative, and far less sensational, explanation, and how academics can often stumble badly in the performance and interpretation of rather straightforward experimental results.]
"Unidentified Superconducting Objects," No. 3, 9 July 1998.
[The discovery of high temperature superconductivity evinced a frantic period of trying to achieve room temperature superconductivity within only a few months.  I was appointed one of several "special referees" for Physical Review Letters to filter the wheat from the chaff...we called the chaff "unidentified superconducting objects," or "USOs," a term we later learned transliterated as a rather scatological word in Japanese.]
"Faster, F a r t h e r...smaller:  Toward "Street Smart" Electricity," No. 2, 2 July 1998.
[Engendered by the then announcement by IBM of a CPU with a 1 GHz clock speed.  Yawn...it's now 2015...big deal.  But, it does presage the rapid path to the close of Moore's Law.  The limit was predicted by Rolf Landauer of IBM back in the late 50s...click here to read my recent book review of the biography of Gordon Moore published in Physics World.]
"Opening Act: Is It the Final Curtain Already?," No. 1, 16 June 1998.
[The inaugural Outpost, based on speculation that we will soon be reaching the limits of physics given the expansive deployment of large hadron colliders and nanoscopic probes such as the scanning transmission microscope and its "force" analogues.  However, in physics, history teaches us to "expect the unexpected."  Stay tuned.

Back to SuperBlog


Trade Journal Articles

"Nuclear Energy's Contribution to the City of the Future," P. M. Grant, Nuclear Future, Vol. 1, No. 1, p.17 (2005).  [Short Version - 1.7 MB]
"Energy for the City of the Future," P. M. Grant, The Industrial Physicist, p.22, Feb - Mar 2002.  [The original "SuperCity" paper]
"Will MgB2 Work," P. M. Grant, The Industrial Physicist, p.22, Oct - Nov 2001.  [The first publication outlining the Nuclear/Hydrogen/Superconductivity symbiosis]

Back to SuperBlog


Book Reviews

"Room at the Bottom," Paul Michael Grant (Moore's Law: the Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley's Quiet Revolutionary, Arnold Thackray, David C. Brock, and Rachel Jones, Basic Books, 2015), Physics World, July 2015, p. 52.  [I describe Gordon Moore as the "Quiet Hero" of Silicon Valley, who brought prosperity to this southern county of San Francisco Bay as one of the founder's of Intel. "Moore's Law" is not a law of physics, but an inevitable, and immensely profitable, commercial consequence of the invention of the field effect transistor in the 1920s.  I take the view of a physicist, namely, that this commercialization was foreseen by Richard Feynman in 1959, and the "end of the road" predicted by Rolf Landauer as an inevitable "thermodynamic packing density" limit imposed on irreversible binary logic operations.]
Keeping the Lights on After 2100," Paul Michael Grant (How We Will (Eventually) Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow, Robert B. Laughlin, Basic Books, 2011), Physics World, July 2012, p. 36.  [One of my better reviews, IMHO.  Laughlin lays out the physics behind the myriad of energy choices to deploy in the 21st Century and beyond, and should be required reading for all future political appointments to DOE.  Having said that, a major challenge not addressed (and not mentioned in my review), is that of non-sustainable population growth that will present a much more major challenge to "keeping the lights on" than any of the underlying physics.]
"Grandfather of Us All," P. M. Grant (On Superconductivity and Superfluidity: A Scientific Autobiography, Vitaly L. Ginzburg, Springer, 2008), Nature Physics 5, 243 (2009).  [Now in his early 90's, Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg well deserves the accolade, "world's greatest living physicist."  Together with Lev Landau in 1950, he published their monumental derivation of the Ginzburg-Laudau equation describing second-order phase transitions based on an order parameter, perhaps the best known being superconductivity, and likely the most frequently applied non-linear differential equation next to the Navier-Stokes relations in all physics.  Besides, being a "scientific biography," this book also offers insight into the plight of "dissenting scientists" during the Soviet period.  Ginzburg is indeed today's Russian "Man for All Seasons."] {Note added on 10 November 2009: On 8 November 2009, our "Grandfather" passed on from our Physics Family.  A summary of the life and works of this remarkable human being can be found here.]
"Plugged Into the Matrix," P. M. Grant (The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of Our Electrified World, Philip F. Schewe, Joseph Henry Press, 2007), Nature 447, 145 (2007).  [A riveting history of the development of electricity in the United States.  Bottom Line:  Tesla won over Edison...at least up to now. Read this book, if only to learn the impact Samuel Insull and David Lilienthal had on our lives.  These were the days when downtown Chicago and the valleys of Tennessee were the Silicon Valley of our forebearers.]
"The Moses of Silicon Valley," P. M. Grant (Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age, Joel N. Shurkin, Macmillan Science, 2006), Nature 442, 631 (2006).  [Bill Shockley was an enigma.  He was a genius, broken or otherwise, but periled falling on a broken sword, its point a defective notion that race defines collective intelligence.  Read my wrapup of this review: three names...Woods, Pavrotti and Young.  Proof that a PhD in physics, nor a Nobel Prize, constitute an inoculation against silliness.]
"Science Exiled," P. M. Grant (Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking, ed. Michael Gough, Hoover Institution, 2003), Nature 425, 663 (2003).  [A superlative collection of 12 stories by individuals laboring to assure sound science is applied to the creation of public policy, often at the cost of their careers.  The miss-direction of science range all the way from the near-miss federal initiative to create a Cold Fusion institute to the deaths of millions of Africans from malaria due to restrictions on the use of DDT.  The reader will be left with the message that we need the likes of a Richard Feynman on Capitol Hill...or even in the White House!]
"London Calling," P. M. Grant (A Thread Across the Ocean, John Steele Gordon, Simon & Schuster, 2002), Nature 420, 743 (2002).  [It is quite likely that this decade will see the fulfillment of the wired and wireless global village over much of the world, each inhabitant wielding a palm-sized personal organizer with the combined power of a laptop and a mobile phone.  Our "Brave New World" began with the vision of Cyrus Field and his Anglo-American partners to lay the first trans-Atlantic telegraphic cable in the mid-19th Century, a feat accomplished only after the American Civil War following five failures.  Gordon chronicles this story with "you can't lay this book down" fascination and verve.  A must read for any aspiring scientist-entrepreneur.  BTW, "London Calling" is the name of a British cult rock group.]

Back to SuperBlog


"Letters-to-the-Editor"

"A Worthy Hero for Boys and Men," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 10 March 1999. [My homily on the passing of Joe DiMaggio, my boyhood hero as well as many others of my generation...such as Senator Pete Domenici. This piece won me the Mercury-News 1999 Silver Pen Award.]
"Kansas Makes a Monkey of Itself," P. M. Grant, Nature 400, 810 (1999).  [An opinion piece directed at a decision by the State of Kansas Board of Education removing the requirement for high school graduates to have received exposure to the principles of evolution.]
"A Victory for Consumers," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 31 May 2000. [Written during the antitrust proceedings targeting the breakup of Microsoft into two separate companies, one for operating systems, and one for office applications.  Didn't happen. Too bad. It should have.]
"Fight During Ramadan," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 3 November 2001. [Two months after 9/11, there was a policy debate whether NATO should suspend military operations during the Muslim month of Ramadan.  I pointed out the Christian holiday of Christmas did not impede Washington's army taking the Hessians by surprise at Trenton, a turning point in our War of Independence.]
"May We Always Remember and Honor Their Legacy," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 4 February 2003. [My contribution to a collective homily on the fate of the crew of the shuttle Columbia, comparing their sacrifice to those of a helicopter crew in an accident in Afghanistan only a few days earlier.]
"Let Her Parents Decide," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 23 March 2005. [The early Spring of 2005 saw a national debate involving the Terri Schiavo situation over who should have the authority to "pull the plug" on a loved one suffering in an irreversible vegetative state.  I argue that decision should rest with those who her life...her parents.]
"Sun, Atom Can Help Fill Energy Needs," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 15 January 2006. [Written on the occasion of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger advocating strong state support for solar roof photovoltaic technology, pointing out the natural symbiosis of intermittently generated solar electricity with that constantly baselined nuclear power, both sources "green" and "renewable."]
"Turning to the Napoleonic Code," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 28 May 2008. [In most countries where the legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code (e.g., Mexico), "marriage" is considered a civil union and must be "consecrated" by the secular state, not by a religious institution.  Adopting this aspect of Napoleonic Code, and its application to couples of the same or opposite gender, could ameliorate many of the issues that inflamed debate over Proposition 8.]
"Excellence Should Be Focus at School," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 10 May 2010. [The Battle of Puebla, fought on 5 May 1862, better known as "Cinco de Mayo," is far more widely "celebrated" in the United States than in Mexico where it remains a relatively minor holiday. Its importance for Mexico is that it represented the first time the ordinary Mexican peasant volunteered enthusiastically to fight for his national government and represented a temporary victory over the French invaders (one of the Mexican officers was Porfirio Diaz, later to become Dictator of Mexico by the end of the 19th Century).  Its importance for the United States was that it deflected efforts of the government of Napoleon III to support the Confederacy during our Civil War.  Ironically, serving in Benito Juarez' army that ended the French occupation with their victory at Queretaro during the spring months of 1867, were a number of former Confederate military volunteers.  Therefore, in a very certain sense, Cinco de Mayo, belongs both to Mexico and the United States, and those Gilroy high school students who were unjustly disciplined for wearing red, white and blue on 5 May two days ago were simply expressing correct political and historical truths.]
"Welcome Your Computer Overlords," P. M. Grant, San Jose Mercury-News, 18 February 2011, p.A10. [In 1954, when as a young 19-year old IBMer found to have a talent for binary programming (on the "bare metal" as it was called then), I was posted to a joint IBM/MIT/US Air Force team at Lincoln Laboratories to maintain and service XD-1 SAGE, the world's first "parallel supercomputer," as a member of a team led by the legendary Ken Olsen, an untenured assistant MIT prof at the time, who later went on to found the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).  One afternoon, during an informal "break," Ken predicted one day computers would surpass humans in the ability to organize and analyze large amounts of seemingly unrelated digital data.  Today we call such collections as forming a "relational database," a technology exploited by IBM in the decades following from the 1960s.  It's emergence as a public phenomena has begun with its victory over human competitors on the TV series Jeopardy.  But will future advances be able to deliver a future Shakespeare?]

Back to SuperBlog


"Pure Opinion"

"Comment on APS Climate Change Statement," P. M. Grant, 8 November 2009. [Letter sent to APS Climate Change Panel protesting wording used in the 18 November 2007 Statement on Climate Change, particularly the use of "incontrovertible" as implying the possible anthropogenic role in climate change is settled.  Background on the issue can be seen by clicking here.]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Back to SuperBlog

 

 

Home

 

Front Page