Can Software Make a Smart Power Grid?

Software has enabled one utility company to cut power consumption by up to 50 percent by more intelligently managing the delivery of electricity to homes and businesses. 

What's the Latest Development?

In a small test of electricity grids in Washington state, new computer software developed by I.B.M. reduced power consumption by up to 50 percent, saving customers an average of 10 percent on their bills. That system is now set to be tested on a much larger scale, ultimately knitting together the electricity grids of five states and 11 utility companies. The project will "integrate wind power, store power from the grid, accommodate electric vehicle charging, and establish 'microgrids' that can survive on their own in the event of a power outage."

What's the Big Idea?

As America's infrastructure rapidly ages, smart grids are one potential way to modernize the nation's power system. The software developed by I.B.M., which was funded by the Recovery Act of 2009, "sends signals to the smart thermostats and appliances about how much it currently costs the utility to provide it electricity. Then, based on the preferences entered by the consumer, the smart systems in a home send signals back to the utility about how much power they will use."

Personal Growth

The life choices that had led me to be sitting in a booth underneath a banner that read “Ask a Philosopher" – at the entrance to the New York City subway at 57th and 8th – were perhaps random but inevitable.

Keep reading Show less

For thousands of years, humans slept in two shifts. Should we do it again?

Researchers believe that the practice of sleeping through the whole night didn’t really take hold until just a few hundred years ago.

The Bed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Surprising Science

She was wide awake and it was nearly two in the morning. When asked if everything was alright, she said, “Yes.” Asked why she couldn’t get to sleep she said, “I don’t know.” Neuroscientist Russell Foster of Oxford might suggest she was exhibiting “a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern." Research suggests we used to sleep in two segments with a period of wakefulness in-between.

Keep reading Show less

'Self is not entirely lost in dementia,' argues new review

The assumption "that without memory, there can be no self" is wrong, say researchers.

Photo credit: Darren Hauck / Getty Images
Mind & Brain

In the past when scholars have reflected on the psychological impact of dementia they have frequently referred to the loss of the "self" in dramatic and devastating terms, using language such as the "unbecoming of the self" or the "disintegration" of the self. In a new review released as a preprint at PsyArXiv, an international team of psychologists led by Muireann Irish at the University of Sydney challenge this bleak picture which they attribute to the common, but mistaken, assumption "that without memory, there can be no self" (as encapsulated by the line from Hume: "Memory alone… 'tis to be considered… as the source of personal identity").

Keep reading Show less