How Elon Musk is fulfilling Thomas Edison’s energy dreams 100 years later

Michio Kaku tells the story of a bet between Thomas Edison and Henry Ford that Elon Musk is now fulfilling.

Michio Kaku: Well, the cynic would say, “Ha! Solar energy? That’s for Hollywood millionaires,” and, “I’ve heard that so often, that we’re going to live in solar houses, and it never happened! So ha!”

Well, you see, there is a reason that we don’t live in the solar age, and it doesn’t have anything to do with solar cells at all.

You see, there’s a missing link that’s, why we don’t have wind power and solar power everywhere. And the missing link is something we forget, and that is: Storage! The battery.

A hundred years ago Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were friends; they would vacation together and they were rivals, of course, and they had a bet: what would energize the 20th century?

Well Edison said the battery. Well, Ford said no, it’s going to be the internal combustion engine.

Well, people said the solution to that is obvious: the internal combustion engine is dangerous because gasoline engines will explode. Batteries will not explode, but gasoline will, and having a gas station on every block? That’s ridiculous. That’s stupid.

So many people said that it’s obvious Edison is going to win; we’re not going to have gas pumps on every block; and we’re not going to have explosions take place on our highways.

Well, guess what happened? The opposite happened. And that is: Henry Ford was right, at least for the 20th century.

And now General Motors, General Motors recently announced that they can see the time when they will phase out completely the internal combustion engine. This is huge. Think about that.

50 percent of our carbon dioxide production comes from the transportation sector, and General Motors is already talking about phasing out the internal combustion engine. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the battery: the lowly battery that everybody forgets.

You see, we all know Moore’s law: computer power doubles every 18 months, but Moore’s law only applies to ultra violet etching on computer silicon wafers. It doesn’t apply for solar cells.

Storage is the basic problem—there’s no Moore’s law for the battery.

However, now that inventors are getting wind of this, we now see new energy, new creativity, new ideas, and so the price of battery power is of dropping by about seven percent a year. This means opportunities for the super-battery.

It’s no accident that Elon Musk of Tesla Motors has made the battery a priority. He wants to market these super batteries so that when the sun doesn’t shine and the winds don’t blow, you can still have large quantities of solar power.

He’s also marketing these batteries for industries, because what happens if you can’t necessarily make peak summer and peak winter demands of power?

Why should a facility have to generate this gigantic infrastructure to generate electricity, just for peak summer and peak winter? That’s where the super-battery comes in.

And so with the price of batteries dropping I think we’re going to see the economics of solar and wind turn the other way, so they are competitive with fossil fuels.

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison had a bet they would energize the future together, tells the story Michio Kaku. But what happened was the opposite of what many people thought - Henry Ford's vision for the internal combustion engine won out. Now, in the 21st century, Elon Musk's focus on creating super-batteries will bring Edison's ideas to final fruition. A new generation of batteries should be a gamechanger for solar energy as well.

Herodotus’ mystery vessel turns out to have been real

Archeologists had been doubtful since no such ship had ever been found.

(Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
Surprising Science
  • In 450 BCE, Greek historian Herodotus described a barge that's never been found.
  • When the ancient port of Thonis-Heracleion was discovered, some 70 sunken ships were found resting in its waters.
  • One boat, Ship 17, uncannily matches the Herodotus' description.
Keep reading Show less

Horseshoe crabs are drained for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

Credit: Business Insider (video)
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

Jordan Peterson on Joe Rogan: The gender paradox and the importance of competition

The Canadian professor has been on the Joe Rogan Experience six times. There's a lot of material to discuss.

Personal Growth
  • Jordan Peterson has constantly been in the headlines for his ideas on gender over the last three years.
  • While on Joe Rogan's podcast, he explains his thoughts on the gender differences in society.
  • On another episode, Peterson discusses the development of character through competition.
Keep reading Show less