Sunday, January 11, 2009

Because You'll Believe Anything



Or, at least they think they can get you to believe anything:

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

Wha? Two searches equal the energy needed to boil a kettle of water? Sounds a little high, doesn't it? Taking my last two searches "Alex Wissner-Gross," (.06 sec), and "skil saw 3104 blade" (.16 sec), that's .22 seconds of google-work getting done in making those two searches.

I didn't have any effeminate earth friendly tea with a picture of a panda on the box, but I did have Lipton, and some Earl Grey, so I brewed up a cup. Took 4 minutes over a gas flame. In the time it took to make those two searches, one fifth of a second, the water only got about 1/1000th done. Put it another way, a thousand burners, on high, could boil a pot in the time it took for those two searches.

I was going to argue that this can't be, but of course it doesn't really matter. The thought of a thousand gas burners flaming up every time I clicked "search" was too much. I re-searched "Alex Wissner-Gross" 20 times while trying to imagine how much snow I could melt with that many BTUs. No, google doesn't really use that much electricity. Alex uses smoke, mirrors too, because he's a smart guy and he knows where research money goes. It goes to people who are willing to advance the proposition that all the things I like to do are destroying the earth. The guy's a genius, which you could learn if you googled his name, but dear God, don't google his name, OK?

Smarter still may be Nicholas Carr (google search= .24 sec) (the man Wired Magazine called "high tech's Captain Buzzkill — the go-to guy for bad news"). From the same article:
Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch, Rewiring the World, has calculated that maintaining a character (known as an avatar) in the Second Life virtual reality game, requires 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That is almost as much used by the average Brazilian.

Better smoke, better mirrors, he comes up with an even more ridiculous claim. So now Alex Wissner-Gross will declare that all of Providence Rhode Island could be run with the energy we use dotting our "i"s.

Think either Nicholas or Alex curtail their computing because of these "facts"? I'll bet not. Just as Al Gore has not given up even the smallest bit of comfort in order to save the planet. No, he saves the planet to make money, and take money. And he doesn't inconvenience himself doing it. (though he's willing to inconvenience us)

BTW- the second search told me that I need a 62 inch blade for my bandsaw, and that I could probably get it at Sears. This saves me driving all over creation looking for the thing; and probably getting the wrong size anyway. And scientists tell us that trips back to Home Depot to return merchandise consume more energy than has ever been used in all the history of Mexico. Look it up.

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