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Original author: 
Nate Anderson


Bitcoin mining takes a lot of computing power—so naturally someone created a piece of malware to mine on other people's computers.

Kaspersky Lab

Mark Gimein is something of a Bitcoin skeptic, but in addition to his concerns about Bitcoin not being a "real currency," he's now charging that it has created "a real-world environmental disaster."

Writing in Bloomberg News, Gimein notes that mining Bitcoins—performing the computationally expensive calculations needed to define new Bitcoins—uses power. A lot of power. (Read our 2011 Bitcoin primer for more details.) He writes:

About 982 megawatt hours a day, to be exact. That’s enough to power roughly 31,000 US homes, or about half a Large Hadron Collider. If the dreams of Bitcoin proponents are realized, and the currency is adopted for widespread commerce, the power demands of bitcoin mines would rise dramatically.

If that makes you think of the vast efforts devoted to the mining of precious metals in the centuries of gold- and silver-based economies, it should. One of the strangest aspects of the Bitcoin frenzy is that the Bitcoin economy replicates some of the most archaic features of the gold standard. Real-world mining of precious metals for currency was a resource-hungry and value-destroying process. Bitcoin mining is too.

Gimein draws on the stats provided by Bitcoin-focused site Blockchain.info. The numbers fluctuate a bit with each day of calculations being tracked. According to Blockchain's stats this weekend, the last 24 hours of worldwide mining activity burned through 928.24 megawatt hours of power while miners calculated 59,502.6 gigahashes per second. Total power bill: $139,236.07.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher

Think mobile devices are low-power? A study by the Center for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications—a joint effort between AT&T's Bell Labs and the University of Melbourne in Australia—finds that wireless networking infrastructure worldwide accounts for 10 times more power consumption than data centers worldwide. In total, it is responsible for 90 percent of the power usage by cloud infrastructure. And that consumption is growing fast.

The study was in part a rebuttal to a Greenpeace report that focused on the power consumption of data centers. "The energy consumption of wireless access dominates data center consumption by a significant margin," the authors of the CEET study wrote. One of the findings of the CEET researchers was that wired networks and data-center based applications could actually reduce overall computing energy consumption by allowing for less powerful client devices.

According to the CEET study, by 2015, wireless "cloud" infrastructure will consume as much as 43 terawatt-hours of electricity worldwide while generating 30 megatons of carbon dioxide. That's the equivalent of 4.9 million automobiles worth of carbon emissions. This projected power consumption is a 460 percent increase from the 9.2 TWh consumed by wireless infrastructure in 2012.

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For the last year or so, I've been getting these two page energy assessment reports in the mail from Pacific Gas & Electric, our California utility company, comparing our household's energy use to those of the houses around us.

Here's the relevant excerpts from the latest report; click through for a full-page view of each page.

Pge-page-1-small

Pge-page-2-small

These poor results are particularly galling because I go far out of my way to Energy Star all the things, I use LED light bulbs just about everywhere, we set our thermostat appropriately, and we're still getting crushed. I have no particular reason to care about this stupid energy assessment report showing our household using 33% more energy than similar homes in our neighborhood. And yet… I must win this contest. I can't let it go.

  • Installed a Nest 2.0 learning thermostat.
  • I made sure every last bulb in our house that gets any significant use is LED. Fortunately there are some pretty decent $16 LED bulbs on Amazon now offering serviceable 60 watt equivalents at 9 watt, without too many early adopter LED quirks (color, dimming, size, weight, etc).
  • I even put appliance LED bulbs in our refrigerator and freezer.
  • Switched to a low-flow shower head.
  • Upgraded to a high efficiency tankless water heater, the Noritz NCC1991-SV.
  • Nearly killed myself trying to source LED candelabra bulbs for the fixture in our dining room which has 18 of the damn things, and is used quite a bit now with the twins in the house. Turns out, 18 times any number … is still kind of a large number. In cash.

(Most of this has not helped much on the report. The jury is still out on the Nest thermostat and the candelabra LED bulbs, as I haven't had them long enough to judge. I'm gonna defeat this thing, man!)

I'm ashamed to admit that it's only recently I realized that this technique – showing a set of metrics alongside your peers – is exactly the same thing we built at Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange. Notice any resemblance on the user profile page here?

Stack-overflow-user-page-small

You've tricked me into becoming obsessed with understanding and reducing my household energy consumption. Something that not only benefits me, but also benefits the greater community and, more broadly, benefits the entire world. You've beaten me at my own game. Well played, Pacific Gas & Electric. Well played.

Davetron5000-tweet

This peer motivation stuff, call it gamification if you must, really works. That's why we do it. But these systems are like firearms: so powerful they're kind of dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. If you don't think deeply about what you're incentivizing, why you're incentivizing it, and the full ramifications of all emergent behaviors in your system, you may end up with … something darker. A lot darker.

The key lesson for me is that our members became very thoroughly obsessed with those numbers. Even though points on Consumating were redeemable for absolutely nothing, not even a gold star, our members had an unquenchable desire for them. What we saw as our membership scrabbled over valueless points was that there didn't actually need to be any sort of material reward other than the points themselves. We didn't need to allow them to trade the points in for benefits, virtual or otherwise. It was enough of a reward for most people just to see their points wobble upwards. If only we had been able to channel that obsession towards something with actual value!

Since I left Stack Exchange, I've had a difficult time explaining what exactly it is I do, if anything, to people. I finally settled on this: what I do, what I'm best at, what I love to do more than anything else in the world, is design massively multiplayer games for people who like to type paragraphs to each other. I channel their obsessions – and mine – into something positive, something that they can learn from, something that creates wonderful reusable artifacts for the whole world. And that's what I still hope to do, because I have an endless well of obsession left.

Just ask PG&E.

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A symbolic gesture to raise awareness about energy consumption, Earth Hour has grown since its beginning in 2007 in Sydney to now include observances in 147 countries and over 5000 cities. For one hour, lights are switched off at 8:30 local time on the last Saturday in March. Increasing public environmental awareness in China, which has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest polluter, has led 124 cities there to mark Earth Hour. Beginning with the second photograph, click the pictures to see them fade from lights on to the lights switched off during Earth Hour 2012. -- Lane Turner (25 photos total)
Children light candles during a ceremony to mark Earth Hour in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 31, 2012. Earth Hour took place worldwide at 8.30 p.m. local times and as an annual global call to turn off lights for 60 minutes in a bid to highlight energy consumption. (Anjum Naveed/Associated Press)

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People, governments, companies, and organizations observed Earth Hour 2011 as 134 countries switched off lights worldwide Saturday, March 26, at 8:30 p.m. The movement to raise awareness about energy consumption took on added relevance with a Japanese nuclear power station crippled after the earthquake and resulting tsunami there. Gathered here are a series of before-and-after photographs from this year - which (starting with the second one below) will fade between "on" and "off" when clicked. [See also: last year] This effect requires javascript to be enabled. -- Lane Turner (15 photos total)
An Indian family hold candles during an Earth Hour campaign in Mumbai on March 26, 2011. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images)

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 Posts Post Full 1281657631Turbine

This is a photo of the Atlantis AK1000, a 130 ton, 74-foot-tall tidal turbine that will be installed underwater off the cost of Scotland. It is designed to supply electrical power for 1,000 households.

Sea water, which is 832 times denser than air, gives a 5 knot ocean current more kinetic energy than a 350 km/h wind; therefore ocean currents have a very high energy density. Hence a smaller device is required to harness tidal current energy than to harness wind energy.

Tidal current energy takes the kinetic energy available in currents and converts it into renewable electricity. As oceans cover over 70% of Earth’s surface, ocean energy (including wave power, tidal current power and ocean thermal energy conversion) represents a vast source of energy, estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 TWh per year, enough energy to continuously light between 2 and 4 billion 11W low-energy light bulbs.

Both the U.S. and the U.K., for example, have enough ocean power potential to meet around 15% of their total power needs.

Good: The World's Largest Tidal Turbine, Unveiled

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