Deabstracting Energy

I was thinking about this previous post about long-distance commuting and journey times and was reminded just how abstract a concept energy and energy use really is. I find it somewhat difficult to actually visualize the 167,656 Kilojoules (that’s over 167 million Joules) I use taking the train one way from Leipzig to Dresden. And that times two and almost every single day. It’s like trying to visualize the national debt. These staggering sums at some point just lose any sort of tangible meaning. All the more reason to cut up your credit cards and live close to where you work.

With these sums in mind I decided to take another look at my twice-daily energy consumed for transportation (which isn’t even really the total amount since it doesn’t account for the calories I burn riding my bike to the train station nor the energy used by the tram in Dresden) and see if there wasn’t a way to give it some sort of visual component. What I came up with were dark chocolate Easter bunnies. Since calories (1 cal = 4.186 J), which we consume in food, are really just another form of energy I thought it would make sense to express the electrical energy in some sort of food, since everybody eats and I think people can relate to food a little more readily than, say, volt-amp-seconds. And chocolate Easter bunnies are fairly recognizable.

The table below is sort of an overview of the commute comparison between Leipzig-Dresden and Mayfield,OH-CSU with an additional column showing the equivalent number of dark chocolate Easter bunnies. This assumes 123 calories/ounce and an Easter bunny made up of 11 ounces of dark chocolate. I forgot to mention last time that the office program I use is in German and in Germany they use commas where Americans would use a period and a period where Americans would use a comma (only for numbers, not in sentences and stuff). So $14.50 in the United States is €14,50 in Germany and so on and so forth. Keep that in mind when looking at values in the table and just switch around the commas and periods if you’re not German.

Overview of Energy Use and Journey Times

Overview of Energy Use and Journey Times

In other words, get a few of your friends together and have a slumber party, or whatever, eat about 29.5 million dark chocolate Easter bunnies, all while not burning any of those calories (no pillow fights), and you can come pull a regional train 76 miles from Leipzig to Dresden (with only me in it, since those bunnies are only enough to pull one person). Get crackin’.


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