Magic Is Misdirection

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It is generally understood by most people that the effects in the performance are accomplished through sleight of hand (also called prestidigitation or léger de main), misdirection, deception, collusion with a member of the audience, apparatus with secret mechanisms, mirrors, and other trickery (hence the illusions are commonly referred to as "tricks"). The performer seeks to present an effect so clever and skillful that the audience cannot believe their eyes, and cannot think of the explanation. The sense of bafflement is part of the entertainment. In turn, the audience play a role in which they agree to be entertained by something they know to be a deception. Houdini also gained the trust of his audiences by using his knowledge of illusions to debunk charlatans, a tradition continued by magicians such as James Randi, P. C. Sorcar, and Penn and Teller.

Wikipedia,Magic (Illusion)

As someone who has worked in the electric utility field for quite some time now, I think I have a pretty fair handle on how the system really works. (As opposed to the people who purport to be able to produce something from nothing.) While I applaud the folks who are trying to bring a viable electric car to the market, I am professionally appalled at the misdirection involved. For example:

LOS ANGELES – It's safe to say Jeremy Snyder gets a charge out of the two-seat Tesla Roadster whenever he pulls one off the lot — and not because it's equipped with an all-electric engine. 
As he pulled one of the sleek new automobiles down a side street Thursday and put the pedal to the metal, its lithium-ion battery-powered engine didn't give off sparks. It just emitted a powerful hum, something like a much quieter version of a jet taking off.

"Accelerate pretty good?" asked Snyder, head of client services for Tesla, who knew the answer.

"I call it a turbine sound," he said of the sound. "Because it's an electric motor it's got 100 percent torque all the time. So it just pulls you like when you're taking off in an airplane."

After several years of development, the Roadster — with sleek lines like a Ferrari or Porsche and a sticker price of $109,000 — officially moves from the drawing boards to the market next week when Tesla's first store opens. It's near the University of California, Los Angeles, in the city's toney Westwood neighborhood where Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Hollywood practically intersect.

"Because it's Hollywood and glamorous, this is the flagship store," Snyder said.

The next store is to open in a couple months near Tesla's headquarters in the Silicon Valley city of San Carlos, where the car was developed with venture capital of more than $40 million from such investors as Google Inc. founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. More stores are planned for Chicago, New York and other cities by early next year.

Although a fully loaded model can set a buyer back as much as $124,000, that's still cheap compared with a high-end Ferrari. And its 6,831-cell lithium-ion battery pack gives off no emissions. (Emphasis added)

Factually correct yet completely misleading. The car itself may give off no tailpipe emissions, but the electricity that is required to charge it comes from somewhere. That somewhere is probably a fossil fuel burning facility. The amount of emission has not been eliminated, it has merely been shifted elsewhere.

Regardless of the source of the power, it still takes x amount of power to drive a car y miles. That power must come from somewhere. Given the physically-limited nature of the power supply (physically limited by nature of the laws of physics, mind you) the electric car is not a magic bullet that will end emissions.

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11 Responses to Magic Is Misdirection

  1. TKelso says:

    This one has always cracked me up.  Back when GM’s EV-1 was introduced, I was living in L.A. and lots of people were talking about it and how "clean" it was compared to a gasoline engine.  Yeeeeeah, riiiiiiiiiiight…except for the coal or nat gas that was burned in place of the gasoline.  Of course, there was the possibility that a few electrons could have come from the San Onofre nuclear power plant down in  The O.C.;but that wouldn’t fit the greenies’ world view.

  2. Bob says:

    I used to teach environmental engineering students, and one of the basic ideas I tried to convey was that pollution mitigation in one region or in one medium like air or water should not result in the mere transfer of the pollutants to another region or medium. This concept has never penetrated what passes for consciousness among the chattering class.

    Because the chattering class opposes relatively safe and clean nuclear power, electric cars will almost certainly be coal cars.

  3. MikeM says:

    In a similar vein, a guy at work was talking about how economical it would be to have an electric car because then he wouldn’t have to pay high gasoline prices. I asked it him what it would do to his electricity bill. He paused and said, "I guess it would go up a bit."

  4. Dark K says:

    Excellent! But should we not also include the adverts for "zero pollution" hydrogen-fuelled cars being projected now? As with the electric source for electric cars, where do these fools imagine the hydrogen comes from?

  5. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    I had a similar experience once when arguing the relative environmental merits of energy from solar cells. I failed to convince my listener that solar cells did not grow harmlessly on trees but were the result of industrial processes that used copious amounts of electricity and had dangerous, hard to dispose of chemicals as a byproduct. I have a BS in Electrical Engineering and several years of experience in the semiconductor industry, but apparently I am not as smart as many politicians and journalists whose technical and scientific knowledge is limited to using word processing software and starting a car.

  6. Sam says:

    Gaius, I had you pegged as a "build more nukes to charge the electric cars" type of guy from some of your posts, and your vehement opposition to  biofuels.  But I may have to change my opinion.

  7. Bleepless says:

    The Tesla car may hum when you are behind the wheel, but somewhere in the background there is chugging and the smell of petroleum.

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  10. BubbaB says:

    First off, there is no way that the electric engine can produce "100% of the torque" at all times.  Electric engines have different efficiencies at different speeds, and for that very reason, the amount of torque available will vary.This also ignores the fact that electric motors produce a back-current, so at zero speed you use a huge amount of current, which falls off as the speed increases.  100% torque my butt!!Secondly, as Gaius and others continue to point out, there will be emissions, just not at the car.  But plenty at the point of manufacture (especially Li-Ion batteries) and the point of electricity generation.But I have a question:  Isn’t there an advantage to having  power generation at a single source, in terms of pollution?  Ignoring the power loss of transferring electricity over great distances, and conversion of energy, isn’t it more efficient in terms of energy generation and pollution to have it all occur at a single source, rather than millions of sources (internal combustion engines)?Also, I wanted to point out an interesting idea, called "air cars" – more interest is the page on the website, where they talk about using natural caverns to hold compressed air, and then use the compressed air to assist in generating electricity:, your thoughts?

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