There have been some recent developments in battery technology to help create a more powerful, viable and affordable electric automobile. A local agent of change in some of these innovative developments has been Ewan Pritchard, program manager of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center at NC State University in Raleigh, N.C.
After spending an afternoon making photos with Independent Weekly reporter Bob Geary and Mr. Pritchard, it became clear to me that still images would fall short of conveying the truly fascinating work being done to advance electric car and smart grid research. But how do you illustrate abstract ideas about batteries and things that don’t quite exist yet? I thought about Bill Nye The Science Guy and the always enjoyable Radio Lab shows from WNYC. Both of those programs manage to turn complex science into engaging, hell, enthralling entertainment. Do yourself a favor and listen to the Radio Lab episode about Stochasticity.
While we do have amazing coffee at the INDY, we don’t have any kind of a budget for flash graphics or computer animation. So I found some sidewalk chalk and, with the assistance of my mom, an art teacher of 34 years who happened to be visiting town, created some stop-motion magic. Please be sure to watch this in full-screen mode to fully enjoy the HD.
Big thanks to Ewan Pritchard, who later informed me that I had unknowingly entered into a deep debate about the actual flow of electrons during insertion (charging) and removal (discharging).
I am not sure if you know about the debate between engineers and physicists on the travel of electrons, but engineers say they go positive to negative while physicists say negative to positive – your drawing shows the engineer view. He [the research director] may take the physicist view (which is actually the way it happens).
In the future I’d like to allow myself more time to review scientific facts and theories throughout the process of making films of this stripe. This is a common complaint about science reporting in newspapers and television – that deadlines and a lack of committed science beat reporter creates confusing over-simplifications of complex, emerging research. Lesson learned. That and knowing that Lithon-Ion batteries are incredible and everywhere.