Daily Archives: July 4, 2016

Energy Explained Simply

Energy, it is fair to say, is a very vague concept. So where does one go to learn more? Does one have to take a physics course? I don’t think so, and to test my theory, I have tried to explain energy as briefly as I can, right here.Energy 101Energy is what makes the world go round. Literally. Every neuron that sparks in your brain, every electron that fires down a wire, every molecule burning in a fire, carries with it a sort of momentum that it passes on like a baton in a complex relay race. The batons are flooding in all directions all around us and across the universe – they are energy and we have learned how to harness them.The actual word “Energy” is a much abused term nowadays – because energy is used to represent such a disparate range of phenomena from heat to light to speed to weight, and because it seems to be able to change forms so readily, it is cannon fodder for pseudo-scientific and spiritual interpretation. However, you will be pleased to hear that it actually has a very clear (and consistent) nature.I like to think of energy being a bit like money – it is a sort of currency that can be traded. It takes on various forms (dollars/pounds/Swiss francs) and can be eventually cashed in to achieve something. However, just like money, once spent, it does not vanish. It simply moves on a new chapter in its life and may be reused indefinitely.To illustrate the point, let’s follow a ‘unit of energy’ through a visit to planet Earth to see what I mean. The [number] shows every time it changes currency (see the key below).The energy in our story starts off tied up in hydrogen atoms in the sun [1]. Suddenly, due to the immense pressure and heat, the nuclei of several atoms react to form a brand new helium atom, and a burst of radiation[2] is released. The radiation smashes into other nearby atoms heating them up so hot [4] that they glow, sending light [2] off into space. Several minutes pass in silence before the light bursts through the atmosphere and plunges down to the rainforest hitting a leaf. In the leaf the burst of power smashes a molecule of carbon dioxide and helps free the carbon to make food for the plant [3]. The plant may be eaten (giving food ‘Calories’), or may fall to the ground and settle and age for millions of years turning perhaps to coal. That coal may be dug up and burned to give heat [4] in a power station, boiling water to supply compressed steam [5] that may drive a turbine [6] which may be used to generate electricity [7] which we may then use in our homes to heat/light/move/cook or perhaps to recharge our mobile phone [3]. That energy will then be used to transmit microwaves when you make a call [2] which will mostly dissipate into the environment heating it (very) slightly [4]. Eventually the warmed earth radiates [2] this excess of heat off into the void where perhaps it will have another life…Energy currencies:[1] Matter is energy, according the Einstein, and the quantity relates to mass according to E=mc^2 (c is a constant equal to the speed of light).[2] Radiation (like sunlight) is a flow of energy, and energy content relates the frequency according to E=hf (h is the Planck constant).[3] Chemical energy – the most complex energy, a mixture of different tensions in nuclear and electromagnetic force fields.[4] Thermal (heat) energy- this is really just a sneaky form of kinetic energy [6 below] – small particles moving and vibrating fast are sensed by us as heat.[5] Compression (or tension) energy – while compressed air is again a sneaky form of kinetic energy[6], a compressed spring is different – it’s energy is more like chemical energy and is stored by creating tension in the force fields present in nature (gravity, electromagnetism and nuclear forces).

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
[6] Kinetic energy – is energy by virtue of movement (like a speeding bullet or unstoppable train)[7] Electrical energy – this energy, like a compressed spring, is stored as stress in force fields, in this case electromagnetic force-fields.This short story is testament to an enormous quantity of learning by our species, but there are some clear exclusions to be read into the story: Energy fields (auras) or the energy lines in the body that conduct the “chi” (or life force) of Asian medical tradition
Energy lines on the Earth (aka Ley lines)
Negative or positive energy (as in positive or negative “vibes”)These energy currencies relate to theories and beliefs that science has been unable to verify and thus they have no known “exchange rate”. Asking how many light bulbs can you power with your Chi is thus a nonsensical question, whereas it would not be for any scientifically supported form of energy. And since energy flows account for all actions in the universe, not being exchangeable would be rather limiting.Where exactly is Energy kept?This may sound like s strange question, we know Energy is kept in batteries, petrol tanks and chocolate chip cookies. But the question is, where exactly is it stored in those things?Energy is stored in several ways:as movement – any mass moving has energy by virtue of the movement, which is called Kinetic Energy
as matter – Einstein figured out that matter is just a form of energy, and the exchange rate is amazing – 1g = 90,000,000,000,000,000 joules (from E=mc^2)
as tension in force fieldsThat last one sounds a bit cryptic, but actually most of the energy we use is in this form – petrol, food, batteries and even a raised hammer all store energy in what are essentially compressed (or stretched springs).What is a force field? Why on earth did I have to bring that up?All of space (even the interstellar vacuum) is permeated by force fields. The one we all know best is gravity – we know that if we lift a weight, we have to exert effort and that effort is then stored in that weight and can be recovered later by dropping it on your foot.Gravity is only one of several force fields known to science. Magnetic fields are very similar – it takes energy to pull a magnet off the fridge, and so it is actually an energy store when kept away from the fridge.The next force field is that created by electric charge (the electric field). For many years this was though to be a field all on its own but a chap called James Clerk Maxwell realised that electric fields and magnetic fields are in some senses two sides of the same coin, so physicists now talk of ‘electromagnetic’ fields. It turns out that electric energy (such as that stored in a capacitor) consists of tensions in this field, much like a raised weight is a tension in a gravity field. Perhaps surprisingly, light (as well as radio waves, microwaves and x-rays) are also energy stored in fluctuations of an energy field.Much chemical energy is also stored in electric fields – for example, most atoms consist of positively charged nuclei and negatively charged electrons, and the further apart they are kept, the more energy they hold, just liked raised weights. As an electron is allowed to get closer to the nucleus, energy is released (generally as radiation, such as light – thus hot things glow).The least well known force field is the strong ‘nuclear’ force. This is the forces that holds the subatomic particles (protons) together in the nucleus of atoms. Since the protons are all positively charged, they should want to repel each other, but something is keeping them at bay, and so physicists have inferred this force field must exist. It turns out their theory holds water, because if you can drag these protons a little bit apart, they will suddenly fly off with gusto. The strong nuclear force turns out to be bloody strong, but only works over a tiny distance. It rarely affects us as we rarely store energy with this energy field.Now we understand force fields we can look at how molecules (petrol, oxygen, chocolate) store energy. All molecules are made of atoms connected to one other via various ‘bonds’ and these bonds are like springs. Different types of molecules have different amount of tension in these bonds – it turns out coal molecules, created millions of years ago with energy from the sun, are crammed full of tense bonds that are dying to re-arrange to more relaxed configurations, which is exactly what happens when we apply oxygen and the little heat to start the reaction.The complexity of the tensions in molecules are perhaps the most amazing in nature, as it is their re-arrangements that fuel life as we know it.What exactly is Heat then?You may have noticed that I did not include heat as a form of energy store above. But surely hot things are an energy store?Yes, they are, but heat is actually just a sort of illusion. We use heat as a catch all term to describe the kinetic energy of the molecules and atoms. If you have a bottle of air, the temperature of the air is a direct consequence of the average speed of the molecules of gas jetting around bashing into one another.As you heat the air, you are actually just increasing the speed of particles. If you compress the air, you may not increase their speed, but you will have more particles in the same volume, which also ‘feels’ hotter.Solids are a little different – the atoms and molecules in solids do not have the freedom to fly around, so instead, they vibrate. It is like each molecule is constrained by elastic bands pulling in all directions. If the molecule is still, it is cold, but if it is bouncing around like a pinball, then it has kinetic energy, and feels hotter.You can see from this viewpoint, that to talk of the temperature of an atom, or of a vacuum, is meaningless, because temperature is a macroscopic property of matter. On the other hand, you could technically argue that a flying bullet is red hot because it has so much kinetic energy…Is Energy Reusable?We as a species, have learned how to tap into flows of energy to get them to do our bidding. So big question: Will we use it all up?Scientists have found that energy is pretty much indestructible – it is never “used-up”, it merely flows from one form into another. The problem is thus not that we will run out, but that we might foolishly convert it all into some unusable form.Electricity is an example of really useful energy – we have machines that convert electricity into almost anything, whereas heat is only useful if you are cold, and light is only useful if you are in the dark.Engineers also talk about the quality (or grade) of energy. An engineer would always prefer 1 litre of water 70 degrees warmer than room temperature, than 70 litres of water 1 degree warmer, even though these contain roughly the same embodied energy. You can use the hot water to boil an egg, or make tea, or you could mix it with 69 litres of room temperature water to heat it all by 1 degree. It is more flexible.Unfortunately, most of the machines we use, turn good energy (electricity, petrol, light) into bad energy (usually “low grade heat”).Why is low grade heat so bad? It turns out we have no decent machine to convert low grade heat into other forms of energy. In fact we cannot technically convert any forms of heat into energy unless we have something cold to hand which we are also willing to warm up; our machines can thus only extract energy by using hot an cold things together. A steam engine relies just as much on the environment that cools and condenses water vapour as it does on the coal its belly. Power stations rely on their cooling towers as much as their furnaces. It turns out that all our heat machines are stuck in this trap.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
So, in summary, heat itself is not useful – it is temperature differences that we know how to harness, and the bigger the better.This picture of energy lets us think differently about how we interact with energy. We have learned a few key facts:Energy is not destroyed, and cannot be totally used up – this should give us hope
Energy is harnessed to do our dirty work, but tends to end up stuck in some ‘hard to use’ formSo all we need to do to save ourselves is:Re-use the same energy over and over
by finding some way to extract energy from low grade heatAlas, this is a harder nut to crack than fission power, so I am not holding my breath. It turns out that there is another annoying universal law (the Second Law of Thermodynamics) that says that every time energy flows, it will somehow become less useful, like water running downhill. This is because energy can only flow one way: from something hot to something cold – thus once something hot and something cold meet and the temperature evens out, you have forever lost the useful energy you had.It is as if we had a mountain range and were using avalanches to drive our engines. Not only will our mountains get shorter over time but our valleys will fill up too, and soon we will live on a flat plane and our engines will be silent.The Big PictureSo the useful energy in the universe is being used up. Should we worry?Yes and no.Yes, you should worry because locally we are running out of easy sources of energy and will now have to start using sustainable ones. If we do not ramp up fast enough we will have catastrophic shortages.No, should should no worry that we will run out, because there are sustainable sources – the sun pumps out so much more than we use, it is virtually limitless.Oh, and yes again – because burning everything is messing up the chemistry of the atmosphere, which is also likely to cause catastrophe. Good news is that the solution to this is the same – most renewable energy sources do not have this unhappy side effect.Oh, and in the really long term, yes we should worry again. All the energy in the universe will eventually convert to heat, and the heat will probably spread evenly throughout the universe, and even though all the energy will still be present and accounted for, it would be impossible to use and the universe would basically stop. Pretty dismal, but this is what many physicists believe: we all exist in the eddy currents of heat flows as the universe gradually heads for a luke-warm, and dead, equilibrium.=============If you liked this article, you might like my series on efficient motoring.

Family Business, Non-Family Business, Urban Myths.

After 20 years of working with Senior Executives across the world it’s interesting to see the mistakes when appointing Senior Executives. There can be many reasons why, but one reason is not understanding the differences of working in a Family Business and a Non-Family Business. I’ve recently met several Senior Executives who are unhappy with their employment because of this lack of knowledge and understanding and I’m meeting Business owners who didn’t realise there was a difference. These Business Owners feel that money and title is enough and stick to the Mantra of “Surely experienced ‘C’ level Executives can work in any company?”Due to the change of economy, I have become more involved with assisting Family Businesses rather than just the corporates in finding ‘C’ level people. To do this successfully I believe that everyone in the process of hiring Senior Executives must understand the differences that separate the two entities. Having worked for an English and Indian Family Business in a past life this has helped me at first hand to see the ups and downs of these Businesses; this with a theoretical base has helped with running my own companies or advising others with theirs.One recent company I have been involved with was run and founded by a successful New Zealand Entrepreneur. He does not have anybody in his immediate family to hand the reins over to. He has tried (outside the family) executives to fill his ‘C’ level roles and has had three people in three years! What is the problem? Was this a real Family Business? Was the Problem his, or the Executives?We discussed the reasons for the failures but in terms of assisting the owner I got him to firstly look at where his people came from. All three had been ‘C’ level people in corporates and had done an excellent job in their corporate environment. They all returned to corporate life and continued to do well in their new roles. Why did they fail then in this successful company?What I needed the owner to do was to identify a “Family Business”. I don’t normally use dictionary definitions but feel that in this instance Wikipedia gives a satisfactory explanation of a Family Business;”A commercial organization in which decision-making is influenced by multiple generations of a family-related by blood or marriage-who are closely identified with the firm through leadership or ownership. Owner-manager entrepreneurial firms are not considered to be family businesses because they lack the multigenerational dimension and family influence that create the unique dynamics and relationships of family businesses” Wikipedia 2014.We looked at his company and although he didn’t have anyone in the immediate family to take over the reins he had people who owned the company in minor leadership roles. We both agreed he did in fact have a Family Business.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
He thought that buying in top salaried ‘C’ level Executives from corporates would enhance growth and sustain his business. He had not seen any differences between Family and Non-Family Business.Urban Myths for Family Businesses;All are unstable Small to Midsize businesses’.
As an Executive I don’t want to baby sit the junior family members so they can take over my job.
A non-family member will never run the company.
Mother and Father Companies, the only people that matter in the company are family members.
Emotional hard to work places due to family disagreements/arguments.
Incompetent family members in positions of authority.
Are these statements true or are they just Urban Myths?Family businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy and now merit serious consideration by Senior Executives looking to advance their careers. This is an amazing turnaround from 25 years ago when nobody wanted to work for a family-owned business. There now seem to be many positives;Patricia Epperlein from InterSearch reports that;In the USA, 90% of businesses are family-owned. They contribute towards 40% of that nation’s GNP and pay approximately half of its total wages.59% of France’s Top-500 industrial companies are family-owned.It is estimated that 70% to 85% of all businesses worldwide are family-owned.Tom O’Neil NZ Herald. Jan 2014 states;Small to medium businesses are the lifeblood of New Zealand industry. Various sources cite family businesses as representing 75 per cent of Kiwi firms, providing up to 80 per cent of employment and 65 per cent of national GDP.It’s interesting to note that when companies around the world state that they are a “Family Business” they are trying to reinforce positive family values of, Integrity, honesty, trust and loyalty.Not all Family Businesses’ are SMEs. Companies like;Porsche
WalMart
Tata Group.
In New Zealand the Talley Family (Agribusiness) and the Pandey family (Hotels).
Simon Peacocke of BDO Auckland, an accredited Family Business Advisor works with numerous NZ Family Businesses and feels that they do well because of the following reasons;Family businesses think very long-term and are very resilient, much more so than non-family businesses.Second and third generation family business members start their apprenticeship at a very young age. At 5 years old they are hearing their parents talking about the business so they have an incredible depth of knowledge to draw on.Their relationships with staff and communities also tend to be different – closer, more connected, more loyal.Staff tend to become part of the family business and to stay on as long-term committed employees.While corporates like to be seen supporting their communities, family businesses generally don’t promote they are doing this – they just do it.They don’t throw lots of money at things trying to get rich quick.They also have a powerful focus on building relationships with staff, customers and suppliers.So is it worth working for a family company? Is it better to work for a Non-Family Business? Is there any difference when the economy is good or is in a slump?Nicolas Kachaner 2012 in the Harvard Business Review states,”Results show that during good economic times, family-run companies don’t earn as much money as companies with a more dispersed ownership structure. But when the economy slumps, family firms far outshine their peers. And when we looked across business cycles from 1997 to 2009, we found that the average long-term financial performance was higher for family businesses than for non-family businesses in every country we examined”.Senior Executives looking for longevity in the work place should look at the Family Business as this would take them through economies varying peaks and troughs. They will need to be aware that this will always be done in a cost effective way.Business Consultants believe that they can tell easily if the company is Family or Non-Family Business. You just walk into the Head Office. A Non-family office has a very substantial corporate office with a “Wow Factor”. The Family business being more Frugal has very few “Bells and Whistles”. This Frugality is about the Family Business CEO looking to invest in the long term 20 year plan with the business passing down the generations. The Non-Family CEO is looking to make an instant mark and will try and outperform the person they have taken over from. There are many studies that show that Family Businesses did better in the recent Global recession for the above reason. The Family Business is frugal in the good times and the bad allowing them to weather the storms of economic crisis.This is one of the factors that had been wrong in my client with three ‘C’ Level people in three years. His ‘C’ level people came in with a quick turnaround plan which they hoped would give a quick fix and outspending the last person in the hope that they would do something instantly. No twenty year plan for them as they had never been afforded this way of working in the past.Do Family Businesses perform differently in other countries?

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Justin Craig, PhD states,”Interestingly, in many aspects family businesses as a sector do not vary much from country to country. There are obvious cultural differences but a business with family involvement is challenging in every country. It is also more rewarding than the ‘corporates’, let’s not forget that. Of course, there are older businesses in Europe, for example, than in Australia and New Zealand and the United States, and the mind-sets of companies in Europe will differ than in the later developed countries. But day to day the differences are not noticeable. Older businesses have more at stake and lots more to lose but they also have advantages. Family leaders still have to manage three independent and interdependent systems being the family, the business and the ownership group”.Appointing the right Senior Executives is crucial to any company and is a costly acquisition. There are many reasons why hiring at this level goes wrong but getting it right can make a huge difference to your company.To answer one of my questions, can a ‘C’ Level person work in any type of Business, Family or Non-Family?Yes, but only if they are armed with the knowledge of the differences of the two. What they must also be sure of is the type of business that they are going to work in as sometimes this can be a cloudy issue, making it difficult for them to decide which one it is. Look at those mighty corporate companies of Porsche, Tata and Walmart to name a few.Finding the right ‘C’ Level Executive is a lengthy process and shouldn’t be rushed, if you need to rush you are better to go down the Executive Leasing Route in the short term which will allow you to take a breath and get the right permanent person in place. Work with your inside team or your outside partners to establish a good process, so the firm can articulate the process to the Senior Executives. Everyone appreciates the fact that there is a well thought-out plan in place.For me, I decided a long time ago not to build a Family Business. I wanted to give my children the best in life, but wanted them to make their own way in life too. My children might disagree but as one is studying to be a Barrister and one is settled in a corporate I will wait and see if I need to step in? I have however, always agreed with Billionaire Investor Warren Buffett who said, “He would give his kids just enough so that they could do anything, but not so much as they did nothing”.