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Mad Scientist

A soot-covered scientist at the Grand Academy of Lagado successfully extracted sunlight from cucumbers and stored it in aluminum cans. The discovery will allow energy producers to generate solar-powered electricity at night and will provide unlimited on-demand wintertime heat, researchers said.

A lofty idea, but purely fictional. The Grand Academy is an invention of Jonathan Swift, in his 1726 novel, Gulliver’s Travels. The nearly 300-year-old tale comes to life again via Vaclav Smil, the prolific (nonfiction) author and energy-and-environmental systems professor at the University of Manitoba. He discusses Swift’s cucumbers in a 2011 essay, titled "Global Energy: The Latest Infatuations." The story resonates today because it fulfills what many people are looking for from the energy industry -- a simple solution to complex problems.

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Building the U.S. Power Grid: Today's Pic

Construction of the Sunrise Powerlink

A contractor hangs upside down during construction of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s Sunrise Powerlink, a 117-mile, 500-kilovolt electric transmission line that runs from Imperial county to San Diego, California.

SDG&E, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, provides energy to 3.4 million consumers in San Diego and southern Orange counties.

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Radiation Levels off Japan Elevated but Safe: Today's Pic

Fukushima Radiation Trail

The Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in March 2011 was the largest accidental release of radiation into the ocean in history, according to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists who studied the area in June. Some water samples showed radioactive particles, or radionuclides, at levels 1,000 times higher than before the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident -- but still safely below levels dangerous to humans and much sea life.

This image shows the scientists' route and the locations of their sampling stations. The red and yellow areas mark the Kuroshio Current, a regular feature in waters east of Japan. It carried radionuclides away from the accident, and also blocked them from dispersing to the south. The researchers' study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The Sun Sets On Grangemouth Oil Refinery

The illuminated Grangemouth Oil Refinery exhales steam and carbon dioxide on March 29 in Grangemouth, Scotland.

U.K. government ministers triggered panic-buying last week by suggesting motorists should store gas in cans at home petrol , after fuel-truck drivers threatened to strike. It contributed to one of the worst weeks that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has had since coming to power in May 2010.

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Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes gather in a cornfield near the Rowe Sanctuary, south of Gibbon, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. The cranes usually spend the winter further south in Texas and Oklahoma but due to drought conditions many cranes have been spending the winter in Kansas and Nebraska.

In a typical winter, the Texas Gulf Coast is packed with tens of thousands of birds-- songbirds, waterfowl, catbirds, gnatcatchers, warblers and other migrants. But this year, an annual count done just before Christmas found the population had dropped steeply.

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Wind Turbine Work Carries on as Tax Credit Nears End

Wind Turbine Repair in Ohio

Sam Courtney, installation supervisor for Wind Turbines of Ohio LLC, unbolts the tail section of a wind turbine tower taken down for repairs yesterday at the KMC Sportsman Lodge in Gurnsey County, Ohio.

Wind farm developers installed 6,810 megawatts of turbines in the U.S. last year, 31 percent more than in 2010, as they rushed to qualify for a expiring U.S. tax grants. That's enough to power more than 5 million homes.

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Climate Shifts Earth's Gravity as Glaciers Melt

Sir Isaac Newton's law of gravity states that the pull of an object depends on its mass. This means that when the Earth's mass shifts, so does its field of gravity.

The first accurate measurement of melting glaciers in Greenland came from gravitational readings by the twin satellites known as GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), which produced this rendering of Earth's gravity field. The satellites found that global warming reduced Greenland's ice shield by 240 gigatons of mass each year from 2002 to 2011, corresponding to a global sea level rise of 0.7 millimeters per year.

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Shale Gas in Romania

Romania is looking to exploit shale gas reserves in a drive for energy self-sufficiency. Chevron has a concession covering more than 2,300 square miles in the nation's eastern Barlad region. The company plans to drill the first exploration well in the second half of 2012, depending on the licensing process. As in the U.S., critics of exploration warn of environmental risks.

The village of Banca, Romania, about 170 miles from Bucharest, is pictured here, on March 22.

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Steam Ascends Toward a Circle of Sky: Today's Pic

Inside a Power Station

Steam rises through the vent of a cooling tower at the Ribatejo thermal power plant, operated by EDP-Energias de Portugal SA, in Carregado, near Lisbon, Portugal, on Thursday, March 22, 2012.

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Cherry Blossoms Know the Climate Is Warming: Today's Pic

Cherry Blossom

This year marks a century since Japanese cherry trees first bloomed on the National Mall, in Washington, DC. Over one million people are expected to attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival in 2012.

Scientists have begun to study the bloom dates of cherry trees as an indicator of manmade climate change. The "unabated increase" in global temperatures is leading to an earlier onset of spring in many parts of the world. In Washington, DC, 89 of 100 plants studied showed a 4.5-day advance in first flowering between 1970 and 1999, including cherry trees. A study last November in the journal PLoS One predicts that by the middle of the century, peak bloom dates will occur before National Cherry Blossom Festival.

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About The Grid

Nations and companies face rising competition for strategic resources — energy, food, water, materials — and the technologies that make best use of them. That's sustainability. It's about the 21st-century race for wealth, health and long-term security, across the global grid.

Analyses or commentary in this blog are the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

Eric Roston, Editor

Tom Randall, Deputy Editor

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