Vaporizing Lake Washington

Sometimes I wonder about interesting things, such as how much energy would it take to boil all the water of Lake Washington:

  • The volume of Lake Washington is 2.89 km31
  • The average lake temperature is 9.71°C2
  • It takes 4.19 Joules to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1°C: \frac{4.19 \mathrm{J}}{ 1 \mathrm{g^{\circ}C \: _{H_{2}O}}}3
  • The density of water is \frac{1 \mathrm{g}}{1\mathrm{cm^{3}}}

Putting all that together, we get:

2.89 \mathrm{km^{3}} \times \left ( \frac{1000\mathrm{m}}{1\mathrm{km}} \right )^{3} \times \left( \frac{100\mathrm{cm}}{1\mathrm{m}} \right )^{3} \times \frac{1\mathrm{g_{_{H_{2}0}}}}{1\mathrm{cm^{3}_{H_{2}0}}} \times \frac{4.19 \mathrm{J\:} }{\mathrm{g^{\circ} C _{H_{2}O}}} \times  \left ( 100^{\circ} \mathrm{C} - 9.71^{\circ} \mathrm{C}\right )= 1.093\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}

For comparison, the energy that hits Earth from the Sun in one second: 1.74 \times 10^{17} \mathrm{J}4

Basically, if we could focus all the energy from the sun that hits the earth, it would take…\frac{1.093\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}}{1.74 \times 10^{17} \mathrm{\frac{J}{s}}} = 6.281 \: \mathrm{seconds} …to vaporize Lake Washington5.

This is a vast oversimplification of the forces and energies involved, but I think it’s still a pretty good estimate.

Update: Apparently I missed one critical element, enthalpy/heat of vaporization \Delta{}H_{\mathrm{vap}}6. “This energy breaks down the intermolecular attractive forces, and also must provide the energy necessary to expand the gas (the PΔV work). For an ideal gas , there is no longer any potential energy associated with intermolecular forces. So the internal energy is entirely in the molecular kinetic energy.”7

What we have above is the energy required to bring it up to 100°C, but not to vaporize it. To actually vaporize water that’s already at 100°C, we need to add an additional \Delta{}H_{\mathrm{vap}} = 2260\mathrm{\frac{J}{g}}8

Running this number back through our calculations, we now get:
2.89 \mathrm{km^{3}} \times \left ( \frac{1000\mathrm{m}}{1\mathrm{km}} \right )^{3} \times \left( \frac{100\mathrm{cm}}{1\mathrm{m}} \right )^{3} \times \left (2260\mathrm{\frac{J}{g}} + \frac{1\mathrm{g_{_{H_{2}0}}}}{1\mathrm{cm^{3}_{H_{2}0}}} \times \frac{4.19 \mathrm{J\:} }{\mathrm{g^{\circ} C _{H_{2}O}}} \times \left ( 100^{\circ} \mathrm{C} - 9.71^{\circ} \mathrm{C}\right ) \right ) = 7.625\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}

This is still within one order of magnitude from my original answer and really only takes slightly longer for the sun to actually vaporize Lake Washington \frac{.625\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}}{1.74 \times 10^{17} \mathrm{\frac{J}{s}}} = 43.82 \: \mathrm{seconds} 9.


  1. http://wldb.ilec.or.jp/Lake.asp?LakeID=NAM-09&RoutePrm=0:;14:load;14:load; 

  2. Average of all temperature data for 2011 for the Lake Washington buoy: http://green.kingcounty.gov/lake-buoy/Data.aspx 

  3. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calorie 

  4. According to Wolfram Alpha 

  5. ROM estimate 

  6. this is why I’m not a chemist 

  7. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/phase2.html#c3 

  8. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/phase.html 

  9. still a ROM estimate 

What Science Knows and What Businesses Do

This post was originally just going to be a link to a video. Then I started doing some more research and some more digging and this post is what I’ve come up with. I think this is a testament to the magnitude of the idea I’m going to be passing on. Thus, whatever you are doing, stop now and pay attention.

“There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” – Dan Pink

Dan Pink will describe in 10 short minutes (along with an awesome animation) the truth about what actually motivates us. Surprisingly (or not), money is not what motivates us (generally speaking). Instead, the three factors that lead to better performance & personal satisfaction are:

  • autonomy
  • mastery
  • purpose

Not only that, but we have the research1 and data2 to back this up.

The following animation is adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA3:

Note: you may need to click through if you can’t see the video above.

Dan has a book that recently came out, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, that I believe goes into more depth. I already had Drive on my book list, but after watching that video I’ve moved it to the top. One of the research papers Dan talks about was completed by behavior economist Dan Ariely, who also wrote Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and the follow up The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home4.

This all leads to a point.

As much as like doing what I do, I also feel like I’m being stifled, especially as a result of old-fashioned nine-to-five, carrot-and-stick incentives. Thus, when I think about wanting to work at a small company, it’s not because I don’t like people or want to work with fewer people, it’s because there is more freedom to do what I want, more freedom to explore, to freedom to innovate, and that’s what I want.

To be clear, this isn’t about working less, it’s about working best. If I can get done in six hours what you think should take eight hours, why can’t I go home early? Am I being paid to be available to solve problems or to actually solve problems? Work that requires even marginal amount of thinking should5 be Results-Only Work Environments, not Presenteeism Work Environments.

All the money in the world can’t buy happiness and I’d rather being making $10k (or whatever) less and truly enjoy what I do; and this is the problem.

From experiencefreak.com:

Currency for motivation is becoming more intangible. … [A] fun/surprising reward can be more motivating than a functional cash incentive or discount. A competitive, peer interaction and temporal element drives motivation. Case in point look at how 4Square drives engagement.

I think the current generation of engineers6 gets this idea. We aren’t as tied to money as we are tied to autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I like purpose, it makes me feel like I’ve actually done something useful. And I like mastery, because I’m sort of anal like that. And I like autonomy, because I’ve found ways of doing things that work really, really well for me and get the job done. And money can’t buy any of that.

I see this at play in my own life in literally everything outside of work (i.e. my seven-to-three job): writing plugins for WordPress, running a triathlon, leading a Bible study, taking photographs. These are the things that make me happy. Engineering makes me happy too, but not as much as I think it could; which I believe has to do with the current method that I practice it.

See also:

Update:
From www.acceleratingfuture.com:

Why Intelligent People Fail
Content from Sternberg, R. (1994). In search of the human mind. New York: Harcourt Brace.

  1. Lack of motivation. A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it. Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well-done, for instance). External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance.

via Kottke


  1. Large Stakes and Big Mistakes 

  2. “A long history of research has demonstrated that rewards can decrease motivation and attitudes (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959), alter self-perception (Bem, 1965), increase overjustification (Lepper et al., 1973), and turn feelings of competence into feelings of being controlled (Deci & Ryan, 1985).” Source: Effort for Payment: A Tale of Two Markets 

  3. The original talk is about 40 minutes long and is pretty much an expanded version of the talk Dan Pink gave at TED on motivation 

  4. these two books are also on my reading list 

  5. generally; there are, of course, exceptions to the rule 

  6. et alii 

How Any Enginerd Can Date a Beautiful Woman

Ignite Seattle 10 is coming up just around the corner on June 14th, so mark your calendars. They had a call for submissions and I thought, “What the heck. But what to present on? It needs to be funny, but also relevant. And not a shill for some product.”

As it turned out, I had already asked this question from the last time I wanted to present at Ignite Boulder. I flipped through the comments and decided that Jeff’s suggestion on How Any Man Can Pick Up Beautiful Women would be good starting point.

I submitted my topic suggestion with the following description:

I am a nerd, and I am an engineer.

How do I know this? Because I was drawing schematics of Star Trek related devices when I was in 5th grade, I ran my own web server from my home when I was in 9th grade, and, most importantly, I just (well, a year ago) graduated from the Colorado School of Mines with a BS in Engineering, Specialty in Electrical Systems, Area of Special Interest in Mechanical Systems.

Now, I work for an aerodefensespace1 corporation, as an engineer.

And I’m dating a beautiful woman; actually, that’s not quite true.

But I have learned a lot about being an enginerd and being able to talk to women. And have them talk to me.

So, just because I haven’t found the “love of my life,” the Deanna Troi to my Will Riker, doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from what I’ve learned.

It’s a shoe-in to win, right? Not quite. Unfortunately, I was not selected for the round of Ignite talks (they had a record number of entries). So you’ll have to wait for now.2


  1. I thought about shortening this to “aerodeface” 

  2. Story of my life…. 

Engineering Should Come With a Warning Label

Someone I know at school, Islin Moy, posted this note. I felt compelled to share it because it’s basically what I’m feeling right now.

From www.facebook.com:

In your senior year second semester, you will experience stress levels not felt since failing your first test, over a prolonged period of time, at the same intensity.

This is due to senior design and the “random” decision of professors to double your workload, including the ones you took courses from before.

Senioritis and the general decline of your attitude towards school also doesn’t help.

The question is, do you really want to graduate?

If the answer is YES, then forge ahead and take your sleeping pills/other methods to fall asleep at night to wake up 4 hours later! Only 72 days left!

There is no such answer as NO. You got this far.

And it’s actually only 66 days left now. I’m glad to hear other people are in the same boat I’m in.

Prayers for Protection

The youth pastor at my home church has a son, Ben, who was diagnosed with a Neuroblastoma almost two months ago. He’s only two years old. It’s sometime been difficult to be so far away from them; not that I could do anything, but I still feel helpless.

Yesterday, Ben began his third round of chemotherapy treatment with a drug called Cisplatin(cis-diamminedichloroplatinum(II)).

Ben’s Mom writes in their blog:

While this drug has proven in the past few years to be an extremely important drug in treating NB [Neuroblastoma], it will most likely damage his hearing. 3/4 of all NB kids will suffer hearing loss – the extent to which varies depending on the child. We have been told that the “best case scenario” would be just the loss of high frequency pitches but we won’t know for another six months (approximately) what the ultimate damage has been.

From en.wikipedia.org:

The ototoxicity of…cisplatin may be related to [its] ability to bind to melanin in the stria vascularis of the inner ear or the generation of reactive oxygen species.

I thought about this for a second, and I thought about how I might feel. Giving my son a drug which I know has a good chance of causing him to be disabled, causing him to miss out on parts of life.

Then I thought about the doctors who are researching cancer how hard they must fight everyday to try and develop better, less detrimental, drugs and treatments.

It almost makes me want to be one. Knowing that there is so much good that could be done, so much suffering that could be eliminated.

If I even get bored of engineering, I’d probably become a doctor.

However, I’m not a doctor. There is nothing I can do, save pray.

…we hope for a miracle – that for some reason outside of medical science his ears are protected. Or that whatever loss there may be, it will be minimal. So we ask you to please pray for him. Please.