Energy

Energy generation, consumption and transmission are enormous topics and certainly can't be covered in a small number of quizzes. Nevertheless, please feel free to contact us and suggest any energy-related topic that might be of interest to a wide audience. If we find your suggestion interesting, we will try to add a related quiz or other activity to this website.

On this page you will find links to several quizzes that have been designed to educate everyone regardless of their age about energy. Our quizzes range from very easy to more challenging. All quizzes are easy to use, fun and educational. You can try them as many times as you like.

Electricity and Electric Power Generation
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Electricity and Electric Power Generation10+16

Energy Production and Transmission
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Energy Production and Transmission10+12

Energy Sources
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Energy Sources10+10

Inventions in Energy
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Inventions in Energy10+10

Renewable Energy Sources and the Environment
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Renewable Energy Sources and the Environment10+13

Units of Energy
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Units of Energy8+15

Easy Ways to Save on Gas
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Easy Ways to Save on Gas8+13

What is energy?

Ask ten people what is energy and you will get ten different answers. One will say that energy is what you get from food; another - that energy is what we need to run home appliances, etc. Somebody will even remember the famous E=mc2 formula. The fact is that energy is all around us and we use it all the time even if we have no clue what exactly energy is.

Michael FaradayIn physics, energy is usually defined as the ability to do work. Energy is a rather abstract concept. We can't see, touch or smell it. What we do see, are consequences of energy transformations. For example, a simple electric bulb can be viewed as a device that converts electrical energy into energy of photons that we perceive as light.

From the everyday standpoint, energy is what makes the things around us change in some way. Anything we do, see or hear implies some type of work that requires conversion of energy from one form to another.

Where do we get energy?

Just a few hundred years ago people were using a tiny fraction of energy consumed today. Every day we need more and more energy to run our factories, airplanes, cars, ships, computers and other modern marvels.

rush hourSome of the energy we now consume comes from burning petroleum that is derived from crude oil. Other major energy sources include coal, natural gas and uranium. Unfortunately, using these materials leads to numerous environmental problems. In addition, none of these energy sources is renewable. In other words, their supplies are limited and become harder to get every day. Although there are different opinions as to the amount of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) left on our planet, very few scientists would venture to say that we have more than a 50-year supply of these fuels.

gas stationA typical car with an internal combustion engine is an example of energy being used exactly where it was produced. The engine takes gasoline, burns it, and converts the gasoline chemical energy into mechanical energy which is transferred to the wheels and moves the car.

Another way to use energy is at a location different from where it was produced. If you are reading this text on a desktop computer, chances are your computer receives electric energy from a power plant that is located tens, hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Electrical energy can be relatively easily and cheaply transferred over large distances. That's why it is currently the main secondary energy source. Different electric power plants may use all kinds of primary energy sources (such as coal, oil, uranium, wind, hydropower, solar power, biomass), but their final product is the electricity that can be conveniently sent, almost at the speed of light, to another location where it's needed.

turbineEven though modern power plants incorporate some amazing scientific and technological achievements, the basic idea has not changed much since the first electric power plants built at the end of the 19th century. In the majority of cases, electric power is produced by electrical generators attached to turbines. The turbines can be rotated by steam, water or wind. Steam can be generated by burning fossil fuels or biomass. Steam can also be produced by heat generated in the nuclear reactor.

How do we measure energy?

James Prescott JouleDue to historical and technical reasons there are several different units of energy that are widely used. In SI (International System of Units) the energy unit is 1 Joule. It is equal to 1 kg * m2 / s2 or 1 watt-second. This is a small unit and it's rarely used in everyday life. The unit of energy that almost everyone is familiar with is the kilowatt-hour (kW h). It is closely related to Joule and equals 3600 * 1000 Joules. The 3600 multiplier signifies the number of seconds in one hour.

Other commonly used energy units are Calories (often used to measure energy contents of food) and BTUs (British Thermal Units).

Some important events in the history of energy development.

1769 James Watt patents an improved steam engine
1821 Michael Faraday invents an electric motor
1831 Michael Faraday builds an electric generator
1837 First US Patent for an electric motor issued to Thomas Davenport
1838 William Robert Grove builds the first fuel cell
1839 Edmund Becquerel discovers the photovoltaic effect
1839 Robert Anderson builds one of the first electric vehicles
1879 Edison and Swan patent the carbon-thread incandescent lamp
1886 Westinghouse and Stanley install the first AC power system
1888 Westinghouse and Shallenger develop an electric power meter

What is the future of energy?

wind power plantEvery day we use more and more energy. At the same time, the supply of fossil fuels is being constantly depleted. This means that the industry as well as individuals will have to gradually switch to renewable sources of energy and to significantly increase the efficiency of power generation, transmission and consumption.

solar panelsWe can already see some new (and not so new) technologies helping to reduce our dependency on the non-renewable energy sources. For example, wind power is being used more and more to generate electricity in the areas with large empty spaces and strong winds. Hybrid cars are using a combination of gasoline engines and electric motors to dramatically increase gas mileage without compromising drivability. The examples are many and their number will continue to increase. Finding new sustainable and environment-friendly energy sources is both a challenge and a great opportunity.


NYT > Environment

While El Niņo may be partially behind rising temperatures, NASA says greenhouse gases are the main culprit.

Algal blooms that have recently hit southeastern Florida waters are the latest of such environmental disasters that have hit with increasing frequency...

While activists can agree that something must be done, differences arise over exactly what and how, on issues like nuclear power and fracking.

A Mississippi project, a centerpiece of President Obama?s climate plan, has been plagued by problems that managers tried to conceal, and by cost overr...

Climate change is threatening the livelihoods of the people of tiny Kiribati, and even the island nation?s existence. The government is making plans f...


NYT > Automobiles

The billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is running a private rocket company, doubling down on alternative fuels and pressing on with Tesla after a seri...

In a blog post, Mr. Musk says nothing about the Autopilot controversy, while envisioning a future of self-driving buses and tractor-trailers.

An Italian classic returns by way of Japan. More than a simple re-skin of Mazda?s MX-5 Miata, Fiat?s 124 Spider has a turbo engine and a personality o...

The team, at West Virginia University, often scrounges for grants. That financial pressure is unlikely to dissipate, despite uncovering the emissions ...

In California, state subsidies for hydrogen filling stations are encouraging clean-energy advocates to try fuel-cell vehicles.


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