Tuesday, March 22, 2011

[rpmakcqd] Energy of the Japan earthquake as gasoline

Reporters try to convey the energy released by the Japanese earthquake (surface energy 1.9*10^17 joules) in "real world" terms, and they invariably pick the Hiroshima atomic bomb to compare it with. This is silly, because probably only Hiroshima survivors and atomic bomb engineers truly understand the energy in a Hiroshima atomic bomb. (And slightly ironic, since Hiroshima is in Japan, too.)

A far better real-world measure of energy for the American public is "tankful of gasoline". Assuming a typical car's gasoline capacity is 15 gallons, a tankful of gasoline is about 2 billion joules. (And, incidentally, 0.47 tons of TNT. TNT is surprisingly not very energy dense compared to gasoline. But it's a good explosive.)

The Japanese earthquake energy was about 96 million tankfuls of gasoline. Or, 5.7 gallons per capita U.S. population (0.31 of a tank).

6 gigawatt years

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