Alton Webteam: January 2017
"God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".
It is many years ago now that I first came across this prayer, attributed to Rev Studdert Kennedy, but I saw it quoted again recently in a book I was reading. It suddenly struck me (being an Engineer), that it was an illustration of one of the basic laws of Thermodynamics, which I once had to study. Put into everyday language, this states that you can convert mechanical or electrical energy into heat with theoretically no waste in the process, like the immersion heater in your hot water tank, but that you can't convert heat energy into mechanical or electrical energy without wasting (even in 2009) about two thirds of the energy you started with; it is not a reversible process.
If you want confirmation of this hard fact of nature, drive past almost any power station and contemplate those huge concrete cooling towers which dominate the skyline, dissipating most of the heat into the surrounding countryside, not to mention the chimneys, spewing forth hot exhaust gases, mostly C02, into the atmosphere.
We can't alter the laws which govern the processes, but we don't have to let all that precious heat go to waste, especially in wintertime. In a few parts of the country, (the nearest example is the town of Woking), waste heat from a local generating plant provides hot water and space heating to Council owned offices and property. Most power stations, especially the big ones, are built where there are the fewest people to object, and are therefore a long way from where people live, but who need the heat.
Vegetables, however, are not so fussy about the view, and tomatoes, celery, beans, lettuce and courgettes are being grown all the year round in a few 'Glass Farms' adjacent to power stations, using heat which would otherwise be lost.
in our personal lives, we often waste time and mental energy fighting what is not going to change, and neglecting the opportunities to make new beginnings in other directions. As well as being a profound piece of spiritual insight, this prayer might well also point to the possibilities as well as the limitations of technology. What we need is more imagination.
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