The Grid Book Summary - The Grid Book explained in key points
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The Grid summary

Gretchen Bakke

The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future

4.2 (145 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

The Grid by Gretchen Bakke exposes the complex and vulnerable electrical grid's history and its current infrastructure. It explores the challenges we face as we redesign this vital system for a sustainable future.

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    The Grid
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    The first electric grid, launched in the 1870s, took the world by storm.

    Of all human discoveries, electricity has surely had one of the most profound impacts on how we live.

    After all, replacing candles and gas-fueled lamps with electric light could, for all intents and purposes, make the day longer, enabling for example companies to do business longer.

    And that’s precisely what happened when the first electric grids came online in the 1870s.

    The spark that ignited this major transformation came in 1871, when Father Joseph Neri, a professor at Saint Ignatius College in San Francisco, found a way to use battery-powered electricity to power a light in his window.

    Word of his invention spread rapidly and, by 1879, San Francisco had its own lighting grid comprising two dynamos that were powered by a steam engine. It illuminated a mere 20 lamps, but it was a grid nonetheless. From there, an electric grid running on water-driven dynamos was installed in the Sierra Nevada gold mines of California, and thousands of electric lights came into operation.

    But more change was soon to follow. These early grids were revolutionized in the early 1880s by the parallel circuit, invented by Thomas Edison. Before Edison’s invention, grids were linked in a series, meaning that if one bulb went out, the entire system would go down because electricity couldn’t pass through the malfunctioning bulb.

    Edison’s contribution was to discover that electric currents can take all available paths, even if one is much longer than the other. As a result, people could suddenly connect bulbs in parallel, avoiding a system-wide blackout due to one bad bulb.

    By 1892, streetlights wired in parallel circuits began to proliferate, and the New York Times hung dozens of parallel-strung light bulbs around its offices.

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    What is The Grid about?

    The Grid (2016) is about the enormous infrastructure that keeps the United States powered up. These blinks tell the story of how the electric grid came into being, how it has evolved over centuries and what challenges it poses today.

    The Grid Review

    The Grid (2016) explores the complex infrastructure that powers our modern lives and why it is crucial to understand it. Here are three reasons why this book is a must-read:

    • It provides a fascinating and detailed examination of the electrical grid, revealing its hidden complexities and vulnerabilities.
    • Intertwining personal stories and historical context, the book offers a captivating exploration into the interconnectedness of energy, politics, and society.
    • Through in-depth research and thought-provoking insights, Bakke sheds light on the challenges and potential solutions for transforming the grid into a sustainable and resilient system.

    Best quote from The Grid

    Carter meant it. He wanted people to wear sweaters.

    —Gretchen Bakke
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    Who should read The Grid?

    • Students of public policy and environmental law
    • Engineers and tech enthusiasts

    About the Author

    Gretchen Bakke is a cultural anthropologist with a PhD from the University of Chicago. She is currently an assistant professor of anthropology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and is the author of the book Anthropology of the Arts.

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    The Grid FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Grid?

    The main message of The Grid is the intricate and complex nature of our modern electrical grid system.

    How long does it take to read The Grid?

    The reading time for The Grid varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Grid a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Grid is a captivating read for those interested in understanding the intricacies of our electrical grid system. It provides valuable insights into our modern society's reliance on electricity.

    Who is the author of The Grid?

    The author of The Grid is Gretchen Bakke.

    What to read after The Grid?

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