Equations and opinions

by Dr. Jacob Klimstra

A magazine such as Cogeneration & On-Site Power Production (COSPP) is supposed to have value. That means it should serve you, its readers, with useful content. Value can originate from the pleasure of reading interesting stories, from information on products and suppliers, and from useful knowledge about local power generators. However, business life is so hectic these days and so much information is offered constantly, that a tendency exists to skip all ‘nice to know’ information and to concentrate only on ‘need to know’ information. The big question always is, what is nice and what is needed?

I remember the time as a young engineer, I tried to read almost any magazine and book on engineering that I could get my hands on. I hoped all that information would help me find the right answers, and even the right questions. I had and still have a very high esteem for people who have the skill to write an article. But it often took a lot of effort to understand the content and the associated value of the articles.

Only when I started to carry out my own technical research did the situation change. It is very peculiar, but when you are urgently looking for an answer, digesting literature can happen quickly. It appears that the brain can automatically select what is needed and ignore what can be skipped. Nevertheless, the right literature has to exist, and COSPP has and will play an important role in this.

The big question now is, what should a good article for COSPP look like. Recently, a friendly and helpful experienced engineer told me that using ‘formulas’ in an article would immediately turn off the bulk of modern readers. Many people are apparently allergic to mathematics.

And yes, I agree with him: a ‘formula’ by itself is like a magic sentence, a charm, but can lead to irritations. A good article is therefore not based on ‘formulas’. However, good articles can feature technical equations that illustrate relationships between quantities. If the author has explained what the background of the equation is and how it can be used, preferably with a diagram illustrating the relationship, it can be an eye opener. Equations can, for example, help you to calculate the financial benefits of on-site power generation. Physical relationships can also tell you why electricity supply systems benefit from local generation. Therefore, dear prospective authors, please do not hesitate to insert helpful equations in your articles. Good articles are more than an opinion: good articles explain and teach.

Why am I writing this? It is partly a result of being happy with a magazine dedicated to distributed generation-related subjects, but also partly due to some irritation. During recent discussions with policy makers in Brussels on the benefits of local generation, they told me that what I said was nothing more than an opinion. In order to get support for my opinion, I had to show them that a large proportion of the population supported me. When I tried to explain that my reasoning was based on scientifically-proven facts, they still answered: ‘That is only your opinion’.

One sees the same thing happening in discussion groups on Linked-In and other social media. Solid knowledge is replaced by feelings and opinions. Fortunately, we have this magazine, in which we can exchange valuable information and help to provide useful knowledge for further expansion and optimization of cogeneration and on-site power production.

Jacob Klimstra
Managing Editor

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