I have commented before about the decline of journalism. One aspect of that decline is the ascendance of journalist narratives, which occur when a journalist, rather than report the opinions of others more expert, inserts their own narratives, the ones that will get them advanced in their position at their workplace.
In a recent article on the Samsung cell phone recall, which centers on their batteries having a disturbing tendency to burst into flames, the journalist answers his own question “If the batteries are problematic, why do companies continue to use them?” with “Battery technology has been slow to advance, largely because the products must pass rigorous safety testing.”
So, the problem is not with manufacturing defects in batteries that have been used quite safely for well over a decade, it is “guv’mint regulation.” And if it weren’t for those pesky safety standards battery technology would zoom ahead.
I remember reading a Scientific American article about the advent of solar power. One conclusion stuck in my memory, namely that solar power was set to explode as soon as a “more viable alternative to the lead-acid storage battery is developed.” The lead-acid storage battery is the one you have in your car. The article was dated 1906. When I was reading that article, we did not have NiCad (nickel-cadmium) batteries or lithium ion batteries; they hadn’t been invented yet. Interestingly, both of those fabulous “new” batteries, without which we would have no portable electronic devices at all, are variations on the same design as the zinc-carbon battery, the first design of “flashlight battery” invented decades ago. (The zinc-carbon battery was the first “dry cell” battery in that it was the first that didn’t have liquid sloshing around inside (like your car battery still does) and which dates back to the 19th century.)
There are no whiz-bang, new fangled, high tech batteries because we can’t figure out how to make them. All batteries are based upon the same thing: a chemical reaction that when placed in an appropriate container, can created electricity and, if designed correctly, can be recharged by forcing electricity back into the battery, causing the chemical reaction to reverse itself and so to be able to produce electricity again.
This is the inherent weakness of all of these batteries, the dependence upon chemical reactions, the chemicals of which refuse to stay put where we want them to be. This is why all such batteries wear out, why your car battery needs to replaced every five years or so (and has been for over a century), why “rechargeable batteries” aren’t rechargeable indefinitely.
This is why every rechargeable device has batteries that can be replaced easily (unless you buy Apple products). My wireless earphones have ordinary rechargeable batteries behind the earpieces. When they stop recharging, I can prize out the old batteries and pop in a fresh set and we are off and running again. You cell phone has a removable battery, it is not hard-wired in, for the same reason. (You probably haven’t done this because “you just gotta have a new phone” before the battery wears out.)
“Many of our problems would be solved if government
would just get out of the way and unleash good, old American knowhow.”
There have been advances in battery technology but the basic design has stayed the same, just new materials and design tweaks have made them lighter, able to pack more electrical charge in them, and to be recharged faster and for more cycles before replacement is needed.
It is not because of government safety regulations, for Pete’s sake!
I wonder why the drum would be beaten so strongly against “guv’mint regulayshuns?” The government is us. The regulations that exist are in place to safeguard us. Where they have been circumvented and bastardized through the political process, it has been at the behest of the plutocratic powers that be, not the Ralph Naders of today. (Ordinary people can’t get anything through Congress, you know that, yes?)
So, to create support for these anti-democratic usurpations of political power, a narrative is needed. Ah, here’s just the one: “many of our problems would be solved if government would just get out of the way and unleash good, old American know how.”
As just one example of how “good, old American knowhow” is in the world of commerce, and in tune with the topic of “batteries” involves a California remanufacturer of car batteries. These batteries contain a goodly amount of the element lead, both in solid form (the electrodes) and in water solution. You know that lead is poisonous, don’t you? It has been known to be quite poisonous for centuries. If you are old enough you have seen lead banned from gasoline and house paint, etc.
Now, to rebuild these batteries, the old solution, containing a great deal of dissolved lead as well as sulfuric acid, had to be removed from them. Do you know what their disposal process was? Yep, they poured in on the ground and it sank in and voila, it was “gone.” They did this for over fifty years! When the “guv’mint” got around to investigating they found significant lead pollution of ground water over 150 miles away. When the company was accosted with this result, they did what you expected them to … they closed their doors and left it to the guv’mint, aka “us,” to clean up the mess.
This is what happens when “government just gets out of the way” of good, old American know how. What the “know how” really is, is knowing how to make money, and messes, and letting others clean up afterward.
And incompetent journalists are selling us this “system” as a good idea.