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The Energy to Create Your Food

The energy needed to create food can vary widely by type

1 min read

The apple might be an emblem of simplicity, but accounting for all the energy needed to produce one is another matter. You have to factor in pesticide production, fertilizer manufacturing, irrigation, harvesting, sorting, and transportation. Electricity and diesel fuel are needed to drive all these steps, and coal mining and oil extraction come with their own energy costs. And that’s just the apple. These numbers, compiled by a team at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, show that energy inputs can vary wildly from one foodstuff to another.

As they were gathered in Sweden, the numbers don’t necessarily apply to the food in your local supermarket. But they do help illuminate how much energy consumption is dependent on diet. “Food choices matter,” says Gidon Eshel, an environmental scientist at Bard College, in New York state. In the United States, for example, food accounts for between one-fifth and one-quarter of a person’s energy footprint, Eshel says. He’s calculated that, for the average American, simply replacing meat-based calories with eggs and dairy products would result in an energy savings akin to switching from a Camry to a Prius. —Brandon Keim

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Intel's million-transistor chip development team

In San Francisco on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.

The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386. The two chips have about the same area and use the same 1-micrometer CMOS technology then under development at the company’s systems production and manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. But with the i860, then code-named the N10, the company planned a revolution.

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