September 09, 2013

Monday 9th September: Carbon Sleuth! (Data Analysis)

I learnt some valuable things today, and they were pretty cool. Was going to call this post "How to combine Data Analysis with Basic Stalking" but that would be controversial and look bad.

It's possible to work out behaviours that need changing in an organisation with just:

- The internet

- A search engine of your choice

- Some logical deduction

- Full access to half hourly meter readings for electricity and gas for at least the last year

You can pick the first three up from most popular supermarkets, the last one is a bit situationally specific. I got mine by asking nicely and being needed.

When you look through the meter readings (the DATA) you're going to notice some anomalies (the ANALYSIS) that have surprisingly high resource usage (the CARBON) which is quite frankly suspicious (the SLEUTHING)

In my case, I was looking at a library. Power usage for the library was pretty standard for most buildings. Electricity had a nice low base-load that was a constant strip along the bottom of the chart, doing things like refrigerators and emergency lighting. It then had hills on top that started ascending at about 8:30am and sank again by 6pm, normally. Gas started a little earlier than electricity hill-wise, and tailed off during the day, with the height of the hill corresponding to how cold it was. Simple.

But there were these nights, these occasional mysterious nights, where a spike would occur. A spike of electricity usage at about 7:30PM. It was roughly once a month. Some mysterious thing was going on once a month.

I wouldn't have thought much of it, except for the fact that after these spikes the base load quadrupled until the next day's hill. That was a lot of power being used unnecessarily. Suddenly it wasn't just an anomaly, it was a troupe of blatantly nefarious carbon-fiends hell bent on turning the library into a climate-destroying machine!

Now, just when you're getting worked up, you need to calm down. As we learned from Benedict Cumberbatch, think smoothly. We're going to do some deduction, and then some induction, and because this isn't a blog post about formal logic or mathematics just trust me when I start saying induction while Sherlock would still claim deduction. Because Sherlock is wrong.

Roughly once a month was in fact every fourth thursday. I went to the library's website to discover that, shock horror of evil cults, a book club met every fourth wednesday evening in the library, outside normal opening hours!

As Molesworth would say, any fule kno how to dedukt. If you want to do it formally, you can take as many steps as you like, but we'll just say that Book Club + Library = Energy Use. Ping!

But what about the night of carbonic sin afterwards, with all that power once they'd gone?

I couldn't just blame the book club for the base load increase afterwards. But I wanted to. I wanted to directly blame them so I can motivate them into helping fix it.

So I used a little past experience, in a variety of bits.

- I know that generally, people turn lights on to do evening activities.

- Warwick Chaplaincy, an unrelated location, often has its lights left on.

- People in a public building don't think they have the rights to change such fundamentals as lighting.

None of these things were hard and fast facts, but together they let me write a compelling story, I know, you're anxious to hear it...

On a dark and rainy night in August1 eleven fellows in a variety of gaits2 met at a public library. As a sign of covert fellowship, all bore the same tome3 which they had read, each in a quiet place and in its entirety, the past forteen nights.

They entered the building, turned all the lights on4, and had their unsubtle meeting.

Alas, when they left, they hesitated. What was the protocol for abandoning this venue? What state should they leave it in? In a fit of panic, they fled the illuminated halls, leaving them...illuminated5.

The end.

1Legitimate Portsmouth weather, though it's been quite warm and sunny this summer.

2And a variety of genders. I realise "fellows" implies some kind of male-only book club, which I doubt was the case.

3Portsmouth libraries have sets of books available to lend out to any book club that wishes to read together. Not that mysterious.

4I'm taking artistic license here. Maybe they only turned on enough lights to have their meeting. I didn't bother calculating any kind of lighting estimate based on power use...

5I like the word illuminated.

Anyway, I made a bit of a fuss about that I do admit, but I was very excited when this happened. By the power of GRAPHS and BING I made enough of a case that I'll probably be phoning some libraries with a new "Feel free to turn the lights off dear book clubbers" type campaign in the future. Yay!

P.S. Portsmouth is the city where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle played football. Hence Sherlock.

P.P.S I found GUINEA PIGS today! GUINEA PIGS! They're a five minute walk from the civic offices, in a park, and they make any day better.


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