Football, munchies, and megawatts

About 90 million Americans watch the Super Bowl on television each year, and many view the game in groups -- at bars, in living rooms, or in the case of Princeton students, in common rooms at dormitories and eating clubs. But does that communal experience change the way power is used? Is there a drop in demand for electricity when the Super Bowl kicks off, as people stop what they're doing and gather around the TV? Ted Borer, the University's energy plant manager, was curious. "I'd always heard of this, as an urban legend," Borer says, "and I thought, 'I have the tools to confirm this.'" On Feb. 5, 2006, when the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers faced off in Super Bowl XL, Borer tracked the power data from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland grid during the game along with the power demand on Princeton's campus. The results, seen on the graph below, are striking: Within one minute of the game's start, power use on campus dropped 6 percent. "We rarely see that dramatic a change," Borer says.


Courtesy Edward T. Borer.

Power use spiked during commercial breaks, as people reheated their nachos, opened the refrigerator to grab another drink, or flushed the toilet (triggering utility company pumps). While the pattern is similar for both the campus and the wider grid, Princeton's power use showed two notable differences from the community at large. Students seemed more interested in the halftime show (in 2006, the Rolling Stones performed), and after the game, when the rest of the region turned off the lights and headed to bed, power use on campus began to climb. Borer suspects that the postgame jump comes from students returning to their rooms and turning on their computers for a little late-night studying.

Names in the news

The human eye is designed for zooming, not scrolling, according to a Feb. 4 Newsweek story, and Blaise Aguera y Arcas ’98 *04 is redesigning the Web browser to cater to the eye's natural tendencies. Zoom interfaces aim to bring "the full power of your visual system to bear on processing information," Aguera y Arcas says. ... National headlines earlier this week focused on Barack Obama's endorsement from Sen. Ted Kennedy, but in Princeton, Toni Morrison's backing of the Illinois senator topped the news. According to the Princeton Packet , the emeritus professor and Nobel prize-winning author wrote that Obama shows "a creative imagination, which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom." ... On Jan. 28, the Star-Ledger of Newark profiled geosciences professor Gerta Keller , whose work has challenged the conventional wisdom about how dinosaurs became extinct. ... EBay CEO Meg Whitman ’€™77’s next move could take her from the boardroom to the campaign trail. The Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 25 that Whitman, a top fundraiser for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, is considering a run for governor in California's 2010 election. A source close to Whitman "downplayed the seriousness" of the campaign talk, according to the Times . ... Fear , history professor Jan Gross’ book about anti-Semitism in Poland at the end of World War II, recently was translated to Polish, and the new version has been "sharply criticized" in Poland, the Associated Press reported Jan. 24. Gross has faced his critics in public debates, including a forum in the town of Kielce, where he explained that he wanted the book "to show people what an incredibly strong toxic poison anti-Semitism is in the general psychology of Poles, because it made us incapable of withstanding temptation."

History's headlines

With Princeton students away for intersession and not much activity on campus, The Weekly Blog takes a look back at PAW news from January in years past: Jan. 28, 1998 | Wins propel Tigers into top 20 "No less an authority than ESPN's poster boy for logorrhea, Dick Vitale, predicted that if Princeton could get by St. John's on December 27, 'these guys could run the table, baby,' and finish 26-1. ... A glance at the national rankings after their 77-48 rout of Manhattan showed them 15th in the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. No Princeton team since the 1966-67 version, Butch van Breda Kolff ’45's swan song, has been ranked that high." By Peter Delacorte ’67 Jan. 30, 1978 | Crime in the stacks "Although a sign near the entrance to Firestone Library asks guests to identify themselves, no well-behaved person is ever approached to show identification or to justify his presence in any way. Furthermore, most of the library's holdings are kept in open stacks to encourage browsing. ... This halcyon arrangement is now endangered by rising thievery. ... The magnitude of the problem was discovered last spring when the library completed its first thorough inventory in recent years. ... [T]he inventory revealed that 4.35 percent of the nearly two million volumes in Firestone's open stacks and almost 10 percent of the materials in branch libraries are missing. In all, some 150,000 volumes with a replacement cost of approximately $3 million have disappeared." By Virginia Kays Creesy Jan. 25, 1963 | A $3,500,000 machine "This has been called the Age of the Computer - the characteristic instrument of our scientific, rationalized civilization - and as of last month, Princeton was right in the center of it. In the 1960s these 'giant brains,' unknown twenty years ago, predict Presidential elections, land astronauts, write acceptable TV scripts, compose serious music ('The Illiac Suite for String Quartet'), play chess, translate scientific Russian, and in what might be called an act of planned parenthood, design other computers. ... [The University's new IBM 7090] has over 50,000 transistors and 1,000,000 magnetic cores, performs 229,000 additions per second , and with its auxiliary equipment cost over $3,500,000." By John D. Davies ’41

Programming notes: The 14-game tournament

For Princeton men's basketball, the nonconference season included few bright spots and one long stretch of frustration -- a school-record 12-game losing streak. But now the streak is over, thanks to a 60-46 win over Division-II Dominican College Jan. 27, and the Tigers are set to tip off the Ivy League season Feb. 1 against Dartmouth at Jadwin Gym. Princeton also hosts Harvard Feb. 2 in a game that will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU. Princeton fans can listen to all men's basketball games, home and away, online at .