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  • Gigawatts or Jigawatts?
  • Flux Capacitor Part II
  • BTTF with GE
  • ...a Flux Cap in a pear tree


We all know what Doc Brown said in the first movie. "I need a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity I need".  But he pronounced gigawatts as if it were spelled with a "j", as in jigawatts (or jigowatts).  Being an electrical engineer, I had heard the prefix "Giga" pronounced many times before, but always with the hard "g" sound, as in gigabyte.

I always figured that the word "Jigawatt" was made up just for the movie and meant to sound like a really large amount.  It wasn't unit I started researching this flux capacitor replica project that I stumbled across a few references to the actual term.  It turns out that the original pronunciation of "Giga" was with the "j" sound (really a soft "g").

Looking at the entry on they give two valid pronunciations ji-g-wät  and  gi- g-wät .  They even have a neat audio clip of each being spoken.

UPDATE (4/20/13). Merriam-Webster has pulled their alternate pronunciation for gigawatt.  Now they only have the "J" sounding version, as used in BTTF.  I don't know if they have changed their minds on the alternate or Doc Brown went back in time to correct it.  The two pronunciation links above still work though.

I am certainly happy that they used the original, older sounding pronunciation of the word since the story involved time travel and Doc Brown conceived of the flux capacitor on November 5th in 1955 after slipping and hitting his head on the toilet.  Ironically, most references point to the early 1960's as the first time the term was used.  That's okay at the start of the film as it's set in 1985,  but in 1955, the younger Doc Brown should have said "1.21 gigawatts?  What's a gigawatt Marty?

The saying over the years has taken on a life of its own.  I've heard people say it without even knowing where it came from.  What's even more fun is the debate that follows on whether a gigawatt is an actual term.   People would rather debate the pronunciation of the word then ponder the possibilities of time travel.  Here's hoping for a Back to the Future 4.  Let's make it a reality while we still can. 

So, how much is 1.21 gigawatts you ask?  Well, a gigawatt is equal to one billion (10 9) watts or 1 gigawatt = 1000 megawatts.  If your typical 100 wattt lightbulb (at least what used to be typical before they outlawed them here in the US) were powered for 1 hour, that would be 100 Watt-hours.  1.21 gigawatts would be able to light over 12 million 100 Watt light bulbs for an hour.  1.21 gigawatt is also equivalent to 1,621,400 horse power.

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I've decided to start my second Flux Capacitor replica.  I learned plenty building my first (which went to my nephew Ben).  I plan on updating my web site with newer, more detailed pictures of construction details I may have glossed over the first time.  I've have also had requests to supply some parts and while I don't really want to spend all my spare time making parts for others, I may offer a few, starting first with the solenoid bases, since I made a mold of my replicas.  Let me know if you are interested.

Flux Capacitor - Part II

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General Electric (who helped put me through college via my father who worked there for more than 30 years), has a new commercial featuring the BTTF Delorean. It uses close-ups and quick cuts, but is cool none-the-less.  It's even narrated by Mr. Michael J. Fox himself.  He states that the 1.21 Gigawatts needed to power the BTTF Delorean could be easily provided by efficient GE Electric Turbines.  There's also a great shot of the Flux Capacitor pulsing away.

Now here's the kicker.  MJF pronounces Gigawatts with the "Giga" sound and not "Jiga" as Doc Brown did.  I guess the debate continues.

It would be great if GE made more commercials featuring other vehicles/machines/gadgets from past movies or TV shows.  I can think of several I'd love to see featured.  Last year K.I.T.T. from Night Rider was featured in a commercial for GE locomotives.  There had William Daniels, the original voice of KITT, narrate the commercial.  Let's hope this trend continues.

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The two months before Christmas were very busy.  I'd been wanting to finish my first Flux Capacitor to give as a Xmas present for my nephew Ben. ben with flux capacitor xm I can happily say that it was finished in time and was a big hit on Christmas.  He was very surprised when he opened the packaged and could not believe what was inside.

I took many pictures over the last several weeks of construction and I will be updating all of the sections with the final details.  There are a few tweaks I will be making on my next one (for me) but I could not be more pleased with how it turned out.  Keep checking back.  If you have any specific questions, please let me know.

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