Friday, February 8, 2008

The Human Generator

For those who are of a practical sort, not apt to suffer unnecessary effort gladly, the concept of venturing onto a treadmill or a stairmaster remains an alien one. Perhaps there are primordial ancestors whispering through our genes, telling us to rest up for the big hunt, saying that exercise must have meaning and purpose beyond achieving a lively heart rate.

Needing motivation beyond simple longevity, I seek exercise in riding a bike to get where I need to go, or chopping wood, or cutting down invasive shrubs. This is all well and good, as far as it goes, but it rarely gives the sense of having tested the limit, of cleansing the pores, of flushing out the stagnant byways of the circulatory system.

To that end, I propose that someone of a mechanical bent devise an exercise bike that generates electricity. Domestic heroes, ready to take on global warming feet first, will trod down into the basement and spend a half hour generating an evening's worth of electricity for the family, and at the same time get that dose of intense exercise that a practical nature would otherwise deprive them of.

Of course, someone already has, as a "bike generator" web search will instantly show. One fellow produced 90 watt hours this very morning on his homemade bike generator, enough to run a laptop for three hours.

In this vein, a NY Times article, Taking People Power to a New Level, describes a way to generate electricity simply by taking a walk around the block. It attaches to the knee, and generates a steady flow of 5 watts. The article also mentions an invention that utilizes the jiggling of a backpack to generate 20 watts, more than enough to power whatever gizmos are standard equipment for hikes into the wild these days.

Embedded in the text is a stunning statistic: A person's body fat stores as much energy as a ton of batteries. Hope turns up in the most unlikely quarters. Given its reputation, the nation may be sitting on the key to its energy independence. No matter how dazzling the mechanical skin we wrap ourselves in, the solar-powered self remains the greatest marvel, now apparently with sophisticated battery power second to none.