Bra batteries? Bobbin' breasts create energy
Q. If you try to keep abreast of the very latest techniques and technologies, what might be the zaniest idea yet for powering an iPod? –S. Jobs
A. Harnessing the Dolly Partonesque movements inside a sports bra for conversion into electrical power, as unveiled in Japan a while ago, answers Adrienne So on slate.com. Naturally the bigger the breasts, the more momentum they generate, with some traveling as much as 35 inches up and down during exercise in a low-support bra.
As one Oregon State University exercise scientist analyzed it, breasts move from side to side, front to back and up and down, with the majority of motion along the vertical axis and the friction of movement converted into an electrical charge.
Georgia Tech Professor Zhong Lin Wang is currently working to develop fabric made from nanowires that will capture the energy of human motion and be used in T-shirts and other articles of clothing.
"Many bra patterns call for about a meter of fabric,” says So, “which would probably mean that a regular bra would have enough energy to power an iPod."
"If someone were to engineer a kinetically powered bra, I'd be intrigued," she adds. "Maybe it's not very sexy to see breasts as a pair of batteries, but with oil prices so high and people jogging to work, it may be time for breasts to start pulling their own weight."
Q. How dramatically different are the many ways money can "disappear from human hands"? –J. W. Hingeley
A. At one extreme were the 11 coins totaling $1.03, retrieved from the gastrointestinal tract of nine children at Massachusetts General Hospital over the course of a three-year observational study, says Mara Grunbaum in Discover magazine. American children and young adults ingest more than 100,000 foreign objects every year, some 90 percent of which pass through the body without problems; the rest must be removed by endoscopy or surgery.
Disappearing from the proper human hands are almost 100,000 laptops lost or stolen each year from hundreds of U.S. companies, amounting to about $2 billion, or $20,000 for each laptop (costs include lost property, missing data, legal expenses and diminished productivity).
Then there are the 10,000 or so shipping containers (out of a total of 200 million transported annually) that fall off cargo ships and into the ocean. There they may act as ecological stepping stones for crabs, octopuses and snails living on or around them, allowing these coastal species to hop from one container to the next until they reach into new territory. Just another way for value to slip from careless human hands, in this case enriching marine life.
Q. What marvelous sky event is not happening anywhere in 2011, though it usually does at least once a year somewhere? –T. Brahe
A. A total solar eclipse (TSE), says astronomer Bob Berman, author of The Sun's Heartbeat. This singular event depends on the Sun, Moon and Earth forming a straight line in space; and on the coincidence of the Sun and Moon at their varying distances appearing exactly the same size, allowing the Earth to fall totally into the daytime shadow of the Moon.
Lasting anywhere from a bare second to seven minutes, a TSE occurs on average only once every 360 years for any given earthly location.
"Unfortunately, the U.S. is suffering an unprecedented 38-year eclipse drought. There hasn't been a totality anywhere in the lower forty-eight since 1979 and there won't be another until August 21, 2017,” Berman writes. “But one occurs somewhere in the world nearly once a year. You'll just have to travel."
Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at Strangetrue@cs.com