Saturday, February 14, 2009

sweet personal dynamo, and, ahem, a rant

From New Scientist: Innovation: Personal dynamo

This is a sweet little gadget. Hook it on something that's going to move, and as it rolls on the ground, it generates electricity. Not a huge amount, but the dynamo is intended to shore spotty communication in developing or undeveloped countries, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa; inventor Cedrick Ngalande says, "At normal walking speeds we have gotten more than 2 watts, which is more than enough for running cellphones or radios."

I think it would be pretty awesome for everyone, though. Backpackers, campers, anyone who's on the go in a way that involves a lot of moving yourself, like people who fly a lot (not sure if security'd let it on the plane, but anyway). The author also suggests it as part of of a kid's toy so the batteries couldn't run out as long as the kid's batteries didn't run out.

For some reason I've gotten into the habit of reading comments... the people who commented on this article art pissed. They think it's the worst idea ever. Solar's better; wind's better; wind-up's better. All those poor starving people shouldn't have to walk for their energy; roads suck in undeveloped villages; it'll get covered with shit. IT SUCKS AND IT WILL NEVER EVER BE USEFUL.

To them I say: hey, guys. Stop bitching. Clean, inexpensive energy solutions are needed and useful, and we don't have to be monogamous about how we get it. Different things are useful in different situations. Neither the author nor the inventor suggested we strap one of these on the back of every African south of -15°, just like it would be silly to suggest that solar, wind, and water power can meet every need everywhere.

I get the impression that these posters think that impoverished starving people either shouldn't be or shouldn't have to think about more than food, or perhaps that richer nations shouldn't be thinking about more than feeding them. That make assuage their hunger for a while, but starvation isn't the problem. Starvation is a symptom; poverty is the problem.

Corrupt, inept governments mismanage land, money, and natural resources. The people are generally uneducated and illiterate. Populations tend to be disorganized or even isolated, and completely unprotected by their governments from both invading and native armies as well as the exploitative rich. Conflict and genocide caused by changing climate, overpopulation, greed, racism, and overgrown tribalism are widespread. And, compounded with and aggravated by all of that, an HIV epidemic where physical and prophylactic safety are scarce, rape is rampant, and too many people know little about the disease and are unable to learn more.

But let's just about feeding them, right?

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