As the threat of global warming and other environmental catastrophes grow more and more apparent, science is looking ever more desperately for things to turn into electricity that don't involve murdering everything horribly as a side effect. And trust us when we say nothing is off the table as far as options go. Not even ...
Have you ever visited a dance club and wondered whether all those sweaty, grinding, drunk people could help run your refrigerator? Someone in the Netherlands has. A dance club called Club Watt installed tiny devices called piezoelectric generators to harvest all that foot-stomping into real electricity. So far, they have been used to power, well, pretty much just the colors on the dance floor, but club owners are hopeful that one day the tiles will be able to provide up to 60 percent of the electricity in the nightclub. That might require some serious flashdancing, but if there's anything Europeans like to do more than sweat, it's stomp around awkwardly on the dance floor. At least, that's our impression.
With 23 official languages in the European Union, dancing is the only way they can communicate.
Piezoelectric tiles aren't just for dance floors, though. Similar devices have been installed at the London Olympics site and are being prepared for use in shopping malls so that the foot traffic of shoppers can be harnessed to power half of their lighting needs. Also, the tiles light up when stepped on, reminding pedestrians that their plodding footsteps are actually contributing to something other than moving them from one tepid plane of existence to the next.
As demonstrated by Steve Martin.
According to DARPA (the mad scientists who design futuristic devices for the U.S. military), the energy generated by your walking, nodding and breathing will one day power all sorts of sci-fi crap they're planning on sticking all over your body, like computer screens in contact lenses. We tried to figure out how that would work by pressing our computer screens directly against our eyeballs, so we assume they still have some bugs to work out.
With this technology and legalized Ecstasy we could solve the energy crisis overnight.
If you thought that alternative energy was a bunch of tree-hugging-hippie crap, then tell that to the Swedish. The land of chocolate and meatballs has a novel interpretation of the concept of green energy that has environmentalists shifting uncomfortably in their hemp pants -- killing fluffy bunnies for power.
There, invasive species like rabbits are hunted down like the vermin they are, then the corpses are "crushed, ground and then pumped into a boiler where it is burned together with wood chips, peat or other waste to produce heat." And it's not just rabbits. Reindeer, horses, the odd unicorn ... nothing is too magical to be "rendered" and burned to keep the Wi-Fi on at the Swedish Starbucks.
"Sir? I think they're ... adapting."
As bizarre as this may sound, using animal waste for fuel actually makes sense, because in Europe and the U.S., it is illegal to dump animal carcasses in landfills, so they have to be disposed of in a sanitary way. The rabbits have been chewing through Sweden's biosphere like tiny out of control lawnmowers ever since some kindhearted Swedes decided to let their pets run free. So it's kind of a "two birds with one stone" situation, except we're talking about rabbits and furnaces. It's not exactly solar power, but animal fat is cheaper and pollutes less than other kinds of oil, so it's better than waiting several million years for the rabbits to turn into petroleum.
"Do you think a blender might speed things up?"
The U.S. even tried getting into the act, as oil giant ConocoPhillips combined forces with Tyson Foods (purveyors of the now infamous "pink slime") in 2007 to use all the leftover scraps that would normally go into makeup or soap as biofuel to power industrial boilers and even cars. Well, they told us to look into renewable resources. What's more renewable than endlessly screwing rabbits? You're welcome, Al Gore.
"Mr. Gore? Al? Are you OK?"
By the way, this isn't the only way that the Swedish are leading the world in ridiculous alternative energy -- they've also started harnessing the power of ...