Next Big Thing in Alternative Energy: You


Life imitating art: Humans as batteries

You’ve heard about it, its mechanics are pretty straight forward: when the ball gets rolled around during play, a magnetic slug slides back and forth inside an inductive coil in the ball, generating power that is stored in a capacitor. The ball holds enough juice to charge a basic cellphone. That’s the idea behind the ingenious design of *The sOccket, created by Harvard undergrads and co-founders Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman. Production of the ball in poor countries in Africa is already underway.

sOckket_7The science of harvesting human energy is moving in leaps and bounds. Seems the average adult can store energy the equivalent of a one-ton battery in his or her fat (insert fat joke here), enough energy to fuel a normal day’s activity. Now imagine harnessing the energy from 100 kids playing a game of soccer in order to fuel a large machine ala The Matrix — I know, frightening but fascinating at the same time!

A business in Portland, Oregon, called the Green Microgym uses machines like stationary bikes to harvest energy during workouts.

A dance club in the Netherlands, Rotterdam’s Club WATT, has a floor that harnesses the energy created by the dancers on the floor.

Researchers at Locomotion Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia have developed an electromagnetic generator that can be fitted to a standard knee brace. Called the Bionic Energy Harvester, the prototype turns a one-minute walk into enough current for a half-hour cellphone conversation.

Materials are being produced that expel an electric current when compressed or bent (the piezoelectric effect), for clothing.

The applications are endless, but I can’t help but pick up on the catch-22 adherent in this “new” science, and that is that Humans, like machines, require fuel. Our fuel is food. Good, healthy, nutrient rich food, not the gruel that the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar shoved in front of Neo in the meal scene of the Matrix.

And for the average person — you know, the 97 percent-ers — in order to get good food you have to buy it. And in order to buy the food you must have money. In order to have money you must work for it. In order to work for money you must have a job. In order to get a job, to make the money, to buy the food, to fuel the body, to create energy — there must be work available.

Human ingenuity, compassion and drive has gotten us this far. I’m certain a solution is right around the corner in 2014.

Unless the machines take over first, in which case we’re f*cked …

Happy New Year!


*Note: Donate to sOccket Ball here:


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