Salient White Elephant

May 19, 2009

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 1

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 2

jeannie4

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 3

Genie

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 4

Now take a bunch of the structures depicted in the last step and connect them together with arcs to form a giant circular wind dam:

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam

Genie

Drive System

Notice that since a given “Totem Pole” of HAWT rotors are stacked one on top of another, they can share a common drive chain. This common drive chain ultimately drives a sprocket that drives the generator shaft. The generator is located in a small compartment on the ground, beneath its “Totem pole” of turbine rotors.

Does This Turbine Require a Yawing System?

I can think of two variations of the I Dream of Genie Wind Dam as regards the yaw drive. The first version would always have all of the rotors turning, regardless of which direction the wind is blowing in. This would be easier to explain if I could draw a nicer 3D model, but I’m not much of an artist, so bear with me here. All rotors can rotate simultaneously because some of the high speed wind moving around the outside of the dam seeks the “smallest radial path”, meaning it will eventually force its way through a rotor to the inside of the wind dam. The wind outside the dam that does not manage to find its way into this smaller radial space will instead shoot off the bowed out end of one of the wall sections (much like the wind shoots off the trailing edge of an airfoil). This will create a low pressure region in the smaller radial locations that “suddenly appear” next to this high speed air at the moment it shoots off that bowed out edge of the wall. This low pressure sucks low speed high pressure air from the inside of the dam through the rotor that is near the high speed air that is shooting off the bowed out end of the wall.

In the variation just described, the rotors do indeed need to assume one of two yaw angles, each separated by 180 degrees. (Alternatively, the blades may have variable pitch so that they can accommodate the flow of wind in either direction through the rotor.)

The other variation would have doors that can block the “hole” that is occupied by the rotor. In this variation, all the rotors that pass wind from the outside of the dam to the inside of the dam (given wind direction) have their doors opened, while the doors of all the other rotors are closed, rendering those rotors inoperable. Or you could do it the other way around, allowing air to be sucked out of the inside of the wind dam, but not to be forced from the outside of the wind dam to the inside. In this case a yaw system is not required. This is so because the door will always be closed when wind has a tendency to flow through the accompanying rotor in the “wrong direction”.

Third World Variation

Think of how easy it would be to build a low cost variation of this machine for the developing world! Imagine that instead of building a circular dam, we’ll build one that is polygonal, with an approximately circular shape. Maybe the circle has 10 or 12 sides. So we put concrete columns or telephone poles up in the shape of the polygon. We have one set of telephone poles for the “smaller radius” polygon, and another set for the “larger radius” polygon. Now we string cable between the poles. The following diagram shows just one side of the polygon, and uses blue to represent the cables connecting the “larger radius” polygon, and green to represent the cables connecting the “smaller radius” polygon:

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam, Third World Variation, 1

Now take some of that beautiful multi-colored fabric like they have in India and wrap it back and forth around the cables to imitate the I Dream of Genie Channels:

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam, Third World Variation, 2

When wind flows around sharp edges, it tends to create turbulence. To avoid this tendency, we might like to use something with a larger diameter than cables. How about we use cheap PVC pipe? Then we can string the cables through the inside of the PVC pipe. This way the cables can provide a great deal of strength and stiffness to the structure, yet the cables will have no adverse affect on the aerodynamics.

For More Information on Wind Dams

Genie
For further information related to this idea, see the earlier Salient White Elephant post: Circular Wind Dam.

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May 12, 2009

Practical Artificial Pressure Differential Wind Turbine

Explanation of Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine 1

Explanation of Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine 2

In this way we have brought the low pressure on the downwind side of the parachute to the top of the tower.

Now, in your mind’s eye, eliminate the low pressure tube, and make the parachute whole again. Now attach a high pressure tube to the vertex of the parachute:

Explanation of Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine 3

Now we have techniques for bringing the high pressure of the upwind side of the parachute back to the tower, and for bringing the low pressure of the downwind side of the parachute back to the tower. Next, we build both the high pressure and low pressure extending tubes into the parachute at the same time. The low pressure tube has the smaller diameter, and it connects to the hole in the vertex of the parachute which has the same diameter. The diameter of the high pressure tube is larger than the diameter of the low pressure tube, and it encircles the low pressure tube so that a cross-section of the two tubes makes them look like concentric circles.

The next step is to transmit the high and low pressures to the bottom of the tower using the same technique. The tower is actually two towers – an inner smaller diameter low pressure tube with an outer larger diameter high pressure tube surrounding it so that a cross-section of the two makes them look like concentric circles. The high pressure and low pressure regions are connected at the bottom of the tower and, as expected, a HAWT rotor (with a vertical axis) is positioned between the two. The rotor, gearbox, and generator are at all at ground level.

The only thing I haven’t explained is how the low pressure and high pressure tubes make a right angle turn at the top of the tower. I was planning to draw some pictures of this, but I don’t think it’s really necessary. There are probably a million ways to do this. I will just note here that the parachute part automatically seeks the downwind position, and so it doesn’t require a yaw system. The right angle joint can be yawed, or it can simply be a cylindrical piece with vents positioned radially about its center. The vents have doors in them that can open and close to simulate yawing, though few moving parts would actually be required. (To illustrate, imagine an aerial view of this machine. Suppose the high and low pressure tubes approach the tower near the 9 o’clock position. Then the vents in the cylindrical piece at the top of the tower that are at positions 8 o’clock, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, and 10 o’clock would all be open, while all of the other vents would be closed tight and aerodynamically sealed.)

The tower supports little weight, and it can be fitted with vents to let storm winds pass through unimpeded. This means the tower can be very light in weight, very inexpensive (relative to a typical HAWT tower), and it can have a large diameter if necessary. The parachute and the fabric part of the low pressure and high pressure tubes may have similar vents so that they also create little drag during storm winds. Maybe the parachute and fabric vents could even be somehow rolled up and stored inside the tower during storm winds.

Finally, note that the tower could be incredibly high. This is true because it supports little weight, has little overturning moment in storm winds, and can accomodate multi-level guy wires that can attach to the tower at any elevation, including at the very top of the tower!

Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine

Yawing Variation

Now we might imagine a long horizontal tube extending from the top of the tower. The supporting cords that tether the parachute are attached to the end of the horizontal tube that is far from the top of the tower. This way, the “vertex” (downwindmost end) of the parachute is right at the top of the tower, and the low and high pressure regions may easily be connected to the vertical (tower) low and high pressure concentric tubes. The horizontal tube yaws to align with the wind.

There are many other variations like this. Maybe we just build something that looks like a giant radio telescope dish, and attach its vertex to the top of the tower. This might not be so ridiculous if the parabolic dish has slats that automatically open when the pressure differential between the upwind and downwind sides of the slats exceeds a safe value.

Jet Stream Ram Air Wind Turbine

In earlier posts I have mentioned that a turbine capable of harvesting the energy of jet streams would probably be better for newspaper headlines than for an economical approach to wind electricity, since it would probably be cheaper and more effective to build several smaller low altitude turbines than a single monster that could tap into the jet streams. But it got me to realize that there are no jet stream turbines on the Salient White Elephant. This is Salient, to be sure, but is it White Elephant? Certainly not! And already I can hear not a little hubbub from the Canadian Parliament behind me patting their tables and gushing heah heah! So let’s just round things out with a couple of jet stream turbines before tensions run too high and one of the hairs on the head of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper springs noticeably out of place, shall we?

Jet Stream Ram Air Wind Turbine

For some reason, I’m usually biased toward using suction rather than high pressure in my flow accelerator ideas. But one advantage of using ram air pressure in the machine proposed here is that it would keep the long fabric tube inflated. This is very significant of course, since one of the biggest challenges in designing an airborne turbine is keeping weight to a minimum. Using high pressure might eliminate any rib-like supporting structure that would otherwise be required for the tube. I guess you’d have to stabilize the fabric tube by attaching it to the tethering cables at various intervals, but who knows… maybe somebody can design a way around this requirement.

Triple Tethered Variation

Jet Stream Ram Air Wind Turbine, Triple Tethered Variation

Multiple Blimps Variation

There are many variations of the ideas proposed here, but let me discuss one in particular. This idea emphasizes a technique I’d like to use to bring these pie-in-the-sky airborne turbines a little closer to feasible. Imagine eight blimps. Each is tethered by at least three cables to keep the blimps from moving around too much. An aerial view would reveal that the blimps are situated at the vertices of a gigantic octagon. It is important to note that the “diameter” of the octagon is far from insignificant. I can’t give you a number… maybe two or three football fields? Each blimp has a parachute and a high pressure tube, just as described above. All of the high pressure tubes converge at the center of the octagon, where they connect to a single larger high pressure tube that takes the jet stream wind down to the ground.

What’s so great about this variation? Well… let me first list what I believe may be the salient objectives of airborne turbine design:

  • If possible, no moving parts in the air.
  • If possible, no fiberglass, electrical cable, gearboxes, drive shafts, or electrical generators in the air. (Ever notice how the components of a wind turbine that have to do with mechanical and electrical power are about the most dense (heaviest) things known to engineering kind?!)
  • MINIMIZE WEIGHT, MINIMIZE WEIGHT, MINIMIZE WEIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!

So the idea here is that instead of having eight different tubes, we attempt to minimize weight by having a single large tube carry wind from the jet stream to the ground. This is desirable because the really long distance is from the jet stream to the ground. Once at the center of the jet stream octagon, it isn’t much further to the blimps. So could we use this trick to reduce the overall weight of the machine?

Well, whether this trick will work or not… I think you see my point. What is needed is a kind of linear programming style optimization that minimizes weight of fabric per kilowatt of capacity.

Can We Really Reach the Jet Stream?

No. The jet streams are like 30 to 40 thousand feet off the ground. (The cruising altitude of jet airplanes!) So we can’t reach the jet stream with the design proposed in this post. But we can certainly reach a higher altitude than today’s state of the art wind turbines! If you want to see a more practical configuration that uses the principles described in this post, check out the Practical Artificial Pressure Differential Wind Turbine.

May 10, 2009

CounterRotating Direct Drive Wind Turbine

A number of posts to this blog describe turbines (both HAWTs and VAWTs) having blades that are supported at the high-speed blade tips rather than at the low speed parts of the blades. This is usually accomplished by having a blade tip engage some sort of slot that is cut into a blade guiding track, so that the action is somewhat reminiscent of the way a rail guides the wheel of a train. One of the biggest problems with this approach is how to come up with a simple, reliable way of converting the kinetic energy of the blades to electricity. The conversion apparatus should not be unweildy or cumbersome, and should not require too much hardware. (For example, in some of my earlier posts I have suggested distributing generator windings all along a very lenghty blade guiding track. This is clearly undesirable because it would make the tracks very heavy and very expensive.)

I think I may have stumbled on a good way to deal with this problem just a minute ago while writing the post entitled: Skyscraper with H-Rotors. I didn’t do a very good job of describing the counter-rotating drive idea in that post, so I’ll attempt to do a better job of it here. (Although the technique described here may be applied to many of the HAWT and VAWT turbines proposed on the Salient White Elephant, you might want to read Skyscraper with H-Rotors first, since I’ll draw the diagrams and everything assuming that we’re applying the counter-rotating direct drive idea to that particular turbine.)

Counter-Rotating Direct Drive Wind TurbineThis turbine produces power in pulses. Each time two blades that are traveling in opposite directions pass each other, their generator components (permanent magnets and coils) pass close to each other as well. So a pulse of power is produced when two blades pass each other. Obviously, it would be better for a turbine to produce power at a smooth constant rate. This is desirable for many reasons. For one thing, producing power in pulses applies a cyclic fatigueing load on the mechanical components, and this is obviously bad news. For another, the electricity is easier to process and manipulate if it is produced at a smooth regular rate. But I am hypothesizing that the design proposed here may be a good one because it allows blades to be supported at both blade tips, even as both tips travel at high velocity! This is a tremendous advantage. But the main advantage of this design is that although it allows blades to travel long distances guided only by slots that are cut into blade guides, it does not require for these long distances to have generator components (magnets and/or coils) distributed along these long portions of the blade guides. Instead, the generator components are compact, and are attached to the ends of the airfoils. You can think of all of the airfoils that rotate (say) clockwise as comprising the generator “stator”, while all of those rotating counter-clockwise comprise the generator rotor. Of course, another disadvantage of this approach is that slip rings would be required to get the power away from the blades and into the electrical system. But there’s another advantage as well – the fact that the generator’s rotor and “stator” rotate with equal and opposite rpm’s effectively doubles the relative speed with which the coils and magnets pass each other.

So before closing, let me address one of the biggest disadvantages of the idea proposed here – that power is produced in pulses. First of all, the fact that generator rotor and “stator” components are counter-rotating means that more pulses per second are produced than you might otherwise expect. (The more pulses the better. If we had enough pulses then they’d all bunch together and we’d have continuous power. As a matter of fact, three phase power is produced in pulses as well, yet these pulses combine to produce power that is perfectly constant. Might we find a way to exploit this three phase effect to make the power output from this machine constant? Don’t know, and too tired to think about it right now, so maybe I’ll revisit this later. But anyway it may not matter. I’m not concerned about the electrical pulsing – we can easily deal with that using power electronics. I’m more concerned about the pulsating mechanical loads, because these will fatique mechanical components and cause them to fail. On the other hand, the good news is that this pulsating load is confinded with a small space that is enclosed by the slots that guide the blades. This is good, because the more confined it is, the more options we have for dealing with the cyclic load. One option being, for example, just beefing up the support structure in that area. This is possible because, again, this area is aerodynamically shielded from the outside wind because it lives inside the slot.) Anyway, as I said, the because the blades are counter-rotating, they pass each other at a relatively high frequency. So maybe we can just design the machine to have many small blades (i.e. many blades, each having a short chord). Now when all these blades counter-rotate, we may end up with so many pulses that the output power looks like DC with a ripple on top. (Remember that adjacent blades don’t necessarily need to be separated by a constant angle. For example, just because there are (say) 6 blades that rotate (say) clockwise doesn’t mean that each adjacent blade must be separated by an angle of 360/6 = 60 degrees.)

Ring Generator Option

If the pulsating loads turn out to be a showstopper, then we can always fall back on the ol’ ring generator approach. In this case, we have the advantage that the rings are counter-rotating, thus doubling the velocity between magnets and coils.

SkyScraper with H-Rotors

This is a very simple idea. Imagine a skyscraper that looks round in an aerial view. Now just put a bunch of disks around the outside walls of the building… (say) one disk every 6 stories or something like that. Now near the outer perimeters of these disks, you cut a slot as described in many of the other posts on this blog. (See for example 20 Megawatt VAWT.) The ends of the airfoils engage these slots. The blades go around the building with each level rotating with the same polarity as its upstairs and downstairs neighbors, or else with adjacent levels rotating with opposite polarity to double the speed difference between the generator rotor and the generator stator:

SkyScraper with H-Rotors

Mechanical energy may be converted into electrical energy in any of several ways. Once again, all of these conversion methods have been described multiple times on this blog, so I won’t repeat them here. I’ll just give a short list of the possibilities:

  • Generator windings are embedded into the slots. A permanent magent is attached to the ends of the blades and the motion of the blades forces these magnets past the windings.
  • Cables are attached to the middle of each rotor blade. These cables are attached to a smaller diameter cable. The diameter of the smaller diameter cable is just large enough to around the building without hitting it. The smaller cable drives the generator. All cables should be designed to carry only the power producing components of the airfoil loads. The larger (non-power producing) loads are carried by the disks that support the blades tips.
  • The slots that engage the blade tips are provided with a great many small wheels inside. Airfoil motion imparts spin to these wheels. All wheels are mechanically linked so that they all rotate at the same rpm. The rotational motion of the wheels (or of their mechanical linkage) drives a generator.

One question is whether blades that are rotating and producing power would be a visual distraction to the people inside the building. I honestly don’t know what the answer to this question would be. Because the building is high, and because the building itself acts as a flow accelerator, you can imagine that the blades might be traveling at a very high velocity indeed. I have no idea what the velocity would be, but let’s say they’re going 200+ miles per hour. Could you even see a blade moving at that speed? Anyway, if this turns out to be a problem, maybe one should explore the opposite approach – a great many blades having a slow, gentle movement.

Direct Drive Counter-Rotating Cat’s Eye Variation

In this variation, each level (each set of adjacent supporting disk-like structures) is provided with two sets of blades. Half rotate clockwise, and the other half rotate counterclockwise. (These blades may or may not be designed to imitate the behavior of the Cat’s Eye Darrieus Rotor.) The ends of all of the blades rotating with one polarity are attached to permanent magnets, while the ends of all the blades rotating with the other polarity are attached to windings. As two blades that rotate with opposite polarity pass by each other, their magnets and coils pass close to each other in a manner similar to what would be witnessed if you could look inside of an electric generator. The magnets and coils are attached to the parts of the ends of the airfoils that are hidden inside the slot, and thus create minimum drag and turbulence. The mechanical tolerances that must be maintained to minimize the air gap that the flux must traverse are acheivable also because these components live within the rigid and tightly controlled confines of the blade guiding slot.

Geodesic Dome Turbine

Start with a Geodesic Dome:

Geodesic DomeNow Cut a hole in the top, and cover the hole with a shroud that can yaw in order to keep its opening pointing upwind. Also add vents near the lower part of the dome can than be either opened or closed:

Geodesic Dome TurbineThe variation depiced above has air flowing into the hole at the top of the dome and out of the vents below. I’m not sure this is the best arrangement. The alternative would be to have air flowing into the lower vents and out of the hole in the top. In this variation, the shroud over the top hole in the diagram would be yawed (rotated) 180 degrees, and (I’m guessing) the left two vents in the diagram would be open, while the other vents would be closed. I guess one of these ideas is probably aerodynamically superior to the other, but I don’t know which is which. It’s worth noting that the real low pressure should be at the top of the dome, since this is where the wind has been accelerated the most. Seems like it might make sense then to let the wind flow in to the lower vents (where pressure is naturally higher), and out through the hole in the top. I don’t know much about the theory of fluid flow, so I’ll leave the rest to those of you who have the academic background to model and solve a problem like this.

Before ending this post, however, I’d like to point out an aspect of this idea that is particularly intriquing. Since you can have lots and lots of vents, but only one hole in the top of the dome, it stands to reason that it should be easy to provide the dome with many square feet worth of vents, given the area of the hole at the top of the dome. This means that the velocity of wind flowing through the vents may be caused to vary by only a small amount relative to the velocity of the wind outside the dome. For this reason, it would seem that the vast part of the lower part of the dome could be made to be quite comfortable for people, and this means the dome can have alternative uses. For example, the dome could house a giant botanical garden for the public to enjoy. If you really wanted to control the environment for the people inside, two concentric geodesic domes could be placed one on top of another, creating a thin (say) 40 foot wide gap between the two ceilings. The gap could be used for wind flow and the harvesting of its energy, while the part inside the lower (smallest) dome could be used for just about anything – commercial office space, a manufacturing plant, basketball court, … you name it!

Retrofit Option

Depending on how attractive this structure could be made to be, and on its cost effectiveness, we might imagine putting one of these things on top of an existing structure. Rooftop wind turbines are generally frowned upon, but I think this is mostly because of the harshly turbulent conditions within which a rooftop turbine must normally operate. The dome solves this problem in several ways. First, it doesn’t have any sharp turbulence producing edges. Second, its rotors are small and therefore less sensitive to turbulence, and they can be located in a short cylindrical shroud that is equipped with the same kinds of turbulence attenuating apparatus as is found in wind tunnels. And finally, if a small rotor does eventually develop a crack due to turbulence-induced fatique, simply replace it. It’s small, and so the cost of replacing it is no big deal.

I saw a medium sized, three story motel the other day that looked like it could easily accomodate a Geodesic Dome Turbine. If the dome had enough vents to open during a wind storm, it would seem likely that the motel could accomodate the turbine in spite of the fact that the building designers had not accounted for the extra load.

May 5, 2009

New Blog Address

Filed under: The Best of The Salient White Elephant — Salient White Elephant @ 9:05 pm

Seems like I’m moving further and further away from wind turbines with this blog. So I created another blog which I’ll use for posting non-wind-turbine stuff:

 

New Salient White Elephant Blog

Powered Bicycles in the City

Filed under: Brash Environmental Commentary, Electric Vehicle (EV), green technology — Salient White Elephant @ 6:41 pm

Soft, pastel colored cotton ropes move through the city driven by pulley wheels. If you get tired of pedaling, you just grab on to the rope and it pulls you along. This would be particularly useful in places like San Francisco where lots of people want to ride a bike, but the hills are just too steep. A person could pedal on the level areas, coast downhill, and hold the rope to go up hill.

Of course, you don’t actually grab hold of a rope, because that would make it hard to balance. There’s a mechanical device that is easily flipped over that grabs the rope and transfers the force in a way that doesn’t throw you off balance. And this also allows you to have both hands on the handlebars.

One of the nicest things about China was its bicycle transportation system. Of course, I don’t guess there’s much left of it now, thanks to the magic of capitalism and its ability to turn every corner of life into the dullest and most discouraging of chores. I believe this is what Adam Smith was referring to when he coined the phrase “the invisible butt of the free market economy”. But let me tell you something – you haven’t lived until you’ve traveled to your destination anywhere in the city alongside young girls that just stepped out of a fashion magazine and wise old leather-skinned men and women with impenetrable facial expressions that have seen hardships you can’t imagine… everybody cruising along at about 15 miles per hour, no diesel smoke stinging your nostrils, birds chirping, and the nicest widest bike path you can imagine meandering through the city. There wasn’t a road you needed to travel that didn’t have one of these cadillac bike paths, for in 1990s China, the bicycle was the mode of transportation, and everything else had to get out of the way. And as for those wise old men and women and the emotional burdens of past hardship they carried, seems like most of them usually had the most calm and content aura, impenetrable though it was. How could that be? I don’t know, but I think it had something to do with the magic of riding a bicycle, the healthy bodies that bike riding produced (you couldn’t find an obese person in China in those days), the chirping birds, and most of all, the fact that you were king of the road.

… old stogies I have found,

shooooort, and not to big around I’m a…

maaaaan o means by no means,

King o the Roooad!

Ultra-Long-Range Ultra-Efficient Electric Automobiles

This post has been moved to my other blog:

Ultra-Long-Range Ultra-Efficient Electric Automobiles

May 4, 2009

Hammer Hat

Filed under: Brash Environmental Commentary — Salient White Elephant @ 9:14 am

The other day I was watching a talk show about the technology of fried chicken. The inside is fairly white, the outside crispy and with an appealing orange-brown color, and a little bit of steam comes out when you take the first bite. Best of all – it’s cheap! The show featured a scientist who was telling all about the amazing technology that is used to produce the foundation of the western diet. They showed how hormones were injected on an hourly basis by automatic needles that came down from the ceiling to make the chicks grow faster (translating into lower cost for you and me). Each chick was fitted with a garden hose that poured water down its throat to make it plump and juicy. As an engineer, I couldn’t help admiring the technological challenges that back-room designers had overcome to develop this highly automated and efficient culinary production system.

We all know how scientists can sometimes be a little clueless, and how they don’t always know how to make an idea appealing to people because they just aren’t in touch with who we are and what we like. It is as though they live in a different world. But not this guy. This guy was good… oh yeah, he was real good. He was so smooth and natural that I couldn’t help wondering if he was really an actor from General Hospital in a white coat. But as I watched the needles jabbing into the chickens, I felt a little queasy… you know, like I went to a dinner theater where they served fine wine and prime rib, but the action on stage featured a doctor performing hemorrhoid surgery. And there I was… watching hemorrhoids as a waiter swirled a sample of wine beneath my nose and asked if it met with my approval… and I was wondering how any of this could possibly be appetizing. But just then the cool scientist (General Hospital star) pointed out that test after test after test had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that putting hormones into chicken could not possibly cause cancer or any other debilitating condition. You see what I mean about this guy? He had to be an actor. No scientist could possibly have so much mojo. He went on to explain that the orange-brown food coloring is carefully adjusted so as not to resemble fish that tastes fishy. He said the vat where they mix the dye is solid titanium, and is monitored by the latest high tech sensors for measuring acidity levels and whatnot. Contrast this with the old way of making chicken, which didn’t have anything titanium, and was probably just some sweaty guy in an apron.

I listened in fascination to his words, watching the beautifully detailed and colorful illustrations flash across the screen as he  casually pressed the “next” button on his Powerpoint remote. I couldn’t help wondering why us cave men of mechanical design don’t adopt some of the same principles for creating exciting new products. Products that would be developed and marketed by exciting new corporations with inscrutable mirrored windows. Corporations that don’t even exist yet, living only within the pages of business plans. Business plans that rest in cool leather briefcases, bouncing at the sides of sharply dressed Wall Street financiers.

Suddenly it occurred to me that once you’ve seen somebody else do it, it really isn’t that difficult to think of personal augmentation devices that won’t kill you or permanently damage your health. All you need to do is provide the device with a means for tuning its effects to the weight, height, and body type of the individuals who own them. For example, on the surface, hitting yourself in the head with a hammer seems like a kind of a thing that nobody in their right mind would want to do. But let’s ask what if. What if the hammer is mounted on a small supporting tube. What if it is able to rotate about a horizontal axis going through the top of that tube. And what if the motor that actuates its motion is controlled by a couple of simple dials that regulate the torque and frequency of hammer hits. The torque control allows a sleight woman of (say) 100 pounds to get just the lightest little tap, whereas a big guy like me could get a medium-sized rap. The frequency control varies from (say) one tap per minute up to a konk every ten seconds or so for a ripple muscled construction worker type. You can see that not only would a hat like this not kill you, in fact, as long as it is kept properly adjusted, you wouldn’t even need to pop an Advil:

Hammer Hat

May 2, 2009

Climate Change

Filed under: Brash Environmental Commentary — Salient White Elephant @ 11:55 am

I suppose it would not be untoward to declare the Salient White Elephant the most dazzling inventor of our time, indeed, of the recent 2 centuries. 1,000 years of human innovation have produced, what… 4 or 5 different kinds of wind turbines? And of these, only one – the massive upwind 3 bladed horizontal axis machine – has survived the economic slugfest. And this megalosaur has seemingly incurable obesity issues. Given the brightest minds of the millennium have a track record of wind turbine innovation that is foppish at best, how is it that the Salient White Elephant has been able to make – count ‘em – 107 salient white posts to this indubitable blog, a great many of which describe the most startlingly original ideas and inventions imaginable?

Most inventors hold their cards pretty close to the vest. Not so the Elephant. With intellectual property piled around like towers of smushed rusty cars in a junk yard, the Elephant will profit more by giving these ideas away and writing them off his taxes than by hiring a lawyer to encircle the premises with an electric fence powered by the Department of Justice. So gather round technopundits and industry heavyweights, and act civil – no pushin, no shovin. Remember, you are the public face of the renewable energy sector. There’s room for all if the young and more flexible will sit on the floor. For I, the Great and Illustrious Salient White Elephant, the Enigmatic, the Inestimable, will heretofore describe one of the key abstractions I employ to spin a most dizzying array of original and out-of-the-box designs!!! The key is to realize that facts gleaned from disciplines like fluid mechanics, industrial revolution, power electronics, and so forth, have a strong tendency to constrain design options. To make sure these limitations don’t creep into Salient White Wind Turbine Innovations, I usually keep the workspace clean – conspicuously devoid of aerodynamic textbooks and journals of structural design. And if anybody ever tries to tell me a theorem or a corollary or somethin, I just cover my ears and put my head down on my desk.

Given the stellar success I’ve had utilizing this principle to create the earth’s most superlative wind machines, I see no reason why it won’t work for socioeconomic slicin and dicin of things like national security and climate change. And in the spirit of this wisdom, I want to comment on these issues before I accidentally learn something about them. You never know when you’ll glimpse a newspaper headline in a convenience store, or get a Google ad with a graph that shows natural gas consumption. And so I’d just like to ask why the use of petroleum is discouraged with an abstract argument about global warming. Don’t get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with saving humanity from certain death and destruction. But given only our grandchildren will still be living by the time this happens, stories of flooding oceans and disappearing food supplies can only educe a resounding “ho-hum”. If you want to sell a world that depends less on petroleum, you need something more immediate… something we care about. A single candid photo of a guy returning from Iraq without his legs would do it for me. Of course, a picture of an Iraqi man who was blown to smithereens by a rocket propelled grenade while selling fruit from his cart near the city square would be equally effective.

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