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September 12, 2005

Electric Backpack — 'Power walking' takes on a whole new meaning


Old wine in new bottles is what I thought when I read last Friday's report in Science magazine about an innovative backpack that transforms into electricity the energy generated by its contents' up–and–down motion.

The researchers used springs to fasten their tricked–out backpack to a carrying frame.

The vertical motion of the load inside the backpack then powered a small generator, producing electricity that could be used directly or stored in a capacitor or battery.

The so–called "pinion–gear" generator works like some "self–winding" wristwatches, transforming the energy of oscillating motion into electricity.

The "suspended load" device was developed by Dr. Lawrence C. Rome of the University of Pennsylvania and the electricity–generating frame currently weighs 10 pounds.

Rome is now working to lighten it so it will weigh only a few pounds more than a standard backpack.

The heavier the load carried and/or the faster the gait, the more power generated.

Initial tests employed loads ranging from 40 to 80 lbs.

The backpack won't power your refrigerator: it currently produces 7 watts of electricity, enough to run an MP3 player, cellphone, handheld GPS system or PDA.

Work on the power–generating backpack began when Rome and his group realized from treadmill studies that a person's hips — along with whatever happens to be on the hips, such as a backpack — move up and down 2 to 3 inches with each step.

Why am I not more excited about this invention?

Because it's been many years since I first read about shoes which, with each step, would produce energy that could be stored or used on the fly.

Up to now the best such systems have only generated a few hundredths of a watt, whereas most portable electronic devices require about one watt.

But hey — that's the whole point of batteries, isn't it?

You store energy in them and use it when you need it?

A few hundredths of a watt multiplied a few hundred times by walking or running all of a sudden becomes more than one watt, if I do the math correctly.

So what's the big hold–up here?

We should all be powering our own computers, phones and iPods simply by existing.

The shoe company — yo, Nike and Adidas and Reebok, you listening? — that puts some wood behind this arrow and creates stylish shoes that power your cool hand–held devices will rule the world.

Ask Prince if you can buy the rights to "New Power Generation" and use it as the theme of your ad campaign.

In fact, you could do worse than to hire Prince as your spokesman.

Doubt that he'd do it, though.

Never hurts to ask — you'd be surprised how often people say "yes" to the most unlikely requests.

Maybe because it's me making them.


"If you want it here it is, come and get it" might be a back–up in case Prince doesn't return your calls.

I'm reminded of a wonderful joke from one of Johnny Carson's monologues:

"What do you get when you cross a penguin and a William Morris agent?"

"A penguin who doesn't return your phone calls."

Well, I still think it's funny.

But then, you know how very easily I'm amused....

Here's a link to a video of someone wearing the backpack and producing electricity.


After watching the show I couldn't help but wonder: do android hikers dream of electric backpacks?

September 12, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Binocular Glasses


Look ma, no hands.

2.1x magnification built right in.

Each lens can be individually focused.

Tell people they give you X-ray vision and some might believe it.

$119.95 here.

September 12, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tokyo Free Guide


What's this?


I just found out about the existence of this service yesterday in a article by Tom Downey in the New York Times Travel section about how he enjoyed two days in Tokyo (above and below) on a total budget of $500.


His story was excellent but the Tokyo Free Guide is what struck me.


He wrote, "The guides are English–speaking locals who want to show foreigners around their hometown and brush up on their language skills."


Sounds good to me.


Here's a link the website, where you can find out more and arrange for your own guide in either English or Japanese.


They'll tailor a tour just for you after you tell them what you'd like to do.

Pretty cool.


I remember back in the day, when I attended International Christian University in Mitaka, Tokyo during for my third year of college, that invariably whenever I was on a subway train Japanese students of all ages, especially those in junior high and high school, would speak to me in an effort to practice their English.


The problem then and, I suspect now still, was that they could read and write the language but weren't learning English from native speakers so their conversational abilities lagged behind other areas.

September 12, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Return–To–Me Wrist Cuff


Michele Outland created this signature bracelet in 2000.

From the website:

    The wrist cuff is a template for you to personalize.

    Punch out words, shapes, and symbols to create your own slogan or logo.

    The leather cuff with a chic gold finish has a 30 x 5 grid of perforated circles, Velcro closure, and an instruction sheet with sample layouts.

7.5"L x 1.5"W.

I think you know what mine's going to say.

$35 here.

[via AW]

September 12, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: 4,000 years ago, the best doctors were Egyptian


Richard Perez–Peña wrote a fascinating article for last Saturday's New York Times on a little–known Egyptian papyrus (above) dating from the 17th century B.C. that gives evidence that the doctors of that era were, in many areas, quite knowledgeable.

Among the revelations from the manuscript, translated by James H. Breasted in the 1920s:

• The Egyptians knew that blood, pumped by the heart, circulated around the body — a notion not firmly established in the West until the 1700s.

• They gave patients a concoction of willow bark to treat pain. Willow bark contains a natural painkiller similar to aspirin.

• They put moldy bread on wounds, suggesting their doctors had chanced upon the principle behind penicillin.

• They preferred flint knives to metal because a freshly sharpened flint knife was sterile.

• They knew that an injury to one side of the head could cause paralysis — on the other side of the body.

• They differentiated between various types of broken bones — fractured, shattered or broken in two — and treated them accordingly.

The ancient manuscript documented 48 cases, wrote Perez–Peña, "starting at the top of the head and working steadily down as far as the upper arm and chest," where the papyrus stops.

Experts assume it originally continued down to the feet.

The author of the papyrus noted that it was a copy of a document that was several hundred years older, indicating that the original was created around 2,000 B.C.

The manuscript, now owned by the New York Academy of Medicine, will go on display tomorrow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the Met's exhibition, "The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt."


Each of the scroll's 11 panels, in red and black ink and long since separated, will be on display in individual high–tech plexiglass holders.

September 12, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

World's most stylish eyelash curler


New from Shu Uemura, the black nickel limited edition version (above).

They're part of the company's new Precious Metals collection and were created to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the company's nonpareil eyelash curler.

Ellen Tien, in her "Pulse" feature in yesterday's New York Times Style section, wrote, "The new curlers have the same wide, shallow curve and soft silicone pad of the original, making smoothly swooping lashes a pinch–free possibility for eyes of all shapes and sizes."

There's also a 24–karat gold plated version (below).


The curlers arrived in stores this month.

Isn't it great that a girl in Kuala Lumpur or Cairo can get one as easily as if she lived on Park Avenue, simply by going to Shu Uemura's website and ordering?

The new curlers are $22 here.

Tell you what: if you want one don't wait till Christmas because by then they'll have long since been sold out.

September 12, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nuit Blanche is October 1


This year marks the fourth annual Nuit Blanche (literally, "white night") in Paris.

Starting at 7 p.m. that Saturday evening, museums, cafes and movie theaters as well as churches, libraries and swimming pools will remain open until 7 a.m. the next morning.

Also, there will be art and lighting displays at famous landmarks such as the Hôtel de Ville.

For the event Paris is divided into five districts, each with its own schedule of exhibitions, concerts and other activities.

It's free — no tickets or reservations are required to attend whatever you like.


More than a million people have attended previous celebrations, though, so expect lines at some of the attractions.

[via the New York Times]

September 12, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hublot Big Bang — A material too far


From noted Swiss watchmaker Hublot comes this "Fusion between Ceramic, Steel, Carbon, Kevlar and Rubber."

Guess what: critical mass wasn't reached or something went wrong somewhere in the design studio, because this watch looks like it was designed by a committee of chimpanzees who simply chose the shiniest pieces.

Yeah, it's got those special bolts that require a dedicated tool to manipulate, but so what?

They couldn't even be bothered to line up the slots in the heads, à la those in Audemars Piguet's


venerable Royal Oak (above).

The Big Bang is available in rose gold (top) or stainless steel (below)


here. (I hope your Russian's better than mine.)

September 12, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

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