Humanity's end: the time we waste on virtual lives

Video gaming, it's something that most people have done at least once in their life and many do with regularity. I myself am guilty, in 1989 I received my first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. 

Sure, we'd already had an Atari 2600 in the house from my older half-brother but I never used it much, the NES though was mine. All mine, if it was raining or too cold to go out and play there I sat before this glorious computer tapping my thumbs away to the point of occasional blisters (I'm looking at you Ice Hockey!) and I will admit, as some of my regular readers know, I still play Atari stuff a lot (my daily driver is an 800xl, I also 2600 occasionally). Sadly, I also play freemium games (never pay of course) on my phone and have a PlayStation 4 which I fire up every month or so for a weekend. I got to thinking, 'how much time do we waste annually on video games' and I quickly found answers. The average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games during 2013. Wow, but what about globally? Could I find an estimate? Well I did, on TED no less. We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Is it worth it? How could it be MORE worth it? Wait, what?! Surely I misread that, let me clean my glasses off. 3 billion hours a week. Pinch me, I'm dreaming! It can't be so.

Let's look at that for a year... 156 billion hours a year.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX BILLION HOURS A YEAR.

That's 17,808,219 man-YEARS spent on video games annually. 17 million years wasted every year playing video games. Seventeen MILLION.

One estimate puts 6,700 workers as required to build Khufu's pyramid.

If we take Herodotus' claim of 20 years being required to construct the pyramid and assume 12 hours of labor from every worker, every day for those 20 years we come up with 613,200 man-hours per year. Multiplying our estimate times the 6,700 workers we get an estimate that 4,108,440,000 man-hours were required to construct Khufu's pyramid. Video gamers could provide enough man-hours to build Khufu's pyramid THIRTEEN times every year and still have 295,000 man-YEARS of labor left over every year.

The Hoover Damn had an average of 3,500 workers daily and construction took just shy of 5 years. Again, for ease, let's assume that 3,500 daily workers x 12 hours x 7 days x 5 years. That gives us 536,550,000 man-hours for constructing the Hoover dam. Video gamers could build 290 structures equivalent to the Hoover damn annually. 

Hoover Dam

This is just insanity. I imagine people watch television than those that video game, and likely for longer periods. Just imagine if we took 10% of that time we waste on such pursuits and applied it to service projects in our communities, or furthering our education, or anything remotely productive?!

Not only is this a massive waste of time, but it is using a considerable amount of electricity at the same time. If we just consider console and computer gaming hours from the figure from the TED talk we need to come up with some average kWh number. If we look at figures on this page, we see that consoles are using 50w to almost 200w and we know that computer gaming rigs can easily use 500w-1000w depending on what kind of GPU (and how many GPU's are present) is being used. We also have to factor in monitor or television power consumption... LCD's can use 20-25w and there are plasma displays that will happily use 400w or more. For our power usage lets take a very conservative figure, 125w for both the system and the display.

125w multiplied by the 1.56 billion hours gives us 1,560,000 kWh of power usage a year. Again, this is a very conservative estimate. The Hoover Dam generates, on average, about 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power each year... the Hoover Dam, that required all of those man hours mentioned above in this post, takes nearly THREE AND A HALF hours to generate that very conservative kWh figure.

Let's assume the average bachelor's degree requires 40 hours a week for 4 years. That's 8320 hours over 4 years while we have the average U.S. gamer over 13 dedicating 1310 over the same 4 year period to gaming, that's 15% of time require for a Bachelor's degree spent on video games and really the number is higher as most degree programs do not have you in class 52 weeks a year.

According to NPD, 91 percent of U.S. children ages 2-17 play video games (64 million). More interesting, these numbers are up nearly 13 percent from a 2009 study. The number of kids in the U.S. has increased by 1.54 percent in that time, but not nearly enough to make up for the massive increase in game playing. Oct 11, 2011
— http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/91-percent-of-kids-play-video-games-says-study/
The good news is that we’ve finally gotten our priorities in order. According to Nielsen, the average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games during 2013
— http://time.com/120476/nielsen-video-games/
Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day.
— https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-high-school-dropout-rates

So by these figures more than 1 million students are playing video games just shy of 2 weeks a year and dropping out of high school...

Let some of this sink in next time you turn on your console or tap that app on your phone.

My LEGO MOC of habitat modules for a Mars mission and how I'd set up the first colony

I originally intended to do any entire Mars mission out of LEGO, I have most of the elements I need for the rocketry, return vehicle, exploration vehicle etc but five months ago I did the habitats and stopped. I'll get around to finishing everything eventually. I had thought I posted this MOC on this blog but it appears I haven't so here it is!

I have about 18.5 m2 of PV panels displayed in the model which would provide about 1415w at high noon on Mars during the Martian winter (1851w in the summer), the tanks have actually been launched and landed ahead of time largely empty containing ISRU units to generate/capture usable things from the atmosphere. Probably WAVAR for one of the ISRU units which upon landing could quickly be used for starting soil washing experiments and/or hydroponics, if near the northern polar region you could take your time harvesting water ice for melting, you could also have some of the water from the WAVAR going to a second ISRU purely to make oxygen and hydrogen, you could also have one making monopropellant hydrogen peroxide for the return mission and/or return samples. In the event of a dust storm, which can last months or more, the PV panels would be largely worthless however the stored oxygen and hydrogen could be used with a fuel cell to provide energy for the habitat modules.

I didn't picture an RTG as I plan to have one of the vehicles using an RTG for processing water ice (the waste heat to melt the ice and warm the passenger cabin), this vehicle could be plugged into the habitat modules to provide heat and emergency energy in the event of a prolonged storm as leaving the habitat modules would be a bad idea due to severely reduced visibility.


If I were to establish a Mars colony here are my initial thoughts on how I'd go about doing it.

Habitat

In the 'early days' I'd start with inflatables as I've shown above in LEGO elements. But Ryan, what about radiation shielding? 

It's not as big of an issue as you'd suspect. You aren't going to be living/temporarily living in clear nylon inflated bubbles. Yes, you'll absolutely pick up more rads if you are living in an unshielded habitat but shielding it is going to be quite easy if you have even modest mechanical means of moving regolith.

 

Worst case for a non permanent mission, the areas of the habitat you spend most of your time in have the water stored in the walls and ceiling.

 

Quick shielding for more permanent living you take a strong, but light, material like Nylon 6 with you ultra-light metal poles. You place the poles around the habitat you then weave the material between them (think 'under over') and then spend your first few days using modestly powered Martian wheelbarrow to scoop and move regolith between the material and the habitat with the exception of shielded doors. Again, have some of the water stored in the top of the modules for the hours the sun is overhead. OR make a simple machine that fills sandbags, the sandbags would require more material (fabric/plastic) but would likely be quicker than carting regolith around.

With my example in LEGO I'd have the inflatable modules I have shown then come in with poles spaced out like fence posts, something like Nylon 6 sheeting woven between the poles and then fill the space with regolith. For a more long term shielding, your habitats are largely underground OR you use regolith as a component for making bricks and stack bricks around the hab modules.

Water

Depending on where you land will matter here. If you wanted to land near the northern polar cap you'd find 821,000 cubic kilometers of water ice available for exploitation, elsewhere you'd have to find it in the regolith or get lucky and drill and hope to find a underground water source near a geologically active area that is pumping out geothermal energy (which you might want to do for heating and energy production anyway). 

For this post, I'm going to assume we are setting up camp near the northern cap, farther south than the cap gets during the winter. From here you'd need a vehicle that was capable of week or longer trips. You'd drive all day and park at night, ideally you could make it to ice in 3 days or less, you'd then determine concentrations of water ice and cut/hammer/pick out as much as you can fit into a storage compartment and then drive back. You'd also want a second vehicle at the base so a rescue party could come and get you in the event the vehicle became stuck or otherwise disabled.

Now, you need to melt that ice. With power being a precious commodity on Mars I've had thoughts on how to do this. 

The 'cheapest' method is going to be using the sun directly, basically put the ice in a sealed, transparent, greenhouse and use reflectors to concentrate more sunlight on a given space to raise the temperature. Place ice in, seal, pressurize, open valve in funneled floor, let the sun do it's work. Use a solar tracking system to adjust enough reflectors while it melts, water collects in tank. Melting done, close drain valve and vent pressure. Since no one is in the box you don't even have to use breathable air, simply pump Martian atmosphere into the box in a high enough concentration to assist with the heating of the box.

Second option, so Mars averages 57% the solar irradiance that earth gets. Average temperature on Mars is -55C. Doing some quick math in my head you'd likely need a little less than 0.5KWh to melt 1kg of ice and to get it slightly above freezing so you'll need about 6 square meters of PV panel to thaw 2kg an hour of ice, that's about 2 liters of water an hour assuming it's pure water ice and doesn't contain any dry ice or meteorites of appreciable size.

I'm going to use the potatoes everyone knows about from The Martian for this to give us an idea of how much water migth be needed. Now, it takes about 34 gallons of water to grow a pound of potatoes, that's almost 129 liters. Keep in mind you'll be keeping the water you wash soil with, and growing in a sealed greenhouse losing minimal amounts to air exchange in an air lock. The water content of the potato itself will almost entirely be recaptured as well. So, you'd need 8-10 days to melt enough ice to grow a pound of potatoes if you go the PV route. If you went the solar reflector route you'd be melting a hell of a lot quicker and need about the same weight of materials.

Making a colony make economic sense, funding the effort

Aha, now this is the real key to settling Mars... making money to fund sending more humans and cargo.

If a private company, or more likely consortium of companies from various industries, could cough up 500bn (for reference Apple reported a NET income of 53.39bn in 2015 and has 200bn~ in cash, the fortune 500 top 10 earners reported 210bn in NET profits in 2014) ...


Let's be conservative and pretend a private company would need 20bn per 5 flights. Let's say 1 equipment launch per 4 manned launches. I believe Mars Direct called for 3 people for the early flights but let's pretend 5 per flight.


You get 100 people and a hell of a lot of equipment and habitats to Mars for 500bn over 10-16 years and then BOOM. Declare yourself a nation.


You sell land claims, you license technologies, you tax import but instead of a financial cut you get paid in cargo space or human passage. Screw the various space treaties/agreements, the backing companies spend plenty of money on lobbyists the world around and could get a few countries minimum to exit those agreements and recognize the new government.


You take those human passage spaces taken as tax and use them to hire via employment contracts. You get passage to Mars as well as room, board for working for us for x years and you also earn this many Marsbucks per month. Any mineral deposits, discoveries, inventions etc you make while under your initial contract the Martian Free Government gets 10% royalties on gross profits and may use any technologies or processes for free.


You also work with other companies that want to send people to Mars. "You will be granted access to such and such, an xx year land lease for a nominal amount, in exchange you will give 5% of any profits that arise from your operations on Mars whether or not sold on Mars or not".


Inside of 50 years from the first landing of humans you'd essentially have Mars locked down. If any wildcat colonies tried to land, it'd likely be far from your settlement and they wouldn't be an issue for centuries. If armed forces attempted to come and be a problem, if they were from a Terran government that government would likely find themselves screwed politically as soon as news made its way back to earth.

Recommended reading:

How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet

 

 

Environmental impact of textile manufacturing

 

WOW! I started looking into the cost/environmental impact for producing textiles and all I can say is I am absolutely dumbfounded! I looked at both cotton and polyester. In this blog post I will look at the resources required to produce 1kg of cotton fiber and 1kg of polyester fiber. 

 

Cotton:

Depending on the growing area 1-3 bales of cotton can be produced per acre of land, a bale weighs approximately 500lbs. One bale of cotton can make approximately 1200 men's t-shirts (you can see more bale to item conversions here). Cotton is harvested with modern cotton picking machines, these machines use rotating spindle to harvest cotton and then pass it along via a conveying system to a second machine that then remove the open bolls from the plant and finally a third machine receives the separated seed cotton and stores it until it is transferred to a separate storage container or vehicle.

Growing cotton uses a LOT of water. 20,000 liters (approximately 5300 gallons) or more is used to produce (from seed) 1kg of cotton fiber as well as approximately 450g of fertilizers, 16g of pesticides  and approx 60MJ (16.67kWh approx.) of energy to create. You also have to consider the fuel used sowing and harvesting the cotton as well as transporting the cotton to a factory and the kWh used to process and spin the cotton into fibers. You then have to take the fiber and manufacture a finished textile which will likely involve more water (dyeing) and electricity in several steps of the process (automated cutting, automated sewing, conveyance between these processes etc) and the shipping costs to get the good from a factory -> shipper -> warehouse -> store -> you. Just creating 1kg of cotton fiber generates 10-15kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

Polyester:

Polyester requires far fewer resources but is still mind boggling. Polyester is synthetic, it's produced from fossil fuels. Forgetting the amount of energy required to get oil out of the ground and refine it for use: 1kg of polyester requires approximately 1.5kg of oil, 17 liters of water and just shy of 100MJ (27.75kWh approx.) of energy to create. Creating 1kg of polyester generates approximately 2.3kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

 

Guys! This is insane! I love cotton clothes but WOW I'm going to focus on mostly synthetic fiber clothing going forward and even then the resource usage is just mind boggling to produce a synthetic textile garment! I like 100% cotton because when a garment is no longer wearable I could cut it up and compost it but my research shows me most cotton growing operations use absurd amounts of irrigation which is just disruptive to the local environment as well as wherever the water is being trucked or piped in from. 

 

 

Some of my sources:

 

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/freshwater_problems/thirsty_crops/cotton/

http://www.sustainability-ed.org.uk/pages/example4-3.htm

http://cottonaustralia.com.au/cotton-library/fact-sheets/cotton-fact-file-water


Update, September 4th 2017:

So I got a little curious and wanted to try and get an idea of what 1 acre of cotton means in yield, also what sort of global power demand producing cotton fiber from the ground up looks like...

There's something like 167 million acres of Cotton planted worldwide, that's more than 261,000 square miles of cotton. It looks like 29 million tons of cotton are produced a year right now, that's 133,195,950 bales. That's roughly 1.25 bales per acre, so 272kg pounds of cotton per acre. A quick google search shows 6-9.5 ounces per t-shirt giving you an estimate of 1238 t-shirts per acre.

So if we look at averages... you need a season and an acre of land to make a bit over 272kg of t-shirts. For those 272kg of t-shirts you'd also need about 1.4 million gallons of water, 122kg of fertilizers, 4.3kg of pesticides and approximately 4534 kWh of electricity (average American household in 2015 had an electricity consumption of about 10,812 kilowatt hours). That means the 167 million acres of cotton being grown worldwide uses about 757 TWh of electricity to make cotton fibers. Total world electricity consumption was 19,504 TWh in 2013, that's like 3.8% of the world's power consumption just to get from a bare field to spun cotton fibers.

Insanity.

Update, July 3rd 2018:

There's a problem with polyester. Polyester pollution. 

First the manufacturing process results in a host of carcinogenic compounds being used (and in parts of the world with lax regulation, being released into the environment) as well as the fact that during the washing process you are introducing microplastics/microfibers to the environment. In fact, one article, states that as much as 85% of human-made materials found on shoreline are microfibers like nylon and acrylic which are extremely common fibers for textile production. Ouch! 

While the danger of microplastics as environmental contaminants is still widely unknown, more and more studies are being conducted to see the extent of damage already done as well as future implications. One fact for certain though is we are creating a new geological age which some geologists wish to call the 'Anthropocene' epoch which include changes such as anthropogenic climate change and the introduction of synthetic materials into not just landfills but ecosystems the world over. This is concerning. 

We also have the fact that 70 billion barrels of oil are used each year to manufacture just polyester! Insanity! With an ever-growing population what are we to do? Cotton obviously isn't a realistic answer, synthetic and most (if not all?) artificial fibers have long-term environmental ramifications due to the way they break down and linger. Sure, we have discovered that mealworms can digest some synthetic materials into environmentally safe products but that will only help a fraction of a percent in dealing with this problem in any realistically scalable attempt.

Yet another problem we need to start thinking long and hard about.

 

 

Why I'm arguably overly passionate about the Sonders Electric Bike

So a lot of people, in regards to the Sondors Electric Bike campaign, have accused me of being an insider/working for Storm/working for Agency 2.0 etc. Those of you that know me know this isn't the case at all, you know I've never been to California you know that I don't even own a bicycle and haven't for a decade. To those of you that don't... let me give some context as to why I've been so passionate about this campaign and so active in the comment section for it.

My former mentor (was worth millions and millions, 13 businesses in 6 states one that had between 1000-1500 employees) was an absolute ass to me. Everytime I had an idea he'd tell me I was stupid, it was stupid, it won't work etc. Anytime I would bring him something "Hey R, would you give me a couple thousand secured loan so I can try this" and he'd just shit all over me and my idea until I finally told him sorry, I couldn't have him in my life any more. Less than 2 years later I had a small business making me as much as my 'real' job. So I HATE people that are always trying to find the negative in someone else's ideas, dreams, or success. Don't get me wrong, those that know me will tell you I can be pretty negative, I've even been called Eeyore, but not when it is about someone's desires/dreams/goals. 

A birthday card I had made for my former mentor, he liked to call me Eeyore.

A birthday card I had made for my former mentor, he liked to call me Eeyore.


Also for the record, Agency 2.0 helped Kreyos and I contributed to Kreyos (however, since that disaster Agency 2.0 is on the record as saying they will only take on clients that have a functional prototype, something Kreyos didn't have even months after the campaign ended which was a GIANT red flag that I ignored, lesson learned). I got royally screwed on Kreyos. So yeah, there are shady people out there that will rip you off but Storm is not giving me the slightest hint he has those intentions. The dude had a bike made for himself because he had issues that required the power assist, he then probably got compliments about it and questions asked and thought "hey I can probably sell this" and he went online trying to raise a meager $75,000. He's raised 3.2 million and is showing every sign he's doing his best to get the best bike specs he can for the price point he wants. Stop looking for reasons to sabotage him. I have my money tied up in ths campaign too, but after being taken on several crowdfunding projects I've realized it's going to happen and you have to go into each one expecting to never see anything. You should give to projects because you want to help others pursue their dreams, like my mentor wouldn't do for me (the man could ahve given me a million cash and never missed it, he wouldn't loan me 3k secured against my car). Support people's dreams or don't get involved with them at all.

So yeah, maybe I'm a bit over the top defending this project. My whole life I've been told I wasn't good enough and that whatever I try to do will fail. This is hands down the most success I've seen a campaign I've given to (out of about 30 between the various sites) have and it's exciting and even intoxicating seeing someone else get to see if their dream will work.

Tech Columnist Dan Tynan can't get his story straight about the Storm Electric Bike (Sondors eBike)!

So Dan Tynan originally wrote an article about the Storm Electric Bike - The Storm eBike: An Inexpensive Answer to Gridlock? - and quickly, if you'd pardon the pun, backpedaled and posted a new article after talking to ONE direct COMPETITOR to the Storm Electric Bike (who has yet to back up their claims they made to Dan in any public venue, but viciously attacked the campaign in the comments on Indiegogo after contributing) called A $500 eBike? Not So Fast.

In the original article Dan says things like

I got to take one for a short spin outside Yahoo’s San Francisco offices.
Screenshot of https://www.yahoo.com/tech/the-storm-ebike-a-500-answer-to-gridlock-109526615029.html

Screenshot of https://www.yahoo.com/tech/the-storm-ebike-a-500-answer-to-gridlock-109526615029.html

While the eBike’s 350-watt motor still doesn’t have enough oomph to conquer San Francisco’s steep hills without a pedal-powered assist, it’s a whiz on city streets as well as the twisty canyon roads of Malibu, where the company is based, says Sonders

Well Dan in the Malibu quote it is quite difficult to see where your thought ends and the quote begins, because well you didn't use quotation marks... that's sloppy journalism and at a casual glance it looks like you claimed to test it in Malibu which is 400 miles from San Francisco.

You also say things like

A gentle tap of my thumb on the accelerator, and I was hitting the max speed of 20 mph in less than 50 yards.
Screenshot of https://www.yahoo.com/tech/the-storm-ebike-a-500-answer-to-gridlock-109526615029.html

Screenshot of https://www.yahoo.com/tech/the-storm-ebike-a-500-answer-to-gridlock-109526615029.html

Confirming the claim as to the bike's speed… I am assuming you measured that speed somehow and didn’t just fudge it for your article, that would be bad journalism Dan. In your update to the original article you state:

The Storm eBike promises impressive specs: the ability to run on sand or snow as well as pavement, a maximum speed of 20 mph,

Which in your original article you claimed to have operated the Storm at 20mph so cool that fact checks out.. but wait, your new source (a direct competitor) claims that 20mph isn't possible even though you witnessed it via your own operation of the bike!!!

Those numbers just don’t add up, says David Santos, vice president of sales and business development for Big Cat Worldwide, a New York-based seller of e-bikes.

Come on Dan, how can you call yourself a journalist? You can't even keep your claims straight! You interview company A and test their product, then company B contacts you claiming company A is a liar and it just so happens company B sells a similar product for a bite more than twice as much... gee, couldn't that be profit? Did you bother to contact manufacturers and see what you could get say 10, 100, 1000 bikes of a similar specification for? No, you didn't? Of course you didn't, that would have taken you what, 5 or 10 minutes to make your article even remotely researched?

Then you contribute to the project and run over to the comments section

Screenshot of https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/storm-electric-bike/x/481805#comments

Screenshot of https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/storm-electric-bike/x/481805#comments

Let's see here Dan you took the bike for a 'short spin outside Yahoo’s San Francisco offices', and 'A gentle tap of my thumb on the accelerator, and I was hitting the max speed of 20 mph in less than 50 yards' and ' Hydraulic disc brakes brought it to a swift stop' meaning you verified the speed over a measured distance during your operation of the bicycle you continue by noting 'The battery is removable' sounds like a review to me!

Now in your Indiegogo comments you also said "failed to note the $500 price was temporary" yet in your original article you mention 'At an introductory price of $499,'  Lets take a look at the word 'introductory'

adjective: introductory

serving as an introduction to a subject or topic; basic or preliminary.

and lets take a look at the word 'temporary'

adjective: temporary

lasting for only a limited period of time; not permanent.

aha Dan, 'introductry' seems to imply 'lasting for only a limited period of time, not permanent' just like the word 'temporary' which means that the $499 (not $500 as you claim in your Indiegogo comment) price was in fact TEMPORARY. But Ryan I said 'And both Storm and Jonathan failed to note that the $500 price was temporary, which was not revealed until this campaign went live.' yes sir you did, and your article mentioned this TEMPORARY price, meaning now you're just whining because you have egg on your face. You wrote an article, did no research then a competitor contacted you and (as far as we can tell) offered no evidence to back up their claims that the Storm bike is an impossibility and you quickly vomited out another article backpedaling on the original (and again, no evidence you verified those claims either) but you DID test the Storm even if you chose to use a word other than TEST.

noun: test; plural noun: tests

a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something, especially before it is taken into widespread use.

Just stop Dan.

 

Solar charge your Storm Electric Bike (Sondors eBike), well sorta...

I've seen a lot of people asking if there will be a solar-powered charging option for their Storm Electric BIke and it makes me realize the general population doesn't realize what a PV panel is actually capable of. 

Solar:

Basically under ideal conditions you will get 1,000 watts per square meter (and really the commercially available panels aren't this efficient at all, they perform worse) of solar panel at the equator, at noon, with zero cloud cover. That means for the 350 watt hour battery to charge in an hour you'll need 542.501 square inches of PV panel to charge it in 1 hour's time... so you aren't going to just fold a small PV panel up in your backpack and set it out at your destination to charge the bike. Fore more information on solar power, see the bottom of this post for some good educational links.

HOWEVER if you are going camping or in the event of an extended power outage (keep in mind, solar panels only work if the sun is shining, storms can create cloud cover for days or weeks meaning no sun) want a way to charge the battery in a timely fashion to give you the ability to greatly increase your area of operation during the power outage, you CAN get a smaller panel which will charge the battery over several hours.

Something like the RenogyⓇ Foldable Solar Suitcase Battery Charger 100W for a good portable option

For the above you'd still need an inventer or charge controller and some cables to use it.

For a more permanent installation you could go with Renogy 100W Mono Starter Kit: 100W Solar Panel+20' Solar Cable+30A PWM Charge Controller+Z Bracket Mounts 

 

You could also go with a larger capacity system for faster charging but you sacrifice portability, 

Wind:

Look at something like wind turbines (I like vertical turbines the best), if you want to read about wind-power I recommend two books Wind Energy Basics: A Guide to Home and Community Scale Wind-Energy Systems and Build Your Own Small Wind Power System. Things to keep in mind here, wind turbines will need a minimum steady wind to generate electricity, placement is crucial. Wind turbines also do make a bit of noise, in the form of a whirring or droning sound which can be quite annoying for larger turbines at speed but easy to ignore for smaller turbines at speed.

Your automobile:

Yup, imagine a scenario like camping in an area with a lot of tree cover or power is out at home and no sun shining from a storm but you don't want to take your car out, maybe tress are down or debris is in the streets... guess what, you can use your AUTOMOBILE to charge that bike. How? The easiest way would be to buy an inverter to hook up to your car like the Cobra CPI 1575 1500 Watt 12 Volt DC to 120 Volt AC Power Inverter (authors note, I own this model and for it's price it's decent).

Further online reading:

Backwoods Home also has this Solar Primer from 2001 which is decent enough for a quick education. The Florida Solar Energy Center also has a good resource called Solar Electricty Basics.

For you DIY/hands-on types that want to learn about renewable energy by actually building something cheap check out this Instructable '9$ Solar, Wind and Hydro turbine (on your faucet) powered USB'.

 

 

The Sondors eBike by Storm Sondors

 

Earlier this week an Indiegogo campaign came to my attention via one of their emails, Storm Electric Bike.

 

This thing looks awesome, it promises to be an affordable (but simple) electric bike. I snagged one via the campaign for 499$ plus shipping, other electric bike options from current manufacturers and distributors start north of 1000$. What makes this one different you ask?

Storm doesn't have a bunch of bells and whistles. It does NOT have regenerative braking which requires less parts so less to build, it is fixed gear (while some current electric bikes are 10-speeds) so again less parts-less to build, all of the parts used to make this bike are off the shelf parts meaning no need to pay for custom tooling and molds, again significant cost savings. 

Sure at 499$ via the campaign Storm Sondors is unlikely to make much per bike, however this is just the crowd-funding price. Obviously when these sell retail they'll cost more, and that is where the profit comes in. Via the campaign comments a competitor is constantly fear mongering claiming this bike can not be made that his costs such and such and it's impossible to make a 499$ electric bike... yet that competitor's bike is 10-speed, has regenerative braking AND FOLDS IN HALF all of which cost more, he's also already at the retail point and is likely making a considerable profit per unit.

Look folks, I've looked at what it would cost ME to build a similar bike from off the shelf parts in small quantities with no contacts and no ability to order in considerable quantity. I estimate I could personally import all the parts for 30 bikes (including duties and brokerage fees) for less than 499$ each. It's doable. Also keep in mind, crowd-funding isn't the same as going to the store and buying something. Usually at best a prototype exists and the campaign creator(s) have little to no experience in manufacturing anything outside of their workshop so contributing is a risky gamble. One should NEVER expect to receive a single thing they contribute for, you are contributing to someone's dream. In this case however, Storm Sondors has decades of experience in prototyping and mass manufacturing (McDonald's happy meal toys) and likely has dozens or hundreds of contacts in various manufacturing, distribution, logistics, warehousing etc areas as well as an intimate understanding of reasonable timelines and challenges that will likely be faced to manufacture his bikes. I gave 499$ to this campaign and I do not regret it, I feel confident in my decision to contribute based on my above comments and the fact that several tech journalists have been allowed to use the prototype unit and their reputations give them ZERO reason to lie about their experiences using this bike from a currently unknown manufacturer. 

UPDATE:

Their are individuals crawling out of the woodwork to constantly slam this campaign, claiming it's a scam, claiming I'm an insider/work for Storm or Agency 2.0, claiming it's a giant scam and I'm part of the conspiracy to defraud people out of 3.1 million dollars and counting, etc. It's getting quite ridiculous. The individuals claiming such I deeply suspect of being direct competitors with a currently manufactured bike with similar specifications that starts around $1200. Why do I suspect this? In the early comments of the campaign a direct competitor was posting the link to his product and making the exact same claims. Now it's 'anonymous contributor' making these allegations (and claiming such to news outlets which, without verifying his complains, are reporting everything he tells them as 100% true, and that's just sloppy journalism).

This bike is more than able to be made (at a profit) for the $499 price, it is now $599 and is scheduled to increase yet again. Keep in mind this price is for BACKERS of the campaign and is NOT the final retail price. Also keep in mind Storm and company will make the bulk of their profits selling accessories and upgrades after retail launch of the bike. 

It amazes me how many people don't understand crowdfunding and think they are BUYING a bike like they would on Amazon.com

Ordered my Amazon Echo

So I'm sure you've heard about Amazon Echo... if you haven't, think Hal 9000 of the Amazon product line. She's basically like Siri or Cortana except the fact she's a standalone device. She exists as a black cylinder that contains dual downward-facing speakers that produce 360 degree omni-directional sound so wherever you are in the room you should (in-theory, let's see how well she sounds... especially with my wood panneling) hear her great. Not only is it a wifi device connected to Amazon's services it can also stream (from your smart device) via Bluetooth so you can use things like your Audible app, iTunes, Pandora etc to stream the audio to her.

Echo also can be controlled via an app available on Fire OS, Android, iOS and traditional desktop browsers. It has features like alarms, music, you can create shopping lists (I'll use this a lot, instead of getting out my phone while watching TV to remind myself of something I'll just say "Alexa add to list"), query Wikipedia etc. The best part is, from my understanding her brain is largely in the cloud meaning Amazon can easily add features and improve the software.

While some fear it will always be listening blah blah blah... I don't care, my phones could be doing that too, so could my iPad... in theory so could my Fire TV's remote!

Right now Amazon Prime members get special pricing on her as obviously the idea is she will be something that will help you shop within the Amazon system and hey that's fine with me I watch Prime daily via my Fire TV, I'm a long long long time Audible subscriber, I do most of my shopping on Amazon etc.