Creating Energy from Nature – but really?

Question markThe past few days I’ve seen news items touting scientific evidence – some real, some perhaps bogus – touting a variety of ways to create electricity from nature.

First came the dubious article about hair-based solar panels. Yesterday, the news wires buzzed with a story about creating energy from salt and pepper. And today there’s a story that scientists say they may be able to garner energy from of all things the sap from maple trees.

It makes me wonder what some of those scientists are imbibing.

Alright, I admit that creating energy from Nature is both a creative venture and cost effective in that the ways documented so far are renewable – as in algae, wind, solar, etc. Am I perhaps stuck in a narrow mindset that I find some of their “sources” suspect? I wonder.

What do you think?

2 Responses

  1. Hi,
    I am all in favor of creative experiments to find new sources of energy. I don’t typically work on energy projects, but I enjoy tinkering and experimenting with mechanical and electronic gizmos in my workshop as a hobby. But, I learned certain basic things in school about science. One thing was not to do an experiment without controls. In other words, if you find that hair generates electricity, try the experiment with synthetic and plant fibers, too. The other thing is to be very skeptical and careful so that you don’t fool yourself. Whenever I have a hairbrained scheme, I run it by my wife. She is unbelievably intelligent and insightful and she often spots a flaw that I’ve overlooked in my enthusiasm. Finally, do your homework first. When you have a great idea, before you spend time developing it, see if it’s been done before, that is, do a literature search first. Finally, we, as consumers of information, need to be a bit guarded. There’s a huge difference in an article posted online and an article that’s passed the peer review process. Also, think about whether the article makes sense. Does hair really conduct electricity? Is static electricity the same as electricity from a photocell? How likely is it that a homemade solar cell is more efficient than the best existing technology? Once in a great while somebody comes out of nowhere with a revolutionary invention, but the reality is that most such news stories aren’t for real, and you’d be better off taking the skeptical approach until the results are replicated.

  2. Your post is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the usual rubbish I study on solar power. There’s a lot of frauds out there. Thank you for helping me out.

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