From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Solar Backpack and Bicycle Back Up

My backpack became a solar backpack when I sewed a $5 solar tail light and a $10 solar headlight to it.  The plastic blister pack is the holder for the headlight.  I've been assembling my own solar backpacks from off the shelf materials for close to a decade and a half now and this is the third version.

This Solar headlight (links to sellers are from a search made on 11/26/17 and you should probably check others out even though these are now commodity products made in gross quantities)
costs about $10.  I've been using one for a year or two and it works fine.  The on/off button top came off during the first winter but it hasn't affected the switch's performance.

The solar light comes with a mini-USB to USB plug so I can supply battery power to another small device.  

This Solar tail light
costs about $5 and, again, I've been using two for a year or two, one on the rear fender of my bike and another sewn to my backpack, given one or two away, and they work fine. 

I have just ordered this bicycle chain charger with battery and USB connection for about $50 
I want to see how that works out.

The combination of solar and bicycle power gives anyone essential energy autonomy whatever the state of the grid.  Or the world.

The fact of the matter is, for less than $100 dollars you can have a 5, 10, or 20 year, depending upon the quality of the equipment and based upon my experience, supply of basic electricity:  light, phone, radio, batteries, possibly a computer....
Small solar and bicycle power can also be entry level electrical power for the more than 1 billion people who don't now, in 2017, have access to reliable and affordable electricity.

This is one reason why I say Solar IS Civil Defense.

It is also why I say a Solar Swadeshi ( is extremely practical and an entry into Gandhian economics, nonviolent economics, and a new sense of independence and self-reliance.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

4 Symmetrical Tetrahedra of 5 Platonic Solids

This is a video of a magnetic model of the Cube and the Tetrahedron broken down into its smallest symmetrical tetrahedra, what Buckminster Fuller called the A and B Quanta or mathematicians call Schläfli orthoschemes (I think).

The A and B Quanta make the equilateral triangle Tetrahedron (4 sided solid), square Cube or Hexahedron (6 sided), and equilateral triangle Octahedron (8 sided)

The A Quanta is 1/24th of a Tetrahedron, the smallest symmetrical tetrahedron to make up a Platonic solid.  Here is the net of the A Quanta which can be folded to make the left and right hand versions, both of which are needed.

The B Quanta plus the A Quanta makes the Cube or Hexahedron 
and the Octahedron,
two other Platonic solids
48 A Quanta + 24 B Quanta = 1 Cube
2 Cubes = 1 Octahedron


A third, the Dodeca Quanta, builds the Dodecahedron

120 Dodeca Quanta = 1 Dodecahedron

And a fourth,
120 Icosa Quanta = 1 Icosahedron

I've made magnetic models of the 5 Platonic solids with the magnets in the centers of the faces of the polyhedra.  The A and B Quanta have the same volumes and I suspect share that volume at the same scale, all four tetrahedra share one common right angle triangle, but I haven't tested that hypothesis.

Since I saw this video, I think the next model should be a set of these Quanta built as class 2 tensegrities with ball magnets at the vertices.  In fact, I'd commission someone to build it, for the right price.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

MIT Energy Hackathon Puerto Rico (Caribbean) Challenge Results

The MIT Energy Hackathon began on Friday night, November 3 and ended Sunday morning, November 5.  9 energy challenges were presented to about 300 people for 2 minutes each.  After a take-out dinner, each presenter had the chance to talk with individual and small groups of students for an hour and a half and to check back in over the weekend.   I presented my challenge,  Rebuilding Energy Infrastructure in the Caribbean After the Hurricanes (, the only one submitted by an individual not a corporation, as best I could.  There were over 40 teams at the Hackathon working on problems with Shell and GM’s and other’ climate goals, beer and other food and beverage waste treatment, drilling fluids, building energy use, and other topics.

Three teams took the hurricane reconstruction challenge up.  Each of them concentrated on Puerto Rico although I had specifically reminded them of the situation on Barbuda which was a much smaller scale, about 2000 people rather than more than 3 million.  One team redesigned Puerto Rico’s electrical system as modular micro-grids with energy storage to provide 40% of the island's power from renewables within a reasonable time period.  Hawaii, with a population of about 1.5 million, is planning on 70% of its energy from renewables by 2030.  This team intends to keep working on their proposal for another upcoming hackathon.  

The second team proposed an app to identify what areas had electricity and what areas didn't and then link people with energy suppliers and systems, an app which is applicable not only to Puerto Rico but any disaster or emergency aftermath.  The third team would use SolarCoin (, an existing online currency, and blockchain using Mycroft, “an open source Alexa” or Siri, to bootstrap and crowd fund a solar transition for individual and groups as well as community solar installations.  The first team was also thinking of electrical current as currency with blockchain, an authentication or accounting system, something that can lead to what I call a solar swadeshi ( and, possibly, Gandhian economics (

There were nine finalists.  Two of the finalists were teams that took up the challenge of Puerto Rico:  the app team and the SolarCoin team.  Neither won any of the three top prizes but the SolarCoin team won the best in its challenge.

This particular challenge, building and rebuilding our energy and communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and here in the USA, is an ongoing challenge, a problem that won’t go away without a lot of work.  

There are other discussions about climate resilience and disaster response ongoing, just as natural disasters and man-made emergencies are.  Here’s another set of design challenges that’s open until November 8, 2017:
Design BriefThis mission is time sensitive, as people who are affected by these disasters are in immediate need of solutions. We’ll be closing this mission and implementing the solutions devised November 08th, 2017.  
Field Ready ( has pinpointed eight categories of top-priority challenges that you can help with. We ask that you identify a problem where your unique maker powers could make a difference, then contribute your solutions as projects here. Field Ready can disseminate your instructions to its experts in the field who can get prototypes into production, and into the hands of those who really need it.
Choose a category of challenge from the list below. When creating a project, state in the first line which category you’re solving for so it can be easily forwarded on to the proper channels. All viable entries will be reviewed by experts on site and put into use as needed. 
Challenge #1 Desalinated WaterPropose reliable means of obtaining usable water through desalination techniques. 
Challenge #2 Sustainable Means of CookingPropose a safe way of converting seawater and non-potable water to cooking fuel.
Challenge #3 Water StoragePropose techniques to pump water up two stories (10 meters) using found or upcycled materials.
Challenge #4 Sustainable Food & Medicine StoragePower existing refrigerators, using found/upcycled materials like solar panels, to keep milk, medicines and perishables cold.
Challenge #5 Replacement PartsPropose a small, portable casting system that can safely melt found metals into replacement parts. Assume the use of recovered wood from fallen trees as a fuel source.
Challenge #6 TelecommunicationsPropose a system for connecting neighborhoods with local fire/police departments when the communications infrastructure is damaged.
Challenge #7 Maintaining Cleanliness for the Elderly and DisabledPropose a method of rapidly drying clothes and other belongings using little or no power when rain storms, high humidity, windy conditions, and lack of space hinder line-drying.
Challenge #8 Traffic Control 
Propose a temporary traffic control system when traffic signals are out of commission. Assume a lack of personnel to post at most intersections. Your solution should be easily dropped into any intersection and simple enough to program to direct traffic to specific patterns and include a self-contained power source that could last for up to 6 months at a time. 
Field Ready has access to fabrication tools (including woodworking, 3D printers, laser cutters, metal casting) that can be leveraged in the final solutions of projects, though upcycled and easily accessible materials are preferred. If creating an electronic/smart solution, Arduino and Raspberry Pi are preferred as they are both readily available and well known.  
The Make: team will make sure that all makers whose solutions are selected for testing or use by Field Ready teams are kept informed of the impact of their work. The results will be showcased on Maker Share and in Make: Magazine. 
Consult the Rules & Instructions for additional details pertaining to each of the categories listed above.