"Things That Think" From Prof. Neil Gershenfeld

Neil Gershenfeld [1], an MIT Professor, published a book “When Things Start to Think” [2] back in 1999. 

Here are some of his “things that think”:

  • Books that can change into other books 
  • Musical instruments that help beginners engage and virtuosi do more 
  • Shoes that communicate through body networks 
  • Printers that output working things instead of static objects 
  • Money that contains behavior as well as value 

A Note On “Revolutionary”, as opposed to “Evolutionary”, Innovations

For truly original innovations (new paths, etc.) you have to combine two or more separate fields. (If the invention or idea was already somewhere else in your chosen field, then it’s not considered “revolutionary”; rather just “evolutionary”.) That amounts to saying that for truly creative innovations, you have to master (or at least have an overview of) more than one field. 

  • Neil Gershenfeld combining Physics and Computer Science 
  • Ed Boyden [3] applying Physics and EE to Neuroscience (his work on Optogenetics [4]) 

stand out.

Among research institutes, MIT Media Lab [5] provides the kind of environment where faculties and students across different disciplines work together and share the same space which leads to more cross-pollination of ideas. It’s no surprise that both Prof. Neil and Ed work at the Media Lab!


Can Rickshaw-pullers Generate All the Power Bangladesh Needs?

  1. Mini Electric Generator – for power generation
  2. Battery – for storage of energy
  3. Generator and Battery integrated system in each rickshaw, built with inexpensive Materials, resistant to extreme weather conditions.

  1. Rickshaw Wheel
  2. Bi-Cycle Wheel

  1. “Stations” for transfer of Energy from batteries of rickshaws? Transfer energy to High Storage Batteries in “Stations”?
  2. Conversion of Direct Current into Alternating Current for supplying to National Grid?

Rough Calculations 
  • Approximate Model: Bottle Dynamo – 3-6 watts (6-12V, 0.5 amp) 
  • 4 watts, 6 hours of riding = 4*6*60*60 = 86400 = 86kW 
  • 1 rickshaw-puller => 50kW per day. 
  • 20 rickshaw-pullers => 1MW. 
  • 20,000 rickshaw-pullers => 1000MW
  • Bangladesh Total Electric Energy Production Capacity – 10,000MW
  • 200,000 rickshaw-pullers are required!
  • According the unofficial estimates, there are about 800,000 rickshaw-pullers in capital city Dhaka alone.
  • With rapid industrialization and improvements in living condition of people, power requirements will rise rapidly. Viewed from another perspective, if power supply rises, rapid industrialization and improvements in living condition of people would be possible.

Can renewable energy sources produce all the energy Bangladesh needs at a much lower cost?
Time for change?