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I want my flying car and a use for this stupid electric clothes dryer

25 June 2012 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in environment, technology | 1 Comment »

An engineering problem and a re-engineering problem, both environmental and economic.

Engineering problem:

A: Identify the most energy-efficient automobile in existence today. Assume an urban/suburban sprawl environment, typical commuter/consumer usage patterns and a vehicle capable of carrying at least two passengers plus at most some small household capital goods (that flatpack bookshelf from Ikea, or that new HD LCD TV). Be sure to include all network costs in the efficiency calculation, including costs of production inputs, subsidies (direct, indirect and invisible), regulation, depreciation, supporting infrastructure (e.g. its share of the local power station needed to charge the batteries/supercapacitors, road construction and maintenance, signage, military control of the Strait of Hormuz, …), etc. Quantify its performance.

B: Identify the most energy-efficient helicopter in existence today, assuming the same requirements as above. Quantify its performance.

C: Identify the freest variables in B’s equation (i.e. take petroleum input costs as fixed, but vary materials, flight speed, average cruising altitude, etc.).

D: Having done the work in C, we now have n free variables in helicopter design and construction. Find the n-dimensional volume where all free variables play nicely together, and tend toward improvement over what we have in today’s helicopter B, but without going overboard on the physics or materials science (no hyperdiamond rotors, no bush robots, no warp engines, etc.).  For each point in n-space, solve for energy efficiency.

E: Optimize the efficiency input parameters in n-space such that your new helicopter is more energy-efficient than today’s most efficient automobile.

F: Design, prototype, test, validate, build, document, publish, teach, make a billion dollars and enjoy the freedom of never having to answer the “But, who will build the roads?” question again.

Re-engineering problem:

A: Obtain an electric clothes dryer. If you don’t have one, steal one.

B: Disassemble dryer A into its component parts (assume here that an electric motor is a unitary component, and that there’s no economic sense in unsoldering the surface-mount components from the thing’s wee computer brain).

C: Given the parts set from B, construct any number of devices which actually do useful work.

D: Document, publish. Hang your clothes from a rack, line or other such advanced technology.

Inspiration credits: Jim Davidson (@planetaryjim), Vinay Gupta (@leashless).

  1. One Response to “I want my flying car and a use for this stupid electric clothes dryer”

  2. By Pevinsghost on 11 July 2012

    Good luck on switching over to drying clothes on a line in the pacific northwest, Japan, or any of the other many places that can go more than a month without a day with no rain. That said, yes, drying clothes in an electric dryer is usually a waste.

    Oh, instead of a helicopter, I would recommend a gyro copter, they generally are cheaper to build, & are safer in that with loss of engine power they basically coast to the ground instead of falling like a rock. Add into said gyro copter a computer that can operate controls, like the self driving google cars, & you’ve solved about a dozen other problems simultaneously to boot.


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