Sunday, March 07, 2010


I dance the body electric

Researchers are playing with ways to turn body energy into usable electricity:

It may not seem like it, but even the laziest of couch potatoes is a human dynamo. The act of breathing — of moving the ribs to draw air into the lungs and expel it — can generate about a watt of power. And if the potato actually gets up off the couch and walks briskly across the room, each heel strike can produce even more power, about 70 watts’ worth.


Michael C. McAlpine of Princeton and colleagues have developed a promising approach for converting body movements into electricity. They’ve printed piezoelectric crystals onto flexible, biocompatible rubberlike material.

Of course, when I hear about brisk walking and heel strikes, well, the next thing I think about is dancing — contradancing, square dancing, ballroom dancing — and how we could take advantage of human-generated electricity to power the dances.

We could use the power to run the amplifiers for the music, and even to power the lights. If the juice should run a bit low, the band would play something a little faster, kick up the tempo and get us moving more.

This could really appeal to the “green” community of contradancers, to whom the idea of a self-sustaining dance even would really have some appeal. Imagine a dancer-powered dance weekend! In fact, a couple of years ago, the big Dance Flurry up in Saratoga Springs fell victim to a regional power failure, which was quite disastrous for the festival. Hey, if they’d had foot power to fall back on, they could have salvaged more than they did (though the hotel rooms would still have been cold).

And think of where this could take Dance Dance Revolution. Get enough true aficionados together, and they could replace a whole coal-burning plant!

[Thanks and apologies to Walt Whitman for the title. I suppose that if Ray Bradbury and Weather Report can steal it, well, so can I.]

1 comment:

Thomas J. Brown said...

You mean like this dance club in London? Or this one in the Netherlands? Here's a company that actually makes the energy-capturing dance floors.