I’m an animated person. It’s not that I have a particularly animated personality per se. In fact, I’m pretty laid-back. People who know me might even tell you that I’m not animated enough personality-wise. I do my best to maintain a Fonzie-like even keel. (OK, I know I’m mixing metaphors, and I don’t recall Fonzie ever sailing. What can I say? The rules of grammar must be broken from time to time.)

When I say I’m animated, I mean that I move around a lot. I’m kinetic. Even when I’m sitting still, I’m tapping a toe, bouncing a leg, drumming a finger, rocking a chair, you name it. When I first met Shelia, my wife-to-be, it drove her nuts. Sometimes she’d grab my hands to keep me from pounding out a rhythm in 7/8 time. (A little something for you musicians out there.) Eventually she learned to live with my little idiosyncrasy, but I suspect it still drives her batty. My dad’s kinetic, too. Neither one of us should ever be in a rocking chair. It’s simply too dangerous. If there’s a gene that influences this sort of thing, I inherited it from the old man. My son’s the same way. It’s a manly Spates trait.

Or perhaps it’s the key to solving the world’s energy demands. It turns out that my tapping, bouncing, drumming and rocking might be the answer. Hook me up to an electric grid and I could power the greater portion of the Southeastern United States.

A new breed of devices are designed to convert energy from body movements into electrical energy. Translation: I’m a toe-tapping electrical generator.

According to a story on FoxNews.com, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a prototype nanogenerator that produces electrical current by the bending and relaxing of tiny little wires. These wires are so thin that can be safely implanted in a human body. When these little wires flex and relax — while finger-drumming in 7/8 time, for example — they emit what’s called a piezoelectric charge. It’s a mouthful, but piezoelectric just refers to electricity generated by certain materials under mechanical stress.

If you’re feeling a little squeamish about wiring your body for electricity, I don’t blame you. Wiring my basement for surround sound is a troublesome enough task for me. Not to worry. Zhong Lin Wang, the project’s lead researcher, has it all figured out.

“You could envision having these nanogenerators in your shoes to produce electricity as you walk,” he said. “This could be beneficial for soldiers in the field, who now depend on batteries to power their electrical equipment. As long as the soldiers were moving, they could generate electricity.”

Pretty cool, eh?

The researchers’ work reminds me of a pet theory of my own. I’ve been working out at a gym for years. I spend a lot of time on the treadmill, and there’s not much to do but listen to music and think up goofy stuff. You investors are going to want to get in on the ground-level on this one.

What if you hook up generators to all the treadmills and elliptical workout machines in every gym in the country? There are literally millions of people sweating bullets all day long on these machines. You can’t tell me that someone couldn’t come up with a way to capture all of that energy. Literally billions of calories are being burned every day in stinking gyms all over this country. It’s a wealth of untapped power. There must be a way we can take advantage of this. After all, a calorie is nothing more than a measurement of energy. Maybe we could work out a deal on our electric bills. The more you work out, the lower your electric bill would be.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if it isn’t already happening. Maybe all those gyms are really clandestine power plants with millions of generators buried beneath the treadmills. We’re all Matrix-like drones burning away calories while unknowingly providing free power to fat cats of the military-industrial complex. Perhaps Keanu will wake from this madness and save all of humanity.


Until then, strap on a pair of wired sneakers. If we all did our part, we could stick it to the zillionaire oil barons charging us nearly $3 a gallon. If I had some wired gloves, I could really change the world.

In 7/8 time.

• • •

David Spates is a Knoxville resident and Crossville Chronicle contributor whose column is published each Tuesday. He can be reached at davespates@tds.net.

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