May 15 2010
OK, I know you want to hear about my conundrums, the kind of things that actually keep me awake at night. So welcome to my world. You know solar panels, right? And wind turbines? What I want to know is: how many solar panels would there have to be on the Earth’s surface before they soaked up an appreciable amount of the sun’s heat and, as well as generating squillions of megawatts of electricity, actually cooled the Earth? Same thing with wind turbines: how many would you have to build before they measurably slowed the wind down? Doing that wouldn’t, of course, be as good as cooling the Earth because, if the wind slowed down, then the wind turbines wouldn’t be as effective.
I’m sure the scientists among you will be able to dismiss my ideas as flawed in every respect, but I do believe I’ve come up with a legitimate, er, thing, here. Anyway, solar power. You have to love it, don’t you? It seems like the nearest thing to a free lunch we’re ever going to get in this life. This, from US radio company Etón, is the world’s first solar-powered iPod dock. (“Etón”, by the way, has nothing to do with the famous public school, but is meant to have resonances of both “tone” and the French for “astonish”). Etón’s Soulra (another multicultural name I like, with mixed messages of “solar”, “music” and even the Egyptian sun god) is a chunky, satisfyingly rubberised travel gadget, which sounds OK, though audio quality isn’t the main point. The miracle is that the Soulra will keep you in music and your iPod/iPhone in power in the remotest, power-free location, thanks to God’s own free lunch provider.
I’m often stumped to think of how some of the more off-the-wall products I’m offered could have any real application, but I can see this one improving all sorts of folks’ lives – especially hardcore travellers, overlanders or just people wanting to use it in the garden or on the beach and not use up ecologically wasteful batteries.
At 301mm x 168mm x 89mm and weighing 1.58kg, Soulra is not a notably small or light machine. It is splashproof and effectively rainproof, though not fully waterproof, and a bright sun will charge its lithium ion battery pack in eight to 10 hours – giving enough oomph to keep you boogie-ing in the bush for three to four hours and charging your iPod/iPhone as it goes.