Monday, June 25, 2007

Sweat and Roses

It's amazing to me just how powerful smell is as a memory trigger. The smell of fresh bread takes me back to my mother's kitchen, and the memories associated with it. On a more grisly note, the smell of concentrated Lysol reminds me of my nights studying the cadaver in anatomy lab. Blood has a remarkably metallic smell. That smell reminds me of my days training as an EMT, when our teacher alternately poured old blood from the blood bank on the floor of the classroom to simulate venous bleeding, and pumping it across the room to simulate arterial bleeding.

As grisly as that sounds, it was amazing training. We learned very quickly what blood smelled like, and how to estimate blood loss simply by looking at the amount around the patient.

Today I'm having weird smell triggered memories as well. I lit a rose scented candle in my office. It's pretty strong, and now my whole office, and the space just outside, smells like waxy roses. It's a hot day, and the air conditioner is set badly, so the roses are mingling with the smell of B.O.

I'm not sure the rose candle was a great choice, because now my mind has turned to memories of being a kid and visiting my grandmother (my father's mother) in a nursing home. She smelled just like that after her stroke. Sweat and roses.

It was more than thirty years ago, I was probably about eight or nine at the time, but this candle has taken me right back to her side. I'm holding her hand, and hoping she'll get better soon.

It took her a while, but she did recover enough to start walking, and talking, again. Unfortunately, it wasn't too long afterwards that she died.

I never did get to know her very well, being so young and living in a different city. Even so, smells are a powerful thing. I wonder what she'd think of the person I've become.

I miss you grandma.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Heat to Sound to Electricity

I found this nifty bit of technology via Boing Boing. What's even cooler, for me, anyway, is that it was developed by a guy at my first Alma Mater, the University of Utah. Check this out from Science Daily:

University of Utah physicists developed small devices that turn heat into sound and then into electricity. The technology holds promise for changing waste heat into electricity, harnessing solar energy and cooling computers and radars.

"We are converting waste heat to electricity in an efficient, simple way by using sound," says Orest Symko, a University of Utah physics professor who leads the effort. "It is a new source of renewable energy from waste heat."

How cool is that? Probably not cool at all. It's hot. At least it has to be hot to work.

It's got me wondering, though. How hot does it have to be? If we can turn heat into sound, and sound into energy, couldn't we use this to capture ambient heat in hotter climates, like the one I live in? I'd love to be able to help power my AC with the very heat I'm trying to fend off.

What about using sound waves directly? If we could create a way to capture ambient sound waves in the middle of a noisy city street or construction zone, to create a static standing wave, couldn't we take advantage of the very noise we create to help power the technologies we create it with?

I'm sure there are all kinds of "it won't work yet because . . ." excuses, and I'm certainly not proposing it will be some kind of perpetual motion device. I feel the same way about home based solar panels and windmills. They aren't (currently) complete energy replacement solutions. Let's think about this, though. With enough small "streams" of electricity in place, even if they aren't continuous, won't they still contribute, reducing our overall reliance on fossil fuels, and other climate damaging power production methods?

Now that's hot.