Thursday, September 11, 2008

NASA's options for space program dwindling

By Irene Klotz

NASA is about out of options for keeping U.S. astronauts in space after 2011.

Unless President George Bush intervenes, or whoever succeeds him in January immediately steps into the space arena, the dismantling of the space shuttle program will be too far along to reverse course.

"That horse has left the barn," wrote NASA's former shuttle manager Wayne Hale in his Web blog.

The three-ship fleet is scheduled for retirement in 2010. NASA wants to use the shuttle's budget for developing replacement ships that can go to the moon as well as to the International Space Station. The new vehicle, called Orion, won't be ready until 2015 — five years after the shuttle stops flying.

NASA had counted on buying Russian Soyuz capsules to transport crews to the space station during the gap. But in recent interviews, NASA administrator Michael Griffin said he has no hope Congress will pass the legislation needed for NASA to keep the Soyuz assembly lines running.

"My guess is that there is going to be a lengthy period with no U.S. crew on (the space station) after 2011," Griffin wrote in an e-mail to top NASA managers that was posted on the Orlando Sentinel's Web site.

The agency cannot purchase Russian rockets unless it receives an exemption from a trade sanction Congress levied in 2005 after Russia reportedly helped Iran develop nuclear weapons technology. Griffin has said the exemption to the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act needs to be in place by early 2009 to keep U.S. and partner astronauts in orbit.

U.S. outrage over Russia's handling of a dispute with neighboring Georgia has pretty much nixed any chance Congress will lift the trade ban again, Griffin said.

"Exactly as I predicted, events have unfolded in a way that makes it clear how unwise it was for the U.S. to adopt a policy of deliberate dependence upon another power for access to ISS," Griffin wrote.

"In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability … and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so.

"The rational approach didn't happen, primarily because for OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) and OMB (Office of Management and Budget) retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision," Griffin wrote.

Despite the dire forecast, NASA's associate administrator for space operations Bill Gernstenmaier said there was still time to work out a solution. For now, the shuttle program's top priority needs to be next month's mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

"We need to step back from the hum of the outside world and focus on this Hubble mission," Gerstenmaier said.

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Maximizing Survival Time Inside the Event Horizon of a Black Hole

Written by Fraser Cain

DonHere's a scenario that will face many of us in the far future. You're hurtling through the cosmos at nearly the speed of light in your spaceship when you take a wrong turn and pass into the event horizon of a black hole. Uh oh, you're dead - not yet, but it's inevitable. Since nothing, not even light can escape the pull from a black hole once it passes into the event horizon, what can you do to maximize your existence before you join the singularity as a smear of particles?

Physicists used to think that black holes were sort of like quicksand in this situation. Once you cross the event horizon, or Schwarzschild radius, your date with the singularity is certain. It will occur at some point in the future, in a finite amount of proper time. The more you try to struggle, the faster your demise will come. It was thought that your best strategy was to do nothing at all and just freefall to your doom.

Fortunately, Geraint F. Lewis and Juliana Kwan from the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, have got some suggestions that fly in the face of this stuggle = quick death hypothesis. Their paper is called No Way Back: Maximizing survival time below the Schwarzschild event horizon, and it was recently accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

When an unlucky victim falls into the event horizon of a black hole, they will survive for a finite amount of time. If you fall straight down into a stellar black hole, you'll last a fraction of a second. For a supermassive black hole, you might last a few hours.

Due to the tremendous tidal forces, an unlucky victim will suffer spaghettification, where differences in gravity from your head to your feet stretch you out. But let's not worry about that for now. You're trying to maximize survival time.

Since you've got a spaceship capable of zipping around from star to star, you've got a powerful engine, capable of affecting your rate of descent. Point down towards the singularity and you'll fall faster, point away and you'll fall more slowly. Keep in mind that you're inside a black hole, flying a spaceship capable of traveling near the speed of light, so Einstein's theories of relativity come into play.

And it's how you use your acceleration that defines how much personal time you'll have left.

In a moment of panic, you may point your rocket outwards and fire it at full thrust, keeping the engine running until you arrive at the central singularity. However, Lewis and Kwan have demonstrated that in the convoluted space-time within the event horizon, such a strategy actually hastens your demise, and you'll actually end up experiencing less time overall. So, what are you to do? Lewis and Kwan have the solution, identifying an acceleration "sweet-spot" that gives you the maximal survival time. All you have to do, once across the event horizon, is fire your rocket for a fixed amount of time, and then turn it off and enjoy the rest of the fall.

But how long should you fire your rocket for? Lewis and Kwan show this is a simple calculation involving the mass of the black hole, how powerful your rocket is, and how fast you crossed the event horizon, easily doable on a desktop computer.

Here's another analogy from Lewis:

"Consider a race to the centre between a free faller and a rocketeer. Suppose they cross the event horizon together holding hands. As they cross, they start identical stop watches. One falls inwards, while the other accelerates towards the centre for a little, then swings their rocket round and decelerates such that the free faller and the rocketeer meet and clasp hands again just before hitting the singularity. A check on their stop watches would reveal that the free faller would experience the most personal time in the trip. This is related to one of the basic results of relativity - people in freefall experience the maximum proper time."

So now you know. Even after you've fallen into the black hole's event horizon, there are things you can do to lengthen your harrowing journey so that you get to experience more time.

Time to you can use to deal with your spaghettification problem.

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The Future: Open-Source Humanoids

Mayjune06robots2_2 Mega-monolithic corporations are often be seen as the bad guys, creating faceless hordes and irresponsibly-armed technologies, but the end of humanity might come from the little guys. Humanoid robot design has gone open source - so don't be surprised if your silicon killer lasers "HAxxor3D by StumpyJO!" into your corpse.

The Willow Project is a seriously cool effort to bring robotics to the masses: think of it as Lego Mindstorms all grown up. The project makes all their hardware and software designs open source, so anybody with the capability can take part, downloading existing designs and uploading their own. You don't have to be Dr Robotnik taking a break, either - the project includes tutorials and instruction, so all you need is the desire to make awesome robots.

And if you don't have that we don't know why you're reading here.

Open sourcing robotics clears the way for all kinds of incredible innovations. Some developments might not have the security or stability of commercial releases, but you don't have to wait for a million people to want something before it becomes profitable. The internet has already shown that sheer love and hard work can create the most amazing things, and now that same creative energy can be directed into things that can then get up and walk.

As robotics technology evolves the homebrew programs will accelerate to keep pace: don't be surprised to find "flesh{bot 0.1" available for bittorrent in the next ten years. With advances in synthetic skins, certain sectors of the web might be able to download entire behaviour sets instead of just movies of people doing those things. As long as they watch out for security. It's bad enough when your computer can steal your bank account info - but when a robot can physically go through your wallet, the best firewall in the world won't save you.

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Large Hadron Collider comes online, world fails to end

By Jonathan M. Gitlin

The fact that I'm sitting here writing this and you're sitting there reading it means that fears regarding the Large Hadron Colider (LHC) and the end of the world were a bit overblown. At 10:33 AM CET this morning, the first proton beam successfully completed a circuit of the entire LHC.

The LHC is the latest example of 'Big Science,' a multinational collaboration involving thousands of scientists from over 60 different nations. The largest particle accelerator ever built, scientists hope that data gathered from the LHC will nail down the existence of the elusive Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that is theorized to be responsible the existence of mass.

The collider has been cooled down to a frosty temperature somewhere below 5K (about -271˚C) along its entire length, and one by one, large blocks were removed from the path of the beam, allowing it begin making its journey. The first beam traveled at less than full energy in this test run, but will eventually approach light speed when full operations begin.

The LHC has clearly captured the public's fancy, as the first beams made the front page of many news sources and were celebrated by Google. Nevertheless, its has been the subject of fears from some segments of the general public, who have come to believe that the impact of high energy protons could somehow form a black hole underneath the Swiss countryside, bringing about the demise of planet Earth. Physicists involved in the program have determined there's no science behind these fears.

Big science projects like the LHC only exist thanks to public money, and if that public is going to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars, it's important that they are kept in the loop. In this regard, the LHC has been quite active and transparent. You can even watch a short video clip of the reaction in the control center when the ATLAS detector started picking up the muons that resulted from the first beam striking one of the collimators, devices that narrow the particle stream.

You can also follow the progress of the LHC's journey into action on the web, with live updates from newspapers, and a blog maintained by some of the US' scientific contingent. Last week we reported on some of the outreach being conducted for the LHC, and for those of you looking for more musical LHC action, the LHC rap has been joined by this little ditty found on the US LHC blog. Even Google has been getting in on the action, as you can see by their special homepage graphic. Here's to Big Science!

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What Happens if You Fall Into a Black Hole?You die.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

The world's largest scientific instrument, the Large Hadron Collider, was switched on in Switzerland on Wednesday. A few people worried that the LHC would cause the world to be swallowed up by a black hole, especially when it starts to operate at full force in the spring. What would happen if you fell into a black hole?

Your body would be shredded apart into the smallest possible pieces. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, who wrote the definitive account Death by Black Hole, imagined the experience as "the most spectacular way to die in space."

A black hole is a place where the force of gravity is so powerful that you would need to be traveling at a speed faster than the speed of light to escape its pull. Since nothing in the universe is faster than the speed of light, nothing that falls into a black hole can ever escape. The border at which gravity becomes strong enough to create that phenomenon is known as the "event horizon"; it marks the outer boundary of the black hole. (Until the 1940s, some scientists believed that matter crusted up on the event horizon and didn't fall in.)

Closer to the center, gravity is even stronger. If you were caught by the pull of a black hole, you would be sent into free fall toward its center. The pulling force would increase as you moved toward the center, creating what's called a "tidal force" on your body. That is to say, the gravity acting on your head would be much stronger than the gravity acting on your toes (assuming you were falling head-first). That would make your head accelerate faster than your toes; the difference would stretch your body until it snapped apart, first at its weakest point and then disintegrating rapidly from there as the tidal force became stronger than the chemical bonds holding your body together. You'd be reduced to a bunch of disconnected atoms. Those atoms would be stretched into a line and continue in a processional march. As Tyson described it, you would be "extruded through space like toothpaste being squeezed through a tube." No one knows for certain what happens to those atoms once they reach the center, or "singularity," of a black hole.

In a small black hole—like the one predicted by the LHC doomsayers—this dissolution would occur almost immediately. In fact, for all but the largest black holes, dissolution would happen before a person even crossed the event horizon, and it would take place in a matter of billionths of a second.

The more matter—and people—a black hole gobbled up, the bigger it would get. That could have the effect of making it less spectacularly deadly. As a black hole increases in size, the differences in gravitational force inside become less dramatic. If you fell into a truly gigantic black hole, the rate of change—and resulting tidal force—might not be enough to rip your body apart until after you'd crossed the event horizon.

If you fell into a large enough black hole, your last moments would be a little bit like being on the inside of a distorted, one-way mirror. No one outside would be able to see you, but you'd have a view of them. Meanwhile, the gravitational pull would bend the light weirdly and distort your last moments of vision.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Ted Bunn of the University of Richmond and Edwin Taylor of MIT.

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Scientists Puzzled by New Bird Species Discovered in Africa

Is Grandpa Bad for the Environment?

Illustration by Deanna Staffo. Click image to expand.

Everyone's always talking about how an aging population, with more retirees, is going to wreak havoc on Social Security and the federal budget. Here's my question: What impact will that have on the planet? After all, my grandparents don't seem to care much about global warming, their refrigerator is from the 1970s, and they use an awful lot of air conditioning at home. Give it to me straight: Are Grandma and Grandpa bad for the environment?

"Do it for the kids" has always been one of the most popular arguments in favor of environmentalism: Older people need to get their act together, or else it's the children who will suffer the environmental consequences. Indeed, in terms of what they buy and how they vote, younger Americans tend to be more eco-conscious than seniors, who are less likely than anyone else to believe that global warming is a man-made phenomenon. But here's the weird thing: In practice, it's the older folks who are better for the environment.

In an effort to improve models of global warming, a team of researchers led by Brian O'Neill of the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimated (PDF) what U.S. emissions would look like in two different cases: one in which the age structure of the population looked exactly the same as today's, and another where—as many demographers project—the percentage of Americans over 65 more than doubled.

Their conclusion: Grayer is greener, with the aging population expected to produce anywhere between 10 percent and 37 percent fewer emissions by the year 2100. At first glance, the Green Lantern assumed this must be because older Americans spend their money in a more environmentally friendly way. For one, they drive a good deal less, so they spend less money on gas and produce less air pollution. They are also less likely to buy new big-ticket items, like cars or large appliances. And they spend a huge percentage of their income on health care, which—dollar for dollar—doesn't produce that much pollution or require that much energy.

In fact, says O'Neill, the consumption mix for older people isn't significantly more carbon-efficient than the mix for younger folks. Older Americans spend a higher percentage of their incomes heating and cooling their homes—so much so that it just about cancels out whatever benefits they generate by driving less (PDF). (If you are elderly or have elderly parents, that makes it even more important to invest in insulation and other energy-saving fixes.) The elderly do spend a lot of their money on health care, but the rest of us put more resources into education, another clean way to spend.

The real reason older Americans are better for the environment is that they work less and have lower incomes. It's not so much that they spend their money in a better way—it's just that they don't spend as much in the first place. The general aging of the population will make America somewhat poorer—after all, economic growth will slow as a greater share of consumers become unable to work. A slowed economy in turn produces less pollution. All told, the aging of the population won't reduce U.S. emissions enough to halt climate change, but it might make our work a little bit easier.

What can younger folks learn from the elderly about becoming more environmentally friendly? Not much. Growing older means becoming greener only because it involves a lifestyle change that no young person wants to make—namely, becoming a good deal poorer. In that sense, the aging of America—and to an even greater extent, Western Europe and Japan—offers just about the least attractive plan there is for combating global warming. With a smaller percentage of the population working, the challenge is to find a way to keep growing in a grayer world, while making sure that growth is green, too. Modern environmentalism—and this column!—put great stake in the idea that small, individual choices, added together, can make a big difference. It turns out that who we are, demographically speaking, ends up mattering at least as much as what we do.

Is there an environmental quandary that's been keeping you up at night? Send it to, and check this space every Tuesday.

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Huge Ancient Lake Discovered in Russia

By Andrea Thompson, Senior Writer

A huge ancient lake once dammed up by the vast ice sheets of the last Ice Age has been found by geologists in Russia.

Large glacial lakes were known to cover parts of Russia and North America during the Ice Age. One of the most well-known is Lake Agassiz, which covered portions of Canada and northern Minnesota more than 10,000 years ago. At the time it was the largest freshwater lake on the planet, with an area larger than all of the present-day Great Lakes combined, larger even than California.

Last year, geologists found the remnants of a lake near a Russian village called UstNem. Now, the same lake has been found to extend 435 to 497 miles (700 to 800 kilometers) to the west, near another village called Kotlas. By comparison, Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, is 350 miles (560 km) long at its greatest length. The ancient lake— no longer a lake — is just a few tens of kilometers away from the Ural Mountains.

Geologists are taking samples of sediments to shed light on the history of this and other glacial lakes that formed in the region.

"We're trying to find out just what these lakes have looked like," said Eiliv Larsen, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Norway. "Where did the sediments come from and how did the lakes influence the environment and the climate in the region?"

Lake Agassiz is thought to have possibly influenced the North Atlantic climate when it suddenly drained into what is now Hudson Bay, potentially raising sea levels and altering the ocean circulation.

The Russian lake could have had similar consequences when the ice hemming it in finally melted and the lake's freshwater potentially poured into the Arctic Ocean.

Geologists studying the area as part of the International Polar Year effort have found evidence of the surrounding ice.

"We're finding traces of the snout of a glacier that calved into the lake from the north," Larsen said. "This probably took place around 20,000 years ago and this was the youngest lake in the region."

Larsen and his colleagues are also finding traces of older glacial lakes.

"Lakes have probably been situated here in two periods during the last Ice Age," he said. "We've found river delta deposits which suggest that the oldest lake formed some 65,000 years ago."

These lakes can also leave an imprint on the surrounding land: Lake Agassiz left remnant lakes behind, and the land it once covered is still rebounding from the lost weight of the water pressing down.

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Solar Updraft Towers to Generate Food and Energy

by Mike Chino

solar updraft tower, hahn & hahn, namibia, solar energy, alternative energy, solar power, desert greenhouse

A new breed of solar tower may soon be sprouting up in Namibia, providing the nation with a carbon-free source of electricity and food during the day and night. At one and a half kilometers tall and 280 meters wide, these massive solar updraft towers could potentially produce 400MW of energy each - enough to power Windhoek, the nation’s capital. Proposed by intellectual property company Hahn & Hahn, the towers generate energy by forcing heated air through a shaft lined with wind turbines. Additionally, the base of each tower will function as a 37 square km greenhouse where crops can be grown.

solar updraft tower, hahn & hahn, namibia, solar energy, alternative energy, solar power, desert greenhouse

Solar updraft towers are an oft-overlooked source of alternative energy, although they do require a great expanse of space and copious amounts of sunlight. Theo von Backström from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University states: “One of the main reasons why commercial solar chimney power plants have not been built that they have to be very large to be economically viable”. Fortunately Namibia’s arid desert region provides plenty of space for such a generator, and the country sees around 300 days of sunshine per year.

Solar updraft towers generate energy by using sunlight to heat the air within a vast transparent greenhouse situated at the base of the chimney. As the hot air rises, it is funneled into the reinforced concrete chimney, driving a series of wind turbines which in turn generate energy.

The structure’s greenhouse base provides the perfect environment for growing crops, which actually allow the plant to produce energy after the sun has set. The water used for crops is heated during the day and transfers this energy to the tower at night. Once the towers are constructed they require very little maintenance, and Namibia has agreed to finance half of the costs of the $780,000 pre-feasibility report.

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Blue skies, scorched Earth? What is Global Dimming?

With fierce storm after storm hitting the Caribbean and threatening our coasts this hurricane season seems to illuminate the ever more apparent effects of climate change. While we do not have more storms than usual the intensity appears to be on the rise, i.e. more storms are reaching higher categories thus our extremes are getting more extreme [Science]. This alone calls for our attention and efforts to make changes to decrease the greenhouse effect that is warming the Earth and causing greater highs and lows but there is more to this than meets the eye.

It is clearly necessary to work to decrease emissions that are contributing to climate change but what we may unknowingly be doing is exacerbating the problem by not fully understanding the complexity of the system. Now I am not saying we should allow massive amounts of pollution, I am merely suggesting it is more complicated than the simplified version we get watching TV or the glossy greenwashed sound bytes we are so often exposed to. Even this write up is overly simplified but such is life. The main complication I speak of is the phenomena that is termed “global dimming.” Just like it sounds, global dimming describes the decrease in sunlight that is actually reaching Earth’s surface.

Over the past 4 decades scientists have watched the global incoming solar radiation decrease by 12% [American Geophysical Union]. TWELVE PERCENT. That is huge! Breaking it down for each continent the drops in sunlight recorded between the 1950s and 1990s are staggering. The level dropped 9% in Antarctica, 10% over the U.S., nearly 30% over Russia, and up to 60% in parts of England. With that you would expect that we should be cooling down, right? It is logical to think if less sunlight reaches Earth the temperature would drop, just think of a cloudy day or even just standing in the shade. It makes a significant difference but we are not cooling down, we continue to get warmer.

With this in mind it may be that global dimming is masking or delaying the potentially far more extreme effects of global warming. Particle pollution, like ash, soot, and sulfur dioxide, in the atmosphere is believed to be the culprit for global dimming. Just like sunlight bounces off the top of clouds, so too will it bounce off of polluting particles. The compounding factor though, is that the polluting particles apparently make the clouds themselves far more reflective. This is because there are many more pollution particles in polluted clouds (as opposed to natural particles such as pollen or salt crystals in unpolluted clouds) so water droplets cannot condense to be large enough to fall as rain, rather they remain suspended in the atmosphere and continue to reflect sunlight back out of the atmosphere and drought ensues.

If we were to eliminate global dimming all together without addressing global warming the increase in temperature and extreme weather might be more significant than previously predicted. This has been recorded with one full degree temperature change in just a few days of decreased pollution in the days following the 9/11 attacks [Nature]. This reverse effect of dimming has been has been blamed along with global warming for increasing temperatures, appropriately called global brightening [Geophysical Research Letters]. No one wants smoggy skies but it could be smog and particulates that may be shielding us from the full consequences of the greenhouse gases we pump into our air daily. Clear blue skies are something many folks thinks of when they think of “going green” but those clear blue skies may hold more heat than we can handle.

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Where Sweat Equals Electricity


It sounds like something you'd only see on the Discovery Channel: people pedaling ferociously to create enough energy to power the television, stereo and lights.

human powered gym
Stationary bicycles connected to small generators can charge batteries that power televisions and stereos.

But for Adam Boesel, owner of the Green Microgym in Portland, Ore., and his partners, this could be the future.

Launched last week, his "human-powered" gym is one of few fitness centers in the world that runs on power generated by people working out, Boesel said.

As members pedal on stationary bicycles, a small motor connected to the stations charges batteries that power the gym's television and stereo system.

Boesel said he doesn't yet have a way to quantify the output but knows that at the moment it's relatively small. However, this is just the beginning, he said.

"Our goal is to someday create 100 percent of the electricity we use in the gym," Boesel said. "The short-term goal is to get all of the electricity we can out of the machines."

In addition to three spin bikes Boesel re-engineered the gym features a new four-person machine that generates 200 to 400 watts of electricity an hour, depending on the fitness level of the group.

Created by El Paso, Texas-based Henry Works, the Team Dynamo connects hand cranks and foot pedals to a generator to capture as much human energy as possible.

"It's a little humbling -- a person can make about a penny's worth of electricity an hour. So it's not a lot," said Michael Tagget, president of Henry Works, adding that on his or her own, an individual can create 50 to 100 watts of electricity.

"But if 20, 30, 40 people are doing that in a gym, they can [create] all the electricity for entertainment systems. It's better than nothing and the feeling of accomplishing something is worthwhile," Tagget noted.

Although Tagget's company is starting with the commercial market -- the Green Microgym is the first gym to test the product -- it plans to offer a home unit in the spring.

Boesel's gym is also working with a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based startup called to implement a "grid-tie" system. Instead of using a battery-based system,'s approach is to retrofit elliptical machines to harvest energy from the machines and send the electricity directly back into the electrical panel.

Power Gym of the Future

"These machines -- the way they're set up -- are normally emitting heat. If they run all day, they're putting out ambient heat into the facility. We've developed a system that doesn't emit heat in the facility but instead turns it into electricity," said Hudson Harr, president and founder of

Harr said his system is an improvement over battery-based approaches that require more maintenance and are less energy efficient. As energy passes through the battery, he said, some of it is lost. retrofitted 15 machines at a Gainesville, Fla., fitness center in April and, Harr said, on average, that installation is producing between 2 and 7 kilowatts per day.

Although the Portland gym is one of the first facilities in the country to harness human energy, the technology has already been introduced in other parts of the world.

The California Fitness gym in Hong Kong uses a battery-based system to help supply power. The Sustainable Dance Club in Rotterdam, Netherlands, also relies on human-powered technology.

The company's literature says the dance floor is a movable surface composed of small modules. As people dance, the movement of the modules is converted into electricity that lights up the floor. An "energy meter" allows dancers to see the amount of energy they are creating.

Like the TVs and stereos in the gyms, this meter encourages participants to work harder to generate more energy.

Actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. has been a long-standing fan of the human power. In 1990, he and a friend connected a bicycle to a 24-volt battery. On his cable reality show, "Living With Ed," airing on Planet Green TV, he has been known to make toast with energy created by pedaling his bicycle.

"I think as much human-powered exercise equipment as we can advance would be for the good," he told "I think that the idea of sitting on a life cycle and using power that is plugged into the wall ... is upside down."

The Emmy Award-winning host of the eponymous educational television program "Bill Nye the Science Guy" also gives the technology a thumbs up but cautions that it's not free of problems.

While the amount of energy a human can generate is not insignificant, it still requires a lot of work. For example, Henry Works' Tagget said he estimates that the average user of his power-generating cycling machine can create 100 watts per hour, which could power a smaller television for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Nye also said that questions regarding energy storage persist.

Still, he said, "The idea is great. You see people going to the gym now in droves and they ride their bikes to nowhere, and so wouldn't it be nice to capture all that energy?"

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