Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fill'er Up? Never!

Trail chow goes Hi-Tek.™

So then I got to thinking.

Water is everywhere.

The atmosphere is full of it (three quadrillion gallons, give or take a liter here or there, on an average day). Given the right technology and a bit of time, a person can fill a water bottle from atmospheric condensation with no problem.

And the technology isn't really that difficult these days. I mean, with the kind of 3-D printer available today you can make your own plastic sidearm and go rob a bank. If you want that.

And water is everywhere.

Mostly, even in dry country, you only need to know where to look. Once you can read the landscape you know where. If you know where, you find water.

And given the places that people go backpacking, like in the mountains, water isn't even all that scarce.

But food. Different issue.

You don't find food in any old ravine. It doesn't stream out from under melting snowpack. When the sky darkens, the wind rises, and the air chills, it isn't food that falls on your head.

So water is everywhere. And food isn't.

So maybe I solved the wrong problem.

Sure, you bet, a self-filling water bottle is going to be handy, but how about a self-filling food bag?

This is more interesting.

This is an issue that nano-materials and a solar cell can't solve on their own. I was forced back to first principles. And around here, at least on this planet, first principles means biology. Elementary biology. Really elementary biology.

If energy flows and matter cycles as the ecologists say, then food is actually everywhere, but mostly not in usable form. The trick is to recycle matter the right way.

And that matter is. . . almost anything organic.

Dust it off, kill the pathogens, rejigger it a bit, and you have food. Then add water, heat, and eat.

So now I've invented the bottomless food bag. I call it EverMunch™, and it's designed for backpackers like you and me.

The bag is made from a flexible fabric containing high-efficiency solar cells. It's odor-proof, waterproof, and impermeable to the teeth of critters.

Running low on hiker chow? Simply pop a few twigs, leaves, clumps of moss, wild berries, pinecones, or handfuls of pond scum into the bag and see that it gets six or more hours of full sun.

What comes out is kind of like tempeh. A bit lumpy and fungus-y but wholesome. Sit down, season to taste and you'll probably be OK.

Or wear the bag over your face using the handy built-in strap and graze while you hike.

You get all the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals that you can handle.

In a pinch you can toss in dead mice, swatted flies, animal droppings - doesn't matter - it's all organic and it all comes out smelling sweet and fresh, if you like fungus, which actually is pretty wholesome stuff, considering what you get at the burger joint.

And what is the magic here?

Bacteria. What we're looking for on Mars, the basis for all other life. Bacteria, the overlords of creation.

They are infinitely capable. They can turn cow flops into sweet corn, air into fertilizer, toxic industrial waste into baby food (check the label next time).

Which is where all this is going. If anyone needs a way to turn everything into food, it's thru-hikers, especially untralighters.

Look for EverMunch™ bags in 2015, about a year after the self-filling water bottle comes out.

You could do worse. You probably have already.


Scientist takes inspiration from natural world to create self-filling water bottle

Does success spell doom for Homo sapiens?