h a l f b a k e r y
Contrary to popular belief
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Point 1. Ironically, given the nature of the English
climate, bits of the country are currently in drought. It
long been known that this recurring problem could be
solved with a national water grid, to move water from
places to dry places.
Point 2. Electricity is expensive and
we may not be
making enough and, if we are not very careful, we will
wind up buying it from the French. The thought of
electrons flowing through the untarnished copper hearts
great English cables is unthinkable.
I suggest that we kill two birds with one cliché, and that
we do so using electric eels.
First, we lay a network of pipes connecting dry places to
wet places, as per the aforementioned plan. Cunningly,
we make these pipes of plastic. The pipes will need to
about four or five inches in diameter, so perhaps bundles
of parallel pipes will be required.
Next, we fill the pipes end to end with electric eels.
Obviously, the eels will not completely fill the width of
Now, electric eels have ribbon-like fins along their
which they are wont to waft in a sinuous way. A single
may not do a great deal of wafting, but the combined
wafting of 1000 metre-long eels per kilometre of pipe
almost undoubtedly, propel water along the pipe at a
The bonus, of course, is the electrical power. A single
produces a discharge of about 1J per shock (that is,
500W for a couple of milliseconds), and a healthy eel can
manage shocks in quite quick succession. Conservatively,
well-trained eels might produce one shock every ten
seconds on average, giving a mean power output of
100mW. From this, it follows that a 100km section of
filled pipe will have a power output of 10kW.
Assuming that the National Water Grid covers about the
same total distance as the motorways, this gives 4000km
of eel-filled pipe. As noted, the pipes would probably be
needed in bundles to convey sufficient water, so we can
assume perhaps 50,000km of pipe in total,
some 50,000,000 metre-long eels. The total power
of such a system will be a respectable 5MW.
There are a few problems to address, to be sure. First,
have to persuade the eels to deliver shocks. However,
guess is that an electric eel is likely to shock in response
being shocked. Hence, there is a very good chance that,
by startling the eel at one end of a pipe, all the eels
downstream would deliver consecutive shocks. All that is
needed is some sort of return electrode to complete the
circuit, and the system will continuously self trigger.
Alternatively, of course, the first eel could be startled by
some sort of telegraphic signal, producing a combined
It will also be important to feed the eels. However, they
are not fussy eaters, and minced food waste pumped into
the inlet of each pipe will suffice. As a bonus, the water
emerging at the other end will be rich in eel-crap, which
one of nature's finest fertilizers. It will also be necessary
to introduce large slugs of air into the pipes from time to
time, since the eels are (inconveniently) air-breathers.
||Indeed. I should perhaps also have mentioned the
importance of ensuring that all the eels in one
pipe are facing in the same direction.
||I have just consulted the intercalary, who
confirms that electric eels will shock in response
to being shocked. Fortunately, adult electric eels
are not seriously harmed by being shocked, which
is just as well. When a bicker of electric eels
assembles to mate, it often happens that one eel
will be startled by a predator (or will take the
opportunity to stun a prey fish), triggering a
cascade of shocks.
||Is this what they mean by "streaming data"?
||//Ironically, given the nature of the English climate, bits of the country are currently in drought.//
||Are they _still_ saying it's a drought? How many months of constant downpour do we need before they concede that it is actually the right sort of rain?
||I think most of the hosepipe bans are lifted, but
there are still some areas where they're in force.
||// How many months of constant downpour do we need before they concede that it is actually the right sort of rain? //
||Until wales is completely submerged ('tis a consummation devoutly to be wished).
||// since the eels are (inconveniently) air-breathers.//
||Can you back that up? To the best of my knowledge they are a typical gilled fish.
||England would be submerged before Wales in that
||//Can you back that up?// No, but Wikipedia on
Electric Eel can. They gulp air every so often, and
must do so.
||//England would be submerged before Wales// Yes,
but anyone with the foresight to have inherited a
village on the high ground would be fine.
||Whoops, yeah, missed that. Just means the pipes can't be run completely full.
||Alert the mathematicians! the "three utilities problem" is
solved without graph theory.
||Did I mention the Joule heating of the water also?
||At the risk of detracting from this idea's 'bakeriness, could
not the eel components be removed and a conduit of
cultured or perhaps even artificial electrocytic cells be
||//could not the eel components be removed //
||They could, but the problem then would be that you
wouldn't have any eels, you see.