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Inside Dean Kamen's Seceded Island of Geekery 187

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the yeah-thanks-for-it dept.
mattnyc99 writes "The new issue of Esquire has a long, in-depth, intricate profile of Dean Kamen and his quest to invent a better world. Earlier this month, we discussed Kamen's Sterling-electric car, but this piece goes into much more detail about how that engine works — he got the original idea from the upmodded Henry Ford artifact in the basement of his insane island lab — and about how his inventions often go overlooked, including the Slingshot water purifier that Stephen Colbert made famous but that no one has actually bought yet. Quoting: 'To get the Slingshot to the 20 percent of the world that doesn't have electricity, Kamen came up with the idea of splitting it in half. Leaving the Stirling aside, he would try to develop a market for his distiller in parts of the developing world that have electricity but not reliable clean water. "There are five hundred thousand little stores in Mexico," he says. "If we can put one of these in 10 percent of them, that's enough to put it in production." That may be the killer app for the distiller.' So, is this guy all hype with overpriced devices, or is time for someone to take his genius (Segway aside) to the mass market?"
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Inside Dean Kamen's Seceded Island of Geekery

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  • question (Score:4, Funny)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:16PM (#25876749) Journal

    has he managed to solve the pickle matrix in his hamburger earmuffs yet?

  • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zordak (123132) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:19PM (#25876787) Homepage Journal

    So is this guy all hype with overpriced devices, or is time for someone to take his genius (Segway aside) to the mass market?

    Or is he, as the title implies but the summary fails to make clear, a guy who has made tons of money selling stuff he's invented since the 80s, and has made enough money that he bought his own private island [wikipedia.org] (with its own "navy" and "air force")and then half-jokingly seceded from the United States something like 20 years ago.

    • Re:Or... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:31PM (#25876931)

      Nice segue.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fprintf (82740)

      I grew up sailing in Fisher's Island Sound, off the coast of Connecticut. We sailed by North Dumpling hundreds of times over the years. At some point in the 80s we noticed a lot more activity on the island than we had seen before, and this must be the point that Dean bought it. Suddenly there was a nice helicopter atop the island, and a grey amphibious landing craft always on the beach. We *never* saw anyone outside, certainly not any hot young things sunning themselves on the upper deck... this guy is appa

  • Sterling != Stirling (Score:5, Informative)

    by MikeV (7307) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:20PM (#25876801)

    C'mon folks, if you're gonna pretend to be geeks, at least get it right - it's Stirling technology, not Sterling.

    • It will be a Sterling idea once he successfully monetized the Stirling engine. Pardon, could not resist it, wot. H.
  • by DustyCase (619304) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:23PM (#25876841)
    There are a lot of great R&D guys out there who have no idea how to get their product into the consumer's hands. Kamen started out making medical equipment (portable dialysis IIRC), and the Segway is the little brother of one of the best mobility devices (wheelchairs) in existence. But his track record is horrible when it comes to mass market devices. OTOH, you have the iPod, which is a very functional and stylish, yet underperforming, piece of technology, and the sell like mad. If he wants to turn the trend around he needs to spend some of that mountain of cash on a top shelf PR and Marketing firm, as opposed to the stunt publicity that "announced" the Segway.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There are very few inventors who have had the incredible mass market exposure that Kamen has enjoyed over the last ten years.

      If his inventions during this interval have met with less than stellar success, it is certainly NOT because they were sheltered away.

      They are super cool, but they just miss the market.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Kamen is far from poor, and his products are quite popular in the markets he targets.

      The Segway isn't that popular, but I don't really see that as a problem: it's quite nifty for the people it would help, Segway polo looks fun, but for most people it's simply not worth the cost of owning it and the hassle of moving it around when you're not using it.

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      That's exactly what Steve Jobs said about the Segway [boingboing.net] before it came out.

  • Genius? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retech (1228598) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:24PM (#25876855)
    Next time you need kidney dialysis you won't need to question his genius.

    And kudos to him for seceding from the union!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Actually, the best new water purification device comes from Seldon Technology. It uses carbon nanotubes and doesn't need electricity.

    • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:31PM (#25876927)

      there's a survival kit device that is basically a straw with a filter laminate in it - the claim is that you can stick the end of this thing in raw sewage, suck on it and get a drink of pure water. Not something I'd try myself for gits and shiggles, but I have half a dozen of these in my "End of Civilisation" bag so if it does come down to it, I'm not going thirsty. Caveat: it doesn't filter out radioactive particulates, so sticking it in a river estuary after a nuclear strike would be a no-no.

      • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Monday November 24, 2008 @04:03PM (#25877325)
        Have you ever tried one of these straws? Even with clean water, you will collapse your asshole trying to suck anything through them. I used to think they were a slick idea, until I tried one.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tastecicles (1153671)

          I've not actually cracked one of these yet (saving them for a real emergency), but I do get the principle by which it works:

          first layer: particle filtration
          second layer: germ filtration
          third layer: chemical filtration

          is basically it. So, using common, all-garden kitchen equipment, and a glass tube out of a barometer, you can build a gravity-fed system using nothing more than a couple coffee filter papers or percolator mesh in a funnel for large particle filtration, a top layer of sand for smaller particles

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            "I've not actually cracked one of these yet (saving them for a real emergency)"

            Wise, wouldn't want to test things in a non-emergency situation after all.

          • wouldn't you need a lot of sand for that to be safe? and the coffee filter seems a little pointless if you have something that can filter germs and bacteria beneath it. it's like putting a pasta strainer above a sieve. with conventional filters you would use a sediment filter to prevent clogging, but if you're using sand and charcoal as your primary filter rather than a microporous membrane you won't need to worry about clogging. though you'll need a lot of sand/charcoal.

            seems like a better solution is just

        • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday November 24, 2008 @04:35PM (#25877743)

          Uhm, trying putting the straw in your mouth instead :-)

          • Of course it was in my mouth. What do you think I was trying to do? Smuggle it into prison? :-)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by c_forq (924234)
          What about reversing it? Like make a water tower above it funneling down to a spicket with a fitting for the tube in the end?
          • What about reversing it? Like make a water tower above it funneling down to a spicket with a fitting for the tube in the end?

            Possibly. A better solution would be to use a larger filter, as Tastecicles described. Even with a high end filter like those sold by REI and others, I like to use a coffee filter as the first stage to get as much grit as possible out first. But, I still found the straws useless in real life.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by HungSoLow (809760)
          There's a goatse.cx joke looming in your post...
      • by samkass (174571)

        Caveat: it doesn't filter out radioactive particulates

        But it does filter out non-radioactive particulates? I assume there's simply a lower bound to the size of what it can filter and that suspended atoms are well below that size, but that "particulates" would be filtered out, whether they were dirt or little chunks of U-235.

      • by Thelasko (1196535)

        there's a survival kit device that is basically a straw with a filter laminate in it - the claim is that you can stick the end of this thing in raw sewage, suck on it and get a drink of pure water.

        It's called the LifeStraw. [wikipedia.org]

      • Use your arms (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nerdposeur (910128)

        People who camp often use hand-pumped versions of this to make creek water drinkable. The advantage is that you can use the muscles in your arm to pump the water instead of sucking on a straw until your face implodes.

    • For low incomes I thought the best was actually sticking water in discarded plastic bottles and slinging them onto the roof to cook out the nasties with free and plentiful sunlight.
  • If you can get these devices distributed throughout Mexico you can crush their feeble electricity distribution infrastructure.

    Plan, through, think cunning.

    • Re:Way to go Dean (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Abreu (173023) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:59PM (#25877265)

      Well, I am in Mexico and I can tell you that a lot of small businesses here consist on buying some midsized reverse osmosis/filtration/UV equipment and make money distributing 20 liter bottles of water in a given neighborhood.

      So yeah, a lot of those small stores are already "crushing our feeble electricity distribution infrastructure", so there wouldn't be too much of a difference there. Not to mention that it is a way-too-powerful union what's crushing the electricity distribution here, but I disgress...

  • by the_macman (874383) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:37PM (#25877013)

    ...including the Slingshot water purifer that Stephen Colbert made famous but that no one has actually bought yet

    Unfortunately philanthropy won't ever take off unless it's profitable. Just an inherit part of human greed. Sad but true. We have MORE than enough food to feed the entire human population, yet people still starve to death.

    Case in point. For those of you who have seen Charlie Wilson's war, they end up giving millions of dollars in arms money to Afghanistan to repel the Russian invasion then when they ask for a million dollars to help rebuild the schools a US politician says, "Charlie, no one gives a shit about the schools."

    • by jfengel (409917) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:55PM (#25877217) Homepage Journal

      Unfortunately philanthropy won't ever take off unless it's profitable.

      When it's profitable, they don't call it "philanthropy". They call it "business".

      There are plenty of important philanthropists out there, willing to spend money at a "loss" in financial terms. Most notably, Bill Gates is spending more money than the entire network of all of Slashdot's readers to try to cure malaria and other global development programs. Carnegie Mellon University is the result of a massive philanthropic donation.

      I'd say philanthropy has already taken off, despite not being profitable, because a lot of people think that there's more to life than profit. They have to start with the profit to make the money to donate, but they don't end there.

      • by msblack (191749) on Monday November 24, 2008 @04:39PM (#25877795)

        Sometimes philanthropy has negative side effects that we didn't expect. In the case of the Gates Foundation, medical professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa are bypassing jobs in the local communities where their help is desperately needed. Instead, they are taking cushy well-paid positions with the GF inoculating children against deadly diseases or treating AIDS patients. The downside is that routine medical care is in short supply as workers flock to the high-paying positions to fight sexy epidemics. The big loser is basic health care.

        More from here [newsday.com].

        • by westlake (615356)
          they are taking cushy well-paid positions with the GF inoculating children against deadly diseases or treating AIDS patients....workers flock to the high-paying positions to fight sexy epidemics.

          .
          There is nothing sexy about an epidemic that claims 1/3 of your population. AIDS in Sub-Sahara Africa [pbs.org]

          If a third of your young women and a third of your young men are desperately ill or dying what does basic health care mean?

          They can't care for their own kids, they can't care for their own parents - and there is

        • by the_B0fh (208483)

          Not just that. Gates is being a real bastard again, with his monopolistic training at work. Just talk to United Way folks and ask them how they like the way Gates is trying his hands at his new monopoly of trying to be the gateway for all donations to foundations (like United Way). A fraction of a penny per transaction goes a long long way when you're the sole gateway into all philanthropy.

    • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:55PM (#25877219)

      Unfortunately philanthropy won't ever take off unless it's profitable. Just an inherit part of human greed. Sad but true.

      That's one reason why we should bring back massive (i.e. 90%) inheritance taxes. We need to force rich aging people to recognize their own finality. They can then choose four options:

      1) Pass on the money while they still live, giving gifts to family/friends under the tax limits each year for many years.

      2) Pass on the money while they still live, giving it to charity with no limits.

      3) Allow the money to go to charity when they die, with no limits.

      4) Have the government take most of it.

      The option 4) in my list above, brought about by the 90% inheritance tax, replaces the current option 4) Keep a death grip on money and power in their family until the day they die, then have their children reach in and take over that grip.

      Honestly, I'm not sure why we as a society would like the old option four at all. I agree that (living) people have a right to do what they wish with their acquired wealth (with some limits). And, once someone dies, it's nice to be able to respect their wishes. But if people know that the new option four is inevitable if they don't make their own choices while they live, or give it all to charity when they die, we'll all see more philanthropy and a better world.

      • by madsenj37 (612413) on Monday November 24, 2008 @04:31PM (#25877683)
        Inheritance tax like many other ideas has merit to it, but when implemented is not actually a good idea. I do not stand to inherit much in the scheme of things, but would be pissed if the government took it away. I do chores and general upkeep at my parents house. I save them money and keep the house valuable. They keep money in their pocket, in banks, the stock market etc, and keep the economy going. The same goes for rich people. Just because they are filthy rich, does not mean that their kids have not help maintain some of the parents goings on. How do you judge what filthy rich is and who is deserving? Rich people keep much of their money invested and keep the economy going. That is how they stay rich. That is how Americas stays strong. There is too much bloat in the American government. Reduce that spending, because taxes are high enough. I recommend that you read Carnegie's Gospel of Wealth [swarthmore.edu]. The gist of it is this: The rich have a moral obligation to do good while still living, but not a financial one. Hopefully you do not believe in forcing morals on someone else. Otherwise, you stand for man and woman marriage only, no drugs, prudence, etc. and are not much for tolerance.
        • Read the Document (Score:3, Interesting)

          by copponex (13876)

          Carnegie at his best:

          Thus is the problem of Rich and Poor to be solved. The laws of accumulation will be left free ; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself.

          So, a rich man knows what to do with your money, but you do not. That's individualism and freedom according to Carnegie, and not coincidentally, everyone who is sitting at the top of the caste instead of the bottom.

          Well, you can stick that kind of freedom up your ass, for all I care. If the wealth belongs to the community, let the community decide how to spend it. What Carnegie describes is tyranny exerted by corporate power instead of state power, which is better in some ways, but stil

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by theLOUDroom (556455)
          Rich people keep much of their money invested and keep the economy going. That is how they stay rich. That is how Americas stays strong.

          Do you think having a bunch of useless Paris Hilton's is what makes out economy strong?

          First off, money doesn't disappear. If there's a million dollars when someone dies and 90% of it goes to the gov't, that million dollars doesn't simply blink out of existence.

          Second, labor generates wealth, not money.
          People with money, make money because they own the means of pr
          • by madsenj37 (612413)
            So all of this money you collect, you just sit there with it? Or is it invested and spent? You wipe your ass with it and throw it away? Take Paris Hilton an her family as some other commenter did. Paris Hilton may seem useless, but she will spend money that her family acquired legally and morally. She will invest some, too. As a rich person she will have a huge impact on growing the economy and keeping others in business. Secondly, the Hilton's are business people. They know how to acquire funds. T
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by theLOUDroom (556455)
              So all of this money you collect, you just sit there with it?

              You don't get it.
              Yes I have money I can spend on a 100 foot mega-yach that otherwise could have paid for 1,000 people's college educations. Yes that will "create jobs".

              The thing you just don't comprehend is that I never created any wealth to get that money. Someone else did all the work. I never even managed anything, I just collect checks.

              This is money that someone else had to earn, but that goes to me. If it didn't go to me, it could
            • Paris Hilton may seem useless

              If it walks like a duck...

          • First off, money doesn't disappear. If there's a million dollars when someone dies and 90% of it goes to the gov't, that million dollars doesn't simply blink out of existence.

            You sir, have never dealt with the government!

      • by demonlapin (527802) on Monday November 24, 2008 @04:38PM (#25877783) Homepage Journal

        The problem with this, of course, is that if you have enough money, you can create your own charity. Said charity can then employ your descendants to perform not-too-difficult jobs for rather-higher-than-average salaries.

        If you have upwards of $10-$20M, this is a completely valid way to do things The hit in high inheritance taxes falls on those with just enough to be taxable but not enough to fund ways around it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by canUbeleiveIT (787307) *
        That's one reason why we should bring back massive (i.e. 90%) inheritance taxes. We need to force rich aging people to recognize their own finality.

        I fail to see why wanting to transfer my hard-earned wealth to my children is any of the government's business.

        The problem with your plan is that many of the supposed "rich" are merely people who have been prudent with their money by investing in their retirement from an early age instead of blowing it on new cars and oversized houses. Why should people wh
        • Why should people who are thrifty enough to resist the consumer mentality be penalized

          Because their grandchildren turn out like Paris Hilton.

        • I fail to see why wanting to transfer my hard-earned wealth to my children is any of the government's business.

          And why is it the government's business if you want to transfer your hard-earned money to your employees in response to their efforts? Why is it the government's business if I want to transfer my hard-earned money to McDonald's for a Happy Meal?

          It's the government's business because we have banded together to form a society with a government, and we as a society have chosen to let the government skim off the top of some types of transactions as a way to keep the communal services funded. Money transfers b

          • It's the government's business because we have banded together to form a society with a government, and we as a society have chosen to let the government skim off the top of some types of transactions as a way to keep the communal services funded. Money transfers between people is one method that we allow to be taxed.

            Right, skim off the top, not take all of it or mandate what must be done with all of it.

            And, besides, if you want your hard-earned wealth to go to your children, why don't you sit down and w

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by The_Wilschon (782534)
            Right, and when 30-year old Mom and Dad are killed by a drunk driver while coming home from the annual Christmas party, of course the government should take 90% of the money that they have, instead of it going to fund their two kids' housing, care, food, education etc, just because they didn't have the foresight to know exactly when they would die so that they could give all their money away first. Dumkopf.
      • by rtechie (244489) *

        That's one reason why we should bring back massive (i.e. 90%) inheritance taxes. We need to force rich aging people to recognize their own finality.

        It's a nice idea, but there would be strong (i.e. armed) resistance to the government seizing family homes, so that's not happening. And the really rich can find ways to avoid such a tax. For example but moving most of their assets outside of the United States into a trust that will ignore US tax claims. So you would also basically have to end all foreign investment. Good luck with that.

        A much better way at helping the poor is targeted tax cuts at the taxes that affect THEM, notably sales taxes, alcohol and

        • by Pope (17780)

          Yes, raise property taxes, surely the landlord won't pass that on to his poor tenants, right?

          • I don't understand why this is an argument against raising taxes. SOMEONE has to pay taxes. Might as well start with the rich and let it trickle down.

            By your logic we should only tax that poor. Tell me how that makes sense.

            • By your logic we should only tax that poor. Tell me how that makes sense.

              Gives them an incentative to get rich...?

      • by Shatrat (855151)
        5) Leave the country, or arrange that the money does.
        Forcing people to be charitable isn't going to work.
        That's not charity, it's just theft and people will avoid it.
      • And what do you do when that value is in the form of property, or a company.

        Sorry, son, the family farm/business/house is being given to charity so the government can't get it.

        Not all inheritable wealth is in the form of liquid assets.

      • by rcastro0 (241450)

        Well, since you mentioned, here are, imho, the problems with each of your alternatives:

        1) Pass on the money while they still live, giving gifts to family/friends under the tax limits each year for many years.

        This alternative invalidates your alternative #4. In fact, it is exactly what my grandfather did before he passed away in order to avoid inheritance tax: he transfered what he had to the name of his children. Of course then the children would have to register that income and pay taxes over that. But the

      • by kklein (900361)

        I'm a pretty big socialist, but even I balk at the idea of a large inheritance tax. People are not individuals; they are the product of many generations. I don't stand to inherit that much, but I'd like all of it, because I'd like to pass part of that on to my heirs myself.

        We do almost everything we do for our children. Taking that away violates a fundamental instinct in the human animal. It's a terrible idea, just as communism is a terrible idea.

        The beauty of socialist capitalism is that it uses th

      • Unfortunately, if the government brought back [even higher than we have now] death taxes, they would severely limit #1, so that you are basically forced to give it to charity or forced-charity (the government).

        If you take away a large incentive -- the idea that you can build wealth in your family/friends, and let them have some of it in the future -- you will shoot yourself in the foot. Unintended consequences.

        I vote for letting people have the freedom to spend their own money the way they see fit, and prov

      • by westlake (615356)
        That's one reason why we should bring back massive (i.e. 90%) inheritance taxes.

        You might want to look at what philanthropy accomplished before there were significant death taxes:

        The Carnegie Libraries. Standford University. The Rockefeller Foundation and the elimination of parasitical diseases in the American South, the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg....

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Beezlebub33 (1220368)

      ...including the Slingshot water purifer that Stephen Colbert made famous but that no one has actually bought yet

      Unfortunately philanthropy won't ever take off unless it's profitable. Just an inherit part of human greed.

      So, how do you make his things profitable? The water purification process seems pretty good, but there's a serious problem getting it to market.

      Seems like the best way to do it is to make it profitable for the little stores, which means that they need to be able to get the device and power and maintain it for less than they can make selling the water. Maybe through microloans or something like that.

      The real difficult part here is the maintenance and energy costs. If he really wanted to get it everywhere

    • by epine (68316)

      we have MORE than enough food

      Starting with the word "we" this screams moronic.

      The fact of the matter is that any country whose citizens are in need of food aid has a governing class who feels even more greatly deprived. It's an unsolved problem how to distribute food without paying the tin pot tax.

      The only way to be certain about where your aid dollar ends up at the end of the day is to distribute machine guys or lingerie.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:57PM (#25877243) Homepage

    If you want to get clean water from non-clean water, there are plenty of systems available. Here's a small watermaker [appliedmembranes.com] that runs on salt water. It's a reverse osmosis device, with the prefilters needed to get rid of the solid crud. Here's a simpler one for non-salt water. [appliedmembranes.com] The U.S. military uses reverse osmosis units heavily. They work fine. They scale down to straw-sized things for survival use, and scale up to city-sized desalinization plants.

    So why is Kamen's system better? Lower power consumption? Lower initial cost? Fewer consumables? The article doesn't tell us that. It's not like he's the first person to build a packaged water purifier.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sagneta (539541)
      You hit the problem I've always had with him. In fact, I could add to the list a device that extracts water right out of the air with very little power. That could be powered by electricity and solves the issue of actually getting water at all which the other devices do not. Did he ask "Is the issue lack of technology or lack of access to technology?" He never asks that question. So everything is a technological solution which is not really what the world wants nor needs.
    • by TellarHK (159748)

      The problem with reverse osmosis, is that the membranes for RO systems are very, very difficult to maintain and store in the kind of conditions you'll find in third-world nations without a supply chain following along. Membranes need to be kept refrigerated, properly sealed, and replaced on a fairly regular basis. Something that pulls off the same task with a lower level of support requirement would be a big hit in many markets, I'm sure.

      I just have zero idea how to do it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! (33014)

      Yes, but capacity isn't the only dimension on which a water purification system has to "scale". How long it can operate it without resupplying filters is a relevant factor.

      One of the reasons that poor people are poor is that they have to buy things in more expensive packages. We in the US have fabulously expensive infrastructure that that allows us to "buy" a teaspoon of clean water by turning the tap. Water filtration is a much more expensive, but it doesn't take the millions of dollars of investm

  • by Sleepy (4551) on Monday November 24, 2008 @04:03PM (#25877335) Homepage

    Inside Dean Kamen's Seceded Island of Greekery
    There, fixed it for you.

  • My understanding of Sterling-cycle engines is that the greater the delta in temperature between the heat source and the heat sink, the greater the efficiency. Mobile applications have only air for a heat sink, and thus are non-ideal. Where Sterling-cycle makes since is in a stationary generator, preferably on the coast, where you can pump up cold water from the depths to get your greatest heat differential. The ideal location would be the Hawaiian islands, with geothermal heat and deep ocean in close proxim
    • Thinking like that is exactly _why_ the world needs people like Dean Kamen.

      Irrational engineering has led either directly or indirectly to many, many of the world's great advances. Guys like Kamen are out there on the "crazy edge" of bleeding edge, for a good reason.

    • My understanding of Sterling-cycle engines is that the greater the delta in temperature between the heat source and the heat sink, the greater the efficiency. Mobile applications have only air for a heat sink, and thus are non-ideal.

      This is true of any heat engine, not just Stirling engines. If internal combustion engines have done fine with only the air as a heat sink for the past 100 years or so, I don't see why it would suddenly become a show-stopper for a Stirling engine.

    • by copponex (13876) on Monday November 24, 2008 @05:28PM (#25878385) Homepage

      Please, don't take this personally. I know you're just making a post on Slashdot. But why can't you even read one article about this before you make useless guesses?

      After two minutes of Googling, I found this diamond in the rough [wipo.int], a patent application secretively titled "STIRLING ENGINE THERMAL SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS", submitted by Dean Kamen. Though you may dislike the Segway, and I can't blame you for it, the technology came from his iBot wheel chair [ibotnow.com], which is the closest thing I've seen to offering someone who doesn't have use of their legs a chance at full mobility. This has improved the lives of thousands of people. Unless you're an aid worker or another genius inventor, your comparable contributions to society are far less, without even touching his more traditional medical inventions.

      So, with all due respect, before you pat yourself on the back for shooting down an idea you are totally ignorant of, stop typing and read about the idea first. Then, if you have something useful to say, the world will be glad to read about your idea, and then reply.

  • What I'd love to see Kamen work on would be some kind of mass-market home water purification system for use here in the US, simply because that way he'd be able to make a profitable killing. There are so few companies that manufacture equipment out there now, that they would not be difficult at all to supplant with a better product.

    US Filter, Culligan, etc, are all designed to support an infrastructure of independent distributors and not really intended for personal maintenance. The technology in these th

  • by kaizendojo (956951) on Monday November 24, 2008 @04:34PM (#25877739)

    So, is this guy all hype with overpriced devices, or is time for someone to take his genius (Segway aside) to the mass market?"

    Speaking as someone who has met Dean and worked with him on more than a few FIRST competitions, he's someone who is truly geek and lives to discover and improve things. That skill set isn't necessarily the same skills that would serve marketing and promotions people, and once Dean is set into motion he's a hard cat to stop - something you definitely want in an R&D genius.

    At some point, Dean needs to do the market research before the announcement phase but if you spend even a few minutes with the guy, you can see how excited and dedicated he is to wanting to change the world in positive ways. I imagine that when you see the world in that framework, it becomes hard to contain your excitement to the meeting rooms....

    Still, for one of the smartest and richest guys I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, he's extremely down to earth. Rare breed.

    • As another former FIRST member, I agree 100%.

      Guy give the most *depressing* speeches, though.

    • I read a quote somewhere. I think it might have been Lee Iacoca. Anyway, it advised that it takes three people to change the world.

      1. A Genius, able to see the world in fantastic new ways, a quality which negates the ability to function within or understand the workings of mundane society.
      2. A Banker, skilled in making the factories and marketing work, but who as a result cannot be anything more than incrementally innovative.
      3. A Communicator, who is too grounded to be a Genius, and too loose to be a Bank

  • And his lifelong quest to solve the Longitude problem. Being a genius isn't enough, you need superhuman tenacity.

  • I think mattnyc99 (the poster) misses one of his own points by saying "Segway aside."

    mattnyc99 points out that Kamen is trying to leverage the distiller side of the market to help fund / drive down costs to get the Stirling side of the product to market.

    The technology in the Segway comes originally from a wheelchair system that Kamen and company designed and produced. The Segway was an effort to popularize the technology to drive down costs, so that the wheelchair would be much less expensive, and wid
  • not impressed (Score:2, Flamebait)

    so this guy can design $26,000 wheelchairs that no one can afford. $12,000 electric mopeds that no one buys.

    Call me not impressed.

    And now he has some water filtration system, cost unknown, but probably pricey.

    And a Stirling engine of unknown efficiency and reliability.

    If you read between the lines of TFA you might get the impression that investors are not clamoring to invest in another expensive set of gadgets that are over-designed and over-priced and under-powered.

    • You'll be really impressed when he's flying around in a super-high-tech suit of armor powered by a Stirling engine stuck in his chest to keep the exploded Segway shards out of his heart. Although, judging from the design aesthetics of his wheelchair and the Segway, he'll look more like a greenish Michelin Man than Iron Man.

    • Re:not impressed (Score:4, Informative)

      by 2short (466733) on Monday November 24, 2008 @06:32PM (#25879131)
      You seem to have left out his first significant invention: the portable infusion pump that is now bolted to every iv stand in the industrialized world. Leaving him in a financial position where I don't think he much cares how impressed you are with his subsequent efforts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What have you invented for humanity? At any price?

      Kamen has invented the portable dialysis pump, the iBot and related technologies (segway), a water filtration system ($1500 to purify 1000 liters a day), this slingshot device, and apparantly some stirling tech for developing nations.

      Should the man give everything he makes away for free, or might it be OK to continue giving him another incentive to build some of these awesome devices?

      You really know how to take the fun out of things, I'll bet.

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