A container for water made from water?

I received this via email a while ago from Thomas Frey in the US. My instant reaction was that it was nuts and the email ended up being deleted. But then I had second thoughts and removed the email from the rubbish bin. Perhaps the idea isn’t so crazy after all. And what was it that Einstein said about crazy ideas? “If it doesn’t sound absurd then there’s no hope for it.” Something like that. So take off your cynical spectacles and read on….

“Last week I got into a discussion with a friend about the concept of self-contained water. If you think in terms of picking up a bottle of water, only without the bottle, you get the picture.

Rocks are self-contained, baseballs are self-contained, so why can’t we devise some way to make water self-contained? Yes, we have ice, but I’m referring to a more usable form of water. As an example, if water itself could be used to form a somewhat hardened skin around a small quantity of water, we could create 100% consumable water with zero waste.

An industrial design team in London has come the closest with something called “Ooho,” a blob-like water container made out of an edible algae membrane. While it still involves using something other than water, it does give us clues on how to make a container out of what we’re trying to contain, in this case water.

As we imagine our way through this design problem, many more questions come to light. Should it be flexible like a plastic bag or a bit more ridged like a typical water bottle? What is the ideal shape? Should it be a cube for easy stacking, have a handle for easy holding, or spherical just because it looks cool?

Even a container made of water will get dirty, so how do we clean the dirt from the side of a solid water container? More water?More importantly, what is the optimal size for a self-contained water container? Should it be cup sized, quart-sized, gallon-sized, or larger? Or maybe marble-sized or pea-sized water pellets would work best.

Should the water be “eaten” like tiny liquid snacks that could be popped into your mouth at any time? Perhaps we would want flavored water like cherry water, tea water, coffee water, or chocolate water. Maybe we don’t actually eat or drink the container. Once the inside water is gone, it may be possible to just discard the bottle onto a lawn or flowerbed, as a form of enviro-littering, and wait for it to re-liquefy, sending a few drops of moisture to the thirsty plants below.

How would we fabricate the container part of water? Would it somehow be molded, pressed, 3D printed, or simply sprayed onto a form.”

Why water can be good for you


As some of you might know, I’m a fan of clutter (“If a messy desk is the sign of a messy mind, what then can be said of an empty desk?” – Einstein or thereabouts).

However, things have started to get of control, so I’ve been cleaning up my desktop and my actual desk. A sense of inner calm, similar to that achieved when I throw lots of things away, has now returned.

On other news, the emerging technologies map is done and is off to the designer tomorrow and I’ve finished another brainmail issue, which will be up next week.

Two other things. First, a good article in the conversation about ‘Repair Cafes’, especially the Bower Reuse & Repair Centre in Sydney’s inner west. If you don’t already know about these, they are places where local people can drop in and get stuff fixed. You might relate this to economic conditions, but I don’t think that’s quite it. I think it has more to do with the need to touch things and understand how things work (a digital antidote).

The other thing has to with minds rather than making, although, of course, the two are always related. I seem to be spending more time these days thinking about and talking about innovation and creativity and, in particular, my book Future Minds about how digital and physical environments shape the way we feel and think.

Today, for example, I got an email from someone in Bangalore who had just read Future Minds and wanted me to elaborate my point that: “Being by moving water seems to work – it dilutes the effects of the digital era”.

My point here is that when I did some research for the book about where people did their ‘best thinking’, being alone come up quite a bit, but so too did water, especially being in or by moving water. What could this be about? One explanation someone once gave me (and this could be utter nonsense) is that moving water creates negative ions, which aren’t negative at all in the sense of how they make us feel. BTW, that photo above is making me feel very sad indeed – it’s Sydney.

More here if you are interested.

Water water everywhere (but less and less to drink)

In 2001 a number of agricultural research scientists were briefed to investigate future world food production. At the same time a group of UN scientists embarked on an assessment of the likely economic and social impacts of water shortages in developing nations, while a third group, representing major water, oil and chemical companies, looked at the influence of water scarcity on company and national economic performance.

When the three reports were published they painted a picture of future supply disruption and economic crises unless the way the world uses water changes dramatically. Demand for clean water is expected to increase by 100 per cent between 2007 and 2040, largely because of urbanisation and industrialisation. In other words, we are at the very edge of sustainability, even before the effects of climate change are factored in.

However, the good news is that solutions are neither costly nor difficult. Growing drought-resistant varieties of crops and shifting consumer demand away from ‘thirsty’ foods, for instance, would save an enormous amount of water and would be a far better investment than expensive dams and pipe networks. Farming using irrigation, for example, uses over 60 per cent of all water taken from rivers and aquifers globally, and while the world grows twice as much food as it did a generation ago we use three times as much water to do it.

To produce a single kilogram of rice, for instance, requires between 2,000 and 3,000 litres of water. A kilogram jar of instant coffee takes 20,00 litres, a litre of milk 4,000 litres, a single hamburger 11,000 litres and a cotton T-shirt 7,000 litres of water. Other low-tech solutions include the increased use of grey water recycling and desalination (21 plants are already proposed in California alone). So in the future expect to see ordinary people becoming involved in the ‘ethics’ of water.

There will be new water taxes and consumer boycotts of companies that are profligate in their use of water or use cloud seeding unfairly. Finally it’s worth mentioning that water is potentially China’s Achilles heel. Four hundred out of China’s six hundred biggest cities are already short of water and the country has well below-average water resources per capita, which could potentially put a spanner in the works of China’s development model.