What better topic for my first blog posting than combining one of my favorite foods (the hamburger) with one of my favorite topics (the computer)?
Recently, while in DC, a friend convinced me to go to one of our favorite haunts, Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, VA. Interestingly, this was the very same day President Obama decided to treat Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to a hamburger at this fine establishment just before us. There were several camera crews still in attendance interviewing onlookers as we rolled up to the restaurant.
Now there’s a very good reason Obama would take the president of Russia to this hamburger place. The fact is that these are some of the best burgers in existence. Allow me to explain. For about 12 bucks, you get a side, drink and a 10-ounce burger grilled to perfection served with toppings from Vermont cheddar to sautéed mushrooms and onions to fois gras and truffle oil.
What exactly does this all have to do with computers? I’m getting there. While eating this delicious burger I did exactly what one is not supposed to do: I estimated the amount of calories in said burger. The burger accounts for over 615 calories while cheese, bacon and bun add another 385 calories to the mix. Perhaps more disturbingly the burger alone consists of over 56 grams of fat. Yikes.
So, I got to thinking how long I would have to get on the stationary bike to burn off the 1,000 calories contributed by this burger. Then it occurred to me that if we all ate giant burgers, felt guilty afterwards, then tried to burn off the calories, we might be able to use the resulting energy power the world’s computers!
Since I like to do the stationary bike occasionally, I know that in about an hour, according to the electronics in the bike, I can burn off about 1,000 calories if I average about 16-20 miles per hour with some amount of hills programmed in. Wonderful. Aside from the damage to my arteries from eating the burger, if stricken with guilt I can at least get back those calories.
So, the real question is how long can I power my computer for the equivalent of one burger’s worth of calories? Well, after doing some digging, I found out that there is actually a competition to identify the highest number of watt-hours a human on a stationary bike can produce. The current record is about 430 watts; that is, someone was able to keep an average rate of 430 watts over the course of one hour on a stationary bike. Someone competing in the Tour de France will vary in their watt production between 100 and 500 watts depending on the speed, hill, etc.
So, for someone like me, capable of burning nearly 1,000 calories per hour, that is the equivalent of about 100 watt-hours of energy. I’m obviously no Lance Armstrong but I’m not sure whether Lance has ever gotten to enjoy a Ray’s Hell Burger. That means my hamburger, when processed by this human body can power my 80 watt laptop computer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
There are about a billion computers out there today. The typical desktop computer consumes about 200 watts. So, alone I couldn’t power my desktop. But together with the help of these massive burgers, the world could power about 500,000 desktop computers (or about a million laptops) for 24 hours a day all year long just by doing a burger’s worth of exercise.
Now that’s green.
Kirk W. Cameron is CEO of MiserWare, Inc. and an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of MiserWare or Virginia Tech.