High > Low < Tech

2 weekly blog resisting the second law


November 2014

Chapter 5 – Engineering Man

Bob Marley – Easy shanking

Last time we left our hero some of his ideals went up in smoke … literally. Smoke that weakened his powers because of plastic. Plastic he tried to fight, the sun gave him the power but it seemed to be polymeric kryptonite.


Creative Commons, Photo credit Divya KK

As we now join our hero engineering man – or e-man for short – again he is lost in time. Days are slowly passing by working, talking, eating. Although the day to day routine is more or less the same no two days are alike and far from boring. There is no weekend but work is relaxt and so the sense of time slowly dissolves. A newly set up hammock and fire pit add to the relaxation. A “dangerous” bliss.

sugar cane

His assigned mission was to find a way to eliminate the need of buying 700 bottles of water per month for the visitors. A two faced opponent this proofed to be. There is an self-installed filter plant – but 2 kilometers away. Installing a new one is not an option as electrification and maintenance are costly. When e-man and his super best friends try to attack with concepts to utilize the already installed scheffler solar cooker for water pasteurizing or distillation the estimated costs explode.

And that is not all. Bottled water is 90% marketing. In the first world even 100% (in Utrecht, Netherlands the local tap water supply plant is neighbored by a big table water production plant – same well). That marketing creates a certain mindset in people from there. Totally drinkable water here will not be accepted in bottles with broken seals. So refilling bottles at the filter plant is not an option. Luckily they never give up and eventually come up with an solution. #waterdispenser #refillablemetalbottles #bigcannistersfilledinfilterplant


So its back to the plastic. Using his special tinkering powers e-man has executed some experiments with the solar cooker. But he realizes that he will not be able to win this fight alone. So for the breaking attack where the polymeric enemy is to be melted in sand and bound in form of a pod he invites the community. The turn-up exceeds expectations. At times there are more than 20 people on the roof. Three mixing in the cooker at the same time, everyone with opinions and questions. The energy is awesome. And although the pod turns out to be an modern art ashtray it is a great success. In the evening as the volunteer league gathers around the fire under the stars possibilities seem infinite. E-man won back his powers. But to accumulate more strength E-man has taken up yoga according to the ways of chef X.



Creative Commons, Photo credit Divya KK

More experiments follow. Distributing the heat evenly in a lowtech way is the big issue. A improvised mini stone oven disappoints greatly. What to do? Write the answer in a comment down below till the 30. of November and win a meet and greet with E-man and other awesome prices.

 solar cooker

Creative Commons, Photo credit Lawrence Miglialo

For now our heros try to motivate some of  the many recycling collectors to visit the village on a regular basis to reduce garbage and in exchange generate some extra money for the villagers. Collecting the milk packages (worth half a rupee per piece) would already decrease the amount of burned polymeres by 60%.

And even you too can help to fight the polymeric menace at home. Avoid plastic packaging, bring your own reusable bags to the supermarket or go to the farmers market etc. etc. There is so much one can do with little to no extra effort and it saves money too. Money you can spend on superhero comics and merchandise or whatever.


So stay tuned for the next adventure of engineering man.


Creative Commons, Photo credit Lawrence Miglialo


All photos (except indicated differently) in this blog are my own and are not allowed to be used without my explicit permission.


Chapter 4 – Shame and Ashes (and Steam and Plastic)

SEEED – Deine Zeit

There I stand staring at the flames. Pillow stuffing smoldering, Styro foam wrinkling up, cable rails melting. The green and blue flames rise above the barrel rim sending thick, dirty smoke further up in the air. You can almost taste the soot. A slight breeze in my back. Otherwise it would be unbearable to stand here. I started the fire and now the garbage from the storage is burning. It will take all afternoon to throw all the stuff in the flames. It will then burn and smolder for another day and take two more days for the barrel to cool down before the ashes get dumped in to a trench 20 meters further. Not exactly renewable or sustainable or environmental friendly and not healthy at all.


Here I can see the full implications of failed product lifecycle management[1]. Manufactures feel no responsibility for disposal of their products. It is a worldwide problem but in the “developed world” we don’t see it because of an elaborate garbage disposal system. Well “elaborate”. More often then not the garbage is still burned but far away from our awareness. Here every piece of non biodegradable garbage that enters the community has no way out … except by fire. Every two days the smell of cancer lingers in the air and makes me wonder how the acceptance of plastic packaging would change in Europe if we had to burn every piece of it in our own garden/yard/balcony. I oppose garbage burning by every means yet I am considering designing a crude incinerator so the plastic at least burns at higher temperature reducing the toxicity of the fumes. I betrayed my ideals. As my lector used to say: Ideals are for those who can afford them.


Meanwhile the designs for a steam cooking system using the Scheffler dish advanced to a pasteurizing system and back to a steam cooking system. The changing preferences and Diwali[2] leave me with time for my “hobby”. A hobby with two side effects:

1. Exposure: A lot of people from the village are curious about my experiments trying to melt plastic with the solar cooker

2. Frustration: None of my exeriments have brought any useful result so far.

I had high hopes for mixing plastic (PET) with sand in the solar cooker in order to create a versatile, processable paste. But no paste. Only sand sticking to PET pieces. The process seems to be far more intricate then I thought. I wish I could develop a simple process to recycle the plastic garbage and reduce the toxic fumes… Any ideas are welcome.


A day trip to the camel fair in Pushkar leaves us somewhat disappointed on the camel part. But it still ends up to be a great day. Mainly due to the fact that after weeks of rice, dal and vegetables 3 times a day we endulge ourselves in ecstatic spheres of tastes. Fruit salad, a credible pizza … with cheese … lots of it, mint squishee, pakora, katjori, falafel, pasta with pesto, tomato soup, apples, papaya…. Never have I enjoyed the variety of food so much.

Enjoy your meals today!!!


 Creative Commons, Photo credit Lawrence Miglialo




All photos (except indicated differently) in this blog are my own and are not allowed to be used without my explicit permission.

Blog at

Up ↑