#15 We're gonna need a lot more watts!
Chroma product roadmap, updates, and projects: 1) ridiculously cold pillow finally in stock; 2) radiative cooling concepts 3) vaginal red light therapy device updates; 4) world's greatest frying pan
The Chroma Chamber (on roadmap)
I have always wanted more powerful systems. In fact, more energy is the foundation of all human desires and demands, even if the path to that may meander and transform through complex layers of production. The nature of energy, life, production, coordination, and technology, the more abstract concepts, are the core of my other newsletter (recently renamed, Heaviside) so I won’t get into that too much here. Needless to say, with red and near-infrared light therapy, the need for more power is rather straightforward. Power is actually a rather simple concept: it is the rate at which energy is being used — the more power, the faster you deliver energy. A watt is 1 joule per second, and for consumer electronics, power can be measured rather easily with a $15 watt-meter that goes in between your power outlet and the plug of your device. This captures the total energy since it all passes through that capable — the only people measuring the power of a red or near-infrared light device based on the light output, something that is rather hard to measure, especially given that the light goes everywhere in a bunch of directions, is something that is only done by two types of people: idiots and sociopaths. Now lets be nice and assume they’re mostly idiots and only slightly evil — still not great for you as a consumer.
To this day, I am baffled by most people’s inability to shop based on simple numbers, and identify that anyone spouting power outputs that exceed power inputs are obviously lying to you. LEDs, properly used, for a particular wavelength, have a very narrow range of efficiencies, so knowing the exact input power, lets you know the actual output power rather accurately. It is about 50% efficiency, and you have a 10% knockdown on your silicon power transformer that goes from (sidenote: this is why GaN and SiC power supplies that are rapidly growing are exciting; they are far more efficient and underpin your “super chargers” for phones that are coming onto the market — we want to get GaN power supplies for the Ironforge and D-Light as this will cut down quite a bit on weight and bulk, but there is a pretty steep upfront cost now so that is probably over a year out.) so about 40% of what your watt-meter says is the radiant flux that is actually coming out of your device, of which less than 100% will actually hit your body, depending on where you position your device. If you don’t have an Ironforge, we just got more of those in stock this week!
Anyway, enough of my ranting — the point is, if you run the numbers, you will find that there is not a single device that is a match for the sun in a tropical area, ours included (for those curious, the ideal target dose is likely in 10 - 100 joule/cm^2 range — there is a biphasic response, but many people will sell you something saying “hey, too much power is actually not ideal”, meanwhile, their thing might give you 2 joules/cm^2, and only after using it for 20 minutes). That is why we focused exclusively on small devices that can get you enough power in the handful of spots you care most about — the Ironforge delivers about a tenth or more as much power as obscenely mispriced $100k+ full bed systems, and that’s comparing to the non-lousy ones. However, I think it’s finally time we start going after the full body system so we are working on building the Chroma Chamber, which will have a price point around $25k and include 30 individual Ironforges mounted within a double wide server rack enclosure, and with a large automotive radiator cooling fan at the top (we want to avoid cooking our customers…). We will ship these fully assembled to you. Here is a render of what we have in mind:
The Ironforges in the Chroma Chamber will each have the same LED boards, but we will drop driving power by 20%, which will increase radiative efficiency, and more power going into the light means less waste heat, which means we can use quieter fans so it doesn’t sound too much like an airplane taking off inside — this will be a serious industrial style system meant to deliver sufficient power for the entire body in 1-5 minutes, not a fluffy “relaxation” tool. This will be about 2.5x the power of a $120k Novothor bed. You will need a custom 220V outlet, or you can connect it to three separate outlets on three separate breakers with extension cords to bring in 5.4 kilowatts. If you want one of these (or know someone who might), and would be willing to put down a deposit in exchange for a discount, please reply to this email. We will not take deposits until we are confident we can get these all built, but gathering interest or feedback is critical to how quickly we can move forward on this project. Also, nothing is stopping you from just getting a bunch of Ironforges and making something like this yourself and some people have put 4 or so together on 1 stand. Get 12, and you are likely outperforming pretty much every whole body system.
ColdBed Pillows in Stock; Sleeping too hot problem solved!
I already introduced the ColdBed product in the prior issue of this newsletter, so I won’t spend much time beyond mentioning we finally have these in stock. Like the other products, it is simply energy physics: how many watts can get sucked into the pillow? Well, water has a huge heat capacity, so it will take forever to warm up, and the convection gives it excellent thermal conductivity so it can draw heat from your head and neck fast. You need both things, and this approach obviously is order of magnitudes better than anything else even to a sharp elementary school science student.
Sleeping hot is a major issue and most people don’t realize they have it since even what feels like “neutral” is likely hotter than ideal — if you are not sometimes on the verge of too cold, you are too hot, at least if you even remotely care about the performance, basic function, and longevity of the meat sack that is you. I’m finally back to shivering when I wake up and I love it. If you are subscribed to this newsletter you probably don’t need me to tell you all the benefits that come from cold exposure. I didn’t use the propane fireplace last night and it was a pleasant 40 degrees Fahrenheit or so when I woke up in my van (unfortunately, due to some logistical issues, I ended up in a location that is colder than I would have liked).
Since announcing the prototype, several other people have slept on it and said it’s amazing.
Pivoting TightLight Sex Toy to Aurora Wand Vaginal Red Light Therapy
You might remember from a couple newsletters ago when I mentioned a red + near-infrared dildo I was building. The main reasons I was working on this product is that it is incredibly funny. It has a Douglas Adam’s style of cosmic humor to it: guy develops world’s most advanced aerospace parts manufacturing capabilities, transforming the capabilities of their planet’s aviation and space machines — due to extreme levels of stupidity of this planet’s pre-difficulty-adjusted-proof-of-work-timestamped-hashchain post-shiny-rock Kafkaesque interregnum and disinterest among those with situational awareness and basic numeracy as to the basic economic calculus of non-equilibrium transitionary states, said dude is now a climber, mountain biker, ski bum who lives in a van and makes red light dildos to the pay the bills.
Surely this is peak comedy. It would be even funnier if it is wildly commercially successful, gets funded by “frontier tech” “serious” “hardware VC investors, and eventually gets acquired by some zombie ZIRP monstrosity of a pseudo-State entity corporation. Makes me think of Sarah Perry’s article on Venkatesh Rao’s blog (which has fallen off the past few years… we used to be mutuals on twitter and I actually met Venkat once for coffee. He probably thinks I have gone off the deep end, and our feelings our mutual, though the difference being I wouldn’t actually disagree with him, haha), On Some Possibilities for Life as a Joke. Do I ruin the joke by telling you it is a joke? I don’t think so since obviously, anyone will say it doesn’t matter what I say, that it is ‘cope’, and that my revealed preferences in actually building and delivering the product are what matters.
To make the joke less on the nose, I am rebranding from TightLight, a sex toy for vaginal tightening to Aurora Wand, a vaginal red light therapy device for overall wellness to support a number of women’s health issues such as pelvic floor issues, excess painful tightness that interferes with sex (speculative application), fertility, pre-pregnancy, post-pregnancy, and pelvic floor strength for overall athleticism.
The TightLight is actually the most annoyingly complex piece of consumer hardware I have worked on to date because system integration is always the hard part and this thing has to integrate in a very particular way that presents a number of design and manufacturing constraints. It is of course far simpler than advanced materials & manufacturing, but I have a different set of expectations in that situation. There has been a ton of enthusiasm and positive feedback along the way, but alas, due to a number of setbacks in the prototype batches, we have a lot less user feedback than I would like. In a first batch, we had the LED lamps unscrewing themselves and not turning on (I hadn’t screwed them in particularly snugly since that caused the lamps to tilt askew in a way that looked odd, and the vibration from shipping unscrewed them), and since I had used marine-grade heat shrink tube to seal everything for safety as we had not yet removed the power supply from the device… to right at the wall plug where it should have been all along. Probably the sketchiest thing I’ve ever done so in retrospect, I am happy that pretty much no one actually used those.
Then the next prototype batch was built around a product I found that was marketed as an anal glass dildo so I figured it would be pretty robust, but after a colleague suggested getting nice boxes, we ended up having metal cases that caused that glass to break in shipping — to be clear, glass breaking upon impact because it has low toughness is completely different from breaking under pressure, especially uniformly applied pressure on a cylinder (glass is extremely strong when loaded in compression in this way). Still it had me a bit spooked, so I put the project aside for a couple months because I didn’t want to deal with getting custom glass manufactured. About 6 weeks ago, I decided I should see it through and reached out to a number of glass manufacturers that could meet our specs. I increased the wall thickness 2.5x up to 4mm, which is certainly overkill, but other than overall size, no reason not to just add a ridiculous safety factor. It is borosilicate, with a proper temper, some of them have been frosted to improve the aesthetics. Still a few weeks out from having the updated versions finalized and shipping (partly because we are also rebuilding the power supply with a custom switch to have a low, 30% power mode, since I prefer to overdo things than underdo them and customers were saying it could be a tad too much heat if used for a while), but you can still go ahead and order today:
Ok, you made it through that? Great, couple more interesting topics to cover on some early stage concepts I’m working on. I sort of inserted the TightLight section to get some of the audience to stop reading as a troll — hah, suckers, you’re gonna miss some of the best parts I’ve been saving!
A Better Radiative Cooling Surface Concept than Water Walls
In the last issue, I mentioned the concept of direct cooling of walls with large quantities of water inspired by a walk in the woods by some large cool boulders, and that the whole notion of heating or cooling air to change the temperature of an indoor space given that air has 2000x less volumetric heat capacity than an indoor material like wood (similar problem with regular pillows) is absurd. You keep pumping in more and more hot/cold air and it takes forever for the physical building mass to change temperature. So your air temperature inevitably overcompensates and leads to discomfort.
Of course, huge quantities of water are rather impractical whether for production or prototypes, but I have come up with another approach after noticing an interest fact about human radiative heat transfer I didn’t mention last time: the human body radiates out 1000 watts continuously, which is an absurd amount and you are probably thinking that number must be off given net human losses are only around 100 watts. What happens is everything else also radiates heat out back at us, so most of that 1000 watts comes back. A neat thing about black body radiation is that the energy transfer rate is proportional to the 4th power of the temperature, which means if you double the temperature, heat radiated jumps 16x. This is measured in Kelvin, with room temperature being about 293 K so it doesn’t get too crazy around human temperatures, but it means small-ish temperature changes can lead to fairly outsized shifts, and since we have that baseline 1000 watts, a small percentage change there is a 10x larger percentage change when looking at net loss.
Rather than water walls throughout a building, I can take a similar approach as with the Chroma Sky Portal, where the idea is that by applying light in a highly localized way in the desk environment, it is possible to achieve sufficient spectral intensity without an obscene quantity of LEDs and power consumption. I can build a roughly 1.5 by 2 meter cooling panel that will be positioned about arms length above my sleeping surface (perhaps with some sort of system to allow it to be pulled up vertically out of the way when not in use). Rather than water, I can use peltier coolers attached to an aluminum diffusion panel, and coated with black barbeque paint for high emissivity so that the radiative heat from my body is absorbed rather than reflected. The peltier coolers can also bring the surfaces down to much colder temperatures than could be easily achieved with water, and offer the simplicity of no plumbing, though at the expensive of some energy consumption at a 30-40% efficiency rate that is heating up the global room temperature (though this is likely more than offset by not needing as much AC).
I intend to build this for myself as soon as I am not van dwelling, but I do not intend to make a product out of it since making something this big and clunky that isn’t ugly to be consumer facing is not all that easy. If it can work at a bed, it can probably also work pretty well for a person sitting at a desk.
I looked into it, and sure enough, things like this have been done. There are some companies building radiative cooling walls for use in outdoor bus stops in hot cities such Singapore, and it seems they are rather effective!
The Ultimate Steak Searing and all-around Frying Pan
Throwing this in here because ruminant meat is the foundation of health and most people cook their meat, though I do enjoy raw beef from time to time (the Maillard reaction is nice, but I also enjoy the reaction of other people when I eat raw beef). I also saw a bunch of people on Bitcoin Twitter arguing about cast iron vs stainless steel pans and wondered if there would be a way to beat both.
This is a silicon carbide wafer, a disk, actually, as it is 5mm thick. Remember a few sections up when we were talking about power electronics and the semiconductor materials being used to improve the efficiency of power supplies that transform AC electricity to DC (or inverters, which do the reverse)? Yep, same sort of silicon carbide, and power supplies are the sort of thing this company usually manufactures this stuff for. SiC IGBT inverter modules are a core component of an electric vehicle and make up at least 7% (I saw other stats saying 10%, but cannot find those now) of the powertrain cost. It ain’t cheap. There’s a good reason no one makes SiC pans. My manufacturing costs exceed the pricing of almost every high end pan, and many high end pans are selling at something like a 10:1 price:cost ratio.
It turns out, electrical power is not the only thing silicon carbide is good at transferring. Works pretty well when it comes to moving heat as well. In particular, silicon carbide has excellent thermal diffusivity, about 3x higher than that of cast iron, and this tells us how quickly heat can redistribute through the material. Cast iron is the go to choice for home chefs due to total heat capacity that can build up over time, whereas a restaurants often will go with carbon steel since they have burners powerful enough to keep the pans hot. The problem with cast iron’s low thermal diffusivity is that as soon as the cool steak touches the pan’s surface, your temperature there shoots down, and there is significant lag until it re-warms. My hypothesis is that people overcompensate for this steep temperature drop off by overheating the pan beyond the optimal Maillard reaction zone, resulting in a process where first the pan is too hot, burning the steak, and then it is promptly too cold, leading to an insufficient sear, which may be compensated for by overcooking. The goal is to have a steady temperature by using silicon carbide, though of course, there are non-linear process in the steak as well, including evaporation, so targeting a more uniform heat flux might not be the true optimal, but I expect it to be a substantial improvement.
Some other benefits of SiC is that the surface energy is much lower than something like stainless steel so it is inherently less stick without a possibly toxic, low durability coating (everything claiming to be a “ceramic” pan is pretty much a lie, they are use a certain class of polymer coating with silicon oxide bonds that is a bit ceramic-esque, but not really). Stainless steel also has even worse thermal diffusivity than cast iron, with about 3x lower thermal conductivity, and even an all-clad pans top and bottom layers acts like massive insulators. Another aspect of the polish is the Leidenfrost effect — if you fry an egg on this, you will get a thin vapor layer that will prevent sticking that a rougher surface would puncture. This is similar to stainless steel where you need the pan to be hot first to get an egg not to stick, but steel will immediately gouge, puncturing the vapor layer, whereas there is quite likely nothing in your kitchen that will scratch silicon carbide short of a diamond ring if you have one.
We have a handful of silicon carbide disks currently en route to a cast iron company where we will attempt to cast these into iron, and then machine it down since we don’t want to much cast iron mass (SiC holds more heat per pound). Making the entire pan out of SiC would have cost us something like $20k, so we are taking this approach instead. There are still some uncertainties as to what final costs will be in production, but it’s looking like we will be pricing these in the $600-900 range. No website or brand name yet, but if you want to buy one of the prototypes, please reply and let me know.
Bonus: this pan will also be far more effective when it comes to stopping small caliber bullets. Hopefully, you never have to use that feature.
Your choices are simple: consume, and decrease bitcoin’s float, for I will hodl, or accept the inferiority of your pan to mine. You have to live with one of those choices. This is the law of the excluded middle. The free markets are coming, the real free markets, the ones you have never experienced or probably even properly attempted to fathom, and you probably aren’t ready. I am not ready either.
I always love the ridiculous gear you come up with. What are you considering the optimal temp range for searing? (And check out the cinder grill, they were doing precise temp control of their "ceramic" plates. I use mine almost every day, since its way more convenient than sous vide. I usually just sear it on the cinder, but I've been swapping it over to some all-clad for the sear lately to make a pan sauce after.
I am definitely interested in the pan. I would have no problem paying USD 1000 or more in order to cook perfect steaks.