A soot-covered scientist at the Grand Academy of Lagado successfully extracted sunlight from cucumbers and stored it in aluminum cans. The discovery will allow energy producers to generate solar-powered electricity at night and will provide unlimited on-demand wintertime heat, researchers said.
A lofty idea, but purely fictional.
The Grand Academy is an invention of Jonathan Swift, in his 1726 novel, Gulliver’s Travels. The nearly 300-year-old tale comes to life again via Vaclav Smil, the prolific (nonfiction) author and energy-and-environmental systems professor at the University of Manitoba. He discusses Swift’s cucumbers in a 2011 essay, titled “Global Energy: The Latest Infatuations.” The story resonates today because it fulfills what many people are looking for from the energy industry — a simple solution to complex problems.
Smil likens Swift’s cucumbers to what he calls energy infatuations, “it” technologies that are purported to save us from foreign oil dependency, toxic pollution and climate change. He warns against such magical thinking.