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Olympic Athlete Uses Pedal Power to Toast Bread and Make a Point

World-class cyclist Robert Förstemann demonstrates the human cost of the electrical energy we consume on a daily basis.

image via youtube screen capture

When was the last time you stopped and really thought about how much energy you’re using right now? How much wattage do you suppose your computer is sucking up? Your cell phone? The AC that’s (hopefully) keeping you cool as the temperature rises? For as ensconced as we are in our modern conveniences, surrounded by electronics that augment and regulate our daily lives, we spend shockingly little time thinking about actual electricity: Where it comes from, how we use it, and whether we are using it responsibly.


These are the questions at the heart of Nathan Grossman’s “Toaster Challenge,” which pits world-class cyclist Robert Förstemann against one of his most implacable opponents to date: A standard, 700 watt toaster.

Grossman explained to Fast Company that the idea for the Toaster Challenge originally came to him while he was working out on a stationary bike at the gym. Having long toyed with the idea of exploring the issue of energy consumption, Grossman approached Robert Förstemann, a world-champion track cyclist who, it turns out, had also been thinking along the same lines. Says Grossman to FastCo:

“With an Olympic athlete, they train for so many hours a day, and they get a lot of time to think about what they're doing. He said he's been sitting on his exercise bike viewing these watts for several years, and he always thinks about what could he do with this energy.”

Förstemann, whose thighs measured a whopping 29 inches around when the video was filmed, is shown clearly struggling to maintain the wattage necessary to toast a single piece of white bread. And while he does ultimately give the slice in question a nice golden-brown crisp, it’s pretty striking to see someone as monumentally in shape as the Olympic athlete exhausted by the sheer effort necessary to get the bread just a little bit toasted. Based on his Toaster Challenge, Grossman estimates it would take nearly 200 Förstemanns pedaling at full speed to power a car, and tens of thousands to successfully get a plane off the ground. Who needs horsepower when we could calculate Förstemann-power, instead?

Novelty aside, what Grossman and Förstemann have done is offer us a unique way of looking at just what it means to live in a world powered by electricity. While we may tend to forget, misunderstand, or simply ignore the processes necessary to energize our devices and appliances, the truth is that even something seemingly simple, like toasting a slice of bread, requires a breathtaking (in this case – literally) amount of power. And while relying on Förstemann-power isn’t exactly a feasible, scale-able energy solution, his efforts can hopefully make us all a little more conscientious about the electricity we use everyday.

[via fast company]

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