Episode 32: Plasma Converter

I read this piece in the magazine a couple of times to make sure I wasn't missing anything before I made the call. Let me get this straight: you put garbage into the machine—any kind of garbage, it doesn't matter—and this thing breaks it down to its component elements, generating only steam, a few harmless byproducts, and a synthetic gas that can be further refined into useful fuels like hydrogen, natural gas and ethanol? And the whole process generates enough energy to keep itself running plus a little extra that you can sell back to the grid? Come on! It sounds way too good to be true—also I'd like one in my kitchen, please. (I have a really big, garbagey kitchen.)

Joseph Longo, whose company, Startech, makes the device, appears to be yet another charming, humble supergenius who's changing the world. What's with these guys? I keep waiting to talk to someone who's doing great things but has a really bad attitude. But no evil genius here. Longo immediately won me over with his story about furry olives, and kept the hits coming with various philosophical musings about the nature of technological change.

Another detail you won't want to miss: the plasma conversion process uses manmade lightning three times hotter than the surface of the sun. Awesome!

—Jonathan Coulton


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