Well, we didn't see this coming. It turns out that breasts can be a source of power. Er, wait. That they can generate power, and in a number of ways.
First, there was the frequently blogged-about solar bra, which is really more of a solar corset. It has solar panels and claims to be able to power an iPod or other small device, which is great, because you're definitely going to want to listen to anything but the comments on the street when you're wearing this alternative energy-producing garment:
Meanwhile, Slate's Adrienne So has got an idea for harnessing the kinetic power of bouncing breasts and suggests inventing a bionic bra. The bra would capture the energy of breasts moving up and down -- and to a lesser extent, side-to-side and front-to-back -- while a woman goes running, for example.
I decided to run the question past some scientists. It turns out that the physics of breast motion has been studied closely for the last two decades by a gamut of researchers - most of them women. LaJean Lawson, a former professor of exercise science at Oregon State University, has been researching breast motion since 1985 and now works as a consultant for companies such as Nike to develop better sports-bra designs. Lawson is enthusiastic about my idea, but warns that it will be tricky to execute. You would need the right breast size and the right material, she explains, and the bra itself would have to be cleverly designed. "It's just a matter of finding the sweet spot, between reducing motion to the point where it's comfortable but still allowing enough motion to power your iPod," she says.
Lawson explains that breasts move on three different axes: from side to side, front to back, and up and down. The most motion is generated on the vertical axis. Naturally, the bigger the breast, the more momentum it generates. "Let's face it - if you're a double-A marathoner, you're probably not going to get that iPod up and running," Lawson says. Measurements compiled by Lawson and her colleagues show that a D-cup in a low-support bra can travel as much as 35 inches (89cm) up and down (35 inches!) during exercise, while a B-cup in a high-support bra barely moves an inch.
And then, of course, there's the unnerving practice of converting one's own body fat into fuel. While this hasn't been done -- that we're aware -- with breasts, it falls into the category if it-could-happen-but-we'd-be-freaked-out-about-it.