“Two robots walked into a restaurant. Both read the menu. What do you think they ordered?” asked my new friend as we sat in a restaurant for lunch.
“I don’t know,” I answered, “I don’t think about what robots eat.”
“Aw…guess!” Implored my friend implored.
“I don’t know. As far as I know, robots are electrical…they don’t eat.”
“What do you think they do? Just plug into the wall and charge their batteries. What a sterotype!”
“I never thought about it.”
“Watch those two over there at the counter.”
“Those are robots?” I asked surprised. They looked much like everyone else in the restaurant.
“Yeah…they come in all shapes and sizes. Those are Robo-Walker Mark 7 models. They do look surprisingly lifelike don’t they?
“If they were flesh and blood they’d be knockouts…what are they doing here? Does the bartender have an extension cord?” I laughed.
“Hide and watch!” my friend smiled, “They’re getting more lifelike every day.”
The two robots sat quietly at the counter and quietly ordered something from the menu. A few minutes later as we watched they were each delivered a whole cherry pie and a teapot hot water.
I glanced at my companion. “What?” I asked, “What are they doing with those?”
As I watched both robots cut the pies in very small pieces and then mashed them finer with a fork. Then, each of them poured a cup of hot water, and dissolved about ten packs of sugar into the hot water.
“Oh, come on,” I exclaimed, “Even robots shouldn’t play with their food.”
“They’re not playing,” said my friend, “Just like you and I are.”
“Yeah, right…whole cherry pies and hot sugar solution…I always eat that kind of stuff!”
“But then, you’re not a robot. You’re powered by a chemical oxidation process that produces chemical power to your muscles in addition to electrical power to your nerves and electrical pathways. The other thinks you eat are for the support of those mechanisms.”
“Imagine that all those same processes occur inside the robot inside a power source called a microbial fuel cell where bacterial oxidize and use food the same way you do, but produce electrical energy to drive the robot at the same time.”
“You’re kidding, right? The robot eats to feed the bacteria in the fuel cell?”
“Why are they eating pies and sugared water?”
“For the sugar, of course, the bacteria metabolize the sugar for energy and cell growth producing electricity in the process.”
“Why didn’t they order a steak or a hamburger and fries? They have a lot of calories for energy.”
“Yeah, but bacteria are simple systems that function best on simple, uncomplicated mixtures of nutrients. Certain foods are optimum…in this case, sugar.”
“Ok, so they don’t need an extension cord…just a good sugar supply.”
“Ok, but I don’t plan to take any robots to lunch.”
“No, never…I don’t know any robots anyway.”
“You never know when you’ll meet one!”
“I doubt it.”
“How long have you known me?”
“About a week I guess.”
“What’s my name?”
“Darrell…what are you asking me that for?”
“My other name is Xavier Model 0419.”
“Don’t make me laugh! You’re sitting here drinking with me and eating French fries.”
“Yeah, Jack, that’s right…my fuel cell bacteria can metabolize the starch in fries and the carbon in the alcohol in booze…but you’ll never hear me slurring words or hear of me getting a DUI…because I don’t metabolize booze the same way you do!”
Damn, my foot tasted bad and my shoe was just the right size to fit my mouth.
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