When your God-given name is the same as one of the pillars of Romantic poetry, you had better make a name for yourself. Fortunately, for Jonathon Keats, it’s go big or go home.

As creator of the nation’s first Oujia voting booth and a photosynthetic restaurant for plants, the polymathic Keats is an experimental philosopher based in the United States and Italy. His bottomless well of creative thought inspired the New Yorker to christen him the “poet of ideas.”


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Not to disappoint, Keats’ next project is just as ambitious. In fact, this one is quite electric.

Starting April 12th, a data processing center in the basement of New York’s Rockefeller Plaza will become the world’s first computing hub powered entirely by international currency exchange. That energy will be produced on location by swapping ions between newly-minted US cents and Chinese fen.

“Money is inherently unstable,” said Keats in a press release. “Currency traders have learned to play the market for their own financial gain. At Rockefeller Plaza, we’re looking at currency fluctuation as more than a mere abstraction. We’re actually putting money to work.”

True, the market is a precarious beast, but Keats says the only “monetary instabilities” he exploits are “metallic.” Pennies are made of copper while fen are composed of aluminum — two metals susceptible to galvanic corrosion when submerged in seawater. So Keats is giving the coins a saltwater bath. As the pennies and fen exchange ions, they generate electricity that can be tapped.

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“You can think of it as electro-chemical arbitrage,” said Keats. “And it works equally well in bull and bear markets. With our current setup, using several dozen cells filled with saltwater from the Pacific Ocean, we’ve generated as much as 18.7 volts.”

That will be enough juice to power all three units of 20 Rock’s data processing center, with a budget of just under three dollars.

So if you’re in Manhattan next month, stop by the Engineer’s Office Gallery and head to the basement hallway of 20 Rockefeller Plaza.

Unlike some historical landmarks in Texas would lead you to believe, who says you can’t find what you’re looking for in the basement?