August 19, 2013
About inventing

Indeterminate hiatus

Filed under: About inventing - 19 Aug 2013

About seven years ago, I began posting a new idea here almost every day.

I expect to continue to have and record new ideas, but sadly these must remain unpublished -at least for the forseeable future.

This results from my need to avoid commercial conflicts with a forthcoming business venture I’m involved in.

I’d like to express my sincere thanks to everyone who has commented on this work (even those who had better ideas than me!)

If you’d like to remain in touch, do please do so via the contact page here.

I leave you, for now, with the important words of Alan Kay:

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Cheers,
Patrick

August 17, 2013
Whimsical inventions

#2450: BugsLift

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 17 Aug 2013

Who would have thought that insects could affect the economics of air travel. I’m still not really convinced by this article.

It did, however, inspire today’s invention.

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Imagine coating a light aircraft in a form of lightweight, spray-on glue.

If you then fly through dense clouds of insects, a proportion of them will end up trapped by the adhesive but in an orientation which still allows them to flap their wings.

Let’s assume that insects have a mass of 0.1g and can exert a maximum upwards force equal to twice their bodyweight.

This means that a 5000kg aircraft would need about 26 million such insects to provide enough lift to allow it to hover.

Even if that is unattainable outside a locust swarm, insects could still provide a substantial proportion of the lift required to sustain an aircraft in flight, thus increasing fuel economy (albeit in a stupidly cruel way).

Whimsical inventions

#2449: Teamagnify

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 17 Aug 2013

If you appear in some team photo or other multi-person image, today’s invention allows you to differentiate yourself (and perhaps some friends) from all those other people whose names you may never have known anyway.

It consists of a small, self adhesive plastic lens which you can stick to the glass of a photo frame -over your own, minute facial image.

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This allows you to become much more recognisable and thus prove that you were actually on that 2nd XI team in 1984; right next to old whatshisname.

August 16, 2013
Possible inventions

#2448: ThRead

Filed under: Possible inventions - 16 Aug 2013

Today’s invention is a name badge or other physical label which can be created, modified or recycled very rapidly.

Imagine a mat of stiff, open-weave fabric, about the size of a business card.

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This can be fed into a small embroidery machine which will loosely sew a user-specified message.

An algorithm works out the most legible way to reproduce some text and/or graphical elements, using a single strand of colour-contrasting thread. When you leave a meeting, simply pull on one end of the thread for the message to disappear (thus avoiding the confusing experience of having strangers address you later using your first name).

As well as name badges for conference-goers, this could extend to the creation of one-off messages on T shirts or tents.

August 14, 2013
Whimsical inventions

#2447: Transformair

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 14 Aug 2013

If we can have flying machines like the Osprey whose rotors turn into propellers, then today’s invention is another form of slightly unlikely aircraft.

Imagine a large, twin rotor helicopter, powered by two gas turbines and capable of vertical takeoff.

rotaryfix

At altitude, the rotor blades on each axle slide around and link together -forming two sets of fixed, conventional wings (grey).

After a few seconds of steep glide, the jet turbine exhaust(yellow) is directed backwards to provide propulsion (and, via the new wings, lift).

Possible inventions

#2446: HuBurst

Filed under: Possible inventions - 14 Aug 2013

In the higher reaches of motor racing, pitstops can be crucial. Shaving a few hundredths of a second off your time spent at zero velocity is surprisingly important.

Today’s invention is a small contribution towards that goal.

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As the car is jacked up, an air driver is used to remove the wheel nut (yellow).

As the nut is removed, it rips open the tyre’s air valve, causing it to deflate via a tube directed towards the chassis (red).

This provides some extra momentum to the wheel being removed, so that it flies more readily off the axle.

August 13, 2013
Possible inventions

#2445: Blackspotlights

Filed under: Possible inventions - 13 Aug 2013

Streetlights seem to be either on, or off (if we forget about any warming up period).

It’s usually hard to make a case for lighting some streets more brightly than others.

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It seems, however, that New York has now made available data which map where road accidents occur.

Today’s invention is to use this information to vary the light emitted from individual streetlights.

An area with a high incidence of traffic accidents would automatically get their lights set to brighter-than-normal. Other, less accident-prone streets would be less brightly illuminated.

This would result in an easing of accident blackspots, as well as a net reduction in the lighting costs for hard-pressed city administrators.

Whimsical inventions

#2444: MagmaMould

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 13 Aug 2013

In many places volcanoes exude a flow of liquid rock almost continously.

Today’s invention offers a way for local communities to exploit this, by offering mementos to visiting pyrophiles.

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A mould could be created (by local craftsmen) and attached to a tractor using a long spar made of high melting point steel.

As the tractor drives the mould into the magma, the trapped gas escapes through a vent in the top.

The tractor withdraws and the rock within the mould gradually cools, allowing stone sculptures to be extracted for later sale.

August 10, 2013
Possible inventions

#2443: Launchlift

Filed under: Possible inventions - 10 Aug 2013

I’m always in search of new flying systems and today’s invention is a way to help aircraft escape the deck of a carrier.

These vessels have giant lifts which transport planes to the flightdeck from the bowels of the ship.

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Imagine if, instead of a sedate journey upwards, the lift was designed to boost a plane (or several planes) vertically above the deck and say 30m into the sky.

The acceleration would be limited by the pilot’s tolerance for g-force, but at that height, the plane’s engines would fire up and allow it to clear the side of the deck as it fell seawards before gaining altitude and flying away.

Whimsical inventions

#2442: SeatShares

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 10 Aug 2013

I’ve been spending too much time lately, poring over the minutiae provided on seatguru.com. It almost seems as if they will soon be rating each actual seat: “Seat 29B has an unfortunate stain on the armrest and a non-functioning earphone jack”. I guess with mobile communications, that is currently possible.

Anyway, today’s invention is a new concept in commercial flight.

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It’s normally assumed that when you buy a seat, you will stay located there for all of your journey.

Instead, imagine that you are travelling on a long-haul flight and want to pay extra for a wide seat and some comparatively decent grub…but for only part of your trip.

Halfway through a long flight, a light would turn on over your seat telling you to swap with the person in 22C, who has also bought a cattle+/business- ticket.

(People might have to pay more for a business class seat during the latter half of a flight than the first part).

This system could also work for swaps within a given class…offering hope if you start off sitting beside someone who is too large/sweaty/chatty…or whatever. Seat swaps would have to occur staggered over a few minutes to avoid a chaotic game of musical chairs.

Maybe there is even some scope for a passengerguru.com -which allows people to rate their neighbours.

Feasible inventions

#2441: Tapwriter

Filed under: Feasible inventions - 10 Aug 2013

It seems that the Kremlin is thinking of returning to typewriters instead of computers. In the 1970s, the Soviets developed a special sensor which could interpret the vibrations of windows in US Govt. buildings when typewriters were in use.

They could thus read the content of any secret memos in preparation.

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Although silent, non-networked machines are still used to create certain documents, I’m told, today’s invention is simply a tapper device which bumps the window with a wide variety of frequencies and amplitudes whenever a keyboard of any kind is in use in a room. It might be possible to have it tap the window according to the content of a particularly rude but non-secret message, for example.

This should effectively scramble any possible eavesdropping, for both/any sides in a future cold war.

August 7, 2013
Whimsical inventions

#2440: ChopperChopper

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 07 Aug 2013

Today’s invention is a new form of armament for military helicopters.

A belt of bullets (with no gunpowder) is fed up a tube inside the drive shaft of the main rotor (red circles).

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This emerges from the end of a rotor blade.

At this point, a computer-controlled chopping device precisely times the separation of a bullet from its belt (white box), so that it flies off tangentially towards its target.

Each rotor blade can therefore act as a catapult arm, delivering enormous firepower (as long as the timing carefully avoids the tail rotor).

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