Archive for: February 2009
February 28, 2009
So this is the era of 3-D printing; or at least it will be when the 10 or so major cost issues are overcome.
Meanwhile, today’s invention is to use this technology to allow visitors to a website to design their own items of elaborate confectionery -and have them delivered by express mail.
People could select from a palette of fillings, one of bases and one of coatings or ‘enrobings.’ The setting time for each of these would be used to optimise use of the machinery and ensure compatible combinations. Certain confections might be ruled physically (if not aesthetically) impossible. The calorie content of each design would be automatically computed.
If you really must have peanut butter and ginger chocs, on a wafer base, all covered in 2mm of white chocolate, then this is probably the only way to get them.
Users could of course specify even small numbers of such delights and also decorate the outer surfaces with personal messages/logos. There might even be a vibrant online forum for trading recipes and discussing the best techniques for remotely creating a particularly tasty morsel.
I’m not sure that I see a real need for landline phones, now that a big slice of the world relies on mobiles.
The manufacturers used to make a huge benefit out of the ability to rove around your house and garden using a DECT cordless handset. The trouble with this idea is that people now leave the handsets down wherever they have concluded a call. Just use the ‘handset locate function’? Oh please…when I have to make a call, the last thing I need is to have to listen for a handful of handsets beeping in the domestic distance.
Today’s invention is a landline handset which can tell (using an internal accelerometer) immediately it has been set down on a stable surface and it sets off an alarm until it is replaced in its holster/base unit.
February 25, 2009
Domestic refuse needs to go somewhere and today’s invention aims to make better use of it than conventional landfill.
Each railway station would have some special railway cars parked in a siding. Refuse vehicles would dump their loads into one of these trucks, which would be designed to ‘telescope’ -one end being free to slide inside the body of the other so that the space between ends is greatly reduced.
When full, each truck is placed on the track ahead of a train which then pushes it along.
When the train reaches a station where large-scale civil engineering is occurring, the brakes are applied to the refuse truck’s front wheels and the train telescopes this wagon, crushing its contents together. The wagon can then be moved to a siding and its compressed block of high-density rubbish used for projects such as building embankments or stabilising earthworks.
Try reading a book with gloves on (or with limited dexterity) and you will understand how difficult it is to turn pages accurately.
Today’s invention is a desktop cutter which shapes the outer edge of any book into steps, just like an old-fashioned address book (but without the alphabetical labeling). It simply involves clamping the edge of the book in place and chopping out a triangular section -so as to create a thumb-able ramp in the paper.
This makes it possible to turn the pages reliably, even with limited tactile feedback.
February 24, 2009
One of the most dangerous things a child can do (apart from being driven in a car) is go swimming in a pool.
Today’s invention is a large mat, made of tough, just-negatively buoyant, foam which covers the floor area of a deep swimming pool and which is supported by columns of the same material bonded onto the mat’s underside. The columns hold the mat off the pool floor and allow enough water depth above the mat’s surface for everyone to swim and to support their (reduced) weight when standing on it.
The reduced effective dept of the pool makes it much harder for a child to be overlooked if it’s lying on the mat’s surface (which could be made in a colour such as fluorescent green, to contrast sharply with all human skin tones).
Also, anyone recklessly diving in would avoid neck and back injuries due to being cushioned by the compressible columns collapsing beneath the foam surface.
February 23, 2009
Muggers and hoodlums seem to sense when someone is vulnerable to attack on the street.
Taking a leaf out of nature’s book, today’s invention is a coat which senses fear on the part of the wearer (perhaps by detecting hairs suddenly standing on the back of one’s neck at the same time as palm sweating). It then gradually releases the contents of a small cannister of compressed air into specially placed bladders inside the coat.
This causes the coat to swell strategically, making the wearer look bigger, brawnier and much less like a potential target for attack…something like a cat arching its back to deter rivals.
When there’s a fire, or you need to stop a train in an emergency, you are often supposed to crack a pane of emergency glass. This can be confusing, time wasting and a possible source of injury in itself. It is also possible to activate accidentally by bumping into it.
Today’s invention is to replace all such switches with a modified drinks can ring-pull.
The top of such a can would be embedded in a backplate and an electrical ribbon pasted onto the rear surface of the metal so that when the ring is pulled, the ribbon on its back face is snapped -generating an electrical signal (to eg call the fire brigade or alert Underground platform staff).
This is an intuitive, common interface and operable by anyone without much force or required dexterity. It’s also cheap and tamper-evident. For anyone concerned about misuse, the aperture caused by pulling the ring could reveal a small networked camera lens which, by that stage, would have recorded the user’s face.
February 22, 2009
According to the latest E&T magazine, Lego bricks get sorted first in the factory into foil bags before being boxed. This prepacking involves weighing a collection of components, in a bag, to within a few mg. If the total weight is wrong, they may have injected some bricks of the wrong shape…but they can’t tell which without a visual inspection.
Today’s invention is a way to tell, from the total weight of such a collection, the numbers of each type of part present.
Maths tells us that any product of prime numbers is unique to them -ie 2x2x3x7=84 can only be reached by multiplying this particular combination of primes together, no other set of primes will do.
We also know that Ln(2)+Ln(2)+Ln(3)+Ln(7)=Ln(84) and since Ln(x) is monotonic, this means that the only way to get to Ln(84) is by adding together the components on the left hand side. If we manufacture each design of brick so that it weighs a unique, prime number of milligrammes, then we can tell exactly what combination of brick designs are contained in a bag -just by weighing it accurately. This assumes of course that the brick manufacturing is undertaken to very tight tolerances in weight (which is true).
Any significant difference in weight from the expected total and we can then diagnose what the rogue bricks it contains (or which are missing) are.
February 21, 2009
Inspired by the sandwich bag with the fake mould printed on it, today’s invention is a more general way to reduce food theft from communal storage.
A hinged, denture-like set of simulated teeth is used covertly to make a very realistic, but germfree, bitemark in each of the elements of one’s packed lunch.
When this food is placed eg in a shared fridge, almost everyone will be deterred from eating stuff which already has toothprints embedded in it.
February 19, 2009
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I’ve been baulking lately at the prices charged by picture framers. If you want an alternative to a bog-standard clipframe in a standard size, the process of getting anything bigger than a postage stamp framed is likely to be as costly as the artwork it contains.
Today’s invention is a frame made of sections of a standard strip material, as shown. The strip is constructed from plastic or aluminium, for example and comes in the form of symmetrical lengths, one half with ridges running diagonally upwards and the other half with ridges running downwards.
Grooves formed in the rear faces of the strips allow them to be snapped neatly to the correct lengths, as in this type of propelling knife blade.
Four such snapped-to-length sections can then be glued and or screwed together using the integral ribs on the rear. Sections can also be joined in parallel to create a frame with a wide section.
Such wide frames could be used to accommodate almost any available piece of glass (smaller than the overall frame dimensions), without cutting (ie simply locating the glass on the lower lip behind the frame and allowing it to spill over the frame aperture, as seen from the front.