#674: Camouflames

Fire extinguishers are plain ugly (beige, silver and red just don’t go together, let alone with anyone’s idea of decor). They need to be found and used by people whose first reaction is probably to panic and run away -hence the utilitarian colour coding.

Today’s invention is a generic cylindrical cover for extinguishers which can be decorated in exactly the same colours as the surrounding walls (using paint and or wallpaper).

When a fire is detected, by a smoke alarm mounted on each extinguisher, the springloaded covers are automatically shed, noisily highlighting where the firefighting equipment can be found.

#673: Bowlid

Motorcycle helmets (and those used in all forms of motorsport, for that matter) suffer from a stupid drawback. As well as the hole at the bottom through which to insert one’s head, there is also one at the front via which images of traffic lights, police cars and fast-approaching tarmac, can enter.

Both holes weaken the structure of any helmet (just ask an egg). Today’s invention is a way to lessen that structural weakness caused by having an observation slot in the front face. Make the entire thing out of some transparent polymer eg a variant on polycarbonate or plexiglass. This would allow the shell to have no visor opening, the wearer would look through the wall of the bone-dome (This would be similar to helmets worn by the Apollo astronauts, but with conventional internal padding for roadgoing use).

Although scratches might be hard to avoid, and one’s ghastly compressed hairdo would be exposed, it would provide a much wider field of view, leading to doubly improved safety. Making bikers (and racers) more recognisable as individuals would have certain social benefits too.

#672: Skythighs

You might think that if people are going to jump out of aeroplanes they can legitimately expect to sustain injuries. For people who find themselves on the end of a parachute, broken ankles are a surprisingly common result.

The parachutist’s impact with the ground is usually described as the same as that experienced when jumping off a 12-foot wall. Today’s invention is a way to help minimise the damage caused -especially to novice jumpers.

It is essentially a pair of stiff overboots (like fishing waders) with a large patch of industrial strength velcro on the inside of each leg, from toe to inner thigh. These can be tightly bonded during descent by bending one’s knees slightly and smacking one’s legs together, just before impact. This spreads the load when soles meet earth and allows a much less jarring parachute landing fall to occur.

#671: Semicones

I recently spent an unhappy couple of hours staring at traffic cones from a stationary motorway queue.

It occurred to me that there may be economies in the world of traffic cones: hence today’s invention. The idea is to make existing cones undertake twice their current duty and thus limit the costs of producing ever more examples. Each existing cone would be cut, using a simple, van-borne tool into two halves as shown.

The resulting halves would each still be able to stand stably and be only marginally less detectable visually -even if not optimally aligned. Although there might be some wind generated rocking (which could even boost visibility) it would still be very difficult to topple these in any direction (My guess is that the maximum drag coefficient for a hollow half-cone would be much less than double that for the original cone).

The semi-cones would also still nest and allow twice as many to fit into a given space during transport.

#670: Moodmug

People apparently tend to judge others, when they meet, as literally warm or cold in character dependent upon whether the one doing the judging is holding a hot or cold drink at the time of the introduction.

What then happens to social interaction in warm parts of the world where a glass of iced tea could cause a breakdown in relations? Today’s invention is a way to give someone a cold drink which is held in a warm cup and thus avoid being emotionally labeled inaccurately.

The cup would have insulation between the cold interior and the warm exterior. It would be possible to arrange for a reversible chemical reaction within the the outer layer which would extract heat from the inside of the cup (using some of the technology within self-chilling/heating cans).

#669: Songbungs

It’s pretty frustrating, when out for a run and plugged into my MP3 player, to have the earpieces constantly falling out. I guess I could pay for specially tailored devices, but let’s face it, I have big ears…several standard deviations away from the mean.

Today’s invention is therefore to reuse the established wine recorking technology indicated to create earbuds which actually mould to one’s ear canals and yet, unlike wax-based versions, are effectively reusable. I’m sure that in the absence eg of external windnoise, these would sound better too.

By supplying a range of different bung diameters (yellow), some could always be selected which, when squeezed, fitted an individual’s individual ears perfectly.

#668: Backface Lego

Don’t you just hate it when people say “Legos” instead of Lego Bricks? Anyway, I’ve been a disciple of the dimples since I was about four and throughout those years one particular question has burned in my brain. Why don’t they make bricks which have a flat bottom? (They do make some with a flattish top, although these seem to be few in number and in only a very small range of sizes and colours).

The obvious answer is that when you close off the bottom surfaces of bricks they stop being able to attach to others. OK, but in order to avoid such an unfinished look, I’ve always wanted to smooth the final surface of my designs…am I alone in this obsession? Youngsters can use their imagination to make a coarsely blocky thing work in their games just as well as a perfectly detailed replica would -but for once, I’d like the rear view (or underside) to consist of something better than a honeycomb of hollows.

Today’s invention is therefore a bottom-face brick for smoothly undersurfacing one’s Lego models (as suggested by the sketch on the left).

#667: Lavtop

There are those of us who have had bad experiences with our information technology. Today’s invention allows such disgruntled people to express their annoyance at a particular hardware brand in a very direct way.

It is a toilet seat in the form of laptop. The ‘keyboard’ section acts as the seat itself, with a suitably placed hole in the middle. The lid of the toilet corresponds to the lid of the laptop, appropriately bearing the brand which is so out of favour.

#666: Mutablemedia

Novels and music tracks are sooo static…they will provide a very similar experience each time they are ‘consumed’ -it’s the continuation of printing press thinking that books are intended to be immutable.

Today’s invention makes all digital content potentially more interesting by having it change over time (just as Wikipedia does, for example). Small alterations to eg a story or a song would be made in the same way as automatic updates occur to one’s operating system software (especially if you are still stuck with some flavour of Windows). These variations could be generated automatically or by suggestions made by the online audience themselves, or by the original author as he or she decides they are no longer satisfied by their original version (I remember hearing Mark Knopfler saying that he would have changed all of ‘Brothers in Arms’ had he had the chance, post release).

All digital content on a computer (that was not write-protected by the user) could thus become potentially more surprising and therefore entertaining. Consumers could pay a tiny surcharge to receive such updates -or not to be bothered by requests to authorise their downloads.

#665: Write-on-white

Whiteboards of the old fashioned, non-computing variety, always seem to get drawn on with permanent marker. Some hours of scrubbing with ethanol and the errant writing can be converted to a desaturated greyish/pinkish/blueish greeny shade but it will never be the same pristine white as if the correct markers had been used. Whoever grabs the wrong pen in an attempt to get that great idea down urgently thus has it immortalised as a ghostly, inky after-image…which is not actually that good, especially if it turns out later to be wrong.

Today’s invention is a way to ensure that one’s whiteboard stays white.

A very thin, transparent plastic sheet hangs in front of a conventional whiteboard (shown grey), its weight supported by a few elastic bands. In the centre of the sheet is a hole into which only the correct whiteboard markers can fit, allowing them to be used to draw on the underlying board, whilst preventing any other kind of pen from penetrating the sheet as far as the board itself.

To clean the board, simply raise the screen and wipe as usual.