#746: QueeSee

Having a family with a predisposition towards travel sickness is often a problem. I’d like a journey planner which could not only find me the shortest path between A and B, or avoid toll roads, but could also indicate the route which was least likely to require me to hose out the car later.

Today’s invention is a simple algorithm which can be used to calculate a value for the nausea potential of any road journey. Conventional online road planners already assign a value for sensible speed to any point on a journey. Using this value of local speed, it’s easy to calculate the accelerative forces (‘g’) on passengers, which I believe are what cause the illness.

I assume that experiencing a high ‘g’ force for a longer time causes a proportional increase in sickness. At any point on the road for which the speed v is known, the instantaneous queasiness index q is given by v/r (where r is the radius of curvature of the road at any point). Totalling this along the length of a number of candidate routes would allow the least unpleasant travel experience to be selected (the one with smallest total q).

This approach might be easily be extended to include g forces associated with driving up and down hills.

#745: Proptrain

Today’s invention is an alternative propellor system for light aircraft.

Each prop., of which there might be more than the usual maximum of four per wing, would have a strong, circular band linking the outer tips of its blades. These bands would incorporate gear teeth so that they could be arrayed as shown in contact with each other along the leading edge of each wing.

Driving one propellor, from an inboard motor, would cause all the others to spin too.

Alternate props. would have their blades set so as to rotate in opposite directions -thus providing distributed thrust, without having to have multiple, wing-mounted engines (as well as partly counteracting the normal gyroscopic moments).

#744: Filefoot

If we must continue to store paper, rather than bits, then filing cabinets do a reasonably good job.

The standard mechanism used to help avoid a cabinet toppling over, however, is a neat mechanical interlock which allows only one drawer to be open at any time.

This is fine until the higher drawers are crammed with paper and all the others are, for some reason, emptied.

Then, opening eg only the top drawer can still cause the whole thing to topple forwards in a potentially dangerous way.

Today’s invention consists of a simple (if inelegantly pictured) mechanism which ensures that opening any drawer also opens the bottom one. This lowermost drawer, once extended, acts as a brace which stops toppling, irrespective of how the contents are distributed within the cabinet. Closing the bottom drawer closes all the others simultaneously.

#743: LightWeave

Today’s invention is a way to create woven baskets etc using living plant material (eg Ficus). See this example by way of background.

A base for the basket would be constructed and some vertical strands inserted to form the warp in the usual way (these verticals might also consist of growing plant fibres).

The base would be rotated, ultra-slowly, about its central axis, whilst a small light is shone on the growing end of the weft plant (which would otherwise be shielded from ambient illumination). Its natural tendency would be to grow towards the light supplied.

This light would be very slowly oscillated so as to direct the growing tip in and out between the strands of the warp fibres; eventually forming a woven basket without human intervention.

#742: Saltwash

I’m still working on some anti-skid technology which will avoid the need to spray salt-laden grit all over any roads facing the possibility of freezing.

Aside from the huge cost and logistical nightmare of attempting to deliver the grit to the places predicted to be most at risk of ice formation, my real problem is that the salt prematurely destroys the road vehicles its supposed to be helping.

Blasting grit and salt all over the undersides of vehicles is an ideal way to encourage them to corrode (despite whatever sealing/ paint/ mudflaps may have been applied).

Today’s invention is therefore an underbody wash system not unlike that provided for windscreen washing.

This consists of a number of pipes down which clean water is pumped from an on-board tank. The water, which would be partly topped up by run-off collected from the car’s frozen upper bodyshell, would automatically be sprayed at the most grit-impacted regions of the car’s lower surfaces whenever the outside temperature was less than 0 deg C and the vehicle had stopped.

The water used might also contain some more active inhibitors eg vegetable oil.

#741: AntiA4

It seems crazy still to be outputting print onto paper. It’s heavy, flammable and pretty much unsearchable in large quantities. Many people seem to be unable to read volumes of material on a screen, however, and so today’s invention is yet another way to restrict the waste that this involves.

Inspired by the continuous rolls of paper used to print receipts, today’s invention is intended to free us from the tyranny of the A4 sheet. When printing something to read, or pin to one’s noticeboard, a large proportion of the printable surface at the end of any document is blank (not to mention the page breaks themselves). Using a continuous roll of paper (rather than a trayful of discrete pages) would allow the end of the written content to be detected and the paper automatically severed at that point.

Any resulting documents would thus have a random physical page length -which would have the added advantage of discouraging filing the damned stuff (if you were absolutely compelled on occasion to work in A4, a simple full stop at the end of each ‘page’ would still allow that of course).

#740: TunnelTune

It turns out that there is a mathematical proof that up to six people occupy the smallest possible sleeping bag volume if they lie down beside each other but that seven people will take up their smallest possible sleeping compartment if they lie in a ’rounder’, 2-on-top-of-3-on-top-of-2 arrangement (however improbable/uncomfortable that seems).

Today’s invention is a slightly more practical application of this idea to the problem of laying pipework underground.

If there are 6 or fewer parallel, circular-section pipes, the required volume of earth to be removed will be minimised if these are laid side by side. If you need to bury more than 6 such conduits, they will require the least possible digging if placed in a ‘hexagonal’ arrangement.

For long pipelines, this difference could represent a substantial saving in time and energy.

#739: DoorTrap

Today’s invention is a simple way to improve the security of a lock-and-key mechanism.

The door, or lid, containing the lock would be equipped with an array of identical keyhole plates, only one of which would have an actual lock behind it. All others would be decoys. The plates are cheap to apply and delay the actions of anyone speculatively trying to pick the lock, or of someone who has somehow obtained the correct key.

In addition, a special lock mechanism might be used (eg in a Yale-type lock) in which any attempt to turn or vibrate the internal cylinder, without first having fully displaced all the pins (in the right order), would cause an internal mousetrap-like device to snap shut on the lockpick or skeleton key, making its withdrawal impossible. This might also be used to activate an alarm.

#738: Birospiral

Pens frequently lose their tops by some magical process. Rather than attach a pen top to the writing end by using a chain or a skein of plastic, today’s invention is a pen in the form of a circular bracelet.

The closure is formed by inserting the ballpoint into the distal end of a tightly wound spring (which accommodates the flexible ink reservoir).

When the bracelet is opened for use, it straightens and allows normal penmanship.

#737: FaceTag

I happened to have been looking at some Facebook entries when it dawned on me that all of those party/ concert photos of Miss X and her three best friends have a common appearance.

Today’s invention is a Facebook application which finds faces in the photos placed on pages. It then compares these faces with those posted by individuals on their pages. Names can thus be automatically be applied to the numerous group shots, without anyone having to type in all those identifiers as tags.

This would only be around 90% accurate, I reckon, but it would be a cool feature (knowing the name of someone you find attractive would allow them to be contacted, greatly adding to the social networking functionality). There might also be some some intriguing, or at least amusing, misidentifications.

An array of celebrity faces provided on the site could be used to answer such questions as, “which Hollywood star does my boyfriend most resemble?”