#1045: EsCape

When a crowd of people tries to escape from eg a crashed aircraft, all sorts of counterintuitive things take place. An obstacle placed near the exit actually splits an escaping throng and can speed up everyone’s departure.

Today’s invention is suggested as an approach to helping individuals in a crowd get away from eg a crash landing. It’s based on the idea that people are less than optimally guided when frightened and confused by their view of what’s going on.


Passenger seats would each be equipped with an opaque fabric hood (this would still allow breathing but limit smoke ingress somewhat). The hood would have the equivalent of a mobile phone inside driving a number of circumferential buzzers.

A fireproofed system on the plane would know the seat layout and pressure sensors on the floor would form a map of the locations of people and potential obstacles.

Passengers in a crash landing would have been trained to don the hood and move in the direction of the active buzzer from moment to moment -even stopping briefly as directed.

The buzzer behaviour would be determined, for any individual, by an algorithm determining how to channel and time people’s movements based on the locations and movements of other passengers.

(This might work best for highly trained people, such as naval personnel, inside a burning ship).

#1044: BrickFlick

Big tools and equipment for building work are now widely available for rent. This means that an ever wider variety of dangerous kit is in the hands of amateurs in the construction trade -each of whom may have undertaken only a few weekend classes in bricklaying.

Today’s invention is therefore an instruction movie which takes the form of a helical tape of individual, stamp-sized images stuck on the outside of a cement mixer.


As the mixer rotates, a zoetrope-like silent movie, illustrating eg some of the finer points of pointing, is played. There would be a range of such movies in support of different aspects of self-build projects.

#1042: Stube

In olden times, when I was growing up, making do and mending was a common approach. Now it’s coming back into style, perforce.

People may even begin using pencils again and perhaps not throwing them out when they become tiny stubs -as mine used to.


Today’s invention is a tube into which such stubs can be inserted and which retains the front one using a small screw.

This device maintains as usable lengths of pencil which would be impractically small. This also allows the front pencil stub to be sharpened in situ repeatedly and eventually extracted and thrown away.

#1041: Cucoon

I was talking with an inventive friend recently and she mentioned the issue of cucumbers not being naturally resealable (thanks Muriel).

Today’s invention is a way to seal up any longish fruit or vegetable in the kitchen which is likely to get dehydrated.


It consists of two forms of plastic ring element (light and dark grey). These can be screwed together to forms tubes of variable length so that, as a cucumber is shortened, the container can also shrink. This means that the air in contact with the fruit or veg is minimised and dehydration greatly limited.

The rings seal together in the same way as a contact lens case, and so it would be possible to store things with a liquid surrounding them (water, vinegar) if you wanted.

#1040: Lottoslot

For someone who regards secrets as, in general, not healthy, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about shredders.

Today’s invention is intended to add an extra measure of security to paper shredding by making the required orientation of the paper on insertion, non-obvious.


Thus, rather than just entering beautifully-aligned A4 sheets (which are measurably easier to reconstruct) this gives an added element of angular randomness to the direction of cut each time.

#1039: MetricMedic

Using biometrics for access to computers is now common and works, sort of, for many low-security applications.

Today’s invention is to equip a computer mouse with a clear window in the upper curved surface where one’s hand normally rests. A small, high resolution camera shoots through the hole, together with an outgoing beam of light.


To start the machine, hold the specially curved surface of the mouse against one’s eye orbit. The light and camera are activated, taking pictures of both iris and retina.

These are automatically fed to the computer which confirms one’s identity to a very high level of precision.

The images are also stored so that, over time, these can be examined (perhaps automatically) for any telltale signs of incipient illness.

#1038: CarRack

Today’s invention is an electric car sharing scheme. In the early morning, cars are driven to multiple locations around town on the back of a transporter and dropped off in modules like the one shown.

This allows hugely increased packing density, since each vehicle has its front wheels rolled up on a track using a small hand-cranked winch (once roof is stowed and doors closed).


Customers arrive, insert their credit card and driver’s licenses into a slot in the module. This allows removal of one car from the front, leaving the rest locked together like shopping trolleys. The card number is retained until the vehicle is returned to any one of the (networked) modules.

Cars added to the back of the queue have time to be recharged (and may even have the facility to swap in a new battery) whilst waiting.

#1037: Cargoflow

There is a pattern of ocean currents which is largely stable over very long time periods.

Although the speed of these currents at depth is slow (only around 1m/s) it is predictable.


Today’s invention is a flotilla of linked, submarine-like containers designed to transport goods around the globe using only these deep currents as a power source.

These could be made fairly cheaply of reinforced concrete and capable of carrying a large volume of commodities such as fuel or foodstuffs. The speed of transport would be slow and might give rise to futures-like trading in the value of materials in transit for eg 60 days between continents. Huge sections of these journeys would be effectively naturally refrigerated.

It might be possible to reuse some of the world’s surplus military subs for this purpose, or at least to head each flotilla with one so that its navigation systems could be used to direct the goods to the correct destination(s).

#1036: Noncontacts

If you wear contact lenses which don’t get discarded every night, you probably carry a small case around, just in case they need to be stored temporarily.

If your eyes have become dry or sore, it’s a real pain to have to cart about spectacles to change into as well.


Today’s invention is a contact lens case the containers of which are held together by a springy band. Each container has a clear base which is actually a screw-in lens, matching your prescription.

If you need to remove your contacts at any time, pop them in the cases with some fluid at the bottom, reseal and then apply the pince-nez case to one’s nose for more relaxed vision.