#2090: Travelake

Today’s invention is a way to enable very small vessels to travel around the world.

A large ship would be built, probably in the shape of a catamaran. This would have a central, raised section linking the two hulls beneath which small craft could travel, under their own steam, or driven by steering the ship so that the prevailing wind passed between the hulls.

Floating booms between the hulls at the front and rear of the ship would effectively isolate the boats from breaking waves and damagingly high oceanic winds.

This configuration would allow people to undertake global-distance voyages without the danger and fatigue which exposed trips would experience.

It might even allow long-distance swimmers the same protection whilst training, for example.

#2089: CashWash

So it seems that ‘Millennials,’ ie young folk, believe that, although cash makes them much more aware of their spending habits, it’s physically dirty.

This makes them dependent on credit card use, even when it’s not convenient (and subject to ridiculous surcharges).

Today’s invention is therefore a cash machine or (ATM) which takes in dirty notes (as eg car parking machines do now) and replaces them with crisp new ones.

Not only would this encourage people to avoid debt, it would also allay fears about notes being impregnated with cocaine, fecal matter or, heaven forbid, terrorists’ cyanide salts.

#2088: Absentinel

Today’s invention is a software plugin for networked diaries.

When you set up your out-of-office message, the programme would automatically ask you for someone to handle your high priority messages. It would then detect if the person who is nominated to take those urgent calls (Ms A, say) has themselves booked a holiday while you are away.

If they have, then you would be informed and any emergency calls would be automatically redirected to Mr B (as nominated by Ms A) during that period.

The depth of this redirection sequence would be limited so that the ultimate call handler still had some idea of what to do.

In particular, this approach would also ensure that no loops could form ie
MsA->MrB->MsC->MsA would be ruled out.

#2087: BillBullet

I don’t believe the stories I read on the breathier biomimicry sites that bullet trains can reduce their fuel consumption by 15% just by having a beak-shaped nose fitted.

It seems, however, that Japanese engineers wanted to reduce the noise made by high speed trains on emerging from tunnels and they used the geometry of a diving bird’s beak to achieve a large noise reduction.

Today’s invention is therefore a way to suppress the noise from a firearm, based on this dynamically-similar regime.

Bullets would be made axially asymmetric, as indicated.

Although they would be less stable in flight, despite the usual rifling, and therefore only effective at lower range, when used with a conventional suppressor, I’d expect a decrease in report of a few extra dB.

#2086: Aerialine

Today’s invention is a flying train. Well, actually it’s a plane with a fuselage in two parts: a cigar-shaped inner (blue) and a normal airliner’s rear section (grey) into which the front section fits.

On landing, the blue inner would engage with an electric railway undercarriage and take passengers and their luggage (or urgent freight) straight to some metropolitan centre.

The rear section could then be refitted to another passenger module when it arrives, at bullet train speed, at the airport.

Passengers would thus enjoy uninterrupted high-speed transport from city to city, allowing this hybrid transport system to fill the gap between trains and planes over medium-length routes eg in Europe.

#2085: Expressure

When the wheels of a train press on their rails the local stresses are transient but enormous.

This is apparently a high enough pressure to cause plastic, ie permanent, cumulative deformation as each wheel passes a given point.

Once a crack has been created, subsequent stress will cause it to propagate and the rail will eventually require replacement.

Today’s invention is intended to prolong the life of our hard-pressed railway lines. It takes the form of an extra electromechanical control system for a train’s suspension.

Each pair of train wheels would be capable of being raised slightly, allowing the weight of the train to be redistributed non-uniformly from instant to instant.

Positions where cracks had already occurred would be mapped so that as a train passed over, the pattern of weighting and unweighting could be rapidly altered in order to minimise the bending moment tending to open the top face of the rail, for example.

This could mean that most of the weight would be thrown onto the nearest two wheels to a crack, rather than the farther ones.

#2084: CurfewCuffs

Today’s invention is handcuffs which automatically open after a given time period.

These would be cheaply made and come with a clockwork mechanism embedded which allowed the owner of the cuffs to specify how long they would stay locked.

Cuffs like these might be useful if a police force needed to restrain rowdy individuals for a while, without actually imprisoning them, or to impose house arrest on someone for a short period (perhaps for their own safety).

The clockwork could be wound using the cuffs’ own key which would then be stored in a small box with a push-to-lock door attached to one cuff.

After a set time, the box would spring open.

#2083: Barcony

If you have ever been tempted to change flats in order just to obtain a balcony, today’s invention is for you.

A box about the size of a smallish filing cabinet, but curved, would arrive in the lift. This would be bolted to the floor of your flat and therefater act as a breakfast bar (or bar, full-stop).

When the weather was good, you could throw open a window and extract from the bar, a set of telescoping, circular segments, each with the same u-shaped cross-section.

These would extend outward through the window, forming a sturdy, projecting balcony.

#2082: Carpelcarapace

If you need to shake lots of hands, perhaps when running for office, there is a degree of carpel crushing to endure.

Today’s invention is a slip-on fake cast which prevents people from doing that insane thing of expressing their need for friendship or dominance by trying to squeeze your hand to a pulp.

The appearance alone would deter keen crushers but an internal metal stiffener makes such behaviour fruitless.

For those people who really hate secret handshakes (as I do), it would also broadcast the fact that they were simply undetectable whilst wearing this device.

#2081: Lavanaut

The magma-filled channels within a volcano’s caldera can be vast. Today’s invention is a submarine that is capable of travelling within such a flow of magma (and making detailed pressure and temperature measurements).

This might be useful for vulcanologists or just adventure sports enthusiasts. In reality, it’s much more likely to be an unmanned drone.

To withstand the sub-surface temperature and pressure, such a machine would need to have the structure of a heavily-insulated, spherical vacuum flask, made of carbon steel.

Even with an evacuated layer and other insulation, the molten rock temperature of say 1500 celsius would allow only short-duration ‘dives’ until the interior temperature rose to dangerous levels.

Such voyages would have to take into account significant buoyancy and viscous forces, and could thus be propelled by a large, slow-revving screw mechanism.