Archive for: March 2013

31st March 2013

#2306: Symmetrotor

Filed under: Possible inventions - 31 Mar 2013

If a helicopter sustains damage to its rotor blades, then it is normally time to attempt some kind of forced landing.

Today’s invention offers an alternative.

SONY DSC

If your chopper starts with blades at 90 degrees apart and one is eg partly shot away, then the damaged one would be jettisoned and the remaining blades would automatically reconfigure so as to space themselves out circumferentially at 120 degree intervals.

If an original five blades were suddenly reduced to two (at 180 degrees), there would probably also have to be some increase in engine speed, so that, in the worst case, a gentle landing could be effected.

In this way, your blades need only be controlled by a very simple swarming algorithm that says “maintain equal distance from your two neighbours.”

A similar approach might work for windfarms, since their blades are always breaking off.

30th March 2013

#2305: Pitline

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 30 Mar 2013

Yet another motor racing idea (somebody in motorsport should really be sponsoring all this activity!).

Today’s invention is an updated version of the pit lane.

pitline

Instead of numerous teams of earnest young men in button-down collars and logo’d fleeces, imagine if pit bays were each replaced by a high-speed locomotive (maybe based on a steam catapult).

Running on a very short length of rail (maybe only five or six car lengths), this would consist of a mobile on and off-ramp. The system would automatically accelerate very fast to match an incoming car’s speed exactly…so that racers, eg in 24 hour events, would not have to slow down.

In the 1 second or so during which the car would be ‘parked,’ on the moving platform, robot arms would change tyres, wipe screens, check fluids etc.

With these tasks completed, the loco would brake, ultra-hard, discharging the car back onto the track.

Slow motion reruns of these events could be played on tv, but without any danger to a pit full of humans.

It might even be possible to fit the pit with an injector seat unit, which would swap drivers from below.

#2304: FlapStrip

Filed under: Possible inventions - 30 Mar 2013

Flags are a bit boring on a windless day.

I have proposed before various approaches to blowing air across them but today’s invention is a different approach.

waver

A motor unit could be raised or lowered on a conventional flagpole.

On the top of this, a crank (grey) would be rotated. Attached to this is a shaft composed of many hinges, each free to rotate only a few degrees about a vertical axis.

The hinges would be embedded within the upper edge of the flag.

In this way, the motor could be slowly rotated, allowing the hinges to support the flag whilst also simulating the effect of wind-driven flapping.

#2303: GripMap

Filed under: Feasible inventions - 30 Mar 2013

In Formula 1 racing, each tyre is expected to lose around 0.5 kg of rubber in the course of a race.

A large fraction of this comes off as granules which are blown or can be swept to the side of the track later.

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A significant amount, however, adheres to a racetrack surface, which makes the task of tacticians in the pits all the harder. Should we start on the softest compound…or wait?

Today’s invention is to allow abs brakes to be fitted to cars during practice.

Teams could thus identify precise locations on the track where wheels began to lose grip before racing began in earnest.

Teams would be required to pool their data, so that everyone would have access to a roughness map of the track on race day -to help them make more effective tyre selections.

27th March 2013

#2302: Collareel

Filed under: Feasible inventions - 27 Mar 2013

Today’s invention is a dog lead with the added benefit that when your animal is off-lead, it carries the whole thing itself.

A small, spring-loaded reel of strong cord is clipped to the ordinary lead.

collareel

It is shaped to fit closely to the collar and thus be impossible for the dog to remove or for it to tear off while crashing about the undergrowth.

When you want to reign in your canine, first catch it and then pull the lead out to normal length.

24th March 2013

#2301: InterruptEar

Filed under: Whimsical inventions - 24 Mar 2013

Several members of my family are subject to earworms…fragments of music which they not only hear playing repeatedly inside their heads -but with which they tend to sing along.

Even though the singing is well done, listening to the same line of a gallic ballad 50 times in succession can be somewhat trying.

Antonio_Jiménez_Alonso_singer_

Today’s invention is a system to reduce the domestic noise pollution.

A microphone attached to a computer detects any snatches of sound which are repeated more than a few times.

When this has happened, a program is triggered which plays a random, fresh piece of music through speakers.

The best substitute is usually a piece which contrasts sharply in style with the last earworm.

A more sophisticated version of this idea would therefore identify the song being sung and choose a new tune which has a very different musical tone and tempo.

A related approach would be used for family members singing along tunelessly whilst listening to music through headphones. An external mic would listen for singing outside the headphones or earbuds and in the event of any unfortunate tendency to karaoke, it would cut off the music for, say, five minutes.

23rd March 2013

#2300: Passhared

Filed under: Possible inventions - 23 Mar 2013

What word do you think of when you scroll down this page?

The ability to detect some feature common to a number of complex, natural scenes is something which only people can do*.

Valakee_password

Today’s invention is therefore a captcha-type security tool which distinguishes between people and bots by asking registrants to type in the word which links a collection of such images.

This would be inherently much more difficult than asking eg how many giraffes are in the picture…which is clearly guessable.

It might be possible to simply send people to a page on Pinterest, with any captions removed. Certainly, Google image search doesn’t work in this context because some of the images which appear in response to a general search term ‘arch’ are explicit diagrams or may actually contain the word itself).

(* Although this kind of software could detect ‘arch’ es, it would have no ability to discern that this was what linked all the images on a page).

#2299: SpinSkin

Filed under: Possible inventions - 23 Mar 2013

I’ve been reading about the conflicting evidence which exists about whether bicycle helmets increase road safety. It seems that there is serious doubt about something I’d assumed true.

One major cause of injuries is that, on impact, a rider’s head rapidly rotates, resulting in brain and spinal damage by twisting.

rollerhelmet

Today’s invention is a bicycle helmet design which consists of a padded inner and a hard outer shell with many, marble-sized perforations. The outer shell is made to have as small a diameter as possible.

Each perforation accommodates a tough plastic sphere, in such a way that it is retained within the hole, but able to spin in any direction.

When a rider comes off and hits his or her head, the spheres absorb some of the energy but also rotate within their recesses so that the head itself is not wrenched around by the impact.

21st March 2013

#2298: Oasisub

Filed under: Possible inventions - 21 Mar 2013

Now that much of the world is running short of fresh water, desalination technology is greatly in demand.

Salt concentration in the ocean varies from about 3.2 to 3.8% so the job can be made 16% easier just by using water from the right spot. This unfortunately turns out to be at a depth of about 500m.

Michel_Meynsbrughen_underwater

So today’s invention is to use a militarily-redundant nuclear submarine to desalinate water whilst moored at this depth.

Such machines already make their own fresh water but I imagine fitting out the interior with eg large-scale osmotic filters and flash evaporators, in place of the usual weaponry and crew accommodation.

The engines, which have already been heavily invested in, could provide many more years of useful service running the plant and pumping fresh water ashore.

20th March 2013

#2297: Elevautor

Filed under: Possible inventions - 20 Mar 2013

When you watch some unfortunate’s car being lifted onto the back of a lorry, to be ransomed by the traffic aurthorities, it’s a thought-provoking experience.

The thought it has most recently provoked is today’s invention: a mobile multistorey carpark.

elevautor

Trucks would be parked in urban locations, more or less permanently.

These have a number of vertical masts which can be folded down during transit. Each mast has a set of platforms which lock securely to it. It also has a hoist (like that used by traffic wardens, shown as a thicker horizontal bar).

When a car wants to park, it drives onto an empty platform which is left in the roadway (and which can be easily driven over by passing traffic).

This is quickly hoisted upwards and inwards (automatically, after the occupants have exited and texted the truck’s mobile number with their parking code) so that the platform and car are locked onto a mast.

On return to the truck later, the driver once again texts his code to have his car brought to the road (after a proximity detector tests that no cars are just about to drive past).

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