A Council worker drove past me today on the street where I live. His wagon was spreading salt -even though the ambient temperature was 8 deg C. He looked at me as if he deserved a round of applause as his aerial bombardment of corrosive grit pinged off the paintwork of the parked vehicles.
OK, so, I’m no particular fan of mindless councils, untrained drivers or icy weather.
I found out recently that there are several modes by which salt combats frozen roads.
It seems that when salt water freezes, it forces absolutely all the salt out of the ice matrix.
Imagine that one’s car is washed underneath with fresh water using eg an underbody washer. This is left on a cold night, so that a coating of ice forms all over the undersurface of the vehicle.
When it is then driven on a stretch of tarmac, salty water will splash upwards but, as long as the local temperature is below freezing, no salt will be able to penetrate the protective coat of ice.
Today’s invention is therefore an underbody washer unit with a chiller built in. The spray from this can be driven across, so that , in cold weather, a film of ice wraps and protects the underside of your car. The chiller is only there to speed the process of freezing when the weather is already cold.
(If you later drive around as the atmospheric temperature increases (and the underside ice melts) but before the salt has washed off the road, then your car will be unprotected -so that’s to be avoided).
The US Navy knows a thing or two about firefighting.
It seems that if three or more fuelled planes are on fire together, they can’t be extinguished. They must be allowed to burn out.
It’s obviously a bad idea to park fuelled planes together in a bunch. They might not present a prime target, but, since they can’t be put out, their burning could well lead to other fires/explosions. If you are on an airfield, planes can be kept at a distance from each other. In a carrier, everything gets stacked closely together.
Today’s invention is a way to ensure that fully fuelled planes never appear together on deck.
Each aircraft would take off with a tiny amount of fuel on board. Planes would then rendezvous with one of several armoured hydrofoil powerboats.
Each of these would allow multiple fighters to take on fuel rapidly, using in-flight refuelling hoses, as they all sped across the water surface.
These days it’s easy to create a fire model, but harder to interpret the results.
This is true for experts and even more so for journalists.
Instead of just burning off huge tracts of land and endangering all the local wildlife, today’s invention is to employ UAVs, each equipped with a camera and a small, gas-powered blowtorch. The downdraft from the rotors would be used to fan the flames in the desired direction.
This would allow a team of remotely located foresters to burn only smallish regions in advance of the firefront.
They could decide where to burn, based on feeding known wind behaviour into an agent based model. Running several simulations (perhaps on a parallel supercomputer) could be done faster than the fire could move, enabling some kind of optimal burn pattern to be calculated and then implemented.
When heat engines generate too much entropy, due to eg friction or uncontrolled heat transfer, they overheat.
This may not be a problem, unless the engine is powering a plane or a race car, where engine failure can have sudden and catastrophic consequences.
Fortunately, these days, we have relatively cheap access to thermographic cameras.
Today’s invention is a system which uses a number of cameras in say an engine bay. These detect any hotspots and then direct a cooling airflow (or oil/water…) at that location until the temperature can be shown to have evened out.
This airflow might come via a duct placed in a vehicle’s slipstream with vanes which could be computer controlled. If we had a space shuttle in operation, such a process could be applied to any overheating wing and fuselage surfaces.
Google Street View is a huge endeavour. I’m surprised that no-one in Mountain View has yet come up with Today’s Invention: ads pasted into its imagery.
The intrepid search folk know all about which images are viewed most.
They could use this information to help price their virtual ads.
Say I want to have an advert for my patented corn plasters appear in virtual Times Square. That would cost me say $1000 a second.
I might choose instead to have the ad appear on the wall down the street from my house, at 1$ per day.
Online users might get served different inserted ads, depending on where their ip address was located.
In any case, people could pay for their version of Street view to carry no adverts, but if not, they could also click on virtual hoardings and buy stuff.
When we find ourselves in the autonomous car-filled future, there will be many near misses.
Since these vehicles are likely to be battery powered, today’s invention is a way to make use of the massive torque available (beyond the potential for drag racing between the lights).
When a car senses that a collision is imminent, and steering out of trouble is not possible, then the vehicle can apply a sudden torque to the rear wheels and make the whole thing rear up out of the way -like a startled horse.
A flat back face allows the vehicle to park in that position until it can be safely rocked back onto its wheels.
I’ve been reading about how, in future, airliners will be filled with a flexible combination of interior modules. It set me thinking about how that approach might affect the super rich.
Today’s invention is a passenger module which slots into a limousine. This would be the size of a double bed plus seating area for two people. The same acreage as a first class plane cabin occupies.
The module would be armoured and have its own air supply and communications technologies.
Its main feature, however, is that it can be extracted from the limo, using a small forklift carried in the boot, and inserted into eg an aircraft or a train or a luxury liner.
This would allow the occupants to board their next mode of transport entirely without having to face the press or transport security (having already been screened before departure).
When the module was installed within say a ship, its doors could be opened into a suite or a private sitting room.
Today’s invention is an ultra low-altitude parachute mechanism, based on one of those circular, expanding reflectors that photographers use.
This could be used by base jumpers (or Mars missions), but more usefully by people trapped in a medium-rise, burning building.
One problem with low-opening chutes is that, if the shock of sudden inflation is too great, it can cause the jumper some injury. That problem can be mitigated using a form of slider.
If the opening is too slow, however, then all this becomes irrelevant.
To get a chute to open very wide and very fast requires that each chute will have a loop of springy glass fibre sewn into the edge.
When someone grabs their emergency chute off a rack, they run and plunge out a window. A static line releases the coiled loop (shown on the left) and the chute is suddenly forced to take up its natural, circular shape (on the right).
I’m finding it hard to believe that ski waxing is still stuck in the dark ages.
All that melting, dripping, ironing and scraping…
Instead, consider today’s invention…a system of reservoirs attached to the upper side of a ski, enabling realtime ski lubrication. These each have their own little heater which allows wax, or a more modern solid lubricant, to be dispensed and flow through pores in the ski onto the sliding surface.
This process could be computer controlled, according to ski speed and snow temperature, so that optimal sliding might be achieved (and maintained).
Astronauts aboard the International Space station can undertake spacewalks for eg vital maintenance of up to 8.5 hours in duration.
If a suit has a carbon dioxide scrubber failure, the duration of spacewalks is severely curtailed.
Today’s invention allows an astronaut a way to stay out longer, if they have emergency repairs to undertake, during an EVA.
A spare space suit is filled with oxygen to a pressure greater than the normal 1/3 of atmospheric.
This can be taken with the ISS crew member outside and connected to the suit of a working astronaut so that it acts as an additional air bladder -extending the time for which a spacewalk can last.
(If the cooling water circulation in the spare suit is still working, this too could be attached to the suit being worn).