#2447: Transformair

If we can have flying machines like the Osprey whose rotors turn into propellers, then today’s invention is another form of slightly unlikely aircraft.

Imagine a large, twin rotor helicopter, powered by two gas turbines and capable of vertical takeoff.


At altitude, the rotor blades on each axle slide around and link together -forming two sets of fixed, conventional wings (grey).

After a few seconds of steep glide, the jet turbine exhaust(yellow) is directed backwards to provide propulsion (and, via the new wings, lift).

#2444: MagmaMould

In many places volcanoes exude a flow of liquid rock almost continously.

Today’s invention offers a way for local communities to exploit this, by offering mementos to visiting pyrophiles.


A mould could be created (by local craftsmen) and attached to a tractor using a long spar made of high melting point steel.

As the tractor drives the mould into the magma, the trapped gas escapes through a vent in the top.

The tractor withdraws and the rock within the mould gradually cools, allowing stone sculptures to be extracted for later sale.

#2442: SeatShares

I’ve been spending too much time lately, poring over the minutiae provided on seatguru.com. It almost seems as if they will soon be rating each actual seat: “Seat 29B has an unfortunate stain on the armrest and a non-functioning earphone jack”. I guess with mobile communications, that is currently possible.

Anyway, today’s invention is a new concept in commercial flight.


It’s normally assumed that when you buy a seat, you will stay located there for all of your journey.

Instead, imagine that you are travelling on a long-haul flight and want to pay extra for a wide seat and some comparatively decent grub…but for only part of your trip.

Halfway through a long flight, a light would turn on over your seat telling you to swap with the person in 22C, who has also bought a cattle+/business- ticket.

(People might have to pay more for a business class seat during the latter half of a flight than the first part).

This system could also work for swaps within a given class…offering hope if you start off sitting beside someone who is too large/sweaty/chatty…or whatever. Seat swaps would have to occur staggered over a few minutes to avoid a chaotic game of musical chairs.

Maybe there is even some scope for a passengerguru.com -which allows people to rate their neighbours.

#2440: ChopperChopper

Today’s invention is a new form of armament for military helicopters.

A belt of bullets (with no gunpowder) is fed up a tube inside the drive shaft of the main rotor (red circles).


This emerges from the end of a rotor blade.

At this point, a computer-controlled chopping device precisely times the separation of a bullet from its belt (white box), so that it flies off tangentially towards its target.

Each rotor blade can therefore act as a catapult arm, delivering enormous firepower (as long as the timing carefully avoids the tail rotor).

#2433: Stepstereo

Today’s invention is shoes -with sound effects.

The shoes would have ultra-soft, crepe soles, but they would also contain a pair of speakers wired to an mp3 player.


The wearer could choose a sound effect (using a wireless controller) and then, as each foot touches the ground, the chosen sound plays -as a footstep.

Aside from potential pythonesque humour (coconut shells) this could enable a user to appear more assertive by playing a loud, crunching step.

The footsteps’ volume could also be turned up by way of announcing someone’s arrival or warning pedestrians that the shoe wearer was running down a busy street behind them.

#2427: KiteKits

I read a story today about a plan to create planet lander craft in the form of kites.

Today’s invention takes this a step further.


Imagine dropping large numbers of flat-sheet kites over any planet with an atmosphere.

These would glide down -each landing very gently.

The kites would each have a small electric vehicle attached to one corner, allowing them to move across the ground and self-assemble at one location.

Each kite would act as a single layer in a 3D printed electromechanical machine -potentially of great size and complexity.

This would then drive off and perform some mission, without ever having been shaken up on impact with the ground.

#2425: BombTomb

If a dirty nuclear bomb is planted in a city, even if it can be found, it could be very hard to defuse.

Today’s invention is a way to move any such device to safety with maximum speed.


The bomb would be placed (perhaps by a mobile robot) in a spring-mounted box atop a tunnelling machine with its axis vertical. This would also contain a small, remotely controlled explosive device.

The drill would be fired up, creating a path, perhaps through many floors within a building, towards the ground.

A cable attached to the box would allow the whole system not to crash downwards at any time.

Eventually, when ground level was reached, the drill would rapidly create a vertical shaft around the bomb in the box, channelling the spoils behind as backfill (and perhaps also pumping in concrete, if the situation allowed this).

With a deep enough shaft, the added, trigger explosive could be detonated, allowing any radiation from the nuclear blast to be absorbed by the surrounding earth.

The depth

#2397: Racquiet

It can be annoying when a tennis player decides to grunt every time they hit the ball.

My working theory is that this tendency is about more than attempting to sound dominant to one’s opponent.


I think that it’s at least partly an unconscious ploy to disguise the noise made by the ball’s contact with the strings of a racquet.

There is a lot of information contained in that signal about the impact location on the strings and about whether the ball is now backspinning or not.

Given that no-one hits the ball anywhere near the speed of sound in air, this information may reach an opponent in time to allow their body to prepare very slightly for its arrival.

Today’s invention is therefore a device attached to a tennis racquet which makes a bumping noise, loud enough to drown out the most ardent grunting, and yet stays the same, irrespective of any details of the ball’s behaviour.

This would have the effect of making it much harder for players to anticipate where the next shot was going and thus lessen the need to disguise the impacts by disturbingly loud utterances.

#2389: Batterotation

Battery chargers are a bit boring.

Today’s invention is a way to reinject a little extra drama.


Imagine a charger with no LED to indicate when the cells are charged.

Instead, there is a single small motor, fed from the mains and rotating the batteries slowly via a little gear.

When charging is complete, the batteries will have turn from showing eg a red outer side to a uniform green.

It would also be possible to have a message on the underside of the batteries, which would be revealed when they were ready.

#2388: Touchistory

In future, when we are surrounded by domestic and workplace robots, it may be necessary to identify which was the one that made a dent in the car door or dropped that wine glass.

You could attempt to film them continuously or read back location logs for every one of the joints of a humanoid ‘bot, but both these approaches would require enormous amounts of datalogging and storage.


Today’s invention is therefore synthetic ‘fingerprints’ for robots.

These machines would have minute inkjet nozzles embedded within their ‘hands’ and elsewhere on their limbs.

These would react to any contact pressure by squirting a tiny spot of a personalised spray onto the surface in question.

The prints could be applied to surfaces that don’t work for human prints (eg fur) and they might be fluorescent under UV light, so that any errors or accidents could be easily detected and the droid responsible suitably adjusted.