#2384: ConDots

The Gates Foundation recognises the importance of condom use to world health, so my application to them for funding will be based on today’s invention.

I’ve made suggestions before based on Alan Turing’s work on pattern formation.


In order to make men keener to use condoms, they should be patterned with spots (rather than stripes).

The effect of this is an apparent visual size increase, thus greatly incentivising the use of condoms.

I hope the image effectively illustrates this comparison (although the average contrast is not exactly equal in upper and lower images).

(My attempts to use other size illusions, such as Muller-Lyer were less convincing).

#2380: Biquad

Today’s invention allows cycling to continue even on frosty roads.

Two cycles have their seats removed and are then joined by a single brace which slots into the seat post location on each and keeps the frames parallel.


This component has a single seat attached, as shown.

A rider can sit and propel this stable, four-wheeled vehicle using the two inner pedals, whilst steering via the inner ends of the handlebars (which could be linked together to coordinate the angle of turn).

#2366: Divairsion

If you are an airforce tasked with enforcing a no-fly zone, or if you need to intercept a plane without destroying it, your options are currently limited.

Today’s invention is an unmanned aerial vehicle which might help.


This is capable of flying at great speed and with none of the manoeuvring restrictions imposed by a flesh-and-blood crew.

The aircraft would approach and attach itself across one of the control surfaces of the target plane (probably using small harpoons and a number of high-tensile wire lassos).

It would then fire a retro rocket, causing both craft to slow significantly and allowing other such interceptors to catch up and latch on to flaps or ailerons.

Their coordinated activity would allow the target plane to be directed away from its current course and forced to make an emergency landing onto eg a nearby body of water (or a remote runway using the UAVs’ own wheels).

In this way, interesting military secrets could be obtained or terrorists thwarted, without loss of life.

#2364: CarriageUnder

Today’s invention is an alternative undercarriage for heavy planes.

Rather than the traditional set of three wheels, a single tractor unit is centrally mounted.


This emerges from the belly of the plane when preparing to land. A pilot then controls the landing process from within this vehicle, which is large enough to support the aircraft, once landed, on its own.

Having parked, the vehicle can then be driven off, leaving the plane standing on the central pillar.

The undercarriage vehicle can be stocked with food, fuel etc elsewhere, then return with these supplies and replenish the plane via a lift in the support column.

#2340: FoamDome

I’m now officially obsessed by cycle helmets (in addition to helicopters, crowd dynamics, Aston Martins…)

Imagine if sunglasses contained a number of small spray cans of that fast-setting builders’ foam used for sealing gaps in walls etc.


The resulting solid is fairly flexible and surprisingly impact-resistant. One might even employ the kind of foam used in non-lethal weapons to restrain rioters (but without the adhesive).

The sunglasses could be arranged so that an accelerometer detects any untoward movement towards the ground.

This would open the valves on the spray canisters, allowing the foam to escape and set within a few tens of milliseconds (ie before impact with vehicles or the road).

The effect would be to have a helmet’s protection without having to wear one.

It might later be really difficult to get out of one’s hair, but better that than a trip to an operating theatre.

Similar canisters could also be inserted into small pockets at the elbows and knees of one’s clothing.

#2324: ProfilePieces

I’m no fan of monarchy, to say the least, but today’s invention is illustrated by the queen of england.

It’s a chess piece made using the figure/ground illusion.


More specifically, the idea is to create chess sets, each piece of which would be made from the profile of one of some set of famous people, rotated about their vertical axis.

It could be the royal family of your choice, the 1966 world cup side or one of the Game of Thrones dynasties.

This would help to make chess more accessible to people who find knights, rooks and bishops hard to identify with.

#2319: CamouflAdge

The advertising business is first and foremost about grabbing attention.

Whether on- or off-line, this has some downsides for the products concerned.


Ads which are plastered everywhere lose their impact and I sense that people are beginning to dislike the fact that their environment is choked with maximum-colour, maximum-contrast, maximum-area selling messages.

Today’s invention is an advertisement which is designed to be unobtrusive and even calming. Billboards would simply be empty or blank frames. Online banners would be frames containing the page background colour.

Such an ad would say, in smallish letters on the frame, “This ad has been created by XYZ Corp and is intended show respect for our customers by not defacing their visual surroundings.”

#2311: Heartaser

Today’s invention is a personal defence system for those who have already suffered some kind of heart problem.

This takes the form of a sub-cutaneous defibrillator with an additional two electrodes facing outwards just beneath the skin.


If a user of such a system is grabbed by an assailant, he or she would give them a bear hug or divert their hand onto the skin over the embedded unit.

This pressure would activate a switch which sets up a sudden voltage between the outward facing contacts (without disrupting the heart of the wearer of course).

A voltage of about 2kV would thus be applied across a small area of an attacker’s body…quite enough to discourage any further aggression.

#2305: Pitline

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.


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.

#2301: InterruptEar

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.


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.