10th August 2013
It seems that the Kremlin is thinking of returning to typewriters instead of computers. In the 1970s, the Soviets developed a special sensor which could interpret the vibrations of windows in US Govt. buildings when typewriters were in use.
They could thus read the content of any secret memos in preparation.
Although silent, non-networked machines are still used to create certain documents, I’m told, today’s invention is simply a tapper device which bumps the window with a wide variety of frequencies and amplitudes whenever a keyboard of any kind is in use in a room. It might be possible to have it tap the window according to the content of a particularly rude but non-secret message, for example.
This should effectively scramble any possible eavesdropping, for both/any sides in a future cold war.
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7th August 2013
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).
Comments Off on #2440: ChopperChopper
Unstitching a garment by manually unpicking the stitches is a problem for the recycling industry. In the clothing business, such activity is done largely by sweatshop labour.
Today’s invention is an unsewing machine.
A section of stitches to be unpicked would be marked with eg an ultraviolet ink at the start and end.
This section would be inserted under the cutting head which would be fitted with a small camera.
The material would be propelled past a small blade. This would be guided, by the camera, to snip any stitches (ie threads larger in scale and/or of a different colour from the main material).
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I’m mad keen on the engineering of speed records. Driving at enormous speed across salt or mud flats is fraught with difficulties, however.
These natural materials are flat because of the evaporation of water from their surfaces, but they still have quite a scaly, dusty texture, which makes route selection problematic and grip uneven.
Today’s invention is a permanent, uniform track enabling record attempts to be made almost anywhere with the political will to spend the money (countries at higher altitudes may also have an advantage).
First, lay a 15-mile railway track with a super-strong substrate and horizontal to a very finely controlled level of precision. The track would need a loop at either end
Then lay on top of that long sections of big-diameter open concrete gutter (say 5m in diameter). These could be standard civil engineering components but with extra careful caulking at the joints.
The effect would be to create a very smooth, open channel down which a variety of vehicles could be propelled under reproducible conditions.
Comments Off on #2438: Gutterace
4th August 2013
Today’s invention is a set of shades for a tall building, which also help make better use of internal lighting at night or in dull weather.
Two, right-angle shades, with reflective inner surfaces, are shown attached to a multi-storey building.
During the day, sunlight (orange beam) passes in between them to light the rooms, but not overheat them.
When it’s dark, light from one floor can be reflected up or down into an adjacent floor (yellow beams).
This causes a much more even distribution of illumination, so that many fewer lights need be left switched on for eg security purposes.
I found this article, about the placement algorithms for containers on a ship, fascinating.
Today’s invention adds another variable to be optimised.
Container ships of the future might become enormous, even by today’s standards -and potentially much faster.
This opens up the possibility of stacking the containers on deck to form a relatively low-drag aerofoil shape.
In addition, the ship would have incorporated into each side of its hull, a pair of huge, flat surfaces (yellow).
These would act as low-drag elevators, so that, at speed, the hull would be raised by perhaps 0.5m out of the water, cutting the overall drag on the vessel significantly.
Comments Off on #2436: Cargowings
There is a lot of irritation being caused, it seems, by people who insist on filming video in portrait mode.
When it’s displayed later online or on-screen, this can result in the appearance of two black bars on either side. Ugly, but hardly a disaster…(vertainly not if you use vimeo).
Today’s invention is a way to help cool passions on this subject.
One’s camera would tag every movie with either a ‘portrait’ or ‘landscape’ marker.
When shown on a monitor of the type I envisage, it would automatically rotate, using a built-in motor, to accommodate all the pixels recorded -without having to insert any black sidebars.
It might also be interesting to be able to define a vertical in an image (corresponding to say a person standing) and then have that stay vertical as the surroundings rotated.
This would allow a viewer to watch certain scenes in ‘Inception’ on a screen which was continuously rotating.
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1st August 2013
Clothes dryers should be cleaned out every 2-3 years, but many are never cleaned at all.
Lint starts building up inside the ventilation hose, reducing the airflow and efficiency of the dryer until it clogs or even catches fire.
Today’s invention is therefore a short light-rope supplied with each new drier hose and powered via a socket in the body of the machine.
This rope would be moored on a series of stalks inside the hose, as shown, so that when the lint had built up to a significant level, the light would be locally less visible when the machine was switched on.
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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.
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31st July 2013
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Carrying a pen about with you is now perceived as almost as nerdy as wearing a wristwatch or taping the bridge of your spectacles.
Today’s invention is a phone case which allows people to make a brief printed note using only their cellphone.
The phone in its case is placed on a piece of paper.
One of four hemispherical ‘feet’ in the case is equipped with a graphite coating.
A program on the phone drives the onboard eccentric flywheel vibration so that the drawing foot is driven across the paper, creating marks as it goes.
Since writing paper has a pretty consistent coefficient of friction, simple, continuous-line versions of on-screen text or symbols can thus be reproduced.