#71: Prehab product

Today’s invention is a new product for the many sources of highly-priced therapy in connection with addictive behaviours.

Prehab is a tool which reads news feeds for the first appearance of each new name on the celebrity circuit. It allows exclusive rehab clinics to get in touch with these people before they develop an addiction and to provide them with a personalised risk assessment and information about the possible dangers of fame and fortune.


This may not be enough to avert the problem entirely but it does allow each clinic to get their foot in the door as the first choice source of support if addiction rears its head later in an individual’s career. It also provides wannabees with a valuable indicator of having ‘made it’.

#70: Slam shield

Some people just don’t have much ‘mechanical sympathy,’ ie a sense of how hard to push or twist or bend a device to achieve some result. Especially when closing car doors, it’s common practice to use the ‘stand back and slam’ approach. This is bad because:

  • It encourages people to make a bloody nuisance of themselves in the early hours: “HOWDY NEIGHBOURS, WE’VE BEEN TO A PARTY”
  • The door takes a terrible mechanical beating over the course of its lifetime.
  • Most important of all, It’s still too easy to catch some poor child’s fingers in the gap

I’m not advocating an MIB II complex electronic door closure system -which is guaranteed to break (replacement cost £2,299 + VAT, per door, thanks).

Instead, todays’s invention take the form of a hose fitted around the internal periphery of a car door, to form a loop (you could use a hollow version of the common foam door seal).

One end of the loop has compressed air passed in when the door starts shutting (it could be compressed by the previous door closure action). The other end of the hose has a microphone embedded in it. The microphone ‘knows’ the sound of a correctly closing door. Children’s fingers depressing the hose, by being in the gap, and other phenomena, such as hurling the door closed, make a discernibly different noise within the hose and cause the door’s internal rubber stops rapidly to protrude -or not to withdraw. (This whistling hosepipe technique might also underpin the contact monitoring pads of this idea).

If you wanted a greater margin of safety, the hose might have pinholes inserted along its length which would issue compressed air streams. These would interact with objects in the gap but not actually in contact with the hose, changing slightly the noise picked up by the microphone and stopping the door from closing somewhat earlier.

#69: Stomach acidity indicator

A relative of mine routinely feels a sudden burst of nausea several minutes after taking an omega-3 oil capsule. We believe that it’s the result of the soft wall of the pill suddenly breaking down (in HCL with a pH of around 1) and releasing a burst of harmless, but sickening, oil (we hope it’s harmless and at least the effects disappear within a few minutes).

Today’s invention is to use the time-to-nausea as a non-invasive measure of stomach acidity. It turns out, surprisingly, that this isn’t a predictor of that many diseases, but it may help to highlight when someone is undergoing heightened stress.

If we could only find a way to encourage eg suspected criminals to ingest such pills, there might be a way to use the effect as a back-up to lie detection techniques.

#68: Toilet turbulator

I’ve had to undertake a lot of practical research into the phenomenon of blocked drains, lately…we are talking toilets here actually, I’m afraid. I’ve been astonished by how poorly a sink plunger performed, even when combined with gallons of chemical unblocker. There is no way to form the required seal, so I resorted to a different tactic.

Ideally, I’d use a high-pressure hose, but if the drain isn’t clear within about 10 seconds, the entire house fills with effluent: -nasty. Turbulent vortices, created by a flapping motion under the water surface, are the answer, I’ve discovered. These can be made energetic enough to erode and dislodge the most stubborn of blockages.


Today’s invention is an attempt to achieve the intense flapping required without having to use your hand. Instead, a variant on this trash picker device is suggested, with a flipper in place of the ‘beak’ and the whole thing encased in some kind of ezy-clene rubber sleeve. I still haven’t thought up a way to make this flexible enough to go around a U bend, but fortunately, water is sufficiently incompressible for pressure waves to be transmitted over longish distances -making this usually unnecessary.

#67: Subjective interface tool

When I was in my early 20s, I suddenly discovered that most people didn’t have the same internal models as I had.

Here is a page from a computer-based diary (written in HyperTalk) which I designed to mirror how I think about the year… how I actually see time in my head.


Each week is envisaged as an upwards-slanting ellipse which moves from Monday (lower left) to Friday (upper right).

Successive weeks form a vertical helix with New Year at the top. This helix of the year then loops over and flows downwards towards Summer.

My 3-D view of time does make using a conventional, rectilinear calendar a major challenge, but it occurs to me that it provides a much more direct, ‘zoomable’ model of time than the conventional grid layout (which never works for me, since I can’t stand that need to look over the page to see what’s happening next month -come to think of it, surely it would be better, on computer-based calendars, to scroll time so that eg on the 2nd of the month you get a window displaying the 15th of last month to the 16th of this month…how many meetings get missed because people didn’t see them coming?)

It turns out that I have several of these visual models: the kinds of thing that NLP and ‘timeline therapy’ rely on. Today’s invention is therefore to equip people with a simple, personal design tool which allows them to create computer based interfaces, reflecting their subjective mental models, to the processes of eg

  • travelling in the city where they live -see this example
  • all the activities within their company
  • their relationships to other people (could produce a few surprises).

It would probably be something like a version of FrontPage (that actually worked) but with lots of javascript widgets available as standard to accommodate the necessary interactivity and personalisation. (I’ve just come across this interesting development).

#66: Oral jacuzzi

I’m no great fan of rasping my gums with a bit of waxy twine, and yet neither am I that keen on carrying around bits of last night’s steak between my teeth.

Today’s invention is an alternative to conventional flossing techniques. Imagine a squishy gumshield-like pad, moulded to fit each individual’s mouth so that when a person bites down on it, any large gaps between shield and tooth, or between tooth and tooth are sealed.


The pad is supplied, from a pipe at the front of the mouth, with water at high pressure which exits from its top and bottom surfaces (the water supply pressure might pulse rhythmically and have mouthwash added for enhanced cleaning).

This flow can then only exit from the mouth via the small gaps between the teeth (assuming the user has blocked his throat with his tongue). In this way, the gums get massaged and cleaned but they avoid being sawn at randomly in the traditional flossing mode.

It’s still not a pretty sight, but at least it’s fast, reasonably effective and probably cheaper than using ‘medicated’ pull-through..

#65: Windfarm camouflage

Some people regard windfarms as unsightly. Compared to pylons and cellphone masts in the form of comedy trees, I’m not convinced.

Today’s invention, however, is a two-fold camouflage technique to help render wind turbines less visible.

1) The turbine masts should be painted in a reflective paint and surrounded by ground-level mirrors which reflect the colour of the surroundings onto each mast.

2) Each of the turbine rotors should be similarly illuminated but with mirrors which are shuttered at the rotation frequency. This stroboscopic illumination would not only cast background colour onto the ‘offending’ machinery, but it would also make them appear relatively still: -removing the attention-grabbing flickering component of their motion.

#64: Condom orientation

“Be sure the roll is on the outside”… easy enough to say in the small print of the multilingual condom instruction manual, but under normal (ie urgent) circumstances, determining which is the inside and outside of a condom can be quite a challenge.

Today’s invention is therefore simply to place a contraceptive sheath in its sealed foil packaging so that eg the side of the packet which should be facing the male’s torso is always of one colour.

This is probably already happening, all we need is to be told that we can rely on it.

#63: Drill guide

I’m often annoyed at myself for failing to make holes perpendicular to the surface of my workpiece, when using a hand-drill.

The world is full of gadgets which aim to help, all of which seem pretty complex. Here is my alternative (which just sounds complex ; )


Think of a ring of metal which has three struts pin-jointed onto it. Each strut is thus free to move so as to stand at 90 degrees to the plane of the ring or to lie flat within that plane. The three struts, when lying in the plane, form an equilateral triangle. A similar set of joints exists between the other ends of the struts and another ring. This ensures that the two rings stay in parallel planes, even when the struts fold (a bit like two picnic tables joined leg-end to leg-end).

This arrangement would be sprung so as to maximally separate the two rings. All this geometry would be attached to the body of a hand-drill, with the drill bit concentric to the two rings.

When you want to drill a perpendicular hole in a surface (even if it’s spherical) you place the lower ring on the surface and move the bit in close to the drill mark. This compresses the spring, and the whole device, purely axially as you drill into the surface. At all times you can see where the bit is going and if the lower ring is always in contact with the workpiece, you get the right result. This guide avoids the need to have a range of different sized inserts, one for each drill bit diameter.

If you need a longer axial travel than this allows, these units can be concatenated to provide it. Although I’m generally dead against making things in plastic when they really need the rigidity/toughness of metal, it might even be possible to implement this design as a one-piece injection moulding, so that the springiness could be a feature of the moulded joints themselves.

#62: Recycled thespians

It’s fairly common these says when making a fim to shoot extra scenes, using existing sets, in order to be able to create an instant sequel. This is obviously much less costly than setting up a whole new project but it does require the backers to believe that there is commercial demand for a sequel, even before release of the main product.

Today’s invention is a variant on this theme that occurred to me whilst watching the charming and brilliantly cast Bandits.

Instead of just reusing sets, why not recycle the actors? They are after all, a major cost to any production. My suggestion would be to present the actors the challenge of reshooting each scene with just their characters swapped. Newman plays Sundance and vice versa. (A surprising number of movies apparently had their original cast exchanged in this way before shooting even began).

Creating an alternative version of certain movies, especially those reliant on the dynamic between two major characters, has a certain extra piquancy and could be achieved for a tiny fraction of the price of a remake.

I’d suggest not releasing the alternative version until the first edition has had time to become established. Can you imagine the consumer demand if it were suddenly announced that there was a forthcoming release of ‘More Like it Hot’ or ‘Louise and Thelma’?