#2523: Adiabaticar

Consider the heater/air conditioner in a car. It has a lot of work to do in treating the entire volume of air in the passenger compartment.

This all has a cost in terms of both wasted fuel and the time spent waiting for the cabin to warm up or cool down.

Today’s invention is therefore a tightly-fitting blind which is pulled down between the front and rear seats. It would be held in place by slots attached to the walls and floor of the car interior. This blind would be made of insulating material, so that there is very little communication of water vapour or heat between front and back compartments.

The blind could be made with a glass panel to allow continued use of the rear view mirror.

For extreme environments, this might be extended by another blind, isolating the driver from the rest of the passenger cell.

#2522: PostPole

I know of at least one postal delivery person who has been seriously injured by delivering mail to a property where the domestic dog decided to inflict a nasty bite.

Today’s invention is aimed at helping post people make their deliveries in safety.

On approach to a house with a dangerous dog, a postal worker would extract from his bag a telescopic glass fibre fishing rod. This could be extended to reach over a very large yard, as shown.

The rod could simply knock the door and ask for the dog to be chained up, or it could be used (with practice) to slot letters through the letterbox. Parcels could be safely transported onto a front door mat (unless they contain anything edible, obviously).

#2521: LabRatory

Theme park owners are desperate for thrilling experiences -which are also 100% safe.

Today’s invention is an upgrade to the ancient idea of mazes, which is aimed at offering eg themeparks a more engaging entertainment.

A large number of tall privet bushes are planted in boxes with wheels, motors and wireless controls.

These bushes can be joined together to form walls of a reconfigurable maze.

Once a ‘player’ has penetrated the maze, cameras detect their eye movements and reorder the walls of the maze in areas where they are not looking.

This could be used to create a genuinely frightening experience…certainly enough of a challenge to those seeking something along the lines of a haunted house visit. The maze could have variations in difficulty, from static to inescapable.

(Cutting the bushes could be done by running them each through a stationary trimmer occasionally).

#2520: SofterSigns

There is a whole engineering field devoted to roadsigns. Part of that concerns itself with the balance between signs which are strong enough to stand up to high winds and yet not so strong as to cause extra injuries to vehicle occupants when a collision occurs.

(It’s disgraceful, by the way, that motorcyclists seem to have been already written off in connection with this analysis).

Anyway, today’s invention is a new form of roadsign. Instead of the solid flat plate on the left, it takes to form of a box structure with a round rectangle cross-section (This new design could be made of much thinner material than the flat plate, of course).

In return for less than 20% more material used, roadsigns can thus reduce their need to withstand wind loading by about 20%.

This means that the supports for these signs can be 20% weaker and therefore 20% less dangerous to motorists of every kind.

#2519: Driving flat out

Today’s invention is for owners of offroad vehicles who want to avoid spilling their champagne in transit across their country estates.

It takes the form of a control box and a table-supporting frame which has an attachment point on top of each of the windows.

As rough ground is encountered, the control box drives the windows up and down just enough to ensure that the frame (red) stays perfectly level.

#2518: CoolerFuel

In drag racing, durability is much less important than engine efficiency for a few, frantic seconds.

In such high-performance engines, an intercooler is often mounted between turbocharger and engine inlet. This boosts the efficiency of the engine and also lessens the tendency for knocking to occur.

Bless the Australians who seem to be experts in using a heat exchanger full of dry ice cubes to perform this function.

Today’s invention elaborates on this technique by using a block of solid nitrous oxide in an insulated box. This is dropped into place just before a drag race or timed run. According to my Boy’s Own Book of Physical Constants, this should remain a solid at atmospheric pressure whilst the temperature is kept below -90 degrees C.

Instead of having metal tubes running through the box (which add weight), my approach would be to freeze the nitrous oxide with a set of smoothly bent rods in place.

When these are withdrawn, a collection of smooth channels, corresponding to streamlines, remains, so that the engine inlet flow can be subject to minimal resistance.

As hot gas passes through the block it evaporates the solid nitrous -quickly widening the channels ( a bit like a solid rocket motor) and forcing combustion-promoting gas, plus cooled air, into the cylinders.

#2517: Pot-Talker

Today’s invention was inspired by my friend Muriel.

It is a plant pot with a built-in recorder, for those people who believe that this promotes their mutual wellbeing.

This allows a plant owner to record what they say to their plants.

If they need to go on holiday, then the recorder simply plays back a little chat each day, leaving the vegetation feeling less neglected.

#2516: FlashBoard

Road safety is increasingly important to vehicle manufacturers. This is especially true as populations age, road network complexity rises and insurance charges increase.

So, before the whole automotive world descends into autonomous transport, today’s invention offers a small safety upgrade.

When someone is driving and they enter a tunnel, their eyes do an amazing job of adapting the the lower light level. Many modern tunnels help this process along by providing entry and exit lighting which is intermediate between the brightness inside and outside.

There is a general problem, though, that it takes about a second or two for eyes to adapt and at motorways speeds, this equates to around 90m…during which time your ability to read a dashboard can be badly affected (especially if you are older or tired or have vision problems)

Imagine a dashboard display which was attached to a light meter located near a driver’s eyes. The system would use GPS to be aware of eg tunnels or overpasses in the next 500m or so.

Knowing the ambient light level (and thus current state of visual adaptation), the dashboard would automatically and smoothly brighten in advance of entering any dark space…so that, on driving into it, the eyes would be fully prepared.

#2515: CurveAlert

I’ve been driving on country roads this Summer and been unnerved, a number of times, when turning a corner only to find a sudden stationary queue of traffic.

The cars who are coming up behind, but which have yet to negotiate the bend, really need to be warned, somehow.

Today’s invention provides that warning.

A small radio controlled-type car is dropped from the underside of a vehicle, once its hazard warning lights are activated. This would then move about and find the white line in the centre of the road.

It follows the line behind its vehicle until it just loses sight of its home registration plate and then stops. At this point, a bright emergency light on top begins to flash.

Many vehicles might deploy their little robot cars at any point along the road. Each robot would receive a signal from its own car when the hazard lights were turned off. This would be its signal to return to its own car. Those robots that failed to make it back would attach themselves to any passing vehicle. These would incorporate ownership details, so that they could be posted home.

#2514: CocktailCrisps

I’m a huge fan of potato crisps (or ‘chips,’ if you live in a country that serves something called ‘french fries’).

There is now a huge variety of flavours, although I’m not really convinced by the grandiose ‘Anglesey Sea Salt’ or ‘The Amazing Adventures of Salt & Vinegar.’ These are fried potatoes, people.

Anyway, today’s invention is to offer two-compartment crisp packs, each of which would be filled with totally different flavours and separated internally by a ziplock bag closure.

This allows more access to bolder, pre-tested taste experiments. I’ve discovered that eg ‘sour cream and chives’ goes rather well with ordinary ‘salt ‘n’ vinegar’ -especially if one of these has the ridged texture and the other is flat. You get much more emergent variety of taste and mouth-feel texture this way than if you just apply the combined flavour to one crisp.

Maybe packets could contain randomly-chosen combinations which you only discover by reading two internal labels?

People could post their favourite combinations online and the manufacturers could then use these to guide future product development.

(One of my offspring just drew my attention to this, which is related, but not quite the same).