This terrifying footage shows a baby carriage (empty) being dragged into the side of a freight train, just by the draught caused by the passing train.
Today’s invention, a mobile tunnel, is inspired by this.
A high speed, non stopping goods train has a small tractor unit at each end (pink at the front and green at the back). These are capable of very rapid acceleration and deceleration. The train carries a platform shield (red) on each side, which can move longitudinally along runners on the train’s side (only the right side shield is shown).
The sequence of events is:
a) Train approaches platform at very high speed, carrying the shield alongside.
b) Front, pink tractor streaks off ahead, but as it gets to the platform, it slows to a low speed. Pink tractor pulls the shield with it and feeds the shield slowly along the platform.
c) Shield is in place. train passes through station at very high speed.
The platform is shielded from the ultra fast train, so that no-one in the station is endangered.
d) Rear, green tractor detaches and moves slowly, holding the shield. The rest of train has sped away.
e) Green tractor moves shield along platform until it has been cleared. Green tractor, carrying the shield, then accelerates to catch the rest of the train.
These days it’s ridiculous that, if I have to print something, the print should ever emerge from the printer unreadable.
When this happens, a lot of paper gets wasted, not to mention the time and frustration involved.
Today’s invention is therefore a program, running on my printer, which will identify text portions of a print job and automatically rescale them so that the printed font size will correspond with what is, for me, a comfortably legible size.
This might require some messing with the formatting of a complex document, for example, but the printer would ensure that all elements get printed clearly, even if the regions aren’t as closely packed as they were on the original page.
Today’s invention is a playpark swing which incorporates a small automotive type airbag on both the left and right edges of the seat.
The swing seat would also incorporate a small camera, so that each bag would only fire if a face was detected within say 20 cm.
The edge-mounted bags would inflate without impacting the swing occupant’s legs.
This would reduce the number of head injuries caused to children when running in front of moving swings.
Now that even middle eastern police forces are using flying bikes, today’s invention makes use of this general concept in connection with ejection from aircraft.
When a pilot decided to eject, his cockpit cabin would be blown clear of the fuselage, as usual.
After a few seconds, instead of a parachute, a small set of rotor blades would deploy.
This would allow the pilot to steer his craft nearer to his own lines, before making a soft(ish) landing.
At no point would he be left conspicuously dangling under a canopy, a target for anyone below.
I’ve been watching racing motorcyclists take on racing car drivers. The major performance advantage which cars have is stable braking. In addition, race cars have enormous downforce.
Bikes could go faster if we attached inverted wings, but that would make overtaking hazardous and probably not work well on street circuits (Like the TT).
So, today’s invention is a downforce generator for racing bikes.
This would consist of a large fan attached to a duct held very close to the track (flexibly fringed, like a hovercraft skirt).
The fan would be driven off the engine to generate a low pressure region beneath the machine. Air would flow upwards through the duct and be exhausted behind the rider, as indicated.
Every petrol station I use has a small beach of sand on the forecourt, following spillages.
I hate walking in greasy sand and then dragging it into my vehicle. Not to mention the danger posed by half a gallon or so of 95 octane slopping about the pumps.
Today’s invention is a retro fit device for each pump.
A low tray with a steel grid on top (red) is driven up onto by pump users, using a shallow ramp at either end. Under the grid would be a steel mesh intended to limit the escape of vapour from beneath.
This tray contains a sloping bottom surface which directs anything liquid into a well, away from the paying public. The contents of this well (green) are pumped into a secure container, for later use as a very low-grade, supplemental fuel (for eg heating boilers).
Today’s invention is my submission to an online contest for ‘designers’. I don’t stand a chance in this, because I’m not spending two days rendering the required images, off fees -but the idea, I think, is sound.
The brief was to design an umbrella for people in crowded spaces.
My approach has the following features.
A funnel-shaped parasol/canopy (in the shape of a water vortex). This is inflatable, using the bicycle pump in the handle. This avoids any sudden expansion of eye-poking spokes. It would be translucent, so that crowd members don’t get submerged in total darkness.
The profile of the funnel presents a low-drag shape to the oncoming wind, so that inversion can’t happen and buffeting about is reduced. This structure is further stabilised by being held up on the bicycle pump, as well as a flexible tube (red).
The tube allows the rainwater to avoid dripping all over your neighbours and instead dribbles out onto the ground (directed to miss everyone’s feet).
People put the wrong fuel in their cars all the time.
One reason for this is that sometimes a person will be filling a can with unleaded at the same time as topping up their diesel car. Somehow, the nozzles get put back in the wrong holsters.
Today’s invention is a simple fix, which would also make life hard for mischevious folk who swap nozzles around purely for amusement.
Each nozzle and holster would have male and female features which prevented, say, the diesel nozzle ever being put into the hi-octane holster.
Slideshows are a technology which has really run out of steam, but which has not yet been superseded.
Today’s invention offers a small way to augment slideshows by improving their automatic timing using content sensitivity.
The basic idea is that each slide would have the number of ‘items of interest’ in it counted, by software, and then its duration on-screen would be calculated to be in proportion.
A team photo with 30 faces in it would be on-screen for longer than a single portrait.
This works particularly well for faces, now that selfie culture and its associated software are everywhere. The approach could be applied even to technical presentations, so that a lecturer could simply label slides of greatest importance with eg ****, so that these would stay on show for longer than those labelled *.
Seats which nest together are common in schools, auditoria etc.
Today’s invention extends that to vehicles.
Imagine a plane or a bus or even a domestic people mover in which all the back seats can move forwards or backwards on rails (I’d like them motorised).
The seat parts would be horizontal and set at slightly lower heights towards the rear of the vehicle.
This would allow for much more flexible loading of people and/or luggage, without the need to remove seats. It would also enable seat spacing to be programmable, depending on the needs of a particular journey.
Shorter people could opt to sit at the rear, so that their feet could reach the ground more easily.