Archive for the ‘Inventions’ Category

Life·Hack

– a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

We’ve all read about life hacks, those helpful bits of advice aimed at making our lives easier. And although Life Hack is a fairly new term, the actual act of coming up with better ways of doing things is as old as man himself. Or herself. You get the gist.

Hell, as a Southern Ohioan I’ve seen cars with wooden bumpers, duct taped windshields and cooking smokers made from filing cabinets, so I can relate to redneck ingenuity as much as the next guy.

Anyway, this whole “life hack” thing reminded me of a guy I knew in college we called Muggs. Dude was always bending the rules, sometimes in minor ways, other times in major ways. I’ll give you three examples.

First off, the Muggs was cheap as hell. He was so tight that when he smiled his kneecaps moved. Anyway, he never tipped and would never pay for anything, including stamps. When sending a letter, he’d put the address he wanted the letter to go to as the return address, then put his address as the main address. Then he’d go uptown and drop his letter in the mailbox without a stamp, which would then be returned to the person in which he intended to receive it in the first place. Diabolical. Incredibly, it worked. Keep in mind the cost of a stamp was 13¢ back then. Good God.

As for me, I’d always been taught you shouldn’t mess with the federal government, so I didn’t.*

*If you don’t count the mailbox killing spree I went on in high school with my idiot friends. 

Another life hack Muggs’ wild imagination came up with was the in-car bar. Hear me out on this one, because it’s ingenious, wildly inappropriate and probably illegal. Muggs went to an auto parts store and bought a new windshield washer container for his car, the one that sits under the hood. He bought new tubes that take the cleaning fluid to the windshield as well. Then he installed the new container and redirected the tubes under the dash and through the air vents in his dashboard.

See where this is going yet?

Next, Muggs filled the container with whiskey, so whenever he wanted a drink he’d simply put a cup under the vent, hit the button that turns on the windshield wiper cleaner, and let the booze poor into his cup. If he got pulled over he just closed the vent. That’s wild, man. I remember that before he told us about this I always wondered why he had a cooler of ice in his front seat with nothing else in it.

Bottom line, Muggs was an evil genius. Hell, I’m pretty sure that’s so original there’s no law against it.

Muggs was also in a frat (pretty sure it wasn’t sanctioned or anything) that held a yearly raffle to raise money for “charity”, and by “charity” I mean a big end-of-the-year bash with a live band, booze and plenty of co-eds. Of course Muggs was in charge of the raffle. I remember guys selling chances to win a used car for $5, and they’d sell these tickets for months. Problem was, nobody ever saw anything other than a photo of the car, and every year the big winner was somebody’s uncle from Bardstown, Kentucky or somewhere. Every year at the party the winner would be announced by Muggs:

“And the winner is . . .  drumroll please . . .  Charlie Starkweather of Saluda, North Carolina! That’s my uncle! I’ll see that he gets his 1973 Lincoln Continental Town Car!”

I can’t say this with certainty but I’m pretty sure there was never a car and that the big raffle was 100% profit, minus the cost of buying the tickets.

Muggs, man. God knows how much he pocketed for himself.

As for me, I was taught my own little life hack a couple years ago when I tried to cancel a hotel room in a small coastal town at the last minute. Here’s my phone conversation:

“Hello, Blue Surf Hotel. Charlie speaking.”

“Hey Charlie. This is Dave Shoemaker. I made reservations for Thursday night but I need to cancel. Something’s come up.”

Note: I could have said I had an emergency but I never tempt fate, which may have then handed me an actual emergency just for spite. Fate can be a real bitch. Anyway . . .

“Sorry old buddy, but cancellations have to made 7-days in advance. I know it’s a pain in the butt but the owners here are really strict about it.”

It was apparent to me I was talking to an older gentleman, as he had a raspy, deep voice with a slow southern drawl. Dude sounded exactly like I’d expect Old Man River to sound. Anyhoo . . .

“Seven days? I just made reservations yesterday! That makes no sense.”

“I know, I know. They make no exceptions though. Very strict folks. I’m very sorry.”

At this point I’d just kissed $155.79 goodbye since they had my credit card number and all. But then . . .

“Why don’t you reschedule, old buddy? Maybe sometime in August?”

“Not sure why I’d do that, Charlie. I’ll be long gone by then. That would do me no good at all.”

“You sure? You could reschedule ya know.”

Now I’m a little exasperated.

“Charlie, don’t you get it? I won’t be anywhere near Ocracoke on August 15th. I don’t want to reschedule.”

“Well, I’d think about rescheduling anyway, for say, August 15th. Then if something comes up you could cancel. You know, as long as you did it at least 7-days in advance.”

Realization . . . slowly . . . sinks  . . . in. My skull is a little thick, ya know.

“You know, Charlie, that’s a good idea. I  think I will reschedule. Let’s say August 15th.”

And so I did. And I also cancelled on August 7th. Life hack, man. Thanks Charlie.

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I’m telling you now to turn the sound off. Some Japanese dude is yelling throughout the video and it’s annoying as hell. Very cool to watch though.

The fax machine was invented the same year as the Oregon trail migration. It was invented in 1843 by a Scottish mechanic named Alexander Bain. This early model used a combination of synchronized pendulums, electric probes and electrochemically sensitive paper to scan documents, and then send the information over a series of wires to be reproduced. At this same time, the “Great Migration” on the Oregon trail began, when a wagon train of about 1,000 migrants began to travel west.

 

If you have an in-ground pool you know how little animals are always getting in there, only to die and end up in your skimmer. Now those days can come to end thanks to the FrogLog, an invention by a guy named Rich Mason. Check it out man. Buy a FrogLog, save many little lives. As Hippocrates said, “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.”

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Well, sure.

The Daymak C5 Blast is the world’s fastest go-kart. With a 0-60 speed of 1.5 seconds, it’s faster than the world’s best supercars which max out at around 2.5 seconds. What makes the Daymak C5 the world’s fastest go-kart? Electric Ducted Fans reduce the weight of this go-kart by 50% to only 100kg.

Obviously, we’re talking about some extremely advanced machinery here and that means it doesn’t come cheaply. The C5 Blast from Daymak will put you back a cool $60,000. If you don’t have sixty grand to spend on a go-kart, don’t fret. There is a heavier version for $9,999 that will go 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.

Listen, I gotta be honest here. I want a Daymak C5 Blast Go-Cart and I want one yesterday. 60 mph in 1.5 seconds? Hey, I’m no Math major but even I know that’s fast, man. Jeebus. Hope that sucka has a seatbelt on it.

Henry Ford famously tried to make personal airplanes available to everybody with his awesome little Ford Flivver, but ultimately failed. That was sad.

Ford’s success in making a car available to every US citizen led him to believe that he could do the same with planes. Thus, Ford hired an engineer named Otto Koppen and charged him with designing a small, light plane.

The design was finished in 1926 and was called “Ford Flivver.” The plane’s flaps were arranged in such a way as to give it maximum upward lift in small spaces, and a rear wheel meant that it could be driven from your home to a makeshift runway.

Unfortunately in 1928, pilot Harry J. Brooks attempted to fly Flivver from Michigan to Miami on a single tank of gas. As he was cruising over the ocean, the Flivver’s engine locked up, smashing the plane and the pilot into the water.

Brooks’s body was never found.

The accident put an end to the project. But in 1940, Ford famously announced, “Mark my words: A combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.”

Since then, humankind has longed for and awaited for their own personal plane. Well kids, our long wait has come to an end. Not only do we have a personal airplane, it also turns into a car. Ladies and gentlemen, the PAL-V Liberty:

Well, hell, that looks fun doesn’t it? Just hop in your PAL-V, fire it up and fly away to parts unknown, land, and drive away like it ain’t no thing. Check out this video:

I want a PAL-V Liberty and I want one yesterday!

Note: Just read where the cost starts at $400,000.00. Never mind.

Volkswagen has revealed a new van concept to honor the iconic hippie Microbus. It looks straight out of a science fiction movie, and it’s fueled by electricity, has self-driving functions, and much more. The new VW Microbus is an 8-seat all-electric vehicle with a driving range up to 270-miles. This baby collects traffic data using its cameras, laser, ultrasonic, and radar sensors, as well as other witchcraft and techno badassness. It’s highly customizable and stores personal seat and air conditioning settings, sounds system configuration, ambient lighting, and more. Sadly, it’s still just a concept, damn it. Because I really want one. Take a look, and click the photo to enlarge:

You’ve all seen them. They’re a staple of picnics, frat parties and beach redsolocupparties. Hell, I use them at my house all the time. No glasses to clean, man!

I wrote earlier today about the death of their inventor, Mr. Robert Leo Hulseman. Yep, I’m talking about the Red Solo Cup, also known as The Ultimate Party Receptacle.*

*I totally just made that up.

But honestly, when you think about it, it really is a thing of beauty. Elegant really. It has a simple, sleek design, a bright and eye-grabbing color, and it’s disposable! Brilliant!

But did you know this?

  • The solo cup has interior fill lines for alcohol? Yep. 1.5-ounces for liquor, 5-ounces for wine and 12-ounces, for beer. True story. Oh, the company denies it because its inventor was a religious fellow but there’s no way that’s a coincidence. We know what’s up, Mr. Hulseman.
  • The company implemented design changes to the original shape over the years, like indented grips to hold on better and a square bottom to make it more stable when used in party games like Beer Pong. Genius, man.

Yes, although Mr. Hulseman is gone, the Red Solo Cup shall live on.

And hey, how many kitchen items have hit songs written about them?

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See that man in the photo? Do you recognize him? No? Well, that’s a shame because he should rank right up there with Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. That man, my friends, is Robert Leo Hulseman.

Robert Leo Hulseman died on December 21st, and I guarantee you’ve used his invention. Hulseman was the inventor of . . . wait for it . . . the Red Solo Cup.

We have lost one of the greats. Here’s to you, Robert Leo Hulseman.

 

Nice work, fellas.

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Brilliant!

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This thing would be great. You know, until you got hit by a truck.

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It’s in Lidzbark Warminski, which is in northern Poland, but I’m sure you knew that. Anyhoo, cool.

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Stellar beard and luxurious hair, too. Leo had it all, man.

Leonardo da Vinci may well have been the greatest inventor in history, yet he had very little effect on the technology of his time. Da Vinci drew sketches and diagrams of his inventions, but either he lost interest in building them or was never able to convince any of his wealthy patrons to finance construction of his designs. As a result, almost none of da Vinci’s inventions were built during his lifetime. And because he never published his diagrams, nobody else knew about them until his notebooks were discovered long after his death.

Like Edgar Allan Poe, da Vinci wasn’t appreciated until after he was long gone. Sad, really.

And that’s a damn shame, because da Vinci’s designs were spectacularly and amazingly ahead of their time. If they had been built, they might have revolutionized the history of technology. The problem is, many of them may have been impossible to build with the tools available in the 15th and 16th centuries.

How could Leonardo possibly imagine building inventions that would require tools not yet invented? Because he was a freaking genius, man.

In recent years engineers have begun to construct models of da Vinci’s amazing machines, and guess what? Most of them actually work. What follows is just a few of the most imaginative, and coolest, designs that da Vinci sketched out in his notebooks.

As you read about these inventions, remember that Leonardo da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519. To put this in perspective, he was 40-years old when Columbus discovered America. So, long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue Leonardo was drawing blueprints for flying machines and machine guns.

Incredible.

Read on, and prepare to be amazed. Remember that these are just a few of his ideas.

THE PARACHUTE

Da Vinci, who was fascinated by the idea of human flight, conceived his parachute as a way for people to drift through the air. Its pyramid-shaped framework was draped with cloth. As da Vinci wrote in his notebooks, it would allow a man “to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury.” Twenty-first century attempts to build the design show that it would have worked pretty much as da Vinci described.

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Kewl, man. Kite-like.

THE ORNITHOPTER

The ornithopter would theoretically have allowed humans to soar through the air like birds. While da Vinci’s parachute would have allowed a human being to jump off a cliff without being hurt, the ornithopter was actually a way for people to soar off the ground and into the air. As you can imagine this was beyond comprehension during da Vinci’s time. On paper, the ornithopter looks much more birdlike than present-day airplanes. Its wings are designed to flap while the pilot turns a crank. This invention demonstrates da Vinci’s strong grasp of aerodynamics and modern attempts to reproduce the ornithopter show that it could indeed have flown. However, it would have already had to be in the air because taking by hand would have been impossible. And get this – the parachute and ornithopter were only two of the flying machines concocted by da Vinci in his notebooks. Others include a glider and something a little farther down on this list.

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Looks safe enough.

THE MACHINE GUN

Da Vinci’s idea for a machine gun, or “33-barrelled organ,” wasn’t a machine gun like we think of one. That is, it couldn’t fire multiple bullets rapidly out of a single barrel. It could, however, deliver punishing volleys of gunfire at rapid intervals and, if it had been built, would have effectively mowed-down oncoming infantry like a boss. Da Vinci proposed mounting 11-muskets side by side on a rectangular board, then attaching three such boards together in a triangular arrangement. By placing a shaft down the middle, the entire contraption could be rotated, so that one set of 11 guns could be fired while a second set cooled off and a third set was being reloaded. Then the entire mechanism could be rotated to bring the loaded set to the top where it could be fired again. That’s just terrifying, man.

Leonardo da Vinci noted time and again in his notebooks that he hated war and loathed the idea of creating killing machines like this one, he needed the cash and found it easy to convince his wealthy patrons that such machines would help them triumph over their enemies. Perhaps it was for the best that this hellish death machine was never actually built.

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Diabolical.

THE DIVING SUIT

While living in Venice in the late 15th century, da Vinci devised a wild idea (for its time) for repelling invading ships. He suggested sending men to the bottom of the harbor in diving suits so they could cut holes in enemy hulls. That idea is not so outrageous nowadays, amirite? Hell, it’s common now for frogmen with scuba gear to engage in underwater sabotage. In da Vinci’s time? Unheard of, man. Da Vinci’s divers would have carried breathing hoses connected to a floating bell full of air, wearing facemasks with glass goggles that would help them see underwater. In another version of the concept, the divers would have breathed from wine bladders filled with air. In both versions, the men would carry a bottle to urinate in so that they could stay underwater indefinitely. Da Vinci’s design was not only feasible, it was practical. These diving suits were actually going to be constructed, but the invaders they were intended for were driven away by the Venetian Navy. Hence, they were never tried.

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15th Century Aquaman.

THE ARMORED TANK

While working for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, da Vinci proposed what may have been his ultimate war machine – the armored tank. Driven by the muscle power of eight men, the armored tank was a turtle-like moving shell with no less than 36-guns poking out of its sides. It was operated by a system of gears propelled by cranks that turned a sequence of wheels. Sounds complicated, huh? The eight men would have been protected by the outer shell so that they could have driven the tank at about walking speed right into the heat of battle without being hurt. The guns, firing in all directions, would have been devastating to the bad guys. Dude was pretty good at devising weapons of destruction for somebody that hated war, right? Money is a magnet, folks.

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Flying saucer-ish, man.

THE SELF-PROPELLED CART

Da Vinci’s self-propelled cart was pretty much the first car in history. In fact, because it has no driver, it can be looked at as history’s first robot vehicle, too. The drawings that da Vinci made of the car in his notebooks don’t fully reveal the mechanism inside and modern engineers have had to guess at what made it go. The best guess is that it used a spring-driven mechanism similar to that in a clock. The “mainsprings” were contained inside drum-shaped casings and would be wound up by hand. So, the cart would be driven forward like a wind-up toy. Leonardo apparently considered his cart to be sort of a toy, but it’s not hard to imagine that useful applications for it would have followed pretty quickly.

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Sort of like a wind-up toy.

THE AERIAL SCREW

No, this is not some weird sexual accomplishment. Da Vinci’s aerial screw is arguably one of the coolest designs that he ever sketched in his notebooks. Working much like a modern helicopter, this flying machine looks a lot like a giant spinning pinwheel. However, the blades of this helicopter were to have been made out of linen. When turned fast enough, they were intended to produce lift, the exact same aeronautical phenomenon that makes airplanes and helicopters fly. Air pressure would have built up under each blade, forcing the flying machine right up into the sky. At least that was the idea, anyway. The aerial screw would probably not have worked, but da Vinci had the basic concepts of flight pretty much down pat.

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Because everybody likes an aerial screw, amirite?

THE ROBOTIC KNIGHT

If da Vinci’s self-propelled cart was the first working design for a robotic vehicle, then the robotic knight would have been the first robot, albeit one from the 15th damn century. Da Vinci was fascinated by human anatomy and spent long hours dissecting corpses in order to figure out how the human body worked. Sort of a morbid hobby but hey, geniuses are weird like that. Anyhoo, this gave him an understanding of how muscles propelled bone. Being the brainiac that he was, he reasoned that these same principles could be applied to a machine. Unlike most of da Vinci’s inventions, Leonard apparently actually built the robotic knight. Driven by a system of pulleys and gears, it was used primarily for entertainment at parties thrown by his wealthy budro Lodovico Sforza.  Da Vinci’s robot has not survived and no one knows exactly what it was capable of doing, but apparently it could walk, sit down and even work its jaw. Yowza.

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Unsettling.

So yeah. Leonardo da Vinci? WAY ahead of his time, man.

PS: I haven’t even mentioned Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings, which weren’t half-bad as well. After all he did paint the freaking Mona Lisa. Bro was multi-talented, man.

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“How YOU doin’?”

I ran across a bunch of these over at Bored Panda, a funky little website that posts quirky things like “The Most Beautiful Steps in the World” and “Dramatic Fairy Sculptures” and stuff like that. Anyway, I perused their “25 Inventions You Didn’t Know You Needed” and picked out my favorite seven to share with you, my loyal readers. I’ll add my thought-provoking comments and even add my grade for each. Wooot! Damn, I’m bored.

Let us begin . . .

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I like this one. See, the paper has a bunch of names and greetings, then you just circle the one that is appropriate. Then again, that’s sort of impersonal, isn’t it? Disregard. Grade: D-

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Not bad, but I could see myself getting toothpaste all over the mirror and throwing that thing in the trash in a few days. Grade: C-

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I like this idea for the average person who, you know, irons and stuff. I haven’t ironed anything since 1985. That’s what the unwrinkle cycle on the dryer is for, right? Still pretty cool though. Grade: A-

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How can this possibly work? I’d be spilling my beer, I mean coffee, all over the place. Dumb. Grade: F

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I like this one a lot. I see my friend Heather running by my house all the time sprinting as she pushed her kids in a stroller. Better watch out for potholes, though. Grade: A

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Not bad. Sparky would find it beneath him to use something so petlike though. Not horrible though. Grade: C+

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What’s so great about this? I’ve been using scissors to cut pizza for years. And that slice thingy would just complicate matters and get in the way. Dumb. Grade: D-

If you’ve read my acclaimed blog “Wait. We were promised Jet Packs!” you’d know that I have several ideas for inventions much better than these, including my Refridgerwave, the Car Hair Dryer, The Flashdark and Drinkable Mouthwash. Trust me, they’re all A+ inventions.

Now excuse me while I go work on my Wine Flavored Dental Floss.

Leonardo da Vinci created plans for a “mechanized knight,” – a robot-like creation reliant on a system of pulleys. When these plans were found almost 500 years later and built according to Leonardo’s specifications, the design worked perfectly.

 

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Ever heard of the Antikythera Mechanism? No? Prepare to be amazed.antikythera-mechanism

Noted physicist Richard Feynman wrote in 1976 that the Antikythera Mechanism was “so entirely different and strange that it is nearly impossible to describe. It is some kind of machine with gear trains, very much like the inside of a modern wind-up alarm clock.

The Antikythera Mechanism was found on a sunken ship in the Aegean Sea between mainland Greece and Crete. The ship was assumed to be Roman and, when it sank just off the coast of the island in the middle of the 1st century BC, it carried a large number of artifacts dating back to as early as the 4th century BC.

In 1900, Greek sponge divers found the shipwreck, which was submerged in nearly 150 feet of water.

The bronze-and-wood object, later named Antikythera Mechanism, was found with a shipload of marble, coins, glassware, and pottery. Since all the other artifacts were more apparently worthy of conservation, the mechanism was largely ignored until 1951. After  two decades of study, the first publication on the Antikythera Mechanism was made in 1974 by physicist and historian Derek de Solla Price. Price’s work was unfinished when he died in 1983, having never figured out how the device actually worked.

However, scientists are pretty sure about this – the Antikythera Mechanism was designed to calculate dates and predict astronomical phenomena, so it was theoretically the earliest analog computer. Remember that it was made sometime in 4-million BC.

Here is the incredible description of the Antikythera Mechanism:

Reproduction of the original.

Reproduction of the original.

Consisting of at least 30 bronze gears in a wooden container that was only the size of a shoebox, the highly advanced clockwork mechanism was thousands of years ahead of its time. By turning a hand-crank, the user could move forward or backward in time. The crank made the gears move and rotate a series of dials and rings on which there are inscriptions and annotations of Greek zodiac signs and Egyptian calendar days. The mechanism tracked the lunar calendar, predicted eclipses, and charted the position and phase of the Moon. It also tracked the seasons and ancient festivals like the Olympics. The calendar is based on the time from one full moon to the next, and a special dial allowed the user to also envision the seasons, which would have been useful for agriculture. Since the ancient Babylonians figured out the cycle of eclipses, the inventor of the Antikythera Mechanism included two dials that rotate to show both lunar and solar eclipses. But the most sophisticated thing the mechanism did was lunar calculations—it could figure out the Moon’s period at a given time and model its elliptical orbit.

Bottom line, whoever built this contraption was a freaking genius.

The amazing thing is, it seems that the knowledge to build such a mechanism was lost through time, perhaps because it was a specialty device or too expensive to create. Similar astronomical clocks didn’t reappear in Europe until the 14th century.

And oh, one more thing – planetary motion in the mechanism was accurate to within 1 degree in 500-years.

Amazing.

And while many (but not all) of its functions have been figured out, how and where it was used are still unknown. ‘Tis a mystery for the ages. Somebody, though, was way ahead of their time. Way, way ahead.

Because why not?

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Just like the old days.

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Hard to imagine this becoming the norm but what do I know?

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Would I use the Nod Pod Neck Hammock? Hell yes I’d use the Nod Pod Neck Hammock. I don’t want a Nod Pod Neck Hammock, I need a Nod Pod Neck Hammock. It’s supposed to be used on airplanes and stuff but I’d use the Nod Pod Neck Hammock while I’m actually driving or just sitting around the house. Plus, every time people asked what it was I’d get to say the words Nod Pod Neck Hammock. Cool.

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Because it is wild, man.davyc

The Davy Crockett bomb was the smallest nuclear device ever developed by the United States of America. Get this – you could carry it in a backpack. Did you read what I just wrote? It was a nuclear bomb you could carry in your backpack, man.

Also known as the W54 or “Backpack Nuke”, this baby weighed about 50-pounds and could be launched from a jeep or your shoulder. It was designed for use on conventional battlefields and it had a top range of 2.5 miles.

And this little guy was deadly as hell, man. This, from the US Military Archives:

davycrockettAny person within a quarter-mile radius of the Davy Crockett explosion would face almost certain death. Those within the first 500-feet would be exposed to enough radiation to kill within minutes or hours, even with the protection of tank armor. People at about 1,000-feet from the blast would experience temporary fatigue and nausea which would then pass, but this misleading “walking ghost” condition leads to a painful death after a few days of apparent well-being. Those beyond a quarter-mile would have better chances of survival, though many would require extensive medical care, and perhaps never fully recover from their injuries. Those lucky enough to be more than one-third of a mile from ground zero would be spared most of the harmful effects, but the mutations in their DNA would give them an increased risk of cancer later in life.

The problem, however, was this – accuracy when shooting the weapon was sketchy at best. Hell, the thing might drop a few hundred yards from where you fired it.

The real kicker here is that the Davy Crockett Bomb stood an excellent chance of irradiating the very soldiers that fired it.

Good times, huh? Gotta love those wacky nuclear weapons. Let’s imagine the soldiers undergoing training on how to properly use the Davy Crockett Bomb:

“Well boys, here’s the deal. We’re honoring you by giving you the responsibility of employing the smallest nuclear device ever developed by these United States of America. This little beast will drop nuclear hell on an enemy just a couple miles away. Oh, and by the way, after you fire it turn and run like hell.”

PS – On a serious note, I hope like hell something like this doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, if you know what I’m sayin’. Chills, man.

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Yeah, we’ve all heard of Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, Henry Ford and all the other famous inventors. However, there are many more inventions that we use every day that were invented by people you’ve never heard of. Read on . . .

JOHN WALKER

No, I’m not talking about the Johnnie Walker who created the scotch whiskey some folks prefer. I’m talking about the other John Walker, the dude who invented friction matches. It might surprise you to learn that matches weren’t invented until 1827. That’s too bad because Lewis and Clark could have used some. Anyhoo, Walker marketed them as “friction lights,” which is cool as hell but most people called them “lucifers” which was even cooler. Walker was never satisfied with his invention and did not patent it, which led to him making zero dollars for an invention that is still widely used today. Crazy, man.

Kewl.

Kewl.

RON KLEIN

Almost every day of your lives, we as adults use something Ron Klein invented. Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? Nobody? Well, Mr. Klein invented those magnetic strips on the back of ATM or Credit Cards. Before we were able to imprint account numbers on cards, vendors had to consult a large printout of credit accounts before accepting charge cards. Klein saw this pain in the ass and as something he could fix. Using the recently developed magnetic tape being used in the recording industry, he invented a method of encoding magnetic tape with simple information, like an account number, and applied this to the back of a credit card. Freaking genius, bro.

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GEORGE CRUM

Ah, my favorite. The aptly named Mr. Crum invented something that’s probably in everybody’s cupboard as we speak – the potato chip. And guess what? He did it out of spite. While working as a chef at Moon’s Lake House in 1853, George Crum served a plate of French fries to a customer who complained that the fries were too thick and soft. Deciding to stick it to this irate customer, Crum sliced the potatoes so thin that they came out as fried chips instead of the normal french fries. Incredibly, the thinly sliced chips were a huge hit and George ended up making them so much that when he finally opened his own restaurant, he had a bowl laid out on every table. He called his invention “Saratoga Chips” and the rest is history.

chips

Tasty, man.

DOUG ENGELBART

This guy invented something most of you touch every day. You grab it, move it around, and it takes you places that only you know. Yep, Doug Engelbart invented the computer mouse. Engelbart demonstrated the mouse in 1968 alongside other innovations, including what would become hypertext, windows, shared screens, and even video conferencing. And once again, although he holds more than 20 patents, he doesn’t hold one for the mouse. He developed it simply as an intuitive device to operate his computer in 1964 and never considered the full commercial applications of it. So sad.

mouse

HARVEY BALL

Gotta love Harvey, man. He’s responsible for an American Icon – the Smiley Face. The design took Harvey only 10-minutes to come up with and earned him a tidy sum of $45.00, worth about $350.00 today. He was working as a freelance artist at the time and was commissioned by State Mutual Life Assurance Company to introduce an image to raise morale. Ball’s design was made into buttons for the company and eventually went on to T-shirts, posters, and just about anything and everything else, even inspiring everyone’s favorite emoticon in today’s world. The image has earned billions over the decades, but Ball only ever received that one initial $45.00 check.

The one and only original.

The one and only original.

Honorable Mention would have to go to George Lyon, the man who invented . . . wait for it . . .  the automobile bumper. Dude may have saved more lives than anybody in history.

Fun Invention Fact: Bubblewrap, the popular, poppable packing material was actually invented serendipitously. Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes were trying unsuccessfully to design a plastic wallpaper, and in the process discovered that their invention made an effective packing material. The entrepreneurs went on to found the Sealed Air Corporation, a company that now produces annual revenues exceeding $8-billion, and it employs 26,300 people in 175 countries. Cool beans.

So, did ya learn anything today? Of course you did.

A Swedish invention.

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