Edmund Gerstein claims to have invented a "Manatee Alerting Device" (aka MAD) that, when attached beneath a boat, will emit a beam of sound alerting manatees to get out of the way. But it's controversial. Other researchers insist the device will just add more noise to an already noisy underwater environment. It would be like "putting a siren on every car on a highway." And that manatees wouldn't be able to tell where the sound is coming from.
Complicating the controversy, it turns out Gerstein has a history of advancing unorthodox manatee theories. Back in the 1990s he claimed to have discovered that manatees can hear high-speed boats better than low-speed ones. His claim was promoted by boaters who wanted no speed regulations, but after paying tens of thousands of dollars on extra manatee research, the state of Florida decided Gerstein was wrong. He was also busted for faking a degree. Which is why researchers aren't exactly welcoming him with open arms now.
Self-lighting cigarettes seem to be an idea that inventors keep dreaming up, not realizing that the idea has already been tried. The basic problem with them is identified in this thread on the Guardian. Either the head of the cigarette rips off as you try to light it, or it doesn't light and you're left with a smashed-up cigarette.
Also, although I'm not a smoker, it seems like a problem that doesn't need a solution. I get the sense that smokers like the ritual of lighting their ciggies.
Muncie Evening Post - May 21, 1929
Des Moines Register - June 28, 1951
Deca self-lighting cigarettes were sold in the UK in the 1960s. Image via Flickr.
"1972: South Korean inventor Whang Kyu-bong invents the self-lighting cigarette."
The Infraphone, invented by Douglas Reddan circa 1960, used infrared light to allow people to communicate wirelessly at distances of several hundred yards. You had to aim your infraphone at another infraphone, which you did by looking through a sight on top of the unit. Then you could talk into the device, just like using a phone.
It's an interesting idea, but I can't really think of a situation when this would provide an advantage over using a radio walkie talkie. Maybe because the signal can't be intercepted as easily? But then there's the awkwardness of having to aim the device. Articles about it frequently suggested it could be used as a wireless intercom.
Julie Burrell is the entrepreneur behind this "totally hands-free" way to pump breast milk without taking time out from the rest of the work mothers have to do every day.
"I've driven while I'm using it. I've typed on the computer. I've chopped vegetables. You know, you can pretty much do anything," she said.
It looks like the guy is about to send the girl flying into the air, but apparently he was demonstrating some kind of water rescue device, not a rocket.
"S. Shapiro, inventor, strapping his Shapson aquaplane on Miss Margaret Travis for demonstration at Santa Monica, Cal. The model is 44 inches over all and is operated by cranks which the swimmer turns to propel the plane. A speed of 12 knots can be obtained." — Chicago Tribune - Mar 3, 1935
Design company Hochu Rayu has come up with a noise-blocking helmet for office workers. From their website:
Helmfon is a device in a form of helmet, which thanks to the system of active sound absorption allows to concentrate in open working spaces. Because of the special absorption features, this helmet fully reflects the outside sound waves and thus makes the process of working comfortable, with no outside noise. In addition to it, the helmet blocks the Helmfon noise to outside surroundings and thus people, who sit near the Helmfon user don’t experience any discomfort of hearing unimportant sounds.
Our main idea was to create a tool, which helps fully concentrate on working project, get some personal space and doesn’t allow office noise kill person’s productiveness.
It reminds me of the isolator helmet invented by Hugo Gernsback, back in 1925. (See Laughing Squid for more details).
Straight out of the 70s. Hear Muffs were the invention of Stephen Hanson of Downers Grove, Illinois. They were headphones encased in a wraparound foam pillow, that came with a washable velour cover.
Hanson started selling them in 1972, but by around 1977 the product seems to have been discontinued. Perhaps because you'd only want to wear them in bed. And even then, it was probably difficult to lie on your side while wearing them.
Instead of using refrigerated trucks to deliver medical supplies to people who live in the deserts of Africa, inventors have built solar-powered refrigerators that can be carried by camels, and so the medicines are delivered via refrigerated camel.
Apparently it wasn't that easy to build a camel-carried refrigerator. It had to be lightweight, but also sturdy enough to survive the motion of being on the camel as well as the extreme desert conditions.
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
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