Category:
Inventions

Annoying Gadgets

We all love gadgets. Except for the truly useless and frustrating devices. Those we hate and ridicule. The Japanese actually have a term and category for such items: Chindōgu.

Recently, while browsing through the catalog for WHATEVER WORKS, I found two examples of Chindōgu.


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This anti-cootie sack for the paranoid traveler seems utterly useless. Wouldn't the bedbugs crawl inside within seconds of contact?'













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This spinning fork is guaranteed to suck all the pleasure out of an eternal childhood pastime: making S'mores. When the batteries die and the plastic handle melts, all the fun comes to a tearful end.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jul 30, 2008 - Comments (5)
Category: Business, Products, Domestic, Food, Inventions, Travel, Hotels

Jetpack Dreams

That most silly and pointless and inutile, yet much desired of flight mechanisms, the jetpack, is back in the news. You can read a New York Times piece about the latest model here.



And a review copy of this book recently arrived in my mailbox, portending lots of fun.











Yet such mechanisms pale before the magnificently insane accomplishment of Yves Rossy, who, a couple of years ago, basically turned himself into Iron Man. Watch his jet-powered flight below.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Jul 29, 2008 - Comments (4)
Category: Eccentrics, Flight, Inventions, Literature, Science Fiction, Movies, Obsessions, Pop Culture, Technology, Travel, Yesterday's Tomorrows

Fuller’s Fog Gun

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Buckminster Fuller was great at dreaming up inventions that, he hoped, would help humanity by making people's lives easier and less stressful. However, most of them never caught on. One of his ideas was the fog gun.

The basic concept was to combine the cleansing effects of wind and heavy fog. His system used compressed air, atomized water and liquid soap. Standing in the blast of this "fog gun" for approximately ten minutes would completely clean a person. From buckminster.info:

His fog gun....afforded a new kind of bathing. It combined compressed air (over 200 pounds/square inch) and atomized water with triggered-in solvents. The kinetic force of the high-pressure air stream was utilized without the skin-damaging effect unavoidable in high-pressure needle-pointing of water streams...

The best part was that you could leave the fog gun running for an hour, and it only used a pint of water. And, "If fog gun bathing were done in front of a heat lamp, all the sanitary & muscle-relaxing effects of other types of bathing could be effected without the use of any bathroom."

Fuller described the fog gun in his first book, Nine Chains to the Moon, published in 1938, the title of which referred to the idea that if all the people in the world stood on each other's shoulders, they would form nine chains to the moon. Back then the world's population was about 2 billion. Now we're at over 6.6 billion, so presumably we're looking at about thirty chains to the moon.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 28, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Bathrooms, Inventions

Mechanical Elephants

Once upon a time, mechanical elephants roamed up and down the boardwalks of beaches. Check out the clip below from a 1950s newsreel. The elephant, built by Frank Stuart was "Gasoline Powered with a 4 cylinder English Side Valve Ford engine. Top speed 27 MPH!"



I found the clip on the blog of Eastcliff Richard who reports that, "Astonishingly Britain used to lead the world in the production of mechanical elephants. This one was later sold to the late, great, dearly-departed Peter Sellers as part of his eccentric collection of automobilia."

Some more videos of mechanical elephants can be found here and here.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 17, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Inventions, Technology

Robo-Crabs

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Good: HEXBUG Micro Robotic Creatures. Available soon at Radio Shack.

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Better: The Killer Spider Tank Tachikoma.

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Best: NASA's Spidernaut robot arachnid.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jul 15, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Inventions, Technology

The Uroclub

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Florida has a lot of elderly golfers with weak bladders. To help these folks, Florida urologist Floyd Seskin created the UroClub. It is:
A camouflaged portable urinal, designed to be discrete, sanitary and create an air of privacy! It looks like an ordinary golf club and comes equipped with a unique removable golf towel clipped to the shaft that functions as a privacy shield!

I've got to admit, it is practical. But a bit pricey at almost $50.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jul 15, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Bathrooms, Inventions, Sports, Products

The Grass Scanner

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The Grass Scanner is a product (hypothetical, I believe) dreamed up by designer Alice Wang. She offers this description:

In wealthier neighbourhoods, the size of the house and how well maintained the garden is, often represents status. The Grass Scanner is a device designed to measure how green the grass is. It takes reading from 3 random patches of the grass and outputs a Pantone* colour code for one to reference and compare. With the codes, one can then refer to the PARKTONE** cards which contains true grass colours of Royal Parks and other green areas in the UK for people to match up with their own garden.

Where it might fail is on fake lawns, which are becoming increasingly popular here in Southern California. Though fake lawns aren't cheap, so having one might indicate a moderate level of status. (via We Make Money Not Art)

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 14, 2008 - Comments (2)
Category: Inventions, Technology

Amazonian Miracle for Sale!

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If only you had been reading Popular Mechanics magazine for February 1929! Then you could have purchased the same Purple Ray healing device that Wonder Woman uses! Okay, so it was a "Violet Ray." Same difference, right?

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jul 14, 2008 - Comments (15)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, History, Inventions, Medicine, Science, Technology, Comics, 1920s

Happy Hula-hooping!

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Celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the Hula Hoop!

Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 13, 2008 - Comments (3)
Category: Anniversary, Business, Products, Customs, Decades, 1950s, Fads, History, Inventions

Daring Polish Aviator—Times Two!

Synchronicity in the creative arts is pretty weird. The independent invention of very similar things. Charles Fort, one of the masters of all things weird, even had a term for it: "steam engine time." Fort's notion was that when an era was ripe, it called forth certain creations multiple times, without coordination among mere humans.

I was reminded of this recently in a small way while watching the 1942 film TO BE OR NOT TO BE. In this film, Robert Stack plays a dashing Polish aviator named Lieut. Stanislav Sobinski.

What other fictional dashing Polish aviator premiered right at this time? None other than Blackhawk, who debuted in August of 1941.

Could it be a simple case of the Blackhawk comic influencing the scripter of To Be or Not to Be? Unlikely, given the short span between the debut of Blackhawk and the release of the Robert Stack film, which had to be in production for some time prior.

It's more likely that the plight of Poland under Hitler's invasion called forth the notion of a national hero. But why aviator? Just the romance of aerial combat, I suppose.

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Here're pictures of Blackhawk and Stack in his role (leftmost figure, below) to compare. Stack is out of uniform in this shot, but when he's wearing his flying outfit, the resemblance to Blackhawk is uncanny.

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Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 13, 2008 - Comments (11)
Category: Art, Comics, Celebrities, Decades, 1940s, Forteana, History, Historical Figure, Hollywood, Inventions, Movies, Synchronicity

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
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.

Paul Di Filippo
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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Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.

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