Steve Norris has built a Stonehenge Robotic Digital Clock. I don't think it would work so well as a bedside timepiece (the whirring of it might keep you up at night), but it would definitely be something you could show off to your friends. It would be even cooler if a version of this were built that was the actual size of Stonehenge. (via OhGizmo!)
And speaking of Stonehenge, Rhett Davis, a farmer in Hooper, Utah has built what he calls his "Redneck Stonehenge" to annoy his residential neighbors who apparently don't understand "him and his kind." It's three cars stuck in the ground, which is no rival to Carhenge in Nebraska. (Thanks, Katey!)
Of course we all know that the image of a hand-pumped railroad trolley is a comedy staple. But I find the notion of special little motorized vehicles adapted to ride the rails just as funny. As you might predict, there's an organization dedicated to hobbyists and collectors of these miniature rail-mounted transports, and it's to be found here.
My local newspaper has a great article about a fellow who restored the vehicle pictured to the right.
I imagine a Farelly Brothers movie in which the hero confounds the bad guys by making his unpredictable escape in such a vehicle--at a whopping 5 MPH!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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?
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.