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Posts Tagged ‘innovation

“The real questions are: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in ten years?”*…

 

Ziba, a Portland-based design firm, asked each staff member to submit his/her “top five” list of designs that have changed the way we think about the world over the organization’s 29-year history– back to 1983.  They clustered the submissions around thematic statements that characterize the innovations, e.g. “The mundane shall be celebrated,” or “Connectivity is like oxygen.”  Then, they captured the results in an infographic (a detail of which is above).

Explore a larger version here, and note that there are a number of things that didn’t make the cut: Napster? the GIF? Yelp?… but then, that’s the fun– and the useful provocation– of lists like this, encouraging us to make our own nominations.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
- Douglas Adams

* Charles Eames

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As we noodle on the new new thing, we might celebrate the emergence of a design, an innovation, a technology that took on a life of its own and changed… well, everything:  this date in 1455 is the traditionally-given date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type.

(Lest we think that there’s actually anything new under the sun, we might recall that The Jikji– the world’s oldest known extant movable metal type printed book– was published in Korea in 1377; and that Bi Sheng created the first known moveable type– out of wood– in China in 1040.)

The Library of Congress’ copy

Written by LW

February 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a wiener!…

 

From The Atlantic‘s always-illuminating Alexis Madrigal, “The Year in Hot Dog Innovation.”  E.g.:

A printing press for corn dogs

More contributors to the quest for fabulous franks here

Let it never be said that our nation stood still while others carried forth the banner of progress.

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As we reach for the improved sweet onion relish, we might box a dome-shaped birthday cake for inventor, educator, author, philosopher, engineer and architect R(ichard) Buckminster Fuller; he was born on this date in 1895.  “Bucky” most famously developed the geodesic dome, the only large dome that can be set directly on the ground as a complete structure, and the only practical kind of building that has no limiting dimensions (i.e., beyond which the structural strength must be insufficient).  But while he never got around to frankfurters, he was sufficiently prolific to have scored over 2,000 patents.

“Fullerenes” (molecules composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow spheres, ellipsoids, or tubes), key components in many nanotechnology applications, were named for Fuller, as their structure mimes that of the geodesic dome.  Spherical fullerenes (resembling soccer balls) are also called “buckyballs”; cylindrical ones, carbon nanotubes or “buckytubes.”

I have to say, I think that we are in some kind of final examination as to whether human beings now, with this capability to acquire information and to communicate, whether we’re really qualified to take on the responsibility we’re designed to be entrusted with. And this is not a matter of an examination of the types of governments, nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with economic systems. It has to do with the individual. Does the individual have the courageto really go along with the truth?

God, to me, it seems
is a verb,
not a noun,
proper or improper.

 source

 

Written by LW

July 12, 2013 at 1:01 am

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”*…

… or so it must seem to Patrick Andrews, who has, since 2006, been creating and posting (with a rhythm close to your correspondent’s heart, that’s to say, roughly daily) an “Invention of the Day.”

His website…

… is intended as an outlet for the force-four brainstorm which rages in the background of my mind, much of the time. It seems to result, most days, in some kind of invention. Many of these ideas are naive, impractical or just unoriginal. Occasionally, a good one appears (eg www.scenereader.com). In any case, disclosure here of anything clever or original will make patenting it impossible**; which is probably a healthy situation…

The obvious thing to do is to forget patents and move straight to manufacturing and selling your own products. With desktop manufacture and online marketing, this is becoming a real possibility in some cases. I recognise, however, that I won’t have enough time and money to develop and launch the majority of the ideas here in the marketplace.

Please therefore feel free to read, mock and/or exploit commercially any which take your fancy. If they make you rich, do let me know (Donating to Unicef is a good idea, even if you haven’t yet made a mint)…

Consider, for example, #2302- “the Collareel”:

Today’s invention is a dog lead with the added benefit that when your animal is off-lead, it carries the whole thing itself.

A small, spring-loaded reel of strong cord is clipped to the ordinary lead. It is shaped to fit closely to the collar and thus be impossible for the dog to remove or for it to tear off while crashing about the undergrowth.

When you want to reign in your canine, first catch it and then pull the lead out to normal length.

Browse the bounty of his brainstorms at “Invention of the Day.” 

* Mary Shelly

** Sadly, as of March 16, no longer true in the U.S.

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As we await the illumination of the bulbs above our heads, we might tip the plumed birthday bonnet to Rene Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was.  He was born on this date in 1596.

Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
- Rene Descartes

Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649

source

Your correspondent is headed again behind The Great Firewall, where the undependability of connectivity (even, these days, via VPNs) means a hiatus in these missives.  Regular service should resume by April 10 or so. 

Written by LW

March 31, 2013 at 1:01 am

Aye, Robot!…

 

It’s not just the assembly-line worker who’s being replaced by automatons, it’s tough all over:

In the face of rising labor costs, Chinese restaurateur Cui Runguan is selling thousands of robots that can hand slice noodles into a pot of boiling water called the Chef Cui. Runguan says in the report below that just like robots replacing workers in factories, “it is certainly going to happen in sliced noodle restaurants.” The robots costs $2,000 each, as compared to a chef, who would cost $4,700 a year. According to one chef, “The robot chef can slice noodles better than human chefs.” News of Runguan’s invention hit the internet in March of 2011, but they’ve since gone into production and are starting to catch on: 3,000 of them have already been sold. But why do their eyes glow, and why do they look so angry?…

From Eater, via Laughing Squid.

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As we admire the precise proportions of our pasta, we might send well-insulated birthday greetings to Ray McIntire; he was born on this date in 1918.  While working at Dow Chemical during World War II in search of a substitute for rubber (which was in short supply during the conflict), McIntire combined styrene with isobutylene and created polystyrene, a unique material that was solid yet light and flexible (due to the tiny bubbles formed by the isobutylene within the styrene).  Dow patented the serendipitous invention in 1944 as STYROFOAM™.  In 2008, McIntire was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 source

 

Written by LW

August 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

The essence of entrepreneuring…

From the Kauffman Foundation’s “Sketchbook” series, “Make it Happen,” a wonderful animation of a recent interview with Tim O’Reilly on the “Maker Movement” (see here and here)– and on what it can teach us about innovation and entrepreneurial energy:

 click image above, or here, for video

For more, see CNN’s interview with Make‘s founder (and Tim’s long-time publishing partner), Dale Dougherty.

As we return with enthusiasm to our workbenches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1872 that U.S. Patent No.123,790 was awarded to Silas Noble and James P. Cooley for a device that allowed “a block of wood, with little waste and in one operation, [to] be cut up in to toothpicks ready for use.”  The inventors had been working together since 1854, as drum makers; at the time of the toothpick breakthrough, their company , Noble and Cooley, which remains in the percussion business to this day, was manufacturing 100,000 drums per year.

So, in much the same way that an unplanned byproduct of NASA’s space program was the powdered drink that gave American households a convenient source of vitamin C (Tang), Noble and Cooley’s quest for better drum shells and sticks helped bring down the cost of cleaner teeth and healthier gums…

 source

Written by LW

February 20, 2012 at 1:01 am

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