(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘inventions

All for fun…

 

Forty years ago, self-starter Bruno (as he’s known to all, first-name friendly) opened a fledgling restaurant, or osteria, in the wooded region near Treviso, Italy. The way he tells it, the decision was improvisatory: After buying several pounds of sausage links and a few jugs of wine, he set up a grill in the shade of a tree and awaited his first customers. “I wanted to see if we would sell something or if people would come”…

Come they did– Bruno now presides over a 500-seat outdoor eatery… to which the now 76-year-old inventor has added the Ai Pioppi camping ground and amusement park:  a collection of whimsical amusement park rides, all hand-built by Bruno, that are Ai Pioppi’s main draw.

email readers click here for video

Read more about Bruno and Ai Pioppi in “An Amusement Park, Entirely Handmade In The Woods Of Italy.”

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As we brace for the thrill, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Marvin C. Stone was awarded a patent for the first wax-coated drinking straw (paraffin-coated manila paper) and the spiral winding tube-making process used to make it.  Stone, already a success with his paper cigarette holders, decided to try for a replacement for the rye grass shoots that, until his invention, were the drinking straws of choice– while they worked, they imparted an undesirably grassy flavor to beverages.  Stone’s invention so succeeded that within two years his straws were outselling his cigarette holders; in 1906, he patented a winding machine to automate the process and keep up with demand.

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Written by LW

January 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

Not quite ready for prime time?…

3D printing is an emerging technology of extraordinary promise. But like any new tool, it’s early use is largely about understanding how it works… which makes for piles of unsuccessfully-attempted constructs– as amusingly illustrated in the Flickr stream “The Art of 3D Print Failure.”

{Example above, via Flickr/MaX Fredroom]

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As we recheck our settings, we might send precisely-threaded birthday greetings to Cullen Whipple; he was born on this date in 1801.  A machinist, Whipple invented and patented the first practical device for making pointed screws (a marked improvement on earlier screws, which were blunt-ended and required the drilling of “starter holes”).  Cullen joined with partners to incorporate The New England Screw Co., then went on to invent and patent seven other machines that improved the manufacture of screws.

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Written by LW

September 4, 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

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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

Be deliberate in all things…

 

Laughing Squid reports:

For ECAL’s “Low-Tech Factory” exhibition, design students Laurent Beirnaert, Pierre Bouvier and Paul Tubiana created Oncle Sam, a popcorn machine that pops just one kernel at a time. At the final stages of the process, this contraption even butters and salts the single piece of popcorn that was produced. Watch this video to see the machine in action.

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As we turn up the heat, we might pause to send amusing birthday greetings to Al Christie; he was born on this date in 1881.  An early motion picture director, producer, screenwriter and studio head,  Christie ran the first ever movie studio to be built in Hollywood
(Nestor Studios, opened in 1911) and is credited with having produced the first film comedies there.  In all, he produced more than 700 films before retiring in 1942.

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Written by LW

November 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

So many books! So little time!…

Daniel Rourke– a contributor to the terrific Three Quarks Daily, and proprietor of the equally-nifty MachineMacine– reminds us that the problems of coping with information overload are nothing new…

Agostino Ramelli’s Rotary Reader

In 1588, the Italian Engineer Agostino Ramelli described a novel invention to facilitate the reading of multiple books at once:

A beautiful and ingenious machine, which is very useful and convenient to every person who takes pleasure in study, especially those who are suffering from indisposition or are subject to gout: for with this sort of machine a man can see and read a great quantity of books, without moving his place: besides, it has this fine convenience, which is, of occupying a little space in the place where it is set, as any person of understanding can appreciate from the drawing.

The precursor, no doubt, to internet surfing… Gout beget Carpal Tunnel Syndrome beget Muscle Atrophy beget Internet Addiction Disorder. Will mankind stop at nothing in the pursuit of pure information?!?

As we meditate on multi-tasking, we might wish an admiring and grateful Happy Birthday to one of the most accomplished multi-taskers of all time, the mathematician, biologist, historian of science, literary critic, poet and inventor Jacob Bronowski; he was born on this date in 1908.  Bronowski is probably best remembered as the writer (and host) of the epochal 1973 BBC television documentary series (and accompanying book), The Ascent of Man (the title of which was a play on the title of Darwin’s second book on evolution, The Descent of Man)… the thirteen-part series (which is available at libraries, on DVD, or Netflix), a survey of the history of science–  from rock tools to relativity– and its place in civilizations, is still an extraordinary treat.

Bronowski

 

Sacrificing oneself for Progress…

Fred “The Flying Tailor” Reichelt, who died in 1912 when he attempted to use this self-styled garment as a parachute in a jump off of the Eiffel Tower (source)

One is, of course, supposed to practice what one preaches, to eat one’s own dog food.  But even as it’s only right to suggest that a physician “heal thyself,” it’s only fair to reference that healer’s Hippocratic Oath, and caution him/her “first, do no harm”…

Consider this List of Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions.

As we head back to the drawing board, we might recall that it was on this date in 1950 that the daily comic strip Peanuts premiered in eight newspapers: The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Minneapolis Tribune, The Allentown Call-Chronicle, The Bethlehem Globe-Times, The Denver Post, The Seattle Times, and The Boston Globe.  Its creator, Charles Schulz had developed the concept as a strip (L’il Folks) in his hometown paper, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947 to 1950.  At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages.

First Peanuts strip

Visionary failures…

As one struggles to control “iPad lust,” one might take a moment to find perspective.  Harry McCracken‘s terrific Technologizer is a great place to start.

In “Mr. Edison’s Kindle” Mr. McCracken observes that:

The brightest inventors on the planet keep coming up with ideas that never amount to much–even when they set out to solve real problems, and even when their brainchildren foreshadow later breakthroughs. And professional tech watchers have long proven themselves prone to getting irrationally exuberant about stuff that just isn’t ready for prime time.

… and then he regales one with fifteen great examples– from Edison’s “metal books” to “home teletypes,” inventions that spoke to real needs/desires (as events subsequently demonstrated), but that were at least a decade ahead of their times.  For example:

The Watch-Case Phonograph

As seen in: Popular Science, June 1936.

What it was: A bizarrely small phonograph built into a watch case.  You wound it up like a mechanical timepiece, whereupon a “midget record” played music through a “diminutive horn.”

Flies in the ointment: It would have required the world to accept a new media format: midget records. (Their running time is unknown–wonder if you could fit an entire song onto one side?) Also, holding the player up to your ear would have gotten old fast.

When did the basic idea become practical? The introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979 kicked off the era of pervasive, portable prerecorded music.

Modern counterpart: The iPod, of course.

Perhaps as a courtesy to Apple and the big news of the week, McCracken left the Newton off the list.

As we muse that timing is everything, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that the Beatles gave their last public performance– an impromptu concert from the roof top of Apple Studios in London.  Neighbors complained about noise, and police broke up the concert…  at which point John Lennon closed with: “I’d like to say thank you very much on behalf of the group and myself, and I hope we passed the audition.”  Get Back!

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