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Month: September, 2016

Shield your mind from the horrors found in a shared breakroom fridge with a futuristic conveyor-belt-based refrigerator! What has been seen cannot be unseen.

Background:

Have you ever had to deal with a shared refrigerator? If so, you may be familiar with the issue of old food items piling up in nooks and crannies of the fridge and never being removed.

Periodically cleaning the fridge will fix this, but it’s a hassle to figure out which food is old and which is new, especially when opaque containers are involved.

fridge-to-trash-just-trash-can

Fig. 1: Philosophers theorize that rotting food should ideally go into the trash, rather than the shared fridge.

The issue:

So how can we AUTOMATICALLY clean out a fridge without any effort?

The old-fashioned solution is to have people label food with a date (e.g. “Oct 14 leftovers”). But unless every single item is clearly labeled, we have only slightly reduced the fridge-cleaning problem.

fridge-overview

Fig. 2: A fridge with three shelves (from top to bottom: orange, purple, blue).

Proposal:

We can use a conveyor-belt-like system to automatically clear old items out of the fridge.

The way it works is quite simple: each shelf is attached to a track, which can move the shelves up and down. Every day (or other interval of time), the shelves move up one shelf-height, and all the food on the top shelf is thrown into the trash. That top shelf now becomes the bottom shelf, and the cycle continues.

fridge-to-trash-4x

Fig. 3: A) The default state of the fridge; casual examination reveals nothing unusual about this setup. However, the orange (top) shelf is about to be automatically cleared of rotten food and expired leftovers.

B) First, the top of the fridge pivots open (#1), then all the shelves travel along a track (not shown) that elevates them by one shelf-height. The orange shelf is now outside of the fridge entirely.

C) In step #3, the orange “to be cleared of trash” shelf is pivoted up and shaken violently, causing the old food items (#4) to fall into the trash can.

D) In step #5, the top of the fridge closes, and the now-clear-of-trash shelf (#6, in orange) is placed on the top of the fridge. Someone will have to manually put this shelf back into the fridge (where it will become the new bottom shelf). The purple shelf is the next to-be-trashed shelf.

Summary:

If each shelf moves up one shelf-sized slot per week, and there are three shelves, then it means that the food on the very bottom shelf would be safe for 3 weeks before being automatically trashed.

Therefore, as long as a motivated fridge-using individual can be bothered to check in on their food at least a couple of times a month, it will be preserved.

But any food item that isn’t shepherded to a lower shelf at least once during the course of the food-deletion period will be mercilessly thrown away.

PROS: Prevents strife from blaming your coworkers for throwing out your “no you guys, it’s totally still fine!” two-week-old leftovers.

CONS: May be slightly on the Rube-Goldberg-esque side of mechanical over-complication.

AN IDEA TO MAKE THIS PROPOSAL MORE PRACTICAL system could be reformulated as a no-moving-parts system with color-coded shelves (e.g. “the red light has turned on in shelf 2b, that means all the food in there is “condemned”) or even something as simple as a piece of paper labeled “everything on THIS shelf will be thrown out on Friday afternoon.

fridge-to-trash-outline

Supplementary Fig. A: Original concept for the conveyor-belt-auto-trash fridge.

 

Minimize the tiny remaining inconvenience of your indefensibly opulent Caligula-esque lifestyle with this one weird “how to make a bed” sheet-tucking-in tip!

Background:

Putting new sheets onto a bed can be a hassle if your bed has a footboard (Figure 1 and 2).

bed-diagram

Fig. 1: Putting clean sheets onto a bed is really easy if there’s no footboard. But if there’s a footboard, it’s a hassle to lift up the mattress and cram the sheets and blanket under the mattress (see Fig. 2). And if you don’t do it right, you’ll pull the top sheet out at some point, getting it all bunched up somewhere at the foot of the bed.

bed-diagram-with-comforter

sheet-problem

Fig. 2: Zoomed-in detail from Figure 1. The thin top sheet (red) and thick blanket / comforter (green) need to be jammed in between the mattress and the bed frame.

Proposal:

We have the technology to solve this issue forever (Fig. 3). Instead of trying to cram all of the sheets / blankets down under the mattress, we can simply clamp the foot-end of the various sheets/blankets together and put that clamp-and-blanket assembly at the foot of the bed. No need to lift up the mattress!

clamp-c

Fig. 3: The humble hardware-store C-clamp can solve this issue forever. Read on for the secrets!

sheet-clamp-demo

Fig. 4: The C-clamp holds the blanket, top sheet (and additional intermediate layers, if necessary) together. Now you can just lazily toss the heavy sheet-clamp-blanket assembly to the foot of the bed and not worry about trying to smoosh your sheets/blanket under the mattress!

PROS: Extensive testing has revealed that this actually works pretty well. Even better if you use a spring-closing clamp instead of one you have to twist. Probably would prevent the undoubtedly many back injuries per year that are caused by people lifting up mattress corners.

CONS: If you pull up the sheets too much, you will probably end up kicking the clamp in your sleep.

 

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Feel the illusion of progress while accomplishing nothing! A “panorama treadmill” trick with metaphorical applications to other aspects of life too!

The issue:

Running on a treadmill can be quite unrewarding due to the repetitiveness and relatively long duration of most treadmill-based exercises.

tread1

Fig 1: This treadmill needs to be jazzed up somehow.

There are certain “gimmick”-based treadmills that connect to a monitor to give you the illusion of actually making progress toward a destination as you walk.

However, none of these is particularly immersive; it is still quite obvious that you are walking on a treadmill and staring at a screen.

treadtv

Fig 2: As the user runs, the video on the treadmill updates to give the illusion that the user is actually running outdoors. But it’s still obviously just a screen, so the experience is sub-optimal.

Proposal:

We can solve this in a simple way:

Instead of using a standard monitor for the video output, we can either use a curved screen (if a sufficiently cheap one can be found) or a curved projector screen and a few cheap projectors.

Now the screen actually covers your peripheral vision, so you really get the illusion of movement!

treadimmersive

Fig 3: A curved screen gives an immersive treadmill-running experience. Just like being outdoors! We can even save money by only projecting in high-resolution to the middle of the screen—since the sides will only be seen in the runner’s peripheral vision, those areas can be extremely low resolution.

VR glasses were also considered. While they would be more immersive and take up less space, VR setups are currently hampered by:

  1. Their tendency to fog up during exercise and
  2. The lack of options for dealing with a user’s disgustingly sweaty face.

PROS: Provides extra motivation to walk on a treadmill (or use an elliptical machine / rowing machine / stationary bicycle / etc.).

CONS: Takes up a lot of space. If you buy one of these for your own house, it will be even more of a shameful reminder of your lack of dedication when you stop using it after four weeks.

 

 

You’ll never believe this weird trick for getting a table from a laptop user at a coffeeshop! Why wouldn’t you believe it? Well, it’s because of your excessively skeptical nature.

Background:

If you go into a coffeeshop in a major city, there is a good chance that you will find it entirely colonized by patrons with laptops who use the shop as a “home office.”

Even if you wait for half an hour, you might never get a table. Woe!

Previously, this issue could be mitigated by either:

  • Not providing WiFi, which is now obsolete due to phone tethering and/or built-in cell radios in laptops.

or

  • Restricting access to wall outlets (which worked very well in the era of 3-hour laptop batteries). But improved battery technology has rendered this approach ineffective as well.

laoptop-normal

Fig 1: This laptop has unavoidably occupied an entire coffeeshop table.

Proposal:

It is difficult to politely kick out a customer.

So we turn to a technical solution to discourage long-term laptop use: harsh overhead lighting.

Specifically, we propose strategically arranged spotlights (Fig. 2) that will be generally acceptable but will cause unbearable screen glare when reflecting off a laptop screen.

laoptop-view

Fig 2: The array of ceiling lights (blue) is calculated to cause maximum laptop glare at all screen angles.

laoptop-shinylaptop-glare

Fig 3: At left, we can see the reflecting lights in the (turned off) laptop screen. At right, note how the glare makes the computer unusable (compare to the laptop screen in Fig. 1).

Conclusion:

If you own a coffeeshop and hate your customers, you should give this plan a shot!

PROS: Increases patron turnover and discourages long-term occupancy of tables.

CONS: It is possible that the substantial fraction of a coffeeshop’s patrons only go there to use their laptops, so cutting off this revenue may deal a fatal blow to the shop’s profitability.