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Month: October, 2016

Voter suppression with a twist! Add SECRET disqualification questions to the ballot in order to save democracy! Definitely there would be no possible way to misuse this. Plus: you’ll never believe what kind of animal was nominated as ambassador to Australia!

Background:

Voter suppression has historically been a popular method of “adjusting” election results.

It comes in many forms. For example:

  • Do supporters of your opponent have 9-to-5 jobs? Easily solved—set up the polling places from 10 AM to 4 PM (with a break for lunch) in inconvenient places!

  • Are your supporters richer than your opponent’s supporters? No problem—poll Tax!

  • Want to selectively disenfranchise arbitrary groups of your choosing? Literacy test / civics quiz!

  • Do your supporters all own exotic reptiles? Make sure to require two forms of ID (to prevent voter fraud), but allow a card from the National Organization of Snake Aficionados to count as one form of ID.

  • Etc.

There are, of course, hundreds of variations on this idea.

Proposal:

The not-immediately-nefarious goal here is to make sure that a voter understands the ballot, at least slightly.

ballot-disqualifiers-1

Fig. 1: This ballot only has 6 questions, but I’m a busy individual with no free time to search online for a summary of them. I’ll just vote randomly, or vote based on whichever one-sentence summary of each item looks the best. But wait—an informed electorate is important to democracy, and I’m sabotaging this process with my intentionally bad votes!

In order to make sure that the voter is making an informed decision, we will add multiple fake “ringer” candidates to the ballot. A voter who is voting randomly will probably end up voting for one of these candidates, but someone with even the most basic understanding of the ballot will avoid these obviously-terrible options.

The key component is that a ballot that votes in favor of one of these (intentionally) terrible ringer options will be automatically discarded—it is assumed that the voter is not actually taking their civic duty seriously.

Example:

  • in addition to the traditional candidates, the ringer candidate ROBOTOZAR THE METALLIC is added.
  • Robotozar’s electoral platform is listed as “DESTROY ALL HUMANS AS PAINFULLY AS POSSIBLE.”
  • Then, any ballots that include a vote for Robotozar would be disqualified.
  • This will save representative democracy, as well as humanity in general.

For areas with direct voting on ballot measures, we could have “ringer” measures as well, such as:

  • Recall the current ambassador to Australia, and send a horse as the new ambassador. 🇦🇺🐴
  • Change voting eligibility: only snakes may vote in subsequent elections; intent is determined by divination of their slithering. 🐍👀

ballot-disqualifiers-2

Fig. 2: The two disqualifying “ringer” questions on this ballot (described above) are highlighted in orange.

Conclusion:

Saves democracy.

PROS: Could cause more careful reading of ballot measures.

CONS: What if a horse actually turned out to be an amazing ambassador?

Five things your haircut says about you, without you even realizing! The first thing it says is: “get your hair cut by a robotic hair cut helmet.”

Background:

Haircuts can be time-consuming and expensive. Somehow, even though modern robotics have resulted in quad-copters, robotic surgery, and an alarm clock with a hand that slaps you in the face, the dream of automated haircuts remains elusive.

Proposal:

Behold, our salvation from laborious non-automated haircuts: the mechanical “haircut helmet.”

haircut-helmet

Fig 1: Functional AND fashionable, the haircut helmet’s stylish exterior hides dozens of small rotary blades on the inside.

The exterior of the helmet hosts a lever that allows the length to be adjusted. (Perhaps, for version 2, there could also be a second lever to select a style.)

haircut-blades

Fig 2: Internally, the haircut is accomplished by a number of shaving-razor-style rotary blades on adjustable tracks. The blades can move around and adjust their distance from the helmet-wearer’s scalp to ensure the perfect haircut every time!

haircut-progress

Fig. 3: Tame the unruly hair at left with the haircut helmet (center). Right: the result. With minor touch-ups, this fashionable individual will be ready for their business meeting / film shoot / wedding.

PROS: Would save millions of dollars and millions of man-hours per year.

CONS: May put all hairdressers out of business, leading to massive unemployment and civil unrest. Also, it might cut your ears off.

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Life hack: use a wedge of Gouda cheese as an eco-friendly doorstop to save space in your pantry. BIG DOORSTOP hates this tip!

Background:

Doorstops are pretty convenient for holding doors open.

doorstop-or-cheese

Fig. 1: A doorstop. Or a wedge of cheese. OR PERHAPS BOTH??

The issue:

But sometimes, propping open a door is FORBIDDEN due to fire regulations—the door might need to be closed in order to slow the spread of fire (Fig. 2).

Although there exist magnetic doorstops that connect to the fire alarm, it’s very likely that the door that you want to prop open isn’t set up this way. Read on for the solution!

doorstop-problem

Fig. 2: Unfortunately, this door needs to be able to close in case of fire (left), so the doorstop at right is forbidden.

Proposal:

A new, futuristic type of electrical doorstop can be set up to automatically detect fire alarm conditions and get out of the way (allowing the door to close).

The primary idea is that the “collapsable fire-safe doorstop” has a microphone, and if it detects the sound of the fire alarm, it will instantly flatten down to a wafer-thin state, allowing the door to swing closed (Figures 3 and 4).

doorstop-diagram-side-view.png

future-doorstop.png

Fig. 3: The collapsable fire-safe doorstop. A) Microphone and optical sensor, for detecting a fire alarm. B1/B2) Hinged doorstop pieces. The red hinge between B1 and B2 will open in case of fire. C1/C2) Flat end caps for the doorstop. D1/D2) A hook mechanism that normally keeps the doorstop in a wedge shape. It will unhook in order to let the doorstop flatten itself.

doorstop-diagram.png

Fig. 4: The doorstop detects a fire (top) and disengages the hooks that keep it in a triangular shape (middle), finally flattening out to allow the door to pass over it (bottom).

The doorstop would need to be battery powered, but it could presumably run for months or years on just a single watch battery. The closure mechanism (the gray hooks in the figure) could presumably also be set up to require a tiny amount of electrical power in order to stay connected. In this way, the doorstop could automatically flatten when the battery ran out, which would prevent a dead battery from being a fire hazard.

fire

Fig. 5: Do not open a door with a fire on the other side unless it gives the correct password.

PROS: Allows you to prop open that one annoying hallway door that everyone is opening and closing constantly.

CONS: It’s yet another electronic gizmo that requires battery monitoring and replacement.

Watching TV instead of reading books is actually good for your brain! The one weird trick publishers love, and authors hate, for automatically inserting cliffhangers into books.

Background:

Some stories make amazing use of the end-of-chapter “cliffhanger” to keep readers turning pages.

Even a mediocre work can be made compelling if there is a pressing need to resolve each chapter’s mystery before the reader can put the book down.

The trick, of course, is to continually insert mysteries / dramatic cliffhangers throughout the narrative, ensuring that no chapter goes un-cliffhanger’d.

Proposal:

This is easier said than done—many stories do not naturally lend themselves to “dramatic cliffhanger” endings in each chapter.

Plus, some authors believe in artistic merit, and would be hesitant to “sell out” the writing process by adding transparent cliffhangers.

Luckily, the system proposed below can be applied by the publisher without any author involvement!

Here is the method to automatically insert cliffhangers without otherwise disturbing the narrative:

  • The book must be structured so that there are (at minimum) two character perspectives or characters / plots to follow.
  • For simplicity, we will refer to this structure as using the standard terminology of “A” plot and “B” plot.
  • Then:
  • Interleave “A” plot chapters and “B” plot chapters.
  • So the chapters appear as follows:     A, B, A, B, A, B …
  • Now, each “A” chapter has a randomly generated cliffhanger added to the end of it. That cliffhanger is resolved by a (matching) cliffhanger-resolution text in the beginning of the next “A” chapter.
  • The same cliffhanger-and-resolution process is applied to the “B” chapters.

So our final result looks like this, where all the “A” and “B” chapters are as the author intended, and the cliffhangers may be added by the publisher without disturbing the overall plot.

  • A
  • A_cliffhanger_A1
  • B
  • B_cliffhanger_B1
  • A_resolution_to_A1
  • A
  • A_cliffhanger_A2
  • B_resolution_to_B1
  • B
  • B_cliffhanger_B2

Examples:

Examples of this method in action can be seen below.

Example Story #1

(Chapter 4 text goes here)

Florence entered the hallway and froze—from beneath the opposite door, a torrent of blood streamed forth!

End chapter 4: HALLWAY OF HORROR

(Intervening chapter 5 from another character’s point of view)

Chapter 6: WATERFALL OF BLOOOOOOD

“Oh, hi you guys. I was just pouring myself some cranberry juice, when I accidentally knocked the jug off the table and spilled it everywhere. This is going to take FOREVER to clean up.”

(Story continues as before)

cliffhanger-door

Fig 1: Just spilled some cranberry juice, nothing suspicious here.

Example Story #2

A moment after entering the dark alley, the detective heard a chilling voice: “Your money or your life!”

End of Chapter 15: DEPOSIT… OF DEATH

(Intervening chapters 16 and 17 from other characters’ points of view)

Chapter 18: VOICE FROM THE DARK ALLEY

The voice continued: “…are often thought of as being in opposition. Perhaps we must prioritize one of them; is it best to toil away in pursuit of financial well-being, or relax and appreciate life, yet possibly live as a pauper?”

The detective turned around. “Oh, it’s just some crazy wandering philosopher who I will probably not encounter again.”

(Story continues as before)

Example Story #3

The shadow of an enormous man-wolf spread across the side of the barn as the creature stepped in front of the parked car’s headlights.

End of chapter 9: THE BLOOD-CURDLING SHADOW

(Intervening chapters)

Chapter 12: THE TWO-HEADED BEAST OF THE MANOR MARSHES

“Wow, that is really bright,” said the groundskeeper, as he stepped out from the headlights and tucked a small Pomeranian under his arm. “I was out walking Sir Barks-a-lot here, but the lazy mutt got tired, so I was holding him. In front of my head, you see. Funny how his snout just happened to make a nightmarish shadow as I stepped in front of the light!”

“That is indeed a reasonable explanation,” agreed the junior sleuth. “Although would a purebred dog really be a ‘mutt’?”

“The word can also be used generically to refer to any dog.”

“Oh.”

(Story continues as before)

cliffhanger-beast

Fig 2: There is definitely a scientific explanation for this.

Conclusion:

If you are a publisher, you should immediately employ this technique to your entire fiction section.

PROS: Adds new compelling aspects to any book to increase its commercial prospects. Does not require author involvement.

CONS: This system will unfortunately *not* work with a book that is only a single-threaded narrative (for example, an account of a single explorer climbing a mountain).

The FDA doesn’t want you do know about this amazing cure for reverse-seasonal-affective-disorder, which could totally be a real thing! Increase your home’s resale value by 0 or more percent with this amazing new “rain window” architectural innovation.

Background:

Although people usually prefer it to be sunny rather than rainy, there are locations in the world where it hardly ever rains. Plus, there are some people who prefer an occasional rainy day even when the weather is sunny and cheerful.

Besides, sometimes a sunny day doesn’t match the tone of the actual events going on in your house: for example, if you were indicted for tax fraud for setting up a fake goat-based charity, would it be metaphorically appropriate for it to be a nice and sunny day? No: you should learn the bad news while sitting at a huge mahogany desk while in front of a window with raindrops streaming down it.

The issue:

You can duplicate the “rainy day at any time” effect by attaching a sprinkler to a hose and pointing it at your window, but this has two disadvantages:

  1. You have to actually own the land right outside your window, so it won’t work at a high-rise apartment or zero-lot.
  2. It wastes a lot of water, and may be forbidden by local ordinances.

window-sun

Fig. 1: An unacceptably sunny day. We can fix this with TECHNOLOGY. (Or a sprinkler.)

Proposal:

The proposal is simple: a transparent LCD screen is attached to the window. This screen can be relatively bare-bones; it can be grayscale and low-resolution, since we’re only going to be displaying raindrops on it.

rain-overlay-with-frame

Fig. 2: Left: a bare window frame (with transparent glass in it). Right: a transparent LCD screen (shown darker than it normally would be—when it wasn’t in “rain” mode, the screen would be almost 100% transparent).

rain-window-install-process

Fig. 3: Left: the installation process is very simple—the screen sticks onto your existing window glass. Right: the final result. Rain on demand! Maybe combine it with a speaker system to get the full soothing-rain-sound experience.

PROS: No longer be at the mercy of the weather; now you can get a rainy day on demand.

CONS: Installation might complicated due to the lack of a “standard” window size.

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