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Month: August, 2020

“Vertical farming” in skyscrapers might be the next trend in locally-grown food, but wait until you hear about HORIZONTAL farming!

Background:

Recently, there has been discussion around the futuristic concept of “vertical farming”: growing crops in skyscraper-style greenhouses in city centers.

The issue:

Although there are many conceptual advantages to such a farm, there is at least one major difficulty: light. Obviously, only the topmost layer of a vertical farm would be practical to light with sunlight (Figure 1): lower layers would need to be lit with high-efficiency narrow-spectral-band LED lighting.

Fig. 1: This vertical farm (right) has a major downside: there’s really only one “floor” worth of sunlight, so it’s impractical to use sunlight for crop growth. Although LED lights can be extremely efficient, the power requirements of a large-scale vertical farm would be substantial.

Proposal:

The “horizontal farm” is the best of both worlds: a structure that can fit in the footprint of a single office building, yet is capable of harnessing sunlight from dozens of adjacent city blocks.

The horizontal farm building is designed as follows: it consists of a vertical stack of floors, just like a traditional skyscraper. However, the floors are not directly connected to each other: instead, they hang from two vertical rails that can pivot to a horizontal orientation.

When the rails begin rotating to the horizontal position (Figure 2), each “farm floor” pivots in the opposite direction, thus maintaining a horizontal orientation at all times.


Fig. 2: Each floor on this vertical farm is mounted on an enormous central pivot point. The building can be slowly turned from a vertical to a horizontal orientation. Now the plants can directly use the sun, cutting out the LED lighting middle-man!

Conclusion:

This bold new architectural design could be the future of locally-grown food!

PROS: Allows farming to harness the power of the sun directly, with no intermediate energy conversion (to LED lighting) required! Also has the advantage of providing valuable shade to city-dwellers who might otherwise get sunburns.

CONS: None!

After fixing your home (thanks to this tip) you need no longer fear accidental “French Revolution”-style decapitation in your kitchen!

Background:

Most kitchens contain a countertop and overhead cabinets. The doors on these cabinets generally swing open.

The issue:

An unlucky individual may stand up underneath one of these open cabinet doors and injure themselves on the edge.

Although this situation may seem unlikely, it can arise when a person bends over to pick up something that has fallen onto the kitchen floor (Figure 1).


Fig. 1: This hapless kitchen dweller has forgotten that the kitchen cabinet is open, and has stood up directly into it. Ouch!

Proposal:

A few potential fixes are immediately obvious:

  1. Cabinet doors could be removed entirely. They are generally only there for aesthetic purposes anyway!
  2. Sliding doors could be used. However, this usually means that only half of the cabinets can be open at one time, and sliding doors have their own issues.
  3. The edges of each cabinet door could be padded with foam. This would reduce cabinet-collision injury.
  4. Each cabinet door could be constructed out of gingerbread, so that it would safely crumble away upon contact with a person’s head.

Each of these fixes has some downsides. But the ultimate solution is both durable and visually indistinguishable from a regular cabinet: a “multi-panel safety door” in which multiple pieces of wood are loosely connected by springs (Figure 2).

If a person hits their head one one of the panels, they’ll just feel a slight amount of force as the spring compresses (and the piece of wood is pushed out of the way).


Fig. 2: A) The “multi-panel ‘safety’ door” is outwardly identical to a regular cabinet door. B) This “X-ray” view of the safety door shows that it is actually four separate pieces connected by springs: a “primary” part in the top left (red / brown) and three separate wooden edge pieces (blue and green). These edge pieces are loosely connected: if a person hits their head on the edge, the force will compress the springs a bit (and the edge piece will move inward), but the person will not be decapitated.

Conclusion:

After I patent this idea, you should amend your city’s residential building code to mandate this style of cabinet door. It’s the only safe option!

PROS: Reduces accidental kitchen decapitations, thus saving health care costs.

CONS: These complicated doors would probably require occasional maintenance.

Never be concerned whether or not your household electronics are spying on you! This new repurposing of the “ON AIR” sign will save you from fretting!

Background:

It seems that nearly every electronic device with a camera or microphone is now Internet-enabled and can wirelessly send video and audio to the world.

The issue:

Due to the preponderance of electronic hardware in a modern household, it can be difficult which (if any) device is spying on you at that exact moment (Figure 1).

This is a relatively new phenomenon, since it used to be the case that:

  1. Cameras were relatively large
  2. Non-CIA recording devices generally needed to be physically wired to a power source and network cable.

Fig. 1: One of these devices is currently streaming video from the user’s house—but which one? Video-enabled devices sometimes have a recording light (but not always: e.g. phones, tablets), but checking these lights is still annoying and time-consuming. And audio recording generally has no indication whatsoever!

Proposal:

The classic solution to the “are we recording right now?” question is a lit-up “ON AIR” sign [see examples] that can light up whenever a TV station is broadcasting.

This same concept can be applied to modern devices: a person would buy a new piece of “ON AIR” hardware (this would essentially just be a WiFi-enabled screen). This ON AIR sign would connect to the household WiFi network light up any time it detected video being sent out to the Internet.

Detecting that streaming is happening could occur in two ways:

1) Network traffic analysis can generally identify data as “this is a stream of video / audio.” This is a solution that would probably work in most cases.

2) Each video/audio-enabled device can talk to the ON AIR sign over WiFi and notify it that streaming is occurring. This would be on the “honor system”: well-behaved software would periodically report that it was streaming. One benefit of this opt-in method is that streaming devices could send additional metadata: e.g., instead of just “ON AIR (Some computer is sending video),” the user would see “ON AIR (Joe’s PowerBook G4, streaming video over RealPlayer for 4:34)”.


Fig. 2: Thanks to this lit-up “ON AIR” sign, the user knows that there is some device recording them, and exactly which device is responsible (in this case, the “smart television”).

Of course, neither of these methods is a 100% guarantee of detecting live video being streamed: for example, a phone that was using its cellular data to stream would not be detected.

Conclusion:

This could probably be a legitimate product!

PROS: Would be a good value-add option for a router manufacturer. “This router will light up if it detects outgoing video/audio!”

CONS: Might cause the user to become extremely paranoid upon realizing that their watch, tablet, computer, phone, external monitor, fitness tracker, headphones, and dozens of other devices could all be surreptitiously spying at any time.

Don’t stay up too late—keep a responsible and satisfying sleep schedule thanks to a vicious beast that will live in your house!

Background:

Taking a nap in the late afternoon can be a very appealing prospect.

The issue:

Unfortunately, a late-in-the-day nap can easily mess up a person’s sleep schedule, causing them to stay up until 3 AM.

What is needed for most people is some sort of “nap deterrent” that will promote a daylight-hour-compatible sleep schedule. (Individuals who work a night shift can replace “nocturnal” with ”diurnal” in the idea below.)

Proposal:

To promote a nighttime sleep schedule, we obtain a vicious nocturnal animal and train it to sleep on the user’s bed during the day (Figure 1).

The exact method of training this adversarial animal companion is left as an exercise to the reader.

Once the sun sets (and the animal wakes up), the bed will again become appealing for sleeping in.

Fig. 1: Left: this snake (or “danger noodle” as zoologists call it) coils up on the bed during the daytime, making it difficult for anyone else to sleep in the bed. Right: at night, the bed becomes unoccupied and the animal slithers around the house incessantly. As an added bonus, the unsettling slithering could encourage its owner to go to bed rather than stay awake in constant fear.

Details:

Ideally, this animal would be cold-blooded, so as to reduce its feeding requirements and make the whole setup more eco-friendly.

PROS: Helps maintain a schedule that is compatible with standard business hours and the waking hours of most other human beings.

CONS: The same thing might be accomplished by just getting a really angry cat, so it’s hard to see how anyone could make money off this idea.

Will this highly dubious legal loophole allow you to open a casino anywhere? The new “stock market casino” app proposal will amaze you.

Background:

  1. In most regions of the world, gambling is regulated by government bodies.
  2. Unrelatedly, one of the criticisms of the stock market (especially the derivatives market) is that many participants use it exactly like a casino.

Proposal:

In regions where gambling is prohibited, but access to a stock market exists, a stock trading app could be designed that is a thinly-disguised casino.

Instead of playing the slots in a traditional casino, participants in this “stock casino” could spin a wheel to buy random stocks or mysterious financial instruments (Figure 1).

1-stock-casino-main-page.png

Fig. 1: A user interface mock-up for the proposed “STOCKASINO” app. Note the “PURCHASE RANDOM ‘HOT’ STOCK” button.

Normally, a person who is day-trading stocks might need to wait for weeks in order to realize a substantial profit (or loss). Fortunately, this process can be hastened using leverage, which will allow gains and losses to be multiplied. A user will be able to win big—or lose it all!—on just a 1% price movement of a stock, if they use enough leverage. In this way, a user can win or lose within hours, rather than needing to wait for weeks.

Gamification:

As a secondary bonus feature, we can “gamify” the stock-buying experience in order to encourage more trading activity (i.e. more profit for the operator of the app).

Specifically, we will use the “in-game achievement” system (AKA “badges” or “trophies”) in which users are awarded special app “badges” for particularly noteworthy or dangerous trading-related activities (Figure 2). This could encourage users to make a lot more trades than they otherwise would (and risk a lot more of their savings).

2-stock-casino-achievement-badges

Fig. 2: The app might be able to entice normally-cautious “investors” (we’ll call them that) into dangerous trades by awarding trophies to particularly terrible ideas. My personal favorite is the “QUICK CLIK” badge above (in purple), which is awarded to an investor who purchases a stock within 60 seconds of it first being available.

One complication of this “stock casino” system is that stock markets have limited hours, but we really want to keep the app operational 24 hours a day. A developer would probably need to include stock exchanges in other time zones as well, which increases up-front development complexity.

Conclusion:

Just to be safe, anyone developing this app should do it in close collaboration with (and in the territory of) a nation that does not extradite.

PROS: Great way for a developer to make a profit while promoting financial irresponsibility.

CONS: Probably not a great idea to base your business and future not-being-in-prison status on a highly theoretical “loophole” that may not even exist.