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Month: October, 2020

This amazing full-coverage home security system will prevent your home from burglary even if someone manages to get inside!

Background:

Residential homes are often protected from burglary by locked doors and locked windows (Figure 1), and occasionally by more substantial measures such as barred windows (Figure 2).

The issue:

However, none of that helps once an intruder breaches the perimeter of the home: once they’re inside, they are free to loot at their leisure—an unoccupied home has no further internal defenses.

Fig. 1: A cross-section of two rooms from a normal home.

Fig. 2: The traditional approach to home security is to defend the perimeter—here, we see the addition of barred windows. These can be helpful to make a home burglary-resistant, but may be a liability to the home’s residents in case of fire.

Proposal:

In order to make the inside of a home burglary-resistant without resorting to illegal booby traps, we can just create a security system that makes the interior of the home extremely unappealing to traverse.

One approach might be to have sliding metal dividers that can be raised out of the floor when all residents leave (Figure 3). This would make it nearly impossible to navigate the home while the system was armed, yet would not pose any threat to the residents in case of accidental deployment.

Fig. 3: These raise-able metal objects can telescope out of the floor when required (up to a height of, say, 3 to 5 feet), and can collapse back into the floor while not needed. If the lifting mechanism is sufficiently low power, it would even be safe to place these all over the house: even if a table / chair / person / etc was on top of one of these plus-shaped home-defense objects, that specific one would just remain in the floor even while the system was armed.

The metal-slat security system described in Figure 3 would be expensive to install, since it would require an elaborate floor mechanism. For home remodeling on a budget, see the simplified (but equally effective) proposal in Figure 4.

Fig. 4: As a cheaper but more potentially injurious alternative, giant spools of razor wire could be concealed in the walls. When the owner is away and the security system is armed, the razor wire would unspool and fill the room with deadly blades. On the owner’s return, the razor wire would coil back up, like an exceptionally dangerous tape measure. The only downside here would be if the system accidentally activated itself while you were taking a nap, and you woke up to discover your room filled with deadly razor wire. That would be a bummer!

Conclusion:

Next time you consult your architect for constructing a new mansion, make sure to keep these home-defense tips in mind.

PROS: Prevents thieves from stealing hundreds of dollars worth of televisions and cell phone chargers from your residence!

CONS: Might be over-complicated compared to the lower-tech version of just putting medieval portcullises between each room.

A proposal for using large televisions as external monitors will make your laptop life easier and prevent eyestrain! And it’s a software-only solution!

Background:

Extremely large TVs have now become cheap enough to use as gigantic computer monitors. It’s possible to find a 55+” television with high enough resolution and low enough latency to work as an external monitor for even the most discerning computer-ologist.

The issue:

Most desks are not set up to accommodate a 55″ television as a monitor. In particular, the most immediately obvious arrangement—laptop in front of monitor—has the disadvantage of having a large area of the monitor blocked by the laptop (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: In this animation, we can see the red “masked out” region where the laptop screen blocks the view of the TV. This wouldn’t be a problem if the system software knew not to put windows in the red area—but since it doesn’t, the user will have to constantly rearrange their windows to avoid this “dead zone.”

Proposal:

In order to fix this laptop-blocking-screen issue, we turn to a simple software fix: simply split the monitor into three rectangular sub-monitors that are NOT blocked by the laptop screen (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Since the system software already understands how to deal with multiple monitors, we just need to convince it that our TV is actually three separate sub-displays (screens 2, 3, and 4 here).

Fig. 3: We can see an “in-use” mockup of the multi-monitor setup here.

Instead of splitting up a monitor into three rectangular sub-displays, it might also be possible to allow a user to “mask out” an arbitrary region of a monitor as a “dead zone” to be ignored by the system (Figure 4). This would allow the external display to still be treated as a single monitor, rather than 3 separate ones. Although a non-rectangular display may seem odd, there is precedent for it in smartphones: the Apple iPhone X “notch” and the “hole punch displays” introduced in 2019 are common examples.

Fig. 4: The red outline here shows an extreme example of how a non-rectangular external monitor might be used. Perhaps if these irregularly-shaped setups become common, the weird windows of 1990s Winamp “skins” will make a triumphant return as well!

Conclusion:

Is it possible that a far-away television is better for eyestrain than a smaller-but-closer computer monitor? Maybe! Some sort of legitimate eyeball scientist should weigh in on this matter.

PROS: The multi-monitor setup would probably actually work, although irregularly-shaped displays might be a hassle.

CONS: Could have very limited appeal.

Is it true that TWO electoral colleges are better than one? Improving the American political system by adding a second “mega-region”-based electoral college.

Background:

Every four years, interest is re-kindled in the odd “Electoral College”-based method of tallying up American presidential votes.

Since the electoral votes are actually assigned on a per-state[*] basis (Figure 1), this has the side effect of making the presidential elections hinge on a few “battleground” districts—tiny subsets of swing states whose voting outcome isn’t already predictable.

Thus, only voters in these regions actually need to be granted presidential boons in order to persuade them—voters in the vast majority of states can be safely ignored.

[*] Some states split their electoral votes between candidates, but this is not common.

Fig. 1: Since electoral votes are (generally) assigned on a per-state basis, you don’t actually need to know the percentage of voters in each state who voted a certain way. A map like this one would be sufficient!

The issue:

People frequently discuss the idea of changing the electoral college system to a one-vote-per-person system.

However, very little consideration has gone into the other direction—having a SECOND electoral college, essentially an “electoral college for the electoral college.”

If one electoral college is good, maybe two would be better?

Proposal:

Here, we propose that the United States be grouped—for the purposes of elections only—into 10 five-state “electoral mega-regions.” Washington D.C. will retain its 3 electoral votes, and will be counted as a secret “Megaregion Zero” (not shown on map).

(To increase the level of mystery, its votes will only be used in cases of ties, and will not be included in tallies otherwise.)

Fig. 2A: Ten megaregions, each consisting of five states, have been gerrymandered together into this proposed grouping. See figure 2B for an examination of their electoral votes

Then, each of these megaregions would cast its aggregated “mega-electoral-votes” just as the normal electoral votes are determined.

Fig. 2B: One interesting failure mode of this method of grouping—and something that may make it a difficult sell—is that some groupings actually just “delete” the votes of certain states. For example, in Megaregion 6, Texas has a majority of votes for the entire region, as does California in Megaregion 7. Thus, this system serves to remove the following eight states from the electoral pool entirely: Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

In order to fix the disenfranchisement problem described in Fig 2B, we could assign the votes of each megaregion based on a a simple majority of its states: instead of allowing Texas to entirely determine the outcome of Megaregion 6 (as it would if we weighted states by population or electoral votes), we would count each state as a single vote: so it would be a “best 3 out of 5” for Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Hawaii, and Alaska.

With this “one state / one vote” method, every state would be important in assigning the votes of the megaregion.

Conclusion:

Thanks to this reformed system, politics will be saved forever. Also, this may showcase the electoral college system, leading other countries to adopt it.

PROS: Improves the electoral college system by adding a second layer, thus multiplying its benefits.

CONS: It’s somehow theoretically possible that this might lead to gerrymandering???

See below for an additional example of this system in action.

Fig. 3A: If the states voted as above, for the RED, BLUE, YELLOW, and PURPLE parties, the updated megaregion-voting-assignment process would allocate the votes as shown in Figure 3B (not described: a tiebreaking process for dealing with situations in which the split is 2:2:1 or 1:1:1:1:1—presumably ties would be broken by a coin flip or something).
Fig. 3B: Now that each state has cast its (single) megaregion vote (as shown in figure 3A), we see how the state’s votes are distributed on a per-megaregion basis.

Somehow, computer desks have failed to evolve and adapt to the threat of spilled coffee. Until now, that is!

Background:

The traditional flat-surfaced desk has been more-or-less unchanged for thousands of years.

The issue:

People often place a drink on their desk. However, this makes it very easy to accidentally knock the drink over onto (depending on the era) a stack of rolled-up papyrus scrolls, a Gutenberg Bible, or a laptop (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: In this hypothetical desk-spill scenario, the spilled coffee gets everywhere. Disaster!

Proposal:

Desks should have a sunken “put your drinks here” area where they can safely spill without ruining your workspace (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: This modified desk has a sunken glass-enclosed “put a drink here” area on the left. Now, wild gesticulation on video chat is less likely to result in a computer-replacement-requiring disaster!

Conclusion:

This would be a great way for a furniture maker to drum up new business. Throw away your outdated “flat surface” desks and buy a new one!

PROS: Actually practical!

CONS: None!