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Category: Health

Improve the grocery shopping experience by tapping into ancient hunter-gatherer instincts! You’ll never believe how much more delicious a pineapple is after you’ve tracked and hunted it for miles through the savannah.

Background:

It’s well-known that presentation affects the perceived taste of food (Figure 1). Can this be used by retailers to increase customer satisfaction?

 

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Fig. 1: Some animals, like this extremely picky snake, do not like to eat food unless it’s clearly fresh (i.e., recently alive). Top: the dead mouse meal receives only a 1-star review from the snake. Bottom: the same mouse receives a 5-star rating, simply because it’s moving.

Proposal:

In order to leverage the same instincts, we propose that all foods should be presented in grocery stores in a “natural” environment to satisfy human hunter-gatherer instincts.

In Figure 2, we show how this might work for a pineapple, which can either be shown in a sterile and unnatural environment or in a jungle-like environment that evokes the thrill of gathering an edible fruit in some ancestral jungle.

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Fig. 2: This savvy shopper is unimpressed by the non-moving pineapple, yet is excited about purchasing the exact same pineapple “straight from the tree.” This might work for other foods too, like carrots and potatoes, even though it would make no sense for them to be dangling from a tree branch.

Conclusion:

Although fruits would be the easiest products to put in a faux “natural” environment (just hang them from a plastic tree), this system could also apply to other products, such as:

  • Reach into a giant beehive while being attacked by giant plastic bees in order to obtain a box of Honey Nut Cheerios.
  • Run through the store chasing a box being pulled by a wire on an overhead track. Once you manage to grab the box and open it, you discover a delicious steak inside.
  • Hold your breath and jump into a Olympic-sized swimming pool that is chilled to a near-freezing 1º Celsius. At the bottom of the pool, you will find a treasure trove of pre-wrapped packages of salmon.

PROS: Allows humans to get back in touch with their ancient roots. Simulates a pre-civilization existence without modern amenities.

CONS: Most shoppers would probably just use an app-based service to pay “sharing economy” workers to endure the bee hives and freezing water. This has the disadvantage of making an already-harsh job even worse, while imparting no benefits on society as a whole.

If you obey the demands of this phone app, you’ll never have to wait at a stoplight again! If you are a pedestrian, anyway. Might also work for bicyclists and drivers!

Background:

In most American cities, four-way intersections with stoplights are the most common form of traffic control.

The issue:

As a pedestrian, these intersections are frustrating: if the stoplights are not synchronized, you’ll randomly encounter red lights while walking from block to block. But even when lights are synchronized, they are synchronized for car driving speeds. Thus, at normal walking speed, a pedestrian will inevitably spend a large fraction of travel time waiting at crosswalks for the light to turn green.

Although a pedestrian can increase or decrease their walking speed, it is difficult to select an optimal speed without knowing exactly when the light will change.

Proposal:

Fortunately, a phone app can easily measure walking speed and distance to the next traffic light, and then display a recommended walking speed that will get a pedestrian to the light when it is green (Figure 1).

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Fig. 1: Since this phone knows how far the next light is and exactly when the light will change, it can recommend a walking pace that will get its owner to the light while the light is green. The green / gray arrow in the middle of the screen is a “progress bar,” showing the pedestrian’s current position relative to the previous intersection (base of arrow) and the next light (tip of arrow).

 

Using this app, a person can enjoy both a more leisurely pace at lights they’d miss anyway, and can walk ever-so-slightly faster (Figure 2) in order to make it through intersections just before the light turns red.

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Fig. 2: In the top example (A), a pedestrian walks at a uniform pace that causes them to have to wait at two of the three lights. In the bottom example (B), the pedestrian is using our new app, and adjusts their walking speed to hit all the lights while they are green. Recommended walking speed is shown by the orange bar at the very bottom.

Conclusion:

This type of app would probably work for drivers and bicyclists as well (ideally through audio instructions).

PROS: Encourages walking in cities, thus improving national cardiovascular fitness.

CONS: Users of this app might wait at fewer lights, but would be at higher risk of being run over by a car / bicyclist / steamroller while distracted by the app’s various recommendations and statistics.

Reduce your overall level of concern about pets and children drinking deadly household poisons, with this new incredible “decoy poison” that you can store under your sink in front of your household cleaners! BIG CHEMICAL hates this one incredible trick!

Background:

Every year, a large number of children accidentally poison themselves by drinking household chemicals. Cleaning products and pesticides (Figure 1) represent the cause of ~15% of poisoning cases in children under the age of 6, according to the National Capital Poison Center.

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Fig. 1: Many relatively common household products are deadly if ingested by humans.

The issue:

To a child who is illiterate and unfamiliar with conventional warning markings (e.g., a skull), a deadly chemical might plausibly seem like an interesting beverage (Figure 2). Some poisonous substances, like antifreeze, even have an appealing sugary taste.

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Fig. 2: If you find yourself asking “why would anyone, even a child, drink something that is so OBVIOUSLY poison,” consider the perplexity that you yourself would face if required to distinguish foreign-language-labeled energy drinks from automotive fluids. Transmission fluid, or energy drink? Who knows!

Proposal:

The idea is simple: to put a special “decoy” beverage into locations with deadly substances that a child (or pet!) might theoretically get into.

This “decoy” beverage is designed to cause vomiting (and a generally unpleasant experience), to discourage further sampling of the (actually poisonous) chemicals stored in the same area.

Additionally, this would inform the theoretically-paying-attention adults in a home that their “child-proof” cabinet locks had failed to work.

Since this “lure” beverage (Figure 3) would ideally be be the first substance consumed, it should be made to look as appealing as possible, with:

  • A convenient easy-open cap
  • A supplementary straw
  • Colorful eye-catching images on the outside. Maybe even a cartoon mascot!
  • A translucent container to show off the delicious liquid within

Obviously the container should also contain a description of the nature of the product, so that no one outside of the target demographic (i.e. the “about to drink a container of antifreeze” demographic) accidentally drinks it.

 

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Fig. 3: The “decoy” container is designed to be as easy-to-drink and appealing as possible, since it has to be the first under-cabinet substance that is ingested. If it’s the second-most-appealing liquid, then it might as well not even be present.

 

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Fig. 4: Here’s what an under-sink cabinet might look like with the new non-injurious “decoy” substance. Hopefully this will look more appealing than the rat poison or antifreeze!

Conclusion:

Research would be needed to see if the PRO and CON listed below cancel each other out, or perhaps even result in more poison ingestion than before!

PROS: This might actually legitimately work, and would cost almost nothing to produce, since it is just “existing non-deadly emetic plus re-designed product label.”

CONS: The appealing container could attract a child to investigate the “cabinet of deadly chemicals” when they would previously have ignored it. This could lead to the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish!

Never burn yourself with scalding hot coffee again, with this one new and majestic type of curly drinking straw! Impress your companions at a banquet with this sophisticated drinking accessory.

Background:

Sometimes, you want to drink a beverage, but it’s too hot.

The issue:

You could just wait for it to cool off naturally, but who has time for that!

And if you were drinking from an insulated thermos, this cooling-off process could take hours.

Proposal:

The basic idea is simple: an ultra-long curly straw that would give the liquid some extra time to cool down as it leaves the cup (Figure 1).

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Fig. 1: Since this curly straw is so long, there’s extra time for a hot beverage to cool down as it travels through the straw.

However, a standard curly straw will have a minimal cooling effect. Thus, an array of heat sinks are added to the straw, as shown in Figure 2.

 

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Fig. 2: The straw is covered in heat sinks like those used in a desktop computer. Hot liquid (indicated in red) quickly cools off as it travels down the heat-sink-enhanced straw.

Alternatively, a telescoping design could allow the enjoyment of both hot and cold beverages using the same straw (Figure 3).

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Fig. 3: An extendable version of this straw could be useful for both hot and cold beverages. For a cold beverage (A), the straw is collapsed, accordion-style to minimize travel time for the liquid. For a hot beverage (B), the straw is extended out, giving the liquid a longer time to cool down as it travels along the incredibly long straw.

Conclusion:

Don’t drink from a cup or bowl like an animal—only use this fancy straw for your future beverage needs!

PROS: Cools liquid to the optimal temperature for maximum efficiency of consumption. If widespread distribution can be achieved, it will save millions of hours per year (worldwide) that otherwise would have been spent waiting for drinks to cool.

CONS: None!

Save over TWO DOLLARS per year with an eco-friendly dental floss trick for the environmentally-conscious. Dental floss manufacturers hate it!

The issue:

Dental floss has a serious problem with unnecessary waste: each length of dental floss has a “dead zone” at the ends that is used to wrap around fingers.

This unused region is thrown away without ever having been actually used as dental floss (Figure 1).

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Fig. 1: Only the middle part of a length of dental floss (highlighted in green) is actually used; the ends are wasted.

Proposal:

Instead of wrapping the dental floss around your fingers in order to hold it, it would be ideal if you could just grip the floss directly. This would avoid the wasted end regions, but, unfortunately, human hands are not optimized for this use case.

Fortunately, there is a tool that is perfect for this application: locking pliers (A.K.A. Vise-Grips™).

Instead of wrapping floss around your fingers, just hold the floss directly with two pairs of locking pliers, one in each hand, as shown in Figure 2.

 

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Fig. 2: Note how much more of the floss can be actually used (usable region highlighted in green), as compared to the situation in Figure 1. The locking pliers remove the need for the wasted “end loops” of dental floss.

Conclusion:

In 2019, $6 will buy you 120 meters (4724 inches) of dental floss, which translates to 1/8th of a cent per inch. So if you save six inches of dental floss per day, that’s (600 cents / (4724 inches / 6)) = 0.76 cents per day of savings.

PROS: Saves 6+ inches of dental floss per day, or ¾¢ per day! Over the course of a year, this saves a grand total of $2.78 in 2019 dollars, which could buy you two small coffees at a fast-food establishment.

CONS: A person who uses these will probably inadvertently chip a tooth or knock one out completely with these pliers. Maybe they should be plastic instead of metal.

Journalists, take note! Print journalism can still be saved, with this one exotic culinary suggestion! Change your newspaper or magazine to this format today!

Background:

Print news has unfortunately been dealt a mortal blow by a combination of the Internet and mobile phones.

But there’s still one way to take advantage of the physical nature of printed news—a way that cannot be replicated by news on a phone!

Proposal:

We can bring printed newspapers and promote a healthy lifestyle in news aficionados with this one simple trick:

  • Instead of printing newspapers on paper, we print the news on a flat, edible substance (as shown in Figure 1).
  • Then, as you read the news, you can also eat the “newspaper.”
  • This also saves time at work, since the newspaper could serve as both reading material and lunch.
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Fig. 1: Your daily news could be delivered in a number of different edible forms. The ideal surface must be flat and able to somehow be printed on.

Material Selection:

Candidate materials:

  • Matzah (or any other gigantic cracker / biscuit)
  • Seaweed. Caveat: may be too dark to be easily written on.
  • Beef jerky
  • Fruit Roll-ups”—these have the advantage of also being rollable, as the name implies (like a newspaper).
  • Bubble Tape.” Due to the narrowness of Bubble Tape, it may only be suitable for “news ticker”-style updates or 1930s stock ticker info.

PROS: A potentially healthy and efficient way of becoming more news-savvy. Be the first one in your neighborhood to get into the new “edible newspaper” health food craze!

CONS: You would definitely get crumbs everywhere.

 

Use the power of BURNING SHAME to lose weight fast! You’ll be in shape for the summer season in no time. Guaranteed to scar your psyche forever. Dietitians hate it!

The issue:

It’s often hard to keep track of the quantity of snack food that one can eat.

For example, if you eat a single “fun size” candy bar every hour at work (maybe you work somewhere with a collective candy bowl), you’ll accumulate 3200 additional calories over the course of an 8-hour 5-day work week (at ~80 calories per “fun-size” bar).

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Fig. 1: A candy bowl, as might be seen in a workplace.

Proposal:

After consuming the contents of a candy wrapper / chip bag / soda can, don’t just throw away the now-empty container: instead, use a pushpin to tack it onto a cork board / bulletin board (Figure 2).

The accumulation of wrappers will give you perspective on how much junk food you are actually consuming.

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Fig. 2:  Each participant in this system gets a region of the cork board where they pin their candy wrappers. It could be difficult to attach soda cans with a pushpin, so maybe glue could be used. This would also have the benefit of eventually turning the entire cork board to eventually become some sort of horrified piece of contemporary art. Chocolate at left is not to scale. Or at least it shouldn’t be. If you’re going to buy that much chocolate, at least buy some better chocolate.

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Fig. 3: A proof-of-concept with candy wrappers quickly accumulating on the “cork board of shame.”

Bonus option:

Don’t wash the wrappers: this way, they will attract rats, pigeons, snakes, and other vermin, which will invade your kitchen and start eating your snacks. Counterintuitively, these vermin are actually doing you a favor by eating the snacks before you can!. Involuntary dieting: accomplished!

PROS: Makes you more aware of both your degree of snacking AND your consumption of wasteful packaging products.

CONS: Your new kitchen vermin may possibly give you the bubonic plague. But that can usually be cured these days!

 

 

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