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Category: Household

Chalk up another astounding win for the Internet of Things: another major plague on humanity is BANISHED thanks to a wireless chip in your blender.

Background:

People occasionally forget to lock the door before leaving the house, or leave a stove on by accident, or any number of other things.

“Internet of Things” aficionados often suggest that you could, say, turn on and off your stove from your phone, but now someone on the Internet thousands of miles away can also turn on your stove at a random time.

Proposal:

If your appliances could report their status wirelessly to a receiver on your door, then you could check your home’s status as you leave.

Anything that is amiss will glow in an obvious fashion that calls for more investigation (see mockup in Figure 1).

smarthome-status-panel-on-exit.png

Fig 1: Since this panel is on your main exit door, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally leave something on / forget to lock the door / leave the microwave popping popcorn for 90 minutes instead of 90 seconds / etc.

Conclusion:

Since this is a one-way channel of communication, you don’t have to worry about hackers turning on your microwave. (Additionally, high security is not crucial here; exposing the information “your microwave is on” to a hacker 8000 miles away is probably not a realistic concern unless you’re making a contrived scenario for a made-for-TV movie.)

PROS: As with all Internet-of-Things things, it solves a problem that actually does (juuuuust barely, anyway) exist, and (more importantly) provides a great hobby for engineers.

CONS: In five years, when your smart home hub supplier is out of business, none of your new appliances will work with your system. And when you buy a new dryer, you’ll have to research it for 80 hours to to see if it’s compatible with your version of the Smart Home hub, and then you’ll to have to dig around on the internet for a firmware update named SmartHouse_v_2.7_North_America_41.80.24b.dat.zip. Which will then turn out to be malware that turns your hub into a Dogecoin miner.

Stop being annoyed by three-way light switches that incorrectly both say “OFF,” yet the light is clearly on! Has the entire world gone mad??

Background:

A “three-way light switch” (i.e. two switches that control the same light) is useful when there are multiple places that need to control a single light, such as at both the top and the bottom of a staircase.

The issue:

Unfortunately, three-way switches are often out of sync with the actual state of the light (so the switches are both OFF, but the light bulb is on).

two-switch-light-diagram.png

Fig. 1: A three-way (two-switch) system is surprisingly straightforward. You can even add more switches, if you want! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiway_switching)

Proposal:

Ideally, the ON / OFF position would be correct indicated by the switch itself, instead of Instead of having the switch position indicate when

  • Easy and elegant solution, with one fatal flaw: just make the switch a press-able single button. Internally, the switch would just turn a wheel or something, to generate the required electrical connection.
    • Downside #1: Since it lacks an up/down state, you wouldn’t know whether the circuit were ON or OFF when the bulb is burned out.
    • Downside #2: Probably banned by electrical code for reasons stated in downside #1.
  • Electromagnet-based complicated solution: have each switch’s natural position be the DOWN position, which it will return to due to gravity when there is no electrical current. However, when the circuit is active, an electromagnet causes the switch to be held and/or pulled to the up position.
    • Downside: uses a tiny amount of electricity.
    • Upside: syncs the state of the switches. (If you turn on one switch, the other one will also be pulled up by the built-in electromagnet).

Conclusion:

Maybe you should rewire your house with this highly speculative and untested electrical suggestion! Consult an electrician today.

PROS: You will no longer be bedeviled by light switches that do not properly convey the state of the light. (Previously: the switches both say OFF, but the light is on? Ugh!!!)

CONS: May burn down your house.

Five tips to amazingly shiny hair, like the hair of a wild and majestic forest beast. Step Number 1: maybe wash it occasionally? Unclear.

Background:

Sometimes, if you are groggily taking a shower in the morning without paying much attention, you may forget whether or not you’ve already washed your hair (Figure 1).

 

small-hmm-mystery

Fig. 1: DID I WASH MY HAIR ALREADY??????

small-shampoo

Fig. 2: The shampoo bottle is no help; it’s probably going to be look the same whether or not it was recently used, unless you do forensic-level analysis of the number of water droplets on it.

The issue:

You can, of course, always wash your hair again, but then you wasted both time AND shampoo.

What if the bottle itself could indicate (in a simple and electronics-free way) when it was last used?

Proposal:

Here are two possible ways for a shampoo bottle to indicate when it was last used, without requiring any significant user interaction or complex mechanisms (see Figures 3 and 4).

small-dot-method

Fig. 3: This bottle has an embossed button-like section that pops out (side view at far left and far right). The default state of the bottle is at left. When you use it, it is natural to hold it in a position that presses in the “button,” resulting in the pressed-in situation (right). Later, the button will pop back out of its own accord.

small-water-change-color-method

Fig. 4: Part of the bottle could be made of a plastic that darkens when wet. In this case, the mockup is for a thermometer-sized area of the bottle to be made of this material; the dry material is white (shown in A). When the bottle is turned upside-down, water sweeps along the “thermometer” and darkens it, resulting in the dark gray area in B. Evaporation will eventually dry the “thermometer” and restore its original color.

PROS: Saves time and shampoo.

CONS: May add manufacturing costs and additional product waste.

Sell your refrigerator while it still has value: a new understanding of physics makes it possible to keep food from perishing WITHOUT refrigeration, using the astronomical object known as a “black hole.”

Background:

Refrigeration is a great way to preserve foods. But chilling and/or freezing foods can have adverse effects on taste.

What if there was a way to stop time for the food WITHOUT chilling it?

Proposal:

Luckily, physics provides a solution: as an object moves more quickly through space, it experiences the effects of time more slowly.

We can make use of this phenomenon by creating the “black hole fridge”: a miniature black hole that objects can orbit at nearly the speed of light, preserving them from spoilage (Figure 1).

proper-usage.jpeg

Fig. 1: The “black hole fridge” consists of an enclosure around a black hole (top). Food (depicted as red geometrical objects, bottom) orbits the black hole at nearly the speed of light, causing the food to experience the flow of time thousands of times more slowly.

Caveat:

When placing food into the fridge, it is important to place it in ORBIT around the black hole. Be sure not to drop the food directly into it. See Figure 2 for instructions.

proper-vs-improper

Fig. 2: CORRECT USAGE (left): place food items in orbit around the black hole. INCORRECT USAGE (right): do NOT simply drop items into the fridge (right)—those items will vanish forever beyond the black hole’s event horizon.

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Fig. 3: An additional danger when dropping food into the black hole is the increased mass: this will cause the black hole to expand, both voiding the warranty AND swallowing up the planet.

improper-fridge-expansion.jpg

Fig. 4: It’s easy to tell if a black hole fridge has been properly maintained by eye. Left: a properly-maintained fridge. Right: a black hole that has swallowed up too much additional matter, and is in danger of a catastrophic failure.

PROS: Preserves food for thousands or millions of years WITHOUT requiring freezing or refrigeration!

CONS: None! Food spoilage is now a thing of the past.

Become fit & fashionable WHILE YOU COOK using this new fashion accessory and/or kitchen appliance!

Background:

A lot of kitchen tools have a non-electric version that is hand-cranked: for example, a coffee grinder, ice-cream maker, mixer, or salad-spinner. Additional common hand-powered items include the can opener and pepper mill.

The issue:

Unfortunately, many of these tools are slow and inefficient to operate by hand. However, if there were some way to operate the grinder by a larger muscle group (i.e. not the hands), it would be much easier to operate a coffee grinder or mixer without electricity.

Proposal:

In order to make it easy to operate one of these kitchen tools manually, the following is proposed:

  • The user can wear a belt with gear teeth on it (Figure 1). These teeth mesh with a corresponding gear on the kitchen appliance in question.
  • The user can then (slowly) spin around, and their large-diameter gear belt will cause an extremely fast rotation in the corresponding kitchen appliance gear (which is much smaller).

Fig. 1: The “gear belt” isn’t just a terrible steampunk fashion accessory, but is also a practical addition to your kitchen.

Although each appliance could have its own gearing system, it might be easier if the gears were built into the kitchen counter as shown in Figure 2. Otherwise, an activity like grinding coffee beans would require two people: one to spin around, and one to hold the coffee grinder.

 

 

shelf-with-gear-interface

Fig. 2: If the gearing system were built into a kitchen counter, the operator would be able to easily power any appliance that was fastened to the counter at location #3 (green, above).

 

sketch-gear-belt

Fig. 3: Example of how the coffee grinder would work, as drawn for a patent application.

Conclusion:

Next time you remodel your kitchen, make sure to include a gearing system in one of your kitchen counters.

PROS: Ecologically-friendly method of powering kitchen appliances. Also provides a great core workout.

CONS: May increase the value of your house too much, rendering you unable to sell it.

Perform untested and non-ethics-board approved human testing, with this one weird tip! A terrifying mobile for babies, with a twist!

Background:

The Indiana Jones movies (especially #1 and #3) have taught that it’s a serious liability for an adventurer to acquire a phobia against any animal that may be seen in the course of adventuring (e.g., snakes, rats).

Proposal:

In order to avoid these problems, we can easily desensitize a future adventure to dangerous animals at a young age, via constant exposure to a likeness of that animal in “stuffed animal that dangles from a mobile” form.

(The official term for this is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy )

Compare the two mobiles in figures 1 and 2.

mobile-friendly

Fig. 1: This classic mobile has minimal educational value and confers NO resistance to snakeophobia or fear of spiders, which is known as “spiderophobia.”

 

mobile-dubious

Fig. 2: The enhanced “horror-mobile” can be customized to help a child grow numb to the most terrifying aspects of existence. It’s unclear whether this would actually be 100% helpful: a healthy degree of scorpion-o-phobia is probably a useful trait for a person to have.

Conclusion:

You could be the first to try this totally unproven and un-tested parenting tip!

PROS: May help when the child (who has now become a grizzled adventurer) encounters a pit of snakes in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

CONS: Might have unintended negative effects, like the “aggressively criticize children when they stutter” study (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monster_Study). Additionally, the chance of actually encountering a snake pit in the course of a typical lifetime is < 50%.

The one investing tip that “fat cats” don’t want you to know—invest in crazy startups that make Frankensteinian hybrid appliances!

Background:

You’ve probably heard of a “washer-dryer” combination, an existing one-stop-shop appliance for cleaning clothes. What if we extended this philosophy to other categories of home appliances?

Proposal:

Sometimes, a frozen food requires a lengthy defrosting period. So if you want to eat that item, you must laboriously:

  • Remove the item from the freezer
  • Place the item either into the fridge compartment or on the counter
  • Then, eventually move that item to the microwave

However, we can reduce these unnecessary steps to a single step with the following combination appliance: the “fridge-ro-wave” or “microwave-fridge,” as illustrated in Figure 1.

fridge-microwave.png

Fig. 1: This futuristic fridge can automatically move food items to areas of different temperatures on a pre-determined defrosting schedule. It can even automatically start the microwaving at a certain time!

By allowing the fridge-microwave to operate on a pre-determined schedule, this appliance could also help you avoid over-eating; perhaps it could be upgraded to a laboratory-grade fridge that chills ALL your food down to a brisk -80°. Then, you would be unable to casually snack without waiting for the fridge to heat something up according to its schedule.

PROS: You can come home to a perfectly defrosted Thanksgiving turkey every single work day!

CONS: None! The perfect accessory for the modern home.