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Category: Technology

Improve public transit efficiency and never worry about train delays again! One incredibly practical engineering trick that you won’t believe isn’t already a standard feature.

Background:

Rail-based transportation has an inescapable problem: in a single-track situation, there is no way for a train to pull over and let another train pass.

The issue:

Thus, a single stopped train can block an entire track indefinitely. And a slow train can’t be overtaken by an express train.

This can be solved by adding multiple rails, but that is prohibitively expensive except in very small sections of track. Additionally, it increases recurring maintenance costs.

Proposal:

There is one incredibly simple solution to this problem: just put an additional set of tracks on top of every train car (Figure 1).

1-passing

Fig. 1: Each train car has a set of standard rails mounted on top, shown here in red. The very front-most and last-most cars must have a ramp as well.

 

Now, a slowed or stopped train can be passed by simply driving the passing train over the stopped train (Figure 2).

2-passing-train

Fig. 2: Here, the passing train (purple) is able to pass the stopped train by going onto the second set of tracks (red). The passing train would presumably also have a second rail on top, but it is omitted here for clarity, and definitely not because I forgot to draw it.

 

Conclusion:

As seen in the illustration above, this will definitely work on train cars weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds, so construction on this project can begin immediately without further testing.

PROS: Effectively turns every single track into a double track.

CONS: May cause complications if this method is employed while the being-passed train enters a tunnel during the passing process.

The “self-control facilitation grate” is a new home oven invention that saves the roof of your mouth from being melted by molten pizza cheese. Ask for—no, DEMAND—this option in your next high-end kitchen appliance purchase.

Background:

When baking a pizza in an oven, it’s it’s easy to remove the pizza from the oven and instantly start devouring it.

The issue:

Unfortunately, molten cheese (Fig. 1) cannot coexist with human tissue, so this causes severe burns to the impatient pizza-eater.

1-melting-hot

Figure 1: It’s easy to remove a still-too-hot pizza from an oven and be punished for your impatience.

Proposal:

We can prevent further occurrences of this culinary tragedy by adding a secondary grating to the oven.

This secondary “pizza self-control facilitation grating” is a thin set of metal wires that extend across the opening to the oven (Figure 2).

After a pizza is done, the grating stays closed for a few additional minutes, while the pizza cools. Once the pizza has reached an acceptable temperature, the grating retracts and the user may obtain their pizza.

(Activating this grating would be done by selecting “pizza” mode when first setting the temperature. This would be similar to how a “popcorn” button on a microwave is used).

 

2-with-the-self-control-enhancement-grating.png

Figure 2: This shows the “pizza grating” in action. The grating (shown here in blue) does not retract until several minutes after the pizza is done. If this method is insufficient to allow the pizza to cool (it is, after all, still in a very hot oven), the grating could be adapted to a “pizza cage” cube shape that would be attached to the baking rack.

Thermodynamic issue:

The pizza may become overcooked, since it must remain in the (hot) oven, yet it is also expected to cool off.

This may be solvable by either opening the oven slightly before the pizza is done, or by allowing the grating to be a complete cube shape (a “pizza cage”) that can slide out along with the baking racks, thus removing the pizza from the source of heat while still preventing the impatient pizza-eater from immediately accessing it.

PROS: Solves the health hazard of pizza-related first-degree burns. Possibly reduces your insurance premiums.

CONS: May be mechanically complex, due to the conflicting goals of 1) cooling off the pizza and 2) keeping the pizza in close proximity to (or inside of) a 400º oven.

When giving a slide presentation, show DIFFERENT slide decks to different groups in the audience! Never confuse your audience with an overly-technical presentation again. An amazing application of the same technology used in red-green-glasses-based 3D movies.

Background:

When giving a presentation to a diverse audience (e.g. of experts and non-experts, or of employees from two different departments in a company), you have a problem: you can only make one set of slides, but sometimes you might want to tailor different parts of the presentation to a different audience.

For example, one might want to give a presentation at an easily-understood overview level while also providing technical details for any domain experts in attendance.

Proposal:

Nearly all projectors and screens consist of three light-generating elements, in red (1), green (2), and blue (3).

By giving some members of the audience a pair of green-lens glasses (which block all red and blue light), we would be able to hide certain elements of the presentation that were not relevant to the green-glasses wearers. We can use a set of red-lens glasses and blue-lens glasses in the same way (see Figure 1).

With this technique, we can show up to three entirely different slide presentations, with the only limitation being that each presentation must consist of only monochromatic images.

Specifics:

  • Red glasses can see the following colors:  red, yellow, magenta, white [*].
  • Green glasses can see the following colors: green, yellow, cyan, white.
  • Blue glasses can see the following four colors: blue, magenta, cyan, white.

[*] Note that this is “additive” color space (where red + green = yellow), not the “subtractive” color space one might be familiar with from mixing paints.

Fig_1 3d_glasses_modified

Fig. 1: These glasses block certain wavelengths of light. By carefully constructing our slide decks, we can use these glasses to give up to three different presentations to the same audience at the same time.

So a slide that should be visible to everyone in the audience should be white (or shades of gray). Whereas if you only wanted to present to the red & green glasses-wearers (but not the blue ones), that text would be yellow. See Figure 2 for an example.

Fig_2_financial_results_all

Fig. 2: A sample presentation that is meant to provide both “optimistic” conclusions (green glasses) and “realistic” conclusions (red glasses). This is what the presentation looks like with no color-filtering glasses on.

 

Fig_3_red_normal

Fig. 3: The presentation from Figure 2 in “pessimistic / realistic” mode, as viewed through red lenses. All of the green text has disappeared!

 

Fig_4_green_optimistic

Fig. 4: The presentation from Figure 2 in “optimistic” mode, viewed through green lenses. Red text has disappeared.

 

Fig_5_what_it_looks_like_simulation

Fig. 5: Real-world demonstration: a color-enhanced version of what a red-blue version of this presentation looks like through red-blue “3D” glasses. The effect is almost 100% convincing for the human eye, but the camera actually manages to pick up a lot of the non-lens color, so this photo has been edited to more accurately reflect the perceived image.

A superior (but more logistically difficult) implementation:

It would also be possible to implement this same system with polarized glasses (as were used for some 3D TVs in the early-to-mid 2010s).

This would have the advantage of providing full color, but the disadvantage of not being compatible with a standard conference room projector. Additionally, you would be limited to two different presentations, rather than 3.

PROS: Improves your presentations by letting you tailor the presentation slides to multiple categories of audience members.

CONS: Greatly increases the amount of time required to make a presentation!

Improve your web site’s comment section by only allowing unique comments! Now every meme image will need to be one pixel different in order to be reposted. The Internet is saved!

Background:

Moderating the comments section of any web site is a thankless and un-ending task. But what if there were some way to make it slightly easier?

Proposal:

Instead of just allowing any comments, we can require that comments be totally unique and never-before-seen.

Once a comment is made, or an image is posted, a “fingerprint” [1] of that data is saved, and that exact comment can never be posted again (UI implementation shown in Figure 1).

[1] For example, an MD5 sum.

This will automatically get rid of many types of classic low-signal posts (e.g. the historical but rarely-seen-noawadays “First post”) and reposted memes. (This may or may not be desirable, depending on the type of site being run, of course.)

 

internet-message-board-only-unique-comments

Fig. 1: If a user posts some text (or an image) that was seen before, they will get an error message similar to this one.

Observation about images:

Since images must be unique to be reposted, the easiest way to re-post a meme image would be to make a small change to it and re-save it (or make no change at all, but re-save it using a lossy compression method). For a lossy image format like JPEG, this would lead to an interesting situation in which memes became more and more corrupted-looking as they are modified and re-posted over and over. This would even allow the lineage of a meme to be traced by looking at its variously-compressed versions.

PROS: May discourage certain low-effort posts that you’d want to moderate away anyway, saving moderator time and improving web site quality.

CONS: If a 32-digit hexadecimal number is used as the output of the “fingerprinting” hash function, then only a maximum of 16**32 comments can ever be made to your web site. If your web site gets 1 million unique posts per year, then some time in the year 340,282,366,920,938,448,064,954,991,902,720 A.D., all of the hash values will be used up, and people will no longer be able to post on your web site. Also, your visitor counter will probably have overflowed by then!

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.
edible-news-with-text-contrast-improved.png

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.

 

For your next job application / rental apartment selection / house purchase: you would be able to make an INFORMED decision about your commute thanks to this incredible piece of software!

Background:

In the United States, an employed person has two conflicting goals:

  1. To commute to their job as fast as possible (ideally by “hyperloop” or helicopter),
  2. …and to live as far away from their workplace as possible.

To these ends, thousands of man-hours have gone into new legislation preventing residences near places of employment (zoning laws which help with goal #2, above) and to developing new and complex commute-easing technologies such as self-driving cars or trains that travel at a thousand miles per hour (addressing goal #1).

The issue:

When accepting a new job, it’s hard to know how long or unpleasant your commute might be.

Although a person can get an idea of the total amount of time a commute is expected to take by checking an online map service, it’s a different matter to actually experience the commute.

Proposal:

In order to figure out if a commute is tolerable, a “Commute Test Drive” is proposed: this is just a piece of software that generates a realistically-long commute on the route that you specify (example in Figure 3, perhaps using data from OpenStreetMap) and then requires that you drive it in real-time.

 

1 Commute test drive.png

Fig. 1: This “Commute Test Drive” commute simulator would be similar to the delivery truck game “Euro Truck Simulator,” but with realistically-excruciatingly-large maps.

If a person wants to use public transit instead of driving, then a more sophisticated version of this software might allow the player to simulate the process of walking to a bus stop, waiting for a bus, and sitting on the bus for the correct amount of time.

By enduring the commute in the comfort of their own home (Fig. 2), a person can make a better-educated decision about accepting a job (or buying / renting a house) in a given area.

2 Home driving setup.png

Fig. 2: Although it would be possible to play this simulator with a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard, the steering wheel adds realism.

 

3 real-time route.png

Fig. 3: The route would be simulated with traffic and any other elements of a commute that might cause a delay (like railroad crossings, police checkpoints, and drawbridges).

Conclusion:

PROS: Inexpensively allows a person to make informed decisions about where to live and work.

CONS: This software probably already exists in some form as a fan-made Euro Truck Simulator mod.

This cutting-edge “Dial-up Internet” simulator enriches the web-browsing experience and promotes strong moral values even in a decadent Caligula-esque era!

Background:

Part 1: As Internet speeds have increased, web sites have become more and more enormous (Example: Figure 1).

Part 2: Additionally, people have become more and more accustomed to impulsively wasting time on the Internet.

 

usa_today_loading_2.png

Fig. 1: The USA Today front page in 2018 consists of 8.1 megabytes of data (including images and ads) over 1047 unique requests. It takes 47 seconds to fully load all resources.

The issue:

Here are the two problems that we can solve simultaneously:

  1. Enormous web pages are slow to load
  2. People impulsively browse the Internet and have no attention span, since new content is only a few moments away.

Proposal:

Although there already exist tools to artificially restrict Internet bandwidth, none of them provide the full “1998 desktop computer” experience.

Here, we propose a “Dial-up Internet simulator” that re-creates the dial-up Internet experience of the 1990s (Figure 2).

dialup-internet-simulator.png

Fig. 2: When you attempt to use any Internet service for the first time, a lengthy modem connection process occurs, as illustrated here. If you leave your connection idle for more than a few minutes, you will be disconnected and need to endure the dial-up process again.

This “dial-up simulator” system could be implemented either as a browser plug-in, or at the system level.

Conclusion:

The benefit of this system is two-fold:

  1. Web site designers can use it to preview their site in a low-bandwidth mode, encouraging them to design faster-loading sites.
  2. Site visitors can use it to encourage self-discipline and reduce impulsive time-wasting browsing.

PROS: Encourages reduced-size web pages, and discourages time-wasting on the Internet. Brings back the nearly-forgotten “modem connecting” noise.

CONS: None!