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With this new incredible CORPORATE MONUMENT PARK, you can pay your respects to great companies and products of the past, or at least the ones with a cult following.


Famous people and events in history often have some sort of enormous stone monuments to prevent them from being forgotten.

The issue:

Unfortunately, this is NOT true for once-great companies and products (see example in Figure 1). These are consigned to obscurity, with no physical relics to attest to their existence in history.



Fig. 1: Important companies from the past are generally forgotten, as was the fate of the Winton Motor Carriage Company. Perhaps they have great lessons to teach us (such as: should you dispense with a horse?), if only we would remember them!


Companies and products of the past can still teach lessons to the people of the future, and they should be memorialized with enormous monuments that will stand the test of time.


Fig. 2: Monuments could be created for once-popular defunct companies, like the AltaVista web search engine, to remind us of their contribution to history.




Fig. 3: Sometimes, a software product attracts a dedicated fanbase disproportionate to its commercial success (e.g. BeOS). This monument could emphasize the importance of marketing (and luck) in software success, something which is often overlooked by developers.



Fig. 4: Hardware products can also be commemorated in this way. For example, developers who make use of touchscreen devices (i.e. basically all of them) would do well to make a pilgrimage to the Apple Newton MessagePad monolith.


Next time your city demolishes a building that can’t be easily repurposed for housing or general commercial use (for example, a contaminated landfill or a former gas station), you should push for that area to become a DEFUNCT COMMERCIAL PRODUCT AND/OR COMPANY STATUE GARDEN.

PROS: Brings the lessons of the past to the people of the future.

CONS: May be discouraging to see how many great products and companies failed to make a lasting impact.

Are you tired of your computer MYSTERIOUSLY doing things in stony silence? Bring back 1980s retro charm and monitor your computer for malware and spyware with this ONE INSANE AUDIO TRICK! It drove an entire island of monks to madness!


In the past, you could tell what a computer was doing (to some extent) just by listening to it.

  • Disk access would be accompanied by a classic floppy disk sound (or the “click” of a hard drive)
  • The fan would spin up if the CPU was under high load.
  • You could actually listen to network traffic on a modem (or watch the network traffic light blink).
  • Sometimes, different operations would cause a high-pitched noise to emit from some mysterious component of the computer.

However, with solid-state drives and many entirely fanless computational devices (e.g. phones, most tablets), it is no longer possible to have an intuitive sense of what your computing device is up to.


Fig. 1: Historically, computers would make all sorts of sounds when operating. The monitor would emit an annoying high-pitched hum, the disk would click and clack during reads or writes, you could listen to network traffic over a modem, and fan noise would let you know whether the CPU was working hard.


The solution is obvious: the phone must generate artificial sounds so the user can figure out what’s going on.


  • Heavy CPU use could result in the classic beeps of the “Star Trek computer sound“. Or for a subtler approach, a fan-spinning noise could be generated.
  • Disk access could always be accompanied by the audio of a floppy disk reading / writing / seeking to a new location.
  • The screen could cause a buzzing sound to be emitted when it was first turned on, and optionally at any time it was displaying a non-blank screen.
  • Network access could generate a modem noise.

Fig. 2: This phone is totally silent under normal operation, but we can add network noises, CPU fan noise, disk noises, and more.

With this simple change, people will become aware of what their computer is doing.

In particular, they will now easily realize if their computer is using a ton of Internet traffic or is infected with CPU-intensive malware.


Demand this feature in your next phone! Or write and maintain a custom ROM for your phone. Easy!

PROS: Warns people about phone spyware/malware. Makes a phone harder to lose, since it will be constantly emitting annoying sounds!

CONS: None! It’s the perfect idea with no downsides.





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


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).





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?


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).


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.


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.

Revolutionary new “lens-free camera” created in a garage by a crazy inventor—now all your vacation photos will be PERFECT!


When people go on vacation, 99% of their pictures are of sunsets and monuments that have been photographed thousands of times before.

Sure, that image of a majestic tropical bird perched in front of a waterfall may seem like one-in-a-million shot, but that still means that one hundred variants of it have already been uploaded to Google Photos.

The issue:

It can be a lot of work to frame a shot in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion. But what if we could make use of THE INTERNET to save us the trouble?


Instead of carrying a regular camera, a user can carry a “camera” without a lens or ability to take pictures.

Instead, when the user presses the shutter button:

  1. The “camera” records the user’s GPS coordinates, the time of day, and the current orientation of the camera.
  2. Later, the “camera” syncs this information to the Internet and downloads the most aesthetically-pleasing photo for the specified site and time of day.

So if you were disappointed that you were taking photos of Niagara Falls while it was overcast, no worries: the camera will pick out some majestic waterfall-and-rainbows-on-a-sunny-day photos from online.


Fig. 1: This “lens free” camera looks like a traditional camera, except it doesn’t actually take pictures—it only records your GPS location and orientation when taking the picture. (The viewfinder shown here could just be a transparent plastic window, not a real LCD screen.)



Fig. 2: Internally, the camera is really just searching for the top-rated image at a given set of coordinate / orientation / time-of-day.


Stop futzing with shutter speed, exposure, framing, and who knows what else—just let the Internet take your photos for you!

PROS: Saves tons of time! Makes everyone into a master photographer. You won’t have to worry about looking bad in a photo, because you’ll never be in a photo! (Unless you happen to be the subject of the top-rated photo somehow.)

CONS: At least one person will still have to use a real camera to take photos, or else there won’t be anything for the GPS-only camera to find.




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.”


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?


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Does your city / state / country have an ICON, or just a flag? Vex vexillologists with this proposal to create ICONIC EMBLEMS to represent your favorite regional administrative division! This is the U.S. State Flag edition.


Every US state has a flag. But only a few states have an icon—something immediately recognizable (and ideally, easily drawn and memorable).

For an example of icons, we can look at Japan’s provinces (or “prefectures”), nearly all of which are represented by a distinctive single-color icon (Figure 1).


Fig. 1: Japanese provinces have iconic minimalist symbols associated with them. Compare these to the selection of American state flags in Figure 2.


Fig. 2: Most state flags were not selected with visual clarity in mind. Additionally, many state flags look identical on a flagpole when there is no wind.


Fig. 3: Some flags are visually distinctive, but these are the exception. (In reading order: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Alabama, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.)


The proposal is as follows:

  • Every state will get a supplementary icon, that can be easily rendered in a quick pen sketch (Figure 4).
  • When possible, the flag and emblem should be similar, to make them easier to remember.
  • A flag and an icon have different requirements. Some guidelines:
    • A flag should be visually distinctive even when on a draped piece of cloth. For example, the American flag (🇺🇸) is easily identified even when there is no wind.
    • A flag can make use of multiple colors (although there is such a thing as “too many” colors).
    • An icon should minimize or eliminate reliance on specific colors.
    • An icon should have relatively few fine details. It should be distinctive even at a very small size.

Fig. 4: Some sketches of icons that could represent specific states. Three of these are based on elements from real state flags: Tennessee (top left), New Mexico (left middle), and South Carolina (palm tree + crescent moon, top right). The top right one would probably need to be modified in some way to distinguish it from the flags of Turkey (🇹🇷), Tunisia (🇹🇳), Pakistan (🇵🇰), and others.

There is also no icon that represents the United States (although USA works as an easily-written shorthand). Figures 6 and 7 investigate some elements that could be incorporated into a flag-inspired icon.



Fig. 5: Although it is not a national icon, this existing U.S. Air Force insignia manages to elegantly incorporate the elements of the national flag.


Fig. 6: If someone only had 5 seconds to draw an American flag, they’d probably some up with something similar to these graffiti-like icons on the left. Isolating the iconic elements of the American flag leaves us with a number of possible emblems in varying levels of detail (right). The bottom-right one also indicates how the Chinese / Japanese character for “above” coincidentally appears in the negative space: this might be useful in a U.S.A.-and-China-centered science fiction future like the one in Firefly.


Below (Figure 7) is a column of state flags (left) and some potential icons (right). The color is arbitrary—it can be omitted or changed to any other color (as in the Japanese example in Figure 1).




Fig. 7: Left column: state flags. Right column: corresponding easy-to-draw icons for each state. Some of these have a very shaky rationale, and are not based on the existing flags. For example:  Illinois: rivers converging, also it’s the “Y” from the font “Malayayam Bold.” Florida: the shape of Florida, if it were exactly three pixels. Michigan: the bordering lakes. Louisiana: the Mississippi river delta. Vermont / New Hampshire: the icons fit together, like the states. See below for Washington State.


You should come up with some icon suggestions of your own, and propose them to your state government. They love sponsoring things like state birds, state flowers, and state songs, so why not a state emblem? California even has a state lichen and state dinosaur!

PROS: Would provide the option for people to promote their state with an easily-recognized emblem.

CONS: Could increase intra-state rivalry if people become attached to their own state’s amazing icon.



P.S. The hypothetical icon for Washington State is an abstract representation of Washington crossing the Delaware. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but that never stopped icon designers before!



P.P.S. Run out of icon ideas? Just draw a bunch of weird stuff on a sheet of paper and see if anything sticks. Try to avoid accidentally repurposing fascist iconography!

A new sales opportunity for the wedding ring industry! Diamond sellers hate it!

New site feature:



Historically, wedding rings in many Western countries have been a moderately reliable indicator of someone’s marriage status (Figure 1).


Fig. 1: Classic late-20th-century wedding rings. Elegant! But they could always be more informative.

The issue:

However, as it has become more common for people to postpone marriage or not get married at all, the ring has become a less statistically reliable indicator of someone’s single-or-not status.


In addition to the classic wedding rings, other relationship statuses could be indicated by alternative ring designs.


Fig. 2: The green pentagon ring might mean “separated, but still technically married.”


Fig. 3: Red triangle: “married to video games and/or professional sports.” Purple square: “married to my job, so don’t even bother trying to date me.”


Fig. 4: Various other relationship statuses could have their own ring specifications. With nearly infinite possible combinations of ring shape, color, inset stone(s), and overall design, there’s no chance of running out of options.

PROS: Would allow wedding rings to convey more information, yet still remain fashionable.

CONS: Addressing all possible types of relationship status could result in an incredibly large and difficult-to-memorize number of ring designs.