Never forget where you left your car again, because your phone knows! Also your car is probably worth thousands of dollars, so you should be keeping track of it anyway!

The issue:

When parking on the street or in an enormous shopping center parking lot, it can be easy to lose track of exactly where one’s car is parked.

Since cell phones constantly record a person’s GPS location as a standard feature (if you are not familiar with this, look up “iPhone Track location”—the images are quite striking), we can use this same data to reconstruct the car’s location when it was parked.


Fig 1: Your phone typically does not make this data easily available to you, but it is constantly recording (and saving) your location. This is a low-resolution zoom-out of tracking signals of a phone taken to Las Vegas. Each dot on the map actually represents dozens or hundreds of specific location “pings,” which are just not visible at this zoom level. The black point cluster is Las Vegas itself.


It would be useful if your phone could always tell you where your car was parked—without requiring any user interaction or planning ahead of time.

Luckily, this is possible!

The car location will can be inferred using two sources of data:

  1. By using the accelerometer of the phone (as a pedometer):
    1. When the user is driving, the pedometer should register no (or very, very few) steps.
    2. After parking, the pedometer should suddenly see activity.
  2. By examining the speed of travel between GPS coordinates.
    1. Data points that have an associated speed above 20 miles per hour are practically guaranteed to be in a car (or other form of motorized transportation).
    2. Car data points will still have interruptions (e.g. stop lights) and low-speed sections (e.g., traffic jam) that need to be accounted for.
    3. At some point, the driver will get out of the car and walk to their destination. This can be easily detected by the slower movement and non-zero pedometer data.

See figures 2 and 3 below for an example of integrating these two data types (top of figure = pedometer activity bar graph, bottom of figure = map and GPS “pings”). Try to figure out the parking spot on the diagram below.


Fig 2: Here is some fake sample data. The blue bars along the top (“Number of Steps Detected”) show pedometer / accelerometer activity from 9:02 AM to 9:10 AM (the more a person walks, the higher the bar). The yellow-to-orange-to-red rectangles at the bottom indicate the GPS locations at these specific times. Try to figure out where the user parked the car based on this data. See Fig. 3 for the algorithm’s guess.


Fig 3: Here is the algorithm’s guess for the parking spot—see if you agree with this guess! This is an annotated version of the data in Figure 2.


This feature should definitely be built into your phone!

PROS: Automatically lets you know where you (probably) parked your car, and doesn’t need any data that a modern cell phone isn’t already collecting.

CONS: Might not work very well in underground parking garages. Try to remember where you parked in those situations!

Amazing billiards tip for that will astound your friends and vex your foes. Don’t use it when playing for money, or you may get stabbed!


Relatively few games have equipment choice as an element. For example, in tennis, there is no such thing as a “lob racquet” versus a “serving racquet.”

Presumably this is because of the difficulty in quickly switching out equipment in a time-sensitive sports.

But in a game like golf, where there is plenty of time between shots, golfers carry around a dozen or so clubs for use in various circumstances.

The issue:

This proposal is to apply the same golf-club-selection principle to pool / billiards / snooker.


Fig 1: Billiards in 1674. Apparently played with croquet wickets and tiny pyramids for some reason.

But instead of selecting different cues, players will actually replace the cue ball instead. This will allow for new shot opportunities (Fig 2).


Fig 2: In this case, the player wants to shoot the cue ball between the 8 and the 3 balls, but this is impossible due to insufficient space.


Fig 3: By selecting a tiny squash-ball-sized cue ball, the shot is now possible.

Various sizes of cue ball would be offered, for use in different situations (Fig 4). Selecting the right size for the current board configuration would be just one of the many decisions required for the game.


Fig 4: Various sizes of cue ball would be used by an experienced player. 8 ball shown for scale.


Fig 5: In some scenarios, it might be advantageous to select a huge grapefruit-sized cue ball. It would be difficult to keep this one from rolling off the table, which would also increase the skill ceiling of the game.


Strangely, this “change the cue ball size” rule has never been implemented at any official tournament. Perhaps there were issues in the past with making a perfectly spherical cue ball beyond a certain size. Fortunately, modern technology has solved this problem!

PROS: Adds new and amazing elements to the game, causing a renaissance in billiards techniques.

CONS: It might be difficult to accurately place a different-sized ball on exactly the same spot as the original without some sort of technical aid.

AudioNav: Navigate traffic by audio cues, like a bat. Note: bats are incapable of safely operating automobiles.

The issue:

When driving long distances, maintaining situational awareness on a boring stretch of road can be difficult.

Additionally, distractions such as in-car music may prevent natural audio cues (for example, the sound of nearby cars) from being noticed by the driver.

Proposal for the “AudioNav” car navigation aid:

  1. By using an array of rangefinders along the perimeter of a car, the AudioNav system can determine the location of nearby vehicles.
  2. This information is used to create audio cues, which are then piped through the car’s surround sound stereo system.
    1. For example: a single car directly behind the vehicle would cause AudioNav to generate a constant tone from the rear speaker.
    2. A situation in which there was a car to the back-left and another one to the back-right would cause one tone to come from the rear-left speaker, and one tone to come from the rear-right speaker.
  3. Each audio cue has a pitch component (each detected vehicle is associated with a specific pitch) and a volume (closer vehicles generate louder audio cues).
    1. In other words, the system attempts to associate a particular sound with a particular vehicle, even as that vehicle moves around. This may be difficult.

car_audio_position_1 car_audio_position_2

Fig 1: Rangefinders in the red car locate the nearby yellow truck and blue car. The yellow truck will cause the back-left speaker to generate a tone of one pitch, and the blue car will cause the back-right speaker to generate a tone of a different pitch. As the other vehicles move in relation to the red car, the car computer will make an effort to move each car’s tone in a corresponding fashion between the surround-sound speakers.


Fig 2: Some difficulties might arise in a complicated traffic scenario. In this case, rangefinder A detects car B, and rangefinder C detects car D. Car E is obscured and will not generate an audio tone in the current traffic configuration.


Fig 3: Emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire trucks, etc…) could have their own distinctive tones. Additionally, police vehicles could be pointed out by a unique police-car-only sound. (This assumes that computer vision would be up to the task of identifying an emergency vehicle or police car in the first place.)


This might actually work! It would also provide another reason for a car buyer to purchase the highest-end stereo system, since the extra speakers would be required for the AudioNav system.

PROS: It’s amazing! You should lobby for it to become a mandatory safety feature.

CONS: Probably will be expensive! You’ll have to buy the model without the sunroof in order to afford the AudioNav feature.

The “butterfly” poster design: if you have the misfortune to be carrying a rolled-up conference poster at this exact moment, or are a caterpillar, this idea will resonate with you


Conference posters are frequently 4 by 6 feet, which means that in the best-case scenario, they will still be four feet long when rolled up.

This is still quite cumbersome.

Although relatively few individuals are plagued by the difficulty of handling rolled-up posters, their plight has not gone un-noticed.

The state of the art:

It is theoretically possible to reduce the cumbersome dimensions of a poster in many ways.

  • Wad it up into a ball (renders poster unsuitable for viewing and/or re-use)
  • Fold it into squares, like a map (creases are generally visually unappealing)
  • Fold it into an enormous origami crane

The most common method, of course, is:

Roll the poster up along its longest edge.

But even a 4′ poster is quite annoying to carry around (it definitely won’t fit into any standard luggage) or transport on an airplane. Plus, it is easy to mislay and forget about such a cumbersome and infrequently-carried object.


Fig 1: A typical conference poster is unwieldy and can only be rolled up to a minimum length of around four feet.


Steps toward a new poster design:

One first might consider folding the poster several times along its shorter edge before rolling it up.

This would definitely reduce the poster’s rolled-up dimensions, but testing reveals that the doubled-over sections resist rolling and result in unavoidable crinkles along the long creases when the poster is unrolled (in addition to the unsightly primary creases themselves).


Fig 2: Folding the poster before rolling it, as shown here, would decrease the length of the rolled-up poster, but the doubled-over sheets resist rolling and result in visually unattractive primary creases and secondary crinkling along the primary crease-fault-lines.


But the solution is simple! By simply pre-cutting the poster (along what would have been the vertical creases), we can end up with a “butterfly” poster that is functionally three independent sheets, except for a narrow structural “bridge” element in the middle.

Testing reveals that this poster is quite easy to roll up, and any creasing is limited to the narrow “bridge” elements.

By applying this technique to a 4×6 poster, the final poster can fit into a (potentially oblong) cylinder a few inches in diameter and about 1.3 feet long, which could potentially be carried in standard luggage, or crammed into the side pocket of a laptop bag.


Fig 3: The “butterfly fold” poster is pre-cut along a few crease points.

PROS: Transport is made easier, and poster-losing opportunities are minimized.

CONS: Potential for tearing in the “bridge” region. Also: why not just print three narrower posters in the first place?

Rearrange your no-doubt-extensive home art gallery according to these curation principles.


Art galleries are generally arranged by either genre (for example, “portraits” or “landscapes”) or a period in history (e.g. “Renaissance Italy, 1350–1500”).

The issue:

This traditional organizational scheme results in dozens of similar works in close proximity, which leads to the following problem: after a person has seen ten masterpiece portraits of Venetian nobles, an eleventh one is not going to make an impression.

All the pieces all start to look the same!


As an alternative to period- or genre-based organization, artwork may be grouped together by either:

  1. Color (Example: a gallery of only red paintings, from various artistic periods.)
  2. Very specific subject matter (Example: a gallery of only paintings of horses, from across thousands of years.)


Fig 1: In this example, the paintings are all mostly red, but the left painting is a work of abstract art, the middle one is a French Impressionist painting, and the right one is a piece of propaganda art. As you can no doubt clearly tell from these masterful illustrations.


Fig 2: An example of what this might look like with art from different eras that just happen to have a reddish hue. These would all go in a gallery together, despite the unrelated subjects and time periods.


Fig 3: An example of similar subject matter over thousands of years.


By varying the art style, viewers of these fine pieces of art will take longer to become acclimated to a specific technique and era, so they will continue to appreciate each new piece on its own rather than becoming instantly bored with it (having already seen 15 similar paintings).


Fig 4: As seen here, sometimes this organizational scheme would not actually change anything. For example, these landscape paintings all have approximately the same subject matter and coloration, so they wouldn’t be separated out by a color / subject classification scheme, and will be grouped together no matter what.

PROS: None! You should rearrange your art museum like this—right now!

CONS: It’s so good that it will probably put curators out of business, since they’ll have nothing left to do once the paintings are arranged in this fashion.

Phone Call Priority: 9 incredible mistakes you’re making on the phone without even realizing it. Number 4 will bring an icy chill to your heart as you contemplate its true horror.


Phone woes: when you use text or call someone, there’s no way to differentiate between the following scenarios:

  1. Low priority (not time-sensitive): “Let’s chat, if you have time.”
  2. Medium priority (time-sensitive): “I just showed up at the crowded convention center, but I can’t find you.”
  3. High priority (important and time-sensitive): “Your car is about to be towed, you have 2 minutes to move it!”

The issue:

Unfortunately, all three of the scenarios above result in the same effect on the recipient’s phone: it rings / vibrates in the same manner no matter what.

So an individual at a meeting will get the same low-priority phone alert from “Are you free for lunch?” as “A derailed train car is leaking flammables over by building #3! Run for your life!”

“Call priority” proposal:

We can fix this by allowing the caller to indicate how important their message is.

This could easily be accomplished by:

  1. Making the default “call” or “text” button generate a low-priority message.
  2. Allowing a long-press on the call button to bring up a new set of options for time-sensitive or extremely-urgent messages.


Fig 1: Example of a phone call (or text) button that would also allow a user to (optionally) generate a more emphatic ring on the other end if the call is especially critical. The bubble below the “CALL” text would appear on a long-press of the call button.

There could also be an “extremely low priority” option for text messages that would cause the phone on the other end to not ring / vibrate at all—while this initially seems useless, it is actually similar to sending an email, and would allow people to send frivolous text messages (“so I just saw the director’s cut of snakes on a plane”) without worrying about annoying the recipient.

The full set of options for calls / texts would be:

  1. Normal priority (regular ring / vibration)
  2. Time-sensitive (more emphatic / longer ring and vibration)
  3. Urgent (extremely insistent ring / vibration)
  4. Unimportant (doesn’t ring or vibrate at all, so it has a very low level of “demand”—like an email)


Fig 2: A phone responding to three different calls. From top to bottom: 1) normal, 2) time-sensitive, 3) urgent.

Please support our sponsors! This baffling tip will surprise and astound you when you realize its pecuniary implications for your domicile!!!

The art of conversation:

Since a call is interpreted by many individuals as “hey, stop what you are doing, I need to talk to you right now,” there could be a “call” option that would simply send the recipient a short text message with an “accept / decline” call button.

This way, instead of feeling like calling someone is an imposition on the other individual’s time, it could be seamlessly integrated into the texting system as a polite request. Everyone wins!


Fig 3: A phone call could be automatically converted into a polite text message, as seen above.

Regarding individuals sending all messages at maximum priority:

Although it would be possible for a person to always send their messages as “urgent,” a phone would have a button to “downgrade” all messages from an individual to regular priority.

Additionally, telemarketers could be forbidden by law from using any of the higher-priority messaging modes.

PROS: Makes phones more convenient and encourages people to feel more comfortable making voice calls.

CONS: Might make it even harder for telemarketers to reach you.

Are your co-workers laughing at you behind your back? Abide by this single flawless maxim and concern yourself no more! This assumes that the root problem was your choice of name for a new product.


Many product names are ambiguous when used as a keyword in a web search.

For example, in the most egregious hypothetical case, if you had a program named “The” it would be almost impossible to do an English-language search for it. Imagine searching for “The problem,” or “The crashing when I load too many databases.”

The issue:

It is excusable for products to have ambiguous names if they were created before web searches became important.

  1. For example, “Go” (the programming language developed in 2007) is poorly named, so we should heap our scorn upon it.
  2. Whereas “Go” (the ancient board game) should get a pass, as it is unreasonable to expect scholars from an ancient Chinese dynasty to predict the Internet. (Also, it 1) pre-dated the English language and 2) was not actually called “go” either).

But post-2000, it is clear to everyone that products need to be findable online. There is no excuse for naming a product or piece of software something generic and ambiguous.

Fig 1: If a user wants to know how to batch-rename photos in the Apple "Photos" application, they will have to generate a very creative search query. None of the top results for the obvious query "batch rename Apple photos" were relevant.
Fig 1: If a user wants to know how to batch-rename photos in the Apple “Photos” application, they will have to generate a very creative search query. None of the top results for the obvious query “batch rename Apple photos” were relevant.

Here are three categories of software names. One is the “potentially quite difficult to find results for” category, one is “unique names, very easy to find results for,” and one is “ambiguous word, but usually still easy to find results for.”

See if you can determine which is which:

Category #1:

  • Mail
  • C
  • Maps
  • .NET
  • Numbers
  • R
  • Serial
  • Go

Category #2:

  • PowerPoint
  • Perl
  • iBooks
  • Firefox
  • LibreOffice
  • CrashPlan
  • Crimson Editor

Category #3:

  • Java
  • Python
  • Kindle
  • Pandora
  • Safari
  • Keynote
  • Komodo
Fig 2: Would you like to download a podcast as an MP3? Normally you can just type in the podcast name plus "mp3," but you can't do that if the podcast is named "Serial." Tear your hair and wail at the injustice of it!
Fig 2: Would you like to download a podcast as an MP3? Normally you can just type in the podcast name plus “mp3,” but you can’t do that if the podcast is named “Serial.” Tear your hair and wail at the injustice of it!
Fig 3: Want to know what algorithm is used by the Apple Chess program? Too bad! But maybe you'd like these unrelated links.
Fig 3: Want to know what algorithm is used by the Apple Chess program? Too bad! But maybe you’d like these unrelated links!

The solution:

Simply put, a 100% tax would be levied on the revenues generated by any product with a non-unique official name.

This would encourage companies to quickly think of new words for their products, or at least officially re-brand their generically-named products with their company name.


  • Apple Mail –> “iMail”
  • Microsoft Word –> “MSWord”
  • Serial Podcast –> “Investigate-o-pod”
  • Apple Maps –> “AppleMaps”
  • Google Maps –> “GoogMap”
  • Go programming language –> “GoLang”
  • C programming language –> “PlainC”
  • Ford Fiesta –> “Ford FiestaMeansFestival”

If you hate these names—and you probably should—too bad!

This is the inevitable consequence of progress.

Positive role model for unique names:

Bands are famous for having extremely bizarre and generally totally unique names. Consumer products and software could take inspiration from the creativity used in selecting a band name.

Economic impact:

Probably it would be minor, as companies would quickly re-brand.

If this law were retroactive, Apple would be one of the hardest-hit companies:

  • Apple’s software for managing photos: Photos
  • Apple’s client for desktop mail: Mail
  • Apple’s calendar: Calendar (formerly “iCal”)
  • Apple’s program for organizing your contacts: Contacts (formerly “Address Book”)
  • Apple’s maps: Maps
  • Apple’s program for taking notes: Notes
  • Apple’s application for playing chess: Chess
  • Apple’s spreadsheet: Numbers
  • Apple’s word processor: Pages

(Despite those software products being supplied free, they would be assigned a percentage of Apple’s hardware sales, based on the logic that these programs contributed to the “software ecosystem” that motivated the hardware sales in the first place.)

One weird energy tip trick that is hated by the subterranean reptiloids who control our fates!!
One weird energy source that is hated by the subterranean reptiloids who control our fates! Vampires hate it! Save $$$ on your energy bills using this trick somehow?

Sponsored Link

PROS: You would no longer have to try a dozen terms when searching online for something with a generic name.

CONS: None! This should be done immediately, if not sooner.

Supplemental post: A car manufacturer is actually applying an “achievement unlocked” system to encourage car maintenance. You might or might not believe what happens next, depending on a combination of your personality traits!

As previously discussed on this very site, “gamification” is a hot topic in the world of behavioral influence.

The car manufacturer Qoros (观致汽车) (Wikipedia link) is attempting to use this technique in the automotive world.

The picture below (from the electronic dashboard of a 2015 Qoros sedan) displays the “Beat the Line” achievement.

Achievement unlocked—you took your car in for scheduled maintenance!!
Achievement unlocked—you made an appointment to buy a car! Or possibly took your car in for scheduled maintenance! Or at least did something at a dealership!

Unfortunately, a full list of available achievements / badges does not appear to be available. In fact, I can find no mention of this incentive system anywhere on the Internet!

Hopefully this concept catches on and results in many additional creatively-named car maintenance and/or purchase achievements.

One weird unfunded mandate that exposes the disregard for handicapped accessibility in 8-bit video games… tip number 3 will shock you!


Old 8-bit video games typically do not adhere to modern standards of occupational safety or handicapped-accessibility.

The issue:

The issue we will deal with here is making an old game, in this case, Zelda II for the Nintendo Entertainment System, properly compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Obviously this will be simplified, since we don’t have to worry about structural stability, proper materials, or material cross-section (or anything three-dimensional) in a game of this style.

ADA question

Fig 1: This is a screenshot from the late ’80s Nintendo game Zelda II. This is an entrance to specific palace in the game. There are two extremely large “steps” (approximately 3 feet high each) and a human-sized statue on top of a pedestal.

Note that the enormous steps leading up to the palace are not even remotely handicapped-accessible.

(Plus, such large steps are probably also forbidden by municipal building codes.)


As a publicly accessible building, the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act could potentially apply to this palace.

We will add a ramp (although alternative solutions exist, such as elevators).

For ADA compliance:

  • Ramps must have no greater than a 4.8° incline (1 foot of rise per 12 feet of distance)
  • An individual segment of ramp cannot be any longer than 30 feet. Longer segments must be broken up by landings.
  • Landings must be at least 5 feet wide.

In this case, for 6 feet of elevation gain, we will need two 30 foot ramps and one ~12 foot ramp. This will require two landings.

ADA ramp

Fig 2: With three ramps (and two landings) installed, the palace entrance is now handicapped accessible.

There is still one serious problem—although though the ramp has an acceptable incline and distance, we have created a new death trap for the palace due to the lack of handrails.

The handrail requirements that would apply to the 8-bit Zelda II world include:

  • Handrails must be 34–38 inches above ramp surfaces.
  • Handrails must end in a 12 inch “loop” beyond the ramp (see diagram).

ADA handrails

Fig 3: With proper ramps and handrails, this palace is now one step closer to being ADA accessible. The sprites themselves are all © Nintendo.


It is important to realize that locations in video games may also be visited by characters who cannot jump 8 feet in the air from a standing start.

PROS: Significantly increases quality of life for individuals with mobility problems.

CONS: A classic “unfunded mandate”—imposes significant architectural demands without providing the money to actually perform the construction.

You’ve been making your bed the wrong way THIS WHOLE TIME. Six ways to repent (number 4 will shock you!)


After washing bedsheets, it is difficult to immediately determine the proper orientation for a non-patterned fitted sheet (the bottommost sheet, with the elastic border, the one that looks like this).

Frequently, one turns the sheet 90°, only to discover that the sheet was actually correct the first way. Shameful!

Now that we have solved the issues of bubonic plague, dinosaur attacks, and coastal piracy, we must turn our efforts to solving the “fitted sheet orientation” problem.

Current state of the art:

If a set of sheets have an obvious pattern on them (e.g., stripes), it can be easy to remember the proper orientation of the sheet.


Fig 1: An obvious pattern (here, stripes) makes proper sheet orientation clear. This weird striped blob is supposed to be a fitted sheet.


Fig 2: The mattress has a long edge and a short edge, unless you have some weird square- or circle-shaped bed, in which case you probably have problems finding sheets in the first place.


Fig 3: Unfortunately, with solid color sheets, the only obvious orientation-determining feature is the location of the washing instructions tag.

If you remember exactly where the tag is (e.g. “it goes on the left side”), then you have solved the fitted sheet orientation problem.

Unfortunately, this tag is located in different places in different sheets.


One simple solution would be to establish a regulatory organization (ideally at an international level) to standardize the location of the tag on fitted sheets.

We could call this the “Fitted Sheet Tag Administration.” The advantage of just standardizing the tag location is that no manufacturing process would need to be changed, and no additional costs would need to be incurred in sheet design and/or production, since the tag is already present on all sheets.


Fig 4: Tag location could be standardized. “The tag always goes nearest the starboard-side pillow.” Assumes that the bed is a boat, for sake of standardization.

If a consumer could purchase a set of FSTA-licensed fitted sheets and know that the tag always belonged on (say) the right side of the headboard, then that individual would be able to put the sheet on the bed without experiencing any psychological trauma due to having to rotate the sheet.


Fig 5: Standardized tag location allows the sheet to be rotated to the proper orientation without requiring guesswork.

Justification with math:

If we assume that there are:

  • 7 billion individuals in the world
  • of whom 20% have fitted sheets
  • and that these are changed an average of 24 times per year
  • and that orientation-determination wastes an average of 10 seconds per sheet-changing
  • Then we end up with a total time wasted per year of:
    • (7,000,000,000 * 0.20 * 24 * 10) seconds = 336,000,000,000 seconds
  • Which is a total of
    • 10,647 man-years of wasted effort every single year

This is more total time than has passed since all of recorded history!

PROS: Saves 10,647 man-years of work for every year. Generates new bureaucratic employment positions.

CONS: The Fitted Sheet Tag Administration may become corrupt and decadent if it faces no accountability.