Repurpose this common office supply to prevent casual snacking on junk food. Binder clips to the rescue!

The Issue:

After a person purchases a gigantic (yet economical) tub of snacks, they’re probably doomed to devour them in short order.

But what if there were a way to harness human laziness to prevent devouring of junk food?


Behold, the solution! Just put an excessive number of binder clips on the container that you’re trying to protect* (Fig. 1), and you’ll find that your desire to chomp on thousands of calories of chocolate chip cookies is kept in check by your similar desire to not have to undo (and redo) a bunch of binder clips.

* From yourself.

Fig. 1: This 1.44 lb. container of chocolate cookies is protected by four large binder clips.

This system even works on irregular containers, such as the bag in Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Works on bags, too!


This system has been tested in human trials, and has been shown to decrease cookie consumption rate by approximately 50%. Not bad!

PROS: Improves public health for only the cost of a few binder clips!

CONS: Unfortunately, incompatible with most ice cream containers. Definitely does not work on ice cream sandwiches, either.

A new style of financial advice: showcase only the stocks that were enormous losers and led to financial catastrophe!


A huge number of books, blogs, and web sites have been written to supply investment advice to the common people.

Almost all of these books recommend strategies that, up to that point, have been successful. Strangely, very few of them recommend strategies that have lead to catastrophic financial failure, even if the strategies behind these investments are conceptually sound.

For example:

  • A reasonable sounding theory: “Energy will always be required in the modern economy. Thus, it isn’t a bad idea to have some money tied up in this reliable sector.”

Yet these never follow up with:

Or in ~2001:

  • “A new segment of computing is clearly in small wireless devices: perhaps a fusion of the cell phone and notebook computer: some sort of ‘smart’ phone.”

Yet these, too, never follow up with:

  • “So a savvy investor would choose the company at the cutting-edge of this market: Palm, Inc.” 

The Issue:

The problem with this style of financial advice is that almost all of the examples are just survivorship bias: they cherry-pick the successes (“Apple computer, it was so obviously going to be a success!”) and ignore all of the companies that didn’t survive (“Wang Laboratories: it’s been around since 1951, it definitely has the expertise to be the next big thing in computing!”).

This is similar to writing an investment guide about betting on a roulette table: if a spin comes up red, you might expect dozens of financial bloggers and “influencer” analysts to write long treatises explaining why, in this particular situation, clearly it was time for “red” to shine.


In order to balance out these examples of sensible-sounding-yet-unsupported financial advice, we need a blog that offers superficially reasonable advice that, when tested with real data, always resulted in disaster. The real world is full of useful examples

  • The pitch: Early 2000s: “CPUs are crucial to modern products, but they’re held back by legacy engineering requirements. A new line of re-engineered chips (by a major company) that can make a clean break with the past will unlock vast computing potential!
  • The reality: the Intel “Itanium” chip never catches on, and is a financial flop.
  • The pitch: Mid-2010s: “Microsoft is a huge tech company that can integrate their OS with a new phone ecosystem, for the ultimate in synergy. If they entered the mobile phone market, they’d be almost guaranteed to succeed (Figure 1).”
  • The reality: the Windows Phone mobile OS never manages to crack the market, which remains split between iOS and Android.

Crucially, both of these products failed on their own merits, and weren’t squeezed out by some “evil” competitor or by some kind of internal malfeasance.

Fig. 1: Windows Phone was considered by many to be an almost guaranteed bet: it had the backing of a huge company that had succeeded in similar spaces before, it could leverage phone-PC integration, and it had (seemingly) an unlimited budget. (Fortunately for investors, there was no way to buy stock specifically in “Windows Phone.”)

Market projections are also a popular way of showing that some random new technology (e.g. the personal jetpack, the Segway, some specific cryptocurrency, etc…) is going to get adopted.

The formula is: 1) combine things that have ALREADY succeeded with the new thing that you HOPE will succeed, and then 2) plot them on the same graph (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: This style of chart works for anything: just take your favorite new technology and show how it’s only been around for (say) 2 years, but it’s already got 2% marketshare. Now add a bunch of other technologies that took a long time to get going (the automobile, the airplane, phonetic writing, the camera, etc…), and you’ll discover that your new technology can’t fail—look at all the other unrelated things that didn’t fail! Here, we see that the Zeppelin is due for a resurgence.


It’s a bit surprising that this book / blog doesn’t already exist!

PROS: Would be easy to find examples in history: just search for all the stocks that became worthless, and then do some research on the circumstances on each eventually-worthless company.

CONS: It might be hard to monetize this concept: normally, financial advice can attempt to persuade you that it’s worth your time (and money), because you’ll be financially better off according to some bewildering charts. But if the advice entirely showcases failures, people might be more hesitant to pay for a subscription.

Programmers, rejoice! Date and time formatting will be greatly simplified with this one weird alphabetical trick borrowed from ancient Mycenaean Greece!


When specifying a time, some positions may have either one or two digits (e.g. “1 PM” vs “11 PM”), but other positions always have a leading zero, no matter what (e.g. “1:01” and “1:11” both have three digits).


The inconsistency in digits is unnecessary and leads to weird sorting behavior. For example, if we sort the times from 11 AM to 2 PM alphabetically, we end up with this: “1 PM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM.” Outrageous!

Let’s fix it by using new symbols to give a unique single-character glyph to 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, an 12 o’clock. If we use existing keyboard characters like “A,” “U,” and “=,” we retain both the ability to easily type these characters, and they will sort in ascending “alphabetical” order (the ASCII default sort order is numbers → letters → symbols), and they can be represented in a traditional 7-segment LED display (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: We chose “A,” “U,” and “=“ to represent “10,” “11,” and “12,” because these symbols can be displayed in a traditional 7-segment LED display, as shown in green above.

If we want to get really comprehensive in fixing date representations, we might want to also replace every day of the month with its own symbol. Figure 2 proposes using the long-defunct Linear B script, which has no living defenders and is thus vulnerable to our repurposing.

Fig. 2: There turn out to be approximately 200 of these Linear B symbols, so we can pick and choose our favorites. If we select them based on how computers already sort these (if there even is a default already), then they’ll even sort properly with no additional work! These glyphs are already in Unicode, so no additional work is there, either.

So in the end, we’ll have a comprehensive time-and-date rework where months, days, and hours can always be represented by a single digit (Figure 3). This will replace the current unpredictable mix of 2-digit and 1-digit values.

Fig. 3: In this example, we’re using the Linear B symbols to represent 24-hour time as well (so we don’t need AM / PM anymore, either). Look how concise the updated times and dates are!


This should save ink and make life easier for programmers, who can now always rely on times fitting into the format YYYY–M–D H:MM:SS (at least for years between 9999 B.C. and 9999 A.D.).

PROS: Should make alarm clocks cheaper to manufacture, since they’ll only need three digits for HOUR:MINUTES rather than four.

CONS: The Linear B symbols aren’t supported by most fonts. Sometimes, they’ll be replaced by a “missing character” symbol, so we might end up with things like “The graduation is on /9!” or “Please report for your court appearance on /!”

Extraplanetary calendars: “12 months per year” is an Earth-specific concept that will need adjustment in the space-age future!


By the year 2000, visionary futurists have estimated that over half the human population will live off-world, on another planet or in an orbital space colony.

The Issue:

Unfortunately, other planets generally have inconveniently not-matching-Earth orbital periods and day lengths. Thus, the calendar months will need to be adjusted in order for our intrepid miners on Mars know when to celebrate The Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo (and possibly other month-and-day-specific holidays).


Various planets will require various adjustments to their calendars.

Let’s look at a few examples.

  • Earth: this is the most popular planet for humans. Day length: 1 day. Year length: 1 year. The year is divided into 12 months of ~30 days (Figure 1).
Fig. 1: Earth has a bunch of messed-up month names in English, like “October” (“The Eighth Month”) for the 10th month, but we’ve learned to deal with it.
  • Mercury: this is a weird one—the day length is longer than the orbital period. That means that the calendar only needs one “month” with a single day on it! Very economical. Downsides: your “word a day” calendar will actually only have one entry on it, so knowledge of esoteric vocabulary on this planet may be extremely limited.
  • Venus: this is another surprising one—apparently it spins around in 243 Earth days, but orbits the sun in 224 Earth days, so once again, we only need a single one-day month. Fortunately, we can just re-use the Mercury calendar here—this should save on logistics, since the Mercury / Venus calendar can be printed in a single batch (Figure 2) before being shipped by rocket to both planets.
Fig. 2: The entire calendar is just a single day. Very convenient!
  • Mars: this is the first situation where we’ll have to add months. A very reasonable 24 months (of 30-Mars-days-per-month) cover the whole orbit, so we’ll only need 12 new month names (Figure 3).
Fig. 3: We’ll need to come up with some new month names for Mars. Historically, some months were renamed to honor political figures—e.g. Julius Caesar (“July”) and Augustus Casear (“August”)—so perhaps this tradition will be continued by future Mars colonists who will, perhaps, name their months after Arnold Schwarzenegger (e.g. “Schwarzeneggtober”) and Clint Eastwood.

Unfortunately, the more distant planets have more inconvenient calendar requirements. Let’s look at Neptune as a representative outer planet:

  • Neptune: with 16 Earth hours per day and 165 Earth years per orbit, we’ll end up with 86,999 Neptune days per Neptune year. Thus, we’ll need 2900 months (86,999 / 30), as shown in Figure 4.
Fig. 4: Neptune’s calendar, with 2900 months, will (at one page per month) be more than twice as thick as the original publication of War and Peace. Citizens of Neptune will be unlikely to have much affinity for Fourth of July fireworks, since this date will only occur at most once in a single century.


When moving to another planet, it’s important to consider the calendar situation. Finally, this has been addressed!

PROS: Practical consideration of planetary month names may jumpstart space exploration, leading to the idyllic rockets-and-robots future promised by 1960s pulp science fiction paperback book covers.

CONS: This dreadful calendar situation may discourage space exploration: planetary explorers will have to give up not only their friends and family, but also any hope of ever seeing more than one additional New Year’s, May Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Fourth of July.

Repurpose that outdoor swimming pool as a trampoline during the winter! Get exercise and make more efficient use of yard space.

The Issue:

In some climates, outdoor swimming pools (Fig. 1) are kept filled with water year-round, but are covered during the colder months. These covered-up pools waste a lot of outdoor real-estate that could be put to alternative use.

Fig. 1: In the summer, this swimming pool is great. But when it’s covered up for the winter, it takes up a lot of space while providing no value!


The pool will need to be covered anyway, so we can take advantage of this space by creating a pool cover that also serves some secondary function.

Several possible options come to mind:

  • Mini-golf course
  • Mini ice-hockey rink (cold climates only)
  • Trampoline

The “trampoline pool cover” (Fig. 2) could be the best option, since trampolining is a great way to warm up during cold winter months, and additionally supports medical professionals (by generating exotic injuries for the emergency room) and teaches children about the fragility of life.

Fig. 2: The trampoline (blue) and its frame (black) are part of this newly-improved pool cover (red). Note that the trampoline frame is supported by solid ground (unless it moves slightly, in which case it will catastrophically tumble into the pool).

It might seem difficult to support a mini-golf course or ice hockey rink on flimy pool cover, but this might actually be feasible. Since water is—counterintuitively—not substantially compressible, we could fill the pool completely to the brim and then rely on the water as a “solid” support. (We’d probably also need to plug up any inlets and drains, so a downside of this method is that water can’t be circulated while the pool is providing structural support.)


This is a good plan that should be of great interest to many suburbanites in temperate climates.

PROS: Makes use of otherwise-wasted yard space during the cold months. Encourages outdoor exercise.

CONS: Adding the hazards of a swimming pool to the hazards of a trampoline might not be a winning combination.

If you wear jeans, trousers, pantaloons, or slacks, you should jump onto the Internet-of-Things bandwagon with a new technology that is, statistically, unlikely to electrocute you!


With the advent of “the Internet of things” (or “IoT” if you prefer), it has become possible to put electronic gizmos in nearly any consumer product. If you ever wanted to add a speaker, some LED lights, or a GPS tracker into a some random household object, now’s the time!

The Issue:

Strangely, despite the existence of IoT-enabled clothing (“wearables”), the IoT has not yet addressed a common garment-configuration question: “is the zipper on my jeans still unzipped?” (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: This question also applies to the fly of button-based trousers, but for the sake of simplicity, we will limit ourselves to zippers in this proposal.

Yet the technology already exists to alert the wearer of this fashion faux pas!


The solution here is incredibly simple: to detect if the zipper is unzipped, just conduct electricity through it. If the circuit is closed, then electricity will be conducted and we know that the zipper is zipped (Figure 2).

This information can then be transmitted to the user’s smartphone, which will make an informed decision to potentially send the wearer the text message “FYI: your fly is unzipped.”

Fig. 2: In this highly technical electronic diagram, the button must be fastened and the zipper must be ≥90% zipped for the circuit to be completed. Note that only the top part of the zipper is electrically conductive.


This is one of the most obvious applications for “IoT wearables.” How is this not yet a product!

PROS: Brings a long-overdue technological update to an ancient leg-covering technology.

CONS: Malfunctions may result in a particularly unpleasant electrocution. This is the price of progress.

An unlimited-number-of-words command-line-utility version of the word game “Wordle” is exactly what is needed to live a fulfilling life in the modern era. See below for the extremely user-unfriendly process of running this script in a terminal window!


In early 2022, the word-guessing game “Wordle” had a moment in the spotlight as an Internet sensation.

In this game, a player attempts to guess a 5-letter word in as few tries as possible. Each guess provides a user with a certain amount of information as to how close they are to the actual correct answer (in a fashion similar to the game “Mastermind”).

A number of alternative word-based versions were quickly created, but—strangely—no general-purpose game for guessing X words of length Y letters has yet been made available.


Until now! A very user-unfriendly command-line Python script is now available for playing a clone version of Wordle with as many words and letters as you like (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: With “-n=4,” we have four five-letter words to guess at once. This mimics the functionality of the Wordle variant that goes by the name “Quordle.” With “-n=8,” we would be mimicking “Octordle.”
Fig. 2: After finishing a game with the settings from Figure 1, the result looks like this.

One important new feature is that we can also specify, say, “–letters=12” to guess twelve-letter words (Figure 3) instead of five-letter words.

Fig. 3: Twelve letter words are substantially harder to think of, as it turns out.

Or perhaps instead of twelve-letter words, we want twelve words:

Fig. 4: For the true word-guessing fan, maybe 12 words are more suitable than a mere 1, 4, or 8.

But the real bonus here is that you can increase the numbers as much as you want (Fig. 5)—at least, until you run out of words in your dictionary.

Fig. 5: For the true word-guessing fan, maybe 12 words of length 8 is more appealing than a mere 1, 4, or 8.
Fig. 6: As a convenience feature, you can also share spoiler-free emoji versions of your guessing process with your friends! Just think how much they’d like to get a message that looks like this!

How do I get this amazing Python script?

This script can be downloaded at: . It’s super user-unfriendly, so only the intersection of [command-line fans] and [word game fans] should subject themselves to the inconvenience of trying to figure out how to run this.

PROS: Provides an enhanced degree of word-guessing that should satisfy even the most ravenous consumer of this esoteric means of entertainment.

CONS: Might leads to massive national productivity loss if people spend all day long trying to solve 128 eight-letter words in as few guesses as possible.

Motivate music students by teaching the forbidden secret chords: H, J, K, Z-minor, Omega, and more!


Most musical instruments are capable of playing more than one note a time. This is typically referred to as a “chord.” 

The Issue:

Unfortunately, the list of chords is relatively small and well-understood (Fig 1): once music students learn them, they won’t have any more aspirational chord-learning goals, and will surely become demoralized.

Fig. 1: Normal guitar chords. You can print out all the practical ones on a regular-sized sheet of paper! After that, the mystery is gone.


We can take inspiration from Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, which begins with “…I’ve heard there was a secret chord…” . Unfortunately, the specific secret chord in question is never revealed, so we’ll have to just create our own new set of “secret” chords.

These will use letters beyond just A, B, C, D, E, F, and G; perhaps even including Greek letters, Chinese characters, ancient Sumerian cuneiform.

There’s only one problem: what would these new esoteric chords actually be? For one possibility, see Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Most guitar-like stringed instruments are played by pressing down on certain strings with one hand and strumming / plucking the strings with the other hand: thus, only ONE side of the strings are actually being used. Here, we see a possible application of the “secret” chords: the user presses down the frets as shown (the circles in the middle of the diagram) and then strums with TWO additional hands (red arrows, labeled “1” and “2”). In this fashion, both sides of the guitar can be played simultaneously, adding efficiency to musical output.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear how additional “forbidden chords” could be created for instruments like the piano, where the internal workings are somewhat isolated from the user, and thus resistant to the shenanigans described in Figure 2.


By motivating music students with the tantalizing secret of forbidden knowledge, we can improve national musical education!

PROS: Motivates music students. If the “strum in two locations” system in Figure 2 is adopted, musical efficiency (notes per seconds) is increased by 100%, which should give our nation a competitive edge in the creative arts.

CONS: None! This is entirely practical, and should be adopted immediately.

Don’t let webcams and laptops spy on you: preserve your privacy with the automatically-closing spring-loaded manual camera cover!


In the modern era, people generally have at multiple wirelessly-enabled Internet-accessible cameras and microphones (Figure 1) within arm’s reach for 90% of their waking hours.

Fig. 1: The most popular “it could potentially be watching me” devices are currently: 1) smartphones, 2) regular computers, 3) home security cameras, and 4) camera-enabled ”smart” hubs.

The Issue:

The proliferation of cameras in the home can pose a privacy issue: the only thing preventing a camera and microphone from turning on is software, which means that it’s fundamentally impossible to guarantee that a camera can’t turn on at any moment.

Many cameras have a tiny “on” light (Figure 2), but this is usually not especially noticeable.

Fig. 2: This “on” light is better than nothing, but there’s a big difference between “you can’t be spied on” and “you might possibly notice when you are spied on.”


The most obvious solution is also the most widespread: physically cover the camera! As long as there’s no electronic mechanism to open the cover, software bugs (and malware) can’t uncover the camera. The user has to physically reach over to it every time they want it on.

The most popular solutions:

  • ▪ Yellow sticky note. Works fine, but annoying to add/remove. Can fall off laptop screens.
  • ▪ A more “professional” plastic camera-blocking slider that sticks (with adhesive) to the laptop screen. This works extremely well, but the user must remember to close the slider.

We can enhance this plastic camera-cover slider by making it spring-loaded, so that it will automatically close after a certain amount of time (Figure 3).

Fig. 3: Left: a laptop camera. Middle: a circular spring-loaded camera cover. The center spindle (lime green) is  attached adhesively to the laptop screen. Right: A) the user uncovers the camera by spinning the cover counter-clockwise. Over time, B) the cover slowly moving back towards C) its original position, which covers the camera. The spring is (somehow) located in the lime center spindle.

Now the user can’t forget to re-cover their camera after using it for a meeting!


A fancier version of this idea be integrated into the laptop itself by the manufactorer: a physical cover that could be closed by software (perhaps after a configurable time delay) but could only be opened by a user-controlled physical mechanism.

PROS: This is a practical extension to the plastic “camera cover slider” device.

CONS: It’s a bit unclear how sturdy the aftermarket circular cover would be in practice: it might be too large and awkward to survive daily use on a laptop.