The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

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).

 

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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

Background:

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?

Proposal:

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.

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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.)

 

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

Conclusion:

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.

 

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Background:

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).

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

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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.

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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.)

Proposal:

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.
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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.

 

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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.

Examples:

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).

 

 

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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.

Conclusion:

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.

 

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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!

 

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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:

 

Background:

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

rings-classic-entwined

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.

Proposal:

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

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

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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.”

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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.

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.

 

 

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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).

 

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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.

Bring civility back to the universe with this one incredible object that fits in your wallet!

The issue:

It’s hard to believe, but sometimes people are jerks.

Most people are also bad at apologies. But, what if, after committing some transgression, you could apologize and easily demonstrate your sincerity?

Proposal:

The “jerk card” provides this opportunity: if you feel like you were a jerk, but aren’t sure how to apologize, you can just present this card and have the aggrieved individual punch out one of the appropriate sections of the card (as shown in Figure 1).

1b Prototype on green

Fig. 1: In this card, two out of the maximum eight infractions have been used up (punched out).  The number of punches could be variable, as in a “driver’s license points”-style system .

Two more-detailed mockups can be seen in Figure 2.

2 card types

Fig. 2: Two possible card mockups. Since there are various ways to be a jerk, the infractions are divided into categories (categories “A” and “B” in the top card, and A through D in the bottom card). Categories could indicate either the nature of the offense or its severity (like red / yellow cards in soccer).

To be determined:

  • Would there be a governing body that would issue these cards?
  • In case of dispute, who decides if an infraction is actually valid?
  • What is the penalty for filling up a card?

PROS: Might encourage people to change their behavior by quantifying their offenses (similar in concept to a “swear jar“).

CONS: Since the jerk-card points would be self-assigned, it’s unclear if the most frequently-offending jerks would actually recognize their status.