The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Month: March, 2015

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.


Your lack of art appreciation has brought shame to the land. Redeem yourself with this one weird sponsorship trick.

The issue:

The fine arts constantly struggle for funding, perhaps due to their general inability to compete with modern sources of entertainment.


In art museums, commercial sponsorship could take the form of (non-destructive) modification to the works of art themselves. For example, the Mona Lisa could be holding an iPhone (an idea which has been done before:, or one could spot a Radio Shack in the nightmarish hellscape of Hieronymus Bosch’s Hell (

For flat artwork, sponsorship images could easily be added by using a glass overlay with the desired promotional material painted on. See below for details:


Fig 1: A clear overlay (perhaps a piece of glass, or an animation cel) would be slid over the piece of artwork in question. In this example, “The Scream” is modified to be chomping on a delicious hamburger. Perhaps this particular overlay would be a McDonalds ad, which might encourage Burger King to buy a competing overlay for another famous painting at the same museum.


Fig 2: Side view of the above image: A is the clear overlay, B is the painting.

One weird secret that sphinxes don't want YOU to know!!! Theseus hates this riddle!

One weird secret that sphinxes don’t want YOU to know!!! Theseus hates this riddle!


This is a great idea and you (assuming you are a museum director or curator) should apply it right away!

PROS: Saves fine art from destruction, brings more visitors to art museums.

CONS: Could make regular non-sponsored museums seem boring in comparison.

The 4 tricks to Highway Fast Lanes that you’ve been doing wrong this whole time


There is a certain amount of inherent appeal in the concept of a “fast lane” for any rate-limited transportation mechanism.

For example, on a roadway, a lane might be reserved for alternative forms of transportation (or for the especially virtuous and/or wealthy). One popular “fast lane” is the “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lane for cars with a certain number of individuals; this is intended to incentivize carpooling and reduce the overall amount of roadway congestion.


Fig 1: Red triangles mark a “fast lane” on this highway. Normally there would be several “normal” lanes, marked blue, although only one is shown here.

Recently, there has also been debate about of “Internet fast lanes” for certain forms of traffic. For example, maybe a company with a lot of money could pay to have its content preferentially transferred.


The reality is that “fast lane” vs “regular lane” is equivalent to “regular lane” vs “slow lane”—”fast” is a relative term.


Fig 2: A 5-lane road (or Internet connection), representing total capacity.


Fig 3: Ideally, we would magically create a new “fast lane” (left). But what we must actually do is steal one of the “normal” lanes and make it into a fast lane (right). This has the effect of making the “normal” lanes even more congested than before.

With that in mind, we come to the following proposal:

Proposal (in two parts):

The gist of this proposal is that instead of paying for themselves to be allocated space in a “fast lane,” individuals could pay to have other people put into the “slow lanes.”

Part 1: Internet example:

Imagine an apartment-dweller beset by slow Internet speeds due to a high degree of usage of the same connection by other people in the building. Although this individual might be able to pay for a faster (and more expensive) connection, under this new model they could also choose to contribute to a fund to slow down the Internet speeds of their neighbors instead. Once the neighbors connections are slowed down, more bandwidth would be left over for the paying individual’s own use.

Additionally, perhaps the apartment-dweller determines that their slow internet speeds are due to all of their neighbors downloading from a single source—”UncompressedBluRayDirect.” This user could then pay to specifically limit the bandwidth of UncompressedBluRayDirect (instead of targeting their neighbors).

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Part 2: Car example:

Some areas have an “HOV lane OK” sticker that allows certain cars to drive in the high-speed lane even if they don’t have enough passengers in them to qualify under the normal rules. (Motorcycles are often also allowed to drive in these lanes.)

But instead of having an “HOV OK” sticker, there could be a “SLOW LANE ONLY” adhesive sticker that one could purchase and stick onto one’s neighbor’s cars.

This sticker would be purchased from the local Department of Motor Vehicles and would limit the stuck-on vehicle to the slow lanes only.

PROS: Provides a more straightforward interpretation of the allocation of limited resources.

CONS: The “slow lane” sticker would probably need to be applied secretly in the dead of night to avoid negative repercussions.