The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: Health

You won’t believe how I never fell into a bottomless pit again, thanks to this one weird trick. Podiatrists hate it! Probably.

Background:

One of the leading causes of sidewalk-based injury is tripping on uneven pavement and/or falling into a manhole. Figure 1 illustrates one of the dangers inherent in modern sidewalks.

This danger has become even more pronounced now that people are more likely to be looking at their cell phones as they walk.

danger

Fig. 1: As you walk along the sidewalk, be on the lookout for obstacles in your path! This open telecommunications panel could easily trip you and/or cause you to fall into a tangled nest of wires.

Proposal:

An array of sensors on the front of the shoe will constantly scan for irregularities in the upcoming pavement.

  • Case 1: If the shoe detects an elevated obstacle (such as a stair step up or an object in the way), a cell-phone-vibrate-style motor located above the user’s toes will buzz.
  • Case 2: If the shoe detects a sudden drop (such as a stair step down, an open manhole cover, or a measureless abyss), a motor located below the user’s toes will buzz.
  • Case 3: If the shoe scans up and detects that the obstacle is extremely tall (e.g. a lamppost or just a regular wall), it can be configured to either buzz both motors (“don’t run into that lamppost”) or, if the user gets too many false positives from this situation (which would occur any time you were standing next to a door, wall, or other person), this situation could just generate no warning at all.

In this way, the user can easily tell if the upcoming danger is an object in the way (situation 1) or a “falling” danger (situation 2).

shoe-detect

Fig. 2: Here, the sensors in the shoe will scan ahead to look for dangerous obstacles (or a sudden drop-off in the path).

shoe-show-danger-zone

Fig. 3: In this scenario, the two detection units on the right side of the shoe (green, with check marks) do not detect any danger, but the two units on the left side of the shoe will alert the wearer to the open telecom panel.

danger-banana-peel

Fig. 4: Physical comedy will be dealt a setback, as no one will ever again slip on a banana peel in this utopian shoe-with-detectors future.

danger-noodle-snake

Fig. 5: “Falling into a snake pit” will no longer be a concern of yours, thanks to this new footwear technology! Computer vision has advanced to the point where a snake pit (which constantly slithers and hisses) can easily be distinguished from a normal sidewalk (which does neither).

PROS: You won’t fall into a snake pit again.

CONS: False negatives could be exceptionally deadly (e.g. “I stepped onto a pane of fragile glass above a chasm because the shoe didn’t sense any danger”). Does not protect against falling pianos or anvils.

Never get a contagious disease from a coworker again with this one tip. Use the healing power of crystals and bears to naturally fight off disease. OSHA hates it!

Background:

Sometimes, your coworkers will come to work with obvious contagious diseases, coughing everywhere and spreading disease and pestilence throughout the land.

Proposal:

The best situation in this situation is for you or your boss to say “hey you, sick individual, go home!”

This should save time and money by preventing others from getting sick, but is sometimes not an option.

Instead, the following technical solution is proposed for office-related jobs: for diseases in which the afflicted individual needs to blow their nose (Fig. 1, left), they are likely to at some point access a tissue box placed somewhere in the workplace.

Instead of just letting that individual take a tissue and return to disease-spreading, the idea is to ensnare the sick individual with a (non-injurious / non-lethal) trap at that location (Fig. 1, right).

2-plain.png

Fig. 1: Left: A standard tissue box. Useful for a person with a runny nose. Right: a possible type of tissue box trap: essentially a bear trap (but with rubber grips instead of bone-crushing steel jaws).

2-snap-side-by-side.png

Fig. 2: Illustration of the closing process. This non-injurious “bear trap” modification will hold the sick individual until they can be humanely released back into the wild.

1-diagram

Fig. 4: A) tissue box. B) non-injurious padded rubber grips to hold onto the tissue-grabbing individual’s arm. C) support for the grabbing arms. D) to prevent the sick individual from just going back to their desk and working with a bear trap on one arm (and continuing to spread disease), the bear trap should be secured in place somehow.

PROS: Saves workplace productivity and reduces the spread of disease.

CONS: Won’t be effective in non-office jobs or for diseases where the plague-ridden individual doesn’t blow their nose.

Cease your unforgivable indolence! Motivate yourself to exercise with this new kind of stationary bike! Locksmiths hate it!

Background:

It can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise—especially since you know you can always put it off until later.

Proposal:

But what if we could set up a situation where you would have to exercise?

Specifically:

  1. You purchase (1) a stationary bicycle and (2) a special type of heavy-duty safe (Figure 1).
  2. You then place an important object inside the safe (like your cell phone, wallet, or keys). This should be something that you’ll need soon (not like, a Ming vase).
  3. In order to open the safe, you have to pedal the bike at least (say) 20 miles. This is measured by a gear on the side of the safe.

pedal-safe

Fig. 1: Even if you know the correct combination to the safe (right), the bike (left) absolutely must be pedaled a certain distance before the safe will open.

If you want to get your phone / keys / wallet, you’ll have to put in the required time on the exercise bike—there’s just no way around it!

 

 

items

Fig. 2: Example items that you might put into your pedaling-required-safe to motivate yourself.

Conclusion:

The main benefit of this system is that it’s always easy for a person to say “I should exercise in the future” and lock their keys and wallet in the safe.

Then, even if their self-motivation wanes and they don’t feel like exercising later, they won’t be able to back out!

This system could be extended beyond just exercise bikes: perhaps the safe could be connected to a pull-up bar (“Do 10 pull-ups before this safe will open”), or to a page counter on a book (“Read 50 pages of this book before the safe will open.”)

pedal-safe-schematic

Fig. 3: Schematic view of the safe. Maybe this image would be in the manual or something.

 

PROS: This idea will help promote exercise and increase self-discipline and civic virtue.

CONS: If there’s an emergency and you need to drive somewhere quickly, you’ll be out of luck!

Five underrated facts about dystopian totalitarian surveillance regimes! You’ll never believe fact #2!

Background:

The optimal tradeoff between privacy and security is a topic that is endlessly debated.

In the past, omnipresent surveillance was not feasible—but technology is now at the point where implementation of a 1984-esque surveillance state is actually possible.

On the one hand, it would be theoretically convenient to have immediate response to crimes and/or injuries, and perhaps take action to prevent some crimes before they even occur.

On the other hand, you might be sent to a faraway gulag because you opposed the interests of a politically-connected individual.

Proposal:

The problem here, of course, is the human element (see Figure 1).

monitor-computer-guy

Fig. 1: This guy (right) can monitor every aspect of your life on the video screens (left). This works fine until you become successful and he blackmails you!

But if an all-seeing computer system (like Skynet in the Terminator series) were in charge of things, we could could theoretically know that the surveillance system could not be misused, and would only be used for the programmed-in purposes (e.g., catching kidnappers and insane murderers).

Humans would write the rules for the system, but the raw data would (somehow) be inaccessible except to the analysis computer (Fig. 2).

Some example rules that might be applied:

  • If a car was used in a felony, check traffic cameras for its license plate number.
  • If a person has purchased explosive-manufacture-related chemicals, check their records for unusual activity and potentially flag them for further investigation by actual humans.
  • If a person declared no taxable income, but drives around in an 80,000 dollar car, check them for tax fraud.

Since these rules could be set by the legislature, they could be transparent and subject to review by the voters.

One downside: many countries operate on implicit rules like:

  • If a person supports an opposing political party, make sure to harass and imprison them.
  • If a person is a member of a disfavored ethnic or religious group, make sure to hold them to the strictest letter of the law.
  • Otherwise, don’t enforce any rules at all.

These informal enforcement rules might be less likely to survive if they had to be explicitly coded up and put on the official registry of surveillance rules. Or perhaps they would remain, and just be enforced with horrific robotic precision!

robot-wheel

Fig 2: This robot is totally trustworthy with your personal data, and has no ulterior motives or desires of its own (unlike a human).

seeing-eye

Fig 3: This unblinking “panopticon” eye will be a useful symbol to let you know you are in a safe and trustworthy robot-surveilled region! Stick one of these in your bedroom and bathroom to remind you that a robot is watching you at all times.

Conclusion:

When you lobby for omnipresent surveillance, make sure to imagine the predicable scenario where some irrationally angry neighbor or ambitious business rival now has a recording of every stupid thing you (and your friends/family) have ever done!

PROS: Would probably reduce many types of crime.

CONS: Terminator and/or 1984.

 

 

 

You’ll never eat an ice cream cone again after learning this horrifying secret! Also: the top 5 flavors of ice cream from your childhood that are NO LONGER made!

The issue:

Sometimes, when you’re eating an ice cream out of a cone, you will suffer the indignity of having the ice cream drip onto yourself and/or the ground (see Fig. 1).

This is especially likely to occur if you are less than five years old.

This can be avoided by diligently rotating the cone to check for drips, but this is a labor-intensive process that is ripe for disruption through advanced in robotics and computer vision.

rotation-of-cone

Fig. 1: The ice cream cone looks safe (left), but if you rotate it 180º, it is revealed that the ice cream is about to drip onto you (right).

Proposal:

A glove lined with rollers and a set of tiny cameras can automatically rotate the ice cream cone in such a way that you will always be eating the ice cream sectors that are most likely to drip.

The glove is diagramed in Figure 2.

glove

Fig. 2: A glove with two motorized rollers to actually rotate the ice cream cone (highlighted in red) and a number of additional free-spinning rollers to allow the ice cream cone to spin freely. Not shown here is the computer vision component, which be integrated into the glove as miniature low-resolution cameras on the top of the index finger and thumb (to provide a 360° view of the ice cream under standard gripping conditions).

glove-with-cone

Fig. 3: The recommended glove-and-cone configuration for optimal application of the “ice cream glove.”

PROS: Prevents ice cream from dripping on you while you eat it. Saves mental energy that can be focused onto other tasks, such as promoting world peace.

CONS: Equipment malfunction may cause the rollers to spin out of control, “centrifuging” the ice cream scoop and flinging it everywhere.

Five things your haircut says about you, without you even realizing! The first thing it says is: “get your hair cut by a robotic hair cut helmet.”

Background:

Haircuts can be time-consuming and expensive. Somehow, even though modern robotics have resulted in quad-copters, robotic surgery, and an alarm clock with a hand that slaps you in the face, the dream of automated haircuts remains elusive.

Proposal:

Behold, our salvation from laborious non-automated haircuts: the mechanical “haircut helmet.”

haircut-helmet

Fig 1: Functional AND fashionable, the haircut helmet’s stylish exterior hides dozens of small rotary blades on the inside.

The exterior of the helmet hosts a lever that allows the length to be adjusted. (Perhaps, for version 2, there could also be a second lever to select a style.)

haircut-blades

Fig 2: Internally, the haircut is accomplished by a number of shaving-razor-style rotary blades on adjustable tracks. The blades can move around and adjust their distance from the helmet-wearer’s scalp to ensure the perfect haircut every time!

haircut-progress

Fig. 3: Tame the unruly hair at left with the haircut helmet (center). Right: the result. With minor touch-ups, this fashionable individual will be ready for their business meeting / film shoot / wedding.

PROS: Would save millions of dollars and millions of man-hours per year.

CONS: May put all hairdressers out of business, leading to massive unemployment and civil unrest. Also, it might cut your ears off.

ad_fishstopper

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Life hack: use a wedge of Gouda cheese as an eco-friendly doorstop to save space in your pantry. BIG DOORSTOP hates this tip!

Background:

Doorstops are pretty convenient for holding doors open.

doorstop-or-cheese

Fig. 1: A doorstop. Or a wedge of cheese. OR PERHAPS BOTH??

The issue:

But sometimes, propping open a door is FORBIDDEN due to fire regulations—the door might need to be closed in order to slow the spread of fire (Fig. 2).

Although there exist magnetic doorstops that connect to the fire alarm, it’s very likely that the door that you want to prop open isn’t set up this way. Read on for the solution!

doorstop-problem

Fig. 2: Unfortunately, this door needs to be able to close in case of fire (left), so the doorstop at right is forbidden.

Proposal:

A new, futuristic type of electrical doorstop can be set up to automatically detect fire alarm conditions and get out of the way (allowing the door to close).

The primary idea is that the “collapsable fire-safe doorstop” has a microphone, and if it detects the sound of the fire alarm, it will instantly flatten down to a wafer-thin state, allowing the door to swing closed (Figures 3 and 4).

doorstop-diagram-side-view.png

future-doorstop.png

Fig. 3: The collapsable fire-safe doorstop. A) Microphone and optical sensor, for detecting a fire alarm. B1/B2) Hinged doorstop pieces. The red hinge between B1 and B2 will open in case of fire. C1/C2) Flat end caps for the doorstop. D1/D2) A hook mechanism that normally keeps the doorstop in a wedge shape. It will unhook in order to let the doorstop flatten itself.

doorstop-diagram.png

Fig. 4: The doorstop detects a fire (top) and disengages the hooks that keep it in a triangular shape (middle), finally flattening out to allow the door to pass over it (bottom).

The doorstop would need to be battery powered, but it could presumably run for months or years on just a single watch battery. The closure mechanism (the gray hooks in the figure) could presumably also be set up to require a tiny amount of electrical power in order to stay connected. In this way, the doorstop could automatically flatten when the battery ran out, which would prevent a dead battery from being a fire hazard.

fire

Fig. 5: Do not open a door with a fire on the other side unless it gives the correct password.

PROS: Allows you to prop open that one annoying hallway door that everyone is opening and closing constantly.

CONS: It’s yet another electronic gizmo that requires battery monitoring and replacement.