The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: Household

With these five amazing steps, you can stop stumbling about in a mad and fumbling rage while you try to determine which light switch controls each light in your house!

The issue:

In many houses, certain rooms—especially kitchens and living rooms—have a half dozen or more light switches that control a wide array of lights and other accessories.

Often, even after many years, the house’s occupant never learns which switch is which.

Proposal:

Instead of just randomly picking a switch to toggle until the correct light is activated, light switches should be labeled. Easy!

Ideally, this should be done when the house is built, so that the labels can be laser-cut and/or printed onto the switch panels in a way that matches the overall interior design.

But in a pinch, you can just use a piece of white paper and double-sided tape.

Label your switches 1

Fig. 1: An example of a standard confusingly-designed set of light switches. Each switch toggles a seemingly random set of lights. But now that they are labeled, it’s clear what each switch does.

Conclusion:

You should label your lights if your house has confusing wiring (which is probably the case).

Label your switches 2

Fig. 2: Some switches may have a non-light-based effect, such as starting a gas fireplace (far left) or performing a mystery function that only the original electrician understands (far right).

PROS: Probably a sensible suggestion!

CONS: Labels may negatively impact your home’s minimalist aesthetic.

Yet another solution to the dreaded “a table leg is in my way, how can I sit at this table???” problem that plagues our citizenry.

Background:

This is an alternate version of the previous table-related idea (see link here), which involved hanging a table from the ceiling.

The issue:

Sometimes, you’re sitting at a table, and the table legs get in the way. So annoying! See Figure 1 to be reminded of this calamity.

regular-table-legs

Fig. 1:  The presence of this table leg is probably stifling your enjoyment of life—if only it weren’t there; then you could sit at the corner of the table.

Proposal:

By putting all of the table legs on a motorized two-dimensional grid on the underside of the table, a computer could automatically detect where a person was sitting and automatically move the table legs out of the way, as shown in Figure 2.

move-table-legs

Fig. 2: If the table leg at “A” could be moved from position “A” to position “B” (perhaps by being on a motorized track on the underside of the table), then the individual on the right side of the digram would be able to sit at the corner of the table without the table leg getting in the way.

Unfortunately, there is one downside to this plan; if the table legs are not spaced apart, then the table can easily fall over, as seen in Figure 3.

force-applied-to-table

Fig. 3: A problem: if the table legs slide out of the way, the table will be very easy to tip over; even a small downward force (the red arrow labeled “F”) applied to the X on the table will cause the table to tip over.

The way to solve the tipping problem is quite simple, fortunately; if a force is applied to one corner of the table, we must simply apply an equal (or greater) force to the table leg on the opposite corner, and the table will not fall over. This system is implemented by means of a motorized bowling ball that is controlled by a sliding magnet underneath the table (Figure 4). Alternatively, the weight could be located beneath the table, but that would lack the visual flair of a bowling ball.

counterweight-to-balance-table

Fig. 4: Solution to the table-tipping problem: an extremely heavy weight (here, illustrated as a bowling ball) can roll around on the table and be a counterweight. Now, the table will not tip even if we apply a force point at “F” (shown in step 3), as the weight of the bowling ball prevents the table from tipping over.

PROS: May cause the table-sitter to be crushed beneath the table if the power unexpectedly goes out.

CONS: You may ask, “why not just solve this problem much more simply by putting a single post in the center of the table, and mounting that post on a few horizontal beams and/or a platform?” We leave the refutation of that objection as an exercise to the reader.

Phone manufacturers hate this one weird tip to save you HUNDREDS of dollars by not losing your phone! One frugal tip for saving money on smartphones (do not lose them).

The issue:

Cell phones occasionally fall out of a person’s pockets and get forgotten. This is especially easy to do when sitting on a sofa or in a movie theater seat.

If the phone could detect that it had been dropped into sofa cushions, it could notify you before it was too late to find it again!

sofa-phone-cushions

sofa-phone-here-exclamation

Fig. 1: Alas, this phone has fallen between sofa cushions and may soon be lost forever.

sofa-phone-here-it-is

Proposal:

The phone could use its microphone to detect the difference between “phone is in your pocket” and “microphone can only detected sounds that are muffled by sofa cushions” (Fig. 2).

sofa-phone-waveform

Fig. 2: Audio from two scenarios: “normal” (top, yellow) and “stuck in sofa cushions” (bottom, blue).

By listening to the phone’s microphone (and using the orientation sensors), the phone could distinguish between three situations:

  1. “In your pocket” (phone is slightly moving, but sounds are muffled)
  2. “On your desk” (phone is not moving, but background noise is crisp and clear, like a transparent apple)
  3. “Phone fell into the sofa” (phone is not moving, but sounds are muffled).

In case you are worried about the privacy implication of the constant use of the microphone, consider that all phones are monitoring you at all times anyway so that you can say “Hey Siri” / “Ok Google” in order to activate the voice assistant.

Thus, this additional monitoring would not be any more invasive than the current situation.

(Plus, the “fell into the sofa” detection could be done entirely on the phone, so it wouldn’t need to send any audio data to a remote server.)

sofa-phone-ring

Fig. 3: Once the phone detects that it has become trapped in the sofa, it can scream until you rescue it.

This feature could also be expanded to include things like:

  • The phone could detect that you have debarked your plane (or gotten off a train), but somehow the phone has been left behind, perhaps in one of those seat pockets.
  • The phone could detect that 1) it’s been several hours since it’s moved it all, 2) it’s close enough to see your own home WiFi network, and 3) the audio sensor informs it that it’s still in a pants pocket—this means you probably threw it into a laundry basket, so it should email you and/or start beeping so you don’t wash it.
  • The phone could detect that you were traveling by car and left your phone in the car. Then it could send you an email (“Hey, you left me in the car. –Your Phone”), which you would presumably receive on your laptop / desktop computer.

Conclusion:

Don’t buy a new phone unless it comes with this exciting new feature!

PROS: Saves you from many lost-phone mishaps.

CONS: Perhaps by further reducing the demands on humans to actually pay attention and keep track of things, future generations will become slothful and decadent.

The horrifying secret that APPLE, GOOGLE, and MICROSOFT don’t want you to know about laptop longevity! Stop being part of the “laptop rat race” with this new insane beverage-related tip. Tip number 5 will shock you!

Background:

Millions of laptops are destroyed every year by spilled drinks (Figure 1). Unfortunately, this is a difficult problem to address, because laptops and beverages are frequently in close proximity.

normal-laptop-and-water

spill

Fig. 1a (top) and 1b (bottom): You have probably either experienced this situation first-hand or observed it happen to someone else. If only there had been some warning ahead of time about the peril the laptop was in!

Proposal:

If the glass-full-of-liquid danger were more immediately obvious, many laptops could be saved from a thirst-quenching death—the laptop user would simply need to place the drink slightly farther away from the laptop than they normally would.

By adding a ring of laser emitters to the beverage container, the spill danger can be made obvious: the lasers will project a circular “spill danger zone” on the table, informing you of any imperiled electronics (Figure 2).

danger-zone

Fig. 2: The laser emitters on the top of the glass (shown as red triangles) project a “spill danger zone” region around the glass. You should move any sensitive electronics outside of this area.

An advanced model of this idea could also have an integrated camera: this would allow it to only project the “danger zone” markings if it actually detected an object in the spill area, instead of all the time (which might get annoying).

PROS: Saves your laptop from destruction!

CONS: The lasers might melt people’s eyeballs when you raise the glass to drink from it.

 

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.

The three weird buttons that will stop procrastination forever! You will shriek and wail when you think of all the procrastination you did before you had these!

The issue:

Sometimes, it’s difficult to avoid being distracted by the wide variety of enticing modern entertainment options. It’s always possible to physically unplug your Internet router and turn off your phone, but most people aren’t going to do that on a regular basis.

Proposal:

An individual could purchase a set of wireless buttons that would have various effects, for example:

  • Turn off the Internet for a set period of time, forcing the button-owner to actually work / read a book / interact with other people (Fig 1).

  • Turn off the lights until the next morning, preventing the button-owner from staying up incredibly late (Fig 3).

  • Lock the fridge and kitchen cabinets for a certain period of time, preventing casual snacking.

Here are three buttons that may be of general interest:

do-work-button

Fig 1: This is basically a “NO INTERNET” button—it’s time to do work with no interruptions! When you press this button, your phone locks you out entirely, your TV refuses to turn on, and your router blocks most Internet traffic (i.e., video sites, social media traffic, instant messaging) and temporarily stops fetching incoming emails.

This one also doubles as a “read a book” or “actually interact with other humans” button!

hold-my-calls-button

Fig 2: Work is over! Time to relax. Your work email won’t be checked until the next morning and any work-related phone apps are paused. If you have any work-only contacts, their calls to you go straight to voicemail. I hope you have a 9-to-5 job and aren’t on-call, or else you will definitely get fired if you push this button!

sleep-button

Fig 3: This button returns your house to caveman times, because it’s time to actually go to sleep! Your computer and phone now refuse to let you log in until the next sunrise, your TV and stereo refuse to turn on, and your house’s lights are limited to 10% of their normal brightness.

PROS: Allows you to behave as if you  have self-control!

CONS: Requires installation of phone and computer applications. You might become so dependent on these buttons that you forget how to survive without them!

Clawed beasts will rend your flesh unless you obey this one weird tip! Cats and homeowners hate it!

Background:

As you are no doubt aware, the humble housecat is one of the world’s most popular pets.

cat

Fig 1: A standard issue cat. This is the base model.

The issue:

Sometimes, a cat needs to be taken somewhere, and this typically requires a cat carrier. But most cats are hesitant to enter a cat carrier, and a cat-stewarding individual may have to resort to increasingly desperate measures in order to solve the cat-to-carrier conundrum.

cat-into-carrier-how

Fig 2: The cat needs to go into the cat carrier. BUT HOW?? This clawed feline has its own ideas about where it should be. Specifically: elsewhere.

Proposal:

Although it may be possible to disguise the cat carrier and somehow trick the cat into enter it, the most straightforward solution is to simply purchase a giant funnel and bolt it to the wall of a house (Fig 3). Then, the cat-loading procedure is straightforward, as seen in figure 3.

funnel

Fig 3: The process is simple: Once the cat carrier is in place below the funnel, we must simply 1) raise the cat to the lip of the funnel and drop it in. 2) gravity does the rest! Note: for especially fragile felines, a pillow may be placed on the side (bottom, in this orientation) of the carrier in order to soften the deceleration process. If the cat fails to slide down the funnel properly, one may apply olive oil or an industrial engine lubricant to the sides of the funnel to expedite the procedure.

PROS: Makes loading a cat into a cat carrier a straightforward and pleasant process.

CONS: Having an industrial-grease-covered cat in a cat carrier is actually a new problem of its own, which unfortunately we do not have the space to solve here.


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one-weird-tip-to-removing-dumb-comments