The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: Household

Perform untested and non-ethics-board approved human testing, with this one weird tip! A terrifying mobile for babies, with a twist!

Background:

The Indiana Jones movies (especially #1 and #3) have taught that it’s a serious liability for an adventurer to acquire a phobia against any animal that may be seen in the course of adventuring (e.g., snakes, rats).

Proposal:

In order to avoid these problems, we can easily desensitize a future adventure to dangerous animals at a young age, via constant exposure to a likeness of that animal in “stuffed animal that dangles from a mobile” form.

(The official term for this is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy )

Compare the two mobiles in figures 1 and 2.

mobile-friendly

Fig. 1: This classic mobile has minimal educational value and confers NO resistance to snakeophobia or fear of spiders, which is known as “spiderophobia.”

 

mobile-dubious

Fig. 2: The enhanced “horror-mobile” can be customized to help a child grow numb to the most terrifying aspects of existence. It’s unclear whether this would actually be 100% helpful: a healthy degree of scorpion-o-phobia is probably a useful trait for a person to have.

Conclusion:

You could be the first to try this totally unproven and un-tested parenting tip!

PROS: May help when the child (who has now become a grizzled adventurer) encounters a pit of snakes in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

CONS: Might have unintended negative effects, like the “aggressively criticize children when they stutter” study (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monster_Study). Additionally, the chance of actually encountering a snake pit in the course of a typical lifetime is < 50%.

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The one investing tip that “fat cats” don’t want you to know—invest in crazy startups that make Frankensteinian hybrid appliances!

Background:

You’ve probably heard of a “washer-dryer” combination, an existing one-stop-shop appliance for cleaning clothes. What if we extended this philosophy to other categories of home appliances?

Proposal:

Sometimes, a frozen food requires a lengthy defrosting period. So if you want to eat that item, you must laboriously:

  • Remove the item from the freezer
  • Place the item either into the fridge compartment or on the counter
  • Then, eventually move that item to the microwave

However, we can reduce these unnecessary steps to a single step with the following combination appliance: the “fridge-ro-wave” or “microwave-fridge,” as illustrated in Figure 1.

fridge-microwave.png

Fig. 1: This futuristic fridge can automatically move food items to areas of different temperatures on a pre-determined defrosting schedule. It can even automatically start the microwaving at a certain time!

By allowing the fridge-microwave to operate on a pre-determined schedule, this appliance could also help you avoid over-eating; perhaps it could be upgraded to a laboratory-grade fridge that chills ALL your food down to a brisk -80°. Then, you would be unable to casually snack without waiting for the fridge to heat something up according to its schedule.

PROS: You can come home to a perfectly defrosted Thanksgiving turkey every single work day!

CONS: None! The perfect accessory for the modern home.

Fight back against “big deadbolt” with this amazing new style of home door lock! Burglars hate it!

Background:

The humble door-locking deadbolt has suffered from a severe failure of innovation and imagination in the last 100 years.

Specifically: most deadbolts have exactly two positions (Figure 1):

  1. Open (door can be opened from either side)
  2. Closed (door requires a key to open from the outside or a switch to be operated from the inside)

In some locations, especially in Europe, the deadbolt is even worse, as the closed position is:

  • 2b) Closed (door requires a key to open from the INSIDE as well). Somehow this is allowed by the fire code.

In either case, a key is required in order to lock the door, which can be annoying if you’re leaving in a hurry.

Fig. 1: A regular mechanical door lock (deadbolt) has two intuitively obvious—but primitive—settings.

Proposal:

Many door locks (but not deadbolts) also have a setting where the door can be set to automatically lock when pulled shut.

Additionally, many doors have two locks: a deadbolt and a regular door-handle lock. But there’s no reason we can’t combine the two locks into a single multi-function “dual lock” (Figure 2).

three-lock

Fig. 2: This updated “dual lock” handles both the deadbolt and door handle lock functionality, together in one convenient location.

Now the home’s occupant only needs to operate one lock when they want to open the door (instead of needing to unlock the deadbolt before using the key in the normal lock).

There’s no reason we can’t update this lock with even more options. See Figure 3 for an additional proposal.

four-lock

Fig. 3: This lock for the truly security-minded allows the door to be completely secured from the outside.

When the lock is in the lower-right position (as depicted), even the key cannot open the door from outside.

While this is not a common lock setting, the front door to the British Prime Minister’s office (10 Downing Street) works in this fashion (it can only be opened from the inside).

Conclusion:

Next time you’re thinking of doing some kind of home improvement, consider upgrading your door locks!

PROS: Simplifies the state of door locks and reduces the otherwise ever-expanding number of keys that are present in daily life.

CONS: Puts “big deadbolt” out of business.

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.