Inventors in 2015

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Inventors? So what’s the story?

Many influential people are calling for more manufacturers, more education and more innovation. The biggest problem most 3rd world countries face is not just lack of venture capital and education but pure stability. On top of this, on a global level, we have this pessimist’s wet dream, we have nothing left to invent. Inventors on the other hand always know how to invent but not necessarily know what to invent, the best inventions are borne out of necessity – a solution to a problem.  Christopher Cockerell, Igor Sikorsky and the Wright brothers spring to mind.

We have curved TV screens, Blu-ray and 7.2 audio systems. We have airbags, GPS and the ECU.  Airbags are an invention, not necessarily the GPS or a curved TV screen.  Both Walter Linderer and John W. Hetrick are accredited to airbags,  like Sir Frank Whittle and Dr. Hans von Ohain’s jet engines.  Interestingly enough, modern times and a rather biased opinion dictates that we will almost always see a Brit or German in the news somewhere. Of course this does not rule out the USA or Japan,  countries funny enough to  have been at loggerheads with each other at some time or another. Do most inventions take place during war-time? Apparently not – but one needs to look at how quickly we eradicate a problem when there are immense external pressures or rather perils facing us. Rockets, radar and the splitting of an atom.

Innovation is great but how about some real inventors.

So what we have really invented over the last 15 years? In which industry do we see glowing progress?

The Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, Arabians and Greeks (and many others) may have taken us out of the cave and the Russians and USA put us into space but really, really what can we say has happened in the last 15 years which has not been simply put, an adaption of a previous invention and development on an already existing technology. Modern technology allows  rapid prototyping, communicate (some say less effectively) and generate electricity from a photo cell. The thing is, all of this technology comes from decades back, indeed nothing new here. The internet is one such development, a brilliant concept which now rules the earth. Yet the internet would not have been possible without possibly Xerox PARC, without possibly the first use of copper wire, without etc, etc. One technology building on another. Likewise without the insight of Martin Cooper how far would we have progressed in the development of UHF communication and hand held telephones. Yet, again, just no out of the woods, explosive, mind numbing change to the world’s technology.

The thing is, due to this redevelopment of an old technology we are are forced to believe that with modern communication, modern travel and modern engineering practices, nothing is left untouched. There is nothing left to invent. Inventions have possibly always been ‘created’ by the use of existing technology. No matter how many permutations of the bread toaster one may find, the toaster remains a toaster. Credited to the Scots (the Irish can sing and fight, the Scots invent and fight) in the late 1800s it only really became a great toaster after a fellow by the name of Albert Marsh combined Nickel and Chrome (Nichrome) to make a more reliable alloy heating element. In modern times we no longer think of the toaster as being an invention and neither do we see the significance of Nichrome and ceramics.  In modern times we also light a fire and have a barbecue.

Inventors or rather, solution finders, are often loners and many of them see a cure for all, they prefer public recognition to financial reward. Thomas Alva Edison (look at NiFe battery development) was however an inventor and businessman. A very wealthy businessman. Many feel that although he was credited with over 1000 patents, many of them may have been bought from ‘lesser’ inventors and patented by himself. The truth however is that he did indeed influence our life at the turn of the 20th century, he did find solutions and these solutions had an impact on our existence, even today. That therefore, is the most powerful statement in the life of any inventor – “a positive influence on their or our life”. Helicopters, hovercraft and flight.

A curved TV panel does not impact our life more positively, John Logie Baird’s TV did. Radar in all forms impacts our life more positively, so does sonar, scuba equipment and the microwave oven. Anyone heard of John Randall and Harry Boot?  Another ingenious inventor Jacob Perkins has also disappeared into obscurity. We need to remember them.

Shifting to 2015 the reality is there there is plenty to be invented. While we look at some highly innovative gadgets coming onto the market – great inventions and inventors are still sorely missed. We purchase audio systems with gobs of power but yet the loudspeaker and it’s enclosure is highly inefficient. We pump millions into Lithium Ion technology, we buy deep cycle lead-acid batteries for solar-inverter power but yet NiFe cells are nearly the most indestructible form of energy storage to this day. Yes, there is a fresh outlook at revamping the NiFe cell. Yes, there is a new fresh outlook at the uses of Sterling motor technology. Thank goodness.

Of course, often inventions are borne out of making money, we do need to pay our bills. Yet Trevor Baylis proved that this not always need be the case with the wind-up radio, “a positive influence to their life”.  Great discoveries are just as rare but nearly always impact our life in a positive way – vaccinations and cures. Penicillin, Aspirin, Valium, Radium, X-Rays. Just how many times has a possible discovery gone by without been “discovered”.  This may sound strange but in essence it’s a highly plausible argument.

Inventors: So just when you thought that the inventions portfolio is complete, here are few things to ponder about….

Something to ponder about is how through the ages nature has become the more intelligent with respect to finding a solution – and it’s usually permanent.

  • Why must the car engine be so elaborate – it’s almost as if the design engineers are trying to tell us something. Anti-roll / stability control, ABS braking, sure – but the average home DIYer wants to work on his own vehicle engine. To top it all, no matter how security conscientious you are, luxury vehicles still get stolen. Either insurance companies are in on it or blinded by modern technology.
  • Let’s stop this race to find the ultimate car engine which will always include ultimate HP, torque and RPM figures but an engine which can be stripped at home over a weekend and repaired. What happened to the beetle motor? If your engine was so magnificent could it be used in an aircraft? An internal combustion engine needs compression, fuel and a spark…
  • Cars looks appeal to people. If one drives a kit car everyone makes some snide comment or other. The fact is there are too few kit cars around. This of course is a problem – why not a chassis like the tried and trusted bug which can accommodate different body styles.  Change this once every five years instead of your auto/car whatever. Oh, yes, we are talking modular. Will save a lot of money as well. Since cell phones are predicted to become modular in the very new future why not kit cars?
  • Leaning on the architectural angle, what about housing?  Architects design houses which are visually pleasing to the eye.  This costs more of course but when you have the money why not flaunt it? Yet, this may be fundamentally flawed again.  When you finally buy your dream house it becomes very small, very quickly. Space is a problem. So we buy another house. The poor man has a small house and the rich man has a big house. By some strange quirk in nature some clever people thought of building down instead of up. Take the architect out of the equation, use structural engineers and suddenly we have a house which is designed to have a garden on top, can be used as a roadway and we no longer have a space problem. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Build your house out of sight, it will become a burglars nightmare and it’s eco-friendly. Get some rebates from government too!
  • Talking about space, does one notice how many houses with garages which are flat on top. Yes, garages are fire walled and thermally insulated from the house and usually have a flat roof. Now, bring in the architects and the structural engineers to do something with that flat roof, whether for solar collection or a helipad, who cares. The design is appalling. Architects are supposed to be creative, make them work for their money.
  • Most houses get built as an afterthought with very little foresight (read: vision). Hopefully modern times call for drastic measures – place the conduit in by all means but think of the future. Do run conduit for high current mains voltage as well as low current or communication cable.
  • Loudspeakers are another very debatable piece of equipment.  Next time you rush out to buy the greatest loudspeaker you can afford remember that it’s the most disgusting energy hogger in your house when actually working.  They are very, very inefficient.  Remember the old gramophones with their horn speakers, tapering from very small at the pickup to a large circumference pipe at the end. No, well neither have most of us. Now, that was efficient. Sounded like crap, but it was efficient.
  • Harping on wave motion, tides, ocean current and wind.  We may be getting this right but is the Dolos not something which can be replaced with something which can transfer wave energy into electrical energy.
  • How about sound? We use a microphone to pick up acoustic energy, convert into microvolts, sometimes millivolts, drive an amplifier and we have audio. Now we take the horn (above) and use this to drive a transducer to generate power. May sound primitive but worth a thought. It may even charge a cellphone at the airport next to a jet engine.
  • The hoverboard has now been invented.
  • The cyclone motor is still about to make waves.
  • The Sterling engine is worth a thought.
  • Richard Branson has money for space travel.
  • “Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink”.  Sound familiar. When we have no water, are thirsty, there will always be heat. Funny that, we have heat.
  • Let’s have an intelligent ECU check light which tells us what the problem is.

On a different note:

  • Rhinos which can shoot back. On a more serious note, Croc Dundee had that right with his shooting Kangaroo.  Not all game wardens are crooked but when most game wardens know where the rhino is, something tells me there is something crooked going on.  An animal only follows it’s survival instinct – eat, sleep, bonk, protect.
  • A polygraph which upon detecting three sequential “probable issues” electrocutes the individual.
  • Any vehicle driven by a ‘human’ with an IQ not designed for driving automatically implodes. This may sound excessive but rather now than later.
  • Humans get micro-chipped but with a CPU. It detects crime intent by the wearer, immediately stops ovulation or sperm production to prevent further crime in the natural evolution “of things”. On second attempt the CPU sends a signal to shut off blood supply. In most cases the individual may be brain dead already, a feedback system detects this and sends a secondary signal to the genitals, causing 50kV pulses to this area, hopefully incapacitating the potential perpetrator.

A second episode to this series will be written in due course. Watch these pages!















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