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Fixing the world on $2/day

Amy Smith and MIT's D-lab apply engineering principles to real-world problems that affect the world's poorest residents. She organizes an annual conference. Hear her talk at TED. Previously
posted by lalochezia on Nov 2, 2008 - 4 comments

insert extremely clever title here

Fortunes are rarely won by playing it safe. On the contrary, the biggest fortunes have been won by those willing to step outside the box and change the way the game is played. Following are twenty-five business innovators of the past, present, and future whose stories are different in many respects, but all point to the same truth: Ingenuity, improvisation, and daring are more important than following the rules (even though you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law once in a while). Via Fortune. [more inside]
posted by infini on Aug 2, 2008 - 31 comments

How Edison Are You?

Thomas A. Edison did not simply invent; he created the invention industry. He not only inspired the American Industrial Revolution, he provided the model for modern R&D concepts. Perhaps his greatest success beyond his legacy of innovation and invention is the introduction of team-based research. The Edison Innovation Foundation is using Edison's Invention Factory to educate the next generation of inventors.
posted by netbros on Jul 29, 2008 - 23 comments

Moving at a speed of 100 inventions per year

Madman or genius? Well... madman. But being confined to an asylum (with one of his symptoms described as "manic invention") didn't keep Karl Hans Janke from developing elaborate theories of atomic energy, flight, space travel and the history of humanity, creating over 4,000 complex drawings and even models over 40 years of incarceration for paranoid schizophrenia. [more inside]
posted by Shepherd on Jun 2, 2008 - 4 comments

Crank the beat. Place the beat. Glitch the beat.

You say you don't like drum machines? Well, here's one even the staunchest Luddite has gotta love. Or you might like some of the recent experiments in making the interfaces more physical. And surely you'll admit this one's really very charming. Wanna go non-Western? Get yer talas out with this tabla machine. It'll be only a matter of time, then, till you get into the whole classical Hindustani gitchtronica thing, which is what the cool kids are into. [NOTE: see hoverovers for link descriptions]
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 7, 2008 - 22 comments

"When I push on the ball of my foot, it rotates the wrist."

Dean Kamen's Artificial "Luke" Arm - Segway inventor reinvents the prosthetic arm: "I've been able to do stuff with this that I haven't, seriously haven't, done in 26 years... uh, pick up a banana, peel a banana and eat it without it squishening... I can't wait to get one of these in a real environment, a home environment, and actually my wife can't either. She's going, oh yeah, I got lots of stuff for you to do."
posted by kliuless on Feb 19, 2008 - 59 comments

Frankenhand is alive ... meet LongPen

LongPen from inventor (pdf) Margaret Atwood
posted by phoque on Aug 11, 2007 - 37 comments

Microwave Cookery

The cavity magnetron is the secret weapon that saved Britain in World War II. In 1946, Dr. Percy Spencer stood too close to a magneton and invented the microwave oven.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot on Jun 19, 2007 - 22 comments

Forget hybrid cars. Spring for a hybrid house.

Enertia is producing "innovative new homes of remarkable strength, economy, and beauty, brought to life by an elegant new architecture and the discovery of a new source of pollution-free energy." The design took first prize in the Modern Marvels/Invent Now competition (previously). In an interview, the inventor, Michael Sykes, says "he was inspired by the way the earth’s own atmosphere keeps the planet at a relatively constant comfortable temperature despite the frigidity of space." He also notes that his wife calls herself a "homemaker," natch.
posted by pithy comment on May 17, 2007 - 17 comments

You got to slide down slow in the middle, and rock from side to side.

Hailed as the first major development in bicycle design for 150 years, ladies and gentlemen, it's the Sideways Bike.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Feb 19, 2007 - 41 comments

Fry me with a nuke

Wanna get nuked? the Active Denial System [just say no?] was launched yesterday - its a microwave ray gun that makes people feel like they're going to catch fire. Wasn't there a ray gun at a certain point in a book we trashed a while earlier?
posted by infini on Jan 25, 2007 - 46 comments

Vintage androids

Karakuri automata are representative of the highest technology in the Edo period (1603 to 1867). Automata were also crafted hundreds of years ago in Europe: The Dulcimer Player by Pierre Kintzing , made in 1772; The Singing Lesson, created by Robert-Houdin; three androids by Jaquet-Droz; the Pooping Duck by Vaucanson (the first link at the top). Ancient robots. The first automaton was created by Al-Jazari: video of his clock. The history of automata [pdf]. Contemporary toy automata. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Jan 14, 2007 - 18 comments

The Man Who Destroyed the Atmosphere

Meet the man who "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in earth history" - Thomas Midgley, Jr. Midgley invented leaded gasoline in 1921 to stop cars from knocking. In the process, he created a huge new industry, increased by 500 times the atmospheric lead levels, and was part of a multi-decade coverup of lead's effects that put the tobacco industry to shame [note: article is both terrific and very long] and still continues today. Just a few years later, he invented chlorofluorocarbons, and, with a dramatic demonstration of their safety, usured in an era of cheap air conditioning and social change, as well as ozone depletion. In the end, he was killed by one of his inventions, though it was neither lead nor CFCs that were responsible. He is sometimes remembered fondly, he is more often vilified.
posted by blahblahblah on Oct 19, 2006 - 30 comments

Miracles You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years

Miracles You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years (Feb, 1950)
Some more up-to-date predictions: science, invention, space travel, colonisation, immortality, water shortage, flooding, nanotech, techno-apocalypse, extinction, mental health, smart machines, robots, mind uploading, AI, Asia, economics, demographics, goverance, cities. What is your prediction?
posted by MetaMonkey on Oct 5, 2006 - 54 comments

That's not a hack; THIS is a hack

Afrigadget Life hacks from the Dark Continent. Similar idea to better-known hacks here and here.
posted by klangklangston on Jul 20, 2006 - 13 comments

What did one ghost say to the other?

Get A-Life - an interesting read on artificial life and evolutionary computation, from the game of life (playable applet), through core wars, tierra and on to genetic programming. This approach has recently borne fruit to genetic programming pioneer and inventor of the scratchcard, John Koza, who last year patented his invention machine, actually a 1000 machine beowulf cluster running his software, which has itself created several inventions which have been granted patents. [See also: BBC Biotopia artificial life experiment, another odd BBC evolution game, Artificial Life Possibilities: A Star Trek Perspective]
posted by MetaMonkey on May 3, 2006 - 14 comments

How Islamic inventors changed the world

From coffee to cheques and the three-course meal, the Muslim world has given us many innovations that we take for granted in daily life. As a new exhibition opens, Paul Vallely nominates 20 of the most influential- and identifies the men of genius behind them via The Independent
posted by infini on Mar 10, 2006 - 30 comments

Proxflyer

World's smallest flying robots In the early 1930 's, Arthur Young, a brilliant young inventor, built and successfully demonstrated a viable, flyable helicopter model. In Oslo Peter Muren developed a totally silent and aerodynamically stable coaxial rotor flying robot.In Brussels Alexander Van de Rostyne developed a 6.9 grams helicopter with infrared 4 axis control. Very cute too .
posted by hortense on Jan 2, 2006 - 14 comments

The World is Bound With Secret Knots

Athanasius Kircher was the 17th century's Jesuit version of the übergeek. His scholarly attentions were drawn to egyptology, astronomy, magnetism, languages, optics, music, geology, mathematics and many many other pursuits. The "dude of wonders" invented novel machines such as the mathematical organ and magnetic clock, established one of the first museums, published about 40 academic works (with beautiful accompanying illustrations) and was globally revered as one of his time's greatest intellectuals. He is also the main link in the Voynich manuscript mystery. [MI]
posted by peacay on Aug 7, 2005 - 12 comments

Peer to Patent

Peer to Patent (PtoP): A Modest Proposal This modest proposal harnesses social reputation and collaborative filtering technology to create a peer review system of scientific experts ruling on innovation. [via beSpacific]
posted by mlis on Jul 16, 2005 - 11 comments

BBC Seeks Crackpot Inventors

BBC Seeks Crackpot Inventors: Dave Gorman, of Googlewhack fame, seems to be fashioning himself into the first techno-comedian. His latest project for BBC Radio 4, entitled , seeks wacky inventions and world-shattering solutions from you. Sort of a reality radio version of half bakery or roundtuit.
posted by re6smith on Jun 1, 2005 - 3 comments

Brilliant.

Clocky. An MIT student has designed an alarm clock with built-in wheels and motion sensors. Upon hitting the snooze button, Clocky will roll of your nighttable, bump around your room, and hide, forcing you to have to get up and look for him instead of hitting the button again.
posted by XQUZYPHYR on Mar 29, 2005 - 38 comments

Bottoms Up

Tired of waiting for that waitress to fill your pitcher? Technology once again rides to the rescue courtesy of two industrious Cornell students. [warning: lots of nerdy details in link...not safe for technophobes]
posted by rooftop secrets on Dec 3, 2004 - 17 comments

Astrolabes

The Astrolabe: an instrument with a past and a future. You can even download your own Electric Astrolabe. (via finches' wings)
posted by Ufez Jones on Aug 4, 2004 - 4 comments

Stories about the lives we've made

Making the Modern World brings you powerful stories about science and invention from the eighteenth century to today. It explains the development and the global spread of modern industrial society and its effects on all our lives. The site expands upon the permanent landmark gallery at the Science Museum, using the Web and dynamic multimedia techniques to go far beyond what a static exhibition can do. Terrific wrapping, excellent content.
posted by tcp on Jul 12, 2004 - 4 comments

Portable and off the grid

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention. (NY Times, reg. req.) Amy Smith teaches MIT students about the politics of delivering technology to poor nations and the nitty-gritty of mechanical engineering and helped start the IDEAS competition; she herself designed (among other things) a screenless hammer mill suited to third-world conditions and using "materials available to a blacksmith in Senegal."
Smith's entire life is like one of her inventions, portable and off the grid. At 41, she has no kids, no car, no retirement plan and no desire for a Ph.D. Her official title: instructor. ''I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. Why would I spend six years to get a Ph.D. to be in the position I'm in now, but with a title after my name? M.I.T. loves that I'm doing this work. The support is there. So I don't worry.''...
Likewise, the inventors who most inspire her will never strike it rich. ''There are geniuses in Africa, but they're not getting the press,'' she says. She gushes about Mohammed Bah Abba, a Nigerian teacher who came up with the pot-within-a-pot system. With nothing more than a big terra-cotta bowl, a little pot, some sand and water, Abba created a refrigerator -- the rig uses evaporation rather than electricity to keep vegetables cool. Innovations that target the poorest of the poor don't have to be complicated to make a big difference. The best solution is sometimes the most obvious.
A rare optimistic story for these downbeat times.
posted by languagehat on Dec 3, 2003 - 18 comments

Excuse me while I slip into something a little more...resilient

Lifecase. Briefcase to Bullet Proof Vest in Seconds!
posted by gottabefunky on Oct 1, 2003 - 8 comments

Dean Kamen Mania

Present day Thomas Edison strikes again. More fine stuff from the guy who brought you the Segway HT. Dean Kamen, and his fine folks at DekaResearch, appear to have invented a device which promises to save countless lives across the globe, power villages, and runs on water. What's next? The perpetual motion machine?
posted by IndigoSkye on Nov 17, 2002 - 55 comments

Chicago Rat Patrol.

Chicago Rat Patrol. No, not this kind of rat patrol; for this crew, rat spotting is just a sideline. What these guys skulk in alleys for, though, is discarded bike parts to kludge, especially in strange and unexpected proportions. Most of them work. As a result of their experiments, they're attuned to the kitbashed contraptions used by (mostly) economically marginal folk. Additionally, or superfluously, they're sort of anarchist anti-corporate critical-mass types. Updated until almost a year ago. Note: Geocities site. Tread lightly. And stay away from the "Rodeo" link, where there's a quicktime video, until tomorrow.
posted by dhartung on Jul 26, 2002 - 4 comments

Teflon: The biggest accidental invention of the 20th Century.

Teflon: The biggest accidental invention of the 20th Century. I was wondering how if nothing sticks to Teflon, then how does it stick to the bottom of a frying pan? This search lead me to a really cool site, MIT's Inventor Archives. Organized alphabetically by inventors' last names and also by invention, it's a great jumping-off spot for research information and observing the interconnectivity that keeps research going.
posted by Mack Twain on Apr 26, 2002 - 11 comments

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