Archive for 'Arts and science'

The motorcycle urinal (new patent)

Friday, August 29th, 2014

If you sometimes make use of a urinal, and yearn for the sound of revving motorbikes whilst doing so, a new US patent might be aimed at you. Californian inventor Anthony Moley has just received a patent for his “Urinal with operation controlled via a replica of a motorcycle handlebar” The new invention, which provides rearview mirrors, a throttle and a horn is summed up like this :

US08789808-20140729-D00000The urinal with operation controlled via a replica of a motorcycle handlebar is a wall-mounted fixture configured to control the use of the flush valve of said urinal, or toilet, or other plumbing fixture. The replica motorcycle handlebar includes a linkage that runs from the throttle portion of the motorcycle handlebar to the flush valve of said urinal such that upon simulation of a throttling gesture shall pull said flush valve upwardly in order to flush the respective urinal or plumbing fixture. The replica motorcycle handlebar includes a motion sensor that upon detection of a person shall communicate an audio recording of a motorcycle noise. The replica motorcycle handlebar includes mirrors, turn signals, and a horn switch. Throttling motion of the throttle portion may also prompt an additional audio recording of a motorcycle engine being revved.

Hitchcockian Fear-of-Heights Gaze Research

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

In the tradition of film director Alfred Hitchcock, these researchers watched the way fearful people watched their surroundings whilst walking in fear:

BrandtVisual Exploration during Locomotion Limited by Fear of Heights,” Günter Kugler, Doreen Huppert, Maria Eckl, Erich Schneider, Thomas Brandt [pictured here], PLoS ONE, 9(8), 2014, e105906. The authors, at the University of Munich and Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus – Senftenberg, report:

“Visual exploration of the surroundings during locomotion at heights has not yet been investigated in subjects suffering from fear of heights…. Eye and head movements were recorded separately in 16 subjects susceptible to fear of heights and in 16 non-susceptible controls while walking on an emergency escape balcony 20 meters above ground level…. During locomotion, anisotropy of gaze-in-space shows a preference for the vertical as opposed to the horizontal direction during stance. Avoiding looking into the abyss may reduce anxiety in both conditions; exploration of the ‘vertical strip’ in the heading direction is beneficial for visual control of balance and avoidance of obstacles during locomotion.”

This detail from the study shows the experimental setup:


BONUS: A clip from Hitchcock’s film “Vertigo”:

How to begin a scientific paper: “Gears are found rarely in animals…”

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

This research paper, published in the journal Science, demonstrates that yes, it is possible to begin a scientific paper with a colorful thought. The very first sentence begins with these words:

“Gears are found rarely in animals…”

Dishonesty and creativity can spur each other, says study

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

A little dishonesty can, maybe, in the right hands, used judiciously, be a tool that brings creativity to your business, suggests a study by Professor Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Scott S. Wiltermuth of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

(The video you see here shows Duke University [and former MIT] professor Dan Ariely, who has conducted much related research with Gino. One of their joint papers is a corker called “The dark side of creativity: original thinkers can be more dishonest.” In this video, Ariely pokes into the happy troika of lies, cheating, and creativity.)

Gino and Wiltermuth did some little experiments…

—so begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

Crying Infant Assuager (new patent)

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014


“Crying babies are the source of great frustration for adults, particularly for their parents. Because they cannot speak, infants cry as their primary means of communication and they do it with great frequency. Babies cry as a means to communicate that they are in pain, unhappy, tired, hungry or generally in need of attention. Sometimes babies cry to block external stimuli in an attempt to calm down. Regardless of the reason, crying is disturbing and gets the attention of those within earshot.”

explain Californian inventors Richard Shane and Chris Tacklind in their newly issued patent Infant Soothing Device Having an Actuator, which is, in a nutshell:

“A device to assuage distressed infants via an adjustable vertical motion combined with an adjustable orientation.”


“In an embodiment of the invention, the device utilizes springs to assist the motion generated by the motor, thereby reducing the power requirements of the motor. In other embodiments of the invention, different types of devices are used to enable the motion of the invention, such as air bellows, pneumatic pumps, hydraulic or magnetic devices and the like.”

Also see: (somewhat related) ‘I was not a lab rat’  by Deborah Skinner Buzan (daughter of Burrhus Frederic Skinner)

skinner_box“Call it what you will, the ‘aircrib’ ,’baby box’, ‘heir conditioner’ (not my father’s term) was a wonderful alternative to the cage-like cot.”