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This strip's permanent URL: http://www.mezzacotta.net/archive.php?date=2017-10-23


Treadmill on wheels

3 March, 2012 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

You know how people exercise by running on treadmills? How about putting wheels on the bottom of a treadmill and connecting them to the treadmill belt, so they propel the treadmill.

Then you can go for a run for exercise, and actually travel somewhere at the same time!

Slotted Soap

22 June, 2010 | Posted in Good Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

You know how the old soap turns into a skinny little sliver until you can no longer use it any more, then you have to start with a whole new bar of soap? Some people recycle those unusable slivers by putting them in a cloth bag and using them to make suds when washing clothes or dishes or whatever. Other people (me included) smush the old sliver of soap on to the new bar and hope it sticks so that it will become integrated and can be used along with the new bar. And sometimes it doesn’t stick properly and splinters into dozens of little soap shards that get all over you and you don’t notice them there until you try to dry yourself off with a towel and then you have these soapy lumps stuck to your legs. And some people just throw it away.

So here’s the idea: slotted soap! New bars of soap come with a thin slot in the side, and you just slide the old sliver into the slot when it gets too small to use by itself! Voilà! It’ll get melded into the new soap and used efficiently, and you don’t have to worry about smushing it together and the possibility that it might fall off the new bar.

Rather than put the slot in the middle of the bar, which would run the risk of the soap wearing down to the same old sliver each time, put the slot 1/3 of the way through the thickness of the new bar. This guarantees the old sliver will get used before the new soap turns into a sliver itself.

Complex Movie Plot FAQs in real-time on your iPhone

17 March, 2010 | Posted in Good Ideas by Andrew Coker

If you’re like me, then you have sometimes gone to the cinema and become completely and utterly confused by the plot, unable to keep up with the astonishing number of characters, shifting allegiances, and non-linear narratives. What I need is some sort of dynamic FAQ that I can download to my portable computing device before going to the cinema (or watching a DVD), and when the movie starts I hit “go”. The application displays answers and reminders about questions that other viewers (or the film producers) have anticipated might be troublesome, but only once the events relating to the question have been revealed – so as not to telegraph spoilerific information early.  So any time you think some important detail has passed you by, a quick glance at your device allows you to catch up on important details that you should have already noticed, but were too confused to properly absorb.

Frictionless sports

5 March, 2010 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

While discussing a game of tennis two of us were playing this morning, we got into talking about the backspin and topspin making it trickier to hit the ball. Then someone proposed the idea: Tennis played on a frictionless surface!

Okay, this means you can’t run or anything, so you need to surround the court with walls that you can push off. You need to time your push so that you slide to where the ball will be in time for you to hit it. And then of course when you hit the ball it changes your momentum, so you end up sliding in a different direction until you hit another wall and push off again. It could probably work.

Then one of us had to go the step further and imagine it in 3 dimensions. Basically, you have a prolate spheroidal court in zero gravity, with each player starting at one of the foci. That way the first serve is guaranteed to pass near the receiving player after one bounce on any surface, and the player can return it. By this stage, both players have gained momentum from hitting the ball and can start bouncing off walls. A player who can hit the ball so it bounces off two (or maybe three) walls before the other player can reach it wins the point.

Another variant scores the game by the players’ momentum. If you ever push off a wall or hit the ball such that you don’t have enough speed to reach another wall within, say, 10 seconds, you lose the point.

There are lots of other variants you can build on these concepts.

2D glasses for 3D movies

1 March, 2010 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

So here’s the idea: Take two sets of 3D glasses and remove the left lens from one and the right lens from the other, and swap them into the other pair of glasses. So one pair now had two left lenses, and the other two right lenses.

Why would you want to do this? If you’re one of those people for whom the whole 3D movie experience is a bit meh, or you actually find it annoying or disorienting, you can still go to a 3D movie with your friends and wear your new 2D glasses. You now get the same image in each eye, exactly like a regular 2D movie! And without the double-vision effect of just watching the movie without glasses. So you can sit back and watch the movie in glorious 2D while your friends next to you watch in 3D.

Even better, you can successfully argue to the ticket sales counter that you are only watching half the movie, so you should only have to pay half price!

Install-a-Games

12 January, 2010 | Posted in Good Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

So, I was installing Visual Studio today at work. (The reason is unimportant and I can’t tell you anyway, since it would probably violate some clause on my employment contract…) The install took so long that I actually had to leave for the day before it had finished. While installing, it shows one of those pseudo-progress indicator splash screens that doesn’t actually give you any useful indication of how far along it is – you know the sort of thing. And since Microsoft apparently know how long the darn thing takes, they try to amuse you by having it cycle through a series of cunningly designed ads which tell you how great their product is.

Which just seems like a waste of processor power.

Back in the day, when you used to load games on to your Commodore 64 computer from a cassette tape and it took up to half an hour to actually play the tape and read all the bytes into memory, they had things called Loadagames. These were tiny footprint games that could be loaded into memory within the first few seconds of the tape read, and that you could then actually play while waiting for the main game to load. An example is Invade-a-Load.

This is what modern software installers should do! Rather than spend half an hour staring at the uninformative and annoying “progress” screen while installing something, and unable to do anything else because you need to have all the other apps closed, you could actually be playing a cool game!

4-D Twister

20 November, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

Remember Twister, the game that ties you up in knots? What about a 3-D version, where instead of a mat on the floor with coloured circles, you have holographically projected coloured spheres suspended at various locations in mid-air? How cool would that be?

From here it’s just a small step to 4-dimensional Twister, which is where the real fun happens!

Gummi worm insalata & twinkies and coffee

18 November, 2009 | Posted in Cafe by David Morgan-Mar

Gummi worm insalata & twinkies and coffee
mezzacotta Café patron Panpear writes:

I had stopped at the mezzacotta Café for brunch one day, and spotted this menu item. I asked what ‘insalata’ meant (salad, as it turns out), and ordered right away. There was a choice for real fruit or gummi fruit in the salad, but I chose gummi because it already seemed unhealthy in the first place, so why bother trying to make it healthy? Overall, everything was delicious and sugary; I would definitely recommend it.

Traffic congestion smoothing

12 November, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

We were discussing how unfair it is that sometimes you’ll get stuck in traffic for longer than seems reasonable, while other drivers in other lanes manage to creep ahead. Or how when traffic is bad some evil people will do sneaky things like using an inappropriate lane and then trying to cut in, to the frustration of the people doing the right thing and waiting patiently in the correct lane.

But on the other hand, maybe the person cutting in has spent hours in traffic already and actually deserves to be given an easier ride, while the people waiting have only been stuck for a really short time.

So we realised the answer is to have a big digital display on each car, which starts at 0 every time you set out on a trip. It counts the number of minutes and seconds you’ve spent sitting still in traffic. Then whenever a question of priority comes up, right of way is given to the car that’s been waiting for the longest.

Who gets to merge first? The person who’s had the most delayed trip so far! If there’s a queue of cars waiting at a blocked intersection, cars with large wait times are allowed to sneak up and cut in – as long as they don’t cut in front of anyone who has been waiting longer. Can’t get fairer than that!

This would smooth out travel times for everyone and make the roads fairer and less frustrating! Everyone wins!

Lift buttons

10 November, 2009 | Posted in Bad Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

Coming back from buying lunch across the street today, we entered the lift and proceeded to go through the routine of pressing the buttons for floors 5, 6, and 7, since we each needed to return to our desks briefly and we are spread across those floors of our office building. We lamented the fact that the process of floor selection was so incredibly inefficient, requiring us to hit three separate buttons to indicate what floors we needed the lift to stop at.

DMc pondered the idea of having 128 separate buttons, each one wired to tell the lift to stop at a different possible combination of the 7 floors in the building. For example, button 74 might tell the lift that people want to get off at floors 2, 4, and 7. All you need to do is calculate the value of 21+23+26 to get the correct button.

And then we realised we could make this incredibly cool idea even simpler to use, if we just renumbered the floors, so instead of having floors 1 through 7, we have floors 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64. So all you have to do is add up the numbers of the desired destination floors, and press the button with the number corresponding to the sum!