Ideas 141-150

#141: Worms

This is not a bad idea, it is just a little useless.

Imagine a worm that has a head and alternating segments. 

Some of these segments are made of a material that expands a lot when heated. These segments have many resistances attached to them, so they can be heated. 

The other segments are photovoltaic modules that get solar energy to power the worm. 

On the head, there is a microcontroller that oversees the operation. 

The microcontroller powers the resistance segments in an alternating form, as to produce linear motion on the worm. When a section is expanding, the section in front of it is contracting, and a displacement wave travels through the worms' body. We've all seen bugs like this. 

And that is it, just a very slow way of getting from A to B. Please don't make them poisonous. 

142: Online Classes

This exists already, but I feel it needs to be more explicit.

There is a platform, where people can upload videos or written materials about classes. Unlike Youtube, only classes go here. It is really not a place where you will find yourself looking at kitten videos when you were supposed to be studying. Anything is valid, from Programming, to Languages to Astronomy.

I believe that the classes should be completely modular. This class is about this specific topic. In my experience we go to the Web to study when we are interested in a particular thing.

Thing is, we spend a lot of time trying to find really good classes. And this is a lot of wasted effort because many people before have searched and found suitable classes on the subject. 

So this platform would rank the classes in multiple categories (boredom, accuracy of information, brevity, clarity, depth, visual presentation). Not just a thumbs up. There would be a competition to get the best class to top. Perhaps right now you are looking for a class that is short; maybe you have the time for a more in-depth discussion; Maybe what really helps you to learn is graphics. 

The idea is to create a strong community where people share their knowledge and perhaps answer each others doubts.

As a business, I believe it should be very open, not locked through a pay-wall. Personally I'd be a lot more happy if this was actually a non-profit project. Content creators are paid by ads, company gets a cut. Additionally, the company could be approached by other institutions to sell referrals of their best users, with the purpose of settling them teaching jobs. Participation in this would be voluntary.

It is entirely possible that this already exists and I haven't found it yet.

#143: Diamonds

This idea is much more entertaning than it is practical. It is an underwater venture.

Construct an object made of two ballons, that are tied together. They are made from a very sturdy fabric. This material is flexible, but it won't fail, rip apart or so, even under great pressures.

In one of the ballons, put powdered carbon, very pure. Actually, it is better if  you can place many small ballons with carbon. 

In the other, put two substances that when mixed, form a gas as a product. It shouldn't be a very fast reaction, though, you don't mean it for be explosive. These substances would mix when a counter reaches an end. You would have to devise a contraption for them to mix just when the coundown is over.

Add a GPS locator to this object. This device is heavily shielded to go to great depths.

Now sail to the Marianas Trench, one of the deepest spots in the oceans in our World, set the timer and drop the devices on the water. 

It sinks all the long way to the sea floor, to incredible water pressures. Once the timer has elapsed, the ballon will start to fill with gases, the object's density will decrease and it will start to float back to the surface, slowly.

As it reaches the surface, engage the GPS to get its location and salvage it.

Hopefully, you will find out that there were diamonds formed on the pouches. 

#144: Flat

This idea is great, a bit hard to do due to the equipment, but still.

A lot of times I've stumbled on the fact that we don't have flat, even surfaces. This hinders a lot of things, those microscopíc imperfections.

So I set my mind to try to find a way to get flat surfaces. 

I'll explain this idea in simple terms, but you should be trying to modify it to make it more professional. There is a moving table, and on its top a rectangular piece of paper. A mechanical pencil is placed vertically so that it draws on the paper. Carbon graphite, easy to transfer to paper.

The table moves in 2 dimensions, with very good precision. This is like a plotter, a common arduino experiment. Alternatively you may choose to move the pencil and keep the paper still, its should work too.

The thing is, you will also need to have a very precise way of measuring the carbon layer thickness on the paper. Do you know those devices people use to get sizes on a dimensional measuring machine, with a ball on the tip? I thought about three of them, forming a three-fingered hand, with the pencil on the middle of the triangle. This hand hold still while the table moves the paper. 

You would set an algorithm: move the pencil to the direction where the graphite layer is thinnest. You would measure thickness in those three directions, and give a step to the direction where there is a depression on surface, so that the pencil can fill it. This should have a control loop.

Keep doing that for a long time. With some luck, the pen will slowly get the surface even after it has completed a long trajectory on the paper.

How flat this surface will get will depend on the whole set: the graphite tracing, the precision of the table, the distance sensors. Vibrations will be an issue too if you want to get really flat. If you wanted to top this, you could use interferometry.  

#145: Rotating Glass Cilinder

Honestly, Special Relativity is really hard to sink in your head. Even though I did some basic study on the subject, my mind keeps reverting back and trying to reason in Newtonian ways. It is very hard to accept that light has always the same speed c.

So this should be an experiment that, as countless others before did, verify the accuracy of this brilliant theory.

You make a glass cilinder, very good quality in optical terms, with a hole on the center. You glue that to an axis, and puts it in a setup to rotate the cilinder as fast as you can, hopefuly to values comparable to c. I really don't know if we have glasses sturdy enough for that.

Then, you shine light with a laser, through one of the sides of the rotating cilinder. A pulse for example. There are two options, either the cilinder rotates in the same direction as the laser beam, or against it.

What do you observe? Does the rotating cilinder speeds up the light, or slows it down in any way? 

#146: Gluable Particles, A Sequel

In Idea #53, we proposed a particle that would glue on some stimulus and adhere strongly to each other.

Well, in one of my attempts to do this, I came out with this:

It is a very small metallic sphere, the core, and attached to its surface are thin metalic filaments, that are initially curly, close to surface. They resemble a lot curly hair. Well this hair, once the sphere is charged, turn into a spike due to charge repulsion. 

The idea is that when this material is not charged the spheres don't particulary bond to each other. There may be some occasional tangling, but it is residual, When charged, however the spikes intertwine each other forming a cohesive blob.

I'm not exactly sure of what happens if you remove charge at this point. Would the metal retain a memory and the filaments curl back, adhering the spheres even more? I don't know.  

#147: Gravitic Motor

I was very frustrated about how difficult it is to get small displacements, under a micrometer range. I guess what I was really frustated was about how expensive it is to get them. So I tried do come up with a cheap, on-the-budget way of doing that.

This was how the gravitic motor was born. The name is very misleading, sorry.

Imagine that you get some PVC pipes, a few PVC connections, and you get everything cut and ready make a tall H. That is two vertical pillars with a thicker tube, and in the middle a horizontal thin pipe crossing it.

Now you prepare the floater. It is a cilinder of some material, with a diameter to fit tighly inside the thinner tube. This is so tight that if you put water in one side it does not leak to the other side, water-tight. This material should be very light, low density.

In the horizontal thin tube, you cut a hole on the lateral surface of the tube, in the middle of it. This is a thin cut, with the lengh as you would like your displacement range to occur. You insert the float inside this tube, and when it is centered in the hole you've made, you put a screw on the middle of the float. Now the screw can go back and forth, as the float moves inside the tube. This is where you get your displacement.

Assemble the H, with the float inside. Put oil lubricant on the float, and move it around a couple of times to get the float all greased up. It should move back and forth with the least friction possible.

Now fill the pillars with water, evenly - don't fill all the way up to the top of the pillars, however.  

Get the finest sand you can possibly get. Like the ones they use for hourglasses. 

Say you drop a grain of sand on the left pillar. The water collumn will raise, and the whole thing will even itself after displacing the float a little to the right. In fact, it will only displace if it beats the fricction, so this machine will probably have a smallest displacement of a bit of sand. The less friction, the better.

So whenever you want movement to the left, you drop sand on the right; movement to right, drop it in the left. For larger displacements, drop more sand. It accumulates at the bottom of the machine. The oil should not only lubricates but prevent water from flowing directly past the float.

And that is it, that is the whole thing. 

Note: the motor has a flaw of characteristic, depends on how you look at it. When the weight of what it pushes becomes too heavy, the system's friction increases and it loses the ability to move in small steps. Therefore, it is only good for light loads. 

Now that you've got the basic idea, some improvements:

This is the gravitic motor. 

#148: Icarus

Be careful, this experiment is dangerous.

The idea here is to build a small-scale, home-made concentrated solar plant of sorts.

I've always though buying a large parabolic dish, and repurpose it with hundreds of tiny mirrors. In the collector, I would arrange somehow for the light to go inside a fiber optics cable. That cable would go inside my home so I could use the light, somehow.

Never, ever, ever look directly inside a fiber optics cable. In fact don't look at the light beam as it exits the fiber and hits a surface. Should the beam hits your skin, it will cause severe burns. Remember what the Greek myth was all about.

I've always wondered how many degrees °F you could reach with that, if that would be a good way to reach high temperatures. After all, unless you are willing to mess around with propane tanks, that personally scare the hell out of me, it is hard to get high temperatures at home.

Can you use this heat for reactions that wouldn't be otherwise accessible to you?

Could this focused light be converted to electrical? 

What about the losses in the whole system? 

#149: Zap

This is a desert/ocean idea. It involves a profound study at first.

You know how to make electrical discharges, but you haven't found a use for this yet. 

You would try to find if electrical discharges are any good at changing substances. Honestly, the quick search I did on this didn't yield concrete results. You would investigate if discharging a solution or gas repeatedly alters it somehow, and produces substances of commercial value.

You also could investigate if a metal alloy gets hardened after being subjected to these electrical discharges.

Finally, more on the environmental side, you could see if it produces ozone.

Once you find an application, if you find one, you can build several zapping units and spread them in a desert. 

These units would have a solar panel, that would store energy in an capacitor or battery. The solar panels charge the batteries or capacitors, and when maximum charge is attained, a discharge happens.

All day long, these units discharge into your material, altering it. From time to time you would collect the final products, and replenish the reactants.

#150: Fruits

Suppose you are in the business of selling fruit salad, or you are just obsessed about perfecting your groceries. Either way, you want to know what is the exact mix of fruits to go into a fruit salad, that will minimize or maximize something

The first thing that comes to mind is minimizing the cost of a bowl of fruit salad. It is a very useful information, since it affects directly the types of fruit you buy in the market. And from my experience, fresh fruits aren't very cheap!

Another thing that you do is to study and find out what is the best fruit salad recipe to get you as many nutrients as possible per serving. This may take you to the realms of nutritional sciences. 

This idea is about this, a collection of ideas that came up to me about this very practical optimization problem.

BANNER IMAGE CREDITS: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Filippenko, R. Jansen 

Want to know more about this image? Follow this external link.