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Top Inventions of 2007 293

Posted by Zonk
from the toys-gadgets-and-widgets dept.
Gibbs-Duhem writes "Time Magazine is reporting on the best inventions of the year. The top invention is the somewhat well-known iPhone, but there are some extremely cool projects included that I had certainly never heard of, including a device for capturing waste heat from car engines to increase efficiency up to 40%, a novel car designed to run entirely on compressed air claiming to have a range of 2000km with zero pollution, a James Bond style GPS tracking device that police can use to avoid high-speed chases, a small-scale printing press capable of printing and binding a paperback book in 3 minutes for under $3/book (and $50k per machine), a microbe-based technology for turning soft sand into sandstone, a water-based display which uses computer controlled nozzles to produce coherent gaps in the water, and a way to convert type A, B, and AB-negative blood into type O."
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Top Inventions of 2007

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  • I'm sorry but no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brejc8 (223089) * on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:06PM (#21255987) Homepage Journal
    This has gone too far. There is no way you can place the iPhone as the top "Invention". It is a phone just like any other but with a lot of features you would expect on a phone removed. No novelty or ingenuity. The only thing that it has going for it is that it looks nice. If looking nice is a quality of a great invention then I proclaim the Mona Lisa as the greatest invention of Leonardo da Vinci. I will be hearing next that the iPhone gets the Nobel peace prize as well.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Diss Champ (934796)
      Given the actual choice for this year, giving the Nobel Prize to the iPhone would have been an improvement.
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:14PM (#21256113) Journal
      I agree. Product of the year, yes perhaps, but it's not an invention or even a significant innovation.
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:15PM (#21256123) Journal
      Not for nothing, but how about RTFAing and bothering to address the reasons they picked the iPhone?

      I happen to disagree with them as well, for many of the same reasons as you. However, they do (to a certain extent) try to address exactly what you're saying.

      Of course, I believe that they picked the iPhone because it'll drive traffic, not because it's truly the #1 invention in their minds. I simply can't see how the iPhone is a better invention than a device/method to strip blood of its AB antigens.

      Oh, and PS:

      If looking nice is a quality of a great invention then I proclaim the Mona Lisa as the greatest invention of Leonardo da Vinci.
      Meh. She's ugly. Plus, that's a painting, not an invention. I proclaim daVinci's wire tensile strength tester as his greatest invention (since it was actually put to use, unlike his helicopter plans).
      • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:25PM (#21256259) Journal
        Of course, I believe that they picked the iPhone because it'll drive traffic, not because it's truly the #1 invention in their minds.

        Which is reason enough to not RTFA, as it is designed to generate traffic, not provide any useful information. Of course, the editors here at /. could have chosen to NOT quote an article that is solely designed to get linked on /. and digg.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      Exactly! It's not ground-breaking, it won't save lives, it's just (as they say) an "idiot bauble". Converting different blood types to O is fantastic. Having a higher-than-average-DPI screen on your phone is slight progress at best.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:40PM (#21256469)
        Average? Average in the US maybe. Check out Japanese phones some time, 5MP camera, autofocus lens, Xenon flash, VGA screen. They make the iPhone look like a toy for stupid Americans who need everything so dumbed down it's insulting to anyone who can actually read.
    • by brkello (642429)
      The only thing that it has going for it is that it looks nice.

      It's all in the name recognition. Ask Bush. And he doesn't even look nice!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dirtyhippie (259852)
      Of course you're right, the iPhone is not an invention... But I must correct you - there is plenty of novelty and ingenuity in the iPhone - including a number of patents and inventions under the covers.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) *
        Patents have not had much to do with novelty or ingenuity in a long time.

        The iPhone is a brilliant piece of product design and marketing; there's nothing earth-shattering about it on the technological front, even when you include the interface.

        Its inclusion in the list seems like a cheap shot to get the article Slashdotted and FPed on Digg.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dirtyhippie (259852)
          Uh. Yeah, I'm sure time magazine chooses the best invention of the year in order to get a slashdotting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZonkerWilliam (953437) *
      I agree whole heartedly, maybe there should be a distinction between incremental inventions and novel (meaning really new) inventions.
      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:41PM (#21256475) Homepage

        ...maybe there should be a distinction between incremental inventions and novel (meaning really new) inventions.

        I agree that there's some sort of distinction to be made there, but it's fuzzy at best. Look deeply enough into the most novel of inventions, and you'll find that's it's basically cobbled together from already-existing inventions and well-known principles. That's just how these things work.

        But I agree that I don't think of the iPhone as an "invention". Even though I think it's cool and innovative, it just doesn't do anything that hasn't been done elsewhere. I might consider the whole multi-touch thing an invention, but it's only part of the iPhone, and it existed elsewhere first.

    • by revscat (35618) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:34PM (#21256379) Journal

      There is no way you can place the iPhone as the top "Invention". It is a phone just like any other but with a lot of features you would expect on a phone removed.

      RTFA.

      The reason they chose to give it to the iPhone wasn't based upon a checklist of features, but because of how well it was designed and the impact it has had. Apple knows how to make products that people enjoy using. That is a difficult thing to do.

      The only thing that it has going for it is that it looks nice.

      Looks nice and behaves nice.

      Most geeks don't understand design, and in fact disregard design considerations as nothing more than eye candy. This is foolish. Design is about taking the human into consideration. Frank Lloyd Wright is a good example: while his structures were beautiful, a large part of their elegance was due to the consideration he gave to his users. He never once forgot that he was creating something that would be used by people.

      Apple understands that strong design makes for strong products. The mistake people like you make is that you think design is about looks: skins for Winamp, etc. It's not. Design is about the whole experience, of which elegance and beauty is a part, but only a part.

      • Frank (Score:5, Interesting)

        by raygundan (16760) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:01PM (#21256701) Homepage
        I'm not an architecture expert, but I have read several times that one of the largest complaints with actually living in Frank Lloyd Wright's home designs is that they were designed to look fantastic in photographs but are inconvenient to actually live in.

        Regardless of whether or not that is true, it underscores the critical thing about design and function-- it's a delicate balance, and designers must be careful not to trade too much functionality for aesthetics and vice versa. Everyone's tastes differ, but Apple frequently makes design choices that I find detrimental to function with no benefit beyond aesthetics. (lack of tacticle keyboard on iPhone, gorgeous all-in-one PCs that make your monitor a disposable item, elegant slim notebooks that offer inadequate cooling for the GPU and necessitate factory underclocking, iTunes' ignorance of audio organized by folder rather than tags, no handy screws for battery replacement on the clean, mirror-finished backs of iPods, etc...)
        • by revscat (35618)

          Regardless of whether or not that is true, it underscores the critical thing about design and function-- it's a delicate balance, and designers must be careful not to trade too much functionality for aesthetics and vice versa. Everyone's tastes differ, but Apple frequently makes design choices that I find detrimental to function with no benefit beyond aesthetics

          Yes. But the broader point remains: Apple is the only electronics company who values design and seems to understand that there is more to good de

        • lack of tacticle keyboard on iPhone

          A physical keyboard on the iPhone would either increase its size or decrease the screen's size.

          gorgeous all-in-one PCs that make your monitor a disposable item

          "All-in-one" is not for everybody, but it's value is not purely aesthetic. Less stuff to plug in, easier to move around, takes less space, etc.

          elegant slim notebooks that offer inadequate cooling for the GPU and necessitate factory underclocking

          You do realize that the size of a notebook computer is an important

        • Not to mention that to repair or do any significant work beyond (or even) memory/disk replacement is not meant to be a trivial task compared to maintenance-friendly (but otherwise unblessed) Thinkpads. While it's not easy to get to some components on a T series for example, at least you have the documentation to tell you it is only a few screws and a slideoff of the keyboard to get to the inside where the internal memory module is.

          For Apple to commit to this kind of error repeatedly over multiple products (
      • In other words, it is not an invention. It is well designed and well engineered. Examples of inventions: steam engine, Diesel engine, refrigeration, AC current.
      • Ok, then it should be on the list of top marketing efforts of 2007. Not top inventions.

        Let's call it what it is... putting the iPhone on the list is just hit-whoring.
      • by Mattsson (105422)

        The reason they chose to give it to the iPhone wasn't based upon a checklist of features, but because of how well it was designed and the impact it has had. Apple knows how to make products that people enjoy using. That is a difficult thing to do.

        Ok, so the iPhone is a nice product. It might even be an innovation. It's still not an invention.
        A new product of a kind that has existed before (the iPhone is a mobile-phone of the variety smart-phone) isn't an invention no matter how much nicer it is than the other product of similar kinds.

        Innovations != Inventions

    • by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear@pacbe[ ]net ['ll.' in gap]> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:34PM (#21256397) Homepage
      Maybe you have no sense of perspective.

      Think of the iPhone today and the computer of 10 years from now.

      Time is probably thinking the iPhone, today, is like the original Mac or Lisa 25 years ago. In that sense, the iPhone is likely to dictate how all computing will occur in 10 years.

      If they are right, then it does qualify as invention of the year.
    • I've never read Time before, but after reading that article I had to email the author. He obviously has no idea about technology - claiming that the iPhone is the first ever personal computer in your pocket? For goodness sake. I know that Windows Mobile and other phone OSes are usually 'cut down' versions of Windows/Linux, or entirely unrelated OSes, but we have had the portable computer for a long time now. Nothing in the list of things he provided qualified as an 'invention', merely product design and mar
    • There is no way you can place the iPhone as the top "Invention".
      Which is the invention, the Xerox Star or the Mac?
    • "No novelty or ingenuity."

      OK, you can hate the iPhone if you want, and the fact that it was picked for this honor. And you can bitch and moan about whatever feature you feel it's lacking. But you can't tell me it lacks novelty and ingenuity. It's a phone, an iPod, and a REAL web browser packed into a single device, with no physical buttons, and it WORKS GREAT. That is definitely novel and ingenious.
    • by Mattsson (105422)
      I'd say that things like the iPhone aren't inventions at all.
      The mobile-phone is an invention. A mobile-phone isn't an invention.

      Obligatory car-analogy:
      The car is an invention.
      A Nissan Micra isn't.
    • by hitmark (640295)
      its time magazine. its a magazine that have featured apple products and people before...

      still, the mainstream press seems to be in love with apple products overall...

      its the only tech products i can recall that get front page coverage by newspapers, for one thing...

      imo, apple have been marketing over tech from the day the woz walked out the door, with the walking reality distortion field at its core.

      hell, i watched the commercial video for the phone/"pod touch" and it was just a asian guy in a turtle neck t
  • by lpangelrob (714473) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:08PM (#21256029)

    ...microbe-based technology for turning soft sand into sandstone...

    The triple jump just got a lot more entertaining. :-D

  • We have a phone that's not done yet, a wind-up car that uses air for a spring, and a bus that stole its gear from the local railroad's maintenance vehicles.
  • by binarybum (468664) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:15PM (#21256119) Homepage
    i was going to release my teleportation prototype next week, but now I have to wait to Jan. so I can make the best of 2008 list. Either that or complete my time-machine project so I can go back and get my teleporter finished before the deadline for this award.
    • If you were going to finish your time machine then you would have your teleporter finished already, so we can presume that you are either too lazy to finish your time machine or by the time you do you won't be upset about this anymore. You probably went to the Jurassic period and got stomped on by a mammoth or some other large creature so one day your bones will confuse archaeologists.
  • not 2000km! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thornburg (264444) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:16PM (#21256125)
    Editor or poster added an extra 0... the anticipated range on the aircar is 200km (about 125 miles).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Red Flayer (890720)
      From the MDI site linked to in TFA page for the compressed air car:

      With the incorporation of bi-energy (compressed air + fuel) the CAT Vehicles have increased their driving range to close to 2000 km with zero pollution in cities and considerably reduced pollution outside urban areas.

      Of course, that's a hybrid compressed air / fuel car, but it quite clearly states 2000 km.

      It's an exercise for the reader to determine if that's just a number pulled out of MDI's compressed-air spewing ass, or if it's for r

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thornburg (264444)
        Ok sorry, someone else typo'd. The MDI aircar site specifically states in several places a range of "200-300km".

        e.g. http://www.theaircar.com/models.html [theaircar.com]
  • Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dedazo (737510) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:17PM (#21256135) Journal
    The iPhone is the coolest and best designed closed-off brick of the year. Nay, the decade.

    Such a great device with so much potential, it's just a shame. And I really don't even blame Apple. It's this country's telecomm industry that's broken.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by toleraen (831634)
      Why aren't you blaming Apple? They are the ones that could have released this phone without a carrier. Apple brought the idea to market, and AT&T said "Hey, we'll pay you X amount of dollars a month per user for exclusive rights!" Apple saw the $$$$ signs flashing in front of their eyes and signed away. End of story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ickoonite (639305)
        Apple saw the $$$$ signs flashing in front of their eyes and signed away. End of story.

        Corporation seeks to make profit. Film at eleven.

        Seriously, what were they supposed to do? Release it untethered to appease the fraction of the population that actually cares about shit like this, i.e. freaks like yourself? Given that they have sold well in excess of a million of these phones, it is clear that most people don't care that the phone is locked (indeed, I am willing to bet that a significant number of th
        • Is it that they don't care, or is it that they're willing to put up with a significant flaw to get the iPhone? If the later, then Apple could have told ATT to fsck themselves and might have sold even more iPhones.
          • by ickoonite (639305)
            Well, either way, they will open it up to other carriers eventually (it was only ever intended to be a limited period of exclusivity), at which point people will have to find something else to complain about. And Apple will sell a metric shitload of phones to those who wouldn't buy it because it was tethered to AT&T.

            :|
        • by toleraen (831634)

          Release it untethered...?

          Yes. Look at phones like the Razr, which you can get through multiple carriers, or directly through Motorola. I don't have the numbers, but I'd bet money that more Razrs have been sold than iPhones.

          I don't understand your troll though. The OP stated it's closed off, but blamed AT&T for closing it off. Apple chooses to close it off presumably to stay compliant with their exclusivity contract with AT&T. Therefore it's Apple to blame. They had the opportunity to release it with less restrictions,

          • by ickoonite (639305)
            Yes. Look at phones like the Razr, which you can get through multiple carriers, or directly through Motorola.

            Externally, the RAZR is a nice phone, but its interface is reminiscent of an unrefined turd. In usage, it is truly a horrible thing. The only thing worth debating is whether it is better or worse than S60 on Nokia phones. I hate them both equally (and have - alas - a Nokia). So to compare iPhones to RAZRs is a bit disingenuous - rather like comparing apples to oranges. Hohoho. One is the most rev
    • Not just this country, it'll be nominated for "Best Brick" in Europe as well.
  • The iphone is a great cell phone, but I wouldn't say it was the best invention.
    • by witte (681163)
      Not that I RTFA, but judging from the summary, this smells like slashvertisement for the iPhone, being close to christmas and all.
      And the iPhone being at the same level of awesomeness as the ability to turn *-type blood into O-type blood ?
      Whatever.
  • Iphone? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fixer007 (851350)
    How is the IPhone even classed as an invention? IT is something that already existed (cell-phone) that someone else added some gee-gaws to.

    That's like saying the 2008 Chevy Malibu is the top invention for 2008 because it is so cool and hip!

    How sad...
  • Can You Feel Me? Philips' SKIN Probes use biometric sensors and lighting to pick up on your feelings and make them visible. The Bubelle dress changes color depending on your mood. The Frisson bodysuit is covered with LEDs and fine copper hairs that light up when brushed or blown on.

    Blinded by Light The hunt for better non-lethal weaponry gained new urgency when several people died in recent years after being shocked by a Taser. The LED Incapacitator, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, is a novel alternative. When officers shine the flashlight-like device in a person's eyes, high-intensity LEDs, pulsating at varying rates, will make the suspect temporarily blind and dizzy.

    Making the Car Chase Obsolete High-speed chases may be money shots in Hollywood, but everywhere else they're just dangerous. The StarChase Pursuit Management System uses a laser-guided launcher mounted on the front grill of a cop car to tag fleeing vehicles with a GPS tracking device. Then the fuzz can hang back as real-time location data are sent to police headquarters.

    Good Morning, Sunshine Embedded with a grid of LEDs, it [pillow] uses nothing but light to wake you up. About 40 min. before reveille, the programmable foam pillow starts glowing, gradually becoming brighter, to simulate a natural sunrise.
    This helps set your circadian rhythm and ease you into the day.

  • Prize money (Score:2, Funny)

    by Relden (1030180)
    Maybe this will inspire the people who invented the blood converter to buy iPhones with their Nobel prize money.
  • The air car (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:31PM (#21256341)
    It's still a heat engine, which means, maybe 30% efficiency under ideal conditions. Then there's the problem with getting heat into the cylinder fast enough as the air expands so it won't even come close to the ideal.

    Compare with an electric motor where 95% efficiency is not uncommon. An air car just doesn't make any sense, particularly when you're using electricity to charge the tanks.

     
    • Re:The air car (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:37PM (#21256441) Homepage Journal
      The market for those Air Cars is India, where you can use the expanded air to cool the cabin after you move. There was a Slashdot article on it awhile back. There are some practicality problems with it: the air tank is pretty dangerous in an accident, but luckily safety is not as paramount over there; and the range is a bit short, but for a little cab that scoots people around the city it's not a bad solution and certainly better than adding to the smog problem with combustion engines.
    • by bjourne (1034822)
      What matters is how much energy per mass you can store. So if you can store four times as much energy using compressed air compared to batteries, then even if the efficiency is only 30% it is still a good deal. However, that seems quite unlikely to me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717)
        And the answer is, your hunch is correct -- they don't. They typically store about 50% more energy per unit weight than lead-acid batteries, but take up three times the volume. Compared to lithium or even nickel-cadmium batteries, it's no contest; batteries win easily.
    • Re:The air car (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:06PM (#21256761)
      in real life compressed air motors get about 7-15% efficiency in industrial applications, the compressed air car is a horrible waste of energy
      • by dubbreak (623656)
        While it may be a waste of energy, the tanks are much easier and cheaper to produce than battery packs (lower environmental impact I'd assume as well). Air tanks don't lose charge and should have a longer usable life span than a battery pack.

        Let's pretend that the energy going into the car is from a clean source such as wind, solar or tidal (ok, I know at this point it would be diesel, or coal generated electricity), does it matter that you are wasting it? Yes, it's not the best use of resources, but ther
      • by westlake (615356)
        the compressed air car is a horrible waste of energy

        Compressed air has been used to power locomotives in mines and tunnels, fork lifts and tractors in other hazardous environments, since the 19th century. But I have never understood its appeal as an alternative fuel for the open road.

  • No way the steam guy can get another 40% in gas mileage.

    Similarly anything powered by compressed air can't fail to have low efficiency.

    And that's just the obvious Carnot-cycle defying impossible inventions. One wonders about the rest of them.

    • Water injection systems are WWII vintage. They were used on bombers to get just a little more horsepower without melting the engines.

      That said, imagine an 8 cycle engine. The first 4 cycles you inject gasoline into the cylinders, the 2nd 4 cycles run on water. Assuming that you didn't have a radiator, the heat from the engine would produce steam that would power the pistons. You could even have a computer monitoring the temperature so that when the engine was too hot it would run on water alone, afte
    • by SoapDish (971052)
      I've seen something about the "steam guy" in other news. His engine is essentially a 6-stroke engine: Compression, Expansion, Exhaust, Water injection, Water Expansion, Intake.

      It's a way to harness the energy that's normally removed through the radiator. It works theoretically, and in tests. Problems are most likely due to materials.

      The air powered cars will be grossly inefficient, though.
      • >It's a way to harness the energy that's normally removed through the radiator. It works theoretically, and in tests. Problems are most likely due to materials.

        No kidding. Cylinders and pistons and piston rings and valves are not designed to be hit with water while at operating temps.

        A less catastrophic way to harness this wasted heat would be to fill the cooling system with plain water and let it boil, then use that steam to run a steam engine or turbine. Then the cylinders wouldn't be getting sh

  • by w3woody (44457) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:36PM (#21256423) Homepage
    The fact that the iPhone placed as "top invention" speaks more to the ubiquitousness of cell phones in our society and how irritated people are with the current state of affairs with respect to the cell carriers. Most of the Time article about the iPhone spoke about how poor current phones were (the iPhone is "pretty" because "Most high-tech companies don't take design seriously") and how it will encourage carriers to open up their sandboxes ("It's not a phone, it's a platform") than it did about how cool an "invention" the iPhone is.

    It's also interesting because many of the complaints about the iPhone revolve around the fact that Apple somehow didn't go far enough to crack the cell carrier hegemony (the iPhone is locked to a single carrier, the iPhone contract is two years) than it goes towards actual design flaws in the physical unit.

    In fact, I've never seen people get so worked up before over a single cell phone--and I suggest it's because we all hate the cell carriers and are hoping someone--either a powerful government or a powerful company (either Apple's iPhone or Google's Android OS) will force the cell carriers to improve.
    • by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:48PM (#21256569)
      Apple is doing NOTHING to break the hegemony. Apple released a phone which does barely nothing more than other phones on the market (and indeed a lot less than some), tied to a single network (which was THEIR choice), and then charged massive amounts of money for the phones. And what happened? People who either don't use phones a lot, or people who love marketing spiel, or people who love apple, bought the flying shit out of them. Apple is one of the bad guys! This article is saying that a product that isn't better than any others, but which costs more and is locked more and runs less software is somehow better than, say, any other mobile out there? That's what's truly horrifying about this. The only thing Apple is changing is how much people will pay for a mediocre phone. And currently that's $400, with a contract. Jesus.
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        That's not insignificant. Previously phone designs were limited by what it was percieved people would pay... phones were always free with a contract 6-9 months after their release, which meant they had a fixed budget. As production got cheaper, phones improved.. but it was limited.

        Then apple decided to build this hugely expensive gadget and unexpectely they actually sold some. That means others can now do the same - bigger screens, better features, faster processors.. the base phone will be a lot more ex
  • My Two Cents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Internet Ronin (919897) <internet DOT ronin AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:36PM (#21256425)
    Look, I'm an iPhone owner, and I love the damn thing, no question about it.

    It was worth every penny, and then some; the SDK should only make it better.

    However, that said, labeling it as "Invention of the Year" is a pretty sad state of affairs for the country. I'm pretty medical, environmental, and social breakthroughs deserve FAR more attention.

    I'd hate to tell the guy with cancer that the really cool virus that eats cancer cells could've had a ton more funding for R & D if only it had one Time's Invention of the Year.

    The iPhone is cool, no question, but it is the height of frivolity, and can't possibly compare with all the other wonderful things mankind is dreaming up and making a reality that deserve far more press coverage than the iPhone has already gotten.

    Not that I'm complaining too loudly, my Apple stock just keeps on truckin'
  • I've dreamed of tabbed browsing for years and finally Microsoft made my dreams come true... oh wait, that was 2006, wasn't it.
  • Ignore the iPhone (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:45PM (#21256519) Journal
    If you ignore the over-hyped (and still pretty damned cool) iPhone as 1st place, this list is pretty amazing. The water-injected engine at first glance sounds alot like the water-injection that was hyped back in the 1970s [motherearthnews.com], but it's not. A little bit of digging (thanks, Google!) reveals that it's actually a 6-stroke engine [autoweek.com] that uses the heat that would normally be radiated away. If done right, there's no need for a radiator or other cooling system!

    My first thought is about what this could mean for General Aviation - having the fuel burn rate cut by 40% WITHOUT needing any cooling gear (think: reduced weight) could be a real boon... already there are diesel aviation engines already that are significantly more efficient [flyingmag.com] ( but need radiators, and already have a high compression ratio) this could help out even more - imagine a diesel engine that reduces fuel consumption by 60%, maybe even 70%?!?!?

    Pipe dream? Yes. But I sure do hope. And it would likely happen in cars before airplanes, thanks to the glacial pace of technology advancement in aviation. Everybody's so terrified of risk that innovation is radically reduced. The reality is simply that (Private Airplanes) == (Money) == (Lawyer Bait) == (an industry that is forever on the edge of shutdown).

    If you want to see the crippling effect that excessive lawyering can cause to industry, you need look no further than private aviation.

    -Ben
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZonkerWilliam (953437) *

      Everybody's so terrified of risk that innovation is radically reduced.
      I think you hit the needle on the head. I think business and people in general are to afraid to loose what they have, so are afraid to use anything that is untried and new in their environments because there's the possibility of loss, whatever that loss may be, financial, medical, etc. Wish it was like the 50-60's when scientists and engineers thought big!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by inviolet (797804)

        I think you hit the needle on the head. I think business and people in general are to afraid to loose what they have, so are afraid to use anything that is untried and new in their environments because there's the possibility of loss, whatever that loss may be, financial, medical, etc. Wish it was like the 50-60's when scientists and engineers thought big!

        Next time you are sitting on a tort or product-liability jury, remember that feeling.

        The world has changed because we, as a society, via our juries, hav

  • by illectro (697914) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:48PM (#21256567)
    The Lucky Camera for astronomy technique has been used by amateurs for years. The Elasitc space suit was a concept going back to the 60's. Injectying water into engines is a technique that's been used for decades. These guys should edit slashdot.
  • Did this one [time.com] make anyone else think of Star Trek VI? No? Anyway, it's just another example of how science fiction can't keep up with reality. The idea of a 2001 prequel to a 1960's science fiction series is what doomed Enterprise from the start -- society and science in 2001 had surpassed many aspects of TOS (transporter and FTL excepted, of course).
  • I usually find the "best invention" of the year is something that's been around a decade or two and I just didn't know it even existed that's in my price range.

    Also known as actually knowing and using the right tool for the right job.

    It's like introducing duct tape and WD40 to some one that has never encountered or previously needed them before. I need a list of the tools that I would be using if I properly knew about them. My best invention of the decade is cheap powerful PCs for less than $600. That's mor
  • Air-car bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:04PM (#21256743) Homepage
    The "air-car" is bullshit.

    First, all they have is blurry cad-drawings, and still they claim it'll be on the market in 2008. That's not possible, if that where to actually be the case they'd have to ALREADY have several completed prototypes of the car at the minimum for safety-testing and similar.

    Second, there's just not enough energy there.

    If you believe the claims of the aircar-makers themselves, (which ain't a safe thing to do, because they assume near termic equilibrium, among other things, but nevermind) then, and I'm here quoting their website: 300 litres at 300 bars results in 46 MJ (Y 52.1 MJ with 340 litres at 300 bars ).

    Okay, so a 340lite (90 gallon!) air-tank can hold the same amount of energy as 0.4 gallons of petrol. Really

    So, after you've refilled this gargantuan 90 gallon tank with air, you'll have the equivalent of 0.4 gallons petrol worth of energy. Thereafter you have to refuel again. Who wants to refuel every 10 miles ? This think makes electric cars look EXCELLENT by comparison.
  • It's a design that integrates multiple, previously existing technologies/features/products/etc.

    But, if the design is patentable, I suppose it's an invention; I just don't hold with it.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:16PM (#21256895) Homepage

    The bookbinding machine? That was mentioned on Slashdot previously. It's not that novel. Many of the bigger copiers/printers have a binder option. Larger Kinkos outlets can crank out perfect-bound books. The price and cost figures are vaporware; the bookbinding machine isn't actually in production. The Internet Archive has a printing and binding operation in a van (the "Internet Bookmobile"), and has for years. Uses a semi-auto binder.

    The programmable water display is one of those cute one-off things. I've seen some similar gadgets, including a projection screen made of mist. That showed up at a venture capital conference in Silicon Valley a few months ago. Modulated water displays were done in Japan in the 1980s, and they've been tried in some US retail locations.

    The "air car" has some grand claims. "For various reasons, one of which is industrial secrecy, we havent published all technical details on this site." Right. The thing is actually supposed to be a gasoline-powered hybrid - "The Series 34 CATs engines can be equipped with and run on dual energies - fossil fuels and compressed air". Plus, there's an electric motor and battery in there. "Parking manoeuvres are powered by the electric motor." It's not clear why they need both electrical and compressed air energy storage. The actual range they've achieved [theaircar.com] running on compressed air is only 7.2Km. All they actually have on the road is one prototype car made of welded tubes, with steel compressed air tanks driving an ordinary reciprocating compressor as an air motor. None of their claimed technology (the carbon fibre tanks, the wierd crankshaft linkage, the low-friction seals) is in use. They have a good Monster Garage project, but not a major invention.

    The "40% more efficient gasoline engine" thing isn't new. See this 1979 article in Mother Earth News. [motherearthnews.com] Wikipedia has a good article on water injection [wikipedia.org], and there's a link to Crowder's engine. The general consensus today seems to be that turbos and intercoolers have made water injection obsolete. If you use water injection, you have to carry either a water tank about as big as the gas tank, or a condenser and oil/water separation system.

    I'm not impressed with Time's selections. There must have been some better work this year, or we're in real trouble in technology.

  • From the article: "The future of automotive technology may lie in the past. Bruce Crower, 77, an auto-racing designer with a thriving business in San Diego, has invented a hybrid steam engine in which water is sprayed into a traditional gasoline-powered cylinder, turning waste heat into usable energy. How much energy? Enough to travel 40% farther on a gallon of gas."

    This has been known for decades. The problem is that the extremely hot steam corrodes the extremely hot steel.

    Slashdot editors apparently spend all their time playing video games, and learn nothing about the world.
    • From the article: "Electric cars are so 2006. French R&D firm MDI signed a deal this year with India's largest automaker, Tata Motors, to start manufacturing compressed-air-technology vehicles. These ultra-eco-friendly cars run on air, and the only thing they emit is colder, cleaner air. Another convenient feature: a built-in air compressor can be plugged in to refill the tanks within minutes."

      I doubt there will be manufacturing; I'm guessing it is still R&D. The cylinders that carry compressed a
    • From the article: 'Boeing Phantom Works, with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory, has tested what it calls a "blended wing body," an 8.5%-scale prototype of what Boeing hopes will eventually be a fuel-efficient, quiet, high-capacity multipurpose jet for the military. The X-48B is destined for transport, bombing and intelligence. Wanna book a flight? Don't count on it ever going commercial.'

      Boeing is now in the violence for profit business.
    • Either fraud, or not explained well: "Frank Pringle, CEO of Global Resource Corp., has developed an emissions-free process that uses microwaves to pull fuel out of shale rock, tires and even plastic bottles. The extraction technology might also help recover oil that is stuck in muck inside hundreds of capped wells across the country."

      Microwaves don't "pull". They heat rock. Microwave heat costs money, since it is necessary to burn fuel to get electricity to make microwaves, and that process is not effici
    • From the article: "In April, the Tibetan Meteorological Bureau shot silver iodide particles into clouds above the Nagqu grasslands. The researchers hoped this cloud-seeding technology would produce vapors that would result in artificial snowfall. A few hours later, in a historic first, half an inch (1.3 cm) of white powder blanketed the plateau."

      This has been known for decades. Problem: Silver is expensive, and Silver Iodide is even more expensive.
    • From the article: "Imagine a big new house with free heating--and cooling. Mike Sykes' Enertia Building System relies on thick wooden walls and a natural convection current to even out temperature extremes. For more on the winning entry in this year's Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge, whose co-sponsors include the History Channel and TIME, go to history.com/invent."

      Thick wooden walls are expensive. Convection makes hot air rise, it does not "even out temperature extremes". There seems to be nothing ab
  • My vote (Score:3, Funny)

    by jay-be-em (664602) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:55PM (#21257513) Homepage
    Clearly we are in the middle of an energy crises; any innovation that can reduce our reliance on
    fossil fuels could prove to be the most important of our time. My vote is for this fellow:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rA-zhTJuFU [youtube.com]
  • God I hate articles formatted like this, please put them all on one html page so I don't have to click and wait 100 times. The 'print article' trick doesn't even work, at least provide an option for this format.
  • by slashdotmsiriv (922939) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @03:24PM (#21257855)
    This article dates back to 1979 and is one of the first google results for "water injection" http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Home-Building/1979-09-01/Water-Injection-Wizardry.aspx [motherearthnews.com] "During the second World War, fighter pilots could push a button and inject a stream of water into the turbochargers of their monstrous powerplants . . . to get extra thrust on takeoff." Similarly, Crower's engine "harnesses normally-wasted heat energy by creating steam inside the combustion chamber, and using it to boost the engine's power output and also to control its temperature" This Crower guy must have a lot of nerve to claim as his own an invention that has been around for more than half a century. He may know how to build engines, but apparently he does not know how to search the internet ... His difference with Pat Goodman that did the same thing back in 1979 is that Goodman did not lie (or chose to ignore) about the novelty of his idea. And btw, unlike Crower, Goodman had his engines tested on actual vehicles: "Pat Goodman installed his first water injection system (on a Porsche racing car) in 1964, and the racing organization responded by banning his device . . . it made the vehicle too fast! Undaunted, Pat decided that--even if the racing establishment wasn't interested in "improving the breed", he was. Today, several near-bankruptcies later, the innovative mechanic owns a vehicle that only the government could argue with: a 1978 Ford Fiesta . . . that gets 50 MPG in normal around-town driving. (This impressive figure has been verified by a MOTHER staffer, who accompanied Goodman on a 48mile jaunt around Winchester, Virginia. During the drive--which Pat accomplished with, if anything, more speed than normal--the small four-cylinder sipped only .95 gallon of unleaded gas.) "

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.

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