Tag Archives: Invention

Whittle jet engine and how a plane flies

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FRANK WHITTLE: Genius inventor of the jet engine

IT’S quite amazing to consider that we are able to fly. We have built huge, metal birds they are able to take up to 800 people 11 000 metres above the ground without flapping their wings. Granted that aeroplanes are by no means perfect; but having achieved flight, and moreover being able to launch rockets into space, is certainly an achievement to be proud of. And it’s all thanks to the turbojet engine, or rather the man behind its invention.

Whenever one thinks of flight, the immediate names and imagery that might pop into one’s head are those of the Wright Brothers. Media coverage of such events, and consequently their recording into the history books, has a lot to do with that. History tends to neglect those without the proper status, family background or financial backing. In fact, the working class genius that thrust Britain firmly into the jet age was largely ignored by the British government and air ministry. They didn’t even bother to send a cameraman to the first (and successful) test flight of Britain’s first jet.

Frank Whittle (born 1907) is the genius to thank for our modern day aviation industry. Whittle began working as a fitter for the RAF (Royal Air Force) at the age of 16. Soon after he was air-born and performing stunt shows for the public. At 21 Whittle wrote a thesis titled Future Developments in Aircraft Design, in which he foresaw the entire future of flight. At 22, Whittle took out a patent for a jet turbine. He was also given a model aeroplane at age 4.

What made Frank Whittle’s jet engine unique is that it consisted of only one moving part – as opposed to the hundreds of moving parts used in conventional piston engines. Whittle’s piston-less jet engine also had no propeller, and drove planes through the air by thrust alone. Once patented and produced, Whittle’s remarkable engine successfully thrust Britain into the jet age and turned the aviation industry on its head.

The Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 – currently the largest passenger aeroplane in the world (image: wikipedia.org)

The Airbus A380 – currently the largest passenger aeroplane in the world (image: wikipedia.org)

How a jet engine works

The single moving part in a jet engine is the bladed turbine that spins at a remarkable speed and makes that familiar noise as a plane prepares for take-off. Air is sucked in and accelerated into large combustion chambers where fuel is injected and ignited. The ejection and burning of fuel heats and expands the air and gives it enough energy to drive the turbine. The turbine, in turn, accelerates the hot air at high ‘jet speed’ providing enough thrust to drive an aeroplane forward.

Actually getting into the air and staying there is all to do with working against opposing forces. It’s all a matter of lift versus weight and thrust versus drag. One also needs to consider the air as fluid – a sea of scattered water molecules that has density. In other words, an aeroplane sails across the sky rather than flies while a fish flies through the sea rather than swims. This is why it’s difficult to take off where the air is thin and why we should hope for a cold day whenever we fly.

It has to be said that Frank Whittle was a bit of an unapplauded genius. Being able to simplify a complex mechanism consisting of hundreds of moving parts into the single turbine jet engine, is nothing short of elegant. Being able to predict the next 50 years of an entire industry, is nothing short of visionary.

Accidental inventions discovered by mistake

INVENTIONS: some discovered purely by mistake

THEY say necessity is the mother of all invention. While this may be true during times of war and famine, etc., many inventions were conceptualised while the inventors were sitting on the toilet or trying to prevent their ice cream from melting. It’s rather interesting to consider how many life-changing inventions were discovered entirely by accident. Here are a few inventions that came about in unusual ways.

Accidental inventions: Potato chips

potato chipsMr Crum, a chef in Saratoga Springs, New York, was having a tough day at the office. A patron, who had ordered a plate of fried potatoes, kept sending them back asking for them to be thinner and more fried. Crum eventually lost his temper. He sliced the potato so thin that it went rock hard when fried. To his surprise the disgruntled customer really liked them and kept asking for more.

Accidental inventions: Penicillin

penicillinSir Alexander Fleming knew nothing about penicillin until he threw away his experiments and equipment. He was working on a wonder drug to help cure diseases and was having a tough time of it. It was when Fleming noticed that a contaminated Petri dish he had discarded contained a mould that was dissolving all the bacteria around it, that the powerful antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered.

Accidental inventions: The Slinky

the slinkyThe slinky has got to be one of the most unusual toys that had a darker side behind its invention. Naval engineer Richard­ Jones was working on a meter designed to monitor power on naval battleships. Jones was using tension springs when one of them fell to the ground and continued bouncing from place to place. And so the slinky was born.

Accidental inventions: The outboard motor

outboard motorNorwegian inventor Ole Evinrude was enjoying a holiday with his wife on an island during the summer of 1906. He had made an eight-kilometre round trip to get his beloved some ice cream during a hot summer’s day. Upset that the ice cream had melted before his return, he begun to ponder how he could get across the water faster. By mounting a motorcycle engine onto the back of his rowboat and attaching a propeller, Evinrude had invented the first outboard motor.

Accidental inventions: The microwave oven

old microwave ovenPercy Spencer was an engineer conducting a radar-related research project with a new vacuum tube. During his experiments he noticed that a chocolate bar in his pocket had begun to melt. When he placed popcorn seeds into the machine and they began to pop, Spencer knew he had invented something revolutionary.

Accidental inventions: Kellogg’s Cornflakes

Kelloggs CornflakesThe Kellogg brothers, Will and John, were simply making a pot of boiled grain when they discovered a pot that had been accidently left on the stove for several days. The mixture had turned mouldy, but the product that emerged was dry and thick. Upon removing the mould, the brothers had created one of the U.S.A.’s favourite breakfast cereals.

Accidental inventions: Fireworks

fireworksWhile we all know that fireworks were invented in China, their creation is somewhat uncertain. According to legend, a cook was experimenting with charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre, which are believed to have been common kitchen items 2000 years ago. When the cook noticed that a combination of these ingredients ignited with fury, he mixed them into a bamboo tube. The rest, as they say, is history.

How wine changed the course of history

INVENTION: Ideas that changed the world

THERE is one historical factoid that simply blows my neo cortex and will probably continue to astound me until the day I die. It is perhaps more of a hypothetical than anything else and begs the age-old question of “what if?”

Roman Cage Cup from the 4th century A.D. (Image: Wikipedia)

Roman Cage Cup from the 4th century A.D.

Around 100 BC European cultures started to become increasingly fond of their favourite drink, wine, as they perfected its creation and associated it with wealth and prosperity. The beautiful colour of wine, its taste and scent became such an obsession that the Romans­ started to discover better ways to preserve their fermented elixir.

Thus, glass entered our world, and resulted in a chain of invention that is still being advanced today. Glass led to lens grinding and spectacles, meaning that intellectuals and scientists had an extra 15 to 20 years of reading and active life. Microscopes came into play, which led to the discovery of micro-organisms, including the discovery and behaviour of the bacterium.

On a larger scale, telescopes gazed outwards, allowing humankind to further its knowledge of our galaxy and the Earth’s place within it. And because glass is chemically neutral — meaning that it doesn’t react to anything that’s in it — chemicals could be mixed in glass beakers and flasks. This advanced chemistry and modern medicine to new levels.

This is not to mention plasma computer screens, cellphones, light bulbs, windows, windscreens, clocks and watches, glass domes and spaceships. Glass valves have become essential in modern electronics too and can be found in several household items that don’t have a particularly glassy feel.

And all because Europeans enjoyed their wine.

Glass bottled wineMeanwhile, on the other side of the planet, one of the most inventive people to have ever lived, the Chinese­, were quite content with the teacup. They had no interest in Western wine and used paper and ceramics as glass substitutes. Chinese windows and lanterns were all made from paper­ and the potential of glass was never recognised­ in the East due to their preference for tea.

So from the 14th century right up to the 19th century­, glass did not exist in the Eastern part of the world. While the Chinese did go on to invent a myriad of other things, it can be argued that not inventing glass held back the course of Chinese history.

Of course a lack of glass did not stop the Chinese from going on to invent other things. We have them to thank for paper, printing, gunpowder, the compass, archeology, automatically opening doors, hydraulics, the bristle toothbrush, landmines, fireworks, the fishing reel, kites, the crossbow, playing cards, porcelain, the rudder, tofu, toilet paper, the wheelbarrow, and of course, China.

Yet the thought of what may have been invented if glass has existed in China for those 500 years is staggering. The world as we know it could be a lot different today if things had panned out differently. We might all be speaking Chinese and drinking tea.

Product ideas that could have made you a fortune

INVENTION: Light bulb moments that could have (or may) make millions

ADVERTISING is an interesting field in the evolution of human society. Adverts have the power to play on our wants and desires subtly and subconsciously, and can effectively make use buy things we really don’t need.

I love a good and clever advert. I often find myself studying their techniques rather than focusing on what they’re trying to sell. However, as clever and intuitive as advertisers may be, the truth is that no one really knows what will sell.

I’m sure we’ve all had great invention ideas that might have made us filthy rich at some stage in our lives. Mine is being able to phone your keys when you lose them. As far as I know, this could be achieved by simply installing a SIM card and speaker into your key bundle. It’s only function would be to ring whenever the assigned number is called. Wouldn’t that be bliss?

If you are the inventive type please feel free to steal my idea and make your millions. I won’t press charges. I’m fairly certain that something like this doesn’t exist on the market yet else we’d all be phoning our keys from time to time.

Otherwise here are some other product ideas that could have made you (or someone) a fortune. Most of them are quite practical and I’m sure many have actually made it to the shelves. I just wish we could find them locally. Enjoy!

Invention ideas that could have made you millions

Tape measure belt

Tape measure belt

Pillow with arm hole

Pillow with arm hole

Pizza Scissors

Pizza Scissors

Couple's umbrella

Couple's umbrella

Stair shoe drawer

Stair shoe drawer

Toilet Chair

Toilet Chair

Bottle Opener Remote

Bottle Opener Remote

Self-locking bendy bike

Self-locking bendy bike

Microphone shower sponge

Microphone shower sponge

Flower Power

Flower Power

Bachelor's drinks pourer

Bachelor's drinks pourer

Double bed measure

Double bed measure

Sauce dispensing chopsticks

Sauce dispensing chopsticks

Anti-fail waiter tray

Anti-fail waiter tray

Finger Guard 3000

Finger Guard 3000

Camera holder

Camera holder

Spring bed

Spring bed

Car swivel chair

Car swivel chair

Anti-spill keyboard tray

Anti-spill keyboard tray

Strange inventions from around the world

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WEIRD INVENTIONS: SOME which never made it to the shelves

THERE are over six million patents in the U.S. alone — most of which have never been taken seriously and made it to the shelves. Some of them are quite practical while others make one ask: “Just what were they thinking?” Below are the most bizarre if not the most humorous patent inventions from around the globe.

Self-perfuming suitSelf-perfuming business suit

Patent date: 2009
Inventor: Hyuk-ho Kwon (Korea)
Description: This suit is impregnated with substances which contain scented micro-capsules which break when pressed. That means that the suit perfumes itself whenever you sit in a chair, cross your arms, bump into somebody, or somebody gives you a pat on the back.

Washing machine for cats and dogs

Pet washing machinePatent date: 1998
Inventors: Eduardo Segura and Andrés­ Diaz
Description: The Lavakan — a side-loading automatic pet washing machine. The co-inventors of the Lavakan decided that their dogs deserve the same treatment that humans get from a shower massage. The side-loading automatic pet washing machine is said to be safer and less stressful for animals than washing them by hand. The Lavakan soaps, rinses and dries dogs and cats in less than half-an-hour.

Santa Claus DetectorSanta Claus Detector

Patent Date: 1996
Inventor: Thomas Cane (USA)
Description: With this wonderful gadget your children need never miss Santa Claus again. Hang the stockings over the fireplace and it will detect Santa the moment he emerges from the chimney. When the chubby chap is detected lights on the stocking will flash – heralding his arrival.

PawSense

PawSense

Patent date: Unknown
Inventor: Chris Niswander (U.S.)
Description: Software that detects cats walking across the keyboard.

When cats walk or climb on your keyboard, they can enter random commands and data that may damage your files and even crash your computer. PawSense is a software utility that helps protect your computer from cats by constantly monitoring keyboard activity by analysing keypress timings and combinations to distinguish cat typing from human typing and quickly detects and blocks cat typing.

Electromechanical teenager repellantElectromechanical Teenager Repellent

Patent date: 1993
Inventor: Howard Stapleton (Wales)
Description: A device that makes an annoying high-pitched noise that’s audible to teenagers only.

The “Mosquito” ultrasonic teenage deterrent aims to solve the problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls or anywhere else where they many be causing trouble. The device claims to be “the most effective tool in our fight against anti-social behaviour”.

Apparatus for facilitating childbirth by centrifugal forceChildbirth Giver 2000

Patent date: Unknown
Inventors: George and Charlotte Blonsky (United States)
Device description: To aid women in giving birth by strapping them onto a circular table, which is then rotated at high speed.

Blonsky and Blonsky argue: “In the case of a woman who has a fully developed muscular system and has had ample physical exertion all through the pregnancy, as is common with all more primitive peoples, nature provides all the necessary equipment and power to have a normal and quick delivery … [This] apparatus will assist the under-equipped woman by creating a gentle, evenly distributed, properly directed, precision-controlled force that acts in unison with and supplements her own efforts.”

Antiflatulent underwearAnti-flatulence underwear

Patent date: Unknown
Inventor: Buck Weimer (U.S.)
Description: “Under-Ease” — airtight underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter that removes bad-smelling gases before they escape.

As the slogan says: “Wear them for the ones you love”.

Dog-to-human language translation deviceDog-to-human language translation device

Patent date: 2002
Inventors: Keita Sato, Dr Matsumi Suzuki and Dr Norio Kogure (Japan)
Description: Bow-Lingual – a computer-based automatic dog-to-human language translation device.

The Bow-Lingual device consists of a wireless microphone that attaches to your dog’s collar, and a walkie-talkie-like handset with an LCD screen. Barks and yelps are transmitted to the handset, where your dog’s “voiceprint” is analysed and placed into one of six emotional categories: happy, sad, on guard, frustrated, needy or assertive. Once the appropriate emotional state is determined, the Bow-Lingual randomly selects a phrase belonging to that category and displays it on the screen.

Cocky ClockyAlarm clock that runs away from you

Patent date: 2006
Inventor: Gauri Nanda (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Description: Introducing “Clocky”, the alarm clock that runs away and hides if you don’t get out of bed on time.

Clocky allows its owner to snooze just once. If you still don’t wake up, Clocky will jump off the bedside table and wheel away — mindlessly bumping into objects until he finds a spot to rest. The only option is to then get out of bed and silence his alarm. Clocky is said to find new hiding spots every morning.

Gravity-powered shoe air conditioner

Gravity Powered Shoe Air-ConditionerPatent date: 1994
Inventor: Siegel (Israel)

Do your feet sweat so badly that even your dog avoids you? With the gravity-powered shoe air-conditioner this can be a thing of the past for it will keep your feet at an ideal temperature all day long. Incorporated inside the heel is a compressor-expander which is powered by gravity pressures placed upon the shoe when you walk. A network of heat exchangers, containing a low boiling-point liquid, transfer this energy to the soles of the shoes and you can heat or cool your feet. Just be careful you don’t walk so fast that you get frostbite.

flamethrowerSouth African car alarm

Patent date: Unknown
Inventors: Charl Fourie and
Michelle Wong (Johannesburg)
Description: An automobile burglar alarm consisting of a detection circuit and a flamethrower — to provide a deterrent to car-jackings.

The inventors argue: “when a carjacking occurs, the driver steps on an additional pedal next to the accelerator and flames erupt from the outer sides of both front doors, “neutralising” the assailant. The device essentially functions as a liquefied petroleum gas flamethrower.” The inventor claims it is unlikely to kill but would “definitely blind” the assailant. In South Africa, it is legal­ to use lethal force in self-defence if in fear of one’s life, and ownership of flamethrowers is unrestricted.

Pat On The Back ApparatusPat On The Back Apparatus

Patent Date: 1986
Inventor: Ralph R. Piro
Description: A device for providing a self-administered pat-on-the-back or a congratulatory gesture providing (in the words of the inventor) “a needed psychological lift.”

The inventor argues: “The device of the present invention may also be utilized to impart significant psychological benefits to the user. In this connection, it is well known in the art and practice of self-administered positive reinforcement activity that various techniques can be successfully employed to extol the virtues of one’s actions and thoughts. For example, it has been reported that many wealthy and successful individuals engage in conversations with themselves, that is, they talk to themselves. Such an activity is understandable in view of the often small populace of self-motivated individuals and in view of the large volume of self-defeatist conversation known to emanate from those of low self esteem.”

Flying Saucer Camera

Flying Saucer Camera

This "Flying Saucer Camera" was first introduced back in 1953 and was designed specifically for the Air Force.

Sources: www.weird-websites.comwww.techeblog.comwww.oddee.com