Reinventing the Wheel



So, today’s folderol is down to Inkbiotic. During a recent ‘conversation’ she suggested that I should invent something, and I haven’t been able to get the idea out of my head ever since. (I should point out that in that same comment she did, herself, suggest the invention of Kaleidoscope Windows – an idea that is so inspired I know that anything I propose will not come close to matching it but, hey ho, sitting back and doing nothing will butter no parsnips, so failure, as usual, is my starting point.) Now, I should start by saying that I can think of hundreds of things that should be invented: gardening gloves with a built-in sensor that will warn you when you are about to plunge knuckle-deep into a subterranean mound of cat crap; a device that shuts down the phone if the user spends too long on it without a break (i-phones already have one – it is called the battery); sunglasses that remove glare whilst still allowing you to see; sensors that activate an ejection platform under anyone who stops at the top of an escalator – what I can’t think of is how you actually go about inventing them.

The first obstacle is IT. For a start, I make a point of never trusting an acronym. They are generally invented to make the hostile sound more friendly. I am not exactly IT-phobic, just inept. I deal with all IT issues in the same manner:
1. Turn off the device
2. Unplug the device
3. Shout at the device
4. Walk away from the device, making threats against its very existence
5. Return after a while, turn it on and hope for the best.
In this I am almost uniquely unsuited to the invention of anything that requires the use of micro-circuitry. I can safely leave Messrs. Google, Microsoft and Facebook to subjugate us in that respect – I must find another field to furrow.

Which brings me to the purely mechanical – and here I am faced with a whole new set of difficulties. Add ham-fistedness to ineptitude and you are on your way. Engineering is not one of my strengths. I made a car out of Meccano once, but the wheels kept falling off. It sloped to the left at an angle of forty five degrees. The little nuts kept falling off the bolts and lodging between the floorboards. I was fifty. We didn’t have floorboards. God knows where the little nuts have gone.

At the most basic of levels, there are things that I simply do not understand (and not understanding the most basic of scientific principles must be seen as something of a stumbling block tossed into the path of true invention): why don’t huge cruise ships, with tiny underwater hulls and huge skyscrapers on top, just fall over? If I put ice in a glass of water, it cools it. So how does melting sea-ice contribute warming oceans? Why is the magnetic North Pole not at the Actual North Pole – have they fallen out? I still don’t understand why the tail doesn’t hit the ground when an airplane takes off.

So, we dismiss anything even vaguely technical. I will not be inventing the remote control bath because:
1. I would not be able to get to grips with the remote control and constantly changing the channel on next-door’s TV every time I try to take a bath is probably not the best route to neighbourly harmony
2. My grasp of the basic principles of plumbing is about as great as that of the ‘plumber’ who recently mended our downstairs loo without reconnecting the pipes.

We are left with the possibility of reinventing something that has already been invented. Refining, perhaps. Re-assigning, if we’re lucky. A bit like recording a cover version of a great song – fine for anyone that hasn’t heard the original, but otherwise, what’s the point?

Even then, I’m not certain that my imagination works in that way. Would I look at a wedge of wood and think ‘I bet that would be a good way of keeping a door open’ or would I think ‘cheese – I fancy some cheese’? My imagination is vivid, but not always reliably so. Given some construction materials, an electric motor and a spot by the seashore would I think desalination plant, or would I think Crazy Golf Course? (I think you know the answer.)

Most of the early, truly important inventions: fire, the wheel, metal smelting happened by accident, and I have loads of those. Leave me in a room with a hammer and you will quickly comprehend the full implication of the ‘Chaos Theory’. A thoroughly inebriated Thor could not compete with me on the mallet mayhem front. However, even though Watt accidentally invented the 3.15 from Clapham Junction whilst attempting to make a cup of tea and Fleming stumbled across penicillin after being slightly reckless with his cheese sandwich crumbs in the laboratory, they both had some element of genius in order to take their discoveries further.

So, here’s my Big Idea. When I was a child, you could buy ‘X-Ray Specs’ with which – they claimed – it was possible to see the living skeletons of those around you. In fact, they were simply a pair of cardboard glasses with cardboard ‘lenses’, each of which had a tiny pin-hole at the centre of the spiral that was printed upon them. To say that they didn’t work is obvious. To say that you were much more likely to see portions of your own skeleton after falling down the stairs whilst wearing them, probably equally so, but they provided the seed from which my big invention has grown. I have invented spectacles that do let you see through people: not what’s inside them, but what they really mean. Wear them and no-one will ever be able to lie to you again. Now, how cool is that?

OK, that’s my bit over: the big invention has been, er, invented.

Now it’s just up to you to make it work…

To invent an airplane is nothing.  To build one is something.  But to fly is everything.       Otto Lilienthal (Manned flight pioneer)

He’s a germ free adolescent, cleanliness is her obsession
Cleans her teeth ten times a day
Scrub away, scrub away, scrub away the S.R. way   Germ Free Adolescent – (X-Ray Spex)  P. Styrene