A full-face helmet made from solid wood, Gernsback’s invention claimed to cut out 95 per cent of any noise bothering the wearer.
Another handy feature was the minimal vision it allowed.
A small piece of glass granted the person wearing it sight, but even that was painted black, with only a thin segment scraped clear to allow you to see paper in front of them.
The good (and maybe bad) of being both an inventor and publisher, is no one can stop you publishing images of your own ridiculous inventions.
This contraption was featured in Gernsback’s own magazine, Science and Invention, in 1925.
Later, the inventor added an oxygen tank when it was found wearers were getting sleepy inside the quiet, dark and – as it turns out – carbon-dioxide-filled helmet.
Laugh all you want, but it seems as though the Isolator may have actually worked – at least for Gernsback.
His editing and writing output was so vast that some now dub him the Father of Science Fiction.
This bicycle, designed by Benjamin Bowden, was included in the “Britain Can Make It Better” exhibition of 1946.
Known simply as the Classic (and later the Spacelander), Bowden’s initial design for the bicycle included a motor that gave riders a little extra oomph while traveling uphill.
Bowden’s streamlined design was said to represent what the bicycle of twenty years hence was supposed to look like.
And appropriately, it wouldn’t go into production in the United States until 1960.
The only problem was that nobody wanted one. They were both out of style and terribly expensive ($90, or about $730 adjusted for inflation).
Only about 500 were ever produced. But the Spacelander is a big collector’s item these days.
There aren’t many authentic Spacelanders existing outside of museums, but there are plenty of reproductions—many of which are passed off as the real thing by dodgy folks targeting collectors.
“Just by sitting down in my office and thinking about it, I said to myself I should select a product that had not been made before,” Bowden told interviewers in 1993, reflecting on his work at the age of 87.
Don’t worry, mate, I heard you tentatively whisper, “just what exactly is mouth pipetting, dare I ask?”
Like so: insert an open-ended glass capillary tube into your mouth.
Place the opposite, tapered end of the tube into a solution of your choice.
Microbial stews, blood, cell culture, it is totally your call.
With a method that carefully mimics the sucking of a straw, draw a solution upwards through your man-made pipette to your desired volume using the tension created by the reduced air pressure – yes, suction!
Maintain the tension with your mouth.
Do not suck too hard and inadvertently slurp the solution into your mouth.
Careful now. Gently move the pipette end from one vessel and release your precious cargo into yet another vessel.
There you go. Done.
Photo: World’s Longest Pencil, 65 Feet in Length, (Kuala Lumpur).
1 There is no risk of lead poisoning if you stab yourself with a pencil because it contains no lead—just a mixture of clay and graphite. Still, pencil wounds carry a risk of infection .
2 Graphite, a crystallized form of carbon, was discovered near Keswick, England, in the mid-16th century. An 18th-century German chemist, A. G. Werner, named it, sensibly enough, from the Greek graphein, “to write.”
3 The word “pencil” derives from the Latin penicillus, which means strangely enough “little tail.”
4 Pencil marks are made when tiny graphite flecks, often just thousandths of an inch wide, stick to the fibres that make up paper.
5 The average pencil holds enough graphite to draw a line about 35 miles long or to write roughly 45,000 words. Who was the lunatic who tested that?
6 French pencil inventors include Nicolas-Jacques Conté, who patented a clay-and-graphite manufacturing process in 1795; Bernard Lassimone, who patented the first pencil sharpener in 1828; and Therry des Estwaux, who invented an improved mechanical sharpener in 1847.
7 French researchers also hit on the idea of using caoutchouc, a vegetable gum now known as rubber, to erase pencil marks. Until then, writers removed mistakes with bread crumbs.
8 Most pencils sold in America today have eraser tips, while those sold in Europe usually have none.
9 In 1861, Eberhard Faber (picured) built the first American mass-production pencil factory in New York City.
10 Pencils were among the basic equipment issued to Union soldiers during the Civil War.
11 The mechanical pencil was patented in 1822. The company founded by its British developers prospered until 1941, when the factory was bombed, presumably by pencil-hating Nazis.
12 More than half of all pencils come from China. In 2004, factories there turned out 10 billion pencils, enough to circle the earth more than 40 times.
13 Pencils can write in zero gravity and so were used on early American and Russian space missions—even though NASA engineers worried about the flammability of wood pencils those concerns inspired Paul Fisher to develop the pressurized Fisher Space Pen in 1965.
14 The world’s largest pencil is a Castell 9000, on display at the manufacturer’s plant near Kuala Lumpur.
Made of Malaysian wood and polymer, it stands 65 feet high.
The summer of 1799 saw a new fad take hold in one remarkable circle of British society: the inhalation of “Laughing Gas”.
The overseer and pioneer of these experiments was a young Humphry Davy, future President of the Royal Society.
Mike Jay explores how Davy’s extreme and near-fatal regime of self-experimentation with the gas not only marked a new era in the history of science but a turn toward the philosophical and literary romanticism of the century to come.
Detail from a satirical print from 1830 depicting Humphry Davy administering a dose of Laughing Gas to a woman while Count Rumford looks on (cropped out of the picture above), above the caption “Prescription for Scolding Wives” – Source Wikimedia.
On Boxing Day of 1799 the twenty-year-old chemist Humphry Davy (picture below) – later to become Sir Humphry, inventor of the miners’ lamp, President of the Royal Society and domineering genius of British science – stripped to the waist, placed a thermometer under his armpit and stepped into a sealed box specially designed by the engineer James Watt for the inhalation of gases, into which he requested the physician Dr. Robert Kinglake to release twenty quarts of nitrous oxide every five minutes for as long as he could retain consciousness.