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Cool Ideas Roundup

The following are some pretty cool inventions and ideas I stumbled across while searching the latest sources of news and innovation online.

New Use for Prosthetic Leg

It was reported in April, 2012 that Christopher Greer, of Uniontown, while spending time in a county jail in Pennsylvania, was discovered to have hidden a cell phone and a charger for it inside his prosthetic leg. He faces a preliminary hearing May 22 on a contraband charge. So far nobody is offering him a break for creativity in breaking the rules.

Worms and Human Longevity

At the University of Nottingham, researchers have found out how planarian flatworms stop the aging process to be potentially immortal. They can apparently regenerate their telomeres. As a result they have an apparently unlimited ability to replace aged or damaged tissues and cells, and to grow new muscles, skin, and even brains. Of course this research will be looked at with an eye toward applying the knowledge gained to prolonging human life spans.

KickStarter

This is not exactly new, but kickstarter.com is still a cool idea that many people don't know about. The basic idea is that you have an idea for a project that you need funding for, and KickStarter provides a platform for getting those funds. These people are not exactly investors. As the website says, your project will be "supported by friends, fans, and the public in return for rewards." For example, if you want to travel the world to do a photo book abut the restaurants of fifty different countries, you post the details of your plan, the amount you need to make it happen, and then you might offer contributors exclusive access to your blog which you update as you travel, or a free copy of the book once it is done.

Mind Reading iPhone App

Have your friend think of a number or image and then "send" their thought to to an iPhone. When they turn over the phone they see their thoughts right there on the screen. This is how the new app from Richard Wiseman of quirkology.com works. Here is a video demonstration:

Walkability Website

This is another idea that is now a few years old but for which the founders website is still relatively unknown. You can visit the site here:

http://www.walkscore.com/

The basic idea is that you can enter any address in the United States and get a rating on how "walkable" the area is. More than that, you also get a map which shows what will be near you if you choose to live at that address. This site provided one of the tools that helped my wife and I choose the condo we bought in Naples, Florida. Sometimes we want to just leave the car home, and it is great to know what's in the area even before you look at a property for sale. Personally, I look for a static score that's above 40 or so, and then focus on what places are actually nearby. You can check for restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, and bars, among other places.

Psychological Research With Obvious Applications

I love to read about research studies that have immediately useful applications. These are often reported briefly in magazines and online blogs, and then forgotten. For example consider this report from a Natural News article:

Social psychologist Ellen Langer performed an experiment in which she asked to cut in line to use a copy machine. She tested three different ways of asking, and recorded the results:

'Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?' 60% said OK.

'Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I'm in a rush?' 94% said OK.

Using because I'm in a rush yielded a huge approval boost. Even more impressive was the next trial:

'Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?' 93% said OK.

Using the word 'because' is more important than the ensuing reason. It seems that just having a reason is enough, regardless of what that reason may be, even if it doesn't make much sense or actually justify the special request.

Now that's a research result which provides something you or I can apply in everyday life, assuming we have even the little bit of imagination necessary to invent or state a reason for a request. Perhaps that's one of the more immediately useful ideas here.


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