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12 Wacky and Sometimes Dangerous Patents for the Holiday Season

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When you're getting ready to deck your halls this year, consider these holiday and winter gadgets that were patented through the years.

1. Patent No. USD477546, "Cactus Christmas Tree"

Conifers are so last season. That explains this patent for a cactus Christmas tree, filed by Kay Lynn Como in 2002. John P. Kellar also patented a similar cactus tree in 2006.

2. Patent No. USD487878, "Snowman Shaped Christmas Tree"


If even a cactus is too traditional, try this snowman Christmas tree, patented by Robert Ostermann in 2003.

3. Patent No. 5279871, "Action Christmas Tree Ornament"

This "action ornament," patented by Marc H. Segan in 1994, is a miniature operating ski slope and ski lift. Like Penguin Race for your tree!

4. Patent No. USD374968, "Tea Bag with Christmas Tree Shape"

Karen Tillquist, who filed this patent, clearly believes that around the holidays, even your tea should be festive. (Ditto your pasta.)

5. Patent USD571251, "Modified Christmas Tree"

This tree, patented by Carlos Rosas in 2008, is perfect for those who are only marginally motivated to decorate for the holidays: Just anchor it to the wall!

6. Patent No. 1324342, "Bicycle Sleigh"

This vehicle, patented by Tom Dohoszuk in 1919, is "simulative of a bicycle and similarly operated whereby a rider may advance over the surface of ice or snow at a relatively high speed ... [and provides] means whereby the tractional effect may be increased or diminished at will, permitting the vehicle to glide upon a downwardly inclined surface or the traction wheel may be used as a brake when desired." Sounds fun—and dangerous!

7. Patent No. USD317397, "Reindeer door knob cover"

This festive/kinda scary door knob cover is for the holiday homemaker who has everything. It was patented by Mary C. Guberman in 1991.

8. Patent No. USD528268, "Holiday Hat"

This hat, patented in 2006 by Janet Story Cope, would go perfectly with your ugly Christmas sweater!

9. Patent No. US1431440, "Snow Motor Vehicle"

This vehicle looks like it came straight from a superhero movie, but it was designed to tackle a very specific, non-superhero problem: Navigating on snowy roads. "In northern latitudes, where the snow fall is heavy for several months of the year, transportation by horse power and by wheeled motor vehicles is always difficult and often impossible," writes F.R. Birch in the patent for this vehicle, granted in 1922. "A successful snow motor vehicle must travel over deep, fresh snow falls, compacted snow or ice, ice crusts overlying soft snow, and slush, and must also accommodate itself to surface irregularities. ... So far as I am aware, I am the first to produce a really practical motor sled incorporating all of the features which are found to be essential in practice."

10. Patent No. US3561783, "Ski Bike"

Next to this ski bike, patented by Sunset Ave. (and invented by Richard H. Ellett) in 1971, that snow bike up above doesn't seem so dangerous. It's designed to be highly portable, rugged and durable, and "is capable of achieving high coasting speeds with with easy maneuverability in all snow conditions."

11. Patent No. USD372207, "Santa Figure in A Tub"

Santa obviously gets very dirty shimmying down all those chimneys—which is what we're going to believe is the inspiration for this figure, patented in 1996 by Seymour Cohen (who also brought us Patent No. USD385588, "Santa in a barrel blowing bubbles" and a whole slew of other Santa-themed inventions).

12. Patent No. US2607333, "Snowball Gun"

This device, patented by James W.O. Dell in 1952, will give its users an edge in their neighborhood snowball fight by forming and firing off pellets of snow. You won't shoot your own eye out, but the potential of taking out someone else's seems pretty high.

For 12-12-12, we’ll be posting twenty-four '12 lists' throughout the day. Check back 12 minutes after every hour for the latest installment, or see them all here.

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Space
SpaceX's Landing Blooper Reel Shows That Even Rocket Scientists Make Mistakes
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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches.
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On March 30, 2017, SpaceX did something no space program had done before: They relaunched an orbital class rocket from Earth that had successfully achieved lift-off just a year earlier. It wasn't the first time Elon Musk's company broke new ground: In December 2015, it nailed the landing on a reusable rocket—the first time that had been done—and five months later landed a rocket on a droneship in the middle of the ocean, which was also unprecedented. These feats marked significant moments in the history of space travel, but they were just a few of the steps in the long, messy journey to achieve them. In SpaceX's new blooper reel, spotted by Ars Technica, you can see just some of the many failures the company has had along the way.

The video demonstrates that failure is an important part of the scientific process. Of course when the science you're working in deals with launching and landing rockets, failure can be a lot more dramatic than it is in a lab. SpaceX has filmed their rockets blowing up in the air, disintegrating in the ocean, and smashing against landing pads, often because of something small like a radar glitch or lack of propellant.

While explosions—or "rapid unscheduled disassemblies," as the video calls them—are never ideal, some are preferable to others. The Falcon 9 explosion that shook buildings for miles last year, for instance, ended up destroying the $200 million Facebook satellite onboard. But even costly hiccups such as that one are important to future successes. As Musk once said, "If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."

You can watch the fiery compilation below.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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travel
One Day, You May Not Have to Take Your Laptop Out at the Airport
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

TSA security lines might be a little less annoying in the future. According to Condé Nast Traveler, the agency will soon test new airport scanners that allow you to keep your liquids and laptop in your carry-on bag during security screening, a benefit currently only available to those who have been accepted into the agency’s PreCheck program.

The ConneCT scanners have met the TSA's "advanced technology detection standards," according to the company that makes them, Analogic, meaning that they can be tested out at airports across the U.S.

Computed tomography scanning technology is regularly used in hospitals and research labs for everything from diagnosing cancer to studying mummies. The imaging technique uses x-rays that rotate around whatever object is being imaged to create 3D images that provide more detail than those created by the regular x-ray scanners currently used to inspect carry-on luggage.

The ConneCT scanners have been in the works for 10 years. The devices have x-ray cameras that spin around the conveyor belt that holds your bag, creating a 3D image of it. Then algorithms help flag whether there's something suspicious inside so that it can be pulled aside for further screening by hand. They've already been tested in airports in Phoenix and Boston, but haven't been used on a national level yet.

But don't expect to see the high-tech scanners at your local airport anytime soon. According to the TSA, they have to undergo yet more testing before any of the machines can be deployed, and there’s no timetable for that yet.

Until then, as you're packing your liquids, just remember—you can always just freeze them.

[h/t Conde Nast Traveler]

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