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12 Wacky and Sometimes Dangerous Patents for the Holiday Season

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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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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Animals
Watch Christmas Island’s Annual Crab Migration on Google Street View
Google
Google

Every year, the 45 million or so red crabs on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island migrate en masse from their forest burrows down to the ocean to mate, and so the female crabs can release their eggs into the sea to hatch. The migration starts during the fall, and the number of crabs on the beach often peaks in December. This year, you don’t have to be on Christmas Island to witness the spectacular crustacean event, as New Atlas reports. You can see it on Google Street View.

Watching the sheer density of crabs scuttling across roads, boardwalks, and beaches is a rare visual treat. According to the Google blog, this year’s crabtacular finale is forecasted for December 16, and Parks Australia crab expert Alasdair Grigg will be there with the Street View Trekker to capture it. That is likely to be the day when crab populations on the beaches will be at their peak, giving you the best view of the action.

Crabs scuttle across the forest floor while a man with a Google Street View Trekker walks behind them.
Google

Google Street View is already a repository for a number of armchair travel experiences. You can digitally explore remote locations in Antarctica, recreations of ancient cities, and even the International Space Station. You can essentially see the whole world without ever logging off your computer.

Sadly, because Street View isn’t live, you won’t be able to see the migration as it happens. The image collection won’t be available until sometime in early 2018. But it’ll be worth the wait, we promise. For a sneak preview, watch Parks Australia’s video of the 2012 event here.

[h/t New Atlas]

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