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8 Patents for Inventions that Purport to Protect You From Sharks

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Sharks aren't mindless killing machines. In fact, sharks have much more to fear from us than we do from them (as this infographic illustrates). But that hasn't stopped inventors from dreaming up devices that will keep people out of Jaws' jaws. In honor of Shark Week, we present a few of them, from the mundane devices like chemical repellants to bizarre inventions like an anti-shark grenade (yes, you read that right).

1. Patent No. 2,458,540: "Shark Repellant"

The patent for this device was filed during World War II. “Since the beginning of the war with its submarine and air activity,” writes inventor Richard L. Tuve, “numerous occasions have arisen in which men have been forced to swim for their lives … The weakened condition of wounded men cast into the water puts them at a distinct disadvantage in trying to fight off sharks and barracuda which are attracted to their blood.”

Tuve’s invention was a packet full of “chemical material”—copper acetate, a dark blue or black dye, and something called “Carbowax 4000”—attached to the life jacket. The swimmer released the substance into the water if a shark approached. “Copper acetate is so distasteful to sharks in certain conditions that they will ignore meat floating in water containing copper acetate,” the patent says. Tests conducted by the inventor and his associates showed the solution to be highly effective.

2. Patent No. 3,428,978: "Shark Screen"

Clarence Scott Johnson’s Shark Screen was intended not just to hide a shipwrecked person from “marine life,” but to protect them from attacks, too. According to the patent, which was granted on February 25, 1969, the device was “characterized by an imperforate bag formed of thermoplastic material having a plurality of stacked inflatable buoyant toroidal compartments at its upper end which provide a safety factor against puncture and obscure the person’s head from vision.”

The screen would completely isolate the person from the water—so no blood or other bodily fluids could spread—and could be inflated either with a person’s breath or with a small can of carbon dioxide; the air was sealed in with a valve like the ones seen on air mattresses or pool floats. In wartime, Johnson said that the material used to construct the upper part of the screens should be a dark color to avoid enemy detection, but in peacetime, “it would usually be more desirable to construct the collars of a bright color, such as orange, so that the occupant can be more readily located." The material below the buoyant collars should be dark.

Johnson updated his invention in 1975.

3. Patent No. 4166462: "Self-Propelled Shark-Proof Cage"

When James M. Ellis invented this device and filed for a patent in 1976, he envisioned that its purpose would be two-fold: The cage would shield abalone divers from predators and, because of it was self-propelled, would allow them to dive and collect for longer periods of time.

4. Patent No. 4155186: "Anti-Shark Weapon"

Robert T. Robinson was not messing around. This device, patented in 1979, was a tube containing a dehydrated blood cake bait and an explosive device. The blood cake would dissolve in the water and attract the shark to what Robinson calls “the floating grenade.” Then, “upon biting by the shark, the grenade explodes.” It could be used in lifeboats and life rafts and also by very daring swimmers and scuba divers.

5. Patent No. 4,356,569: "Armored Skin Diving Suit"

This suit, designed by Jeremiah S. Sullivan and patented in 1982, was comprised of “tough, high-impact plastic” shielding and chain mail. “If the shark's teeth strike a hard surface, particularly a hard metal surface, the shark will ordinarily back off,” the patent reads. “The present invention ... [provides] a suit having a base garment which is either chain mail or rubber foam wetsuit material, and into which are imbedded a multiplicity of hard shield elements strategically positioned in the garment material so that no conflict exists with the articulation of the human body. In its preferred embodiment, sizable plastic shields are imbedded directly into the mesh of a mesh garment such that the materials coalesce into a tough, hard, lobster-like exterior shell, both resistant to the tearing and slashing of teeth because of the steel mesh, and effective as well in deterring shark attacks because of the hardness of the exterior surface.”

6. Patent No. 4602384: "Aquatic Attack Protection Suit and Material Therefore"

Another shark protection suit, this one designed by David P. Schneider, was patented in 1986. The idea was that the receptacles on the suit would be filled with some kind of chemical shark repellant. “When a shark first bites its intended victim having such a suit, the chemical acts on the shark to repel it and, thus, protect the wearer," the patent reads. If only the success of the suit didn't rely on a diver getting chomped on first.

7. Patent No. 4833729: "Shark Protector Suit"

According to inventors Nelson C. Fox and Rosetta H.V.G. Fox, “Known shark protection and underwater suits have not provided sufficient deterrence to sharks, since sharks are able to clamp their mouths around the limb of a person in the water.” Not so with their suit, which they patented in 1989. It completely covers the body and face, is partially lined with flotation material, and is equipped from head to toe with “a plurality of spikes extending outward therefrom to prevent a shark from clamping its jaws over the wearer.”

8. Patent No. 7,507,132: Transparent Surfboard with Shark Locating and Repelling System

Inventors aren't just worried about diver safety; they're thinking about surfers, too. This see-through surfboard, patented in 2009 by Guerry L. Grune and Marsea Segal, is equipped with an aquatic animal locating device and an alarm; it also comes with a “repellent or deterrent signal generator that is configured for transmitting interference signals to disrupt the electro-sensory perception system of the aquatic animals.”

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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