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11 of America's Most Inspiring Cup Holder Patents

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Imagine this scenario, if you will: You are enjoying a refreshing cup of Mr. Pibb topped with Diet Mountain Dew—an American classic. Ahh, that tastes good, doesn't it? In your other hand is your cell phone, from which you are distributing this story on social media. Life seems almost perfect until, all of a sudden...a frisbee appears in the distance. It's heading right for you, and failure to catch it will make you a laughing stock to the group of tough-looking pre-teens who have just crested over a nearby hill.

You put the phone in your pocket to free one hand so you can catch the frisbee. Phew, that was close—but look out! A Rosie O'Donnell Show-era Koosh ball comes hurdling at your face. You have no choice but to put down your beverage if you want to catch both objects, but how is this possible? You are standing on a gradient and the cup will tip over. Panic grips you...unless this imaginary situation is occurring in America. Because if it is, there is undoubtedly a cup holder nearby to cradle your drink and save the day. And that's no accident—for decades, American inventors have been at the forefront of cup holder technology, building a world where you never have to worry about not having a place to put your Mr. Pibb and Diet Dew. Let's take a look at some of the most inspiring and imaginiative examples of these inventions from files of the U.S. Patent Office.

1. Luggage Cup Holder (Self-Leveling)

Patent registration number: US7510157 B2

Application excerpt: "In the context of modern travel and business, what is needed is a self-leveling cup holder that can be removably affixed to a piece of wheeled luggage in a way that both the fixing and the removal can be accomplished quickly and easily and can be easily stored when not in use."

What makes it great: Travel dehydration is the number one cause of dehydrated travelers. Having a refreshment at the ready is the only way to combat this, but, unfortunately, even the most modern airport terminals and train stations and bus depots lack the 2:1 cup holder-to-human ratio thirst-quenchologists recommend. This invention lets you affix a swaying cup holder on the most sturdy thing in the world: the retractable handle of a rolling carry-on bag.

2. Luggage Cup Holder (Non-Self-Leveling)

Patent registration number: US20130126686 A1

Application excerpt: "Travelers are frequently seen walking through an airport or other location wheeling carry-on luggage with one hand, and personal items or a beverage drink container in the other hand."

What makes it great: It addresses the same problems cup holder number one does, but this invention is geared towards the sedentary, immobile traveler.

3. Crib Cup Holder

Patent registration number: US20140197286 A1

Application excerpt: "In order to allow a toddler's access to a Sippy cup at all times throughout an evening, it is not uncommon for a parent or a caregiver to leave the Sippy cup in a toddler's bedding area. This can however, often lead to soaked sheets from spills from the Sippy cup."

What makes it great: Infants are world-renowned for their hand-eye coordination and ability to responsibly put things back from where they got them. This cup holder is a must for new parents.

4. Body-Mounted Cup Holder

Patent registration number: US6029938 A

Application excerpt: "The invention is a cup holder attached to a person's thigh, so that a person's hands may be kept free for other tasks."

What makes it great: Our thighs are nature's movie theater armrests, and this cup holder finally takes advantage of that fact.

5. Belt Buckle Cup Holder

Patent registration number: US20120298703 A1

Application excerpt: "A primary object of the invention is to provide a belt buckle with a retractable cup-holder that is virtually indistinguishable from a typical ornamental belt buckle, such as the popular western style belt buckle, when the cup-holder feature is not in use, so as to increase the cosmetic appeal of the device."

What makes it great: Belt buckles and cup holders are the Stockton and Malone of groin-level refreshment.

6. Belt-Clip Cup Holder (Non-Retractable)

Patent registration number: US6457616 B2

Application excerpt: "The present invention generally relates to beverage holders. and more particularly, to a free-hanging beverage container holder assembly that easily and conveniently attaches to a person's belt."

What makes it great: The convenience of cup holders meets the high-fashion elegance of cell phone belt clips.

7. Toilet Stall Cup Holder

Patent registration number: US5934637 A

Application excerpt: "Patrons of casinos who play the slot machines often walk around the casino with a cup that holds coins which they use to play the machines and/or have won from the machines. Coat hooks can generally be found in any bathroom stall; however, any other type of holder usually cannot be found within the stall. Furthermore, coin cup holders mounted on the stall wall are unknown."

What makes it great: A Vegas original, this versatile invention can accommodate a cup of liquid or money (or both!) inside of a toilet stall.

8. Urinal Cup Holder

Patent registration number: US20060143822 A1

Application excerpt: "This invention is simply a drink beverage coaster that is specifically meant to attach to the common urinal flush valve top cap...This invention snaps over the top cap allowing for easy removal for maintenance of the flush valve and may be put back on easily to accommodate those who have a beverage in hand at the urinal allowing for hands free operation of said bodily functions at the urinal without losing one's drink."

What makes it great: By having a drink at the ready while using a urinal, you could conceivably create a closed circuit of refreshment, meaning you'd never have to leave. And why would you want to!?

9. Pool noodle cup holder

Patent registration number: US20120068028 A1

Application excerpt: "Pool noodles, commonly 2-4 inches in diameter, are often used by swimmers and boaters to provide recreational flotation while floating in the water. While floating on a pool noodle, a user often holds a beverage in a hand. Combining a pool noodle with a detachable beverage holder frees up a user's hands and provides a convenient location for storing a beverage holder."

What makes it great: Pool noodles are unwieldy pliant foam tubes of unpredictability—meaning they're perfect for balancing drinks upon.

10. Umbrella Cup Holder

Patent registration number: US7275668 B1

Application excerpt: "An umbrella/cup holder device for allowing the user to carry other things while using an umbrella to protect oneself from inclement weather."

What makes it great: Don't let rain scuttle your commute. Just strap on your umbrella vest, tighten the harness, and slide a delicious can of pop into its cup holder. When you get to your destination, just reverse the process and conveniently store the entire sopping wet unit out of sight.

11. Wearable Cup Holder(???)

Patent registration number: US6739933 B2

Application excerpt: "The wearable drink holder apparatus includes an animal-shaped body member having an interior compartment for securely encasing a drink container therewithin. Elongated support straps shaped as grasping animal limbs are utilized to attach the animal-shaped body member to a wearer's body. A protuberance member formed in the shape of an animal face extends from the top of and approximately centrally aligned with the body member. The protuberance member includes an interior cavity through which a drinking conduit extends from the drink container to the exterior of the protuberance member toward the wearer's face."

What makes it great: To be frank, this cup holder is making me mightily uncomfortable. Still, this is a free forum of ideas, and if you want nightmare bear to maul your child with refreshment, no one is stopping you.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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7 Giant Machines That Changed the World—And 1 That Might
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

From a 17-mile-long particle accelerator to a football-field–sized space observatory, here are seven massive machines that have made an equally huge impact on how we build, how we observe our universe, and how we lift rockets into space. We've also included a bonus machine: a technological marvel-to-be that may be just as influential once it's completed.

1. LARGE HADRON COLLIDER

Large Hadron Collider
Carlo Fachini, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator located at CERN outside of Geneva, Switzerland, is the largest machine in the world: It has a circumference of almost 17 miles and took around a decade to build. The tubes of the LHC are a vacuum; superconducting magnets guide and accelerate two high-energy particle beams, which are moving in opposite directions, to near-light-speed. When the beams collide, scientists use the data to find the answers to some of the most basic questions of physics and the laws that govern the universe we live in.

Since the LHC started up in 2008, scientists have made numerous groundbreaking discoveries, including finding the once-theoretical Higgs boson particle—a.k.a. the "God" particle—which helps give other particles mass. Scientists had been chasing the Higgs boson for five decades. The discovery illuminates the early development of the universe, including how particles gained mass after the Big Bang. Scientists are already working on the LHC's successor, which will be three times its size and seven times more powerful.

2. CRAWLER-TRANSPORTER ROCKET MOVERS

Built in 1965, NASA's crawler-transporters are two of the largest vehicles ever constructed: They weigh 2400 tons each and burn 150 gallons of diesel per mile. In contrast, the average semi truck gets roughly 6.5 miles per gallon. The vehicles' first job was to move Saturn V rockets—which took us to the moon and measured 35 stories tall when fully constructed—from the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (the largest single-room building in the world) to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The 4.2-mile trip was a slow one; the transporters traveled at a rate of 1 mph to ensure the massive rockets didn't topple over. Without a vehicle to move rockets from the spot they were stacked to the launch pad, we never could have gotten off the ground, much less to the moon.

After our moon missions, the crawler-transporters were adapted to service the Space Shuttle program, and moved the shuttles from 1981 to 2003. Since the retirement of the orbiters, these long-serving machines are once again being repurposed to transport NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS), which, at 38 stories tall, will be the biggest rocket ever constructed when it's ready, hopefully in a few years (the timeline is in flux due to budgetary issues).

3. NATIONAL IGNITION FACILITY

National Ignition Facility (NIF) target chamber
Lawrence Livermore National Security, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Three football fields could fit inside the National Ignition Facility, which holds the largest, most energetic, and most precise laser in the world (it also has the distinction of being the world's largest optical instrument). NIF—which took about a decade to build and opened in 2009—is located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. Its lasers are used to create conditions not unlike those within the cores of stars and giant planets, which helps scientists to gain understanding about these areas of the universe. The NIF is also being used to pursue the goal of nuclear fusion. If we can crack the code for this reaction that powers stars, we'll achieve unlimited clean energy for our planet.

4. BERTHA THE TUNNEL BORER

When Seattle decided it needed a giant tunnel to replace an aging highway through the middle of the city, the city contracted with Hitachi Zosen Corporation to build the biggest tunnel boring machine in the world to do the job. The scope of Bertha's work had no precedent in modern-day digging, given the dense, abrasive glacial soil and bedrock it had to chew through.

In 2013, Bertha—named after Bertha Knight Landes, Seattle's first female mayor—was tasked with building a tunnel that would be big enough to carry four lanes of traffic (a two-lane, double-decker road). Bertha needed to carve through 1.7 miles of rock, and just 1000 feet in, the 57-foot, 6559-ton machine ran into a steel pipe casing that damaged it. Many predicted that Bertha was doomed, but after a massive, on-the-spot repair operation by Hitachi Zosen that took a year-and-a-half, the borer was up and running again.

In April 2017, Bertha completed its work, and engineers started the process of dismantling it; its parts will be used in future tunnel boring machines. Bertha set an example for what is possible in future urban tunnel work—but it's unlikely that tunnel boring machines will get much bigger than Bertha because of the sheer weight of the machine and the amount of soil it can move at once. Bertha's tunnel is scheduled to open in 2019.

5. INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

international space station
NASA

The international space station is a highly efficient machine, equipped with instrumentation and life support equipment, that has kept humans alive in the inhospitable environment of low-Earth orbit since November 2, 2000. It's the biggest satellite orbiting the Earth made by humans. The major components were sent into space over a two-year period, but construction has slowly continued over the last decade, with astronauts adding the Columbus science laboratory and Japanese science module. The first module, Zarya, was just 41.2 feet by 13.5 feet; now, the ISS is 356 feet by 240 feet, which is slightly larger than a football field. The station currently has about 32,333 cubic feet of pressurized volume the crew can move about in. That's about the same area as a Boeing 747 (though much of the ISS's space is taken up by equipment). The U.S.'s solar panels are as large as eight basketball courts.

From the space station, scientists have made such important discoveries as what extended zero-G does to the human body, where cosmic rays come from, and how protein crystals can be used to treat cancer. Though NASA expects the most modern modules of the ISS to be usable well into the 2030s, by 2025 the agency may begin "transitioning" much of its ISS operations—and costs—to the private sector [PDF] with an eye on expanding the commercial potential of space.

6. LIGO GRAVITATIONAL WAVE DETECTOR

The Laser Inferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is actually made up of four different facilities—two laboratories and two detectors located 2000 miles apart, in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. The detectors, which took about five years to build and were inaugurated in 1999, are identical L-shaped vacuum chambers that are about 2.5 miles long and operate in unison. The mission of these machines is to detect ripples in the fabric of spacetime known as gravitational waves. Predicted in 1915 by Einstein's theory of general relativity, gravitational waves were entirely theoretical until September 2015, when LIGO detected them for the first time. Not only did this provide further confirmation of general relativity, it opened up entirely new areas of research such as gravitational wave astronomy. The reason the two detectors are so far from each other is to reduce the possibility of false positives; both facilities must detect a potential gravitational wave before it is investigated.

7. ANTONOV AN-225 MRIYA PLANE

Antonov An-225 in Paramaribo
Andrew J. Muller, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The Russians originally had a rival to the U.S. Space Shuttle program: a reusable winged spacecraft of their own called the Buran—and in the 1980s, they developed the AN-225 Mriya in order to transport it. With a wingspan the size of the Statue of Liberty, a 640-ton weight, six engines, and the ability to lift into the air nearly a half-million pounds, it's the longest and heaviest plane ever built. Mriya first flew in 1988, and since the Buran was mothballed in 1990 after just one flight (due to the breakup of the Soviet Union rather than the plane's capabilities), the AN-225 has only been used sparingly.

The monster plane has inspired new ideas. In 2017, Airspace Industry Corporation of China signed an agreement with Antonov, the AN-225's manufacturer, to built a fleet of aircraft based on the AN-225's design that would carry commercial satellites on their backs and launch them into space. Currently, virtually all satellites are launched from rockets. Meanwhile, Stratolaunch, a company overseen by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is building a plane that will be wider (but not longer) than Mriya. The giant plane will carry a launch vehicle headed for low-Earth orbit.

BONUS: 10,000-YEAR CLOCK

This forward-thinking project, funded by Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, focuses on reminding people about their long-term impact on the world. Instead of a traditional clock measuring hours, minutes, and seconds, the Clock of the Long Now measures times in years and centuries. The clock, which will be built inside a mountain on a plot of land in western Texas owned by Bezos, will tick once per year, with a century hand that advances just once every 100 years. The cuckoo on the clock will emerge just once per millennium. Construction began on the clock in early 2018. When this massive clock is completed—timeline unknown—it will be 500 feet high. What will be the impact of this one? Only the people of the 120th century will be able to answer that question.

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Choose Water
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environment
Bottle Service: This Water Container Decomposes in Weeks
Choose Water
Choose Water

For all the cheap convenience it affords us in day-to-day life, the long-term cost of using plastic is staggering. More than 165 million tons of discarded plastic waste are in the world’s oceans and pose a serious threat to marine life.

Scotland-based inventor and Durham University chemistry graduate James Longcroft is currently fundraising a potential solution. His company, Choose Water, is offering a biodegradable water container that Longcroft claims will decompose within three weeks. Made from recycled paper and a proprietary waterproof inner lining, the bottle is intended for a single use. Longcroft claims it will begin decomposing after being discarded in water or a landfill. The steel cap will rust and take about a year to erode completely.

The company’s methodology for making the bottle is being kept under wraps for now: On his Indiegogo campaign page, Longcroft says that he’s waiting for patent approval before offering any further explanation. Business Insider requested a bottle to test, but the company declined, citing concerns over trade secrets.

If fundraising is successful, Choose Water hopes to be in stores by the end of 2018. (At press time, the campaign had reached roughly half of its $34,000 goal.) The company says all profits will be donated to Water for Africa, a charity providing clean water solutions.

[h/t Business Insider]

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