Pipe Dream: The Wacky Plan to Pump Antarctic Ice into Australia

iStock/atese
iStock/atese

Arthur Paul Pedrick hated his job at the British patent office. He spent each day doing the same boring task: reading dense applications and determining whether the inventions therein were truly original. “[It’s] the most soul-destroying professional occupation in science or technology,” he once moaned. So when Pedrick finally left his job in 1961, he found a way to liven things up at his old workplace—by becoming one of the most prolific, and unusual, inventors of all time.

Over the next 15 years, Pedrick applied for approximately 160 patents, each one wackier than the last. He dreamed up a golf ball that could steer itself onto the fairway after a bad hook or slice. He sketched a device resembling a hovercraft. In response to the 1973 oil crisis, he patented a horse-powered car that literally put the cart before the horse. To prevent nuclear war, he designed a radiation detector that worked simultaneously as a “peace-keeping” bomb and, oddly, as a cat flap that admits only orange-colored felines.

(The patent was titled “Photon Push-Pull Radiation Detector for Use in Chromatically Selective Cat Flap Control and 1000 Megaton, Earth-Orbital, Peace-Keeping Bomb.” The application includes commentary from Pedrick’s cat, Ginger: “Purr-purr … That’s quite clever.”)

But Patent GB1203136 (A) takes the cake. In it, Pedrick planned a pipeline for carrying “ice balls” from Antarctica to central Australia. The pipes would harness Earth’s rotation to whisk dense snowballs at a speed of 1000 mph into a mountainous reservoir in the “dead heart” of Australia. The surplus of fresh water, Pedrick argued, would help create an agricultural wonderland that could be used to halt famine all over the world. (Fittingly, the patent was titled “Improvements in the Irrigation of ‘Deserts’ by Snow Piped from Polar Regions for the Purpose of Minimizing the Impending World Famine.”)

Nobody is certain whether Pedrick was serious about his inventions or if he was just trolling the system he loved to hate. The most likely explanation is that he pitied the poor, bored patent examiners and wanted to give them something to smile about. (After all, many of his applications spiraled into amusing diatribes and included poetry.)

Regardless, one thing stood in the way of his dream to turn the sandy landscape of central Australia into a watery paradise. “My ginger cat has just come in and I shall have to go and open another tin of cat food, which continues to rise in price,” he wrote in the application, “so how can I afford to get my ‘Ice Balls’ rolling into the ‘Deserts?’”

Thoughtful Human's Line of Plantable Greeting Cards Is Here for Life's Most Delicate Scenarios

Thoughtful Human
Thoughtful Human

Not sure how to make amends with that family member you had a fight with a couple years back? Perhaps you want to offer support to a friend going through a painful time—like with depression, cancer, or various kinds of grief—but don't know how. If you're having trouble finding the right words to say, Thoughtful Human wants to help. This unorthodox card company is challenging people to communicate in ways that show "radical compassion and empathy."

Thoughtful Human is essentially the Hallmark of strained relationships and awkward ice-breakers. The messages get straight to the point and say the words you might have trouble voicing aloud. "I was being really selfish and immature. I'm sorry," reads one. "Still mad, but life is short and tradition is tradition. Happy birthday," reads another.

But what truly makes these cards a literal alternative to extending an olive branch is that they're also plantable. All of the cards are made of seed paper, and they generally transform into wildflowers within 10-14 days of being planted. View it as a symbol of the restorative power of communication.

A variety of cards
Thoughtful Human

In a video posted to the company's website, Thoughtful Human's founder, Ali O'Grady, explains that the cards are designed for "dynamic relationships and challenging life circumstances." It's also a deeply personal project: She decided to start the company after losing her father to cancer.

There are cards dedicated to addiction and rehab, depression, grief, injury, long-distance relationships, and other delicate scenarios. Of course, you'll also find plenty of cards for happier times, including thank-you notes and congratulatory messages.

And if you haven't sent out your Christmas cards yet, consider this anti-holiday holiday card: "Shout out to that stranger's baby who locked in a lifetime of undeserved gifts, pie, and vacation time for everyone."

These cards and more can be found on Thoughtful Human's website, on Target.com, and at select Whole Foods stores in California's Bay Area.

New Memory Foam Neck Pillow Takes the Pain Out of Travel

iStock.com/izusek
iStock.com/izusek

Travel can be a pain in the neck—quite literally. Kinks and cramps don’t have to be part of the package, though. Edge Signature, whose lineup of practical travel products includes a digital luggage scale and an anti-theft backpack, has designed a memory foam pillow that adapts to the contours of your head and neck.

The True Adaptive pillow has been given an ergonomic M-shape, with the two bumps in the back providing some extra support for your neck. The problem with many travel pillows is that they don’t hold your neck steady when you start to doze off. “The deeper we fall into unconsciousness or our sleep state, the more relaxed our muscles will be,” Edge Signature writes in its Kickstarter campaign for the True Adaptive pillow. “This makes it practically impossible for us to get a good rest or sleep while sitting upright as our neck muscle will have to keep working to support our neck.”

That’s where the pillow’s high-density memory foam comes in. It will stay in place even as you move around, and an adjustable string in the front makes it fit as loose or as snug as you’d like. There’s even a smartphone pocket on the side, so you won’t have to worry about finding your phone in a dimly lit aircraft cabin.

When you’re done using the pillow, fold it up and place it back into its carrying pouch, which can be clipped onto your suitcase or backpack. After returning from a long trip, you can remove the cover and throw it in the washing machine to get it ready for your next big adventure. The zipper is hidden, though, with the advantage being that you won’t have any plastic bits poking you in the face while you’re trying to nap.

The pillow’s usefulness isn’t limited to travel, either. Wear it at your office desk, or while studying or reading for extended periods of time. Backers who pledge $39 or more before January 9, 2019 will get the True Adaptive pillow and carrying pouch at a 35 percent discount. U.S. shipping is free.

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