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April 7, 2020 18 mins

This episode Will, Gabe and Mango raid the US Patent office to find some of the weirdest, funniest, and most confusing inventions of all time. Plus, the trio discusses the easiest way to scam $6 off of us.  Instagram

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Part Time Genius, the production of I Heart Radio.
I guess what will? What's that mango? So? You know
my family loves going for hikes, right, I mean the
rest of my family. I was gonna say, I don't
want to call you out. Yeah, I'm more of an
indoor cat and my house is full of outdoor cats,

but we haven't exactly been able to get out for
hikes this month. Yeah. I was thinking about you guys
just this morning on this Like, I imagine it is
pretty tough traveling out from Brooklyn right now, isn't it. Yeah?
And Lizzie and I are pretending to be teachers all
day and I can't tell you how terrible our homeschool is,
but I actually do miss getting out into nature. So

this week I spent some time hunting for a solution,
and the best thing I could find was this greenhouse helmet.
A greenhouse helmets, So is that like a VR thing
or what? No, it is much worse. The greenhouse helmet
is this fully enclosed anti fog dome that you fasten
around your head, and inside this plexiglass helmet there are

multiple shells where you can place your favorite small plants
full disclosure. I don't think anyone has actually made one
of these things. This all just comes from a patent
from but in the diagram and I'm going to post
this to Instagram because it's so good. It shows a
person with a goldfish bowl over his head and it's
got a tiny potted cacti on one of the shelves,
which is a pretty bold choice considering how close it

would be to your face. So why why would you
do this? I guess that's the question I want to know. Yeah,
I guess. According to the creators, not only would the
wearable greenhouse do you wonder is to improve your mood,
It also supplies you with this private reserve of fresh oxygen.
So the idea is as you exhale, the plants are
supposed to soak up your carbon dioxide and provide you
with pure oxygen and just in case the helmet starts

to make you feel a little shut off from the world.
It also comes with a two way intercom system, which
I guess if you think about it, like that's perfect
for calling nine one one after you poke your eye
out with a cactus. So it's I don't understand, like
why this has never made it to market. It just
seems so smart. Yeah, So for all your listeners out there,
I don't know that the patent is still good, so

there's still time to run with her on MS or whatever.
But but the greenhouse helmet isn't the only strange patent
we found this week. We actually scoured the internet to
find some of the weirdest patents and we found a
couple of great things and a whole lot of things
you won't be seeing on shark tanks. So let's dive in. Hey,

their podcast listeners, Welcome to part time Genius. I'm Will
Pearson and it's always I'm joined by my good friend
Manesh Ticketer. Now on the other side of that soundproof
glass brainstorming ideas on his trusty whiteboard. That's our friend
and producer loll Now. So far, he's just got this
one concept, something called it's kind of hard to read
because of course we're all remote today, but it says

edible timber and then a question, right, So I guess
it's supposed to be edible timber. So I think it's
still still a work in progress. I gather I do
love that idea, like a table you can eat in
an emergency sounds like a pretty great option. So great work, Low, Yeah,
you better get back to that patent filing pretty quickly
on this. But in the meantime, we're also happy to

welcome back our researcher pal, Gabe Bluesier. How you doing, Gabe? Hey?
Doing all right? It's nice to uh see some faces
again that s in the apartment with me. Yeah, I
think we can all agree we have been inside for
too long. You know. We've spent our free time this
week looking up patents and we've enjoyed it. Actually. But Gabe,
you're up next. So what's the first one you want

to tell us about? Alright, So here's one from that
I wish had made it to market. It's a gumball
dispensing T shirt that actually sounds awesome. Yeah, I mean
it kind of is like the shirt has a picture
of an old timey gumball machine on it, and uh,
the dome part where the gumballs are stored, it's actually

clear and made from plastic. And so then there's this
like a fabric pouch sewed behind it and you can
actually like keep real gumballs inside of it. These are
real gumballs that you can dispense. Yeah, that that's the
idea at least, Like when you push on one of
the gumballs, it's supposed to slide down this kind of
like built in shoot in the T shirt and it

comes out through a slit near the bottom of the shirt,
and like, here's the best part. There was even this
variation on the pattern that included a second pouch where
someone could like insert coins. So you know, the ideal
is you could just walk up to someone on the
street and buy a gumball directly for their T shirt.
Of any invention, I feel like we could have come

up with. This seems like the total opposite of social distancing,
like walking up with money, putting it in somebody's shirt,
then taking candy out of their shirt, and then putting
it in your mouth. I don't know if now is
the right time for this one game. Yeah, let's see
what you're saying. It's yeah, for later though, we'll put
a pin in it, right, like when we emerge from
the other side of this, like we'll make it a

priority to revive the shirt, right like that. That's a
great idea. All right, Well, my first invention is actually
a pretty good idea and probably one of the least
absurd ones that we will talk about today. It's something
called the school bus locator system. Now, this was patented
back in so you have to place yourself back in
the nineties before GPS tracking or cell phones became commonplace.

But the way it worked was that your school bus
would be outfitted with a radio transmitter and every kid
on the route would be provided with a receiver. So
when the bus was a few miles away from your house,
the receiver would light up as an early warning, and
then when the bus was much closer, like you know,
a quarter of a mile away or something, of the
receiver would sound an alarm. And it seems like a

handy way to avoid missing the bus and also ideal
for students who live in pretty cold places. You don't
have to wait out in the snow for too long,
just wondering if the bus is coming around the corner soon.
But though, I guess if I think about it a
little bit more, I'm certain there are some kids that
would have, you know, maybe hidden the batteries or something
and just uses as an excuse to miss school. Yeah,

so I I actually remember when I was in elementary
school and there was this like persistent rumor that if
the bus was half an hour later, something you didn't
have to go to school? Was Was this the thing
that was said in your towns too? Sadly? No, I don't, Gabe,
have you heard this before? Definitely not. No, that sounds
must have been a very delaware rumor. But I just
remember one time the bus was actually like thirty minutes late,

and so like all the kids at my bus stop
just got so giddy, and we're excited, and we're looking
at the way. We were planning what to do with
our day because we were certain we're going to get
the day off school, and then like at the last minute, uh,
this parent pulled up and cran does into their minivan
and then just drove us to school. And so anti climaxing.
But Gabe, why don't you kick off this next round? Okay, Well,

this next one is for all you rode In fans,
and I know you're out there. So how often have
you declined a dinner invitation because you just couldn't stand
the thought of leaving your gerbils at home? Right? Yeah,
I've had a dime for every time that happened. Yeah,
it's this is a very relatable problem, believing guys, and uh, well,
the gerbil vest is the answer to that problem. In

some animal loving genius patented a very stylish vest with
some built in tubes for your pet to run through
while you're wearing it out and about, and of course
there are also little chambers for your furry friend to
feed and relax into um And good news for us,
the tubes are transparent, so that you and your friends
can keep an eye on the little guy in there.

And don't worry, animal lovers, the tubes are also equipped
with air vents so the gerbils could breathe. We'll say
that the patent it did warn against falling while wearing
the vest for very obvious reasons. They gotta watch, but
otherwise I'm glad they put the air vents in there
so that we're not just looking at dead gerbils into
I also like that with with your patent ideas, you're

sort of like a walking circus, Like people can come
up and watch the gerbils and then that's not all.
Like you pulled back the vest and now you've got
gumballs there for everybody. I know it's all vest based.
I feel like, yes, yes, smarter. But actually I just
pulled up this pick and it is pretty great, like
the easiest way to take your pet gerbils out for

a walk. So this is this is this is pretty smart.
But let's take a quick break and we'll be back
with more great patents in just a second. Welcome back

to part Time Genius, where we're talking about some of
the most wonderfully absurd inventions to ever make it out
of the patent office. Now we've got five questionable inventions
left to talk about, and the next one is for
the true crime crowd. Now this is a podcast, so
I know you're already listening out their true crime lovers. Now,
one thing that's plagued criminal investigators for centuries is just

how easy it is for a suspect to retract their confession.
But what if there was a simple, non violent way
to keep a suspect from taking their confessions back. Well,
that's where this N seven patent comes in, going all
the way back almost the century ago. It's officially called
the quote Apparatus for Obtaining Criminal Confessions and photographically recording them.

That's the name of this This invention is actually way
weirder than the name. Lets on. It was basically this
giant skeleton with red glowing eyes and a camera embedded
in its skull. I am not making this up. And
it was explicitly designed to terrify a suspect into confessing
on tape. So the way that it worked was that

a suspect would be confined to a small dark room
about the size of a coat closet or like a
church confessional or something like that, and a human interrogator
would sit out of sight in a second attached chamber.
This sounds so stupid, It's like a retired Disneyland ride
or like straight out of Scooby Doo or something. Yeah,
but actually it gets even worse. So when the examiner

presses a button, a curtain lifts and the suspect comes
face to face with the skeleton with red light bulbs
and its eye sockets, and it's actually there's also supposed
to be like this fog and and and like other
lights to amplify the effect. And then the interrogator questions
the suspect from a megaphone behind the skull in a

super scary voice like it's very elaborate, and according to
the miner, these quote illusory effects of a supernatural character
will work upon the suspects imagination, and so this suspect
is supposed to get so terrified that they confess their
darkest secrets, which is then, of course recorded. And as

far as I can tell, no one ever actually built
one of these skeleton confessors, but even if they had,
the invention likely would have been outlawed in nineteen sixty
one anyway, when that was when the Supreme Court ruled
that coerced confessions aren't admissible in court. But still, I
feel like they deserve a few points for creativity, don't you,
guys think? I mean it honestly feels like a seven

year old came up with that totally, and like it
would work exclusively on other seven year olds. I think
you're right, and you feel like the next time Ruby
breaks among bests like the way I've got it, like
con front of speaking of nonsensically dramatic things. Uh, there's
an invention designed to make jazz concerts more interesting that

we found this week, and it's the Flaming Trumpet. Now,
knowing that you're a fan of jazz, my guess is
that you would find this invention kind of offensive. Huh. Yeah,
I mean, I do have a ton of like Miles
Davis recordings, and I like jazz. But I could see
how this would make attending a middle school concert much
more interesting. Right, So the idea is basically to modify

a trumpet with a gas cartridge and then to have
an igniter mounted to the end of it. And if
turning a wind instrument into a flamethrower sounds like a
dangerous idea to you, you are probably right. The patent
claims that the musician would have complete control over the
intensity and duration of the flame. But honestly, at first
it sounds like a weapon of like a comic book character.

But I don't know. I could see how this thing
might take off at burning men or something. Yeah, hopefully
I could see that. Well. For my next back, I
want to talk about an invention from the eighteen hundreds
called the wearable lifeboat that you're stinking with this wearable thing.
The wearable lifeboat was basically a giant rubber bucket that
you would wear around your waist like a diaper, with

your legs sticking out the bottom. It had a couple
inflatable air chambers to help it stay afloat and you
were supposed to steer this contraption with a paddle. The
designer intended to quote for the conveyance of troops, baggage,
and other articles across rivers, but also is a way
to prevent drowning. So this is really interesting. But that
but I have a question, and this may be super

complicated here, but but Gabe, why would you not just
use a life jacket? Very good question, But here's the thing.
At the time, modern life jackets hadn't been invented yet,
there were no like So that's why ridiculous inventions like
this didn't seem as far fetched as they do now.
And really, as silly as swimmers and sailors would have

looked in this thing wobbling along and this like big
rubber bucket, it still might have been better than the alternative.
For instance, during World War One, some soldiers had to
wear old mattresses as a kind of makeshift life preserver,
and that's because, you know, that's all they had on hand. Thankfully,
the inflatable life preserver was invented in a few years later,

and of course that spared soldiers and civilians alike from
the indignity of inventions like the wearable lifeboat. So first
we feast has a list of great patented food inventions,
and it's got everything from prune beer, which sounds like
the perfect drink for when you want to go to
a party but also when you want to get your
bowels moving, to of course, our rifle that has a

shot glass attached, which just sounds like a terrible dick cheney,
like a situation about to happen. But my favorite on
their list is the combination hot dog hamburger bun, and
it's based on a two thousand nine patent, but as
the site writes, quote, it's part hot dog bun, part
hamburger bun, fully functional meat cover, which basically means it's

a lot of bread and allows you to hold a
lot of different meats at the same time. And it
is pretty great. Sounds pretty great, especially for somebody like
you who's been a vegetarian most of their life. But yeah,
pretty great, mango. All right, Well, I'm actually gonna stick
to food with my last fact as well. And fair warning,
this is the invention for the laziest of lazy people.

It's the motorized ice cream cone and and and this
invention it was patented in the late nineteen nineties. It
revolutionizes the laborious task of licking an ice cream cone.
So here is how it works. It consists of a
plastic device made to look like a traditional ice cream cone,
and inside there's this small motor. So you're supposed to

put a cup or cone of ice cream into the
fake cone and then the motor would just make it spin.
And as the patent explains, this allows the device to
rotationally feed its contents against a person's outstretched tongue. That's
what it says. And if you're wondering why on earth
anyone would ever need such a device, allow the creator

to educate you. So, according to the patent quote, the
repetitive task of moving one's tongue up and down can
become monotonous and tiring, especially for a child. Guys, we're
talking about eating ice creams. It's just so weird. But
I'm guessing investors somehow didn't agree with this, which is
why we're stuck eating ice cream the old fashioned way,

you know, using our tongues like a bunch of rubes.
It's just so sad. Well, I mean, I think Will
wins just with the ice cream fact like that description alone.
Plus you had the confession skeleton, which was very dumb.
I actually really like the gumball shirt and the Hamster shirt.
But I am I'm happy to throw will a bone

this week. I really, I really want to see somebody
out there putting on all of these inventions at the
same time. It just seems like a great way to
go out in public. But if you want to share
your most ridiculous invention with us, Gabe Mango and I
have a very special announcement that's right. Well, so this
is the very first time we're doing this, but the
person who submits the best invention, idea or drawing this

week to Instagram and tags hashtag part Time Genius will
win six whole dollars from us. What that is all
the money we wanted to put towards this, but it's
also such a prestigious award that we just made up.
So sending your invention ideas and you can be the
very first Part Time Genius Grant winner in history. I mean, Gabe,
you heard that right, Six dollars to whoever sends that.

We choose each Look, there is a world where if
let's say two people submit ideas, they no no no,
we're not going to give them both six dollars. We'll
we'll send them each three dollars, so but either way
it's gonna be great. So um all right, Well that's
it for today's Part Time Genius from Mango, Gabe Lowell,

and myself. Thanks so much for listening, Please stay safe,
and we'll be back soon with another new episode. Part

Time Genius is a production of I Heart Radio. For
more podcasts from my heart Radio, visit the i heart
Radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you listen to your
favorite shows. H

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