Richard Feynman on Patents

Follow this link to YouTube to hear Richard Feynman talk about Patents.

Copyright © Tamiko Thiel 1984

Richard Feynman in 1984 while working at Thinking Machines Corporation on the design of the Connection Machine CM-1/CM-2 supercomputer.

Richard Feynman talks about some of his unusual patents and how they came into being through some of his own ideas for possible.nuclear powered vehicles, which he brainstormed during his time working on the atomic bomb in The Manhattan Project.

Feynman himself had no idea they would patent these ideas and only found out about it when he was offered a job of being the head of a research team to develop a nuclear powered aircraft. Feynman did not accept this job, as he was a theoretical physicist and aircraft engineering was of no interest to him.

For legal reasons, a dollar was to be exchanged for the patent papers. Since Feynman received no dollar, he went to the patent office to get his dollar and used it to buy sweets as a joke to the bureaucratic and anal nature of patent law and the goons who enforce it.

It does not require genius to invent. Just original thinking around a basic understanding of how the universe appears to work; and having a problem to solve.

Fiddly Bit Fixtures

No great invention here, just applying some Engineering to the problem of holding small, round pins so that holes can be drilled and threaded radially.

The problem is illustrated in a YouTube video by John Saunders of NYC CNC where several, nominally identical parts are loaded into a fixture that is clamped using a single clamping tool; a vise.

In reality, parts are never exactly identical, not in length nor in diameter. A compliant fixture is required that has some give so that the clamping force is distributed more evenly over all the little parts in the fixture, holding each more successfully. Continue reading

Doubling Distributor Hall Resolution

A stranger going by the handle of Red1600i was working on putting sequential fuel injection into his VW Beetle using a standard distributor with Hall sensor and an upgraded vane wheel to get accurate engine position and timing.

A+ for effort. (Both the photos are his.)

Turns out that his first attempt was by far too ambitious, with nearly 40 “teeth” machined into the vane wheel which is just 46  in diameter. Had he read a data sheet for a typical sensor and noted that the release distance between sensor and vane is just over 3 millimetres, he’d have ensured that the slots are at least 6 mm wide. Continue reading

Measuring the Condition of Stationary Air

Typical meteorological measurements are performed on moving air. But if one wants to measure the temperature of air, then the small parcels of air moving around the sensor can all have different temperatures. This results in the sensor producing a signal that probably doesn’t correspond to the temperature of any of the air. Continue reading

Redeployment of “Wind Powered” Generators

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that wind-powered generation is a practical failure; failing miserably to deliver electricity when needed. This invention makes use of the existing wind-generator structure and infrastructure connection to provide electricity generation when the wind doesn’t.

The invention is to install one or more pulse-jet engine near the tip of each wing in order to rotate the machine and generate electricity when there is no wind, but a demand for electricity. Pulse jet engines are very simple machines with few moving parts and run on a variety of fuels.

As wind strength drops, the normal wing action is feathered and fuel supply to the engines opened along with an ignition source. The flow of air through the engine is sufficient to start the pulse-jet engine.

Many wind generators already have access to a source of combustible fuel; usually gas, which is used to keep the mechanical equipment (generator, hydraulic pumps, gearboxes and control gear)  inside the nacelle from freezing.  There is also the ability to drive the rotor using grid power; necessary to prevent bearings and shafts from being damaged when there is no wind to turn the machine.

Some may argue that this is a hare-brained, ill-conceived invention. But what of the wind generators by themselves?

3D Virtual Viewer

A device with an optical display device which can determine its position in space while being moved, can change its optical output characteristic as defined by image data.

One simple implementation consists of an LCD display attached to a multi-axis inertial sensor and a storage device holding image data. As the operator moves the display device through space, the display changes so that a small viewport, corresponding to a part of the full view is visible to an observer.

Application areas for  such a device exist outside of  entertainment and amusement.

Image data that are virtual can be 3-dimensional schematics and/or digital scanned images not visible to the naked eye.  The virtual viewer is then useful tool for e.g. identifying equipment during physical maintenance by following a schematic in 3 dimensions simply by directing and moving the viewer through the space in which the equipment has been installed.

Photographic Genius – Image capture

… or not.

Photographers have long been concerned with capturing what the eye can see.

Seeing things involves much more than just the optics of the eye, but the cognitive and motor functions of the brain. So a major limitation of photography is that the eye doesn’t see everything in the picture. The eye sees only the part of the picture (perspective) on which attention is focused and adjusts the eye dynamically to optimise the visual information. Continue reading