Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Patent Bending Week 5

Tom Stewart and Russel Zeid, hosts of Patent Bending on Discovery Channel Canada, and Rick Minke, their master building/industrial designer, take a look at 19th century personal safety technology in this week's episode. The subject is a U.S. patent from 1879 called "Improvement in Fire Escapes" invented by Benjamin B. Oppenheimer. (US 221,855) The invention combines a head-mounted parachute and thick rubber soled shoes that is supposed to allow a human to safely escape a burning building. (This patent frequently appears on lists of wacky patents.)

With the aid of a crash test dummy named "Sandy", the team quickly discovers that the original design is more hazardous than helpful. (Damn those laws of physics!) Quickly they regroup and scale-down the device to accomodate pets such as cats and gerbils. Their improved design works, much to the relief of pet owners everywhere. (No animals were harmed in the making of this episode.)