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Popular Mechanics Awards Technological Innovation 45

PreacherTom writes "Every year, Popular Mechanics attempts to find the most innovative tech products and hand out a little notoriety. This year's honorees range from everyday items like a $17 Crescent RapidSlide wrench, which puts a new, faster spin on an already well-designed tool, to a high-end Lexus that can virtually park itself. PM took an extra step by honoring innovators in science, having solicited nominations from a board of editorial advisers that includes Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Dr. Amy Smith, a professor at MIT. Winners include Burt Rutan (of SpaceShipTwo fame) and Angela Belcher (for her work with virus nanofabrication)."
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Popular Mechanics Awards Technological Innovation

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  • by MECC ( 8478 ) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @10:44AM (#16336359)
    How the hell does a /. submission get accepted about a popular mechanics article that has a link to instead of a link to the article [] at the popular mechanics website? There have got to be better submissions to choose from. /. seems to be going downhill like bad water these days.

    Forget the fact that is one of the most poorly designed and annoying web sites on the internet. To be avoided by anyone who might want to actually read something without grinding their teeth flat.

    • How the hell does a /. submission get accepted about a popular mechanics article that has a link to instead of a link to the article at the popular mechanics website?

      Hey, at least the BW link didn't "let the smoke out" when we browsed to it; ColdFusion at PM can't handle the load...
  • IRL (Score:4, Funny)

    by Yfrwlf ( 998822 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @10:48AM (#16336423)

    " a high-end Lexus that can virtually park itself."

    Wouldn't you prefer a car that would *actually* park itself, not just park itself in VR?

  • It is funny that when viewing the slide show about technological innovations I have to click my mouse button twice, or move the mouse a little, to get the navigation buttons to work. If I leave the pointer positioned over the button when a new slide opens it is somehow no longer recognized as a button until I take some action.

    Of course I'm stuck with IE 6 at the moment, so this problem may not afflict more capable browsers.
  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @11:02AM (#16336611) Homepage Journal
    Yes, let's verb random nouns and utterance them.
  • Notoriety? (Score:5, Informative)

    by belrick ( 31159 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @11:06AM (#16336665)
    I don't think the submitter understands the negative connotations of the words "notoriety" and "notorious".
    • by Speare ( 84249 )

      Reminds me of one of Lord Dunsany's shortest stories.


      Fame as she walked at evening in a city saw the painted face of Notoriety flaunting beneath a gas-lamp, and many kneeled unto her in the dirt of the road.

      "Who are you?" Fame said to her.

      "I am Fame," said Notoriety.

      Then Fame stole softly away so that no one knew she had gone.

      And Notoriety presently went forth and all her worshippers rose and followed after, and she led them, as was most meet, to her native Pit.

  • by m0llusk ( 789903 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @11:33AM (#16337023) Journal
    1. Portably XM radio with record: Portable XM radio is common, recording is not a difficult extension and could be improvised, but might be better done with a desktop running timed recorder software. Eh.
    2. Low Sulfur diesel car incrementally improved over those that have been available for decades marketed to the $35k-$65k range which only has significant volume because of the global credit/assets bubble. Eh.
    3. Powerful pruners have a little chainsaw in them, but existing tools are better for doing pruning according to accepted standards. Specifically, when cutting branches large enough for this tool to be useful, they tend to break away and rip open the cut in an ugly way. The proper time proven method for avoiding this is to start with preparation cuts in specific places in order to control how the branch falls away once it begins to loose strength. This tool is poorly suited for making these kinds of controlled standard cuts. Eh.
    4. Car parks itself for $55k-$77k. Again, apart from the current credit/asset bubble most people will not be driving in these cars, and the technology is just an incremental improvement of what has been around for decades. Eh.
    5. Sliding crescent wrench may not be a superior tool to existing crescent wrenches or vice grips. Eh.
    6. WiFi Skype phones incrementally improve what used to require a mini-laptop. Eh.
    7. Furnace and generator combo is marginally more efficient for large outlay in up front costs and space for installation. Eh.
    8. Big TV with internet linkage. This is another linkage concept like TVs with VCRs in them or phones with answering machines. As long as the costs are minimal it does not really matter, so why tout it, and if the costs are significant then it is a bummer because it is harder to fix, upgrade, or swap out the different components which are now physically linked just because they are intended to be used together. Eh.
    9. Smart LEGO Robots are an incremental improvement over the last smart LEGO robots. Eh.
    10. Sawstop prevents some of the more horrific accidents possible with table saws by using straightforward technology that was demonstrated long ago but is only being released now because of the greedy machinations of the lawyer-inventor guy. Eh.

    All of this is just incremental stuff, hardly any real improvement, and much at price levels that ordinary people should be smart enough to realize they simply cannot afford. If you want some real innovation try making something trusted work as it is needed, or even better yet try to do without all the latest gizmos. This could be the most important innovation of all since Affluenza is an empty experience and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has assured us that the future strength of nations globally is strongly related to their saving habits. Real innovation and empowerment, or the curse of some junk that will weight down your budget without providing genuine utility. The choice is yours.

    • by fbartho ( 840012 )
      Canadian, Eh?
    • I think you miss the point. Most technological development is incremental. For every "breakthrough" (and wasn't it just recently that we were reading about how frequently things are mis-termed 'breakthroughs'?) there is far more effort put into, and effect taken from, small incremental improvements to existing technologies.

      You might not think much of low-sulfur diesel, but if it results in 10% of U.S. automobiles becoming diesel, it will probably have saved more gasoline than any alternative-energy scheme t
    • Sliding crescent wrench may not be a superior tool to existing crescent wrenches or vice grips.

      Crescent wrenches and Vise grips (the generic term is "locking pliers", I think) require multiple little adjustments to the nut just to get them attached to the work. This one lets you place the jaws around the bolt and slide until it clamps down. That will save lots of time and frustration from rounding off or stripping bolts. Hey, this is an innovation award: don't expect flying cars or Segways-- you're mor

    • I worked one college summer doing landscaping. Proper technique for pruning a branch that is larger than shears can handle is under, over, collar. First cut a notch a few inches out from the trunk underneath the branch. Then cut down from the top to meet the notch. Then cut the stub off at the collar, not flush with the trunk. The collar is the circular ring around the base of the branch and it contains natural defenses against insects, disease, and fungus. So cut diagonally at the base, keeping the collar.
  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @11:42AM (#16337141) Homepage
    My dad had SEVERAL of these things since I was a kid- of course, from a different
    vendor than Crescent. Bought them out at Canton from a tools vendor. The things
    have been around for decades now.

    New and innovative, my backside...
    • I have, sitting on the desk in front of me right now (because I went and got it out of my tool drawer), a Quali-Kraft Sliding Adjustable Wrench I bought more than 20 years ago. In fact, I just identified one for sale on eBay at this moment by doing a title and description search for Quali-Kraft (eBay Item # 200033640390). You can see the slide in the third photo.
  • by vought ( 160908 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @11:57AM (#16337321)
    a high-end Lexus that can virtually park itself.

    Considering some of the Lexus drivers I've seen around Cupertino, what's really needed is a self-driving Lexus.

    If Toyota can pull that one off, the number of defensive driving maneuvers required within a block of Cupertino's major arterials can be considerably reduced.
  • If the old Omni magazine made your brow furl, if Discover makes you feel like a retard, if Scientific American is just plain incomprehensible to you, or if you are stuck in a WalMart waiting for your wife to buy make-up and there's nothing else to read, there's always Popular Mechanics. New articles about military hardware and cars in every edition! Why not buy some plans for a hovercraft from the back page? Plus: build things from wood! All in Popular Mechanics, the magazine for those too dumb for Discover.

    • They're still better than Popular Science. That's the magazine that that gave Windows 95 a "Best of What's New" award, although it was neither the best operating system (OS/2 and Macintosh were still better) or entirely new.
  • and Milwaukee's V28 power tools, the first line to use lithium-ion batteries instead of nickel cadmium.

    The legendary Milwakee, a company up to now renown for high-quality, durable power tools, has issued a recall of every V28 power tool kit, citing potential fire hazards. The V28 series power tools have been identified as the cause of a five-alarm fire in an 18th century apartment complex when their lithium batteries carelessly left loose in toolboxes spontaneously caught fire, presumably when the contents

    • Oh, I should have pointed out before submitting that "this has not actually happened, but it could, because Li-Ions react poorly to high current loads, deep cycles, and short circuits."

      Just pointing this out so that folks don't take my post seriously and falsely believe that the above has occurred. My point is that it could and they should have chosen NiMH, secondary alkaline, or other technologies long before even considering Li-Ion.
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )
        it would ahve been nice if you posted it in the story, but thanks for the follow up post. I was getting ready to search for confirmation, and the lambast you if you were wrong. No, you had to be all nice and point out that it was meant to be fictional to make a point.
        Thanks for nothing! ;)
      • this has not actually happened, but it could

        All except the part about their stock tumbling 78%. First off, I doubt that news of a battery recall would sink a tool manufacturer. Secondly, there is no such thing as Milwaukee stock - they're a subsidiary of the Hong Kong corporation, Techtronic Industries, and make up about 10% of that company's revenue (their revenue was less than $700 million at the time of their acquisition in 2005, compared to Techtronic's 2.8 billion).

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )
          700 million of 2.8 billion is a lot higher then 10%... about 15% higher.

          But he was just using them to illustrate a point.
    • Uh, that was NOT flamebait, it is an outline of a hypothetical situation; one that is not just possible, but also very likely.

      If you've ever done ANY reading on battery technologies, you would know that lithium ion is an extremely poor choice for power tools due to the above (fictional) scenario.
    • Lithium batteries, while volatile, deliver more power for less weight. You can get a "D" form factor Lithium battery with these specs:

      20 AH life, 2A pulse, 250mA continuous drain.

      Yes, they're explosive. Yes, they're restricted from travelling in aircraft. Yes, they can overheat and cause a chain reaction which can blow apart cinderblocks.

      Yes, those batteries come with fuses to prevent short-circuiting.

      The purpose of a battery is to store energy. If that energy is converted to heat at an unsafe rate, the bat
  • As a New Mexico State employee, I just got free tickets to the next X-Prize Cup in Las Cruces. Barely Tested Rockets, the nerd's version of NASCAR!
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      "As a New Mexico State employee, .."
      I'm surprised your allowed to accept gifts.
      • by spun ( 1352 )
        It's not a gift from the X Prize foundation. They had to cut a deal with the State of New Mexico in order to do it here, and evidently free tickets for state employees are part of the deal. We have to go down to the State Employement Development Department to pick them up. Plus, I just noticed in the email announcing the free tickets there is a plea for volunteers at the bottom.

        Anyway, there is a difference between being an employee of the state and an elected official of the state. AFAIK, the rules on gift
  • Perhaps they meant *reward*?

"The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy." -- Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards