Segway Inventor Wants To Launch People Onto Buildings
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has applied for a patent for a gizmo that allegedly is "capable of launching a subject substantially vertically from the ground onto the roof of a building."
New Scientist's Barry Fox, who combs through patent applications looking for especially weird ones to write about, notes that the patent application "suggests a computer could automatically devise the correct angle and speed of ascent" and "claims that a 4-metre-tall launcher could put a man on the top of a 5 storey building in less than 2 seconds."
Need one of the people being propelled onto the roof of a building by an early version of this people-launcher fret about such things? Perhaps they would worry less if they knew the name of Segway inventor Dean Kamen had been spotted on the DARPA patent application. Surely Kamen wouldn't knowingly endanger people! He's invented medical devices, including the first portable infusion pump. He also started a kid-centric nonprofit, U.S. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). What would be less inspiring than your favorite inventor being involved in a scandal involving dozens of catapult-related injuries?
Any inventors who have to explain the "drawbacks" of a "circus-type" design to explain the need for their invention likely feel a bit weird about it already, so let's not make him feel much weirder. For instance, I suggest no ridiculous questions about adding wacky sound effects each time someone is launched onto a building. First, the sounds wouldn't be appropriate in an emergency situation. Just because it's a circus-like device doesn't mean they're at the circus. Second, even if the sounds were appropriate, everyone would be a bit busy to muck around with playing the effects (see "emergency situation"). If the sound sysem was an automatic part of the system, it would just be another part to break down all the more easily, and then need to be fixed. This would probably require extra people-launchers, and those things are probably going to be expensive, with or without sound systems.
The Breeders - Cannonball (from Last Splash)