Take this list:
* an egg on a parachute with a fish-hook inside to catch snakes;
* a gadget on trains to let them collect mail as they fly past;
* a horse-powered paddle-wheel ferry; and
* a gunpowder-powered pile driver.
Which one of those makes the most sense? The quick answer: odd as it may sound, all four are/were legitimate when they were introduced.
Here, you will meet also the shark-proof suit; the shoe gun; the combined cigarette lighter and perfume dispenser and much more. Also, a parachute that attached to your head (but you would be safe, because it came with shoes with nice cushiony soles); a combined grocer’s package, grater, slicer and mouse and fly trap; a steamship based on the rolling pin; and a catflap that was fitted with a colour sensor, so as to admit inventor’s ginger cat while blocking the passage of a neighbour’s black cat, though it could also be used to trigger a bomb in space.
This brought me to a couple of questions, of which the first one was: were these people nuts? The catflap was probably invented to make a point about the fatuity of some of the patent laws.
Over time this book morphed from ‘Crazy Inventions’ to ‘The Perils of Ingenuity’, to simply one question: why do humans get such odd ideas? The answer is: because they can. Without inventions and ingenuity, we would be less than human.
This book remains as a bit of a freak show, an entertainment that looks at wild ideas that we can snigger at, but in the end, you will find that your sniggering comes back to bite you, when I show why one clearly mad invention made absolute sense to me, because I am a science educator, and I was once sent to another country to help them with their teaching materials.
So you can have fun, but in the end, you will learn!