I was having an ‘Isn’t it brilliant?’ conversation with the H the other morning. This involves me enthusing over my latest topic/discovery like the character from a BBC sketch show called The Fast Show. He was a Mancunian teenager who would march around different locations explaining why things were ‘brilliant’ in a simplistic teenagery way….very sweet and endearing and funny. Watch a sketch here
These conversations don’t involve me marching around (and it’s probably quite annoying for the H) but they do include boundless enthusiasm and whip fast trains of thought that I have difficulty keeping up with…and it’s my head! I call it a conversation but in reality the H doesn’t actually have much of an opportunity to get a word in….my mouth tries to keep up with my brain so it’s usually more of a monologue.
Today’s topics were people and inventions. I don’t remember exactly how it started but I was telling the H about the 2 little Bolivian girls that are all over the internet at the moment for constructing a mechanical arm…without the help of the internet. Ok, they didn’t invent the mechanical arm; the mechanical arm was patented by a chap called George Devol in 1954. No, these 2 girls; Erika and Esmeralda (TOP names) invented THEIR mechanical arm with no internet help….think about that….no having a quick look at a YouTube video when you get stuck, no study page to explain the principles of hydraulics with helpful animation clips, no chirpy educator to tell you to “go and have fun with science!”
These girls had the instruction they received in class, their teacher and their curiosity and determination. They had to work it out for themselves. In this instance they had to invent the process themselves. They were 12. It’s bloody amazing! How do you even begin to do that???.
Another ‘invention without the internet’ which is making the internet rounds is the windmill constructed by 2 Indian brothers in Assam. Mehtar and Mostak needed water for their crops but couldn’t afford the diesel for a pump…so they built a wind-powered water pump.
Again, I am in awe. These chaps had a problem and with some honest to goodness hard work, trial and error, and materials that had been discarded as rubbish – Bob’s your uncle: water pump! Brilliant!
Their creation process – genius. They said they were inspired by the village children playing with pinwheels. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that lightbulb moment…I imagine it going something like this:
Brother A -“Hmmmm pain in the arse this watering the crops with buckets…we need a pump”
Brother B – “We’re skint bruv….”
Brother A – “Where are the kids? They need to give us a hand.”
Brother B – “They made pinwheels at school bruv, they’re off playing”
Brother A – “Pinwheels….”
Alright, alright, they obviously don’t speak with a London accent but you get the idea. When you read about great inventions, a lot of the time the creative spark comes from serendipitous connections and situations.
Not all inspiration comes from the need to solve a fundamental problem. Curiosity, and I would guess a fair amount of imbibing were the fuel for many an invention.
There was another BBC programme called Robot Wars. (Lots of great programmes on the BBC). Robot nerds pitted their homemade battle robots against eachother in a studio arena. There were also house robots in the arena that would join in the fight and add to the mayhem. The basic premise was to beat the crap out eachother’s robots and be the last one standing. This show was a Uni favourite; compulsory watching after a successful afternoon in the student union bar drinking cheap pints (you see, imbibing).
There were all sorts of people who turned up on the show but a lot of them were students; students who’d decided one drunken afternoon that they could build a much better robot and get on tv.
It was such a great programme – a lot of the robots were rubbish and the house rules didn’t apply to the house robots so they had weapons like flame throwers and rotary saws! It was robot carnage! But,the variety and ingenuity of the robots was incredible….Brilliant!
My favourite house robot was Sir Killalot. He had a drilling lance and a hydraulic cutting claw. C’MON PEOPLE! How bloody fantastic is that?!?!?. I always thought that the producers of this show were just trying to see how much they could get away with before the Controller of BBC2 reined them in…or someone lost a finger.
I’m bowled over by how inventive and creative people can be. Humans have an amazing capacity for imagination, problem solving and sticking bits of tat together to make other stuff. Stuff that will make life a bit easier or just stuff that keeps them amused. It’s been said that there are no great inventions left to discover…I don’t believe that. As long as there’s cheap beer, empty toilet rolls, bits of old toaster and the need, people will always be coming up with the next great gizmo.
Watch Sir Killalot in action.