#2. New Ways to Fight Fire
Hold on, let us put on our best Bruce Willis voice for this old adage: "Sometimes you have to fight fire ... with fire."
And now there's an even more badass truth: Sometimes you have to fight fire ... with lightning.
We think Smokey the Bear might have undersold how cool fire safety really is.
DARPA researchers at Harvard were recently able to successfully extinguish an 18-inch flame using nothing but "beam electricity" powered by a 600-watt amplifier. The process is actually pretty simple, and you can watch a video of it here. Basically, the electricity creates a new path, directing the flame away from the fuel. If you've ever distracted your stoned roommate from raiding the ramen cupboard with a well-placed copy of A Scanner Darkly, you get the idea.
Of course, that's still in the experimental stage, and if you need to put out much more than an over-toasted bagel, DARPA's lightning gun probably won't be of much help. Enter China, which subscribes to the phallic overcompensation school of firefighting:
We're not gonna say "ladies" this time, but know that we're thinking it.
That's not an art project, a concept, or a stunt. It is a real water cannon, powered by a real jet engine, in use by real Chinese firefighting forces. It can rotate almost a full 360 degrees, has an effective range of 400 feet, and sprays an astonishing four tons of water per minute. That doesn't just put out the fire -- it shames the fire, wipes the seeds of the fire from the Earth, and taints that fire's name forever in the annals of history. It laughs at fire. It ruins fire. It undoes the very concept of fire. It is, without question, the single best firefighting tool we have today ... if you absolutely don't give a damn about water damage. Because seriously, kids are going to be wakeboarding through your kitchen the next day if you call 911 and that thing rolls up to your apartment building.
In retrospect, the baked Alaska might not have been worth it.
#1. The Lifeguard Bazooka
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Lifeguards are toned, sexy figures who watch over us to make sure we're doing things right and save us when we do wrong. You know, like Jesus. (What? You look at those old pictures and you tell us Jesus wasn't ripped.)
Thanks to such esteemed documentaries as Baywatch and, to a lesser extent, Baywatch Nights, we all know the drill: You start flailing around in the ocean -- despite having waited the customary 45 seconds after eating those 45 hot dogs -- when soft rock starts blaring from out of literally nowhere, a beautiful person in a red bathing suit comes jogging at you in slow motion, somebody fires up a brief rescue montage, and you wake up alive on the beach.
"A buoy? No, this thing just plays Kenny Loggins songs."
Well, that's how it used to go. Now, with the LONGREACH Buoyancy Deployment System, drowning rescue looks more like this:
Even if you aren't rescued, you at least get the more dignified death of being shot in the face by a cannon.
This beneficent rocket launcher fires lumps of foam that rapidly expand as soon as they touch water, thus allowing lifeguards to get flotation devices to struggling swimmers as far as 150 meters away without ever getting their immaculately feathered hair wet. But it's not just a crude wad of Styrofoam insultingly blasted into your face by a man with abs -- the foam projectile also comes with an emergency light for better tracking, allowing the rescuers to find you easier ... when they eventually stop giggling and thumping you upside the head with dozens of life jackets, that is.
Related Reading: If only every new gadget were this useful. Then maybe we wouldn't live in a world with the around-the-neck wine glass holder. Or this app that makes you pay for missing the gym. But hey, at least those nerdy gadgets aren't killing you.