5 Poor Design Problems You Didn't Know Have Easy Fixes

One of the dumbest adages in the world is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." My main beef is that this assumes that, merely by virtue of working at all, something cannot -- or rather, should not -- be improved upon. The house could reek of smoke, but until your recliner and crotch simultaneously burst into flame, you're going to stay put.

The modern world is full of things that we take for granted, and assume are still around by virtue of their efficiency. However, a lot of such things are actually really bad at what they are designed to do. And the real kick in the teeth is that we already have the technology and the know-how to improve upon them. Why they haven't started burning the world's collective dong into action is anyone's guess.

#5. Cars

John Lund/Getty

The Original:

Cars kill approximately 1.3 million people globally every year. They're so evil, in fact, that they singlehandedly destroyed Pixar's reputation. When you ruin the goodwill built up by three Toy Story movies, you've dropped lower than "bad movie." Cars 2 is the kind of movie that teenage movies use to scare their younger movie brothers. Rumor has it that if you go to Best Buy at 2 a.m. when there's a full moon, you can see a copy of Cars 2 wailing eternally into the night, wishing it was Monsters, Inc. And that's the entirety of my stand-up routine based solely around Cars 2. Goodnight, you've been a great audience!

Pixar
Lighting has the same face as any audience forced to see Cars 2.

The problem with actual cars, however, is us. Human error accounts for the overwhelming majority of those crashes/accidents/deaths. Which is why we have companies like Google and Tesla trying to Minority Report our society by giving us driverless cars (with only one fatality so far). Good job, smart people. We can relax, trusting that we're being given the absolute best in technological achievement, right?

The Replacement:

There's a way we can make cars safer so that 1.3 million people don't die on the roads until the cars can drive themselves (or we invent teleportation). If you look at the physics involved, the longer a car's hood is, the bigger the crumple zone and the more lives saved. It's that simple. Look at Batman's car. That long hood isn't just for aesthetics. That's the work of a guy who decided "I'm going to be driving through downtown Gotham in a fucking rocket car. I'm likely going to be slamming through several buildings, because I'm goddamn Batman. I need to be smart about this."

Warner Bros.
"Unless I'm played by Christian Bale."

This huge hood is important, because every crash is actually three collisions. The first is your car against whatever you've drunkenly driven into, be it a fire hydrant, the neighbor's dog, or the garage door. The second is your body against the interior of the car (which is slowed down by crumple zones, seat belts, and airbags. And the third is your internal organs against your skeleton. Well, four, if you count the impact of your intoxicated explanation against the sighs of the police officer.

So if the hood of each car was way longer than they currently are (I'm talking 10 feet longer), crashes would lose a lot of the risk. There is a problem, however. No one wants to drive a limousine with the steering wheel at the back, and no one wants to pull up beside someone who seems to be steering from the ass end of their truck.

Luc016/Wikimedia Commons
"No, really, it's a safety feature, and I'm quite secure in the size of my penis. Thanks, though."

And that's only for head-on collisions. The ideal design would take into account all 360 degrees of potential death and look something like an old-school UFO, protecting the passengers in every direction that a fire hydrant might appear from. Something like Citroen's "mutated" DS, but with wheels and much, much bigger. The extra space would be filled with crumple zones, and its streamlined shape would also save pedestrian lives. The Jaguar XK's Pedestrian Deployable Bonnet system works hard to create the very shape that a "UFO" car would already have, without the added bonus of being able to say, "That's my UFO," when you're asked what kind of car you have.

Admittedly, it looks goofy. And yes, traffic jams would be worse (we'll get to that in a second). But it's way more death-proof than this fucker, and I'm not so upset about overpopulation that I want to see 1.3 million people die every year because we're too vain to drive stupid-looking cars.

#4. Traffic Lights

Matthias Makarinus/Getty Images

The Original:

How much of your life has been spent sitting at traffic lights thinking about exploding the heads of everyone within a two-block radius? If you're anything like me, It's a lot of your life. (And I don't even drive -- I just stand at traffic lights and think about exploding heads.) This is hardly surprising, given that the traditional red-yellow-green signal is specifically designed to test the patience of saints.

Luca Rossetti da Orta
"Wait, so I can heal the sick, but I can't catch a green when I'm the only car there?"
"I am sorry, my son. That is beyond even my power."

The human reaction time all but guarantees that by the time the 10th car in line has started to move, the lights have already changed and you're left biting the steering wheel and thinking of going to the Dark Side. It's called the shockwave effect (or concertina effect) and it's going to be a problem for as long as humans are driving (or for as long as humans are humans, I guess).

The Replacement:

Luckily, there is a solution already at hand which stops our stupid brains from not noticing when the lights have changed and screwing everyone behind us. The traditional red-yellow-green display can stay -- all that's needed is a countdown indicator which can be clearly seen by all of the drivers in the queue. That's it. No big redesign, no going back to the drawing board -- just add a simple timer which lets commuters know when their purgatory will be at an end, and everyone will pull away much more quickly, so that we can all get to work sooner.

Kanal uzytkownika homomnis /YouTube
"Yaaaaaaaaaaayyy-- oh, wait."

Even in a non-scientific sense, the fact that there is a notable progression of time would put drivers at ease. You would no longer have to say to yourself, "Welp, I guess this is where I die," whenever you hit a red light on a hot summer afternoon.

There are countdown clocks for pedestrians in many cities in the US, but something like what is used in Torun, Poland or the United Arab Emirates would be a fantastic addition. The ones put in place have been met with great success -- reducing traffic accidents by half and easing congestion. This would go a long way toward stopping the screaming-at-the-dashboard sessions that Joey Bloggs goes through every time his foot leaves the gas.

#3. Nuclear Fission

Christophe Van Biesen/Getty Images

The Original:

The energy industry is truly immense. It spans almost the entire globe and has taken centuries to be put into place. One of the 20th Century's biggest contributions was nuclear fission. By placing radioactive elements (Uranium-235) in water, the resulting steam is forced through turbines which generate electricity. It's so simple that even Homer Simpson can do it.


Well, kind of.

There is one teeny-tiny problem you may have noticed, however. If shit goes south, you get a Chernobyl or Fukushima-style meltdown, wherein water is denied access to the radioactive element and it literally melts down and out of the protective casing which holds it, poisoning the surrounding environment for generations (and if Hollywood is to be believed, creating giant lizards and a chunk of the Marvel Universe as well).

The Replacement:

But fear not, mortals, for resident genius tiny scientist Taylor Wilson is at hand to save our asses. After building a fusion reactor in his garage at the age of 14 (because girls are icky and humans cannot survive on a diet of Pokemon alone), Mr. Wilson discovered that Doc Ock's dream isn't ready yet, so he went back to look at nuclear fission to see if we had truly hit a dead end with that technology. Turns out we hadn't, but thousands of scientists for more than the last half century didn't bother to ask themselves if there was any improvement to be made. And boy howdy is there improvement here!

Mental Floss
"No need to reinvent the wheel here. It's not like we're splitting ato-- it's not that complicated, is my point."

Wilson's small mobile nuclear reactors have so many benefits that they sound like the energy miracle we've all been waiting for. They cannot physically melt down, so even if there is a Fukushima-like earthquake or Chernobyl-style fuck up, no one is going to be getting any super strength in the neighborhood. They are stored underground, and cannot be weaponized by terrorists. They eat fucking nuclear waste for breakfast, so they can get rid of all that terrifying crap we've got buried all over the place. They could help the Third World produce cheap, reliable, clean energy, so that people can have electricity whenever they need it. Their output is so big (50-100 megawatts) they could even power a (wo)manned mission to Mars. And of course, they could cut our carbon emissions drastically.

So yeah, let's throw as much money at this guy as possible before he inevitably turns into a supervillain and holds the world for ransom. In 2012, he got a Thiel Fellowship for $100,000, but I think a good million will keep him from shaving his head and starting the Injustice Gang.

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