6 Utterly Insane Innovations History Was SURE Were Coming
Popular Science is a pretty reputable publication. It's all right there in the name: This is strictly the most popular science around, folks. None of that weirdo, mascara-wearing fringe stuff allowed at this Science Prom, sonny. If there's going to be any speculation at all within these tomes, it will be a totally reasonable extrapolation of current emerging technologies that -- aw, hell, who are we kidding? The only difference between old-timey Popular Science and B-quality science fiction covers was a pair of heaving green breasts. Need proof? Sure: Here are the most baffling vehicular predictions Popular Science seemed really keen on at the time ...
Everything Will Evolve into One Giant Wheel
For some reason, Popular Science just could not accept that cars, trains and airplanes were actually viable methods of travel. They looked at the stable, speedy craft of the day and said "Surely these are flashes in the pan. The future is ONE GIANT WHEEL!" And then they laughed and chugged laudanum until they lapsed into a Science Coma.
And we get the appeal, really, we do: But it just seems cruel to use your Inverse Penny-Farthing of Death to mow down those tiny little dudes with their adorable toy cannons. Pick on somebody your own size, Science.
Sometimes he puts playing cards in between the spokes.
This is how much Popular Science was willing to sacrifice for our uni-wheel-based future: They were totally OK with being built into their vehicles permanently, with no possible means of exit.
Men in Black III is looking at a lawsuit from the past future.
We make fun, but you have to admit: The future that Popular Science envisioned -- a hectic, frenetic place full of pencil-mustachioed men being pursued by the ghost bikers from Heavy Metal -- is way cooler than the Priuses and electric trams we ended up with.
Ground Transport With Propellers
A propeller car? But why, Popular Science? It obviously already has an engine and wheels of at least the same size as, if not bigger than, a normal car's, and in the same places, too! What does using a propeller add to this automobile design, aside from a sexy element of danger? Sure, if you mowed down some neighborhood kids while whiskey-bombing around town in your bright orange plane-car, the victim would be in way too many pieces to ever testify against you, but even for an era when people wanted to ride Hula Hoops into war, that seems unusually reckless.
Primary design influences: Twinkies and Jules Verne.
The only benefit we can see to mounting a giant, completely unshielded propeller on the front of a train in place of an internal engine is that it could conceivably lubricate the tracks with the blood of sleeping hobos.
"Ideally, we want a monorail that constantly crashes into the Empire State Building."
Oh! OK. All right, we're starting to see it now. They wanted to design a form of transport that mimicked a pair of boobies decked out with spinning tassels as closely as possible. We apologize for all that earlier nay-saying, old-timey Science; we're totally on board with that agenda.
Snow Vehicles With Aircraft Features
You're already a grown-ass man on a sled. You look ridiculous. Why not slap some kite wings on there and fly away from the shame? At least it would be fun as hell, right?
Look at his face. Look at that grim, determined expression, completely oblivious of that goofy athletic-sock hat flapping in the breeze behind him. This man is not having something so trite as "fun," no -- he has only gone kite-sledding to advance the noble endeavors of all mankind. God bless you, sir.
Skis for skiing, wings for breaking your goddamn neck.
And you, noble pioneer: We salute your stoic-faced determination. No, don't salute back. We understand. You have to hold on to those wings with your bare hands for some reason.
Nothing says "thrilling" like being one well-placed rock away from castration.
And you, esteemed pilo-
OK, no. Listen, somebody has to be having fun on one of these damn things. If you're not, then just get off. It's our turn. And we'll show you how it's fucking done: Our "whee"s shall vibrate the oceans themselves.
Didn't James Bond escape from these people at one point?
Oh, holy shit! Never mind! You guys can keep that one. What happens if he wipes out? He has no choice but to go straight into that open propeller behind him. That guy doesn't even look like he was supposed to be attached to that thing. It looks more like he went out for a nice between-war ski session when that screaming metal Beholder with a propeller for a face started chasing him down a mountain, leaving him no choice but to latch on to its arms and shred the rad -- shred the rad for his very life!
Reinventing the Airplane
We get the concept, that two massive jet turbines could substitute the lifting power of wings with sheer engine force. And we can also concede that this design, goofy as it is, might be a predecessor of the modern jet. But try as we might to see the noble face of scientific advancement here, all we can make out is two flying toilet paper roll holders.
And also, if your lift and thrust is being entirely supplied by two giant turbines -- why keep the little propeller down there? Surely it's just to spite birds at that point.
If enough propellers are smashed together at great speed, then propulsion is created.
Ah, we see: Because of the scientific property of propellers to be "really neat."
Well, if three propellers are good, then four propellers must be gooder:
"I can't see a damn thing."
Yeah! That's so cool! Those two propellers in the back aren't even doing anything; they're totally free to just be awesome, all the time! Oh man, what if you could like flip a propeller sideways and make it really, really giant and-
OK, somebody's either officially fucking with Popular Science, or their new tech editor that year was Mark Twain.
Ball-Based Means of Transportation
We like balls as much as the next guy -- well, except maybe Pretty Gary (he's a basketball fan, guys; get your mind out of the gutter) -- but if you're already in a hilariously tiny car inside the giant ball, why voluntarily hamster yourselves? Why not just take a cue from Pretty Gary, own up to who you really want to be and drive that hilariously tiny car around with pride?
"U.S. Army: Taking out bald eagles and beavers ... together."
It was so nice of Popular Science to not only illustrate this hypothetical vehicle, but to also point out exactly what's wrong with it and how to exploit that flaw to easily defeat it. Here they've both debuted and closed the book forever on the Terror Globe in one fell swoop: It's obviously stuck in that trench.
Because that is its one and only weakness: slight depressions.
Well, at least Popular Science seems to be catching on that "slap a ball on that bitch" is not always Step 2 in the design process ...
It's every step.
W-what the bouncing fuck? Planes were already a thing! They flew through the air just like that -- way better, in fact, because they weren't being weighed down by a giant clown ball!
Although, let's be fair, look at the tagline: "Queer Vehicles Inventors Produce." Even in an era when they painstakingly illustrated serious, be-jawlined men flitting about on kite-sleds without the slightest hint of irony, Popular Science didn't buy this shit for a second.
Reinventing the Helicopter
You've seen those maple seed pods gently drifting down on the spring breeze, right? They're beautiful, elegant machines designed purely by nature. They are delicate organic wings, perfectly counterweighted and angled to spin with just the right momentum to coast gracefully along the wind itself. Seeing one dance in the air is somehow both painful and joyous, a reminder of simpler times when the world around you held infinite wonder.
Yeah, Science put a gun on one of those things and mounted a grinning psychopath in the center.
This is the face of progress.
"I'm a serial aerial vomiter."
Its hobbies are "spinning" and "shooting," and its only dislikes are "running out of bullets" and "steering even a little bit."
Finally, a vehicle for the Escher in all of us.
We already know about the "more propeller" school of aircraft design, so we only have one question about this wholly unnecessary complication of the helicopter: Where does the person go? Is he crammed into that tiny box? Is this a battlecraft for Chinese acrobats or method acting mimes?
Oh hey, we completed our PopSci bingo card.
When your aircraft needs four giant propellers and a balloon just to get airborne, maybe it's time to cut back on the wrought-iron metalwork, yeah?
The previous issue had a giant floating wine bottle.
We're not even sure what to say about this one.
Does this even count as an attempt to reinvent the helicopter? Because as near as we can tell, this bright red bulb hot-glued to a corkscrew is only staying aloft through the magic of Christmas Cheer. Was this ever a theory -- that if you could just spin a wine opener fast enough, you could hover? Because that sounds less like aeronautical science and more like a mean trick to play on drunk people at parties. We swear to God, if that was anybody else piloting this thing, we would write it off entirely.
But that's clearly Nikola Tesla in there, so we guess we'll just go ahead and start reading up for the written portion of our magic corkscrew license test.
Once described as a "more cynical version of Stephen Fry," you can find more deconstructive criticism from Adam on subjects such as how to save men's fashion and what your children will all (probably) want to be when they grow up at his site. You can also read the rest of his Cracked articles here.
For more ridiculous predictions, check out 18 Hilarious Modes of Transport Science Gave Up On Too Soon and 6 Insanely Awesome Things The 1900s Thought We'd Have by Now.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Proof That 'Demolition Man' Was a Visionary Film