You definitely notice design mistakes in your everyday life. Every time you open your fridge and the door swings into the cabinets, you curse the eyes of the fool who placed it. But it doesn't always work the other way. There are tons of ingenious little design quirks which improve our lives in small but meaningful ways, and we hardly ever notice them. It's time to change that. Stop for a moment and appreciate how ...
Have you ever noticed that the texture of the sidewalk changes as you approach a crosswalk? There's a series of rigid bumps just before the sidewalk meets the road. But why? To hilariously trip up rollerbladers, who absolutely deserve it? Not quite. Those bumps warn people with visual impairments that they are rapidly approaching an asphalt river of death.
The bumps originated in 1960s Japan as tenji blocks, then spread throughout the world. Tactile paving is now the default means most cities use to assist blind or partially sighted pedestrians. Nowhere are they taken more seriously than in the UK, where officials have developed a veritable novel of guidelines on how and where to install them.
Street measles still warn of an upcoming pedestrian crossing, but those same bumps immediately followed by a horizontal groove pattern mean that you're about to step off of a subway platform and straight into an abyss. As a general rule, as long as the grooves in a sidewalk are aligned in the direction you're walking, it's safe to keep on a-truckin', whereas a sudden 90-degree shift in the pattern translates to "Stop now or die horribly." And now that you know that, feel free to never take your eyes off your smartphone ever again.
Think back to the last time you visited an amusement park. You waited in a twisting line for an hour, all for a ride that lasted two and a half minutes. And yet you probably left happy. But the last time you visited a grocery store, you stood in a straight line for a mere five minutes, and nearly ate the family in front of you. That's because it's not the length of the wait that matters, but our perceived fairness of the wait. In a single serpentine queue, the person who lined up first gets served first. In a grocery store, you have a series of parallel lines, and some might move faster than others. This infuriates us.
Decades of study into the probability, statistics, physics, and psychology of line-waiting (it's called "queuing theory," and you can study it at MIT; no kidding) have concluded that the serpentine queue, while not always practical due to size constraints, is vastly superior to old-fashioned lines when it comes to keeping our stress and anxiety levels in check. And that's why those parallel queues down at the grocery store are lined with nice light magazines and candy, and not with merchandise heavy enough to be repurposed into blunt weapons.
You probably assume your dowdy little tape measure is nothing more than a tape which measures. What a fool you have been! It is in fact packed with hidden features. First, there's the slot in the hook at the end of the tape. That's so you can slip it onto the head of a nail or screw, thereby allowing you to measure one-handed. The hook's edge is also serrated, not to provide a better grip, but to allow you to score the surface of whatever you're measuring by raking it back and forth. No more fumbling for a pencil, or marking with urine! (The only other ways!)
That bit of wiggle room where the hook attaches to the tape matches the precise thickness of the hook itself, meaning that you always get an accurate measurement, regardless of whether said measurement is outside or inside. What's an inside measurement? Well, have you ever placed the hooked end of a tape measure against the top corner of a window frame, bent the tape ever so carefully into the bottom corner, and still had to take a wild guess at the final measurement because who knows what's up with the curvy bits? Well, that's because you're doing it wrong! On the body of the tape measure is another measurement -- specifically, the measurement of the body of the tape measure. Place the hook against the top corner, place the body of the tape measure flat against the bottom corner, add the two measurements together, and voila! The only thing that can stop you now is basic math!
Still kind of a problem!
All cables have this weird, awkward thingy toward the end:
We always assumed they were there to supply just enough weight so we could use the cable as a makeshift flail, but these ferrite chokes -- really nothing more than a lump of semi-magnetic iron -- actually absorb electromagnetic and radio-frequency interference and convert it into heat.
It's cool that your smartphone can use a headphone cable as an antenna to pick up FM radio signals, but that means cables can broadcast signals as well. And thanks to the oscillator ticking away at the heart of basically every electronic device in existence, without a choke in place, all of our gadgets are veritable claymore mines of interference. In other words, those weird bumps are responsible for preventing our "wireless" world from crumbling into a horrible cacophony of static and dropped WiFi connections. Or maybe Breitbart is right and that's how the government spies on you.
Look at this weenie:
Those ludicrously tiny ketchup cups go against the whole point of fast food. We'd almost rather have a ketchup packet -- sure, they're probably a little smaller than the cup, but at least they're sealed, so you can stomp on them and shoot ketchup out like a ghetto squib. But that's because we've been using the cups wrong. Notice those ridges around the perimeter? Those are folded paper. They're designed to fan out. With a few gentle tugs, the cup expands, and is able to hold twice the ketchup of the condensed version.
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