inventions

Harriet Jones / WNPR

A Connecticut inventor has just patented a device that he hopes will help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. It’s based on a theory about radio waves.

The Library of Congress

The Ohio House approved a resolution repudiating Connecticut for claims that Bridgeport's Gustave Whitehead beat the Wright brothers as first in flight.

The bill asserts that Ohio-born brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright were first with their 1903 flight off Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It goes further though, declaring that Whitehead did not fly in a "powered, heavier than air machine" in 1901, "or on any other date."

Back in 1890, Thomas Edison gave us some of the world's first talking dolls. Today, the glassy-eyed cherubs that are still around stand about 2 feet tall; they have wooden limbs and a metal body; and they sound supercreepy. (If you're looking for a soundtrack to your nightmares, listen to the audio story above.) Edison built and sold about 500 of them back in 1890. Now, new technology has made hearing them possible for the first time in decades.

Orville Wright / Library of Congress

For decades, David McCullough has chronicled some of the biggest chapters of U.S. history. In his latest book, McCullough focuses on two brothers who not only had a massive impact on the United States, but on the world. The Wright Brothers follows Orville and Wilbur’s path to immortality and their lasting legacy.

Among those who dispute the Wright brothers' claim to fame are supporters of Connecticut resident Gustave Whitehead who they say was the first to fly in 1901. In fact, Connecticut lawmakers went so far as to officially declare that Whitehead was the first to fly, ticking off North Carolina and Ohio in the process.

WNPR/Ryan King

Robert Noll’s job is pretty simple. As a contractor for MARC Industries in Manchester, Noll screws nuts onto U-bolts that are used to install pipes and sprinkler systems.

But he's visually and intellectually disabled, so performing this task efficiently is sometimes a problem. 

Tim Jenison

The New Britain Museum of American Art will show a documentary film on Thursday about one man's quest to duplicate the painting technique of Dutch master Jan Vermeer. "If my idea was right, we're seeing color photographs, more or less, from 350 years ago," said inventor Tim Jenison.

In the documentary "Tim's Vermeer," Jenison is convinced Vermeer used optical gadgets to achieve his almost photographic paintings, and becomes obsessed with figuring out exactly how.

Gavid Bowy/flickr creative commons

Your kitchen cabinet glows and you simply open its doors and begin talking (on Skype) with a friend or relative you can see. (Think what this means for children and grandparents, no matter they live.)

This is the idea of David Rose, an inventor and instructor at the legendary MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His new book, Enchanted Objects, is a fascinating read, because it explains how technology, human desire, design, and purpose meet up to improve our lives.

Company Experiments With 3D-Printed Car

Jul 16, 2014

3D printers are capable of producing a variety of consumer products, from children’s toys to prosthetic limbs. Now, a company in the Phoenix area is trying to take the technology to the next level with cars. From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Carrie Jung of KJZZ reports.

Johan Hansson/flickr creative commons

This hour: a call-in on great ideas past, present, and future. Tell us about things in technology, psychology, science, education, art, culture, and design that rank as great ideas. If it's not invented yet, tell us what you dream of—you never know who's listening. The world is filled with great ideas; it's fun and interesting to notice them. Many more are on the way from Apple and others.

Around the country, there are lots of tinkerers working on what they hope will be the next brilliant idea — but who don't have the tools in their garage to build it.

In dozens of cities, those innovators can set up shop in a "maker space" — community workshops where members have access to sophisticated tools and expertise.

Maker spaces have become hotbeds of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Now, governments, universities and big corporations are taking notice — and beginning to invest in them.

There's a half-kilometer stretch of road in the Netherlands that looks a bit like something out of the movie Tron, thanks to new luminescent markings that glow green in the dark.

The photoluminescent paint, a sort of amped-up version of what is found on many wristwatches, charges up during daylight hours and then emits the green hue at night along the short test patch of N329 highway in Oss, according to Dutch companies Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans, a road construction firm.

South by Southwest Interactive is the technology-driven part of the annual Austin-based festival for digital, film and music and it starts on Friday. An expected 30,000 people will take part in the interactive and film week that precedes music, and they love it for the spontaneity and the chaos. They also hate it because of the chaos — parties on every corner, marketing handouts at every turn and a sprawling program of panels, screenings and speakers that span at least a dozen city blocks in the heart of Texas.

As further evidence that this is perhaps the year the Internet of everything really becomes a thing, Google paid $3.2 billion in cash for Nest, the home automation company that pioneered smart thermostats and lately,

A Tribute To Failure

Jan 8, 2014

In a society where success is pursued and celebrated above everything else, where media stars, sport champions and the very rich are idolized, failure is seen as an embarrassment, something we must avoid at all costs and, when we can't, must be hidden from everyone else.

National Air and Space Museum

If Connecticut thought a state law acknowledging Bridgeport resident Gustav Whitehead as the first in flight would put the issue of who flew first to rest, Ohio and North Carolina are saying: not so fast. North Carolina Republican State Senator Bill Cook and Ohio Republican State Representative Rick Perales held dual news conferences Thursday reasserting the Wright brothers' legacy as the first to achieve powered flight. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

For most of us, yellow jackets are a nuisance and for some people, they’re fatal. But for Norman Patterson, they’re more of an obsession.

“As a child, I remember finding a wild honey bee hive in the woods and I was fascinated by it," said Patterson. "That’s really what got me into honey bees, which eventually got me into collecting hornets and yellow jackets for medical labs.”

Sujata Srinivasan

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves....” For kids in the Connecticut Invention Convention program, now poised to expand through corporate grants, becoming inventors and entrepreneurs seems to be all in a day’s work.

ralphbijker/flickr creative commons

If you've ever read a book on an e-reader, unleashed your inner rock star playing Guitar Hero, built a robot with LEGO Mindstorms, or ridden in a vehicle with child-safe air bags, then you've experienced first hand just a few of the astounding innovations that have come out of the MIT Media Lab over the past 25 years. We'll look at the transformative innovations that these digital magicians have up their sleeves for the coming years with Frank Moss, author of The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices.

State lawmakers passed a bill this week recognizing German immigrant Gustave Whitehead as the first to fly in rather than the celebrated Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk. It was one of just a few bills passed with bi-partisan support.

North Carolina and the famous Wright brothers are known for being “first in flight.” But Connecticut has been in an ongoing battle for that status. Some historians argue that German immigrant Gustave Whitehead made the first flight in 1901 in Bridgeport. New research this week provides more evidence in favor of Whitehead.

Breakfast for Dinner/Sinclair Lewis (Flickr Creative Commons)

What do Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Steve Wozniack, and the Wright Brothers have in common?

They’re tinkerers, of course.

Yes, tinkering isn’t just something that your uncle does on the weekends. As author Alec Foege says, tinkerers help make America great.

Today, the word tinkering can refer to any number of things. From fixing up old cars, to designing things with 3D printers, tinkerers are using the tools at their disposal to make even better tools, gadgets, and items that many of us take for granted.

ralphbijker/flickr creative commons

If you've ever read a book on an e-reader, unleashed your inner rock star playing Guitar Hero, built a robot with LEGO Mindstorms, or ridden in a vehicle with child-safe air bags, then you've experienced first hand just a few of the astounding innovations that have come out of the MIT Media Lab over the past 25 years. We'll look at the transformative innovations that these digital magicians have up their sleeves for the coming years with Frank Moss, author of The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices.

Courtesy of the IP Factory

When it comes to inventing things, Connecticut still punches way above its weight. But sometimes the good ideas dreamed up here end up languishing on a shelf instead of making a difference in people’s lives. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports on a new project that aims to find a home for orphan technologies.

Sujata Srinivasan

Most people wait till adulthood to discover their knack for business. But others tap into their entrepreneurial spirit before they even hold a drivers license. In the second of a two part series on young inventors, WNPR’s Sujata Srinivasan meets the teen entrepreneurs.

Sujata Srinivasan

Some young people seem driven to invent. And if that spirit is nurtured it can become the basis for a successful business career.  In the first of a two part series on early entrepreneurship, WNPR’s Sujata Srinivasan met some of the state’s very youngest creative minds at Connecticut’s Invention Convention.

Flickr Creative Commons, meddgarnet

Twenty years ago, I got interested in those plastic -- usually white plastic -- outdoor chairs. "Resin casual furniture," as they were known in the industry. The most popular design was called a "bucket" chair.

North Charleston (Flickr Creative Commons)

Some 2400 high school students on 64 robot building teams gather at the Connecticut Convention Center today and tomorrow for the FIRST Regional robotics competition. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Joining us by phone this morning is one of the participants Dave Givens, he is a junior at Wolcott High School and a member of Team MAX.

Flickr Creative Commons, kakissel

What is 3-D printing? One of our guests today, Michael Weinberg explained it better than I could:

"Essentially, a 3D printer is a machine that can turn a blueprint into a physical object. Feed it a design for a wrench, and it produces a physical, working wrench. Scan a coffee mug with a 3-D scanner, send the file to the printer, and produce thousands of identical mugs."

Sujata Srinivasan

Last year’s jobs bill set aside $100 million as a loan pool to help small businesses grow and create jobs. It’s dubbed the Small Business Express Package, and applicants were promised a quick turnaround. State officials have been touring the state to explain the program to businesses that might benefit. But as WNPR’s Sujata Srinivasan reports, they have yet to finalize a loan.

Dick Howell, Wikipedia

Contrary to what you've been told, the first flying machine may have flown in Bridgeport.

Gustave Whitehead is a mostly unsung pioneer in American aviation, and there's some evidence supporting the claim that he flew before Wilbur and Orville did.

Whitehead's story stayed buried a long time, and some believers say this was because of anti-Teutonic attitudes at the outbreak of World War I.

We'll check in with the New England Air Museum about Gustave's flight and the storm of controversy his story ignited among aviation historians.