As the cooler seasons come to the Southern Hemisphere it’s time for people to start rugging up. Global warming notwithstanding there’s still enough of a nip in the air to make people start thinking of staying warm.
Throughout thousands of years people have been finding solutions to heating up, but since fire and blankets aren’t patentable – inventors have had to come up with other ways of turning our desire for warmth into something that they can sell and that needs protection from copycats eager to steal their potentially hugely profitable intellectual property.
Patent US 3114825A from General Electric dates from 1961.
This pad is a sensible solution to the potential problems of heating pads. The possibility of electrocution is taken care of with special circuitry and the possibility of fire with non-flammable fibreglass insulation. Heating pads have a distinct advantage over other methods of heating. Most heating requires the warming the air in a room which then warms people up. Unfortunately, air isn’t a particularly great conductor of heat, so you need to heat up a lot of it to feel its effects. The other disadvantage of hot air is that it rises, so it’s going to heat up the ceiling before it heats you up. Faced with the realities of physics, and the insight that it’s people who want the warmth, not the environment, inventors have gotten somewhat more inventive and the patents a little more bizarre.
US 4605000A from 1986 – The Greenhouse Helmet
Why should Planet Earth have all the fun of the greenhouse effect? Since a lot of body heat escapes via the head (heat travels up, remember) why not trap it where it’s needed. The Greenhouse helmet is made from a plastic with anti-fogging treatment, so you can get on with your life without breath condensation getting in the way. All your hot air creates a comfortable, tropical environment and the carbon-dioxide in your exhalations feeds the plants that are conveniently living in the helmet. Aside from the warmth, the plants provide you with fresh air, protected from pollution and the moisture in your breath means that you never have to water the plants either. It’s like a holiday in Queensland without the inconvenience and expense.
US 6612440B1 from 2003 – The Gerbil Vest
Necessity is the mother of invention, so why not try to kill several necessities with one stone, or in this case another stylish and subtle item of apparel? Although the Gerbil vest was probably designed with the intention of keeping gerbils exercised and teaching kids the responsibility of looking after their pets, the fact that a warm animal is running around your trunk and that you’d have to be twitching and moving around, and generating your own body heat a lot as one of the humankind’s favourite rodents uses you as an athletic track, you can’t help but be both burning calories and heating up at the same time. Like the Greenhouse helmet above the Gerbil Vest makes ingenious use of synergies to solve several problems at once. One can’t imagine why these things just aren’t flying off the shelves every winter.
Finally, winter isn’t just about staying warm. Winter is preceded by autumn and that means the pretty, but annoying reality of leaves falling off trees.
US 604245B1 – Leaf Gathering Trousers
Why waste a walk in the garden? A pair of these zip-on tubes have a net between them. As you stride through over-bounteous nature leaf-fall magically gathers up between your legs so that you become, in effect a human rake. If you’re really smart you can put all three of the above inventions on your kids, so that they can pretend to be astronauts with their pet gerbils and doing useful work gathering specimens of life on the alien world of “Outdoorsia” (which really has become an alien world for a lot of kids), while getting them some exercise and away from glowing screens while you can stay inside, resting your feet on a warming pad while getting a turn playing your own games of Minecraft on the tablet for a change.