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Q-drum vattentunna

Q-drum. Smart water mover for the third world.
With the persistence of fools, we keep arguing that water, or rather the shortage of clean water, is one of the top health hazards in the world. We also think access to drinking water will be a major reason for war and conflict in the not-so-distant future. If more people could be given access to clean water, innumerable lives could be saved. We could present one idea for a simple transport system for water already in November of 2005; the Hippo-Roller water barrel. Here is another idea along the same lines, one that may be a little simpler to implement, but maybe harder to move. The Q-drum water mover has been designed by P.J. and P.S. Hendrikse as a cylindrical barrel that can be rolled or pulled along the ground and has room for up to 75 liters (about 20 US gallons) of water. Q-drum is one of many smart ideas exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York as part of the "Design for the other 90%" exhibit.

9 May 2007



Early container attached to a truck
The container – 50 years old this week.
Hardly any innovation has had the power to change and simplify world trade like the modern container. And this week it can celebrate its 50th birthday. Creator of the container was the American trucking entrepreneur Malcom McLean who came up with the idea in 1956 when he got tired of waiting in line in the harbor. With the standardized containers loading and unloading a ship is infinitely easier than in the old days. Instead of several weeks to unload a single ship, the work is now accomplished in less than 24 hours. But the container, although a blessing for world trade, has become something of a curse for shipping. Every now and then container ships lose one or several of their cargo containers, and those containers will often float semi-submersed for a long time, due to the quantity of air inside. Every year several ships are reportedly damaged in collisions with floating containers, and there's even those that claim that a number of unexplained shipping losses can be attributed to collisions with such containers.

24 April 2006




A. B.

Simple, cheap and smart water purification.
We happen to think that clean water might very well be the major reason for conflict in the (perhaps not so distant) future. Oil is important, of course, but you can actually get on without oil and petroleum products. Without water, there is no basis for either human, animal, plant or insect life. Period. Whoever controls the source of water has control over the lives of those dependent on water, i.e. the rest of us. The development and widespread distribution of simple and cheap ways and devices to clean water for drinking and cooking is therefore one of the most important issues in the world today. We have written on the subject before, in our posts on the WaterCone, the HippoRoller, and the LifeStraw. Here are two more. (A) is a very simple idea, but few know about it, at least in the third world, where it matters. Fill plastic bottles, put them on a black roof and leave them for a day. The sun heats the bottles and a combination of bacteria-killing ultraviolet light and the heat sterilize it. (B) is an idea developed by The Engineers Without Border's, Madison WI Chapter who, according to Treehugger, recently sent a student delegation to rural Rwanda to help implement a sustainable drinking water project. The project is symbolized by the blue water bottle above (B) a kind of cheap and simple design that could change lives in developing nations. The simplest way to kill bacteria in contaminated water is to heat it, or expose it to ultraviolet light, but boiling water consumes precious fuel. Solar energy can also do the trick, but the problem comes in knowing if water left out in the sun has heated enough to eliminate contamination. To solve that issue, the bottle has a simple, clear tube with a daub of wax at one end. The tube hangs on a string inside a water jar with the wax end up, and once the water around it becomes hot enough to kill the bacteria, i.e. about 150 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 65°C), the wax melts, running from the top part of the tube to the lower end. All you have to do is look at the tube to be sure the water is safe to drink. To use it again, simply invert it.

26 March 2006




More letters and comments.
The Forbes' story on the 20 most important tools keeps getting comments. Thank you all for contributing!

Joe R. wants to nominate the wheel as one of the 20 most important tools. Thank, Joe, we're inclined to agree.

Austin L. haas written a long and interesting mail. He nominates the lock (padlock and other variants) as one of the most important tools, but also discusses a number of others that maybe should have been on the Forbes list. His mail is slightly edited:

"Without the lock (padlock, door lock, locks of any sort), the only way to guarantee property security was to have someone trustworthy and armed present– and even that is often times not good enough. The lock both imprisoned criminals and liberated the public; the lock enabled common people to leave their stuff alone with a sense of security and peace of mind, without which modern (and even relatively ancient) levels of productivity would never have been possible, because so many people would have been employed as guards or forced to stay home. Prior to the lock, only the rich and powerful could have any reasonable level of security; the lock gave this precious security (to a large extent) to everyone. I don't think there is a single person outside of primitive societies who hasn't used a lock; the same cannot be said of fish hooks and eyeglasses, telescopes, and lathes.

The lock ranks up near the knife, in my humble opinion. The chisel, scythe, sword, and the knife should be considered the same thing. If not, I would protest that the scissor and the ax also belong on that
list. I'm also surprised that the wheel and shovel are not listed, and that the fish hook is listed while the fish net was left off the list (both of which are not very useful without the boat). And what about the cup, the bottle, the jar, and the bag? And if the needle is on there, the loom and especially the spinning wheel must also be on there; without them, the needle is useless, even if to sew leather. If the pot makes the top 20, then potter's wheel and the oven also belong on that list. In fact, I would contend that the ladder, the hammer and nails, the flag, the bow and arrow, all qualify. If the list is not limited to primitive items (as suggested by the eyeglasses) then guns would also make the list. (The rifle is on the list at #7. /Ed.)

Bill W. has more ideas: (slightly edited):

"I think the following tools are the world's most important... (the) knife would barely make my top five)). In order: Stick, sharp stick (fire hardened point), rock (pounding and cutting variations), string (and rope – wasn't even on your list!) then knife (but a cutting rock and sharp stick came first). Housewares: Pot/bowl, oil lamp, needle and thread, hand loom, fire use tools. Much of the rest of your list (It's Forbes' list, not ours /Ed.) is derivative of each other. I would agree with all the carpentry tools (and) farm implements, but aren't they all just cutting tools? And the weapons – cutting and throwing (spear, long, sharp stick - see above), sling, bow and arrow - but why rifle? It is an improvement not an invented tool.

Than you guys for your contributions. Do you want to contribute, too? Just Mail us!

25 March 2006



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