Convinced of the ability of sound to affect human biology, acoustic engineer Sandy Hawkins spent 15 years developing an instrument that would be able to shift mucous deep in the lungs of patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He worked on making a machine that could generate the 16 hertz waves that would mimic the frequency of the lung's cilia – hair-like structures on the bronchial walls that herd phlegm out of the lungs and into the mouth. Hawkins spent much ofhis R&D time on reducing the size of the enormous sub-woofers needed to vibrate at this very low frequency. Then, in a Eureka! moment, while working on a mouthpiece filter for the machine, he noticed that when he blew into it, it produced a vibration in his chest. Minutes later, Hawkins had sketched the design for the Lung Flute, a simple tube with a plastic reed inside it which vibrates at precisely the correct frequency when you blow into it. 10 to 15 puffs later, your lungs respond by giving up the goo. According to Corey Binns, the Popular Science writer who reviewed the apparatus for the magazine's "Best of What's New" 2009, it definitely works.
Innovation of the Year
There are some gadgets that are difficult to improve on, especially those that have been around for such a long time that they have become a symbol of a subculture. Take the stethoscope for instance. It was invented in 1852. Apart from a few minor modifications, the instrument has remained unchanged. Until now that is. Thanks to bluetooth connectivity, the stethoscope has been transformed into a precision tool, no longer subject to the guesswork that doctors indulge in while they appear to be listening attentively to the swish-swish of blood as it passes through your aortic valve. 3M/Littmann's Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200 comes with Zargis Cardioscan, software that hooks the device up to a computer and gives a faultless diagnosis of whatever might (or not) be ailing you. The stethoscope, which will eliminate the need for expensive echocardiograms in patients who present with suspect but harmless heart sounds, was named Innovation of the Year by Popular Science magazine.
World's toughest wallpaper
No more free lunches
If you looked at this picture and had an "Ew!" reaction, then it is doing exactly what it is meant to. The sandwich inside the bag is perfectly fine; it is just the bag it is in that looks as if it is infested with mould. Just the thing to stop would-be sandwich thieves from lifting your lovingly-prepared lunch. Anti-theft lunch bags are available in packs of 25 from thinkofthe.com for $10. Five percent of every purchase is donated to Freedom from Hunger.