Interesting If True - Episode 11: Over Engineered Mice
Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that traps your interest by baiting with self-gratifying humor… wait…
Speaking of traps, I’m Aaron and I’ve checked mine and this week I caught a wild Yeti!
I’m Shea and this week I learned a great money saving tip; When you are at a fast food restaurant, ask for a water cup, now when no one is looking go outside and help yourself to some free mulch! My yard is starting to look pretty good.
I lured in an ever-illusive, Steve!
I’m Steve and I’m soon to re-learn what it’s like to be a bachelor. Not-God help me.
And I’ve finally mastered by fab-call and spotted a be-speckled Jim!Build A Better PodTrap
And with that, I’ll start this week’s show with a quote that’s commonly accepted to be true,
“build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”
A phrase is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson in the late nineteenth century.
But it’s actually a misquotation of the statement1
If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.
Which is… yee-oldie long and I totally get why we shorted that to the easier to understand platitude.
Because you’re not a talentless hack! You’re one of the nearly 5 thousand mega-geniuses who apply for a patent for a “better mouse trap” every year in America.
For those interested, the common mouse trap with it’s too-easy-to-trip, spring and snare-trap murder-bar, was invented in Lititz (I’m going to pronounce this as “lit tits”), Pennsylvania—which sounds like a great place—by John Mast in 1899, which started on a Sunday, was the year Leibig’s Extract of Meat Company invented the beef stock or bouillon cube, and marked the end of 400 years of Spanish rule over Cuba. So now you know that stuff about 1899.2 Enjoy.
All that said, John’s mouse trap may be the most famous but it isn’t the first—even of its type.
The spring-loaded bar mousetrap—the little bit of wood with a spring-loaded finger-breaker stapled to it—was created by William C. Hooker in 1894.
1894, of course, began on a Monday, saw the founding of the International Olympic Committee at the Sorbonne, and was the first year Coca-Cola sold in its iconic bottles.3 There, now you know that too. Ha!
The board-and-springbar mouse trap persists to this day as the mouse trap. It’s in cartoons, it’s cheap to make and sell, and it just works.
By breaking the mouses neck—usually instantly—the mouse issue is… resolved.
They come in standard mouse size, giant rat-size, and 6.02 meters. That last one being the largest working trap, built by Dietmar Weides in Germany4, because sometimes you need to trap-murder an elephant I guess.
But enough about what we already know. I’m here to talk about the “better mousetrap” if there is such a thing.
I do want to add here that “better”, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder… or… insane inventor—as the case is gonna be a couple of times.
I’ll try to do this better/insane complement-sammich style and wrap humane traps around the… not… that… traps. Check your podcast player for chapter markers, I’ll add sad faces to the murder-y chapters so you can skip’em if you like but let’s be honest here, most people don’t make the “wow look at this mouse trap” list by being super cool about stuff.
So starting with a human—as long as you check it this century—trap is the see-saw box trap. These traps were invented… a long time ago… and work by luring a mouse into the box such that it can’t escape until you release it. The box usually has a hole the mouse can climb into then as it approaches the bait the box’s “floor” seesaws with its weight blocking the hole. A tiny clasp keeps the seesaw in place and the mouse is trapped and can be relocated.5
The first seesaw trap, more commonly known as a “Perpetual trap” because you can empty and reuse it almost indefinitely, is at The Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading. A few years ago Curator Ollie Douglas was preparing for a show about yee-oldie animals and wanted to feature the nearly 160-year old “perpetual mousetrap” created by Selsey-based inventor Colin Pullinger—who boasted the trap would “last a lifetime”. True to his claim, Ollie dug the box out of storage to find it full of very, very ex-mice. Mr Douglas added: 6
“It was designed about 155 years ago. And here it is, still capable of catching mice, even though it was not baited.”
The seesaw style trap is often lumped in with the “walk the plank” style traps. These worked by luring a mouse onto a board over a bucket of water. The mouse’s weight would tip the precariously balanced board sending it to Davy Jones’ Locker.
Early on in the modern anti-mouse race companies began marketing glue based traps. I guess figuring the American population was all about the Quicker Picker Upper, they’re probably fork over big for the Slower Painfulier Usul-er.
Yeah, I said “Usul-er”… I dunno, there aren’t any good “U”-mouse puns so I had to pull from the base and go for a mouse shaped shadow. Deal with it.
Anyway, they were wrong. Glue traps are a horror show.
They’re usually just an adhesive bit of paper or cardboard meant to attract mice with bait centered on the surface. When the mouse approached the glue trap would… be glue… and the animal would stick to it and slowly starve to death centimeters from food. Often then becoming a stationary platform for mites and other terrible plague-esque crap you don’t want in your house. Also what the f*@# that’s horrible.
Glue traps are less common now and widely denounced as just terrible… because they are.
But what if you want to mix it up? You know, the best of boxes and murder. For that we need only look to the Victor Mu-mu-mu Multi-Kill Electric mouse trap. This plastic mailbox-looking murder-box attracts mice the normal box-way, with bate, but builds in all the best heart-stopping advances of our modern electrical age. Once in the trap the boxes sensors fire a 3-second, mouse-murdering, C Battery-powered, dose of death through your new furry friend. Once discharged, the Multi-Kill’s Roomba-like refuse detection system and corpse-shuffling robotic arm will scrap what’s left of Mickey into the easy-to-empty mass mouse grave dust bin—that holds an impressive 10 corpses for only $180 USD!
And yeah, you bet our capitalist asses there’s an Amazon Affiliate link in the show notes where you can get the Multi-Kill for 50% off and free shipping! How’s that for a boot-“Quake”-‘in deal!
It’s funny… cause Quake… and that thing is actually called the “Multi-Kill”. Mu mu mu mu multi-kill!
Ok, but what if you want the best of both worlds? Technology, humanity, you know, snowflake stuff?
Sure, I’ve got that.
It’s called the RaspiTrap, and unlike the trap I chose to leave out that uses a series of pulleys and a rasp—you know the woodworking tool—to… dissolve… your mouse problem, this modern delight is based on Raspberry Pi. 7
RaspiTrap is simple, elegant, that people with too much time on their hands or far too unhealthy an obsession with rodents, can build. I’m talking real Caddyshack levels of obsessive here.
To get started you’ll need a 3D printer, a Raspberry Pi, mouse-accessible WiFi, a few expansion circuit boards, a cheap webcam, an infra-red camera and LED, a few servos, some coding experience, a rechargeable power pack or un-chewable 5V power source, a mini-SD card (optionally large if you want to save on-trap time lapse video), and a CnC machine while not required is advised.
Now all you have to do is download and print out the AutoCAD or SketchUp files from the link in the show notes, load RaspiTrap to your Pi—I recommend using Etcher for this, it’s great—wiring up your servos to the mouse-door, before finally putting the IR camera on one end of the box and the LED on the door. When the mouse walks in to get the cheese it blocks the IR sensor which causes the system to close the door and text you that a mouse has been caught.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “wow, that’s a lot of doing to catch a mouse!” and yeah, you’re right. Not everyone has the moral fortitude to learn to code for mice. I get it. It’s expensive and time consuming and, statistically, you live in America so you’re not doing that.
Finally, what if I told you that you could have the best of all these options!?
The time-tested reliability of the spring mechanism, the having walls-ie-ness of the box trap, and the food-chain-position reaffirming machination of that Open Source time-skink, and the cold, calculated murderiness of the mouse-electric chair?
For this we’ll have to reach all the way back to the beginning of our story and the very origins of mouse traps themselves.
The year is 1882 (Friday, Briton signs the Married Women’s Property Act allowing women to own property… yeah, that was only 138 years ago… let that sink in, and the 1812 Overture debuts in Moscow… yeah, not 1812, full-o-facts on this one).
Anyway, the year is 1882 and if Ralph Waldo had actually said that thing people might just have been on their way to see Fredonia—You just know they tried to tall it Freedonioa but no one could spell—Texas where J. E. Bennet patented his mouse trap. This trap used a box, or open mechanism, the thought of both don’t’cha know, to hold a spring based pressure trigger, that was connected to the trigger of a 50-caliber six-shooter, conveniently mounted in the box. 8
Placed at the entrance to the hole of something you don’t like very much the “trap” in quotes would fire the gun straight at whatever poor animal stepped on the baited trap plate, called a treadle, thereby, super-extra-wowzers killing its face off.
I think Williams describes it best. In his patent he writes:
My invention relates to an improvement in animal-traps; and it consists in the combination of a suitable frame upon which a revolver or pistol is secured, a treadle which is secured to the front end of this frame, and a suitable spring and levers, by which the firearm is discharged when the animal steps upon the treadle
The object of my invention is to provide a means by which animals which burrow in the ground can be destroyed, and which trap will give an alarm each time that it goes off, so that it can be reset.
Being a thoughtful Texan inventor Williams immediately saw the marketing potential of his trap as a home security device. Clearly outlining the value-add Williams continues:
This invention may also be used in connection with a door or window, so as to kill any person or thing opening the door or window to which it is attached.
Of course, Home Alone-ing someone to death was hardly news in 1882. So Williams was clear that what separated his device from other shoot-through-the-door bells was it’s precariously set-up, unstable, hair-trigger of a … mouse-trap-trigger:
I am aware that burglar-alarms of various kinds have been used, and which have been connected to windows and doors in such a manner that the opening of the window or door causes a pressure upon a lever which discharges a tire-arm; but in no case have the parts been arranged and combined as here shown and described. 9
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Over Engineering is not just a problem of the past, in fact there are loads of products out there, typically found in bargain bins. Humans don’t stop innovating but sometimes they make a few decisions that over complicate simple processes in the name of convenience. My wife can tell you my favorite youtube videos are life hacks, or as I call them “Turning Garbage into other Garbage.” On an audio show it would be hard to show you the true stupidity on youtube so instead I found actual, real life products that you can buy and then immediately throw away.
Disclaimer/Interesting fact: As dumb as some “as seen on tv” products can be, and as lazy some people have to be to buy them, alot of products have a much brighter happier side. A fortunate side effect of many of these products is that they can help people with disabilities. After the Snuggie became popular, wheelchair users realized they were a lot easier to use than a traditional blanket. Many as seen on tv products would never hit the shelves if marketed solely to people with disabilities and prices would be through the roof for a blanket with sleeves. https://www.bustle.com/p/as-seen-on-tv-products-arent-for-lazy-people-they-make-disabled-peoples-lives-easier-2432833
Let’s start our shopping journey with a light meal, and for that we will need an eating utensil. For just $100 you can get a Hapifork that hooks up to your phone and helps you lose weight! Before I tell you how, I’d like to know how you think it works?
What it actually does is vibrate to tell you you’re eating too fast. According to the website;
“Eating too fast leads to poor digestion and poor weight control. The HAPIfork, powered by Slow Control, is an electronic fork that helps you monitor and track your eating habits. It also alerts you with the help of indicator lights and gentle vibrations when you are eating too fast. Every time you bring food from your plate to your mouth with your fork, this action is called: a “fork serving”. The HAPIfork also measures:
- How long it took to eat your meal.
- The amount of “fork servings” taken per minute.
- Intervals between “fork servings”
Hapifork syncs all the information it gathers with your computer so you can carry out a post-meal debrief. It provides you with greed-stats with the underlying aim of shaming you into slowing down and eating less. As one Guardian journalist put it, “nothing tastes as good as a spreadsheet full of mastication-metrics feels”.
Main specs include a companion app for your phone so you can wirelessly sync your fork… a sentence I never thought I’d be saying, see your meal stats in real time, check your time in between fork servings, and most importantly Share your HAPI Moments online with your friends. Because nothing helps you lose weight more than having your friends able to see how often you pick up your fork.
But for a limited time offer you can head over to our website where I will teach you how to make your own weight loss fork with a regular fork and a car battery, this one actually works.
After our nice weight loss meal let’s head down town, parking is always a bitch so I suggest we take another form of transportation, the Velofeet. In 2014 Manuel Alvarez-Icaza, a Scottish inventor, got tired of congestion in his home of Inverness. The solution, according to retired physicist Manuel, lies within a radical invention known as the ‘Velofeet’. With this intriguing contraption, city goers are provided with “a lightweight, manoeuvrable way of travelling short distances”; a new method of transport that is very simple, easy to carry around and incredibly “practical for city centres”.
In reality we have a contraption that largely resembles a glorified unicycle minus the pedals (but with training wheels), which is essentially propelled by somebody sitting with their legs astride the wheel and ‘walking’. In order to change direction / stop, the rider is required to bust some moves similar to those last seen in Boogie Nights or Saturday Night Fever.
Now what about bikes you might ask? They are easier to get and you look alot less foolish getting from point a to b. Well Manual says: ‘Travelling by bike has other problems – you are afraid to leave it anywhere in case it is stolen and it takes up a lot of space.
‘What I wanted to produce is something that is very simple, very light and is easy to carry around with you.”
He concedes climbing hills may be a problem but says:
‘It would still be worth carrying your Velofeet uphill because you will get the benefit of it going downhill. And the Velofeet will be very light to carry.’
We have a full-ish stomach and transport but I am horrible with directions and also, I did, just get my nails done and I don’t want to muck up my phone screen. So good thing the Binatone Carrera S350 navigator exists for us. This is a sat nav created specifically for people in my situation.
The Carrera S350 “is small and neat and slips easily into a handbag” (thank goodness) “it’s really simple to use” (well, that’s a relief) and “comes with a selection of different coloured casings which can be chopped and changed to match the mood of the day” (they do say pink’s included!).
According to Binatone, “so far the market for satellite navigation is completely dominated by men and it’s time women caught on to this extremely useful technology”.
Well I’m no woman but I love matching my accessories to my clothes, I hope it comes with a nice gray. The GPS also offers a touchscreen, although note that “for those of you with nails to protect, there is even a helpful stylus”. And, even more helpfully, an explanation for what a stylus is – “a wand for pressing the screen”. The Binatone press release carries on: “Satnav is perfect for women irrespective of whether or not you can read a map and men shouldn’t be allowed to keep it for themselves”.
If you haven’t been patronized enough you can pick on up in the UK for a paltry $150, or about 120 pounds sterling.
Well now that we are ready to go, I’m tired and want to go home and eat again. I’ll leave you with this last innovation for bakers who love to bake but hate the measuring, mixing, experimenting, and all the other stuff you do; but love to play on their phone.
The PantryChic-Taking the fun out of baking!
Directly from the website:
“The Inventor, Founder and President of Nik of Time, Inc™., Nicole Sollazzo Lee, invented the patented PANTRYCHIC™ Store & Dispense System™ while enjoying one of her many hobbies, baking. Living in a small New York City apartment, working in a tiny kitchen with no dishwasher, getting tired of inconsistent batches of holiday cookies, she quickly identified a need for a simple, convenient and more time efficient way to store, measure and collect ingredients.” –https://www.pantrychic.com/about
So what Nicole did was created a very technical, wi-fi enabled, self measuring and dispensing, weighing, mixing bowl… That’s right, a wifi enabled bowl…
PantryChic is an airtight food container that dispenses ingredients into a digital scale, so that you never even have to break out a measuring cup.For anyone who is serious about baking (and perhaps a little OCD), you could buy a whole range of stackable canisters, and fill each with a different ingredient, like baking soda or brown sugar, SmartCanisters! (they cost extra). Oh, and don’t worry about pushing any buttons: You can connect over Bluetooth using the PantryChic app, at which point the machine can “see” what recipe you’re using and know, for instance, that you need three cups of flour.
I am sad to say the PantryChic isn’t quite available for purchase yet but according to their website there is some “Good News Coming your way in July!”Outro
I’m Aaron, and I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.
Find out more about the show, social links, and contact information at InterestingIfTrue.com.
Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.
The opinions, views, and nonsense expressed in this show are those of the hosts only and do not represent any other people, organizations, or lifeforms.
All rights reserved, Interesting If True 2020.
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- https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ralph_Waldo_Emerson#Misattributed ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1899 ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1894 ↩
- https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-mousetrap ↩
- https://www.fourteenacre.co.uk/design/how-a-see-saw-trap-works/ ↩
- https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-berkshire-35503613 ↩
- https://www.instructables.com/id/RaspiTrap-V10/ ↩
- https://gizmodo.com/this-1882-patent-for-a-50-caliber-mousetrap-is-probably-1749317917 ↩
- https://patents.google.com/patent/US269766 ↩