Entries for January 2011

January 10, 2011

Idea: The fab key.

The fab key

Macintosh keyboards are typeset in VAG Rounded, a font which happens to have very similar “t” and “f” letterforms. Except for the curve of the “f” they are identical.

The word “tab” on the keyboard is really small. The tallest letter — “b” — is only 3 millimeters tall. Unless you get your eyes really close to the key, it can be hard to see the details of the individual letters.

So I propose that someone should sell novelty replacement keycaps that say “fab” instead of “tab.” It’s pretty easy to swap out keycaps, and you could do it yourself at home in minutes.

Why? Because working at a computer can get monotonous and boring, and this would give you a little secret that only you know, and you could giggle about it in your head every time you press it. Sure, someone else might notice your fab key, but they probably wouldn’t because the letters are so small. And if they do notice, you’ll become known as the person with the quirky keyboard that says “fab” and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

But maybe you don’t have a Mac, and your tab key has the more common capital “T” that doesn’t resemble an “F” at all. Well, then get a fab key for a Mac-using friend. They make excellent gifts for Beatles fans, people who work at Farnborough Airport, those in the Bolivian Air Force (Fuerza AĆ©rea Boliviana), or anyone named Fabrizio.

January 3, 2011

Idea: Crowdfund a mission to put a monolith on the moon

The goal: Erect a monolith on the moon. (See 2001 for reference).

Is there an upper limit to the amount of money you can raise on Kickstarter? Because I guesstimate this project will require about half a billion dollars. So I only need to find 5 million geeks-like-me worldwide who think this is a cool enough idea to donate 100 bucks. That seems pretty doable, especially considering Kickstarter’s rule that nobody has to pay anything if I can’t raise all the money I need, so people can donate with confidence. But maybe my estimate is way off. Here’s my thinking:

Through the power of Google, I found a few estimates on what it would take to get to the moon. They ranged widely. In 2005, a private company estimated that they could send you on a roundtrip fly-by for $100 million, and another private company figured they could land on the moon for $10 billion. My idea doesn’t have to be a manned mission, but it does need to actually land on the moon and erect a monolith. It only has to be a one-way trip, though, which should keep it relatively cheap.

Last year, a kid and his dad in Brooklyn sent their cell phone into space and back on a shoestring budget. Okay, so the moon is about 3,272 times further than the edge of space, but it’s still inspiring.

Nobody would crowdfund a trip to send someone else to the moon, because there’s no incentive. Why should I pay a hundred bucks for you to go to the moon? Why do you get to be the lucky one? But this project is something nerdy folks worldwide could get behind. It’s space exploration and development through private enterprise, and a tribute to great sci-fi. And we can all enjoy the process and the result. Also: Everyone who donates gets a Monolith Project sticker.

So what would be involved in such a project? I have no idea where to begin, except that I know it would cost a lot of money. The money raised would probably be used for engineering, fuel, permits, design, mission control staff, supplies, tools, rent for a place to physically build the thing, other fees and salaries, etc. I’d probably need to start with a project manager, someone to oversee everything. In fact, maybe a lot of the work needs to be done before the fundraising just to figure out how much the whole thing would cost. Maybe I need to have a kickstarter project just to raise the research and development money to figure out how much money I would need for the main project.

Maybe this project should piggyback with some other entity that’s already sending a ship to the moon. Surely there’s a government or private group planning a moon trip that has room for a monolith on board in exchange for some money, right? Maybe that would make this idea less expensive.

What would the design of the monolith be? Aside from having 1:4:9 dimensions, how big should it be? I guess it should be hollow so that it’s light and requires less fuel to carry. I can envision a few monolith designs that pack up flat for transport. Some consideration should be given to how it will be erected. Will it drop down on a parachute and land in one piece? Will it land in a ball and inflate upon landing? Will it require robots to go down and assemble it?

What do you think? If a monolith-on-the-moon project were to be crowdfunded, how would it work? What would need to be considered? What would be the most efficient and effective way to get a monolith on the moon?

Could mankind put a monolith on the moon through micropayments?

Update: A commenter reminds me that parachutes won’t work on the moon because there’s no atmosphere, and I confess that I feel stupid for that oversight. But other than that, this plan should totally work.

Related: Idea: A skyscraper in Tokyo shaped like Godzilla