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Three score and ten or more

Monday, May 19, 2008


Gas prices are getting ridiculous, and it is interesting to see what programs, scams and innovations pop up to try to solve the problem.

A week or so ago, one of the news channels interviewed a guy who was selling a gas pump (yes, a gas pump) that one could put in his/her back yard. It sold for five thousand bucks or so, and, according to the interview (and the reporter seemed to have used it on a vehicle) it produced ethanol. What one had to do, was to pour granulated sugar and water (has anyone priced sugar lately) into the machine and out came ethanol. The guy did state that if one had any left over booze after a party, particularly gin, but even beer, it could be added to the mix with no problem.
I suppose you could google the thing and order one of your own. (The machine, not the booze.)

Day before yesterday, I saw an interview of a mechanic who had invented a "gismo" that you could attach to your fuel line, into which you poured distilled water. His "gismo: theoretically separated the hydrogen and the oxygen in the water, added it to the fuel as is was injected (or carburated, I lost that detail) and it would burn with the gasoline. He claimed that in his own car he got seven to ten more miles per gallon, depending on what kind of driving he was doing.

This brought back a memory. Back in 1962 or 3, when I was teaching in Rhode Island, one of my very close friends was an industrial engineer. At the time, he was managing a plastics factor (that manufactured, mostly, the little flip top lids that you got back then on shampoo bottles-- and almost any bottle that dispensed liquids. His company had a patent on the design and made them for almost everybody). He told me that he had a friend (He swore it was the truth, and he never lied to me about anything else) who had invented a hydrogen/oxygen converter that could power an automobile. My friend said that he had driven the prototype. In this vehicle, you simple put clean water into the gas tank (He said it had to be filtered) and drove the car.

His tale was that one of the oil companies bought his friend's patent and paid him millions of dollars not to publicize it or show it to anyone else. His friend, he said, was now living in a mansion and puttering around in a very well equipped shop inventing other things. He mentioned some of the inventions that were things of which I had heard (but can't remember anymore) but they were, he said, strictly sidelines because he didn't HAVE to work any more. The only condition of his payment was that anything he created that concerned fuel, or automotive parts had to be offered to the oil company first.

It is strange how many memories like that crop up. I flew on an airplane once (back in the sixties) when I got into a discussion with the guy sitting next to me, and he stated that he was retired ( he was in his late twenties or early thirties) because he was living on the profits of a patent. When I asked what that patent could be, he grinned and said "You won't believe me. After I assured him that I would, he said that he was the guy who had invented twist ties. He was trying to fasten some small bags shut and when stapling wasn't working, he tried wrapping thin wire around the top of the bag.. The wire cut the bags open when they were moved, so he put the wire between two layers of scotch tape, and it worked beautifully. He thought it was marketable, got a patent and leased the rights to just about everybody. I have no idea whether it was true, but he certainly had money, and it sounded good.

Who knows what the next deal will be. Maybe the mechanic with the water gizmo (I changed the spelling to keep it exciting) will put the Saudis out of business. If it is true that necessity is the mother of invention, there certainly seems to be enough "necessity" type things to go around.

To those who wonder about Jan, she is feeling much better. She is eating well and getting a little (not enough) exercise. The doctors told us that they don't think she is a good candidate for traditional surgery because she has a lot of scar tissue left from her first surgery and there could be problems with incisions and with healing. The still want to do (if I understood the word correctly) an intravascular procedure. The problem, if I understand it is that this surgery is usually used to repair relatively short segments of aneurysms in the aorta, and Janet has a whole series of aneurysms extending most of the length of the descending aorta. We just pray, live our lives and take it one day at a time. We have a time share at Panama City Beach which is wonderful, and our week begins nest Friday. We are just trying to get a yes or no whether we should go or not. (Some of our kids have volunteered to fill in for us if we can't go>)


At 7:44 AM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I read about the ethanol machine yesterday. What they don't say is that you can't burn pure ethanol in a car. The most that can be used is ten percent added to gas.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Norma said...

I heard that story about the oil companies buying up that invention when I was in high school chemistry class (1950s).


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