BI-GOODNESS is a bi-monthly column dedicated to the quirky, generally funny and often dangerously impractical inventions and business concepts that occasionally come our way. It is a tribute to the one-eyed entrepreneur, the nutty professor and dotcom jockey in each of us.
It’s an age-old debate: is nature or nurture to blame for the predisposition of little boys to amuse themselves with toy guns and trucks, while little girls dress dolls and play fabulous host at phantom tea parties? From a commercial perspective, it doesn’t really matter. Toy guns and miniature tea sets sell.
However, there are surely limits to the extent one can exploit these deeply entrenched childhood propensities for commercial gain. And US Patent 6055910 serves as the perfect example of an inventor overstepping that invisible boundary representing good taste and, by extension, market viability. Indeed, the patent holders, Michael Zanakis and Philip Femano, clearly had some ground to cover in the marketing department, dubbing their invention (rather prosaically), “A Toy Gas Fired Missile and Launcher Assembly”. Let’s call it the ‘Methane Missile’.
The Methane Missile must have seemed a master stroke to its inventors, combining two boyhood obsessions – weapons and flatulence. The patent application outlines the concept for a soft-headed toy missile protruding from a piston.
According to the patent abstract:
To operate the assembly, the operator places the inlet tube with its valve open adjacent his anal region from which a colonic gas is discharged. The piston is then withdrawn to a degree producing a negative pressure to inhale the gas into the combustion chamber to intermix with the air therein to create a combustible mixture. The ignitor is then activated to explode the mixture in the chamber and fire the missile into space.
I’ll bet Saddam Hussein is kicking himself for not coming up with that one. Think of the biological weapons he could have stockpiled on the cheap.
If Methane Missiles were in wide circulation, parents would have to think twice before serving burritos and then telling their young’uns to “go and run it off outside”. The Kyoto Protocols would also require some serious tweaking.
The US Patent Office, in its infinite wisdom, saw no reason to deny this application, though it should be pointed out that the patent holders never actually saw the need to market it. So there it sits, just waiting to be copied – a Venus Fly Trap in the pantheon of useless patents.