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September 23, 2005

Lavochkin Rescue System — How to safely exit a tall building on fire — without a parachute


Invented by the Lavochkin Association, a Russian aerospace firm in Khimki, near Moscow, this innovative escape pod also works from heights as low as 16 feet, making it suitable even for the top floor of houses.

A prototype of the device was shown at the Paris Air Show this past June.

The device is currently undergoing testing with a sensor–loaded dummy as its passenger.

The initial consumer version is slated to carry someone up to 265 lbs. (120 kg) and cost around $1,000.

A story about the escape pod appeared in the June 23 Economist; it follows.

    Burning Ambitions

    A Russian–designed system for surviving fires in tall buildings

    The Paris Air Show is a notoriously chaotic affair.

    This year's, which finished on June 19th, was no different from usual.

    But in a quiet corner of the show, a new way of clocking up air miles was to be found.

    It looks like a small, orange, inflatable swimming pool with a pointy underside.

    And strapped inside it is a Biggles-like doll complete with goggles, moustache and flying scarf.

    It is an escape-pod for people trapped in tall, burning buildings.

    And it is the product of the Lavochkin Association, an aerospace firm based in Khimki, near Moscow.

    There is, at the moment, no convenient way to leave a tall building if the emergency staircases are on fire and the fire brigade has not arrived or its ladders will not reach.

    Nor are conventional parachutes an answer.

    As is well known to participants in the sport of Base Jumping (a mind-bogglingly dangerous activity that involves parachuting from static objects), parachutes have problems when launched from tall buildings.

    For a start, they may not have time to open properly. Even if they do, they can get snagged on the way down.

    And on top of that, if a building is burning they are liable to catch fire.

    Hence the Lavochkin escape pod—or “rescue system”, as the firm prefers to call it.

    According to Yuri Boulanov, one of Lavochkin's representatives at the air show, the idea is to create a cheap, inflatable structure that can be compressed into a backpack, like a parachute.

    The pod is designed with an inflatable tube around its edges, which should cause it to bounce off the walls of a building.

    And the final version will be made from some, as yet unspecified, fire-retardant material.

    As a bonus, and unlike a parachute, it will operate safely from altitudes of five metres and above—which would make it suitable even for the top floors of houses.

    In an emergency, someone wishing to leave in a hurry would strap on the backpack and jump, pulling a ring as he did so.

    The pod would inflate, surround him instantly and bear him gently to the ground.

    At least, that is what happens to the digital simulation in the company's promotional video.

    The pod on display at Lavochkin's stand was actually a one-metre diameter prototype.

    The full-scale device, currently undergoing tests with a sensor-loaded dummy as its passenger—is six metres across and should be able to carry someone weighing up to 120kg.

    Mr Boulanov says the commercial version should cost around $1,000.

    If it all sounds unlikely, it is worth remembering that it is now possible to lob a spacecraft all the way to Mars and have it land safely using an inflatable shell similar to Lavochkin's.

    Now all that is needed is some way of getting through the sealed windows with which most tall buildings are glazed.


Perhaps you read Russian: if so, you're in luck because that's the language used on the company's website.

September 23, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No–Drip Utensil Holder


Very nicely done.

The stainless–steel device has a spring–loaded clip that attaches to the upper edge of any pot or pan and keeps spoons, spatulas, whisks and what have you from dripping all over your stove.

Instead, the drippings fall back into the pot or pan.


The high–temperature silcone coating (up to 600°) eliminates burned fingers.

The portion gripping the pot is cushioned with silicone to protect the pot.

What took so long?

In yellow, green, red or blue for $6.99 here.


If you want black you get it cheaper: $6.95 here.

September 23, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Chopin Vodka Girl into Stephanie Seymour


This past summer Chopin Potato Vodka, out of Poland, started running two striking black–and-white ads (above and below)


shot by London-based photographer Richard Bush, featuring a dead ringer for Stephanie Seymour.

The ads broke in USA Today in May and now run in the New Yorker, Cigar Aficionado, Vanity Fair and Wired.

When I first saw the one at the top I was amazed: how could a little vodka maker afford an über–supermodel like Seymour (below)?


Then I realized that they had taken an increasingly prevalent approach to this problem: find an unknown look–alike to do the job for a penny on the dollar, as it were.

They sure did it.

What I like best about the Chopin girl is that she's all real: ultimate trophy wife Seymour had her chest enhanced early on in her career, which certainly didn't hinder her ascent to the very top of the pile where she serenely presides even today, only occasionally taking a trip into town for a photo shoot.

September 23, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Banana Peel Door Stop


"Simply slide the banana peel under the door to hold it open and amuse those who enter."

Designed by Takashi Ohba with h–concept.

Made in Japan of silicone and tapered to accomodate most door clearances.

I'm getting mine as soon as I finish this and if you want one I'd advise you not to ponder too long because I guarantee this item will sell out in a Milano minute.


$28 here.

September 23, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rudy Rucker


Rudy Rucker is a prodigiously gifted and original man who is best known as a writer, of both science fiction and nonfiction.

He also teaches at San Jose State University where he's a member of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

One of my readers sent me a link to his blog and I thought that, rather than try to pick and choose, I'd just send you there.

What an interesting guy.

I started reading his sci–fi back in the 1980s and bump up against him (in print) on a regular basis via the many articles, commentaries and reviews he writes for print–based media.

His latest book, pictured above, looks quite interesting and I think I'll take him up on the suggestion he made on his blog to "please go on Amazon and advance–buy a copy now."

[via MDP]

September 23, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The most astounding deal in the world if you love to read


It's The Complete New Yorker, on eight DVDs.

All 4,109 issues published from 1925 to February 14, 2005.

Eighty years worth.

Half a million pages.

Every cover, article, cartoon, illustration and ad, exactly as it appeared in the magazine, in full color.


Among the reasons this version is preferable to the print archives, besides the ability to carry it anywhere in the world in a single 9" by 12" shell, is the search function: you can explore the magazines by date, contributor, department or subject.

The New Yorker says "quantities are limited."

Tell you what: last year when the British Library offered "The Spoken Word — Writers" CD featuring recordings of writers of the past century reading from their work, problems with copyright arose and it was pulled, never to become available again.

I received plenty of anguished email from joeheads asking me how to get the now–extinct disc — my reply: visit eBay.

You can still buy the "The Spoken Word — Poets"; it's £9.95 here.

Don't be left out in the cold with the New Yorker.


$100 here.

Or $63 at amazon.

Want to find out more?

Take a virtual tour here.

Oh, one more thing, for my rapidly increasing number of readers in China and elsewhere who are learning English: this DVD set would be an invaluable aid to improving your English comprehension, especially in terms of understanding nuance and context: if you can "get" the New Yorker's cartoons you're well on your way to fluency.

Note that the DVDs work only in computers, not in DVD players attached to your TV.


For Windows 2000 and XP and Mac OS X 10.3 and higher.

September 23, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Goose Eggs


Every Tuesday on page two of the New York Times Science section C. Claiborne Ray writes the "Q&A" feature, in which she answers a commonly asked question whose answer is unknown to most people.

This past week's finally explained something to me about a knock on the head that all my learned professors in medical school somehow never were able to communicate effectively: what causes goose eggs?

Here's the column.

    Goose Eggs

    Q. When you bump your head, what makes the hard lump appear?

    A. The familiar goose egg forms because of the extremely rich supply of small blood vessels in and under the scalp.

    When they rupture with even a slight bump and the skin is intact, the blood has no place to go, and the pooled blood pushes outward, sometimes to an alarming degree.

    The problem can be compounded by inflammation, so first-aid manuals recommend applying an ice pack wrapped in cloth, or a handy package of something like frozen peas, for about 20 minutes, to ease the pain.

    The swelling usually goes down in a day or two.

    The blood might eventually seep downward and cause black eyes.

    Because very young children have an even smaller space for the blood to collect, their goose eggs can be especially prominent.

    Even a newborn often shows a goose egg as a the result of the banging around that the head can receive during delivery.

    It may grow for a week and can take a month or more to dissipate.

    There is no correlation in either direction between the size of a bump and the seriousness of an injury; a large one can mean that only the scalp tissue was injured, not the underlying bone.

    With any head injury, a patient should be observed for at least 24 hours for signs of more serious problems, like confusion, vision problems or unusual drowsiness; blood under the skull has even less room to pool, and its pressure can cause severe brain damage.

September 23, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

What am I?


Last week's mystery object?

It's a stylish smoke detector,


designed by architects who found that the conventional versions were totally at odds with the sleek interiors of the new buildings they were creating.

joehead Aidan was the first to correctly identify it; he did so two hours and twenty minutes after the post went up.

September 23, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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