2014-03-06 / Views

From the Braver Institute

It is widely accepted that Thomas Edison was the greatest inventor of all time (note to Tesla fans: let it go). He held over a thousand patents and his inventions changed the world. While Edison may have been the most prolific inventor since DaVinci, the quantity of his inventions does not diminish the importance of the inventions of Franklin, Bell, the Wright brothers, Marconi, or Braver.

Braver?

Yes, Braver. Waye Braver. Inventor.

Alright, maybe my name has no place next to the aforementioned in the Pantheon of great inventors, but I have to admit that it is really cool to see it in print, even if it isn’t quite true – but it might be.

I have inventions bouncing around in my head that could change the world for generations to come. For one reason or another (most likely lack of money or equipment) I have not actually constructed any of my inventions, but they exist none-the-less and are waiting patiently for the right time to be sprung on the public. In many cases I am glad that they have been waiting, since many of them have proven themselves to be bad ideas.

I almost never talk about my inventions with anyone. Most have never even made it into the form of spoken word at all. Many are secrets I will most likely take to my grave. On the other hand, I do talk somewhat freely about those I have come to realize would never work.

One of my early inventions, dating back to my freshman year in high school (or earlier), was a perpetual motion machine that was going to solve the energy crisis.

At the time, I had no idea that countless others had already worked (or were working) on perpetual motion. I hadn’t even heard the term perpetual motion. All I knew was that I had an idea for a machine that would run on the energy it created without needing fuel.

These days I know my machine would not have worked and I understand why it wouldn’t, but in the absence of such understanding it was completely brilliant.

An even earlier invention dates back to my elementary school years.

While at the beach near my home, I looked out at the city of Marquette across Marquette Bay on Lake Superior. Marquette was a ten mile trip via highway, but that distance was roughly half that over water. As a young boy, ten miles was a long way to ride a bike. Five miles would be much easier even if it was over water. Such logic benefits greatly from a lack of knowledge on subjects like hydrodynamics and friction. Anything is possible until you discover that it isn’t.

I decided that I was going to invent the amphibious pontoon bike. That’s not what I had named it – I had simply called it a floating bike – but that is what I would later realize I had invented.

My plan was to attach two cylindrical floats on outriggers (I didn’t know what an outrigger was back then either), fabricate a set of paddles arranged in a circular fashion that would attach to either side of the rear wheel but have a smaller diameter than the wheel to allow for riding on land. The front wheel would have metal discs attached to act as a rudder for steering in the water.

The only thing that kept me from building the amphibious pontoon bike was the lack of pontoons and a welder. I had planned on using the only bikesized cylindrical objects I could think of as pontoons and that was one-hundred pound propane cylinders. Now one-hundred pound propane cylinders don’t weigh a hundred pounds, they hold a hundred pounds of propane, but they still weigh an awful lot – another fact that I had no clue to at the time. My only experience with propane tanks was looking at them standing next to my greataunt Nina’s camp in the woods.

The idea of balancing and maneuvering a bike through the streets with propane tank pontoons mounted on outriggers now makes me think of some kind of clown act at a circus.

Thankfully I never had to experience the heartbreak of the failure of a bad idea. Time has painlessly illustrated their shortcomings and I have readily accepted that. But in my mind I can still remove the restrictions of physics and pedal effortlessly across Marquette Bay.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com.

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