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Post Column: Inventions run the gamut of absurdity

Albert Einstein said, “If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

Ah, what a wonderful quote. It gave me so much hope. You see, I had always believed that someday Hogwarts would be sending me my invitation to attend school there. My psychiatrist has told me repeatedly that I am being silly, but if Einstein says absurd ideas are fine, then who’s to say he’s wrong?

Silly psychiatrist. I’m sure it’s just a slow owl that’s causing the holdup. Platform 9 3/4, here I come!

At any rate, Einstein’s quote is not necessarily always applicable. Some ideas are indeed “Picasso-painting ideas,” meaning that they look messed up at first, but are actually masterpieces.

Other ideas, however, are “A Christmas Story 2 ideas.” They look messed up, and, in reality, are truly messed up. In all honesty, how can you try to make a sequel for A Christmas Story 30 years later? Blasphemy.

Blasphemous movies aside, the following are some of the most ridiculous inventions of the 20th century.

The first one was used in an ingenious experiment that concluded that tomatoes “screamed when sliced.”

Of course, it was invented by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, giving it extra brownie points on the scale of weird things.

The invention in question is known as the Hubbard Electrometer, or E-meter for short. The E-meter is supposed to measure “mental mass and energy” by injecting electrical shocks ranging from one to five volts into a person, then calculating the amount of temporary current produced.

The greater current you produce, the more mental mass and energy you are supposed to have. Go figure.

The Church of Scientology later declared the E-meter a sacred religious artifact, allowing only “trained Scientologists” to use it to test other fellow Scientologists’ mental energy.

Although the E-meter did not work to measure mental energy, it did prove to be a good lie detector, and it even received a U.S. patent. Specifically, it was awarded U.S. Patent 3,290,589, which has already expired and now belongs to the public domain.

In 1968, Hubbard proclaimed that the E-meter was so sensitive that it could measure the mental energy of vegetables as well as that of humans. To prove his point, he demonstrated his machine on a tomato and later concluded that the tomato screamed when sliced.

How ghastly! That’s why meat lovers should never feel guilty. Even though you’re eating an animal, at least your meal didn’t make any innocent veggies scream in pain.

The E-meters has also had its fair share of run-ins with the law. In 1963, U.S. marshals burst into a Church of Scientology and seized more than 100 E-meters on behalf of the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA later sued the church, citing the fact that the church had made false claims in stating that the E-meter cured 70 percent of all physical and mental illnesses, saying that there was no evidence to support its product. In the end, the FDA won, and the church was made to revise its statement to acknowledge that the E-meter has not been proven to have curative effects.

Today, the E-meter continues to be sold and modified. Models of the E-meter include Mark V, Mark VI and Mark VII. As of 2005, Mark V sold for $900, and the “Mark VII Super Quantum E-meter” sold for $4,650. In addition, Scientologists have also produced manuals for making E-meters yourself.

Another brilliant invention comes from the French, who, in 1924, designed the “Car with Shovel for Pedestrians.” The invention was basically a metal net attached to the front of the car, which, theoretically, would scoop up unwitting pedestrians that stepped into the path of the car, thereby saving the pedestrian from a painful collision.

Of course, it didn’t work. The difference that it ended up making was that, instead of being hit directly with the car, the pedestrian would first be struck by a metal net and then the car.

However, there is hope for even the most worthless-looking invention. Someday, we might have advanced magical car shovels that save pedestrians from being run over.

But, by then, I’ll already have graduated from Hogwarts. Who needs magical car shovels when you can cast a cushioning charm on the front of your Muggle vehicle?

Kevin Hwang is a senior at Athens High School who is taking classes at Ohio University, a future wizard and a columnist for The Post. Did your Hogwarts acceptance letter already arrive? Gloat to Kevin at kh319910@ohiou.edu.

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