Will Dean's Ideas Factory: The latest weaponry in a consumer's arsenal - brackets


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The Independent Tech

As consumers, we love to whinge about the companies that provide inadequate services.

Whether it's a broadband provider or a budget airline, there's usually only one way to get them back: don't use their product again. But one American website, The Consumerist, has been keen to show companies who's boss in another way.

By using a brackets (similar to a World Cup wall chart), they've gathered together readers' corporate bêtes noires to see who's caused the most distress. Previous winners, for fairly obvious reasons, include BP (last year) and the fallen mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

This year's nominations include some surprises, such as EA Games, for its titles' high prices, as well as, in theory, much-loved companies such as Apple and Google.

The bracket is currently in its second round, so if you want to see who comes out "trumps", visit ind.pn/Consumerist.

They can shrink the wrap, but will we savour the flavour?

If you've ever visited overpackaging.com and witnessed the likes of a shrink-wrapped cucumber inside another plastic bag, you'll be aware that some packaging can be a bit over the top. So good reason to be excited then about edible wrappers, which no less a source than Packaging Today suggests may be the next big thing in food packaging. It reports that two US firms, Monosol and WikiCells, are about to go into the market of edible materials, like ultra-thin membranes that can literally dissolve into one's drink. Providing you can convince customers that it's a) safe to drink and b) not been touched by dozens of hands, it sounds like a hit. ind.pn/Fightwaste

A turn-of-the-19th-century Roger's Profanisaurus

One of Twitter's many uses has been to gradually extract famous old books – whether George Orwell's diary or the Bible.

A variation on that theme is @vulgar_tongue, which posts regular definitions from The 1811 Dictionary of Vulgar Tongue, a 19th-century version of the Urban Dictionary, or maybe Viz Roger's Profanisaurus. Of course, bringing the dictionary alive is a useful way to preserve lost phrases, but it's just as good for an hourly snicker at entries like: "Buttered bun. One lying with a woman that has just lain with another man, is said to have a buttered bun."

You can read the whole book at www.gutenburg.org

Robot fish school their friends

Is it possible to guide fish away from dangerous bodies of water? That's the goal of a project by NYU-Poly researchers who discovered conditions that allowed biomimetic robotic fish to be accepted by and lead schools of fish to different places. By being able to accurately mimic behaviours, such as tail speed, the hope for the researchers is that they will, at some point in the future, be able to influence animals with group behaviour patterns, especially fish and birds, away from man-made dangers like oil-spills.

Read more in Science Daily ind.pn/Robotfish.