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Transportation Science

Crowd Funding For Crank Physics 379

Posted by timothy
from the hi-fi-jumprope dept.
BuzzSkyline writes "A new design for bicycle cranks violates basic principles of physics, but that's not stopping the inventor of Z-Torque cranks from trying to raise thousands in start-up capital through crowd funding." The picture looks intriguing for a fleeting moment before it looks silly. Covered in similar style at a site I'm glad to discover exists, the Bicycle Museum of Bad Ideas.
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Crowd Funding For Crank Physics

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  • This got a patent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Turminder Xuss (2726733) on Friday January 11, 2013 @08:28PM (#42564147)
    What are examiners for again ? Spelling mistakes ?
    • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday January 11, 2013 @08:46PM (#42564289)

      What are examiners for again ? Spelling mistakes ?

      Simplistically... One can patent stupid and/or inefficient things and bad designs - as long as they're new and unique.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Wrong, presuming we're talking about utility patents. They also have to be useful. Something which is fundamentally incapable of achieving the specified effect is categorically not useful in the context of the claimed invention. That's why perpetual motion machines cannot be patented.

        The guy may have a design patent, instead. A design patent is more akin to copyright or trademark than to utility patents.

    • by Nemyst (1383049) on Friday January 11, 2013 @08:48PM (#42564299) Homepage

      Well hey,
      1) The patent is novel. I mean, who the fuck would've thought of this before?
      2) It's not obvious to one skilled in the arts. After all, it doesn't even work.
      3) It protects everyone from others attempting to use the same "concept" to shaft people without a clue.

      Overall, I'd say the patent examiners did their job just fine. A patent isn't guaranteed to work.

      • Lack of utility (Score:5, Informative)

        by Turminder Xuss (2726733) on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:02PM (#42564407)
        Manual of Patent Examining Procedure; 706.03(a) Rejections under 35 USC 101 III A rejection on the ground of lack of utility is appropriate when ... (2) an assertion of specific and substantive utility for the invention is not credible. Such a rejection can include the more specific grounds of inoperativeness! Such as inventions involving perpetual motion.
        • Re:Lack of utility (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday January 12, 2013 @12:43AM (#42565447) Homepage Journal

          Manual of Patent Examining Procedure; 706.03(a) Rejections under 35 USC 101 III A rejection on the ground of lack of utility is appropriate when ... (2) an assertion of specific and substantive utility for the invention is not credible. Such a rejection can include the more specific grounds of inoperativeness! Such as inventions involving perpetual motion.

          But, also in the MPEP, examination focuses on the claims and the specific elements listed in said claims, not on what some Slashdot summary describes the patent as, or even an allegation of awesome results in the patent abstract or summary. And if you read the claims, they're for a specific design of bike pedal, but don't claim anything about increased efficiency or spectacular results: they simply claim this odd design for a pedal.

          So, under a 35 USC 101 analysis, is it a machine? Yes. Does it have a use in pedaling a bike? Yes. The end.

      • by icebike (68054) on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:22PM (#42564543)

        The crank works, and it doesn't violate any basic rules of physics.

        What doesn't work, and what does violate the rules of physics, are some of the the claims made for the crank.

        Look, people, its just a SHORTER CRANK arm. Its a gimmick, and you can't say anything about its main claims
        unless you look at the number of teeth on the chain ring.

        The claims made are:

        Smoother pedaling
        More power to climb hills
        Less perceived effort to pedal
        Faster acceleration
        Less affected by headwinds
        Ability to turn higher gearing

        None of these pertain to the crank arms, but all could be true if the gear ratios are selected to accomplish this
        (smaller chain ring)
        . Bike cranks are typically sold with the spider and chain rings. So the manufacturer
        markets a gimmick crank arm with modifications to the chain ring tooth count to mask his deception.

        The bent cranks do nothing that a shorter crank wouldn't do, because that is all they are, a shorter crank.

        • Re:This got a patent (Score:4, Informative)

          by chrismcb (983081) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @02:58AM (#42565983) Homepage
          You do understand how a lever works, right? A longer crank arm will give you more power to climb hills, less perceived effort to pedal (shoot, less effort to pedal, forget the "perceived") ability to turn higher gearing.
          That all happens if you have a longer crank arm. But a longer crank arm means further from the center of the crank, not as in more metal that twists around
      • 1) The patent is novel. I mean, who the fuck would've thought of this before?

        I'm not sure [pardo.net]

      • by CaptBubba (696284)

        I keep telling people that a patent isn't a measure of the quality of the idea, and certainly doesn't mean anything about the marketing claims. Indeed it is much easier to patent a stupid idea: not only is it likely that nobody has published the idea before (no anticipatory prior art), but there will be no end of people saying you should never do anything remotely like the idea because it is stupid (the mass of the prior art teaching away from the idea is a very strong defense against the examiner saying t

        • by skywire (469351) *

          But to be patentable, wouldn't the crank have to introduce some novel mechanism for achieving the functionality? Isn't the only thing possibly novel here just the non-mechanically different shape? That silly shape is purely ornamental, so isn't the most it deserves a design patent?

      • Well hey, 1) The patent is novel. I mean, who the fuck would've thought of this before?

        A bunch of people [pardo.net]. So, not so novel.

      • As long as people see "Patent pending", they feel comforted enough to buy
    • by drolli (522659)

      You can patent everything. You dont have to prove it works. Which is all right with me.

      It wont work, so the chance they actually protect something by a patent which does not work is verly low. They just wasted their money.

      • TFA has a link to stupid prior art [pardo.net].

        New bad ideas can be patented. It isn't supposed to be possible to patent old bad ideas. The problem, is that old bad ideas are often badly documented, because they are bad ideas. If the patent examiner doesn't find the prior art in the limited time available, then the examiner is likely to grant the patent.

      • You can patent everything. You dont have to prove it works.

        This is true - I once applied for two patents a year and a half before I managed to fabricate a working prototype.

        I had run simulations that sort of showed the physics worked, so I wasn't taking too much of a risk, and I had an idea of how I was going to build it, but patent examiners don't actually care about any of that.

        Additionally, when doing patent searches, I've also seen examples of patents for micro- and nano-technology which I'm damn sure no one can build with current technology, or even futu

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        It wont work, so the chance they actually protect something by a patent which does not work is verly low. They just wasted their money.

        That depends on what you mean by "work".

        If we define work as "gives the rider more leverage per leg-stroke", then it's true, it won't work.

        If, OTOH, we think about this the American way and define work as "provides us with additional income from people who don't understand basic physics", then it may work quite well. Never underestimate the power of marketing combined with ignorance :^)

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      What are examiners for again ? Spelling mistakes ?

      The patent system doesn't limit what can be patented - after all, who knows what new technology could make the seemingly impossible, possible. Especially if it relates to cutting edge scientific research.

      The only exception is perpetual motion machines, which I think in the early 20th century the patent office added a requirement for a working model to be demonstrated because they were getting way too many patents for it.

      But there are plenty of oddball patent

  • by hguorbray (967940) on Friday January 11, 2013 @08:29PM (#42564153)
    that it cannot be used to extract money from the gullible and hopeful -esp in America where the common man knows so much more than the engineer or the scientist...so in that sense it is a good idea just like all the weight loss and sex aid supplements you see on late night cable

    -I'm just sayin'
  • ...can quite comfortably fit outside it.
    • Nonsense... if you're outside of reality, then reality is what's wrong!

      I, for one, plan to buy one of these and write them a happy letter! (of course, I am not looking to improve the mechanics of my bike riding, only how stupid I look doing it)

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. (George Bernard Shaw)
  • by C R Johnson (141) on Friday January 11, 2013 @08:38PM (#42564219) Homepage

    One problem with long cranks and a low bottom bracket is the possibility of hitting your pedals on the ground during a turn.
    This makes is worse by making it even more likely to hit the crank arm on the ground.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @08:40PM (#42564237)

    I've seen this before a dozen times or more as an engineering consultant. Some crackpot inventor comes in for a consultation with an engineering idea that "will save the world"*, and they say it works great with the soda-bottle-and-silly-straw model they built of the idea in their bathtub. They have $4 million in investment lined up, and they ask me to work up the numbers to show the feasibility of the idea.

    2 minutes later, after trying to explain to them the 0th/1st/2nd Laws of Thermodynamics and how their device can't work because it violates all of them, it degenerates into a shouting match where the inventor (with an on-line PhD in cosmetology or similar) now is trying to tell me how the 0th/1st/2nd Laws of Thermodynamics do not apply to their device. I wish them luck and then send them to the door.

    I don't envy them, because their options are 1) somehow continue to snow the investors until they make a major ass out of themselves when demonstration day inevitably comes and/or 2) slowly come to the realization that the 0th/1st/2nd Laws of Thermodynamics DO apply to their invention and that they somehow need to backpedal (pun!) out of the situation.

    I'm not against garage inventors, but I wish them the humility to take 30 minutes to get their ideas vetted by a professional in the field before they make asses out of themselves and many others. There are many areas in engineering where the legitimate ideas are getting drowned out by the noise made by the uneducated hucksters.

    *actual phrase used.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can I get twice the funding?

  • It's called a 3d printer with PLA, and a technique called casting. Heck since one sode of this will be flat (ok, two sides,) you could probably do this with ABS plastic. Sure you need a software model, but you cnd probably frough one up fast enough in SketchUp, Blender, or even Corel Draw, simply knowing the requirements for mounting to the shaft and mounting pedals to it. And you'llprobalby have to tap the holes for securing each, but so long as your 3d Printer can handle the dimensions of a crank arm, you

    • But why would anyone go to such lengths to "test" this when it's already perfectly-well proven that it's bull?

    • by tftp (111690)

      A thought experiment is much cheaper. Take that Z-thing and imagine welding an infinitely rigid bar between the hub and the pedal. All other pieces are also infinitely rigid. It becomes a triangle. Nothing changes, right? OK.

      Now make a thin cut through the Z portion. Since the new welded part is also infinitely rigid, there is no difference in how the crank performs (otherwise you'd have to explain why the cut in the Z thing would contract and expand) - and you have the classical crank now. Take the cut

  • The length of one of the elements is innecesarily longer than the final crack length. I bet it's a nighmare to pedal thru irregular terrain, collisioning with the ground every second.

  • Dumbass or fraud? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:26PM (#42564561)
    You decide.
  • Really? Slashdot can't even understand something that would be taught in week one or two of high school physics? Doesn't anyone remember the calculations for torque and how when "johnny" ties a rope to the end of the wrench and pulls on that for "torque", it doesn't actually change anything?

    Also, this has been all over the internet quite literally for months. Slashdot is getting this story after it is how many months old?

  • How often do you get to discuss a crank with a crank... too bad its not April, I'd have gone with the prank crank thanks.

  • Grammar Nazi (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CruddyBuddy (918901) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:17PM (#42564795)
    "Smoother pedaling and more power then old standard type cranks."

    Oh come on. I'm not giving my money to anyone who can't write a sentence.

  • Hmm, subtle pun or can't spell??
  • They basically dog leg the peddle arm and claim there's an advantage. I thought it was linked in some way so the length changes during a stroke. It isn't even that clever it's just a pointless waste of aluminum. Even a variable length one wouldn't work because it'd throw off you rhythm. Bicycle peddles haven't changed much in over a hundred years for a reason.
  • If you read one of the papers, from Florida Atlantic University, referenced on the site, the author claims that the advantage comes from an 'intrinsic favorable flexure mode." Basically, he is saying that the flex at the joint of the Z shape creates a smoother ride and higher torque at specific angles (not peak torque however).

    While I find it unlikely that the effect is as positive as stated in the article, it is plausible that there is a small second-order effect due to non-rigid behavior of the crank. It

    • Yes, flexibility, moment of inertia etc. differences might make bicycling more efficient, but that is not how the device is claimed to work, and any improvement it provides would be accidental. It would be fairly straightforward to design a crank with an adjustable moment of inertia and spring constant, so the fact that they aren't used suggests that any gains are very small.

    • And they go to extreme efforts to reduce it. Muscle strength spent flexing the crank is wasted.
      Same thing for crank weight. They go to extreme lengths to shave grams off their bikes, and even more to reduce weights of moving parts.

      The idea that this is a great, new, magic crank because it's flexible and heavy is ridiculous!

    • Isn't Florida Atlantic the same place the guy claiming that Obama faked Newtown is faculty ? How august a center of learning can it be ?
  • Judging by the photos, it appears that the Crank with Z-pedals has a larger Moment of Inertia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_of_inertia [wikipedia.org]) than the Crank without Z-pedals.

    Perhaps that increased moment of inertia has a flywheel effect that helps ease the pedaling? I wouldn't expect it to make a difference, but then again bicycle racing is so incredibly optimized -- just look at those stupid looking helmets bicycle racers wear to improve their aerodynamics -- so perhaps the riders can tell the differenc

  • First thing you should do is ditch the cranks that came with your bike, and find some 175 or 180mm cranks instead. You have the longer legs required to use them, after all.
  • by ffflala (793437) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:17PM (#42565113)
    One measly zig? That's not going to efficiently couple my torque rotation constant. I want a crank with a minimum of five zigs and, for fuck's sake, a bare minimum of *three* zags... and that will be the "intro" model. The "pro" crank will come with seven zigs and five zags. The "custom" option will end the zigzags with a loop.

    Throw in enough, and the bike will basically pedal itself. All I need to figure out now is how to perfect my shake weight handlebars. Still having problems with the braking on those things.
  • > A new design for bicycle cranks violates basic principles of physics

    At first I was prepared for a crank out of MC Escher, that couldn't exist in the real world. But it's just snake oil. Sigh. In a Kevin Kline voice; DisaPOINTed.

  • How is this different from alleged gurus claiming that foo-oriented programming is a silver bullet and selling books, seminars, special languages, methodology consultants, and so forth without first having objective evidence?

    It's not just bicycles.

    • How is this different from alleged gurus claiming that foo-oriented programming is a silver bullet and selling books, seminars, special languages, methodology consultants, and so forth without first having objective evidence?

      Because this is physically impossible, whereas a new programming paradigm that provides across-the-board improvements in productivity is possible, even if most things for which that claim is made are, at best, greatly oversold.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Saturday January 12, 2013 @04:17AM (#42566139) Homepage

    This inventor has apparently managed to duplicate the invention of medieval alchemists: Transmuting gullibility into gold.

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