British psychologist Dr. Stuart Dimond, 38, of University College, Cardiff, believes he has a pill that may make people smarter. It is called “nootropyl,” from the Greek “toward mind.” Since it was synthesized in 1963, the drug has been used to treat problems from child retardation to early senility. But Dimond is the first researcher to demonstrate its beneficial effect on normal persons. “It’s a new category of drug,” says Dimond. “It touches on the higher integrative functions of the brain.” Dimond gave it to eight student volunteers for 14 days while eight others took a placebo. The groups scored the same on a motor-skills test, but the nootropyl-takers scored 15 to 20 percent higher on memory and learning ability. “It doesn’t convert you from a dull person to the brain of Britain,” says Dimond of the drug, which is nonaddictive, “but it does make you learn better.”
On the water wagon
As Nelson Tyler tells it, he was sitting around one afternoon wondering whether to go dirt-bike riding or water-skiing, when he hit upon the perfect compromise: the wet-bike. Tyler worked on it for three years. The resulting vehicle can carry two riders (and will pull a water skier), weighs 280 pounds, runs for three to four hours on a seven-gallon tank of gas and attains a speed of 50 mph. The wet-bike is expected to sell for $1,900 when it goes on the market this summer. It is the latest in a long series of inventions by Tyler, who lives in Los Angeles. A movie cinematographer, he won an Academy Award for technical achievement five years ago for a camera mount used in helicopter photography. He currently is working on a lightweight camera and recording system. “Inventing,” he says, “is like gambling. You have to take jobs to earn the money to keep working on a project, and yet you don’t dare leave the invention for fear you’ll lose your ideas.”
A key man
There may be no such thing as an unpickable lock, but that hasn’t stopped Walter Surko Jr. from trying to invent one. The 39-year-old director of engineering of Emhardt’s hardware division in Hartford, Conn. has come up with a device that features interlocking pin tumblers in its cylinder. To open it requires not only that the tumblers be raised, as in conventional locks, but that they be rotated to the proper angle. Expert lock-pickers have been foiled by Surko’s brainchild. It sells for between $30 and $90, depending on size. Surko says that “locks were fascinating to me from the beginning.” He went to night school for 13 years to earn an engineering degree. “I don’t feel that five locks are better than one good one,” says Surko, in reference to the multiple-security precautions that many city dwellers take. He lives with his wife in a house in Stonington, Conn., protected by just one Surko lock on the front door and another on the side door.