Midweek Cuckoo: Troy Hurtubise

Canadian Troy Hurtubise started his career as an inventor by getting attacked by a bear on August 14, 1984. That kind of thing happens to people in Canada, I hear. Troy survived the attack, and became obsessed with grizzlies. More specifically, he became obsessed with how to get close enough to one to study it without getting mauled again.

Troy finally had his epiphany while watching RoboCop in his college dorm. Enter the Ursus series of protective suits, the authoritative word in anti-bear technology. Troy gained a fair amount of notoriety while testing his suit, especially because he was willing to be inside it while being attacked by bears. The suit was apparently so daunting that at least one bear refused to even approach him. A documentary called Project Grizzly was made about his exploits, and it enjoys a small cult following. Quentin Tarantino apparently thinks it’s fantastic.

Thanks largely to the success of the film and other media coverage, Troy auctioned the Ursus Mk VII on eBay, to a supposed American Military project consultant. The invention also won him an Ig Nobel Prize.

But Troy didn’t stop there, despite the endeavour having bankrupted him and destroyed his marriage. He also invented a fire-resistant paste called Firepaste (ingenius!) that he happily demonstrates by placing a tile of the stuff between himself and a blowtorch. While this sounds extreme, I believe that similar can be done with sheets of just about any top quality insulator, which is probably why the invention has received lots of media attention but not much commercial attention. Most shamelessly of all, Troy claims that if the World Trade Center struts had been insulated using Firepaste, the buildings would never have collapsed.

Then came the light infantry magnetic blast cushion, which supposedly can withstand shotgun fire, rifle fire, and explosives. Troy wants to see these devices being used on military vehicles to protect the occupants against landmines and rocket propelled grenades, a noble pursuit to be sure. Yet despite a successful demonstration in front of Discovery Channel cameras, I’m not aware of these being implemented by any military, anywhere. And of course, Troy claims that if the World Trade Center had two foot thick panels of his blast cushion strapped to them…

And this is where things get really whacky – beyond the garden variety whacky of allowing yourself to be attacked by bears and blowtorches. Troy’s next invention is something called the Angel Light, a mysterious combination of lasers and lenses that produces a light that can supposedly see through walls and skin, can detect stealth aircraft, and disable electronic devices. It also makes model airplanes fall out of the sky, and kills goldfish. The design came to Troy in a series of three dreams, and he supposedly built it with no schematics and it worked on the first try. But when he discovered that it might be used for harm (he reported a loss of feeling in his fingers and a general sense of malaise after waving his hand through the beam) he dismantled it. So, claims of amazing abilities unexplainable by science – check. Excuse for not having any schematics – check. Excuse for not having a working prototype – check. All systems go.

But then Troy cranked it up a notch by reconfiguring the Angel Light into the God Light (what is this, pokemon?). This invention can make blind men see, lame men walk, can reverse Parkinson’s symptoms and can shrink tumours. I would expect that it can also solve Fermat’s last theorem and make the perfect cup of coffee, but that might be asking too much. It also increases the growth of seedlings – which is no real news at all. Gardening enthusiasts have known for years that you can affect the growth rate of plants by providing an incomplete spectrum of light. You can already buy lights that do exactly that. Reality aside, Troy has declared that his lab (i.e. his garage) is open to any scientist “who works on, say, Parkinson’s, AIDS, MS, or Alzheimer’s” to do any experiment they please. He’s even offered $20,000 to anyone who can prove that the God Light doesn’t work.

It seems that the story of Troy Hurtubise is the story of a keen inventor who got a taste for fame and will now do anything to hang on to it, going to further and further extremes to keep the media interested. So far, his inventions that have worked are either just plain silly, or there is already a better product on the market. Of the last two, our only evidence of them working is the claims made by Troy himself. He makes reference to covert assistance from unnamed collaborators at MIT, the military, and a German physicist. He supposedly receives funding from unnamed investors. For the more outlandish inventions he lacks patents, trademarks, research, articles in anything other than the local paper, and in fact proof of any kind. He makes claims of interest from the fire insurance industry, from the military, from Saudi counter-intelligence and from the French government, still without any proof. And yet, he is a self-admitted “idiot with electronics”.

Danie Krugel could learn a thing or two from Troy Hurtubise.

(Tip of the hat to Duncan T. for the lead)

12 Responses to “Midweek Cuckoo: Troy Hurtubise”

  1. my brain hurts. the french must be aiming one at me :S

  2. Troy is his very own trojan horse.
    (I concur with TW, reading about Troy’s exploits does make your head hurt; yet another use for his God Light)

  3. TW: nonsense, they’re spending way too much time countering the beam from Saudi Arabia currently aimed at them.

    chitty: you’re saying that he opens up at the hinges and hundred of tiny men jump out? Is that yet another effect of the God Light?

  4. God Light? Is that like regular God, but just less filling?

  5. In his case it seems more like hundreds of tiny outlandish inventions.
    KN’s comment had me in stitches… damn. I sprayed Coke Light all over my desk.

  6. Oh man, just reading about the God Light has cured my headache…and allowed me to go home early. Woot!

  7. I don’t understand what GodLight has to do with Pokeman, but I don’t really follow Hip Hop.

  8. that’s okay schpat: i can give you a brief summary on hip hop. two spoons of nitrate and an unpeeled carrot shoved in your ear. then if you make you way to england, the second you hit the line between france and saudi arabia you’ll contain just 1 calorie!

  9. kyknoord: less filling than zero? that’s like negative calories!

    chitty: the aspartame is obviously having a negative affect on you

    babyacid: amazing! does this invention’s use know no bounds?

    schpat: what? i though you were a fan of ubuntu?

    totalwaste: but will you really feel fulfilled?

  10. Blair Hurtubise Says:

    How many inventors have been mocked through the ages, and yet their names remain. I take solace in the fact that Troy Hurtubise will be known long after you armchair critics retire into the obscurity.

  11. Troy Hutubise is a brilliant inventor, and I WILL meet him, no matter how long it takes me to find him.

  12. Eighty-Two Says:

    Blair Hurtubise Says:

    “How many inventors have been mocked through the ages, and yet their names remain. I take solace in the fact that Troy Hurtubise will be known long after you armchair critics retire into the obscurity.”

    Hah, I’d say most inventors have been mocked through the ages to some degree. However, all but a tiny handful have been forgotten. The only inventor who’s name is still known to many people that comes off as crazy as Troy was Tesla. And so far, Troy hasn’t exactly invented the basis for the municipal electrical system for the entire world. (and most of Tesla’s crazier stuff is unworkable, too.) And there are always plenty of inventors that come off as pretty crazy. Most famous inventors were pretty well grounded.

    If Troy is known well into the future, it’s probably going to be for his bear suit, because there’s a documentary about it, and the idea of making armored suits for fighting bears is pretty cool.

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