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)