Even simple devices are feats of engineering evident in day to day life, from pencil sharpeners to staplers. They have become so ingrained in the way that we look at the world that the curiosity and wonder has worn off. These devices are so well made that it is almost impossible to ‘build a better mousetrap’; however this is worth considering.
The mousetrap is an incredibly simple device. A block of wood with a spring, lever, and trigger mechanism. When tasked with the removal of these rodents it’s hard to imagine the jump from a block of wood and some wire to a mechanism of mouse management. The spring has to be strong enough to kill a mouse but not too difficult to set or too dangerous to leave lying around. The wood block has to be cheap enough to mass produce on a large scale but still strong enough to hold the spring when it is loaded and released. The trigger mechanism has to be sensitive enough to detect the nibblings of a small rodent but robust enough to allow the device to be moved without excessive misfire. All engineering problems contain important balances like this and the best designs will prioritize these properties and deftly balance them in an accessible package. The mousetrap has done this so well that the saying has stuck for decades.
If one were to attempt to build a better mousetrap one has to think of the drawbacks of the current models. The classic mouse trap is a one time use, clean up can get a bit messy, and when they snap on your fingers they sting pretty good. There are many designs out there working to solve these shortcomings, from poisons to frequency generators. If you’ve been reading this blog you know that we like to speculate on areas for advancement in a wide variety of disciplines. The vast majority of people are familiar with mousetraps and I would challenge you to comment any ideas that you might have for the future of the mousetrap. How would you build a better mousetrap?