If you could deinvent one machine, which would it be, and why?
The opposable thumb. Richard Gleaves San Diego, California
The wheel, the mother of inventions, the de-invention of which would immobilize all motors and, in one fell swoop, eliminate a host of other environmental nuisances from chainsaws to snowmobiles. Would anyone dare to re-invent it? Swami Paramananda Sarasvati Nederland, Colorado
Bulldozers are always rumbling angrily along destroying everything in their path. All living things are helpless victims of these huge metal monsters. Perhaps if man had to clear the land by hand, there'd be fewer shopping centers and superhighways desecrating our landscapes. Jean M. Cook Berea, Ohio
No single piece of office equipment has been more misused than the photocopier. How many times have you or a coworker made unnecessary photocopies simply because such a machine exists? I can't imagine how many resources are squandered for this convenience. Think of all the forests destroyed and toxic chemicals produced for the purpose of drowning ourselves in useless copies. D. L. Aiken Gastonia, North Carolina
I'd delete the television from 20th century history. For all the education it provided me as a child, this "vast wasteland" robbed me of more sunny days outside than I care to recall. I've only just begun to enjoy the outdoors and to commit myself to help care for our natural environment. We can teach our children without the aid of a purple dinosaur if we just turn off the tube and try. Barry Miller Austin, Texas
Without a doubt, the horrible leaf blower. Along with leaves, it blows dust, dirt, rodent droppings, bird
waste, pollens, molds, bacteria, and viruses into the air we breathe. It also emits carbon monoxide gas. Last but not least is the noise pollution factor.
Operators wear protective ear coverings because of the potential for hearing loss, but what about the rest of us? To everyone who has such a device I say, lock
it away forever. Buy a rake, a broom, and a dustpan, and burn a few calories.
Pat Ernst Seattle, Washington
Suburban sprawl, abandonment of our urban centers, loss of rural lands and countryside, ever-widening
ribbons of concrete and asphalt, monster malls, the Valdez, the Gulf War, endless seas of spent tires and rusting hulks, smog alerts . . . all this, plus easy
finance and cash back on your trade- in! With no hesitation: the automobile. Jeffrey W. Lennartz Cleveland, Ohio
I'd de-invent the jet-ski. It races around otherwise peaceful lakes like a demented whirligig beetle. It makes a noise like a bumblebee trapped inside a motorbike helmet. Its foul odors seep across the water surface to choke unwary swimmers. It is an abominable machine with no redeeming virtues. Ann Cooper Boulder, Colorado
The most devastating machine created is the political lobby machine, with its influence on weak-minded politicians. A case in point is the way the 104th Congress attacks the laws protecting us from ourselves while giving carte blanche to greedy, polluting, money-hungry corporations. Al Maccabee East Patchogue, New York
I'd de-invent the infernal internal
combustion machine. The aftermath would be varied, far-reaching, and spectacular. Travel would be powered by renewable energy, or we'd revert to horse-drawn conveyances, bicycles, etc., in this Brave Old World. There would be minimal oil drilling, air and water pollution. Global warming and ozone depletion would be slowed. Perhaps we'd all be so busy working to keep our heads above water there would be less demand for new prisons, exercise clubs, and psychiatrists. Anita Brown Colorado Springs, Colorado
De-invent the automobile and re-invent the idea of walking -- a slower way to watch the trees go by. Seth Muller Morgantown, West Virginia
I'm all for de-inventing any motorized contraption in the kitchen. They waste energy, require meticulous cleanup, and they're so wimpy. Apply a little muscle power to ordinary food utensils -- the grater, the meat grinder, the whisk, a sharp knife -- and you can whip up a meal anytime you want. Rely on electric gizmos during a power outtage and starve by candlelight. Jewell Scott San Francisco, California
For sheer mechanical cussedness, no other machine comes close to the snowmobile. Anyone who has ever had the contemplative solitude of a cross-country ski trip interrupted by one (or more!) of these obscene mega-decibel fume-belchers will join me in my devout desire for their de-invention-if only to save ourselves from the less charitable wish for ski-touring bazookas. Horace Fisher Truckee, California
The human race got along without air-conditioning for millions of years. In fact, relating to the heat in natural ways encouraged civilized behavior, like afternoon siestas, while producing a beautiful, cool architecture of arcades and shaded gardens. But now, instead of lying down in green pastures beside still waters in the heat of the day, we drive to energy-wasting, air-conditioned ziggurats of international capital, contributing, ironically, to global warming that stokes the demand for more air-conditioning and more power plants to generate more energy to cool us down. Esther Bronstein Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The straight edge. It's been downhill since Euclid. Peter Holstein Winnetka, Illinois