Japan has a storied history of technical wizardry, but even then Yoshiro Nakamatsu stands a cut above. Better known as Dr. NakaMats, he's a celebrity inventor who's claimed to hold over 4,000 patents, which would be a world record. He's known for his loopy, goofball demeanor, which makes him something of a cross between Nikola Tesla and Willy Wonka. Dr. NakaMats celebrated his 84th birthday on June 26.
According to the man himself, he created his first invention at age five, and has been building gadgets ever since. His inventions range from crazy to surprisingly useful; while he's built things like spring shoes, a self-defense wig, and the particularly zany "Cerebrex" armchair, he also claims to have invented the floppy disk for IBM, although he says that details of his agreement with the IT giant are confidential.
In any case, he stands tall as a legend of innovation, and has been recognized as such. In 2005 he was awarded the Ig Nobel prize for Nutrition, for photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he's eaten, a project that dates back nearly 40 years. He's also not slowing down: by the time he dies at the age of 144 (an age he steadfastly states he will attain), he expects to patent 6,000 inventions.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.