Not long ago, three inventors—toiling at home, unaware of one another’s existence—set out to reimagine the pogo. What was so sacred about that ungainly steel coil? they wondered. Why couldn’t you make a pogo stick brawny enough for a 250-pound adult? And why not vault riders a few feet, instead of measly inches? If athletes were pulling ‘big air’ on skateboards, snowboards and BMX bikes, why couldn’t the pogo stick be just as, well, gnarly?
When I reached one of the inventors, Bruce Middleton—who studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and describes himself as an ‘outcast scientist’—he told me that the problem had been a ‘conceptual basin.’”
‘Normal people, someone tells them a pogo stick is a thing with steel springs, they go, “That’s right,”’ Middleton said. ‘If that’s your basin, you’ll never come up with a very good pogo. An inventor is someone who recognizes the existence of a conceptual basin and sees that there’s a world outside the basin.’