Archive for March 25th, 2013

March 25, 2013


A tontine [ton-teen] is an investment plan for raising capital, devised in the 17th century and relatively widespread in the 18th and 19th. It combines features of a group annuity (recurring payments) and a lottery. Each subscriber pays an agreed sum into the fund, and thereafter receives an annuity. As members die, their shares devolve to the other participants, and so the value of each annuity increases. On the death of the last member, the scheme is wound up. In a variant, which has provided the plot device for most fictional versions, on the death of the penultimate member the capital passes to the last survivor.

The investment plan is named after Neapolitan banker Lorenzo de Tonti, who is credited with inventing it in France in 1653, although it has been suggested that he merely modified existing Italian investment schemes. Tonti put his proposal to the French royal government, but after consideration it was rejected by the Parlement de Paris. The first true tontine was therefore organized in the city of Kampen in the Netherlands in 1670. The French finally established a state tontine in 1689 (though it was not described by that name because Tonti had died in disgrace, about five years earlier).

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March 25, 2013

Self-balancing Unicycle


A number of self-balancing unicycle have been created which are self-balancing only in the forwards-backwards direction, and still need a human being to balance them from side to side.

Aleksander Polutnik’s Enicycle (2006) is probably the first two-axis balancing human-ridable unicycle. In 2009, RYNO Motors of Portland, Oregon created a one-wheeled electric motorcycle called the Micro-Cycle. According to the company, a commercial version is scheduled to go into production in mid 2013.