Elwood “Woody” Norris has been named the 2005 winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for his remarkable inventions including HyperSonic Sound, which targets sound to individual listeners, and the AirScooter, a novel single-person helicopter.

Elwood “Woody” Norris doesn’t let conventional thinking stand in the way of his inventions.



To cut down on human-made sound straying beyond its intended audience, Norris developed a way to create a focused beam of sound waves, sort of like focusing a beam of light.



To put flight within reach of people lacking time and money to invest in pilot training, Norris helped create a simple-to-fly, ultralight helicopter.



Those ideas and others have earned Norris 47 U.S. patents over four decades in fields including engineering and medicine — not bad for a guy who started taking apart radios at age 8 but never earned a college degree.



At age 63, Norris has earned what he calls “the Nobel Prize of inventing”: the $500,000 annual Lemelson-MIT Prize, the largest single cash award for invention in the United States. Norris’ prize is to be announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Monday and bestowed at a ceremony Friday in Portland, Ore.



“I’m interested in everything,” Norris, who subscribes to 35 magazines on topics scientific and otherwise, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.



But the Poway, Calif., resident and father of 11 children — ranging in age from 13 to 38 — says he’s “not Thomas Edison.”



“That guy used to work and not sleep. I’m the laziest inventor you ever met,” he said. “My inventing is in my head — I don’t have to be in the lab working and sweating.”



Current areas of interest include hydrogen-powered automobiles and — lest he be accused of setting his sights too low — understanding gravity.



“It’s embarrassing that we’re in the 21st century and we don’t even know what makes gravity work,” he said. “I’m getting older and thinking maybe I should tackle more than the mundane. I may fail, but at least I will have tried.”



His sound-focusing invention, known as HyperSonic Sound, starts by generating ultrasonic — above the range of human hearing — sound waves, which can be focused in a tight beam rather than spreading out in all directions.



As these high-frequency sound waves pass through the air, they generate lower-frequency sounds that people can hear. By stepping into the “beam,” a person can hear sound that someone standing a foot or more away can’t detect.



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