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Make: Talk 007 -- Charles Platt, Electronics Fun & Fundamentals

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Here's the 7th episode of MAKE's podcast, Make: Talk! In each episode, I'll interview one of the makers featured in the magazine.

Our maker this week is Charles Platt. He writes the Electronics Fun and Fundamentals column in every issue of MAKE. He's also the author of the book, Make: Electronics which, in my admittedly biased opinion, is the best introductory electronics book ever written. He has a knack for clearly explaining what so many other people cannot express without using a lot of incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo.

Charles is also a science fiction author and a designer. Here's a fascinating interview with Charles about his work as the art director and graphic designer of the groundbreaking British science fiction magazine New Worlds in the 1960s and 1970s.

Charles has many talents and I am a huge fan of his.

In this episode, I also talk a bit about TED2012, which I attended this week. I was a happy to see a lot of makers on the stage, including Gregory Gage of Backyard Brains, Ayah Bdeir of littleBits, and Bre Pettis of MakerBot. Go team!

Here's are some projects Charles has written for MAKE:

Plastic Desk Set
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Anti Dog-Bite Siren
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Crystal Nightlight
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Extreme Zap-a-Mole

Suit made from a drop-cloth


This "drop cloth suit" was envisioned by artist Hugh O'Rourke and tailored by Sarah Bahr by cutting a pattern out of a well-used, well-loved drop cloth and tailoring appropriately.

I had the great pleasure of collaborating with fellow artist and friend Hugh O'Rourke on a super fun project. Hugh is a painter and sculptor here in NYC, you can view more of his work here. We met during my thesis art exhibit at NYU, as he works at the 80WSE gallery where I exhibited my installation. He knew my passion for sewing clothing and asked me to collaborate with him in making a suit out of his drop cloths from his studio. The idea of the suit came from famous artist Joseph Beuys' own sculpture Felt Suit.

Drop Cloth Suit (via Craft)

Crossing into Syria: a plea from the Free Syrian Army

Journalists entered Syria to see, first-hand, conditions close to the border with Turkey. Snuck in by a Syrian military defector, they stayed for a day and returned with this footage.

Read the rest

TED2012: Joshua Foer - Moonwalking with Einstein


[Video Link] At TED2012 I interviewed Joshua Foer, who gave a presentation about his recent book, Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. In his book, Joshua writes about covering the United States Memory Championship for a magazine. Joshua decided to enter the contest himself and learned many ancient as well as cutting-edge techniques to help him memorize long lists of numbers, the order of cards in a deck, pictures of things, etc. He ended up winning the championship.

See all my TED2012 interviews here.

Cthulhoid jello salad


Write-Light dug up this insane, multi-limbed lobster jello salad for the Vintage Ads LJ group. It originally appeared in the Davis Gelatine Recipe Book.

The Call of Cthulhull-o

TED2012: Susan Cain: The power of introverts


As someone with a mild introvert tendency, I enjoyed this talk by Susan Cain at TED2012.

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Our world prizes extroverts -- but Susan Cain makes a case for the quiet and contemplative.
Susan Cain: The power of introverts

See all my TED2012 coverage here.

Tornadoes sweep through central South

Southern Indiana, southern Ohio, most of Kentucky, central Tennessee, northeastern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama are in the middle of a huge storm system. As of an hour ago, there were 22 tornado warnings in this region, affecting 47 counties. Multiple tornadoes have touched down already, though it's not yet clear how many. If you're down there, stay safe. 2011 was the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1953. Hopefully, we aren't looking at a repeat of that kind of spring. Maggie

Ornate assemblage clock


The latest from Roger Wood's feverish imagination: a glorious higgeldy-piggeldy of an assemblage clock.

4 superstars of American street art in episode 501 of The Simpsons

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This Sunday night, March 4, the 501st episode of The Simpsons will feature four superstars of American street art: Kenny Scharf, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, and Robbie Conal.

Kenny Scharf came up in the East Village art scene in the 1980's and covered the walls at last year's amazing "Art in the Streets" show in L.A.; Ron English hacks popular brand images (think "Super Size Me" posters and 2008's groovy "Abraham Obama"), and favors billboards; Shepard Fairey is...well, Shepard Fairey; and Robbie Conal is the genre's outlaw godfather — a whip-smart, wisecracking political satirist who's been wheat-pasting posters of white-collar bad guys (remember CONTRA DICTION and Cheney as the Energizer bunny?) since before most of today's street artists were zygotes.

Conal says: "I consider it one of the highest honors in the land to be 'Simpsonized.' To me it's the American equivalent of being knighted by the Queen of England.”

The episode, titled "Exit Through the Kwik-E Mart" (get it?) runs at 8PM ET/PT on FOX. The four artists will be guest-voicing themselves.

Previously:

Gritty guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal's new book features... cute animals!?

Shepard Fairey pleads guilty over "Hope" court case

From the department of Horrible Sounding Ideas That May Actually Be Good Ideas

An acidic tampon? In my vagina? It's more likely to be a reasonable and healthy idea than you might think. (Also: If you aren't reading the Context and Variation blog, you're missing out on the best in lady parts science, and I pity you.) Maggie

The (horribly awesome) things that live on Ball's Pyramid

Ball's Pyramid looks like a place where nothing could survive. The remnants of a long-dead volcano, it sits alone in the South Pacific ... a narrow, rocky half-moon some 1800 feet high.

But Ball's Pyramid isn't devoid of life ...

for years this place had a secret. At 225 feet above sea level, hanging on the rock surface, there is a small, spindly little bush, and under that bush, a few years ago, two climbers, working in the dark, found something totally improbable hiding in the soil below. How it got there, we still don't know.

What they found is horribly awesome and awesomely horrible and you need to read the whole story, written by NPR's Robert Krulwich.

Via Elizabeth Preston. If you want a hint, she described this as, "a really beautiful story about some really disgusting giant insects."

Individual dolphins identify themselves to new dolphins they meet

Here in the BoingBoing newsroom, we are dedicated to keeping you informed on the latest developments in cetacean friendship. You already know that dolphins and whales hang out and, in fact, play together

Now, some more awesome news: Dolphins apparently have a system of identifying themselves to each other similar to the way you and I use names.

Scientists have actually known since the 1960s that this system existed. Basically, each dolphin creates their own "signature" whistle when they're very young. In studies of captive dolphins, they used this whistle mainly when they got separated from the rest of the group. It was like a way of saying, "Hey, I'm over here!" Or, given the environment, perhaps some version of "Marco! Polo!"

But at Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong writes about a new study of wild dolphins that has really increased our understanding of signature whistles and how dolphins use them.

Quick and Janik recorded the calls of swimming dolphin pods using underwater microphones. From 11 such recordings, they worked out that dolphin groups use their signature whistles in greeting rituals, when two groups meet and join. Only 10 per cent of such unions happen without any signature whistles. And the dolphins use their signatures nine times more often during these interactions than during normal social contact. The signature whistles clearly aren’t contact calls, because dolphins hardly ever use them within their own groups. Mothers and calves, for example, didn’t exchange signature whistles when travelling together. And they’re not confrontational claims over territory, because bottlenose dolphins don’t have territories.

Instead, Janik thinks that dolphins use the whistles to identify themselves, and to negotiate a new encounter. The human equivalent would be saying, “My name is Ed. I come in peace.”

Quick and Janik also found that the dolphins don’t mimic each other’s signatures when they meet up. Justin Gregg from the Dolphin Communication Project says, “In other words, dolphins are not shouting out “Hey there Jerry” to each other, they are saying “it’s me, Tim!” He adds, “We really have no idea when or why they use these whistles. This study has uncovered a brand new function for the signature whistle, which makes it rather exciting. They appear to be identifying themselves to social partners after a prolonged separation.”

Read the rest at Not Exactly Rocket Science

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Image: Dolphins, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from hassanrafeek's photostream

BookBook for the Mac Book Air 11"

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Due to overwhelming positive feedback from Mark, David, Rob and Joel Johnson I decided to buy an 11" Mac Book Air. I love it but it just felt like I was going to destroy it, shoving it into my travel bag without a case -- the Air isn't delicate but I wouldn't call it a rugged machine.

So I bought a Twelve South BookBook, hardback leather-bound imitation book case. It is lovely. It feels wonderful, the texture of the leather is really nice. It feels to be the high-quality I'd expect when spending $80 on a laptop case. Most importantly, it feels like the Air can really take a beating if it's inside this case. I no longer fear the TSA.

The only warnings I have about it would be that the zipper does ride a bit high and can make getting USB and other plugs (like power) in a bit of a task. Sometimes the mag-safe power adaptor gets pushed out by the zipper. I"m pretty sure that, over time, the zipper will get used to being pushed down and these issues will cease.

A fascinating conclusion to an environmental mystery

This is the town of Kivalina, Alaska. Last fall, when the ocean water that almost surrounds the town started turning a gooey orange, people (understandably) got a bit freaked out.

After ruling out the scarier options—i.e.,chemical pollution and toxic algae—scientists eventually pinned the orange tide on the presence of a plant fungus. And they turned up some good news: The fungus wasn't dangerous to people or ocean life.

Now, months later, researchers have identified what, exactly, the fungus is and where it was coming from. There's a fascinating detective story here, because, as Jennifer Frazer points out on Scientific American's Artful Amoeba blog, it's rather surprising that there was a fungal epidemic big enough to turn a whole port orange and nobody noticed it on the plants.

[But] Perhaps someone did.

Last October, David Wartinbee, a professor of aquatic biology at Kenai Peninsula College in Alaska’s south-central Kenai Peninsula, emailed me to say he’d seen something strange, and wondered if it might be the same thing that hit Kivalina. Though his neck of the woods is over 600 miles southeast from Kivalina as the snow goose flies, it’s not inconceivable they could be one in the same in a place so far north.

In early September, Wartinbee traveled 70 miles west to a place called the Twin Lakes by float plane (reputedly the SUV of Alaska). He saw an orange film on the water, and the spruce needles on nearby trees were clearly poxed with something.

You can read the rest of this story (and see Wartinbee's photos!) at The Artful Amoeba.

Image: ArticLandscape, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from uscgpress's photostream

Canada to science: Drop dead

Not long ago, Cory told you about how the Canadian government has been muzzling scientists—refusing to let them speak freely with the press and, thus, controlling what research the public gets to know about. Not surprisingly, it's research on topics that are politically inconvenient to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government—climate change, for instance—that end up getting frozen.

This issue was the topic of a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver. And although the Canadian government did schedule a free press breakfast in the same time slot, word of this issue got out to a lot of journalists from around the world who hadn't heard about it before. That means we're likely to start seeing more attention being drawn to this issue.

Case in point: The Harper government and its opposition to the open distribution of scientific information was the subject of a Feb. 29th editorial in Nature—one of the biggest and most-read scientific journals in the world.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won power in 2006, there has been a gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists and other government workers. Researchers who once would have felt comfortable responding freely and promptly to journalists are now required to direct inquiries to a media-relations office, which demands written questions in advance, and might not permit scientists to speak. Canadian journalists have documented several instances in which prominent researchers have been prevented from discussing published, peer-reviewed literature. Policy directives and e-mails obtained from the government through freedom of information reveal a confused and Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.

... The way forward is clear: it is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free.