Quadcopters playing catch

The ETH Zurich quadcopter folks have added to their already impressive collection of videos of cooperative, autonomous quadcopters doing exciting things (previously) with this video of the adorable little gizmos throwing and catching balls together.

To toss the ball, the quadrocopters accelerate rapidly outward to stretch the net tight between them and launch the ball up. Notice in the video that the quadrocopters are then pulled forcefully inward by the tension in the elastic net, and must rapidly stabilize in order to avoid a collision. Once recovered, the quadrotors cooperatively position the net below the ball in order to catch it.

Because they are coupled to each other by the net, the quadrocopters experience complex forces that push the vehicles to the limits of their dynamic capabilities

Cooperative Quadrocopter Ball Throwing and Catching - IDSC - ETH Zurich (via JWZ)

Time-traveling designer produces 1970s ads for MP3 player, laptop, mobile phone & gameboy


Alex Varanese's "ALT/1977" post on Behance is as sweet a piece of contrafactual history as I've seen in a lifetime of pursuing this. I want to live in his timeline.


I've explored that idea in this series by re-imagining four common products from 2010 as if they were designed in 1977: an mp3 player, a laptop, a mobile phone and a handheld video game system. I then created a series of fictitious but stylistically accurate print ads to market them, as well as a handful of abstract posters (you know, just for funsies)... The irony is that all post-modern, smugly self-referential retro porn aside, I'd gladly trade in my immaculately designed 21st century gadgets for these hideously clunky, faux-wood-paneled pieces of uber-kitsch. Sorry, Apple.

ALT/1977: WE ARE NOT TIME TRAVELERS

Solar-powered dowel-sawing machine is a perfect desktop distraction

Alex's Almost Useless Machine is a solar-powered desktop amusement that slowly saws through dowels whenever the light is bright enough to power its motor. It's mesmerizing.

This little machine uses a so called solar engine to drive the motor. This solar engine is able to collect tiny amounts of energy over time and stores it in large capacitors. When the voltage reaches a certain level, it opens up and uses all the stored energy at once to drive a motor. These engines were used to drive tiny BEAM-bots and were quite popular a while ago. A lot of information can be found at beam-wiki.org on how to build them and how they work.

The Almost Useless Machine (via Wired)

Topless dungeon master sought

A Craigslist poster is looking for a woman to dungeon-master a D&D game/bachelor party. DM must be familiar with D&D 3.0 or 3.5, and topless. C-cup or greater preferred. "There will be 5 'guys' that will be participation (sic) including myself. We are at all above the age of 24. Each of us are gentlemen and will treat the Dungeon Master with the utmost of respect." Cory

Gweek 070: John Hodgman returns

Click here to play this episode. Gweek is Boing Boing's podcast about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

My co-hosts for this episode:

Glenn Fleishman. Glenn is a long-time tech reporter, a hacky perl programmer, and one of the writers of the Economist’s Babbage blog on technology and culture.


Kevin Mack. Kevin is a visual effects supervisor, an artist, and the true son of Tinkerbell. (Here's a video profile of Kevin and me.)


John Hodgman. Among other things, John’s the resident expert on The Daily Show and the judge on the Judge John Hodgman Podcast. The third and final installment in his trilogy of Complete World Knowledge -- called That Is All -- comes out in paperback and audiobook today. John and Jonathan Coulton are performing together Boston and Northampton on November 2nd and 3rd. Learn more about the events here.


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In this episode, we talked about:

That is All. John Hodgman brings us the third and final installment in his trilogy of Complete World Knowledge. The paperback is loaded with new material!


Skype is owned by Microsoft now, and the latest version stinks. Glenn: "Microsoft reengineered its security infrastructure to make it easier to tap Skype calls. I maintain and others maintain, and that process caused worse phone connections."


Postsingular, by Rudy Rucker.


Glenn: "Jo Walton’s Among Others just won Hugo. Terrific novel. Also recently read her Small Change trilogy (from 2006, 2007, and 2008)"


John recommends Reamde, by Neal Stephenson: "A thriller of international espionage but it puts the cliches of international espionage thrillers so far behind it."


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough


DenTek Slim Brush Cleaners: "Like tiny bottle brushes. Much better than dental floss."


Samsara. A non-narrative documentary shot in 25 countries.


And much more!

Past episodes of Gweek: 001, 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, 010, 011, 012, 013, 014, 015, 016, 017, 018, 019, 020, 021, 022, 023, 024, 025, 026, 027, 028, 029, 030, 031, 032, 033, 034, 035, 036, 037, 038, 039, 040, 041, 042, 043, 044, 045, 046, 047, 048, 049, 050, 051, 052, 053, 054, 055, 056, 057, 058, 059, 060, 061, 062, 063, 064, 065, 066, 067, 068, 069, 070

Hexaflexagons! The miracle of the inside-out hexagon with many, many sides

The incomparably great Vihart continues her Doodling in Math Class video series with a history and demonstration of the miraculous Hexaflexagon, a simple-to-fold paper hexagon that contains several iterations of itself, which can be found by turning it inside-out over and over again. Sure to delight, inform, entertain, and mystify!

Historical Note: This video is based on a true story. Arthur H. Stone really did invent the hexaflexagon after playing with the paper strips he'd cut off his too-wide British paper, and really did start a flexagon committee (which we'll hear more about in the next video). The details and dialogue, however, are my own invention.

Hexaflexagons (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

3D domino fall illustrates the extinction of the dinosaurs

FlippyCat's animated 3D domino depiction of the comet-strike extinction of the dinosaurs is both poignant and exciting, and the setup/blooper-reel that follows the main action is a real nail-biter.

Also known as domino-saurs

This took 38.5 hours of setup time, over about 2 weeks.

This project contains several smaller projects that I have wanted to do for a long time...the earth being hit and spreading out (since I did this with flags), the eggs revealing something behind them, a fossil/skeleton and a domino-saur!

The Fall of the Dinosaurs (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Your drugs are tested on Russians

It's so difficult to get access to modern health care in Russia that the country is becoming a haven for medical testing — there are more people there willing to be guinea pigs for more stuff simply because they have no other way to see a doctor. This is one of those fun dilemmas where medical testing is necessary, but hard to talk wealthy, healthy people into if they already have access to health care. The result: Drugs and treatments get tried out, voluntarily, on whoever is most desperate.

Exploration Day > Columbus Day

First celebrated nationally in 1937, Columbus Day pays homage to Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas. It is, needless to say, viewed very differently by different groups of Americans. Some people forget it's a holiday at all. Some Italian Americans see it as a point of cultural pride. Other people — especially Native Americans — point out that Columbus personally oversaw the murder and enslavement of thousands and see the holiday as an intrinsically cruel celebration of the beginning of a massive genocide and generations of oppression.

For some reason, we've been unable to deal with problem of Columbus Day, but now some folks on the Internet have a solution that actually makes a hell of a lot of sense: Replace Columbus Day with Exploration Day.

The logic is quite neat. Columbus Day is about one guy and the (actually untrue) claim that he was the first person to discover America. Inherently, that's pretty Euro-centric, which is a big part of why it sits awkwardly in a pluralistic country. But exploration is inclusive. The ancestors of Native Hawaiians were explorers who crossed the ocean. The ancestors of Native Americans explored their way across the Bering land bridge and then explored two whole continents. If you look at the history of America, you can see a history of exploration done by many different people, from many different backgrounds. Sometimes we're talking about literal, physical exploration. Other times, the exploring is done in a lab. Or in space. But the point is clear: This country was built on explorers. And it needs explorers for the future.

Exploration Day would allow us to honor the importance of exploration — and the pride we take in being explorers — without marginalizing some Americans and without perpetuating damaging myths about our own history. Bonus: Exploration Day could double as a holiday for science. Looks like a win to me.

Read more about the idea at ExplorationDayUSA.org

Sign the WhiteHouse.gov petition asking to rededicated Columbus Day as Exploration Day.

Science of L.A.'s 'Carmageddon' proves (shock!) that cars cause much of LA's air pollution

Suzanne Paulson, UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, saw "Carmageddon" as an opportunity to make use of a "natural experiment." She and a colleague "measured pollutants in the air during the LA freeway shutdown last year, and have now released their findings.

Air quality near the normally busy highway improved by 83 percent that day last July, relative to comparable weekends. Elsewhere in West Los Angeles, the improvement was equally dramatic. Air quality improved by 75 percent on that side of the city and in Santa Monica, and by 25 percent throughout the entire region, as a measure of the drop in ultrafine particulate matter associated with tailpipe emissions.

"We saw what we expected: you take motor vehicles away, the air gets really, really clean," Paulson says, "which tells us that most of the pollution is from motor vehicles from one type or another in this area."

More: L.A.'s 'Carmageddon' Produced Dramatic, Instantaneous Air Quality Improvements (The Atlantic).

Another "Carmaggedon" just took place in LA. Wonder if there will be more science to come from this edition.

(Image: Dallas Traffic 10/19/11 1227pm, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from nffcnnr's photostream)

Goldilocks in space: Interview with Lee Billings about the hunt for aliens and habitable planets

Are we alone in the Universe? Last year, journalist Lee Billings wrote an excellent series of guest posts for BoingBoing about the quest to answer that question. One of those posts — Incredible Journey: Can we reach the stars without breaking the bank? — was recently reprinted in The Best Science Writing Online 2012.

As part of the publication of that anthology, journalist Steve Silberman interviewed Lee about space, the final frontier, and the voyages of starships (both the ones that already exist and the ones we imagine and hope for).

Silberman: Several times a year now, we hear about the discovery of a new exoplanet in the “Goldilocks zone” that could “potentially support life.” For example, soon after he helped discover Gliese 581g, astronomer Steven Vogt sparked a storm of media hype by claiming that “the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.” Even setting aside the fact that the excitement of discovering a planet in the habitable zone understandably seems to have gone to Vogt’s head at that press conference, why are such calculations of the probability of life harder to perform accurately than they seem?

Billings: The question of habitability is a second-order consideration when it comes to Gliese 581g, and that fact in itself reveals where so much of this uncertainty comes from. As of right now, the most interesting thing about the “discovery” of Gliese 581g is that not everyone is convinced the planet actually exists. That’s basically because this particular detection is very much indirect — the planet’s existence is being inferred from periodic meter-per-second shifts in the position of its host star. The period of that shift corresponds to the planet’s orbit as it whips from one side of the star to the other; the meter-per-second magnitude of the shift places a lower limit on the planet’s mass, but can’t pin down the mass exactly. So that’s all this detection gives you — an orbit and a minimum mass. That’s not a lot to go on in determining what a planet’s environment might actually be like, is it?

Read the full interview at Steve Silberman's Neurotribes blog

Buy the anthology The Best Science Writing Online 2012, featuring amazing stories from all around the Internets

A pillow into which you insert your head


"The Ostrich Pillow" is Kawamura-Ganjavian's oversubscribed Kickstarter project, a kind of padded textile space-helmet into which you insert your head (and, optionally, your hands), muffling your hearing, dimming your vision, and padding your whole head.

OSTRICH PILLOW is a revolutionary new product to enable easy power naps anytime, everywhere, OSTRICH PILLOW ‘s unique design offers a micro environment in which to take a cosy and comfortable power nap at ease. OSTRICH PILLOW has been designed to allow you to create a little private space within a public one, to relax and unwind. Its soothing soft interior shelters and isolates your head and hands (mind and body) for a short break, without needing to leave your desk, chair, bench or wherever you may be.

OSTRICH PILLOW (via DVICE)

Statefarmbug

Boing Boing Music!

Russolllll

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." - Martin Mull

Do you dig ambient drone? Are you deep into sixties psych? Curious about forest metal? Connoisseur of outernational grooves? Unclear on dubstep vs. brostep? Krautrock vs. kosmische? Fussy about free jazz? Wondering about wyrd folk? We are pleased to introduce our newly-designed Boing Boing Music page and several new features to guide you in your musical discovery! Some of what you can now expect to see on Boing Boing, all tidily organized over at Boing Boing Music:

* Daily record reviews from Aquarius Records: Remember when you'd hit your local record shop and the obsessive music geeks behind the counter would rant about the best new releases you've never heard of? That scene is going strong at San Francisco's Aquarius Records, the city's oldest independent record shop. Now, our friends at Aquarius are bringing their illuminating music reviews to Boing Boing, complete with video and audio snips so you can listen as you go.

* Weekly "Music Appreciation" guides: We've asked some of our favorite music writers to create ports-of-entry into unfamiliar, underrated, or downright overwhelming genres -- from drone to hauntology. Today, Marcus Boon, author of In Praise of Copying and contributor to The Wire, shares his insider's guide to Global Bass. Coming soon, entries by Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor and Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis.

* Plus, "Friday Freak-out" vintage videos, playlists, free downloads, and much more!

Check out Boing Boing Music!


(Special thanks to our sponsor State Farm and Federated Media's Amy O'Donovan, Giles Taylor, and Sarah Ruxin!)

Costumes that integrate wheelchairs


On Buzzfeed, a collection of Hallowe'en costumes that integrate wheelchairs, for adults and kids, ganked from a wide variety of sources. I really like this ice-cream wagon costume, and I wish it was clearer who had originated it for proper credit. Do you know? Add a comment, please!

20 Creative Costume Ideas For People In Wheelchairs (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Children’s Hospital upset by creepy clown ads for Rob Corddry's TV show, "Childrens Hospital"

Snip: "People in clown costumes and makeup are not allowed in Children's Hospital Los Angeles.'We do observe a no-clown policy because they can be scary for some kids." More on the controversy surrounding creepy clown billboards for Childrens Hospital. FWIW, I drove by another set of ads for this show every day on the way to radiation treatment this summer, and they totally creeped me out. The ad shown here is a little more distinguishable, but I can totally see how some parents and children might confuse the campaign for the real deal. (latimes.com)