Maker Update #31

This week on Maker Update: an autonomous beach-roving art bot, Kickstarter wants your ideas, a project that makes kits for other projects, GUIs for Raspberry Pi, stipple ceramics, and Donald Bell shows you why digital calipers are cool. Show notes here.

Read the rest

Scientists create weird substance that accelerates backwards when you push it

Researchers at Washington State University have created a fluid "that has the properties of negative mass," reports New Atlas. When you push it, it accelerates towards you.

Snip:

The team made the Bose-Einstein condensate by slowing down rubidium atoms with lasers, which cools them to just slightly above absolute zero and keeps them confined to a bowl-shaped area of about 100 microns across. Next, the scientists hit those atoms with another set of lasers that changed how they spin, a phenomenon known as "spin orbit coupling." That gives the rubidium the properties of a substance with negative mass when it's allowed to flow out of the bowl shape, which, according to the researchers, makes it look like it's hitting an invisible wall.

"What's a first here is the exquisite control we have over the nature of this negative mass, without any other complications," says Forbes. "It provides another environment to study a fundamental phenomenon that is very peculiar."

Read the rest

Support the They Live / Trump Billboard campaign

My dear old friend Mitch O'Connell designed the art for this fabulous They Live tribute billboard, and he's looking for your support to rent billboard space for it.

“Clear Channel Outdoor” tells me renting one month of a 10’ 5” by 22’ 8” billboard can be had for as cheap as $850, plus a production fee of $225 every 60 days. So let’s set the goal at $1930 for one 2-month rental to begin with. If more money is raised, break out your pen and paper to do the math to figure out how many more billboards could be acquired.

Read the rest

This worm eats plastic bags

Humans discard a trillion single-use plastic bags every year. If you were a wax worm, this statistic would make you drool. The caterpillar loves to eat them.

From Atlas Obscura:

Frederica Bertocchini, a biologist at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology in Spain, noticed some wax worms had managed to eat their way through the plastic bags they were being kept in. While other organisms can take weeks or months to break down even the smallest amount of plastic, the wax worm can get through more—in a far shorter period of time. The researchers let 100 wax worms chow down on a plastic grocery bag, and after just 12 hours they’d eaten about 4 percent of the bag, according to findings published Monday in the journal Current Biology. That may not sound like much, but that’s a vast improvement over fungi, which weren’t able to break down a noticeable amount of polyethylene after six months.

Image of wax worm: skeeze/Pixabay Read the rest

12-pack of Lindt 90% cocoa bars on sale

I've written about Lindt 90% cocoa chocolate before. I try to take some with me on every trip (along with macadamia nuts and beef jerky). Like I wrote earlier, his dark chocolate is surprisingly smooth for a high-cocoa chocolate, and a 40g serving has just 3g of sugar (by comparison, a 40g serving of a Special Dark Hershey bar has 20g of sugar).

It's usually $30 for a 12-pack, but Amazon has a lightning deal right now for $22.19, and the deal is already 53% claimed. I just bought some! Read the rest

No evidence that Flynn complied with law, says House Oversight Chairman

The House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R) and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings said today that there is no sign that Trump's former national security advisor complied with the law when he failed to disclose payments he received from Russia.

From CNN:

Chaffetz and Cummings announced their findings to reporters on the Hill following a classified gathering of the committee in which they reviewed documents that Cummings described as "extremely troubling."

"I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law," Chaffetz said, referring to whether Flynn received permission from the Pentagon or the State Department or that he disclosed the more than $45,000 he was paid for a speech he gave to RT-TV in Russia.

Also today: White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short refused the House Oversight Committee's request for documents relating to Flynn.

From The Week:

In a letter, Short said some of the requested documents were in the custody of the Department of Defense, not the White House. In the case of other documents, Short wrote that the White House was "unable to accommodate" the requests. Short's response arrived as the committee convened Tuesday to review its first set of documents on Flynn, provided by the Pentagon.

Previous documents released by the White House at the beginning of April revealed Flynn had not disclosed income he'd received from three Russia-linked firms. Flynn's lobbying company has also been found to have worked for a firm linked to the Turkish government while Flynn was serving as a top adviser to Trump's presidential campaign.

Read the rest

The Juicero is an impressive piece of over engineered hardware

It's easy to squeeze the juice out of a Juicero juice bag with your bare hands. But for some reason, the $400 Juicero machine was built to squeeze charcoal briquettes into diamonds. Ben Einstein, a product designer and venture capitalist, took one apart to see what was inside.

Excerpts:

Juicero’s Press is an incredibly complicated piece of engineering. Of the hundreds of consumer products I’ve taken apart over the years, this is easily among the top 5% on the complexity scale. Because the door must transmit the force of the entire drivetrain pushing against the juice packs, we see MASSIVE machined aluminum components. It is exceptionally rare to see a custom power supply on a first-time hardware startup’s product as these are inspected very carefully as part of UL/ETL certification, creating additional cost and risk. Like many of the other systems on this product, the motor is seemingly custom to account for the exceptionally high rated power (stalls at 5A at 330V DC, which is hard to believe, possibly even a misprint on the motor casing) and sports a custom encoder system designed by Juicero (yellow arrow) Removing the sheet metal frame sheds light on a few more custom-machined aluminum drivetrain components. The number, size, complexity and accuracy of these parts is somewhat mind-blowing for a young hardware startup.

At least the engineers had fun designing this! Read the rest

Google tweaks its machinery to deal with fake news

Last December, anyone who searched Google for “did the Holocaust happen? would see a white supremacist website at the top of the results. To counteract these kinds of problems, Google updated its Search Quality Rater Guidelines to devalue “misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories,” says Google vice president of engineering Ben Gomes.

In addition to changing its algorithm to reduce "offensive or clearly misleading content," Google is also giving users the ability to rate and flag Autocomplete offerings and Featured Snippets results:

When you visit Google, we aim to speed up your experience with features like Autocomplete, which helps predict the searches you might be typing to quickly get to the info you need, and Featured Snippets, which shows a highlight of the information relevant to what you’re looking for at the top of your search results. The content that appears in these features is generated algorithmically and is a reflection of what people are searching for and what’s available on the web. This can sometimes lead to results that are unexpected, inaccurate or offensive. Starting today, we’re making it much easier for people to directly flag content that appears in both Autocomplete predictions and Featured Snippets. These new feedback mechanisms include clearly labeled categories so you can inform us directly if you find sensitive or unhelpful content. We plan to use this feedback to help improve our algorithms.

[via] Read the rest

Cat enjoys licking air going into vacuum

“The horror of the void became once again its own inverted retort.” ― Gellu Naum

(Thanks, Matthew!) Read the rest

Bowler Ben Ketola sets world record with fastest 300 game

Bowler Ben Ketola (age 23) just broke the record for the fastest perfect game: 12 strikes in 86.9 seconds.

(Thanks, Matthew!) Read the rest

RIP Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig

I was saddened to learn that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert M. Pirsig died today at the age of 88.

I read the pop philosophy treatise Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college and thought it was the greatest book ever. I read it again 15 years later and didn't get as much out of it the second time around. It's been another 15 years since I re-read it and I no longer remember why I had those opinions (I have a lousy memory when it comes to books and movies). I think I should give it another try and see what my current nervous system thinks of his exploration into the nature of quality.

One thing is for certain, the title of the book is one of the best ever (and has been imitated ever since the book came out in 1974), and the paperback cover design is absolutely iconic. [UPDATE: reader Simenzo corrected me. Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, was published in 1948]

Author Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968. Pirsig, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at age 88. William Morrow/HarperCollins

From NPR:

Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication.

Read the rest

A note from the new CEO of Lobstero

Something Awful is running a letter of explanation written by the CEO of Lobstero, who is fighting back against unfair criticism of its wi-fi enabled lobster dispensing unit.

First, let me be very clear: Lobstero's Lobster Packs are much more than just a lobster in a plastic bag. These pouches contain specially conditioned saltwater designed to preserve your lobster's unique qualities. Each pouch allows our lobster to interface directly with our supply chain, ensuring that Lobstero pouches are never more than three-days old.

Squeezing the lobster out of the pack will startle it, possibly injuring it in the process. The Lobstero Home Lobster Station gently applies pressure to the back of the pouch, easing the lobster out of its pouch and into your favorite dish.

If you don't know what's going on here, read this. Read the rest

Board game sale on Amazon

Amazon has one-day sale on a bunch of board games, including one of my family's favorites, called Forbidden Island, where you and the other players work together to collect treasure from a rapidly sinking island. It's just $8.39. The pieces look really cool:

My daughter and I reviewed the iOS version in Apps For Kids. Read the rest

How to make a mallet from milk jugs

Peter Brown made a serviceable mallet from melted down plastic wood jugs.

HDPE is the plastic used in many household containers including gallon sized milk jugs. I melt down about 7 milk jugs and 3 powdered lemonade containers to get enough HDPE to make my mallet head.

The handle of the mallet is made from a cherry board and adds a nice warm contrast to the plastic! This mallet packs a punch and is quite heavy given it smaller size!

Read the rest

Watch: nature documentaries are phony

Nature documentaries: the sound is fake, the scenes are concocted, some of the animals are computer animations, and the music is emotionally manipulative. But that's the only way we will sit through them, says Simon Cade, host and creator of this explainer video. Read the rest

Muji is selling a hut

Every time I go to a Muji store I load up on these fat little newsprint notepads:

They cost just $1.25. I bought 10 when I was at JFK a couple of weeks ago. I've also bought a bunch of other Muji items, because they are high quality and reasonably priced. Now Muji has announced that it is going to sell a Muji Hut. It'll cost $28,000 (which includes costs of materials needed for construction, and operating costs of the construction contractor.) and will be sold in Japan only.

Read the rest

Uber secretly identified and tagged iPhones even after its app had been deleted and the devices erased

The more we learn about Uber and its founder, Travis Kalanick, the less we like them. The NY Times reports on the ride company's sleazy tactics.

For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple’s engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had been secretly identifying and tagging iPhones even after its app had been deleted and the devices erased — a fraud detection maneuver that violated Apple’s privacy guidelines.

But Apple was on to the deception, and when Mr. Kalanick arrived at the midafternoon meeting sporting his favorite pair of bright red sneakers and hot-pink socks, Mr. Cook was prepared. “So, I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules,” Mr. Cook said in his calm, Southern tone. Stop the trickery, Mr. Cook then demanded, or Uber’s app would be kicked out of Apple’s App Store.

For Mr. Kalanick, the moment was fraught with tension. If Uber’s app was yanked from the App Store, it would lose access to millions of iPhone customers — essentially destroying the ride-hailing company’s business. So Mr. Kalanick acceded.

Read the rest

More posts