Google's neural net is amazingly good at figuring out what you draw. In this game, it correctly guessed five out of six doodles I drew: cookie, saw, scissors, beach, grass. It missed watermelon. Read the rest
Kitchen appliances wear out. When they do, it usually means it's time to toss it and buy a new one. But in recent years, it's become easier to buy replacement parts, thanks to eBay and Amazon. This trend has kept my Bialetti Moka Express stovetop coffee maker alive and well.
My Moka is one of my favorite possessions. I use it a couple of times a day. I have the 6-cup orange-colored Moka, which I bought in December 2014. (I use it to make one-regular sized cup of coffee, not six espresso sized cups.) I've made over 1,000 cups of coffee with it. I get excited every time I use it.
The handle melted off a few months ago when my daughter left the burner on. A replacement handle kit is $9, but I opted to make one from a bamboo cutting board. You can get 3 replacement rubber seals and an aluminum filter for $10 (I've replaced the seals twice).
It's harder to find a replacement safety valve. I have one, scavenged from another Moka, if I need it. But they rarely wear out. When I find it acting up, it's because it's dirty and needs cleaning. Here's a good troubleshooting guide.
If you want a coffee maker that outlives you, it's hard to beat this one.
About 5 years ago, I bought a simple 3D printer*. It cost only $400, but it was fussy and the software was hard to use. The printer bed needed frequent adjusting, and the printed parts would get stuck to the printer bed. The overall quality of the prints was just OK, not great. Even with all of its finickiness and shortcomings, I found it useful for making simple repairs of stuff that broke around the house.
Last month, a company called New Matter sent me the new MOD-t 3D printer for review. The MOD-t also sells for $400 and also uses PLA filament, and I was curious to see how two similarly priced printers from then and now compare. After using the MOD-t almost daily, I can say with confidence that it is much, much better in every way than my five-year-old 3D printer.
The MOD-t has a sleek design. It's white, with a clear plastic shell that covers the printing area. The cover keeps the temperature consistent and reduces the noise considerably. The old 3D printer didn't have a cover and it was noisy. The MOD-t also has a fan to help set the plastic after it comes out of the heated extruder head. The helps greatly to reduce sagging of overhanging features on the part being printed.
Setup was a breeze. I went to the New Matter website, downloaded the application and followed the prompts. The MOD-t has built in Wi-Fi, which means I don't have to tether my computer to it with a USB cable while using it. Read the rest
In 1959 Disney released a 30-minute educational featurette called "Donald in Mathmagic Land." Everything about it is superb - the design, the animation, the music, the narration, and the presentation of the material. I remember watching this in school and realizing how interesting math could be.
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Donald in Mathmagic Land is a 27-minute Donald Duck educational featurette released on June 26, 1959.It was directed by Hamilton Luske. Contributors included Disney artists John Hench and Art Riley, voice talent Paul Frees, and scientific expert Heinz Haber, who had worked on the Disney space shows. It was released on a bill with Darby O'Gill and the Little People. In 1959, it was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Documentary - Short Subjects). In 1961, two years after its release, it was shown as part of the first program of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color with an introduction by Ludwig Von Drake. The film was made available to schools and became one of the most popular educational films ever made by Disney. As Walt Disney explained, "The cartoon is a good medium to stimulate interest. We have recently explained mathematics in a film and in that way excited public interest in this very important subject."
For the last six weeks, residents of El Segundo, California have been startled from sleep in the early hours of the morning by the ear-splitting blast of an air horn. On Sunday morning at 4 am, police officers caught the gentleman who was blowing the horn. His name is John W. Nuggent and he admitted doing it because he wanted to annoy a specific person.
On November 13, 2016 at around 4:00 AM, El Segundo Officers heard an extremely loud air-horn being actuated (similar to a train horn) on the west side of town. There have been numerous reports of similar occurrences over the past several weeks involving a blue 4-door compact vehicle driven by a male white adult (see attached picture captured from a residential surveillance video).Read the rest
Shortly after hearing the loud horn, El Segundo Officers initiated a traffic-stop in the area of Grand Avenue and Main Street on a 4-door blue 2006 Chevrolet Aveo. The vehicle was driven by John W. Nuggent and officers found air-horn equipment inside his vehicle.
Several El Segundo residents, who were alleged victims of the air horn noise, responded to the scene and initiated a citizen’s arrest on Nuggent. He was subsequently transported to El Segundo jail for booking and his vehicle was impounded.
It took just days for a construction crew to repair a road that collapsed into a sinkhole in the business district of Fukuoka, Japan.
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After the sinkhole appeared on November 8, subcontractors worked around the clock to fill in the 30 meter (98 ft) wide, 15 meter (50 ft) deep hole by the 12th with a mixture of sand and cement. The job was complicated by the water which had seeped in from sewage pipes destroyed by collapsing sections of road.
After that it only took another 48 hours to reinstall all utilities -- electricity, water, sewage, gas and telecommunication lines -- and to resurface the road. There were no reports of injuries.
Dr. Randy Olson is a senior data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He used 68 of Waldo’s coordinates from all seven “Where’s Waldo?” books to developed an optimal search path.
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Of course, we should never take results from machine learning too literally. A robot might be able to follow this path perfectly, but I wouldn’t be able to remember that path unless it was etched on every page for me. Instead, I think we can take some general lessons from the path that the genetic algorithm discovered: The bottom of the left page is a good place to start. If Waldo isn’t on the bottom half of the left page, then he’s probably not on the left page at all. The upper quarter of the right page is the next best place to look. Waldo seems to prefer to hide on the upper quarter of the right page. Next check the bottom right half of the right page. Waldo also has an aversion to the bottom left half of the right page. Don’t bother looking there until you’ve exhausted the other hot spots.
I annotated the best solution with a general path to follow when searching for Waldo. If you don’t find Waldo at the end of that trail, then you’ve got an outlier and should check the middle of the pages or the top left and right.
Drew Friedman is one of the best illustrators alive today. His work has appeared on the cover of MAD, Spy, and The New Yorker and his recent books about comic book heroes and Jewish comedians will go down in history as masterpieces.
Artist extraordinaire Mitch O'Connell has a new book out, called Tattoos Volume Two: 251 Designs, Bigger and Better! Mitch and I've known each other since we were both 16 years old at Boulder High School. (He was in marching band. Here's his photo.) He was a terrific artist then and I hated him for it. Decades later, my hate has mellowed to mere jealously and bitterness.
You can get a copy on Amazon, or buy a signed/inscribed copy direct from the Mitch (with extra surprises).
Here is how I remember Mitch:
And here is Mitch's drawing of his studio in the late 1970s early 1980s.
Remember David Hahn, the "radioactive boy scout" who, as a teen in 1994, tried to build a nuclear reactor in his garden shed? Sadly, he died this fall. So far, the cause of death is unknown.
From Ars Technica:
Hahn’s travails were most notably chronicled in a 1998 article in Harper’s, which described his story in detail. (That article was later expanded into a book, The Radioactive Boy Scout.)
At the age of 17, Hahn wrote to numerous nuclear industry entities, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), posing as a high school science teacher. The Harper's article goes into some detail on his efforts.
In 2007, Hahn was arrested for stealing smoke detectors (which contain trace amounts of a radioactive element used to ionize smoke particles so they can be detected) from his apartment complex. His mugshot (above) reveals that Hahn had a lot of sores on his face that look like radiation poisoning. Read the rest
Math problems are more interesting when they are posed as horror stories.
The Josephus Problem gets its name from Titus Flavius Josephus, a first-century Jewish scholar.Read the rest
The story goes that he was with 40 other soldiers when they were surrounded by conquering Romans - imagine that scene in Games of Thrones, where Ramsay Bolton's men trap Jon Snow's army in a tight circle and start moving in. Rather than give themselves up, the soldiers decided to commit suicide en mass, but by killing each other rather than themselves, to avoid any last-minute changes of heart. Sitting in a circle, the first soldier would kill the man to the left of him, the next living soldier would kill the man to his left, and so on around the circle. When the circle of slaughter got back to the start, the process would repeat with the smaller group of people. Finally, the last man alive would fall on his sword. Josephus' problem was that he was much keener on living than dying - but he didn't want to let his fellow soldiers in on that secret. So, where should he position himself in the circle to be the last man standing?
Zoologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834 - 1919) had some odd ideas about the origins and evolution of life forms. That’s understandable, because at the time, scientists were just beginning to accept Darwinism. (Haeckel himself was a champion of Darwinism, but he added Lamarckism and some unpleasant conjectures about race into his philosophical worldview.)
This remarkable page of expressive bat face drawings was posted last week on Open Culture. It can also be found in the book, Art Forms in Nature, which was originally published as a series of portfolios between 1899-1904. This book of the same name compiles 100 color plates of Haeckel’s meticulously composed, obsessively detailed drawings of plants and animals arranged to show the similarity of different species. Haeckel’s lifeforms radiate vitality from the page and the peculiar way they are drawn seems to stimulate the same part of the brain that’s affected by psychedelic drugs.
The plates were intended to illustrate Haeckle’s ideas about life and evolution, but they ended up being more important to artists than scientists. His blend of crystalline geometric patterns and swooping organic curves feels very Art Nouveau, and in fact many Art Nouveau artists were influenced by Haeckel’s drawings. His work continues to inspire and amaze people today. Read the rest
MAD "Fold-In" artist Al Jaffee has been a professional cartoonist for 73 years. Guinness World Records has certified him as the oldest working cartoonist. Sam Thielman of The Guardian recently interviewed Jaffee about his brilliant career.
Was there a particular kind of baloney you were attracted to satirizing?Read the rest
Well, yes. The world is full of bloviators. And you find them in politics, and even religion, if I may say so, where somebody appoints themselves the spokesman for God. And this kind of stuff, when there’s someone on the public scene who’s really going beyond his duties as a politician or a religious leader or a sportsman, he’s fair game. The main thing about Mad is that it’s not a preachy magazine. It’s not selling one kind of politics or one kind of religion or sports team or anything like that.
The main thing is to keep your eyes and ears open and when you hear something that’s clearly baloney, such as “eight out of 10 doctors smoke Chesterfield cigarettes” – these are ads that actually ran! One of the tobacco companies had the nerve to claim that doctors prefer their cigarettes. So it’s easy to shoot down that kind of bull.
But you do it with a gentle hand, you don’t preach and say “tobacco kills! How can these doctors do that?!” No, you just go them one step further and say, “In addition to eight out of 10 doctors smoking this brand of cigarette, in their time off, they each drink a gallon of bourbon, which also has health benefits.” You can can let the air out of individual bloviators but they keep cropping back up.
Magician David Blaine does a number of fantastic card tricks for Jimmy Fallon and the Roots. He's doing an incredible amount of sneaky stuff right before everyone's eyes and doing it so well that no one sees it. He ends with a non-card trick that freaks out the audience.
"David Blaine, your magic is real and I believe in you." -- Michael Jackson Read the rest
Paternoster elevators don't have doors or buttons. The run continuously in a loop, like a ferris wheel. When you reach your desired floor, you get off quickly. 99 Percent Invisible has an article about these curious conveyances, which can still be found in Europe.
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The compartments of a paternoster lift wrap around like a chain, with two side-by-side openings on each level. Passengers step into and out of either the “up” or “down” side on a given floor.
These endlessly looping lifts are slower than conventional elevators, generally moving about one foot per second, which makes it possible to get on and off. Their slow-but-perpetual motion is the key ingredient to their efficiency: with so many compartments and no need to stop, passengers need never wait for a lift. Taken together, all of the small cars can also hold more people than a one-per-shaft system.
Our guest on the Cool Tools Podcast this week is our own David Pescovitz, co-editor and managing partner of Boing Boing and a research director at Institute for the Future. (Image: Ransom and Mitchell)
Okki Nokki Record Cleaning Machine ($499) "It's built like a tank. It looks like a big, heavy record player without a tone arm. You put a record on it and squirt some cleaning solution on it. Then you turn it on and the record spins. You scrub it gently with a goat hair brush. Then, you turn on the vacuum feature and it sucks up all the fluid and dirt in a couple revolutions. It's amazing, really, how clean it makes the record."
Polylined paper sleeves ($25)
"My son and I always joke that we can take a record that he's dug out of the dollar or five dollar bin, give it a good cleaning, put a new inner sleeve to replace whatever moldy thing is in there ... and it would be for sale at one of the hipster record stores in San Francisco Mission District for $25. … I buy these in bulk."
"This is a luxury, admittedly, because they're like $35 and it comes from Japan … It's this little square plastic container with this lump of solidified gel. Read the rest