Aerodynamically-shaped cased for GoPro

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Birdie looks like a large badminton shuttlecock. It's designed to accommodate a GoPro camera. To use it, you toss it in the air and the camera shoots video on its graceful descent.

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Unanimous decisions are less reliable

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From the YouTube description of this TedEd video:

Imagine a police lineup where ten witnesses are asked to identify a bank robber they glimpsed fleeing the scene. If six of them pick the same person, there’s a good chance that’s the culprit. And if all ten do, you might think the case is rock solid. But sometimes, the closer you start to get to total agreement, the less reliable the result becomes. Derek Abbott explains the paradox of unanimity.

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Campus cop orders students to scribble over penis on a "free speech ball"

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A University of Delaware police officer forced a student to scribble over a drawing of a penis inscribed on a gigantic "free speech" beach ball because it doesn't "open up a conversation." He went on to lecture the students who had the ball on display about what kinds of free speech he would tolerate.

“A campus police officer should never ask students to self-censor their constitutionally protected speech,” said FIRE's Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon in a statement. “As a public university, UD must abide by the First Amendment, which has very few exceptions—and subjectively offensive words or images are not one of them.”

The officer's insistence that he had a duty to be the speech police was quite remarkable.

"If I were to write, 'I think Donald Trump should be the next president, I think that's something we could have a discussion about," he said. "Drawing a penis, or a swastika, or putting the n-word on there, what does that do?"

The YAL student responded that the two of them—the officer, and the student—were having a discussion about it at that very moment.

"I don't know that it really opens up a conversation," said the officer, disagreeing. "I just think it's meant to provoke."

Here's the thing, officer: the police are not in charge of deciding which kind of speech "opens up a conversation" and which kind is just "meant to provoke." Nor is there anything illegal about provocative speech. Sometimes speech should offend.

Hit and Run: U. of Delaware Students Drew a Penis on a Free Speech Ball. Read the rest

Flyover Country is an app that makes the window seat worth it

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Smithsonian Magazine reviews a free smartphone app called Flyover Country that makes it more fun to be in the window seat. No Wi-Fi needed.

Flyover Country uses maps and data from various geological and paleontological databases to identify and give information on the landscape passing beneath a plane. The user will see features tagged on a map corresponding to the ground below. To explain the features in depth, the app relies on cached Wikipedia articles. Since it works solely with a phone’s GPS, there’s no need for a user to purchase in-flight wifi. Sitting in your window seat, you can peer down on natural features like glaciers and man-made features, such as mines, and read Wikipedia articles about them at the same time. If you're flying over an area where dinosaur bones have been discovered, you can read about that too. Curious about why the river below you bends the way it does? The app will tell you that as well.

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A topographically accurate lunar globe designed with data From NASA

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Oscar Lhermitte and Kudu's MOON lunar globe eclipses every other Kickstarter project currently underway.

MOON is the most accurate lunar globe, using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter topographic data combined with electronic and mechanical engineering alongside careful craftsmanship in mold making.

MOON is unlike traditional lunar globes that uses 2D photographs or illustrations of the Moon.

1. it is a truly accurate 1/20 million replica of the Moon featuring all the craters, elevation and ridges in accurate 3D.

2. it has a ring of LED lights that revolves around the globe, constantly illuminating the correct face of the moon and recreating the lunar phases as seen from Earth.

The combination of the 3D terrain with a light source is what makes it unique. By projecting the light onto the Moon, all the craters, ridges and elevations are brought into relief by their shadows. This recreates the lunar features as we see them from Earth.

For the first time, MOON allows you to see the side not visible from Earth ("dark side of the Moon" or "far side" to be scientifically correct).

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Magician/Inventor Rick Lax tells us his four favorite tools

Rick Lax created the TV show “Wizard Wars” and has written several books on deception. He’s a non-practicing lawyer, a former MENSA member, and now spends his time creating tricks for other magicians and for Penguin Magic, the biggest magic retailer in the world.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show Notes:

Facebook (as a marketing tool)

"I became a mayor of Facebook overnight and I’m still trying to process exactly how it happened … I’ve treated Facebook marketing like an experiment … If you google, “How to make a good Facebook video? How to make a viral video?” 12 different people are going to tell you 12 different things, so I just put enough videos up where I can experiment and I can see for myself what’s working and what’s not working … What I found out is that is not actually a factor in the video’s success, and I do this because I look at my most popular videos. I see what days are they posted, what time are they posted, and that has not been a factor … All the content creators who are doing so well on YouTube, they say, “Well, why should I go over to Facebook if I’m not going to get paid for it?” That’s really left a window in Facebook for new content creators like me, so I was able to just sneak in there and have a tremendous success as everyone else is boycotting."

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"Everyone says everything is fake … It’s frustrating because I’m not actually doing camera tricks. Read the rest

Understand the blockchain in two minutes

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You’ve heard of bitcoin. It’s a form of digital cash you can send to anyone, even a complete stranger. You may not have heard about bitcoin's digital ledger, called the blockchain, tracks and validates bitcoin transactions. Blockchain technology has enormous potential beyond bitcoin to automate every type of online transaction that requires a degree of trust. In this short video, produced by Institute for the Future (where I am a research director), Olivia Olson (the voice of Marceline the Vampire Queen in Adventure Time) explains how blockchain technology can be used to launch companies that are entirely run by algorithms, make self-driving cars safer, help people manage and protect their online identities, and track the billions of devices on the Internet of Things. Read the rest

Get 30 generic Magic Erasers for $3.50

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I've written about melamine foam (sold as Magic Erasers) before. They are great for getting rid of mars and stains on almost any surface. The last time I reviewed them, a box of 30 cost $7.89 on Amazon, which was a great price. Today I learned that the price has dropped to $3.49 for 30. Read the rest

Terrified chimp on the loose in Japan for two hours

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A chimp named Chacha escaped from his enclosure at the Yagiyama Zoological Park in Japan and ran around a neighborhood for two hours. He was shot with dart from a tranquilizer gun and fell from his perch on a telephone poll. It looked like quite a fall, but zoo officials say he is OK.

NY Times:

Television footage showed Chacha perched atop the pole, agitated and screaming at zoo workers below. Even after being shot by a sedative arrow in the back, he desperately tried to escape, dangling from a power line.

He finally fell head down into a blanket held by a dozen workers on the ground.

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Star Simpson is designing classic circuits from Forrrest Mims' "Getting Started in Electronics"

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The talented engineer Star Simpson is designing circuits from in Forrest M. Mims' terrific 1980s electronics books published by Radio Shack. They look great!

Each circuit depicts an original, traced and hand-drawn schematic created by Forrest Mims for his iconic books Getting Started in Electronics, and the Engineers’ Notebook series. Every board includes a description of how it works, in Mims’ handwriting, on the reverse side.

Alongside the schematic is the circuit itself. Paired with the components you need to build up timeless examples such as the Dual-LED Flasher, the Stepped Tone Generator, and the Bargraph Voltage Indicator, each board is carefully designed for easy assembly recreating the wonder of learning how electronics work— whether it’s your first soldering project or your fifty-thousandth.

Here's Star on the O'Reilly Hardware podcast talking about designing beautiful circuit boards: Read the rest

Critique of the Kindle Oasis

The Kindle Oasis "is a step forward only if you regard the visual language of day planners from the 1990s as an artistic high water mark for society," writes Khoi Vinh at Subtraction.com Read the rest

Classic programmer paintings

“Programmers at work maintaining a Ruby on Rails application" Eero Järnefelt, 
Oil on canvas, 1893

This Tumblr gives new software-development titles to old paintings.

“Engineering manager returning from a budget meeting” Ilya Repin, Oil paint, 1888

“Front end programmer” Giovanni Battista Moroni, 1570–1575

“Sysadmin grants sudo privileges to developer on production web server” - Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci, 1425-1475, Oil on wood Read the rest

The famous photo of Chernobyl's most dangerous radioactive material was a selfie

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The molten stuff in this 1996 Chernobyl photo was so radioactive that anyone standing three feet away from it would be dead in less than two minutes. According to Atlas Obscura, "the man in this photo, Artur Korneyev, has likely visited this area more than anyone else, and in doing so has been exposed to more radiation than almost anyone in history. Remarkably, he’s probably still alive. The story of how the United States got a hold of this singular photo of a human in the presence of this incredibly toxic material is itself fraught with mystery—almost as much as why someone would take what is essentially a selfie with a hunk of molten radiated lava." Read the rest

Conversations with John Lydon, then and now

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In September 2015, Piers Morgan interviewed John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) for a one hour special. Lydon was smart, funny, and very entertaining.

He was entertaining when Tom Snyder interviewed him in 1980, but in an entirely different way:

Someone with more editing skills than me should make a video of the old and new Lydon having conversation with himself.

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Great deal on laser landscape projector ($20)

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I enjoy setting up Christmas lights outside our house during the holidays I've been wanting to get a laser landscape projector for a while. They project sparkling colored dots and your house, trees, and bushes without having to string up lights. The effect is really cool. I just found this good deal on Amazon. If you use code USSR8Q9U, you can get it for $20, instead of $40. Read the rest

Marc Bolan of T. Rex hosted a glam rock TV music show in the 1970s, and it was awesome

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I didn't know glam rock icon Marc Bolan hosted a music TV show in the 1970s. It was called simply MARC, and judging from this sixth (and final) episode, it was terrific.

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Amazing hi-def video of beetles, larvae, and maggots eating fish

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Watch nature's little recyclers completely hollow out two fish in this beautifully-shot timelapse video from BBC.

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