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.

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Digging into the history of the “Mary Sue”

In this new video, YouTuber and fandom expert Jill Bearup digs into the history of the fanfiction “Mary Sue” and offers a compelling defense of the much-maligned character archetype. The video is part of Bearup’s ongoing “History Of Fanfiction” series, which started with her delightful argument that Virigl was a Homer fanboy:

Bearup also uploads all sorts of great videos about pop culture, fandom, and feminism, like this exploration of whether or not you can slut-shame fictional female characters:

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This working RC plane has KFC buckets for wings

To demonstrate the Magnus effect, YouTuber PeterSripol grabbed a couple of KFC buckets and tricked out an RC plane. The resulting trial and error is mostly the latter. Read the rest

Take a trip inside Japan’s robot hotel

Boing Boing has previously highlighted Japan’s Henn Na Hotel or “The Weird Hotel,” a hotel almost entirely run by robots. But this new video from British expat Chris Broad actually takes viewers inside the animatronic establishment itself. Read the rest

How Disney uses language in its music

The Sideways YouTube channel digs into the many different ways Disney has used foreign languages in its animated musical movies over the years. Read the rest

A crash course on the three types of mammal births

In this TED-Ed video, Kate Slabosky breaks down the differences between placental, marsupial, and monotreme mammal births. Read the rest

Kickstarting a new edition of Cheapass Games's classic "Button Men"

Carol from Cheapass Games writes, "In our continuing quest to bring back the very best classic Cheapass Games, we're creating a new boxed set of Button Men, our strategy dice combat game. This time around, the characters will appear on cards, rather than pin-back buttons, but since they're all 1950s era gangsters, the 'button men' name still works! The new format lets us provide 48 characters - and 30 high-quality polyhedral dice - in one affordable package. We'll also make the old-style pin-back buttons available as game accessories. Button Men won two Origins awards back when it was originally published in 1999, and it's one of our favorites." Read the rest

Night sky time lapses, but with the ground spinning instead of the stars

If you vomit, do be considerate and try not to let it land on the moon. [via Metafilter] Read the rest

This hotel really does launder your money

Starting in 1938, San Francisco's Westin St. Francis Hotel began washing all of the change that flowed through the business. Hotelier Dan London initiated the process to prevent grimy coins from dirtying the fancy white gloves worn by women visiting the establishment. These days, the responsibility belongs to one Rob Holsen. From a 2010 SFGATE article:

The process begins when the general cashier sends racks of rolled coins to Holsen, who empties the change into a repurposed silver burnisher.

Along with the coins, the burnisher is filled with water, bird shot to knock the dirt off, and a healthy pour of 20 Mule Team Borax soap. After three hours of swishing the coins around, Holsen uses a metal ice scoop to pour the loot into a perforated roast pan that sifts out the bird shot.

The wet coins are then spread out on a table beneath heat lamps.

This is where once-rusted copper pennies turn into shimmering bronze coins. Quarters look like sparkling silver bits. It's also where Holsen gives the money a quick quality inspection...

Once he's satisfied, he feeds the polished money into a counter, which shoots the change into paper rolls to be distributed to the hotel's cash registers.

(via Neatorama)

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How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in space

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, commander of the Expedition 50 expedition to the International Space Station, explains how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in space. He returned from the ISS earlier this month after six months in orbit.

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Video of a lamb fetus in an artificial womb

Fetal lambs survived for weeks in an experimental artificial womb, and scientists hope that the breakthrough could lead to new treatments for premature babies and perhaps the dreamed-of machine utopia where humans are kept mindlessly writhing in translucent plastic sheaths filled with psuedoamniotic liquid.

Physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia placed fetal lambs into the transparent bags and connected their umbilical cords to a machine that oxygenated their blood. The lambs own hearts provided the pumping power.

Eight lambs survived for as long as four weeks inside the devices. The gestational age of the animals was equivalent to a human fetus of 22 or 23 weeks, about the earliest a human baby can be born and expected to survive outside the womb. A full-term baby is born at 40 weeks.

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How do pelicans survive their 40 mph dive-bombs?

Pelicans haven't evolved much in 30 million years. That's because they've pretty much nailed how to be a pelican. From KQED:

A number of anatomical adaptions enable the bird to take these dives in stride. The shape of its bill is essential, reducing “hydrodynamic drag” — buckling forces, caused by the change from air to water — to almost zero. It’s something like the difference between slapping the water with your palm and chopping it, karate-style.

And while all birds have light, air-filled bones, pelican skeletons take it to an extreme. As they dive, they inflate special extra air sacs around their neck and belly, cushioning their impact and allowing them to float.

Even their celebrated pouches play a role. A famous limerick quips, “A remarkable bird is a pelican / Its beak can hold more than its belly can…” That beak is more than just a fishing net. It’s also a parachute that pops open underwater, helping to slow the bird down.

“This is a really tough bird that’s built to last,” said (Anna Weinstein, Marine Program Director at California Audubon).

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Mozak: a game that crowdsources the detailed mapping of brain-cells

Mozak is a game where you score points for participating in the mass-scale, crowdsourced mapping of dendrites in scanned brains of humans, rodents, and other organisms. 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.

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What the Terminator says instead of "Hasta La Vista, baby" in the Spanish version of Terminator 2

In the Japanese version, he says "Cheerio then, love." Read the rest

Here’s how NASA tests Mars rovers on Earth

YouTube host Tom Scott explores the “Mars Yard” at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where NASA simulates what it’s like on Mars for its rovers. Read the rest

John Green discusses mental health and social media curation

In this new Vlogbrothers video, John Green discusses his OCD and the ways in which social media shapes our perception of others and, in turn, our perception of ourselves. To hear Green discuss his mental health in more detail, check out this video he made on his 100 Days channel.

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