(Video link) In non-entertainment news, I am a huge nerd for a cool t-shirt. Sometimes I buy them (usually from Busted Tees or Headline Shirts), and sometimes they find me. The latter shirts are generally men's sizes -- too big and shaped like a rectangle, but so groovy that I don't have the heart to throw it away. Fortunately, there are people out there who know how to fix such things! One of those people is Megan Nicolay, author of Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt (Workman Publishing) and its sequel, as well as the companion blog. Megan and I hung out in the Workman Publishing office recently to put together a instructional video on how to alter a gigantic potato sack of a shirt into something acceptable to wear in public. After the jump, a quick walk-through of another design.
A couple of years ago I was on The Colbert Report showing some fun projects from MAKE, and Stephen fell in love with a project called "The Most Useless Machine." (Watch the episode here.) The Most Useless Machine is a box that shuts itself off when you turn it on. (After the show Stephen hinted that he wanted to keep it, so I gave it to him and he was really happy.)
Make:Projects just posted complete instructions for making your own Most Useless Machine. It's the simplest version yet, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who tries it.
Last year I saw a video of the "Leave Me Alone Box" built by Michael Seedman. Flip its switch on, and an arm reaches out of a door to turn the switch back off. To paraphrase The Terminator, that's what it does, that's all it does, and it will not stop until its circuit is dead.
I had to have one of my own, so I made one. Seedman's design uses a microcontroller to run two servomotors: one to open the lid, and another to push the switch. This makes for an impressive performance, but seemed too complicated, and actually, his circuit remains powered even when the box is idle.
For existential purity, I wanted a super-simple machine that really turned itself off. So I came up with a single-motor design controlled by a 555 timer chip, with a curved arm that both lifts the lid and flips off the switch. I called it the "Most Useless Machine" and posted it on Instructables along with a YouTube video of the box in action. The project soon went viral, attracting millions of viewers, thousands of comments, and many builds and design variations. Whew!
Along the way, Instructables member Compukidmike came up with an even simpler version that dispenses with the 555 circuitry entirely by using a gearmotor and two switches. The resulting project, presented here, is the ultimate in technology for its own sake, a minimal assemblage of parts that, through its one meaningless act of defiance, speaks volumes.
When NASA's Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide couldn't seem to get a bolt attached to the outside of the space station, ground crews came up with a clever solution: Fix the problem with a toothbrush. At Space.com, Denise Chow explains the details:
On Aug. 30, Williams and Hoshide completed a marathon spacewalk that lasted more than 8 hours, but the astronauts were thwarted by a stubborn bolt and were unable to finish connecting the so-called main bus switching unit (MBSU). The stuck bolt forced NASA to add [yesterday's] extra spacewalk.
But, following last week's unsuccessful attempt, flight controllers, engineers and veteran spacewalkers worked around the clock at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to devise a solution to the problem. Using only the supplies available on the space station, the teams came up with creative new tools for Williams and Hoshide to use to install the MBSU.
One was a modified toothbrush that was used to lubricate the inside of the bolt's housing after debris and metal shavings from inside had been removed. Another improvised instrument included a cleaning tool that had been made from wires that were bent back to form a brush, explained Kieth Johnson, lead spacewalk director at the Johnson Space Center.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the New York Mycological Society and the 100th birthday of the composer John Cage, its founder, there will be an exhibition on mushrooms and Mr. Cage’s passion for them on Sept. 7 and 8 at the Cooper Union, 7 East Seventh Street (Third Avenue). Admission is free. On Sept. 8 from 8 to 11 p.m. there will be a performance of some of Mr. Cage’s works with film and photographic backdrops about mushrooms. Tickets benefit the society: $20 to $100, $5 for students, for the show. A pre-performance dinner at the home of the author Eugenia Bone is $200 a person, including the show, or $350 for two, from newyorkmyc.org.
[Video Link] About this video, which is a few months old but new to me, I can put it no more eloquently than Eric Meyerson of Youtube: "There's a fine line between 'world's best dad' and 'Darwin Awards.'"
I spent the weekend at the Aspen Environmental Forums, and one of the presenters I got to see there as Thomas Thwaites—a man who built a toaster from scratch. As a project for his design degree, Thwaites reverse-engineered a cheap toaster from the British equivalent of Wal-Mart and used it as a blueprint to build his own. The catch: Thwaites made everything that went into the toaster. He mined the metal. He drew out the wires on jewelry-making equipment. He even found a way to make the plastic casing.
The point of this project wasn't to suggest that everybody ought to be capable of DIY-ing up their own toaster. (Really, if you wanted toast in a post-apocalyptic world, you'd really just be better off with an old-fashioned, pre-electric toaster, which held bread in a metal grille so you could toast it over the fire). Rather, Thwaites was trying shine a light on how much we rely on other people, on their skill sets that we don't necessarily share, and on centuries of technological advance. It takes a village to make a toaster. Or, rather, in this modern world, it takes lots of villages, all over the planet.
Thwaites' project was also an interesting perspective on industrialization. There are drawbacks to producing goods this way. But there are benefits, too. And when we have the necessary conversations about how to make our world more sustainable, we need to consider both sides of the coin ... and how we can get the benefits for less risk.
Last week, I posted about the The Gustavademecum for the Island of Manhattan, a delightfully geeky, DIY-made, mid-20th century dining guide produced by a physical chemist for the benefit of traveling scientists and engineers.
One of the key features of the guide was an elaborate series of symbols and letters that provided a lot of information about various restaurants in a small amount of space—and which look like some kind of crazy alchemical shorthand. In the original post, I included a page from the guide, so you can look at that to see the symbols in action.
Hugh Merwin, who wrote the story on The Gustavademecum for Saveur, also scanned a page from the guide's key, which didn't appear in the original story. You can see some of it above, and visit his personal website to see the full key.
Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik shows how to turn old car parts into a video game controller.
The idea came to me while adjusting the mirrors in a car, and realizing that the little mirror-control joystick was better than many video game joysticks I used. I then had a waking dream of the grand possibilities of playing old videogames with control pads sourced from cars. The dream was a beautiful, fantastical vision of a world we could all achieve. I woke up hours later behind a CVS, and headed straight to a junkyard to make this dream real.
Super-sleuth readers may note that in the final project I used a seat control panel instead of a mirror controller. There's a reason for that. When I got the mirror control pads and joysticks home and tested them, I uncovered one of the auto industry's darkest secrets: the "up" and "left" directions on mirror controllers are THE SAME DAMN THING. They're wired together! Think of all the times you've thought you were adjusting your mirror up, not left, thinking you were hot shit? IT'S ALL BEEN A FILTHY LIE. So I soon learned to look elsewhere. Luckily, 70s-80s American cars provided the solution, since they're full of funny little chrome joysticks for seat controls and other various duties.
Tear-Aid is watertight and airtight adhesive repair tape marketed for use in repairing outdoor products. I first found it when I was looking at options for repairing a tear in a self-inflating sleeping pad and read a recommendation of Tear-Aid from a former bouncy-castle operator. That real-world endorsement was enough to get me to try it and it has performed well for me.
I didn't want to experiment with a liquid patch because I couldn't be sure if the solvents would interfere with the composition of the sleeping pad, so this option was attractive. The instructions are clear and application was simple. After preppng the area with alcohol, I peeled the backing off and pressed the tape over the problem area. The tape is tough but flexible, and is transparent. It sticks very well and the sleeping pad now stays at pressure perfectly.
[Video Link. Warning, may totally creep you out if you love cats. ]
Dutch artist Bart Jansen had a cat named Orville that he loved very much. When Orville died, he did what any cat-loving guy would do: transformed his deceased kitty pal's corpse into a radio-controlled DIY taxidermy helicopter. WAIT WHAT
The Orvillecopter, half cat, half machine. Named after the famous aviator Orville Wright. He was killed by a car. After that he received his propellers posthumously. This is Orvillecopter's first test flight, Soon to be flying with the birds. Oh how he loved birds. He will receive more powerful engines and larger props for his birthday. So this hopping will soon change into steady flight. For the catlovers: it is a tanned hide, just like the shoes you're wearing. For the RC lovers: it's a Lotus T580 (still)
In the New York Times today, Brian Lam (formerly of Gizmodo, now the creator of Scuttlefish and Wirecutter) writes about OpenROV, a low-cost submarine designed to be an affordable tool for "curious students and amateurs, as well as provide a highly valuable shallow water tool for explorers and scientists."
This month, NASA engineer Eric Stackpole hiked to a spot in Trinity County, east of California’s rough Bigfoot country. Nestled at the base of a hill of loose rock, peppered by red and purple wildflowers, is Hall City Cave. For part of the winter the cave is infested with large spiders, but is mostly flooded year-round. Locals whisper the cave’s deep pools hold a cache of stolen gold, but Mr. Stackpole isn’t here to look for treasure.
He had, under his arm, what might appear to be a clunky toy blue submarine about the size of a lunchbox. The machine is the latest prototype of the OpenROV–an open-source, remotely operated vehicle that could map the cave in 3D using software from Autodesk and collect water in places too tight for a diver to go.
It could change the future of ocean exploration.
For now, it is exploring caves because it can only go down 100 meters. But it holds promise because it is cheap, links to a laptop, and is available to a large number of researchers for experimentation.
Indeed, the OpenROV team hopes to start taking orders for OpenROV kits on the crowd sourced project site, Kickstarter. Going for $750, the kits include laser cut plastic parts and all the electronics necessary to build an OpenROV. (Users will have to bring their own laptops to view the onboard video feed and control the machine. They’ll also have to supply their own C-cell batteries which power the sub.) The subs are expected to be available by the end of summer.
I created the skeleton of a skeletal Lepidoptera. The Death's Head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos), seen in The Silence of the Lambs, has a skull marking on its back. I made a full human-like bone structure for the moth, with the grinning skull protruding from its back. The model is very thin, yet sturdy and flexible. Detail level is fantastic, and the natural texture of the 3d printing process gives it a bone-like appearance that works wonders. Yes, moths don't have endoskeletons, that's the whole point...
You can buy one in white, black, or red, for $15. More photos below, including details that show off the creepy little skull.
A styrofoam-and-acrylic model of Osama bin Laden's compound that was used to plan the May 2011 raid that killed the al Qaeda leader has been declassified by the Pentagon.
CNN reports that the model of OBL's building and surrounding farmland in Abbotabad, Pakistan was built over a six-week period, and then was taken to the White House to brief President Obama on plans. After the raid, it sat on display in the lobby of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Until last week, the model was considered classified and only those working or visiting the building could see it.
Now it is declassified, and agency officials wanted to bring it over to the Pentagon for a brief time to show it off to Department of Defense "customers" to highlight what the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency can do for them, according to an agency information sheet.
The to-scale diorama helped the Navy Seals literally measure the steps it would take to get to bin Laden.
Participants in a rocket competition cheer after their rocket was successfully launched during the rocket festival known as "Bun Bangfai" in Yasothon, northeast of Bangkok, May 13, 2012. The festival marks the start of the rainy season when farmers are about to plant rice.
My kids were grumpy at breakfast this morning, so I had this idea to make a quick banana peel trucker hat for the banana to wear using the peel of the banana. This cheered them up and it made the banana look relatively hip.
How to make:
1 or 2 bananas. One to make the hat, one to model the hat. This could also be made using one banana. Carve the shape of the hat using an x-acto knife. Leave one of the banana peel sides longer, to make the rim of the hat. Most bananas come with a little sticker. Use this sticker to serve as the logo on the hat, if you want your hat to have a logo.
Simple project, takes about 5 minutes yet the memories will last a lifetime.
A worker paints a single-seater submarine designed by Zhang Wuyi and his fellow engineers at a shipyard in Wuhan, Hubei province May 7, 2012. Zhang, a 37-year-old local farmer, who is interested in scientific inventions, has made six miniature submarines with several fellow engineers, one of which was sold to a businessman in Dalian at a price of 100,000 yuan ($15,855) last October. The submarines, mainly designed for harvesting aquatic products, such as sea cucumber, have a diving depth of 20-30 metres, and can travel for 10 hours, local media reported.
My friend Tara is organizing a meeting at Crashspace this Sunday for interested parties to discuss the possibility of creating a child/family-friendly hackerspace in the greater Los Angeles area. They're seeking volunteers, looking for an appropriate space, and brainstorming sustainability models. You can bring your kids to the meeting!
The ShopBot is a low-cost CNC, or computer controlled router. Think of it as a large-scale milling machine. It is great for small-scale production runs of machine parts in wood or metal. A friend of mine used his ShopBot to cut the gears and mechanism (other than the chime) for a full-scale replica of a grandfather's Clock. ShopBots (and their kin) can also fabricate extremely detailed 3D contour maps (whole cities!), and other intricate 3D surfaces.
We have one at the design school I teach at. It can cut anything programmable like the hull plates for a full scale sailboat. On a big boat, each plate of the hull is different shape, but the ShopBot just follows its orders and spits them out ready to install. It is very accurate. Hey, you can even equip it with a pen or the like, which permits very intricate drawings. The cheapest Shopbot is the small Shop Bot Desktop for $5,000. They are getting cheaper every year, but if you only need one occasionally, you can buy time on one at shared workshops like Techshop.
Robogames, an annual robot hoedown, takes place this weekend in San Mateo. $25 for adults, $0-$20 for kids depending on age, free for active duty military. Bring hearing protection and a love of machines, noise, and mayhem. It's a ton of fun. I'm late posting this, but it's not too late for you to go: ticket sales online ticket sales are closed, but they're available on-site at the San Mateo Fairgrounds noon-7pm Sunday 22 April (map).
Photos: Above, an audience member is entranced by robot dance moves. Below, "Last Rites" delivers a lethal hit against "VD6" for a knockout in a heavyweight combat prelim round. By Dave Schumaker.
A monkey sculpture is pictured on a pick-up truck before it is placed in an exhibition at Hiriya recycling park, built on the site of a former garbage dump near Tel Aviv. The Coca-Cola Recycled Safari featuring animals made of recycled Coca Cola packages will be open to the public during the Passover holiday.
More images of other critter creations from the recycling project, below. (REUTERS/Nir Elia)
A really, really interesting report from The Center for a New American Security about how Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo developed its own chemical weapons program, and what factors enabled it to successfully attack a Tokyo subway with sarin gas. I'm still reading through this and will probably have something longer to say later. But it's got some very interesting examples of things I've noticed in other analyses of successful terrorist attacks: Groups can do things that make them seem comically inept, and they can fail over and over, and still end up pulling off a successful attack. In the end, some of this is about simple, single-minded perseverance. You don't have to be a criminal mastermind. You just have to be willing to keep trying long after most people would have given up. (Via Rowan Hooper)
We've talked here before about the extremely important (and often-overlooked) DIY aspect of science. Scientists are makers. They have to be. The tools they need often aren't available any other way. Other times, the tools are available, but they're far more expensive than what you could construct out of your own ingenuity.
In this video, researchers at Cambridge build LEGO robots that automate time-consuming laboratory processes at a fraction of the cost of a "real" robot.
Here at Boing Boing, we're fond of all things handmade, and of clever ways to stretch one's household budget. As the cost of staple foods and happy indulgences like coffee continue to rise, now is a good time to explore ways to save money on food with DIY smarts. Here's a list of 10 proven ways I've managed to cut my household budget—feel free to share more of your own in the comments. Also, apropos of nothing? Cats.
1) Drink water instead of soda. And drink tap water, not bottled water. Soft drinks don't contribute much to your body beyond chemicals and empty calories, and there is growing evidence that both the sugary-sweet and sugar-free varieties are associated with a variety of elevated health risks. Water is essential to human life. Your body needs it. And why waste money on bottled water that sits around in questionable plastics, possibly transported from the other side of the world with a ginormous carbon footprint, when the stuff that comes out of your tap is safe and healthy? (People who live near fracking sites in the US, or in developing countries without potable tap water, I'm not talking to you.) Sink-mounted water filters or filtering pitchers are an economical option if you prefer filtered water, but come on, quit wasting your money on bottled water. It's dumb.