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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.
Cory wrote about this project back in 2009, when it was still a work in progress. The video above provides a short summary of the entire Toaster Project, including an amazing shot of the finished product which did (very briefly) work.
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.
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...
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.
More photos and background here: The very model of a successful bin Laden raid
(CNN.com, via Kristie LuStout).
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.