Boing Boing 

An encyclopedia of how keys, scissors, pianos, telescopes, self-winding watches, and hundreds of other things work

The New Way Things Work, published in 1998, was an updated version of the original 1988 The Way Things Work edition. Although technically not “new” anymore, this wonderfully illustrated encyclopedia of how things work is as captivating now as it was almost two decades ago.

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Watch: how to laser etch metal surfaces to make them either love or hate water

Researchers at the University of Rochester are laser etching the surfaces of metal in ways that make them attract water or repel water. The video here shows how remarkably effective the treatment is. [via]

The Big Book of Maker Skills: tools and techniques for building great tech projects

I know Chris Hackett from my days as editor-in-chief of MAKE. This guy knows his stuff.

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Mercy Watson: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

This collection of Mercy Watson books is all my seven-year-old daughter wants to read. They are cute stories with thoughtfully challenging vocabulary.

Mercy Watson is a pig who lives with her adopted human family. She loves toast with a great deal of butter and has wonderful adventures. The stories are entertaining enough that as an adult listener I chuckle quite often. The vocabulary and character names are well chosen, requiring a bit of effort but expanding her grasp of our language.

We had a hard time finding books that Hannah wanted to read. Now she reads me bedtime stories.

Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound

I’m filled with wonder at the engineering and imagination needed to create the magical eye candy of pop-up books. Elaborate scenes come alive as I unfold each page. I’m always surprised the first time I open a pop-up book, but with Birdscapes more than my eyes were opened. There are bird songs and bird calls, tweets and warbles, sounds of nature from the Arctic Tundra to the Great Plains of North America – all in stereo from the back pages of this book!

Birdscapes presents seven intricate, delicate and very realistic pop-up bird habitats along with the sweet melodies of the birds that live there. Each soundscape is pared with text about ecosystems and bird species that’s easy to follow for the novice and specific enough for the expert. Spotted Owl, Western Meadowlark, Ruffed Grouse and even a Woodpecker are seen and heard. This is definitely one book filled with lots of oooh and aah moments.

Batteries are included in the book for long lasting listening pleasure. – Carole Rosner

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Fun videos teach design concepts to kids

From the excellent website, The Kid Should See This.

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How to win at rock, paper, scissors

In 2005 a Japanese electronics firm decided to sell its collection of four French impressionist paintings. Christie’s and Sotheby’s courted the company. The CEO asked the auction houses to play a game of Rock Paper Scissors to determine who would sell the paintings. The representative for Christie's researched Rock Paper Scissors strategies, and used the advice of one of his co-worker's children: “Everybody knows you always start with scissors.” This proved to be good advice in this case, because Sotheby's chose Paper. Christie's sold the paintings for $17.8 million, and earned a $1.9 million commission.

William Poundstone (author of many books I've enjoyed, including Big Secrets, Fortune's Formula, Prisoner's Dilemma, and an entire book about Rock Paper Scissors) starts off his article about Rock Paper Scissors strategies with the above anecdote. He looks at strategies involving statistics (in pro tournaments Rock gets thrown 35.4%, Paper 35%, and Scissors 29.6%), doublethink, tells, scripts, and pattern recognition. His conclusion:

  • Scissors is the least popular choice, and men favour rock. Both are reasons to choose paper in a one-shot match.
  • Announce what you’re going to throw and do it. Most players figure you won’t go through with it.

Leif the Lucky – A gorgeously illustrated bio on Leif Erikson, the first European to set foot in America

Leif Erikson, the Viking explorer, is usually just briefly touched on in elementary school classrooms. But his rich story is a captivating one that any child – or adult – would enjoy. As a boy he moved from Iceland to icy Greenland, where his father established the continent’s first settlement. Eric grew up learning how to sail ships, throw spears, and catch sea animals for dinner. He played with baby polar bears and dreamed of adventures.

As a young adult Leif sailed to Norway and charmed the king with a Greenland falcon on his fist and a bear cub at his side. The king granted him permission to explore the west (Leif’s father had once seen a speck of something west of Greenland on an earlier exploration), and Leif became the first European to set foot in America (Canada) – 500 years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” it. Soon Leif’s relatives settled in this new land – for a while – until, well, I won’t give the whole story away, but let’s just say they were chased off the new land and forced to hightail it back to Greenland.

As soon as I laid my eyes on this book I was blown away by the stunning art: the bold popping colors on some pages, the beautifully shaded black and white images on others, and the saturated details and texture that all of the illustrations enjoy. And then I found out the book was first published in 1941 by Doubleday, created by the bohemian husband-and-wife team Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, who wrote 27 illustrated books in all (many of them tales about Scandinavian heroes and mythology). Leif the Lucky is one of three of their books to be reprinted by University of Minnesota Press, and I now need to get my hands on the other two (Children of the Northlights and Ola).

Leif the Lucky, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

See sample pages of Leif the Lucky at Wink.

Make wooden pliers with 10 cuts from a single block of wood

David Warther shows how he makes working wooden pliers with a single piece of basswood. "There's nothing to it. It's just trial and error. It took me a few packages of bandaids to learn. And it might you, too."

[via]

Online Spirograph

Look at the pretty design I made using Nathan Friend's elegant Inspirograph site.

Pippi Won’t Grow Up – Whimsical, charming and wonderfully absurd

Just released today is Pippi Won’t Grow Up, Drawn and Quarterly’s third volume of Pippi Longstocking comics. Last spring I reviewed the hilarious second volume, Pippi Fixes Everything, and this one is just as whimsical, humorous and utterly charming.

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WATCH: Life hacks for kids

Our family friend Sunny is a great ukulele player and project maker. Here's here new web series, Life Hacks for Kids.

WATCH: Make a cool spinning pencil toy

Arvind Gupta, master of making toys from trash, shows you how.

Make a Christmas Krampus!

Just in time for the Christmas season, Bob Knetzger has instructions to build your own tiny child-nabber.

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Improved Mid-Century Modern rocking chair

chair-openerMy book Maker Dad has instructions for making this Mid-Century Modern rocking chair. The design is based on a chair that was built around 1950 by Alexey Brodovitch, a designer who was the art director at Harper's Bazaar from 1934 to 1958. I built Brodovitch's chair and discovered that it was not very sturdy. I changed the design to have better support, and a few iterations later came up with a chair that felt more robust.

Last week Edward Reading sent me photos of the chair he built with his son. He improved on my design: "I counter-sunk the dowels about half the thickness of the plywood, and glued them for additional support. I also notched the sides to receive the 8" brace, and glued that in as well." Good job, Ed!

Here are photos of his chair:

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chair3

chair6

chair7

chair9

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Ed's son is holding the peg trick, which you can see in the above video.

Buy Maker Dad on Amazon

Kit that lets you build a "chaos machine"

My friend William Gurstelle told me: "Remember when you assigned me the Make magazine story about the Chaotic Double Pendulum? Well, I always thought that was one of my very best projects. About two years ago, I invented a toy based on that project and called it the Chaos Machine. I've been working with Fat Brain Toys on the project for quite a while and lo and behold, as of today, we're ready to go.

Chaos Machine ($40)

My Maker Dad book is $2 on Kindle

My book, Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects is just $2 as a Kindle right now.

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Easy to Make Solenoid Engine

I want to make one of these.

The Majesty of Easter Island

As a young boy, Tom Fassbender remembers being fascinated by Easter Island while watching In Search Of, but he never thought he’d have the chance to actually visit the place — then his family decided to travel around the world.

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A history of functional toy cameras

Written by pop-culture authors Buzz Poole and Christopher D. Salyers (who is also a toy camera collector), Camera Crazy is an attractively photographed collection of functioning toy cameras, which were popularized in the 1960s when the plastic 120 film “Diana” hit the market for only $1 a pop. Although always a hit with children, toy cameras have also been revered by collectors and photographers who welcome the artistic challenge of shooting with a plastic box that offers only a fixed focus and single shutter speed. From 1970s Mick-A-Matics and Gobots Cameras (1985) to Tamagotchi Cameras (1997) and Lego Digital Cameras (2011) – and everything in between – this book pays homage to over one-hundred of these cameras as well as many photographs produced by these “toys.” With a camera now included in every smart phone, I hope toy cameras don’t become a thing of the past.

Camera Crazy by Buzz Poole and Christopher D. Salyers

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Make this nifty indoor boomerang

From Futility Closet: a cool little paper boomerang.

Mathematician Yutaka Nishiyama of the Osaka University of Economics has designed a nifty paper boomerang that you can use indoors. A free PDF template (with instructions in 70 languages!) is here.

Hold it vertically, like a paper airplane, and throw it straight ahead at eye level, snapping your wrist as you release it. The greater the spin, the better the performance. It should travel 3-4 meters in a circle and return in 1-2 seconds. Catch it between your palms.

Intro to measuring tools

As Steve Hoefer’s uncle would say, “I cut it twice and it’s still too short.”

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Free video class: 12 cool parent-child projects with Jane and Mark

projects

My 11-year-old daughter Jane and I recorded a 2-day video workshop produced by CreativeLive. You can watch it today for free. We'll show you how to make 12 cool projects, ranging from electronic musical instruments to balloon videocameras.

Whipped Cream spray angle test

Rob Cockerham says: "I enlisted my kids to help with a trial where I hoped to illustrate the optimum spray angle of whipped cream. I thought it would be 90 degrees, I was totally wrong."

Let’s Learn Japanese – an illustrated dictionary with over 1500 Japanese words

For anyone learning how to speak Japanese, this is a fun illustrated “picture dictionary” with over 1500 words that will help build up your Japanese vocabulary. Designed like some of Richard Scarry’s classic books (What Do People Do All Day, Best Word Book Ever…) Let’s Learn Japanese is filled with colorful scenes, each with a theme such as the doctor’s office, the supermarket, colors, the zoo, clothing, etc, and each theme offers dozens of related, illustrated words.

At the end of the book there is an English-Japanese and a Japanese-English glossary and index so that you can look up a specific word when needed. I originally bought this for my husband and I to brush up on our vocabulary before making a trip to Japan, but now my daughter, who is interested in Japanese, pores over the pages as if she’s reading one of her favorite comic books.

Let’s Learn Japanese: Picture Dictionary

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Best ever cooperative boardgames

Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen recommend their favorite cooperative board games.

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UNBOXING: $150 Kano computer

kano-1

I took photos of the cute-looking Raspberry Pi powered Kano computer, which was made for kids to learn how to code their own music, games, and software. Jane and I will hook it up to the TV (it uses any HDMI device as a monitor) and let you know what we think.

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Open Field Echo Sounder - game app for blind kids

Bob Smolenski developed a game for blind kids to play outdoors. It's called Open Field Echo Sounder. He wrote about how he made it on Medium.

I used Adobe Air to program this app. After years of Flash animation and as3 programming I decided to put those skills into making cross-platform game apps. The biggest challenge was to translate the players movement using the data from the phone. iPhones have detailed direction finding. I use that to “shoot” out an audio ping. The program can sense a “hit test” either on the right, center or left side of the object. Android phones do not have any compass heading data. So I hacked a way around that. Implementing a breadcrumb trail to point the way.

The other programming challenge was to scale a field around the player’s longitude and latitude data. I found a bit of code that calculated your location between the four corners of a 960 x 640 screen.

Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! - A gamer’s alphabet

Video game players have their own jargon and much of it is foreign to non-gamers. My 11-year-old daughter, an ardent gamer, was familiar with more of the words in Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! (e.g., griefer, instance, mod, sandbox, unlockable) than I was, but we both appreciated Joey Spiotto’s cute and colorful illustrations that accompanied the terms. The book was written by Chris Barton, author of The Day-Glo Brothers, previously reviewed on Wink.

Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! by Chris Barton (Author), Joey Spiotto (Illustrator)

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Making better use of dice in games

Game designer Stefan Feld has designed eight published games that focus on dice. Each takes its own approach to using the 5,000-year-old randomizers without creating a random winner. By Matt M. Casey

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