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Homebrew Nintendo laser zapper is powerful, awesome

"The plan was simple. Take a nostalgic NES "duck hunt" Zapper, and retrofit it with a ridiculously powerful laser."

A project from North Street Labs. In case it's not obvious, this is dangerous, and could lead to death or blindness without safety precautions.

Components: "2.1A input buck driver, 2x 750mAh 35-70c Lipo batteries, M140 445nm diode, G2 lens. homemade custom heat-sink, turn key safety switch."

Learn how to build your own, here. But remember, kids, always wear protective safety goggles. And, wear the right kind for the laser you're working with. [Video Link].

Instructions for legitimate knot enthusiasts

Please observe this chart of knots and then direct all claims of new knots to the New-Knot Claims Assessment Committee, which will assess your knot and let you know whether or not the knot is new.

Burning Man on Instagram: photos by sfslim

I cannot get to Burning Man this year because I'm in cancer treatment. It's funny, too, because the experience of going through that has given me a new kind of fondness for the annual playa festivities. The freedom, the wide open spaces, the happiness of mutants.

Following long-time Burner Aaron Muszalski (@sfslim) on Instagram is the next best thing, and I recommend it strongly, whether or not you're going to be in Black Rock City in person. He's a talented photographer, and he captures the whimsy, the art, the beauty of those vast desert expanses with the comfort of one who knows them all intimately. Bonus: you don't have to get any dust up your gullet.

To all out there as I type this, have lots of sex and fire and drugs and candyraving and shirtcocking for me.

"SFSLIM," on Webstagram, or receive his photos via Twitter. Wish Instagram had a searchable web interface.

And if you'd like to watch the live video webcast from Burning Man, you'll find that here on Ustream.

What's climate change ruining today?

In Virginia, rising sea levels are threatening Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge's ability to provide free parking near the beach for the summer tourists who provide a major source of income in the region. Here's a hell of a quote: "Zones that used to be parking areas in the 1990s are now underwater." Also threatened: The beach itself. Read more Daily Climate. (Via Brendon Slotterback)

What is climate change ruining today?

Chocolate and high school football are being affected by climate change, according to two stories published on the Scientific American website yesterday. In the case of chocolate, the cocoa its made from is grown in several countries in West Africa, a region heavily affected by higher temperatures and extreme weather patterns. By 2020, there will likely be a 1.5 million ton shortage in cocoa production. As for football, the problem is the fact that, across the United States, cool weather season is kicking in later in the year than it used to. That affects football practice. Specifically, schools are increasingly concerned about the health risks of forcing high school students to get really physical, while fully suited and padded, in today's warmer Augusts and Septembers. So I think it's safe to say that climate change hates fun. It's a fun-hater.

The Human Jukebox: Donations to street musicians, as votes

[Video Link] The latest musical video experiment from Joe Sabia and friends at CDZA: "Donations as votes. A fun and democratic way for street musicians to receive money."

Charles Yang on Violin. Michael Thurber on Bass. Eddie Barbash on Alto Saxophone.

Money was sent to Wingspan Arts, a non-profit that aims to expose diverse and young groups of people to the arts.

The Library of Congress welcomes our new galactic overlords

The Library of Congress has an official standard for abbreviations of different languages. It's a long list, because, well, there are lots and lots of languages that might be mentioned in the Library of Congress. In fact, the standard is so thorough that it includes Klingon. (Via Hilary Mason)

The history (and future) of kid's chemistry sets

Sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, my mom bought me a chemistry set. I was in grade school, but I remember thinking it was pretty cool. I also remember being slightly disappointed (particularly after being told that I could only play with it in the garage) that there was nothing in there that could actually blow up.

Many of us are nostalgic for the lost golden era of certifiably dangerous children's chemistry sets. Even if we weren't alive when that era occurred, we're still, sort of, vicariously nostalgic. At the BBC, Alex Hudson has a story about what was really in those misty colored chemistry sets that have lodged themselves into our cultural memory. Along the way, we learn that their demise was only partly to do with unfounded safety fears—some of the fears were founded, for instance, and in other cases, money and seemingly unrelated legal issues got in the way of fun.

By the 1920s and 30s children had access to substances which would raise eyebrows in today's more safety-conscious times. There were toxic ingredients in pesticides, as well as chemicals now used in bombs or considered likely to increase the risk of cancer. And most parents will not need to be told of the dangers of the sodium cyanide found in the interwar kits or the uranium dust present in the "nuclear" kits of the 1950s.

Most will know cyanide as a deadly poison, but one of its main applications is in gold mining. It can make gold dissolve into water.

...Used often to test the presence of starch, the iodine solution once seen in kits is now regulated as a list I chemical in the US because of its use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. It can also be lethal if more than 2g of pure iodine is consumed.

Read the rest of this story at the BBC

New Yorkers: Spend Memorial Day with Maggie and Dean!

Neither I nor Dean Putney—BoingBoing's intrepid web developer—live in New York City. But we realized recently that we're both going to be visiting at the same time. So we're planning on meeting up for a little, informal Memorial Day picnic in Prospect Park, and we'd like you to join us. We'll be meeting up on Monday, May 28th, at 3:00 pm in front of the Brooklyn Museum. Bring whatever you want to eat and, if you so choose, a nifty object or DIY project for show-and-tell. Hope to see you there!

Volcano in a trash can

Plinian eruptions are named after Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder, who wrote about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and died during said eruption, respectively. This is one of several different types of volcanic eruptions, but it's also one of the most iconic. In a Plinian eruption, a column of magma, gas, and ash shoots straight up, with the gas and ash reaching all the way up into the stratosphere. These are the big, explosive eruptions, with mushroom clouds and rains of rocks and boulders.

Matt Kuchta, geology professor at the University of Wisconsin Stout, recently recreated a classic Plinian eruption using a 32-gallon trash can filled with water, 100 rubber ducks, and some liquid nitrogen. In slow motion, you can see the column of water and ducks rise straight up, fan out at the top, and fall back down to Earth. Just imagine the damage if all the ducks were boulders, and you get the picture.

Video link

Types of volcanic eruptions from Wikipedia

More on Plinian eruptions from the US Geological Survey

Watch several other videos of Kuchta's trash can volcano

Via Ron Schott

Great moments in pedantry: Winter is coming. But why?

A work of fiction doesn't have to be scientifically accurate. It just has to make sense. All it has to do is maintain an internal logic and consistency strong enough that you, the reader, aren't inadvertently thrown out of the world. If you're frequently frustrated by detail accuracy in fiction, that's likely your problem, not fiction's. Chill out. Breath deep. Smell the flowers. Experience some imagination and wonder.

I fully endorse all the sentiments outlined above. And yet. And yet. There are some fictional details that drive me crazy. Like the seasonal shifts in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, where winter and summer last for years—sometimes decades—and nobody knows exactly when the seasons will change. It's not that I feel a burning need to prove to Martin that this can't work. Instead, it makes me ravenously curious. I keep wondering whether, given what we know about astronomy, there's any way that this could actually work somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away.

A couple of weeks ago, io9's George Dvorsky put together a little round-up of five possible scientific explanations that would make Westeros' magical reality make more sense. I chatted about Dvorsky's list with Attila Kovacs, an actual astronomer who has a postdoc position at the California Institute of Technology. They've got differing perspectives on how unpredictable and ridiculously long seasons might work. Thanks to both these sources, I feel like I better understand our universe, and can read Martin more comfortably.

Read the rest

Happy Feynmaneve!

Tomorrow would have been the 94th birthday of one of the most influential physicists in American history.

Tonight: We play the bongos.

Video Link

Via Paul Halpern

To do this weekend in SF Bay Area: Robogames

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.

Bring Your Own Big Wheel

These people in San Francisco probably had more fun than you on Passover/Easter weekend. BB reader Bhautik Joshi shares his photographs from "Bring Your Own Big Wheel 2012" in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool, and explains the idea behind it—

For the uninitiated, the gag is really simple:

- large group of adults in costumes assemble with a variety of wheeled, childrens toys (Group A)
- large group of spectators gather (Group B)
- Group A races down windy Vermont St as fast as they can, leaving a trail of noise and awesomeness in their path
- Group B cheer like maniacs


What's the story behind this fellow's costume, I wonder? Perhaps one of you can fill us in, in the comments. View the full photo set here. Here's Joshi's website.

Destruction by numbers

In nine years of filming, the show Myth Busters has burned through 33,500 yards of duct tape. (Via Katherine Nelson)

90-year old grandma's dance tribute to Whitney Houston

Video Link. YouTuber Adam Forgie of Utah, the person behind the camera, shoots these lovely videos with some regularity. "I take care of my legally-blind, near-deaf grandmother," he explains. "She may be blind, but she can still dance! She likes the attention." You can follow her on Twitter here.

Update: Boing Boing readers in various spots around the world report that the video is blocked in certain countries outside the US. This is dumb. Sorry.

How to: Cook like Nathan Myhrvold in your own kitchen

If you ever needed a good reason to buy a whipped cream maker: The New York Times adapted several of Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine recipes to work with ingredients and equipment you're actually likely to have in your home kitchen. The whipped cream maker is the only tool used here that I don't own. And it might be worth buying one if it means that I can make bloody mary-infused celery sticks.