Walking through the children’s section of any given book store, this book will immediately catch your eye. The front cover has gears sticking out the side, and if you turn them, you can see one of our main characters moving up and down on a wheel and axel system. Open the book, and you’ll be treated to even more interactive illustration done in the book’s playful art style.
The plot of the story follows two friends who live in a zoo, Sloth and Sengi. After many years of living there, they have decided to escape using some simple machines. Along the way, they encounter many problems (as you can imagine would occur when a sloth and a variety of elephant shrew attempt to scale a zoo enclosure). Each page outlines a different type of machinery and invites the reader to learn about how each system functions. When Sloth and Sengi try and use an inclined plane to escape, the narrator demonstrates why it takes less effort to climb up an inclined plane than straight over the vertical fence. Later on, this idea of the inclined plane returns when Sloth and Sengi try and use a screw to escape. Probably my favorite section of the book involves the section on levers. The author outlines how a lever functions with an effort, a fulcrum, and a load. You can construct a lever from cardboard cut-outs in the book, and then use it to try and fling Sloth and Sengi over the fence of their enclosure, usually with more success than our main characters. Read the rest
Skillshare is a terrific online learning community for creative people. It teaches you new skills through well-made videos with great production values. I've been using Skillshare to teach myself Adobe After Effects. All the videos feature people who are professionals in their field. I love this site.
I taught a couple of classes for Skillshare as part of its Month of Learning for January. One of my classes is about learning how to use the Arduino electronics prototyping platform and the other is about how to develop a maker mindset. You can use this link to sign up for my classes.
Bloxels lets kids design playable spaces using physical blocks on a grid—that can then be captured by a tablet device and translated into a real digital game. The creator, Pixel Press, says it's like "coding with Lego." Read the rest
The internet is aflood with gratuitous St. Paddy's Irish-ness, so why fight it? My favorite Irishman, who knows where the pots of gold are, is Paddy Hirsch, Senior Producer of Marketplace Radio, by American Public Media. Hirsch is not only the author of the very accessible book, Man vs Markets, Economics Explained, Plain and Simple, he also hosts a series of explainer videos on his YouTube channel.
Like your favorite teacher, he can teach about the complicated levers of our everyday economy, without you feeling like a dunce. He describes the bad news and hard choices of our time with a winking sense of humor, funny doodles, and a winning Irish brogue. He knows his stuff.
It's like sitting down with your smarter friend and learning things you probably ought to know. He refers to himself as "your mate Paddy Hirsch," and typically signs off his discussions of often sour-tasting topics like dark pools, toxic assets and quantitative easing with some reference to grabbing a drink, just like you would with your mate. Read the rest
I'm loving the "Doing Stuff with Crazy Aunt Lindsey" series of hands-on science YouTube videos for kids. I can't find the host's full name on the YouTube page or her website, but she's a fantastic presence and so are the kids that appear with her. The result is a series of videos that are adorable, high-spirited, creative, and fun—full of great, simple projects that pack a surprising amount of science "oomph" behind them.
Our pal Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life, is joining MAKE executive editor Stett Holbrook for a live video hangout on Google+ at 2pm PST today.
(Photo of Tim Ferriss by Susan Burdick)
“A playful brain is a more adaptive brain,” writes ethologist Sergio Pellis in The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience. In his studies, he found that play-deprived rats fared worse in stressful situations.
In our own world filled with challenges ranging from cyber-warfare to infrastructure failure, could self-directed play be the best way to prepare ourselves to face them?
In self-directed play, one structures and drives one’s own play. Self-directed play is experiential, voluntary, and guided by one’s curiosity. This is different from play that is guided by an adult or otherwise externally directed.
A MacArthur Fellow told me that, when he was a teenager, his single mother would drop him off at an industrial supply store on Saturdays while she ran errands. Using library books as his primary resource, he built a linear accelerator in the garage. It wasn’t until neighbors complained about scrambled television and radio signals in the hours just after school and after dinner that his “playful” invention was discovered.
The "flow state" is how neuroscience researchers describe that zone you can get into when you're doing something that you've become highly skilled at. It's a zen-like place in your brain — that state where you lose track of time doing something that you enjoy doing for its own sake, and where the job of doing the task seems to become something you don't even have to think about. You just do it, and you do it right.
The catch, of course, is that usually it takes a lot of heavy work to get to the point where the flow can take over. This is where Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of practice comes into play. But, over the years, scientists have learned that there are some ways around that 10,000-hour rule. Some people just seem to pick up on the flow easier than others, for instance.
If your brain isn't just naturally inclined toward the flow, though, there is the option of zapping it into line. This is called transcranial direct current stimulation—basically running a very small electric current through specific parts of the brain. In some studies, and for some tasks, it's been shown to induce a feeling very much like a flow state, and possibly make it easier for people to get to a high level of skill faster. Last spring, Pesco wrote about some of the research that's being conducted on this intriguing but still-not-proven technique. Recently, New Scientist reporter Sally Adee tried it out, and saw a significant short-term improvement in her ability to spot and hit targets in a video shooter game. Read the rest