Messy: When automated anti-disaster systems make things worse, and what to do about it

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"Undercover Economist" Tim Harford (previously) has a new book out, Messy, which makes a fascinating and compelling case that we are in real danger from the seductive neatness of computers, which put our messes out of sight, where they grow into great catastrophes. Read the rest

A little film about the world's largest model train installation

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Some Kind of Quest is an 11-minute documentary short about Bruce Zaccagnino, whose model train installation near NYC is one of the world's largest.

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Highly efficient model does a pose a second

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Filip Timotijevic is a good-looking fellow who knows his moves. You can book him for your menswear catalog or robot dance party through Fox Fashion in Belgrade or MP Paris. Read the rest

Derek Zoolander: The Vogue Interview

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From Vogue's "73 Questions" series. Below, this month's Vogue cover, shot by Annie Leibovitz.

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HO fhtagn! Detailed model railroad layout recreates HP Lovecraft's Arkham

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Model railroader John Ott has devoted years to creating a fantastically detailed, HO-scale recreation of Arkham, the site of HP Lovecraft's horror stories, complete with model railroad engines and historically accurate cars. Read the rest

Explore super-detailing, weathering, and finishing in this gorgeous, comprehensive modeling encyclopedia

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See sample pages of this book at Wink.

I have always had a great attraction to obsessive hobbies. When I was a teen, I didn't just want to have model trains, I needed the fully detailed train board, with forests, a mountain and tunnel, a town, and a coal mine. I didn't just want to play tabletop wargames with salt shakers and napkin holders for obstacles – I had to build an entire terrain board, with homemade buildings, impact craters, command bunkers, and the like. And when I'm not dabbling in my own all-in hobbies, I'm frequently found online, looking at forums about other people's hobby obsessions. One of these is super-detailed scale modeling.

Anyone who has done any military modeling is familiar with the AMMO brand of Mig Jimenez. Mig and AMMO are known for making the most amazing products for super-detailing models, paints, powders, and effects for painting, weathering, and basing, and high-end how-to books on model painting and finishing. Soon they will also be known for creating this incredible series, Encyclopedia of Aircraft Modelling Techniques.

I got Interiors and Assembly Volume 2 in the five-part series because I was looking for inspiration for interior detailing of some tank models that I'm building for a tabletop wargame. I was not disappointed in what I found in this book. These volumes are crammed with hundreds of high-quality, close-in photographs showing many tried and true techniques for using aftermarket parts, making your own parts, and getting the most out of the parts that came in your model kit. Read the rest

Watch: 100 Years of Lingerie in 3 Minutes

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To my eye, more is frequently less. Bonus finale with plus-size model Germaine Nichols, cancer survivor Danielle Orner, and androgynous model/activist Rain Dove. (Mode via Laughing Squid)

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R2D2 Metal Model Kit

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Two laser-cut sheets of steel, some needle-nosed pliers and a bit of patience are all that stand between you and a “museum-quality” 3-D model of your favorite astromech droid! In no time at all, this thermocapsulary dehousing assister will be reflecting light on your bookshelf as only it can.

The evening that my wife and I put this together was a lot of fun.  It was amazing how quickly we went from this:

to this:

You can find a set of 4 Metal Earth 3D Model Kits at Amazon.

It's the best deal that I found, and it includes Darth Vader's TIE Fighter, R2-D2, An AT-AT Walker and The Millennium Falcon (Glas-Conduit-Protien not included.)

See Michael, a passionate collector of artifacts and designer of unique puzzles, at Boing Boing's three-day extravaganza, the Weekend of Wonder, running Sept. 18-20. A weekend of workshops, tech demons and wild performances, there'll be plenty of fun surprises! Read the rest

Aurora Monster Scenes: The Most Controversial Toys of a Generation

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They had me at Aurora. Nothing so perfectly captures the secret origin of my imagination than the Aurora line of snap-tite models from the 1970s, especially the Prehistoric Scenes and monster models, with optional glow in dark parts. It was the lurid Monster Scene sets, however, that pried open my weird third eye (along with Creature Double Feature on my local UHF station and Famous Monsters of Filmland). These delightfully ghastly models included: Dr. Deadly, the igor-esque mad scientist; The Victim, a busty young woman whose only purpose is to be abducted and experimented on; Frankenstein, the misnamed monster to do Dr. Deadly’s bidding; Vampirella, the might-as-well-be-naked vampire whose role in all this is ambiguous; Gruesome Goodies, a laboratory of Tesla-like machinery, workbench, lab equipment and the requisite skull; The Pain Parlor, which includes an operating table, a skeleton, and inscrutable “pain” machine; The Pendulum, for slicing the Victim in half; and The Hanging Cage, a room of torture that even has hot coals and a tiny pincer. Later sets would include Dracula and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

I was too young to recognize anything here that might have been exploitive or inappropriate for a kid’s model set. Looking back, it’s hard to believe they were ever allowed on the shelves of a toy store. It’s no surprise then that the development of the toys was one part “Let’s do the craziest things we can think of...” and one part “but let’s not get parents upset.” To this end, Aurora worked out a smart business arrangement with James Warren of Warren Publishing who was an expert on how to market monsters to young people while staying away from controversy. Read the rest

Watch Adam Savage build a model of the maze from The Shining

Adam Savage has been having a lot of fun making models lately (like this cosmonaut model). In this video, we get to see the large scale model of the Overlook Hotel's maze that he built. Read the rest

Giant cat or hyper-detailed model cars?

Headquake claims this a scratch-built RC car. I'm not buying it. He's been breeding giant housecats. Read the rest

Fantastically detailed Boeing 777 model made from manila folders

Luca Iaconi-Stewart is building a "1:60 model of an Air India Boeing 777-300ER made entirely from manila file folders," with an unbelievable level of detail (it even has working mechanisms!) Read the rest

Video: maker of incredible working model engines

Retired naval mechanic José Manuel Hermo Barreiro makes incredibly intricate models of engines like the V-12. (via Devour) Read the rest

Super cool 1961 catalog of miniature models

Incredibly neat models of vehicles and other stuff are offered in this attractive Topping, Inc. "sales miniatures" catalog. (Here's a history of Topping, which includes photos of its drab former headquarters in Elryia, Ohio. It went out of business in the early 1970s/).

A PDF of the catalog can be found here. (Thanks, Peter!) Read the rest

Beautiful steam-powered mechanical models on auction block

Leavitt Pumping Engine. Very finely built and presented vintage exhibition model of a massive American steam powered waterworks pump designed by Erasmus Darwin Leavitt circa 1895. Model has exceptional detail and is expertly finished with complex gearing operated by a central ship's wheel. Presented on wood stand with table base. Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000.

Check out the preview photos for this Heritage auction of magnificent mechanical models. Given the amount of time and skill that went into the construction of these hand-made machines, the estimated value seems ridiculously low. (If craftsmanship isn't your thing, you might be able to pick up a Cy Twombly masterpiece for under $1 million.)

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Elaborate, detailed Star Wars dioramas

Carl "Boutros77" BouMansour is a fine artist and modeller in the UK who makes elaborate diaoramas based on science fiction movies, especially Star Wars. These are lavishly documented in his Flickr sets. There's a lot to love here, but I recommend starting with the pictures of the Cantina on Tatooine. It's such an ambitious miniature set, and the attention to detail left me amazed and delighted. Read the rest

Nobel Prizes 2013: Computer models that can mimic life

We talk about computer modeling a lot in the context of climate science — powerful algorithms that help scientists get a better idea of how climate systems work, how they spin off into weather, and how the systems and the weather are altered by both nature and humans. But modeling plays a huge role in other sciences, as well. In fact, on the flip side of the climate change coin, modeling is an essential part of designing better solar cells to turn energy from the Sun into useable electricity. If we ever do master the art of artificial photosynthesis, we'll have the three men who just won this year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry to thank.

Back in the 1970s, Martin Karplus of Université de Strasbourg, France and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford, and Arieh Warshel of USC, were instrumental in constructing the first computer models capable of predicting the effects of chemical reactions — including ones that happen far too quickly to be observed. Today, their work touches the daily lives of chemists all over the world, doing research from solar cell design to drug development. Read the rest

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