Evolution of the robotic roach (now with a shell)


UC Berkeley researchers have now outfitted tiny RoACH robots with shell-like exoskeletons to protect the electromechanical innards from dust and water and help the bots slip easily through tight, cluttered spaces, just like real roaches. Videos below. Read the rest

Open-source 3D scans of museum items generate amazing new creative works


Artist Oliver Laric worked with the Usher Gallery and The Collection in Lincoln to create 3D scans of their collections, then made the files available online. The art that emerged is varied and sometimes astonishing, like the work above by Leah Ferrini. Read the rest

Open source prosthetics Google+ hangout this Friday with Adafruit and Makerbot

Our friends at Adafruit are hosting a month-long program on Google+ "aimed at crowdsourcing the manufacturing and delivery of the Robohand prosthetic to people in need." The next hangout is this Friday 10/11 at 8pm ET and MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis will be joining! Details are here. Read the rest

Help ocean scientists build open-source research tools

CTD units are incredibly important to ocean research, measuring three basic factors of sea water — conductivity, temperature, and depth. Almost every major research vessel has one. But the units are part of what ensures that it's expensive to get started doing ocean science. Each one can cost between $5000-$25,000. Now, a group of ocean scientists are trying to finance the design of an open-source CTD that could be built by anyone for less than $200. You can help fund their efforts at Rockethub. Read the rest

Limor "ladyada" Fried profiled by MIT

MIT is rightfully proud of alumna Limor Fried, the superhero hardware hacker behind AdaFruit Industries, creators of fantastic DIY, open source electronics components and kits. We're proud of Limor too! From MIT News:

Apart from selling kits, original devices and providing hundreds of guides online, Adafruit works around the world with schools, teachers, libraries and hackerspaces — community technology labs — to promote STEM education, designing curricula in circuitry and electronics, among other initiatives.

The company has released an online children’s show called “A is for Ampere.” On a weekly Saturday night program, “Ask an Engineer,” anyone can ask Fried questions online or show off their original devices.

One of Fried’s favorite stories, from a young viewer of “Ask an Engineer,” illuminates what she sees as the growing diversity of engineering. “A parent emailed us after watching the show with his daughter,” she says. “I had another engineer on the show with me — my friend Amanda — and this parent’s daughter asked, ‘Dad, are there boy engineers too?’”

"Meet the maker" Read the rest

LocalWiki Antarctica, a crowdsourced map of the icy southern continent

LocalWiki's Philip Neustrom says,

My non-profit, LocalWiki, has been working on this really incredible project to help document the continent of Antarctica. Most notable, at least right now, is this custom map we've pieced together from very-hard-to-find NASA aerial imagery and coastline datasets. It's probably the most beautiful thing I've ever worked on.

Check out the LocalWiki for Antarctica. The project "aims to document the full extent of human involvement on the continent," and for now is focused on a two-mile region surrounding Palmer Station.

 Under the Ice: Research Diving in Antarctica Charting the Frozen Continent Photos from trip to Falklands & South Georgia Islands and Antarctica ... Google unveils Street View imagery from Antarctica, including South ... Making Inaccessible Island a little more accessible Read the rest

Anti-open source propaganda in Disney kids' TV show

A funny moment from Disney kids' sitcom Shake it up:

Nerd: Did you use open-source code to save time, and the virus was hidden in it?

Stupid: Maybe?

Nerd: Rookie mistake.

Disney sitcom says open source is insecure [The Register] Read the rest

Google lawyer on Oracle victory: "People are treating patents like lottery tickets"

Google defeated Oracle's claims regarding Java in the Android operating system. But at what cost? Google's general council writes: "The case illustrates the cost when the patent system doesn't work well. It costs millions of dollars to invalidate bad patents. That's money we'd rather spend on great new products for people to use." [Ars Technica] Read the rest

Open Goldberg Variations: free, open source recording and modern score of classical masterpiece

Performed by Kimiko Ishizaka on a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial in Berlin's Teldex Studio, there's already plenty to love about a new cut of Bach's Goldberg Variations. But this one is also the first fan-funded, open source, and completely free recording of it.

"Every part of it is free for you to use, share, and copy," said Robert Douglass, who launched the successful Kickstarter project behind Werner Schweer's new version of the classic score and its production.

Schweer's modernized and digitized score was itself created with free and open source software from MuseScore.com.

The producers said their goal was to be "precise to Bach’s instruction, yet full of personality and character".

"To help make this recording truly timeless, we need your help. Share it. Give it away. Introduce others to its beauty, and explain to them why you love it," Douglass wrote. "Make yourself responsible for converting another person to being a Bach fan."

The production's website is at opengoldbergvariations.org. Five double CDs of the recording will be given away to listeners who sign up for a promotion. There's also a facebook page for the project and a twitter account to follow.

Wisconsin Public Radio also developed a website to accompany its broadcast of the Open Goldberg Variations, opengoldberg.wpr.org, which will display the score in real-time so listeners can "see" the music there as it plays: "a first-ever event, proving bleeding edge technologies," says Douglass.

Download Page [Open Goldberg Variations] Open Goldberg Variations [Soundcloud (enbeddable)] Sheet Music [Musescore] Read the rest

Incredible art made with open-source weather data

This is what the wind over the United States looked like on March 27th, 5:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. It's beautiful. And it's even better if you go to the project page, where you can watch real-time wind currents move around the map.

The National Digital Forecast Database is a weather forecasting system that provides open access to weather data collected all over the United States. The National Weather Service has field centers all across the country, that collect information about things like wind speed/direction, precipitation, and barometric pressure. They combine this data with big-picture satellite tracking and algorithms that are based on what we know about how weather patterns work, and that's how you get the kind of daily forecast we rely on to plan our days.

In the process, the National Weather Service generates a lot of data—data that has not, traditionally, been accessible to just anybody. We saw the forecasts, but it wasn't as easy to see the measurements the forecasts were based on. The NDFD changes that. It's a really great example of publicly funded research being made available to the people who help provide the funding.

And when that happens, you get cool projects like this one, where data on wind direction and speed are used to create truly amazing art. The information on current conditions, and predictions for the future, are updated hourly. When you look at the animated version of this map, what you see is the most recent forecast playing out. Read the rest

Scary science, national security, and open-source research

I've been following the story about the scientists who have been working to figure out how H5N1 bird flu might become transmissible from human to human, the controversial research they used to study that question, and the federal recommendations that are now threatening to keep that research under wraps. This is a pretty complicated issue, and I want to take a minute to help you all better understand what's going on, and what it means. It's a story that encompasses not just public health and science ethics, but also some of the debates surrounding free information and the risk/benefit ratio of open-source everything.

H5N1, the famous bird flu, is deadly to humans. Of the 566 people who have contracted this form of influenza, 332 have died. But, so far, the people who have caught bird flu don't seem to have contracted the disease from other humans, or passed it on. Instead, they got it from birds, often farm animals with whom the victims were living in close contact. H5N1 was first identified 14 years ago, and there's never been a documented case of it being passed from person to person.

But that doesn't mean such a leap is impossible.

That's because of how the influenza virus works. Influenza is made up of eight pieces of RNA, containing 10 genes, and they all replicate independently of one another and there's no system for error correction*. That means you have more opportunity for mutations to arise that change what the virus does and who it can infect. Read the rest

MIT and the future of open-source education

MIT has long offered thousands of undergrad and graduate level course materials for free online. This month, they announced plans to significantly update and expand that effort, creating an open-source education system called MITx that will basically allow anyone to virtually take an MIT class, participate in laboratories, and get individual assessment on whether or not they've learned the material. The school even has plans—not fully worked out yet—to offer some kind of certificate of completion to people who take classes this way and can show that they've mastered the subject. MITx will open in spring of 2012. I'm looking forward to checking out this great resource! (Thanks to Chris Hayden!) Read the rest

Safecast draws on power of the crowd to map Japan's radiation

[Video Link: YouTube, PBS.org]

I traveled to Japan with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien to help shoot and produce a series of NewsHour stories about the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters. One of these just aired, and is above. It's the story of how a group of hackers and internet folks are working with Japanese volunteers to harness DIY technology to record and share data about radiation hotspots.

We traveled with Safecast on a radiation-data-gathering drive from Tokyo to inside the voluntary evacuation zone, close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. We monitored readings on the ground and in the air with the Safecast team all along the way. You'll see what those contamination levels were, and what and whom we encountered, in this video.

Some of the voices in this piece are familiar names to regular Boing Boing readers: Joi Ito, Sean Bonner, and others. One DIY/Maker/hacker culture hero we interviewed whose work you see is Bunnie Huang (I was thrilled that this project allowed me to meet Bunnie in person for the first time).

In the NewsHour story, airing exactly eight months to the day after the March 11 disaster, you'll see the geiger counters the Safecast team have developed with Sebastopol, California-based Dan Sythe and International Medcom. The successor to the "B-Geigie" Safecast is using now will be a device Bunnie designed (which looks really elegant, by the way). Oh, and these geiger kits were assembled in the very cool Tokyo Hacker Space, a central site for the Safecast movement. Read the rest