How to design a chair that can survive an 8-story fall

The latest episode of 99 Percent Invisible is about the the 1940 Emeco 10-06 Navy Chair, made of bent aluminum and strong enough to withstand a torpedo blast.

The chair was made to be relatively utilitarian, with an arched top and three slats coming down the back to meet a crossbar. A curved “butt divot” is one of its most distinctive elements.

To show off the durability of his creation, Dinges took it up to the eighth floor of a hotel in Chicago, where the Navy was examining submissions, and threw it out of the window. It bounced, but didn’t bend or break.

And so the Navy gave its inventor the contract, and he, in turn, opened a factory and called his new business the Electrical Machine and Equipment Company, or: Emeco.

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Tour of a printed circuit board factory in China

Scotty Allen is a nomadic engineer, entrepreneur, adventurer, and storyteller who lives in San Francisco and Shenzhen, China. His YouTube series, Strange Parts, is a must-watch for me. In his latest video, he went to JLCPCB, one of the largest prototype printed circuit board manufacturers in China.

If you'd like to listen to my podcast interview with Scotty, here you go. Read the rest

How to make a bouncing ball simulator in Python

Christian Thompson has a YouTube channel where he clearly explains how to write neat little game-like programs in Python. It reminds me of the fun I had writing programs in BASIC to generate Mandelbrot fractals and cellular automata. He just uploaded a four-part series on how to simulate bouncing balls.

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Rosemary's Baby and the era of Satanic panic

Inspired by the 50th anniversary this month of the release of Rosemary's Baby, my friend Peg Kay Aloi has written a piece on Crooked Marque on how the iconic occult horror film helped set the stage for the Satanic panic that was to follow.

And therein lies an unusual irony: The clear message of Rosemary’s Baby was that the devil-worshiping witches live right next door, on the other side of the wall of your charming flat on Central Park West. They’re like family: They act as surrogate parents by giving you healthy herbal drinks and silver pendants to protect you, but they’re actually planning to consecrate your baby to the devil. Even your doctor is in on it; heck, your own husband signed his firstborn over to Beelzebub so he could get a juicy part on Broadway! You try to convince people of the plot you’ve uncovered, but they just cluck their tongues (poor thing, you’re just exhausted) and tranquilize you. Even when you’re proven right, that they were there all along, the witches next door who contrived to make you give birth to Satan’s spawn, no one helps you.

Despite overwhelming evidence that most acts of violence against children are perpetrated by family members, the tendency is to look beyond the home, to suspect a shadowy outsider, someone with a taste for heavy metal music and black T-shirts, or a penchant for goddess worship and tarot cards. Rosemary’s Baby masterfully other-ized the evil that lies within (and without), making us hide our children away from any and all possible dangers, including public schools, the internet, the outdoors.

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Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch from a Gameboy aficionado

As an insomniac, I take my gaming seriously. When I get to a point in a cycle of sleeplessness where I’m too tired to work or keep track of where I am in the book I’m reading, I turn to video games to keep me from delving too deeply into the dark thoughts that creep into my skull in the middle of the night.

After waiting for over a year to see if it would prove popular enough with developers and players to make it worth picking up, I finally broke down and bought a Nintendo Switch – that I have an upcoming assignment that involves testing Switch accessories made it easy to pull the trigger, despite its steep price tag here in Canada. The last Nintendo console that I bought was the Gameboy Advance Micro. I still own it, 13 years later, and play it on a regular basis. After tinkering with the Switch for just over a month, I’ve got some thoughts on the major differences between it and my much-loved GBA Micro that I thought might be fun to share.

Cost of Ownership

The GBA Micro wasn’t cheap, back in the day. I remember paying around $200 for it in Vancouver, BC. But aside from the games I’d buy for it, that was it. There was no need to purchase anything else. The Switch? Not so much. After paying $300 for it or, in my case, $400 Canadian, there's still a ton of cash that needs to change hands to ensure a solid experience with the console. Read the rest

Ford Ranger murdered by boulder

I promise you, the payoff from this video is worth two minutes of your time. Read the rest

Tom Cruise’s healing touch, Nazi Roseanne, and Vanna White’s hooker scandal, in this week’s dubious tabloids

Flying boldly in the face of reality takes a mix of bravura and sociopathy, but this week’s tabloids manage the feat with élan.

#MeToo activist and Anthony Bordain’s long-time girlfriend Asia Argento is photographed in Rome with a “much-younger man” with “no Bordain in sight,” and the National Enquirer headline asks: “Where’s Anthony?!” Sadly, committing suicide in France, where everyone but the Enquirer knew he was filming a new TV series. He took his own life last Friday, four days before the Enquirer went to bed, meaning that they chose to run the story rather than re-make the page. Classy.

Prince William “Gives Up Throne!” claims the Globe cover, allegedly to “protect Kate and kids from terrorists.” But the Globe ignores two key facts: 1) His father Prince Charles is next in the line of succession after the Queen’s death, and 2) If William did relinquish his claim to the throne, his rights of succession would go directly to eldest son George, putting the toddler directly in the firing line. How would that be protecting his kids?

It’s errant nonsense, as is the Enquirer report that Tom Cruise’s “miracle” touch as a “high-ranking Operating Thetan VI member of Scientology” has cured Val Kilmer’s throat cancer. Setting aside the question of whether the Top Gun star has been imbued by Scientology with healing powers, Kilmer is a faithful follower of Christian Science, and unlikely to let Cruise intervene in health matters that are in the hands of whatever god he believes in. Read the rest

"With A Little Help From My Friends" covered on a mobile carillon

Most carillons are fixed in bell towers, but Chime Masters makes a mobile carillon, used here to play a lovely Beatles cover. Read the rest

Trump Administration moving forward on tent cities for kids

Tent cities for migrant children separated from their parents at the border? Sure, why not.

According to USA Today, the Department of Health and Human Services will be paying a visit to Fort Bliss Army base, just outside of El Paso, Texas to see if it would be a suitable location to set up a tent city designed to house between 1,000 and 5,000 migrant kids. According to the report, HHS officials are also eyeing Air Force bases in San Angelo and Abilene for the task.

So, tent cities built by the homeless are deemed illegal and get torn down by the government, but when the government wants to build one, it’s totally cool. Got it.

From USA Today:

The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS is responsible for looking after more than 11,200 migrant children being held without a parent or guardian. Some 100 existing shelters, however, are now 95% full.

The number of migrant children held in U.S. government custody without their parents has increased more than 20% as a result of a new "zero-tolerance" policy by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. That policy directs the Border Patrol to refer all people caught crossing the border illegally for criminal prosecution, regardless of their situation.

Because of the Trump Administration’s no-exceptions policy on illegal immigration, enough children to entertain the notion of opening a tent city to contain them all have been ripped from their families over the past few months, while adults, whose only crime was to come to America looking for a better life, you know, like many of our ancestors did, are being locked away in federal prisons while awaiting deportation hearings. Read the rest

Watch how gross makeup looks at 1600x magnification

YouTuber Tina Yong grabbed an inexpensive digital microscopic camera and shot some extreme closeups of her makeup, to horrifying results. Read the rest

The Trumps: Donald is called in to see the boss. D'Oh!

Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH Donald is called in to see his boss, in another episode of the Trumps. D'Oh!

Watch Weezer perform "Africa" live with Toto's Steve Porcaro on synth

On the heels of the successful fan campaign for Weezer to cover Toto's "Africa," and the subsequent online release of the song, they performed it last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Special guest all-too-brief synth solo by Toto's Steve Porcaro! Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you!

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These 3D-printed shapeshifting bots can crawl, jump, and catch things under magnetic control

MIT researchers designed and 3D-printed an array of soft, mechanical critters that are controlled by waving a magnet over them. The shapeshifters that fold up, crawl, grab things, and snap together into intricate formations may someday lead to new kinds of biomedical devices. For example, one of the devices "can even be directed to wrap itself around a small pill and carry it across a table." From MIT News:

“We think in biomedicine this technique will find promising applications,” says (MIT mechanical engineer Xuanhe Zhao.) “For example, we could put a structure around a blood vessel to control the pumping of blood, or use a magnet to guide a device through the GI tract to take images, extract tissue samples, clear a blockage, or deliver certain drugs to a specific location. You can design, simulate, and then just print to achieve various functions.”

In addition to a rippling ring, a self-squeezing tube, and a spider-like grabber, the team printed other complex structures, such as a set of “auxetic” structures that rapidly shrink or expand along two directions. Zhao and his colleagues also printed a ring embedded with electrical circuits and red and green LED lights. Depending on the orientation of an external magnetic field, the ring deforms to light up either red or green, in a programmed manner.

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An ingenious gas-powered scooter in a suitcase

Designed by French engineer Victor Bouffort, the Suitcase Scooter sold for a whopping $245 in 1962. That's steep even with its 2.8 horsepower engine and 35 MPH speeds. Unfortunately, it was also ahead of its time or perhaps behind it. From FOTO:

...Despite being extensively marketed in America, Europe, and Japan, Bouffort's little titan missed the scooter craze of the 1950s, and was overshadowed by countless Japanese mopeds flooding world markets in the 1960s. Still, according to the folks at Motorcylepedia "it did sell in small numbers in America … [and] was also far superior to any of the American models."

"In Praise of the 'Suitcase Scooter'" (FOTO)

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New song and video from Death Cab for Cutie: "Gold Rush"

Today my friends in Death Cab for Cutie released the first song and video from their forthcoming album, Thank You for Today. Featuring a sample from Yoko Ono's "Mindtrain," the tune is a fantastic, funky, soulful shuffle with Ben Gibbard singing about the Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill that he's called home for two decades but now feels increasingly foreign. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different.

"As I've gotten older," Ben told NPR, "I've become acutely aware of how I connect my memories to my geography and [how] the landscape of the city changes. I'll walk down Broadway and walk past a location that used to be a bar I'd frequent with friends, or somewhere where I had a beautifully intense conversation with somebody that I once loved very much. The song is not a complaint about how things were better or anything like that. It's an observation, but more about coming to terms with the passage of time and losing the people and the moments in my life all over again as I walk down a street that is now so unfamiliar."

Death Cab for Cutie's ninth album, Thank You for Today, will be released August 17.

As a bonus, here's the sample source, Yoko Ono's Mindtrain from the album Fly (1971):

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Trump's Korean summit trailer is a template for fun

Yesterday, we shared the insane movie-style trailer President Trump used to convince North Korea's dictator to buddy up. The New York Times, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert offer their takes on this historic video.

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Tanzania's independent websites, podcasts and video channels have gone dark as the country's new blogger tax goes into effect

As of this Friday, anyone operating an independent online presence in Tanzania will have to pay a licensing fee equivalent to an average year's wages, and submit to a harsh set of censorship rules, as well as an obligation to unmask anonymous posters and commenters, with stiff penalties for noncompliance. Read the rest

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