Mad genius builds robotic arm to control synth with Nintendo Power Glove

You know how in movies where there's a mad genius tech-wizard/hacker (often a precocious teen) who can make the most fantastical creations with seemingly no effort? It's such a great fantasy with little analogue in the real world. Sam Battle, he of Look Mum No Computer strikes me as a character from one of those films, except he is very real. Read the rest

Simple footplate lets shoppers open fridges without touching them

A simple but ingenious invention from Japan has rona written all over it, but they should leave them there permanently. Also, add them to the doors of every public toilet in the world.

A machine translation of the article credits Koji Ohara, the owner of a convenience store, and Kinoyu, a car parts manufacturer in Nagoya, as coming up with and implementing the idea. Read the rest

Dungeon Morph: make an infinite role-playing dungeon with dice

Each face of a Dungeon Morph die features an interlinking section of dungeons, caves, wilderness or medieval city: simply push a set of five together and remove and re-roll as needed to create a never-ending map for your adventures.

DungeonMorph Dice Adventurer Set [Amazon link; see also the other sets]

They also come in the form of a square deck of 90 double-sided cards.

There's something about this sort of thing that throws a hook into my brain and reels me in. Read the rest

What's on Leonardo daVinci's "To-Do" list?

The above image is an illustrated and translated version of an actual "to-do" list written by Leonardo da Vinci. It was put together for NPR by Robert Krulwich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, based on information found in a new book, Da Vinci's Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image, by Toby Lester.

What does a list like this tell us about the guy who wrote it? Krulwich sees in this list an example of what the brain can do when it's allowed to really wander. Maybe you're better off not being able to focus very well on one specific thing:

"We live in an age that worships attention," says my friend (and Radiolab colleague) Jonah Lehrer. "When we need to work, we force ourselves to concentrate. This approach can also inhibit the imagination. Sometimes, it helps to consider irrelevant information, to eavesdrop on all the stray associations unfolding in the far reaches of the brain."

Minds that break free, that are compelled to wander, can sometimes achieve more than those of us who are more inhibited, more orderly, [a scientific study] suggests. Or, as Jonah chose to put it, there are "unexpected benefits of not being able to focus."

That's not a bad point. But I see something else here as well. Take another look at that to-do list. I think it's pretty interesting that of the nine tasks shown, six involve consulting and learning from other people. Leonardo da Vinci needs to find a book. Read the rest