Geek Month in Review: June 2015

By JB Sanders

Summer!

The 20-year-old Cleaning Up the Oceans
That’s not hyperbole, either. Boyan Slat has two major projects underway right now to do just that. The first one starting in August will collect more data in three weeks on the plastic floating in our oceans “than anyone has in 40 years”. In 2016, he’s deploying a device to collect plastic out of the ocean which will be the longest floating structure around (2,000 meters). I think he’s giving Elon Musk a run for his money. The guy’s only 20!

Flying Tricycle in Prototype
Technically, it’s a “coaxial, Y6-layout tricopter”, but if that confounds you — no worries. If you’ve seen Return of the Jedi, you’ve seen a flying motorcycle much like this. Yes, there’s video.

James Bond Cars Through the Years
Cool website that shows all the James Bond cars. Nice effects and cool art. Plus hot cars.

Magic, Light, and Quadracopters
Art and science meet, produce a wonderful dance. Done only with lights, lampshades, and some well-programmed quadracopters.

3D Printed Bridge
These crazy Dutch engineers/programmers/scientists have created prototype robots that are going to 3D print a bridge in place and kind of mid-air. Scifi in Action folks!

Gustav Eiffel’s Secret Tower Apartment
Built into the 3rd level of the Eiffel Tower is a secret apartment that the builder had put in over 100 years ago. See pictures of (more or less) how it looked back in the day.

Lexus Makes a Hoverboard — For Real!
It is 2015 after all, the year Marty McFly DeLoren’s to in Back to the Future. It had to happen sometime. Even if the hoverboard in question requires a metal surface to work.

3D Color Images of 1850’s Japan
No, it’s not the result of time travel, it’s stereoscopic photography during the time it was invented. It’s been converted for your convenience into animated GIFs.

Tactile Tablet
It’s like an iPad, only it creates a raised surface for braille, contour maps, or whatever.

Creepy Writing Doll
What is even creepier is that the doll in question is over 240 years old. Nothing quite like 18th century clockwork automatons.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

Geek Month in Review: May 2015

By JB Sanders

May flowers!

We Are Truly in the Future
Let Pancake Bot draw whatever shape you want your pancakes in, then cook them for you.

What Do Tree Rings Sounds Like?
Oddly ethereal. See scientists take tree rings and treat them like they’re special long-playing vinyl.

The Forgotten Pyramids of Meroe
Along the Nile, in the Sudan, there are some 200 pyramids left — not by the Egyptians — but by the Meroitic Kingdom. They’re not as big but they are very cool looking. In fact, I suspect some of the artists drawing tombs in various fantasy games over the years saw these.

Cube inside a Cube inside a Cube
Which is not not the remarkable part — no, because any idiot with a 3D printer and the right file can make one of those. This guy did it with a block of aluminum, some hot glue, and a lathe. Not a CNC reduction machine. No! An honest-to-Pete lathe — spinning in circles, crank-controlled, and computer-free.

Artificial Lava
Want to experiment with lava flows, but live in upstate New York? Melt some basalt and make your own!

The Quiet Zone
Imagine a place with no cell phones, no radio broadcasts, not even any microwave ovens (unless they’re in a Faraday cage). That place is the Quiet Zone, an area of 13,000 square miles that is forbidden by law from having any radio interference.

3D Interactive Map of the Universe
Yup, time to break out your holoprojectors. It’s a full 3D map of the known universe and you can monkey around with the view.

Hyperloop Test Track in the Works
The Hyperloop is a train, set in a near-vacuum tube, which — if the theory proves correct — could travel faster than an airplane. Yes, Elon Musk, super-villain in training (or a hero using the villain playbook, which one is unclear) is making another of his wacky ideas a reality. Giant pneumatic tubes could some day criss-cross the country, or even under the oceans. If you’re wondering why anyone would want to use or build something like that, let’s lay down the travel times: Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. Yeah. Anyway, they’re actually building a test track now.

How to Make Stackable Edible LEGOs
Want to build amazing structures or spaceships (spaceships!)? LEGOs. Want to be able to eat them after the inevitable fiery comet of doom? Look no farther.

Micro-Living Pod
It’s a super-tiny house that can accommodate up to 2 people, runs off wind and solar, and even collects its own rain water in a cistern below the living space. Looks like a futuristic egg, but the interior is actually kinda cool. Coming in 2016.

Wait, the thing has its own website:

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

Geek Month in Review: April 2015

by JB Sanders

Spring flowers!

World’s Largest Airship Nearly Ready for the Skies
The airship is set to return to the skies (with helium!), now in an industrial capacity.

Fiction to Invention: Timeline
Great infographic on the time it took for something that appeared in science fiction to turn into fact.

All the Best Supervillains Have Them
Elon Musk made a twitter post that seems especially appropriate.

Chinese Farmer Builds Transformer Figures
Doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it? Did I mention that these “figures” are life-sized (as in 20-feet tall)? And made out of car parts? They look pretty awesome.

I Think There’s a Movie In This
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking to find people to live in an abandoned mining town that has a reputation for being haunted. You should totally do it! All the cool kids are. And I’m certain that nothing would ever go wrong with living in a haunted ghost town. Definitely.

Wanna Buy a Village?
Speaking of abandoned properties, there’s a little village in Connecticut — all 64 acres of it — that is up for sale again. It was a mill town, then the mill burned, then it was a Victorian recreation village, and then it was planned to be a created community.

The Invisible Infrastructure
Really fascinating visualization of all the airplanes going into and out of the UK airspace in the course of a day.

Ancient Computer Festival
Marvel at the vacuum tubes! Wonder at the giant cabinets! See the original iMac doorstop. All this and more at the Vintage Computer Festival East.

Chernobyl Fox Makes Sandwich
Yup, we got us some mutants. No doubt.
Note: auto-playing vide

GM Futureliner — the Car of the Future, In the 1950’s
They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore — because they NEVER made them like this. A vehicle both huge and odd-looking, it does have the whiff of a 1950’s future. They were put together by General Motors as traveling exhibits to showcase GM tech. And they are monstrously big: 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 11’ 2” high.

The Internet of Cows
Researchers in San Francisco are attaching special pedometers to cows. They’ll track all sorts of data about them to help dairy farmers with their herds.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

Geek Month in Review: March 2015

by JB Sanders

Snow, snow go away…

Jurassic Park Computer System
So, there’s this website out there that simulates the computer control system in the original Jurassic Park movie. Give it a whirl.

Low-Tech Old-School Secret Drawers
Lovely antique small writing desk, with a TON of secret drawers and hidden compartments.

Oldest Surviving Movie Footage of New York City, Annotated
Great video showing what appears to be the oldest movie footage of New York City, from May of 1896. Annotations show a map of the current NYC on the left. Pop-up highlights over the video call out landmarks and other points of interest. There’s movie footage from 1896 to 1906, going backwards in time from newest to oldest. Fascinating stuff.

Geek Makes Secret Door Into His Home Theater
But that’s not the best part — the awesome thing is that it’s a secret door, modeled on the secret back entrance in Moria. Yes, that Moria — as in, Mines of Moria, Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, etc. It even — oh, but I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say it has features.

That’s Not a Table! It’s a Machine!
Watch this crazy complex table go from a small size to a larger size simply by turning. It’s based on an 1835 patent.

Easily Build a Hidden Safe
Ok, it hasn’t got a TON of room, but it’s got the nice benefit of being difficult to spot. Plus who doesn’t like hidden drawer-type-things that you can do yourself for $3?

Zombie Infection Simulation
Watch as zombies spread out from the point of infection, in hour-by-hour time, until they engulf the US. You can even slider-bar the parameters to make zombies faster or slower, and more or less infectious. Science!

Comic Book Cartography
Some 4-color plates of famous geography from yesteryear. Browse the contents of the Bat Cave, or the hidden secrets of the Baxter Building.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

The Geek Month in Review: February 2015

by J.B. Sanders

Stupid groundhog…

RC Millenium Falcon
So, build your own flying Millennium Falcon model. No, really.

No Big Bang. Universe Is Forever.
So these quantum physicists, always at the crazy end of the physics spectrum, have come up with a cosmological theory that the universe has no beginning and no end. We’re not talking just spacially here, as in an infinite physical universe, but also in time — no beginning, no end. Thus, no Big Bang. Read the mind-bending details in the article.

Viewmaster for the Modern Day
Instead of getting fun 3D images via circular photo disks, the modern Viewmaster is instead a plastic holder for your smartphone. Grab the Viewmaster app, and then point your head at the new “Experience Disks”, which are basically triggers for content. It’s better if you watch their movie to see what I mean, but it does seem ultra-cool.

Tesla Model S Easter Egg
Fun little visual easter egg in Tesla’s Model S onboard controls.

The Overlook Maze
Ever wonder what a scale model of the Overlook Maze, from the movie The Shining, would look like? Or how hard it would be to build it?

12 Optical Illusions Based on Color
In case you weren’t over color-based tricks of the eye.

Over-the-top Clockwork Hidden Drawers
For all you steampunks out there, this one’s for you.

Watching Aliens with 11-year-olds
Great article by a guy chaperoning a slumber party full of kids watching Aliens for the very first time.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

The Geek Month in Review: January 2015

By JB Sanders

Frigid, frigid January…

Flying Cars of Future Past
So where are all our flying cars, anyway? See illustrations of what folks in 1862 thought we’d be flying around in come the year 2000.

Star Wars Concept Art
From the first three movies, starting with New Hope. Seriously cool 1960’s style scifi artwork.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from 1960’s to 1980’s
See the evolution of what has become (or perhaps now was) the largest electronics (then computers) show in the world.

New Uses for a PowerGlove
Remember that failed attempt at “virtual reality” that Nintendo came out with? The one where you wore a clunky glove thing on your hand to control on-screen games? Yeah, it’s back and doing stop-motion animation. Bonus points for video of the taking-apart phase of the conversion.

Microsoft’s Virtual Reality Assisted Holographic Interface
Really feels like the future when we can write headlines like that, right? Microsoft introduced a set of tools for creating programs with augmented reality elements — in holographic form. They require the use of Google glass like headset, but not quite as obnoxious. For those familiar with the previously linked NASA program that let you interact with virtual versions of their various rovers, this is like the big boy version of that.

More detail and a hands-on overview:

Elon Musk — Supervillain or Science Hero?
Is it just me, or is the resume of engineer-billionaire Elon Musk starting to look like the CV of a Grade A super villain? Dude got his start helping to make e-payments possible, then went on to revitalize electric cars (almost single-handedly), and now he’s got his own commercial space company. Also, he wants to build a city on Mars, and he’s going to pay for it by putting 4000 satellites into orbit, and provide internet connections wirelessly to anyone (who pays) anywhere.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

The Geek Month in Review: December 2014

By JB Sanders

Happy Yule!

Alien Fonts
Great article on the fonts and symbols used in the movie Alien, and how they influenced other scifi movies. Bonus points for a tie-in with The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky.

Touchable Holograms
Yeah, you read that right. Projected images that have haptic feedback — meaning you can feel them. Go ahead and let your brain explode on that one.

Hand-Illuminated, Hand-Bound Copy of the Simallarion
You remember that Tolkien book, the one that is basically lifted from his hand-written notes about the world of the Lord of the Rings, but it is basically unreadable except as a reference work? Yeah, this German art student decides to just go ahead and create a copy of the book by hand. It’s awesome.

Margaret Hamilton, Lead Software Engineer, Project Apollo
Yeah, that headline pretty much tells the whole story, but for the details, read the article.

Interactive 3D Display
Nope, not the same as the link above. This is more like a telepresence version of that toy with all the pins in it that everyone always presses their hand into. Only with color.

Lord of the Rings Partially Explained
Ever wonder how Gandalf got to be so badass that he could go toe-to-toe with a Balrog? Check out the video!

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

The Geek Month in Review: November 2014

By JB Sanders

Is it Turkey Day yet?

Ancient Home Video Games in Your Browser
Want to play your favorite Atari 2600 game from yesteryear? Want to do it without leaving your web browser? Ta da!

Bowling Ball and Feathers Falling in a Vacuum
Wanna see how gravity (mostly) reacts the same to two objects with different weights? Watch the video.

Algae Farm Over Highway Eats Pollution
A French and Dutch design firm has created a prototype algae farm over a highway in Geneva, Switzerland. It eats the CO2 from car and truck exhaust, and could be used to produce biodiesel, green electricity, medication, cosmetics, or even food.

Interact With 3D Models of Space Vehicles Like Iron Man Would
Anyone else remember that scene in Iron Man where Tony Stark (billionaire, philanthropist, genius) is moving the holo projections around like they’re real-world objects, instead of cool bits of light in the air? NASA rocket scientists have developed an app (definitely iOS, possibly others) that uses the smartphone’s camera, a real-world reference marker, and superimposes a full 3D model of a variety of NASA vehicles and satellites into virtual space. Seriously, this is scifi-type future stuff, here. You can turn the “reference marker” (or printed piece of paper with the special pattern) and the 3D model of, say, the Mars Curiosity rover will move with it. You can zoom in on specific details simply by moving the phone closer to the virtual 3D model. The future is here, people.

Search your favorite app store for: “Spacecraft 3D”

Here’s a video, showing off the action:

Island Discovered in the Arctic
No, this isn’t a headline from 1894. No, it is not a story featuring a strange doctor, and his fetish for animal/human hybrids. Nor will there be dinosaurs. Probably. Russian military helicopter pilots, on a return from a supply mission saw an island in the Arctic ocean north of Tiksi (it’s in Siberia). It wasn’t on any maps. So why now? That area is normally covered with ice for much, if not all of the year, until recently. The low-lying island simply wasn’t visible before. Kinda cool that we’re still discovering islands.

Fire-breathing Robot Dragon
And … you already clicked the link, didn’t you? It’s a full-sized (e.g. Huge, for those Pathfinder/D&D folks out there) semi-autonomous walking dragon robot. That breathes fire.

Spiral Undersea City
Apparently some Japanese investors are planning on opening an underwater spiral sea-city by 2030.

Science and Music Combined
Into an awesome show of fire, water, and lightning. All real, no special effects.

Ancient Computer in LEGO
Remember the Antikythera mechanism? That weird series of gears found in a shipwreck, and dated to 1500 BCE? Scientists later figured out, using x-ray tomography, that the mechanism was designed to predict eclipses. And it does. With startling accuracy. Now see how that works, through the wonder of LEGO.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

Biocultural Landscape

On September 30, 2014 The Christensen Fund launched the “Biocultural Landscape,” an interactive web portal that illustrates the intricate connections that determine the vitality of Indigenous communities and ecosystems across the globe. A biocultural landscape is an intertwined holistic system that has been shaped by human management over a long periods of time.

“We created this user-friendly channel to unpack the deep interplay between people and place, culture and ecology,” said Bea Calo, Director of Grantmaking for The Christensen Fund. “The co-evolution of humans and landscapes doesn’t just shape local environments but influences geopolitical forces and weather events, too.”

The “Biocultural Landscape” portal draws out links across six main sections: bounty, culture, inhabitants, cycles, beauty, and interconnections.

The culture section, for instance, explores how people have worked out the distribution of water and nutrients through an ecosystem, say, from a mountain top down to a valley. The knowledge of this biocultural phenomenon has led to physical interventions like canals and yielded cultural practices like unique water dispersal systems and decorative arts that attempt to capture the local environment.

The Christensen Fund hopes that users of the portal will come away with an understanding of the importance of “resilience” — that is, the ability of a landscape to withstand and recover from shocks and stresses from within and without. The more strong and positive interconnections in a landscape, the better it can withstand such shocks.

“With our new Biocultural Landscape feature, we’re hoping to break down the silos that characterize the fields of international development, health, conservation and philanthropy,” said Calo. “We’re championing a more holistic view of our world that emphasizes the interconnections among people and landscapes first.”

I visited the site and it is beautiful and informative. However don’t take my word for it, visit it at http://www.christensenfund.org/experience/biocultural-landscape/.

The Christensen Fund is a private foundation founded in 1957 and based in San Francisco, California. The Fund believes in the power of biological and cultural diversity to sustain and enrich a world faced with great change and uncertainty, and focuses on the biocultural — the rich but neglected adaptive interweave of people and place, culture and ecology. You can learn more about them at www.christensenfund.org.

Neon Future Sessions

To celebrate the release of his latest album, “Neon Future I”, electronic music artist and producer DJ Steve Aoki teamed up with Wired to launch a new digital series, “Neon Future Sessions”. In the series he’ll be sitting down with a variety of cultural and technological visionaries to discuss how they see our future world evolving.

This first episode is intriguing, but who would expect anything less from a chat with Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and director of engineering at Google. Sadly the episode is only 5 minutes long.

And for those of you who may be curious about what DJ Steve Aoki is like at his day job, I give you “Rage the Night Away” by DJ Steve Aoki and featuring the rapper Waka Flocka Flame from the “Neon Future I” album.