Geek Month in Review: May 2014

By J.B. Sanders

May flowers!

Nothing else to add: robot snakes. With video and explanations. Creep factor 5!

How to Flood-proof Manhattan
Anyone else remember when this kind of thing seemed like science fiction? Yeah, me too. This time, especially after Hurricane Sandy, people are seriously talking about it.

Shipping Container Houses
Normally, when you hear that phrase, you picture stuff that is one step up from “shack” and many steps away from cool homes. Not so with the ones in this article. They look like something you see in Architectural Digest.

Concrete-Eating Robot
I know, it sounds like a bad scifi movie, or the name of a pulp novel from the ‘60s. Nope! It’s a robot, still in the design phase, which will disassemble a concrete building, breaking up the concrete into cement, sand and aggregate. All this is done right on the construction site, and it leaves the rebar naked and ready for re-use (or recycling). Pretty nifty!

Shell Grotto — Made by Who?
There’s a grotto in Kent, England, that is decorated with millions of seashells, 4.6 million to be precise. It was discovered in 1835 by some explorers, and when I say “discovered”, I mean it. No one knows who created the grotto, why the decorated it that way, or really much of anything else. It’s pretty snazzy, though.

Billion-User MMO Using VR? Yes, please!
So VR reviving tech company Oculus was recently purchased by Facebook. What are they going to do with all that money and computing power? Build an MMO that a billion simultaneous users can play, and since it’s Oculus, it’s going to be in VR. Sound like a scifi book you’ve read?

Self-Healing Plastic
Yup, it’s another step towards androids dreaming of electric sheep. Scientists have developed a polymer that has cappilaries, much like our own tissue, so that healing plastic will flow into and fill cracks.

Robot Hand and Arm Prosthetic Approved for Use
Cyber-enthusiasts rejoice! The FDA has approved the prosthetic for general use, after it was developed by DARPA. It’s capable of doing very fine manipulation, such as picking up an egg or zipping up a jacket.

Solar Roads
Sounds like a scifi novel, does’t it? This little company has devised hexagonal tiles that could be used instead of pavement, and the suckers are solar panels, generating power. They also have heating elements, so they can keep roads clear of snow and ice. And they have lights, so they can be used to create lines of light on the road, instead of paint. Going “holy crap!” yet? How about the designers estimate that if all 31,000 square miles of currently paved road was instead paved with their tiles, it would produce three times the electricity the entire country uses.

Better, much better video:

Largest Dinosaur Ever
Imagine something as big as 14 elephants. Or larger than several buses. HUGE.

Hover Bikes!
For real, even. There’s a company taking pre-orders for them. Not quite the flying cars of the 1950’s future, but close. So close!

The Sand Chart
In case you need a reference showing the approximate size of all the different kinds of grains of sand, here you are.

Oldest Living Things on Earth
It’s a photo book, travelogue, and text book, all in one. Photographer Rachel Sussman explores organisms, such as trees, lichen, fungi, and others, that surpass 2,000 years old. In fact, one of the organisms, a tree-root structure in Idaho, is over 80,000 years old.

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: