Geek Month in Review: November 2010

By JB Sanders

All things geeky in November. Or at least, all things geeky that I read about and remembered to jot down.

Holographic Displays — now with more ethernet!
Remember Star Wars? And all those holographic conversations? Well, coming to a computer near you — soon!

Trivia: the word “hogel” refers to a holographic pixel.

Twenty Thousand Terabytes Under the Mountain
Want the ultimate in data security? How about a Swiss nuclear-proof bunker in the Alps? Take a tour of the facility with Wired.

Come for the Qubits, Stay for the Resonators
Lots of research being done on creating a quantum computer, by IBM and various academic laboratories around the world. The article is pretty dry until it gets to the part where they start talking about qubits and resonators, when it becomes a gold mine of (apparently) technobabble terms for a computational device that not many people completely understand. Bonus: picture of a four qubit chip.

Batman, On the Road
Used to be, traveling players put on shows with painted canvases, wooden props and fancy costumes. These days, it’s all pyrotechnics, animatronics, giant TV screens and stunts. Of course, when it’s Batman as the subject matter, you just have to go that extra mile.

Here There Be RPG’ers
I just love me some maps. This is a beauty sent in by a faithful reader (Hi, Matt!). It shows all the RPG-related forums online, in good-old-fashioned hex-map format, where 1 hex equals 1000 members, and then organized into vaguely related islands. My favorite RPG country? The Sunken Ruins of Usenet (an ancient empire).

Just Print Another Head
The article is about how 3D printers may soon run into the same intellectual property rights problems that computers, photocopiers and VCR’s did in earlier decades. Only this time, of course, it might be patent holders rather than copyright holders you have to worry about. And there is no “fair use” in US patent law.

It’s also a great quickie overview of the various 3D printers out there, with movies showing them off. There’s the RepRap, a 3D printer you can build yourself for just a few hundred dollars that can also print most of the parts it needs to build another copy of itself. That’s right — build one and print the rest!

Don’t know what 3D printers are? Go here.

How to Outdo Your Neighbors’ Light Displays
That string of lights? So last century. The glowing plastic Santa? Done. How about if the entire building is lit up and with far more than just 1000 tiny bulbs? Check out this “Light artist” who uses projectors and the facade of the building itself to create some seriously cool displays.

Beauty is NOT in the Eye of the Beholder
No, apparently it’s something your good genes made possible. Really! Also, this TED presentation has some great hand-drawn animation to help the narration along.

How Close Are We to Dick Tracy Watches? Pretty Damned Close.

So, it’s just a funky plastic-and-metal wrist-watch thing that you can put an iPod Nano into and pop onto your wrist, yes. But think about the future. Apple has already got forward-facing cameras on it’s iPod Touch. How long before these things have cameras and wireless? Not too many years now. Of course, Dick Tracey couldn’t play music on his wrist-TV, either.

Barefoot Shoes
I don’t know if these count as Geeky or not, but they are definitely WEIRD. These are plastic, articulated shoes that have little special bits for all your individual toes. They’re molded to your feat. So the theory is that they’re like going barefoot, but with protection for your feet.

Print Your Own Roads
Here’s a video of a machine that lays a cobblestone (cobblestone!) road much like a printer puts down the printed page. Well, mostly. In this case, the “printhead” is provided by 3 guys putting the paving stones in the right places as the machine lays the road, but still — very cool.

Read by the Light of the … Trees?
Scientists have found a way to use gold nano-particles to make tree leaves bioluminescent. Interesting, but what if you turned that into a large-scale civic project to replace street lights with trees that GLOW?

Here is the science.

Here is the mind-bending thought experiment.

Fishing in a Manhattan Basement
It’s a surrealist picture of an actual life event: in a stream bubbling through the basement of a building in Manhattan, this guy caught a fish. It’s a bit like a scene from an unlikely urban fantasy novel.

Tim Burton’s Stainboy
Collaborative story-writing the Twitter way. Tim Burton started a short story with a tweet, and is inviting other people to contribute to it, 140 characters at a time.

Package Care
Which of the big three shippers (UPS, FedEx, USPS) handles packages the nicest? Popular Mechanics decided to do a few little tests and shipped live testing equipment in a package.

The UK Geek Calendar
Sort of a pin-up calendar of UK geekdom. And by pin-up, I mean photographic portraits (all fully clothed, thankfully).

What’s That From??
Ever wonder where a particularly funny quote came from? I do, all the time. Now there’s a website which caters to my particular memory-loss. Suzbin will take a quote and tell you what movie it appeared in, what time-code the quote happened at and give you a link to the Netflix copy of the movie. How’s that for service?

Warm Up the DeLorean!
It’s a fully articulated scale model of the time-traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future. PLUS it’s a 500GB external drive. The amusing thing here is that it’s designed to work with Apple’s Time Machine program (which does back-ups automatically to an external drive).

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: