Geek Month in Review: January 2011

By JB Sanders

Some new odd links in this new odd year.

Make it Yourself
By “make it”, I mean print it and by “it”, I mean pretty much anything. Heard about those neat 3D printers that cost the moon to buy? Forget about them! This website has instructions for building a 3D printer yourself for about $2500 (less if you source the parts yourself). The website is the front porch of an organization trying to create personal fabrication technology for the masses.

Mmm, Airships
Here’s another link to another airship, this time in a MUCH larger prototype and looking to be in full-size vehicles by the summer. It’s not science fiction anymore! (And yes, it uses helium.)

Printed Dinner
Ok, yes, two 3D printer stories practically in a row. Too bad, this is different and cool. Researchers at Cornell University are building a food printer. Which they hope will one day be as ubiquitous as the microwave oven.

You Already Know What This Link is About
A hugely respected scientist has been conducting experiments on ESP. Nothing new, right? Well, it appears that he has (proof pending) repeatable experimental proof of people being effected by events that they haven’t experienced … yet. Spooooky!

Doctor Who: Master of Weird Connections
David Tennant (quite likely one of the best Doctor Who actors ever) is marrying the woman who played the Doctor’s clone-daughter in the series. Not weird enough for you? She’s the real-life daughter of Peter Davidson, who you may recall played Incarnation #5 of the good Doc. Life — stranger than fiction.

Once Forgotten Caves Laser-mapped
A series of caves, now thought to be a sand-mine, were recently laser-mapped, providing smoke-like maps of their winding, twisty corridors. It’s thought the “caves” were a working sand mine in the 1700’s and were re-discovered in 1892. Some basements in Nottingham actually open onto the caves. Be sure to watch the movies — there’s a virtual fly-through.

Tiny Dioramas of Weirdness
So, this artist builds dioramas of movie scenes and photographs them. That’s it. And it’s … surreal.

Odd Word of the Month: Cryptoforests
Not sure what they are? I’m not entirely sure either, but I guess they’re isolated bits of forest in an urban landscape.

Doctor Who Nesting Dolls
No, really! And no, you can’t have too many Doctor Who posts and/or links.

It’s Only Sort-of Genetic
Neurologists and geneticists have been studying genius. They’re reaching the conclusion that genetics predetermines only so much, and that each of us has a potential genius talent.

Plus there’s a sidebar about how brains change depending on activity.

Make It Better
Fun little typographic animation perfectly showcasing the geek’s need to fidget with things until they’re “perfect”. Plus it’s cool.

Voxels Make It More Fun
There’s a new shoot-em-up video game coming to the Mac/PC world, and it looks like a game that escaped from 1984 and then was hit with the 3D wand. But cooler than I just made that sound.

Watch the demo video:

See Something Cool on the Internet, Cite It
Is this self-referential enough? I think so! (Plus it’s a cool info-graphic.)

The Finest Men’s Fashions — from 1892
It’s a real online store that sells real Victorian-style clothing. If you’re into SteamPunk, it’s a must-have bookmark. If you’re amused by cravats, ditto.

Avoiding data charges in 1906
Text messages are hardly new to communications — just ask anyone who remembers 1906. Back then, it was called the telegram, and this farming equipment company came up with a great way for their customers to avoid additional charges for ordering: codes.

The Zen of Entanglement*
Nice little web game that feels like a cross between zen meditation and celtic knot-making. Simple and fun. Also, totally engrossing, so be sure to have a spare hour when you click the link.

You Think of It, They Print It
These folks take custom orders for 3-dimensional objects, print them and then ship them to you. Rings, electronics cases, miniatures, chess pieces, what-have-you.

Seriously, I should be getting a commission or something with all these commercial links.

You Can’t Walk Straight
No foolin’, you can’t. Well, not without some kind of reference point, anyway. Here’s the fun part: no one knows why. It’s weird!

Nice little animated tale of the situation.

Moral of the story? Find a fixed point to walk towards when you’re setting out, otherwise, it’ll go bad for you.

Secret Ice Fortress
The army had a secret base under the Greenland ice sheet. No, this isn’t the paranoid ravings of a conspiracy nut. Not in this article, anyway. There really was a base out there. It was called Camp Century. Unfortunately, and as any modern glacier scientist can tell you, ice doesn’t just sit there: it MOVES. And that’s a problem for permanent structures in the midst of the ice. The project only lasted 10 years. But the photos are cool. Did I mention it was nuclear-powered?

Take a look at this overview article.

And more details can be found here.

How Badass is This Engineer?
So badass, he designed his own heart-valve replacement, and is using it now! Does he need any other entries on his resume?

The History of the Graphic Adventure Game
Great article going over the whole panoply of graphic-based (as opposed to text-based) adventure games. From King’s Quest to Leisure Suit Larry, and beyond. Worth a read for the nostalgia (if you’re old enough) or for a peak at a genre that almost doesn’t exist anymore.

Every Toddler’s Dream: Exterminate!
Yes, your child can ride inside this Dalek replica and fake exterminate their family, friends and random passer-by. Be the first on your block to enable your budding despot to get a death-machine’s-eye-view of the carnage. Watch the video for the full horrifying experience.

Drilling Lake Vostok
Yeah, this isn’t the plot of a movie or anything. Russian scientists are within 50m of drilling into Lake Vostok — a body of water 4000m under the ice of Antarctica. It’s theorized that the “lake” (body of water) has been isolated from the rest of Earth’s biosphere for 15 million years.

* Links marked with this * symbol are courtesy of Alex. Thanks, Alex!

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://glenandtyler.blogspot.com