Geek Month in Review: September 2011

by JB Sanders

Falling into September

3D-Printed Self-Assembling Virus Model
So this professor of Molecular Graphics (now there’s a specialty!) designed and then 3D printed a plastic model that, once you put in the magnets, will go from a jumble of pieces to a full globular model of the virus it’s based on. And there’s video!

I Think There’s a Horror Movie in This
Folks in the Philippines capture a crocodile 21-feet big.

You Have 150 Half-siblings, and Counting
This sounds like something from a scifi novel about clones, but no. It’s modern day. Apparently some fertility clinics have let those couples seeking to have children via in vitro fertilization use “popular” sperm donors a little too frequently. Some donor-fathers have upwards of 150 biological children conceived this way, and thus those kids have 149+ half-siblings.

Self-lacing Nikes? Check!
Nike patented the self-lacing sneakers (ala Back to the Future) and are now set to bring them to market. Really. How many more items do we need to come true for Back to the Future to be Right Damn Now?

Abandoned Technology Across the World
Including a sub base! How cool is that? If it wasn’t in Albania, that might be a fun little fixer-upper opportunity.

It Eats Fridges
Because that’s what it’s designed to do. GE has this giant machine that breaks down any old fridge into it’s component parts, for recycling.

Victorian Kitchen Unearthed
So this couple is doing a renovation of their stately mansion and when clearing out the clutter discover a Victorian-era kitchen blocked off and untouched for 60 years. It’s both geeky and gothic.

Dinosaur Feathers Found in Amber
You know what comes next, right?

How the Romans Invented Atomic Theory
Not kidding, not a conspiracy theory. There’s a guy named Lucretius who came up with the idea that everything was made of really tiny particles about 200 years before the birth of Christ. Ironically enough, considering my dating scheme, he also said that the universe was created without the need of gods, spirits, angels or cosmic intelligence. The NPR story is about not only the mind-blowing nature of that theory but how his book survived 2000+ years.

How Wrong Can You Be? Pretty Damned Wrong.
Experts frequently predict things that simply don’t come true. Telephones, light bulbs, iPads — oh wait, no.

Spectrographic Analysis of a Box of Crayons
Ever wonder how blue that blue crayon in the box is? Wonder no more! With handy poster of the resulting color graphs.

One Car, Printed to Order
Not scifi anymore, this company is actually poised to produce these things en masse. Even if it looks like something a production designer for a scifi film cooked up overnight for his “future car”.

See Your Dreams on YouTube
Because that’s not a scary thought — not at all. Scientists at UC Berkley have had some success in “decoding and reconstructing people‚Äôs dynamic visual experiences”. They’re using fMRi technology and some serious computers. Wild stuff.

Electric Light Cycle
Yeah, you heard that right — those crazy motorcycle guys who created a gasoline-powered light-cycle (yours, for a mere $50k) now have an electric version, which just seems cooler overall.

Microbial Messengers
How awesome is a code made up if microbes that fluoresce different colors? Pretty damned awesome.

Trying to Find a Great Book?
Look no further than NPR’s Giant Flowchart of Scifi (and Fantasy). It’s amusing and snarky!

Flying Car? No. Flying Carpet? Yes!
So this PhD student read a paper which changed his research direction from printed circuits using nano-ink to undulating waveforms based on biomimicing manta rays. It’s a weird world, isn’t it? He’s had some success in small-scale trials in making a “flying carpet” — by using magnetics to stimulate air currents and creating the same kind of ground-effect cushion of air that a hover craft has. Neato, huh?

My City Has an Operating System
Let the jokes commence. This company is developing an OS just for running cities (traffic lights, waste systems, energy supply, etc) called UrbanOS.

The Tinyest RPG Ever
So small, it fits on the back of a business card. See it and believe it.

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: