Geek Month in Review: April 2012

By JB Sanders

On to summer!

Pipe Organ Puzzle Safe Desk
The creator claims: “It is quite likely this is the coolest desk in the world!” Yeah, it really is that awesome. It isn’t steam powered, but it’s everything else you love about SteamPunk and puzzles. It’s an all-wood desk that uses wood pipes to play music. You push in the drawers to get air moving through the pipes, and if you play the correct tune, it opens a super-secret compartment. The desk has a “logic board” that lets you set the tune by turning a large number of all-wood screws. Plus the drawers have tiny puzzles of their own to open other secret compartments and other drawers.

The Fourth Dimension
It’s not often I pimp out iPad/iPhone apps, but this one is so cool I need to mention it. The app fully explains the fourth spatial dimension and how we can see it in our lousy three dimensions. With plenty of snark. But really, you’re buying it so you can play with a fully interactive tesseract.

So Here’s Your Damn Flying Car

A Dutch company has created a commercial prototype for a hybrid car and helicopter and airplane. The rotors unfold.

MorpHex Robot
Or as I found the link headline “The latest edition to SkyNet’s arsenal”. It’s a spherical morphing robot with hexagonal plates.

Floppy Autoloader
It reads the disk, makes a copy of it, takes a picture of the disk and ejects it. It can do 250 disks in 12 hours. Certainly beats the pants off doing it by hand.

Self-Healing Plastic
A real scientific reality. Not YET a product, but closer than “5 years”. Watch the linked video for the scientific explanation for how it works.

Vanishing Ground
There’s a town in Russia, east of Moscow a ways, that has a sinkhole problem. How bad? They have 24-hour video, seismic and satellite surveillance of the entire town — just to watch for forming sinkholes. The town is built over a now-abandoned mine.

The biggest sinkhole? They call it the Grandfather: “The Grandfather is now 340 yards wide and 430 yards long, and it plunges right to the salt strata underneath the city — 780 feet, or the equivalent of 50 stories, straight down.”

And here’s a web page with actual pictures:

Taking the Time Out of Space
Theoretical physicists have long debated whether time really is the 4th dimension. Now read about how physicists are saying time is NOT part of it at all.

Sonic Screwdriver Invented
Well, technically what the Scottish scientists at Dundee University have done is prove that they CAN make a sonic screwdriver. You know, eventually.

Stay Active
Even moderate activity can help stave off Alzheimer’s. Money shot: granny rock band.

The Lamp that Powers Itself
It’s a 3D-printed LED lamp that spins in the wind, powering itself.

3D-Printed Buildings — On the Moon!
Speaking of 3D printed stuff, here’s a plan to create robots that build 3D-printed-type buildings on the moon. With pictures!

Doing IT Support on Antarctica
As the article so coyly puts it “the coolest IT job in the world”. Yes, very cool: -10 F most days, during the Antarctic summer. Read about the hardships, getting tech support in Antarctica and their unique cooling problems.

Descriptive Camera
Take a picture, and the camera generates a description rather than a photo.

Titanic II
No, NOT a movie sequel. Some billionaire is building a replica of the original Titanic, only with “modern technology”. Seriously. Because nothing will happen on it’s maiden voyage.

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