Geek Month in Review: February 2013

By JB Sanders

Winter, winter

3D-printed Moon Base
For real! The machines would be shipped by rocket to the moon, and would then use the material of the moon itself to construct buildings.

Future Secret Lair for Sale
The RAF (Royal Air Force) is selling their Neatishead radar base. It’s a nice little 25-acre plot with high-security fence, rail access, underground bunker and tennis court.

Watery Purple Spheres — Origin Unknown
Is it a fungus? Slime mold? Alien monster eggs? No one knows!

Fish Brain on X-Ray
Well, not exactly x-ray, but something to see the fish brain in action while the fish observes prey. Plus how often are you going to see a fish brain in action? You know, unless you actually go fishing.

3D-printed Robohand
Guys in separate parts of the globe design a prosthetic hand for a 5-year-old boy born without fingers on one hand. The crazy part? They do it while in opposite sides of the globe, over the internet, and the robotic hand is then printed on a 3D printer. More than that, they share the design and blueprints for the hand online for free, for anyone to use. So, first instance of cyberware shared over the net and printed out. We’re living the scifi!

Richard the Third’s Skeleton Found — and Verified
A skeleton with deformities and wounds similar to Richard III’s found under a parking lot. In order to really pin that down, they took DNA from the skeleton, and compared it to a direct descendent of Richard’s via Anne of York. It’s a match!

Futurama vs the Transhumanists
I’m not sure I can explain the difference as well as this video can, plus it’s another PBS Idea Channel thing. After having listened to it, I’m also not sure whose future I want more. Maybe neither?

The Universe is a Big Old Bubble Bath
And other mind-blowing analogies from physicist Michio Kaku. Also find out how a universe can be created for free.

Oldest Undeciphered Written Text Close to Being Figured Out
It’s clay tablets and proto-Elamite, a middle-eastern language from the Bronze Age. They’ve cooked up their own crazy setup to take pictures of the tablets with light from multiple angles, so that even shallow marks on the tablets can be seen clearly. And it doesn’t help that apparently the scribe made several mistakes in the text.

How One Historian Uncovered the Story of the First Computer
What computer, you ask? Colossus. The one used at Bletchley Park to decode the Enigma machine.

Virtual Slide Rule
Is it using a new technology to emulate an old and now obsolete one? Yes. But it’s still cool.
(Tip of the hat to Alex for this one.)

Life Found in Antarctica
And no, it’s not penguins. Scientists have discovered organisms in a sub-glacial lake that has been isolated from the rest of Earth’s biosphere for millions of years. A lake trapped under ice since before the continents looked the way they do. And as Fark put it: these folks have obviously never seen a John Carpenter movie.

More Bionics Advances: Rat 6th Sense Through Brain Implant
These wacky scientists in North Carolina fitted rats with infrared sensing devices, and then ran tests. Turns out the rats used it like it was a special vision.

Packaging-Free Goods
So this designer, as a final college project, decides to see what happens when packaged goods have no packaging. See the fascinating results. Be sure to click on each picture to see the resulting prototypes.

How Just a Few Boston Drivers are Messing It Up for Everyone (in Boston)
Ok, realistically, Boston drivers mess it up for everyone on the road near them. But in this case, scientists used anonymous cell phone tracking information to analyze the traffic patterns around the greater Boston area. What they found is kind of interesting. The drivers from just a few areas cause most of the traffic jams, because of their use of a small number of over-capacity feeder roads.

The Next Generation of Batteries Won’t Be Batteries
They’ll be super-capacitors. Just watch the movie.

3D Pen
It’s a pen-like device that let’s you create 3D doodles. Yup — you write on the air. It’s a kickstarted project at the moment. Check out their intro video.

Derelict Cruise Ship: The Stories Just Write Themselves
So an ice-hardened cruise ship, largely used in Arctic and Antarctic adventure packages, is seized for debts in Newfoundland. It remains docked for two years until finally a company purchases it, and has it towed to the Dominican Republic. Only part way there it breaks the tow line in heavy seas. Fast forward a month later, and another ship sights the derelict. They get it under control, tow it to international waters and set it loose again. It’s now floating on the currents of the Atlantic. Destination: no one knows.

Wikipedia entry

The Newest Hari Seldon?
So this historian takes a very wide view of history, the last 15,000 years or so and from the trends he’s seen, has some interesting (and sometimes heart-stopping) predictions for the future of Earth.

And if you aren’t familiar with who Hari Seldon is:

3D Printed Car
How could I not link this? It’s “strong as steel, half the weight and nearing production”. Also, it looks totally scifi. The designers plan on driving the prototype (once it’s finished) from San Francisco to New York on 10 gallons of fuel, preferably pure ethanol (the car is a hybrid diesel and electric). Good grief!

Titanic Being Rebuilt
Some billionaire got it in his head to rebuild the Titanic, so he is. It’ll be the “Titanic II” and although it’ll be a faithful remake, it will have a few modern touches (like air conditioning).

Transparent 3D Computer
Which is interesting, particularly the induced 3D view through a transparent screen. However, keep reading the article for what other things the inventor is working on. Sounds like this guy will be running a Fortune 100 company in ten years, or inventing the next generation of computer. Oh, wait.

4D Printed Objects
Not a typo. Apparently some scientists at MIT are developing self-assembling objects — ones that change after being 3D-printed. Just add water!

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: