Geek Month in Review: March 2014

By JB Sanders

Is it spring yet?

Abstract Art or Model City?
Very cool, very large model of a city — any city. See the 1,100 cars whiz by, the trains, and watch it all in the reflective mirror windows of the skyscrapers.

More details

Floating Cities That Eat Icebergs
Seriously. A couple of French architecture students have plans to create a floating city, population around 800, that lives by eating icebergs that break off from the Arctic.

Secret Structures
See 7 different things built in secret that will just blow your mind, or so this Cracked article claims. Yes, another Cracked article. Coolest thing? Some guy, and his friends, built a massive series of underground temples based on the guy’s dream. When he was ten. And it looks … amazing.

Free Speech
Not as in rights, as in a visual map-based method of communication that doesn’t involve language (or not exactly). It uses pictures instead of words, and then graphical relationships to convey things like time and pronouns. Simpler than it sounds, and far more complicated. It was developed originally as a way for children with autism to communicate — an iPad app takes their strung together images, and converts them into computer speech. Boom, communication. The creator of Free Speech also reckons that it could be used to allow people to learn languages better and faster than traditional methods. Check out his TED talk.

Check out their software here

That’s Not a Watch, It’s an Astronomical Clock
So this Parisian watchmaker has created a watch that shows the orbital positions of the 6 closest planets on its face, as well as telling time. Each of the planets is done in a different precious or semi-precious gem, and you can even set a “lucky day” so that when Earth reaches that point in it’s orbit, you’ll know it’s your lucky day. And all for the low-low price of $245,000. It does look swell.

Steampunk, LEGO(tm), Walking Ship
I think that hits three or four Geek Points. Watch the video to see a very cool use of LEGOs and the remote control.

Food in Tolkien’s Books — With Recipes!
An in-depth article, discussing where Tolkien got his inspirations from (in terms of food), and with splendid links to recipes you can make yourself. It’s literary criticism, history, and food.

First Cybathlon in 2016
A bunch of Swiss robotics firms are set to hold the First Cybathlon in 2016, an event like the Olympics, but for athletes who use advanced prosthetics or other assistive devices. Cyber-doping is encouraged!
Among the events are competitors piloting a virtual plane, using only a brain-device interface (no hands or other operative limbs!); the functional electrical stimulation bicycling race, where athletes with spinal cord injuries use an interface to pedal the bike; a prosthetics leg race; a powered exoskeleton race; a powered wheelchair race; and an arm prosthetic race.
There are no rules limiting the use of technology. If you can build a better prosthetic limb, exoskeleton, or wheelchair — do!

How Big?
Want to see a quick discussion of how big the universe is? It’s like an animated bit of Cosmos. Then they start talking about the multiverse, parallels worlds with different laws of physics, and it all just combines to make your head explode. But in a fun way.

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: