Tag Archive: science


View from a Curiosity camera on the Mars Science Laboratory rover.  History!

The most envy-inducing holiday photo ever – Curiosity on Mars.

Oh happy day!  On the 6th of August, 2012, the Curiosity rover made successful touchdown on the surface of Mars.  I stayed up last night to watch the control room feed, streamed live into my living room via the power of the internet, and I was SO HAPPY for those excited men and women the moment they called out ‘touchdown’.  I was almost in tears, just as they were.

More thoughts on this, and what it would have looked like if Curiosity had thrown a few Instagram-like effects on her snap, after the jump.

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Project Tacit: Sonar For The Blind from Grathio Labs on Vimeo.

Bat vision – yes!  A very clever gentleman called Steve Hoefer has posted a bloody incredible tutorial on how to make your own wrist mounted sonar sensor, which you can wave around the place and near-instantaneously recieve feedback on how close objects are to you.  Super-awesome (and the red-neoprene makes it sleek and sci-fi looking) and so well written up, I’m tempted to try making one.  The only thing that puts me off is that it’s classed as an intermediate project, and I’ve barely dabbled with Arduino electronics projects in the past.

But it would be so cool to have bat senses on my wrist.  To point my arm out, and have little rubber-tipped motors gently press on my skin to say “To close!  Beware!”

Pere Tubert Juhé's flask photograph from Flickr

Pere Tubert Juhé's photograph of flasks - no Erlenmeyer flasks were harmed in the making of this drink.

In the past, I’ve often been a bit critical of the ‘juice content’ of various drinks on the market – I got annoyed when my favorite lemonade brand decided to go ‘sugar lite!’ and remove a hefty amount of the lemon juice in the process – because some people are unwilling to limit their consumption (and leaving me with a watery disappointment).  It sounds good, too, to be able to claim that such and such a drink has more ‘real fruit juice’ than the other brand – even if it turns out to be padded out with grape and apple juice.

So, it would seem peculiar that my latest amusement is making lemonade without the lemons.  Not a milliliter, nor fraction of a fluid ounce of real fruit goes into this – I should hate it for the abomination that it is.  Instead, however, I’m enjoying drinking a ‘Science Drink’ that consists of only three ingredients – and one of them is water.

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Fremen from Arrakis, and the movie Dune, in their stillsuits

Fremen from Arrakis, shown in the movie Dune, wearing their stillsuits

Recently my mind has turned to the problem of excessive humidity – not because I’m suffering from it currently, but because I was curious as to how an algae-based CO2 scrubber could be used without having to live in a near 100% humidity environment!  This was, apparently, one of the issues with the algae biocoil in the Biosub project.  In the end, I blew through a tube and got dizzy – here’s why.

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A selection of 5 printed hair clips - forest green, royal blue, sunflower yellow, black, and striped red and blue

A Selection of 3d Printed Hair Clips - Green, Black, Blue, Yellow and Striped

In 2007 I read a novella by Bruce Sterling called Kiosk.  The main character, Borislav, is a humble, limping man from a cold, Eastern European country who owns a street kiosk selling 3d printed tchotchkes.  A young girl called Jovanica is a regular customer – returning day after day with her pocket-money to buy 3d printed barrettes, hair clips and scrunchies – she’s the trend setter of the area.  She picks out the coolest hair toys and leads the next hair toy craze – with Borislav’s kiosk being the only supplier.

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This is fantastic – but I cry out for more information on it!  This machine (by Markus Kayser) uses Fresnel lenses and solar powered motors to focus the light and heat of the Saharan sun on to the moving bed of sand – melting it as it travels and forming a crude glass.  The bed is lowered, another layer is sprinkled and leveled, and the sintering, 3d printing, sun-worshiping, dance goes on.  But I have questions!

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OpenSCAD parametric, 3d printable key (on a RepRap)

Nirav Patel's successful RepRap printed house key test!

Imagine that one day, you get locked out of our home, but instead of calling the locksmith, or furtively smashing your own window, you call up a friend and ask them to print you a new one.  Better still, you ask to borrow your neighbors printer, just for a 10 minute print.

Over at his blog, Nirav Patel has done some tests with his RepRap printer, and created a pair of OpenSCAD files that can parametrically be set to print any possible key combination of the two most popular US door key types (Kwikset KW1 and Schlage SC1).  Cleverly, he didn”t try this in his door lock first try – having no desire to try to pick plastic out of his front door if the thing snapped off – but tried some second hand tumblers instead.  He was successful!

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School of Athens, by Rafael/Raphael

The School of Athens painting, by Raphael

I’ll get straight to the point – the following article about a philosopher successfully teaching 8-9 year old children how to count in binary using the Socratic Method, over the course of a single Friday afternoon (think back to your own Friday afternoon level of concentration in school) seems nothing short of magic.

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Mauro Colagreco, Bob Noto photography

Not pureed asteroid parasite - sea urchin with saffron, coriander and parsley foam.

Sometimes I hanker for sci-fi food – which, I admit, doesn’t make any kind of sense.  I want something so strange, peculiar and out there, that it just couldn’t come from our planet or time!  However, searching for sci-fi food will get you half a million results for gagh, scores of cocktail recipes for pan galactic gargle blasters, and a handful of very well thought out methods for making problematic ice planet desserts.  All well and good – but not alien enough for me – I don’t want the food of an existing franchise, but something odd in and of itself.

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Certain caterpillars and lizards have an amazing escape strategy – when startled, they’ll suddenly snap into action, curling into a wheel shape and rolling at proportionally breakneak speeds away from danger.  1G of acceleration, and over 200RPM.  Zoom!  This unusual movement method (specifically the non-gravity-assisted version) is the one that the above video (of the GoQBot) is designed to imitate.

So once again, science imitates nature, and discovers more amazing secrets – and yet some aspects are still a mystery.  How does a mere caterpillar generate as much force as a leaping locust with its soft, flabby body?  Yet to be discovered.  But GoQBot, by Huai-Ti Lin, Gary G Leisk and Barry Trimmer, is already incredibly impressive.