Entries in Category Media

EV100 Logo Banner: A Gift For Estonia's Centennial

Feburary 24, 2018 is the 100th anniversary of Estonian independence! As one of their many good ideas, the organizers of the centennial year celebrations have suggested that anyone might offer a birthday gift to the Estonian Republic, anything from a new symphony to baking a special cake to planting an oak tree. Here's a small gift from me.

In the upper-right corner of this site, I've added an overlay banner displaying the EV100 logo (an absolutely brilliant piece of graphic design work, by the way) and linking to the EV100 website. Fortunately the official color palette is nicely compatible with my own! I'll leave it up here for the rest of this centennial year.

Instagram, Finally

Some of my favorites so far

For the past six weeks or so I've been posting, fairly often by my standards, to the social media and photo-sharing service Instagram. I intend to limit this account to creative work subjects: photos of my engineering projects, materials, and techniques, for my professional clients and for my related personal pursuits. It's likely to feature a lot of pictures of work in progress. Follow me if you'd like to keep up with what I'm up to, and thanks for your indulgence!

Link Dump, February 2017

I think I'll try something new and share some items recently interesting to me in the form of a link dump.

  • Last year I followed with great interest youtube machinist Clickspring as he made a mechanical pendulum-timed clock from scratch in his home shop in Australia. This year he begins an ambitious new project, documenting in a series of videos his process of replicating the ancient mechanical computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. See the first episode above.
  • Neal Stephenson (one of my favorite authors) has announced, with Nicole Galland, a new Speculative Fiction novel featuring time-travel, the Victorian era, and a transition from a world in which magic works to one dominated by technology. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. will be on sale June 13.
  • There's a nice infrared thermometer made by Etekcity for sale at Amazon as of this writing. Even if you don't have any specific need for convenient no-contact temperature measurement, it's a great way to get an intuitive sense of heat transfer and great fun to point at everything you can think of.
  • Speaking of tools for STEM education, there's a project that makes it easy to enable visual programming environment Scratch, popular for teaching grade-school kids to code, to receive input from and pass control signals to things in the real world via Arduino. Scratch 4 Arduino is remarkably mature and easy to get going with.
  • In fact, I'm using it myself to build a system of musical swings (inspired by this traveling exhibit) that will be programmed by a talented student at a local school. Watch this space for more by the end of the month!

Batman's Grinder Use is Unsafe

Consider the following scene from Batman Begins, where Bruce Wayne, preparing for his new life as the Dark Knight, sharpens his bat-shaped throwing blades on an ordinary bench grinder as might be found in workshops and indeed, suburban garages around the world. Unlike much of what makes Bruce Wayne Batman—his bat-vehicles, his supercomputers, his Tibetan ninja training—this is low-tech blue-collar stuff, accessible to the home DIYer and therefore dangerous to the home DIYer, if the movie's depiction of grinder use should be unsafe. And it is.

Bruce Wayne attempts a DIY project

The Transporter is Underused

Although I've certainly consumed and enjoyed a lot of Star Trek in my life, I have to admit it has many shortcomings as science fiction, that is, as fiction that takes for its starting point speculations about the future state of science. Although I don't doubt that the writers of the various forms of Star Trek are both competent professionals and talented artists, they've been burdened by difficult positions taken at the very creation of the original show, and ever since have had to decide how much of this past they can shrug off.

One of the more problematic legacies of the show's origin is the transporter (another, Star Trek's laughable treatment of economics, should probably get a whole treatise rather than just a blog post, but I'll leave that for another time), which is one of those technologies sometimes posited in science fiction stories that, for various reasons, writers fail to fully explore. One of the most common reasons is that some technologies (or, in the case of superheroes, some powers) are altogether too powerful, and the consequences of that power pose a problem for storytelling; if characters have godlike abilities at their command, what room does that leave for drama, for tension and its relief, for a satisfying plot?

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