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  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 08:00
    The IRS explains their use of computers, circa 1961



    Imagine the uproar when the IRS went to computers back in the 1960s. In their short film Right on the Button, the IRS tries to convince the public to get with the times. via Network World:

    From today’s National Archives blog on the topic: “When the IRS began using computers in 1961, many people were horrified. An article in Harper’s Magazine titled, “The Martinsburg Monster: A True Horror Story for Taxpayers,” described how computers limited the possibilities for refunds. A tax expert then envisioned a scenario in which erroneous notices forced people to overpay, or $100 million dollars in unwarranted refund checks were issued.

    The shift towards computer technology also made Internal Revenue Commissioner, Mortimer Caplin, a well-known and controversial figure. One reporter accused Caplin of “bringing Big Brother into everyone’s life in the form of the Martinsburg Monster.” In February 1963, Caplin was the cover story of Time magazine, in which he supported the changes made under his administration. Controversy surrounding the IRS computers was not limited to water cooler conversations, it was reflected in the mass media.”

    The National Archives says of the film: “Right on the Button attempts to combat these technology driven fears. The film highlights the benefits of a computerized system: Computers could speed up processing times, discover errors taxpayers make against themselves, and verify that all citizens pay a fair amount. Additionally, the film emphasizes the IRS employees who maintain and check the ADP system. This was likely an attempt to quell fears that computers would replace human jobs. Viewers today are more likely captivated by the refrigerator-size computers and 1960s hairdos.”

    Read more.

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 07:00
    Flexible Arduino Sure to Be A Hit

     

    Scrolling LED on soda can

    Wearable, lightweight hacks have long been dominated by the Lilypad. This will probably change with the introduction of the Printoo. Using printable circuit technology, the Printoo takes a modular approach to enable hackers, makers, and engineers alike to construct flexible circuits that can be put on almost anything, including paper!

    Powered by the all too familiar ATmega328, the Printoo core module is fully compatible with the Ardunio IDE. The modular design enables functionality with several other printed devices including displays, batteries, sensors and even LED strips to make many different projects possible. One of the most interesting modules is the 1.5 volt, 500 micron thick electrochromic display.

    Be sure to check out their Kickstarter, which has a nice video that demonstrates the project. If funded, they will be available in October in case you want to get your hands on one. Or feel free to make your own. Just be sure to let us know if you do!

    Filed under: Arduino Hacks, wearable hacks

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 07:00
    Genetically Engineered Trees Make Paper and Biofuel More Easily


    poplar-770

    Researchers at UBC have created a tree with a modified polymer that allows for easier paper making and biofuel production. This achievement means reduced chemical use, fewer environmental impacts, and less energy needed when these trees are used for the purposes of paper and biofuel production. From UBC News:

    “One of the largest impediments for the pulp and paper industry as well as the emerging biofuel industry is a polymer found in wood known as lignin,” says Shawn Mansfield, a professor of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia.

    Lignin makes up a substantial portion of the cell wall of most plants and is a processing impediment for pulp, paper and biofuel. Currently the lignin must be removed, a process that requires significant chemicals and energy and causes undesirable waste.

    Researchers used genetic engineering to modify the lignin to make it easier to break down without adversely affecting the tree’s strength.

    “We’re designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible,” says Mansfield.

    Read more.

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 06:00
    UC San Diego Team Creates Genetic Circuit Styled After FM Radio


    Untitled

    Inspired by the workings of FM radio, a team at UC San Diego have created circuits capable of utilizing the complex variability of living cells as frequencies to be used in living programs. From Science Daily:

    Programming living cells offers the prospect of harnessing sophisticated biological machinery for transformative applications in energy, agriculture, water remediation and medicine. Inspired by engineering, researchers in the emerging field of synthetic biology have designed a tool box of small genetic components that act as intracellular switches, logic gates, counters and oscillators.

    But scientists have found it difficult to wire the components together to form larger circuits that can function as “genetic programs.” One of the biggest obstacles? Dealing with a small number of available wires.

    A team of biologists and engineers at UC San Diego has taken a large step toward overcoming this obstacle. Their advance, detailed in a paper which appears in this week’s advance online publication of the journal Nature, describes their development of a rapid and tunable post-translational coupling for genetic circuits. This advance builds on their development of “biopixel” sensor arrays reported in Nature by the same group of scientists two years ago.

    The problem the researchers solved arises from the noisy cellular environment that tends to lead to highly variable circuit performance. The components of a cell are intermixed, crowded and constantly bumping into each other. This makes it difficult to reuse parts in different parts of a program, limiting the total number of available parts and wires. These difficulties hindered the creation of genetic programs that can read the cellular environment and react with the execution of a sequence of instructions.

    The team’s breakthrough involves a form of “frequency multiplexing” inspired by FM radio.

    “This circuit lets us encode multiple independent environmental inputs into a single time series,” said Arthur Prindle, a bioengineering graduate student at UC San Diego and the first author of the study. “Multiple pieces of information are transferred using the same part. It works by using distinct frequencies to transmit different signals on a common channel.”

    Read more.

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 06:00
    The Invention of the Aerobie & the AeroPress #makerbusiness


    Screenshot2014-03-03At9.42.21Amcopy
    The Invention of the AeroPress.

    Among coffee aficionados, the AeroPress is a revelation. A small, $30 plastic device that resembles a plunger makes what many consider to be the best cup of coffee in the world. Proponents of the device claim that drinks made with the AeroPress are more delicious than those made with thousand-dollar machines. Perhaps best of all, the AeroPress seems to magically clean itself during the extraction process.

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 04:01
    Prototyping Brief Case Would Be Fun To Take Through Customs

    _DSC0212 %28Medium%29

    [Baldor] prototypes electronic circuits all the time, but unfortunately he doesn’t really have a dedicated work space to do this! Annoyed at having to get all his tools ready and then put them away again after every project, he’s come up with his very own electronics prototyping briefcase.

    He started with a very old hand-made wooden tool briefcase and added some fun stuff. His case features four breadboards, all with individual positives, and each pair with common grounds. Banana clips allow for various setups with different wiring. He has 5 integrated volt meters, along with 5 buck-boost DC-DC voltage regulators, each set for 3V, 5V, 9V, 12V, and 18V. It’s an ingenuous setup and would make prototyping a breeze compared to most work benches!

    In addition to the basic prototyping tools, he’s also got a development board and a place for his Pickit2. Underneath the main prototyping area he stores the power supply, and a veritable army of jumpers. We’re impressed.

    Now all he needs is a portable electronics lab in a box once his prototypes are proven!

    [Thanks Xavier!]

    Filed under: tool hacks

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 02:32
    New Class: “Intro to Mechanisms” (May 10)

     

    te_card_reader-300x300Got a shiny new 3D printer, but not quite sure what to do with it? Interested in learning to make your projects move? Sign up for “Intro to Mechanisms” on May 10th and get a gentle introduction to making stuff spin, wobble and reciprocate using things like gears and cams. We’ll also explore more advanced control mechanisms like Geneva Drives and Jacquard-style Punch Card readers, so you can live out your steampunk fantasies and setup your own desktop Dickensian sweatshop!  Taught by Chris Fenton (chris on thingiverse).

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 01:00
    A Light Painting Infrared Ray Gun

    gun

    [Noe] over at Adafruit has a really great build that combines the Internet’s love of blinkey LEDs and rayguns with the awesome technology behind extraordinarily expensive thermal imaging cameras. It’s a light painting infrared heat gun, used for taking long exposure photographs and ‘painting’ a scene red or blue, depending on the temperature of an object.

    While this isn’t a proper FLIR camera, with a DSLR and a wide open shutter, it is possible to take pseudo-thermal images by simply ‘painting’ a scene with the light gun. This is an absurdly clever technique we’ve seen before and has the potential to be a useful tool if you’re looking for leaks around your windows, or just want to have a useful cosplay prop.

    The circuit inside this raygun is based on a contactless infrared sensor connected to an Adafruit Gemma, with the LEDs provided by a NeoPixel ring. There are two 3D printable cases – your traditional raygun/blaster, and a more pragmatic wand enclosure. With either enclosure, it’s possible to take some pretty heat map pictures, as seen in the video below.

    Filed under: digital cameras hacks, led hacks

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 22:59
    Washington Man Builds Bellagio-Style Dancing Fountain in Front Yard

    BackyardBellagioFountainSpectacular display from kiddie pools, open source software, low-cost parts.

    Read more on MAKE


  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 22:00
    Genetic Engineering Produces Desk/Computer Hybrid

    Desk Holds Computer Internally

    Computers and Desks go together like peanut butter and jelly. After many years of modding computer cases with windows, lights and the like, [Cameron] decided it was time to try something new and combine his next custom case with a desk.

    The main desk is from Ikea. The computer case portion is made from wood. No one wants to lose leg room, this case was made to be shallow and wide so it would be out of the way when bolted underneath the desk’s work surface. If any serious maintenance has to be done the case can be easily unbolted and lowered for easy access. Speaker grill cloth is used on the front of the case for 2 reasons; hide the case and keep out the dust.

    Computer Desk CAD Design

    This project wasn’t just slapped together, many hours went into the concept and design. There are 3 specially designed compartments to keep components separate and optimize the airflow. [Cameron] measured the pre- and post-build processor temperatures and found that the design of the new case resulted in a 15°C reduction from his previous tower case. Not too shabby!

    If you like custom computer desks, check out the Heavy Metal, the 3 Monitor Corner or this Sit/Stand Conversion desk.

    Filed under: computer hacks

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 19:00
    Sci-Fi Contest Roundup: The Voight-Kampff Machine

    Voight-Kampff

    You’re watching a stage play – a banquet is in progress. The guests are enjoying an appetizer of raw oysters. The entrée consists of boiled dog stuffed with rice. The raw oysters are less acceptable to you than a dish of boiled dog.

    The Voight-Kampff Machine, or VK, from Blade Runner is an extremely advanced form of lie detector that functions on blush response, pupil dilation, respiration, heart rate, and other physiological factors in response to emotionally charged questions to determine if the interrogation subject does or does not dream of electric sheep. It’s also an awesome prop, making it a great subject for our Sci-Fi contest.

    You’ve got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar. What do you do?

    [Aven] is building a Voight-Kampff Machine built around a Raspberry Pi with a few small LCDs to display simulated vital signs. There will, of course, be a small webcam showing the subjects face or eye, and a few LEDs that will flash with the same pattern the original had.

    You’re reading a magazine. You come across a full-page nude photo of a girl.

    [Aven] still has a little bit of work to complete the VK, but there’s still a week and a half left in the contest. More than enough time for you to come up with your own Sci-Fi project and get your grubby mitts on some really awesome prizes.

    Filed under: contests

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 16:00
    A LIN Bus Signal Injector

    LIN bus signal injector

    [Zapta] tipped us about his latest project: a LIN bus signal injector. For our unfamiliar readers, the LIN bus is a popular automotive bus that is used to interface with buttons, lights, etc. As [Zapta] was tired of having to press the Sport Mode button of his car each time he turned the ignition on, he thought it’d build the platform shown above to automatically simulate the button press.

    The project is based around an ATMega328 and is therefore Arduino IDE compatible (recognized as an Arduino Mini Pro), making firmware customization easy. In the car, it is physically setup as a proxy between the LIN master and the slave (which explains the two 3-wires groups shown in the picture). It is interesting to note that the injection feature can be toggled by using a particular car buttons press sequence. The project is fully open source and a video of the system in action is embedded after the break.

    Filed under: Arduino Hacks, hardware

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 13:00
    The Pyro Board: A Two Dimensional Ruben’s Tube

     

    fire

    Like visualizing music? Love fire? If so, you’re going to want to take a look at this Pyro Board.

    What happens when you take a tube, put some holes along it, add a speaker on one end, pump some propane in, and then light it on fire? You get an awesome fire visual – also known as a Ruben’s Tube. It works because the sound pressure from the speakers causes the flow rate of gas leaving the holes to vary, which results in a visible “standing frequency” of flames, i.e. a flaming VU meter.

    The folks over at [Fysikshow] decided to step it up a notch by building a 2-dimensional Ruben’s tube with 2500 holes. They have a steel box with the evenly spaced holes on the top, and two speakers attached to the sides. And it works amazingly well — see for yourself after the break.

    Based in Denmark, [Fysikshow] travels to schools teaching kids about physics using the Pyro Board and many other fun experiments.

    [Thanks Eren via This Is Colossal]

    Filed under: misc hacks

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 11:02
    320° LICHT | SPATIAL EXPERIENCE



    The ‘320° Licht’ installation of URBANSCREEN uses the cathedral-like beauty of the Gasometer Oberhausen as the starting point for a fascinating game with shapes and light.

    Within a radius of 320 degrees graphic patterns grow and change on the 100-metre high inside wall of the Gasometer.

    The observer experiences the interplay between real and virtual space, in which the Gasometer seems to dissolve into its own, filigree structures and yet finally always reverts to its clear shape. ’320° Licht’ is achieved with kind project support from Epson Germany.

    With approx. 20,000 square meters of area played upon, the installation is among the world’s largest and technically most sophisticated interior projections – interconnecting 21 powerful projectors to one projection screen.

    Duration (loop): approx. 22 min.

    ’320° Licht’ is part of the exhibition ‘The Appearance of Beauty’ – the variety of beauty in art that is shown inside the Gasometer. The Gasometer Oberhausen opens this exhibition from 11th April until 30th December.

    Please find detailed information on Gasometer Oberhausen (gasometer.de).

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 10:00
    BeagleBone Black + RAMPS

    CRAMPS

    The BeagleBone Black, with an impressive amount of computing power and a whole bunch of I/O, would make an impressive CNC controller, save for two shortcomings: The BBB isn’t in stock anywhere, and CNC capes are a little on the pricey side. [Marc Peltier] can’t do anything about finding a distributor that doesn’t have the BeagleBone on backorder for you, but he did come up with an adapter for the very popular RAMPS-FD 3D printer controller board (Forum, French, Here’s the Google translation matrix).

    The RAMPS-FD is an extension of the RAMPS board and a shield for the Arduino Due. Both the Due and BBB work on 3.3 V, meaning controlling the RAMPS-FD is simply a matter of finding the correct wiring diagram and pin assignments on the BeagleBone. [Marc] solved this problem by using the settings from the BeBoPr cape and using the existing BeBoPr LinuxCNC configuration.

    The end result of [Marc]‘s tinkering is something a lot like [Charles Steinkueler]‘s CNC capes for the BeagleBone Black we saw at the Midwest RepRap Fest. [Charles] isn’t selling his capes, but no one else seems to be selling BeagleBone Blacks, either.

    Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, cnc hacks

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 07:00
    Software Funnies #SaturdayMorningCartoons


    Software Funnies SaturdayMorningCartoons adafruit industries blog

    Tech Cartoon by Mark Anderson


    Each Saturday Morning here at Adafruit is Saturday Morning Cartoons! Be sure to check our cartoon and animated posts both nostalgic and new that inspire makers of all ages! You’ll find how-tos for young makers, approaches to learning about science and engineering, and all sorts of comic strip and animated Saturday Morning fun! Be sure to check out our Adafruit products featuring comic book art while you’re at it!

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 07:00
    Auto Roll-up Tool Storage

    Auto Roll-up Tool Storage

    [Anred's] got the right idea. Everybody and their mother has a toolbox: rectangular, wooden, crowded. You’re not impressing anyone with that old thing. Instead, why not spice it up by rolling it up, with a tool case that spins to store in style?

    This storage hack seems to draw its inspiration from field medic roll-up bags, where everything’s laid out for easy access with a quick toss. [Anred] started by taking inventory of all the items he wanted to use on a regular basis, organizing them across a sturdy fabric. Next, he marked all the mounting spots and affixed some elastic material with needle and thread to hold each tool in place. The tools then roll up around a center rod, like an upside-down pull curtain.

    To be honest, we’re not entirely sure how [Anred] rigged the center bar to roll, but it seems to be spring-driven. Perhaps one of our discerning readers can work it out and clue us in with a reply in the comments. Our favorite feature, however, is the clever use of the pull-out rod. To unroll the tools, you grab the top rod and pull it tight, securing it to something above. When you lower it back down to close up the roll, however, the top rod fits under two brackets, providing a convenient handle to carry the whole assembly. Check out the videos below.

    Filed under: tool hacks

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 06:30
    Beautiful Easter eggs made using #Eggbot



    Check out these gorgeous eggs from David Bliss!

    This year’s eggs were designed using Nodebox and Inkscape.

    Charlie worked mostly in Nodebox. It’s patch-based programming was right at his level and copy, rotate and wiggle all got a lot of action.

    Wyatt found inspiration in Minecraft and we worked together to write a letter writing script in Python to print out an wiki entry on egg. Then he created a vector version of the pixelated egg in Inkscape.

    Read more.

    NewImage

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 06:00
    Vintage Science Illustrations Come To Life In This Trippy Music Video #SaturdayMorningCartoons



    Fanfarlo “Cell Song” from Ewan Jones Morris.

    Growing up in the ’80s, the surrealist illustrations of vintage science textbooks always fascinated to me, but this animated music video takes the cake. A collage of drawings from old schoolbooks of 50 years ago, it’s like the dreams you might have after sniffing glue in science class, then passing out facedown in your textbook.

    The video is for “Cell Song,” a track off of London-based indie band Fanfarlo’s 2014 album, Let’s Go Extinct. The album itself is themed around the concept of evolution: The band’s lead songwriter Simon Balthazar describes it as an exploration of “the weirdness of being this thing we call a person and the double weirdness of other people.”

    If Balthazar wanted a video to convey the inexplicable alienness of nature, he couldn’t have found a better director and animator than Ewan Jones Morris. Prowling the pages of “the dustiest of science journals, Ewan Jones Morris. Prowling the pages of “the dustiest of science journals, encyclopedias, and magazines,” Morris cut them cut out illustrations to create a trippy living diorama for amoebas, insects, planets, microscopic flagellum, and more.

    Morris is no stranger to this technique. In an interview, he says Fanfarlo approached him to do the video after seeing a similar video he did for Pinkuoizu’s “I Chi”. Unlike for the earlier video, though, for this project Morris incorporated the band’s performances.

    The end experience has a hallucinatory quality to it: part Fantastic Planet, part Oingo Boingo. Much of that quality is imparted by the printing techniques used by old textbook makers that made even the most mundane creature in the natural world look like some bizarre, otherworldly alien fauna.

    Read more


    Each Saturday Morning here at Adafruit is Saturday Morning Cartoons! Be sure to check our cartoon and animated posts both nostalgic and new that inspire makers of all ages! You’ll find how-tos for young makers, approaches to learning about science and engineering, and all sorts of comic strip and animated Saturday Morning fun! Be sure to check out our Adafruit products featuring comic book art while you’re at it!

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 04:00
    Leak-Proof Water Blob Provides Hours of Fun

    leak proof water blob

    With the warm weather slowly creeping back it’s time to think of warm summer days, and with that comes this rather interesting leak-proof water… blob?

    [Leisha] over at Homemade Toast has come up with a super inexpensive way to make a water blob  – or a giant outdoor waterbed? It certainly looks cool, and apparently keeps children entertained for hours playing on it. We wonder how bouncy you could make one for bigger kids (i.e. us).

    It’s made out of a roll of painter’s plastic drop sheet, and instead of trying to tape, glue or otherwise seal the edges, [Leisha's] figured out an easy way to melt the seams together using a clothes iron. By sandwiching parchment paper over the two pieces of plastic, you can gently run the iron along the edge, creating a very strong bond, without melting a hole in the plastic.

    Seriously — we want to see someone make a giant version of this for some extreme waterbed bouncing!

    [via Viral Nova]

    Filed under: toy hacks

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