September 30, 2007
Massive X-wing fighter ready for takeoff
For the past few months a group of hard-core amateur rocket builders have been working on a truly bodacious project... a giant flying Star Wars X-wing fighter. With a length of more than 20 feet, a detailed cockpit, and wings that spread into attack formation while in flight, this bad boy is about as far away as you can get from those little Estes rocket kits you made as a kid.
Want to see it actually fly? It's going to take off(*) next Saturday at a big rocket launch called Plaster Blaster in the California desert, about 80 miles east of San Diego.
Want to try building one of these on your own? Can check out a chronicle of the X-wing's construction.
(*) Due to the realities of non-Star Wars aerodynamics this X-wing will take off vertically under the power of four massive amateur rocket engines, and land via parachute.
September 28, 2007
The sand art of Andres Amador
Kevin Kelly directed me to the art of Andres Amador. Armed with a rake, some rope, and a deep knowledge of sacred geometry, Amador creates intricate patterns in the sand near his home in San Francisco. (You might also have seen his work on the playa at Burning Man).
Amador's website has a gallery of his sand art, as well as a mailing list sign up, so you can find out when and where he'll next be turning the beach into art.
September 24, 2007
The rise and fall of left-handedness
The rate of left-handedness is one of those odd little areas of scientific investigation that plugs along unnoticed for years, until a clever new bit of research catches the public eye. Just such a bit of research showed up in the new issue of Current Biology. Researchers there report that they've used a clever new technique to determine how many people were left-handed a century ago.
The researchers got a hold of 90 minutes worth of early film footage, taken between 1900 and 1906. The film is full of mundane "home movie" type scenes, including images of nearly 400 people waving at the camera. Since there's a direct correlation between left-waving and true left-handedness, it was a simple matter to work out the rate of southpaws a century ago.
So who cares how many people are left handed? Well, first of all it's just cool to know stuff like that. But there's also possible connections between handedness and conditions like schizophrenia, dyslexia, stuttering and autism.
There's an article about it on Scientific American's website.
September 16, 2007
Design school survival guide
Every September you feel it...the tiny rise in the ambient anxiety level. The cause? Another freshman class just starting design school. If you're lucky, you're beginning one of the great experiences of your life, one that will shape you professionally and personally for the rest of your days. If you're unlucky, you're entering an arena where people you admire and envy will destroy your entire sense of self-worth.(*) If you're typical, you'll get a bit of both of those things.
The folks at Core77 (a website devoted to industrial design and related fields) feel your pain. They've made it through design school, and now they want to ease your way. They've created a design school(**) newbie guide called Hack-2-School filled with tips on how to survive the design school experience...everything from the essential Get a good camera) to the silly (sure-fire I.D. school pickup lines like "Are those styrene pants? Because your ass looks vacuum-formed."). Read it and survive.
(*) Damn you Delano, who was a better freshman year photographer than me and who all the girls wanted. Damn you and your insouciant comments in crit. Damn you to hell.
(**) The guide also applies to art school. Hell, parts of it apply to any school, or even to starting a new job.
September 13, 2007
The northern most webcam in the world
All across the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is swooping in for a landing. Which means you're running out of time to check out the northern-most webcam on Earth.
Every year NOAA places several webcams on the polar ice. They slowly drift along with the ice, beaming back pictures of the top of the world. Right now there are four cameras up there, transmitting in the fading daylight. Before too long the polar region will slip into six months of darkness, so check 'em out while you can.
September 11, 2007
How to read 100 books in 100 days
If you're a judge of the prestigeous Booker Prize for literature you face a daunting task...reading more than 100 challanging complex novels in just a few months. That works out to about a novel a day. How in the world can they do it?
The BBC put that question to speed reading expert Tony Buzan. This article on the Beeb's website lays out some tips for more efficient reading.
September 09, 2007
Illustration by John Maeda
A brief bit of beauty for your weekend. Today's New York Times contains the paper's occasional magazine supplement about real estate called "Keys". Today's edition features a cover illustration by computer artist and MIT professor John Maeda.
It's a cool illustration, but what I really liked is the feature about the illustration on the Times website where Maeda walks through the evolution of his illustration.
September 06, 2007
UNIQLOCK screen saver
All around the world, the computer screens of graphic designers and other members of the visually elite are filled with images of dancing Asian women. The cause? The screensaver from Japanese cloting designer Uniqlo.
The screensaver alternates between a minimalist display of the current time and five second videos of four young Asian women in polo shirts and jeans performing synchronized dance moves. Five seconds isn't very long...barely enough time to do a couple of pirouettes...and the "now you see them, now you don't" quality of the video clips makes the whole thing strangely compelling.
You can download the screensaver here. They also have an online version, if you just want to watch without installing software on your machine.
The ever-changing store
It's a basic rule of the retail biz that stores should change their displays and inventory on a regular basis. A store called Grand Opening in Manhattan is that idea on steroids. Every month to three months the store is gutted and then completely recreated, selling something completely different. A while back it was a showroom for antique barns that would be lovingly disassembled and reconstructed at a site of your choosing. Now they're specializing in selling table tennis equipment (go figure).
But if you're looking for ping pong stuff, hurry up! Starting next week, Grand Opening is turning into a mini drive-in cinema space. If you're interested in what they'll be doing after that, sign up for their mailing list.