Hail Iseb!

February 16th, 2015

The story of the hunt for Iseb, the toughest of all the machines:

This is a story that must be told. Perhaps it is still the influence of HER strength that makes me write now. Fuck knows when all this madness started. You like tunnels huh? If you are a true tunnel fan, maybe a true fanatic, then when you hear about boring machines (the mothers of all tunnels) then it makes you want to see them. Good. So that's what happened to us. Like grimey servants we followed every new trace that could lead us to her, the aim of our two year quest was always to see the toughest of all the machines. A dormant juggernaut that lies underground. Her name? Iseb, the worm maiden. It is for her love that we've done everything.


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December 5th, 2012

How tall can a Lego tower get?

I'll admit to being just a tad disappointed that this wasn't discovered by actually building a Lego tower until it collapsed under the weight of 375,000 bricks.

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July 3rd, 2012

New York's Roosevelt Island is home to a large-scale Swedish-built pneumatic garbage disposal system. The company that maintains the Roosevelt Island system is also responsible for running a similar system at Disney World:

[Repairman Frederik Olsson], a tall blond man in work boots and loose overalls, coughed politely. "Magic Kingdom can be problematic," he said. "I visit it often. It usually breaks because so many sticky things run through it. This one usually breaks down because New Yorkers throw too many big things away."

"The machine doesn't break down that much," Marli said. "But, you know, you get a rainy weekend and people clean out their closets. They throw away the weirdest stuff. Stereos, old computers, steel pipes." The unwieldy objects sometimes clog the works. One time, a piece of rebar backed up the machine for several hours. Another time, it was a skillet. Envac workers have also recovered geometry textbooks, tape players, window frames, lumber, and old clothes. On a third-floor window ledge, there is an array of houseplants in industrial buckets, rescued from the trash.

Let's face it, if your apartment building contained a central garbage disposal chute that emptied periodically by sucking the waste away at 60mph, would you be particularly choosy about what you were dropping down the chute? Or would you be calling 'Bombs away!' as you tried to time the drop to coincide with the trapdoor opening?

[Via MetaFilter]

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The Mu

February 19th, 2012

The Folding Plug design I posted about in 2009 has finally come to market, having morphed along the way into a USB charger, as The Mu.

My first reaction was that at £25 a time it'll be right at home sharing a bag with the expensive ultralight laptops which inspired the designer to create the original design. On second thoughts, when I contemplate the size of the clunky old1 mains USB adapter I have stashed in my desk drawer at work in case my iPod Touch needs a mid-day charge, I can clearly see the appeal. £25 is a wee bit pricey, though; at £10 it'd be well worth the money.

I hope they sell them by the thousand, so they can go on to expand the range. I especially want to see the compact 3-way adapter that featured in the original video.

[Via, once again, The Null Device]

  1. How old? I think I may have got it with my first iPod, an iPod Colour 60GB model. Mid/late 2005, maybe?

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Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick, Toc…

February 16th, 2012

Building a clock that will run for 10,000 years requires you to try to anticipate problems other clocks just don't face:

Notes taken during [a colloquium on the Long Now Foundation's plans to ensure that the 10,000-Year Clock keeps time despite long-term variations in the length of a day] show that, while the technical success of the Clock's durability is yet to be determined, its ability to inspire long-term thinking is already taking hold:

Neil deGrasse Tyson jested that the Long Now should put some signage on the 10,000 Year Clock so that a post-apocalyptic Earth will not think that the world will end when the clock stops working.

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Does It Move?

December 21st, 2011

Neil deGrasse Tyson brings us An Engineering Flowchart:


[Via Signal vs. Noise]

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November 1st, 2011

Gustav Hoegen's animatronics are so much more fun to watch than creatures produced using CGI.

[Via MetaFilter]

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September 14th, 2011

Consider Alexis Madrigal's thought experiment:1

Imagine you've got a shiny computer that is identical to a Macbook Air, except that it has the energy efficiency of a machine from 20 years ago. That computer would use so much power that you'd get [Redacted] of battery life out of the Air's 50 watt-hour battery […]

Try guessing the number that I removed from that passage before clicking through to the article itself.

[Via kottke.org]

  1. NB: for the first – and only – time on this site I've used a URL shortener to obscure the original URL of a link, because the original link's URL gives away the answer to the question. In the event that Bit.ly ever goes away, the original URL is here.

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33 years, 10.8 billion miles

January 19th, 2011

With Voyager 1 crossing the (somewhat fuzzy) border between the solar system and interstellar space over the next few years, here's another way to grasp the scale of the mission. Not by the immense number of miles Voyager has travelled, nor by the number of megabytes of data it has sent back to Earth, but by the age of the scientists who worked on the project as young men:

[Voyagers 1 and 2…], now 33 years into their mission, continue to explore new territory as far as 11 billion miles from Earth. And they still make global news. Scientists announced last month that Voyager 1 had outrun the solar wind, the first manmade object to reach the doorstep to interstellar space.

It's amazing even to Stamatios "Tom" Krimigis, of the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel. He's one of just two principal investigators of the mission's original 11 still on the job 40 years after Voyager was approved by NASA.

"Needless to say, none of us expected it was going to be operating for so long," said Krimigis, now 72. "We were all praying to get to Neptune [in 1989]. But after that? Who thought we could be with this 33 years [after launch]?"

Here's hoping that Krimigis and his colleagues (and the Voyager probes themselves) are still active for years to come.

[Via Ghost in the Machine]

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The Berlin Reunion

October 8th, 2009

Royal De Luxe, the people who brought The Sultan's Elephant to London in 2006, have just helped Berliners celebrate the 20th anniversary of reunification by presenting The Berlin Reunion.

That last link is to my favourite picture from the event, but do check out all the photos on that page: the whole extravaganza looks to have been another remarkable feat of art and engineering at play.

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