August 31, 2014

Self-Folding Robot

Below, the opening two paragraphs of Kenneth Chang's August 7 New York Times story.


An intricately cut sheet lies flat and motionless on a table. Then Samuel Felton, a graduate student at Harvard, connects the batteries, sending electricity coursing through, heating it. The sheet lurches to life, the pieces bending and folding into place. The transformation completes in four minutes, and the sheet, now a four-limbed robot, scurries away at more than two inches a second.

The creation, reported Thursday in the journal Science, is the first robot that can fold itself and start working without any intervention from the operator.


More (from the Harvard lab) here.

August 31, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teflon-Coated White Scissors


Hemispherical handles, 8-1/2" long.


August 31, 2014 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blue Lobster is 1 in 2 million

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From USA Today : 


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A rare sight made landfall in a lobsterman's trap Saturday [August 23, 2014].

Jay LaPlante with the Miss Meghan's Lobster Catch company caught a blue lobster around 10:45 a.m. ET off Pine Point, about 10 miles southwest of Portland, Maine.

LaPlante and his 14-year-old daughter, Meghan, were hauling traps when she discovered the 2-pound cerulean crustacean, the first time they've ever caught a blue lobster.

The find is like winning the lottery: Oceanographers estimate that only 1 in 2 million lobsters is blue, according to the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine.

The coloration comes from a genetic defect that causes the lobster to produce an excessive amount of a particular protein. Every other lobster is a dark green or brown.

Meghan named the lobster Skyler and said he will avoid the dinner plate. She is donating Skyler to the Maine State Aquarium in West Boothbay Harbor, Maine, about 30 miles northeast of Portland.

Skyler won't be alone, according to aquarium staff. He will join three other blue lobsters and an orange one in their tank.

August 31, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Transparent Flame-Proof Glass Pot

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Tempered flame-proof borosilicate glass.

Eight quart capacity.



[via The Green Head]

August 31, 2014 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 30, 2014

Experts' Expert: Digital Photo Storage by Personality Type

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Stephanie Rosenbloom, in a July 22 New York Times "The Getaway" feature, described the pros and cons of nine services dedicated to storing digital photos.

She was kind enough to subdivide people who might wish to use these sites as follows:

• The Perfectionist

• The Fun-Lover

• The Social Butterfly

• The Professional

• The Videographer

• The Essentialist

[Times graphic up top by Giacomo Gambineri]

August 30, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Calculator with Integrated Ruler


Excellent idea.


From the website:


This little silver plastic basic-function calculator measures 3-1/4" x 5-1/2" with a clear plastic ruler that folds down on both sides.

Open it and it looks oddly like a communications satellite.

The ruler is millimeters/centimeters only, up to 320mm or 32cm.

But it's still a lovely straight-edge, or a gift for a Canadian friend.

Runs on a single replaceable button-cell battery, included.


Two for $3.95.

August 30, 2014 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Why doesn't honey spoil?


[via Compound Interest]

August 30, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Limited-Edition Peanut Butter & Jelly Soda


Great news: this soda is free from actual peanuts and safe for allergy sufferers.

Four bottles for $12.99.

August 30, 2014 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2014

Why stealing cars went out of fashion

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From the New York Times: "The most important factor is a technological advance: engine immobilizer systems, adopted by manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These make it essentially impossible to start a car without the ignition key, which contains a microchip uniquely programmed by the dealer to match the car."

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August 29, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Giant Binder Clip


From the website:


You could bind the London phone book with these clips, if anyone still used phone books.

In white enameled steel, the 2-3/8"-wide jaws open to 2" with 5-1/2"-long handles.

They also work as stands for place cards and hooks for hanging purses off the edge of tables.


August 29, 2014 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pat Metheny's 42-stringed three-necked guitar


Pictured above, it came about as follows: "In the 1980s he asked a Canadian luthier, Linda Manzer, to create a guitar with as many strings as possible. The result was the Pikasso (pictured), a 42-stringed, three-necked beast that can play the sounds of an electric guitar, a traditional Japanese koto and a harp. Thirty years later Mr. Metheny still uses it at the start of many concerts."

[via The Economist]

August 29, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dishwasher-Safe Glue


From the website:


Duco® cement is an isopropanol and acetone-based cement that will bond glass, ceramics, china, metal, phenolic plastics, and wood.

It dries clear and is dishwasher-safe. Our each is a

1 ounce tube.



August 29, 2014 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 28, 2014

Facial symmetry NOT associated with good health


Below, excerpts from an August 16 Economist story.


Symmetry has long been associated with perfection in both art and nature. In particular, research conducted over the past two decades has shown that symmetry is sexy. People prefer potential lovers to have symmetrical faces—the more so they are, the better.

This observation is now well established.

The usual assumption is that bodily symmetry is a proxy for good health. Symmetry suggests orderly development in the womb and during childhood, and thus, the theory has it, captures a range of desirable things from good genes to infection-resistance. The evidence for this, though, is equivocal. And a study just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, by Nicholas Pound of Brunel University, in London, and his colleagues suggests that in one particular at least, it is wrong.

Dr. Pound looked at the relationship between facial asymmetry and illness in more than 4,700 15-year-olds. He drew on data collected as part of a project called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). This has accumulated detailed records of the childhood health of participants by sending questionnaires to those children’s parents once a year. In addition, 2,506 of the girls involved and 2,226 of the boys agreed, for a previous study conducted when they were 15 (and carried out by one of Dr Pound’s co-authors, Arshed Toma), to have their faces scanned to create three-dimensional images. Dr. Pound used these images to assess participants’ facial asymmetry, and then looked for correlations with rates of childhood illness, as recorded in the questionnaires.

There were none. He examined the number of years in which each child had been reported to have suffered any illness at all; the rate, each year, of symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and coughing; and also a child’s total infection load, defined as the number of illnesses from a list of 16 (including measles, chicken pox, mumps, influenza and glandular fever) from which he or she had ever suffered. In each case, facial asymmetry was uncorrelated. As far as susceptibility to infection is concerned, then, asymmetry is a useless indicator.


Below, the abstract of the published paper.


Facial fluctuating asymmetry is not associated with childhood ill-health in a large British cohort study

The idea that symmetry in facial traits is associated with attractiveness because it reliably indicates good physiological health, particularly to potential sexual partners, has generated an extensive literature on the evolution of human mate choice. However, large-scale tests of this hypothesis using direct or longitudinal assessments of physiological health are lacking. Here, we investigate relationships between facial fluctuating asymmetry (FA) and detailed individual health histories in a sample (n = 4732) derived from a large longitudinal study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) in South West England. Facial FA was assessed using geometric morphometric analysis of facial landmark configurations derived from three-dimensional facial scans taken at 15 years of age. Facial FA was not associated with longitudinal measures of childhood health. However, there was a very small negative association between facial FA and IQ that remained significant after correcting for a positive allometric relationship between FA and face size. Overall, this study does not support the idea that facial symmetry acts as a reliable cue to physiological health. Consequently, if preferences for facial symmetry do represent an evolved adaptation, then they probably function not to provide marginal fitness benefits by choosing between relatively healthy individuals on the basis of small differences in FA, but rather evolved to motivate avoidance of markers of substantial developmental disturbance and significant pathology. 

August 28, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Momolady — "Inner thigh leg muscle exercise"


From the website:



Help shape your true beauty and get the sleek inner thighs you've always wanted with the Momolady, a simple but effective way to exercise the oft-neglected adductor muscles — work off that flab with the durable spiral spring between your knees.


All you need to do is bring your legs together while you sit.

Yes, it's that easy!

This means you can do it while you watch TV, read, or just spend time at home.

Get the most out of your life and your time with the Momolady, designed for busy women.

Features  and Details:

• Size: 485 x 200 x 235mm (19 x 7.9 x 9.3")

• Materials: polyester, polyurethane, stainless steel

• Instructions: Japanese only (but very easy to use)


They had me at "designed for busy women."

That's by far the best characterization of my distaff readership I've ever come across.


August 28, 2014 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

"psycholustro" — by Katharina Grosse

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Nell McShane Wulfhart's July 24 New York Times story introduces the artist's series of installations along a five-mile stretch of railroad track that slices through some of Philadelphia's most impoverished areas.

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"Since mid-May... the area has been home to (and a scene on view for train commuters) a Christo-esque installation of seven enormous works of art by the Berlin-based visual artist."

"Huge swaths of orange, green, pink and white were spray-painted onto walls, buildings, and long strips of grass and trees. Ms. Grosse used Benjamin Moore house paint, unprotected by sealant, that will gradually wear off."

Above, two exemplars from the seven pieces.


video about the work.

August 28, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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