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October 23, 2010

LEGO Antikythera

From John Pavlus's story in the latest issue of Make magazine:


What would the ancient Greeks make of an iPod? According to Andrew Carol, they might have been more gadget-savvy than we give them credit for.

He's paid homage to their ingenuity by building a functioning LEGO model of the famous Antikythera Mechanism — a 2,000-year-old handheld "mechanical computer" that people in Hipparchus' time used to make sophisticated astronomical predictions.


Starting in late 2009, he designed a modular system comprising seven mechanical differentials and more than 100  gears to achieve the "exotic ratios" necessary for computing lunar movements. Two prototypes, 10 days of Christmas vacation, and $500 worth of LEGO Technic pieces later, Carol had a working version of the machine.

At roughly the size of a desktop printer, his replica "isn't as compact as the original," he concedes. "Then again, I had to use twice as many gears as they did."


Andrew Carol's caption for the video up top:



This is a working hand-cranked eclipse predictor modeled after the ancient Greek Antikythera Mechanism. The original machine was built about 100 B.C.E. and made of bronze gears.

This machine is made using LEGO parts, the labels were generated using Mathematica. It contains over 100 gears and has seven differential gear-boxes.

The left dial indicates the Saros cycle and the right dial shows the position of the sun and moon against a calendar.

It is hand-cranked and this video shows it finding the lunar eclipse of the very early morning of June 26, 2010. It calculated June 25th which is within one day of the actual eclipse.

October 23, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Modernizing the Mixtape: ION Tape Express


Kevin Sintumuang's informative October 9, 2010 Wall Street Journal Q&A on mixtapes follows.


Q. I can't part with the mixtapes from when I was a teenager. They just have too much sentimental value. Should I digitize or get a tape player.

A. You're talking about an L.A. Looks shoebox's-worth, right? Because we can't help you if you have crates of them in your garage alongside stacks of Garbage Pail Kid cards and Alf dolls. Maybe the folks from Hoarders can? Tell them you want to be a part of their "It Came From the '80s" episode.

If you just want to preserve the actual songs on the tapes, consider investing in the ION Tape Express [top]. It's like a Sony Walkman from back in the day except it can connect to your computer via a USB cable.

It ships with software that lets you transform those power ballads into digitized retro-goodness. You're essentially digitally re-recording the tapes, so grab a Tab — it's going to take a while. But once those tunes are on your hard drive, you can drop them into a playlist, label it the name of the original mixtape and play them on your iPod like any other digital music file.

Or you can simply use the Tape Express as you would a Walkman. You can probably trick people under the age of 25 into believing it's the first-generation iPod.

If you don't have the patience to digitize your collection of mix tapes and just want a quick hit of nostalgia every time "Pretty in Pink" plays on TV, you can simply connect the ION to your audio system.


ION Tape Express: $59.99.



October 23, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lost Gray Cat


I received the photo above late last evening from reader Richard Kashdan and it upset me a lot.

See, I made a big push a month or so ago to get a collar and ID tag for my Gray Cat, but after they arrived I just couldn't take the next step and put them on her because it just seemed to me it was kind of cruel after all these years of her roaming completely unidentified around my hood, during both the years before I adopted her — when I'd see her purposefully trotting through my yard — and the years since, when I've declared her "mine" and fed and housed her, taking her to the vet for shots and checkups and whatnot.

I've never received disproportionally more back from an investment of time and attention than I have from from Gray Cat.


When I read the poster, detailing ISIS's identifying characteristics for those in her neighborhood (510-771-7712 = Fremont, California), all I could think about was the poster I'd be creating if Gray Cat didn't return home one day, putting one in every mailbox in my little subdivision.

But would putting a collar on and having a chip put in really make it more likely I'd get my kitty back?

What if the collar came off?

Then no one's gonna know she's chipped unless she gets taken to the SPCA and they run the reader over her.

Which I suppose they do but who knows who's gonna be on duty there when she comes in, and if their chip reader is working or has a dead battery or in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use it or is otherwise occupied?

And in the meantime Gray Cat gets subject to the humiliation and annoyance of a collar.

True, I haven't tried it on her to see how she reacts, but that's because I'm very reluctant to get up in her stuff and all.

So here I stride along on the treadmill, the collar and IDs I ordered (below)


right next to me so I can feel really conflicted about how to proceed.

Flautist shared her thoughts on the subject with me on the in a wonderfully eloquent email which only served to muddy my mental waters even further.

Long story short: she pointed out that most likely Gray Cat, never having worn a collar (at least, that I know of; perhaps she was someone's pet, lost the collar and then made her way to my neck of the woods. I mean, she's been fixed, which likely means someone took her to a vet and paid for an operation, unlikely unless she belonged to that someone), would probably go insane with rage trying to get it off and could possibly hurt herself doing so.

Talk about making me feel guilty and even more torn — and I haven't even done anything yet but think about it.

Then I read in the New York Times that "Less than 2% of cats in animal shelters make it back to their owners, whereas about 15–19% of dogs are returned, and one reason is that more dogs wear collars."

More from Sindya N. Bhanoo's September 13, 2010 Times story:


Putting collars on some of the country's 88 million cats may help change this situation, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Most dog owners are required to register their dogs and obtain a pet license. This is not always a requirement for cats. Cat owners are also less likely than dog owners to use identifying collars.

There is fear that a collar could strangle a cat, or that cats will rip them off, said Linda Lord, a veterinary scientist at the Ohio State University and the study’s lead author.

To test these perceptions, Dr. Lord and her colleagues studied 538 collared cats for six months. At the end of the six months, 75 percent of the cats were still wearing their collars. Only a few had injured themselves, but none severely.

“The big message is that people really need to think about identifying their cats,” Dr. Lord said. “Cats will tolerate wearing a collar, and this could be a new paradigm shift in thinking.”

The researchers also found that embedding microchips that store identification information under the skin of the cat is effective. If a cat is lost, a scanner detects the chip and reads the owner’s information on it.


I still am not sure how to proceed.

In the meantime, while I dither, I encourage readers to comment or email.

I must say that I know the best solution not just for me but for pet owners worldwide, but it's not yet ready for prime time, to wit: a miniaturized GPS transponder the same size as the RFID chip currently used to chip pets, which would cut out the RFID reader middleman and show your pet's location on your smartphone.

Cut out the vet if you like and attach the little GPS device to a collar and you're still money.

Talk about piece of mind.


Besides which, how much fun would it be when I'm in the OR to "see" Gray Cat stalking a frog back by my lily pond (above)?

October 23, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Precision microscrewdriver — Got black ops?


Get in, get out, leave no trace.

Were you there?

You weren't?

Then you need this piece of kit.


From the website:



Sometimes you need a screwdriver that can fit into tiny places, even if you can't apply a lot of torque.

Even though the Teeny Turner is only 2-5/8" long (with a bit inserted; 2" without bit in place), it still provides a decent grip.

The seven bits can be changed rapidly and are held securely in the shank with magnets.

Included bits: Phillips #00 & #0; slotted 2mm & 3mm; Torx Mini 5,6, & 8.


Quality crafted in Canada using aircraft alloy steel.

Colors vary.




"Colors vary."


They're all grey in the dark.





October 23, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Evolution of the Geek


[via Flowtown and Megan Galloway]

October 23, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Keychain Minispeaker


"Plug the Earphone Speaker into your iPod or iPhone to hear your music out loud.


The cap on the 3.5mm stereo audio plug is also a keychain connector, so you can easily carry the speaker around with you...


you never know when you might need to share your music!"


Speaker measurements: 1" x 1-3/8".




bookofjoe MoneyMaker©™®: Create earbuds with this function integrated.


October 23, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"The Congregation" — by Rob Pruitt


Pictured above and below, "It consists of 77 found chairs meticulously covered with silver plumber's tape...." and is one of many pieces in his current show, "Pattern and Degradation," at Gavin Brown's Ent.Maccarone in Manhattan.

The New York-based pop artist's show was two years in the planning.


Above, the artist in situ.

Wrote Randy Kennedy in a September 15, 2010 New York Times story, "When his father died two years ago, he created a sculptural sarcophagus for his ashes, topped with a model of a Corvette, a car his father loved. (The sculpture, with the ashes, has recently been sent to exhibitions in Italy and France. 'I just think it’s exciting that he’s traveling the world now, because he never got to when he was alive,' Mr. Pruitt said.)"

The show comes down tonight so if you want to stop by better get on your bike pronto.

Can't get there?

No worries.

For you, there's the video.

[via Roberta Smith and the New York Times]

October 23, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Camouflage Tape


Good idea.


"Use the handy dispenser to lay a masking patterned tape over private information on FAXes. The permanent ink effectively disguises the print so that you can safely FAX or copy documents without compromising security."


Nice color, too.




Also in white.

October 23, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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