DIY Bionic Rock Climbing Hand (c.o. MIT’s Hugh Herr)

Here in Boulder, we actually know who Hugh Herr is: the climber who lost his legs to frostbite on Mt. Washington, designed his own climbing prostheses, and used bionic feet to send the world’s hardest thin cracks. Herr now runs a biomechatronics group at MIT’s famed Media Lab. I talked with Herr for a book I wrote and, in addition to working on balance mechanics for “real” prostheses, Herr was deep into the creation of what he called a “spider suit” — basically, the elastic-like suit holds your arms and fingers in the flexed position, augmenting your pulling strength. With elastic help, climbers will appreciate the extra pep in their pull. Or…they would if the thing actually existed commercially. Until then, I offer this (moderately harebrained) prototype, which my kids and I actually product tested one afternoon up at Flag.

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Join us This Weekend at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire!

Did you know that the expression “chomping at the bit” is more correctly “champing at the bit”? If either describes your anticipation of the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, which seems impossibly far away at Jan 30-Feb 1, then please consider whetting your appetite (not “wetting” your appetite) this weekend at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire in Loveland!

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6 Pen and Paper Games That Rock the Shazbot

Picture it: there you are, trapped in the middle of Chicago-O’Hare on a four-hour layover, alone but for your two cranky and travel-weary kids. Somehow your phone is bricked, your laptop charger is fried, the TV’s are all playing infomercials, and the hand-held games are in the checked luggage. (Also imagine the airport’s out of both Benadryl and whisky—shame on you for thinking it! Bad parent.)

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. How will you survive?

Your only hope is to go boy scout versus doomsday survivalist on it.. Remember: you’re resourceful, resilient, always prepared, etc., etc.. You’d turn the Alaskan wilderness into a backyard barbecue with naught but a hatchet and a tarp. So too with Chicago-O’Hare. Your hatchet is a pencil (you know, the pointy thing that leaves a trail of graphite when scratched against a light-colored surface of certain friction), and your tarp is paper.

Here are six options for using said paper and pencil to merrily kill nearly infinite time. (Your first puzzle is trying to determine where one column’s caption stops and the next starts.)

1. In a grid like the one below, one player is trying to connect white dots to move from the right side of the board to the left; the other player is trying to connect black dots to move from the top of the board to the bottom. 2. Take turns drawing short, horizontal or vertical lines. 3. You can’t cross your opponent’s lines. Don’t get blocked!

1. In a grid like the one below, one player is trying to connect white dots to move from the right side of the board to the left; the other player is trying to connect black dots to move from the top of the board to the bottom. 2. Take turns drawing short, horizontal or vertical lines. 3. You can’t cross your opponent’s lines. Don’t get blocked!

 

1. Start with a graph-paper game board of any size. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s (write lightly in pencil). 3. Start with the position shown. 4. Take turns placing your symbol. On each turn, you MUST trap an opponent’s symbol between yours (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), which you then flip to your symbol. (If you cannot trap at least one of your opponent’s symbols, you lose your turn.) 5. Once all squares are used, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. Start with a graph-paper game board of any size. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s (write lightly in pencil). 3. Start with the position shown. 4. Take turns placing your symbol. On each turn, you MUST trap an opponent’s symbol between yours (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), which you then flip to your symbol. (If you cannot trap at least one of your opponent’s symbols, you lose your turn.) 5. Once all squares are used, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. Start with two or three dots on a page. 2. A move consists of two steps—draw a line between two dots (or to itself); and mark a new dot anywhere on this line. 3. Your new line may not cross any existing line. 4. Once a dot has three lines coming out of it, it is closed. 5. Whoever makes the last possible move, wins.

1. Start with two or three dots on a page. 2. A move consists of two steps—draw a line between two dots (or to itself); and mark a new dot anywhere on this line. 3. Your new line may not cross any existing line. 4. Once a dot has three lines coming out of it, it is closed. 5. Whoever makes the last possible move, wins.

1. Imagine the grid below were an open board of the kind used to play Connect Four®. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s. Take turns “dropping” your shape into the game board, where it falls down to rest on the lowest open spot. 3. The first person to make four in a row, wins.

1. Imagine the grid below were an open board of the kind used to play Connect Four®. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s. Take turns “dropping” your shape into the game board, where it falls down to rest on the lowest open spot. 3. The first person to make four in a row, wins.

1. Start with a matrix of dots, as shown. 2. Take turns drawing a line horizontally or vertically between dots. 3. Your goal is to make closed squares. If you close a square mark it as your own (place an X or an O in that box). 4. If you close a square, move again. 5. Once all squares are closed, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. Start with a matrix of dots, as shown. 2. Take turns drawing a line horizontally or vertically between dots. 3. Your goal is to make closed squares. If you close a square mark it as your own (place an X or an O in that box). 4. If you close a square, move again. 5. Once all squares are closed, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. You need four boards like the one shown, two for each player. 2. Draw your five ships on the board (as shown). 3. Take turns shooting, by naming grid spaces (i.e. “E-3”). The opponent calls a hit or a miss. Mark your shots on your blank grid and your opponent’s shots on your ship grid. 4. Continue until one player sinks the other’s ships.

1. You need four boards like the one shown, two for each player. 2. Draw your five ships on the board (as shown). 3. Take turns shooting, by naming grid spaces (i.e. “E-3”). The opponent calls a hit or a miss. Mark your shots on your blank grid and your opponent’s shots on your ship grid. 4. Continue until one player sinks the other’s ships.


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Researchers Say Stochastisaurus Has “High Probability” of Being New Species

Paleontologists recently unearthed bones, likely in Montana or Wyoming, of a new dinosaur species dubbed Stochastisaurus. “Based on surrounding species and the fossils themselves, there’s an approximately 88 percent chance that Stochastisaurus was an herbivore,” says the lead researcher. The new species of dinosaur more likely than not had something interesting about its head, perhaps heavy bone plating like Pachycephalosaurus, a frill like Styracosaurus, a crest like Corythosaurus, or a hollow series of tubes like Parasaurolophus. This interesting head feature is almost exactly equally likely to have been used for defense, reproductive competition, or as an instrument of communication with other Stochastisauri.

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MakerBoulder.com and Horizons K-8 Host Boulder Cardboard Challenge!


Cardboard: the ultimate material. This is the voyage of the Boulder Cardboard Challenge. Its four-hour mission: to explore strange new creations, to seek out new experiences and creative challenges, to go boldly where no maker has gone before.

“Cardboard is great: you use your brain for designing and your hands for making,” says Mary Anne Zacek, co-founder of MakerBoulder.com. Inspired by the video Caine’s Arcade (above) and a satellite of the Imagination Foundation’s Global Cardboard Challenge, the Boulder Cardboard Challenge will go off October 11, 10:00am-2:00pm at Horizons K-8. Sign up as a team or as a lone-wolf cardboard cow-person (used as the gender-neutral term for “cowboy”). There will be creative challenges. There will be prizes awarded in what the registration page promises are “exciting categories!” The event is free for the first infinity participants to register HERE.

So get right on it.

“Cardboard is such an easy way to get kids being creative and designing whatever they want to design. They’ll be able to make arcade games or outfits for box trolls or mazes for Spheros or…whatever we can imagine!” Zacek says.

MakerBoulder has been collecting a truly awesome amount of cardboard but more is even awesomer so please consider BYOC; tape and scissors also appreciated. There will be pizza and too-healthy Boulder-ish juice drinks for sale and you are welcome to bring your own snacks as well.

Oh, and if you’re not among the 4,441,607 people who have viewed the Caine’s Arcade video on YouTube, you should really give it a click. You will cry. Plan accordingly.

“Really, it’s going to be a super fun morning of Creative Play!” Zacek says. Be like Mary Anne.

Come on down to the Boulder Cardboard Challenge and have yourself a good time.

Eventbrite - The Boulder Cardboard Games!

 


What’s that you say? A Mini Maker Faire in Boulder? Shut your mouth! No really, it’s true: MakerBoulder and Make Magazine are excited to bring the Boulder Mini Maker Faire to Boulder County Fairgrounds on January 31 and February 1, 2015.  Details at MakerBoulder.com.

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Throwback Thursday: History’s 5 Most Underrated Inventions

What are the most important inventions of all time? Some people go for big, obvious things…like boats, the printing press, or gunpowder. Don’t get me wrong, those are all pretty great and everything. But the printing press is nowhere without paper and sans compass, boats were pretty much stuck paddling around in sight of land. This list rights the wrongs of history’s tunnel vision. Here are history’s 5 most underrated and overlooked inventions. Read more

Hacking Perfect Pitch

Conventional wisdom holds you’re born with perfect pitch or you’re not. The conventional wisdom is wrong. Here’s how to train perfect pitch.

For my book Brain Trust, I interviewed Diana Deutsch, University of California San Diego professor and president of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, and she said the trick is pairing pitch with meaning — early!

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Instructions for a Truly Awesome Card Trick

There are things that every Maker needs: a good hammer, a good workspace, a good joke…and of course one good card trick. You may not have the opportunity to demonstrate it often — all the better! But when you need it, you need it. Here, in case you don’t have it yet, is a truly awesome card trick.

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Images as Communication: Logos, Icons, Infographics, Oh My!

We remember things better when we anchor them to images. We see this in the mnemonics of memory competitions and we also it with the recent info-graphic craze, in which artists illustrate the driest data, bringing it to life in a way that makes it both more digestible and also easier to remember.

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How to Can Plums (Without Giving Your Kids Botulism!)

Last week a friend ended up on my doorstep. She has 3 plum trees in Wheatridge, Colorado and she had 5 pounds of plums – for me. For me this was akin to wishing for a pony – and then getting it. It was a lovely gesture and plums are great eats and all, but now I have to do something with plums. Five pounds of them.

I’m a canner, I admit it. A cabinet full of Ball jars full of different foods is my nirvana. My mom chastises me for this, saying that canning is so violent on the food. But I say that anything that is left to stew in its juices for a few months is awesome. I’m kind of a foodie, so just putting plums up in jars was never really an option; I had to step it up a notch.

That’s where the booze comes in.

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