Alice Shi Kembel’s Take on Captivity vs. Freedom for Mice & Mini Makers

Our former pet mouse, Snowflake, started out as snake food.  He and two other mice had been purchased by our son’s friend to use as bait for snake traps in the field next to his house in Park City.  When we returned to his house after a five day excursion to Yellowstone National Park, we found three mice in a colorful plastic cage, complete with a climbing tunnel, loft, and running wheel.  My three boys fell in love immediately, and spent hours playing with the mice, who they named Snowflake, Brownie, and Ribbon.

When our son Jonah’s friend and his mother returned to the house two days later, the mice had become pets in the boys’ minds, so it was a shock to them when Tyler announced, “I’m going to use the mice in my snake traps now.”

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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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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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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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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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Folding Instructions for the World Record Paper Airplane

Paper.Plane.InstructionsEarning a world record allows paper-plane designers to own football teams and yacht off the Croatian coast. And according to aerospace engineer and record holder Ken Blackburn, you need master only three things in your quest for paper-plane glory: good folds, a good throw and good design.

Let’s polish off the first two in a couple words: Good folds are extremely crisp, reducing the plane’s profile and thus its drag. They also make the plane perfectly symmetrical. And a good throw means different things for different planes (we’ll get into specs later), but for a world-record attempt, you use a baseball-style throw to launch the plane straight up, as high as possible — there’s video of Blackburn’s Georgia Dome launch and subsequent 27.6-second, world-record flight online at paperplane.org.

Now to design, wherein lies the true makery of paper planes.

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Maker Movement Infographic

Infographic: The Maker Movement

Thanks to the good folks at TheGrommet.com for creating this excellent little piece of propaganda.

Multitasking and the Curious Phenomenon of “Supertasking”

I don’t multitask. Or, I do it so badly that I end up dropping everything in a massive tangle of badness with me standing baffled at its center. This frustrates my wife to no end. She can balance on a beach ball while writing things in her calendar, listening to Radio Lab, text-messaging, and juggling chainsaws (it’s a neat trick — and also kind of hot). I hold that monotasking allows me to get a string of things done right, one at a time. Kristi thinks that multitasking is a prerequisite for inclusion in post-Stone Age society and that monotaskers should be rounded up and reprogrammed at underground government facilities.

The question is, is there hope for us monotaskers? Should monotaskers like me strive for less inept sessions of multitasking, or should we just give it up completely?

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