Keva planks seem simple: they’re 1/4-inch by 3/4-inch by 4 1/2-inch wooden blocks. But like Lego, from these unassuming pieces, wondrous creations arise. For example, take a look at Keva founder Ken Schel building this structure for Dreamworks to resemble the Shrek Castle. Look even closer and you’ll see that every piece is a simple, rectangular plank. There’s not a lot of complex rules here, just, “No glue, no connectors,” says Schel.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that without the addition of work, the entropy of a system will increase. In other words, left alone a system becomes more disordered: molecules disperse, heat homogenizes, and if you drop a Rubik’s Cube, it ain’t real likely to solve itself. Instead, random processes applied to this best selling toy of all time tend to increase its disorder. Of the 350 million Rubik’s Cubes sold to date, how many do you think are sitting at the bottom of the toy box or even on the kitchen counter, unsolved? According to this lovely 2nd Law, the correct answer is lots.
The Boulder startup Kitables is out to change that. Currently being Kickstarted is its snap-together kit that in conjunction with a little Arduino board allows you and yours to put a Rubik’s Cube in a slot and watch the automatic arm solve the puzzle for you. They call it “every nerd’s dream machine.” And I don’t know about you, but the idea will definitely keep us here at Maker Boulder up at night.
The company is the brainchild of Arieann DeFazio, research scientist at CU Boulder using x-ray crystallography to study Alzheimer’s disease.
“I always had it in my head to create the perfect job, somewhere I could have a business and do science too,” says Arieann, escapee from a biomedical sciences PhD program in Florida. “After five or six years of searching and not finding it, I finally decided to make it myself.”
Arieann was surfing Instructables.com when she realized, “Here are all these great ideas, but nobody’s got the parts!” When she looked deeper, Arieann says she found that most existing DIY kits were just electronics or just mechanics or just science kits, “Most of what you get from Radioshack, is you do like five steps and you have a robot,” she says.
Arieann’s goal was to combine mediums to create a fully integrated home science experience. Working at CU and with another Boulder startup, Arieann started formatting her kits on the side. Eventually she hopes to have Kitables kits across STEM fields.
For now, there’s the Rubik’s solver. God’s Algorithm already existed for the Cube — the optimal path of action from any given state to the solution state. Arieann brought a friend with mechanical engineering experience into the business to work the machine side. And they’re hoping that Kickstarter will help take care of the business side.
“We have two Kickstarter goals,” she says. “The first is to make sure people actually want this thing. And the second is to provide a little seed funding, or I guess it would be micro-seed funding.”
Here’s a little editorial: as awesome as the solver most certainly is, you gotta visit the Kickstarter for the video’s comedic genius, which taps into the place within us all that knows what it’s like to obsess over Rubik’s. Be warned: the soundtrack for the solver video will make you want to get your Kojak on.
Consider this: by pledging for Kitables you can do you part to fight entropy and bring just a little more order into the world. Let this forever be known as the day that entropy was beaten back from the gate!
You know those thoughts you have in the shower? No, not those thoughts…but the mind-wandering flashes of observation or brilliant insight that you can’t seem to get any other way? I was thinking last night about a trip we took last year to Knott’s Berry Farm, where Leif — then 48 1/4 inches tall — was just tall enough for the radical roller coasters. There were absolutely no lines and so Leif and I strolled through the gates and directly onto Ghostrider, where we seated ourselves in the last car of the train. With my continued assurances of a fairly mellow ride, we clicked toward the top of the first hill. And long before we crested, Leif and I were whipped over the top and down many hundreds of feet toward the cold, hard ground, pulled over by the gravity already working on the front seats. Now in hindsight and in the shower, I recognize a couple thoughts that went through my head at the time. Here they are in no particular order:
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.)