Posted by Kat Bauman
| 8 Aug 2014
In these days of Google and Wikipedian certainty, it may seem like our world has few mysteries left. We know how henges were built and there aren't many Aztec ruins being discovered in forgotten forests, but today we got word of at least one slightly mysterious find. Carved into the hot, calm Nazca desert of Peru are hundreds of enormous, ancient drawings without a clear purpose. Among them is a 300 foot hummingbird. These geoglyphs date from between 500 BCE to 500 CE and have been studied for nearly a century. This week, the world learned that several new forms, never seen before, have been unearthed by a sandstorm.
The early Nazca people created these odd single-line drawings by removing the thin layer of dark red pebbles and rock that covers the desert plain, exposing pale contrasting clay underneath. The lime filled clay hardens with a day's cycle through cool mist and hot sun, and the desert site is reliably hot and windless, leaving the drawings baked into the landscape for hundreds of years without disruption.
Spiral Jetty? Never heard of her
While this informercial below cracked me up...
...I can't deny that I hate pulling the bags out of the large garbage can I keep in my studio. To conserve bags, I wait until they're fully laden, and the suction effect seems to add 20 pounds to the already-heavy load.
I probably wouldn't buy the "Can-Air" solution, partly because I hate the commercial, and partly because I assume one could easily build whatever their device is made out of. (Notice they're careful not to mention what it actually is, which makes me think it's a rebranded piece of something you find in a hardware store.) Meanwhile, a common hack is to drill holes in the bottom of your garbage can for airflow, but since people in the studio are fond of throwing full cups of coffee and sharp, broken plastic hangers in there, I'll forgo that solution too.
There's got to be a better way!
Usually when you pull something out of your bag that deploys two prongs, you're about to tase somebody. But this here is a smartphone case, and one of the cooler ideas I've seen in that arena.
The PocketPlug smartphone case not only contains a battery, but features two flip-out prongs that can go right into an outlet, no cables necessary. You can leave the phone in the case while it charges, or pull it out to continue using it; either way juice is flowing into the case's battery.
If this project sounds familiar to you...maybe it is. The JuiceTank, as it was initially called, was successfully Kickstarted—back in May of 2012, when it was designed for the iPhone 4. Now it's 5s-compatible, or at least will be when you get it; it's currently up for pre-orders, at $64 a pop versus the $80 projected retail.
When you picture an ordinary filmmaker's workspace, you picture piles of camera and grip gear alongside coffee-table tomes on the French New Wave. But Casey Neistat is no ordinary filmmaker, and his lower Manhattan workspace looks more than a little like the Industrial Design studio spaces you remember from design school. Part art supply store and part hardware store, Neistat's workshop allows him to quickly cobble together everything from iPhone docks to camera fixes to marker-scrawled animation slides.
Neistat's just launched his Studio Series, where he's going to presumably show us the inner workings of this amazing makerspace. First up: His red-box organization system and the thinking behind it, presented in his signature explanatory style:
I've got a friend from Alabama who told me that growing up, most families she knew kept shotguns in the house. When you heard a noise in the middle of the night, the shotgun was the go-to item, and she explained that the CHIK-CHIK sound of "racking" it carried across the porch and was enough to discourage the casual burglar.
Another sound shotguns make is the actual blast, and I'm told it's deafening. Twelve-gauges reportedly top out around 150 to 165 decibels, and inside a house, where there are walls to bounce the sound around in, likely more. That's enough to cause permanent hearing damage. "Shotgun owners have been without a real solution for ear protection," says a Utah-based company called SilencerCo. "Some choose hearing preservation in the form of earmuffs or plugs for relief in controlled environments, but spurn their use in the field or in a home protection scenario, where the ability to detect other sounds is critical."
With that in mind the company has invented the Salvo 12, "the first and only commercially-viable shotgun suppressor on earth." Interestingly enough it's modular, made up of little Lego-like sections of roughly two inches in length that the user can add or subtract to hit their preferred balance of length, weight and noise level.
The noise reduction is pretty nuts:
Posted by Ray
| 31 Jul 2014
Bike Grouch Alert: So it's come to this.
That there is Lucid Design's "Kit Bike," which, like an IKEA shelving unit, can be assembled from and disassembled into 21 parts for ease of transport. I didn't mind Paolo de Giusti's asymmetrical concept bike and I can appreciate the over-the-top hipster chic of Van Hulsteijns, but this is exactly the kind of thing that the general public will eat up with nary a thought about whether it would actually work. After all, it turned up in a couple of reputable design blogs, one of which notes that:
The bike frame is made from hollow aluminum tubes that twist together and can be secured with a key. Since the frame attaches only on one side of the wheels, the bike can be assembled and disassembled while it leans against a wall. When it's not in use, the parts and wheels can each be stowed in sections in a custom-designed bag.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, that's because it is.
Don't get me wrong—I personally would love to have a bicycle that I could snap together like a tent (a well-designed one, of course), but then again, I don't know if I would trust the contraption to hold up on the road. I'm no engineer, but the very thought of applying torque to that rear wheel—note that the hub is connected only at a single, non-driveside dropout—makes me feel like I'm breaking something. Meanwhile, if the grossly oversimplified componentry and lack of brakes can be written off, the fact that the drivetrain is on the wrong side suggests that the Bangalore, India-based firm lacks a basic understanding of a bicycle in itself.
I'm a heavy Apple user and I love their products, but I'm bewildered by some of their design decisions. The one that drives me the most nuts is that my Thunderbolt Display's USB ports are on the back. As someone who is frequently connecting and disconnecting things, this gets super-annoying.
So I was excited when I saw this little gizmo by BlueLounge, the Jimi USB extension:
Images via Robbie Khan / PetaPixel
While I'd previously caught wind of LG's new 34" monitor, the company's hero shots showed little more than a rectangle covered in Photoshopped fake screens and devoid of local scale. But I just came across photographer Robbie Khan's write-up on his, and seeing it with actual work on it drives home how gi-normous this thing is.
Like many of us creatives Khan spends long stretches in front of a monitor, and the 34UM95's 21:9 aspect ration and 3440x1440 resolution would go to good use in his work editing panoramic photos.
LG's product copy points out that they've included a "Screen Splitter" feature (both Windows and Mac compatible) that automatically tiles out four screens with a single click...
One of the first things you learn in the ID shop at design school: Wood glue is for joining wood, welding is great for joining metal, acetone is the thing for fusing plastics together. But when you need to attach one of these materials to another, you've got to switch over to hard fasteners or something more clever, since wood glue won't stick to plastics, et cetera.
While that's occasionally a hassle for building multimaterial objects, record lovers have figured out that wood glue not sticking to plastic provides a huge benefit: You can use wood glue to clean LPs. Because Titebond won't stick to vinyl, but will stick to all the microscopic specks of dust hanging out in the grooves, a layer of wood glue will become like a Biore strip for records. Observe, and be sure to listen to the before and after—the amount of snaps, crackles and pops the glue removes from the audio is astonishing:
I hate shaving, and have always viewed it as a bothersome to-do item rather than a pleasurable manscaping ritual. To some extent this is probably because of the shaving objects I use. Gilette's Mach3 Turbo blades produce a good shave but cost an obscene three-dollars-plus per cartridge, and the Dollar Shave Club two-blade cartridges I recently switched to are affordable, but totally suck. I have half a mind to switch to a straight razor.
That would probably be more time-consuming, maintenance-heavy and bloody than I'd like, but if I were to do it, I'd go totally old school and also buy a badger brush and lathering bowl. Most of the ones I've seen are ugly, needlessly elaborate or just plain chintzy looking, but recent ID grad Flyn O'Brien has designed a pretty sweet, minimalist set called the Lathr.
This week social media has been flooded with the following vid, featuring twentysomething athlete Kacy Catanzaro. On Monday night's episode of American Ninja Warrior, the gymnast from Jersey became the first woman in history to clear the obstacle course and qualify for the final round, performing seemingly impossible tasks: The 5’0”, 100-pound Catanzaro doesn't have the height and wingspan to easily reach from one obstacle to the next, so she compensated by swinging back and forth, then tossing herself through the air on sheer arm strength and momentum.
Training for a competition like ANW is an unusual affair. If you're training for a marathon you can hit a treadmill or the road, if you're prepping for a run on Jeopardy you can hit the books. But obstacle courses, particularly ones filled with the fiendishly unusual challenges first devised on Japan's ANW progenitor program Sasuke, aren't exactly on every corner. And even Parkour experts can find themselves stymied on the ANW obstacles, which shift, rotate, tilt and sway it ways that static objects like mailboxes and bannisters do not.
So how do you get the obstacle course experience to train for a show like this? Here are six ways:
In recent years we've seen some neat re-thinks of basic cookware, from a self-stirring pot to Mike Whitehead's CNC-milled cast iron skillet. Now a rocket scientist from the UK, Dr. Tom Povey, has designed a line of pots and saucepans that boast astonishing efficiency.
Oxford professor Povey knows all about influencing temperature changes, as his day job in the Osney Thermo-Fluids Laboratory involves thermodynamics and jet engines. And whilst engaged in his hobby of mountain climbing, Povey ran into the problem of trying to boil water at high altitude, which takes longer than it does at sea level, burning more of the precious fuel you've hauled up the mountain. After realizing that much of the heat in conventional cooking is wasted, he set about designing a more efficient pot with this assistance of some fellow lab brainiacs.
"The problem with the current shape of [existing cookware] means a lot of the heat is dissipated into the air," Povey told The Telegraph. "So, it is an aerodynamic and heat transfer problem and we applied the science used in rocket and jet engines to create a shape of a pan that is more energy efficient."
Povey's radical-looking cast-aluminum Flare line, which UK kitchenware brand Lakeland began selling last week, employs something you see on turbines: Fins. These carry the heat from the base to the sides more efficiently, reportedly cooking food some 44% faster than a conventional pan. And a conventional pan requires 40% more energy to achieve the same results as you'd get with a Flare pan, making it ideal both for camping—less gas to carry—as well as appealing to kitchenbound consumers for both the energy savings and the evenness of the cooking.
A harpoon gun, hand grenades, Bat-a-rangs (twice!), a "morning star" spiked flail, a 60mm mortar round, and of course handguns: These are all things you can't carry onto an airplane. Ditto with these weird circular multi-bladed things, labeled "Fantasy throwing stars:"
But that doesn't stop the millions of folks going through airport checkpoints each year from trying to smuggle these things through—often in carry-on luggage. With firearms alone, there were 1,477 discovered instances in 2013 alone, which is about four per day.
Happy Fourth of July! We know that our non-Yank readership doesn't care about our special day, especially you Brits. In fact, Stephen Merchant has explained why our holiday of independence rankles his British self—and how things would be better had Britain won. (If you're in the UK, the language is NSFW; if you're in America, crank the volume up all you want—those silly British curse words don't mean anything over here.)
But since the UK came up second best in that particular contest, we are free to launch fireworks on this special day. Unfortunately there's no prerequisite for intelligence when doing so. For one thing, my fellow countrymen, please don't launch fireworks while your dog is off-leash. In the following video this dog appears to have been trained by Al-Qaeda, though thankfully things do not end badly:
Tom Mabe is a comedian and sort of professional prankster, with a YouTube channel documenting his feats of fooled-ya. While I'm generally not a fan of deceiving people and videotaping it to entertain others, Mabe's most famous video has a a social-minded bent: He fooled a perennial drunk driver into thinking he'd just woken from a ten-year coma, in an effort to scare him straight.
But it's a more viscerally frightening prank of his that really got our attention. Last Halloween, Mabe mated an RC hexcopter with a Grim Reaper costume, and the results were pretty terrifying:
I don't know how, in litigious America, Mabe has avoided being sued. In any case, here's how he pulled off the Reaper stunt:
I never thought anything could be done to speed up bathroom lines. But a company called Tooshlights is claiming that their product can speed the process of getting people into stalls by up to 50%. The product, an overhead light that turns either red or green, does not cause one to pee or poop faster, but simply lets those waiting know when a stall is available.
"Currently, over 66% of the time there are vacant stalls in public restrooms that guests are not aware of," the company claims. "Patrons would have to look under the door, peek through the cracks or even trying opening the door just to see if it was in use or not." (When in doubt, I prefer to just kick the door in and apologize if it turns out to be occupied, but to each his own.)
"Can you describe what just happened in there? Take us through the second half: What was going through your head?"
What's not clear is how the sensor works. If a stall is empty but the door is closed, will that provide a false positive? Toilet sensors frequently misfire, and I wonder if Tooshlights can be similarly inaccurate.
Posted by erika rae
| 27 Jun 2014
Bootlegged jazz records might be one of the last things that comes to mind when you think about Soviet Russia. But decades before the tape recorder made its groundbreaking debut, oppressed Russian music fans found a way to listen to their tunes using discarded X-ray films from the dumpsters and archives of hospitals.
The music was pressed onto the discarded films using phonographs converted into very primitive CD burners for vinyl. (There's not a whole lot of information out there on how these hacked phonographs work, so we welcome any insight in the comments.) The copies were then cut into discs and a cigarette was used to burn a hole in the middle of the disc. Featuring the skeletal remains of the original substrate, the handmade discs were appropriately known as "bone music."
The easiest thing in the world is to be a critic on the internet. But the hardest is to be an internet critic who's funny. Internet personality Maddox, who first cracked me up with his brutally honest criticisms of children's drawings in the early days of the internet, is one of the few who's got the harder category locked down.
While the children's drawing series sparked painful memories in anyone who's sat through a design school crit (and has since been turned into a book), Maddox takes on far broader targets with his "The Best Show in the Universe" YouTube program. This week's topic: Pushed over the edge by inane living tips, Maddox takes on the recent glut of lifehacks that no one asked for. (Be warned: The language is NSFW!)
[Images by Fiddler49]
By mastering the assembly of compound materials, the Mongols had created an incredibly powerful bow, as we saw in the previous entry. But the way that they used it, which differed from the European method, necessitated a secondary support object that was the result of early ergonomic observation.
The Europeans used what is known as the "Mediterranean draw" to pull their bowstrings back. This uses the first three fingers of the hand. However, the Mongols used their thumbs to pull the string back, and curled their index and middle fingers over the thumb to support it. This, they reckoned, was stronger and allowed for a cleaner release. Whether you're an archer or not, if you use your own hand to mimic the release of either pull, you can clearly see it's easier to instantly spread your thumb, forefinger and middle finger than it is to release the first three fingers of your hand; that's because the thumb and fingers oppose, and thus balance, each other.
But concentrating over 100 pounds of force against the thumb would damage that thumb. So to protect them, the Mongols had to create yet another object: The thumb ring. This hand-carved object could be made from wood, bone, horn or antler. Here's a shot of a modern-day one owned by this Hong-Kong-based archery enthusiast:
The hard part about killing people is that sometimes they kill you back. (Just ask Prince Oberyn.) So at some point, some primitive pugilist concluded it would be better if one was not within arm's reach of the person one was trying to kill.
One way you can do this is to kill your opponent with kindness. But this can take an unsatisfyingly long time. A more immediate way to kill someone from afar is with a ranged weapon.
Spears and slings were relatively simple to make, but no civilization could gain an enduring military advantage with such basic and duplicable weapons. The earliest example of an object that required both design and manufacturing know-how, and which led to a tremendously decisive advantage, was probably the 13th Century Mongol bow.
Bows and arrows have been around for tens of thousands of years—depending on who you listen to, we may have had them 64,000 freaking years ago—but the Mongol bow was a standout. First off, it was made out of something like the carbon fiber of that era, a complicated-to-make sandwich of horn, wood or bamboo, and strands of animal sinew all laminated together with animal glue. The horn provided the rigidity, the wood or bamboo provided the flex, and the elastic sinew laminated to the wood helped store potential energy as the string was drawn.
The traditional problem with composite bows was that they tended to delaminate when wet, as water dissolved the animal glue holding them together. Since the Mongols didn't like the idea that they would have to surrender if it was raining out, and throwing arrows by hand didn't seem terribly practical, they either developed or stole the technology to produce a waterproof lacquer. By coating their bows with this stuff, they effectively made them all-weather. And the results were simply devastating.
I've always bought my soap pump bottles from a company I used to work for, because I remember doing the renderings and CAD drawings for the dispenser head. As ID'ers, we don't get a lot of compensation or credit, so little, quiet ego boosts like this go a long way. But several years ago I started feeding my dogs raw meat, and because I was handling it so frequently, I realized the design of soap pump I'd worked on would no longer cut it.
When your hands are covered in raw meat juice that you're trying to wash off, obviously you don't want to touch the soap dispenser with them. I tried using my elbow in the beginning but it was unworkable. So I switched over to Simplehuman's touchless Sensor Pump—but it's turned out to be a pain in the ass.
The sensor gets triggered every time I turn the lights on in the kitchen, squirting soap onto the counter, so I have to leave a sponge under it to catch it. I've tried cleaning the sensor to no avail. I hate the amount of soap this thing wastes, and because it goes off so frequently I have to change the batteries out often.
I consider your average sinkside soap dish a design failure. They either have no drainage, leaving the bar to sit in a puddle of water that transforms its underside into slime, or they drain into a container, and either way you have to empty the damn thing. The notion that this thing is designed to hold soap for you, yet you must constantly attend to it by draining it into the sink, is absurd. Oughtn't good industrial design free us from this minutiae?
A far better idea is this design for a slanted soap dish pictured up top. But Jeez Louise is it ugly. It looks like the bottom half of a mouth, with two fangs and a leering tongue.
That being said, it looks like it would get the job done, at least for certain types of sinks, and one variant of this design has a suction cup on the base so it doesn't tip over. (Both are made out of plastic, not porcelain, so it's probably too light to not tip over during use.)
Where the overall the shape came from is no mystery—the form clearly follows the function (the function being self-drainage). Which begs the question: What do you do when form follows function, and the result is freaking fugly?
Back in 2010 we showed you designer Jinsun Park's nifty Color Picker concept. The idea was that a magic marker would be loaded up with both a sensor and RGB ink cartridges, allowing you to instantly scan a color—and draw with it on paper. Here's one of her original renderings:
Now a new company called Scribble may be bringing us what Park originally envisioned (though it's unclear if she's involved). Their soon-to-be-posted-on-Kickstarter Scribble Pen operates exactly like Park's concept proposal, though they've opted for CMYK rather than RGB. "This innovative pen can hold over 100,000 unique colors in its internal memory," the company writes, "and can reproduce over 16 million unique colors."
If Park is not involved, Scribble's choice of promotional imagery seems pretty coincidental. Below is Park's rendering from 2010, side by side with Scribble's rendering from their press release:
Or maybe I'm just comparing apples to oranges.
In any case, the company plans to release two models: The Scribble Ink, described above, which can be used to draw on paper. They'll also have the Scribble Stylus, which has the scanner but no ink cartridges; the idea with the Stylus is that you scan colors to beam over to your smartphone or tablet via their mobile app. "Your colors become more useful when they are organized, tagged, searchable and converted to various color models," their thinking goes.
The Kickstarter is slated for July, with the Ink going for $149.95 and the Stylus for $79.95. But they're offering a 20% off deal for those willing to sign up for pre-orders here.
Posted by Kat Bauman
| 18 Jun 2014
You may have seen Heimplanet inflatable tents bounce around the Internet before, and they're doing it again. These tubed geometric things are tents you don't have to pitch, held up (and possibly down) by air pressure alone. The German conceptual-outdoor company first debuted the Cave, a dome-like 3-person sleeper, then the smaller Wedge for the lone wolf. Now they're scaling up with the Mavericks—a tent so large and in charge they don't even give a suggested body maximum.
The tents rely on a series of tubes (don't we all?), which via an interlocking and overlapping geometric pattern provide stiffness and stability for the skin of the tent. The tubes themselves are a double-layered pneumatic situation, that can be patched like a bike tube. They're pumped up using a hand pump, and can be connected for quick inflation and then disconnected for safe independence. The pumping process does seem nice and quick, though the larger tents make the larger and heavier Heimplanet pump seem nigh on necessary for the speedy set-up they claim. I'm not really convinced that speed and ease are the selling points here, since a well-designed tent with poles goes up in less than a couple minutes.
The larger two tents don't even seem to use guy lines or stakes. As they put it, "The diamond. Its stability is based on its specific molecular and crystal structure." I have no idea how the molecular stability of a diamond in any way applies to the stability of their tents. But here their original "Cave" tent is put to a wind test, apparently without any kind of stakes:
Saitama-based Masanori Oji's interests are as broad as his skillset. The handicrafts designer has experience in architecture and graphics as well as product, and after attending a workshop at a brass foundry to learn about the material, it wasn't long until he proposed a series of product designs to the company behind the foundry.
That company is Futagami, one of the oldest brass foundries in Japan, and one that's produced everything from ship fittings to Buddhist altar equipment. In collaboration with Oji they've released a beautiful line of housewares, like the dope bottle openers you see up top, and these gorgeous sets of chopstick rests below.
They also produce rests for Western cutlery...
...in addition to the cutlery itself, which is primarily brass, but silver-tipped at the business end.
When George Lucas first spun his neo-mythical space yarn back in the '70s, he probably had no idea how deeply it would weave itself into the marketplace. It was of course the toy rights that made him a rich man, and since those first action figures hit store shelves in the '70s, a merchandising industry has sprung up around it to inject Star Wars into many facets of everyday life.
But not all facets. And here to stitch up one of the gaping holes in the market is Instructables user
Lando Calrissian Random_Canadian, who has recognized that even Jedis and Siths occasionally like to take the edge off by knitting.
Yes, by following along with the Instructable, you can now make your own lightsaber knitting needles. Expressing your alignment, whether you're on the Light or the Dark Side of the Force, is as simple as choosing either green or red LEDs. You'll have to cannibalize some LED flashlights and chop up a Lucite rod to make them, but it's a small price to pay to restore balance to the knitting galaxy.
These aren't the crochets you're looking for