Science fiction, help or hindrance?

[Annalee Newitz] from io9 has written a piece about how science fiction can impact the public’s perception of scientific research. She’s covered stories ranging from Frankenstein, for showing the negatives of humans “playing god”, to The Diamond Age, for showing an inspiring use of nanotechnology.

We wonder what direct impact science fiction has had on research. Depictions of a 3D metaverse have always been compelling, but is pouring effort into half measures like Second Life a waste of time compared to serious computer interaction research?

We discussed this for a little while and concluded that whether inspiring or hindering, the very act of critically thinking about technology was beneficial. What books have inspired you in the past? Was it because they showed a better world or were they a stern warning?

Mac tablets made by fans


Macintosh makes a lot of wonderful pieces of technology, but they do not make a tablet. Pictured above is the Modbook, the closest you can currently get to a Mac tablet. Though not officially built by Apple, they are an Apple Premier Developer and that isn’t too shabby.

Several people have taken it upon themselves to fashion Mac tablets of their own, varying from extremely professional looking finishes down to duct tape and wire. Lets take a look at some of the more popular ones out there.

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Radiohead releases laser music video with data


Radiohead has released their music video for “House Of Cards.” We’ve already covered some of the tech involved. If making an entire video without cameras wasn’t edgy enough, they’ve released all the point data for people to play with and remix. The band is encouraging people to post their creations to their YouTube group.

Head over to their Google Code page to watch a making of video as well as view some of the datasets in 3D. There is a link to the entire dataset for download as well.

Ard-e: Cheap Arduino robot platform


[Adam] sent in his robot: Ard-e. It’s build on a cheap remote control bull dozer kit along with a pile of cheap parts. He managed to keep the cost under $100. You might be getting sick of the Arduino love, but we love how the platform makes it possible for the micro controller novice to get results without taking advanced assembly language.

Refillable canned air


While not very technical, [3eff_Jeff] posted an interesting modification to an empty air canister that makes it refillable. He was tired of drilling holes in the ozone, so he carefully drilled a hole into the top of the can instead. In the name of caution, he made sure the can was completely empty first by tying the trigger down with a rubber band. After waiting a while he carefully drilled the hole using an oil lubricant, and then epoxied in a Schrader valve from a leftover bike tire tube.

Due to compression of the air as it is pumped into the can, it becomes quite warm. He found that if the can is allowed to cool to room temperature, the air would become very cold once leaving the canister, which would cause condensation problems. So he uses it right after filling, and then empties it out when not in use.

We do not recommend anyone trying this, but it is a unique way to make a commonly used disposable resource in the computer field reusable. If we can use something more than once, we’re definitely for it. That’s why we support recycling components that would otherwise make their way to the landfill.

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