Don’t Try This at Home is Cliché for a Reason

Oh, for cryin’ out loud. That’s the last straw. We’ve seen one dangerous YouTube video too many. Are we honestly cursed with a false feedback system that unequitably rewards dangerous behavior in online videos? Obviously the answer is ‘yes’. Now the real question becomes, can we do anything about it?

Professional Driver on a Closed Course

Marketing is all about putting something in front of a consumer and getting their brain to go “awesome!”. The fast, loud, shiny, burny, and sharp things are all on the table for that task. It’s the primal part of your brain that gives you jolt, as if your amygdala forgot how to run from sabertooths (saberteeth?) and learned how to like and subscribe.

Back in the day, people were hurt and even killed when replicating stunts they saw done on television. To protect from litigation, companies started adding disclaimers — Don’t Try this at Home or my favorite: Professional Driver on a Closed Course.

But the thing is, commercials are big business. If someone gets hurt, there’s money to be had by assigning blame in a court of law. When the ability to produce and distribute video content was democratized by the coming of the Internet we lost those warnings and the common sense that went with them.

Going way back to this remote-control-a-real-car hack in 2009 I haven’t been able to shake the lack of consideration for danger in a project like this. I included it in the title, which ends with “(dangerously)”. While I wasn’t taken to task in the comments for that title, I have been chided for advocating for things as controversial as helmets when strapping your body to a moving object. Do a Ctrl-F on “helmet” in this article to see what I mean.

The people pulling off these hacks were doing it because it felt awesome and they wanted to document how that felt. They weren’t stars, they were hackers and the world mostly ignored them except in places like Hackaday. We might debate the lack of safety measures but most assumed anyone with skills to do this would take a beat to consider the risks. This was probably a false assumption.

It’s All About the Subs

Things have gotten worse since then. I can’t blame all of this on YouTube, but I’m going to try. One day, YouTube changed everything. They put together a perfect mix of easy uploading, great discoverability, and (most importantly) advertising revenue sharing. For some people, this became a business and not just a way to connect with the rest of the hacker community.

This is the rise of the subscriber base. It’s a vicious cycle — you need more people to like and subscribe so that their influence will push your channel to more people to like and subscribe. The problem is, the fastest way to this is that tricky amygdala again. For some, this is being funny, but for others this is speed, fireballs, and loud bangs, with no regard for life, limb, or eyeball.

We’re Far From Blameless

I like fireballs and fast cars as much as the next person. And we’ve certainly run a lot of articles on the escalatingly dangerous hacks out there for all to see. For instance, we’ve covered several hacks from [kreosan], like microwaving things outside of a microwave and then building a microwave gun.

Pyro Build
Short sleeves and flamethrowers. What could go wrong?

But even the more mainstream content appears to be getting more and more dangerous. Our beloved [Colin Furze] is guilty of dangerous behavior. Not only did he burn himself testing a jet engine out without any safety gear, but turned the aftermath into another ad-supported video.

Which brings me to the straw that broke the camel’s back. Here’s a hack that’s based on the idea of hurting people. It’s what is (luckily) a crappy robot designed to recognize faces and shine lasers into any eyes it detects. Literally it’s conceived to shoot your eyes out. It’s using a red laser that likely won’t cause eye damage unless you intentionally stare into it without blinking, but that’s not discussed in the video, and someone who doesn’t know better replicating this with a different laser could easily cause irreparable damage to their sight.

Rocket Scientists Use Common Sense and So Should You

I was going to use the heading “This Isn’t Rocket Science”, but you don’t see rocket scientists testing new engine designs by lighting a fuse as they run away giggling in short sleeves and flip-flops. Those brilliantly intelligent people are tucked safely in a bunker at a safe distance with their hands hovering over the emergency kill switch as fire fighting equipment hangs out at arms reach. Rocket scientists know a lot about safety and so should you.

This is simple. We don’t have to invent anything to add safety to our hacks. Use common sense. Dress appropriately for your demo — as the situation dictates use reasonable fire-resistant clothing, helmet, etc. Wear protective glasses, laser spec’d goggles, and ear plugs; each whenever called for. Take fumes and particulates seriously and wear respiratory gear. Keep a fire extinguisher around. And if you’re making a video or posting images about it — which you should definitely do — snap a picture or give us a quick video cut to the safety precautions you’ve chosen.

I still want to see awesome projects on YouTube. But I also want to see the trend towards danger for clicks stopped. Let’s do dangerous stuff safely. And let’s be conspicuous about those safety measures. That combination is truly awesome.

Now get off my lawn, and wear your seat belt while doing so.

160 thoughts on “Don’t Try This at Home is Cliché for a Reason

  1. If you do keep an extinguisher around, please ensure that it is the correct one for the job.

    And please HaD, no more videos of ‘how to hurt innocent bystanders using an Arduino.’

          1. Nah, [bwmetz]
            You don’t make it onto any list until you joke about:
            Wanting to become a world famous ISIS rapper and blow up over night!

            .
            .
            .

            On a related note I heard the ISIS free-party Rave was a BLAST!, Their slogan is, “ISIS-Sounds! And Da Bass Go BOOM!!!!”

    1. I get it. But refusing to feature it doesn’t mean the irresponsible project ceases to exist. I think it’s much better to say: “This is an awesome thing but leaving out the safety considerations is bone-headed. Here’s how to be safer while working with this concept”.

        1. “Make sulfurmustards in your garage from hardware store chemicals” and “Easy organophosphorous nerve agents in your kitchen” are headlines I’d rather not see at HaD.

          “3d printed open source atropine and 2-PAM-Cl autoinjector” might have to make an appearance then.

          (I wonder how many watchlists this puts me on?)

        2. I can’t remember if it was on HaD or not but I was pretty uncomfortable seeing how much press that art project got which put some infectious bacteria at one end of a giant petri dish covered in graduated amounts of common antibiotics. It’s a how-to guide for breeding superbugs, and it’s accessible to anyone who can get a few courses of antibiotics.

    2. Mostly, not. They could put a warning, yes, but censoring the posts because someone thinks it is not safe woulde be also wrong . Definitions of safety may vary from people to people, so that someone could think that creating a controller or your solder station is something better left out, because they think the fumes are dangerous ( just an example ) .

        1. Ever the troll, Rasz … With a bad analogy to boot.

          The point is that ignoring the project makes little sense – the project is out there regardless of whether or not HaD will feature it, on Youtube or wherever.

          It is better to show it and SAY IN BOLD “Kids, don’t this or you will burn your eyeballs out/kill half of the city/whatever” than ignore it and pretend nobody will see it. Then it winds up on Reddit or someone posts it to Facebook and off you go. Someone gets maimed. Posting it here at least increases the chance that the wannabe stuntman (not sexism – girls usually know better than do idiotic stuff like this) will see the warning – if they don’t heed it, it is their problem.

          If HaD gets clicks for such article, that’s totally fine with me – they do the community a service.

        2. Rasz:

          Manufacture of sarin gas (It is usually a liquid according to Wiki, so will need an atomizer mechanism to gasify) is potentially acceptable only if combined with high serine producing bacteria in order to synthesize Phosphodiester for the purposes of genetic manipulation and research.
          AND only if contained properly and safely with proper neutralization procedures researched beforehand, alongside loads of health and safety research, safe techniques/procedures, safe preparation, etc!!!!!

          .

          So while you attempted to troll, even the concept you laid out can still be of sensible use, as long as the dangers are made aware to everyone.

          1. Harold,
            Well yeah!!!! How many actual egg-heads who fast-track them selves through university and become full doctors because everything they can learn about their favorite subjects is fully available and they can learn so fast? (One may save you one day!!!).

            When Police kidnapped I and my brother around Feburary 1998 (I was 6 going on 7), I went without education and fell back a mental age of a year. Also the last major learning based activity was involving electronics (I also wired a plug on a lampshade from a recycle center, because they like to cut cables for some reason!). That learning activity with the memory of the kidnapping trauma stuck untouched in my mind for two and a bit years where I ended up settling at a care-home. That carehome was run by a married couple. They thought catching I staring blankly at a spare lightswitch (that I had stared at blankly for a few hours beforehand anyway) was some kind of extremely unhealthy form of obsession. Far from it, I was in deep memory about the whole traumatic ordeal and I was in the middle of binning stuff as I had recently arrived there (Just turned year 2000). However, that got I banned from any interaction of anything to do with electronics, be it components/parts/talk/books and theory/etc…
            Luckily I showed a side that only one of the careworkers recognized (He is now a Dr in child psychology). He helped with some of the resources for learning such subjects on the basis I’d not talk about it (He implied but not directly saying so). I also learnt a lot about differing countries/landmasses and their historic build-up to their current cultures from other books already available, etc, etc (Hence how much I do know, yet still may have missing chunks of info within) … Loads of other short-sightedness happened at that place.
            However without such a widely available resource and including people making mistakes by doing the dangerous things, I can now-days search, “Battery dangers tested” and see an idiot almost blow his hands off so I can prepare safety measures, for example, when charging lithium batteries of the older chemistries (i.e. Pre-Y2K, 4.2v VS 4.35v chemics, etc).

            So yeah, let them, someone will make good use somewhere.

      1. The “laser shotgun” featured some time back is significantly more dangerous than the eyeball tracker. At tens of watts you don’t really need to track eyes as reflections are enough to permanently blind.

    3. I’m boycotting that stupid page and a few others. Made a few comments than decided it didn’t deserve more of my page-views. I won’t be watching anything else from laserkid either.

      1. If it caught your attention enough that you’re going to remember his name to boycott his work, then he’s doing something right.

        In all seriousness, being deliberately outrageous is an effective way to get attention. You’ll be a hero if you can find a way to make that technique lose its effectiveness.

        1. Five years of The Donald ought to do the trick I suppose. Unfortunately, he seems to be slacking off already and turned to the usual drive-by bombings and “WMD”-stories instead of those terrible, teeeerrible tweets before.

        2. Not really. If Laserkid had done a good job, Notareal would want to come back and see his future videos. Youtube don’t pay you just for pissing people off!

          There’s a difference between Bad Attention and Good Attention, and it looks like Bart Simpson’s not the only member of his generation not to know the difference. Hitler’s internationally famous, but nobody would vote for him.

          Actually going by recently, lots of people would vote for him… I take it all back, you’re right.

  2. Funny you should mention rocket science….

    Our university had four students from a rocketry club sent to the hospital just two days ago for testing a new rocket fuel composition by lighting it and then standing around real close by while it exploded loud enough everyone in the whole town wondered who set off fireworks….

        1. You may be going, but it won’t be for that comment.

          It’s unclear how they felt they were building a rocket test vs a pipe bomb. They also did not appear to notice that operation of metal rocket motors is usually conducted from behind a substantial blast barrier.

          Perhaps a viewing of “The Man in the White Suit” is in order.

          1. I think a pipe bomb would be closed a t both ends. “Man in white suits”? – Doctors? – yes they were in hospital for emergency surgery.. Hopefully they did not suffer lasting injuries.

          2. The fact that it wasn’t closed on both ends doesn’t necessarily prevent it from generating a blast with high enough pressure to tear the metal cylinder apart and turn it into a bunch of high-speed shrapnel. Also, this was meant to be some experimental rocket fuel, so it more than likely supports a higher efficiency conversion of chemical reactance into kinetic energy than the generic gunpowder used in most pipe bombs.

            I would think burning it on a flat surface would be the least dangerous way to test the properties of its burn, though it is still always dangerous to set an untested explosive on fire. This really amounted to nothing more than a friday night frat (or insert any number of other irresponsible groups of young inebriated people) stunt. Any pyro (like me!) with any experience (sadly, not me) would have come up with a less dangerous stunt, but a group of engineering students should have been more concerned with gathering useful data during a safe test with all the proper equipment and safety protocols.

          1. @harold – in order to be Darwin award nominee, you have to remove yourself from the gene pool by your own (and usually very dumb) actions, so any kind of injury that will make it impossible to pass on your genes is also acceptable :P

          2. It seems intelligence is at least partly genetic. There’s probably a whole shitload of minor and major factors as well, though. And I would guess that the genetic part is “potential”, which life experience can either achieve or not.

            As for Idiocracy, spend an hour watching TV. I could select for you a whole week’s schedule that’d make “Ow! My balls” look like Samuel Beckett Teaches Quantum Chromodynamics.

          3. Haha,
            For a laugh I ACTUALLY have a pirated copy of Idiocracy in my “Documentaries” folder!

            I look around me and the amount of idiots I’ve met and the amount of old faces whom I turned my back on because they had an argument about something, I googled it and they called me a, “Mr Know-it-all!!!”. This happened a handful of times, others are stupid in differing ways. I had some DOA jobs a while back where the field engineer had taken cutters to the honeycomb-style side-vents on two units and completely mangled the side walls just to get a screwdriver around a HDD that slides out on rubber grips (Essentially falls out when the lid is opened) That was to install a Wifi card (DOA’d as faulty HDD, Of Effin course!!! The HDD is dented like an ISIS shooting target!!!!). I also saw one of said units with two batteries in the returning carry box (They have an internal UPS) and a week+a-bit later a unit returns as “fails to stay powered, staff found no battery, please DOA”. Another engineer thought the batteries were HDDs (They look look RC style NiMh) and kept DOA-ing the units because the unit “wipes the swapped HDD”. And so-on and so-forth. (Yes we fired a lot of Field-engineers over the years!!!)

  3. I anticipate good things from the comments here.

    I don’t think you should have published the laser eye tracker. The general concept is neat (point at things with a laser!) but that specific implementation is so verminously, soul-taintingly stupid that it merits nothing better than complete and utter rejection.

      1. at those energy levels they are akin to laser dazzlers, a weapon that is already operational in many nations, i doubt that there is anything that inherently breaks the geneva conventions here.

  4. I totally agree with you. I hate seeing a guy in his backyard working with dangerous chemicals or a mini foundry wearing shorts and flip-flops. Colin Furze’s ad revenues will dry up once he hurt himself in a way that he can’t make more videos. I think it’s the slomo guys who made a video trying to blow out a candle by shooting it’s wick, one of them placed himself in front of the gun while they shot it, not directly in front but in a place that would get him evicted from a gun range.

    1. considering the amount of stuff he does and how few injuries we have seen there might be a pattern, perhaps safety isnt all about the warnings, the equipment or what you wear, but what you think instead, not that the former cant help.

      constantly catering everything everywhere to the lowest denominator wont get us anywhere.

      1. Where is this “anywhere” we should be going? People doing stupid things isn’t going to impede societal progress that much, and “common sense” warnings aren’t going to affect people who don’t need them that much either.

        1. i think you have misunderstood my point, might be my fault, but considering what i wrote above in the same post i thought my stance at least was fairly clear.

          catering to the lowest common denominator means tailoring all of the content to those people who do stupid things, something i am against, i entirely agree that people doing stupid stuff wont impede us, but trying to tailor everything we do to prevent people from doing stupid stuff could very well impede us, preenting us from going anywhere, it isnt a place, it is a state.

      2. Sure, knowledge and proper thinking are important. But all of that PLUS goggles is gonna save your eyes more times than without. And there is such a thing as pure dumb luck. Every safety regulation, every piece of safety equipment, has a story behind it where someone really was that stupid, or unlucky.

        If Colin were completely in control of what he’s doing, shouldn’t he have no injuries at all?

    2. If he got himself shot at 24 billion frames a seconds or something, well, that would be something to watch also. That moron who does a quick draw and shoots himself right in the leg is still one of the classic “gun fails”.

      1. No it won’t, except you have a kid with a massive ego complex getting his attention fix, by puttingo put out a design with just a few mods becomes a weapon that gets you convicted of war crimes or terror charges if you use it.

        Of course most hackers being bereft of a conscience don’t see. They rationalize it away. Creepy boys,

        Look this is no different than showing people how to make, Chlorine or Mustard gas grenades only for entertainment purposes. It’s just stuff that puts hackers into the malignant and people we can do without breathing category. That’s what a lot of non geeks in Law enforcement and the legal system will say.

        1. you do realize that chlorine and mustard gas are illegal to use in international warfare, lasers aren’t, you are making false equivalences, they aren’t chemical weapons and they aren’t inherently banned, at this energy level they are classified as reduced lethality weapons, they are used to stop non compliant people at road blocks, sort of hard to drive if you cant see, flash blindness is a bitch and also entirely temporary.

          just because you overreact doesn’t mean everyone else has to have the same amount of outrage to have a conscience.

          1. “lasers aren’t”
            Well, that’s debatable. They are allowed for stuff that doesn’t intentionally cause eye damage.
            Intentionally blinding ppl with lasers during a conflict will get you a mandatory invitation at an international court.

          2. considering they are actively used in conflict to intentionally, though not permanently blind people i would say you are incorrect.
            http://www.wired.co.uk/article/glow-laser
            they have standard kit numbers at this point, not that that makes them legal but they are widespread at this point, have been for a decade.

            in fact at this point i would suggest anyone who thinks lasers in conflict are inherently against any wartime conventions to find said conventions and quote them, there might very well be limits to their use but they are far from banned as a concept.

        2. Chlorine has wide uses in the chemical industry. And there are several chemistry videos in which people produce free chlorine to conduct experiments. Banned is “only” it’s use as a weapon. But many things, also found in our daily life can be misused as a weapon.

  5. Great article.

    There’s always going to be tension between “because I can” and “stupidly dangerous”. In the end I see these dangerous hacks as a form of speech, and I think they should be protected as such. Criticizing them is also speech, of course, and there’s no reason HaD should feel compelled to share them.

    1. It’s the free market. Freedom is messy, but also produces much more than tyranny ever could (except where body counts are concerned). (I’ll see your carpet bombing and raise you a mass starvation).

      Publishing for comment while decrying the implementation is the right call, as evidenced by the very good comment “show how to avoid eyes”.

      Now leave me be while I go make a head shot robot sniper.

  6. Loud noises and bright lights attract clicks to your links, too, Hackaday! Your content isn’t a user-submitted free-for-all. You have staff that decide what ends up on your pages. And much like youtube, you convert eyeballs and clicks into monetary value.

    Hackaday is a reach multiplier. What percent of your audience would have seen the eye zapper if it weren’t on your blog?

    I don’t see any room for shades of grey here. If safety is this important to hackaday, content lacking it won’t be featured here any longer.

    1. When I first saw this on the web, the LOX grill lighting reportedly came about as a competition between two Purdue departments to see which one could light a grill the fastest. The web-site also came with stern warnings to ALWAYS have an ignition source present before pouring. Apparently LOX soaked charcoal (or asphalt pavement) can explode like a black-powder bomb!

      1. Not only “can”, Will! During WWII facilities which relied on serious amounts of explosives, like quarries, could buy “Linde Machines” to produce liquid oxygen which they would use to prime ersazt explosive charges. These were basically just paper tubes loaded with charcoal or sawdust, which were primed by soaking for a while in a dewar with liquid oxygen before use.

        Once saturated with liquid oxygen, they would put a string of these into boreholes, stick a fuse in and cover with sand.

        They blasted their granite with that.

    1. It becomes a shit when people or families of people that kill/maim themselves start suing the ones that propagated the content and/or means to do so. Sure it likely won’t hold up in court but having to deal with it is an additional thing/headache to take care of that would otherwise have been avoidable.

      1. Which is the real problem.
        This is why we can’t have nice things any more.

        Personal responsibility. A weird concept for some members of society who would do society a favor by removing themselves from it.

  7. Oh you bunch of babies. If i decide to tape cardboard wings to my back and jump off the roof and get lucky enough to land without hard, and some other idiot says that’s cool I’m going to try it and brakes his back because he didn’t use common sense and say wear a helmet or what not. I say big deal, he was a idiot and we need less of them in the gene pool.

      1. Losing 90% of the world’s human population will not arrest mankind’s future but is (probably) the only thing that might increase the rest of the planet’s creatures chances of surviving.

      2. Its one thing to feel for people who have bad things happen to them that they can’t control. People who do stupid stuff to themselves? Yeah. I couldn’t care less.

      3. Oh, it is. All the silly little meatbags, running around, damaging themselves… If they actually became people instead of remaining NPCs, maybe I’d feel a little worse watching them. But hey, laughing at other’s misfortune is a feature, not a bug.

    1. Now add money in the mix.

      Someone payed you 10k for that stunt, and made sure you where actually unhurt, but without making that obvious on the video.

      Still acceptable?

      Now, they offer 1k for each video that replicates your stunt. Naturally, without explaining the extra safeties, because that would ruin the stunt for most viewers.

      Still acceptable?

      The real question is, where does personal stupidity end and blame starts?

      1. those are ethically very different things to posting a video with little attention to safety, we also cannot assume that people a priori believe, or should believe everything they see in a video, there is actually a fairly good case that the exact opposite is true, that any person watching something has a responsibility to judge the truth of that video for themselves.

        my take on your questions;
        it is still perfectly acceptable in the first example, as long as you haven’t actually denied that there were safety precautions, doing that would change quite a lot, but not to an absolute degree, if someone made a video of them falling 100m onto concrete with no equipment or safety gear of any kind we would judge it to be an obvious fake, especially if they insisted no safety gear or equipment was used.

        now as for your second example, here there is some blame to go around, but it is a vastly different scenario you have set up, so it is to be expected;
        you have someone actively incentivize people to do a specific action, at that point i think a distinction should be made between entities who knew that the action was harmful and those who didn’t, if they knew then they are certainly to blame for any consequences, if they didn’t know they might just be to blame for their own negligence.

  8. Funny thing with helmets, there is a correlation between people having an over zealous belief in helmets and over estimating danger of an activity. (read the paper from 2008)

    You want to prevent accidents, but helmets cause accidents given the facts about how people think about helmets it actually makes them more risk prone. A fire extinguisher prevents, check lists prevents, being of good mental health prevents. So don’t do dangerous stuff when you have had alcohol or are tired.

    Saying “wear a helmet” is an easy thing to do if you want to seem superior, but is actually the last thing you should recommend if someone is doing something dangerous.

    http://www.fietsberaad.nl/index.cfm?lang=en&repository=Do%20cyclists%20have%20an%20exaggerated%20%20perception%20of%20the%20effectiveness%20of%20%20cycle%20helmets%20and%20the%20risks%20of%20cycling

    1. I think you’re misunderstanding the gist of that study. It’s not saying helmets aren’t effective. It’s observing that people who wear helmets overestimate their effectiveness and therefore act in ways that are more risky than they should.

      The point of saying “wear a helmet” isn’t that it is some type of super-material that will protect your melon no matter what happens. The point is, if something goes wrong it’s an added layer of protection. The goal should always be to ensure you don’t subject your brain to sudden G-forces. Helmets are designed to absorb shock and reduce the effects of an accidental event.

      1. Furthering a myth that you can buy security without thinking feels orthogonal to the gist of this article. The study does cover the effectiveness of helmets in a litterature overview.

        I know what your point is, and I think it’s telling that you ignore the point you think I’m trying to make completly, and instead again talk about the effetiveness of helmets based on exactly nothing. You give the perfect example of the weakness of helmets: sudden G-forces giving people concussions.

      2. Cycling helmets are redundant for adults. If hit by a vehicle, the head is not going to be the first thing injured. That and the fact that people look like complete train-spotting anoraks while wearing them.

        1. Its a legal requirement for cyclists on roads to wear a helmet in NZ. I’ve been hospitalised twice with head injuries from accidents involving cars on my bikes. Rather a $60 helmet than my head. Also offroad I wear a helmet too. On the road its more to do with the lack of respect from drivers in giving space to cyclists rather than ‘over zealous’ cyclists going hard and thinking they are crashproof. I don’t approve of mr furze and others doing what they do without some safety gear, but I do appreciate that they share their techniques (and failings).

      1. I think the argument made in that article is more “if I don’t wear a seatbelt, I’ll be less lulled into a false sense of security and therefore I’ll drive more safely.”

        Obviously seatbelt and safe driving is the best combination, but looking at the real world tradeoffs is still interesting.

    2. Helmets reduce many risks, but not all… and yes, I’d agree with you if you said they don’t reduce enough.

      I’ve done some research into this… having lost a colleague in a single vehicle cycling accident last year. We don’t actually know what happened in his case, but he was wearing a helmet that complied with AS/NZS:2063. It was one I’d call “tick-a-box” grade. Foam, with a shrink-wrapped low-friction plastic cover.

      At the speed I’d estimate my colleague was doing (much too fast… but then again he was always a risk taker), the resulting force when helmet met railing on the Go Between Bridge was ultimately fatal. The person we knew died pretty much right there on the pavement. The body the paramedics scraped off the pavement (thanks to Cyc’d Cycling Club for raising the alarm) died about a fortnight later.

      https://hackaday.io/project/9831-improved-helmets is what I started in response. There is some literature linked there. I have more here, but I’m not sure whether I am allowed to publish it due to copyright constraints.

      I plan to do more with this, but other projects right now have my priority as I’ve got a 6-year old web server that’s wheezing its last and a few other projects demanding my attention too. That said, soon as I get those needs addressed, I should have some more time (and some serious compute power for analysis) to invest in this project.

    3. Another kid with no real world experience mouthing off.

      Let me drop a 1/z ounce of molten aluminum on your head or just a splash of molten lead and we’ll see how it works out for you vs while wearing a helmet. The same thing if a 1lb chuck of rock comes gets kicked up and hits you on the head.

      Helmets do make difference and that’s why industries that have dangerous work environments have them, They aren’t magic but prevent shit from really going lethal when they don’t have too. Mature people who work industry understand that, you don’t.

      1. @zerg – You are comparing two completely different situations. Things are far more likely to fall in a building site than on the street. Most people who cycle can run faster than they usually ride, so why are the runners in athletic games not wearing helmets when they do the 100-400m runs?

        If you were going to drop 1/z – is that 1 divided by z? What is the value of z? – or 1oz of a motlen metal onto a regular cycling helmet it is probable that the molten substance would melt through the material of the helmet and still do some considerable damage. If a 1lb chunk of rock comes UP from (almost) anywhere it is likely to hit below where a helmet would be protecting…unless it was a full-face helmet, which is not used except by BMX-ers

        Mature people who work in industry also know the difference between a cycling helmet and something useful for a work environment.

        1. Most people who cycle can run faster than they usually ride, so why are the runners in athletic games not wearing helmets when they do the 100-400m runs?

          You think “most people” can seriously run continuously on the flat at 20-25km/hr for 2-3km+?

          A ride from Brisbane’s north-west suburbs out to the far south-east like Logan or Rochedale is about 40km one way, and takes me 3 hours with rest breaks, which means an average of about 12km/hr. If you factor in the ~30 minutes I stop for said breaks, that pushes the average to 16km/hr.

          Having said that, the thing a helmet must be designed for is peak impact, not average. There are parts of the above run where I’m doing maybe 6km/hr, there are parts where I’m doing over 40km/hr. Given a cyclist can reach speeds in excess of 50km/hr in the right conditions, the helmet must accommodate that as much as possible. Murphy will be there to ensure the accident happens at the higher speed.

          In the case of AS/NZS 2063:2008 (bicycle helmets), the requirement is a single impact at just shy of 20km/hr… for AS/NZS 1698 (motorcycle helmets) that gets increased to up to 8 impacts at 25km/hr. Not sure what other country’s standards dictate, I’d be most interested to find out.

          That said, plenty of joggers and walkers wind up with serious brain injury from falls… and it seems a blow to the side of the head is particularly devastating. Should joggers wear helmets? It’ll look silly for sure, but maybe there is some merit in that. Devices like the Hövding would work well for that application. (Particularly here in Australia, where the Hövding would not meet AS/NZS 2063… jogging has no such requirement.)

          Naturally, it’s a horses for courses market. A hard hat used in construction is meant to deflect blows… a bicycle/motorcycle helmet is meant to absorb blows. You cannot compare the two directly as they are two totally different modes of operation.

          I do see cyclists wearing hard hats in place of bicycle helmets, and whilst I can see the inconvenience of carrying around two seemingly “equivalent” devices, there are reasons why one cannot replace the other.

    4. Automobile insurance companies used to give owners of automobiles with ABS a discount.
      But they found out many people were driving fast during slippery conditions because “the ABS will take care of it”.

  9. There really is a difference in risk compared to 20 or 40 or 60 years ago. The broken heads and limbs you see in skate-boarding or parquer videos would mean permanent disability or at least limbs that never worked same, in the 1950’s to 70’s or 80’s. Today’s diagnostic tools and orthopedic surgery allows the skiers and skaters and bikers to laugh off the injuries.

    There was no reconstructing of a hand for an amateur rocketteer in previous generations. This caries through to the perceived risk in all these activities, including flying lawn-chair auto-decapitators/eviscerators.

    The wild exaggeration of some dangers by teachers and authorities (mercury, lead, chemicals in general, radiation, various food idiocies) also leads to under-estimation of risk in other activities. When it becomes obvious to young people that some dangers are a bluff, they suspect all warnings.

    One need only watch a bunch of teenagers shooting bottle rockets at each other. I never saw anything like this as a kid.

    1. I am not aware of new techniques that rebuild broken brains. If you are then… citation please! I would love for that to be true!

      As for rebuilding limbs… I knew a kid in high school that had his leg re-built using pieces of his own back muscle and a big brace with pins that went into the remaining pieces of his femur and stretched them until they were long enough to meet and fuse together.

      The process took years and his description of it…. pain… lots and lots of pain.

      At the end he was playing basketball again.

      So.. yah. They can in many cases rebuild you. That doesn’t mean you want to experience that! Also.. as far as anyone has ever proven you only get to live once. How many years of that life do you want to spend disabled?

  10. Here come the people calling everyone bleeding hearts because having a modicum of concern for people who might hurt themselves is a mental illness apparently.

    Also, eugenics is totally cool now.

    1. “Also, eugenics is totally cool now.”

      according to Google:

      “noun: eugenics
      the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.”

      So… simply letting nature take it’s course is somehow equivalent to forcing a population to breed a certain way quite possibly with a racist motivation.

      Come on! If society continues to push for protecting each and every person from their own selves where are we going to be several generations from now?

      1. Eugenics was the word that came to mind, what with the whole “gene pool” thing, and social darwinism isn’t as immediately negative for some people.
        Also, cheering the death of an innocent person who didn’t know better doesn’t really seem that far from supporting that kind of thing.

        1. Explain to me this concept of people “not knowing better”. Do people really not understand that fire burns? That trauma disables? etc… etc… Do you really think that people who injure themselves are all (or even mostly) that profoundly ignorant? I find that idea even more offensive than people laughing at someone whose personal choices reflect bad judgement.

          1. People understand those things, but people are also exceedingly bad at estimating risk and consequences, especially to themselves, and especially if they’re young people.

            I guarantee you almost all of the people injuring themselves copying/making youtube videos thought “nothing bad will happen to me by doing this”.

          2. perhaps the issue then is how, why and what they think, not the amount of safety warnings or considerations taken in any one particular video or article.

          3. Folk posting such things on the net are only interested in one thing: gaining online followers. Followers = fame. They are so needy for attention so will gleefully sing out of tune, do handstands on top of tower cranes, post duckface, set fire to themselves, or a myriad of other attention-grabbing antics. The professional versions of youtube such as ‘s Got Talent, X/Y/Z Factor, etc are no different. I am all for anyone offing themselves in such a fashion.

            The truth of the thing is that MOST of the humans in the world will not achieve anything of note, will not substantially affect the general flow of life, other than by consuming all available resources the planet has to offer. They seek to alter their situation by performing like idiots and as long as they don’t appear to be affecting others directly with their antics, or slaughtering animals for their kicks, I am in favour of whatever misfortune happens to them.

            Real science serves a purpose and is the only future for the planet. These hobbyist efforts are for entertainment, consumerism, or for the sheer ‘what the f*ck’ of it.

          4. So are you going to reduce consumption of the planet’s resources yourself, or are you the untouchable “higher class” that deserves to live, unlike those lowly peasants?

            (Also, the filter ate my previous comment because it described your worldview in clearer terms.”

        1. Well.. seeing as the elderly are not usually fertile nursery homes are pretty irrelevant to that discussion.

          Since you brought it up though…

          As for hospitals. Yes.. I do wonder, great as modern medicine is what will happen when 10, 20 or more generations of mankind have had access to it. In many ways we do not need to be born healthy. We can have many heritable deformities which the doctors will fix or treat for us and then we can live our full lives and go on to pass these problems on to our children. So… without that evolutionary pressure on our genepool will our distant descendants be regularly born requiring all sorts of medical interventions just so that they may live?

          Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to just let people die. I don’t want to return to pre-medicine lifespans. Actually modern medicine has saved my life more than once. Nor do I want some police force enforcing rules on who does or does not get to reproduce. I do think the question of how to prevent this problem before it occurs is worth asking though. Most likely I think that one day our descendants will be forced to turn to genetic engineering of their own children.

          1. Some counter-arguments to your “our gene pool will stagnate without selection pressure” point:

            – Actually we will have more genetic variation in the gene pool if more mutations are able to survive
            – Sometimes “bad” mutations have other benefits (sickle-cell anemics are immune to malaria, for instance)
            – Our technology is an evolutionary improvement, who cares how weak our genes are

          2. The issue with modern medicine/health care is that those in, say, India, Philippines, Africa, etc are all still breeding as though mortality is still affecting their outcome as it was 50-100 years ago. It is irresponsible to be breeding like rabbits when one or two children would be far likely to have a better outcome than 4-6…or, in Mick frikkin Jagger’s case 7.

          3. @Marc T

            Are you seriously admonishing poor people in countries with high child mortality rates in the world for having lots of kids? Or did you mean people in wealthy countries with access to healthcare?

      2. “it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis”

        Wow! That must have been written by a eugenicist. Margaret Sanger was way before Nazis and she wanted Planned Parenthood to put an end to the “black races”. Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the US Navy, Dewey re-worked the US education system to produce workers and his eugenic ideas became part of the professional education canon. Wilson and Dewey would have been more direct if they could. Sanger was very effective.

        Anyway, there was plenty of outrage over just these three examples in the US alone. I would have ignored the Google definition a few years ago, but the Internet has become the source for so many people. Google could improve the definition by including what happens when you try to control breeding in humans.

  11. I for one wasn’t very interested in the laser eye pointer article and didn’t read it. Reading this doesn’t make me want to just read it. It makes me want to go all the way and build one!

      1. “It’s using a red laser that likely won’t cause eye damage unless you intentionally stare into it without blinking,”

        If I were really serious about replicating that I would research this more.

        1. why do you think those small modules are readily available for purchase as toys?
          they cant permanently damage the eye before the eye can react and shut, in fact i think the safety margin for that is fairly high.

          in any case the best way to check is to see how the laser is classified, class 2 and below are safe for applications that might hit a persons eye, you need to get into class 3 before there is even a small chance for accidental injury, the exposure times for class 2 and below are simply too long, which is why one would need to stare into it intentionally.

        2. Lasers with the lowest level of warning can only do damage if your eye is hit by the colimated beam when the eye is focused at infinity. The Laser will focus to the smallest possible point. If you are focused differently, you get a blur circle. The closer the focus, the bigger the blur. So don’t daydream and gaze into the distance around lasers.

          1. lasers of class 1 will not, even with magnification and prolonged exposure, damage the human eye.
            1M will with magnification damage the human eye, this is all according to the new laser classification and not the old roman numeral one, even class 2 lasers are considered safe in many applications where accidental or very brief direct eye exposure is considered common.

  12. “Short sleeves and flamethrowers. What could go wrong?”

    Well.. Some sort of special, expensive flame resistant insulating arm covering might be nice. But… I’d much rather do this with short sleeves than long sleeved regular clothing. A moment of flame on your bare skin would do a lot of damage but how much more if your shirt caught on fire?!?!

      1. My thought as well – melted clothing is far far far far worse to deal with than burnt skin.

        Obviously, not strapping a flame generating device to your wrist in the first place, is a far better way to not become ‘Mr Krispy Arm’

    1. You shouldn’t wear a polyester shirt!

      A cotton drill shirt is much more resistant to flame than your skin is. For extra protection you could dampen it with a bit of water. The amount of fire required to get a heavy cotton shirt to start smoldering would have already given bare skin horrendous burns, I reckon you’d still come out in front vs the guy with no shirt.

      1. Easy with dampening the cloth on your skin! If it gets in contact with a hot surface, it will boil instantly and steam will surge through barrier and burn your skin, whereas dry cloth would provide trapped-air barrier against the heat.

  13. On that photo of Furze, “short sleeves and flamethrowers– what could go wrong?”
    Short sleeves are wayyyy safer than long sleeves. Better to fry your arm in one spot than engulf your entire torso in flames when you light your sleeve and it spreads to your shirt. It happened to me.

    1. Presuming you’re sweating, you do get some ledenfrost protection from minor sparks, splashes and cinders, they kinda bounce off…. they could also light up synthetic fabrics quite nastily, and smoulder cotton at minimum.

  14. I really agree with this whole post. The “danger is cool” shop attitude is really common, and it occasionally has disastrous results. Reminds me of the Yale student killed by a lathe while working alone at night. Most shop injuries are so preventable with a little common sense.

  15. Quote:
    “but you don’t see rocket scientists testing new engine designs by lighting a fuse as they run away giggling in short sleeves and flip-flops.”

    So Ya haven’t heard of the film October Sky???
    Based on a true story… Will link the IMDb after posting this (Sometimes links cause the comment to fyltr and not load, intentionally misspelled fyltr)

  16. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Grant Thompson “the King of Random” yet. He’s done things like claim slime made with borax is non toxic or poured molten metal into a muffin tin over concrete and spilled and exploded some of the concrete.

    Particularly egregious is a video mentioned by hackaday on a recent sunday where he makes a foundry in a galvanized trash bin using refractory kao wool that he cut without any lung protection and exposed skin right after advising the viewer to wear a mask and long sleeves. I simply cannot abide this man any more.

    1. But working with Kao wool without respiratory protection is nuts and is asking for long term lung damage. That’s the thing with some refractory materials, they have ingredients that will ruin your lungs and there is no fixing them.

      The stuff in Kao Wool ain’t asbestos but it’s nasty enough you don’t want to take chances with it because it does burrow into your lungs if you inhale it.

      What’s nuts is that hackaday gives guys like him a platform, instead of really intelligent and competent hobby metal casters who know the trade.

  17. I want to see a car commercial where they simply take the car out on a highway in normal traffic (at a time/place where it’s not a traffic jam) then follow and lead with camera cars.

    Put a caption across the bottom that says “Everyday driver on open road. Please do this, a lot.”

  18. Rocket Scientists haven’t always used as much common sense as you give them credit for.

    The book “Ignition!” is a terrific story by John Clark of the discovery and invention of the rocket fuels that propelled the Second World War, the Cold War, and the Space Race. In it, you’ll learn that not every rocket scientist or rocket mechanic left the laboratories alive, or with all the same body parts they entered with. Dr. Clark expended much of his energy on running a safe lab, at least as safe as could be when working with such violently reactive chemicals.

    It’s a captivating read (probably even more so for chemists), and is a free download: http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/books/ignition.pdf

    1. I intended to leave pretty much the same comment. Even well educated people who should know better do stupid things. Sometimes even more so because they have a great theoretical knowledge but often lack practical experience and tend to go with “good enough” and gut feel quite often for the things they deem trivial to whatever they intend to measure.

  19. Natural selection is a description of the cruelty of nature, not an ideal to strive toward. People have been taking care of their crippled for millennia, and caring for each other counts as a form of natural fitness.

  20. ” Let’s do dangerous stuff safely.”

    My favorite quote from this article. While I agree with the intent of the article I laughed when I read this quote because, I believe that is, by definition, impossible, ha ha. You know, if you did dangerous stuff safely, then it would NOT be dangerous. It is good to always be safe thereby living to be able to hack another day. Good article.

  21. Well, its a win for communism everywhere, capitalists try to make money doing stupid things, there “inventions” fail(or work as planned in the case of laser eye shooter), now there’s less capitalists.

  22. OMG I leave you guys for just one day and look what happens! Baited…. and took it hook, line, and sinker!

    I must, however, admit everyone was plied with some particular nasty stinkbait.

    They seem to be noticing that the outrageous gets the clicks they seek, and it matters not that these are not the hacks we are looking for.

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