That’s No Moon! That’s a Virtual Assistant

[Wisecracker] likes how the Amazon Echo Dot works, but he doesn’t like how they sound or how they resemble hockey pucks. A little 3D printing, though, and he transformed the Dot into a credible Death Star. That doesn’t sound very friendly, we guess, so he calls it Alex-Star.

What makes it work is the Death Star’s “superlaser” — the weapon operated by a console that looks suspiciously like some studio video equipment — happens to be about the size and shape of a two-inch speaker. [Wisecracker] added a slot to let the sound out of the second speaker. You can see the thing in action in the video below.

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Persistence Of Vision Death Star

Death Stars were destroyed twice in the Star Wars movies and yet one still lives on in this 168 LED persistence of vision globe made by an MEng group at the University of Leeds in the UK. While Death Stars are in high demand, they mounted it on an axis tilted 23.4° (the same as the Earth) so that they can show the Earth overlaid with weather information, the ISS position, or a world clock.

More details are available on their system overview page but briefly: rotating inside and mounted on the axis is a Raspberry Pi sending either video or still images through its HDMI port to a custom made FPGA-based HDMI decoder board.  That board then controls 14 LED driver boards mounted on a well-balanced aluminum ring. All that requires 75W which is passed through a four-phase commutator. Rotation speed is 300 RPM with a frame rate of 10 FPS and as you can see in the videos below, it works quite well.

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Easy Toy Hack Makes Floating Death Star

It always seems odd to us that magnetic levitation seems to only find use in big projects (like trains) and in toys. Surely there’s a practical application that fits on our desktop. This isn’t it, but it is a cool way to turn a cheesy-looking levitating globe into a pretty cool Star Wars desk toy.

As projects go, this isn’t especially technically challenging, but it is a great example of taking something off the shelf and hacking it into something else. The globe covering came off, revealing two hemispheres. A circular hole cut out and inverted provides the main weapon. Some internal lighting and small holes provide light. Some fiber optic sanded and tinted green make the weapon fire. The rest is all in the painting.

There’s even a tiny imperial ship orbiting the killer man-made (or is that Sith-made) moon. If you want a bigger challenge, you might try bamboo. Or you can go minimalist and let your eyes and brain do most of the work.

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That’s No Moon – That’s a Bamboo Death Star

At first glance, [Frank Howarth]’s turned bamboo Death Star seems like a straight woodworking project. No Arduino controlled lights, no Raspberry Pi for audio clips of an X-wing attack or escaping TIE fighter. In other words: where’s the hack?

It’s a freaking bamboo Death Star!

If that’s not enough for you, check out the pattern on the surface of the finished model. That’s not painted on – those are the layers of the laminated bamboo lumber used to create the rings [Frank] used to form the structure. After lots of turning, sanding and polishing, the characteristic vascular bundles of the bamboo create light and dark panels for a convincing effect of the Death Star’s surface detail. And although we like the natural finish, we can imagine a darker stain might have really made the details pop and made for an effect closer to the original.

Still not hackish enough? Then feast your eyes on [Frank]’s shop. It’s a cavernous space with high ceilings, tons of natural light, and seemingly every woodworking machine known to man. While the lathe and tablesaw do a lot of the work for this build, the drool-worthy CNC router sees important duty in the creation of the multiple jigs needed for the build, and for making the cutout for the superlaser, in what must have been a tense moment.

Bamboo is an incredible material, whether for fun builds like this or for more structural uses, like a bamboo bike. All this bamboo goodness puts us in the mood to call on [Gerrit Coetzee] for a new installment on his “Materials You Should Know” series.

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The Scientific Implausibility of Starkiller Base

This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These spoilers won’t affect you if you haven’t seen the movie; they’re equivalent to saying, “in A New Hope there’s a moon sized battle station with a superlaser” and “someone gets a hand amputated with a lightsaber in a Star Wars movie”


A lot has happened in the Star Wars universe since the battle of Endor. The Empire is in ruins, and Yavin 5 and the forest moon of Endor both have new planetary ring systems. The Rebellion has given way to a new Galactic Republic, but there is a spectre of evil looming in the unknown areas of the galaxy: the First Order, a malevolent force that has built a planet-sized superweapon capable of destroying entire planetary systems from across the galaxy. The Starkiller gets its energy from harvesting entire suns, moving from one solar system to another to feed this massive weapon of terror.

We’ve had nearly forty years to argue the plausibility of the Death Star, lightsabers, parsecs as a unit of time, and hyperdrives. It’s time to pass the hallowed tradition of arguing over fictional spacecraft to a new generation. Starkiller Base is a cool idea, but does the science behind it hold up? No. It’s completely implausible. It makes for a great story, but it’s completely implausible.

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A Scam of Galactic Proportions

Here at Hackaday we see a lot of technological hoaxes looking for funding. Some are on Kickstarter, others are firms looking for investors. And unlike a lot of the press, we’re both skeptical and experienced enough to smell the snake oil. When you read about a laser-powered razor blade that looks too good to be true, you know we’ve got your back.

The background: [Zachary Feinstein] is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who studies financial engineering, and in particular systemic financial risk in the banking sectors. So he’s just exactly the guy you’d tap to write a paper on the financial repercussions of the destruction of the Death Stars in Star Wars (PDF). Wait, what?

The central argument of the paper is that, since the Empire has so much money wrapped up in building the Death Stars, it’s economic suicide for the Rebels to destroy it. To quantify any of this, [Feinstein] runs financial crisis models. The idea is that the Rebels win, but they inherit an economy that’s so dysfunctional that they’d have been better off not destroying the Death Stars.

We’re not saying that the rest of the press is gullible, but we are saying that they’re not putting their best economists onto articles about financing Death Stars. But here at Hackaday, we are. And we’re calling it a hoax. So let’s look into what the paper gets right, and what makes less sense even than Chewbacca’s infernal growling. Spoiler: we’ll get wrapped up in numbers because it’s fun, but the whole thing is moot for Econ 101-style reasons.

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That’s No Moon Pumpkin, It’s a Space Station

Every year, Vitamin T holds a #ATXPumpkinChallenge for creative agencies in and around Austin. Each team was given a fake pumpkin and the challenge of making a 15-60 second video. As the reigning champions from last year, [SiteGoals] had to up the ante. So they launched a pumpkin into space.

Pumpkin DeathstarWhen first given the challenge, it only took the team 3 simple words to get started. Pumpkin. In. Space. What followed was a week-long frenzy of preparing the pumpkin for its maiden flight.

The pumpkin itself is pretty simple. A plastic jack-o-lantern painstakingly painted and detailed to look like the third Death Star. This is makes the title of the project a double-meaning: “Return of the Pumpkin”. They even included iconic spacecraft flying around the equator of the immensely powerful yet questionably vulnerable orb of destruction. Simply launching the pumpkin into space wasn’t enough. They built in a telemetry system and GoPro for recording the voyage. Stick around after the break to see the very entertaining making-of video, set the tune of the Cantina Band.

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