Plant Biology is a Gateway

Too many college students have been subject to teachers’ aids who think they are too clever to be stuck teaching mere underclassmen. For that reason, [The Thought Emporium] is important because he approaches learning with gusto and is always ready to learn something new himself and teach anyone who wants to learn. When he released a video about staining and observing plant samples, he avoided the biggest pitfalls often seen in college or high school labs. Instead of calling out the steps by rote, he walks us through them with useful camera angles and close-ups. Rather than just pointing at a bottle and saying, “the blue one,” he tells us what is inside and why it is essential. Instead of telling us precisely what we need to see to get a passing grade, he lets our minds wonder about what we might see and shows us examples that make the experiment seem exciting. The video can also be seen below the break.

The process of staining can be found in a biology textbook, and some people learn best by reading, but we haven’t read a manual that makes a rudimentary lab seem like the wardrobe to Narnia, so he gets credit for that. Admittedly, you have to handle a wicked sharp razor, and the chance of failure is never zero. In fact, he will tell you, the opportunities to fail are everywhere. The road to science isn’t freshly paved, it needs pavers.

If a biology lab isn’t in your personal budget, a hackerspace may have one or need one. If you are wondering where you’ve heard [The Thought Emporium]’s voice before, it is because he is fighting lactose intolerance like a hacker.

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The Majesty of Saturn’s Rings Lighting Your Abode

[Modustrial Maker] is at it again with another seriously cool LED visualizer. This time around, he’s built pair of pendant lights inspired by the rings of Saturn.

The rings are made mostly of walnut plywood using a circle router jig to make the cut easier. If you are inspired to make these for yourself, [Modustrial Maker] is clear — the order in which you cut out the pieces of the rings is absolutely critical. The pieces are glued together — with any edges sanded smooth — and edgebanding applied using a hot air gun due to the curved surface before staining. Duplicate for the second (or more if you so choose!) rings. Be forewarned — a little geometry will be needed to find anchor points that will keep the rings properly balanced.

[Modustrial Maker] suggests an off-the shelf LED controller to handle the visualizations and lighting effects, but he used an Arduino Mega clone as the brains — code available here, a MonkeyJack MAX9814 electret mic, and a four-channel RF remote/transceiver to control the different modes. Pulsing along to the music, these rings make for sleek lighting indeed.

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A Massive Adjustable Standing Desk From Scratch

Standing at your desk all day is healthier by far than sitting, but the commercial options tend to be expensive. [drivenbyentropy] had to contend with a heater right where the desk would go, but building an adjustable office desk to accommodate it turned out — well — gorgeous.

Two 18″ heavy duty 12 V DC actuators raise and lower the desk with a 600 lbs static load capacity and 200 lbs of  lifting load each. One actuator is actually slightly faster than the other, so instead of working out something fancy, [drivenbyentropy] simply extended the cable length on the faster actuator to disguise the difference.

Framed with some standard 2×4’s and sheathed with plywood, the massive four by eight foot desk has twelve ball-bearing drawer slides in the legs to add stability and smooth out height adjustments. Because of its size and having to build around the heating unit, the desk is stuck in the room since it does not easily come apart. There is, however, easy access to the two electronics compartments for troubleshooting!

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