Making the Geologic Now is an online book in the form of a Zuihitsu, in which short chapters that are part science, part interview, part engineering, part art, part culture, and part whimsy mingle with each other to reflect upon the Anthropocene. It can be browsed on the web, downloaded for a price you choose (including free), or bought as a hardcopy.
Ars Technica: "Humans began making paint and glue at roughly the same time with the same tools. Evidence from a cave in eastern Ethiopia has revealed something extraordinary about the origins of symbolic thought among humans." [more inside]
111 Games, toys, books, and apps for future engineers, reviewed by current engineers. This year's guide includes notes on diversity and teamwork. [more inside]
Together we investigate the possibility of a minimal bicycle that does not require multiple feet nor the reversal of gravity. I have some reservations about the performance, but none about the aesthetics. [SLYT]
Nanowire Mesh Monitors Mouse Brains - "Injectable 'neural lace'* brain-computer interface works in mice for months at a time." (via) [more inside]
Engineers Create The First Dust-Sized Wireless Sensors That Can Be Implanted Into The Human Body. Relevant paper here.
At 600 cubic centimeters and 26 horsepower an internal combustion engine under development by Roush Fenway Racing is among their smallest and least powerful. It also will be the first internal combustion engine to go into outer space.
The Liebherr LTM 11200-9.1 is the most powerful mobile crane in the world. Here is a 1:16 scale radio-controlled scale model, with 21 motors, weighing 25 kg - built entirely from Lego.
In a world where electric lightbulbs were still uncommon, Victorian engineers were building steam engines of breathtaking size and power. Two that are still operational today are the beam engine at the Papplewick Pumping Station (beautiful pictures), and the River Don Engine (video) (recreated in Meccano).
they moved the lighthouse. The Gay Head lighthouse dates to 1796, has been the scene of horrific wrecks, and is in the major motion picture Jaws.
In the late ’70s and ’80s, the arrival of personal computers like the Commodore 64 gave rise to the first generation of kids fluent in computation. They learned to program in Basic, to write software that they swapped excitedly with their peers. It was a playful renaissance that eerily parallels the embrace of Minecraft by today’s youth - Inside the Minecraft Generation.
Why do so many terrorists have an engineering background? Is there something about the way engineering students are taught to think? Or are people who prefer clearly solvable problems drawn to engineering? Scholars in a variety of disciplines are trying to understand what makes people turn to terrorism. An anthropologist argues that universities and governments make it difficult to study the socio-cultural backgrounds of terrorists because of human subjects research policies. Nevertheless, since 9/11 a growing number of social scientists are addressing the issue. These are just a few examples.
Grace's Guide to British Industrial History ‘is a free-content not-for-profit project dedicated to publishing the history of industry in the UK and elsewhere. Its aim is to provide a brief history of the companies, products and people who were instrumental in industry, commencing with the birth of the Industrial Revolution and continuing up to recent times.’ It ‘contains 115,164 pages of information and 163,140 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.’ Browse by Archived Publications, Biographies (‘over 35,000 pages of biographical notes on individuals’), Industries, Locations or Timelines. There is also a blog.
"For over a decade, architecture students at Rural Studio, Auburn University's design-build program in a tiny town in West Alabama, have worked on a nearly impossible problem. How do you design a home that someone living below the poverty line can afford, but that anyone would want—while also providing a living wage for the local construction team that builds it?" Now Rural Studio has a prototype it's trying to bring to market, and it's hitting its biggest challenge yet: how to fit its small, efficient, inexpensive houses into an infrastructure that has no place for them.
Yummiest font ever. Olin College of Engineering students make a machine that "prints" pancakes.
Sci-Fi Author (and Metafilter's own) Charlie Stross has an interesting thought experiment: Could you get to a technological society without the use of writing? And if so, what would that look like?
Movies often portray suspension bridges being destroyed (for example) but often make basic mistakes that reveal a lack of understanding of how these structures work. This article by structural engineer Alex Weinberg, P.E. aims to fix this.
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
Male engineering student Jared Mauldin, a senior at Eastern Washington University, wrote a letter to the editor of The Easterner expounding on the differences between him and the women entering his program. [more inside]
How difficult would it be to take apart this airplane and use it to manufacture this airplane?
Sara Hendren talks at the Eyeo Festival about how she, as an artist, came to work at an engineering college. Hendren teaches at Olin College in Needham, MA and runs the site Abler, a site about "art, adaptive technologies and prosthetics, the future of human bodies in the built environment, and related ideas." Hendren's talk name-checks the artist Claire Pentecost, who has elaborated idea of the artist as "public amateur": the learner who is motivated by love or by personal attachment, and in this case, who consents to learn in public so that the very conditions of knowledge production can be interrogated. [via Text Patterns]
Engineering Geology of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) System, 1964-75 (J. David Rogers & Ralph B. Peck, published 2000) chronicles the construction of the subterranean components of BART.
"Erik, photojournalist, and I have come here to try and get the measure of this place. Nevada is the uncanny locus of disparate monuments all concerned with charting deep time, leaving messages for future generations of human beings to puzzle over the meaning of: a star map, a nuclear waste repository and a clock able to keep time for 10,000 years—all of them within a few hours drive of Las Vegas through the harsh desert." -- Built For Eternity, Elmo Keep on structures designed to potentially outlast human civilization. (Motherboard)
Hacking the digital and social system: Voja Antonić on being a microcomputer enthusiast in Yugoslavia (via Hack A Day)
The Last True Know-It-All reviews Andrew Smith's biography of Thomas Young - "The Last Man Who Knew Everything (including hieroglyphs). Was Young The Smartest Person Ever? [more inside]
The Role of Writers in a STEM Obsessed Society
“As writers, it’s easy to think of how we matter to literature classrooms, but what the appointment of writers-in-residence in hospitals, history classrooms, foreign language learning spaces, and cooking schools reminds us is that we are relevant wherever there is humanity—which is to say, wherever humans are with their stories. Writing is healing. Writing is art. Writing is learning. As such, writing across the disciplines matters. Many models of artist residencies depend upon the retreat model, wherein the artist sequesters herself away with a small community of other artists. While these models have value, especially when considering how solitude relates to the creative process, it’s heartening to me to see more models catch on that value the place of the writer in society, rather than hidden away from it.”
The Singular Mind of Terry Tao - "Imagine, he said, that someone awfully clever could construct a machine out of pure water. It would be built not of rods and gears but from a pattern of interacting currents." (via) [more inside]
If you think finding a short in a light switch or lamp is your idea of fun, imagine having the time of your life with this little repair. You probably won't find much of the stuff you need at the Home Depot.
The last remaining Inca rope bridge is the Q'eswachaka, spanning the Apurimac River in Peru. Even though there is a modern bridge nearby, the residents of the region keep the ancient tradition and skills alive by renewing the bridge annually, in June. Several family groups have each prepared a number of grass-ropes to be formed into cables at the site, others prepare mats for decking, and the reconstruction is a communal effort. In 2009 the government recognized the bridge and its maintenance as part of the cultural heritage of Peru.
The Life Cycle of Programming Languages, by Betsy Haibel [previously] for Model View Culture. [more inside]
Dr. Dave Southall is an engineer who makes things, like monowheels, mini-monowheels, water bottle jetpacks, racing mowers, racing bars stools, uniboards, and other fun things.
As part of our special focus on innovation in Africa, we have developed a list of 40 remarkable African innovators. Actually, it’s more like 47 but we counted teams as one. Our decision to celebrate these idea creators and solution providers stems from our belief that the true wealth of Africa is not buried under its soil, but in the brains of its best minds. This list is a testament to that belief.
Dr. Yotarou Hatamura, who runs the Association for the Study of Failure, is also supervisor of the Failure Knowledge Database Project. He proposes adopting the "Failure Mandala" to promote the systematic understanding and dissemination of failures. To support this approach, he presents a compilation of 100 case studies of failure events organized by topic (also viewable as a single list of PDF files; and available in Japanese). Dr. Hatamura subsequently chaired the investigative committee into the Fukushima nuclear incident, which he discusses here.
The joke was funny because this was just a tiny, two-year college, with no engineering program. Getting into space was the last thing on the minds of these students; they were just trying to escape poverty. Next thing they knew, NASA was calling them up.
Frank Wilczek: Physics in 100 Years [pdf] - "Here I indulge in wide-ranging speculations on the shape of physics, and technology closely related to physics, over the next one hundred years. Themes include the many faces of unification, the re-imagining of quantum theory, and new forms of engineering on small, intermediate, and large scales." [more inside]
This is Suame Magazine. A vast, open-air industrial district in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city. Here, 200,000 skilled workers manufacture everything from bolts to tanker trucks by hand. A million dollars passes through the factories and workshops here every day, and it’s the place where most of the country’s laborers learn their trades: the heart of Ghana’s informal economy.Photos and Story
Journalist Felix Salmon brings us up to speed on the increasingly strange and complicated saga of The Cooper Union School For The Advancement Of Science And Art, one of the last historically free schools in the US for Art, Architecture and Engineering, which may be brought down by shameless trustees, incompetent management, the State Attorney General, or pure greed. (Cooper Union charging tuition previously. Cooper Union students occupying the president's office previously)
The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
Five Congolese-made robots are now regulating traffic in Kinshasa. Other pictures. Traffic robots in action and interview of Thérèse Izay Kirongozi, robot creator, engineer and leader of Wotech (Women's Technology Association). [more inside]
Coding Like a Girl - sailor mercury at Medium:
"Apparently, presenting as feminine makes you look like a beginner. It is very frustrating that I will either look like not a programmer or look like a permanent beginner because I have programmed since age 8. I have basically always wanted to be a programmer. I received undergrad and grad degrees from MIT. I’ve worked as a visiting researcher in Honda’s humanoid robotics division on machine learning algorithms for ASIMO.[more inside]
"I don’t think that any of these things make me a better programmer; I list them because I am pretty sure that if i were a white man with these credentials or even less than these credentials no one would doubt my programmer status."
Scientists are developing ways to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children. Should they stop before it’s too late?
There’s a widespread idea that “People who make things are simply different [read: better] than those who don’t.” [...] It’s not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). The problem is the idea that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it’s almost always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products. [more inside]
The annual James Dyson Award is open to current and recent design engineering students. The winner this year is James Roberts with his inflatable incubator MOM. The device costs around £250 compared to £30,000 for modern incubators and could prevent up to 75% of fatalities in premature birth cases in the developing world.