Over at How 2 Today, Chris Connors has written about his Egg Lathe project, which was inspired by the Egg-Bot. It’s made with recycled materials and he has published design files and posted a video of how it works. Looks like a great project, and a fun way to decorate eggs.
Our pal Super Awesome Sylvia will be joining a White House Hangout on the Maker Movement tomorrow with White House innovation advisor Tom Kalil and others including our friends Dale Dougherty of MAKE and Saul Griffith of Otherlab. You can watch at WhiteHouse.gov or tune in to the White House’s Google+ page or YouTube channel on Thursday, March 28th at 3:00 pm ET.
(Photo of President Obama with FIRST Robotics Team 341 at the 2010 White House Science Fair by Pete Souza)
We’re no strangers to seeing an occasional hard-to-look-at article of clothing. However, we recently came across the above pictured dress (the Signature Shift Dress by Julie Brown), and noticed a peculiar quality about it. The pattern of angled, high-contrast shapes makes it remarkably difficult to see the actual shape of the dress underneath that print.
Now, where have we seen this kind of thing before?
Ah yes: Dazzle Camouflage! Dazzle camouflage was used in WWI to make ships more difficult to identify and target, by disguising their size, configuration, range and orientation. This is different from traditional camouflage, which tries only to minimize visibility, but can be surprisingly effective. In the photo above, of the USS Mahomet in port (circa November 1918), it’s hard to make out even the out the shape of the ship.
Curiously, dazzle camouflage seems to have made a recent comeback in fashion.
This Print Wrap dress at Uupto distorts the model’s curves in strange ways. Thanks to the “mountain range” in the middle, one might initially perceive this to be a maternity dress.
The Print and Proper dress at Modcloth is another new example.
And the Poleci Women’s Cross Front Striped Longsleeve Top from FavBuy creates the illusion of a strangely misshapen abdomen.
The Elbow Sleeve Tiered Dress at Venus. The interrupted, striped, spiraling pattern creates the illusion (perhaps assisted by photoshop) that the diameter of the dress is somewhat smaller than it is in reality.
You can dazzle all the way to your toes, with these matching Black and White Platform Heels at Venus.
Some designs stray from simple black and white geometric patterns, but still effectlively confuse the eye, such as this Jersey Maxi Dress by Julie Brown. Worth noting is that many of the original dazzle patterns on ships were brightly colored, too.
Of course, this is not the first time dazzle camouflage has appeared in fashion. At the time that dazzle camouflage was first introduced, the public was fascinated by it.
The Dazzle Camouflage Pinboard by user Saruzza has some wonderful historical fashion examples, including a reference to a 1919 Dazzle Ball at the Chelsea Club.
From a contemporary article (via camoupedia), comes this account:
Four British naval officers, distinguished for their success at camouflage, had charge of designing the dresses, and the ballroom looked like the Grant Fleet with all its warpaint on, ready for action. The jazz bands produced sounds that have the same effect upon the ear as this “disruptive coloration” has upon the eye.
A themed masquerade ball is one thing, but the patterns did also make their way into the mainstream culture of the time:
This picture of dazzle camouflage bathing suits from the 1919 New York Tribune was provided as a visual supplement to an excellent audio post by 99% Invisible on disruptive camouflage.
And as for the future? No discussion of dazzle would be complete with out mentioning CV Dazzle, which covers methods of using makeup and hairstyles to thwart face recognition software. Perhaps soon e-ink fabrics will also provide changeable displays that disrupt QR and barcode readers, as well as other visual tracking systems.
Happy Pi Day, everyone!
To celebrate, our friend Samantha brought in her knitted Pi blanket to share. After the first hexagon with the letter π embroidered on it, the first 127 digits of Pi are shown using the resistor color code to represent the value of the digit. Samantha is donating this quilt to the Project Linus, an organization that gives blankets to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need.
For those in the San Francisco area, the Exploratorium is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Pi Day from 1 pm to 3 pm in front of their soon-to-open new location at Pier 15.
The Exploratorium writes:
The comet Pan-STARRS is currently in view! Did you glimpse it last night?
This beautiful photo was taken by Exploratorium Staff member Adam Esposito last night (March 12) from the Berkeley Hills with a telephoto lens. Uranus is actually right near the comet as well. Mars in the clouds below.
TO VIEW TONIGHT: most of USA and northern hemisphere should look west, about 30 minutes after sunset. You may be able to see it below the crescent moon. It’s close to the sun so only after sunset is it briefly visible in the darkening sky.
A group of scientists and engineers at Harvard are using Bristlebots to study swarming behavior. They have published an article titled “Swarming, swirling and stasis in sequestered bristle-bots.” They have a couple of supplementary videos up on youtube as well. There’s a nice writeup of it at New Scientist, with a link to a full pdf at arxiv.org.
We spent this past weekend in Madera, California at the 2013 Central Valley FRC Regional, a FIRST robotics competition. We went with Firebird Robotics Team 3501 from Fremont High School, who we are mentoring and sponsoring.
The challenge of this year’s game, entitled Ultimate Ascent was to build a robot that could compete to score points on a team with two other robots by shooting frisbees into goals and climbing a pyramid structure while defending against an opposing alliance of three robots.
The Firebirds named their frisbee shooting robot “Oddjob” after the James Bond villain who throws his bowler hat with lethal results. One of the green-shirted safety advisors at the event was coincidentally named James Bond, and he was a good enough sport to allow us to take his picture with Oddjob.
We’re relatively new to the world of FIRST, which can be almost cult-like, with participants identifying themselves by team number like a code word or secret handshake. A smaller number means a team that was established earlier. Over the last 20 or so years, the organization has managed to channel the enthusiasm of teenagers which is normally directed toward athletes and celebrities instead toward engineering, programming, and building. The teams are fiercely spirited, bringing their mascots and supporters to cheer them on at competitions. It is truly incredible to see this much energy directed towards a science and engineering event.
Robots are awarded more points for goals scored during autonomous play, and the highly competitive field is steered toward collaboration and mutual assistance by the alliance aspect. The teams work hard to make sure that their robot will be an asset to any alliance in the hopes that even if they don’t rank highly enough in qualification rounds to be a team captain themselves, they’ll be chosen by one of the alliance captains and advance to the finals. They actively share tools and materials with the other teams, as any of the other robots could be on their alliance during a given match. Parts request announcements in the pits are filled almost as soon as they are announced, although when we heard “Team #### needs an FTL drive” over the PA, we could only laugh.
One of the more visible ways we were able to share was with our yellow gaffers tape, which team 3495 used to make their engraved sign stand out with their team color. We were the beneficiaries of parts, too, with another team generously sharing a metal shaft when one of ours bent during a match.
The teams are typically student driven, with mentors playing an advisory role, supporting the students as they work through problems of design, mechanics, building, programming, and team dynamics. The students work incredibly hard to design and build the robot during just six weeks allowed as the “build season,” and then during the competitions fine-tune, fix, and improve their machine. Even the mascot works just as hard on the robot as everyone else.
Through a combination of determination, hard work and luck, our team came out of the qualifying rounds with the top ranking, and then made it all the way to the final game of the elimination rounds, with their ally teams 3970 and 2643. However, our friends from team 840, along with allies 295 and 1678 bested us to win the finals, 2 matches to 1, earning a spot at the championships.
Besides strict competition, there are additional awards and honors are given at these events to recognize technical ingenuity, good design and spirit. Our team received the Judges award, which was summed up rather accurately by one team member as being the award for “general awesomeness.” Congratulations to all of the participating teams, every one of which pulled off building a robot that could play an incredibly challenging game! Our team is headed next to the Silicon Valley Regional event April 4-6, but there are events every week all over the world leading up to the championships April 24-27 in St. Louis. All events are free and open to the public, so get out and cheer on your local robots!
If you have a chance, find a way to mentor, sponsor, or otherwise volunteer to help out your local robot team or competition. FIRST, and its several associated programs directed at younger students, are some of the best ways that we have to inspire youngsters to pursue careers in science and engineering. And that’s something that benefits us all.
A conspicuous contemporary trend in “traditional” dead-tree junk mail (the snail-mail equivalent of online spam) is to follow the basic format of phishing e-mail: it comes in disguise as legitimate “important” mail, to trick you into
clicking on opening it.
And so for a while now, we’ve been amassing a collection of what we call “Envelopes That Claim to be Important.” Here are a few prime examples of what to watch out for.
Often times, these envelopes are quite well done. Above is an example that might cause a genuine double take— with its “FINAL NOTICE ENCLOSED“ — and bank-PIN style tear tabs on the sides.
And then, there’s the fine print, so that you really take it seriously. A $2,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment(!) are threatened under §1702 should you fail to deliver this
fine specimen of junk mail letter to its intended victim. (This penalty is true but somewhat misleading; the law refers to obstruction of mail in general, not this “final notice” in particular.)
To complete the illusion, envelopes like this often come complete with security printing on the back side. Is this really for privacy, or just so that you can’t quite as easily make out the advertisement lurking within? (Also, our bet is that everyone gets the exact same red-printed number on the back side.)
Another sleazy trick is to make the envelope look like the work of some (generally implied but unspecified) government agency. Official looking seals, IRS style typography, or an implied return address in the state capital aim to create the impression that this is a critical document, to be stored with your important papers. Sprinkle on a few §1702 threats here and there to complete the picture.
This time, it’s personal. And confidential. And, what exactly is a “secured document,” anyway?
“Registered Documents” is probably meant to be evocative of Registered Mail (which tends to actually be important), but comes off more like the previous “secured document” instead. Again with the security printing, too!
And nothing shouts “Important Information” more clearly than the words “… or Current Resident.”
And finally, here is a truly over-the-top example of (yes) presorted first class mail. In their defense, printing technology has come a long long way, and all those printed permanent marker marks look pretty darned real.
Editor’s note: Super Awesome Sylvia has been visiting Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories for the last week and is guest blogging about her experience and project.
Last year I got to go to RoboGames and watch the competitions. This year I wanted to enter a robot of my own. I looked at the different types of robots you could enter and found out you can enter in a drawbot!
I drew a few sketches of what I wanted my robot to look like. I asked EMSL if I could come over to their shop for a week and make this bot!
When I got there I thought that I would start immediately making the base to my bot but instead we worked in inkscape making detailed drawings.
For the first couple of days I worked on doing a great detailed model on what this bot would look like. This bot was going to be a Watercolorbot!
Also, we visited a FIRST Robotics team while EMSL helped out with their robot named Oddjob. Oddjob is a Frisbee throwing pyramid climbing robot.
Once we had a good set of drawings for my watercolorbot we used the router to create the basic pieces of the bot and laser cut the carriage that holds the paintbrush. We also used dowel pins, screws, nuts, washers, and string to make a cool amazing bot. I will write more about the robot later but it took four different versions of the carriage to fit it in, three different pulleys, and two different ways to tie the string.
I am so surprised at how fortunate I was to go to EMSL and build this bot. I had some amazing meals, great experiences and had a lot of fun. I hope to come back soon and build another revision or build another bot! I really liked hanging out and playing games during my free time. Thanks Evil Mad Scientists!!