Dropping Science: Tesla Coil Fight!


I’ve been reading a lot of Atomic Robo and Five Fists of Science this week and so Nicola Tesla is high on my mind. Thus you can imagine my joy when I discovered this video from the Ulster Bank Festival in Northern Ireland in which two members of performance art group Lords of Lightning don special suits and throw lightning at each other.

The trick works by cobining protective suits, Tesla coils and balls the size of planets. The video is on the long side but be sure to catch the last couple of minutes because it’s well worth the wait.

Brilliant lunacy!


Dropping Science: 1 Bin, 1 Bottle of Liquid Nitrogen, 1500 Ping Pong Balls!


You know those really great science lessons at school? The ones where the teacher would bust out the glass cupboard and pour funny coloured liquids into each other that would either catch fire, explode or catch fire and explode? Well Plymouth University decided to conduct a similar experiment. Given that they are a higher education institution however, they took it one step further and added a bin full of hapless ping pong balls into the mix.

The lessons you can learn from this are a) if you stumble across a canister of liquid nitrogen, don’t try and store it in a coke bottle and b) if you get turned into a ping pong ball, fear scientists.


Dropping Science: The Greatest Lego Machine


I received some of Lego’s robot building kit for Christmas last year and succeeded in building a little car that drove forwards, turned left and then got stuck under the coffee table. Japanese robot fan Akiyuki has gone one better than that (and then one better again and then about a million better on top of that) by constructing a lego machine that gives small toy balls the kind of epic journey usually reserved for Greek mythological heroes. It’s kind of a Rube Goldberg machine except it’s entirely self sustaining and so doesn’t require any components to be manually reset.

It’s an incredible feat of pointless yet wonderful engineering and I absolutely love it.


(We’re down at Demoncon in Maidstone tomorrow so if you’re about, feel free to pop along and say hi!)

Dropping Science: The Fastest Robot Alive


In a story that would fit quite nicely into a comic book, Boston Dynamics sprinting Cheetah Robot this week shattered the robot land speed record with a staggering speed of 28.3 MPH. That’s impressive enough when you consider that the previous record (also set by Cheetah) was a mere 18mph but downright terrifying when you realise that it also out paces the human land speed record held by Usain Bolt (why is 27.9 for those keeping score).

That’s right, science has given us a robot cheetah that can chase you down no matter how fast you run. So long as you only run on a treadmill, underneath a stabilising boom and within reach of a mains power supply.

For more info on the project, visit www.BostonDynamics.com

Suck it Asimo!


Dropping Science: What Would Happen if You Fired a Gun in Space?


Two of our favourite youtube channels are vsauce and minutephysics so when those two channels team up to give us a pair of videos about shooting guns at space and digging holes through the earth, we take notice. I’ve only thrown up the first video because you can jump directly to the next one by clicking the link at the end unless of course you’re viewing on an ipad in which case the second video is here. Either way you’re about to get enough physics trivia to keep your drinking buddies enthralled for the rest of the month. You’ll also learn how to go about destroying the sun and ending all life on earth so if you’re a super villain or trouble youth with access to several solar masses of water, please don’t watch it.


Dropping Science: Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

Like every one of us will one day do, Neil Armstrong today departed the Earth. Yet unlike almost all of us, it wasn’t for the first time. Only a few times in a generation does an individual pass into legend, I think we can all safely say that such a moment has occurred today.

You can read the BBC’s full obituary here but we shall simply say, Rest in Peace, Neil Armstrong and thank you.


Dropping Science: The Crowd Sourced Erotic Novel That Became A Best Seller

I don’t know if this really qualifies as science, heck I’m not sure what it really qualifies as, but it’s such an interesting story about the way the internet works that I wanted to share it.

Brian Brushwood and Justin Young are comedians who host various podcasts and web shows. While pushing a book on magic a while ago, Brushwood noticed a disturbing trend on the iTunes best seller list, namely that the entire top ten was consumed with obvious cash-in imitators of the 50 Shades of Grey series. These were poorly reviewed books by unknown authors but people were buying them in droves because they looked a bit like the famous series. The worst part was that once these books hit the top ten they stayed there because readers just assumed they were good because they had sold well. While many people would look on this and weep for the death of literature, Brushwood and Young looked at it and thought “Challenge Accepted.”

Via a youtube video, the pair put out a call to all their fans to help them create the first crowd sourced erotic novel by submitting random chapters to them. The only conditions were that it feature the main character, involve people with trendy jobs (like cupcake decorators and fixed gear bicyclists) and included lots and lots of banging. Here’s the pair explaining their plan:


Well guess what, it worked. The Diamond Club shot to number 4 in the iTunes bookstore and continues to hover there as poor unsuspecting housewives throw down 99c a pop for what is essentially a series of unconnected, badly written sex scenes with no coherent plot whatsoever. I’ll resist the urge to make a cheap joke about the real 50 Shades of Grey there because I think the story is funny enough by itself. Does it say something negative about the way people buy books now? Sure as hell it does. But I take comfort in the fact that the internet as once again been proven to be a great tool for bringing people together, whether that be to instigate change, develop technology or to simply troll over sexed book fans. Well played chaps.



Carl Sagan’s Message to Mars

A few months before he died, Carl Sagan recorded a message which he dedicated to future explorers to Mars. Since early Monday morning, in the wake of the Curiosity Lander arriving on the surface of Mars it has begun to do the rounds throughout the internet. Sagan’s passion for the future of space travel is clear in this piece, which is heavily truncated in most of the common versions available online. Happily, I09.com hunted down the extended version of it and what is revealed is a thoughtful and emotional message from an inspirational man, passing a message he hopes will be heard by those that will fulfil his dreams.

Whatever you might think of Sagan, or of the Mars landing and little Curosity making it’s lonely way across it’s surface – he speaks for most of us on some level. Sagan’s passion for the breaking down of environmental boundaries and conquering of new worlds is more profound than most of us but millions huddled around TV sets to watch the first Moon landing, and quietly or not – without the fanfare affording Apollo Astronauts, Curiosity carries a little bit of Sagan across that distant, desolate landscape – and fills it with the potential of dreams. That is the border between science fiction and fact, where wheel or foot fall on previously imagined earth and spark a new generation of Sagan’s to wonder ‘what next?’

Mission Highlights: Space X’s Dragon Makes History (in 2:27 seconds)

A historic moment in space history went almost unnoticed very recently. The first commercial launch of a space shuttle was made by Space X, an independent contractor who are now looking to expand the influence of the ground to outer space. If you doubt the importance of this first successful mission of Space X’s Dragon shuttle launched to the International Space station, to return to earth 2 weeks later safely having orbited the plant hundreds of times, this short video will help to give you a sense of it’s importance.

If you are wondering why this moment is important it is that historically, the pursuit of exploration and expansion for the Human race does not accelerate fully, and never has, until the common man, unallied to any government or political power chooses to take control of the technology and advancements that will allow him (or her) to see new, uncharted frontiers. While you can call it commercialism, commercialism is funded through people’s aspirations and dreams. The founding fathers of the New Land (although already occupied) went because, they, as individuals could see the value in a new frontier.

The passionate and dedicated team at Space X have done this and the pride and joy they have in achieving this, the first of so many goals is obvious in this speedy recreation of what happened just a few short weeks ago. The importance of this movement forward in the history of human culture comes through loud and clear, as one solitary space shuttle broke the blue sphere that houses us and moved us forward quietly into the future.

Sorry if it’s a little over the top but it’s early in the morning, I can’t sleep and this moved me more than perhaps I expected. Just thought I’d let you know that while most of us were sleeping, the universe around us got a little closer without us knowing…