Hacker hangouts- Boston revisited!

The interior of the Enormous Room (CC) davidesign

The interior of the Enormous Room (CC) davidesign

As promised, yet another entry on cool places for hackers to hang out in Cambridge.  This time, the incomparable “Enormous Room” in Central Square, on Massachusetts Avenue about halfway between Harvard and MIT.  Given the location, it is not surprising that a wide range of folks can be found at this cool and friendly place.  You have to be clever to find it- it is on the second floor, and reached through a door marked only by an etched glass elephant.  The low tables, and upholstered, “bleacher-style” seats make it a very comfortable place to chat with your friends, and later on, becomes home to live and DJ music.  Once again, a place where you can overhear anything from MIT Media Lab conversations to discussions about quantitative finance…

Next stop, San Francisco!

RepRap Build-a-Thon

A "Darwin" RepRap built from laser-cut acrylic

A "Darwin" RepRap built from laser-cut acrylic

Join the HacDC and and the Baltimore/Maryland RepRap User’s Group (RUG) for a weekend of RepRap fun!  Save the weekend of January 24/25 for our RepRap Build-a-Thon.  Initial plans include a range of activities, including hands-on group construction a RepRap Darwin from the ground up starting with laser-cut acrylic parts.  We are also planning on having several local RepRap builders on hand with their machines, and hopefully able to demonstrate them in operation, making stuff!

We would also like to invite some of the local technology media/blogosphere folks, and take the opportunity to not only demonstrate what these machines can do, but also to talk in general about the implications of readily-available (and self-replicating) rapid prototyping machines. Certainly a great opportunity to chat with some RepRap pioneers, have a chance to participate in a hands-on build, and to generally have a good time with some local hackers.

More information coming as the plans develop- watch this space!  If you are interested in helping out, please let us know via the mailing list.  If you have contacts in the local technology media, or know someone in the trade who would be interested in this kind of event, please let us know!  See the movie post below for a time-compressed version of RepRap construction by one of the original designers- the time represented by the video is about four hours.  Given enough participants, we should be able to do something similar in our two days!

Timelapse of Adrian assembling the first RepRap “Darwin” from Adrian Bowyer on Vimeo.

Hurricane hackers!

Interesting article over at the New Scientist about the possibility of using supersonic jet fighters to neutralize hurricanes.  The concept depends on our understanding of hurricanes as delicately-balanced dynamic systems that depend on that balance for self-reinforcement and building strength.  Apparently, the math supports the concept of interfering with this delicate balance using the sonic booms created by a pair of jet fighters weaving in and out of the storm.  There are challenges, of course, such as the demands of long cruising at supersonic speeds, but overall the article posits a very interesting (and probably verifiable) theory that would be very interesting to test.

Fighter Jets Battle Hurricane

Fighter Jets Battle Hurricane

Therein lies the rub, however.  The article is all about a patent. Yes, kids, a patent.  I take this to mean that if someone wanted to try and stop a hurricane from ravaging the coastline of some hapless country, they would run the risk of getting sued by the patent holder unless the licensing fees were paid.  This seems kind of crazy, especially since lives are potentially involved- are they really going to stop someone from saving lives with this approach?  Sheesh.

Yeast engineered to produce new fuel source – still some hacking left to do!

There has been some significant progress in engineering our favorite yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, (brewer’s yeast!) to produce n-Butanol rather than ethanol.  This is particularly interesting from a fuel production standpoint, since there are major advantages of n-Butanol over ethanol for fuel.  From a recent Green Car Congress post:

Butanol has a number of advantages over ethanol for use as a biofuel—it is more hydrophobic; has a higher energy density; can be transported through existing pipeline infrastructure; and can be mixed with gasoline at any ratio.

As someone who spent a lot of time genetically engineering organisms, this is an important milestone.  There remains a lot to be done, but at least the beginnings of an approach as been outlined by this research. The paper (available open access here) has a lot of follow-on information about likely approaches to improve the process and/or yield.  This is where hackers can jump in and possibly make a contribution- a lot of the basic stuff can be based on computational approaches and dynamic simulation.  Let a million flowers (or yeast) bloom!