The Big Think

November 5, 2015

End of an Era

Filed under: Education,Maker,Science — jasony @ 10:30 am

After 14 years, the next season of Mythbusters will be the last. What a great run!

What We Owe the MythBusters: “The MythBusters’ delight in gonzo engineering also helped inspire the rise of the modern class of tinkerers known as ‘makers.’ When the show began, the idea that average people could build their own complex gadgets was a fringe notion at best. Today, more than 400,000 students worldwide gather to compete in FIRST Robotics competitions. Thousands of adults and kids attend Maker Faire festivals to show off their quirky inventions. ‘I feel really lucky that ‘MythBusters’ coincided with the whole D.I.Y. movement and contributed to it,’ Mr. Savage said. ‘I mean you’ve got 10-year-old girls building robots now!’

‘MythBusters’ didn’t do all this alone, of course. American culture is embracing its inner nerd on many fronts today. The cult of Steve Jobs and our fascination with tech start-ups have played a part. So have fictional TV shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has stepped into Carl Sagan’s shoes, and ‘The Martian,’ which its star, Matt Damon, calls ‘a love letter to science,’ is one of the biggest films of 2015.

Best of all, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the number of college freshmen enrolling in STEM majors has climbed nearly 50 percent since 2005. If a few more kids today want to grow up to be Elon Musk or settle on Mars or cure cancer, we have Jamie and Adam partly to thank.”

October 12, 2015

Confessions of a Private Space Rocket Engineer

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 12:41 pm

Confessions of a Private Space Rocket Engineer:

“I have the resources to move quickly from spitballing an idea with other engineers to drawing up a design, fabricating, and testing without friction from management or bureaucracy. This creative freedom is possible because every engineer is aware of the responsibility they have to their coworkers, that at the end of the day their work will be right. A lazy moment could result in the delay of a program, the loss of a vehicle during testing, or an injury, the consequences of which may be devastating. The engineering managers come from this culture of rapid innovation so they are able give significant control to the engineers allowing the organic development process to flow, adding in structure where it is needed. 

Nyberg: In a small scrappy company like Masten, the engineers are given both the pleasure—and frustration—of fabricating their designs with their own hands, which is very uncommon. We’re a company of tinkerers, and a core philosophy is that an engineer who physically builds, repairs, and maintains their own designs becomes tattooed in a way—either by the satisfaction of a well-built design, or just as frequently, by the frustration and revelation of how you’ll improve it ‘next time.’ When a teammate cursing an inaccessible bolt is the same teammate who designed the part in the first place, something very interesting happens: their designs mature at an absurdly fast rate”

In my much more modest projects I’ve definitely noticed that. It quickly gives you the ability to look ahead.

June 6, 2015

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man

Filed under: Maker,Technology — jasony @ 11:03 pm

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man | Wait But Why:

“For me, this project was one of the biggest no-brainers in history. Not just because Elon Musk is Elon Musk, but because here are two separate items that have been sitting for a while in my ‘Future Post Topics’ document, verbatim:

– ‘electric vs hybrid vs gas cars, deal with tesla, sustainable energy’

– ‘spacex, musk, mars?? how learn to do rockets??’

I already wanted to write about these topics, for the same reason I wrote about Artificial Intelligence—I knew they would be hugely important in the future but that I also didn’t understand them well enough. And Musk is leading a revolution in both of these worlds.

It would be like if you had plans to write about the process of throwing lightning bolts and then one day out of the blue Zeus called and asked if you wanted to question him about a lot of stuff.

So it was on. The plan was that I’d come out to California, see the Tesla and SpaceX factories, meet with some of the engineers at each company, and have an extended sit down with Musk. Exciting.

The first order of business was to have a full panic.”

(Via .)

May 15, 2015

Wise Man’s Fear of Heights

Filed under: Current Reading,Mad Science,Maker — jasony @ 8:07 am

Patrick Rothfuss:

“So… yeah. My book has been into space. I’m *so* going to give John Scalzi a hard time about this the next time I see him…

Hold on. It only now occurs to me. Commercial planes don’t fly that high. And I doubt very much that anyone takes novels on rockets due to weight limitations….

That means The Wise Man’s Fear has probably set some sort of weird record. I’d bet a modest amount of money that it might be the first novel in the stratosphere. If not, maybe first hardcover novel. Or.. maybe… First Hardcover Fantasy Novel to Reach Stratosphere Via Balloon?

Does anyone know how to get in touch with Guinness?

You know what? It doesn’t even matter to me. The fact that someone did this with my book is cooler to me than I can express in words. (And when you read that, please consider who is writing it.)”

Read the whole thing

May 2, 2015

Board Meeting

Filed under: Business,Maker — jasony @ 10:47 am

It’s done! As you may know, about a month ago I was commissioned by the Sing director (actually, her boss) to build a status board for Sing and Stomp Fest. They’d been using this:

Paper Sign.jpg

They went through multiple green markers every year. It was an adequate but sub-optimal solution.

So I met with them and we talked over what they needed. Same general design and layout but nicer looking. More professional. They gave me a budget and I was off.

It took about 60 hours to design the file for the grid and cut it on the CNC Shopbot at TechShop. Then I hand-laid in over three hundred individual pieces of mahogany and cut, sanded, and installed 317 3/4″ dowels. Then I laser cut large and small placards for each group (the small ones in case two groups combine). Tons of sanding, more details, and finally a laser etched storage box for the tiles and small green and red acrylic tags.

Yesterday Erin and I drove it up to Waco and showed it to Matt and Cheryl. They were thrilled! I’m so happy for their support and inclusion of me in this project. The status board is now hanging in the Student Productions office with a little (hand stamped by Erin) tag that says “Proudly made by Jason Young”. It was indeed!

Finished Sign.jpg

April 25, 2015

Techshop Day

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 7:13 pm

Woke up at 5am and couldn’t sleep so I took the Baylor sign I’m making and went to TechShop. I spent the next nine hours laser cutting all sorts of things. Then I spent four hours working on the sign. Then I took a two hour class on grinding your own tooling (I’ll use the lathe tool I ground myself to work on R2). A little over fifteen hours at the shop and I’m done. Off to an early bed….

January 26, 2015

Welcome To The Maker-Industrial Revolution

Filed under: Business,Maker — jasony @ 2:27 pm

Welcome To The Maker-Industrial Revolution: “To the executives at GE, Cprek’s hack came as a wakeup call. The idea for a bar-code-scanning oven had come up in internal ideas sessions before, and they knew it had great potential. In retirement communities or urban food deserts, such an appliance could help people eat healthier meals without requiring much time or expertise. And yet, the concept had never left the brainstorm stage at GE. That’s because, for giant manufacturing companies, putting something into a production run is a giant gamble. Navigating the obstacle course of requisite departments (R&D, design, prototyping, market research, manufacturing) can take years, and tooling a factory line can cost tens of millions of dollars. That the executives were now staring at a working prototype of an idea they already liked—and it hadn’t come from them—made them wonder how much innovation they were letting slide by. Why couldn’t they build a more nimble product-development pipeline? For that matter, why couldn’t smart hackers like Cprek have an ongoing role?”

January 15, 2015

James May’s Toy Stories The Motorcycle Diary

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 11:30 pm

A Meccano Motorcyle on the Isle of Man

December 31, 2014

And He Built a Crooked House

Filed under: Maker,Woodworking — jasony @ 12:41 pm

Storybook Houses Fantastic pics of some really amazing houses. As the article says, it’s so much harder to build “wonky” than straight-and-true.

December 11, 2014

Unexpected Gifts

Filed under: Friends,Maker — jasony @ 11:45 am

It’s Christmas season! Which means getting to know the UPS driver and mailman really well. The other day the doorbell rang and I went down to see a large flat box perched next to the front door. Huh… don’t think I was expecting anything. It turns out it was a gift from an artist friend of ours along with this note:

Jason and Erin,

Just a small token to say “Merry Christmas!” and let let you know that, in spite of all the miles between us, we truly appreciate your friendship and think of you both often….

…I trust that it will still fin a place in your home and, just maybe, spark some pleasant memories of the Emerald Isle.

Tim is a fine guy, a wonderful, patient artist, a supportive husband, and one of those friends that you never get to spend as much time with as you’d like (in our case, we’ve spent maybe two hours total with him and his wife Katherine but hit it off right away. Just wish they didn’t live in Nashville). His out-of-the-blue gift just completely floored us. We’re looking forward to hanging it above our front door to catch the morning light.

Thanks, Tim.

Please read on to see the glass as well as to get insight into the (40 hour long!) creation process.

I stumbled across the original design hanging on a coworker’s wall and filed it away to work on someday when I wanted to try my hand at a Celtic knot project. After working on several stylistically similar pieces this year, I needed a creative palate cleanser, so “someday” came sooner than expected.


Getting started was as simple as printing off the picture, laying it on my light table and tracing the design onto the back of the sheet with a sharpie. (Sharpies are indispensable for stained glass. I honestly don’t know how stained glass artisans worked before they were invented!) There were a few places where I had to divide a single section into two pieces, but I don’t think they interrupted the flow of the knot too badly.

Doing the rough cuts proceeded more quickly than you’d expect. Even more than usual, this was a trade-off between making broad cuts to leave myself plenty of margin for error vs. making close cuts to minimize how much grinding I’d have to do later on. Still, coaxing the basic shapes out of sheets of glass is one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s also when the unavoidable, “Oh my, what have I gotten myself into?” moment hits.


And now begins the long, precise work of grinding and foiling. For this project I used the narrowest copper foil tape so that I’d end up with finer solder lines. (A unique challenge in and of itself.) As I think I mentioned to Jason, the intricacy of this design translated to each piece taking several times as much grinding time as an average project. Instead of doing a rough pass and then 1 or 2 shaping grinds, I’d say I went back to the grinder an average of 8-12 times for each piece. Rinse. Repeat. (About 110 times.) Well worth it, though, as I was pretty pleased with how everything came together.


I must admit that I had help with this project. In this case, it was a subtle reminder that I share my workshop with far more talented craftsman.


This is where an animated GIF would come in handy to show the progression as a time-lapse [done!]. Each new section represents an average of 4-6 hours of work. I took a few extra days off over the Thanksgiving break and immersed myself in the project, which provided a much needed mental break. Though after about the fourth day the tips of most of my fingers were badly bruised from pressing the glass into the grinder. That was a new and unique experience.


And here’s where I have to apologize for my impatience. Once I’ve completed the grinding and foiling, I always feel like I’m in the home stretch and invariably dive right into adding the soldering, frame, hangers and patina. It’s only after everything is done that I realize that I should have been taking more pictures. Still, you get the idea. Here’s the finished project next to the original design:

Anyway, that’s it. Thanks for letting me share a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes of making your piece.

UPDATE: Sorry Tim! I forgot to include a pic of the finished piece.

Finished Glass2.jpg

October 24, 2014

High Wire

Filed under: Maker,Science — jasony @ 11:21 pm

Well, that record didn’t last.

Alan Eustace Jumps From Stratosphere, Breaking Felix Baumgartner’s World Record –

“‘To break an aviation record is incredibly significant,’ said Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, who viewed Mr. Eustace’s ascent. ‘There is an incredible amount of risk. To do it safely is a testament to the people involved.’

Mr. Eustace’s maximum altitude was initially reported as 135,908 feet. Based on information from two data loggers, the final number being submitted to the World Air Sports Federation is 135,890 feet.

The previous altitude record was set by the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, who jumped from 128,100 feet on Oct. 14, 2012.

Mr. Eustace was carried aloft without the aid of the sophisticated capsule used by Mr. Baumgartner or millions of dollars in sponsorship money. Instead, Mr. Eustace planned his jump in secrecy, working for almost three years with a small group of technologists skilled in spacesuit design, life-support systems, and parachute and balloon technology.

He carried modest GoPro cameras aloft, connected to his ground-control center by an off-the-shelf radio.”

October 10, 2014

Ya Gotta Have a Hobby

Filed under: Hobbies,Maker — jasony @ 1:02 pm

Tour the Boeing 737 Flight Simulator Built in a Garage: “Air traffic controller James Price has spent the past decade building a full-sized Boeing 737 flight simulator in his garage.”


September 5, 2014

Math is Hard

Filed under: Maker,Technology — jasony @ 7:16 am

New 3D printer concept looks amazing, and is a great step forward in the increasing competition/brainspace of 3D printing.

This one basically takes the old idea of a 3D printer, complete with rigid frame, comples drive mechanism, anti-backlash programming, platform levlelling, etc, and gets rid of most of it. Hook two stepper motors together with a platform, stick an extruder on top, and load some (extremely complex) interpolation software and you’ve got yourself a 3D printer. More accurate and reliable than the breakdown-prone MakerBots. This looks to be the next generation in the 3D printer space. Very cool.

March 27, 2014

3D printer

Filed under: Maker,Technology — jasony @ 9:13 am

All Metal Printrbot Simple 2014: “”

Getting cheaper!

February 10, 2014


Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 2:33 pm

Oh man, I want one of these. If only I could figure out a way to soundproof it. Excellent.

February 7, 2014

Epic Terrain

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 7:05 pm

Now this is impressive.

January 21, 2014

Model, Man

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 9:21 pm

Here’s the World’s Best Paper Plane Maker | Wired Design | “Boeing can build a 777 in 50 days. Luca Iaconi-Stewart can build one too—in five years. True, Iaconi- Stewart made his 1:60-scale jetliner out of manila folders and dabs of glue, but it’s almost as complicated as the real deal, down to the retractable landing gear.”

morw pics at the flikr set here.

December 28, 2013

Don’t Blame the Tool

Filed under: Business,Education,Maker — jasony @ 9:15 pm

Your Camera Doesn’t Matter: “When it comes to the arts, be it music, photography, surfing or anything, there is a mountain to be overcome. What happens is that for the first 20 years or so that you study any art you just know that if you had a better instrument, camera or surfboard that you would be just as good as the pros. You waste a lot of time worrying about your equipment and trying to afford better. After that first 20 years you finally get as good as all the other world-renowned artists, and one day when someone comes up to you asking for advice you have an epiphany where you realize that it’s never been the equipment at all.

You finally realize that the right gear you’ve spent so much time accumulating just makes it easier to get your sound or your look or your moves, but that you could get them, albeit with a little more effort, on the same garbage with which you started. You realize the most important thing for the gear to do is just get out of your way. You then also realize that if you had spent all the time you wasted worrying about acquiring better gear woodshedding, making photos or catching more rides that you would have gotten where you wanted to be much sooner.”

(Via .)

December 13, 2013


Filed under: Business,Maker,Music — jasony @ 10:10 am

ACMS Gift Boutique:

“ACMS Gift Boutique Still looking for that perfect stocking stuffer? Or maybe a special way to commemorate that perfect performance? Stop by our brand new gift boutique and see what magic catches your eye! Handmade by a local Austin artist specifically for the Armstrong Community Music School, these items feature genuine Czech crystal, laser engravings, and birch wood. All proceeds benefit ACMS programs.”

Erin and I have been working on these items for her work for a couple of months and are proud to finally introduce them! They’ve been a big hit at her school.

November 15, 2013


Filed under: Maker,Technology — jasony @ 10:53 am

FABtotum Personal Fabricator is more than a 3D printer: “FABtotum Personal Fabricator does more than 3D print”

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress