Remember when master knifemaker Bob Kramer came to the PopSci office just to slice our soda cans in half? Great fun! But how we wished we had had an ultra-slow-motion camera like the Phantom on hand that day.
We couldn't just let it go. So, armed with our own Kramer knife and our Phantom, we attempted to replicate the feat. It took a little practice, a lot of sharpening, and a pretty high knife-tip velocity, but here's the slow-mo video for your edification!
Some unknown terrible person shot a defenseless pilot whale last month, leaving it to swim the Atlantic in agony for weeks before it finally beached itself on the New Jersey shore and died. Authorities are still looking for the shooter. The bullet wound caused a fulminant infection in the whale's jaw that prevented it from eating, so it basically starved to death. This was determined during a necropsy, an autopsy for animals.
Along with sympathy for the poor creature, this debacle aroused an interesting question: How does one autopsy a whale? With four-ton meat hooks, whaling knives and bone saws, actually. Michael Moore, a veterinarian and whale biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, does it all the time.
Last week, I visited Solingen, Germany's "city of blades," where knives, swords, and the like have been made for centuries. In between sipping beers and munching wursts, I paid a visit to the factory of Zwilling J.A. Henckels, at their kind invitation, to peer at the semi-roboticized lines where they produce their knives.
Handmade according to an exacting process, Kramer chef's knives sell for $10,000 or more. They're beloved by chefs and collectors for their keen edges, thoughtful design, and beautiful finish, and demand is such (a New Yorkerprofile never hurts) that anyone who wants to buy one must now sign up for a lottery in which you can win a spot on the years-long waiting list for a knife.
But Kramer fans are about to have an easier time of it: Bob was in New York this month to announce a new partnership. I took advantage of the visit to pull him into the PopSci video chamber so he could demonstrate dramatically just how effective his knives are.
Robots run amok have occasionally maimed or killed industrial workers, giving German researchers cause to wonder about a future where humans host robots in every home. In their study, the BBC reports, a robot arm was programmed to strike, stab and puncture using an array of household tools that included a steak knife, kitchen knife, scissors and screwdriver. Stabs and cuts inflicted on a silicone lump and the leg from a dead pig were deemed potentially lethal.
From the men who brought you bakelite, Tesla, and air brakes came Micarta: a super-tough fiber and resin composite that has been in use since the early 20th century. Micarta is used in a huge variety of applications, from power generation to countertops. In this writeup, two knifemakers show you how you can make your own generic version from epoxy and blue jeans that will stand up to a sledgehammer.