I'm not sure what sparked my battery obsession. Perhaps it was the installation of 3,000 lbs of lead-acid batteries used to power my homestead. Shortly after that, I found myself zapping old Ni-CD based battery packs with a welder to bring the once-dead batteries back to life. Then I began repacking the cells of other household items, including my iRobot vac and my Macbook. Now I regularly visit a local auto supply, combing through batteries for signs of life. My office is littered with a hodge-podge of Ni-CD, lead-acid and lithium-based cells that are patiently awaiting repairs and a new purpose.
Here's what I've learned about keeping batteries in shape, and rehabbing old ones from the junk heap.
Who'd have guessed? The Swedes make the manliest gear around
By Mikey SklarPosted 09.15.2009 at 2:22 pm 1 Comment
Before I encountered the Blaklader shorts I had been wearing jumpsuits made by Dickies or jeans from Carhartt. Both had a limited amount of pocket space, which meants I had to wear a tool belt, which became a nuisance to take off whenever I sat down to drive a vehicle. Plus, the materials constantly failed me: Neither the jumpsuit or jeans fared well against my homemade biodiesel or splashes of sulfuric acid from the battery bank.
About a year ago, when resident mad scientist Theo Gray pitched me a Gray Matter column on liquid oxygen, an extremelyflammable energetic form of the element, he first proposed showing how to use it to light a grill nearly instantaneously. The lawyers, however, suggested we go a more tame route, so instead we showed how you could make a few drops of the hooch yourself.
But of course, when left to his own devices (and free of legal oversight), Theo couldn't help himself.
One of the most unique things about my green home is the walls: instead of a standard "stick-frame" construction, I'm using special insulated panels from a company called Kama-Eebs, which have all sorts of advantages in efficiency and heat retention.
Scientists and students alike have previously launched low-budget balloons that rise to the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere, snapping unbelievable photos from near-space. But MIT's Icarus team managed the same feat using only off-the-shelf items, and for a measly cost of $150. Here's how they did it.
Chinese locals have already demonstrated a knack for knocking together homemade flying contraptions and robots. Now one amateur inventor has created a full-fledged submarine built primarily from discarded oil barrels and tools bought at a second-hand market.
My welding hobby started shortly after I got a bid for a steel staircase. As with everything, the money always causes me to do the Carnett calculation:
How much is the equipment?
How much is the material?
How much did that guy say he wanted?
How much can I save?
Then I run off to buy the gear.
This of course leaves out the skill to do any of these things -- but the Carnett calculation includes the discovery phase, where I make all my mistakes, ask just about anyone for help, and somehow come out on the other side a more skilled operator. And 50 percent of the time, I really do save money.
Meet Lrry, a part-equine, part-reptile fire-breathing monster
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 09.02.2009 at 10:34 am 1 Comment
"Lrry has no brakes," says builder Lyle Rowell. "Nor do I."
Don’t call Lyle Rowell’s giant fire-breathing robot a dog. The artist, who lives in Rimini, Italy, insists that his 1,900-pound creation, Lrry (pronounced “Larry”), is actually a cloven-hooved, two-legged, half-donkey, half-raptor-type-reptile.
My primary means of getting around town is a 1979 Land Rover that has been fitted out with a 2005 300 TDI engine. You may have seen me walking this morning with my head down. Yes, I walked 30 minutes for a cup of coffee. I enjoy walking, but it is hard to build a house without a truck.
My Land Rover doesn't have one temp gauge; it has two. I look at both and compare them and wonder why one is higher. None of the gauges are correct, so it really matters very little. That was till yesterday, when I found myself at 65 mph with my head out the window, the cabin filled with white smoke, and a serious panic on. I managed to find the shoulder, and bailed out, thinking the rig was on fire.
The brain-melting concept of the Möbius strip has been used to explain complex, meaningful ideas such as time travel. But this simple, trivial music box, which uses a punch strip in the shape of a Möbius strip, might be my favorite application of the idea.
The music box will play the song once through, then plays it again upside-down, creating an endless, repeating loop of music. It may not solve the secrets of the universe--but hey--it looks so cool. Can you recognize the upside-down-and-backwards tune?