Let's start the week off with a LEGO mystery build! Once again, Norm finds a custom kit designed by a talented independent LEGO designer, knolls out the pieces, and assembles it in time-warping time-lapse. This kit is only 220 pieces, but the finished build is gorgeous.
A few weeks ago, I got an email notifying me that I was eligible to apply for the TSA Pre program If you haven’t heard of it, TSA Pre is a relatively new initiative by the TSA to pre-screen people in order to speed them through the security process at some airport security checkpoints. When you sign up, the TSA runs a background check on you to ensure that you don’t have criminal record—certain felonies will flag you and prevent enrollment. If you pass the background check, you’ll be able to use the TSA Pre screening line for a simpler screening process at many airports around the country
I’m sitting on an airplane right now, and have just completed my first TSA Pre security screening, and I can tell you that the experience was wonderful.
The application process was relatively simple. A few weeks ago, I filled out an online form, explained that I had never committed any felonies, and took the first available screening appointment available in my area. The site instructed me to bring either my passport or the types of documents that you need to get a passport (birth certificate, Social Security card, etc), and show up to a place near the Oakland airport later that week. When I showed up for the screening appointment, I was surprised that it wasn’t at a government office, but at a company that does background checks and drug testing for jobs like EMTs and crane operators. The appointment took about 10 minutes. I just had to reaffirm that I hadn’t committed any felonies, then the interviewer scanned my passport, scanned my fingerprints, paid $85 to cover the cost of the background check, and we made idle chitchat while I enjoyed the stern warnings that photography was prohibited in the screening room.
It took longer to fill up my gas tank than it did to complete the screening process.
Two weeks passed until I received a letter in the mail from the TSA that told me I was approved and gave me my TSA Pre number, which is good for five years. I filled in the form on my frequent flyer programs and on our corporate travel service, and I was ready to go. When I loaded my boarding pass on my phone this morning, it had a little TSA Pre label above the bar code. I’m not sure if that label will always be present on my boarding passes now, or if it will only be available when I’m going to be at an airport with a TSA Pre line, but I guess I’ll find out in coming weeks.
As for the screening process? It was dead simple. The TSA Pre line is completely separate from the other lines, including the line for first class and folks with frequent flyer status. I showed my drivers license and boarding pass to the screeners, and walked to the TSA Pre line. Once I was there, I didn’t have to take my laptop out of my bag. I didn’t have to dig out my liquids bag. I didn’t have to take my jacket off. I didn’t have to take my belt off. I didn’t have to take my shoes off. I didn’t have to go through the millimeter wave scanner.
I put my bags on the belt, walked through a metal detector, and picked my bags up on the other side. From the first time I showed my boarding pass until I was walked to get coffee took less than 3 minutes. I didn’t even have time to read the signs telling me what I did and didn’t have to do.
Am I a fan of TSA Pre? Based on an admittedly small sample size, yes. Rolling back the security theater that has plagued air travel since 9/11 is a good thing, even though the TSA Pre system has had some issues in the past. If you spend a lot of time traveling by air, it’s probably worth the $17 per year price of entry to avoid the hassle of unpacking your gear every time you go through security. If you’re interested in signing up, you need to go to the DHS’s Universal Enroll site. If you want to see how my continued adventures with TSA Pre go, you should probably just follow me on Twitter.
It's time for another edition of Print the Mystery Object with the MakerBot! This week, Will gives an early hint but you're still going to be hard-pressed to guess what's being made by the Replicator 3D printer! Place your best guess in the comments below.
We're flying out to Austin for South by Soutwest tomorrow, and this would be something neat to try out. Photographer Matthew Vandeputte created this "hyperlapse" video from stills shot on a plane ride over Australia. As he explains on his blog, the hyperlapse is similar to a time-lapse, but instead of photographing a scene from a fixed location, his sequential shots are captured from different positions with the camera aimed at the same spot. In his case, the airplane did all the moving for him. With his Canon 5D MKIII, continuous drive shoots up to 6 frames per second, which is plenty fast for stitching together into 24fps video. I also liked the idea of his shutter clicking incessantly during the flight, and am curious how many shots it took to compose each short clip. Something to possibly fly on my plane ride tomorrow!
Priceonomics has a great long feature about the invention of the AeroPress, our current favorite low-cost single-cup coffee maker. If you've ever bought an AeroPress from its manufacturer, Aerobie, you may have noticed that it's the company's single coffee product among a dozen other "high performance sports toys." That's because Stanford professor Alan Adler, the inventor of the AeroPress, started the company in the 1980s making the famous Aerobie flying disc (which was actually inspired by the Chakram!). Priceonomics' story walks us through Adler's revelation of using air pressure to reduce brew time for a single cup of coffee, and how the AeroPress actually struggled to find fans after its initial release. Today, it's so popular that there are international AeroPress competitions. (And if you liked this story, don't forget to read about the invention of the Chemex as well!)
NASA's Project Morpheus is a prototype autonomous lander designed for vertical takeoff and landing, developed as a testbed for future spacecraft that will help NASA deliver cargo and payloads to support future crewed missions to the Moon and even asteroids. From NASA: "the 6th free flight of the Bravo vehicle flew to 467 feet (142m), altitude and then traversed 637 feet (194m) in 36 seconds, including diverting course mid-flight, before landing in the hazard field 56 feet (17m) from its original target (simulating hazard avoidance). Initial data indicates a nominal flight meeting all test objectives. The vehicle flew its pre-planned trajectory flawlessly." I love the simulated Moon surface that's the target area for the lander.
We stopped by Adam's Cave last year to catch him applying weathering effects to his new T-800 Terminator replica. While we shot video coverage of Adam working on this project, Adam explains this particular weathering process and how he makes the shiny endoskeleton look like it's been through a gritty and grimy battlefield.
The newest addition to Adam's Cave is a replica of the Terminator T-800 Endoskeleton. Adam acquired raw castings, had them chromed, and then applied weathering effects himself to make it look like a realistic human-hunting machine. Watch Adam paint and add weathering effects to his T-800 in this member video.