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LEGO with Friends: Labyrinth Maze, Part 3

Fun fact: if you're lucky enough to pick up one of these Labyrinth Maze sets (found on eBay or Amazon), designer Jason Allemann has released additional building instructions for maze designs that fit on top of this set.

Adam Savage Behind the Scenes of Alien: Covenant!

Adam Savage visits the production of Alien: Covenant to learn how Ridley Scott and his creative collaborators bring us back into the Alien universe. In this first episode of our behind-the-scenes series, Adam tours the massive set of the Dreadnought as it's being built, painted, and weathered to life by the production team in preparation for filming!

How NASA Breaks in New Spacesuits

Most of us would not go on a long hike in a brand-new pair of boots. You first want to put a few casual miles on them to soften the material and make sure they perform well. This preliminary effort can help you avoid a lot of misery out on the trail. If you think of a spacewalk as the ultimate hike (who doesn't?), then it's easy to understand why spacesuits undergo the same type of break-in process before they're ever sent into space.

Long before a spacesuit is used on a spacewalk, its components have gone through an arduous break-in process. (NASA photo)

About the Suit

Before getting into the specifics of how spacesuits are broken-in, a little background on the suit is warranted. The NASA suit that astronauts have used for spacewalks since the dawn of the space shuttle era is the Extra-Vehicular Mobility Unit (EMU). The EMU is a modular design comprised of a handful of interchangeable subcomponents (helmet, upper torso, lower arms, gloves, etc.). Many of the various subcomponents that make up the suit are available in multiple sizes.

When an astronaut gets sized for an EMU, they do not get a dedicated suit to call their own. Rather, the product of the arduous sizing process is a chart illustrating the specific subcomponent sizes which provide the best fit for that astronaut. Whenever the astronaut needs a suit for a training event or mission, technicians reference the chart to pull the appropriate hardware off the shelf and assemble a correctly-sized EMU. The suit is torn down after the event and the individual subcomponents are placed back into inventory.

An EMU stand holds the suit upright and allows the occupant to focus on the necessary cycling motions. (James Lemon photo)

Over time, worn-out subcomponents get retired and replacements are manufactured. This new hardware undergoes rigorous inspection and testing before it can be added to the inventory. Yet, even more must be done before these EMU bits are used on an astronaut's suit.

New EMU subcomponents are required to undergo a break-in process called "cycling". Whereas factory testing is typically performed using only the individual subcomponent, cycling introduces the piece into a complete EMU. The intent of this effort is to begin softening the stiff layers of new fabric and to verify that the part performs properly in all respects. This is done by exercising the hardware with repetitive, spacewalk-inspired motions. For those who participate in cycling events, the term "exercising" is particularly appropriate.

LEGO with Friends: Labyrinth Maze, Part 2

As the team continues on the LEGO Ideas Labyrinth Maze, we realize that it was designed by none other than the incredibly talented Jason Allemann (aka JK Brickworks), who created the LEGO Automata Sisyphus!

Everything You Need to Know About Custom Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, many of which you can find on Amazon or via some other retailer. If you need a new board, buying a pre-built one is the cheapest and easiest way. However, building a custom keyboard gives you the chance to choose everything from the case material, to the switches, to the keycaps.

A WhiteFox with GMK Hyperfuse caps

The popularity of custom keyboards has exploded in the last few years, making it a confusing and intimidating hobby to pick up. Let's break it all down.

Layouts and firmware

One of the things you'll notice about custom keyboards rather quickly is they tend to have unusual layouts, and they're often tiny compared to the standard full-sized 104-key layout. There are tenkeyless (80%) boards that lack a number pad, but also 65%, 60%, and smaller. A 60% is fairly common these days—these boards have only the main alphas, number row, and modifiers. The arrows and other keys are accessible via a function layer. A 65% board adds back the arrows and a few extra keys, but 40% boards go the other way with the alpha keys and a just a few modifiers. Then there are various split and ergonomic boards, like the Ergodox.

Some of these are available as niche pre-built keyboards, but there's one main difference between those and a truly custom board. A custom board is programmable, meaning you can have any of the keys do whatever you want. This is extremely important when you're dealing with fewer physical keys because you will need at least one robust function layer to fit in all the standard keyboard commands.

A RedScarf II with DSA Overwatch caps

The firmware on a custom keyboard offers much more power than the desktop clients many fancy "gamer" keyboards use. After a board is programmed with your preferred layout, it doesn't rely on any software on a computer. It works exactly the same no matter which device you plug it into. The things you can do are also much more advanced. Some boards include advanced macro support or the option to control the mouse cursor.

A smaller keyboard layout can be much more efficient than a full sized one. By relegating some commands to a function layer, your hands don't have to move as far while typing, and your mouse stays closer to your hands. True, some people can't get by without a full layout and number pad, but most people who think they do are wrong. It's much easier to scale back the size of your board than you think.

Adam Savage Incognito as Chewbacca with C-3PO!

For this year's Silicon Valley Comic Con, Adam goes incognito in one of his favorite cosplays--Chewbacca! This upgraded Chewie is a bit different than the Wookiee costume he wore a few years back, with a new bandolier, bowcaster, and mask. Plus, Adam rigs up an animitronic C-3PO to wear on his back, complete with custom dialogue!

Silicon Valley Comic Con and Science March! - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 4/25/17
Recording later in the week, Adam, Will, and Norm catch up on Star Wars Celebration's reveal of The Last Jedi's teaser trailer, drop some Pete Seeger knowledge, and dive into a Spoilercast discussion of the recent film Passengers. Plus, we get excited for Silicon Valley Comic Con and the Science March this weekend!
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