Quantcast
Latest StoriesFeatured
    False Starts: Astronauts Recall Stories of Shuttle Launch Aborts
    Every manned US spacecraft had its share of white-knuckle moments, but the space shuttle holds a monopoly on launch aborts. (NASA photo)

    Many astronaut autobiographies attempt to convey the exceptionally rare and coveted experience of riding a fire-belching rocket into space. It must surely be a situation where all adjectives and analogies fall short. While the trip to orbit seems to affect each person in different ways, the stories all share happy endings. You have to look much harder to find memoirs of launches that didn’t go so well.

    The primary reason for the dearth of launch abort stories is that so few missions in the history of the US manned space program provided astronauts with unsavory launch experiences. Historically-speaking, once the engines were fired up, an astronaut had a very high probability of making it safely to their planned orbit.

    Every manned US spacecraft had its share of white-knuckle moments, but the space shuttle holds a monopoly on launch aborts. It’s worth noting that the Challenger disaster is considered a launch failure rather than an abort because events unfolded too quickly for any corrective measures to be taken. There were a handful of other missions where, after the smoke cleared and the echoes faded, the shuttle was still firmly shackled to the launch pad. I spoke with five astronauts who endured these launch aborts to get a glimpse of what it was like.

    Quadcopter Racing with First Person Video!

    We've tested different types of quadcopters before, but have never flown them like this! Norm tags along a meetup of local FPV quadcopter racers--people who build and race mini quads by flying them with first-person video cameras. We learn about how FPV quadcopters work, why they're so much fun to spectate, and witness some unbelievable stunts! (Thanks to Charpu, Pablo Lema, and Eric Cheng for their quad footage!)

    Adam's Tour Diaries #1: On the Road Again

    After a lovely and relaxing three-hour Amtrak trip (the train is my FAVORITE method of travel) and a 90-minute car ride, I arrived in Williamsport, PA., for the start of our fall MythBusters: Behind the Myths tour.

    BEST way to travel. I promise I’m having more fun than my face suggests.

    We’d performed the show throughout Australia and New Zealand this summer, and the show still felt fresh in my mind. I arrived backstage to find us hamstrung in one of our set pieces by a technical snafu. No worries. We reorganized the first act about 30 minutes before showtime, and the new running order went very smoothly.

    The stage was a bit cramped, so we had some tile-puzzling to do to make all of our stuff fit, but fit it did. We have a great and resourceful road crew.

    I also got to see the bus I’d be traveling in. It’s going to be home for more than a month, and I settled in, putting my stuff away and knolling (you know how I am).

    Tested Mailbag: Gears of War 3 Hammerburst Replica!

    Cap off your week with another edition of the Tested mailbag! This week's package is probably the biggest to ever arrive at our office, to the dismay of our FedEx delivery guy. It's an incredible 1:1 scale replica made by Triforce, a company we met at this year's NYCC. Thanks to Triforce for sending this massive package!

    Tested: The Show — A Story in 256 Pixels

    As the resolution and pixel density of digital screens are skyrocketing, we take a step back to appreciate the artistry of telling a story with the limitations of 8-bit graphics. Jeremy Williams celebrates the history and potential of pixel art in this presentation from our live show! (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Tested: The Show — Cooking with Cricket Flour

    For our live show in San Francisco, Megan Miller of Bitty Foods gave a presentation about the possibilities of cricket flour--cooking and baking with flour made with insects. Here's why that's not such a strange idea, and how the idea can have an impact on the way we think about food production for a growing global population. (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Hands-On with DJI's Inspire 1 Quadcopter

    DJI's new quadcopter is one of the coolest we've seen--a huge upgrade from the current Phantom 2 Vision+ we've been using. The Inspire 1 can record 4K video, lifts its propeller struts, and transmit clear HD video to the pilot. We chat in-depth with Eric Cheng, DJI's Director of Aerial Imaging, about all the new features in the Inspire 1 and then take it out for a test flight!

    Tested: The Show — Star Trek in Cinerama

    On October 25th, we put on our first ever stage show in San Francisco, featuring friends and makers from our community. The first presentation was given by graphic designer Nick Acosta, who imagines how classic science fiction television shows would have looked like if they were shot in epic Cinerama widescreen. (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Premium: Full Time-Lapse of the Farnsworth Project Makeup!

    We showed you a sped up version of the Farnsworth project makeup application in our reveal video, but artist Frank Ippolito actually spent close to three hours applying the makeup to actor Chuck Lines. Here's the full six minute time-lapse video of that process, showing Chuck's amazing transformation! To watch this full video, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Why Android Tablets are Finally Moving to 4:3 Screen Aspect Ratios

    The very first true Android tablet was the original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, which was announced more than four years ago. Samsung actually sneaked that one in under Google's radar as the search giant wasn't technically prepared for non-phone Android devices. Still, the form factor stuck, and most of the Android slates we've seen over the years have looked very much like that device--they've all been widescreen. Well, until now.

    The Nexus 9 is the first mainstream Android tablet that has come with a 4:3 screen ratio (like the iPad) instead of 16:9 (like a TV). So, why'd it take so long?

    Supply and Demand

    Android tablets started to pop up in Asia a few months before the Galaxy Tab was official. These were not "real" Android tablets in the sense that there were no Google services built in. In fact, many of them weren't even referred to as tablets, but as MIDs (mobile internet devices) or PMPs (personal media players). These too were widescreen devices because that's what was available.

    Apple has long had a stranglehold on its supply chain. Hardware manufacturers happily line up to build whatever part Apple wants because they know Apple's going to want a zillion of them. That means steady business and an improved reputation in the industry. It was no problem finding suppliers for the iPad's 4:3 screen, but an Android OEM that only needed a few thousand panels wouldn't have such an easy time at a point when almost all LCDs were widescreen.

    As tablets were starting to take off, another product category was dying a long overdue death. Of course I'm referring to Netbooks. These machines were the hot new thing only a few years before, but the abysmal performance and razor-thin profit margins caused OEMs and users to collaboratively call it quits. That left plenty of 7-10-inch Netbook panels sitting around that could be repurposed for cheap tablets. That's what a lot of these early devices were using, which served to solidify the idea that Android tablets were wide.

    Premium: Watch Frank Ippolito Sculpt the Farnsworth Project!

    For Tested Premium Members, here's an extended sculpting session with Frank Ippolito where we discuss the details of the Farnsworth sculpture while the clay is still on actor Chuck Lines' lifecast. We give Frank some feedback and learn about what references he uses to make Farnsworth look like a realistic old man. In the middle of the sculpting process, Frank also gets a visit from some of the directors who worked on Futurama to give him some feedback! To watch and follow along with the sculpt, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Bits to Atoms: The State of Resin 3D Printing Technologies

    In light of our recent video on the Form 1+ printer and as a lead-up to a full review, I wanted to delve deeper into 3D printing with liquid resin, so let's start with a primer on the state of resin 3D printing technologies and hardware.

    Printing with resin typically offers the highest resolution, detail and accuracy available with desktop 3D printing. For example, layer height for most resin printers ranges from 25 - 100 microns (.025mm - .10mm), as a comparison, human hair can range from 17 - 181 microns and typical filament printers (FFF), like the MakerBot, have a max resolution of 100 microns. Generally when talking about resolution you only hear about the layer height, but there is also accuracy as far as small details and resin printers excel in this area.

    EnvisionTec DLP print

    There are various methods of printing with resin, but all involve a liquid distributed in a thin layer and curved via UV light. Prints will typically have some type of support material or structure which must be cleaned off by either physical or chemical means. Most parts remain UV-sensitive, and should be kept from direct sunlight and/or coated or painted in some way to block UV. Let’s take a look at our options for resin printing.

    Photo Gallery: The Making of the Farnsworth Project

    We visited Frank's shop back in early October to watch him work on the sculpt for the Farnsworth project, which differs from the Zoidberg project because it's a prosthetics-based makeup, not a mask that anyone can wear. Here are photos from our shop visit, a close-up look at the silicone prosthetics, and the Farnsworth reveal at our live show.

    Real-Life Professor Farnsworth from Futurama!

    Good news, everyone! After creating the lifelike Zoidberg costume for us earlier this year, effects artist Frank Ippolito takes on another makeup challenge from the world of Futurama. This time, it's Professor Farnsworth! Watch Frank bring the professor to life with sculpting, molding, and casting of prosthetics, and then applying the makeup on an actor to unveil at the Tested stage show! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    Show and Tell: 3D Printed Steampunk Octopod

    One final video from Norm's recent trip to New York! Sean Charlesworth, our 3D printing expert, shares his famous steampunk octopod project, which we've talked about before had never seen in person. It's a wonderfully designed and intricate model entirely conceived of and built by Sean--a project much more complex than your typical 3D printed piece.

    NYU's Interactive Wooden Mirror Project

    One of the coolest places Norm visited on his recent trip to New York was the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. ITP is a graduate program that explores creative ways to combine technology and art--essentially a maker space that can get you a Masters degree in making awesome things. One of those things is this Interactive Wooden Mirror, created by ITP professor Daniel Rozin.

    The Terminator and the Legacy of Stan Winston's Designs

    With photos and story details of the upcoming Terminator reboot coming to light, we wanted to take a look back at the original film and examine how and why it still holds up after all these years. Like a lot of movies that became cultural touchstones and phenomenons, The Terminator was under-estimated, dismissed by Orion Pictures as a low budget drive-in film that would come and go in a week. Yet The Terminator became a major sleeper that connected with audiences in a big way. It was the top movie at the box office for six weeks, but beyond its commercial success it also made Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, and Stan Winston superstars in their respective professions.

    At a screening celebrating The Terminator’s third decade, Cameron said the movie is still remembered because “I think it’s just a lean, mean thriller that works.” But there’s clearly more to it that than. In celebrating The Terminator, we spoke to John Rosengrant and Shane Mahan of Legacy Effects, who both broke into the big leagues by working with Stan Winston, and who helped build the indestructible killer, and the seemingly indestructible franchise, from the ground up.

    It was thanks to the kindness of make-up master Dick Smith that Stan Winston got The Terminator gig. Smith, who many considered the greatest living make-up artist, was well-known for the magic he did for The Godfather, The Exorcist, and Amadeus, just to name a few, but his career was winding down, and The Terminator was clearly going to be a big job.

    Cameron wanted Smith, but Smith kept telling the young director that Stan Winston was the man for the job. Winston had been steadily working for years, he did a lot of TV and low budget B-movies, and had already won two Emmys, but The Terminator would prove to be the big breakthrough that made him one of the most in demand creature builders in the business. (Cameron and Winston would also form a strong personal and professional bond that would continue until Winston passed away in 2008.)

    Awesome Jobs: Meet Kevin Arrigo, Biological Oceanographer

    Kevin Arrigo studies some of the teeny tiniest organisms on the planet -- microscopic plants called Phytoplankton that scientists think might produce up to 50 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. To get at what makes these itty bitties tick he climbs aboard giant ice-breaking ships and heads out to the planet’s icy North and South where they are the most active. Arrigo chatted with us about what it’s like to work in the world’s polar regions and what it feels like to take a wrong step and get a boot full of freezing arctic water.

    Do you consider yourself a biologist?

    I’m a biological oceanographer. I study the biology of the ocean at a pretty large scale. I’m not a marine biologist. I look at really big ocean issues. One example is the organisms that are the base of the food chain, microscopic phytoplankton. They’re tiny plants that feed everything in the ocean and produce more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe. Most people think of trees, but it’s mostly the phytoplankton that are doing the work.

    They’re responsible for the coming and going of the ice ages, which is driven by changes in atmospheric CO2. When the winds pick up, the ocean gets fertilized by iron-rich dust blowing into it. This stimulates phytoplankton to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and then the planet starts to cool. After thousands of years, the temperatures drop so far that the planet goes into an ice age.

    The place I study phytoplankton is in the polar regions. They’re places we don’t understand very well. The North Pole and the area around Antarctica are very different. Most of the climate change is driven by phytoplankton in and around Antarctica. The ones growing in the tropics have very little impact on Earth’s climate.

    Around Antarctica, the ocean is a big watery place full of microscopic plants and they need nutrients just like your garden – mostly nitrogen or phosphorus. Luckily the Antarctic has lots of nitrogen and phosphorus, but not much iron. The ocean can become anemic too. Warm times like now, the ocean is really anemic - not much iron is being blown into it.