Podcast - Adam Savage Project

Research Tips – 6/23/2015

This week, Adam, Will, and Norm share their favorite sites, tools, and sources for researching the many things they’re interested in.

Comments (54)

54 thoughts on “Research Tips – 6/23/2015

  1. To echo what Adam said about catalogs– the auction catalogs from the StarGate and other sci-fi ‘clean-out-the-prop-warehouse’ sales are a marvelous source of images of props and gadgets.

    There are sales catalogs for postcard and currency auctions as well. Some catalogs are available as PDFs free for the downloading!

    And on the ‘data should be free’ side– I hate people who post either small images on eBay, or smear a big ‘EBAY IMAGE NOT FOR REUSE’ over the details I’m trying to see! As if only the purchaser has any right to see the image. Only one person can win the auction, but in a lot of cases it’s not owning the object, it’s being able to examine the image that’s important!

    Rumpelstiltskin moment– I was looking for parts for pocket watches– and there’re a lot of sites that have parts, but finding them can be fun. I found these:

    timesavers.com/ – http://www.perrinwatchparts.com/ – mb.nawcc.org/showwiki.php?title=Pocket_Watch_Dials – http://www.ofrei.com/WatchMaterials.htmlhttp://www.esslinger.com/watch-parts/http://www.timezonewatchschool.com/WatchSchool/http://www.ofrei.com/page1267.htmlhttp://www.entertainmentearth.com/prodinfo.asp?number=UT02680#.UkiAKj_NkxG

    And they’re not only for parts– they have some marvelous teensy-weensy tools!

    –Paul E Musselman

  2. Heh….I just fixed my own dryer by way of a 13 part YouTube series about repairing Kenmore dryers…total cost $130….

  3. Nightmare research is a fun bit that comes along with owning a unique car. I spent nights looking for a dumb valve and eventually I just googled the part number and followed every result till eventually I in a pages root code somehow I found the part. Never buy a one of a kind anything.

    now for viewing youtube videos I advise going to https://www.youtube.com/html5 and activating the html5 player. this allows you to change the speed of the video being played. i find that most videos with speech can still be easily understood at 1.5x speed this makes a 30 minute video into a 20 minute video

  4. I’ve always found Google searching to locate obscure things to be straightforward, and it constantly surprises me when people struggle to locate something that takes me only a couple of minutes to find.

    Anyway, here’s my search story: I was doing some VFX for a short film set during WWII, and wanted to build a CGI 3D model of a generic German truck from that era. I searched literally using those words, and lots of things came up but the one I liked best turned out to be one of the most modular vehicles, the Opel Blitz. Now having a specific term to search, I found many authentic period photos, but all low resolution, black and white, and limited angles. I did see a few model kits were available, and considered buying one of them, a snap-together kit, to copy from. But that seemed like more work than I was prepared for, and I’m no kitset modeller.

    But then, through image search and then clicking third-level through websites, I found this site and now I not only had amazing images from all angles, but textures to borrow and tesselate, and all shot from human angles, not from above. Brilliant, and a lucky find.

    Here’s a final image of what I made.

  5. A frustration of mines is looking for the answer to some obscure problem and the only reference you can find of it online is a single forum post asking the same question your asking, then the original poster replied to their own post saying they fixed the problem, but NEVER says what they did or how to fix the problem!

  6. can’t get the damn link to post. some sort of error message. google RPF Pizza Ink361.com for ridiculous pizza largeness

  7. Google has become a lazy mans research tool. Often the first result is jumped on while deeper searches are ignored.

    Look at the latest game scandal, a Warner Bro exec was named and shamed for supposedly telling to stop whining about a game.

    This didn’t sit well with me, it all looked wrong. After just 10 minutes I found the real person (who has NOTHING to do with WB) and was able to form a profile that matched his comments. (PS They even got the sex wrong)

    Now this WB exec will probably have to explain to her boss that she isn’t responsible at all for the comments.

    Research and VERIFY results is my tip.


  8. Before I started getting an education in a field that required some very specialized, technical knowledge, I thought that the internet had everything. I have since started going to college for a BS in Recording Arts, I hit a wall where questions I had from lecture or for a project – about signal processing or audio electronics or something – either didn’t have answers, or I’m no longer a good enough researcher to find those questions and answers in such a technical field. Also, google isn’t super intuitive for searching for audio unless it’s attached to a video, so that’s a challenge too. I wish I could remember some examples of this. I’ll make a note of it next time.

  9. My best search tip when dealing with old equipment is look for number codes or labels to Google, with or with our quotes.

    One of my earliest Rumpelstiltskin moment in the internet age is seeing a very cool looking vintage military truck for sale on the side of the road and trying to finding it name. It took me the better part of the night, by way of internet searching. Going just off what I could see by walking around the beast, I eventually found it to be a — Volvo Sugga tp21
    Very worth while looking at it form.

    Had this moment again when trying to remember this name that I had found 12 years ago. Back then there was only two images on the internet of said truck, now I found more then plenty.


  10. As a dislexic if find goodle invaluable to correct my spelling coz word prossesor spell checkers can’t handle it.

  11. The biggest tip I have for doing searches for things is this: If you speak another language, try searching in that other language for results. Either via the local version of google or also just searching the name of whatever you are looking for in the other language. Putting another language into the search often brings up a whole different set of results.

  12. On the topic of going deeper and doing library search, a buddy of mine was looking for background for a short story with a steampunk setting. Not terribly original I know, however he did a bunch of hunting in his universities collection and came up with a couple books, one had only two other names on the card, the other half a dozen. One written by one of the lead engineers on the German zeppelin projects in something like 1910, and the other was on air combat tactics from a zeppelin captain on the feasibility of large scale fleet engagements from a naval perspective. Really cool stuff, and great background that few had (last borrow for the books had been before either of us was born)

    Stuff is out there.

    One forum trick that is worth an attempt, is even if the thread is old and dead, if you can sign up and get PM or email access to that person, even if they’ve left the forum behind, they might still have notification emails. probably not useful if the person only ever posted twice, but there are lots of former forum members who had large amounts of time invested in that thing, and maybe just moved on.

  13. My biggest problem with researching things online is falling down the rabbit hole of things I find interesting. I will start out looking for one specific thing and end up with fifteen different pages open and not one of them has anything to do with what I was looking for.

  14. On the reverse image searching, I’ve done this so many hundreds of times that I’ve turned it into a habit when I’m doing research on a project.

    What I do currently is to grab the image of the thing I’m trying to find out more about and reverse image search it and then deep dive into the forums and blog posts featuring the image until I find the name enough times that I know it’s correct (people name things incorrectly so often it hurts). Then I go back and do an incognito google or other search on that name and start filtering from there and it usually gets me somewhere within a few hours of searching.

    This has worked well enough for me that I’ve managed to source weird electrical buttons from an old catalog image stock and get all the way to a new, current catalog that I could order from of the same exact part (but that is a rare find).

    All that said, I loved hearing about the guys troubles and victories in researching esoteric things and can’t wait to see more!

  15. I also like to do suggestive searches, trying to force-find two possible answers and seeing which and how many sources indicate one over the other. “Thing 1” versus “Thing 2” searches help me a lot as well.

  16. In regards to image searches; the often ridiculed Bing is amazing at image and video searches. It has in its index both Flickr (multiple sizes) and Pinterest images and searching for Youtube video’s is by far easier than it is on Youtube itself (also it has the hover preview thing Norm mentioned built-in).

    When searching for computer related questions I usually enter an actual question (“how can i…”) followed by some technologies involved (a recent example “how can I change ProxyIOBufferSize Apache”). A good site for questions like this is Stack Exchange. If you can’t find your answer to a computer related question there, well good luck to you…

  17. I think that the “Rumpelstiltskin Effect” is a great name for this phenomenon. I’ve known about the terminology caveat for quite some time and it’s one of the first things I do in my research anymore. I’ve done lots of reading on the types of foams, their costs, weights, physical properties, and chemical reactivity. I look for new foams to use in LARP weapons that are rigid and resilient, but soft and paintable. Unfortunately, for this particular subject, most of the forums have said the same thing and weren’t helpful, but through research and experimentation, I’ve found some bulk adhesives, foams, and paints that have the exact blend I need. Simply looking up “foam” isn’t helpful, and knowing all about the technical names and types has been helpful.

  18. It sounds like each of you needs to make friends with a librarian – not just someone who works in a library, but an actual trained librarian whose profession is to be highly skilled in research. They will have insight far beyond what you’ve had to figure out on your own as you’ve honed your research skills over the years.

    They’ll be over the moon that you’ve recognized their expertise and approached them for help 🙂

    (Plus, if it’s a librarian from an academic institution or a larger city’s public library system, they’ll have access to far more restricted/paywalled indexes and full-text resources than you may realize)

  19. I generally find that search results from the major search engines don’t have the answer directly, but they often have pointers to the real answer.

  20. If you’re looking for armour, check out The Royal Armouries Leeds, don’t worry about the site just google them.

    Tumblr is surprisingly good for searches as long as you use /archive in the address line of awkward pages.

  21. Youtube has a preview when you put your mouse over the scrub bar, so what exactly is this feature in porn videos Norm is talking about? Is it just the same thing? Is he just scrubbing through porn a lot but not youtube so he’s never noticed, or is he talking about something else?

  22. This might be one of my favorite ones of Will when you reverse image the image will was talking about.

  23. I, like 99% of the world have google as my default web search engine but I have to put a word out for microsofts bing. Please check this out for yourself because Bing has jumped leaps and strides ahead of google when it comes to image and video search.

    Bing Image Search:

    • You can easily see all the different sizes of an image you select.
    • You can see the list of every site that image is on and go straight to the site.
    • You can add the image directly to Onenote or Pinterest.
    • All the same extra search criteria as google + search for square wide or tall.
    • The one minus is Bing doesn’t seem to do a related image search, use Google for this.

    Bing Video search:

    • Has hover preview.
    • Videos displayed as a grid.
    • Preview shows 3 or 4, 5 to 10 second previews from the video.
    • Most previewable videos have a 3 – 4 images underneath so you can skip to each part of the preview.
    • One minus not all videos are able to be previewed (guess this is licensing)
    • Another minus – when selecting a video sometime you go to the site sometimes it plays within Bing. I haven’t completely figured this out.
    • There is a feedback button in the bottom right so if you have feedback/suggestions you can give it.

    In any case I suggest you check out Bing a bit more as they are making a real effort. I doubt I’ll be changing my default browser any time soon but there are times I do go to Bing!

  24. (actually I often use Bing when searching for something to do with Windows 10 insider preview, I swear Google is actually not being helpful when it comes to windows 10. One search I did on Google gave me multiple results from apple and no answer to my question but Bing had help at number 1 !!!! But this is another story)

  25. He’s talking about before you even go to the video, you can hover your mouse over the thumbnail and a montage of screenshots show in order that show the content of the video.

  26. Thank you so much for using the example “Luan”. I have been searching for a while for the specific plywood you would use for creating plywood curves to create my own Eames Chair. One search adding “Luan” led me to Bend-a-Ply which is exactly what I was looking for!

  27. Quick tip – For quite a while I’ve been using a browser extension called “YouTube Center” that will perform that “porn thumbnail preview” thing you were talking about. It also has a crazy number of other features that make Youtube look and act just the way you want it to. It’s constantly being updated, and can work with nearly all major browsers. I’ve only used it in Firefox, so I don’t know how well it works on other browsers. I don’t recommend using it on very low-end machines though; it can slow down Youtube page loading if the machine can’t handle it. If you Google it, its GitHub page should be one of the first results.

  28. Serendipity Effect: I was searching in a real live library for information on kites. The things that fly in the air tethered to you with a string. I was using the reader’s guide to periodical literature (it used to be a red book that indexed and cross-referenced magazines). I found references to National Geographic volume such-and-such, issue xx.

    I found articles on trapezoidal kites, some with multiple tiers of trapezoids. Some guy named Alexander Graham Bell had written the article. There were photos.

    In the same or nearby issues were articles and letters back and forth between Bell, someone named Grosevenor (sp), who later became editor (?), and some guys from Ohio named Wright, all discussing How To Fly!

    It was the early version of a chat room! And all of their experimenting (well, some of it) documented and passed along as ideas for the rest of the gang to consider.


    –Paul E Musselman

  29. on the subject of search engines: i feel you’d might want to always have a parallel search in a non-google search engine like duckduckgo, just to avoid the google filter bubble.

  30. My biggest Rumpelstiltskin moment probably was when I was looking for ‘trilateration.’ I needed to figure out how to calculate a location from three points and just a radius from each of them. I tried everything I could think of for two solid days (probably 16-20 hours) before I finale managed to come across the right word. And from there I found more then enough papers to learn the math and do the calculations. I think I was trying to focus the search too much, and it wasn’t until I started to get more basic and switch angles that I managed to get it right.

    Of course now I have heard use the word a half dozen times talking about Oculus, and VR.

  31. Great podcast. I want to recommend a movie on the topic of computer searches.

    Movie is Desk Set (1957) starring Katherine Hepburn (as a reference librarian for a major TV network) and Spencer Tracy (engineering who installs an ENIAC in her department). She is convinced that it will replace her and her staff. Written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron. In one scene, ENIAC includes a pink slip with each paycheck. After she finds out that the mail boy lost his job, Hepburn asks Tracy, “Did you invent something that carries the mail?”

  32. To share some research tricks for homes and building construction, as an architect I’m frequently trying to figure out how part of building was Constructed without having the original drawing (plans details sections ect.). What you may know Is that there is a Book published by the American institute of architects called architectural graphic standards that are full of typical construction details. What trips up most people is the content of the current edition (the 11th or 12th) shows only how we currently build buildings which doesn’t help for something built in 1940. Instead look up the older editions which go back to the 1920s /1930s, which will show you how things were built during that time along with the types of materials (like all those lovely asbestos tile details). While this is no guarantee you’ll find out exactly how your particular building was constructed its a great starting. Hopefully this helps someone put there.

  33. LifeHacker used to do a weekly “search puzzle” where the author wpuld pose a very specific queery that could be answered with the right google searches. At the end of the week they would explain their thinking and methodology.

    Its a great place to start learning tricks or about searching.

  34. Here is a link to a repository of physics papers that the physics lab I was in used (AMO – Atomic Molecular Optics). This site has all fields of physics and might be the one that Will was referring to…


  35. When you mentioned the armor at the MET I could not agree more, I happen to visit that last week…Impressive!

  36. A recent Rumpelstiltskin moment I had was finding handles for a cupboard my sister was restoring. She wanted the exact ones my grandparents had on theirs when we were kids. It was amazing how slight changes to the search changed results in Google images. Handle, door pull, cupboard pull, all gave different results. As did retro, vintage, antique, art deco. Found them after a week of looking. Etsy was also useful. Turned out to be an Australian company called Acetex from the 50’s. Couldn’t afford the ones I found, but I have the info to make replicas in the future. Even found an ad for them in the National Library of Australia newspaper archive.

  37. Your research methods and habits very closely reflect my own.

    BTW the medical free journal is called Plos one

  38. Adam mentioned vacuum tubes and since I’m a bit of a vacuum tube afficianado so here are two of the most indispensable books you can have for tube research:

    Radio Designer’s Handbook – F Langford Smith http://www.amazon.com/Radio-Designers-Handbook-Fourth-Edition/dp/0750636351

    RCA Receiving Tube Manual RC-30 http://www.amazon.com/Receiving-Tube-Manual-RC-30-Reprint/dp/B000TNHBAU?tag=duckduckgo-d-20

    Unfortunately these both are now out of print. I grabbed a copy of the RDH about 10 years ago from the 1997 reprint edition. But I’m guessing these can both be snagged on Ebay. The RDH is the BIBLE for tube theory and design. And the RTM is the go to for tube identification. These are invaluable tools for anyone interested in vacuum tubes and the best place to start!

  39. When I was taking an electronics course in college it was all semiconductors. Except for an appendix at the back of the book, that showed just the vacuum-tube triode. The text said something like “The vacuum-tube triode works much like the FET transistor…”

    Tail wags Dog!

    –Paul E Musselman

  40. Has anyone ever tried to identify insects via online search?

    This is the one thing I have consistently had trouble doing over the years. I’ve tried using simple descriptors that I think a novice searcher would use and I’ve also researched insect anatomy to learn the proper terms for use in searching. Neither approach has helped me identify some weird bugs I found in my house this spring.

  41. I just wanted to add a couple of my methods to extend something mentioned during the podcast: Forums and social media. There are hundreds of forums and sites and even Subreddits dedicated to various topics. Years ago I was working on a small biohacking project and so I joined a biology forum to get some guidance. There are subreddits dedicated to “what is this thing?” as Adam mentioned that sometimes identifying a thing that you don’t have a name for can be a pain in the butt. https://www.reddit.com/r/whatisthisthing/ There are parallel ones for identifying bugs and plants as well! I have also used forums to find books on given subjects. Ultimately humans are a great resource to get pointed in the right direction. Professionally speaking I use a broad variety of forums to help with my work in automation and development – this is especially helpful when breaking into a new subject that you know nothing about. Again, there is probably some bias on some subjects.

  42. Oh man I laughed so hard in this podcast when Adam was talking about how you have to find the right name for something. The NUMBER of times this has happened to me, particularly when trying to diagnose problems with cars.

    If you think finding the word is bad, how about describing the sound? One man’s “whine” is another man’s “whistle” or “moan”. And even then it can get weird – my car recently started to “whine” and I traced it to the alternator (or so I thought). After replacement it still whined but all the google searches for “alternator whine” kept discussing the electrical sound you can get through the speakers.

    But this is itself a valid data point with regards to Google searches – if you can’t find results for what seems like an obvious search, perhaps you replaced the wrong part?

    Sure enough in my case I started googling for “whine” from all the parts on that side of the engine until I stumbled across “timing belt whine”. BOOM – suddenly there are sixty YouTube videos with the exact same sound and evidence that the timing belt is too tight!

    But googling “car whine” just won’t take you to those results. As Adam said it is exactly like Rumplestiltskin – once you know the name you break the spell!

  43. Hah yes! Or the forum posts where someone has the problem and the thread goes on for three pages and then stops, with no mention of what the fix was!

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