Category Archives: Science

[Sa. May 4, 2013] Pumping Station One Hackerspace Birthday Party


Chicago’s coolest hackerspace, Pumping Station:One is having a 4-year birthday party / open house thingie on Saturday.

In case you’re not familiar, hackerspaces are, well–pretty self explanatory. You sign up for a membership, like a gym, and then you get to play with all the neat toys–oscilloscopes, 3D printers, drill presses, sewing machines, and a scanning electron microscope (duh!). It’s $40-$70 per month for a membership, for all that access to awesome future-creation. Also, they really do have a Tardis on the roof, just like that photo up there shows–not shopped.

7PM – Demos and reception
10PM – Live music
@ Pumping Station: One, 3519 N. Elston, Chicago IL (near Addison and Kedzie)

They also have a THUNDER SLINKY (I don’t know what that is, but it sounds awesome):

  • Souped-up Power Wheels Racers
  • DIY Quadcopter
  • Check out our new scanning electron microscope
  • Brain-based Jacob’s Ladder
  • WindowFarm
  • Other cool things!

Also, interactivity is completely smiled upon and encouraged:

  • Make art with lasers!
  • Silkscreen your own art poster!
  • Learn to solder and walk away with your very own blinkie badge!
  • Print your first object using one of our 3D printers

Liquid and light snacks will be on hand, as will music and an  LED birthday cake.

There’s a $10 donation for non-members, which will go towards building a new kitchen.RSVP here.

Lovely video on the hackerspace concept:


Give a special someone (plush) VD for Valentine’s Day. Syphilis, anyone?

venereal disease plush

Fractalspin just added some hilarious gifts in time for Valentine’s Day–plush venereal diseases by Giant Microbes. Choose from chlamydia, herpes, and syphilis.

If you don’t feel like sharing a disease, there’s also sperm and egg plushies for a more traditional gift.

Idiots explaining science: Computers, Television, and the Large Hadron Collider

Here’s a hilarious book explaining how computers work, referencing meat needed as fuel, puppies, and a washing machine as integral parts.

In a classic internet video, Bjork explains how television works, comparing the electrical components to buildings in a city, and the wires are “elevators.” It bothers me that people find her “adorable” when she is acting like a child simplistically justifying the “magic” of electronics. What’s also sad is she is an electronic musician who should have technical knowledge of her tools (however, she relies heavily on producers, which could explain why she thinks electronics is a magical process). She is a grown woman and it is sad that this is considered cute.

Condensed Soup: 10/23/08 by JDG6385

Finally, presented without comment, I will leave you with the girls from The Hills attempting to explain the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider.

How to Start Making Electronic Music — A List of Resources

Electronic Music

Here’s a nice article over at Memeshift with a lot of resources from all over the intertrons for getting started making electronic music. Even though it’s a bit old (2008), it focuses on basic principles and components, like oscillators, filters, synthesizer programming, and sampling. A nice resource for people just getting started.

The author recommends Ableton Live as the sequencer of choice, because it allows for both live performance and more traditional sequencing and I agree. I would also add that to get some really advanced sound and have control over it at a very granular level, look into MAX / Msp. Despite the steep learning curve, and somewhat unintuitive interface, it allows for some very interesting, interactive and experimental projects, like these over at Musicthing and these over at Create Digital Music. There’s a guy who uses turntables to video mix, someone who created an invisible violin using a wii controller and bluetooth with MAX/Msp, and a crazy balloon + lights + sound installation by Monolake at Mutek.

If you just want to play with something online and get the feel for making electronic music, Audiotool (pictured above) is pretty awesome.

“How to Start Marking Electronic Music”

Also, if you live in Chicago, there are other physical humans that can help with your quest at


"Outdated representations of African-American nerds are simply not cutting it anymore"

Black nerd activisim

A coalition of African-American activists and scholars released a strongly worded statement Monday citing the “urgent need” for popular media to depict a new black nerd archetype that more accurately reflects the full spectrum of 21st-century American dorkdom.

“Outdated representations of African-American nerds are simply not cutting it anymore,” the statement read in part. “Perhaps in the ’80s and ’90s it was possible for young people to identify with Steve Urkel’s hiked-up pants, nasal voice, and lovable catchphrase of ‘Did I do that?’ But today’s black nerds are different.”

“They may not carry slide rules and calculators, but they do carry smartphones to make posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare,” the statement continued. “Yet where are the modern-day nerds of color in our films and television programs?”

African-American Community Calls For New Black Nerd Archetype

“Benoitbot” Benoit Mandelbrot Paper Toy

benoitbot-mandelbrot700wBenoit Mandelbrot spent his life explaining the complexity of nature by studying mathematical self-similar structures with infinitely repeating complexities, which he termed “fractals.” They were the key to explaining non-smooth objects, from mountain ranges and shorelines, to blood vessels and fluctuations in the stock market. His discovery went on to revolutionize technology, such as computer graphics and wide-spectrum antennae; and in medicine, such as in treating Parkinsons’s disease and advancements in antibiotics.

Print, cut out and fold along the dotted lines to make your own cute robot version of our favorite chaos scientist.

Benoitbot Paper Toy [PDF]

Join our mailinglist for more cool free stuff!


RIP Benoit Mandelbrot, Fractal Innovator

Benoit Mandelbrot, the creator of fractal geometry died at the age of 85 this week. Fractals are a visual representation of an equation that is self-similar and based on recursion, and just so happen to mimic an incredible array of natural processes and formations, from mountain ranges to coral reefs, and interestingly, as the above video explains, explains not only the way branches of a tree are differentiated but how trees in a forest differentiate themselves. Pretty hot.

Mandelbrot Set featuring the song “Mandelbrot Set” by Jonathan Coulton

Here is a zoomed Mandelbrot fractal set to a song aptly entitled “Mandelbrot Set.”

Mr. Mandelbrot also did a lovely TED talk, which you can watch above.

paper toy madelbot fractalspin

For the geek boutique I run, Fractalspin (namesake obvious), I designed a paper toy called “Mandelbot” named after the man himself. You can download the PDF, print it out and assemble it for free.

RIP Benoit, and thank you for adding to our collective understanding.