Category Archives: gadgets

Don’t Throw That Away!

Just a little story of something that just happened to me. I was plugging in my phone for its night of suckling at the teat of the power grid, when I heard a sickening “snick.” The phone charger wouldn’t fit into the phone any more, seems a little chunk had broken off in there.

“Damn it!”

First I thought, maybe something is loose, so I wiggled the part, and yup it was loose, too loose. The damn thing was so fragile that one wrong push and it snapped off.

I thought about how much it would cost to get a new phone, and the hassle, and environmental damage and said “fuck this if it is busted at least I can try to fix it.”

I had a little screw driver used to fix glasses that allowed me to open the phone. Once inside I saw the problem. The part of the phone that connects to the charger was a super fragile little web of soldered wires. The part that has to hold the most stress was built as fragile as a feather.

I got out my soldering iron, and a pair of tweezers and CAREFULLY placed the wires over the place they used to be attached, hoping that there would be enough solder on the board to reattach the part.

Careful not to apply too much heat and melt the other tiny ass components (there is no doubt in my mind that some very fancy robot/small children built the insides of my phone as it is very compact in there) I applied heat to each of the 20 some lead, until each one was soldered to the board.

The moment of truth, phone snapped back together, screws put back in, battery snapped in, power button pushed…so far so good the phone turned on.

The real test would come however when I plugged the power charger cord in, would the phone recognize that it was plugged in….SUCCESS! It worked! I fixed my phone, a phone I have had for 3 or so years now, a phone that I have repainted when the paint peeled off the outside, the phone that survived several bike crashes, and now the phone that has survived it’s own poor design.

Never give up, don’t throw it away until you have at least tried to fix it. Don’t be afraid to get in there and mess stuff up, I mean if it is already broken, you can’t make it worse, you might even get lucky and fix it.

Tiny Robot Swarms To Explore The Ocean

I love robots, especially the kind that do science (not so much the kind that rise up to throw off their human overlords). Which is why I was happy to see that robots are being used to do some very interesting science. In an effort to plug gaps in knowledge about key ocean processes, the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s division of ocean sciences has awarded nearly $1 million to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. The Scripps marine scientists will develop a new breed of ocean-probing instruments. Jules Jaffe and Peter Franks will spearhead an effort to design and deploy autonomous underwater explorers, or AUEs. AUEs will trace the fine details of oceanographic processes vital to tiny marine inhabitants. In other words, tiny robots, doing science, deep underwater, awesome.


While oceanographers have been skilled in detailing large-scale ocean processes, a need has emerged to zero in on functions unfolding at smaller scales. By defining localized currents, temperature, salinity, pressure and biological properties, AUEs will offer new and valuable information about a range of ocean phenomena.

“We’re seeing great success in the global use of ocean profiling floats to document large-scale circulation patterns and other physical and chemical attributes of the deep and open seas,” said Phillip Taylor of NSF’s division of ocean sciences. “These innovative AUEs will allow researchers to sample the environments of coastal regions as well, and to better understand how small organisms operate in the complex surroundings of the oceans.”

The miniature robots will aid in obtaining information needed for developing marine protected areas, determining critical nursery habitats for fish and other animals, tracking harmful algae blooms, and monitoring oil spills.

For marine protected areas, AUEs will help inform debates about the best areas for habitat protection. With harmful algal blooms and oil spills, the instruments can be deployed directly into outbreak patches to gauge how they develop and change over time. In the case of an airplane crash over the ocean, AUEs should be able to track currents to determine where among the wreckage a black box may be located.

“AUEs will fill in gaps between existing marine technologies,” said Jaffe. “They will provide a whole new kind of information.”

AUEs work through a system in which several soccer-ball-sized explorers are deployed with many tens–or even hundreds–of pint-sized explorers. Collectively, the entire “swarm” of AUEs will track ocean currents that organisms at a small-scale, such as tiny abalone larvae, for example, experience in the ocean.

“AUEs will give us information to figure out how small organisms survive, how they move in the ocean, and the physical dynamics they experience as they get around,” said Franks. “AUEs should improve ocean models and allow us to do a better job of following ‘the weather and climate of the ocean,’ as well as help us understand things like carbon fluxes.”

Franks, who conducts research on marine phytoplankton, says that “plankton are somewhat like the balloons of the ocean floating around out there. With AUEs, we’re trying to figure out how the ocean works at scales that matter to plankton.

“If we place 100 AUEs in the ocean and let them go, we’ll be able to look at how they move to get a sense of the physics driving current flows.”

During the pilot phase of the project, Jaffe and colleagues will build five to six of the soccer-ball-sized explorers and 20 of the smaller versions. An outreach component of the project will enlist school children in building and ultimately deploying AUEs.

In a related funding award, the researchers have also been given $1.5 million from NSF’s Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation initiative to design and develop the systems necessary to control the movement of AUEs.

That aspect brings Jaffe and Franks together with researchers at the Cymer Center for Control Systems and Dynamics at the University of California at San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering and the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The Next Time I Break My Foot I am Getting One Of These

So often technology does little more than make what we have now a little more shiny, and often does actual harm. So when something simply and useful comes along that both makes the world better and is technology…lets just say this the kind of thing people should be putting all that brain power towards. Plus with my lifestyle it is only a matter of time before I break my foot…ha ha.

Self Containted Food Biosphere In Your Kitchen

I actually sorta kinda really love this idea.


This Philips non-spherical-biosphere is a self-contained farm for that produces hundreds of calories of various food sources a day. Its five-level design breaks down like this:

Levels 1 and 2: Plants
Level 3: Algae
Level 4: Fish and Shrimp
Level 5: Organic Waste

From what we can tell, the system is designed to cascade nutrients from the top to the bottom (back to the top). Optical fibers capture and redirect light to the plants during the day, while methane capture from organic waste can power lights at night. The algae create oxygen for the fish.(via)

Below is a video full of other ideas…not sure I like all of them but thought the little food probes that tell you about your food intake for the day might be a great way to learn more about health, I also like the idea of being able to see at a glance the carbon footprint of items you buy at at the store. Not sure I like the idea of a “food printer” skip to 7 minutes to see the biosphere.

More here