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Make Your Own "Useless Machine"

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YouTube / thejetdrvr

Yesterday I showed you a machine that turns itself off, also known as a "Useless Machine." The version from yesterday is enhanced with lots of fancy audio and other options; the most common "Useless Machine" is just a box with a switch -- you flip the switch, the box opens, and the machine reaches out to turn off the switch, then closes. Simple, and achievable by mere mortals.

After yesterday's post, many of you asked where to buy these things or how to make them. Well, good news! You can buy a kit from Maker Shed for about $35, or from Frivolous Engineering for $55 partly-assembled. Both kits require you to put things together, but either makes a good starting point. Here's a video showing assembly of these kits:

If you're very handy and want to make your own box from scratch (with parts bought from a local hobby/electronics store), this set of videos shows you how it's done, step by step. Yes, there's soldering involved. (And be sure to check the end of the second video to make sure it's the kind of machine you want!)

Finally, there's a set of instructions from Instructables written up by the Frivolous Engineering crew, if none of the above is doing it for you. Fun fact: the Useless Machine was featured on The Colbert Report in 2010.

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Animals
Welcome to Italy's 'Snail Spa,' Where Happy Mollusks Ooze Prized Slime
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Wellness fads may come and go, but one beauty trend—using gross unguents to maintain a youthful glow—remains constant. Throughout history, cultures around the world have slathered themselves in concoctions containing everything from crocodile excrement to bird droppings and even snail slime, the last of which was favored by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Today, mollusk mucous is undergoing a surprising resurgence, as cosmetics companies around the globe use the slime to make skin products. To harvest mass quantities of the clear ooze, snail farmers typically have to kill the tiny creatures. But according to Great Big Story's video below, an Italian man named Simone Sampò invented a snail slime extraction machine—which he has dubbed a "snail spa"—that sprays the critters with secret ingredients, pleasuring them to the point that they secrete their valuable ooze.

Curious how the natural lubricant gets from a mollusk's foot to a well-cared-for face? Watch Sampò's steam machine in action below, as it lulls a bevy of happy snails into producing jugs of slime.

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Creating a Water-Powered Hammer Using Stone Age Tools
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A "Monjolo" is a water-powered hammer made from a log and some sticks. It relies on flowing water from a stream to do its work.

In the video below, the anonymous laborer who goes by Primitive Technology on YouTube creates his own Monjolo from scratch. It's effectively a hollowed-out log placed in the path of a stream, supported by a structure of skinny beams. As the log fills up with water, it rises, then the water drains out the back and it comes crashing down again. When it crashes down, that's an opportunity for a hammer head on the end to do something useful—like crushing charcoal or grain.

The creator of Primitive Technology writes:

This is the first machine I’ve built using primitive technology that produces work without human effort. Falling water replaces human calories to perform a repetitive task. A permanent set up usually has a shed protecting the hammer and materials from the weather while the trough end sits outside under the spout. This type of hammer is used to pulverise grain into flour and I thought I might use one to mill dry cassava chips into flour when the garden matures. ...

Like all the Primitive Technology videos, this is done entirely without spoken or written language, and it's DIY paradise. Tune in for a look into what one man alone in the bush can create:

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