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Kid's Desk Makes Him a Space Commander

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YouTube / MAKE

Looks like Jeff Highsmith is the frontrunner for Internet Dad of the Year! He created a wonderfully complex custom desk for his son, featuring a bunch of retro NASA-style spacecraft controls, a giant magnetic world map (with a little spacecraft to move around), launch checklists, and even real-world simulations (like Apollo 12's lightning strike -- the kid can literally "switch SCE to Aux" to fix it, just like flight controller John Aaron did!). The desk is crammed with functional buttons that mix actual NASA spacecraft simulation with goofy fun. (For instance, there's a "BOOSTER" grid of nine buttons that play cool rocket noises; if they're overused, the system goes into a warning mode, requiring Mission Control -- Highsmith's son -- to issue a reset command.)

This is wonderful. Watch, but you can only play after you've finished your homework:

Now, here's the best part -- Highsmith wrote up a detailed description of how it works over at MAKE, even linking to a free download of the source code he wrote for the controller. It's a lot of work, and you need serious skills to wire it all up, but you could make one of these! Now get to work, people.

(Note: Highsmith has made a ton of amazing stuff. He even made A 99 Cent Name Game to Boost Young Self Esteem.)

(Via Devour.)

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iStock // vuk8691
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Creating a Water-Powered Hammer Using Stone Age Tools
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iStock // vuk8691

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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This Just In
Typewriter Sold at Flea Market Turns Out to Be Rare World War II Enigma Machine

An antique typewriter sold at a Romanian flea market for $114 turned out to be a rare piece of wartime history: a German Wehrmacht Enigma I machine worth tens of thousands of dollars, Reuters reports.

To the uninitiated, the rare electromechanical cipher machine—which was first developed in Germany in the 1920s, and was used to encode and decode Nazi military messages during World War II—resembles a writing machine. But when a cryptography professor spotted it, he knew the device’s true worth. He purchased the relic and later put it up for auction at the Bucharest auction house Artmark.

Artmark employee Vlad Georgescu told CNN that the machine was made in Germany in 1941. It was in near-perfect condition thanks to its owner, who cleaned and repaired it, and “took great care of it,” Georgescu said.

The Enigma I’s starting price was $10,300. On Tuesday, July 11, an online bidder purchased it for more than $51,000. "These machines are very rare, especially entirely functional ones," Georgescu said. Historians, however, say that Romania may still be home to more unidentified Engima I machines, as the country was once allied with Nazi Germany before joining forces with the Allies in 1944.

During World War II, Alan Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park, Britain's central codebreaking site, built a giant computer called the Bombe to calculate solutions that solved the Enigma’s supposedly unbreakable code. Some military historians believe that their efforts shortened the war by at least two years.

[h/t BBC News]

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