Weta Releases Affordable Mini ManMelter

If you looked at the amazing line of collectible retro rayguns from Weta Originals and couldn’t help but start thinking about the security vulnerabilities of banks in your neighborhood, or what day of the month the old lady next door gets her social security checks: Save these risky money-making opportunities for something more important, like next week’s iPhone launch. Weta has taken pity on us pixel slaves and released the Mini ManMelter, a much smaller (1/4-size), all metal, edition of their full-size ManMelter Raygun.The Mini will be limited to 500 pieces and cost US$30.

The only drawback is that the Mini ManMelter is an exclusive for next month’s San Diego ComicCon. Crap, so I have to fly to California to pick up my little collector raygun? Hmmm. When DOES that neighbor lady get her checks?…

More info here.


Hieronymus Bosch Action Figures

There seems to be no end to what sorts of weird and wonderful subjects get rendered in plastic and vinyl these days as action figures. Long ago, we jumped track from superheroes, soldiers, sci-fi and fantasy characters. Now we have action figures of scientists, authors, rock stars, characters from other fictional universes, the list goes on.

So, maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising to add Hieronymus Bosch figures to the list. Hey, I’d buy ’em. But I’ll probably save my pocket change for when somebody gets around to creating William Blake action figures. If you ever spot such a thing, email me, stat. Urizen in his mind-forged manacles, Los toling at his forge of creation, Michael binding Satan, Enitharmon giving birth to Orc. While figures of Freud or Shakespeare might be fun, they’re not very action-packed. Blake’s epic and conflict-ridden universe of fragmented, warring psyches is perfect for rendering in super-heroic plastic.

[Via AttentionScan]


Cool Steam Turbine Tank from Crabfu

The Steam Magi at Crabfu have struck again, this one sure to please all of the treadheads in the audience. The wizards of ‘Fu cobbled together a spiffy treaded tank, using a Jensen Turbine engine and a Cheddar/Plover boiler. The chassis is a Kyosho Nitro Blizzard R/C ATV nabbed off of eBay.

The Jensen Turbine is a real beaut. You’re likely familiar with Jensen if you lusted after those desktop steam engine kits advertised in magazines and catalogs when you were a kid. The company has been around for 75 years.


Urban Exploration/Tunnel Hacking Hits the Mainstream

As many of you likely know, urban exploring/building and tunnel hacking (a.k.a. urbex) — like geocaching and alternative reality gaming — is a growing “sport” amongst geeks. Urbex has come to primetime TV, thanks to the History Channel and its Cities of the Underworld. I was pretty psyched before it aired and am certainly enjoying it (it sure beats America Idle). But I find the host really annoying, with his over-anxious, jumpy delivery that seems to not trust the audience will find the material itself cool without his “woah, isn’t this like SO awesome!” punch to nearly every statement. The content is… SO awesome, it’s a shame we have to suffer the host and the show’s ADD production approach to get to the good stuff, the astounding, and often astoundingly creepy, worlds that exist just beneath our feet.


Amazing Cardcraft Robot Goes Up in Peeps Conflagration

Bunny Burn is an annual event that a group of friends (location unknown) organize.The purpose of the party is the spectacular immolation of marshmallow bunny Peeps, centered each year on a different theme. This Easter, the theme of the crime was Robots. One participant, Sengkelat, built this incredible six-legged cardboard robot piloted and crewed by oodles of Just Born Bunnies. Sparked up, the gooey treats achieve a Napalmy intensity unmatched in kitchen pyrotechnics. Sengkelat documents the construction, display, and destruction of the bunny hellbot in three Flickr sets.

[Via Brass Goggles]


FlyTech Dragonfly Autopsy

I wrote a review of the WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly for the next issue of MAKE. It’s a pretty darn nifty flyer. Honestly, it’s actually a lot cooler than I thought. For a lot of these sorts of toys with a high-tech “wow” factor, I always wonder how much playtime kids (of any age) will get out of the thing. With the Dragonfly, it’s really fun to fly and to try to improve your flying skills. It’s also great that it’s very lightweight, in a Nerfy sorta way, so you can fly it both indoors and out (on VERY calm days). Of course, once you’ve had your fill of the Dragonfly as-is, it’s hacks time. The Dragonfly is still fairly new, so there aren’t that many mods out there yet, and given the light weight requirements, hacking it will be a real challenge.

So far, FlyTech owners have taken the styro shell off to figure out how it works and what parts it uses, replaced the LED status lights, from blue (at about 3V) to red (1.6V) to save some battery life. In stripping the shell and revealing the hardware, one hacker tracked down the Chinese company that makes the tiny Lithium Polymer battery packs. There’s a pack available that’s over twice the capacity of the 50mAh now in the Dragonfly. Unfortunately, it’s also twice as heavy, so again, the challenge is compensating for weight issues. Out of the box, the Dragonfly gets about 10 minutes on a 20-minute charge. The battery pack is charged from a cable connecting to 6-AA batts inside the R/C unit.


Building a LEGO Autopilot

Last week, we blogged about Wired’s Chris Anderson and his efforts to build a robot autopilot out of LEGO Mindstorms NXT and other reasonably-cheap, available parts. HiTechnic, makers of the NXT Compass and other third-party sensors, read Chris’s post and sent him a prototype of their NXT Gyro module. He blogs about installing his prototype autopilot set-up in a model R/C plane.

The post is on a new Wired Blogs site called GeekDad, which already has some really cool content from (besides Chris) Kevin Kelly, Thomas Hawk, Adam Grosser, and others.

Kinda makes me wish my son wasn’t all grown up, but luckily, I raised him to be a proper geek, so he (like his dad) would likely still be enthused about much of what’s found here. Like launching rocket motors sans rocket. Now what geek ever gets too old for that?


Handmade Music Night in NYC

MAKE, Create Digital Music, and Etsy Labs sponsored a Homemade Music Night in Brooklyn this past Thursday. MAKE has a round-up of links to those involved and Flickr sets. Peter Kirn, of Create Digital Music, has a report on the evening, with some cool photos and a vid of the Beat Blocks, a tangible music interface where players can constructed drum machine sequences by moving blocks (each a subsequence of the loop) around an electrified grid.


Whoosh Boom Splat: New “Garage Warrrior” Guide

William Gurstelle, one of my fellow MAKE boardmembers, has a new book out called Whoosh Boom Splat: The Garage Warrior’s Guide to Building Projectile Shooters. Highlights include the Jam Jar Jet (from MAKE Vol. 5), the Elastic Zip Cannon (a membrane-powered shooter), and a Da Vinci Architronito, a steam-powered cannon. Bill is also author of Backyard Ballistics and Adventures from the Technology Underground.

Here’s a link to the webpage for the book and Bill’s YouTube commercial for it.


Mind-Bending Circuit Bends and Chaotic PCBs

MAKE comrade Bre Pettis posted a link to this incredible circuit bender’s website. This stuff is absolutely crazy (as in: cool, and as in: has this dude been skimping on the meds?). I love the whimsical PCB layout for the “Fryall Computer” (above) I’d like to wholeheartedly encourage more of this (grids are highly overrated). The builder, Peter Blasser, describes the chip/component arrangements as “villages,” and that’s a “temple” in the middle. He’s also come up with his own names for things. He writes:

The brass pegs are sandrodes, connected to multi-dimensional androgynous nodes within the circuit. Sandrodes are neither inputs nor outputs, they are both and none; connecting two together with copper makes a new node with characteristics from both. The nob dials don’t just control one feature, they interact on many different planes with the beast within.

I’ll have what he’s having. I’d LOVE to have one of these crazy bending rigs. And I can! He’s actually selling them as kits. They cost US$250 and include everything, including the veneered wooden box. Here’s a page of dozens of Fryalls made by different builders.

Be sure to snoop around the site and environs. There’s a ton of cool and delightfully head-scratchy stuff to be found. I have a feeling this is what happens to your mind when you do a lot of bending. Not a bad thing, I’m just sayin’…