Stories tagged award

Jun
08
2009

The Willow Ptarmigan Award in its natural habitat: The original W.P.A.o.M. was given to Anchorage native Troy Smoltz for taping a clock radio to his forehead. The award was then taken back after Smoltz took a bath while wearing his new invention.
The Willow Ptarmigan Award in its natural habitat: The original W.P.A.o.M. was given to Anchorage native Troy Smoltz for taping a clock radio to his forehead. The award was then taken back after Smoltz took a bath while wearing his new invention.Courtesy National Park Service
Popular Science’s website is featuring another clever engineering dude with time on his greasy hands. You’ll remember last year’s “Beaver State Award of Mega”—this is pretty much the same thing.

Carlos Owens of Wasilla, Alaska, has built himself an 18-foot-tall mecha suit.

For those of you not in the know (out of the know, if you will), I suppose “mecha” is just a prefix for anything made to be mechanical. But as far as popular culture is concerned, “mecha” is a prefix for anything vaguely Japanese and robotic. (And popular culture is the arbiter of anything worthwhile knowing.) In this case, it’s the latter definition that applies; Owens’ 18-foot-tall suit is vaguely Japanese and robotic.

According to the article, the suit mimics its pilot’s movement though a system of cables attached to hydraulic cylinders, and it can “raise its arms, bend its knees, and even do a sit-up.”

Oh, um… awesome. Except, why wasn’t “fight a laser-sword space battle” on that list of features? Or “rip a dragon in half”? Or, you know, “walk”? Because I can do a sit-up (singular) and I can walk, and, even wearing a watch, I could hardly be considered mecha.

Anyway, it’s still pretty neat. Check it out. And, for consistency’s sake, Carlos Owens will be receiving the Willow Ptarmigan Award Of Mecha. Look for it in the mail, Mr. Owens.

Oct
22
2008

Why, it's Lil' Scotchie!: His original motto was "Don't use me in a vacuum, or I'll give you cancer!" I never understood it until now.
Why, it's Lil' Scotchie!: His original motto was "Don't use me in a vacuum, or I'll give you cancer!" I never understood it until now.Courtesy Roadsidepictures
It’s a monumental day, Buzzketeers, a monumental day. Not only will y’all shortly have your cerebral cortexes blown like Kleenex, but I will also soon have the great honor of presenting the “Hey, Scientist, That’s Funny!” Award.

Physics, it seems, is everywhere. It’s like glitter, really—you use it once, for a craft project, or something, and then it’s in your clothes and on your skin for the rest of your life. And, as with glitter, sometimes I think I could really do without physics.

How did physics corner the market on awe? Seriously, what can physics do that I can’t? Light up a room? Please—I’ve got that. You practically have to scrub the charm out of the carpet after I smile. What else you got, physics? Gravity? Um, I can pop, lock, and drop, so it’s going to take more than a falling apple to impress me.

So I say to physics, “Physics, give me something good! Give me something I can bring to show and tell!”

And physics does. Physics delivers, and I remember how it got to be the top dog.

Scotch tape emits x-rays when it’s unrolled. When you grab a little piece of tape to stick your Ben Affleck magazine clippings back next to your J-Lo clippings (where they belong), you are toying with the same radioactive energy that can see through your clothes and give you cancer of the everything.

But you don’t have to worry about that, because unrolling Scotch tape only produces x-rays when it’s done in a vacuum chamber.

Scientists found that tape, as it’s being unspooled, actually releases kind of a lot of x-rays, enough that one of the researchers was able to create an x-ray image of one of his fingers.

When tape is coming unstuck from thee spool, electrons jumped about two thousandths of an inch from the non-sticky outside of the spool to the sticky underside of the tape. When the electrons hit the tape, they are forced to slow down very quickly, and they release energy in the form of x-rays. But, again, it only works in an airless chamber.

Juan Escobar, a graduate student who worked on the research, believes that the process could be refined to create cheap x-ray machines for use in areas where electricity is expensive or hard to get.

When asked whether or not x-rays from everyday tape peeling posed any sort of hazard he said, “If you're going to peel tape in a vacuum, you should be extra careful. I will continue to use Scotch tape during my daily life, and I think it's safe to do it in your office. No guarantees.”

And for that Juan Escobar has earned the Hey, Scientist, That’s Funny! Award. Because, hey, scientist, that’s funny. And you’ve got this bizarre discovery about Scotch tape emitting X-rays! What a day!

The Mega Beave Trophy itself: You earned it, Martin.
The Mega Beave Trophy itself: You earned it, Martin.Courtesy zen
A steel-fabricator in Oregon has built an 8-legged, 6 ton, walking vehicle. It seats six, runs on a Chevy V8 engine, and appears to have a mortar mounted on its side. (Or possible it's an exhaust pipe. Whatever.) It's called the Walking Beast.

3 years and $50,000, but you've done something rad, good sir. Something very rad indeed.

I think an award is called for. Let's see...

All right. Science Buzz is proud to present, for the first time ever, The Beaver State Award of Mega, to the very deserving Martin Montesano.

Jul
22
2008

Hey, wait a second...: How could you ever balance one of those on a pencil? Bad science!
Hey, wait a second...: How could you ever balance one of those on a pencil? Bad science!Courtesy Matthieu :: giik.net/blog
All y’all up on graphene?

I knew you were. You’re Buzzketeers, the best of the best, the biggest of the brains, the coolest of the cids.

There’s no need to explain graphene to this team (the Lil’ Professors), so it would be totally unnecessary for me to point out that graphene is a fancy material made of a single layer of carbon atoms attached to each other in a honeycomb pattern. It’s about as flat as can be, and when you roll it up you get those little things Science Buzz is so crazy about: carbon nanotubes.

Nanotubes are awesome, and if you click on the link above you can learn about all the awesome things they can do. But graphene…graphene itself may be pretty awesome too. The problem with testing just how awesome graphene is is that it has been exceptionally difficult to a) make a piece of graphene so small that it hasn’t got any of the imperfections that naturally come in large chunks of things, and b) make a device to actually hold the itty bitty graphene well enough to really test the stuff out.

But science has now done those things! Using a tiny sheet of perfect graphene (about 1/100s the width of a human hair) and a really tiny diamond…poker-thing (about 10 billionths of a meter wide), scientists have finally been able to find out exactly how strong graphene is.

So, how strong is it? It’s the strongest! That is to say, the strongest material measured so far. It’s about 200 times the strength of structural steel, or, says Columbia Professor James Hone, “It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.”

This statement, of course, wins professor Hone July’s “Awesome explanation, Scientist” award. That’s a good mental image, and it shows a non-scientist like me how strong graphene is.

So…awesome explanation, Scientist! More of that, please!

Jul
15
2008

You deserve it Avis: Be careful though—it may be a trophy, but it really fires. Golden bullets.
You deserve it Avis: Be careful though—it may be a trophy, but it really fires. Golden bullets.Courtesy davidaugspurger
Rata a tat tat tat get yourself psyched a tat rat rat rat rat

The award goes to Avis Blakeslee of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania!!

Yay! Yay! Yea!

Now, before we get into Avis’s specific accomplishments, let’s have a little background on the Sara Connor award itself.

A female-only award, meant to recognize the truly hardcore ladies out there, the Sara Connor award is, in fact, a precursor to the Otzi the Iceman Medal of Badassery. The OtIMoB, was created more than a decade after the SCA, under social pressure to acknowledge that men can also, on occasion, be pretty tough. But the Sara Connor is truly the original, and as deserving as the Otzi winners are, the Badassery medal is in a different—and frankly lower—league.

Originally the Sara Connor and Lt. Ellen Ripley Medal of Valor, the award was split after the selection committee could not agree on a recipient. Those members who would eventually form the Lt. Ripley Organization wanted to give the award to Margaret Thatcher, for eating the eyes out of a living goat, while the charter members of the Sara Connor board felt that an Argentinean woman who gave birth while clinging to the wing of an airborne Learjet was more deserving. The board members of the award parted ways amiably, although the Sara Connor Award has since received greater attention and respect, on account of widely held opinion that the Lt. Ripley Organization is simply unable to “keep it real.”

The Sara Connor Award is given regularly, but not necessarily every year. For example, in 1995, the SCA was given to Svetlana Kovach of the Ukraine after she removed her own cystic kidney using only a bottle of grain alcohol and a claw hammer (while trapped in a mineshaft, although this was only discovered after the ceremony—Ms. Kovach was tremendously modest), but in 1996 no suitable recipients were nominated. The award was given once again in 1997, posthumously, to Nozomi Chinen of Okinawa, who clawed her way out of a shark’s belly, and drowned fighting a second shark barehanded.

Avis Blakeslee, this year’s deserving recipient, is being recognized for an epic battle with a rabid fox in the garden of her farmhouse.

Although Ms. Blakeslee’s accomplishment is perhaps not as immediately impressive as those of past recipients (it pales in comparison even to 1999’s formidable runner up, a 15-year old Jordanian who slapped a mortar out of the air), extenuating circumstances must be considered. Again, the fox was rabid—and if you read last week’s post on the bat-pantsed Scotswoman (who is unlikely to receive a nomination), you’ll know that rabies is serious business. Paralysis, insanity, hydrophobia, etc; rabies is no cakewalk. The disease is no doubt what lead the fox to leave its habitat to attack an unsuspecting gardener. Ms. Blakeslee had never even seen a fox in person before, and believed the creature to be a small dog (before it went crazy on her). Another important factor here is Avis’s age: 77. Avis is a grandmother, and not used to fighting wild animals, and yet she wrasseled that pooch into submission, even after sustaining seven leg wounds, an arm wound, and severe blood loss. She then pinned the rabid fox to the ground, holding its jaws shut with one hand, until help arrived to dispatch the creature with a firearm. I have no doubt that, had Mavis a free arm, she would have simply driven a finger into the fox’s brain. As it was, however, she did her two-armed best and subdued the fox ultimate fighting style, until the cavalry came to do its own thing.

A job well done, Avis, a job well done. You’ve taught us all a little bit about what it means to be hardcore, and for that…we salute you.

Jun
07
2007

Does everyone remember Otzi the Iceman? The little frozen mummy they found in the Alps, back in the early Nineties? Of course you do. How could you forget something like that?

Otzi, at about 5300 years old, bears the distinction of being one of the oldest natural mummies in the world. Also, a five feet, five inches, and eighty-four pounds, he is one of the smallest people I am afraid of. And not just because he’s dead.
And the award for "most hardcore death" goes to...: That's right, to Otzi the Iceman for dying high on a mountain, covered in tattoos and the blood of his enemies, and shot though the shoulder with an arrow. We envy you, but only slightly.
And the award for "most hardcore death" goes to...: That's right, to Otzi the Iceman for dying high on a mountain, covered in tattoos and the blood of his enemies, and shot though the shoulder with an arrow. We envy you, but only slightly.

New research has finally put to rest (as it were) the question of Otzi’a death. It turns out that Otzi died as he lived: on a mountain, and totally hardcore. I will now list the evidence for this conclusion, in order of increasing bad-assness.

1) Otzi dressed all in leather. His cloak was made of woven grass, but his belt, vest, leggings, loincloth, and shoes were all leather. We know that’s what tough people wear.
2) Otzi wore a bearskin hat. I would never mess with anyone in a bearskin hat. Bears don’t give up their skin easily.
3) Otzi carried around a prehistoric medicine kit. Maybe this isn’t that hardcore, but it seems like a good idea. He had a string of two kinds of polypore mushrooms, which have antibacterial properties. Way to think ahead, Otzi!
4) Otzi had 57 tattoos. No elaboration needed.
5) Otzi carried an axe, a knife, a quiver of bone-tipped arrows, and a longbow. For comparison, I usually carry around my house keys, and sometimes a pen. John Rambo and Otzi probably shopped at the same stores, come to think of it.
5) The blood of four non-Otzi people was found on Otzi’s cloak. Whoa! After DNA analysis revealed this, some people began to speculate that Otzi may have been part of a raiding party. After baby showers, these are the roughest, toughest kind of parties around.
6) A recently constructed 3D model of Otzi’s body shows that he died of blood loss after getting shot with an arrow under his left collar bone. Previous examinations had revealed a wound beneath a matching tear in Otzi’s (leather) vest, inside of which was lodged an arrowhead, but the new CT scans clearly show that the arrow had torn an artery, which would have caused severe bleeding, shock, and eventually death by heart attack. A large haematoma, or a collection of blood from internal bleeding, was also revealed, which might suggest that the arrow was pulled out of the wound, shortly before death. The chances of surviving this sort of wound, even today, would be around 40%.

Wow. My hat goes off to you, little iceman.

There have been some cool shows about the iceman, but even wikipedia’s article is pretty interesting.

And here’s an article about the recent research on Otzi’s body.