Rejoice! It’s time for a new issue of Hackspace magazine, packed with things for you to make, build, hack, and create!
HackSpace magazine issue 9
Tools: they’re what separates humans from the apes! Whereas apes use whatever they find around them to get honey, pick pawpaws, and avoid prickly pears, we humans take the step of making things with which to make other things. That’s why in this issue of HackSpace magazine, we look at 50 essential tools to make you better at making (and by extension better at being a human). Take a look, decide which ones you need, and imagine the projects that will be possible with your shiny new stuff.
In issue 9, we feature Konichiwakitty, known as Rachel Wong to her friends, who is taking the maker world by storm with her range of electronic wearables.
Alongside making wearables and researching stem cells, she also advocates for getting young people into crafting, including making their own wearables!
Remap is a fantastic organisation. It’s comprised of volunteer makers and builders who use their skills to adapt the world and build tech to help people with disabilities. Everyone in the maker community can do amazing stuff, and it’s wonderful that so many of you offer your time and skills for free to benefit people in need.
The band Echo and the Bunnymen famously credited a drum machine as a band member, and with our tutorial, you too can build your own rhythm section using a Teensy microcontroller, a breadboard, and a few buttons.
And if that’s not enough electro beats for you, we’ve also got a guide to generating MIDI inputs with a joystick — because keyboards and frets are so passé.
Having shiny new stuff on its own isn’t enough to spur most people to action. No, they need a reason to make, for example total mechanical dominance over their competitors. Offering an arena for such contests is the continuing mission of Tim Richardson, who along with Mike Horne created Pi Wars.
In its five-ish years, Pi Wars has become one of the biggest events on the UK maker calendar, with an inspired mix of robots, making, programming, and healthy competition. We caught up with Tim to find out how to make a maker event, what’s next for Pi Wars, and how to build a robot to beat the best.
Do you ever lie awake at night wondering how many strangers on the internet like you? If so (or if you have a business with a social media presence, which seems more likely), you might be interested in our tutorial for a social media follower counter.
This build takes raw numbers from the internet’s shouting forums and turns them into physical validation, so you can watch your follower count increase in real time as you shout into the void about whether Football’s Coming Home.
And there’s more…
In this issue, you can also:
- See how to use the Google AIY Projects Vision kit to turn a humble water pistol into a single-minded dousing machine that doesn’t feel pity, fear, or remorse
- Find out how to make chocolate in whatever shape you want
- Learn from a maker who put 20 hours work into a project only to melt her PCBs and have to start all over again (spoiler alert: it all worked out in the end)
All this, plus a bunch of reviews and many, many more projects to dig into, in Hackspace magazine issue 9.
Get your copy of HackSpace magazine
If you like the sound of this month’s content, you can find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine. And if you’d rather try before you buy, you can always download the free PDF.
“Subscribe now” may not be subtle as a marketing message, but we really think you should. You’ll get the magazine early, plus a lovely physical paper copy, which has really good battery life.
Oh, and 12-month print subscribers get an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express loaded with inputs and sensors and ready for your next project.
How to keep your brain healthy with fitness
The Delta Optimist mentioned a UBC study in an article about keeping your brain healthy.
The study found that regular aerobic exercise increased the size of the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.
A Solar Power & Energy Storage Revolution Is Upon Us
A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance describes some of the implications of the growing solar power and energy storage trend as it relates to the current, centralized utility-based electricity distribution model. Because solar and energy storage can be cost competitive with grid electricity prices in some places, consumers now have an alternative to only using utility-based electricity. Report author John Farrell answered some questions for CleanTechnica.
1. Are you expecting home energy storage to continue decreasing in price?
Yes, definitely. I’ve heard of prices today close to $500 per kilowatt-hour of capacity. I’d expect that to fall to closer to $100 in 5-10 years.
2. Is it likely that home solar power systems will be increasingly paired with home energy storage?
For sure. Given the evidence that pairing the systems can help decrease payback times under net metering successor policies (and the benefits of backup power), I expect to see that increase.
3. How can utilities plan for more and more homeowners using solar power and energy storage?
Don’t build any central-station power plants and instead look for ways to make money supporting choices customers will make anyway. Restructure rates to encourage customers to use their distributed energy systems to aid the grid (e.g. by storing energy when cheap and selling it back when expensive).
4. Will utilities ever become obsolete, or will they exist to back up individually owned solar and energy storage systems?
It depends on how you define a utility. Vertically integrated utilities that combine generation, transmission, and distribution aren’t suitable for a market in which customers can substantially fulfill the generation needs of the system locally. What we don’t need is centralized planning, what we do need is coordination.
5. Are you expecting that more and more homeowners will go off-grid completely, or will they remained grid-tied, most likely?
I don’t expect many homeowners to go off-grid at all in the next decade, but that depends a lot on whether they live in a particularly good region for it and if the utility makes it worthwhile with high fixed charges or other dumb policies.
6. How does the increasing number of EVs figure into the home solar and energy storage picture?
As we reported last year, increasing EV deployment can increase the local grid capacity for distributed solar. It’s also a large source electricity demand that can typically be time-shifted. It’s not quite as useful as a standalone battery until there are viable, commercial vehicle-to-grid services or ways for a vehicle owner to tap the battery.
7. Are there states currently that are leading the others in terms of solar and energy storage adoption?
Massachusetts comes to mind, as do Hawaii and California. Mostly those that have required utilities to do it, provided strong incentives, or where the economics have driven customers to it on their own.
8. Have you seen any cases where homeowners use their own electricity from home energy storage to avoid peak usage charges?
Personally? No. But I’m sure if you talk to Sunrun they will say that’s why 1 in 5 residential customers in California are combining solar and storage.
9. Are you expecting more home energy storage products to enter the market to increase competition?
10. Are more businesses also using solar and energy storage onsite?
They will. Clean Energy Group’s landmark study last year shows how incredibly valuable storage is to cutting demand charges for commercial customers.
11. Should utility workers be planning to have their jobs phased out eventually?
Power plant workers should be exploring their options. Line workers will always be needed because we’ll still want a grid.
12. By 2030, how much home solar and energy storage penetration will there be?
Honestly, I have no idea because there are so many factors. I’d be willing to wager that about half of distributed solar installed in the 2020s will come paired with energy storage.
Beef burgers grown in labs could soon be sold in restaurants
A Dutch company that presented the world’s first lab-grown beef burger five years ago said Tuesday it has received funding to pursue its plans to make and sell artificially grown meat to restaurants from 2021.
Mosa Meat said it raised US$8.8 million, mainly from M Ventures and Bell Food Group. M Ventures is an investment vehicle for German pharmaceuticals company Merck KGaA. Bell Food is a European meat processing company based in Switzerland.
Smaller investors include Glass Wall Syndicate, which supports several companies looking into cultured meat or meat substitute products aimed at consumers concerned about the environmental and ethical impact of raising and slaughtering animals.
Maastricht-based Mosa Meat, which has in the past also received one million euros from Google co-founder Sergey Brin, said it hopes to sell its first products — most likely ground beef for burgers — in 2021. The aim is to achieve industrial-scale production two to three years later, with a typical hamburger patty costing about $1.
WATCH: Real fake meats and plant-based butchers
Environmentalists have warned that the world’s growing appetite for meat, particularly in emerging economies such as China, isn’t sustainable because beef, pork and poultry require far greater resources than plant-based proteins. Cows in particular also produce large amounts of greenhouse gas that contribute to global warming.
The big challenge is making meat that looks, feels and tastes like the real thing. Mosa Meat uses a small sample of cells taken from a live animal. Those cells are fed with nutrients so that they grow into strands of muscle tissue. The company claims it could make up to 80,000 quarter pounders from a single sample.
With a number of startups and established players hoping to make cultured meat on a big scale in the coming years, a battle has broken out over the terms used to describe such products.
Some advocates have claimed the term “clean meat” while opponents in the traditional farm sector suggest “synthetic meat” is more appropriate.
Yet, the automaker has now confirmed plans to produce its upcoming all-electric microbus and crossover in the US.
VW’s series of “I.D.” concept vehicles are powered by the company’s new MEB platform for electric vehicles.
There’s the I.D., which is a Golf-sized vehicle is expected to be their first mass-market EV for the model year 2020. VW also unveiled the I.D. VIZZION sedan, the crossover all-electric I.D. CROZZ Concept, and then there’s the I.D. BUZZ electric microbus coming in 2022.
The last two are the ones that the automaker plans to produce in the US.
Hinrich Woebcken, Head of VW in North America, confirmed it to Autocar this week:
“For strong product momentum, they need to be produced in the USA. It’s not possible to come into a high-volume scenario with imported cars. We want to localise electric mobility in the US.”
He said that the vehicles will be ‘Americanised’ for the market.
The all-electric I.D. CROZZ Concept will be a compact SUV. Here are a few images of the prototype that they unveiled:
The vehicle is equipped with a dual motor powertrain with 75 kW of power in the front and 150 kW in the back, for a total power of 225 kW (302 hp).
The battery pack has a capacity of 83 kWh and VW claims it will enable the same range of “over 500 kilometers (310.7 miles)”. Though they were talking about NEDC rating for electric vehicle range at the time and therefore, we expect real-world range or the EPA estimate to be closer to ~275 miles.
As for the I.D. BUZZ electric microbus, it is a new version of VW’s iconic microbus. They brought to Monterey a working prototype that they first unveiled last year:
When unveiling the vehicle in Detroit, VW said that there will be two options. The most high-end will feature an all-wheel drive system with a total output of 369 horsepower powered by a massive 111 kWh battery pack. Surprisingly, especially after their previous range comparisons, VW also offered the estimated range based on the U.S. driving cycle, which the company claims will be 270 miles.
The German automaker claims that this version of the I.D. BUZZ can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 5 seconds and has a top speed of 99 mph.
Another less expensive version will feature a rear-wheel drive setup producing up to 268 hp and a smaller 83 kWh battery for a range closer to 200 miles.
Tiny Satellite Begins Hunt for Missing Milky-Way Matter
A tiny satellite has set out to investigate the halo of incredibly hot gas surrounding the Milky Way — and it could help scientists track down the huge amount of missing matter in the universe.
NASA deployed the 26-lb. (12 kilograms) satellite, called HaloSat, on July 13 from the International Space Station.
Scientists can’t find a whopping one-third of all the matter that should exist in the universe. It’s not dark matter; it’s just … missing. They’ve calculated how much matter was in the universe 400,000 years after the Big Bang based on information encoded in the cosmic microwave background. And they’ve calculated how much mass they see now in galaxies, stars, planets, dust and gas. But the numbers do not add up. [Our Milky Way Galaxy Has Cosmic Halo 11.4 Billion Years Old]
“We should have all the matter today that we had back when the universe was 400,000 years old,” said Philip Kaaret, HaloSat’s principal investigator and an astronomer at the University of Iowa, said in a NASA statement. “Where did it go?”
Scientists have made some progress in tracking down chunks of the missing matter, and they’ve narrowed it down to two hiding places: within galaxies themselves, or spread out in the space between them. So scientists are starting close to home, by searching for the matter that’s missing from the Milky Way.
HaloSat will try to find the missing matter by mapping the galaxy’s halo of superhot gas, which can reach 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit (2 million degrees Celsius), according to NASA. That’s hot enough for oxygen gas to produce X-rays, which HaloSat will measure across the sky to figure out the shape of the halo and determine whether it’s spread evenly around the Milky Way or in a flattened disk, like a fried egg.
“If you think of the galactic halo in the fried egg model, it will have a different distribution of brightness when you look straight up out of it from Earth than when you look at wider angles,” Keith Jahoda, a HaloSat co-investigator and a NASA astrophysicist, said in the statement. “If it’s in some quasi-spherical shape, compared to the dimensions of the galaxy, then you expect it to be more nearly the same brightness in all directions.”
Once scientists know how the halo is arranged, they can estimate its mass and determine whether it’s hiding all that missing matter.
But to make those measurements, HaloSat needs to be careful not to fall for an imposter signal. That signal is caused by the solar wind, the constant stream of highly charged particles produced by the sun, which produces X-ray signatures that mimic that of the galactic halo.
To avoid being tricked, HaloSat will switch tasks according to where it is in its orbit around Earth: When it’s over the night side, it will gather data, and when it’s over the daylight side, it will charge up and send that information home. That should make HaloSat’s data much cleaner than other X-ray observations, the researchers think.
The mission will last between seven months and a year.