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A blend of cool projects, great gadgets and awesomellany from Word of Mouth Internet Sherpa Brady Carlson
CCAC North Library via Flickr/Creative Commons
One of my favorite sites these days is Letters of Note, a blog about really interesting or unusual correspondence from years gone by. The story of the Troy, Michigan Public Library is a great example of what the site does:
Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children's librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of visiting such a library were explained in some form It's heartening to know that an impressive 97 people did exactly that.
And we're talking some pretty prominent people here - in addition to authors like Dr. Seuss and Isaac Asimov, the library got letters from First Lady Pat Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, and California Governor Ronald Reagan. Helen Gurley Brown of Cosmo is in there too! The library is adding the letters to a photo set on Flickr, which you can (of course) read.
If nothing else, it proves right the words of comedian Don Novello's letter-crazy alter ego, Lazlo Toth: "You send out letters, you get back letters!"
[Letters of Note]
Thanks to Eileen for suggesting this link on the Word of Mouth Facebook page! You're invited to share an awesome link of your own in the comments. Or ask one of your favorite authors or public figures to do it, if you'd rather.
Liam, a young man in Tucson, Arizona, found some newborn bunnies abandoned by their mother - and that one of them, Joe, couldn't use his back legs. Liam thought the problem through and decided the spirited little bunny could use some help getting around. So he designed an "All Terrain Bunny" contraption for Joe. And now that Joe's gotten used to his ATB rig, he's zooming all over the place, as quick as... a bunny.
As always, we invite you to hop over to the comments and share an awesome link of your own.
lazurite via Flickr/Creative Commons
Does that "low battery" message from your cellphone just make you want to scream? You can put that to use now, because researchers in South Korea say they've figured out how to charge batteries through voice waves. Cause the problem with cell phones was that people didn't talk loudly enough on them.
That said, yelling-as-power source holds a lot of promise, given all the screaming in a) Coen Brothers movies, b) old Sam Kinison routines and c) the Stella Shout-Out at the annual Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans:
As always, we invite you to share an awesome link in the comments. Just don't scream, ok? My ears hurt.
Meet Smugopedia, the online encyclopedia that knows more than you do and isn't afraid to tell you so. Actually, Smugopedia is a fun and funny spoof of hipsters along the lines of The Rock Snob's Dictionary by David Kamp and Steven Daly. Which is hopefully an obscure enough reference to make me a hipster at long last. [via Nag on the Lake]
As always, we invite you to share an awesome link in the comments If it's not too passe to do that these days.
Yet another thing robots can do better than humans: play Operation without lighting up the patient's infamous red nose I bet the Da Vinci surgery robot can probably sink our battleships, roll a Yahtzee and not break the ice, too. [The Awesomer]
As always, we invite you, or your robot proxy, to share an awesome link in the comments.
This Haight-Ashbury house is either perfectly equipped to fight crime or dealing with limited parking space in a novel way - the ground floor is actually a four car garage in disguise! [Gizmodo]
As always, we invite you to dance with the devil by the pale moonlight, or at least to share an awesome link in the comments.
Nutritionists will tell you soda isn't the most efficient fuel for your body, but the pull tabs may be useful fuel for cars. The new dAlH2Orean H2 (catchy name, by the way) uses soda pull tabs as part of a chemical reaction to create hydrogen fuel.
At this point the car is... a little small for most drivers. But it's intended as a demonstration, a first step in seeing if waste metal can be a fuel source for cars. The next source? potato chip cans, for all those hungry peeps who like to slam a stack and then drive around. [Greenlaunches]
As always, we invite you to fill our comments to the brim with awesome links.
somegeekintn via Flickr/Creative Commons
British researchers say they have a new way for people who've lost their voice boxes to surgery or illness to regain speech - a headset that detects mouth shapes and turns them into speech.
Here's how it works: the system goes on a person's head, and little magnets placed in the mouth and on the tongue do a sort of motion-capture as the person mouths a word The system then translates the mouthed words into speech.
Researchers say they have work to do before the system is practical - the headsets are bulky, and so far they can only translate about fifty words through the device. Here's hoping that at least one of those words is "awesome." [Smartplanet]
As always, we invite you to pull in some awesome links and share them with us in the comments.
Smartphones: they're GPS, still camera, telephone, web browser and viral video sharer all in one Maybe now we should add lifesaver to that list.
The Lifelens Project turns Windows 7 smartphones into malaria detectors, using a small lens that can inspect blood cells and spot the presence of parasites. The project creators say the app is cheaper and quite a bit more accurate than the field tests currently in use - that means fewer false positives, fewer wasted anti-malarial medications and better outcomes for those affected.
And, since smartphones also have GPS and web capabilities, the data collected by each Lifelens phone can be plugged into a map, to track malaria outbreaks. Put that data next to weather data and researchers might even be able to take an educated guess as to where the next outbreaks could hit, and deploy resources accordingly.
If that isn't mind-blowing enough, it also lets patients play Angry Birds while they're being tested. Ok, not really, but you never know. [via Cnet]
As always, we invite you to detect some awesome links and share them with us in the comments.
Over time the Obama Administration has been building out government webspace for transparency projects – making the vast amount of public government data not only available, but usable for people who want to make graphs or maps or other mashups. The tax receipt page on Whitehouse.gov lets you enter what you paid in federal taxes - including Social Security and Medicare taxes – and then shows you a breakdown of how much of your money went to defense, entitlements, education, and so on If you follow the budget closely, this probably won’t tell you anything new, but since most of us don’t follow the budget closely, you might learn something about the relative sizes of different federal programs.
Techpresident: The White House Wants to Tell You Where Your Tax Dollars Go: http://techpresident.com/short-post/white-house-wants-tell-you-where-your-tax-dollars-go
Whitehouse.gov: Your 2010 Federal Taxpayer Receipt: http://www.whitehouse.gov/taxreceipt
Somewhere between half and three-quarters of the funding was cut out of the funding for Data.gov and other transparency sites. We’ll have to see exactly what the funding level is, and how much data will end up on those sites. The internet community loves transparency and loves information being free and available – but we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars. Transparency costs money, and right now the feds are in the mood to cut spending.
ReadWriteWeb: Data.gov et al. Budget Slashed by 75%: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/datagov_et_al_budget_slashed_by_75.php
The White House website says it’s voluntarily publishing the name of everyone who walks into the White House and why they’re there. There’s a report from the Center for Public Integrity that says a huge amount of that information is simply the names of people who went on public tours of the White House, and that some of the more useful data has holes in it – missing names and so forth. An article on Politico suggests some of the logs are being written in a way that benefits the administration – for example, a politically sensitive individual, like a lobbyist, or a big CEO, is listed as meeting with a junior staffer when they may actually be meeting with someone higher up.
The White House stands by the logs and says they’re doing more than any other administration has ever done, but it’s important to remember – like any other historical document, you have to treat this as information collected by humans and sometimes humans collect information for their own purposes and not just for transparency or posterity.
Center for Public Integrity: White House visitor logs riddles with holes - http://www.iwatchnews.org/2011/04/13/4115/white-house-visitor-logs-riddled-holes
Politico: White House visitor logs leave out many - http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53072.html
There was a really interesting project late last week, where the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia marked the 99th anniversary of the Titanic sinking by tweeting its wireless radio messages in real time, so you could experience the wireless radio traffic, the Morse Code messages, as they were sent out. It was a little chilling to see these messages as the ship calls out for help, but what really struck me was how similar it was to the Twitter messages we’ve seen during recent disasters, after the earthquakes in Japan or violence in the Middle East. The medium may change, but people stay the same.
Google Maps Mania: American Civil War on Google Maps - http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2011/04/american-civil-war-on-google-maps.html
The Next Web: Titanic sinking to be tweeted in real-time - http://thenextweb.com/shareables/2011/04/15/titanic-sinking-to-be-tweeted-in-real-time/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheNextWeb+%28The+Next+Web+All+Stories%29
The Oregon legislature is no stranger to love. Lawmakers managed to include lyrics from Rick Astley’s iconic tune “Never Gonna Give You Up” into their floor speeches on the budget. This was not simply a play for publicity; The Oregon State House is split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, so lawmakers on both sides of the aisle put this Rickroll together, apparently as a way to encourage the two sides to work together. And it seems to have worked – their budget bills ended up passing.
Mental Floss: Oregon House Members Rickroll Colleagues - http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/85024
Remember that plan to put a statue of RoboCop in Detroit, that raised a ton of money and is on its way to the Motor City? Well, now everybody wants to put pop culture everywhere. A Star Wars fan was proposing that they build a full-scale Imperial Walker in Oklahoma City as a big tourist draw. The Star Wars fans started raising money and pledging their support; Lucasfilm, on the other hand, got in touch with the guy who raised the idea and then the project ground to a halt. People do own these pop culture icons, after all. But while this project is at the very least in limbo, this won’t be the last such project, I’m sure of that. Which leaves hope that someday I’ll see a statue of The A-Team in Los Angeles.
AT-AT for America: http://atatforamerica.tumblr.com/
Cnet: ‘Star Wars’ fan gathers support for life-size AT-AT - http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20053569-1.html
The big video this week is a cat that befriends a dolphin – they’re both at the edge of the water nuzzling each other. There’s actually a term for this on the web, from the site Cute Overload – interspecies snorgling. Whatever you call it, it’s cuteness to an insane level.
URLesque: Cat Befriends Dolphins, My Heart Explodes - http://www.urlesque.com/2011/04/12/cat-befriends-dolphin/
YouTube: Friendship between cat and dolphin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kx5_0g73OME
Banner illustration courtesy hartboy via Flickr/Creative Commons