Twitter Goodies


Slam the Online Scam


“Sparky” Helps Scientists Understand Early Galaxy Formation

Artist's impression of stars being born inside a young elliptical galaxy. Credit: NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute

Artist’s impression of stars being born inside a young elliptical galaxy.
Credit: NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute

11-billion light years away, nearing the edge of the observable universe, there is a galaxy that is helping revolutionize our understanding of galaxy formation. Nicknamed “Sparky,” and more formally called Goods-N-774, this galaxy appears to be the early core of a galaxy forming just 3-billion years after the big bang threw the universe into existence.

At this point in the universe’s history, it was hotter, denser,  and conditions were more favorable to forming galaxies. The modern universe is actually incapable of forming a brand new galaxy (it can only merge galaxies together). So, this process that astronomers peer back upon is a very ancient one.

Astronomers have suspected for a long time that the large elliptical galaxies we see today formed the core first, then collected other stars throughout it’s history. The cores of these galaxies usually consist of older stars, they have little to no gas, and on the same thread, almost no star formation. Astronomers have estimated that Sparky is cranking out about 300 stars per year (in contrast, the Milky Way produces about 10 stars per year in the core). Sparky is estimated to be about 6,000 light-years in diameter.

Close-up view from the Hubble Space Telescope of the newly discovered galaxy core GOODS-N-774, also known as "Sparky," which lies 11 billion light-years from Earth.  Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Nelson (Yale University)

Close-up view from the Hubble Space Telescope of the newly discovered galaxy core GOODS-N-774, also known as “Sparky,” which lies 11 billion light-years from Earth.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Nelson (Yale University)

The initial information about Sparky came from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope, along with some information from the now-retired Herschel Space Observatory. With aid from the Keck Observatory (located in Hawaii), astronomers were able to see a gas cloud orbiting around Sparky, which is undoubtedly helping fuel star formation. Astronomers can also see a thick layer of dust covering Sparky, so it’s entirely possible the galaxy undergoing even more star formation that is being blocked from our view.

While talking about the conditions in Sparky, Erica Nelson, the lead author of the study, said, “It’s like a medieval cauldron forging stars. There’s a lot of turbulence, and it’s bubbling. If you were in there, the night sky would be bright with young stars, and there would be a lot of dust, gas and remnants of exploding stars. To actually see this happening is fascinating.”

These galaxy cores probably started to form out of massive knots of stellar gas that started clumping together in the universe’s early history (a similar process to how star cluster are made). As it stands, astronomers are pushing the limits of our current telescopes to make these observations. They will need more sensitive telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope, to further this research and to peak further back into the history of our universe.

The post “Sparky” Helps Scientists Understand Early Galaxy Formation appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

RGB Video Input Hack is a Master Hack for CRT Televisions

component-video-input-hackYou know those hacks that you see, and you totally understand them but are dumbfounded by how the person got there? This. This is the definition of that.

What’s shown on the screen above is about half-way through the process of hacking RGB video into a CRT television that’s not supposed to have it. The lettering is acting a bit like a layer mask, showing bits of the Super Mario Bros. start screen which is being injected from an original Famicom. [Michael J. Moffitt] figured out that he could patch his signals into the multiplexer which is responsible for overlaying the TV’s menu system. Obviously you can’t get your Mario on with this view, but the next step was as simple as finding the blanking pin and tying it 5V. Brilliant.

This particular hack is worthy of recognition. But read through [Michael's] write up and it’s obvious that he knows the driver circuitry beyond the realm of normal curiosity. If you ever get stuck while trying to do something custom, we’d recommend pinging him with your questions (sorry [Michael] but with great knowledge comes great responsibility).


Filed under: video hacks


Games of Chance Week continues here at OPOD with this picture of soldiers playing poker. The picture was taken in 1893 at Camp McKibbin.

The Fappening Continues, Nudes of celebrities on line again

Another cache of nude photos and videos of celebrities was disclosed online, investigators believe that this wave is linked to the first Fappening archive.

During the last weeks media have focused their attention on the celebrity iCloud hacking case, hundreds of naked pictures are available online raising the interest to the level of security offered by cloud storage services.

Apple confirmed that victims suffered targeted attacks which have had no impact on iCloud infrastructure, but that anyway allowed hackers to violate celebrities’ accounts.

A new collection of nude photos of celebrities has been leaked online and it seems that this new wave is linked to the previous massive leak of celebrities intimate-images.


celebrities icloud data leakage 2


The celebrities nude-pictures first appeared online on Saturday morning, also in this case they were published on the image-sharing website 4Chan and were also posted by users on Reddit. The naked pictures were quickly removed by the site administrators according to copyright infringement policy.

Also in this case illustrious celebrities fallen victims of the hackers, including Kim Kardashian, the actress Vanessa Hudgens, the US national women’s soccer team player Hope Solo, Mary-Kate Olsen, Avril Lavigne, Hayden Panettiere, Lake Bell, Leelee Sobieski and former Disney stars Aly and AJ Michalka.

The leaked collection includes a video of Aubrey Plaza and previously unreleased nude photographs of celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kaley Cuoco.

The FBI is investigating on the case, security experts suspected in a first time that hackers hacked a huge quantity of iCloud accounts searching for private pictures of person of interest, including celebrities.

“This is a flagrant violation of privacy,” Lawrence’s publicist Liz Mahoney wrote in a statement.“The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”

According to Apple the company systems weren’t breached due to a iCloud vulnerability disclosed online recently, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, confirmed that that celebs were either victims of phishing attacks or had had their iCloud account hijacked because of threat actors had guessed the security questions in an effort to obtain credentials.

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.” states Apple in an official announcement.

 Let’s wait for further news from the ongoing investigation.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – iCloud, Nude photos of celebrities)


The post The Fappening Continues, Nudes of celebrities on line again appeared first on Security Affairs.

The Pirate Bay Runs on 21 “Raid-Proof” Virtual Machines

pirate cloudTwo years ago The Pirate Bay made an important change to its infrastructure by switching its entire operation to the cloud.

Instead of buying their own hardware The Pirate Bay decided to serve its users from several cloud hosting providers scattered around the world. This saved costs, guaranteed better uptime, and made the site more portable and thus harder to take down.

The operational change also had a downside. Before the move the notorious torrent site had a dedicated page displaying its hardware and server setup, which was something true geeks kept a close eye on.

Today the site no longer owns any crucial pieces of hardware. However, it’s worth taking a look at the virtual setup the site is running on now. TorrentFreak asked the Pirate Bay team for an update and they were happy to oblige.

At the time of writing the site uses 21 “virtual machines” (VMs) hosted at different providers. This is up four machines from two years ago, in part due to the steady increase in traffic.

Most of the VMs, eight in total, are used for serving the web pages. The searches take up another six machines, and the site’s database currently runs on two VMs.

The remaining five virtual machines are used for load balancing, statistics, the proxy site on port 80, torrent storage and for the controller.

In total the VMs use 182 GB of RAM and 94 CPU cores. The total storage capacity is 620 GB, but that’s not all used. Needless to say, that is relatively modest considering the size of the site.

- 8 web
- 6 search
- 2 database
- 1 lvs
- 1 stats
- 1 for proxy site on .80,
- 1 torrents
- 1 control

All virtual machines are hosted with commercial cloud hosting providers, who have no clue that The Pirate Bay is among their customers. All traffic goes through the load balancer, which masks what the other VMs are doing. This also means that none of the IP-addresses of the cloud hosting providers are publicly linked to TPB.

According to the Pirate Bay team the current setup works pretty well. Although small issues pop up every now and then, the site has had no major downtime recently.

If the police come knocking in the future the cloud servers can of course be disconnected. However, with the site’s current setup it would be fairly easy to continue operating from another provider in a relatively short time.

For now, the most vulnerable spot appears to be the site’s domain. Just last year the site burnt through five separate domain names due to takedown threats from registrars.

But then again, this doesn’t appear to be much of a concern for TPB as the operators have dozens of alternative domain names standing by.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

THP Semifinalist: A Haptic Vest With 48 Vibration Motors


For his entry to The Hackady Prize, [Sean] is building a haptic vest for gamers and the visually impaired. It’s exactly what you think it is: a vest with proximity sensors and motors that wrap around the wearer, providing haptic feedback of nearby obstacles. Actually building a vest with a few dozen motors is a bit of a challenge, and that’s why this project is in the running for The Hackaday Prize.

Each of the 48 motors are individually controllable with PWM. In any other project, this would require a few dozen microcontrollers or one with a whole lot of pins. [Sean], however, is using LED drivers. They do exactly what [Sean] needs them to do – an easy to interface way of a whole bunch of PWM lines – and they do it cheaper than any other solution.

For detecting objects surrounding the vest, [Sean] is using the depth sensor on a 1st gen Microsoft Kinect. In testing, [Sean] blindfolded a volunteer and had a few friends move around with cardboard ‘obstacles.’ The volunteer successfully avoided all the obstacles, as seen in the video below.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a quarterfinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Astronomy Photo of the Day (APotD): 9/21/14 — NGC 6745

NGC 6745   (Image Credit: NASA, ESA/STScI/AURA/Acknowledgement:  Roger Lynds)

NGC 6745  (Image Credit: NASA, ESA/STScI/AURA/Acknowledgement: Roger Lynds)

We have a vast collection of colliding galaxies cataloged, but this example — designated with the name NGC 6745 —  is surely one of the most unusual-looking ones. Within this frame, we see the main galaxy and what’s left of its former counterpart, which can be found in the lower right, almost out of frame.  The larger of the two exhibits characteristics of a spiral galaxy, but after its encounter, it took the shape of a peculiar galaxy.

Like with all mergers, tidal interactions caused NGC 6745’s shape to distort dramatically, transforming the newer, larger galaxy into something unrecognizable from its previous form. However, it was able to retain its galactic nucleus.

While these interactions wreak havoc in many ways, they also rejuvenate middle-aged galaxies running low on fuel by helping kick start a new era of star formation. Evidence of that can be seen here in the form of the large bluish-white knots hanging out near the edge of the galaxy’s newly-formed tail. (These knots are useful in other ways, namely that they reveal the path in which the smaller galaxy traveled in) Stars like this burn hot and are incredibly bright. As such, the vast majority will only live for several millions of years before going out as supernovae. .

Both galaxies lie about 200 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Lyra. The larger of the two spans an unimpressive 80,000 light-years across.

Galaxy Mergers:


See a larger image here.


The post Astronomy Photo of the Day (APotD): 9/21/14 — NGC 6745 appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Childbirth vs Getting Kicked in the Balls

As I’m sure you’re all aware, there is a “who’s tougher” debate being waged in the public eye. Is it more painful to give birth to a child or to get kicked in the family jewels? Personally, I (a man) think that the average woman probably experience more intense pain giving birth to a child than a the average man does getting kicked down under. I don’t really think there’s much contest, but ASAPscience has a very interesting take on the debate.

The post Childbirth vs Getting Kicked in the Balls appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

A Professional Spot Welder Made out of a Microwave Transformer

MOT Spot Welder

Spot welders are one of the very few pieces of metal working equipment that are actually very much cheaper to build yourself than to buy commercially. In fact, between salvaging a transformer out of an old microwave and buying some of the other components, it’s doable for under $100USD in most cases.

We’ve shared this hack quite a few times before, but [Albert van Dalen] has really taken the cake on creating a very detailed and extensive guide to not only building his, but how to properly use it for various purposes.

[Albert] designed it in a way that allows it to be configured in both opposed and series electrode positions which means besides being able to spot weld sheet metal together, you can also spot weld battery tabs while on cells!

He’s also used an Arduino to allow for precise timing of current application, and created an adjustable force guide to provide pressure during the weld — a feature usually only seen on the commercial units. His blog has tons of information on it, so if you’re interested in building your own, check it out!

[via Reddit]

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

DoJ proposal wants legitimate FBI hacking ops against anonymity

DoJ proposal is trying to legitimate FBI hacking operations against Internet users that make use of any kind of anonymizing technology.

The FBI wants greater authority to hack overseas computers, according to a law professor.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) is declaring war to online anonymity, its proposal to amend Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure would make it easier for US law enforcement to hack into the computers of people which make use of anonymizing networks and tools.

The proposal wants to give greater authority to the FBI for hacking computers located everywhere on the planet, the Federal Bureau of Investigation could seize machines whose location is “concealed through technological means”.

The DoJ is worried by the use of technology such as anonymizing software, like Tor, proxies and VPN. As requested in the proposal, law enforcement are legitimate to use remote access within or outside “district when the district in which the media or information is located is not known because of the use of technology such as anonymizing software.” Pratically the DoJ is authorizing hacking on a large scale to fight used of anonymizing systems.

“Authority to Issue a Warrant. At the request of a federal law enforcement officer or an attorney for the government: (6) a magistrate judge with authority in any district where activities related to a crime may have occurred has authority to issue a warrant to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district if: (A) the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means; or (B) in an investigation of a violation of U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5), the media are protected computers that have been damaged without authorization and are located in five or more districts.” states the DoJ proposal.

The DoJ denied that the amendment intends to authorize hacking of computer in foreign countries, but Ahmed Ghappour, a visiting professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, argues that the proposals would result in “broadest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI’s inception”.

Professor Ghappour has published a detailed blog post at ‪‬ which analyze the DoJ’s proposal. There is also a further element of concern about the DoJ proposal, the investigations conducted by the FBI may interfere with other cyber operations run by Intelligence agencies like NSA and CIA. The uncoordinated hacking campaigns run by the FBI could have serious repercussions. We have discussed many times about the uncontrolled militarization of the cyberspace and related risks.


Anyway, it’s not the first time that the FBI used hacking techniques to track users behind anonymizing networks, let’s remind the operation against online pedophilia, which allowed law enforcement to shut down the popular hosting service Freedom Hosting.

FBI admitted publicly that the Bureau had compromised the Freedom Hosting, the most popular Tor hidden service operator company exploiting a Firefox Zero-day for Firefox 17 version that allowed it to track Tor users- The Bureau implanted a tracking cookie which fingerprinted suspects through a specific external server.

Another case in which FBI used hacking campaigns to hit foreign entities is the documented case of the hacktivist Hector Xavier “Sabu”Monsegur reportedly led cyber-attacks against foreign governments under the FBI control.

Prosecutors filed a document which reveals ex LulzSec hacker Sabu helped US authorities stop more that 300 cyber attacks against US targets.

Probably the DoJ proposal is trying to legitimate its consolidated modus operandi.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – FBI, DoJ)

The post DoJ proposal wants legitimate FBI hacking ops against anonymity appeared first on Security Affairs.

Leawo Tunes Cleaner is a Windows based iTunes cleaner program that could smartly clean up iTunes.

Leawo Tunes Cleaner is a Windows based iTunes cleaner program that could smartly clean up iTunes. As a professional iTunes cleanup program, it could detect and delete song duplicates in iTunes, get album artwork for iTunes music files, download and add music tags like album, song name, artist, year, etc. to complete music info, allow manual editing of music tags, save unfixed music files for future fixing, etc.

Not restrained in iTunes music library cleanup, this iTunes cleaner could also help clean up local music folders like MP4 music library or others. By cleaning up iTunes music library, users could apply fixed music files to iTunes or original music folders in only one click to make iTunes and other music libraries well organized.

Anti-Piracy Police Begin Targeting eBook Pirates

cityoflondonpoliceThis year the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit has built a reputation for being one of the most prolific and aggressive anti-piracy groups operating today.

PIPCU, as its more commonly known, has been involved in the closure of dozens of domains, the closure of several sites, and the arrests of individuals up and down the country.

Until now PIPCU’s most visible partners, at least in terms of enforcement in the Internet space, have been the Federation Against Copyright Theft (movies and TV) and the BPI (music). However, there are now signs that sites offering pirated ebooks are part of PIPCU’s strategy.

Like many movie, music, sports and proxy fans have in recent months, this week visitors to the ebook site were confronted with the ominous PIPCU “seized” notice.

“You have tried to access a website that is under criminal investigation by the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). This site is being investigated for online copyright infringement,” the page reads.

The signs suggest that OnRead knew something was coming. After regular and often daily tweets of new literature appearing on the site, on September 2 the account fell silent.

TorrentFreak asked City of London Police for specifics on the site’s closure, including whether the domain seizure and shutdown had been carried out together with The Publishers Association, a known PIPCU partner.

“As part of Operation Creative PIPCU is working closely with the Publishers Association, as well as FACT, IFPI and BPI to disrupt copyright infringing websites. Since the launch of the operation several illegal film, music and publishing sites have been suspended,” a PIPCU spokesperson said.

e-booksWhile it seems more than likely that OnRead was operating without licenses recognized by UK publishers, an archive of the domain reveals that the site’s operators tried to claim that in at least one jurisdiction the site had operated legally.

“All materials presented on this site are available for the distribution over the Internet in accordance with the license of the Russian Organization for multimedia and Digital Systems (ROMS) and intended for personal use only. Further distribution, resale or broadcasting is strictly prohibited,” the recent archive reads.

ROMS was a Russian collective rights management organization that attracted public attention in 2006 when notorious music download site, AllofMP3, insisted it operated legally under ROMS’ remit to collect and distribute statutory royalty payments as allowed under Russian law. In 2007, AllofMP3 closed down for good.

While the legal claims made by OnRead are fuzzy and by now years out of date, additional notes do warn users that they have “no right to download any files from the site if this violates the law of his country.”

It’s clear that PIPCU and quite probably The Publishers Association felt that OnRead was not in compliance with UK law. As a result the site’s domain, registered with InternetBS, is now in police hands.

In 2007,, a site that offered movies to US customers, also tried to claim ROMS protection. That domain is now under the control of ICE and Homeland Security after being seized in the very first wave of Operation in Our Sites.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Open Source Hackable Robot

children with robots

The world of robots is an interesting place, and it’s an even better place for children to get started in electronics. To that end, [Richard Albritton] has created a low-cost, open source robotics platform called the Hack-E-Bot specifically tailored to make it as easy as possible to get started.

The goals for the robot kit were to spark curiosity for electronics and programming, to be easy to assemble and program, to be scalable, and to be as easy on the wallet as possible. This was accomplished by using the familiar Arduino microcontroller on an intuitive platform. The robot uses an ultrasonic rangefinder to navigate as well, and can support a wide range of other sensors. The kit comes in at just under $50, making it a great option for an entry-level robot.

The project is currently seeking crowd funding and [Richard] is also seeking educators to get involved. Currently the only kits available are at fairs and other conventions but they should be able to start producing them in greater quantities in the future. The Arduino libraries are a work in progress but they are available on the project site, as well as several instructional videos and other information about the project.


Filed under: robots hacks

THP Semifinalist: Cheap Satellite Transponder

transponderIn 2016, a communications satellite will be launched into geostationary orbit somewhere over the middle east. Normally, this is fairly ordinary occurrence. This satellite, however, will be carrying two amateur radio transponders for hams all across europe, africa, the middle east, and India. [2FTG] is building a satellite transponder to talk to this satellite, and he’s doing it with junk sitting around his workbench.

The uplink frequency for this satellite will be in the neighborhood of 2.4 GHz, and [2FTG] needed a way to deal with the out of band interference in this part of the spectrum. The easy and cheap way to do this is with filters made for the WiFi band. Instead, [2FTG] had a few cavity filters in his junk box and decided to go that route. It meant he had to retune the filters, a process that should be annoyingly hard. [2FTG] did it in thirty minutes.

Antennas are another matter, but since [2FTG] has a supply of metal coffee cans, this part of the build was just a matter of soldering a bit of wire to an SMA connector, drilling a hole (using a log as a drill stop, no less), and soldering the connector to the can.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a quarterfinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Filed under: radio hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Electric Car Breaks 200 mph Barrier, Sets New Land Speed Record

Image credit: BYU

BYU’s Electric Blue, a world-record holding E1 streamliner. Image credit: BYU

An electric car built by BYU engineering students has once again set a world land speed record, this time besting the previous mark by nearly 50 mph.

Electric Blue, an E1 streamliner designed and modified by more than 130 BYU students over the past 10 years, averaged 204.9 mph on two qualifying runs this month. The new mark obliterates the previous record for electric cars, 155.8 mph, which coincidentally was set by the same BYU car in 2011.

“When we set the record three years ago we felt like we left a lot on the table,” said BYU student and team captain, Kelly Hales. “On paper we thought we could get 200 mph but we never had the conditions just right—until now.”

The car notched the record this month in front of approximately 180 teams and their cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Jim Burkdoll, president of the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, drove the car to set the record, which was certified by the Southern California Timing Association.

WATCH: The 2011 World Record Setting Run

Electric Blue is called a streamliner because it has a long, slender shape and enclosed wheels that reduce air resistance. BYU’s car is in the E1 category, which means it is electric and weighs less than 1,100 pounds. Other streamliners, notably one built by Ohio State University students, have achieved higher speeds but in much heavier vehicles requiring different weight classes.

BYU students custom-built the lightweight carbon fiber body of Electric Blue over a six-year period, with the help of computer programs that model wind tunnels. Aerodynamic performance and lithium iron phosphate batteries helped the car reach its high speeds over the last four years of runs.

“We were going to retire the car last year when head faculty advisor, Perry Carter, left for an LDS mission, but we petitioned for one more year,” Hales said. “Now the car will officially retire with a record we think will be unbeatable for a while.

About half the students who have worked on the streamliner program over the years have been manufacturing engineering technology majors, about 40 percent mechanical engineering majors, and the rest from various other disciplines, including electrical engineering. Many worked on the car as part of an annual capstone course, but most were unpaid volunteers.

Manufacturing professor Mike Miles, who stepped in for Dr. Carter as faculty adviser last year, said the generous support of Ira Fulton made all the difference in providing students with an incredible experience.

“This was kind of the last hurrah; we wanted to give them one final shot,” Miles said. “Ira Fulton kept chipping in financial support and we’re so grateful he did because the results were fantastic. I congratulate Perry Carter, Kelly Hales, and all of the students who worked on this project, for an amazing achievement.”

As for its final resting place of Electric Blue, that remains undecided. It could end up in a racing museum or on display in BYU’s engineering building—but it certainly won’t be dismantled.


The fastest land speed record of all (not for just electric cars) is 760 mph (1223 kmh). This was set in a Thrust supersonic car, a British jet-propelled car developed by Richard Noble, Glynne Bowsher, Ron Ayers and Jeremy Bliss.

Courtesy of Brigham Young University.

The post Electric Car Breaks 200 mph Barrier, Sets New Land Speed Record appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Low-Level Computing with Entry-Level Difficulty: DUO Light


The hardware can’t get much simpler. The DUO Light uses an ATmega328 (commonly found on Arduino boards) along with an external SRAM chip to provide a low-level computer programming experience that will suit those new to programming and some more experienced tinkerers.

At the time of writing the modest Kickstarter goal of $1100 was just $18 shy of success. We’d wager that this is partly due to the availability of so much support material on [Jack's] website. (fyi- a lot of the links on that page are zip files)

The SD card slot accepts a FAT16 card with byte code for the programs. The available Psuedo C compiler, and assembler let you pick your poison, or you can simply dig into the byte code directly. We didn’t see a schematic, but the firmware and BOM are both available. You should be able to easily figure out connections from those.

We’ve been a fan of [Jack's] work for quite some time. His TTL computer and 16-core ATmega-based offerings are sure to delight, even if you remember seeing them go by the first time. This isn’t his first stab at educational models either. Though we still found his logic chip computer a bit daunting.


Filed under: classic hacks

Planarians, Regeneration, and the Medicine of the Future

Planaria regenerating its brain (and memories). Image credit: Daniel Lobo/Tufts

Planaria regenerating its brain (and memories)  (Image Credit: Lobo/Malone/Levin/Tufts)

Planarians are rather small flatworms. They typically only reach a half inch (1.3 cm) in length; however, these tiny guys could revolutionize modern medicine.  They can resist bacteria that are highly pathogenic in humans, and they have amazing regenerative capabilities (if you cut one into segments, you will get two creatures!).

They are also unique among invertebrates in that they display addiction-like behaviors to many drugs that are abused by humans. Because of these distinct traits, the planarian is often used as an animal model in neurological research.

Specifically (because of their regenerative properties), researchers believe that studying them could lead to significant advancements in treatment for individuals with brain damage or other neurological diseases.

In his book, The First Brain, Dr. Oné R. Pagán, a neurobiology and pharmacology specialist from West Chester University, discusses how the planarian has played a key role in biological, neuropharmacological, and zoological research (and how it has made appearances in a few unexpected places in popular culture). Ultimately, he shows us why the planarian truly is one of the most extraordinary and influential organisms in scientific research today.

We recently reached out to Dr. Pagán to get his thoughts on these amazing creatures…

From Quarks to Quasars: In your opinion, what is it that makes planarians so unique and worthy of study?

Oné Pagán: Well, I think that the phenomenon of life is remarkable (talk about understatement). We know more of what goes on at the center of a star than about what makes life tick. In this sense, every single species that we can look at on Earth is unique. Recently, planarians are being rediscovered as useful organisms to try to better understand aspects of fundamental biology.

FQTQ: How are they being "rediscovered"? And do you think that there are any specific ways that the renewed focus on planarians could be particularly useful to humanity or to the sciences in general?

OP: Traditionally, planarians were a favorite research subject on regeneration and developmental biology. These are the little critters that we usually associate with regeneration. Many planarian species display this ability. You can cut them up in several pieces and each piece can regenerate into a complete animal. Other organisms have this capacity, but very few of them are more proficient at that than planarians. Moreover, these guys possess a relatively complex nervous system, which can get fully regenerated. It is not a matter of rapid cell division; when uncontrolled, that is cancer. Planarians can regenerate their nervous system relatively fast and with the right structures and connections. Can you imagine how useful would be to unravel this secret? Just think about people with brain damage, from disease or accidents, and the multiple types of neurological diseases that plague humanity.

FQTQ: I’ve always found regeneration simply fascinating, and I think that most other people do as well. So why don't more people know about planarians? What ultimately drew you to them?

OP: Many people are sadly unaware of the true extent of Earth’s biodiversity. One can spend a lifetime just learning about a certain type of organism, and even a lifetime is not enough. That’s why education is essential, if only to make people aware of what is “out there.” I got into planarian research by an indirect route, namely by using them as animal models in pharmacology. As I learnt more about planarians, I became more interested in them in general; the rest is history.

FQTQ: You talk about the importance of education, why do you think that science education is important to the public?

OP: As interesting as it is to do science for its own sake, one has to think about the possible implications and applications of what you discover. This is especially important in our modern society where virtually everything is technological and therefore science-based. What is sad, and a tad dangerous, is that despite the fact that science is all around us and effectively in control of many human activities, relatively few people know what science is and is not, and even less people know how to handle it.

FQTQ: So you are saying that people need to understand science because it is such a pervasive part of our culture. What do you think should be done to increase individuals’ interest in the sciences?

OP: The “coolness” factor is undeniably important. Anything that induces wonder will work to make people interested in science. However, it is important that the public knows and understands that doing science is no trivial matter. Just in the same way that an accomplished athlete learns and practices her sport for years to be successful, scientists sharpen our craft for years so we can do it reliably. That being said, anyone can contribute to science to some extent. Ideally everyone should be able to, and we must convince people that science is not an esoteric matter open only to a selected few. Anyone who is willing to do the work can learn how to do science.

You can learn more about the importance of science, the regenerative abilities of planarians, and how they could revolutionize medicine in Dr. Pagán’s book (linked above).

READ NEXT: Meet the Tardigrade, Earth’s Most Alien-like Lifeform

The post Planarians, Regeneration, and the Medicine of the Future appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

NYC Maker Faire: The Logistics of Manufacturing Pentagons

Most of the Maker Faire attendees have spent weeks or months putting together their projects. [Matt] is doing things a little differently. He brought two thousand boards, each containing twelve pentagon PCBs with individually addressable LEDs mounted in the center. This weekend, he, his team, and anyone else who can wield a soldering iron will be assembling these pentagon panels into a gigantic glowing crystal.

Last year, [Matt] put together a Kickstarter for Blinkytape, a WS2812 LED strip with an Arduino on one end of the strip to generate patterns of colors. This year, [Matt] is moving into three dimensions with a system of pentagons with a single RGB LED mounted in the center. The pentagons can be soldered together into a regular polyhedra or a convoluted wall of LEDs that form a geometric crystal pattern of blinkyness. The Kickstarter for the BlinkyTile should be up before the faire is over.

[Matt] has a few tips for anyone wanting to run their own Kickstarter: don’t have a lot of SKUs. [Matt] only has to keep track of a single panel of twelve pentagons. Compare this to other failed Kickstarters with dozens of options, several colors, and a few stretch goals, and you quickly see why many, many Kickstarters fail. [Matt] is just selling one thing.

Filed under: led hacks

Introducing the “Sea Tree”

It’s no secret that we’ve been facing multiple issues pertaining to the environment over the last few decades, from climate change, to pollution (intentional or not) and all of the things in between. It’s also no secret that scientists and experts across the board from other fields have been looking at these situations from many different angles and trying to come up with out-of-the-box solutions. In one of the more futuristic examples, we come across the “SeaTree.”  


Image Credit: Koen Olthuls – WaterStudio

Designed by Dutch architects, these artificial tower constructs would essentially provide a safe haven for flora, fauna, sea creatures and winged animals alike. Such things become all the more useful in larger cities lacking in open space; places where metal and concrete have overtaken nature.

So.. how exactly could adding another skyscraper make up for too many skyscrapers? Well, as the name seems to hint, these floating structures would be built for water, tethered to the ocean floor for various sea creatures to use. From there, they would bellow upward, gradually widening near the top.

“Urbanisation and climate change put a lot of pressure on available space for nature in city centres,” explained Waterstudio, the firm behind the design, “but new initiatives for adding extra park zones to a city are rare.” They continued, “Yet these kind of additional habitats for birds, bees, bats and other small animals could bring a lot of positive green effects to the environment of a city.”

The benefits extend far beyond just that. According to the designers,

“The sea tree is built by offshore technology quite similar to the oil storage towers that can be found on open seas. The idea is that large oil companies donate a sea tree to a city showing their concern for a better city environment by using their own intellectual property.”

“Space for this sea trees can be found on rivers, seas, lakes and even harbours. The height and depth can be adjusted depending on the location. The sea tree moves a bit along with the wind and is moored to the sea bed with a cable system. Under water, the sea tree provides a habitat for small water creatures, and, when the climate allows for it, artificial coral reefs.”

“The beauty of the design is that it provides a solution and, at the same time, it does not cost expensive space on land, while the effect of the species living in the sea tree will affect a several mile zone around the moored location.”


The project hasn’t had a chance to get off the ground yet, but the designers believe the current rendition would cost about 1 million euros (1,283,100 USD) to complete. They did, however, shed some light on how they envisioned it in the first place. Saying:

“Inspiration came from a project in Holland where ecologists forced us to provide habitats for animals which couldn’t be disturbed by people. Water is, of course, a perfect way to keep people away. The shape of a floating oil storage structures in Norway brought another inspiration combined with regular shapes of tree with a big crown in top.”

“The concept idea is that we took park zones in urban areas, we divided this in pieces and put them vertically on top of each other, at the end it became a vertical hangout for wild life.” they finished.

What are your thoughts? Is this a good concept? Does it have any potential drawbacks you can think of right off?

The post Introducing the “Sea Tree” appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

27 Life Lessons Paris And Nicole Taught Us On “The Simple Life”

Lend us your blonde knowledge.

It's often a good idea to ask a friend for help.

It's often a good idea to ask a friend for help.

20th Century Fox

Sometimes, it's better just to get right to the point.

Sometimes, it's better just to get right to the point.

20th Century Fox

Live every day to the fullest, because life is short.

Live every day to the fullest, because life is short.

20th Century Fox

It's always OK to ask for help in a time of need.

It's always OK to ask for help in a time of need.

20th Century Fox

View Entire List ›