Mathew Lippincott’s blog on design and DIY aerospace
October 1st, 2010

October 25, Natalie Jeremijenko in Portland, OR


September 30th, 2010

Speaking at Cyborg Camp Portland 10/2

I’m going to be at Portland’s Cyborg Camp talking about waste management and human senses.  There’ll be some good French sanitation history too! I’m back to back with Max Ogden– I’m practicing right now.

September 24th, 2010

Open Hardware Summit Notes

Met and ran into fellow grassroots mapping folks Bonny Gregory and Cesar Harada, and my old roommate Isaac Ravishankara.

Bruce Perens & John Wilbanks echoed each other:

“IP is a disease, good open licensing and prior art databases can innoculate the future against it.

John Wilbanks

freedom doesn’t come from the barrel of a license.  decide on the values underlying the license.

Nina Paley:

“Copyright is like kids, you don’t own ’em.”

Business Forum

Successful Open hardware projects are awesome but their businesses are boring- 40% markup, good relationship with shipping, quality, trademark protection, insurance, accounting.

Had a great talk with Britta Riley, Jeffrey Lipton, and Chris from Netduino about licensing mechanical and analog devices.  I’ve been thinking of  a way to frame the problem, and I think I’ve got a helpful case-study, the miter box:

Designed to replicate exact and consistant angles, a new miter box can be cut using an existing miter box as a guide.  It is also a simple enough object that whenever it’s used, it’s ability to copy itself is implied.  Instructions can be written, but they really aren’t necessary.  I think it can be said that the miter box  contains it’s own instructions.

I don’t know what our open licenses should look like, but I think they aught to account for objects like a miter box.

Talked to Chris Anderson about flying safety and PET film.  In Grassroots Mapping we’ve been discussing making to PET  balloons, and we’re trying to decide between aluminized (less helium loss) and uncoated PET for balloons. Chris’s company DIY Drones sells a mylar UAV blimp kit.   Chris’s advice: go with uncoated PET, aluminized balloons can short out power lines if they break free.

November 20th, 2009

No/Low Tech Magazine

Kris de Decker produces some of the most insightful and well-researched articles on technology anywhere on the internet.  He has a simple premise- novel “high-tech” solutions aren’t always that great.  Don’t give up on established, simple, and efficient solutions to human problems.  He just linked back to me when I pointed him to KMODDL, and I wanted to share some stuff he’s posted, since it’s been sitting in my “to post” folder since August:

Kris often finds works from another age whose techno boosterism is familiar, but whose object is odd to a contemporary reader. From the height of airship mania ( Zeppelin’s commercial air transport service was established a year later) and before airplanes proved themselves in the skies, Airships Past and Present (1908) is a fantastic snapshot of globalized tinkering and ingenious innovations:

In 1792, Uyton de Morveau recieved official instructions from Napoleon to develop military balloons.  Morveau developed a team with chemist Lovoisier and physicist Coutelle,  and together they developed a novel hydrogen generator that used a hot iron with steam passing over it, and a novel means of sealing silk balloons with 5 layers of linseed oil based varnish.  The varnish was particularly effective, holding hydrogen in the balloon for upwards of 2 months, but the recipe is lost to history.  The envelope of a hydrogen balloon capable of carrying 2 passengers to 1600ft  would weigh only 180-200lbs, in line with early 20th century numbers (134).


My favorite balloon of the period, the Parseval-Sigfeld, featured with hard numbers on wind speed (66ft per second).  Parseval invented the “sausage” balloon design that once refined was deployed by Germany, France, and to great effect Belgium in WWI.  But this text is of course from before the war (209, 211, 274).

August 25th, 2009

Re-Burbia non-finalists: Me and Molly

Molly and I only gave the Re-Burbia Competition 4 hours, and Inhabitat/Dwell didn’t like us.  That’s ok, we entered because we don’t like them either.  Our friends tell us we complain about Dwell too much and architecture competitions ad nauseam.  As expected almost all the finalists use stale computer rendered crap images.  This project I thought had the right idea (albeit no citations) and good presentation, but like the rest it still depends on infrastructure investments that just ain’t gonna happen. Here’s our entry (I wrote/found citations while Molly illustrated), with extended text intro critiquing suburb resuscitation:


The wreckage of unsustainable industrial neighborhoods are already a new frontier of reduced density within re-awakening urban centers.  While the success of urban neighborhood renewal is an attractive image easily transposed to suburbia, urban neighborhoods already have a social and infrastructural fabric to weave back into.  The suburbs don’t.

Without cheap transportation, heat and power, people will return to more traditional town/country boundaries that are land, energy, and socially efficient.  No development plan will succeed in maintaining the current population density of land cut through with dead-end roads and divided into oversized and poorly sited bedroom houses sitting on 1/4 – 1/2 acre plots.  As places like Flint, Michigan have realized, the question is not, “how will we stay here”  but rather, “what is this place worth for scrap?”* Suburbia was born in an era of cheap energy, and will die with it.

In the near future abandoned suburban tracts will come up for auction.  Confronted with abandoned houses and neglected infrastructure, what resources do suburban homesteaders have, and what can they do with it?  Much of the topsoil is of low quality. But intensive and profitable agriculture is definitely possible:

In 2002 a new house had 18 windows** a standard window is 30″x60″ or 225 sq. ft. of window per house

In 2008 94% of new construction had 2+ bathtubs, 28% had 3+***

A 60 gallon bathtub can raise 57 pounds of tilapia****

One cubic meter of asphalt pavement can by pyrolized into 58.4kWh of energy*****

The conversion process:
Build a small, solar-cited house with scrap lumber and all your favorite ornamental features.  Just enough to get going, and preferably near other homesteaders.  You can always expand later.

Properly cited, human-scale dwelling
Pull the windows out of all the houses on the block.  Build one amazingly insulated double-pane greenhouse, built over a swimming pool if possible.

recycled-window double-pane greenhouse

Use the pool as a giant fish tank (and thermal mass for the greenhouse) or set up the tubs, sinks and plumbing as a freshwater marine habitat.  Crushed concrete may be a substitute for a limestone filter.  Useless suburban basements often need pumping to stay dry, use a found pump for water flow.  Grow vegetables in aquaponic beds drilled into PVC drainage pipe.  Use nearby roofs to collect rainwater.  Your greenhouse will provide even with bad/unpredictable weather.

Form a pyrolysis co-op with your fellow homesteaders and tear up unnecessary pavement.  Crack it into fuel and drive surplus aquaponic goods to market.  Use the money to buy animals and begin grazing  nearby land.   House them in a converted McMansion barn, and save silage on the second floor.

tear up the roads and make fuel
Graft edible fruit trees onto ornamental trees like cherry and crab apple, if you don’t have any, plant some.  Collect and feed acorns to pigs.

Use satellite dish reflectors and abandoned wifi routers to maintain a local network- you need to stay in touch. Enjoy your friends, and don’t plan on getting rich.

*An Effort To Save Flint Mich., by Shrinking It

**In 2002 a newly constructed house had an average of 18 windows

***United States Census: Characteristics of New Housing Index- Number of Bathrooms in New One-Family Housees Completed

****250 lb. of fish per cubic meter in small cages
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service SRAC-281, pg. 1

*****Energetical Value of Milled Asphalt Bitumen
Solenia New Energy Solutions

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