The most substantial advances for space exploration

Warning: major geeking out about space lies ahead… continue at your own peril.

On one of my previous posts, I said the latest rocket soft landing may have been the most significant leap in space exploration since a robot was sent to another world. After I posted it, I started to second guess that, and decided to create a list of all great achievements of space exploration, so I could try to pick the “most significant leap” out of them.

Well… an hour later, and I found that there was no way I could pick one. So I instead compiled a list of the accomplishments and milestones which I believe to be some of the most important for the history of Mankind VS The Universe 🙂

There are many important events beforehand, but I’m choosing to start my list around The Renaissance, with a man names Galileo Galilei…
1610 – Galileo Galilei, who became very good at polishing glass lenses, created extremely powerful spyglasses for ship captains to use. He got curious one night, and took one of his most powerful models, and looked straight up. Humanity changed forever. He discovered that Jupiter had moons; Uranus had rings, and that our Moon was incredibly full-featured. He also kept going down this path to prove that the Earth actually revolved around the sun – which unfortunately caused the Catholic church to keep him imprisoned until death. But that’s a story for another day. Poor dude.

1687 – One of my personal idols, Sir Isaac Newton, shares his never before heard of genius with the world by publishing the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. You may know this as ‘he discovered gravity’. This publishing included math for how gravity could be measured and expected. This also included how planets move, mathematically speaking.

1813 – William Moore creates new math that shows how a rocket could work. Now called the “Ideal Rocket Equation”, it basically tells us how a rocket moves, and how much fuel it needs to move itself, even as it is burning up it’s fuel supply.

1898 – H.G. Wells writes War of the Worlds, which inspires a young Robert Goddard to invent a new type of rocket that could hopefully reach other worlds.

1903 – The Wright brothers showed the world that with the right adaptions and planning, we really could ‘swim through the air’.

1916 – Einstein publishes theories of general and special relativity, showing us that your current moving speed makes time run at different rates. A very important concept for future space clocks (and later, GPS)

1927 – Robert Goddard launched the first liquid fueled rocket. Liquid is MUCH better at providing power compared to the clunky and unreliable solid fuel rockets.

1957 – Sputnik 1 was the first thing we sent into an orbit around Earth.

1961 – Vostok 1 sent Yuri Gagarin to SPAAACCCEEE! Yuri will always be remembered as the first human to reach space.

1966 – Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to land on another planet and survive. It landed on the moon, and sent pictures back to Earth. Talk about blowing people’s minds. First pictures from another world? Yeah.

1969 – Apollo 11 let humans finally set foot on another celestial body. One small step.

1975 – Venera 9 sent us the 1st pics from the surface of another planet, Venus. Previously, Luna 9 sent us the first pics from another “world”, the moon, compared to Venera 9, sending pics specifically from one of our solar system’s other planets, Venus.

1990 – Hubble became the first optical telescope that we put on a satellite and sent to space. This changed astronomy forever. We were now able to actually LOOK at cosmological entities without being restricted by our own sky, which blocks a lot more than you would imagine. Humanity was finally able to open it’s window blinds and peer outside. Even to this day, 26 years later, the Hubble telescope is still making awesome discoveries and taking great measurements of things.

1997 – Pathfinder is the 1st remotely controlled robot on another planet, Mars. Consequently, that made Mars the only other planet in our solar system which is inhabited solely by robots 🙂

1998 – International Space Station! The space-faring nations of the world joined forces to create Humanity’s front porch to the universe.

2001 – Shoemaker was our first contact/landing on an asteroid. Meeting up with, and then touching a small rock flying through space is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Also, the spacecraft had always planned on going out with style. It simply rammed as hard as it could into the asteroid, sending back as much data as possible before exploding into a cloud of parts.

2014 – Rosetta probe tries to one-up Shoemaker, and it does. Rosetta successfully (well, kinda) meets up with the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko and LANDS on it! Comets are much more difficult to land on, because they are made up of dust and ice, whereas an asteroid is made up of metals and rocks. Basically, Rosetta HARPOONED this asteroid while flying at 24,600 MPH, and winched itself down onto the surface, all while jets of heated gas are spewing up like volcanoes around it, tumbling around chaotically through space. IS THAT NOT THE MOST METAL SPACE TASK EVER???

2015 – Falcon rocket successfully lands itself, paving the way for completely reusable rocketry.


So there you have it! That is my list of the most significant achievements, milestones, and leaps for space exploration.

Also, after typing and doing the research on the details, I think I have actually decided what I think should be the single most important advance for humanity: The success of the Hubble telescope. I touched on it earlier, but the sheer amount of discoveries that Hubble has made can’t be matched by anything else out there right now.
They are currently creating a few new telescopes to replace Hubble (it’s showing it’s age now), but just as an example of how useful Hubble really is, on December 14th, it helped solve a mystery of unexpected missing water on other planets.

Maybe not the most exciting news, but what other piece of equipment is still going to be making scientific breakthroughs roughly once a month for 26 years?


Check out all the latest crazy images that the telescope takes, and ready about the latest discoveries it has helped solve here:


Skittles Vodka & Display Case

Gave this as a Valentine’s Day gift


As soon as I learned that her favorite candy was Skittles, and that her favorite alcohol base was vodka, I knew exactly where to go from there 😛


Step 1: Get your crap together, man


Found the bottles on Amazon… a lot more expensive that I had hoped, but oh well. She’s worth it. As per the alcohol, I knew you shouldn’t buy an AMAZING vodka, since the candy would be ruining your vodka (like ketchup on filet mignon)… but I certainly didn’t want to get bottom shelf either, since that would taste just as bad… Svedka is a good choice 🙂


Step 2: Piss off those with OCD


Separating the candy was the fun part… and no, I most definitely did not eat any…


Step 3: Start the liquification!


Water bottles were used, so I didn’t get any candy gunk on the inside of the nice expensive bottles


After about 10 mins


10 minutes in, the color was already becoming quite vibrant. I let them sit for a few more hours to let the candy COMPLETELY dissolve.


Beating Stacker with the Stacker Cracker

You’ve most likely seen the arcade game, Stacker before. The concept is simple; stop the blocks as they move side-to-side, stacking them to the top. Easier said than done… well, at least with the timing of a human.


The allure of easily winning a Playstation for about $1 can rope just about anybody into playing, but as they quickly find out, things are never as easy as they seem.  Humans are horrible at tracking time. Every person even has their own definition of the passage of time. Game makers know this, and they use it to their advantage.

But what about machines? They can operate with an exact definition of what time is, and be able to correctly count it time after time. If you want to win against a machine, you’re going to have to use a machine to fight it for you.

This is where the Stacker Cracker comes in. It was my attempt at making a robot that could take care of the timing and repeatability for me, that way I didn’t have to rely on my inferior human abilities. The Stacker Cracker consists of a microcontroller (Arduino), some hefty batteries salvaged from a drill, controls, an LED counter, and a solenoid.


Using the Stacker Cracker was simple. You placed the solenoid over the main button of the game, flipped the switch to “Record”, then pressed the trigger button. The solenoid would fire, hitting the button on the game and causing the row to go to the next level. You then hit the trigger again once the lights were at the correct position. The solenoid would hit the game button again. The LEDs would display the exact number of milliseconds that have passed between the two button presses.

That is exactly what you need. The amount of time needed between pressing the button. Write it down. Keep repeating this process, until you inevitably show your human side by failing this reverse Turing test and fail. You may have lost the battle, but you are now armed with some VERY important knowledge which will win you this war.

Put another dollar in the machine, and now flip the Stacker Cracker to “Playback” mode. You are now able to enter the amount of milliseconds that the machine should wait. Enter what you wrote down from before, but ADJUST your last failed time and make it either shorter or longer, depending on how you messed up. Assuming you adjust it correctly, all you need to do now is press the trigger button.

Once you hit the trigger, Stacker Cracker automatically hits the machine button, wait until the exact amount of specified milliseconds passes, hits the button again, the repeats the process, all the way up until you have no more data… at which time, you flip it back to record, and keep going.

In Practice

Well that all just sounds too good to be true, right? Well…. it is. But wait… yes, it’s bad news, but not all hope is lost. Hear me out.

Why it won’t work

The creators of Stacker did not create their game with the intention of losing money. So they made sure to cover their bases. What does this mean to you? Well, upon researching the Stacker operator manual, you can find the instructions for payout percentage. Yes, you read that right; the arcade owner gets to decide the odds that somebody will win. It’s not that black & white though. What that payout adjuster is really adjusting is the final dice roll. Yes, that’s right: if you play perfectly, you then enter a random dice roll to see if you’re allowed to hit the jackpot. If you fail the dice roll, the game will instead “nudge” your block to the right or left by one block, making it seem as if you messed up – even if you hit it dead on.


So there is GOOD news?

Re-read that bold line above. Emphasis on the “if you play perfectly” part. Now replace “you” with “the Stacker Cracker”. Get it yet? Yeah, I knew you would. All you have to do now is keep playing the game, letting the Stacker Cracker get you to the top every time. The game will make it seem like you keep messing up – but we both know machines are excellent bean counters, and in reality, you’re most likely failing that random dice roll, rather than actually failing the block. All that’s left to do now is keep paying, dollar by dollar until you hit that big prize… which is hopefully a lot sooner than how long it takes to pay for more than the prize is worth.

…and that is why I never won anything with The Stacker Cracker. It turns the Stacker game into a slot machine.



Zelda Triforce Lamp

A few months ago, I decided to design up a video game themed lamp. The end result was the Zelda Triforce Lamp.

I designed all the pieces in Google Sketchup, and exported them to their respective SVG files for cutting on the laser.


After cutting each of the pieces, the lamp is assembled by hand, using acrylic glue to bind them all together. After the acrylic pieces are put together, a regular lamp cord with bulb holder is inserted into the bottom, and presto; you have a lamp 🙂 What I think adds a nice tough is the shapes cut into the side of the lamp; the Rupees and the Hylian crest. They manage to project shadows of their respective shapes onto nearby walls or objects. Really makes the lamp stand out.


Interested in a lamp of your own? I’m now selling them over at The Plasmatorium – Check it out!

Spiffy Product Packaging

While selling the Look of Disapproval Glasses, I have been having a couple recurring problems. One problem was the brittle nature of acrylic mixed with the man-handling nature of the post system causes a lot of broken sets and upset customers. Too frequently I was getting emails saying the glasses had arrived broken. I would of course replace them as soon as I had heard, but that left the original issue unresolved.

Another issue was that the 3-piece glasses set just doesn’t want to sit nicely in any way. Sure, you could just wrap them in a folded piece of paper, or tape them to something, but not only does that look just downright unprofessional, but it could cause damage of its own to the acrylic. Tape could leave glue on the plastic, making a marred product.

So I set out to fix the issue. What I finally came up with pretty much fixes both of these issues, and gives a tasteful touch to the out-of-box user experience as well.

The cardboard holder seen here has the same basic shape as the glasses parts, but with divots spread around, designed to grip the plastic. This holds them in the recesses, while still allowing them to be popped out with ease. The orientation of the corrugation in the cardboard is definitely taken into account. Having the corrugation go the same direction as the longest pieces reduces the chance of bending on the axis, which overall reduced the chance of the glasses breaking.

I also get a blank canvas to customize with my own messages, as you can see 🙂

If you’d like a pair of the glasses seen above, you can find them at The Plasmatorium