Are you proud of yourself because you figured out how to build a kick-ass dog house out of a refrigerator box? Do you high-five your friends every time you upgrade your computer without setting it on fire?
Then you might not want to read about the kind of do-it-yourself projects other people have going on. Your self-esteem might not be able to handle ...
Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh are two MIT students who decided they wanted to take a picture of the curvature of the Earth just for shits and giggles. They spent $148 on the project and got this photo for their efforts:
We, meanwhile, spent $148 on a used PSP.
So what does it take to pull off something like that? Well, besides having brains the size of Krang, they used a weather balloon, some helium, a Styrofoam cooler and duct tape. They put some break-and-shake hand warmers in the cooler to keep the cheap camera they used from freezing in the near-space altitude and stuck in a prepaid cellphone with GPS to track it.
The balloon being launched.
The balloon being de-launched.
It went 18 miles into the sky -- pretty short of the accepted edge of the atmosphere where space really begins (62 miles up), but still three times higher than an airliner. And we're totally prepared to call that thing they photographed up there "space." To give you an idea, when the balloon finally burst, the beer cooler took 40 minutes to hit the ground.
They specifically set out to keep the project as cheap as possible so they could crash and burn over and over again until they got it right (which they did on the first try). In case you want to follow on their brilliant coattails, you can find instructions for building your own balloon camera here.
And while that's awesome and all, you know what would be even better? If you could put a person up there. Which, by the way, is the goal of Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen of Copenhagen Suborbitals.
This is simultaneously the greatest and most terrible idea in the history of time.
The two men have been using donations to fund their project, which will make them the first non-government-funded group to send a human into space if they succeed. (If they fail, they'll retain their title of "two assholes with an orange tube.")
The cockpit is roughly as roomy and comfortable as a Pez dispenser, and there is no real navigation on board to speak of. The duo are hoping that once the craft's liquid oxygen fuel carries it up into space, their calculations and the "laws of aerodynamics" will safely guide its screaming cargo back to Earth for a water landing slowed by parachutes, just like the old Apollo missions, because nothing bad ever happened on those.
You know, sometimes it's easier to just shoot yourself in the head.
Oh yeah, that's up to OSHA specs.
Tao spent about $4,385 (roughly a full year of his wages) and two years of his life building a sub out of barrels. It can safely cruise to a depth of 32.5 feet and has a periscope, electric motors for its two propellers, diving tanks, a manometer (for gauging pressure), headlights and a video camera/monitor setup for seeing outside. Tao used the barrels because they were cheap and cobbled the rest together out of second hand parts, because when you're going to be in a windowless metal tube under tons of water, you'll settle for nothing but the best.
Then you have Puchkov, who desperately wanted to escape the stifling life of a factory worker in Soviet Russia, so he set about building his own submarine, though considering the bodies of water that surround Russia, one wonders where the hell he thought he was going to go in said submarine. His earliest attempts just sank in the freezing water, and one of the ones that did not sink got caught in a steel net and wound up earning Puchkov a two-day stay in a KGB interrogation cell as a suspected spy.
When he finally succeeded, he wound up with a fiberglass mini sub with a backup pedal system in case the electric motor failed. He can travel in it for about 100 miles a day, at a speed of 4 knots and a depth of 30 feet, which appears to be both the limit for DIY subs and about 30 feet deeper than we would ever like to go in a homemade underwater tomb.
Oh, and instead of using a periscope or a video camera to see, he just uses a head-shaped plastic dome, which just goes to show you that living in an oppressive communist regime can really bring out the creativity in people.
We're guessing someone had a lot of pet goldfish as a kid.
#4. Nuclear Reactors
We've shown you previously that with the right parts, you can supposedly build your own fusion reactor. Now, if you think that kind of thing is only easy to pull off on paper and that nobody could actually build a working device, think again. Two kids from Michigan actually did, although one was more successful than the other.
Guess which one?
The guy on the left, Thiago Olson, built a fusion reactor in his basement starting at age 15 and actually achieved a fusion reaction by age 17. He scoured for parts on eBay, read books on physics and posted questions on a fusion forum whenever he couldn't figure it out on his own, leading us to wonder just who the hell populates a message board with the secrets of nuclear science.
The other guy is David Hahn, who created a breeder nuclear reactor in his mother's shed as a 17-year-old Eagle Scout. Sadly, we can't show you a picture of it, since the EPA buried his shed and all of his experiments in a low-level radioactive waste site in Utah, presumably creating a team of superhuman mutants in the process.
Hahn never got enough nuclear material to reach critical mass and start a reaction, although he did succeed in irradiating his entire neighborhood. Other failures left him burned, turned his hair green and knocked him the hell out, but he continued on with the kind of pluck only cartoon coyotes possess.
This is bound to work eventually.
Although he was apparently a poor student (he had horrible scores in school and wrote the word "Caushon" on his work shed), he did manage to cobble together enough parts and nuclear material to build the base of his breeder reactor. In the end, Hahn was the subject of a book about how he nearly killed his neighborhood, which admittedly is pretty awesome until you compare him with the much more successful Olson, who managed to get a planet named after him.