5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving Devices

Money makes the world go round. But when those filthy little portraits of dead white dudes become scarce, people rely instead on the true wealth of the human race: ingenuity. When life handed these folks lemons, they shoved some copper and zinc into those lemons, built a massive fruit battery, and used it to power their homemade tank right through life's living room.

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5
Chinese Farmer Builds His Own Mechanical Hands

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesReuters/Sheng Li

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Thirty years ago, Sun Jifa of China's Jilin province lost both of his hands while dynamite fishing. You know what they say: "Sometimes the dynamite gets the fish, sometimes the dynamite gets your limbs. Most times the dynamite gets your limbs. Just ... don't fish with dynamite." It's a long saying, and it works way better in Mandarin.

Sun was a farmer. He needed hands to work. So instead of resigning himself to a lifetime as a walking PSA against dynamite fishing, giving short but terrifying speeches in classrooms, and making guest appearances at Aquatic Dynamite Safety Awareness Week, Sun decided to build his own damn hands.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesReuters/Sheng Li
"Honey? That Miles Dyson guy is calling about your hands again ..."

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While prosthetic limbs are of course available in China, they're generally accessible only to those who consider themselves too good for homemade bomb fishing. So, after eight years of guiding his two nephews' tinkering, Sun managed to perfect a pair of honest-to-goodness steampunk bionic limbs. Constructed of steel and operated with his elbows via an intricate series of wires and pulleys, he's once again able to do just about everything you can do with actual hands, such as grasping, holding, and choking the life out of his enemies.

They work so well, in fact, that Sun and his nephews have started constructing prosthetic limbs for other similarly unfortunate folks. That, or they're building an army bent on world domination.

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Oh, did we mention he has his own Evil Dead II attachment?

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving Devicesvia kazak.com
We're gonna go with the world domination thing.

4
Homeless Brazilian Man Builds His Own Car From Scrap

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving Devicesvia jalopnik.com

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Generally, to hold down a job, one has to show up to work. If you don't have access to cheap, reliable public transportation, your own vehicle, or really, really strong legs, you're out of luck. Homeless Brazilian man Orismar de Souza vowed to do something about that. He starved himself for months, saving up every last panhandled penny to accumulate the several hundred dollars needed to stock up on scrap metal. Then he -- a man with absolutely no former experience in metalwork -- used a borrowed hammer and chisel to fashion a pile of raw metal into a viable mode of transport.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving Devicesvia jalopnik.com
No seatbelts, air bags, or turn signals, but he had time to wire a radio and tape deck.

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Now, this ain't no Lamborghini -- powered by a measly 125cc motorcycle engine that de Souza scavenged from a junkyard, it manages only about 50 miles per hour on its best day. Still, the car has improved de Souza's life exponentially. Thanks to his newfound mobility, he was able to land himself a job in the local sugarcane fields.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving Devicesvia jalopnik.com
"How much of your paycheck did you blow on your car payment? Haha, suckers."

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Let us reiterate -- it took him four years, but this man built a car from scrap metal using literally the two oldest tools ever. Affectionately dubbed the Shrimpmobile, the car has all the required equipment to make it street legal, including lights, mirrors, and bitchin' flames. The Shrimpmobile also boasts a comprehensive list of safety features, consisting of:

1) It's painted neon lime, so you can see it coming.
2) That's it.

3
Teen Builds a Radio Station for His Sierra Leone Community

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesTHNKR

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In Freetown, Sierra Leone, week-long power outages are the norm. Fortunately for one community in this tiny West African country, there are whiz kids like Kelvin Doe. Doe's electrical proficiency came about by necessity: at 13 years old, he got sick and tired of reading by candlelight, so he gathered up some acid, soda, metal, and duct tape and whipped up his own goddamn battery, which he used to power a lamp ... which, of course, he also built. No one who lives near Doe has purchased a mass-made battery since.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesTHNKR
"Just blow in it, wiggle it around some." -the extent of our childhood technical knowledge

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Next, he built a generator from a rusty voltage stabilizer, which may as well be a flux capacitor for all we understand of it. Why does a teenager need a generator? Well, when he's not MacGyvering complicated electronics from shit he found in the garbage, Doe dreams of being a DJ. Most DJs these days simply don some ironic sunglasses, show up at a bar, stand in the corner, and open up iScratch on their MacBook. Doe had to cobble together his own FM radio station just so he could spin there. Now Doe not only entertains the entire neighborhood, he even employs his friends.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesTHNKR
Whom he also built and wired.

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He has been called a technical mastermind by MIT and Harvard, and the former honored his talent by making him the youngest person ever invited to their Visiting Practitioner's Program. Just imagine what this boy-genius will accomplish when "adequate funding" means something more than "finding a broken radio on the curb" and electricity is a reliable factor, rather than a novel surprise.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesTHNKR
Oh! A bee-man lion generator. We see he's already turning to evil.

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2
Cuban Farmer Creates Farming Tools From Trash

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesColors Magazine

Farming is back-breaking work even with the best of tools. If you have only the most rudimentary ones, or worse -- nothing at all -- you're not technically "farming" so much as you're praying to the dirt. Fortunately for one rural Cuban community, they have Yolando Perez Baez, the lost lovechild of MacGyver, Doctor Octopus, and Oscar the Grouch.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesReuters/Desmond Boylan
He's one coconut radio away from adding The Professor to his titles.

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Baez roots through the local garbage dump and assembles the trash he finds into incredible farming machines. One of his most successful contraptions is a crop fumigator that has reduced fumigation time from six hours to one. Plus, it makes you look like you're being attacked by a sentient penny-farthing, and that makes it A-OK in our book.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesReuters/Desmond Boylan
According to Christopher Nolan, he's the one who will save humanity after the apocalypse.

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His other inventions include special farming hats, wheelbarrows, and a weighted system to jumpstart seized engines that looks like a booby trap straight out of an old Looney Tunes cartoon.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesColors Magazine
Pictured: Baez dealing with Cuba's coyote problem. Cuba doesn't have a coyote problem, you say? Exactly.

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1
Chinese Man Builds His Own Dialysis Machine

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving Devicestelegraph.co.uk

A dialysis machine filters a person's blood when their kidneys can't do the job. Obviously, that's a monumental task, and it takes an equally monumental machine to do it -- one roughly the size of a Fiat.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesMoscvitch via Wikipedia
Kidneys are a decidedly more convenient size.

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Hu Songwen, a man from a small rural town in Eastern China, has suffered from kidney disease for over 20 years. Unable to afford the expensive, thrice-weekly treatments, Hu decided to tinker together his own blood-filtering machine in his bathroom. Yes. He pumps his own blood through a homemade machine in his bathroom.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving Devicestelegraph.co.uk
Did we mention these things can bleed you to death if you don't set it up right?

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With absolutely no formal medical or mechanical training -- he was studying meteorology before renal failure derailed him in 1993 -- Hu whipped up a working dialysis setup that's kept him alive like some kind of DIY Darth Vader ever since. Now, each treatment costs only 12 percent of what it would in a clinical setting. Even more impressively, Hu hacked together his life-preserving doohickey using only a medical textbook, kitchen equipment, and good old fashioned technical ingenuity. You know what they say: fear of imminent death is the mother of invention.

5 Desperate People Who Hacked Junk Into Lifesaving DevicesChina.org
And that's why global warming will just sort itself out in due time.

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Hu wanted to stress that he didn't consider himself a genius or a hero for doing this and that nobody should ever copy him -- he resorted to medical-grade techno-riffing only because he couldn't afford to do it the right way. Thanks to new state insurance regulations, Hu has become eligible for affordable treatments at an actual, bona fide hospital. But he's not sure if that's going to work out -- the hospital is too far and too crowded to use reliably for those thrice-weekly appointments.

China censors their Internet, and homeless farm-workers in Brazil probably don't get it in the first place. But maybe we can get the radio kid to build some sort of rudimentary cyberspace out of cans and kitchen appliances, so Hu and the homeless car guy can hook up and exchange blueprints. The Shrimpmobile is awesome, but one fender bender and its driver might suddenly find use for a dialysis machine.


Thanks to Chris Fox and XJ Selman for their help. Sam Jackson made a tourniquet out of a doily once. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and also check out his friend's blog.

For more impressive acts of desperation, check out Nectar of the Broke: The World's 5 Worst Ways To Get Drunk and 10 Retarded Money Saving Tips (People Are Actually Trying).

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