Tag Archive: Real Science


Tach main 2

Today we’re building a fully operational, sturdy plywood 3D study model of German engineer Dietrich Uhlhorn’s 1817 invention, the Tachometer, used throughout the 19th century in locomotives and later–and still today–in automobiles.  It’s a mechanism that, when the handle is rotated, movement is transmitted through a reducer, increasing the revolutions per minute (RPMs) and displacing twin weights in a rubber band-powered centrifugal unit.  The higher the RPM, the more centrifugal force separates counter weights, shifting a movable axle with a flywheel.  A dial is fixed to the axle, and the more the axle shifts (the higher the RPM), the more the dial arrow deflects, indicating higher speed rotation.  It’s the UGEARS Tachometer, the fourth model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here), the Gearbox (reviewed here), and the Random Generator (reviewed here).  The Tachometer is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  This kit, like the Gearbox we reviewed, is part of understanding basic engineering assembly design, most apparent in your family automobile.

Continue reading

Random final main

Random chance can set all kinds of activities into motion.  Remember Abed’s discussion of the dice role and its impact in Community?  Do you recall the potential impending doom as a kid shaking the Magic 8 Ball, one of the toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame?  Sure, you could settle with a coin toss or dice roll, but why?  How about mixing up your next Dungeons & Dragons event with something different?  Today we’re building a study model of a device that generates random numbers and provides different random results based on probability theory, including a 360 degree rotating octahedron that acts like an orrery, triggered by a button, with a rack-and-gear drive, overrunning clutch, and a driven wheel.  It’s the UGEARS Random Generator, the third model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here) and the Gearbox (reviewed here).  The Random Generator is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  This kit is full of surprises, and as it comes together you’ll see how science puts the “magic” in the Magic 8 Ball.

Continue reading

UGEARS Gearbox final

Today we’re building a study model of German engineer Karl Benz’s gearbox, the same mechanism you’d find in the transmission of any modern automobile, complete with drive shaft, layshaft with gear couplings, reverse idler, and a gear shift.  It’s the UGEARS Gearbox, the second model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (check out our first UGEARS review here).  The Gearbox is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  Anyone who has ever driven a car should know the fundamentals of how a gearbox works, and this model is an excellent start.

Continue reading

You may have recently seen advertisements for UGEARS, maker of some incredible moving models made entirely from precision laser-cut plywood parts.  We laid our hands on several STEM Lab kits and are going to feature our builds of each model over the next few weeks.  These are projects that can be made generally in less than a day, and provide multiple avenues of entertainment and education.  Each model improves the maker’s ability to assemble a model, fun in itself, but like LEGO expert builder series models and Erector sets of the past, these models are engineering marvels that replicate machines for mathematics, physics, and engineering study.  More advances models in the catalog include working trains, cars, and a dragon with moving wings, which we’ll work up to.

First, let’s take a look at the Multiplier and Addiator builds, both included in the UGEARS 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (available here at Amazon and also via model shops and online game and craft stores) tools students from grade school through college engineering can use and display, featured as one of the starter builds in the UGEARS catalog.

Continue reading

MAND labs b

Review by C.J. Bunce

RadioShack was founded 100 years ago, and for most of those decades it has been the go-to supplier for anyone interested in electronics.  Not just for professionals, but it’s where students went to make things if they had even a remote interest in electronics.  The new incarnation of RadioShack is little different, less storefronts but an endless online supply of materials and ideas that what was once the exclusive purview of kids in the A/V Club.  It is now something any young person can–and should–become proficient in.  I knew as soon as I saw the Mand Labs kits on the new RadioShack website that this kind of product can and should be part of the future of STEM learning–whether at home or in schools.  So I reviewed the Mand Labs STEM Electronics Kit (KIT-1) to see if it’s as good as it looks. 

It is. 

Not only does the kit have everything you need–all the technological components to create more than 60 educational and fun projects–the even bigger value is the set of two textbook/workbooks, which provide all the theory, math, history, and core science so students understand the how and why.  With the books, digital videos, and online resources that come with the kit, even a young grade schooler can learn the fundamentals of electricity, physics, computer science, robotics, and electrical engineering.  And for adults, say you’re a cosplayer and you want to wire a helmet or chest box with lights and sound, or maybe you want to understand better why you can’t get your electronic fan or doorbell to work, or always wondered how the electric systems of your automobiles work, this kit will help you get started.

Continue reading

Goodall portrait

Along with plenty of science fiction reviewed here at borg, we’ve covered “science fact” and making the world a better place through natural science and ecology and we love to review new cookbooks that come along, especially if tied to something we’re interested in.  We also love superheroes, and it’s difficult to find a superhero that ranks higher on our list than Jane Goodall, known first and best for her study of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania–now 60-year study–and more recently as a protector and advocate for the planet.  Working with her Jane Goodall Institute she’s released a new environmentally friendly cookbook #EATMEATLESS: Good for Animals, The Earth & All We tried one of the recipes, and you can check out a few for yourself in the below preview of this new cookbook.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’ve been watching Michael Apted’s ground-breaking Up Series from its first installments, you know each new chapter in the real-life time travel journey makes the viewer feel like he or she has also reached some kind of achievement with the arrival of the new episode.  But the series of documentaries is not for the faint-hearted, filled with gut-wrenching views into participants’ lives, participants who feel like family after watching them over 56 years since their first appearance.  So compelling and personal is Apted’s look at this select group of fourteen English boys and girls turned men and women, revisiting them every seven years of their lives since 1964, the documentary series is practically an interactive experience.  With Apted passing away since the UK premiere last year, and the U.S. arrival of the latest installment–the eagerly awaited 63 Up arriving on BritBox via Amazon Prime this weekend–the question is whether this ninth installment is the last.  Key members of the crew since 28 Up have expressed an interest in continuing the series in 2027, but until then expect this to be a bittersweet end for the series, which Roger Ebert called the noblest project in cinema history and among the ten best films ever made.

At last Apted addresses the thesis of the show to each participant, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” and asks whether they agree after decades participating in this unique social experiment.  Apted was a researcher when working on director Paul Almond’s Seven Up! in 1964.  Seven years later the well-known director of Gorillas in the Mist, The World is Not Enough, Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gorky Park, was just out of university, and at 22 he revisited the original Seven Up! project.  He would go on to direct the subsequent eight episodes over 56 years.  The idea was to get a glimpse of England in the future year 2000 when these kids, the future leaders of England, were only seven years old.  It is difficult to surpass the jolts and surprises of 42 Up, but 63 Up holds its own, although sadly viewers will say goodbye to one participant who has died, another is seriously ill, and another decided not to participate.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

You can’t fully appreciate science fiction without a grasp on natural science, one of the categories of “real science” we look at from time to time here at borg.  We’ve delved into dinosaurs, and trees, and yes, birds (oh, my!) and we’re back again today with a striking tie-in to a 2019 board game that has become even more popular thanks to the increase in game sales due to sheltering at home for the pandemic.  The game is Wingspan from Stonemaier Games, a celebration of birds where you are a bird enthusiast and your goal is to attract birds to your aviary.  The game is so popular it has prompted a market of custom deluxe scoreboards.  But it’s often difficult to play a board game outside–and this is about the natural world–so a new book from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the artists for the board game have come up with an outdoor version that doubles as a gorgeous interactive field guide, called Celebrating Birds. 

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

The 21st century contest was whether The Current War or The New Mutants was going to be delayed longest before their inevitable release (The Current War for the Weinstein scandal and The New Mutants for the Disney-Fox merger and now the COVID-19 pandemic), and so The New Mutants wins–or loses–still with no release date.  At least The Current War–technically The Current War: Director’s Cut, was worth the wait.  Particularly if you put aside the inevitable choices in historical interpretations of the real-life historical figures and facts involved and instead marvel at the nicely realized cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung (Hotel Artemis), production design by Jan Roelfs (Gattaca, 47 Ronin, Ghost in the Shell), costumes by Michael Wilkinson (Justice League, Tron: Legacy, Watchmen), snappy writing and pacing thanks to Michael Mitnick, and a fantastic cast of familiar genre actors, adding The Current War to your streaming list is an easy choice.

Continue reading

The Five cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

I don’t know how old I was when I first heard of Jack the Ripper.  I do remember being quite young when the sensationalizing and romanticizing of the serial killer started to bother me.  “What’s wrong with you?”  I would growl at the TV, comics, Halloween costumes, and centuries-spanning obsession about the murderer.  Where was the attention on his victims, on the real women who lost their lives?  No one seemed to care—in 1888, or now.  They existed only to fuel the fascination surrounding the murderer.  I stumbled across Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper while doing unrelated research for my Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries series.  I knew immediately I had to get my hands on this book.  Here, at last, was someone else who felt exactly as I did and set about to rectify the situation.  The premise alone makes the book worthwhile, and Rubenhold’s research and writing makes it a must-read.

Rubenhold’s The Five is long overdue, and definitely a welcome addition to the field of Victorian social history.  It’s a tough but fascinating read, handled with an equal mix of sympathy and outrage.  What this book is not:  It’s not true crime.  It’s not a whodunit.  It makes no fruitless speculation about the identity of the murderer, and it does not linger over the salacious details of the crimes.  It is a gripping story of characters who are every bit as fascinating, vivid, and richly drawn as their notorious killer is imagined to be.  And it is a stunning social history that spans the mid-late Victorian era and the life and times of working class women.  Rubenhold unearths known, previously unknown, and totally ignored details from each woman’s life, and skillfully fills in the gaps with information drawn from other historical records—what life was like for workhouse inmates, laws that targeted and disproportionately disadvantaged working-class women, contemporary commentary from social reformers, and more.

In five sections, arranged chronologically by the dates of their deaths, Rubenhold examines the family backgrounds, childhoods, young adulthoods, and last years of Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and the woman who called herself Mary Jane Kelly.  She takes readers on a journey across England, overseas to Scandinavia, from the tinworks of Birmingham to the barracks of Queen Victoria’s guard, to ambitious charity schools and factories and homes, the open road of ballad-sellers, the terrifying spectre of white slavery, and the sad backstreets of London’s poorest neighborhoods.  In telling the stories of these five individual women, Rubenhold also tells the story of all Victorian women, exploring the ruthless social rules that crippled poor women and condemned them to a downward spiral of poverty and violence.  Rubenhold corrects nearly a century and a half of misconceptions and assumptions about these five women (spoiler alert: they weren’t all prostitutes), and restores the truth of their real lives.

Continue reading