Daily question: Can you hear your drawing?

In an elementary school art class the teacher would have us listen to a piece of music and then ask us to “draw” it. Invariably, about a third of the kids would absolutely hate the notion of having to “translate” audio input to graphical output. Most kids, however, would go nuts and splurge in an orgy of colors and shapes, loving every minute of it.

Decades later, we now have visualization plug-ins to iTunes and even more visually refined virtual tools to “draw” music. But nothing beats kids “hearing” their own drawing as they move a pencil on an ordinary piece of paper with instant feedback.

Introducing Drawdio, a $20 DIY electronic pencil kit from MakerSHED:



JJJ Silver, who came up with the idea of Drawdio, emailed BoingBoing to explain how he did it:

One day I bought a “harmonium” kit at the street market in Bangalore. I hacksawed the keyboard off to make the first ever Drawdio circuit. We played with it at a local school in the slums using plants, water, our foreheads, etc. My friend told me graphite would work too. Meditating on it, I realized the Drawdio circuit should be literally attached to a pencil to “draw audio,” and that’s where the name came from: Draw + Audio.

For those of you who sketch or draw professionally:

Would you want your 2B pencil or digital pen to emit audio cues in real-time based on speed, acceleration, rotation, pressure and other attributes?

Daily question: Can your plant Twitter you?

From ThinkGeek:

There’s a school of thought that says that plants, like higher animals, have thoughts and feelings. They have an inner voice, and can tell you their life-stories, if only you could speak “plant.” It’s not a difficult language to learn, actually – there are only a few words to contend with, since all they seem to care about is how much water they’re getting.


While speaking “plant” will cost you $99.99 in this instance, the result maybe necessary…and satisfying:


Naturally, this begs the question:

What other “household languages” are we likely to learn in the near future?

Daily question: Bees do it and birds do it, can we?

AskNature, a great new site on biomimicry, has terrific examples of how nature solves problems that we can learn from. One example is how “honeybees in a colony select a new hive location via range voting”:


“Thomas Seeley, a biologist at Cornell University, has been looking into the uncanny ability of honeybees to make good decisions. With as many as 50,000 workers in a single hive, honeybees have evolved ways to work through individual differences of opinion to do what’s best for the colony. If only people could be as effective in boardrooms, church committees, and town meetings, Seeley says, we could avoid problems making decisions in our own lives.”

“In one test they put out five nest boxes, four that weren’t quite big enough and one that was just about perfect. Scout bees soon appeared at all five. When they returned to the swarm, each performed a waggle dance urging other scouts to go have a look. (These dances include a code giving directions to a box’s location.) The strength of each dance reflected the scout’s enthusiasm for the site. After a while, dozens of scouts were dancing their little feet off, some for one site, some for another, and a small cloud of bees was buzzing around each box.”

Another example explains how a toucan’s “beak design absorbs high-energy impacts” as shown in Valerie Abbott‘s photo:


The structure of the toucan beak teaches us principles of composite material design for light-weight strength and stiffness. Despite its large size (a third of the length of the bird) and considerable strength, the toucan beak comprises only one twentieth the bird’s mass. While the large strong beak is useful in foraging, defense and attracting mates, its low density is essential for the toucan to retain its ability to fly. The beak’s solid outer shell sandwiches within it a closed-cell, foam-like structure made of struts which, together with thin protein membranes, enclose variably shaped air spaces. The solid shell layer is built of overlapping, hexagonally-shaped thin plates of keratin protein held together by an organic glue…

Are you aware of man-made objects around you whose designs were directly inspired by natural structures and strategies?

Daily question: Is it just a game?

Here’s Monopoly, one of the most well-known and popular board-games of the last few decades:


And here are a few more distant board-games as listed at Bibliodyssey:


Il novo et piacevol gioco del giardin d’amore (The new and enjoyable game of the garden of love) — Published by Giovanni Antonio de Paoli in the 1590s, the board features two rows of game squares, the outer one displaying the virtues and the one closer to the central garden with game numbers on pairs of dice.


The Swan of Elegance (A New Game Designed for the Instruction and Amuseument of Youth) — John Harris published this linen-backed, hand-coloured etching in 1814. Each of the game board’s compartment shows a child engaged in a moral or an immoral deed. A twelve page rulebook had four lines of verse explaining each scene. The medaliions in each corner represent Apollo, Minerva, Wisdom and Genius.


German print – game-board — Untitled anti-British World War II propaganda shipping race board game published by F Westenberger in about 1940.

Got any examples showing we haven’t hopelessly lost the art of board-game design?

Daily question: What’s the word?

In March of 2003 The City Club in Cleveland decided to give the Citadel of Free Speech Award to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Then something funny happened:

CLEVELAND (AP) – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from an appearance Wednesday where he will receive an award for supporting free speech.

The notion of “burning the village to save it” has been in our lexicon since the Vietnam war days, continuing today with the attempt to “nationalize banks to save free markets.” There remains something perplexing, utterly counterintuitive and recursively intriguing about that.

So pardon my (inverse) “burning the village to save it” moment when I saw this:


Yes, a Flash editor to generate SVG. Like writing Windows apps on a Mac. Dieting on bacon fat. Being cool with a Zune.

What is the (dialectical) word that describes the use of something antithetical (Flash) to describe the thesis (SVG)?