I just watched a documentary about archeological digs in Iraq where they found over a million 3000-year-old clay tablets with ancient cuneiform writing on them. These tablets, having lain in the sand for three millennia begin to turn to dust within hours of their removal if not preserved and even with the best preservation they still degrade fairly rapidly. So, they use lasers to etch a hologram of each tablet on glass plates. This digital information can be transmitted over the internet. 

This is kind of cool. To think 3D holograms of 3000-year-old written words and these holograms once on the internet will live in the web. The actual glass plates can survive for tens of thousands of years.

The holograms are so accurate that they can be examined under a microscope.

Since the information is digital it can be manipulated by a computer to decipher even the most eroded specimens. 

Funny, as I write this little piece it dawns on me: I may be the only one on the planet who thinks this is cool. Oh, I suppose some of my fellow nerds might.


Your Moment of Laser Denim Zen

A reader sent me a video of denim being laser-etched with sick fadez, which sent me down a rabbit hole of youtube videos of different methods of finishing denim. Although I’m not particularly interested in buying laser-etched denim, being more of a classicist myself, I was really mesmerized by the video above, with an incongruously (or maybe appropriately?) apocalyptic soundtrack. Enjoy!

This is the prototype front panel interface for that 6502 homebrew machine I’ve been putting off for awhile now.  I laser cut/etched the panel layout last week, after putting it off for too long.  I need to put in some LEDs and start wiring them up to begin building the logic.  The black switches are dual momentaries, and the metallic switches are toggles.


Model Monday: Cardboard Construction

These miniature corrugated cardboard models of iconic SOM buildings were created for Bring Your Child to Work Day at SOM’s San Francisco office. Kids constructed and took home models of the Alcoa Building, Crown Zellerbach Headquarters, Lever House, U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, Willis Tower, and One Front Street (where the office is located). Each model was laser-cut and etched as a set of two-dimensional pieces that could be assembled together without glue. Other activities included coloring, puzzle building, a magic show, and face painting, as well as learning about the process of designing buildings. The SOM Women’s Initiative sponsored the event and looks forward to continuing the program in the years to come.

I just realized that my favorite art forms–chain mail, embroidery, laser etching–are the ones that share my favorite aspects of programming. You assemble lots of little parts into a greater whole, and everything has to be exactly right or else it’s Wrong, but if you go Wrong it’s never too late to find it and fix it. There can be serious costs to not catching mistakes quickly, especially if you’re already [at a convention/at the end of the thread/etching the file/in production] but everything is in principle infinitely modifiable. And of course the best part of all of them is that you can do them for hours and hours and then you have an awesome thing.