Category Archives: Featured

Stunningly restored color footage of Germany in 1945 right after WWII

It’s hard to imagine what the world was like during World War II. Of course, we’ve read it all in history books and and we’ve seen movies and TV shows showing what life was like, but it’s just far enough back in time and just painful and shocking enough that it’s hard to fully understand how life worked back then.

And though we’ll never fully understand how we let the events preceding the war and during it happen, here’s a glimpse of life in 1945 in a way we can maybe understand. Restored in 1080p HD and in color, this is footage showing what daily life in Berlin was like in July of 1945 after the war. The detail is incredible.

Produced by Kronos Media and featuring archival material, here’s what we’re seeing:

Pictures from the destroyed city, the Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor, Adlon, Führerbunker, Unter den Linden, rubble women working in the streets, the tram is running again.


We’ve Just Developed a Portable Cloaking Device 

If you’re a non-magical being, you might think your chances of becoming invisible are slim to nil. But don’t jump to conclusions just yet: Researchers are now claiming to have developed a portable system that can make small objects, like your keys or pet lizard, disappear from sight.

Top image: Conceptual model of an invisibility cloak in which lightwaves travel around the object, via Wikimedia

The key to real life invisibility lies in clever optical tricks that bend light around an object, shielding it from detection. In principle, such technology has only been demonstrated for very tiny objects, but now, a group of researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology say they’ve developed a scaled-up system that can be ported around and used for classroom demonstrations.

The problem researchers typically run into when they try to bend light around an object lies in compensating for the extra distance the light must travel. Since they can’t very well increase the speed of light in air, the KIT team has developed a silicon-based organic polymer (PDMS), that, doped with titanium dioxide nanoparticles, scatters light waves to slow them down. Once slowed, the light can be sped up again to make up for the longer path around the veiled object.

We've Just Developed a Portable Cloaking Device 

In a diffusive light-scattering medium, light moves on random paths. A normal object casts a shadow, an object with an invisibility cloak does not. Image Credit: R. Schittny, KIT

When the KIT researchers want to cloak an object, they place it inside a hollow metal cylinder coated with acrylic paint, which diffusely reflects light. That metal tube is then embedded inside a light-scattering PDMS block. If the time it takes light to travel through the block is just the right proportion of the time it takes light to travel through the cloak, the cloak becomes invisible. Or so the researchers say—the first actual demonstration of this technology will take place on May 13th, according to a press release.

While it’s a far cry from a cloak you can actually don—unless you fancy walking around inside a giant metal tube inside a giant block of silicon—this proof-of-concept could, one day, lead to more sophisticated materials that are wearable. In the meanwhile, a simple device that can make cellphone-sized objects disappear from sight sounds like the start of any number of excellent pranks.

Hands-on: Apple’s all-new Music app in iOS 8.4

With the release of the first developer beta of iOS 8.4 this evening, Apple gave us the first look at the oft-rumored redesign of the Music app. With the expected announcement of Apple’s streaming music service happening in June, the Music app redesign has been expected for several months now. The newly introduced Music app offers a handful of new features in the first beta of iOS 8.4, as well as a redesigned interface that’s similar to iTunes on the Mac. Let’s take a brief look…

When you first open the new Music app you’ll quickly notice that the standard tabbed interface has been changed dramatically. Along the bottom of the app are now three tabs for “My Music,” “Playlists,” and “Radio.” You can swipe left and right to navigate between the interfaces. The “My Music” interface shows your recently added music along the top, similar to the recently added section in iTunes on the Mac. Unfortunately, however, you only see the three most recent items added. The interface makes it look like you should be able to scroll horizontally to view more, but you can’t as of beta 1. Although, there is a “more” button that allows to view additional recently added content in the upper right corner.

Below the “Recently Added” section is all of your music, whether it is stored locally on your device or in the cloud. By default, the music is broken up by artist, although there is an arrow you can tap to choose to sort by artists, albums, songs, music videos, genres, composers, or complications. If you click the three dots next to a selection, you have the ability to play it next, add it to Up Next, make it available offline, and delete it. Gone is the ability to swipe left to delete a song and gone is the cloud icon that used to allow you to download a song. You now have to click the three dots to perform either of those tasks.

One of my favorite features in the iOS 8.4 Music app is the ability to manage your queue of songs. Apple has offered this in iTunes on the Mac for a while now, but never on iOS. With iOS 8.4, however, you can now choose to play a song next, or add it to your full queue. Spotify and other music apps offer features similar to this, so it’s nice to see Apple finally catching on.

Tapping on an artist from the artists page will bring you to all of the content you own by that specific musician. With a hero image at the top that fades to be the color the top menu bar as you scroll down, it’s a really pleasing interface. It can get a bit overwhelming if you have a lot of content by a single artist, but no more so than the original iOS 8 music player did.

No matter where you go in the new Music app, you’ll always see a playback bar at the bottom the interface with the ability to play or pause a song. Swiping up on the menu bar will pull up the newly designed player user interface.

The player interface itself in iOS 8.4 has been dramatically overhauled. The album artwork takes up roughly half of the interface, while the controls take up the other portion. Along the bottom of the interface are options for shuffling, repeating, viewing your queue, deleting the track, and downloading the track. The bottom portion of the interface is somewhat translucent with the shade adjusting depending on the color of the album to which you’re listening. To get out of the player interface, you can either click the down air in the upper right corner or swipe down on the album artwork.  Overall, I like the new player interface and how spread out it is compared to the original iOS 8 Music app.

Moving to the Playlists interface you’ll see another recently added section at the top for your recently modified or created playlists. Below that is a list of all your playlists with the ability to edit and delete them, as well as create new ones. The Playlists interface is somewhat bland at this point, with there being no options to sort or order them. Although it’s important to keep in mind that this is the first beta of the app, so Apple can and will adjust things as time progresses.

Finally, the Radio tab shows your recently three most recently played stations along the top. Below your recently played stations are the featured stations from Apple, with more featured stations broken down my genre visible below that. As of beta 1, there doesn’t appear to be any way to view your saved iTunes Radio stations. Instead, you rely solely on your recently played stations and search to find content other than what is featured by Apple.

The iTunes Radio interface almost feels cramped with the iOS 8.4 Music app. The album artwork for stations is so large and pushed together that it’s somewhat cluttered. Also, Apple needs to add back the ability to save iTunes Radio stations. It’s a pain to have to search every time you want to find a station to listen to. Also gone is the “info” screen that allowed you to tune stations and choose between clean and explicit versions of tracks. Again, this is a beta so things can and will change.

Overall, the Music interface Apple has previewed with the first developer beta of iOS 8.4 is promising. Its similarity to iTunes on the Mac will make it familiar to many users. There are still some areas in which Apple needs to improve it, however, and that’s to be expected with a beta. Some of the buttons are awkwardly small, while the iTunes Radio interface is cluttered and unintuitive. Nevertheless, I’m a fan of the overall design direction Apple has taken the Music app and I think, especially when coupled with a streaming music service, it will be unmatched by its rivals. More images below:

We made bank running an indie BDSM dungeon

Elizabeth Sanchez

In the latest installment of Hopes&Fears anonymous interview series, we spoke with a couple who ran a homegrown S&M operation out of their apartment. For anonymity purposes, the girlfriend will simply be known as Dominatrix and the boyfriend as Master P.

DOMINATRIX: I come from a very Catholic background. My cousin once put up photos of herself wearing a mini skirt in London and my mom assumed she was an escort. It’s like, are you serious? This is how people dress. It’s ridiculous. She’s very conservative. I still feel like in many ways I’m trapped in her past.

The squat
I got into the S&M scene before Master P. I got into it ten years ago, pretty much paying my way through college. I’d been living on my own since I was 17, and I couldn’t really hold a minimum wage job and still afford to live.

A friend and I were in Long Island City at the time, living in an illegal apartment. The landlord was absent. It was an unofficial squat but we still needed money to live. We had power and water, somehow we were on the grid, yet things weren’t official. My theory is that the people who lived there before us hooked it all up. Apparently, it was a family of vagabond gypsies. When they found out they were getting evicted, they got super spiteful and plugged up all the drains with doll heads.

One day, the place flooded really bad and we were buried in three feet of water. We realized these conditions were just too fucked up but decided to make the most of it because we couldn’t afford anything better. We decided to throw crazy parties and trash the place and to then have a slave come in and pay us to clean up after us. Then, you know, pay us for other stuff as well.

We wondered if this was possible. It turned out to be completely possible. One post on Craigslist and we were flooded with a million responses from a million guys named Mark Smith. They all used pseudonyms. Everything fell into place.

When we first started off, we didn’t have any of the equipment. We had a few corsets but we decided to make the most of what little we had. We would have them strip down completely naked and wear women’s underwear. We would have them get down on the floor and clean the entire place in a thong and take out the garbage. The neighbors eventually began watching this from their fire escape.

We made money from the parties, but not nearly as much as we were making from the dom sessions. We would charge $200 an hour. We would eventually bring it up to $300 and ask them to buy us stuff.
We quickly established rules. They weren’t allowed to make eye contact with us. They constantly had to keep their eyes to the floor. If they even looked up they would have to go to the backyard, take a twig and we would punish them.
We made bank running an indie BDSM dungeon. Изображение №2.

A dungeon versus
your apartment
After the whole squat thing, I worked at a dungeon. That was wonderful because even though you are working for someone else, you have protection. You have more at your disposal. You have all the little fantasy rooms to work with. You have a lot more control. The clientele was completely up to us and our comfort level. It’s not sketchy at all. I think it’s actually a very sterile scene to be honest. If you’re doing this in dungeons, it’s very controlled. You’re not allowed to draw blood. Full on nudity is not allowed because that would enter the realms of prostitution. When you’re doing it at home on your own, it does get crazier. I had guys who came to me with knives and wanted to get stabbed. Or they would ask me to stab them with a fucking skewer. That one was actually a professor at the college I went to. I just avoided that department from then on. I never went by the geology department or rock class after that.

MASTER P: In those situations, I would actually hang around in our bedroom and she would use the kitchen.

DOMINATRIX: And the other way around, if Master P had clients that were only into being dominated by a dude. I would just sit in the bedroom with a weapon, just in case I needed to run out. We would never be in the house alone.
Bringing in Master P
MASTER P: When we first started dating, Dominatrix had told me the stories, but it wasn’t a confessional. It was just hilarious and private. Growing up in New York City, half of my friends had worked at dungeons and related places over the years. All of the places were in Midtown. I had a friend who by the end of high school was already working at Nutcracker. She would be at my doorstep at 7 in the morning and my parents would make her coffee. She would have thousands of dollars on her and usually some Ketamine. Now she’s married with kids.

DOMINATRIX: We quickly established rules. They weren’t allowed to make eye contact with us. They constantly had to keep their eyes to the floor. If they even looked up they would have to go to the backyard, take a twig and we would punish them.

MASTER P: The most fun thing about that whole job was finding weird creative ways to hurt people. It’s a lot more fun if you improvise.

DOMINATRIX: We acted very quaint. I felt that was part of our charm, sort of like the aunt next door that abuses you.

It was easy to weed sketchy guys out through email. At first, it was the guys that sent the dick pics that immediatly raised red flags. But eventually, you learn to pick up things just from the tone of their email. The truly submissive, those who are truly into the S&M thing, will approach you with a sense of respect. And there would never be a paper trail.

MASTER P: This one guy would write me a check for $400, but he’d write the check out to “Cash.”

DOMINATRIX: I would have them all pay up front. We wouldn’t call it a payment though, we would call it a donation to the goddesses or a tribute.

DOMINATRIX: A lot of these guys are just really lonely and this was sort of a way of making a connection. We wouldn’t hear from some of them for months after a session but would later get a message asking, “Maybe we can meet up for coffee or sometime?” It’s clearly coming out of loneliness.

MASTER P: We never had a woman.

DOMINATRIX: We almost did once, but I don’t think she was willing to pay. There were a lot of hasidic men.

MASTER P: Nearly half of our clients were hasidic. Contractors.


MASTER P: We would advertise for ATM slaves which would mean literally their job was to go with us to an ATM and take all your money out. Those people exist. It’s like, if you find that unicorn, you ride that unicorn. We found people that had a lot of money. They literally got us through school.

DOMINATRIX: Master P was especially good at getting people to buy us stuff.

MASTER P: I decided I wanted some nice electronics. He was a middle aged social worker. The subject matter was heavy for him, so the S&M was a way to get out of it. I’ve never been really about tech but I told him to get me a Blackberry, an iPod touch, and a Macbook. The guy showed up two days later at my door with all three. The only thing this guy wanted to do was massage my feet and talk about literature. It wasn’t bad at all. I would smoke a joint and maybe listen to NPR.

Eventually, we actually had to cut him off because I felt like he was falling in love with me. I think a lot of people have their own sort of Pretty Woman fantasy.
We made bank running an indie BDSM dungeon. Изображение №4.
DOMINATRIX: I had this one guy who pretty much paid me to break his leg. I couldn’t do it. It’s really difficult to shatter a leg with a mallet. He was a high end lawyer so I went to his condo with a mallet in my bag. His whole thing was to get put in a cast. That was what he got off on. I never ended up shattering his leg. I was going into a frenzy trying to shatter a fucking bone. After an hour, it just ended up being super bruised and swollen, but he casted himself up anyway because that was kind of the whole point.

DOMINATRIX: We did have this one dude that wanted to take it to this crazy psychological realm where he wanted us to dress all in black, like nuns.

MASTER P: He also wanted one of us in a military hat.

DOMINATRIX: A lot of them would tell me stories about their fucked up childhoods. This one dude was into being kidnapped. So he would come over as a delivery boy with lunch or whatever. We would take the lunch from him, trip him, kidnap him, tie him up. It got weird once they decided to share their lives with us, why he thinks he’s into this. This guy said friends would kidnap him as a child and dress him in women’s clothing and parade him around the neighborhood.

MASTER P: We’d hear a lot of fucked up stuff.

DOMINATRIX: In their personal or professional lives, a lot of these men are very dominant because a lot of them happen to be very wealthy. Since they are in positions of power, the S&M may be a balancing act for them. They need to exercise both sides, that’s important especially when you have the money.

There are a lot of people that are into the controlling parent situation, especially that one guy who was really into the whole military uniform thing. He was into one of us tormenting him while the other comforted him and told him that everything’s okay. It gets into this weird sort of very classic Eastern European childhood scenario. One parent torments you while the other one tells you you’re not allowed to go anywhere because everything will be fine. There’s an afterlife, there’s no need to flee.

These sessions would usually last from 45 minutes to a couple of hours. The guy who was into getting kidnapped, I would tie him up and leave him in the bathroom for hours. You know, go outside, come back, live my life, do my homework.

MASTER P: If they are doing your laundry, it’s gonna be three hours. They would do the dishes, clean our tiles with a toothbrush. A lot of things would get cleaned with toothbrushes. But here’s the thing; a lot of these guys would do a shitty job cleaning because they want to be punished. So you really need to make sure they actually clean things properly, otherwise you have to clean after them. So you would get people who would literally leave a glass dirty while they’re doing dishes so you punish them. If I was going to be doing something for three hours, for an hour I’d put them on their hands and knees and use them as a footstool. If I needed to ash my cigarette, I’d have them put out their hand for me.

DOMINATRIX: We used to have poker nights where we would have a few slaves come over and serve us as foot stools, or pour us glasses of wine.

MASTER P: We would play violin music. You either have really powerful gay men or a lot of sad sacks. I think you had more high power people.

DOMINATRIX: No, I definitely had a nice sampling of both.

MASTER P: When you work for tips, you’re smiling at people you can’t stand. So I feel like in these kinds of situations when you’re playing a part that this person’s paying you for, they are definitely attracted to you if you’re doing a good job. You’re giving them something that no one else is, so you become very special. I found that once people start pathologizing themselves to you, they’ll never turn back. The second they try to explain themselves to you, that says that they’ve gotten to a point where they actually see you as a person who they need to justify themselves to, and the whole power dynamic is gone.

DOMINATRIX: Or they take a break for a year or two and then text you out of the blue at 2 in the morning.

MASTER P: I got a Facebook friend request from one guy a year ago. He must have searched my phone number or something. I don’t even remember him as a client.
We would advertise for ATM slaves which would mean literally their job was to go with us to an ATM and take all your money out. Those people exist. It’s like, if you find that unicorn, you ride that unicorn.

We made bank running an indie BDSM dungeon. Изображение №5.

The Hungarian
MASTER P: I had one guy who bruised his hip in our shower. He had a weird Hungarian accent. He was 70 years old, a bachelor, and every night he was into some kind of weird sex thing. When he came to our place, neither of us liked him. The next day, he sent me an email saying how he bruised his hip in our shower.

DOMINATRIX: I just didn’t know what to make of it. Are you trying to file a lawsuit or something?

MASTER P: I responded that it’s not our responsibility. He’s like, “You know the reason I’m writing is that when I went to the doctor to get it looked at, he told me it turns out that I have high cholesterol, so thank you very much.”

MASTER P: What was this man doing in my shower? I was peeing on him. It’s the easiest thing in the world, especially if you have a caffeinated existence. You don’t need to buy any equipment. You just need to shower, which most of us have. You don’t do it outside of the shower. That was a huge part of my repertoire.

DOMINATRIX: And you were really one of the few people to do it. That’s a line that a lot of people won’t cross.

London banker
MASTER P: I had this guy. He was British, a proper London banker type. He was really into shoes. He sends me an email he’s like, “First thing, listen, I know we will be able to work together if you open the door and immediately kick me in the balls.” Like, if before I’m even in your apartment, you kick me in the balls as hard as you can. And I’m like “okay.” So he gets there, opens the door, and I swiftly kick him in the balls. He says “thank you,” and comes inside and immediately assumes a force stance. I kick him in the balls for a good 30 minutes and I take him to the bathroom, tell him to strip and lie down in the shower, and I direct the cold water directly onto the balls where I had been kicking him. Then he says, “Please sir, please sir, where are your shoes?” So I take off one of my shoes and put it on his mouth and leave. When I come back five minutes later he hasn’t even moved. He asks, “Can you kick me some more?” So I kicked him for another five minutes and then I went, “I’m bored, pay me.” So he gets his wallet, pays me, assumes the position, I kick him again and he goes back to London. He took a lot of abuse in a very short amount of time. I mean, I could’ve caused him permanent damage, you know? That was towards the end, that was when I got good at that stuff. I knew what I was doing, and that kind of freaked me out, that level of sadism. I used to be a hippie, I’m not trying to be that sadistic. The cold water, I mean, I pretty much sat and smoked a cigarette.
You’re giving them something that no one else is, so you become very special. I found that once people start pathologizing themselves to you, they’ll never turn back.

Velvet Cigars
MASTER P: You know Velvet Cigars on Christopher Street? The proprietor of that place was legendary to everyone who went high school in the city. You would go there and whip your dick out and get two packs of cigarettes. We had a friend who was kind of like his casting agent, and he would just go around and be like, “Hey, if you need cigarettes, money, come to Velvet Cigars.” Also, he would give you $300 for a hug, it was pretty great. It was a gyrating hug.

We were all sitting around reading Tim Carroll’s memoirs and we were making money that way. I remember there was still one guy in the Village who walked up to me and a friend of mine—we were 14—and offered us $100 each to spit in his mouth. It just happens, you know?

I used to know a lot of crusty kids who were always selling themselves to somebody in some way. There’s a cool kind of industry. Our friend used to mail his socks to this one guy in Indiana. My friend was into the train hopping thing, and wherever he was in the country he would just mail the socks he had been wearing for a couple months to this guy and would request a couple hundred bucks.

DOMINATRIX: I stopped after a guy wanted to be comforted after the beatings. I was not willing to hug him. Hugs are for certain types of people. It wasn’t even the fact that he wanted a hug, but, it was when he tried to reason with us. When we first said “no,” his reaction was like, “Maybe we can all sit down and talk about this, maybe we can talk about why we’re uncomfortable in the first place, I feel like that’s a very interesting path for us to go down.” And I was like “Yeah, I don’t think so, this is just to make money not for, like, delving into our souls.”

MASTER P: It can be fun but sometimes it’s just pathetic. You’re dealing with all these really sad people. Eventually, I found another job that just seemed like less trouble.

We made bank running an indie BDSM dungeon. Изображение №6.

The Payoff
It paid for a great vacation to Jamaica. We also developed a really bad cocaine habit because of how much money we were making, but eventually that got sorted out.

Most of the people who work in the professional realm have PhDs and stuff. I met a woman who works as a dominatrix who has her PhD in Women’s Studies. She has no problem saying, “I’m a dominatrix.”

You can either sell drugs and risk your livelihood or you could do this. There’s only a few things you could do for that much money while you’re still in school. It basically enabled me to do internships that I would never have been able to do otherwise. No one was giving me any subsidies. But with S&M, I got to do awesome internships with amazing organizations.

DOMINATRIX: It allowed me to paint and put together a few art shows. Imagine working an eight to nine hour day at a diner making $50 a day six days a week and not having time for anything for anything else.

Art is in many ways a luxury, especially the practice of it. You can’t do it if you’re starving. I don’t believe in starving artists. Part of being an artist is finding a way to feed yourself to survive, so that you’re not constantly seeking the basics.

DOMINATRIX: It was fun, and I just love that we got to go to Jamaica for two weeks and fuck around, smoking weed and renting jet skis.

MASTER P: What we did was very successful. What made me stop was that it was almost kind of getting too successful. Everybody knew my name. Strangers were calling me.

DOMINATRIX: I’ve suppressed a lot of these memories but not even out of shame or anything, just to move on with life. It can be a huge distraction like, “Why don’t I just keep doing this,” but yeah, it definitely helped me through my apprenticeship. Sometimes, I think about doing it occasionally or something, you know Airbnb-ing our apartment and renting a hotel for a couple of days. Or renting a cabin in the adirondacks and making it its own dungeon.
I couldn’t do it. It’s really difficult to shatter a leg with a mallet.

There Are No Blindspots With This Real-Time 3D View Of Your Car

There are already countless vehicles that use multiple tiny cameras to give the driver an overhead view of what objects or obstacles are around their car while parking. But SPTek has developed a system that’s able to show a driver what’s around their vehicle while on the road, completely eliminating the blindspot that’s responsible for so many accidents.

The 3D-AVMS system uses four 190-degree wide-angle lens cameras hidden on the sides, front, and back of a vehicle. Those cameras feed 100 megapixels worth of digital imagery to an on-board computer that generates a real-time omnidirectional view around a 3D representation of the car. So drivers are not only not limited to just an overhead view of what’s around their vehicle, they can see what’s going on in all directions and from almost any angle.

The 3D-AVMS system has already been installed on a tour bus, notoriously difficult to navigate in crowded downtown areas of a city. But SPTek plans to fully commercialize the technology beginning in August of this year which means it just might show up as an option when it’s time to get a new car in a couple of years. [SPTek via Nikkei Technology]

Pacapong: An Insane Game Mashup

Do you love retro video games, but find them too easy to play after all these years? Maybe if you played them all at the same time, it would be more challenging. That’s what Pacapong does: it combines Pac-Man, Pong, and Space Invaders into one game that will put your concentration and dexterity to the test.

To increase your score-bar in Pacapong you simply collect as many pills as possible within the time limit.  Once fired your Pacman can be controlled to a small degree, but will always be inclined to heading towards your opponents side.  To make things a little trickier (and more awesome) you also have to contend with ghosts, hit them and you’ll lose a chunk of your score bar (unless you pick up a power pill).  To make things yet even more trickier (and indeed more awesome), you also have to contend with Space Invaders who descend your side of the screen whenever your opponent collects them – with some careful manoeuvring you can even shoot them with the pills you collect with Pacman.

It seems insanely complicated to me, but I still find those old games challenging individually. You can see a video of gameplay at YouTube. Pacapong is a free download. -via Unreality

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

We humans are doing a bang-up job of messing up our home planet. But who’s to say we can’t go on to screw things up elsewhere? Here, not listed in any particular order, are 12 unintentional ways we could do some serious damage to our Solar System, too.

Wild speculation ahead…

Above: We could cause some serious damage with a Shkadov Thruster (see #7). Credit: L. Blaszkiewicz/CC.

1) A Particle Accelerator Disaster

By accidentally unleashing exotic forms of matter from particle accelerators, we run the risk of annihilating the entire solar system.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

Prior to the construction of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, some scientists worried that collisions created by the highly energetic accelerator might spawn such nasties like vacuum bubbles, magnetic monopoles, microscopic black holes, or strangelets (a.k.a. “strange matter” — a hypothetical form of matter similar to conventional nuclei, but also containing many of the heavier strange quarks). These concerns were condemned by the scientific community as “rubbish” and nothing more than rumors spread by “unqualified people seeking sensation or publicity.” Moreover, a 2011 report published by the LHC Safety Assessment Group concluded that the collisions presented no danger.

Anders Sandberg, a research fellow who works out of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, agrees that a particle accelerator disaster is unlikely, but warns that if strangelets were to be somehow unleashed, “it would be bad.” As he explained to io9:

Converting even a planet like Mars to strange matter would release a fraction of the rest mass as radiation (plus perhaps splatter strangelets). Assuming a conversion acting on a hour timescale and releasing just 0.1% as radiation gives a mean luminosity of 1.59*10^34 W, or about 42 million times the sun. Most of which would be hard gamma rays.

Ouch. Obviously, the LHC is incapable of producing strange matter, but perhaps some future experiment, either on Earth or in space, could produce the stuff. It’s hypothesized, for example, that strange matter exists at high pressure inside neutron stars. Should we artificially create those conditions, it could end the show real quick. (Image credit: The Core.)

2) A Stellar Engineering Project Gone Horribly Wrong

We could also wreck the Solar System by severely damaging or altering the Sun during a stellar engineering project, or by screwing up planetary dynamics in the process.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

Some futurists speculate that future humans (or our posthuman descendants) may choose to embark upon any number of stellar engineering projects, including stellar husbandry. Writing in Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience, David Criswell from the University of Houston described stellar husbandry as the effort to control the evolution and properties of stars, including attempts to prolong their lifespans, extract material, or create new stars. To make a star burn less rapidly, and thus last longer, future stellar engineers would work to remove its excess mass (big stars expend fuel faster).

But the potential for a catastrophe is significant. Like plans to engage in geoengineering projects here on Earth, stellar engineering projects could result in any number of unforeseen consequences, or instigate uncontrollable cascade effects. For example, efforts to remove the Sun’s mass could create bizarre and dangerous flaring effects, or result in a life-threatening decrease in luminosity. It could also have a pronounced effect on planetary orbits. ( Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

3) A Failed Attempt to Stellify Jupiter

Some thought has been given to the prospect of turning Jupiter into a kind of artificial star. But in the attempt to do so, we could destroy Jupiter itself and wipe out life on Earth.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

Jupiter transforming into the Lucifer star in 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

Writing in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, astrophysicist Martyn Fogg proposed that we stellify Jupiter as a first step to terraforming the Galilean satellites. To do so, future humans would seed Jupiter with a tiny primordial black hole. The black hole would have to engineered perfectly so that it not fall outside the bounds of the Eddington limit (an equilibrium point between the outward force of radiation and the inward force of gravity). According to Fogg, this would produce “energy sufficient to create effective temperatures on Europa and Ganymede that would be similar to the values on Earth and Mars, respectively.”

Lovely, except for what would happen if things go askew. As Sandberg told io9, it would work fine at first — but the black hole could grow and eventually absorb Jupiter in a burst of radiation that would sterilize the entire Solar System. With life extinguished and Jupiter sucked up into a black hole, our neighborhood would be a complete mess.

4) Screwing Up the Orbital Dynamics of the Planets

Should we start to mess around with the location and mass of planets or other celestial bodies, we run the risk of upsetting the Solar System’s delicate orbital balance.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

Indeed, the orbital dynamics in our Solar System are surprisingly fragile. It has been estimated than even the slightest perturbation could result in chaotic and even potentially dangerous orbital motions. The reason for this is that planets are subject to resonances, which is what happens when any two periods assume a simple numerical ratio (e.g., Neptune and Pluto are in a 3:2 orbital resonance, as Pluto completes two orbits for every three orbits of Neptune).

The result is that two orbiting bodies can influence each other even when they’re quite distant. Regular close encounters can result in the smaller object getting destabilized and cleared right out of its original orbit — and even the Solar System altogether!

Looking to the future, such chaotic resonances could happen naturally, or we could instigate them by fidgeting around with the Sun and planets. As already noted, there’s the potential for stellar engineering. The prospect of moving Mars into the habitable zone, which could be done by decaying its orbit with asteroids, could likewise upset the orbital balance. Alternately, if we build a Dyson Sphere using material extracted from Mercury and/or Venus, we could alter orbital dynamics in a very profound and dangerous way. It could result in Mercury (or what’s left of it) being tossed from the Solar System, or Earth having an uncomfortably close encounter — or even a collision — with a large object like Mars. (Illustration: Hagai Perets.)

(5) The Reckless Maneuvering of a Warp Drive

A spaceship driven by a warp drive would be awesome, no doubt, but it would also be incredibly dangerous. Any object, like a planet, at the destination point would be subject to massive expenditures of energy.

Also known as an Alcubierre engine, a warp drive could someday work by generating a bubble of negative energy around it. By expanding space and time behind the ship, while squeezing space in front of it, a ship could be pushed to velocities not limited by the speed of light.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

Regrettably, however, this energy bubble has the potential to do some serious damage. Back in 2012, a research team crunched the numbers to see what kind of damage an FTL drive of this nature could inflict. Writing in Universe Today, Jason Major explains:

Space is not just an empty void between point A and point B… rather, it’s full of particles that have mass (as well as some that do not.) What the research team…has found is that these particles can get “swept up” into the warp bubble and focused into regions before and behind the ship, as well as within the warp bubble itself.

When the Alcubierre-driven ship decelerates from superluminal speed, the particles its bubble has gathered are released in energetic outbursts. In the case of forward-facing particles the outburst can be very energetic — enough to destroy anyone at the destination directly in front of the ship.

“Any people at the destination,” the team’s paper concludes, “would be gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion due to the extreme blueshifts for [forward] region particles.”

The researchers added that, even for short journeys, the energy released is so large “you would completely obliterate anything in front of you.” And by anything, that could be an entire planet. Moreover, because the amount of energy is dependent on the length of the journey, there is potentially no limit to its intensity. An incoming warp ship could do considerably more damage than just wreck a planet. ( Image: Mark Rademaker.)

6) An Artificial Wormhole Accident

Using wormholes to sidestep the constraints of interstellar space travel sounds great in theory, but we’ll need to be extra careful when tearing a hole in the space-time continuum.

Back in 2005, Iranian nuclear physicist Mohammad Mansouryar outlined a scheme for creating a traversable wormhole. By producing enough amounts of effective exotic matter, he theorized that we could theoretically pierce a hole through the cosmological fabric of space-time and create a shortcut for spacecraft.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System4

Mansouryar’s paper is opaque, and it’s not immediately clear if he’s onto something, but as Anders Sandberg pointed out to io9, the negative consequences could be severe:

First, wormhole throats need mass-energy (possibly negative) on the scale of a black hole of the same size. Second, making time loops may cause virtual particles to become real and break down the wormhole in an energy cascade. Likely bad for the neighborhood. And besides, dump one end in the Sun and another elsewhere (a laStephen Baxter’s Ring), and you might drain the Sun and/or irradiate the solar system if it is large enough.

Yes, killing the Sun is bad. And by irradiation we’re once again talking about the complete sterilization of the Solar System.

7) A Catastrophic Shkadov Thruster Navigational Error

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

Should we choose to relocate our Solar System in the far future, we run the risk of destroying it completely.

In 1987, Russian Physicist Leonid Shkadov proposed a megastructure concept, since dubbed the Shkadov Thruster, that could literally move our solar system and all that’s within it to a neighboring star system. In the future, this would allow us to reject our older, dying star in favor of a younger version.

Writing in Popular Mechanics, Adam Hadhazy explains how it works:

The Shkadov Thruster setup is simple (in theory): It’s just a colossal, arc-shaped mirror, with the concave side facing the sun. Builders would place the mirror at an arbitrary distance where gravitational attraction from the sun is balanced out by the outward pressure of its radiation. The mirror thus becomes a stable, static satellite in equilibrium between gravity’s tug and sunlight’s push.

Solar radiation reflects off the mirror’s inner, curved surface back toward the sun, effectively pushing our star with its own sunlight—the reflected energy produces a tiny net thrust. Voilà, a Shkadov Thruster, and humanity is ready to hit the galactic trail.

What could go wrong, right? Clearly, lots. We could miscalculate and scatter the Solar System to the cosmos, or even smash directly into the other star.

Which brings up an interesting point: If we develop the capacity to move between stars, we should also be able to figure out how to manipulate or influence the plethora of small objects located in the outer reaches of the solar system. We’re definitely going to have to careful here. As Sandberg warns, “Ah, destabilizing the Kuiper belt or Oort cloud: whoops, we got zillions of comets slamming into everything!” ( Image credit: Steve Bowers.)

8) Attracting Evil Aliens

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

If the advocates of Active SETI have their way, we could soon be transmitting messages to space in the hopes of alerting aliens to our presence. You know, because all aliens must be nice. (Image credit: Mars Attacks.)

9) The Return of Mutated von Neumann Probes

Say we send out a fleet of exponentially self-replicating von Neumann probes to colonize the Galaxy. Assuming they’re programmed very, very poorly, or somebody deliberately creates an evolvable probe, they could mutate over time and transform into something quite malevolent.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System5

Eventually, our clever little space-faring devices could come back to haunt us by ripping our Solar System to shreds, or by sucking up resources and pushing valuable life out of existence. (Image: Babylon 5.)

10) An Interplanetary Grey Goo Disaster

Somewhat similar to self-replicating space probes, there’s also the potential for something much smaller, yet equally as dangerous: exponentially replicating nanobots. A grey goo disaster, where an uncontrollable swarm of nanobots or macrobots consume all planetary resources to create more copies of itself, need not be confined to planet Earth. Such a swarm could hitch a ride aboard an escaping spaceship or planetary fragment, or even originate in space as part of some megastructure project. Once unleashed in the Solar System, it would quickly turn everything into mush.

11) An Artificial Superintelligence Run Amok

One of the dangers of creating artificial superintelligence is that it has the potential to do much more than just snuff out life on Earth; it could spread out into the Solar System — and even potentially beyond.

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

The oft-cited paperclip scenario, in which a poorly programmed ASI converts the entire planet into paperclips, conveys the urgency of the problem. Should an out-of-control ASI emerge, it’s obviously not going to produce paperclips ad nauseam, but it could do something else, like produce an endless supply of computer processors or turn all available matter into useable computronium. An ASI may even devise a meta-ethical imperative it feels it must enforce across the entire Galaxy. (Image credit: Stevebidmead/Pixabay/CC.)

12) Making the Solar System Meaningless

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

Which we would do by going extinct.

Apple Watch Meta Review: Not Perfect, But Full of Potential

Apple Watch Meta Review: Not Perfect, But Full of Potential

The Apple Watch won’t be on your wrist until this Friday at the earliest, but the first reviews of Apple’s new wrist computer are just coming in.

The verdict? It’s not a perfect product. It has some first generation flaws, and other quirks. There’s a bit of a learning curve. And you probably shouldn’t buy one. But. But! It’s the best smartwatch out there and just oozes potential.

And by all accounts, yes, the Apple Watch battery can make it through the average day, if only just barely.


I’ve been using the Apple Watch for a week. I’ve worn it on my wrist every day, doing everything possible that I could think of. I’ve tracked walks and measured my heart rate, paid for lunch, listened to albums while exploring parks without my phone, chatted with family, kept up on email, looked for Ubercars, kept up on news, navigated on long car trips for Passover, controlled my Apple TV with it and followed baseball games while I was supposed to be watching my 2-year-old.

The watch is beautiful and promising — the most ambitious wearable that exists. But in an attempt to do everything in the first generation, the Apple Watch still leaves plenty to be desired. Short battery life compared with other watches and higher prices are the biggest flags for now. But Apple is just setting sail, and it has a long journey ahead.

Geoffrey Fowler at the Wall Street Journal:

This description may either strike you as helpful or oppressive. It has made me more present. I’m less likely to absent-mindedly reach for my phone, or feel compelled to leave it on the table during supper.

With the Apple Watch, smartwatches finally make sense. The measure of their success shouldn’t be how well they suck you in, but how efficiently they help you get things done. Living on your arm is part of that efficiency—as a convenient display, but also a way to measure your heart rate or pay at a cash register. This is a big idea about how we use technology, the kind of idea we expect from Apple.

Joanna Stern at the Wall Street Journal:

After over a week of living with Apple’s latest gadget on my wrist, I realized the company isn’t just selling some wrist-worn computer, it’s selling good looks and coolness, with some bonus computer features. Too many features that are too hard to find, if you ask me.

… There are so many things the watch can do, so many menus and features you must spend time figuring out, that for better or worse, you end up shaping your own experience.

… Unless you opt for the cheapest $350 sport version, you should really wait for the future.

The New York Times:

The Apple Watch is far from perfect, and, starting at $350 and going all the way up to $17,000, it isn’t cheap. Though it looks quite smart, with a selection of stylish leather and metallic bands that make for a sharp departure from most wearable devices, the Apple Watch works like a first-generation device, with all the limitations and flaws you’d expect of brand-new technology.

… Still, even if it’s not yet for everyone, Apple is on to something with the device. The Watch is just useful enough to prove that the tech industry’s fixation on computers that people can wear may soon bear fruit. In that way, using the Apple Watch over the last week reminded me of using the first iPhone. Apple’s first smartphone was revolutionary not just because it did what few other phones could do, but also because it showed off the possibilities of a connected mobile computer.

The Verge:

The Apple Watch is one of the most ambitious products I’ve ever seen; it wants to do and change so much about how we interact with technology. But that ambition robs it of focus.

There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today. It is one of the most ambitious products I’ve ever seen; it wants to do and change so much about how we interact with technology. But that ambition robs it of focus: it can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well. For all of its technological marvel, the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for.

Bloomberg Business:

The Apple Watch can certainly make you a worse dinner guest. But it can also make you a slightly better one. The difference is whether or not you’re willing to think about what really matters vs. what seems to matter.

The watch is not life-changing. It is, however, excellent. Apple will sell millions of these devices, and many people will love and obsess over them. It is a wonderful component of a big ecosystem that the company has carefully built over many years. It is more seamless and simple than any of its counterparts in the marketplace. It is, without question, the best smartwatch in the world.


Some people have already decided they’re getting Apple Watch on the day it comes out. Because they love Apple. Because they like new things and being the first to buy them. Because there has been so much hype around this product.

But Apple Watch is not a cure-all, and it’s likely not a timepiece you will pass down to your grandkids. It is a well-designed piece of technology that will go through a series of software updates, until one day, years from now, when the lithium ion battery can no longer hold much of a charge and it won’t seem as valuable to you.

iMac Computer Desk via Hacked Ikea Products

iMac computer desk

Gérard from The Netherlands has a sleek solution for his iMac
“My Apple iMac obstructed our dinner table for a year. My wife did not make much of it. To please her I did a little Ikea hacking. I bought a Ludvig Laptop shelf/charging station. And a Ludvig Router/modem wall cabinet. I used the wall cabinet as computer stand and the laptop shelf for my keyboard and mouse. Both Ludvigs have nice compartments for various stuff (Hard drives, headset, DVD’s etc.) The set is complemented with a Vitamin stool. When not in use the shelf is put to rest and the computer is not in the way. I think it is a nice hack and my wife is pleased. Mission accomplished.”
Steve Jobs would be proud.
Ikea Furniture hacked to become a sleek desk for an Apple iMac.

iMac Custom Desk
Hacked Ikea Desk for Apple COmputers

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn’t Want You To See

Ikea biffed by going after IkeaHackers, the fan site that shares all kinds of new uses and smart mods for the Swedish superstore’s affordable furniture—seriously, you can’t buy this kind of devotion. Until founder Jules Yap sets up shop under a new name, let’s have a look at a few of the projects that make her site so endlessly scrollable.

There’s such a range of finished works—from “Oh oh I could do that!” to “Why would you do that?!” to “Hey now that gives me an idea…”—that it’s tough not to fall into a DIY-design clickhole. Here are some of the adventures-in-how-to that stood out to us. Share your own personal faves below!

A Cozy Hamster Home Made From a Bookshelf

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

There’s no end to what you can to with an Expedit (RIP). This awesome hamster habitat won the Hack of the Year in 2010, and it’s easy to see why: Some small modifications to the Expedit—plus a little glass—turned Ikea’s beloved shelving system into a home for a furry friend.

A Curving Wall Made From $2 Vases

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

You’d never guess that this sleek, sinuous privacy screen—which turns the bathroom of an open loft into its own space—was made from $2 Rektangel vases. But yep: Hundreds of these glass thangs were tipped on their sides and repurposed.

A Huge Library Made From Billy Bookcases

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

There’s a reason this incredible personal library won the 2011 Hack of the Year. It’s made from 60—yes, 60—Billy bookshelves, Ikea’s bargain basement bookshelf. Attached to the French country home of Chas Saunter, they look undeniably classy.

A Coffee Table Made From File Organizers

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Here’s the archetypal example of IkeaHacking brilliance. Take one stool, four nested file organizers, and boom: A transformable table with tons of storage space for under $10. All you have to do is glue the folders together and attach them to the stool. For an added bonus, the nested folders inside the table pull out to change its profile.

A Guitar Made From a Table

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Things really get cool when an Ikea hacker has soldering skills: This brilliant hacker turned a plain old wood table top into a beautiful working guitar. More info here.

A Kid’s Raincoat Made From an Ikea Bag

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Now this is unexpected. Tracing around an old kid’s jacket will give a decent enough pattern for this cute little coat. Lined or unlined, it’s pretty ingenious—though apparently it will dull the hell out of your sewing machine needle. I’m wondering whether to try to make one for myself…

A Super-Skinny Desk For iMacs

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Here’s a solution for all those space-challenged Ikea hackers out there (and aren’t there so many!). This Dutch hacker took a shelf and a cabinet and mounted them to the wall, creating what might be the skinniest desk for an iMac ever built. The best part might be the fact that there aren’t any errant cables hanging around: They’re all stored inside the upper cabinet.

A Hidden Potty Made From a $25 Chair

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Okay, this is admittedly not for everyone, but it’s a smart solution! An industrious family member made this for her grandma’s home in Malacca, Malaysia, which is lacking upstairs plumbing. Adding a raised section to the top and a few privacy panels between the legs of a Stefan chair, a small bowl can easily slide in to the hole. Noted: next time she’s choosing a model with arms, for extra comfort (though it would be tough to beat Homer’s Lazy Man Toilet Seat for sheer sit-back-and-relax luxury).

A Bedside Table Made From a Stool

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

This was designed to allow or opening the drawers under a Mandal bed, but relocating two of the Frosta stool’s legs looks like it would make a killer sofa table, too (as long as the height was right).

A Storage Bed Made From Nine Cabinets

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See11

There are a lot of storage beds on IkeaHackers, but there’s something about the structure and staging of this one, which used nine Faktum cabinets, that makes it look particularly perfect for a small space. It’s involved (with extended blog post how-to here), but if you had the tools and the time and the drive—it would be incredible to make something this functional look this good.

The Perfect Sewing Table Made From a Plain Old Desk

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

This is another project that’s going to require some power tools, but if you’re keen on sewing and have the room for a dedicated place to stitch, this is a might purdy use of an Ingo table. Additional tutorial here, if you’re into it.

A Kids’ Desk (and Hidden Cat Toilet) Made From Lockers

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See13

Okay, hey—we’re back to unconventional spots to pee and poo. The name here really says it all, and all it took was a long piece of MDF, a pair of Ikea PS Lockers, and a cat flap inserted into a custom cut-out in the side. Slide a litter box in the drawer and you’re good to go.

A Bookshelf and Ceilingscape Made From Toy Bins

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Wowie. This effect was made pretty much exclusively out of Trofast toy storage boxes affixed to the walls and ceiling: some facing out and filled with magazines and books, some facing the other way and lit from within by LEDs. Impressive. Most impressive.

A Bookshelf Made From Stools

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Ikea’s iconic Frosta stool is a cult favorite—and here, it’s turned into a beautifully abstract bookshelf that seems to climb up the wall like a vine. Very cool.

A Backsplash Made From Glass Shelves

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Rather than spring for some spendy backsplash, this cool kitchen has a series of Rationell glass panels installed flush up against the wall between counter and cabinet. But first! Wallpaper will make it match whatever else you’ve got going on, color-and-style-wise.

A Twins’ High Chair Made From a Dining Room Table

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Take an average Bjursta dining room table, two average plastic high chairs, do a little clever sawing, et voila: An incredible double-trouble high chair.

A Flash Drive Made From a Stuffed Crocodile

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Ikea hacking doesn’t have to be all about furniture: This clever hacker took a plush stuffed animal from Ikea’s kids section, decapitated it, and installed a hidden USB drive.

A Beautiful Bathtub Stand Made From a Two Table Tops

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

It wasn’t easy to figure out a design to encase the new tub in this remolded bathroom—but using two Ikea Pronomen countertops, the crew was able to perfectly fit the wood around the irregular space.

An Epic Catwalk Made From Shelving

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

The Best Hacks From the Fan Site Ikea Doesn't Want You To See

Hyllis shelves are good for more than just books: This Texas hacker turned them into one of the craziest cat playgrounds I’ve ever seen. Hung from the ceiling with brackets, these ordinary shelves become an incredible jungle gym for this lucky kitty.

These are just a few of our favorite hacks, but there are thousands more out there. Share yours with us below!

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