This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone and a belated Happy Independence Day for all of you who celebrated yesterday. Aside from the pomp and awesomeness that usually attends the 4th, we've been pressing full court on preparations for Gen Con. I promise there will be so, so many posts in the very near future, specifically entries covering the construction of Steampunk Hawkgirl, who is tantalizingly close to being done. In the meantime though, let's get down to the week in Geekdom.

Games

After a 3-year hiatus, one of the most popular racing games to ever grace a mobile platform, CSR2, is nearly here. Here's a sneak peek of what's in store.

Movies/TV

Get ready to chat up your hand again. It's been confirmed that a new Vampire Hunter D series will be developed.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (and possibly the most awkward movie title of all time) is still actively being developed, but we have these descriptions of what the film will likely feature.

Science/Technology

As part of our delayed celebrations of the 4th, here's the physics behind last night's fireworks displays.

In a show of true patriotism (or just a brilliant analogue to today's final game of the Women's World Cup), the USA has challenged Japan to a duel. The weapons? Giant robots.


The latest issue of Psychological Science contains yet another study linking the playing of certain computer games with the attenuation of PTSD symptoms.

Last weekend was an extremely tough one for our favorite would-be Bond villain, Elon Musk, and his aerospace concern, SpaceX. However, here's why SpaceX is likely to bounce back and soon.


If light can't escape the clutches of a black hole, how does gravity do it?

An exoplanet? In our solar system? It's an outcome more likely than you may think.

What if your eyes could perceive all the asteroids in the vicinity of Earth? It'd probably look something like this:


As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

It's Sunday again? Seriously? Well alright then. Now that we're 30 days out from Gen Con 2015 my days have pretty much been all costuming all the time. You guys will get to see the fruits of those labors and get the details of how everything has come together in the very near future, I promise. However, for now, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

Image Credit
It's official, Miles Morales will be Spider-Man in the upcoming post-Secret Wars run featuring the webslinger. 

Top Cow Productions has confirmed that Witchblade will be coming to an end this October.


Games

After over two decades on the market, Settlers of Catan will be getting a new look and a new name with the release of its fifth edition.

Can't wait until November to get your fix of Avalanche's Mad Max game? They were kind enough to give us this trailer to help tide us over.


Take one part SpaceChem and one part absurdity, then add a heaping helping of felines and you've got The Cat Machine.

Apparently Rocksteady learned nothing from the experiences of Ubisoft as the former has temporarily suspended sales of Batman: Arkham Knight to address the myriad of issues that have been plaguing the much-anticipated PC version of the title.

Table flipping has now passed from ubiquitous psuedo-meme to a live, playable arcade game.

One intripid Redditor attempted to pre-order Fallout 4 by shipping over 2,200 bottlecaps to Bethesda. This week, the company decided that was a fair exchange.

Do you feel that Doom is too violent a game! Really? Bethesda has this to say to you.

Want a jetpack in Grand Theft Auto V? Fear not, for modders have given you exactly that.

Movies/TV

Some of the biggest names of the cast of the new Star Trek films have signed on to return for at least two more sequels.

We're going to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shift away from its current trajectory in season 3 in order to tie-in more closely with the comics.

Here's why you won't see Will Smith in Independence Day: Resurgence. You will, however, see Jeff Goldblum.

Hawkgirl will be the next character from the DC universe to get her own TV series.

We have an official trailer for the live-action Attack on Titan.


Science/Technology

Londoner Nicky Ashwell was the recipient of the "BeBionic", what's been touted as the world's most precise and anatomically accurate prosthetic hand.

Meet MoDe:Flex, Ford's eBike that can alert you to potholes in the road and break down to fit in your trunk.


Researchers now feel that vaccines made in the 1960s made those who received said inoculations more susceptible to getting chlamydia. Now they believe they've solved the mystery as to why that was the case and what it could mean for the development of future medications.

Novartis, the makers of Excedrin, have teamed up with Oculus Rift to create a simulation that will allow 'players' to experience what it's like to suffer from migraines.

The latest edition of Ecology Letters includes this contention that Darwin's finches have reached genetic equilibrium.

Two years ago a Dutch artist was charged with coming up with a way to dampen ambient noise levels surrounding Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. This is the solution he came up with.

General Awesomeness

Do you love Disney princesses? Did you see Jurassic World and now you can't get enough dinosaurs? Behold, the Velociprincesses.


Feats of Nerdery

This incredible Starcraft 2 fan film just might give you pause the next time you unleash a Zergling rush on a Terran outpost.

Speaking of Starcraft, check out this record-breaking Minecraft 'tapestry' made by artist Thorlar Thorlarian from 1.1 million of the diminutive digital blocks.

It took over a year and $10,000 USD worth of materials to build, but this fan-built rendering of Scrooge McDuck's money vault is gobsmackingly, insanely accurate.

A Japanese Mad Max fan wanted to share the film with his son, but the 5th grader is too young to be admitted to the theater. Solution: build a Doof Wagon model completely out of Lego.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week In Geekdom

Hi everyone. We're closing in on one month out from Gen Con 2015! Between our con preparations and keeping abreast of the news streaming out of E3 it was a busy, busy few days. So, without further ado, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

DC has confirmed that perennial villainesses Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are officially a couple.

Games

Redacted Studios gave us this trailer for Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma. The game will be available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 later this year.


Watch the AI Marl/O introduce itself to Super Mario Bros. and teach itself to play the game.

Blizzard announced that it will release a completely free three-mission single-player mini Starcraft 2 campaign titled Whispers of Oblivion. The missions will bridge the narrative gap between Heart of the Swarm and the forthcoming Legacy of the Void. Blizzard did not provide a date of availability for Whispers, but you can follow the game's development (and sign up for the Legacy beta) here.

Need a little post-apocalyptic fix to get you through to November and the release of Fallout 4? If you have an iDevice, you can give Fallout Shelter a try.

Speaking of Fallout, if you're a fan of modding your games then you may be pleased to know that your PC mods will be fully transferable to the Xbox One.

And while we're on a Bethesda streak, here are the first five playable minutes of Doom.

Thirteen years after we last saw an installment of the Pro Skater franchise, Robomodo will be bringing us Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5.

Shenmue 3 became the fastest Kickstarter project to reach the $2 million funds raised mark.


Movies/TV

It's official: Starz has greenlit a TV series based on Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods.

38 years after it was first screened, Episode IV was finally released to cinemas in China.

Science/Technology

Curious about how the Earth might look, climatically speaking, in the year 2100? NASA has put together these projections to show us exactly that.
This Vermeer is not what it seems

In addition to those thermal maps, NASA put together this composite to celebrate the 20th birthday of the Astronomy Photo of the Day (APOD).

The Philae comet lander called home to Earth this week not once, but twice.

Joris Laarman is on a quest to put his company, MX3D, at the forefront of 3D printing technology with his line of robots that can print bridges in mid-air.

In what may be a revolutionary leap for the creation of prosthetic limbs, researchers at Linz University in Austria have developed an artificial leg that's capable of 'feeling' sensations.

Amazon has launched their new review system that is inherently intelligent and capable of learning. If anyone had Amazon in their 'Will be the source of real-life Skynet' pool, go collect your prize.

Universities throughout the U.S. are on a quest to bring back fully flavored and satisfying strawberries.

The BBC is developing the BBC Concept, a headset that will allow TV viewers to change the channel with a mere thought.


Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have developed a cellulose-based, biodegradable semiconductor chip. Yep, that's a computer chip made of wood.

The latest issue of Cancer Discovery includes this research on a novel test for prostate cancer.

Physicists at MIT have been able to get the gaseous form of sodium potassium to within a hair's breadth of absolute zero.

General Awesomeness

Behold the Hot Wheels garage where you can see the real-life counterparts to your favorite models.


As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Want to Play: a MegaGame

File this one under things I Desperately Wanted to Finish and Post a Week Ago. It’s come up a couple of times in the past few entries, so you guys might be aware that for the past few months I’ve been dealing with a decidedly un-fun set of health issues. I won’t bore you guys with the details, but symptoms and path to recovery have done a number on me, so the otherwise ordinary task of drafting up a post ends up taking far longer than it used to.

But no medical malady was about to keep me from participating in my very first Megagame.  
Wait, I think I’ve heard of those. Aren’t Megagames kind of like model UN?

Sort of. One thing is for sure: the name is especially apt. Take one part model UN, one part LARP, and one part board game on steroids. Blend in the company of 30-50 new friends over the course of six or so hours and you end up with a Megagame.

That sounds amazing, if maybe a little intense. What’s it like to play?

Short answer: awesome, if also delightfully exhausting.

The longer answer could probably do with a little setting of the proverbial stage. Megagames are the brainchild of a group of British friends who have been coming up with the large scale playable scenarios since the early 80s. Scenarios, which comprise both the fundamental rules and the core narrative of the game, can vary significantly in terms of the subject matter covered and the roles made available to individual players.

Whether the thematic narrative involves clashing Celtic tribes or scheming Renaissance era Italian barons the basic mechanics remain largely the same. Players are assigned a role, each with specific abilities and functions, and are usually tasked with leveraging those to the benefit of whatever team or faction they are placed in. Some players are given access to and control of one or more colossal board game-ish setups, which usually represent combat and/or tactical interactions with the forces of other factions. A combination of interactions in those giant board games and skillful roleplaying will yield a winner, though winning seems to be less a concern than just performing well and producing memorable experiences.

Image Credit
Our theme was ‘Watch the Skies’, a scenario in which teams of five or six players would represent current nations in the lead up to and fallout from humanity’s first point of contact with extraterrestrials. Each ‘country’ had a leader, a vice-presidential type role, a science officer, a military commander, a representative to the UN, and a utility role. Players could also be placed with the invading/visiting aliens or take on the role of a member of the media attempting to report on the historic events as they unfolded.

If you guessed that last one was the role that I got to play, you’d be correct. While it wasn’t too much of a stretch to play a fact-hungry blogger, taking control of the Global Technology Journal gave me a unique vantage to see just how a Megagame worked while still being an active participant. The rules for the media were surprisingly robust and added an interesting dynamic to the game as a whole. Not only did the media players have to try to keep up with, and provide accurate citations for, the sometimes chaotic happenings around us, but we had to do so before any of our media brethren could land the scoop themselves. Balancing the need for timeliness with the accuracy (while simultaneously trying to curry favor with the individual countries) was definitely challenging and made the game go by in a flash. There were precious few moments of downtime and, in all honesty, there was enough content within the media role that it could easily have been split between two people.
 
Aliens have landed!
The other players seemed like they had similarly engaging tasks. Both the science and military officers spent the majority of the day perched over their respective game boards. The board gaming aspect seemed like some of the tactical turn-based combat from XCOM (for the military players) and the tech tree progression you might see in the Civilization games. You can see variants of these in action in this Shut Up & Sit Down video. Officers controlled individual units with unique abilities and had to respond to various challenges and confrontations, which themselves varied from round-to-round.

Wait, back up a second. What’s this about rounds?

The game itself is played in up to five or six rounds, exactly how many of these depends on how quickly the players progress through their given objectives or how much of the narrative they uncover. For sovereign nations, each round requires the management and deployment of a finite number of resources (team members being one such resource, but financial capital being the most significant factor). Representatives must be sent to the UN where, as you might guess, all formal diplomacy takes place. Scientists and military officers are deployed to their respective game boards to carry out agreed upon plans and the almighty budgets must be balanced. Money becomes especially precious in the later rounds, which allowed for several underhanded and interesting mechanics *cough cough* bribery *cough*. Where once well-cited stories were tough to come by there was a sudden deluge of state secrets at our media disposal…for a price. 

Our particular game moved along at a slower pace; we reached only the end of round four. Despite this, those four rounds packed in a lot of action. Aliens landed, other unspeakable horrors were conjured, alliances were forged and shattered, backs were stabbed, and various Earthly entities were abducted into extraterrestrial custody. Our gamemasters (or game weavers as they’re termed in a Megagame) revealed the ‘winners’ along with a breakdown of what was actually going on, including various storylines that we didn’t have a chance to play out.

There were a few bumps during the course of play, but that was to be expected given that this was the first full Megagame run through for our game weavers, and these were generally minor (e.g. a few roles needed additional clarification). The layout of the space where our game took place also presented a few challenges, but those certainly didn’t detract from the overall experience.

LARPers, former debate teamers, model UN veterans, or just fans of human psychology/team dynamics/problem solving will enjoy Megagames. You’ll definitely have the chance to untangle some thorny situations, so make sure that diplomacy skill is maxed out (and maybe deception too, if you’ve got the build points). Snacks and the caffeine source of your liking will also come in handy, especially after hour 3 or so. It’s definitely a unique gaming experience that’s worth sampling.


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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend guys. Hope you've all had a great week and a suitably excellent weekend (and that you're not broke as a result of the Steam Summer Sale). There are a few hours left to get in on our Street Fighter IV giveaway too! Ok, you got your entry in? Let's get down to the week in geekdom!

Books

The onslaught of all things Star Wars ahead of the release of Episode VII is building to a crescendo. Disney and Lucasfilm will be adding to this on September 22nd, at which time they will release three new novels retelling the original trilogy from new viewpoints. You can get a sneak peek of this forthcoming goodness by reading this excerpt.

The daughter of the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett has confirmed that Shepherd's Crown will be the last novel in the Discworld series.

Comics

If you're a Star Wars fan you will almost assuredly enjoy this web comic depicting the backstory of Green Leader.

Secret Wars #3 let us finally see the face of Dr. Doom.

Games

Are your dice balanced? The following video will show you how to determine if you've got a fair die or if your complaints that said die was cursed and plotting against you were true all along.


Movies/TV

Have a tissue or three ready for Peter Jackson's tribute to Sir Christopher Lee.

On Monday we got the first episode of Bruce Timm's new animated series: Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles on Machinima. If you haven't seen it already, here's a sample of what the series is offering. Also, here is Mr. Timm's take on making the series and taking some of the most classic DC heroes into brand new territory.

We've known it all along, but now we have definitive, written proof that Han shot first.

This was a week of awesome new movie trailers. We now have a look at Hunger Games: Catching Fire Part 2 and the Martian.




Science/Technology

The Large Hadron Collider has been successfully running at full capacity for a bit now (and already giving us astounding data). Given that we haven't been plunged into the depths of a black hole as a direct result, maybe we can take some time to discuss the philosophy underpinning this lancet into scientific discovery.

Or, if philosophy isn't your thing, there's these findings in the latest edition of Nature that detail the discovery of the Bs0 meson.

It's been 39 years since Carl Sagan proposed the concept of a solar sail, but this week that musing became a reality (and Bill Nye is psyched about it).

Think you've exhausted all that Google Maps has to offer (and mastered Geoguessr as a result)? Google is upping their live mapping game by expanding into the sea.

Speaking of new visual frontiers, NASA will be bringing us video feed to YouTube in 4K resolution.

Thanks to SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket the DSCOVR module has gone from very expensive space junk to fully functional monitor of solar storms.

Until that channel is launched, however, we can content ourselves with this set of images from Ceres.

The new Nature Scientific Reports details the work of Chinese and Singaporean physicists who appear to have demonstrated violations of local realism.

The latest edition of Nature Nanotechnology includes this research out of Harvard that allows for scientists to 'spy' on the functionality of individual neurons.

We're inching closer to the release of Oculus Rift, but we're getting more virtual reality goodness in the interim. Introducing the Oculus Touch controllers.

Ever wonder why the trip home usually feels shorter than the journey to get to your destination? Here comes the science.

We've talked at length about Elon Musk's proposed Hyperloop, but now we're getting sneak peeks of what it might look like.

IBM's supercomputer Watson: excellent at Jeopardy, terrible at biomedical research.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

We have our first official glimpse of the toys associated with The Force Awakens.

Real life Grand Theft Auto V. Enough said.


There's being a fan of Elder Scrolls and then there's investing $50,000 USD into a remodel that transforms your basement into Tamriel.

This Magic: the Gathering card sold for nearly $15,000 USD.

I'll leave you guys with this footage from YouTuber styropyro and his latest creation: a functional 40W laser shotgun. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead.


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Street Fighter IV Giveaway!

Happy Friday everyone! What better way to kick off the weekend than with the chance to win some free stuff?

This weekend we're giving away a free copy of Street Fighter IV for Steam.


To enter to win, just post a comment on this post or in our Steam Community (or a TweetG+ commentInstagram Comment or Facebook comment) with the name of your favorite character from any incarnation of the Street Fighter franchise. 

While you don't have to use your real name in order to enter, we do ask that you give us a distinct handle so we can contact you if you win. No anonymous entries will be counted.


We'll draw winners this upcoming Sunday (June 14) at 4pm EST. Good luck!
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi guys. Hope you're all having a great weekend thus far. The past few days have been a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the past few weeks (and the torrent of amazing gaming news coming out ahead of E3). It's giving me a chance to push ahead with Steampunk Hawkgirl and for all of us to tackle the last few entrants to the Playtesting Lab before we put the latter into Gen Con hiatus (the Lab will open again on August 11th). Gah, Gen Con is so soon! But ok, let's get back to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

This week Marvel undid one of its most controversial decisions and Spider-Man may never be the same.


Not content with just that change, Marvel is on the cusp of launching the reboot of its entire roster. We got a glimpse of what the new incarnations of our favorite characters will look like earlier this week.

The horrified gasps you may have heard (or uttered yourself) earlier this week were doubtless from readers of the new Marvel Star Wars comic line. Star Wars #6 gave us the first real taste of what life will be like in the new Expanded Universe (warning: link contains spoilers).

Action Comics #41 gives us this look at the newest incarnation of Superman.

Games

The past week has been chock-full of gaming news, not least of which was 2K's enormous announcement that XCOM 2 is not only very real, but will be coming our way later this year. We got a few more details about humanity's struggle with the alien invaders. And, if you missed it, take a gander at the announcement trailer.


We also got our first look at Fallout 4. As the Care and Feeding of Nerds is based in Boston, we were particularly fascinated by how Bethesda depicts our fair city post nuclear apocalypse.

Just in time for the forthcoming Summer Sale, Steam put forth a new refund policy that's sure to make our wallets weep just a bit less.

The policy was only one bit of big Steam news this week. Valve also released long-awaited details concerning its controller and Link system. Both items are now available for pre-order and will allegedly ship in October.

Turbine confirmed on Tuesday that it will be shutting down the free DC-centered MOBA Infinite Crisis. The game will go dark on August 14th.

The first peek we'll get of the Episode VII universe will come from Star Wars: Uprising, a mobile game.

Movies/TV

Big Trouble in Little China will be the subject of a remake and the Rock will be in the starring role.

Mega Man is already prepping for his 30th birthday celebrations. The diminutive Capcom icon will be getting a 26-episode animated series airing in 2017.

George R.R. Martin gives us 5 characters from a Song of Ice and Fire that he wishes weren't missing from Game of Thrones.

Science/Technology

We've been following the upcoming release of Windows 10 for a bit now, but this week we got an official release date. You'll be able to upgrade beginning on July 29th (and can put in your 'order' for the free upgrade right now if you're running a Windows OS by clicking on the little icon in the lower right-hand corner of your UI).

Physicians in Brazil have pushed the boundaries of what's possible with 3D printers after implanting a portion of a human skull printed in pure titanium.

What would you see if you were to fall into a black hole?

At first glance, it may seem like ordinary black paint but this substance may be the key to harnessing solar energy like never before.

The latest edition of Science includes details concerning this test that can reveal every virus you've ever contracted.

We may have already developed pharmacological weapons against the Ebola virus and just didn't know it.

If you're one of the millions of people for whom sleep doesn't come easy, MIT would like you to try on this hat.

Beginning this past Wednesday, the Large Hadron Collider ran (and will continue to run) at full power.

A group of British doctors have released data indicating that dual-faceted treatment with a pair of drugs is immensely effective against melanoma.

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

Meet Boyan Slat, the Dutch 20-year-old whose ambitious plan may be humanity's best hope to rid our oceans of man made debris.

ASUS, Republic of Gamers, and In Win have combined their powers to create this gobsmacking 'transforming' PC tower.

After years of a decidedly antagonistic relationship, Godzilla and Tokyo have officially buried the hatchet as the former was made a citizen and ambassador of the latter.

I'll leave you guys with this video footage of a remote-controlled R2-D2 fridge! As always,  best wishes for an excellent week ahead.


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Cosplay: This Rig Gives Me Wings

It has been far, far too long since there was an update on Steampunk Hawkgirl. We’ve talked a bit about some of the reasons why: the challenges of this past winter, personal illness, and a tidal wave of other awesome content for the site. However, she has not gone neglected these past few months and now we’re getting that exciting turning point where she’s beginning to come together (thank the Maker, since Gen Con is now less than two months away). So get ready for lots more cosplay to come your way.

Whenever I’m tackling a costume, I almost always start with what I feel will be the most difficult/complex component, as it’s often better to have a bit of extra time on hand in case something goes wrong or requires more materials. Also, everything else you build afterward seems that much easier and more feasible by comparison. For Hawkgirl, you might think this proverbial hillcrest would be the wings but, during my bouts of brainstorming, I kept centering on the harness that would carry those wings and allow them to deploy. The wings themselves will get at least one entry of their own (possibly two: one for the skeletons and one for the feathers).

All we need are some feathers!
As of the writing of this post, my suppositions about the challenges that the harness would pose have proven to be mostly on target. It took a bit of trial and error, but the harness or, as I’ve been calling it, the backpack, is about 95% done. All that remains are a few final decorations, and strategically adding some foam to make it a bit more comfy. Woo!

So what went into the harness/backpack and how long did it take to put together?

Actual construction took around three weeks, but you could easily make one of these in a day or two depending on the materials/tools you use and the weather conditions where you live. A lot of the three-week run time consisted of experimenting and doing lots of math (and making an absurd number of trips to the hardware store) to ensure that all components of the rig could handle the work they would have to do. Also, I ended up making two versions of the rig: one with a wooden base and another with a sintra base because it wasn’t clear which version would be both strong and sufficiently light to wear around all day. I’ll talk about the pros and cons of each version a little further on in this post.

Materials
-          2' x 4' x ½” (1.27 cm) birch board OR 11" x 17" (27.94cm-43.18cm) 13mm sintra PVC board
-          2 double sheave pulleys (I used these by Blue Hawk)
-          2 zinc-plated chain/rope clips
-          4 zinc-plated strap hinges*
-          About 2-3 feet of 1/8” (0.32cm) brass or aluminum piping/dowels
-          1-2 packages of 1/8” (0.32cm) brass collars
-          5-6 feet (1.52-1.83m) of very sturdy straps or webbing material
-          6-8 feet (1.83-2.44m) of paracord, strong rope, or galvanized steel cable (3/16” or 1/8” [0.48               or 0.32cm])
-          Whatever paint, stain or other decorations you’d like for the finished look
            *optional

I used a model 4000 Dremel and a 12V Ryobi power drill to do all the cutting, shaping, drilling, installation of screws, and finishing of edges. A bit of 200 grit sandpaper was involved in prepping the birch board for staining.

Some initial comments about the materials used and how I decided on these specific components: each piece of hardware was chosen because I’d calculated that it could perform the work associated with lifting at least one of the 4.5 pound (2.04kg) wings (3 pounds, 6 ounces [1.53kg] of which comes from the aluminum skeleton). That may not sound like a lot, but the way that the wings extend creates distortions in how that weight gets distributed. For example, that 4.5 pound wing requires only 4.5 pounds of force to fold the last few inches required to close them on the rig, but they require 22 pounds (9.98kg) of force to hold in a stable position once they’re open just because they’re so large, nearly 10 feet (3.05m) across when fully open. I overcompensated for this by selecting components that could bear at least twice that maximum force. The idea was that the motion of opening and closing the wings should ‘feel’ easy for the hardware. If your wings are made of a lighter material or don’t have as wide a total span then you can probably get away with hardware that isn’t as heavy duty.


First I drafted a pattern out of paper based on measurements of my torso. The idea was to have the rig eventually be at least partially integrated with the corset, so the shape of the former had to align with the latter. After some trial, error, and lots of comparing one shape up to another I re-drafted the pattern onto heavy cardboard. Once I was 100% satisfied with the dimensions, I cut the pattern into both the birch board and the sintra using the jigsaw cutting tool for the Dremel.




The next step is completely optional. When I’m designing a costume, I try to think of just about every use case and that includes all potential interactions that my fellow con-goers may have with what I’m wearing. My fear was (and still is, to a degree) that the sheer size of the wings is going to present a challenge when I’m walking around and that one or more people may bump or jostle them during the course of the day. The solution I devised for this was to mount the wings on hinged plates, so the plate (and wing) could swing backwards if they needed to. If you feel this function isn’t necessary for your costume, you can absolutely skip it and attach the wings directly to the backplate of the rig.

To make the hinged plates I did a bit of math to determine which shape would give the most support to the wings and reduce the amount of work required to lift the wings into an open position. Triangle-type structures are your friends if you’re planning on doing something similar! Once I devised the shape, I cut a pair of plates from each of my base materials with the Dremel, drilled holes for the wing support posts (also with the Dremel), and affixed each plate to the back of the rig with two strap hinges (one towards the top and another at the bottom). Strap hinges work especially well because they’re designed to support gates and other features that hold considerable weight far from the hinge point. Even after a whole mess of stress testing, both the plates and the hinges feel very solid.


Once the plates were secure, I did...you guessed it...more math to determine where the pulleys that will allow the wings to open and close should go. Initially I was going to use a single double sheave pulley in the top center of the rig and just cross the draw strings through it to articulate the wings. Some early tests quickly proved that doing so put way, way too much stress on that one poor pulley. Word to the wise: solid math is not a replacement for stress tests! It worked out so well on paper only to prove unfeasible in real life.

So it was on to Plan B, which involved one double sheave pulley on each shoulder, giving each wing two pulley sheaves worth of support when it articulates. While this does add a bit of weight to your rig, it does wonders for the shape and motion of the wing as the latter opens and closes. To hold the pulleys in place I used my power drill to create a pair of 3/16" (0.48cm) holes at each shoulder. Once the holes could accommodate the U rings of these chain/rope clips, I threaded the eye of one of the pulleys through that ring, then brought the clip flush with the rest of the back plate before installing the clip permanently with the matching hex nuts (these are almost always sold with the clip).


All that remains at this point is attaching the straps so the rig can be worn. For this, I used these tow cables. Just about any sturdy webbing will work for this purpose, but the tow cables were cheap and explicitly designed for dealing with high pressure and load bearing. After determining how I wanted the rig to lie on my back, I cut slots and fed the cables through, then anchored the cables with ¼” (0.64cm) bolts, nuts, and washers.

But wait…how do the wings attach to the backpack?

Excellent question. I’ll go into this again in the post that describes how the wings were made, but the mechanism that attaches the wings to the rig is the same as that which allows them to articulate. Each wing is supported by two posts that pass through both the metal of the wing and the wood/sintra of the swinging plates. Each post is 1 1/8” long, 1/8” (2.86 cm by 0.32cm) in diameter and is made of either solid brass or aluminum (the brass is stronger, but much heavier; you can feasibly use either without any problems). You can find metal dowels (including those in materials not listed here if you don’t want brass or aluminum) in a wide variety of diameters at Home Depot/Lowes/most other hardware stores. I cut the dowels into the lengths I needed, then sanded down the ends a bit with my Dremel. The posts are secured with these 1/8” brass collars, one on each end and tightened to the point where movement is just barely permissible. You want there to be as little wiggle room as possible between the bones of the wings and the plates of the rig, but we'll go more into how everything moves together in the post that describes the skeleton of the wings.


After that it was just a matter of sanding and staining the birch wood, then painting the sintra. With sintra, it is almost always a good idea to put down a layer of primer (I used gesso, but plain primer or even wood glue will work for this) since the surface of the thermoplastic tends to be pretty slick and resistant to paint. As for which of the rigs ended up being the better one, there's really no clear winner right now. Each material has its benefits and drawbacks, many of which will vary based on the demands of your wings.


Pros
Cons
Wood
  •   Cheap
  •   Strong
  •  Can be light
  •  Reliable
  •  Guaranteed to be compatible with your hardware

  • Can be heavy
  •  Requires much more work/specialized tools to shape
  •  Requires sanding and stain to change the color


Sintra
  •   Light
  •  Usually strong
  •  Can be heat-shaped for a          better fit
  • Is generally easier to cut/work with

  •  Expensive
  •  Less reliable in high-stress weight-bearing situations
  •  Requires a primer to change the color
There'll be a heap more testing, particularly once the wings themselves are 100% finished, and I'll make a decision on which rig to use based on the outcome of those. More on that in the near future!
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone, hope you're all having a great weekend (and a happy con if you're one of the lucky people currently attending UK Expo). We've had our collective noses to the Gen Con preparatory grindstone this week, some of the results of which you'll see in the very near future. So. Much. Costuming. Goodness. We'll also have a full recap of last week's alien encountering adventures. But, for now, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Games

So far, all we know is its name, and even that may change. What could we possibly get with the forthcoming Nintendo NX console?

In the meantime, you can get your Nintendo gaming fix with this! Screentendo will turn any webpage into a fully playable level of Super Mario Bros.

Movies/TV

Screen tests are under way to cast the role of Spider-Man for Captain America: Civil War.

It's official: we won't be getting a third installment of Tron.

The next season of Game of Thrones may give viewers at least one major feature from the books that have have, to date, been missing from the show.

Science/Technology

What is the sound a single atom makes? Thanks to a team of Australian physicists, we now know the answer to that question.

Does a black hole have a shape? The simple answer is yes, regardless of the vantage with which you view it. Here comes the science.

While we're on the subject, the new edition of Nature contains these stunning images of plasma being shot out of a supermassive black hole.

A team of researchers from the University of Tsukuba believe they have found a way to halt and perhaps even reverse the aging process in human cells.

The latest edition of Physical Review Letters contains this paper that pinpoints what sort of experiments and, most importantly, the requisite conditions under which these experiments must take place in order for researchers to pinpoint the moment at which atoms pass from a classical into a quantum state.

How we've been able to advance computing power by a trillion-fold since 1985 as told through handy infographics.

Behold this minute robot that folds itself from its original sheet-like form into ornate origami (among other things).



Feats of Nerdery

It took 20 people and more than a million bricks, but a band of intrepid history buffs has recreated the entirety of the Battle of Waterloo in Lego.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone and best wishes for a happy long weekend to those who've been able to configure such a nice unofficial start to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Today's post is going to be a bit on the short side, as I'm currently participating in my very first MegaGame today. My fellow gamers and I will be reacting to the first extraterrestrial contact here on planet Earth in the campaign Watch the Skies! It should make for fun times and you can follow along in our adventures via our Twitter or Facebook accounts (or via the in-game blog I'll be running: the Global Technology Journal). Before we get down to chasing aliens, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Games

This is the story of how Colossal Order reached out to frustrated fans of Sim City and built a brand new simulation phenomenon.

Nintendo would like you to know that it does, in fact, have indie games on its roster. They're just not anything that's been made all that recently.

Movies

We talked yesterday about the glorious insanity that is Mad Max: Fury Road, but here's a new tidbit for you guys: this is how they made a real-life fire-spurting guitar.
Image Credit

Science/Technology

The Next MacGyver competition, designed to help encourage women to enter into STEM fields, is now underway.

This is what happens when a star hits a supernova.

On Thursday, the Large Hadron Collider set a new record for levels of energy released by the smashing of protons.

We had more to fear than their sharp, pointy teeth, but rabbits, and the ailments endemic to them, may help researchers uncover new ways to make more effective vaccines.

Speaking of pointy dental structures, have you ever wondered what it's like to be a walrus? Now you can have a first-hand look at a day in the life of the giant marine mammal.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress passed this extremely controversial bill that removes budget-allocating powers from the National Science Foundation and gives those abilities to Congress itself. The bill also put hard limits on what research pertaining to fossil fuels could be used to guide energy policies in the United States.

Meanwhile, the government of New Zealand spent its week ruling that animals will be legally recognized as sentient beings.

Feats of Nerdery

How to turn an NES into a PC.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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