Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Hey gang!  Here is a very quick review for your upcoming holiday trips.  I just finished listening to the fictional sci-fi book Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson on audiobook.  It is well performed and I think it is a perfect match for travel – fast-paced, interesting, action-packed and exciting.  I liked it so much that I’ve added it to my recommended reading list in the sidebar.

The absolute worst part of it is the title.  It implies a run of the mill robots terrorize the world story, but in fact is filled with lots of creative ideas.  I noticed that the author has a Ph. D. in robotics and it shows with his command of the subject matter.  He does a good job of creating distinct characters and reasonable dialog but where this book really shines is the big picture concept and how it is realized.  Much like the appeal of the original Jurassic Park, it is the mental exercise of how robots might take over the world that makes this book shine.

With extremely visual scenes that fire the imagination and plenty of incredible action sequences, it is no wonder Steven Spielberg has been in talks to make a movie adaptation.  Any industrial designer would leap at the chance to realize this world and the creatures that inhabit it.

The laughable title caused me to pass this one by without a second glance when it initially came out.  Our local librarian actually suggested it to me along with Ready Player One (which I don’t believe is available on audiobook yet).  So read this book and support your local library!

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How to Build a Water Rocket Launcher

***  This post is from an earlier time.  It has been unearthed and placed here for your amusement. ***

The Great Mazinga

Earlier this month while visiting family, I built a most wondrous toy with the help of my relatives. Using some PVC pipe, a tire valve stem and a few other parts we created an apparatus capable of blasting a 2 liter soda bottle a couple hundred feet into the air. Children laughed. Adults squealed with delight. Dogs barked and ran in circles. Even the neighbors had to come and join the fun once they saw what was going on.

You can find links to step-by-step construction videos here.

There are numerous ways to build such a device, but I really liked this design for its safety and simplicity. The bottle it is kept above head height in the highly unlikely event that it ruptures. The person doing the launching is in the direct blast of the thruster water which is hilariously good fun. The locking mechanism is extremely secure and much better than the designs using quick-release garden hose adapters.

Here is what I changed:
1. Lengthened the 1-1/2” diameter pipe on the trigger from 2” to 3”. The longer this piece is the less likely it is to bind. It isn’t a safety issue but helps prevent a potential annoyance while reloading the device.
2. Used 1-1/2” diameter pipe for most of the launcher instead of ½”. This is done to keep the launcher from bending when a big heavy water bottle is perched on top of it, plus it looks cooler too.
3. Shorten the overall height to just under 7 feet.  If you use a second-stage cup that fits on top of the bottle to hold a water balloon, you’ll need a step ladder to load it with the original design.

Side View

NAME: The Great Mazinga (picture)
PURPOSE: To guide a 2 liter payload heavenward and safely return it to Earth
CONSTRUCTION TIME: 2.5 hours
COST: ~$15
NOTE:  For maximum fun, an air compressor rather than a bike pump is recommended.

Bring on the water! Bring on the pressure! Bring on the fun!