Mad Science Features

How To: Are Your Gadgets Safe from Solar Storms and Nuclear Attacks?

It's September 1st, 1859, and the Earth looks more or less like something out of an apocalyptic movie or Sci-Fi novel. All communications have failed, it's so bright outside at midnight that people are getting up and making breakfast, and people all over the world are seeing auroras. The solar storm that produced the electromagnetic pulse and caused all this mayhem is known as the Carrington Event, and storms like it happen about about once every century.

News: Brain Hacking and Thought-Controlled Quadcopters: The Good and Bad Future of Mind-Reading Devices

Until recently, brainwave-reading devices have pretty much only existed in science fiction. Sure, electroencephalography (EEG), the technology that powers these devices, has been used in medicine and psychiatry since the late 1800s, but diagnosing people's brains and reading their minds are two totally different things. The first EEG headsets available to the public were used mostly in gaming and even in fashion, but in the last few years, they've gotten a little more sophisticated.

Arduino Air Force: DIY Robotic Cardboard Quadcopters

You're hellbent on taking over the world, but one race of robotic minions isn't enough for you. With your hexapod robots acting as your ground forces, it's only natural to take to the skies. These cardboard quadcopters are the perfect air force for you. Combined, you are mere steps away from starting your evil takeover. Now you just need some water bots. The cardboard flying quadcopters are built around the MultiWii platform with the twin power of Processing and Arduino, so they are actually ...

The Sweet Smell of Success: DIY Smoke Mix with Sugar and Potassium Nitrate

I finally got around to trying out another one of Will's mad science experiments and found out that this one was actually more satisfying (and less frustrating) than my slightly uncooperative jar jet. There's something very pleasing about making potassium nitrate at home in the kitchen and then watching the transformation from semitransparent liquid to spiky, frozen crystals. That was the best part for me, second only to igniting it with its sugar companion.

News: This DIY Mini Tesla Coil Packs 380,000 Volts of Lightning

At one point in time, Tesla coils were actually used for things like wireless telegraphy and electrotherapy, but as technology advanced, they shifted to a slightly more enjoyable purpose—entertainment. What's even more entertaining than using a Tesla coil? Building your own. One of the best portable Tesla coils out there is this mini acrylic version by Daniel Eindhoven, aka TeslaCommander. It's made almost entirely of acrylic plastic, minus the steel sphere, and copper wire and tubing. When t...

News: This Real-Life, Working WALL-E Robot Is Absolutely Perfect (And Built Entirely from Scratch)

Want to build your own life-sized, working replica of WALL-E? Be prepared to take on a second job! Mike Senna spent two years perfecting his own version, working 25 hours a week and totaling somewhere around 3,800 hours for the whole project. He had no blueprints to go by, so he spent a lot of time watching the movie over and over to get everything just right. The video below shows some of the construction; skip to about the one minute mark to see WALL-E in action.

10th Time's the Charm: Success and Failures of Making a Jam Jar Jet Engine

I finally got around to trying out this jam jar jet project. The most successful and longest lasting pulse was somehow the only one I did not record. You can imagine how frustrating that probably was, though my tenth and final attempt was nearly as satisfying. But even the failures were fun to watch, especially the blue flame floating, almost dancing, around the jar. I especially liked the small foghorn sound that my first failed attempt produced.

News: This Giant Glass Globe Turns Moon and Sunlight into Power—Possibly Even Solar Death Rays!

André Broessel of rawlemon has developed a solar energy generator that can use both sun and moonlight to create usable power. Oh... and it's gorgeous. The device is essentially a huge glass sphere filled with water that uses a ball lens to refract light in a way that increases energy efficiency by 35 percent. It's completely weatherproof and has an optical tracking device, meaning that it can be incorporated into architecture. Here's a concept design of how it could be used to power buildings...

Robot Basics: Using an H Bridge to Move Your Bot Backwards

I love robots. They have the potential to evolve into Asimovian destroyers of the human species, but have only just mastered the art of cleaning my rug. They have an ever increasing cool factor and a growing number of cheap and simple components that let the hobby roboticist reach for the burning miasmas of plasma. But to get to the stars, we need to start with the basics.

Fire Texting: How to Write Secret Messages with Fire

Writing secret notes with lemon juice was one of my favorite pastimes as a child. All it took was a small flame to lightly scorch the paper and reveal the hidden message. Now that I'm tall and pay bills, lemon ink just isn't exciting enough anymore. Luckily, we can use another kind of invisible ink to write in fire! By using the saltpeter, we can whip up invisible fire ink in no time.

How To: Make Super Fizzy Carbonated Beverages at Home with Dry Ice

Want to make your own soda or maybe just bring a dull one back to life? Homemade sodas don't always live up to the store bought ones because they can taste flat by comparison. This quick and easy method makes super fizzy drinks with only four ingredients. Because putting dry ice in a sealed bottle would effectively turn it into a bomb, you'll need to make a safety valve for the bottle.

How To: Wildlife Photography with a DIY Motion-Triggered Camera

Even if you live in a big city, chances are you have some wild raccoons or foxes that cannot abide a vertical trash barrel. While apparently omnipresent, these phantasmic critters usually vanish in the night leaving only a shameless trail of refuse you never wanted to see ever again. While I haven't found a way to stop them, I can help you snap some photos of the dastardly creatures.