Tag Archives: how stuff works

How stuff works

I have a fascination with how ordinary things are made. I used to wonder how the deodorant companies packed all that smelly stuff into a can. Or in fact how any aerosols worked.

Then Abraham Piper of 22 words posted links to these 22 videos of stuff being made.

Now, though I’d never wondered, I know how globes are made. If you watch this video you will too.

Here’s how roll-on deodorant works.

And some of my other favourites.

And most importantly, how bacon is made.

And a musical interlude.

There goes half an hour of your time.

How restaurant menus work

Ever wondered why you go to a restaurant and end up ordering the dish that’s not the most expensive on the menu but is certainly not the cheapest. Here’s the answer.

2. The Anchor The main role of that $115 platter—the only three-digit thing on the menu—is to make everything else near it look like a relative bargain, Poundstone says.

Via CafeDave.

Pencilled in

The humble pencil is a triumph of cooperation – the epitome of human achievement, a telling example of the benefits of industrialisation etc, etc… you’ve probably never considered it this way – and neither had I until I read this essay (via Kottke).

A lot of seemingly simple things involve complex processes.

I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that’s too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.

Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year.

Zapper mystery zapped

I’ve always wondered how the Nintendo Zapper worked. I was a big fan of Duck Hunt as a child.

We are living in the era of the wii – remotes with in built motion sensors with signals picked up by special peripherals near the TV. But in 1984 (the actual year – not the Orwellian future) these were the things dreams were made of – the 1984 type of dreams (the Orwellian future – not the actual year). 1984 was the year Duck Hunt was released.

Anyway, the Zapper apparently worked like this:

When you shot at one of the ducks in Duck Hunt, the screen would flash for a split second, and the duck would either plummet to Earth like a fallen angel, or continue flying around, oblivious to your vain attempts to destroy it. I always just assumed that the flash was for dramatic effect, but it turns out that it was the key to the Nintendo Zapper’s closely guarded secrets.

Instead of emitting an infrared blast every time the trigger is pulled, the Zapper housed a small sensor that could pick up the flashing screen. If you watched closely you would see that, every time the screen flashed, the duck(s) would be surrounded by a box that was a different color than the background. If the Zapper was pointed at one of the ducks when the trigger was pulled, it would register that the color was different, and thus score a hit. All of this would take place so quickly that, unless you knew what to look for, you would never notice.