The Wall Street Journal has a piece on Tinkering Makes a Comeback Amid Crisis. They are talking about what is referred to by varied terms such as Do-It-Yourself (DIY), the Make movement, and simply Crafting.  The concept is 'build cool stuff, like machines and lasers and robots."

Making strange machines is a frontier tradition.  Heck, it's a mad scientist tradition!  The launch of Make magazine in 2005 gave the movement some legitimacy, and now this WSJ article gives us mainstream cred.

In my informal assessment, there seem to be four schools of makers:
  1. Inventors: Prototype a neat invention, either for the future or just to see if it can be done.
  2. Innovators: Build something cheap to do something expensive gear does.
  3. Artists: Make an artistic statement.
  4. Destroyers: Make things that shoot fire and smash other machines.
The WSJ piece covers the first two, Inventers and Innovators, with 'bot makers and university startups and using a milling machine at home.  The second and third are where ScientificBlogging is in the zone, reporting on (or building!) cool space hardware.  It's also where the New Space Race is coming, with items like the various space X-Prizes prizes.

I'll argue my own DIY Project Calliope satellite mixes items in the Innovator and Artist categories.  We're building a satellite on the cheap, thanks to IOS's inexpensive launch concept.  But we're doing it to make music from space, so we get the nod on the artistic side as well.

For Artists, coincidentally, I'm getting into Steampunk lately, an alt-history topic where the mad ideas of Tesla and Babbage became the norm.  At a convention, I was amazed at the number of 'crafters' who were building fascinating baroque machines that did almost nothing.  There were the aforepictured Brute Force Studio's goggles, meticulously created from brass and leather and able to be fitted with prescription lenses, with attached magnifiers and laser sights-- that did nothing.

Needless to say, I wanted the pair.  That is the essence of crafting.  It doesn't have to be efficient or even terribly useful.  It just has to be coveted.

Considering Destruction is just another form of Art, folks like Survival Research Labs even have it down to, well, a science.  At least, it's art if you consider machines that shoot flames and form giant hands to be 'art'.  I know I do.  For example, I love their hovercraft design:

I really hope there is a growing movement to build new things.  The best way to learn about our world, about engineering, and about your own creativity is to do something.  Whether you fail or succeed, you've still gained in some way.  It can be major, like making a Flame Throwing Jumping Spider Robit. Or it can be as simple as patching a leaky bicycle tire with your kid helping you.  Or heck, make an omelet instead of eating out.  Just create.

To paraphrase from Wanted, what have you done lately?

Alex, the Daytime Astronomer

Tues&Fri here, via RSS feed, and twitter @skyday
Read about my own private space venture in The Satellite Diaries