Sep 302010
The Wikimedia booth @ Maker Faire 2008 - San Mateo
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At the World Maker Faire a panel discussion highlighted how scientists depend on nonscientists and their off-campus innovations

The do-it-yourself (DIY) movement, which has been steadily gathering momentum over the past decade, was on full display this weekend in New York City. The World Maker Faire—New York, held at the New York Hall of Science, was a celebration of makers—individuals and teams that embody the scrappy inventiveness of DIY culture.

Makers make things, obviously. But more importantly, makers make do. They may not have the resources for expensive projects, but they take advantage of their circumstances and maximize available resources to achieve their goals. A maker tinkers, collaborates and improvises.

Take the lab where Jeff Allen, a PhD student at New York University (N.Y.U.), studies cosmic rays. Allen described one of his lab’s latest projects—the construction of a networked array of particle detectors that takes advantage of New York City’s dense population of building-top water tanks—at a panel discussion entitled “Scientist-Makers in Action”. The talk, organized by Scientific American, took place on the Maker Faire’s center stage Saturday, September 25.

Earth is under constant bombardment by ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays coming from all directions. Comprised mainly of atomic nuclei particles, such as protons and neutrons, they contain hundreds of millions times more energy than what scientists can produce in modern particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider. They are also poorly understood. But it turns out a networked series of water tanks equipped with photosensitive electronics are ideal cosmic-ray detectors.

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