The Science and Technology Of Making (And Breaking) Things By Hand

feature image via Shutterstock

Welcome to the forty-forth installment of  Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani


As y’all know, sometimes I like real things and not virtual things, or tech things. But the thing is, most of the time the line between real, touchable things and technology isn’t there. Technology helps artists and artisans, whether it’s in a new way to think about or talk about their work or in a new way to create something classic. Sometimes it helps humans deconstruct something, breaking it down to see its essential elements. As I trucked around the internet this week, it seemed especially evident – there were videos everywhere about science and tech aiding in creation and destruction of physical things. The theme struck a chord with me.


Fikri sent me this amazing video that originally came off a Kickstarter, though the project is long-funded by now. Ardent Heavy Industries is providing a new take on cloud technology – one that takes it literally. An industrial arts collective, they’re used to installing large-scale art in various locations and festivals around the world. I love the way they talk about their art like a Silicon Valley startup with a sarcastic nod to both art and tech – “engineering solutions to problems… that don’t exist.”

Polybius is a song by Julian Corrie, video by James Houston, in which a SEGA Mega Drive, Commodore 64, floppy disk drives and hard drives all form the instruments. They’re controlled, live, via MIDI.

Like Adam Smith, one of the toy-makers in this video, I always thought a computer must make toys. But actually, artists sculpt action figures. And then a lot of tech goes into making plastic parts. By Mile Deep Films and Television.

Did you know there are basically two studios on planet earth that still make globes? Here’s a short film about Bellerby and Co., one of those two studios. Directed by Charles Arran Busk & Jamie McGregor Smith.

Dash is a DIY, arduino robot kit that’s not yet on the market. I find this little dude both fascinating and creepy. It’s built from cardboard and plastic, so it’s f*cking fast. And it looks a little like an insect. And I kinda want one.


This video is old, sure, but I came across it again this week and who doesn’t like seeing plasma light up a microwave and burn through a plastic container? Veritasium, a YouTube channel dedicated to exploring science, often with slow motion footage, put a grape in the microwave to make plasma.

And here’s a video of students crushing a 55 gallon drum using water vapor and air pressure. I originally found this video on Sci-ence.


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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. Aw, when I saw the piece on the front page I thought it was about carpentry and construction. Two things I actually know something about since I’ve worked in the family construction business since I was 14. lol

    Really fascinating piece though Ali!

  2. Have you seen the dash like robots (I forget what Uni built them) that are learning and correcting their behavior? It is amazing and scary as shit all at once.

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