Burning Dork

September 4th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, not bad science, onanism | 6 Comments »

I’m just back from Burning Dork, the totally excellent mini-BurningMan Dorkbot camp in the woods


For anyone who hasn’t been, Dorkbot is an informal show and tell for people who’ve made interesting things involving electricity, a UK component proponent of the Maker scene which is best exemplified online in the Make blog.


Above I am showing off the magnificent solar-powered chirruping device I built in Ralph’s robot building workshop under careful tutelage, along with the work of his other proteges. What with the casio and laptop jams, presentations from radioastronomers and live electronic music geeks, unexpected explosions, camping in the forest, Mike’s spark-o-phone, James homemade oscilloscope telly, the “origins of programming” workshop on knitting, a valiant attempt at hot air ballooning and a guarantee of good geeky conversation, it was a top weekend in the woods.

A few of us also spent an hour or two pulling apart a strange “electronic” device with grand claims, exposing it to what some might describe as disproportionate scrutiny with proper electronic diagnostic tools. I’ll polish it up and post our findings soon.

While I was there I also said hello to a Radio 4 journalist and rambled on about science in the media in the usual way, you will be bored of this by now but it’s 24 mins in here if your punishment gluttony overwhelms you. Weirdly – and this is not a complaint about this program because the guy I spoke to was very nice – but I always say that science journalists are great but the problems are systemic, and that always gets brushed over, maybe it seems more of an important nuance to me than it does to other people.

(And in case you didn’t appreciate it sufficiently in the paragraph above, an “origins of programming” knitting workshop is definitely the most funny and clever thing you will hear about this month).

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6 Responses

  1. crichmond said,

    September 4, 2006 at 8:25 am

    You gave the wrong hyperlink for knitting, and I got a Wikipedia article onjjacquard weaving. I’d like to see the knitting one – it’s the simplest way of turning a fairly useless one-dimensional twist of sheep hair into very useful two-dimensional piece of cloth.

  2. Delster said,

    September 4, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    at the risk of being pedantic, if it’s one dimensional how can it have a twist?

  3. Alex McLean said,

    September 5, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    Was really great to meet you at the dorkcamp,

    Interesting to see dorkbot described as part of the maker scene… I guess there is a very strong relation there and makezine is a good pointer for the uninitiated, but I think it’s more of an art/engineering/software/music/etc hybrid that extends beyond the scope of physical arts/crafts… I really enjoyed making some real things at the camp but it that was a holiday from my otherwise resolutely text and sound based dorky activities…

    Anyway I guess dorkbot is hard to define, it just brings together people being creative with electricity, be it with spark gaps, electronics or software. Also it goes far beyond the UK, in fact it was started by Douglas Repetto in New York City (London was second but started about a year later) and there are now over 50 cities with dorkbots.


  4. Ben Goldacre said,

    September 5, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    heh, it was late, i was trying to say something more “a bit like the maker scene” as a cultural signpost/reference/shortcut rather than “part of”. anyway, me and mark both thought it was the best thing we’ve been to all summer, so thanks again and i hope there’s one next year too.

  5. Alex McLean said,

    September 5, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    Well we’re certainly proponents of the maker scene if not components so the cultural signpost was sound.

    I think we’ll have to do something similar next year, maybe “dorkbot-on-sea”

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