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The June theme for Make: Online is “Physical Science and Mechanics.” Physical science is a broadly used term that can be applied to the study of any non-living systems and how they interact, from the foundational physical laws of energy, matter, and force to the basic principles of simple machines (lever, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, screw, gear). The term is also applied to chemistry and Earth sciences, and from there, it becomes leaky with the living, the biological. For our coverage, we’ll stick to it as it applies to simple machines, basic laws of physics, and how they become the complex mechanical systems that surrounds us.

Now you may think that such coverage is a little rudimentary for MAKE, the sort of foundational knowledge we all should have long-ago absorbed in grade school. But I think that’s part of the problem. Understanding these basics is something that some folks may not have paid much attention to in school, but now they’ve become makers and they have holes in their knowledge, gaps they may be too embarrassed to admit to. Understanding basic physical properties, simple machines, basic mechanics can go a long way toward being able to understand, troubleshoot, design, and build more complex machines.

I suspected that Make: Electronics was likely to be a big success because I knew there was a dearth of clear, well-organized, plain English content explaining the rudimentary principles of electronics so that mortals could understand them. Similarly, I think a lot of people don’t know, for instance, how gear trains work and how to figure out gear ratios for building a vehicle drive train, or how to effectively use a block and tackle to safely move a load, or how stresses, load-bearing, friction, pressure, and other forces effect the integrity of objects. These are the sorts of mechanical concepts and skills every maker should know.

We’re looking forward to seeing how we can cover all of this in a fun, creative way, from talking to kinetic sculptors, to rounding up some of the best physical science content we’ve published previously (here and in the magazine), to original feature articles covering various aspects of physical science and mechanics.

As always, we’d love your input. If there’s something you’d like for us to cover, or you have some special knowledge in this area, or if there are any key resources, tutorials, etc. that you think we should include, please send them along. Thanks!

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Table of simple mechanisms, from Chambers’ Cyclopedia, 1728.

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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