Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kids in the News Making Things Work!

It seems that a 9-year old boy may have solved one of the more pervasive sources of domestic discord. Weary of consistent reminders, Jake Wulf of Iowa has created a foot-activated toilet seat lifter he’s calling the “Privy Prop.” He got the idea from observing a trash can with a similar mechanism.

I wonder if one of the books on Jake’s shelves is David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work. Large and colorful diagrams guide your eyes around the mechanics of the daily items we take for granted, like a hand-held can opener, to the more obscure ones we only wish we could get our hands on, like a virtual reality headset.

Ever stop to consider those enticing red laser beams and the barcodes they pass over on your library books? Those black stripes and white spaces are little storage bins that contain bits of computer-coded information. These bits combine in infinite ways to form unique identification tags, which are represented by infinitely unique barcodes. The job of the red laser beam is to reflect this unique code back to the scanning device in the form of light. The scanning device converts this light signal to an electric one and sends it to the computer. The computer then translates this electric signal into the barcode number, which uniquely identifies the item that you are checking out. (Hint: you can leisurely and discreetly ponder this if you use the self-check machines.)

Macaulay’s book is a delight for all ages, and he wrote it especially for those who find technology a “bit” intimidating. We’ve got the book as well as his updated The New Way Things Work; check them out! What will we invent next?

by Jami, Youth Services Librarian

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