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August 20, 2008

I'm Popular (Science)

My compact keychain is featured in the August edition of the Popular Science magazine. Needless to say, I'm very happy about this.

Granted, it is a small article but it is still impressive to see how far blog posts can go.


Anonymous said...

Here is a copy of the e-mail I sent to the Popular Science Editor yesterday. After seeing the relatively high quality of you website I find it almost impossible to comprehend that someone with you technical savy would sent such a "lame" contribution to that (now) poor excuse for a magazine.

The e-mail...

I am a long time engineer, now approaching 50 years since my first exposure to Popular Science. Much of what I learned as a kid about Science and Engineering was the result of days spent pouring over every word contained in the few dog-eared issues that I could purchase with my "extra" paper route money, 35 cents being the princely sum that it was in those days. I built -- at least mentally --most of the projects that filled the pages of my beloved "Science” magazine and learned an amazing amount as a result.

I have to admit that it has been "a few" years since my last Pop Sci experience. Today I found the August 2008 issue in the break room at lunchtime. I eagerly flipped through looking for a good article to read while my leftover enchiladas warmed. I was dismayed to see none of the in-depth technical articles or construction projects that I always found so stimulating. What I did find were a bunch of glitzy articles that were nothing more than glorified ads for this or that gee-whiz gizmo.

But what literally broke my heart was the "Five Minute Project" shown on page 82, "A nut-and-bolt Keychain". Is your audience -- and in a greater sense, our civilization -- so "dumbed-down" that you thought that a suggestion for holding two or more objects (items that already have holes) together with a nut and bolt was noteworthy? If that weren't bad enough, you felt it necessary to add the user reminder to use bolt that was slightly smaller that the smallest hole in the keys. My goodness, Man! What is the world coming to?

But if that is to be our approach. If we're going to have such drivel in your magazine, we mustn't stop there:

1) The bolt that you show in the photo is a carriage bolt (see the little square section there below the head?). Such a bolt (once used to lock the head in place in the wood of a carriage, for example, hence the name) would never be suitable because that portion of the head would (probably) not fit through the hole in any of the keys. So our "super-compact way to keep our keys together" suddenly isn't so compact. You should have specified a standard machine screw...I, myself, would suggest a pan or truss head for minimum head height.

2) Although you mention it in the text, the nut you show in the photos is not a locknut. It is a standard hex nut that over the course of time will spin off the assembly-- no matter how tight you make them -- leaving you with a bolt, a nut, N keys and N + 1 washers bouncing around in your pocket and getting lost. An elastic stop nut could be turned onto the shaft of the bolt until the keys are not quite snug. In this way, the keys are free to spin but will never come off the screw, that is unless you want them to, an important note that you failed to add for our mentally diminished readers.

3) You also never mentioned the screw length. This is an important point. The optimum bolt length would be a compromise between being long enough to permit the keys to spin freely on the bolt with the elastic stop nut in place at the end of the bolt (so that the potentially sharp thread end is covered) while being short enough that the assembly will not create an unsightly bulge in your pocket or a lot of excess noise as you walk.

Anonymous said...

OK, I apologize. I found and read your original post and, while not elegant, your design at least made some sense.

Obviously, the morons at Pop Sci hacked up your reasonable idea into a totally worthless kluge.

You've got a good site otherwise.

Carlos said...


I understand your feelings. I never really submitted my keychain, they found my article, liked it and asked me if they could put it on the magazine.

It is surprising to see which of my posts get the most attention. Very often the simpler things interest readers a lot, while more complex projects don't get any attention.

Since I write this blog only as a way of documenting my project for personal reference, I'm only happy to see that some people read and sometime like what I do. So I don't care if any particular project gets more attention than others. It is simply interesting to see what people like.

I never really read Pop Sci, but they seem to have some issues with their building skills. Just watch how the guy on the new video about my keychain holds the grinder.

I'm glad that you found my original idea reasonable. I know it is by no means elegant since it was put together very quickly. But don't worry, I'm working on a new and improved version that is more elegant and even provides a way of adding or removing keys.

Cheers and thank you for reading.