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Manchester SciFi Book Club – Vote for the next round of books!

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Sci-Fi Book Club

Sci-Fi Book Club

Manchester SciFi Book Club meet on the third Tuesday of every month to discuss a different science fiction book. The meetings are free to attend so, if you’re a science fiction reader, come on down. Right now, they’re taking a vote for their next round of books to read. Below is a list of the books, and a link to the poll. Get voting!

  • Player One Ready by Ernest Cline (384 pages)
  • Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson (384 pages)
  • Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon (384 pages)
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (318 pages)
  • Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F Hamilton (320 pages)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur by Mark Twain (272 pages)
  • Turbulance by Samit Basu (368 pages)
  • Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress (400 pages)
  • Protector by Larry Niven (218 pages)
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (256 pages)
  • Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds (296 pages)
  • Shikasta Re: Colonised Planet 5 by Doris Lessing (384 pages)

Vote now or click through for more about each book…


Group Spotlight – Arduino Manchester

Monday, May 19th, 2014

One of the world’s most popular open source technologies, Arduino has a special place in our hearts here at MadLab. Whether we’re teaching it, hacking it, or selling it down at Inventory, it crops up on an almost daily basis. Fittingly, one of our many community groups brings together users of the platform.

Arduino Manchester Logo

Arduino Manchester

Organised by local artist James Medd, Arduino Manchester meets on the last Tuesday of the month, and is currently working on Pararchive, a project lead by the University of Leeds, which is aiming to decentralise archive materials from institutions including the BBC, Science Museum Group, and Nation Media museum, to tell the stories of community groups. Daniel Mutibwa, one of the project leaders at Leeds, has been attending Arduino Manchester’s 2014 meetups, and has written a nice summary of their April meetup:

At this Arduino Manchester group Meet-up session, we were invited to talk about the progress of the project and to hear where members were with their own research projects. As always, the session was convened by James – an artist, musician, and maker based in Manchester, and the leader and coordinator of the group. In attendance were Chris, Michelle, Roman and his friend Donna. James began the session by projecting the latest news and developments from the Arduino development platform on a screen…

Continue reading at

If you’d like to get involved with Arduino Manchester or Pararchive, they’re meeting next on May 27th.

An introduction to Noah Most, MadLab’s visiting DIY Biologist

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

MadLab’s Jo Slack delves into the world of DIY Bio and questions Noah Most, our resident DIY Biologist, about his DIY Bio trip around the world. 

Jo joined MadLab in November after a stint working in London. She’s involved with the Marketing and Copywriting at MadLab and helps run the Courses programme.


Before I came to work at MadLab I’d not heard much about DIY Bio, in fact I knew very little about it at all. I come from a Creative Writing background and the closest I’ve gotten to Biological experiments since leaving High School is the various mould-growing exploits that went on in my eight-student Uni house.

Though I may not be an expert on all the stuff that goes on here, the thing that most attracts me about MadLab is the diversity. The vast wealth of activities taking place at any one moment satisfies my inquisitive nature. In one week, we’ll be hosting Taxidermy courses, running coding sessions and teaching children how to create circuits through electric paint. When I heard that we were getting a resident DIY Biologist, and not just any old DIY Biologist, but one that led a microfinance non-profit that was hailed as a ‘Champion of Change’ by Barack Obama, I was eager to find out more.

NOah blog 12

Noah Most hails from Iowa, the ‘Heartland’ of the US. When he arrived, he quickly excused his generic American accent by letting us know that he really does come from bang slap in the middle of the States. In fact, it’s so central (and thus middle-of-the road accent-wise) that it is actually known for being the place where Newsreaders move to in order to neutralise theirs. Noah studied Biology at Grinnell College, a University just outside of his hometown. I asked him where else he’d been in the US and he admitted he hadn’t really travelled around much. Quite surprising when you hear about what brought him to the UK  a year-long round the world DIY Bio trip funded by the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, in which he’ll visit various DIY Bio spaces across numerous continents.

MadLab’s strand of DIY Bio is one element that sits in between numerous other projects. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t have it’s own voice. Since it was set up by MadLab Director Asa Calow in 2012, with the help of MMU and funding from the Wellcome Trust, the DIY Bio strand at MadLab has seen people making fuel cells from car park soil, swabbing bus stops to identify the dirtiest parts of Manchester and DNA barcoding sushi. To top it off, MadLab were invited to San Francisco (by the FBI no less) to take part in a nationwide Bio conference, helping official bodies keep up with what is going on in the DIY Bio world. When we were approached by Noah and learnt about his Bio activities we were quick to say a big hearty yes to his visit request, and get him on board.

Noah has already visited a few DIY Bio projects having started at a Canadian maker-space in Victoria where he worked on DIY origami. His next stop will be India before travelling on to Indonesia. I asked him what the best thing he’d done so far Bio-wise was:

The best thing that I’ve gotten to do was explore whether DNA nanotechnology is something that’s feasible for do-it-yourself biologists. As a proof of concept, I made a 2D lightbulb that was less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair…out of DNA! Not too long ago it would have been crazy to think that you could build an object by using DNA as a construction material, let alone do so in a biohackerspace. This same technology has been used to create nano-robots for delivering drugs to cancer cells and not healthy cells.

Proof that DIY Bio isn’t just something for people wanting to play scientist. The whole concept of DIY Bio only really came into play in 2008 and the advances DIY Biologists have achieved since are quite astonishing. No wonder we got under the FBI’s skin!

Noah will be working with us on a number of projects for the next few weeks. He has a dedicated lab space on the bottom floor where you’ll usually find him plastic gloves on and pipette in hand. He has already been involved with a project that took place at Longsight Library, teaching women and girls how to extract DNA from strawberries, create yeast balloons and make ricotta cheese from milk and lemon. On Saturday Asa and Noah will host a ‘Mystery Meat’ workshop, encouraging participants to identify meat in ready meals using the techniques of PCR and Gel Electrophores.

noah blog 4

Having been here for a few weeks I was curious to find out what Manchester is like for a Central American on first impression. Apart from being disappointed by the lack of resemblance to Downtown Abbey (apparently Noah’s standard for everything British) he says he loves the mix of old and new in the architecture and is just about beginning to understand our lingo. When asked what he misses most about home he admits it’s probably his dog, though his family and friends are a close second. He’s not sure what’s next after this spectacular adventure but he says it’ll be hard not to set up a lab in his Kitchen, something that we fully encourage here at MadLab.

You can catch Noah this Saturday at MadLab for the Mystery Meat Workshop. You don’t need any biology chops to participate, just a bit of curiosity. Tickets are £8 and can be purchased here.




CRITGroup’s February Meetup

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Annabeth has written another great write-up about CRITGroup, who just recently completed a collaborative project. CRIT stands for Creative Reflection and Investigation Talk Group, and is an opportunity for artists and designers to get together, discuss their work, and support each other.

Read more about their latest meetup in this blog post, and attend their next meetup on the 26th of March:

This month I was really looking forward to the opportunity for a freer session for a change, less constrained by attending to the specifics of the latest collaborative project, which we completed last month. I wasn’t disappointed! Though I have enjoyed the collaborations, both participating in them and being part of the discussions they generated, it was really refreshing to get ‘back to the roots’ of the group and just spend a couple of hours sharing and talking about recent work and ideas.

Continue reading…

Mike Glynn’s ‘Living Map of Manchester’, an Arduino-powered Internet of Things Project

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Mike Glynn attended our ‘Building the Internet of Things’ course last year, and has since created an excellent project. Mike works at HERE (a Nokia-owned mapping business) and is responsible for helping customers better understand their map data.

Mike decided to aid visualisation of expected and actual road speeds by using LEDs in a very flashy-looking installation. Read more about it on his blog:

The HERE platform publishes real time average speeds for roads belonging to the TMC (Traffic Messaging Channel) network – when these real time speeds are compared with expected free flow speeds a colour value can be calculated which indicates how freely the traffic is flowing. This technique is used by most mapping sites for displaying traffic conditions (e.g., google maps, bing maps). Here’s showing traffic on the M60.



My aim was to replicate this in a physical form using LED’s – I chose the M60 because our office is located in Manchester.

Continue reading on Mike’s blog…

We’ll be listing a new Internet of Things course for 2014 soon. Stay tuned for updates!