Winter Solstice Survival Guide 2013

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The most wonderful time of the year, obviously.

The most wonderful time of the year, obviously.

’tis the season to consume! But for this part of the year, as the Winter Solstice approaches, we consume not for ourselves, but for others, and that’s generally a good thing. Each year we here at Science… sort of like to put together a list of suggestions for the science-inclined in your life. Whether you’re looking to give the gift of science, or fleshing out your own list to send to your regionally-appropriate gift giving elf-spirit, this list should have you covered.

We begin with Patrick, who really went above and beyond with contribution, earning him well-deserved top billing.

Nerds are hard to shop for. You have to walk a fine line between getting them something not nerdy enough and insulting them by buying another Star Trek Enterprise Key Chain.

littleBits Premium Kit

littleBits Premium Kit


Here I present to you stuph for nerds of all ages that hopefully will be recognizably nerdy without crossing the line. Like this beanie, unless somebody’s really paying attention, they won’t even know the person wearing it is a nerd.Winter is Coming.

For your budding maker nerds: littleBits Premium Kit.

littleBits are basically a cross between the circuits board kit (that you had when you were 11) and legos. The little magnetized units fit together in all kinds of different ways to power awesome miniature projects. These things have won all kinds of toy awards and the woman that invented them, Ayah Bdeir, is a pretty astounding person as well. I’ve linked to a middle of the road kit but you can step up or down in bits included in the kits (and price).

If you have a more advanced maker on your list, consider getting them an Arduino starter kit. This has become the essential piece of rough tech for all sorts of electronics projects and prototyping. If your listee needs more power you can spring for the Raspberry Pi starter kit, which is basically a full on computer on a board but will require some real programming chops. If you aren’t sure which of these to buy, this article can fill you in a little bit more, but I’m guessing the Arduino.

usb and standard plugs!

usb and standard plugs!

If your tinker would like to see some results in a hurry, you could pick up a wall outlet with USB ports (I have 3 of these). They are great because they still give you two standard outlet plugs plus two USB ports for charging. You can now get rid of that power strip on your nightstand! Minimal electrical skills are required (mostly knowing how to shut off a breaker and how to use a screwdriver). P.S. you’ll probably need a different wall face plate after you switch out the outlet.

Arduino Ultimate Starter Kit

Arduino Ultimate Starter Kit


If you figure the people on your list to be more on the software side of things you could introduce some of the young people in your life to coding through the play-i robots (although they are only available through Kickstarter in November, and don’t ship until June or so — really more of a summer solstice thing). But for someone a little older you could pick them up the most recent edition of How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. This has become a classic as an introduction to the Python language.

Maybe your nerd is a little more sedentary and prefers thinking to all this doing I’ve been hawking so far. The Western Digital My Cloud might be for you. If you’ve got multiple computers and other smart devices (iPods, phones, TVs) you probably struggle getting all your music/movies/photos/etc to be available on the device you have in your hot little hands and any one time. Enter the myCloud. Basically it’s like a server for you local WiFi network. Hold all episodes of Battlestar Galactica on them and watch them on any of your devices. Another first world problem solved.

Finally, I’m very intrigued by S., a novel by J. J. Abrams. It’s sort of a found footage kind of a story. Wired magazine’s review claimed it was like downloading Lost to your brain. Having not read it yet, I gotta say it reminds me of the video game Myst. This should keep your nerd (or you) occupied for quite some time.


Next up, Charlie is in the market for a new camera, but how about this slick Sony QX100 Smart Lens, which puts a DSLR lens on your smartphone! Tell me that doesn’t seem better than just a camera, right?


Kelly thinks you’re not reading about insults enough and thus suggests:

For the nerd in your life who is looking for some clever insults, how about 2^7 Nerd Disses: A Significant Quantity of Disrespect? But what if you can’t find the right position while reading in bed? Does your neck hurt when you prop yourself up for too long? Then grab yourself a pair of periscope glasses! These glasses allow you to read while laying down flat, which may give you a few more hours of reading!



It should surprise no one that Jacob wants you and your nerds to have more toys:

So for nerds like me, this time of year is always exciting and disappointing. Exciting because there’s a lot of great deals on very cool electronics, but disappointing because I STILL CANT BUY THEM.

… But maybe you can! So here’s my list of super-awesome things for Winter Solstice 2013

logitech_remoteThe GoPro is always a great gift for the active nerd in your life, and the latest iteration is no exception. The HD Hero 3 has some great features to interface with your smart phone, and the “Black Edition” comes with a remote control so you can time your shots perfectly!

Does your tamed nerd have too many remote controls for you to keep track of? Is their assistance required to get the sound to work when your Home Theatre PC is playing TOTALLY LEGAL copies of blu-ray movies? Well nip that in the bud with the Logitech Harmony Remote! It can control all of your devices (even game systems and computers) so that even grandma can use it!

And finally, for the budget conscious nerds among you, this is what I’M going to buy this holiday season – The Google ChromeCast. It’s a stupid-simple device that can play media on your TV. It plugs into your HDMI port, and plays Netflix, HuluPlus, and most everything else you can think of! And the best part, it’s only 35$ (30$ on sale!)


Ryan might have taken the “survival” part a bit literally:

snowshoesHaving recently done some stupid things to test my supposed invincibility, I think you and the nerds in your life should be prepared to survive in a blizzard at night on a mountain. Don’t ask why, just trust me.

Now depending on how hard it’s snowing, you may need to wear snowshoes. They look intimidating, but you really do just strap them to your feet and walk around. Piece of cake.

When it gets dark (which happens at least once a day) you’ll want light. I like this Petzl headlamp, it’s powerful, has a good number of modes, and a little red light which you can use to preserve your night vision or read in the dark without blinding anyone else in camp.

You may also need to start a fire, so you’re going to want a fire starter.  Doesn’t get much simpler than a bit of magnesium and some metal to spark it with, but with this you’ll definitely want to practice at home before trying it out in the wild. (Kids, don’t play with fire.)

Once that fire is going you’ll need to stay warm. The lightweight and stylish way to do that is with reflective Mylar blankets!

You’ll burn a lot of calories trekking around the alpine terrain, so don’t forget to bring a big bag of trail mix.


And finally, a machete, because machete’s are awesome. I have actually used, and can therefore recommend, this particular Gerber model. Good grip, the saw part actually works, and the blade is sharp enough to cut through it’s own case. Again, don’t ask.


Finally, Ben wrote this:


look how cool this is
i want it for xmas

It’s possible that Canadian AIs don’t quite get how these kinds of articles are supposed to work…

Didn’t find quite what you were looking for? Our lists from previous years likely still apply, so check those out at the links below:

Thanks for reading, and have a happy and scientific solstice!


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