PBS’ ‘Nova’ gets into the Kickstarter spirit

David Pogue in "Hunting the Elements"
Samples of chemical elements are spread out on a periodic table for David Pogue, host of “Hunting the Elements.” Now Pogue and “Nova” are raising money for a sequel. (WGBH Photo / Cara Feinberg)

Kickstarter has given a boost to science projects ranging from satellites to “Bill Nye: Science Guy,” but now it’s opening a new frontier for crowdfunding: “Nova” documentaries for public TV.

Today marks the start of a 30-day “Make Science for All” campaign, pitched by the “Nova” team at WGBH and tech reporter David Pogue.

The objective is to raise at least $1 million for a two-hour broadcast special, “Beyond the Elements,” which Pogue would host. If the Kickstarter total reaches $2.25 million, that would fund a wider variety of multimedia works and make the show available for viewing at schools across the country.

“Beyond the Elements” would follow up on “Hunting the Elements,” an earlier program that was hosted by Pogue. The first film was based on Theodore Gray’s coffee-table book, “The Elements,” a colorful chronicle of all the elements on the periodic table.

The sequel would take the story a step further, showing how a limited set of atoms combine to form the tens of millions of substances that make up our world.

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‘Space selfie’ project canceled; refunds offered

Image: Space selfie
An artist’s conception shows how an Arkyd 100 space telescope would have taken a “space selfie” from orbit. (Credit: Planetary Resources via Kickstarter)

REDMOND, Wash. – Three years ago, Planetary Resources raised more than $1.5 million on Kickstarter to build a space telescope that would let users snap selfies from orbit. Today, the company says it can’t follow through on the project – and is offering full refunds to its 17,614 backers.

“It’s a decision that we make with a heavy heart,” Chris Lewicki, president and CEO of Planetary Resources, told GeekWire during a visit to the company’s Redmond headquarters.

Lewicki said the support received during the Kickstarter campaign exceeded their wildest expectations, but it wasn’t enough to fund everything that needed to be done to turn the promised system into reality.

“We evaluated a lot of different opportunities with businesses, with educational institutions, with different outlets,” he said. “What we didn’t find, since the campaign closed a few years ago, was the follow-on interest to take it from a project and scale it into a fully funded mission. … We’re going to wind down the project and bring it to a close.”

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Invisible ink updated with magic algae

Image: Living Ink pen
Lines drawn with Living Ink’s algae pen disappear, then reappear. (Credit: Living Ink Technologies)

Remember invisible ink? You could write a secret message with the stuff, watch your words disappear, then make them magically reappear by holding the message over a heat source.

The basic idea goes back to ancient times, but now it’s been updated with a biotech twist. Colorado-based Living Ink Technologies has created a type of ink that’s “green” in more ways than one. It’s made from algae, it’s non-toxic, and it’s produced in a way that’s environmentally sustainable.

“Our mission is to displace toxic petroleum-based ink, in which our first partnership is with Aveda to make sustainable packaging ink from algae cells,” Living Ink’s co-founder and CEO, Scott Fulbright, told GeekWire in an email.

Fulbright and his fellow inventors, Steve Albers and Jeff Zdunek, are having a little fun with the invisible-ink idea. Their Kickstarter project offers an algal-based ink that’s loaded into a pen or a printer. When the ink is applied to paper, it dries to become invisible. But when the paper is placed in a clear “greenhouse” frame, the algae multiply so fast that the ink eventually reappears like the fuzz on a Chia Pet.

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