The following is a brief slide-show of my experience at the 2008 Austin Maker Faire.

This coming Saturday and Sunday, Maker Faire will be hosting over 300 "Makers". Here's just some of the commercial exhibitors from the Maker Faire website (not that I expect you to read every single one of these, but just skim the list, you'll some pretty notable and interesting names):

Maker Faire Logo

Groups and associations include:
Finally, for those of you with insanely fast internet connections you can watch the following promo clip entitled, "Maker Faire Austin in the 21st Century (The movie!)".

For up-to-date info visit the Maker Faire blog. This is the kind of stuff nerds get pumped up about. This is the kind of thing that when ordinary people attend, they discover that they're secretly nerds. Unless you have some really good excuse not to be there, then you should go. This is the now.

The world of science and technology is an exciting one. It is filled with wonder, excitement and discovery. Because there aren't any boundaries, there are no limits. The very field itself would not exist if it were not for the fact that there are still unknowns in our world today. To be honest, that's partly why it's so appealing to so many, yet a bit intimidating to others.

It's that challenge of the unknown that makes some pause, and in the end turn back and look for an alternative that while more predictable, at least is more stable. But for others, the allure of facing the great "unconquered" is what their child-hood dreams are made of.

Brilliant Scientist at work in his laboratory
So we some to the realization that while scientists and engineers are stereotypically classified as "nerds", "geeks", "weirdos", "introverts", etc., they are really the ones who will change the world. For example, ask an ordinary American on any street who Douglas Fairbanks was and odds are that they won't have the slightest clue. But ask them who Thomas Edison was and an overwhelming majority of them will know.

Douglas Fairbanks at his time was one of the greatest movie stars in the 1920s. But now he's sunk into relative obscurity. Why? Because he didn't conquer any great unknown, unless you count acting in front of a camera. But he knew what cameras were and what they did. There was nothing "unknown" about that.

Thomas Edison on the other hand, conquered many unknowns. He made the light bulb, the phonograph, and the first movie camera and movie stage. In fact, everything that he did is what made it even possible for Douglas Fairbanks to have a career.

A spoiled child of Hollywood throws a temper tantrum
In their time Fairbanks very well might have had more fame and notoriety than Edison, or he might not have. What we do know is that he was very, very popular on-screen. But today, 80 years later, who do we remember? The movie star, or the engineer? The one who who pursued a glamorous life-style, or the one who sacrificed status and wealth and went out on a limb?

The next time we see or hear the public make a fuss about Johny Depp, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Britney Spears, or some other pop culture figure, just ask yourself, "In 80 years from now will humans remember any of those 4, or will they remember Frederick Sanger, Dean Kamen, Stephen Hawking, and Tim Berners-Lee?"

You may not know who those men are now, but you definitely either will benefit, or already are benefiting from their contributions to society. Frederick Sanger discovered DNA sequencing, Dean Kamen created the Segway and is the founder of FIRST Robotics, Stephen Hawking is arguably the smartest man currently on the face of the planet and has done extensive work in theoretical physics, and Tim Berners-Lee created the internet,. They have impacted our generation, and countless generations to come for the better.

Scientists are cool, smart, and suave
These are men who have taken risks, adventured out into the unknown, and conquered what they did not see.

I recently came across this sketch from Ben Caldwell imagining what retro, cyberpunked Nazgul from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings would look like.

Some steampunked Nazgul
If you look closely you can see the rich details on the the bottom "steed". The decals eerily resemble an eye falling from the sky. The top craft though, seems more fitting for "General Grievous" from Star Wars.