Paul Allen Telescope Array / Mark and the Boing Box

Xeni talks to philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen about The Allen Telescope Array, a $50 million astronomy project 6 years in the making that expands the search for extra-terrestrial life. Allen joins researchers from the SETI Institute and UC Berkeley today in Hat Creek, California, to announce that the first phase of
the ATA is complete -- 42 of an eventual 350 radio dishes are now active
and collecting scientific data from the universe.

Also in today's episode (starting at 4:44), mad professor Mark Frauenfelder dons his lab coat to demonstrate a peculiar sound instrument he made - a "boing box." Mark shows you how to make one yourself! He found the plans on Learn more in the next issue of MAKE magazine.

And! BBtv has an insanely cool, all-new intro animation, designed by Syd Garon

(did the animated feature "DJ Qbert's Wave Twisters," "Somebody Goofed," and "Jack Chick's Titanic") with art from Adam Koford (did hobos! monkeys! laugh out loud cats!). Can you spot all the iconic BB elements in the subliminally speedy montage? Includes goatse and AACS keys, vulcans and tikis, sad popsicles and 8-bit unicorns, EFF and NSA, and much much more. Sound in that intro clip is by Carlos Bêla of Golden Shower, and logo critters by eBoy.

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32 Responses to Paul Allen Telescope Array / Mark and the Boing Box

  1. George Ruiz says:

    Best show yet! Xeni = total glam and Mark was strangely hilarious. New intro works a lot better, too.

  2. Kosh says:

    Another great episode from Xeni and Co. I have been running SETI@home for a while now, almost 1/2 a million credits in BOINC on all 15 PC’s on my home network, and when I heard the ATA was being build I was happy to hear that SETI was getting another major cred boost from a undenible source to what must be THE biggest question of all time.
    Hey Xeni, any chance your coming to my home town near Wellington, NZ in a hurry?

  3. Anonymous says:

    What’t the link for that website where to find the “boing box” …?

  4. nex says:

    Mark, if you make more sound effects gadgets, then maybe you’re going to show them on bb tv? Maybe? Maybe? That’s crazy talk! You must!

  5. License Farm says:

    Mark, you look like as though Kurt Russell played Prof. Julius Kelp. That’s good! It means you’ll bust out a soulful bass solo on that boing box to make the ladies swoon, or perhaps a raga. Didn’t I say your glasses would read better? (Your definition of “better” may vary.)

    The shot of Xeni waiting for Paul’s call was a nice analogy. E.T., phone home, dammit!

    I didn’t want to be too negative before, but I much prefer this 8-bit intro to the slicker CGI Jackhammer Jill; the two looks didn’t mesh well. I spotted “Bob”; IAIAIAIAIAIAIAIA!!!

  6. GuabaMan says:

    This episode was very Cosmos! Fantastic! I only didn’t like the regular phone, it think it hided a lot of Xeni’s face. BTW cool skull ring!

  7. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    I made a mistake. The site is not It’s Here is the actual link to the site that reprints the plans to the Boing Box:

  8. Anonymous says:

    Um, are those Flying Spaghetti Monster earrings Xeni is wearing? If not, the resemblance is striking.

  9. Tie-dyed Tehuti says:

    The boing box is great. Mark’s little pelvic gyrations are what really sells it.

  10. Gamma says:

    Xeni, I love that you reach for the phone before it rings. Mark, that’s a really clever and simple design for tensioning the wire. I’ve been making homemade instruments for years and never stumbled upon that method.

  11. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Yay! And Mark’s hair is skyward again! The way Gopod intended it.

  12. Robert Schanafelt says:

    Great show… Mark, the multi-clip performance at the end was disturbingly funny.

    Note to editor: Mark’s last name is missing an ‘n’.

  13. Wil Wheaton says:

    New intro + boingbox FTW.

  14. Landowner says:

    All I can say is that Xeni is totally awesome. <3

  15. Anonymous says:

    The sound effects on that intro… from Atari 2600 Pac-Man from 1982? That’s what it sounded like…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Xeni looks too pretty and distracts me form the actual content of the clip. I find this to be a handicap.

  17. cha0tic says:

    Well bugger me. Xeni, pronounced ‘Shen-ee’. I’ve been hearing it pronounced Zen-ee when reading. You learn something new every day.

  18. Anonymous says:

    The ‘boing box’ reminded me of a Brazilian instrument called Berimbau.
    You can see it in action here.

    The principle is the same, only an empty dry gourd is used for resonance instead of the box, the metal string is hit with a small stick and the tone is modified by pressing a small metal ring to shorten it. It’s a really cool instrument if well played.

  19. Bonnie says:

    I love that you used a real phone to interview Paul Allen. Again, another brilliant episode! I’m officially addicted! 😉

  20. baden says:

    … ich bin kein schule… but I have a full fledge man-crush on Mark.

    love the new intro…MUCH better… but still have a problem with the blue(green) screen spill… c’mon people, if you need help, just ask.

  21. Anonymous says:

    The Allen Telescope Array is controlled by Linux. See screen at 0:44

  22. Anonymous says:’s flying-rabbit-lamma creature looks like it has udders when the loading-star is overlaid. It’s definitely a good addition to their graphic. Perhaps they should revise it? I think so.

    Loved the introduction, and am going to have to build myself a home-made twanging instrument.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Great episode. And he didn’t mention “Contact” as his fave movie? I would think that would be an easy call. Isn’t Paul Allen the cool billionaire who saves Jodi Foster and her fictional seti project…? Perhaps he thought that would be too presumptuous.

    I wish Xeni had brought up two more points: One, where are the Jack Vance movies? Allen says he loves the man’s work…And two: why doesn’t Paul Allen spend 2 million a year and rebuild the short fiction market for science fiction? Phil Dick or Robert Silverberg probably couldn’t survive these days on what the handful of science fiction mags pay these days, unchanged since the 50s I’ve been told. It would only take a budget of 2 or 3 million a year and you could create a whole new generation of great science fiction writers. Paul Allen could be the Hugo Gernsback of the new millennium…at least that’s what I wished Xeni had said.

    And that was a very cool Boing sound. Might be something there for radical guitar designers as well…

    Philip Shropshire

    PS: And could you please put your videos on the Youtubes or Daily Motion, which has better resolution?

  24. mikebee says:

    Wow. BBTV is swiftly becoming my favorite TV show, period, and this one is the best yet. The end – amazing! But where’s Cory & Pesco?

  25. V(irtual)D(espot) says:

    Stellar: New intro, Xeni and Mark’s coiffures, the Boing Boing dental plan apparently.

    Put it in the cellar:

  26. Anonymous says:

    Xeni! Marry me! (wait, are you single?)

  27. Stefan Jones says:

    Good episode. Things are slowly getting slicker and more confident.

    I’m glad to see that Mark has his geek specs back on! I’m due to get a new pair of trifocals . . . do I go for the black hornrims?

    What #18 sez: is really annoying. I clicked through and was very disappointed. I feel like Ralphie on “The Christmas Story:” “It’s a lousy commercial!”

  28. Cowicide says:

    Yepper, best show so far! Loved Xeni’s old skewl phone and Mark was hilarious. Oh crap, they’re getting comfortable at this … regular TV is in t r o u b l e … (yay!)

  29. The Astronot says:

    Never have I seen such hawt footage of telephone conversation in my life and believe me I’ve seen a conversation or two in my days. But seriously good show.

  30. Registered User says:


  31. Anonymous says:

    you guys are getting better….the background still sucks tho. the interview was great, but that phone totally obscured your face xeni. such a pretty face too, even teh girls think yer hott.

    to mark- your instructions are good, but not slow enough and the camera never gets close up enough to truly understand every part. for example, i still don’t know what an eyehook is and how it holds the wire in place; don’t assume the viewer knows these things!

    additionally, take on example rocketboom for their wide and varied choices in formats; something for everyone!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Mark! Quit playing with your twanger!

    Also, when are you guys going to show up on TiVoCast? I want Boing Boing TV on my actual TV!

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