Alt-week 09.07.13: 3D printed cars, invisibility cloaks, and LADEE launches

Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.

Altweek 090713 3D printed cars, invisibility cloaks, and LADEE launches

We're all about the launches this week, at both ends of the spectrum. At the small-scale, we see what happens when a pinewood derby gets the 3D printing treatment. At the other end, NASA's LADEE begins its voyage to the moon. This is alt-week.

We get the impression that the team behind the IDSA conference are our kinda people. Why? Well, amongst all the serious business of discussing industrial design and creativity, they saw fit to set up a little 3D printed fun. We applaud the ingenuity behind printing replacement bones, prototypes and other such useful stuff, but in the same way the internet is a wealth of knowledge, we still use it for a little YouTube relief now and again. The mission? Design and print a car that will "jump" the farthest when launched from a ramp. Oh, and extra points if it crashes spectacularly. Ten designs were chosen as finalists, and got to have their creations printed, and launched into infamy. Watch the colorful band of entrants in the video above to see who wins.

Altweek 090713 3D printed pinewood derby,

If you thought the coolest thing we'd see come from a 3D printer this week would be the cars above, then what about this -- a 3D printed invisibility cloak! Not only that, but instructions on how you can make one yourself. Okay, it's not going to let you sneak into the pantry unnoticed, in search of more candy, or whatever nefarious misadventure you might have been cooking up. But if you hang out in the 9.7- to 10.1 GHz frequency range (that which this device renders things invisible to) then you're in luck. That might not sound useful, but it's around the range used by some radar guns, so, well you might find some use for it. Once it scales up, of course. The work comes from engineers at Duke University, initially unveiled earlier this summer.

NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer -- or LADEE for short -- has been successfully launched. The Mission ops team at the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field California, confirmed that the spacecraft took off successfully at 11:27pm EDT on Friday. The Lunar-bound rocket will explore the atmosphere around our moon, while inspecting dust that is sometimes found emanating from its surface. It's also going to make use of the experimental laser communications, which assuming work as planned, offer a six-fold increase in throughput over traditional radio systems. Catch the launch above, or some official photos here.

Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.