Monday, April 14, 2014 - 10:00Building a mind-boggling infinity mirror using Adafruit #Neopixels
EETimes has posted this cool project from Designline Editor Max Maxfield.
As you may recall, an infinity mirror involves a relatively thin enclosure (frame) with a full mirror at the back and a partial mirror (or a half-mirror or one-way mirror) at the front. Following my previous experiments, I decided that the optimal distance between the back mirror and the front mirror for my purposes was 1 inch. With regard to the width and height of my mirror, this was easily determined by the fact that I happened to already have a one-way mirror in my possession — and this mirror was 12″ x 12″ — so everything else was derived from these measurements…
Of course, the thing that really makes an infinity mirror so cool is the little light sources you place on the inside of the frame between the front and back mirrors. For this project, I’d already decided to use NeoPixel Strips from Adafruit; in this case, I’m using the type with 60 tri-colored LEDs per meter:
Now, I could simply have wrapped the NeoPixel strip around the inside of the frame and left it at that. However, I intend to experiment with different lighting effects, like having individual LEDs light up in each of the corners and move around the frame in synchronization. This meant that I would need to have the same number of LEDs on each side of the frame. It turned out that I could fit 17 LEDs on each side, with a tiny extra gap in the corners, so I cut four 17-LED pieces off my NeoPixel strip.
Any project like this is a learning experience. If I decide to create another infinity mirror in the future (and I do have some rather cool ideas in this direction) I will do some things differently. For example, I decided to attach my NeoPixel strips to the frame using superglue. When I attached the first strip, I simply stuck it on and weighed it down, as discussed below. Unfortunately, the strip slid around a little on the glue, so it ended up being a tad out of true. This wasn’t really significant, but it’s the look of the thing and my professional pride that’s at stake. If anyone ever opens this up in the future, I want them to say, “Look how perfect this is,” not “Well, that strip is a little skew-whiff, isn’t it?”
Featured Adafruit Product!
Adafruit NeoPixel Digital RGB LED Weatherproof Strip 60 LED -1m: You thought it couldn’t get better than our world-famous 32-LED-per-meter Digital LED strip but we will prove you wrong! You wanted twice the LEDs? We got it (well, its 1.875 times as many but that’s within a margin of error). You wanted thinner strips? Now only 12.5 mm wide, 10 mm if you remove the strip from the casing. You wanted less noticable strip color – this strip has white-colored flex PCB, which will be less visible against white-painted walls. This is the strip with white flex PCB, its identical to the black 60 LED/meter except it has a different color mask on the flex strip. Read more.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 09:30Watch proteins do the jitterbug!
The New York Timeshas posted this great video called “The Inner Life of the Cell”.
If you could shrink down to the size of a molecule and fly into a cell, what would you see?
In 2006, a team of scientists and illustrators offered a gorgeous answer in the form of a three-minute video called “The Inner Life of the Cell.” Nothing quite like it had ever been made before, and it proved to be a huge hit, broadcast by museums, universities and television programs around the world.
The video was a collaboration between BioVisions, a scientific visualization program at Harvard’s department of molecular and cellular biology, and Xvivo, a scientific animation company in Connecticut.
Delving into the scientific literature, the scientists and animators created a video about an immune cell. The cell rolls along the interior wall of a blood vessel until it detects signs of inflammation from a nearby infection.
We dive into the cell to see what happens next. Molecules swim through the cell like dolphins, relaying the signal from the outside. Certain genes switch on, and the cell makes new proteins that are put into a blob called a vesicle. An oxlike protein called kinesin hauls the vesicle across the cell, walking along a molecular cable.
Once the vesicle reaches its destination, it releases its cargo. The new proteins cause the immune cell to stop rolling, and it flattens out and slips between the cells that make up the blood vessel wall so that it can seek out the infection.
“The Inner Life of the Cell” was made possible by advances on many scientific fronts.
In recent years, scientists have learned a great deal about the shapes of biological molecules, for example. They can use powerful computers to visualize the molecules in action.
The video was so entrancing that it was easy to forget that it was not raw footage captured by some microscopic GoPro camera. It was a piece of art. The scientists and animators made choices about what to show, and how to show it.
For one thing, they left out just about all the proteins, giving the cell the look of a nearly empty ocean. “The interior of a cell is incredibly crowded,” said Michael Astrachan, the president and creative director of Xvivo.
Alain Viel, the director of undergraduate research at Harvard and a member of the BioVisions team, likened the inside of a cell to a rush-hour subway platform. “If there’s a big crowd in front of you, there’s a good chance you might not even see the train,” he said.
Dr. Viel and his colleagues also chose to show the proteins moving with a stately grace. Real proteins, by contrast, are perpetually quivering. They pick up bits of energy from water molecules that bump into them, and they crash into other proteins and bounce off cell membranes.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 09:00MIT unveils the shapeshifting furniture of the future
Fast Company posted about the latest project out of MIT’s Tangible Media Group: shape-shifting furniture.
When it was first unveiled last year, the inFORM–a shapeshifting display that you can reach through and touch–was meant to be a sort of digital scrying pool through which MIT could imagine the user interfaces of the future. Currently on display at Milan’s Design Week, the inFORM’s successor (called, appropriately enough, the Transform) is a scrying pool too, but instead of helping us imagine the interfaces of the future, it’s here to teach us what the polymorphous furniture of tomorrow will be like instead.
Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by professor Hiroshi Ishii at MIT’s Tangible Media Group, the inFORM was essentially a self-aware monitor that didn’t just display light; it could display shape, too. Additionally, it could sense when users were interacting with it. Using the inFORM, you could shake hands with someone at another computer across the world, just as easily as you might Skype from someone on your laptop.
The inFORM was an exciting look at the possibilities of future computer UIs. But it didn’t quite capture all the ideas that the Tangible Media Lab was hoping to get across. “When most people look at inFORM, what they see is a big computer interface,” Leithinger says. “And that’s even how we thought of it. But in the future, computers aren’t going to look like computers. They’re going to be embedded in everything around us.”
With Transform, the Tangible Media Group wanted to explore what the shapeshifting furniture of tomorrow might be like. What if the design of your furniture weren’t static, but could change according to your nature, your personality, and more? Imagine a chair that could transform from an upright rocker to a sumptuous lounge, just by detecting your mood.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 08:00LED Lamp that Projects its own Shade
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 07:00Air-Tensioned Bandsaw Simplifies Woodworking Life
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of owning a band-saw you’ll know exactly how much fun it is to try to replace the blade, or properly tension it even. [Richard T] got tired of it and decided to upgrade his band saw with a bit of pneumatic power.
To remove the band saw blade or tension it you have to turn an adjustment knob on the top of the band saw — it’s kind of awkward and really annoying. [Richard] has taken the lead screw out and replaced it with a pneumatic cylinder. He’s added a little control panel with a main valve, and pressure regulator. To remove the band saw blade, he bleeds the system with the valve, and to tension it, he turns up the regulator! It’s simple and super effective.
This is especially convenient for tensioning because you can watch the blade during the “Flutter Test” while gently turning up the regulator.
If you look in the right places you could probably build a system like this for less than $50. For a complete explanation stick around to hear it from [Richard] himself!
Filed under: tool hacks
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 07:00Scratch-a-Sketch #makeymakey #makeymakeymonday
First, draw some arrows and buttons for ‘pen up/down’, ‘colour change’, ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ in a very soft pencil on some paper. Draw tracks and wire up the arrows to the cursor keys on the Makey Makey. Pen up/down goes to the spacebar, colour change is S, bigger is W and smaller goes to key A. If you don’t have a Makey Makey, you can still use keys on your computer’s keyboard.
The code for Scratch-a-Sketch is here – you can play online in the Flash version if you like, you don’t even need Scratch installed.
Unlike a traditional Etch-a-Sketch, you can lift the pen up to move around without drawing, change colour and pen size, and combine keys such as 2 arrow keys to draw decent diagonal lines.
Today is Makey Makey™ Monday here at Adafruit! The MaKey MaKey – by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, made by JoyLabz! Ever played Mario on Play-Doh or Piano on Bananas? Alligator clip the Internet to Your World. MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Find out more details at makeymakey.com or watch the video at makeymakey.com. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between! If you have a cool project you’ve made with your Makey Makey be sure to send it in to be featured here!
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 06:30How to find the right solar panel for you
Thinking about going solar? Modern Farmer has the scoop on which panel is right for you.
Whether you live in the country, city or suburbs, solar panels — those blue rectangles that soak up the sun’s rays and generate environmentally friendly electricity — have become a common sight. And they are going to become even more common as prices fall — quickly. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the average cost of a panel sunk by 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and mid-2013.
At today’s low prices, investing in solar panels can pay for itself in a relatively short period, particularly in a state where electricity is expensive and/or good incentive programs exist. (A state-by-state listing can be found at dsireusa.org.) Sometimes, local governments provide incentives, and some utility companies reward customers who install panels.
One constant anywhere in the United States is a 30 percent federal renewable energy tax credit that takes a chunk out of purchase and installation costs. Combine that with today’s lower prices and up-front costs can be recouped almost anywhere in the country within the typical 25-year life expectancy of modern solar panels, according to Andy Hershberger, president and CEO of Virginia-based Shenandoah Solar. Still, there are a few things to consider.
“It’s good for folks to get their utility bills and look at what they use on a monthly basis and a yearly basis,” says Andy Tyson, co-founder and owner of Creative Energies, which designs and installs solar electric systems in the West.
Such data is key to designing a system and calculating its payback period. Solar panels need sunshine, so an unshaded spot on the roof or nearby is a must. While the amount of sunshine received by a given place varies, there are very few places in the lower 48 where an unshaded panel won’t perform well, says Tyson.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 06:00Schlieren flow visualization: What does sound look like?
Laughing Squid posted this awesome video from NPR that explains what sound looks like.
NPR’s Skunk Bear, which is the name of their science Tumblr run by Adam Cole, explains what sound looks like using Schlieren flow visualization, a technique that chiefly uses a set of parabolic mirrors, to show air distortion. Given that sound distorts the air, it can be imaged this way. The Schlieren images for this video were provided by Mike Hargather.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 04:00Electron Beam Control In A Scanning Electron Microscope
A few years ago [Ben Krasnow] built a scanning electron microscope from a few parts he had sitting around. He’s done a few overviews of how he built his SEM, but now he’s put up a great video on how to control electrons, focus them into a point, and scan a sample.
The basic idea behind a scanning electron microscope is to shoot electrons down a tube, focus them into a point, and scan a conductive sample and detect the secondary electrons shot off the sample and display them on an oscilloscope. [Ben] is generating electrons with a small tungsten filament at the top of his electron ‘stack’. Being like charged, these electrons naturally fan out, so a good bit of electron optics are required to get a small point.
Focusing is done through a series of pinholes and electrostatic deflectors, much like you’d see in an old oscilloscope CRT. In the video, you can see [Ben] shooting electrons and displaying a Christmas tree graphic onto a piece of phosphor-coated glass. He has a pretty big scanning area in his SEM, more than enough to look at a few chips, wafers, and whatever other crazy stuff is coming out of [Ben]‘s lab.
Video below, along with the three-year-old overview of the entire microscope.
Filed under: misc hacks
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 01:01Hackaday Links: April 13, 2014
Check out this Pokemon Yellow cartridge for Super Nintendo. Wait, what? That is a Game Boy game! Well there is a Super Gameboy cartridge that lets you play them on SNES. This mashes the guts of the two into a custom-decorated SNES cart. Now if you’re more interested in the guts of that Super Game Boy cartridge you’ll want to check out this classic hack which dumped the ROM from it. [Thanks Nick]
Here are a couple of interesting things from our friends over at Adafruit. First off, they have a high-res gallery of the Raspberry Pi compute module and carrier boards which we heard about earlier in the week. Also, the latest Collin’s Lab has a great video on soldering. We especially appreciated the discussion of soldering iron tips and their effect on heat transfer.
[Marius] got tired of the static shock from the office coat rack. You know, like the scene straight out of Office Space? But he didn’t disassemble the infrastructure to solve the issue. Instead he connected it directly to ground. Just make sure you stick the wire in the correct hole!
It’s as if Hackaday is on a quest for the most perfect DIY cyclonic separator. Here’s the latest offering which you can cut out from sheet stock by hand. It’s the alternative for those of us without access to a 3D printer.
If you think it’s too difficult to build what we refer to as a Daft Punk table you need to check out what [Dan] pulled off. He proves that your LED matrix coffee table project doesn’t have to take up a ton of time or cost an exorbitant amount of cash.
We should have mentioned this to you before the weekend so you’d have something to watch: you can now download BBS: The Documentary from the Internet Archive. We’ve watched the entire thing and it’s fantastic. If you know what a dial-up modem handshake sounds like, you’re going to be awash in nostalgia. If you don’t know the delight of those sounds you need to watch this and see how things used to be back in the day when connecting your computer to a network definitely wasn’t what the cool kids were doing. [Thanks Larry]
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 22:00Super Affordable LED Lighting Ready to Go Off Mains Voltage
If you’re looking for a super cheap way to add LED lighting accents to your house, then this hack is for you! Corn-cob style LED light bulbs can be had for a few dollars. The bulbs include driver circuitry, and 8 LED arrays! All you have to do is take it apart.
[Martin Raynsford] stumbled upon this idea when trying to think of a way to light his laser engraving enclosure. It originally came with a regular light bulb, but it didn’t distribute light nicely and was in the way for some of his other planned upgrades.
Not wanting to add another DC power supply to the mix he remembered an old corn-cob LED light bulb he had — as it turns out, they’re pretty easy to take apart! Solder some longer leads on (take note of how they are wired, some are in series, some in parallel) and you’ve just made yourself some easy to use LED accent lighting!
Of course you could just buy those cheap LED rolls from China nowadays for next to nothing for your accent lighting.
[via Hacked Gadgets]
Filed under: led hacks
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 19:00Hackerspace Tour: IXR in Wall, NJ
Hackaday took a little trip out to Wall, NJ last weekend for the Vintage Computer Festival 9.1 East. The event was held at Camp Evans, a former US military installation that can only be described as, ‘The DARPA of a century ago”. This is the site of a Marconi transmitter and the place where [Edwin Armstrong] developed the regenerative receiver a little more than 100 years ago.
There’s a lot more to Camp Evans than a vintage computer festival once a year – it’s also home to MARCH, the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists, InfoAge, a retro technology museum, and IXR, the Institute for eXploratory Research, a hackerspace located in the old telecom building at Camp Evans.
In our video tour, [Joe Wilkes] takes us around the shop, showing off their equipment and tools. Unlike most of our hackerspace tours, we couldn’t find a Makerbot sitting disused on a bookshelf anywhere, but the space did have a Solidoodle 3D printer, a Shapeoko 2 CNC machine under construction, and enough hand tools to bring any project to fruition.
There were a few oddities in IXR compared to the other hackerspaces we’ve been to. First is an inordinate amount of synths, keyboards, and other MIDI gear. [Joe] didn’t know what these were for, so we’ll leave that explanation for an IXR member in the comments of this post. There was also a small supply of random components for sale (and on display). Most of the merch was from Adafruit, and it seems like a great way to have that one part I need to finish this build for members while providing a little bit of beer money for the space.
Pics and video below.
WTF is this
This strange device was found in one of the boxes at IXR, and neither [Joe] nor myself knew what it was. The best guess was a key cutter, but if anyone has a better idea, leave a note in the comments.
Filed under: Hackerspaces
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 17:003D Printing Maker Tales: FarmBots, Cellos, and Coffee Grinders
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 16:29“Space Probe: Math” (1983)
Disney made a Math game spin-off based on the movie “The Black Hole” for the Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer This and more @ the TRS-80 Color Computer Software Repository.
In 1983, Disney put out a computer learning-game spinoff – “Space Probe: Math”. This was a cassette containing two educational games designed for use with the Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer.
The concept of the first game was that the Palomino had landed on an infected planet, Delta 5 Omega. All the crew were falling under “mind diffusion”, basically a viral form of fatigue. The player (aged 7–14) had to solve multiplication or division problems to save the crew. In the second game, the player had to save a primitive world’s crops, using (rectangular) area and perimeter problems – Wikipedia.
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 16:00Desktop Sized Tamagotchi Is Even Harder to Ignore
[Vadim] was feeling a bit bored at work one day and dreamed up this rather odd project. He had a spare LED matrix handy, and thought, “I should build a giant Tamagotchi…” and so he did.
In case you’re not aware, Tamagotchi’s were digital pets introduced in the late 90′s. You had to feed them, play with them and even train them — attempting to teach the responsibility of having a real pet. It was a bit of a fad, and to be honest, they were really quite annoying — but that didn’t stop [Vadim] wanting to make his own!
He’s using an ATmega328P with the Arduino boot loader at the heart of this project. The LED matrix is made of a group of four 8×8 LED modules with four shift registers (74HC595) and two Darlington transistor arrays to take the current — This is because the 256 LEDs need to be multiplexed down to 32 IO’s (16 rows + 16 columns).
Once the hardware was all done, he started coding — he’s actually coded the entire game from scratch, and while it’s not that complex it’s still an impressive amount of effort that went into this desktop sized Tamagotchi!
To see it in action, stick around after the break.
To learn more about hacking a Tamagotchi, there’s an excellent talk about how to reverse engineer it that we covered a few years ago.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 15:59Pop up repair services #makerbusiness
Give the Pop Up Repair wizards your poor, your tired, your broken possessions yearning to light up, switch on and make coffee again. This itinerant repair shop run by an ad hoc group of theater professionals and tinkerers is equal parts practical service and philosophical resistance to the “cycle of use-and-discard,” as the sandwich sign in front of its Greenmarket table proclaims.
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 13:01Printing In Three Dimensions, For Real This Time
3D printers don’t continuously print in three dimensions – they print one layer, then another, then another. This is true for every single 3D printing technology, but now Topolabs has a very interesting technique that changes that. They’re printing in three dimensions by moving in the Z axis while also printing in the X and Y axes.
The basic idea behind Topolabs’ software is to print a support block, then print an object right on top of the support. The support block can be curved and convex, and the finished product follows the contours of the solid support block. Unlike ‘printing with supports’, the printer extrudes along the X, Y, and Z axes, which should make the finished product much, much stronger.
There are a few drawbacks to the technique – a release agent must be applied to the top of the support block. In the video below, Topolabs is using Kapton, but hair spray or glue sticks will also work. There’s also a limit to how steep an incline a printer can print, determined by the size of the extruder nozzle. Lastly, this technique would be much better suited for a delta-style bot, but the team is getting very good results with a normal Cartesian bot.
You can see a few videos of the Topolabs printing technique below.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 10:01The Ultimate Workstation That Folds Up
Looking for an easy way to keep on making stuff even though you’re living in a tiny dorm room? [Matt Silver] was tired of not having a dedicated work-space, so he spent some serious time designing this modular, re-configurable and collapsible portable workstation ready for almost anything.
He started out by sketching ideas, playing around with 3D models in SketchUp, and eventually building a few prototypes using trial and error — and what he’s come up with is pretty darn impressive. It folds down to just under a foot by three feet squared and has casters to roll it around. Once unfolded, you stabilize it by placing your chair on one of the walls that folds down, and the desk itself is also re-configurable for different work surfaces. He’s included a power bar, an LED work-light, and it even has storage racks for tools on the side.
It’s a very thorough Instructable, and definitely worth a look through — especially to see how it magically unfolds! And if you’re wondering about how much it would cost to build, you’re probably looking at around $200 depending on what you already have on hand. What we really like is how it’s almost entirely made out of a single 4′x8′ panel of plywood — it’s like this guy works for IKEA or something!
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 09:00A Mathematical Proof That The Universe Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing
Cosmologists now have a mathematical proof that natural quantum fluctuations allowed the Big Bang to happen. via medium:
But that still leaves a huge puzzle. What caused the Big Bang itself? For many years, cosmologists have relied on the idea that the universe formed spontaneously, that the Big Bang was the result of quantum fluctuations in which the Universe came into existence from nothing.
That’s plausible, given what we know about quantum mechanics. But physicists really need more — a mathematical proof to give the idea flesh.
Today they get their wish thanks to the work of Dongshan He and buddies at the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics in China. These guys have come up with the first rigorous proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously because of quantum fluctuations.
The new proof is based on a special set of solutions to a mathematical entity known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. In the first half of the 20th century, cosmologists struggled to combine the two pillars of modern physics— quantum mechanics and general relativity—in a way that reasonably described the universe. As far as they could tell, these theories were entirely at odds with each other.
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 08:00NASA’s flying saucer to land payloads on other planets
NASA built a flying saucer, which they’ve called the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, that will eventually land large payloads on other planets. via Extreme Tech:
No, humble inhabitants of Hawaii, the US government hasn’t increased the level of psychoactive drugs in your water supply: That really is a flying saucer that just flew past your window at three times the speed of sound. Dubbed the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, NASA is hoping that this flying saucer is the secret to eventually landing larger payloads on other planets — such as sending a human exploration party to Mars, along with plenty of supplies. The LDSD is on a pretty aggressive schedule, with seven major tech demos over the next 24 months, and could be used in a real mission to Mars in 2018.
Later this year, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will use a balloon to launch a test vehicle up to an altitude of 120,000 feet (36.5 kilometers) above Hawaii. The test vehicle will then use a rocket to reach supersonic speeds and raise its altitude yet further to 180,000 feet (54.8 kilometers)… and then it will cut its engine and begin to free fall back to earth. As the capsule passes Mach 3.5 (2,600 mph), the LDSD will kick into action, sprouting a Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) from the craft and filling it with pressurized air. With the SIAD fully inflated, the spacecraft looks awfully like a flying saucer. The SIAD slows the craft down to around Mach 2, whereupon a massive 30-meter-diameter parachute will then be used to bring speeds down to subsonic landing speeds.