May 22nd, 2016

Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio

From Aetherforce:

“Tesla’s Spirit Radio uses a simple crystal radio circuit connected to a computer sound-in jack to generate spooky sounds from all kinds of electromagnetic sources. As you will see, it creeped the hell out of Tesla himself.”

“My first observations positively terrified me as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural, and I was alone in my laboratory at night.”
– Nikola Tesla 1901

“The sounds I am listening to every night at first appear to be human voices conversing back and forth in a language I cannot understand. I find it difficult to imagine that I am actually hearing real voices from people not of this planet. There must be a more simple explanation that has so far eluded me.”
– Nikola Tesla 1918

April 27th, 2013

radio facsimile


I’m in love with this invention and the appearance of this prototype… It’s an elegant idea, probably too much before its time to really catch on. And now it’s pretty much obsolete as a concept. A newspaper delivered by radio as you sleep, printed in your home. And in 1938!

This invention of a wireless fax, as it were, was credited to W.G. H. Finch and used radio spectrum that was otherwise unused during the late-night hours when most Americans were sleeping. The FCC granted a special license for these transmissions to occur between midnight and 6am, though it would seem that a noisy printing device in your house cranking away in the middle of the night might have been the fatal flaw in their system. It wasn’t exactly a fast delivery either, as the article notes that it takes “a few hours” for the machine to produce your wireless fax newspaper.

The Smithsonian’s online magazine has a nice write-up on the invention here. And here’s a video of it in action (you need Quicktime to view it).

November 13th, 2012

electronic bookbinding

Elektrobiblioteka / Electrolibrary from waldek wegrzyn on Vimeo.

Terrific project! Thanks Aengus for the heads-up.

September 14th, 2012

butterfly flame

What is a flame made of? (sciencedump)

May 7th, 2012

the bacterium Magnetospirillum magneticum

These naturally magnetic microorganisms usually live in aquatic environments such as ponds and lakes, below the surface where oxygen is scarce.

They swim following the Earth’s magnetic field lines, aligning in the magnetic field like compass needles, in search of preferred oxygen concentrations.

When the bacteria ingest iron, proteins inside their bodies interact with it to produce tiny crystals of the mineral magnetite, the most magnetic mineral on Earth.

Having studied the way the microbes collect, shape and position these nano-magnets inside themselves, the researchers copied the method and applied it outside the bacteria, effectively “growing” magnets that could in future help to build hard drives.

“We are quickly reaching the limits of traditional electronic manufacturing as computer components get smaller,” said lead researcher Dr Sarah Staniland of the University of Leeds.

“The machines we’ve traditionally used to build them are clumsy at such small scales.

“Nature has provided us with the perfect tool to [deal with] this problem.”

More: BBC Technology

May 1st, 2012

twelfth night in colour

Graphic designer Konstantinos Mouzakis has created a representation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in coloured liquid. An Arduino processor operates a series of syringes containing coloured, emulsified water representing each character in the play.

Each character has a unique color that is poured in a tank according to the act, scene and time spent on speaking. The relations of the colors in the tanks represent the relations of the characters in the play. The 5 acts are demonstrated simultaneously in order to offer an overview of the play. The spread, the amount and the speed of every color is based on the emotional axis and the whole process can be controlled by the liquids’ chemical composition.

Regarding the technical part of the installation, there is a system of motorized syringes, controlled by a processor, so colors can be released with high precision. The transparent liquid in the tanks is consisted of water, alcohol and emulsifiers. Colors are a combination of acrylics, water and gelatine.

From MyShakespeare

April 29th, 2012

smart sand

Imagine that you have a big box of sand in which you bury a tiny model of a footstool. A few seconds later, you reach into the box and pull out a full-size footstool: The sand has assembled itself into a large-scale replica of the model.

That may sound like a scene from a Harry Potter novel, but it’s the vision animating a research project at the Distributed Robotics Laboratory (DRL) at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. At the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May DRL researchers will present a paper describing algorithms that could enable such “smart sand.” They also describe experiments in which they tested the algorithms on somewhat larger particles — cubes about 10 millimeters to an edge, with rudimentary microprocessors inside and very unusual magnets on four of their sides.

Unlike many other approaches to reconfigurable robots, smart sand uses a subtractive method, akin to stone carving, rather than an additive method, akin to snapping LEGO blocks together. A heap of smart sand would be analogous to the rough block of stone that a sculptor begins with. The individual grains would pass messages back and forth and selectively attach to each other to form a three-dimensional object; the grains not necessary to build that object would simply fall away. When the object had served its purpose, it would be returned to the heap. Its constituent grains would detach from each other, becoming free to participate in the formation of a new shape.

Read more at Science Daily

April 25th, 2012

descriptive camera

The Descriptive Camera works a lot like a regular camera—point it at subject and press the shutter button to capture the scene. However, instead of producing an image, this prototype outputs a text description of the scene.

See Mr. Richardson’s page to learn how he achieves this. Wish I had made this, not least because I want one.

Thanks to Aengus for the heads up.

March 27th, 2012

time to tinker

Now that we have unlimited information at our disposal, or rather at our heels, it’s a wonder anyone ever actually does anything to make use of it. I feel unlucky in a sense not to exist in a world of slow streaming information, that I might be lost in one task, one interest, one pursuit, for hours. Like this man.

Image via shorpy.

September 10th, 2011

how transistors work

I’m trying to improve my knowledge of electronics but most books tell you either too much or too little and leave you frustrated. This video filled in the missing gaps for me, regarding transistors.

The most beautiful thing about it is how elegant these electronic components are. They each contain very few materials and mechanisms, but demonstrate a tremendous understanding of the physical world.

August 16th, 2011

phone sex

July 27th, 2011

those thingies at the end of power cables

I wanted to make a joule thief (a voltage booster) for an experiment and noticed that I required a ferrite bead. I went to the electronics store but they didn’t have ferrite beads. This led me to google the term, upon which I discovered… that’s what those cylindrical components at the end of commercial electronics cables are! In a little plastic jacket.

In this particular application (power cables) they are just a simple cylinder of ferrite (metal alloy) around the cable, but they have an important and fascinating function.

Computers are fairly noisy devices. The motherboard inside the computer’s case has an oscillator that is running at anywhere from 300 MHz to 1,000 MHz. The keyboard has its own processor and oscillator as well. The video card has its own oscillators to drive the monitor. All of these oscillators have the potential to broadcast radio signals at their given frequencies. Most of this interference can be eliminated by the cases around the motherboard and keyboard.

Another source of noise is the cables connecting the devices. These cables act as nice, long antennae for the signals they carry. They broadcast the signals quite efficiently. The signals they broadcast can interfere with radios and TVs. The cables can also receive signals and transmit them into the case, where they cause problems. A ferrite bead has the property of eliminating the broadcast signals. Essentially, it “chokes” the RFI transmission at that point on the cable — this is why you find the beads at the ends of the cables. Instead of traveling down the cable and transmitting, the RFI signals turn into heat in the bead.

Explanation via howstuffworks.

Imagine how much interference there’d be in an electronics store or computer lab without ferrite beads choking the RFI transmission.

April 15th, 2011

a typical spring-loaded solder sucker

A desoldering pump, colloquially known as a solder sucker, is a device which is used to remove solder from a printed circuit board. There are two types: the plunger style and bulb style.

I got my own soldering iron and it came with a desoldering pump. It’s alarmingly satisfying to suck solder. And the noise it makes: Creak, Sklunk!

I’m only posting this because I like the caption for the above image on the wikipedia page for desoldering (“a typical spring-loaded solder sucker”).

March 2nd, 2011

light to sound translation

Colin from Make magazine modifies a Korg synthesizer to respond to light.

January 9th, 2011


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