Turn your camera phone into a Geiger counter

Next time you’re waiting in the security line in an airport, why don’t you pull out your smartphone and count all the radiation being emitted by those body scanners and x-rays? There’s an app for that, courtesy of Mr. [Rolf-Dieter Klein].

The app works by blocking all the light coming into a phone’s camera sensor with a piece of tape or plastic. Because high energy radiation will cause artifacts on the CMOS camera sensor inside the phone, radiation will be captured as tiny specks of white light. The title picture for this post was taken from a camera phone at the Helmholtz Research Center in Munich being bathed in 10 Sieverts per hour of Gamma radiation from the decay of Cesium-137.

We have to note that blips of ‘bad data’ from a CMOS camera sensor aren’t unusual. These can come from electrical weirdness in the sensor itself or even the heat from the battery. [Rolf]‘s app takes a reading of the noise floor and subtracts it from the counter. Radioactive decay resulting in Beta particles such as the Potassium-40 in bananas or the Uranium in granite counter tops don’t really register, although [Rolf] did have some success with Potassium chloride and a long measurement time. Still though, it’s a really cool way to turn a phone into a tricorder.

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Nice shoes, wanna recognize some input?

Even though giant multouch display tables have been around for a few years now we have yet to see them being used in the wild. While the barrier to entry for a Microsoft Surface is very high, one of the biggest problems in implementing a touch table is one of interaction; how exactly should the display interpret multiple commands from multiple users? [Stephan], [Christian], and [Patrick] came up with an interesting solution to sorting out who is touching where by having a computer look at shoes.

The system uses a Kinect mounted on the edge of a table to extract users from the depth images. From there, interaction on the display can be pinned to a specific user based on hand and arm orientation. As an added bonus the computer can also recognize users from their shoes. If a user is wearing a pair of shoes the computer recognizes, they’ll just walk up to the table and the software will recognize them.

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DIY dimmable clapper for all your lazy lighting needs

For the lazy man who can’t be bothered to buy a proper wattage lamp here’s the Clever Clapper, a Clapper that finally has the ability to dim the lights.

Like the clapper we saw last month, [Pete]‘s version uses an ATtiny2313 and an electret mic. What sets [Pete]‘s version apart from the vintage 80s model is the ability to dim the lights. Like any clapper, two hand claps within a second toggles the relay. Clapping three times within one second puts the lamp into fading mode. In this mode, the lights dim up and down with PWM until a fourth clap is detected.

[Pete] saw that the program memory in his ATtiny2313 wasn’t 100% full, so he added a few more capabilities. If you shine a laser onto his circuit, a relay trips and turns on a decorative moon lamp. There’s also a ‘lecture mode’ that feeds the microphone directly into the microcontroller to vary the PWM signal. The result is a light that brightens with more intense sound. Check that feature out after the break after the demo video of [Pete]‘s Clever Clapper.

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Sound-reactive EL wire box makes gift giving awesome

sound-reactive-el-wire-display

[Jonathan Thomson] was ruminating on EL wire displays and decided that most he has seen are boring, static fixtures or installations that simply flash EL wire on and off at a fixed rate. He thought that EL wire has far more potential than that, and set off to build something more exciting. Using a graphic equalizer T-shirt, with which we’re sure you are familiar, he put together a slick, sound-reactive EL wire display.

He started off by removing the EL panel and inverter from the aforementioned T-shirt, separating the display into two pieces. He set aside the panel and focused on wiring up the inverter’s ribbon cable to a set of EL wire strands he picked up for the project. Once he had everything hooked up, he put a design together on a cardboard box, which he intended to use for wrapping Christmas presents. With the holiday behind him, [Jonathan] broke down his original display and constructed another to offer up some fun birthday wishes.

While the EL inverter was originally built to display sounds detected by an onboard mic, [Jonathan] added a 3.5” stereo jack to his so that he can feed audio directly into the display using an MP3 player.

Continue reading to see the EL display in action, and be sure to check out his writeup if you are looking to spice up your gift giving this year.

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Freeze drying astronaut ice cream

In our younger and more vulnerable years nothing was greater than visiting a museum, going to the gift shop, and badgering our parents to buy a pack of astronaut ice cream. Freeze dried ice cream leaves a taste of nostalgic chalky sweetness in our mouths, so we’re very excited to see that [Ben Krasnow] is now making his own astronaut ice cream.

The basic principle of freeze drying is simple. All you have to do is reduce the pressure and temperature of the food below the triple point of water and pump the sublimated water vapor out. For [Ben], this meant he needed to cool his Neapolitan Klondike bar to -30° C in a bath of chilled ethanol and pump out the air with a vacuum pump.

Interestingly, [Ben] found it necessary to heat his ice cream while under vacuum to extract more water vapor. This makes sense; at the pressures he was dealing with, [Ben] would never come across water in a liquid state. The entire process took about 18 hours. [Ben] admits this may have been a little longer than necessary, but it’s a small price to pay for reliving childhood memories.