Spark-Up Your Halloween Party with this Double Helix Jacob’s Ladder

Double Helix Jacobs Ladder

Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory wouldn’t be complete without some electrical sparks. So for [Rick’s] final Halloween DIY hack this year he gives us just that, but with a twist. This time it’s a double helix Jacob’s ladder. The sparks are flying as they twist and turn their way up this unique design, powered by a standard neon sign transformer. If you can get your hands on a 15,000 V 30 mA transformer, you might have just enough time to build one for Halloween.

The build is quite simple. Other than the transformer, you will need a few feet of ¼ inch flexible copper tubing and a piece of ¾ inch PVC pipe. After twisting the copper tubing around the PVC pipe to form the double helix, [Rick] mounts the tubing to a block of wood and removes the PVC form. In his video, which you can watch after the break, [Rick] demonstrates a standard Jacob’s ladder, as well as his double helix design. The double helix version has a much nicer and slower traveling arc even stopping at times.

You don’t want to set this up anyplace someone might touch it as it can be quite deadly or cause burns. [Rick] mentions not to use wood to mount your ladder because the wood will burn as it did during his testing. And do not operate unattended. Otherwise, it adds some spark to your great Halloween fun.

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Hackerspacing in Europe: Stratum 0 in Braunschweig

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Welcome to Stratum 0 in Braunschweig, Germany!

We had a bit of trouble finding this place — it’s around the side of a fairly large building that was once a piano factory. The main door was ajar, and it was pitch black inside. Do we enter? Do we call? We walked in a bit, and were met with more darkness. A bit too spooky for our tastes. Our wits got the better of us and we decided to call and make sure we had the right place and not the lair of some homicidal maniac… It turns out if you just ring the doorbell the lights come on. Whoops.

Up to the top floor we go!

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Another Reflow Soldering Solution

hotplate

Still looking for a good way to reflow solder at home? Look no further! [Don] has a very handy and inexpensive solution that looks great. It makes use of a cheap hot plate, a solid state relay, an IR temperature sensor, and an arduino.

[Don] started by modifying the hotplate by reversing the handle mount — this provides a useful location to mount the IR temperature sensor. The control circuit uses PWM to adjust the temperature of the hot plate using the solid state relay. Because the IR temperature sensor has a cone of visibility it ends up reading an average area temperature as opposed to an individual point — for reflow soldering this is perfect. [Don] notes that some calibration is required, as depending on the emissivity of the object being measured the readout can differ — shiney objects will read a lower temperature than dark objects. He recommends doing the calibration with a scrap PCB and your chosen solder paste to get a general baseline for your project.

Need more info on the actual reflow process? We posted a handy guide a few months ago.

Use Your Smartphone as a Microscope for Less Than $10

FY4TBHSHMMFBB4V.LARGE[Yoshinok] recently posted an Instructable on doing a $10 smartphone-to-microscope conversion. The hack isn’t so much a conversion as just a handy jig, but it’s still interesting. The basic idea is to set up a platform for the slides, and to mount the smartphone directly above. The trick, and the reason this can be called a microscope, is that [Yoshinok] embeds the lens from a cheap laser pointer into the smartphone holder. He is able to get 40x optical magnification with the lens, and even though it sacrifices quality, he uses the built-in digital zoom to get up to 175x magnification.

By itself, you could use this with a light source to magnify 3D objects. [Yoshinok] demonstrates this with a dime. But since the slide holder is made of clear acrylic, he mounted a cheap LED flashlight in the base to serve as through-sample lighting. Using this setup, he was able to observe the process of plasmolysis.

If you have kids, this is certainly a project to do with them, but we can’t help but think it will be useful for non-parents alike. This sort of magnification is good enough for simple lab experiments, and given that most Hack-a-Day readers have these parts lying around, we figure the cost is closer to $0. If you give it a try, let us know your results in the comments!

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Hackerspacing in Europe: MadSpace in Eindhoven!

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Welcome to Eindhoven! We came to visit a few hackers from MadSpace (translated) but unfortunately they are in the process of moving, and there was not much to see at the space. Lucky for us, our visit corresponded with the Dutch Design Week (translated)! So we still had some cool things to see!

Eindhoven has a very interesting history. Phillips was founded here back in the late 1800’s, with a single factory, but in the past century it grew into what could almost be called Philip’s City. A stretch of a few kilometers of Phillips buildings dominated Eindhoven and almost everyone worked for them. Fast forward to the present and most of the buildings have been sold and turned into other businesses.

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Hackaday Interview with Amal Graafstra, Creator of xNT Implant Chip

Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled devices are starting to appear in our everyday lives. Shown in the picture above is the xNT (fundraiser warning), a 2mm x 12mm fully NFC Type 2 compliant 13.56MHz RFID tag encased in a cylindrical Schott 8625 bioglass ampule. It was created by [Amal Graafstra], who therefore aims to produce the world’s first NFC compliant RFID implant. The chip used is the NTAG203, which is (for the sake of simplicity) a 144bytes EEPROM with different protection features.

We can only start thinking of the different possibilities this chip will create in the near future, but also wonder which precedent this may set for future NFC enabled humans. Embedded after the break is the presentation video of xNT but also an interview I conducted with [Amal Graafstra], who has already been living for 8 years with RFID tags in each hand.

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Impressive Laser Harp

laser harp

We stumbled onto this impressive laser harp setup after browsing random YouTube videos late at night. Besides making an awesome laser harp, [Eric] can even play it too!

If you’ve never seen one of these before you’re in for a treat! A laser harp is a digital instrument that requires a synthesizer to create music. There are two main varieties, framed and open. The framed type use light sensors at the end of the beams to create the digital signal to be converted to the various tones. The open kind is a lot more complex, but much cooler — it relies on the laser light being reflected back from the player’s hand to create the signal. This allows for varying tones depending on the distance to the sensor.

Stick around after the break to see it in action as [Eric] breaks it down, laser style.

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