Origin of Wireless Security: the Marconi Radio Hack of 1903

The place is the historic lecture theater of the Royal Institution in London. The date is the 4th of June 1903, and the inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, is about to demonstrate his new wireless system, which he claims can securely send messages over a long distance, without interference by tuning the signal.

The inventor himself was over 300 miles away in Cornwall, preparing to send the messages to his colleague Professor Fleming in the theater. Towards the end of Professor Flemings lecture, the receiver sparks into life, and the morse code printer started printing out one word repeatedly: “Rats”. It then spelled out an insulting limerick: “There was a young man from Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily”. Marconi’s supposedly secure system had been hacked.

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Soviet Era Smoke Detector Torn Down, Revealing Plutonium

It’s widely known that a smoke detector is a good ionizing radiation source, as they contain a small amount of americium-241, a side product of nuclear reactors. But what about other sources? [Carl Willis] got hold of an old Soviet era smoke detector and decided to tear it down and see what was inside. This, as he found out, isn’t something you should do lightly, as the one he used ended up containing an interesting mix of radioactive materials, including small amounts of plutonium-239, uranium-237, neptunium-237 and a selection of others. In true hacker fashion, he detected these with a gamma ray spectroscope he has in his spare bedroom, shielded from other sources with lead bricks and copper and tin sheets. Continue reading “Soviet Era Smoke Detector Torn Down, Revealing Plutonium”

Home-made Soldering Station For $15

A proper soldering iron is one of the fundamental tools that a good hacker needs. Preferably one that has a temperature control so it can handle different types of solder and connectors.

Decent soldering stations aren’t cheap, but [Code and Solder] show you how to make one for about $15 in parts. This uses a cheap non-temperature-controlled USB soldering iron, an Arduino and a few other bits that they got from AliExpress. The plan is to add a thermocouple to the soldering iron, and let the Arduino control the temperature. A rotary dial and LCD screen control the set-point, and the Arduino switches the feed to the heating element on and off through the FET.

It’s not the cleanest build in the world, and these USB soldering irons aren’t suitable for large joints or long soldering jobs, but it’s a neat little hack for the builder on a budget. We’ve seen teardowns of these rather neat little USB soldering irons before, but this is an interesting way to expand its capabilities.


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Disposable Drones

How do you deliver medical supplies to a war zone cheaply? The answer, according to this project, might be to make a disposable drone. Created by friends of Hackaday [Star Simpson] and the Sky Machines group at Otherlab, this project is looking to make drones out of cheap biodegradable products like cardboard.

Rather than risk an expensive drone that might never return, the project imagines a drone that flies to the target, delivers its cargo with an accuracy of about 10 meters and then be easily disposed of. The prototype the team is working on is part of a DARPA project called Inbound, Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) and is a glider designed to be released from a plane or helicopter. Using a cheap GPS receiver and controller, the drone then glides to the destination.

It’s an interesting take on the drone: making it so simple and cheap that you can use it once and throw it away. And if you want to get a feel for how [Star] and Otherlabs approach problems like this, check out the awesome talk that [Star] gave at our recent SuperConference on making beautiful circuit boards.

Thanks for the tip, [Adrian]!

Miniature Engine Model Made Of Paper

You can make a lot of stuff out of paper, but a single-stroke engine model less than an inch across? That’s a new one, courtesy of Russian hacker [Aliaksei Zholner], who built a quite remarkable model of a single-stroke engine out of paper (in Russian, translated version via Google Translate). Measuring less than an inch across, it is driven by compressed air and accurately models the rotary action of a single-stroke engine, where a piston in the cylinder drives a flywheel that creates the engine cycle.

The creator has managed to run it at up to about 60 revolutions per second, or about 3600rpm. That’s an impressive speed for a few bits of paper and glue, and there is even an input restrictor that can control the airflow that drives the model.  We’ve featured some interesting paper creations before, such as this papercraft robot and a Strandbeest, but this one is a step beyond. [Aliaksei] has also made the plans and template for this available, so those with steady hands can go ahead and try to make their own.

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Building a Whegged Robot

[Jaidyn Edwards] is building a robot. This isn’t going to be a normal robot, though, he’s building a whegged robot, inspired by Boston Dynamic’s version of the RHex design.

A wheg (TM) is a curved leg that rotates around a foxed fixed (Ed note: Fixed!) point on one end, driven by a motor. Hence the name: part wheel, part leg. By driving each leg separately, you can keep the robot balanced and push it forwards. This is a complex system to build. Unlike normal wheels or drive systems, you need to know exactly where the leg is to use it properly, as the position of the leg depends on the rotation of the motor.

The legs themselves are going to be 3D printed from a combination of rigid and flexible fabrics that should provide both strength and grip. In this first video, [Jaidyn] outlines his design, and explains why he is trying this approach. It’s the first in an ongoing series that should definitely be worth tuning into.

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Arduino Controlled Micro Distillery

Booze, they say, is one of the major factors that shaped human history. And creating new and faster ways of making booze has always been a big engineering problem, so this project by [Goat Industries] is rather interesting. It’s a completely automated micro-distillery called the NanoStillery.

The whole thing can run unattended, but uploads data on the brewing process for remote monitoring and notification. Given that distilling involves explosive things like alcohol vapor, that’s a big plus. It is all home-made, including the boiler assembled from steel plate and an air-cooled condenser. It’s controlled by an Arduino Mega twinned with a couple of Adafruit boards that interface with the various sensors and pumps that control the flow of booze around the system. There is also an Adafruit FONA board that includes a cellular modem that uploads data to a database to monitor the progress and let you know when it is done.

The Instructable even includes the Arduino code that runs the process. It’s an impressive build from an engineering point of view, and the final touch has to be the creepy Cylon voice that the controller uses to narrate the process. There’s a video tour after the break.

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