Book Review: Eight Amazing Engineering Stories

We’re big fans of [Bill Hammack], aka the Engineer Guy. His series of engineering videos dredge up pleasant memories of watching Mr. Wizard but spin to the adult science enthusiast. The most resent season (he calls it series #4) scratches the surface of the topics covered in his book Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, which was written with fellow authors [Patrick Ryan] and [Nick Ziech]. They provided us with a complimentary digital copy of the book to use for this review.

The conversational style found in the videos translates perfectly to the book, but as with comparing a novel to a movie, the written word allows for much more depth. For instance, we loved learning about how Apple uses anodization to dye the aluminum used for iPod cases. The same presentation style makes the topic easily understandable for anyone who took some chemistry and math in High School. But primers a sidebars offer an optional trip through the looking-glass, explaining the history behind the process, how it compares to natural materials, and what trade-offs are made in choosing this process.

Some of the other topics included are how CCD camera sensors, lead-acid batteries, mems accelerometers, and atomic clocks work. As the book progresses through all eight topics general concepts the complexity of the items being explained advances quickly. By the seventh story — which covers the magentron in a microwave oven — we’d bet the concepts challenge most readers’ cognition. But we still enjoyed every page. The book would make a great pool-side read. It would make a great graduation gift (too bad we missed that time of year) but keep it in mind for any science minded friends or relatives. You can see [Bill’s] own description of the book and all its formats in the clip after the break.

TLDR: Buy it or give it as a gift

Continue reading “Book Review: Eight Amazing Engineering Stories”

[Engineerguy] explains how a CCD works

[Bill] is back with another fantastic video explaining a piece of intriguing hardware. This time, he’s explaining how a CCD works. For many of us, these things are part of our daily life, but aside from the fact that they capture an image, we don’t put much thought into them. [Bill]  breaks things down in a way that we really enjoy. Fast paced and detailed, yet simple enough for even non-engineers to follow. This time, however, he’s also promoting his companion book which includes tons more information, not only on the construction and function of these ideas, but the underlying scientific principles.

The book, called Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, covers the following items:

  • Digital camera imagers
  • tiny accelerometers
  • atomic clocks
  • enriched uranium
  • batteries
  • microwave ovens
  • lasers
  • anodized metals

We’re excited about the book and it looks like they’ve worked really hard to deliver a quality product. Great job guys.

Hidden bookshelf switch

So you don’t have any secret passageways in your house, but if you’ve got a bookshelf this secret switch can add some fun to your routine. [Brandon] saw a commercially available version which was out of stock when he went to order so he set out to build his own.

He’s using the switch to operate a lamp. The donor part for the hack is a lamp dimmer which you’ll find at the big box store. This is really just a pass-through wall plug with an extension cord. By cutting the dimmer module off of the extension a push button can be used to connect and disconnect one of the conductors in the line. Make sure you use a push button rated or mains voltage!

To make the push switch work with a book [Brandon] bend a bracket which will slide into the spine of a hardcover. We love his homemade press brake (angle iron, a sturdy hinge, and a chunk of 2×4) used when shaping the bracket. Once everything’s in place nobody will ever know there’s anything special about those books.

Not your ordinary LED book light

diy_led_book_light

[Steve Hoefer] is not a huge fan of traditional table lamps, so he set off to build a reading light of his own that was more aesthetically pleasing than the standard fare. He thought it would be pretty appropriate to construct his reading lamp out of a book, and we’re inclined to agree.

He stripped the pages from an old book he found at the thrift store, then built a plywood frame to fill in the recently vacated area. A second frame was built inside the first to support the installation of some warm LED strips as well as the acrylic sheet he used to diffuse the light. A whisker switch was installed in the corner of the frame, which turns the lights on when the book is opened. The lamp puts out about the light equivalent of a 40W bulb, and can be “dimmed” by simply adjusting how far the cover is opened.

It looks great on his bedside table, and like some of his other book-related hacks, it’s quite useful as well!

Be sure to check out the video of the light’s construction we have embedded below.

Continue reading “Not your ordinary LED book light”

Lessons in Electric Circuits

Are you looking for a good source of information to get started into making and hacking electric circuits? We would like to refer you to Lessons in Electric Circuits. Even if you have good knowledge of electronics, this is another tool you can use. The book is a work in progress and will have some incomplete and pending areas, but the basic theory parts to get started are all there. It has six volumes: DC, AC, Semiconductors, Digital, Reference, and Experiments. The DC and AC volumes are the most complete. If your eyes are already glazing over thinking you already know all of this stuff, then the most interesting volume for you may be the Experiments, which contains a number of sample circuits like transistor amplifiers and 555 timer circuits. The best part of this book it that it is free, but as with most free things, you can make it better by contributing.

Via Adafruit Industries.

Marvelous Magnetic Machines

[HP Friedrichs] wrote in to tell us about an upcoming book titled Marvelous Magnetic Machines. Ordinarily, we skip over promotional hype. After watching his promo video though, we couldn’t help but share. We want a copy of this book. In this book you’ll find details on how to build a number of different motors from scrap. You can see several variations in the promo video. He also notes that the music was created by himself and some friends a few years ago. If [H.P. Friedrichs] sounds familiar, it is because he’s been sending us fantastic projects since at least 2006.

Flip-book style digitization

This method of book digitization allows you to scan an entire book by fanning through the pages. It uses a high-speed camera that captures 500 frames per second to get a good look at each page. Processing software isolates each pages, analyzes any curve in the paper due to the flipping, and smooths out the image for better optical character recognition results. The greatly reduces the time it takes to digitize a book, even compared to setups that automatically flip pages.

[Thanks Erico]