J.C. Bose and the Invention of Radio

The early days of electricity appear to have been a cutthroat time. While academics were busy uncovering the mysteries of electromagnetism, bands of entrepreneurs were waiting to pounce on the pure science and engineer solutions to problems that didn’t even exist yet, but could no doubt turn into profitable ventures. We’ve all heard of the epic battles between Edison and Tesla and Westinghouse, and even with the benefit of more than a century of hindsight it’s hard to tell who did what to whom. But another conflict was brewing at the turn of 19th century, this time between an Indian polymath and an Italian nobleman, and it would determine who got credit for laying the foundations for the key technology of the 20th century – radio.

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Leaking water detector from an old smoke alarm

[Thomas Clauser] had his basement flood last year when a hurricane swept over New England. The problem with flooding or leaking water is that chances are you won’t notice until it’s too late. He decided to protect against this in the future by building his own leaking water detector. It’s a simple device that sits on the floor of his basement and triggers an audio alarm if water begins to cover the floor.

He used an old smoke detector for the build; a nice choice since it’s loud, and designed for long-term battery operation. It also has a button for testing if the detector is working. [Thomas] removed the PCB from the smoke detector case and soldered wires onto the test button contacts. He cut a sponge to squeeze it inside of a PVC pipe connector housing. That sits against the floor, with the wires for the test button contacts placed through the sponge. If water is soaked up by the sponge it completes the circuit and triggers the alarm.

A few other design features really make this a nice setup. He notched out the bottom of the PVC connector so that water can flow freely, and added a switch to one of the probe wires lets him kill the alarm when inspecting the damage.

Radar detector tester

[Blacklight99] made this cool tool. It is a tester for those radar detectors that people keep in their cars. Though this seems like it would rarely be a tool we would need, it’s an interesting project. Some speed guns that the police use have a “stealth” mode that makes them invisible to some detectors. This tool can tell you if your detector is vulnerable to this. While this really is just a complicated flashing LED, he notes that it could be taken further to be made into a detector that is programmable and not vulnerable to any of the stealth modes.

Arduino muon detector


[Sebastian Tomczak] was borrowing a homeade muon detector from his friend, and managed to hook it up to his computer through an Arduino. The detector itself uses 3 fluorescent tubes to detect radiation. Three separate tubes are used in order to filter out terrestrial radiation; cosmic radiation will fall in-line with the tubes and pass through at least two of them, whereas terrestrial radiation will only hit one. There is some basic circuitry to amplify the signal and then perform the OR operation.

[Tomczak]  used an Arduino to take the raw data and feed it into his computer. He then used Max/MSP to analyze the data and filter out background noise, leaving only the cosmic ray data. He didn’t mention what he was going to use the data for, though. Maybe he’ll hook it up to a synthesizer.

Related: Digital Geiger counter

[via @littlebirdceo]