Making the Dune “Pain Box” a Reality

If you are unfamiliar with Dune, then you may not know what the pain box is. The pain box is a fictional device that produces an excruciating burning sensation without causing any actual damage. [Bryan] has been working on a project to duplicate this effect in the real world. It sounds like he may be on the right path by using the “thermal grill illusion”.

The thermal grill illusion is a sensory trick originally demonstrated back in 1896. The trick is made up of two interlaced grills. One is cool to the touch, and the other is warm. If the user touches a single grill, they won’t experience any pain because neither temperature is very extreme. However if the user places their hand over the interlaced grills simultaneously they will immediately experience a burning heat. This usually causes the person to pull their hand away immediately. It’s a fun trick and you can sometimes see examples of it at science museums.

The thermal grill illusion sounded like the perfect way to make the pain box a reality. [Bryan] has set specific constraints on this build to make it more true to the Dune series. He wants to ensure the entire package fits into a small box, just big enough to place an adult hand inside. He also wants to keep safety in mind, since it has the potential to actually cause harm if it were to overheat.

[Bryan] has so far tried two methods with varying success. The first attempt involved using several thermoelectric coolers (TECs). [Bryan] had seen PCBs etched a certain way allowing them to radiate heat. We’ve seen this before in 3D printer surfaces. He figured if they could become hot, then why couldn’t they become cold too? His idea was very simple. He etched a PCB that had just two large copper pours. Each one branched out into “fingers” making up the grill.

Each side of the grill ultimately lead to a flat surface to which a TEC was mounted. One side was cold and the other was hot. Heat sinks we attached to the open side of the TECs to help with performance. Unfortunately this design didn’t work. The temperature was not conducted down to the fingers at all. The back side of the PCB did get hot and cold directly under the TECs, but that wouldn’t work for this illusion.

The latest version of the project scraps the PCB idea and uses small diameter copper tubing for the grill. [Bryan] is working with two closed loop water systems. One is for warm water and the other is for cold. He’s using an aquarium pump to circulate the water and the TECs to actually heat or cool the water. The idea is that the water will change the temperature of the copper tubing as it flows through.

While the results so far are better than the previous revision, unfortunately this version is having problems of its own. The hot water eventually gets too hot, and it takes over an hour for it to heat up in the first place. On top of that, the cold water never quite gets cold enough. Despite these problems, [Bryan] is hopefully he can get this concept working. He has several ideas for improvements listed on his blog. Maybe some Hackaday readers can come up with some clever solutions to help this project come to fruition.

Caption CERN Contest

To say Hackaday has passionate folks in our comments section would be an understatement. You’ve made us laugh, made us cry, and made us search high and low for the edit button. From the insightful to the humorous, Hackaday’s comments have it all. So, we’re putting you to work helping out an organization that has done incredible work for science over the years.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has quite a storied 60 year history. CERN has been involved in pursuits as varied as the discovery of neutral currents, to Higgs boson research, to the creation of the World Wide Web. Like any research scientists, CERN staff have always been good about documenting their work. Many of these records are in the form of photographs: hundreds of thousands of them. The problem is that no one kept records as to what each photograph depicts!

The folks at CERN are trying to remedy this by publishing over 120,000 unknown photos taken between 1955 and 1985. The hope is that someone out there recognizes the people and equipment in the photos, and can provide some insight as to what exactly we’re looking at.

Here at Hackaday we think these photos should be seen and discussed, and we’re going to have some fun doing it. To that end, we’re hosting the Caption CERN Contest on Each week we’ll add a project log with a new image from CERN’s archives. If you know what the image is, click on CERN’s discussion link for the photo and let them know! If you don’t know, take a shot at a humorous caption. Hackaday staff will pick the best caption each week. Winners will get a shirt from The Hackaday Store.

Here’s how it will work: A new project log will go up every week on Tuesday night at around 9pm PDT. The project log will contain an image from CERN’s archives. You have until the following Tuesday at 9pm PDT to come up with a caption, and drop it in the comments. One entry per user: if you post multiple entries, we’ll only consider the last one.

The first image is up, so head over and start writing those captions!

Good Luck!

The Science of Strengthening Glass

Strengthen Glass

[Ben Krasnow] is at it again. This time he’s explaining a simple method for strengthening glass. As usual, he does a fantastic job of first demonstrating and explaining the problem and then following it up with a solution.

[Ben] first uses a simple rig to place a controlled amount of force against a glass microscope slide. His experiment shows that the slide shatters once about 30psi of force has been applied to the center of the slide.

[Ben] then goes on to explain that current methods for producing glass leave many tiny impurities, or cracks, in the glass. As the glass slide flexes, the inside edge is placed into a compression force while the outside edge is under tension. The glass is more easily able to handle the compression force. The tension is where things start to break down. The tension force eventually causes those tiny impurities to spread, resulting in the shattering glass.

One possible solution to this problem is to find a way to fill in those tiny impurities. According to [Ben], most glass has sodium added to it in order to lower the melting temperature. [Ben] explains that if you could replace some of these smaller sodium atoms with larger atoms, you could essentially “fill” many of the tiny impurities in the glass.

[Ben] does this himself by heating up a small vat of potassium nitrate. Once the powder becomes molten, he submerges the glass slides in the solution for several hours. During this time, some of the sodium atoms are replaced by potassium atoms due to the natural process of diffusion.

Once the slides have cooled down, [Ben] demonstrates that they become much stronger. When placed in the testing rig, the stronger slides do not break until the pressure gets between 60psi and 70psi. That’s twice as strong as the original glass. All that extra strength from such a simple process. Be sure to watch the full video below. Continue reading “The Science of Strengthening Glass”

Cleaning Slides with Plasma

Plasma Cleaner

[Ben Krasnow] hacked together a method of cleaning sides using plasma. His setup uses a mechanical vacuum pump to evacuate a bell jar. This bell jar is wrapped with a copper coil, which is connected to an RF transmitter. By transmitting RF into the coil, plasma is created inside the bell jar.

Plasma cleaning is used extensively in the semiconductor industry. Depending on the gas used, it can have different cleaning effects. For example, an oxygen rich environment is very effective at breaking down organic bonds and removing hydrocarbons. It is used after manual cleaning to ensure that all impurities in the solvents used for cleaning are fully removed. According to [Ben], it’s possible to get a surface atomically clean using this process, and even remove the substrate if the energy levels are too high.

These machines are usually expensive and specialized, but [Ben] managed to cook one up on his bench. After the break, check out a video walk through of [Ben]’s plasma cleaner

Continue reading “Cleaning Slides with Plasma”

Measuring the speed of sound with science and statistics

Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, science isn’t just reading [Neil deGrasse Tyson]’s Twitter account or an epistemology predicated on the non-existence of god. No, science requires much more work watching Cosmos, as evidenced by [Ast]’s adventures in analyzing data to measure the speed of sound with a microcontroller.

After [Ast] built a time to digital converter – basically an oversized stopwatch with microsecond resolution – he needed a project to show off what his TDC could do. The speed of sound seemed like a reasonable thing to measure, so [Ast] connected a pair of microphones and amplifiers to his gigantic stopwatch. After separating the microphones by a measured distance; [Ast] clapped his hands, recorded the time of flight for the sound between the two microphones, and repeated the test.

When the testing was finished, [Ast] had a set of data that recorded the time it took the sound of a hand clap to travel between each microphone. A simple linear regression (with some unit conversions), showed the speed of sound to be 345 +/- 25 meters per second, a 7% margin of error.

A 7% margin of error isn’t great, so [Ast] decided to bring out Numpy to analyze the data. In the first analysis, each data point was treated with equal weight, meaning an outlier in the data will create huge errors. By calculating the standard deviation of each distance measurement the error is reduced and the speed of sound becomes 331 +/- 14 m/s.

This result was better, but there were still a few extraneous data points. [Ast] chalked these up to echos and room vibrations and after careful consideration, threw these data points out. The final result? 343 +/- 9 meters per second, or an error of 2.6%.

A lot of work for something you can just look up on Wikipedia? Yeah, but that’s not science, is it?

Only you can kick a child’s balls into space

We had a lot of fun with that title. Of course when you’re talking about launching a thousand ping pong balls into space there’s no end to the puns which can be made. But this is actually a fantastic initiative to get people of all ages excited about science and near-space experiments. [John Powell] offers school children the opportunity to send an experiment into space. He’s Kickstarting the next launch, which is scheduled to take place in September. This way each entrant can fly their project for free, then get the results and a certificate back once the weather-balloon-based hardware is recovered.

There is one size restriction for the program. Each experiment must fit inside of a ping pong ball. But you’ll be surprised what can be accomplished. [John] reports that the most simple, yet interesting project is to place a small marshmallow inside the ball. As it rises through the atmosphere it will grow to fill the entire ball, then be freeze-dried by the the extreme temperatures. Some are not so low-tech. There’s an image of a tiny PCB holding a DS1337 and some sensors. It’s an atmospheric data logger that will provide plenty of information to analyze upon its return.

[via Hacked Gadgets]

Flying Batman is a load of bull

Batman’s ability to fly is a falsehood. Or at least so says science. We didn’t know science was into disproving super-hero movies (that’s a deep well to drink from) but to each his own. But back in December the Journal of Physics Special Topics took on the subject with their scholarly paper entitled Trajectory of a Falling Batman. The equations presented in the two-page white paper may be above your head, but the concepts are not.

It’s not that Batman can’t fly in the way explained in the film. It’s that he can’t land without great bodily harm. By analyzing the cape in this frame of the film, researchers used Batman’s body height to establish wing span and area. The numbers aren’t good. Top speed will reach about 110 km/h with a sustained velocity of 80 km/h. That’s 80 mph at top speed and just under 50 mph when he comes in for a landing.

Oh Batman, how you’ve let us all down. If you liked this paper, you should dig through the archives. We always wondered if [Bruce Willis] could have actually saved the world from an asteroid.

[via Dvice]