TIME’s Best Inventions of 2008


Attempting to put our past behind us as quickly as possible, TIME has released what they feel are the best inventions of 2008. While there’s some pretty wishy-washy lab-only stuff on the list, we’re glad to see a lot of cool hardware made the cut. Some of our favorites are: The Tesla roadster proving electric cars can be fun. IBM breaking the petaflop barrier with LANL’s Roadrunner. The Large Hadron Collider for getting everyone scared about physics all over again. Have a look at the list for many other tech highlights from this year.

Tesla coil tuner

Here’s one more use for the insanely handy LM555 chips. [Terry] put together a Tesla coil tuner around one. The 555 is used to generate a range of frequencies while a simple double LED arrangement indicates the presence of an output spike from a coil due to the resonance.

Singing Tesla coils

The video above is ArcAttack! playing the classic “Popcorn” through their signature Tesla coils. Solid state Tesla coils (SSTC) can generate sound using what [Ed Ward] calls pulse repetition frequency (PRF) modulation. The heat generated by the plasma flame causes rapid expansion of the surrounding air and a resulting soundwave. An SSTC can be operated at just about any frequency, so you just need to build a controller to handle it. The task is made more difficult because very few electronics are stable in such an intense EM field. [Ed] constructed a small Faraday cage for his microcontroller and used optical interconnects to deliver the signals to the Tesla coils.

[via Laughing Squid]

DIY Plasma Gun

[Richard] took another shot at his battery powered tesla coils. He sent in his latest hand held plasma gun. He modified his battery powered tesla coil to work as a handheld. He added a large copper pad to the drill handle to couple the RF ground to the human torch holding it.. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of tesla lately, but who here wouldn’t want one? (Maybe the guy in the server room…)

All the parts needed are listed – just be sure you fully understand everything before you get into this one.

Back from Vegas Extra

I made it home after a long day of travel. Airport security let me through with my new home server – a 1U dual P3 800Mhz Compaq rackmount that I scored from the guys at UNIX surplus. Yes, it was my carry-on personal item.

Somehow I missed the MIDI tesla coil last month. Thanks to [skuhl] for sending it in. It’s a solid state coil that’s modulated to create one bad-ass midi box. The videos are worth checking out.

[martin] tells me that the Pentax k10d firmware has been hacked for polish menus. I’ll let you guys sort through it, I’m honestly too tired to deal with translating it right now.

[Alex] re-cased a macbook power supply to repair a slightly ripped out power cable. Those power supplies aren’t cheap, so it’s worth noting.

By the way, I’ve got one of the midnight research wicrawl CDs, so ask nice if you want me to put up a torrent.