When [gdarchen] wanted to read some NFC tags, he went through several iterations. First, he tried an Electron application, and then a client-server architecture. But his final iteration was to make a standalone reader with an Arduino and use WebUSB to connect to the application on the PC.
This sounds easy, but there were quite a few tricks required to make it work. He had to hack the board to get the NFC reader’s interrupt connected correctly because he was using a Leonardo board. But the biggest problem was enabling WebUSB support. There’s a library, but you have to change over your Arduino to use USB 2.1. It turns out that’s not hard, but there’s a caveat: Once you make this change you will need the WebUSB library in all your programs or Windows will refuse to recognize the Arduino and you won’t be able to easily reprogram it.
Once you fix those things, the rest is pretty easy. The PC side uses node.js. If you back up a level in the GitHub repository, you can see the earlier non-Arduino versions of the code, as well.
If you want to understand all the logic that went into the design, the author also included a slide show that discusses the three versions and their pros and cons. He did mention that he wanted a short-range solution so barcodes and QR codes were out. He also decided against RFID but didn’t really say why.
NFC business cards are a thing. You can also use them to catch some public transportation.
There may soon be breakthroughs in the search for dark matter. A new publication in Optics Express reveals a camera consisting of superconducting nanowires capable of detecting single photons, a useful feature for detecting light at the furthest ends of the infrared band. The high-performance camera, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), boasts some of the best performing photon counters in the world in terms of speed, efficiency, and color detection. The detectors also have some of the lowest dark count rates of any photon sensor, resisting false signals from noise.
The size of the detectors comes out to 1.6mm on each side, packed with 1024 sensors for high resolution imagery and fabricated from silicon wafers cut into chips. The nanowires are made from tungsten and silicon alloy with leads made from superconducting niobium.
In order to prevent the sensors from overheating, a readout architecture was used based on a previous demonstration on a smaller camera with 64 sensors adding data from rows and columns. The research has been in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which seeks to include the camera in the Origins Space Telescope project.
The eventual goal is to use the arrays to analyze chemical compositions of planets outside of our solar system. By observing the absorption spectra of light passing through an exoplanet’s atmosphere, information can be gathered on the elements in the atmosphere. Currently, large-area single-photon counting detector arrays don’t exist for measuring the mid- to far-infrared signatures, the spectrum range for elements that may indicate signs of life. While fabrication success is high, the efficiency of the detectors remains quite low, although there are plans to extend the current project into an even bigger camera with millions of sensors.
In addition to searching for chemical life on other planets, future applications may include recording measurements to confirm the existence of dark matter.
[Thanks Qes for the tip!]
It’s the season to be surrounded by greeting cards of all shapes and sizes from friends old and new. News of their families and achievements, reminders that they exist, and a pile of cards to deal with sometime in January. Wouldn’t it be great if you could send something with a little more substance, something your friends would remember, maybe even hang on to?
[Brian Brocken]’s 3D-printed Da Vinci catapult kit may not fill that niche for everyone, but we can guarantee it will be a talking point. The Da Vinci catapult design uses a pair of springs similar to an archer’s bow, to unwind a pair of ropes and thus turn the shaft upon which the catapult shaft itself is fitted. All these components are mounted in a single piece with sprues similar to an injection moulded model kit, allowing the whole to easily be posted in an envelope.
The parts are all available to print separately among the files on the Thingiverse page for those with no need to mail them. For the casual spectator he’s made a YouTube video that we’ve placed below the break, detailing the design and build process as well as showing the device in use.
Continue reading “Catapult Your Best Wishes With This 3D-Printable Card”
Pixelated RPGs are pretty standard in games like Legend of Zelda and Pokemon, but have you ever seen anything like ASCIICKER? It’s a full-color three-dimensional world rendered with ASCII art and playable in your browser.
All of the previous iterations have also been published online and are accessible by adding X1 up to X13 to the end of the URL. With game development beginning in 2017, it has since been through a considerable amount of change. There’s an entire subreddit dedicated to the game with regular updates from the creator on the development of an open-source dev tool for building new levels and features for the environment. The current engine is capable of rendering objects as thin as fences as well as reflections in bodies of water.
You can try out the game for yourself and see what you think!
Continue reading “Explore This 3D World Rendered In ASCII Art”
Flight shaming is the hot new thing where people who take more than a handful of trips on an airplane per year are ridiculed for the environmental impact of their travels. It’s one strategy for making flying more sustainable, but it’s simply not viable for ultimately reducing the carbon impact that the airline industries have on the environment.
Electric planes are an interesting place to look for answers. Though carbon-free long haul travel is possible, it’s not a reality for most situations in which people travel today. Current battery technology can’t get anywhere near the energy density of fossil fuels and larger batteries aren’t an option since every pound matters when designing aircraft.
Even with land travel and electric grids improving in their use of renewables and electric power, aviation tends to be difficult to power with anything other than hydrocarbons. Student engineers in the AeroDelft program in the Netherlands have created Project Phoenix to develop an aircraft powered by a liquid hydrogen fuel cell, producing a primary emission of water vapor. So it is an electric plane, but leverages the energy density of hydrocarbons to get around the battery weight problem.
While the project may seem like an enormous reach peppered with potential safety hazards, redundant safety features are used such as sensors and vents in case of a hydrogen leakage, as well as an electric battery in case of failure. Hydrogen produced three times more energy per unit than kerosene, but is six times the volume in gas form and requires cumbersome compression tanks.
Even though hydrogen fuel only produces water vapor as a byproduct, it can still cause greenhouse effects if it is released too high and creates clouds. The team is exploring storage tanks for slow release of the water vapor at more optimal altitudes. On top of that, most hydrogen is produced using steam methane reforming (SMR), creating up to 150g of greenhouse gases per kWh, and electrolysis tends to be more costly and rarely carbon neutral. Alternatives such as solar power, biofuels, and electric power are looking to make headwind as well, but the technology is still far from perfected.
While it’s difficult to predict the success of the project so early on, the idea of reducing risk in hydrogen fuels may not be limited to a handful of companies for very long.
Continue reading “Reducing The Risk Of Flying With Hydrogen Fuels”
Good morning everyone, and what a lovely start to the new year it is, because it’s your birthday! Happy birthday, it’s your 50th! What’s that you say, you aren’t 50 today? (Looks…) That’s what all these internet databases say, because you’ve spent the last decade or so putting 1970-01-01 as your birth date into every online form that doesn’t really need to know it!
It’s been a staple for a subset of our community for years, to put the UNIX epoch, January 1st 1970, into web forms as a birth date. There are even rumours that some sites now won’t accept that date as a birthday, such is the volume of false entries they have with that date. It’s worth taking a minute though to consider UNIX time, some of its history and how its storage has changed over the years.
Continue reading “Happy 50th Birthday To All You Epoch Birthers”
Let’s face it, breadboarding can be frustrating, even for advanced electronics wizards. If you have an older board, you could be dealing with loose tie points left from large component legs, and power rails of questionable continuity. Conversely, it can be hard to jam just-made jumper wires into new boards without crumpling the copper. And no matter what the condition of the board is, once you’ve plugged in more than a few components, the circuit becomes hard to follow, much less troubleshoot when things go pear-shaped.
In the last twenty years or so, we’ve seen systems like Snap Circuits and Little Bits emerge that simplify the circuit building process by making the connections more intuitive and LEGO-like than even those 160-in-1 kits where you shove component legs between the coils of tight little springs. You will pay handsomely for this connective convenience. But why should you? Just make your own circuit blocks with cardboard, magnets, and copper tape. It should only cost about 10¢ each, as long as you source your magnets cheaply.
[rgco] gives the lowdown on building a minimal set of 23 component and connector blocks using 100 magnets. He’s got 11 example circuits to get you started, and some example videos of more advanced circuits that got tacked up after the break.
This method of making the circuit look more like the schematic may be the best way for the visually-inclined to learn electronics. But the best way to learn electronics depends on where you’re coming from.
Continue reading “Magnetic Circuits Are More Attractive Than Breadboarding”