For some of us the smell of rosin soldering flux vaporizing from the tip of an iron as a project takes shape is as evocative as the scent of a rose on a summer’s day. We’ve certainly breathed enough of it over the years, as it invariably goes from the piece of work directly into the face of the person doing the soldering. This is something that has evidently troubled [AlphaPhoenix], who has gone to extravagant lengths to research the problem using planar laser illumination and a home-made (and possibly hazardous) smoke generator.
He starts with a variety of hypotheses with everything from a human-heat-driven air vortex to the Coandă effect, but draws a blank with each one as he models them using cardboard cut-outs and boxes as well as himself. Finally he has the light bulb moment and discovers that the key to the mystery lies in his arms coming across the bench to hold both iron and solder. They close off an area of lower-pressure dead space which draws the air current containing the smoke towards it, and straight into his face. It’s something that can be combated with a small fan or perhaps a fume extractor, as despite some video trickery we have yet to master soldering iron telekinesis.
Continue reading “Why Does Solder Smoke Always Find Your Face?”
With the launch of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, the United States has achieved something it hasn’t done in nearly a decade: put a human into low Earth orbit with a domestic booster and vehicle. It was a lapse in capability that stretched on far longer than anyone inside or outside of NASA could have imagined. Through a series of delays and program cancellations, the same agency that put boot prints on the Moon and built the iconic Space Shuttle had been forced to rely on Russia to carry its astronauts into space since 2011.
NASA would still be waiting to launch its own astronauts had they relied on America’s traditional aerospace giants to get the job done. The inaugural flight of the Boeing CST-100 “Starliner” to the International Space Station in December was an embarrassing failure that came perilously close to losing the unmanned capsule. A later investigation found that sloppy software development and inconsistent testing had caused at least two major failures during the mission, which ultimately had to be cut short as the vehicle couldn’t even reach the altitude of the ISS, to say nothing of making a docking attempt. NASA and Boeing have since agreed to attempt another test of the CST-100 sometime before the end of the year, though a delay into 2021 seems almost inevitable due to the global pandemic.
But America’s slow return to human spaceflight can’t be blamed on the CST-100, or even Boeing, for that matter. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA has been hindered by politics and indecisiveness. With a constantly evolving mandate from the White House, the agency’s human spaceflight program has struggled to make significant progress towards any one goal.
Continue reading “NASA’s Long-Delayed Return To Human Spaceflight”
Retro computers are great, but what really makes a computer special is how many other computers it can talk to. It’s all about the network! Often, getting these vintage rigs online requires a significant investment in dusty old network cards from eBay and hunting down long-corrupted driver discs to lace everything together. A more modern alternative is to use something like PiModem to do the job instead.
PiModem consists of using a Raspberry Pi Zero W to emulate a serial modem, providing older systems with a link to the outside world. This involves setting up the Pi to use its hardware serial port to communicate with the computer in question. A level shifter is usually required, as well as a small hack to enable hardware flow control where necessary. It’s then a simple matter of using
pppd so you can talk to telnet BBSs and the wider Internet at large.
It’s a tidy hack that makes getting an old machine online much cheaper and easier than using hardware of the era. We’ve seen similar work before, too!
When it comes to YouTube videos, there’s little we like more than some good quality workshop action, watching someone in command of their tools craft a machine from raw materials with an amazing result. It’s something [Workshop From Scratch] delivers with his homemade mini dumper, in which he makes a small dump-truck from scratch with a result that looks as though he’d bought it factory-made from his agricultural supplier.
At its heart is a substantial chassis made from welded together double box section tube, to which he’s bolted a second-hand hydraulic transmission of the type you would find on larger walk-behind groundskeeping machinery. At the back is a front steering axle from a mobility scooter, that pivots on a bearing and wheel hub from a Ford Mondeo to ensure stability on rough ground. There is a platform for the operator to stand on as the little Honda 4-stroke engine moves it around. The bucket is plasma cut and welded, and it’s safe to say that his welding ability exceeds ours.
The result is a machine that looks to be very useful, and dare we admit it, one we wouldn’t mind having a go on. It may not be as powerful as this electric home-built dump truck, but we like it.
Continue reading “A Home Made Dumper You’d Swear Came From A Factory”