The Electrifying Debate Around Where Lightning Comes From

Along with many other natural phenomena, lightning is probably familiar to most. Between its intense noise and visuals, there is also very little disagreement that getting hit by a lightning strike is a bad thing, regardless of whether you’re a fleshy human, moisture-filled plant, or conductive machine. So it’s more than a little bit strange that the underlying cause of lightning, and what makes certain clouds produce these intense voltages along ionized air molecules, is still an open scientific question.

Many of us have probably learned at some point the most popular theory about how lightning forms, namely that lightning is caused by ice particles in clouds. These ice particles interact to build up a charge, much like in a capacitor. The only issue with this theory is that this process alone will not build up a potential large enough to ionize the air between said clouds and the ground and cause the lightning strike, leaving this theory in tatters.

A recent study, using data from Earth-based radio telescopes, may now have provided fascinating details on lightning formation, and how the charge may build up sufficiently to make us Earth-based critters scurry away to safety when dark clouds draw near.

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High-Power Laser Salvaged From Headlights

[DiodeGoneWild]’s latest video lives up to the name. He takes apart a laser headlight to recover a pretty powerful blue laser. You can see the video, below.

The headlights work with blue laser diodes that excite phosphor to produce white light. Removing the outside trappings revealed a three-pin laser diode (the case is the third pin). There’s also a substantial heatsink. Removing the diode from the assembly is difficult, but it is easy enough to leave it in the heatsink and use the existing connector.

Of course, the phosphor and a filter have to go. Some destructive work with a screwdriver and pliers broke out the optics from a diode he’d destroyed trying to remove it. Then he replaced the optics on the remaining diode with the modified housing.

With a low-current test, the diode didn’t lase but did act as a regular LED. More current did the trick, though. The laser without the optics made a line rather than a spot but still had enough power to melt some plastic and light matches. To get a parallel beam, the internal lens needs to move closer to the diode, and a drill bit allowed that to happen, which reduced the beam’s divergence quite a bit, but didn’t create the best result.

With the proliferation of cheap laser modules, it is really worth scrapping a headlight? Maybe. But it is an interesting look inside of a modern headlight, either way. We’ve peeked inside these headlights before. Maybe you can turn those old headlights into an oven.

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Sending MIDI Wirelessly With The NRF24L01

MIDI is a standard known by musicians and instruments all over the world. The basic twist on regular serial has helped studios around the world to work more efficiently. [Kevin] wanted to try sending MIDI data wirelessly, but rather than the typical Bluetooth solution, decided to use the humble nRF24L01 instead.

The circuitry used is simple: [Kevin] simply wired up two Arduino Unos with nRF24L01 radio modules, which communicate over SPI. Alternatively, an even quicker solution is to use a Keywish Arduino RF Nano, which packs a nRF24L01 on board. One Arduino can then be hooked up to a MIDI OUT port on an instrument, and it will send out MIDI signals wirelessly. The second Arduino can then be plugged into a MIDI IN port and repeat out what it receives over the air.

The real work was in the firmware, which takes MIDI data and packages it in a suitable form to send out over the nRF24L01. The system can operate in a one-to-one mode, emulating a single MIDI cable, or a multicast mode, where one sender transmits information to many receivers.

It’s a neat hack and one we could imagine would be useful in some fun performance situations. We’ve seen others do work on wireless MIDI interfaces for Eurorack hardware, too. Video after the break.

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