A White-Light Laser, On The Cheap

Lasers are known for the monochromatic nature of their light, so much so that you might never have thought there could be such a thing as a white laser. But in the weird world of physics, a lot of things that seem impossible aren’t really, as demonstrated by this dirt-cheap supercontinuum laser.

Of course, we’re not experts on lasers, and certainly not on non-linear optics, so we’ll rely on [Les Wright]’s video below to explain what’s going on here. Basically, a “supercontinuum” is just the conversion of a monochromatic source to a broader spectral bandwidth. It’s a non-linear optical process that’s usually accomplished with expensive bits of kit, like photonic crystal fibers, which are optical fibers with an array of tiny air-filled holes running down their lengths. Blast a high-intensity monochromatic laser down one end, and white light comes out the other end.

Such fibers are obviously fantastically expensive, so [Les] looked back in the literature and found that a simple silica glass single-mode fiber could be used to produce a supercontinuum. As luck would have it, he had been experimenting with telecom fibers recently, so along with a nitrogen laser he recovered from a Dumpster, he had pretty much everything he needed. The final setup uses the UV laser to pump a stilbene dye laser, which shoots a powerful pulse of 426 nanometer light into about 200 meters of fiber, and produces a gorgeous supercontinuum containing light from 430 nm to 670 nm — pretty much the entire visible spectrum.

It’s great to see projects like this that leverage low-cost, easy-to-source equipment to explore esoteric physics concepts.

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Stewart Platform Keeps Its Eye On The Ball

Although billed as a balancing robot, [Aaed Musa’s] robot doesn’t balance itself. It balances a ball on a platform. You might recognize this as something called a Stewart platform, and they are great fun at parties if you happen to party with a bunch of automation-loving hackers, that is. Take a look at the video below to see the device in action.

If you want to duplicate the project, there’s a bit of expense, but the idea behind it is explained in the video. Much of the robot is 3D printed with threaded inserts. Even the ball is 3D printed in two parts along with a cubic connector to hold the two hemispheres together. The acrylic platform was cut with a water jet, although you could just as easily have cut it with hand tools.

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Zen And Glowing Air Bubble Displays

When you work in a medium for long enough, and you learn how it works more and more deeply, you eventually become its master. [Yukio Shinoda] is probably master of the LED bubble display.

She started out with an idea, back in 1994, of a column of water and an array of solenoids to inject air, making patterns in the bubbles. Time passed, and she began to realize these works, first in water and then switching over to glycerine for slower, more predictable, and more spherical bubbles. The latest version realizes her initial vision, after 29 years, with an 8×8 array of nozzles making 3D shapes in the slowly rising columns. Continue reading “Zen And Glowing Air Bubble Displays”

An Epic Quest To Build The Ultimate Game Boy

If you didn’t grow up clutching Nintendo’s original DMG-01 Game Boy, it might difficult to see the appeal in 2023. It had the ergonomics of a brick, the system’s unlit LCD screen utilized a somewhat nauseating green color palette, and when compared to its contemporary competition like the Sega Game Gear or Atari Lynx, it would certainly appear to be the inferior platform. But despite its faults there was just something magical about the machine, and those who have a soft spot for the iconic handheld are always eager to relive those glory days.

Now, thanks to the incredible work of [Bucket Mouse], playing the old “brick” Game Boy doesn’t have to be nearly as austere an experience as it was in 1989. That’s because he’s developed a set of replacement PCBs for the handheld that not only implement all of the features of the later Game Boy Color, but sprinkle in some modern niceties as well. The result is a handheld that looks like the original on the outside, but plays all your favorite games even better than you remember them. Continue reading “An Epic Quest To Build The Ultimate Game Boy”

Machine Learning Makes Sure Your LOLs Are Genuine

There was a time not too long ago when “LOL” actually meant something online. If someone went through the trouble of putting LOL into an email or text, you could be sure they were actually LOL-ing while they were typing — it was part of the social compact that made the Internet such a wholesome and inviting place. But no more — LOL has been reduced to a mere punctuation mark, with no guarantee that the sender was actually laughing, chuckling, chortling, or even snickering. What have we become?

To put an end to this madness, [Brian Moore] has come up with the LOL verifier. Like darn near every project we see these days, it uses a machine learning algorithm — EdgeImpulse in this case. It detects a laugh by comparing audio input against an exhaustive model of [Brian]’s jocular outbursts — he says it took nearly three full minutes to collect the training set. A Teensy 4.1 takes care of HID duties; if a typed “LOL” correlates to some variety of laugh, the initialism is verified with a time and date stamp. If your LOL was judged insincere – well, that’s on you. See what you think of the short video below — we genuinely LOL’d. And while we’re looking forward to a ROTFL verifier, we’re not sure we want to see his take on LMAO.

Hats off to [Brian] for his attempt to enforce some kind of standards online. You may recall his earlier attempt to makeĀ leaving Zoom calls a little less awkward, which we also appreciate.

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Something’s Rotating In The State Of Denmark: A Clock

If you visit the Copenhagen City Hall, you’ll see an ornate mechanical clock. By itself, this is unremarkable, of course. There are plenty of ornate clocks in city halls around the world, but this one has a fascinating backstory that starts with a locksmith named Jan Jens Olsen. Unfortunately, Jens didn’t actually complete the clock before his death. It would take 12 years to put together the 15,448 individual parts. However, he did manage to see most of the clock that he had been designing for 50 years put together.

Jens was 60 when he started constructing the clock, but the story starts when he was only 25. In Strasbourg, the young locksmith saw an astronomical clock with a perpetual calendar in a cathedral. He was fascinated and returned several times to study the mechanism. Around the age of 30, Jens had moved to watchmaking and had a keen interest in astronomy — he was a founding member of the Danish Astronomical Society. Perhaps it was the combination of these two interests that made it inevitable that he would want to build a precise astronomically-correct clock.

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A Homebrew SMD Vise Built From Scrap Wood

We don’t see too many wooden projects around these parts, but when [olikraus] turned a few pieces of scrap lumber into a functional SMD vise, how could we not take notice? The idea is simple. Two pieces of wood with slots in them hold the PCB. Two other pieces form an arm with an adjustable needle that can hold down tiny parts while you solder. Magnets hold each piece to a metal working surface. Simple and elegant.

We might have 3D printed some of the pieces, but then again, you have to be careful where your soldering iron goes if you go that route. The other advantage to using wood is that you can easily grab a few pieces of scrap and have a different-sized vice in just a few minutes.

There are a few improvements we might suggest. For example, a thumbscrew to fix the needle would be welcome. It seems like you could make the part that holds the needle smaller, too, to help you get your soldering iron into the same area. But it looks workable with no changes at all.

Working with scrap wood isn’t glamorous, but it does make for quick and easy functional builds. A number of the holes and bolts here could even be replaced with glue if you don’t mind the time for it to set.

Of course, you could mix and match this with other designs. We like the “dollar store PCB holder,” but it would work well with the arm from this project. We couldn’t help but think of the SMD beak when we saw this project.