Fully autonomous vehicles seem to perennially be just a few years away, sort of like the automotive equivalent of fusion power. But just because robotic vehicles haven’t made much progress on our roadways doesn’t mean we can’t play with the technology at the hobbyist level. You can embark on your own experimentation right now with this open source self-driving Python library.
Granted, this is a library built for much smaller vehicles, but it’s still quite full-featured. Known as Donkey Car, it’s mostly intended for what would otherwise be remote-controlled cars or robotics platforms. The library is built to be as minimalist as possible with modularity as a design principle, and includes the ability to self-drive with computer vision using machine-learning algorithms. It is capable of logging sensor data and interfacing with various controllers as well, either physical devices or through something like a browser.
To build a complete platform costs around $250 in parts, but most things needed for a Donkey Car compatible build are easily sourced and it won’t be too long before your own RC vehicle has more “full self-driving” capabilities than a Tesla, and potentially less risk of having a major security vulnerability as well.
Environmental DNA sampling is nothing new. Rather than having to spot or catch an animal, instead the DNA from the traces they leave can be sampled, giving clues about their genetic diversity, their lineage (e.g. via mitochondrial DNA) and the population’s health. What caught University of Florida (UoF) researchers by surprise while they were using environmental DNA sampling to study endangered sea turtles, was just how much human DNA they found in their samples. This led them to perform a study on the human DNA they sampled in this way, with intriguing implications.
Ever since genetic sequencing became possible there have been many breakthroughs that have made it more precise, cheaper and more versatile. The argument by these UoF researchers in their paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution is that although there is a lot of potential in sampling human environmental DNA (eDNA) to study populations much like is done today already with wastewater sampling, only more universally. This could have great benefits in studying human populations much how we monitor other animal species already using their eDNA and similar materials that are discarded every day as a part of normal biological function. Continue reading “Human DNA Is Everywhere: A Boon For Science, While Terrifying Others”→
[Joren] recently did some work as part of an electronic music heritage project, and restored an 80s-era NeXTcube workstation complete with vintage sound card, setting it up with a copy of MAX, a graphical music programming environment. But there was one piece missing: MIDI. [Joren] didn’t let that stop him, and successfully created hardware to allow MIDI input and output.
Interestingly, the soundcard for the NeXTcube has an RS-422 serial port and some 8-pin mini DIN connectors. They are not compatible with standard MIDI signals, but they’re not far off, either.
When you think of a bicycle and an Eddy, you’d be forgiven for thinking first of Eddy Merckx, one of the most successful competitive cyclists to ever live. But this bicycle, modified by [Tom Stanton] as shown in the video below the break, has been modified by ditching its direct drive gearing in favor of using the friction-like eddy currents between magnets and copper to transfer power to the wheel.
Before even beginning to construct a mechanism for powering the bicycle, [Tom] had to figure out the basics: what kind of materials could be used for a metal disk? The answer, after much testing, turned out to be copper. What kind of magnets work best, and in what formation? Expensive high grade, aligned North to South pole for added eddy-dragging goodness. Would the mechanism work with any efficiency?
The end result is interesting to watch, and it’s not exactly as you’d have expected. Yes, eddy currents drive the copper hub, but at a 100 RPM difference. Where does all of that energy go? Hint: not to the wheel, and certainly not into propelling the bicycle. All in all it’s a fantastic experiment with unpredictable results.
Learning Digital Signal Processing (DSP) techniques traditionally involves working through a good bit of mathematics and signal theory. To promote a hands-on approach, [Clyne] developed the DSP PAW (Portable All-in-one Workstation). DSP PAW hardware and software provide a complete learning environment for any computer where DSP algorithms can be entered as C++ code through an Arduino-like IDE.
The brain is a rather important organ, and as such, nature has gone to great lengths to protect it. The skull provides physical protection against knocks and bumps, but there’s a lesser-known defense mechanism at work too: the blood-brain barrier. It’s responsible for keeping all the nasty stuff – like bacteria, viruses, and weird chemicals – from messing up your head.
Every time we check in with [Hyperspace Pirate] he’s trying to make things cold. Really cold. His recent two-part video shows a propane vapor compression system that can go down to -37° C as well as a two-stage system using homemade ethylene that can get to -83° C. He’s trying to get to -100°, so he’s close, and we have no doubt he’ll get there.
The video explains that using two different refrigerants makes the design more practical. At the low temperatures involved, you have to deal with compressor oil freezing. There is a lot of theory required to design an efficient cooler and a lot of know-how required to make gas-tight connections with all the different materials involved.
Using propane in both stages did provide a little additional cooling. But using ethylene in the second stage didn’t work as expected. There were two issues to work through. Part of it was the average temperature of the system, and also, the homemade ethylene needed purification. The ethylene purification setup was almost as complex as the main system and also reminded us, for some reason, of the movie Darkstar. It didn’t work as well as he wanted, which means we have to wait for part two to see it all actually working.