Cars (including LEGO ones) will roll downhill. In theory if the hill were a treadmill, the car could roll forever. In practice, there are a lot of things waiting to go wrong to keep this from happening. If you’ve ever wondered what those problems would be and what a solution would look like, [Brick Technology] has a nine-minute video showing the whole journey.
The video showcases an iterative process of testing, surfacing a problem, redesigning to address that problem, and then back to testing. It starts off pretty innocently with increasing wheel friction and adding weight, but we’ll tell you right now it goes in some unexpected directions that show off [Brick Technology]’s skill and confidence when it comes to LEGO assemblies.
You can watch the whole thing unfold in the video, embedded below. It’s fun to see how the different builds perform, and we can’t help but think that the icing on the cake would be LEGO bricks with OLED screens and working instrumentation built into them.
The general consensus among us mammals is that if we get very cold, we die. Within the world of nematodes, however, they’d like to differ on that viewpoint. This is demonstrated succinctly after researchers coaxed a batch of these worms back into action after they had been frozen in Siberian permafrost for an estimated 46,000 years. The mechanism underlying this phenomenon is called cryptobiosis, which is essentially a metabolic state that certain lifeforms can enter when environmental conditions become unsuitable.
The 433 MHz spectrum is a little bit of an oddball. It’s one of the few areas of the radio spectrum which is nearly universally unlicensed Outside of the US, it’s an open playground for devices that adhere to the power restrictions and other guidelines about best practices. IoT devices operate here, as well as security systems and, of course, remote controls. And, using a few off-the-shelf parts [hesam.moshiri] shows us how to take advantage of this piece of spectrum by designing and building a programmable and versatile 4-channel 433 MHz remote control.
Built around an ATmega8 microcontroller, making it easy to work with Arduino sketches, and with a 2×8 character LCD for ease-of-use when not connected to a computer, the wireless switching device can store up to 80 remote control codes in its EEPROM memory. This was one of the harder parts for [hesam] to sort out, but using structures to store the data for the codes eventually solved the problems. A simple GUI makes using it with whatever remote happens to be on hand fairly straightforward, including the ability to record codes from existing remotes on the fly and also to associate those codes with specific actions.
Schematics and a bill of materials are available on the project’s page, making this fairly accessible to those looking to add some wireless connectivity to a project, home automation system, or IoT device. It’s mainly set up as a switching device, but with some modifications could be put to work doing more complex tasks. The 433 MHz spectrum is an exciting place to be, too, and things like setting up entire security systems using it are not too far removed from a switching device like this.
[Editor’s note: As many mentioned in the comments, 433 MHz is a licensed ham band in the USA (ITU Region 2), so you can’t use it without a license. (Get one, it’s easy.) In the USA, the equivalent band is at 315 MHz, which is why garage door remotes usually come with a 315/433 choice. Either way, check your local laws before you transmit.]
Anybody who has set up a satellite TV antenna will tell you that alignment is critical when picking up a signal from space. With a satellite dish it’s a straightforward task to tweak the position, but what happens if the dish in question is out beyond the edge of the Solar System?
We told you a few days ago about this exact issue currently facing Voyager 2, but we’re guessing Hackaday readers will want to know a little bit more about how a 50+ year old spacecraft so far from home can still sort out its antenna. The answer lies in NASA Technical Report 32-1559, Digital Canopus Tracker from 1972, which describes the instrument that notes the position of the star Canopus, which along with that of the Sun it can use to calculate the antenna bearing to reach Earth. The report makes for fascinating reading, as it describes how early-1970s technology was used to spot the star by its specific intensity and then keep it in its sights. It’s an extremely accessible design, as even the part numbers are an older version of the familiar 74 logic.
So somewhere out there in interstellar space beyond the boundary of the Solar System is a card frame full of 74 logic that’s been quietly keeping an eye on a star since the early 1970s, and the engineers from those far-off days at JPL are about to save the bacon of the current generation at NASA with their work. We hope that there are some old guys in Pasadena right now with a spring in their step.
For as popular as the Arduino platform is, it’s not without its problems. Among those is the fact that most practical debugging is often done by placing various print statements throughout the code and watching for them in the serial monitor. There’s not really a great way of placing breakpoints or stepping through code, either. But this project, known as eye2see, hopes to change that by using the i2c bus found in most Arduinos to provide a more robust set of debugging tools.
The eye2see software is set up to run on an Arduino or other compatible microcontroller, called the “probe”, which is connected to the i2c bus on another Arduino whose code needs to be debugged. Code running on this Arduino, which is part of the eye2see library, allows it to send debugging information to the eye2see probe. With a screen, the probe can act as a much more powerful debugger than would otherwise typically be available, being able to keep track of variables in the main program, setting up breakpoints, and outputting various messages on its screen.
The tool is not without its downsides, though. The library that needs to run on the host Arduino slows down the original program significantly. But for more complex programs, the tradeoff with powerful debugging tools may be worth it until these pieces of code can be removed and the program allowed to run unencumbered. If you’d like to skip needing to use a second Arduino, we’ve seen some other tools available for debugging Arduino code that can run straight from a connected PC instead.
Most of what humankind and other mammalian species on Earth experience of the Universe is primarily restricted to the part of the electromagnetic spectrum which our optical organs can register. Despite these limitations, we have found ways over the centuries which enable us to perceive the rest of the EM spectrum, to see both what is incredibly far away, and what is incredibly small, to constantly get a little bit closer to understanding what makes the Universe into what we can observe today, and what it may look like in the future.
An essential element of this effort are space telescopes, which gaze into the depths of the Universe with no limitations imposed by the Earth’s atmosphere, or human activity. Among the many uses of space telescopes, the investigation of the expansion of the Universe is perhaps the most fascinating, as this brings us ever closer to the answers to the most fundamental questions about not only its shape, but also to its future, which may include hitherto unknown types of matter and energy.
With the recently launched Euclid space telescope, another chapter is being opened in the saga on dark energy and matter, and their nature and effects on the Universe, as well as whether they exist at all. Yet how exactly do you use a space telescope to ferret out the potential effects of dark energy?
When it comes to flight simulators, we’ve seen people go all-out with their immersive setups, with all kinds of hyper-realistic control systems and monitors as far as the eye can see. But for those gaming on a budget this can seem a little overwhelming and daunting. We all have to start somewhere, though, so if you’re looking for your first semi-realistic flight simulator control mechanism take a look at this yoke which can be cobbled together for almost no money or time.
The yoke can be built around any optical mouse that happens to be lying around. A custom housing for it is constructed from cardboard, which lets it sit above a cardboard tube which functions as the control interface. This mechanism rests in a cardboard box it uses as a frame, with a yoke-styled control interface built out of packing foam at the front. One optional modification to the device allows it to have more realistic control throw, and another replaces the cardboard tube with a wooden dowel to give the device a little more strength.
While relatively quick and easy to build, it works as a fully-functional yoke in flight simulator programs like FlightGear almost effortlessly, mostly thanks to the fact that it is based on a nearly unmodified mouse. Assuming you have a mouse in your parts drawer and have access to some sort of cardboard, it’s estimated to take not much longer than five minutes to put together. But if you’re looking for something DIY that’s a little more substantial, it’s not too much of a step up to another DIY yoke we’ve featured before which is centered around an Arduino and a few 3D-printed parts.