Radio Station WWV: All Time, All The Time

Of all the rabbit holes we technical types tend to fall down, perhaps the one with the most twists and turns is: time. Some of this is due to the curiously mysterious nature of time itself, but more has to do with the various ways we’ve decided to slice and dice time to suit our needs. Most of those methods are (wisely) based upon the rhythms of nature, but maddeningly, the divisions we decided upon when the most precise instrument we had was our eyes are just a little bit off. And for a true time junkie, “a little bit off” can be a big, big problem.

Luckily, even the most dedicated timekeepers — those of us who feel physically ill when the clock on the stove and the clock on the microwave don’t match — have a place to go that’s a haven of temporal correctness: radio station WWV. Along with sister stations WWVB and WWVH, these stations are the voice of the US National Institutes for Standards and Technology’s Time and Frequency Division, broadcasting the official time for the country over shortwave radio.

Some might say the programming coming from these stations is a bit on the dry side, and it’s true that you can only listen to the seconds slip by for so long before realizing that there are probably better things to do with your day. But the WWV signals pack a surprising amount of information into their signals, some of it only tangentially related to our reckoning of time. This makes these stations and the services they provide essential infrastructure for our technological society, which in turn makes it worth your time to look into just how they do it.

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DIY Tachistoscope Feeds Your Hunger For Popcorn And Propaganda

You’ve probably heard of subliminal advertising — the idea is that behaviors can be elicited by flashing extremely brief messages on a movie or TV screen. “BUY POPCORN NOW” is the canonical example, with movies containing such subconscious messaging supposedly experiencing dramatic increases in popcorn sales.

Did it work? Maybe, maybe not, but the idea is intriguing enough to at least explore using this subliminal tachistoscope. [Roni Bandini] seems to have taken this project on as a sort of cautionary tale about brainwashing techniques, not only in motion pictures and TV but in printed media too; he goes pretty hard on the Peronistas’ use of not-so-subliminal messages to mold young Argentinian minds back in the 1940s and 50s.

The tachistoscope [Roni] presents is a little more sophisticated than those ham-fisted propaganda attempts. The Raspberry Pi-powered device downloads a video from YouTube and automatically replaces random frames with a propaganda message inspired by those used by the Peronistas, with the modified video piped to a composite video output for display on a TV.

A digital counter on the tachistoscope keeps track of the total time viewers have been propagandized. For extra fun, the machine has a switch to enable ChatGPT-created political messages to be inserted into the stream; we shudder to think what those might look like. Watch the video below for a sample of the brainwashing, but don’t blame us if you fall in love with [Evita].

We understand that this is more of a statement on the power of propaganda than an actual tool for mind control, but if [Roni] is serious about his brainwashing, some small mods might make it more effective. Thanks to the full frame of text on a black background, the subliminal messages aren’t very subliminal; they might be more subtle if the text was overlaid on the target frame rather than replaced completely. Seems like that should be possible with ffmpeg or something similar.

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LED Art Project Is Geometrically Beautiful

There is no shortage of companies on the Internet willing to sell you expensive glowing things to stick on your walls. Many hackers prefer to make their own however, and [Chris] is no exception. His LED wall art is neat, tidy, and stylish, all at once.

Wanting a geometric design, [Chris] decided to have his layout designed by a random number generator. He created his own tool that would generate a design using preset segment lengths arranged in a random fashion. Once he found a layout that worked for him, he designed a set of plastic adapters that would let him connect pre-cut lengths of aluminium channel together so he could assemble his design.

With the frame complete, he then laid the LED strips into the channels, after mapping out how he would connect the full circuit of addressable LED strips. He enlisted a Raspberry Pi Zero W as the brains of the operation, responsible for commanding the strips to light in the colors of his desire.

In a nice aesthetic touch, he sanded the whole frame and painted it a uniform grey color. This hid the joins between the 3D-printed parts and the aluminium channels, and gave it a more finished look. He also went to the trouble of graphing out the locations of the various LEDs in the frame, and used this data as the basis for animations that race between points on the frame. It’s somehow more compelling than the usual simple color fades and flashes of typical commercial products.

It’s a tidy build, and a level more artful than some of the off-the-shelf products out there. For his investment of time and money, [Chris] has netted an excellent piece of wall art in the process.