Cosmic Ray Detection At Starbucks?

Want to see cosmic rays? You might need a lot of expensive exotic gear. Nah. [The ActionLab] shows how a cup of coffee or cocoa can show you cosmic rays — or something — with just the right lighting angle. Little bubbles on the surface of the hot liquid tend to vanish in a way that looks as though something external and fast is spreading across the surface.

To test the idea that this is from some external source, he takes a smoke detector with a radioactive sensor and places it near the coffee. That didn’t seem to have any effect. However, a Whimhurst machine in the neighborhood does create a big change in the liquid. If you don’t have a Whimhurst machine, you can rub a balloon on your neighbor’s cat.

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Grep By Example is also available as a PDF Minibook, and a Grep playground helps you learn quickly.

Galvanize Your Grip On Grep With This Great Grep Guide

These days, you can’t throw a USB stick without hitting something that’s running Linux. It might be a phone, an embedded device, or your TV. Either way, it’s running Linux, and somewhere along the line of the development of whatever your USB stick smacked into, somebody used the Global Regular Expression Print utility- better known as Grep. But what is Grep, and why do you need it? [Anton Zhiyanov] not only answers those questions but provides Grep by example: Interactive Guide to help you along.

Grep By Example is also available as a PDF Minibook, and a Grep playground helps you learn quickly.
Grep By Example is also available as a PDF Minibook, and a Grep playground helps you learn quickly.

To understand Linux, one must understand its commercial predecessor, Unix. One of the things that made Unix (and then Linux) unique was its philosophy: Write programs that work together, do one thing well, and handle text streams.¬† This philosophy describes a huge number of programs, and one of these programs is Grep. It’s installed everywhere there’s a *nix installed, and once one becomes familiar with it, their command-line-fu reaches an all new level.

At its core, Grep is simply a bloodhound. It’s scent? A magical incantation called Regular Expressions. Regular Expressions (aka Regex) are simply a way of describing what a stream of text should look like. So when you feed Grep a bit of Regular Expression, it Prints¬†only the text that matches that expression. Neat, right?

The trouble is that Regex can be kind of hard, and Grep has various versions and capabilities that need to be learned. And this is where the article shines- it covers both in an excellent interactive tutorial that’ll help you become a Grep Guru in no time. And if you want to do a deeper dive, check out what it takes to make your own Regex Engine from scratch!

Trick Your (1970) Pickup Truck

[Dave] wanted an old pickup, and he found a GMC Sierra Grande truck vintage 1970. While it had an unusual amount of options, there weren’t that many high-tech options over 50 years ago. The five-year-long restoration work was impressive, as you can see in the video below, but we were really interested in the electronics part. As [Dave] mentions, the truck was made when the Saturn V was taking people to the moon, but after his modifications, the truck has a lot more computing power than the famous rocket.

He was concerned that the taillights were not up to modern standards and that it would be too easy for someone using their cell phone to plow into the rear of the truck. So he broke out an ESP32 and some LEDs and made an attractive brake light that would have been a high-tech marvel in 1970.

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A Raspberry Pi in an enclosure, connected to a stepper motor controller and a UMTS stick

2024 Home Sweet Home Automation: SMS Controlled Heating

Hackaday.io user [mabe42] works during the week away from their home city and rents a small apartment locally to make this life practical. However, the heating system, a night-storage system, is not so practical. They needed a way to remotely control the unit so that the place was habitable after a long winter commute; lacking internet connectivity, they devised a sensible solution to create an SMS-controlled remote heating controller.

The controller runs atop an old Raspberry Pi B inside a 3D-printed case. Seeing such an old board given a real job to do is nice. Connectivity is via a USB UMTS stick which handles the SMS over the cellular network. The controller knob for the heater thermostat (not shown) is attached via a toothed belt to a pully and a 28BYJ-48 5V geared stepper motor. Temperature measurement is via the ubiquitous DS1820 module, which hooks straight up to the GPIO on the Pi and works out of the box with many one-wire drivers.

The software is built on top of Gammu, which handles the interface to the UMTS device. Daily and historical temperature ranges are sent via SMS so [mabe42] can decide how to configure the heating before their arrival. The rest of the software stack is in Python, as per this (German-language) GitHub project.

While we were thinking about storage heating systems (and how much of a pain they are), we came across this demonstration of how to build one yourself.

2024 Hackaday Europe: Workshops Announced, Get Your Tickets

There are only a few weeks left until Hackaday Europe takes place in Berlin on April 13th and 14th. With only one full day of programming, we simply can’t run as many workshops as we do at Supercon, but what we do have should tickle your fancy. As if that weren’t enough, there will be at least a few other impromptu workshops and activities to distract you from the talks.

If you’re thinking of attending, get your tickets now for both the event and the workshops of your choice. There are only a few left, and workshops sell out like hotcakes.

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Retrotechtacular: Build Your Own Dune Buggy, 1970s Style

The custom car phenomenon is as old as the second-hand car, yet somehow the decades which stick in the mind as their heyday are the 1960s and 1970s. If you didn’t have a dune buggy or a van with outrageously flared arches and an eye-hurting paint job you were nothing in those days — or at least that’s what those of us who were too young to possess such vehicles except as posters on our bedroom walls were led to believe. Periscope Films have put up a period guide from the early 1970s on how to build your own dune buggy, and can we just say it’s got us yearning to drive something just as outrageous?

Of course, auto salvage yards aren’t bursting with Beetles as donor cars in 2024, indeed the accident-damaged model used in the film would almost certainly now be lovingly restored instead of being torn apart to make a dune buggy. We’re taken through the process of stripping and shortening the Beetle floorpan, for which we’re thankful that in 2024 we have decent quality cutting disks, and watching the welder joining thin sheet metal with a stick welder gives us some serious respect for his skills.

Perhaps the part of this video most likely to raise a smile is how it portrays building a car as easy. Anyone who has ever hacked a car to pieces will tell you that’s the easy part, and it’s the building something from the pile of rusty parts which causes so many projects to fail. But given an accident damaged Beetle and a buggy kit in 1972 would we have dug in and given it a try? Of course!

We’ve touched on the Beetle’s hackability in the past, but some of us believe that the crown of most hackable car rests elsewhere.

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Night Vision The Old Way

Solid state electronics have provided lighter weight night vision units that work better than the old-fashioned gear that used photomultiplier tubes, but there was an even older technology as [Our Own Devices] shows us in a recent video. The Metascope Type B was a first-generation passive night vision viewer that relied on moonlight.

The video shows a 1946 technical paper from the Office of Scientific Research and Development with [Vannevar Bush] credited as the institute’s director. If that name sounds familiar, you may remember that he foresaw hypertext (inspiring both [Doug Englebart] and the creation of the Web).

The Type B was an improvement over the older Type A, which had been tested during the invasion of North Africa in 1942. The type A weighed less than two pounds and was much smaller than the type B. However, it didn’t work very well, so they stopped making them and did a redesign, which is what you see in the video. The type B weighed almost 5 pounds.

To use the metascope, you had to “charge” it with light and then wait. Eventually, you’d need to charge it again. The type B allowed you to charge one phosphor plate while using another one. When that plate became weak, you could swap the plates to continue using the device.

If you aren’t keen on the history, you can skip to just before the 15-minute mark of the video for the hardware examination. He doesn’t open the device, but that’s probably wise, given the nature, age, and rarity of the metascope.

Modern image sensors are very sensitive to infrared, and normal cameras usually have filters to keep them out. Not that you can’t remove it, of course. If you want to see something more modern, [Nick] built his own AN/PVS-14 night vision scope and you can too.

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