Self-Shutting Face Mask Is Hacker’s Delight

Most of us currently have to deal with wearing face masks in our daily life. An experience that is not entirely pleasurable as it is more difficult to breathe under the mask and can become hot after a while. In addition, you have to take off the mask whenever you want to eat or drink. [DesignMaker] has attempted to solve these problems by creating a mask with an opening that shuts automatically when other people are nearby.

While homemade masks are usually made from fabric [DesignMaker]’s version is much more to a hacker’s taste and includes 3D-printed parts, an Arduino Nano, PIR sensors, an SG90 servo, and some Neopixels. [DesignMaker]’s background in industrial design certainly helped him when modeling the mask as it looks just plain awesome.

His goal was to use PIR sensors to detect when a person is moving nearby. The servo then shuts an opening located at the mouth part of the mask. However, he soon found out that the mask often shuts when nobody is around. The reason is that the sensor can be triggered by ambient IR radiation when it is moving by itself. In the end [DesignMaker] decided that having the mask shut when you are moving is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Of course, the mask is just a prop and should not be used as protective equipment. As shown in the video below, also the false triggering of the PIR sensors can be annoying at times. But [DesignMaker] is already thinking of improvements like having the mask properly sealed with fabric or replacing the PIR sensors by a camera with face detection.

If you want to learn how to sew a proper fabric face mask have a look here. It’s a lot less ridiculous, but a lot more effective. You can’t have everything.

Video after the break.

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Crunching Giant Data From The Large Hadron Collider

Modern physics experiments are often complex, ambitious, and costly. The times where scientific progress could be made by conducting a small tabletop experiment in your lab are mostly over. Especially, in fields like astrophysics or particle physics, you need huge telescopes, expensive satellite missions, or giant colliders run by international collaborations with hundreds or thousands of participants. To drive this point home: the largest machine ever built by humankind is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). You won’t be surprised to hear that even just managing the data it produces is a super-sized task.

Since its start in 2008, the LHC at CERN has received several upgrades to stay at the cutting edge of technology. Currently, the machine is in its second long shutdown and being prepared to restart in May 2021. One of the improvements of Run 3 will be to deliver particle collisions at a higher rate, quantified by the so-called luminosity. This enables experiments to gather more statistics and to better study rare processes. At the end of 2024, the LHC will be upgraded to the High-Luminosity LHC which will deliver an increased luminosity by up to a factor of 10 beyond the LHC’s original design value.

Currently, the major experiments ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb are preparing themselves to cope with the expected data rates in the range of Terabytes per second. It is a perfect time to look into more detail at the data acquisition, storage, and analysis of modern high-energy physics experiments. Continue reading “Crunching Giant Data From The Large Hadron Collider”

Aladdin Lamp Shoots Flames With A Snap Of Your Fingers

Despite their dangers, even Marie Kondo would not convince us to abandon flamethrower projects because they literally spark joy in us. To make this flame shooting Aladdin lamp [YeleLabs] just used a 3D printer and some basic electronics.

The lamp body consists of two 3D-printed halves held together by neodymium magnets. They house a 400 kV spark generator, a fuel pump plus tank, and a 18650 Li-ion battery. The fuel pump is actually a 3 V air pump but it can also pump liquids at low pressure. As fuel [YeleLabs] used rubbing alcohol that they mixed with boric acid to give the flame a greenish tint. The blue base at the bottom of the lamp houses the triggering mechanism which magically lights up the lamp when you snap your fingers. This is achieved by a KY-038 microphone module and KY-019 relay module connected to a Digispark ATTiny85 microcontroller. When the microphone signal is above a certain threshold the relay module will simultaneously switch on the spark generator and fuel pump for 150 ms.

Although they proclaim that the device is a hand sanitizer it is probably safer to stick to using soap. The project still goes on the list of cool flamethrower props right next to the flame shooting Jack-o-Lantern.

Video after the break.

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A Hot Printer For Cool Selfies

Randomly buying some hackable gadgets just because they are cheap and seem potentially interesting for future projects is something that most of us can relate to. It also happened to [fruchti] when he bought five thermal printer modules without any specific purpose for them in mind. It was not until several years later that he put them to good use for his inverse thermal camera project.

The name perfectly summarizes the device’s function which is to convert images to heat instead of the other way around. To put it in a less cryptic manner, [fruchti] built a selfie camera that instantly prints out pictures on thermochromic paper. The project would have been easy to implement on a Raspberry Pi but instead, he chose a more minimalist approach by using an STM32 microcontroller. This involved some challenges because the MCU didn’t have enough RAM to store an entire frame and the camera module came without a FIFO buffer. To capture and store the image data [fruchti] applied a line-by-line dithering algorithm which is described in detail in his accompanying blog post while the corresponding code is available on GitHub. Even though the case was improvised from scrap PCB materials the finished device still looks great. In particular, the fuse holders that are being used to hold the paper roll make it almost steampunk.

Naturally, this is not the first time we have seen thermal printers being used for instant picture taking and it probably won’t be the last.

Drumming A Beat On A Hundred-Year-Old Typewriter

We have seen a fair share of unusual items being turned into musical instruments. Luckily, with a little bit of hacking it is possible to turn almost anything into a MIDI controller. [William Sun Petrus] just converted a 1920s typewriter into a drum machine and delivers a hell of a live performance on it.

The build is rather simple, all [William Sun Petrus] needed was an Arduino Mega and lots of wires to convert a hundred-year-old Remington typewriter into a MIDI controller. Whenever a key is pressed the hammer hits a metal plate at the center of the typewriter and closes the contact between one of the Arduino’s IO pins and the 5 V rail like a regular push button. The Arduino code is based on the MIDI library sending commands to a PC which is running Hairless MIDI and Ableton. As sort of a gimmick, [William Sun Petrus] included an LCD screen which shows a line from Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss every time a key is pressed.

Interestingly, the latency due to the hammer’s travel time does not disturb [William Sun Petrus’] live play. To calm the skeptics in the comments he also released an unedited version of the video to prove that the performance is real and an instructional video on how to play his beat note by note.

Other unusual MIDI controllers include a bandoneon accordion or this English concertina.

Video after the break.

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A Smart DIY Metal Detector

If you ever thought about becoming a treasure hunter this simple DIY metal detector by [mircemk] may be a nice project to start with.

The design is based on an opensource metal detector called Smart Hunter. This Very Low Frequency (VLF) metal detector uses transmitter and receiver coils in so-called Double-D geometry. The transmitter coil is driven by a signal generator module that operates at its resonant frequency of 4.74 kHz.

The resulting oscillating magnetic field will induce eddy currents in a nearby metal object that in turn induce a signal in the receiver coil. This signal is then fed into the microphone port of a smartphone and analyzed by a custom metal detector app. [mircemk] also included an audio amplifier and small speaker into the device.

The detector turned out to be quite sensitive and can detect a coin at up to 25 cm distance and larger metal objects even up to 1 m. Modern metal detectors can also distinguish between different types of metal by analyzing the phase shift of the detected signal which might be some way to improve the design.

Video after the break.

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Wolfram Physics Project Seeks Theory Of Everything; Is It Revelation Or Overstatement?

Stephen Wolfram, inventor of the Wolfram computational language and the Mathematica software, announced that he may have found a path to the holy grail of physics: A fundamental theory of everything. Even with the subjunctive, this is certainly a powerful statement that should be met with some skepticism.

What is considered a fundamental theory of physics? In our current understanding, there are four fundamental forces in nature: the electromagnetic force, the weak force, the strong force, and gravity. Currently, the description of these forces is divided into two parts: General Relativity (GR), describing the nature of gravity that dominates physics on astronomical scales. Quantum Field Theory (QFT) describes the other three forces and explains all of particle physics. Continue reading “Wolfram Physics Project Seeks Theory Of Everything; Is It Revelation Or Overstatement?”