The Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control Aims to Mix Magic and Science

Well this is unusual. Behold the Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control, and as a project it is all about altering the response to the instrument, rather than being about hacking the musical instrument itself. It’s [Kurt White]’s entry to the Musical Instrument Challenge portion of The Hackaday Prize, and it’s as intriguing as it is different.

The Raspberry-Pi controlled, IoT Skinner box for rats, named Nicodemus.

[Kurt] has created a portable, internet-connected, automated food dispenser with a live streaming video feed and the ability to play recorded sounds. That device (named Nicodemus) is used as a Skinner Box to train rats — anywhere rats may be found — using operant conditioning to make them expect food when they hear a few bars of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man played on a small recorder (which is a type of flute.)

In short, the flute would allow one to summon hordes of rats as if by magic, because they have been trained by Nicodemus to associate Iron Man with food.

Many of the system’s elements are informed by the results of research into sound preference in rats, as well as their ability to discriminate between different melodies, so long as the right frequencies are present. The summoning part is all about science, but what about how to protect oneself from the hordes of hungry rodents who arrive with sharp teeth and high expectations of being fed? According to [Kurt], that’s where the magic comes in. He seems very certain that a ritual to convert a wooden recorder into a magic flute is all the protection one would need.

Embedded below is something I’m comfortable calling the strangest use case video we’ve ever seen. Well, we think it’s a dramatized use case. Perhaps it’s more correctly a mood piece or motivational assist. Outsider Art? You decide.

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$6 Weather Station Goes Where you Do

We admit, we see a lot of weather stations. What makes [Mike Diamond’s] take on this old favorite interesting is that it is tiny enough to carry with you, and uses your cell phone as a hotspot to deliver its data. Of course, that assumes you have a phone that can act as a hotspot.

The parts are straightforward, a power supply, an ESP8266, and a weather sensor board. It looks as though you could easily slip the whole affair into a tube or maybe a 3D printed enclosure. We were a little concerned about the bare wire used, but as [Mike] points out you can use insulated wire if you like, and we’d encourage you to do so.

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Review: IoT Data Logging Services with MQTT

For the last few months, I had been using Sparkfun’s Phant server as a data logger for a small science project. Unfortunately, they’ve had some serious technical issues and have discontinued the service. Phant was good while it lasted: it was easy to use, free, and allowed me to download the data in a CSV format. It shared data with, which at the time was a good solution for data visualization.

While I could continue using Phant since it is an open-source project and Sparkfun kindly releases the source code for the server on Github, I thought it might be better to do some research, see what’s out there. I decided to write a minimal implementation for each platform as an interesting way to get a feel for each. To that end, I connected a DHT11 temperature/humidity sensor to a NodeMCU board to act as a simple data source.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Elderly Autonomous Fall Detection

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [having11] is building a simple and cheap fall detection notification button that can be worn by senior citizens, young kids or others affected by medical conditions. [having11] did some fact-finding, and it appears that falls are one of the leading causes of injury for seniors, according to data available from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This device will sense a fall and send a text message or email to a recipient caregiver, loved one, or friend. The notification can also be manually triggered using a pushbutton. There’s a 5-second delay before it actually sends the alert, allowing a false trigger to be canceled. On receiving the alert, the recipient can decide how to proceed and if the situation requires a call to emergency services.

The device uses an ESP8266, a MPU6050 MEMS gyro-accelerometer combo, and MyDevices Cayenne IoT service. The Cayenne IoT service is free for Makers and non-commercial use at the moment. The only other components needed are a few discretes and a small LiPo battery, keeping the cost of the device under $10. The whole assembly is housed in a 3D printed enclosure. The next steps would probably be to make it more compact and design a housing that can be worn as an arm or chest band or on a waist belt. An important requirement of such monitoring devices is being able to notify when/before it is unable to fulfill its primary requirements. Towards that end, maybe adding a low battery and low WiFi signal strength indicators would be nice.

If you have more suggestions on making this better, chime in with your comments below.

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