Raspberry Pi Cosmic Ray Detector

[Marco] has a sodium iodide detector that indicates cosmic radiation by scintillation. The material glows when hit by cosmic rays and, traditionally, a photomultiplier tube detects the photos from the detection. After a quick demonstration that you can see in the video below, he built the Cosmic Pi, a CERN project to create a giant distributed cosmic ray detector. The Cosmic Pi uses scintillation, but not from a crystal. It uses a plastic scintillator and silicon photodetectors, so it is much easier to work with than a traditional detector.

Using a four-layer board and some harvested components, the device detects muons. There are two scintillation detectors and muons striking both detectors presumably don’t have a local origin. The instrument has a GPS to get accurate time and position data. There are other sensors onboard, too, to collect data about the conditions of each detected event.

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Homebrew Metrology The CERN Way

We won’t pretend to fully grok everything going on with this open-source 8.5-digit voltmeter that [Marco Reps] built. After all, the design came from the wizards at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, home to the Large Hadron Collider and other implements of Big Science. But we will admit to finding the level of this build quality absolutely gobsmacking, and totally worth watching the video for.

As [Marco] relates, an upcoming experiment at CERN will demand a large number of precision voltmeters, the expense of which led to a homebrew design that was released on the Open Hardware Repository. “Homebrew” perhaps undersells the build a bit, though. The design calls for a consistent thermal environment for the ADC, so there’s a mezzanine level on the board with an intricately designed Peltier thermal control system, including a custom-machined heat spreader blocker. There’s also a fascinatingly complex PCB dedicated solely to provide a solid ground between the analog input connector — itself a work of electromechanical art — and the chassis ground.

The real gem of this whole build, though, is the vapor-phase reflow soldering technique [Marco] used. Rather than a more-typical infrared process, vapor-phase reflow uses a perfluropolyether (PFPE) solution with a well-defined boiling point. PCBs suspended above a bath of heated PFPE get bathed in inert vapors at a specific temperature. [Marco]’s somewhat janky setup worked almost perfectly — just a few tombstones and bridges to fix. It’s a great technique to keep in mind for that special build.

The last [Marco Reps] video we featured was a teardown of a powerful fiber laser. It’s good to see a metrology build like this one, though, and we have a feeling we’ll be going over the details for a long time.

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How CERN Made High Quality Electronics In The 1970s

We’re suckers for some retro electronics here at Hackaday, so we were fascinated when Daniel Valuch wrote to us with some pictures of his findings in his CERN lab’s archive. He works on Linear Accelerator 3, which has had an extended downtime after many decades of continuous operation, for major upgrades and overhauls. Part of the upgrade involves the removal of electronic assemblies dating back as far as the 1970s, and he’s shared his fascination with them as he trawls through dusty filing cabinets in the lab basement.

What it reveals is a world before the CAD and microcontrollers we know, instead here are circuits using the electronic building blocks of logic gates, discretes, and op-amps. PCBs are laid out not with the KiCad that CERN are famous in our community for today, but on acetate, with transfers and tape. A ground plane is even hand-carved from a red sheet. Oddly though it isn’t a world without CNC, because in the pouch with a design from 1974 is a roll of punched paper tape. If you have ever pondered the “Numerical” in “Computer Numerical Control”, here are the numbers in physical form.

For those of us who were trained in this type of electronic design, the convenience of a PCB CAD package and a professionally-made PCB at the click of a mouse is nothing short of miraculous. But seeing personally laid boards of this quality reminds us that seeing the hand of the designer in them is something few engineers today (with the possible exception of Boldport) manage to recreate.

Military Surplus Repurposed For High Energy Physics

Performing high-energy physics experiments can get very expensive, a fact that attracts debate on public funding for scientific research. But the reality is that scientists often work very hard to stretch their funding as far as they can. This is why we need informative and entertaining stories like Gizmodo’s How Physicists Recycled WWII Ships and Artillery to Unlock the Mysteries of the Universe.

The military have specific demands on components for their equipment. Hackers are well aware MIL-SPEC parts typically command higher prices. That quality is useful beyond their military service, which lead to how CERN obtained large quantities of a specific type of brass from obsolete Russian naval ordnance.

The remainder of the article shared many anecdotes around Fermilab’s use of armor plate from decommissioned US Navy warships. They obtained a mind-boggling amount – thousands of tons – just for the cost of transport. Dropping the cost of high quality steel to “only” $53 per ton (1975 dollars, ~$250 today) and far more economical than buying new. Not all of the steel acquired by Fermilab went to science experiments, though. They also put a little bit towards sculptures on the Fermilab campus. (One of the few contexts where 21 tons of steel can be considered “a little bit”.)

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Hackaday Links: December 18, 2016

You can fly a brick if it has offset mass and you can fly a microwave because it breaks the law of the conservation of momentum. A paper on the EM Drive was recently published by the Eagleworks team, and the results basically say, ‘if this works, it’s a terrible thruster that shouldn’t work’. Experts have weighed in, but now we might not have to wait for another test in the Eagleworks lab: China will fly an EM Drive on their space station. Will it work? Who knows.

The ESP32 is just now landing on workbenches around the globe, and already a few people are diving into promiscuous mode and WiFi packet injection.

The Large Hadron Collider is the most advanced piece of scientific apparatus ever built. It produces tons of data, and classifying this data is a challenge. The best pattern recognition unit is between your ears, so CERN is crowdsourcing the categorization of LHC data.

Holy crap this is cyberpunk. [SexyCyborg] created a makeup palette pen testing device thing out of a Rasberry Pi and a few bits and bobs sitting around in a parts drawer. The project is cool, but the photolog of the finished project is awesome. It’s exactly what you would use to break into the Weyland-Yutani database while evading government operatives on the rooftops of Kowloon Walled City before escaping via grappling hook shot into the belly of a spaceplane taking off.

The Mini NES is Nintendo’s most successful hardware offering since the N64. This tiny device, importantly packaged in a minified retro NES enclosure, is out of stock everywhere. That doesn’t matter because now there’s a mini Genesis. The cool kids had a Genesis. You want to be a cool kid, right? Mortal Kombat was better on the Genesis.

The Arduino (what once was two is again one) launched a new vowel-hating model: MKRZero. The narrow board is powered by USB or LiPo, centers around an Atmel SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ chip, and sports both an I2C breakout header and a microSD card slot. Just watch those levels as these pins are not 5v tolerant.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is holding a Scientific Maker Exhibit during its annual meeting. This type of exhibit isn’t a poster or presentation — it’s just some table space and a chance to show off a 3D printed apparatus, a new type of sensor, equipment, or some other physical thing. Details in this PDF. This is actually cooler than it sounds, and a significant departure from the traditional poster or presentation found at every other scientific conference.

Did you know Hackaday has a retro edition made specifically for old computers connected to the Internet? That’s my baby, and it’s time for a refresh. If you have any feature requests you’d like to see, leave a note in the comments.

Win An Internship At CERN Openlab

Have you ever wanted to visit CERN, or maybe even work there? Well guess what — one of the prizes for the Intel Modern Code Developer Challenge 2015 is a trip to CERN — and another one for a 9 week internship there!

The CERN and Intel sponsored competition is looking for a bright young developer (you must be a student) to improve the performance of the code used to simulate brains — specifically to simulate the growth of cells in the cerebral cortex. It’s called the Human Green Brain Project.

In this Challenge, you’ll be working with this code to improve its runtime performance, so researchers can make life-changing scientific breakthroughs faster.  Download the code, optimize it, and submit it to the Challenge.  The students who submit the fastest optimized code will win the prizes and help accelerate science – that could be you!

Improve it, and you’re literally accelerating science and research discovery. Oh — and you’ll get a chance to visit or work at the CERN OpenLab. What are you waiting for? Go enter!

[Thanks for the tip David!]

Caption CERN Contest – All Good Things…

Week 25 of the Caption CERN Contest is complete. Thanks to all the entrants who tried to figure out exactly what is going on with this scientist and his strange box. We’re still just as confused (and amused) as you are. He definitely is focused on the box and whatever is in there.

So, without further adieu, here are the winners of this week’s contest:

The Funnies:

  • “On the slim chance my invention does not go down in history. I hope no one makes a Schrodinger’s cat joke about it.” – [masterdurr]
  • “Step one, you cut a hole in the box” – [FuzzyNegguts]
  • “here is a rare shot of CERNs artificial heart prototype. Due to its size, it was only installed in whales. And badgers. I don’t know how, but somehow badgers.” – [jakewisher125]

This week’s winner is [Jack Laidlaw] with  “At Cern you have to be careful when having fun with the new guy, John was sent for a bucket of steam and only reappeared 6 months later with this contraption.” Jack is a web designer based in Scotland. He’s an avid fan of electronics, and is going to be getting a hands on course with his new Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store!

A bit of a break

After 25 great weeks of the Caption CERN Contest, it’s time to take a bit of a break. The Hackaday Prize competition is really heating up, along with plenty of other work here at Hackaday HQ. I’ve said it each week, but I have to give one more big thank you to all the folks who have entered and made this a great contest. It’s been a pleasure to read the captions every week and to award the prizes to all the top captions. The science and fun don’t end here though – There are plenty of images in CERN’s archives waiting to be discovered. Take some time and browse through. You won’t regret it!

Finally, I’d just like to say don’t forget to document your own work, and take notes on what each image contains. Be it on Hackaday.io, on Github, or even on your own drive. Otherwise you might see your own hacks in the next incarnation of the Caption CERN Contest!