We’ve covered construction of novel music instruments on these pages, and we’ve covered many people tearing down scientific instruments. But today we’ve got something that managed to cross over from one world of “instrument” into another: a music instrument modified to measure a liquid’s density by listening to changes in its pitch.
This exploration started with a mbira, a mechanically simple music instrument. Its row of rigid metal tines was replaced with a single small diameter hollow metal tube. Filling the tube with different liquids would result in different sounds. Those sounds are captured by a cell phone and processed by an algorithm to calculate the difference in relative density of those liquids. Once the procedure was worked out, the concept was verified to work on a super simple instrument built out of everyday parts: a tube mounted on a piece of wood.
At this point we have something that would be a great science class demonstration, but the authors went a step further and described how this cheap sensor can be used to solve an actual problem: detecting counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Changing composition of a drug would also change its density, so a cheap way to compare densities between a questionable sample against a known good reference could be a valuable tool in parts of the world where chemistry labs are scarce.
For future development, this team invites the world to join them applying the same basic idea in other ways, making precise measurements for almost no cost. “Any physical, chemical, or biological phenomena that reproducibly alters the pitch-determining properties of a musical instrument could in principle be measured by the instrument.” We are the ideal demographic to devise new variations on this theme. Let us know what you come up with!
If you need to do quick tests before writing analysis software, audio frequency can be measured using the Google Science Journal app. We’ve seen several hacks turning a cell phone’s camera into instruments like a spectrometer or microscope, but hacks using a phone’s microphone is less common and ripe for exploration. And anyone who manages to make cool measurements while simultaneously making cool music will instantly become a serious contender in our Hackaday Prize music instrument challenge!
[via Science News]
Drugs are used the world over to treat disease. However, from time to time, the vagaries of market economics, or unscrupulous action, can radically increase the price of otherwise cheap pharmaceuticals far beyond the reach of the average person. This was the case with Pyrimethamine (sold as Daraprim), which is used to treat toxoplasmosis and malaria, among other users. With the price skyrocketing from $13 to $750 a tablet in the US in 2015, [NurdRage] decided to synthesize the drug on their own. (If you missed the background hubbub, search for “Martin Shkreli”.)
The video linked covers the final synthesis, though [NurdRage] has previously covered the synthesis of the required precursor chemicals. Budding chemists may grow excited, but there are significant hurdles to attempting this synthesis yourself. Chemicals involved are carcinogenic, toxic, acidic, or otherwise dangerous, and a fume hood is a necessity if working inside. Outside of this, there are immense risks in homebrewing pharmaceuticals. Performing the synthesis of an important drug is one thing, but to do so at a medical-grade level where the products are safe for human consumption is on an entirely different level.
Overall, [NurdRage] has put out a series of videos that have strong educational value, showing us what really goes into the production of a common pharmaceutical compound. There’s also something to be said about taking the production of life-saving medicines into one’s own hands in the face of prohibitive treatment costs. In a similar vein, perhaps you’ve considered producing your own insulin in an emergency?
[Thanks to jwrm22 for the tip]
Here’s an interesting hack. It’s a small pick-up truck with a Dope Cannon attached to it. Sure, it looks more like something you’d see in Syria, but this item was actually seized in Mexico where it was being used to fire 30 pound slugs of Marijuana over the border fence with the US. Usually when you fire artillery there isn’t someone on the target range trying to recover the projectile!
The device uses a PVC barrel to guide the pot-pellet as it’s propelled by compressed air. Hey, swap out the drugs for an energy drink and that sounds pretty familiar. Our qualifying entry for the 2012 Red Bull Creation Contest was an energy drink cannon which used the same setup with a slightly smaller caliber. It makes us wonder if the drug cartel uses little parachutes like we did?
Doesn’t it arouse suspicion to drive something like this around town? You’d think they’d use a box truck or something similar to hide the giant gun.
[Photo Credit: AP via NY Daily News]
These water droplets are not falling; they’re actually stuck in place. What we’re seeing is the effects of an acoustic levitator. The device was initially developed by NASA to simulate microgravity. Now it’s being used by the pharmaceutical industry do develop better drugs.
The two parts of the apparatus seen in the image above are both speakers. They put out a sound at about 22 kHz, which is beyond the human range of hearing. When precisely aligned they interfere with each other and create a standing wave. The droplets are trapped in the nodes of that wave.
So are these guys just playing around with the fancy lab equipment? Nope. The levitation is being used to evaporate water from a drug without the substance touching the sides of a container. This prevents the formation of crystals in the solution. But we like it for the novelty and would love to see someone put one of these together in their home workshop.
Don’t miss the mystical demo in the clip after the break.
Continue reading “Acoustic levitation of water droplets”
[Fiorenzo Omenetto] gave a TED talk early last year to illustrates a lot of intriguing uses for silk. Before watching his presentation we would have been hard pressed to come up with a use for silk other than in clothing. But it turns out that investigating how silk worms create the material has led to a range of other applications. You can see the full talk embedded after the break.
One of the first things he shows off is a transparent film made of silk. The material looks almost like cellulose film, and can function in a similar way. [Fiorenzo] shines a laser through a silk slide that has a micro-dot of words embedded in it. the result is a clearly readable message projected on the wall. The film can also be used for holographic images.
But it’s the biodegradable aspects that are clearly the breakthrough here. A slide of silk can be doped with pharmaceuticals and programmed for a very specific time release. This way the drugs no longer need to be stored under refrigeration, and can be reclaimed using only water. The same properties allow one to manufacture disposable objects that will quickly and completely degrade. But there’s even more, if you dope the material with a conductor like gold it becomes a disposable circuit.
Continue reading “Unlocking silk for uses as an optical, digital, biological, or food storage device”
In what some might call a sensationalist article, USA Today reporter [Kim Komando] warns parents of a new danger to their kids: digital drugs. Throughout the article, [Kim] tries to explain how binaural beats (idosers) can effect the brain in many different ways, claiming that some even emulate the effects of illegal drugs. Furthermore, she claims that the “digital drugs” can act as a gateway to trying real drugs. While it seems unapparent to [Kim] that I-Doser has been around for years, it’s not surprising that this article is only being published now. While I understand her argument, parts of it just seem illogical. If anything, wouldn’t binaural sounds provide kids an alternative to illegal drugs? If these sounds really provide the same effects as drugs, wouldn’t they act as a safer option to kids? While this story seems to be one of many sensational stories warning parents to protect their kids, it seems as though parents should really be warned about these sensational stories that are concocted solely to sell newspapers.