Thought experiments can be extremely powerful; after all, pretty much everything that [Einstein] came up with was based on thought experiments. But when a thought experiment turns into a real experiment, that’s when things can get really interesting, and where unexpected insights crop up.
Take [AlphaPhoenix]’s simple question: “Are solid objects really solid?” On the face of it, this seems like a silly and trivial question, but the thought experiment he presents reveals more. He posits that pushing on one end of a solid metal rod a meter or so in length will result in motion at the other end of the rod pretty much instantly. But what if we scale that rod up considerably — say, to one light-second in length. Is a displacement at one end of the rob instantly apparent at the other end? It’s a bit of a mind-boggler.
To answer the question, [AlphaPhoneix] set up a simple experiment with the aforementioned steel rod — the shorter one, of course. The test setup was pretty clever: a piezoelectric sensor at one end of the bar, and a hammer wired to a battery at the other end, to sense when the hammer made contact with the bar. Both sensors were connected to an oscilloscope to set up to capture the pulses and measure the time. It turned out that the test setup was quite a challenge to get right, and troubleshooting the rig took him down a rabbit hole that was just as interesting as answering the original question. We won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say we were pleased that our first instinct turned out to be correct, even if for the wrong reasons.
If you haven’t checked out [AlphaPhoenix] yet, you really should. With a doctorate in material science, he’s got an interesting outlook on things, like calculating pi using raindrops or keeping the “ultra” in ultra-high vacuum. Continue reading “Simple Setup Answers Complex Question On The Physics Of Solids”
Lightning is a force to be reckoned with: ever since ancient times, humans have been in awe of the lethal power of lightning strikes and the deafening roar of thunder. Quite reasonably, they ascribed these events to acts of angry gods; today, modern science provides a more down-to-earth explanation of the physics involved, and a world-wide network of sensors generates a real-time record of lightning strikes around the globe.
[Dmitry Morozov]’s latest kinetic art installation called Adad is driven by this stream of data. Named after a Mesopotamian god of thunder, it consists of a set of arms that suddenly jerk upwards when a lightning strike is detected anywhere in the world. When an arm falls down again, it strikes a piezo crystal, which generates an electric charge that triggers a bright flash of light as well as a sound effect. Those crystals are pieces of potassium sodium tartrate (also known as Rochelle salt) and were grown specifically for this project. They are housed in plexiglass holders which also provide electrical connections.
Adad‘s spider-like design, its eerie sounds as well as the sudden pops and flashes make this a rather unsettling yet beautiful display of Nature’s violence. And it’s a piece of beauty from an engineering point of view as well: sleek aluminium tubes, servo-driven motion and those transparent crystal holders, all controlled by an Arduino that receives live lightning data through an internet connection.
We’ve seen several types of lightning detectors, usually based on a standard radio receiver or a specialized chip. If you’re interested in growing your own piezo crystals, we’ve covered that too. Continue reading “Kinetic Art Installation Brings All The World’s Lightning To One Place”
Most of the horror stories you hear about air travel seem to center around luggage. Airlines do an admirable job of getting people safely to their destinations, but checked baggage is a bit of a crapshoot — it could be there when you land, it could end up taking the scenic route, or it could just plain disappear. That’s bad enough when it contains your clothes, but when it contains your livelihood? Talk about stress!
This was the position musician [Nicolas Bras] found himself in after a recent trip. [Nicolas] was heading for a gig, but thanks to Brussels Airlines, his collection of musical instruments went somewhere else. There was nothing he could do to salvage that evening’s gig, but he needed to think about later engagements. Thankfully, [Nicolas] specializes in DIY musical instruments, made mostly with PVC tubes and salvaged parts from commercial instruments, so the solution to his problem was completely in his hands.
Fair warning to musical instrument aficionados — harvest the neck from a broken ukelele is pretty gruesome stuff. Attached to a piece of pallet wood and equipped with piezo pickups, the neck became part of a bizarre yet fascinating hybrid string instrument. A selection of improvised wind instruments came next, made from PVC pipes and sounding equally amazing; we especially liked the bass chromojara, sort of a flute with a didgeridoo sound to it. The bicycle pump beatbox was genius too, and really showed that music is less about the fanciness of your gear and more about the desire — and talent — to make it with whatever comes to hand.
Here’s hoping that [Nicolas] is eventually reunited with his gear, but hats off to him in the meantime for hacking up replacements. And if he looks familiar, that’s because we’ve seen some of his work before, like his sympathetic nail violin and “Popcorn” played on PVC pipes.
Continue reading “Hacked Set Of Instruments Saves Musician’s Gigs”
Sound recording and playback have come a long way in the last century or so, but it’s fair to say there’s still a lot of interesting stuff locked away on old recordings. Not having a way to play it back is partly to blame; finding an antique phonograph that plays old-timey cylinder recordings is pretty hard. But even then, how do you digitize the output of these fragile, scratchy old recordings?
As it happens, [Jan Derogee] is in a position to answer these questions, with an antique phonograph and a bunch of Edison-style wax cylinders with voices and music from a bygone era locked away on them. It would be easy enough to just use the “reproducer” he previously built and set up a microphone to record the sound directly from the phonograph’s trumpet, but [Jan] decided to engineer a better solution. By adding the piezo element from an electronic greeting card to his reproducer, potted with liberal quantities of epoxy and padded with cotton, the piezo pickup was attached to the phonograph arm in place of the original stylus and trumpet. The signal from the piezo element was strong enough to require a shunt resistor, allowing it to be plugged directly into the audio input jack on a computer. From there it’s just an Audacity exercise, plus dealing with the occasional skipped groove.
We appreciate [Jan]’s effort to preserve these recordings, as well as the chance to hear some voices from the past. We’re actually surprised the recording sound as good as they do after all this time — they must have been well cared for.
Continue reading “Piezo Pickup Makes Wax Records Easy To Digitize”
Piezo elements have the useful property of being bidirectional; that is they can move when you apply electricity to them, but they can also generate electricity when you move them. [Carl] takes advantage of this fact to make buttons that can provide haptic feedback. You can see a video of his efforts below the break.
He made two versions of the buttons. One uses a 3D printed housing and the other used a 3D printed spacer in a sandwich configuration. It took a few tries to get it right, as you’ll see. The elements take and produce relatively high voltages, so the bulk of the work was adapting the voltages back and forth. In fact, he even managed to fry his CPU chip with some of the higher voltages involved.
We’d probably look for an easier way to sense the button push, since it seems like a good bit of circuitry just to do that. But the whole circuit provides an input button, haptic feedback, and the option of using the buzzer as a buzzer, so at least it is relatively economical if you need all of those features.
Continue reading “Buzzer Does Input And Output”
Ever heard of a handpan? If not, imagine a steel drum turned inside out, and in case that doesn’t help either, just think of a big metal pan you play music with by tapping your hands on its differently pitched tone fields. But as with pretty much any musical instrument, the people around you may not appreciate your enthusiasm to practice playing it at any time of the day, and being an acoustic instrument, it gets difficult to just plug in your headphones. Good news for the aspiring practitioners of Caribbean music though, as [Deepsoul77] created a MIDI version of this rather young and exotic instrument.
Using the foam salvaged from an old mattress as the core of the handpan, [Deepsoul77] cut a couple of plywood pads as tone fields that will be attached to the foam. Each plywood tone field will then have a piezo element mounted in between to pick up the hand tapping. Picking up the tapping itself and turning it into MIDI signals is then handled by an Alesis trigger interface, which is something you would usually find in electronic drums. From here on forward, it all becomes just a simple USB MIDI device, with all the perks that brings along — like headphone usage or changing MIDI instruments to make anything sound like a trumpet.
Turning what’s essentially a drum kit into a melodic instrument is definitely neat, and to no surprise, we’ve also seen the actual home made drum kit with piezo elements. Of course, using MIDI to quiet down an acoustic instrument isn’t new either, though it also works somewhat the other way around. But then again, it doesn’t always have to be MIDI either.
A yogurt lid and embroidery hoop are key components in building this microphone. It’s a super low tech, entry-level project to get into “found sound” and exactly what is needed to start hacking around in the audio world. This workshop presented by Helen Leigh and Robyn Hails shows you how to build a simple microphone and use it as the electronic gateway to all kinds of audio shenanigans.
Key to this build are the piezo element and an amp to process the signals it generates. All other materials are common around most households, but put them together as shown in this live hands-on seminar from the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon, and I think you’ll surprise yourself with how good the thing sounds!
Continue reading “Remoticon Video: Making Microphones And Finding Sound”