Raspberry Pi Simulates The Real Analog TV Experience

If you’ve laid hands on a retro analog TV, have the restoration bug, and you plan to make the final project at least somewhat period-correct, you face a bit of a conundrum: what are you going to watch? Sure, you can serve up just about any content digitally these days, but some programs just don’t feel right on an old TV. And even if you do get suitably retro programming, streaming isn’t quite the same as the experience of tuning your way through the somewhat meager selections as we did back in the analog days.

But don’t worry — this Raspberry Pi TV simulator can make your streaming experience just like the analog TV experience of yore. It comes to us from [Rodrigo], who found a slightly abused 5″ black-and-white portable TV that was just right for the modification. The battery compartment underneath the set made the perfect place to mount a Pi, which takes care of streaming a variety of old movies and shorts. The position of the original tuning potentiometer is read by an Arduino, which tells the Pi which “channel” you’re currently tuned to.

Composite video is fed from the Pi’s output right into the TV’s video input, and the image quality is just about what you’d expect. But for our money, the thing that really sells this is the use of a relay to switch the TV’s tuner back into the circuit for a short bit between channel changes. This gives a realistic burst of static and snow, just like we endured in the old days. Hats off to [Rodrigo] for capturing everything that was awful about TV back in the day — Mesa of Lost Women, indeed! — but still managing to make it look good.

Continue reading “Raspberry Pi Simulates The Real Analog TV Experience”

Recreating Ben Franklins kite experiment with a drone

Drone Replaces Kite In Recreation Of Famous Atmospheric Electricity Experiment

Finally, someone decided to answer the question that nobody was asking: what if [Benjamin Franklin] had had a drone rather than a kite?

Granted, [Jay Bowles] didn’t fly his electricity-harvesting drone during a thunderstorm, but he did manage to reach some of the same conclusions that [Dr. Franklin] did about the nature of atmospheric electricity. His experimental setup was pretty simple: a DJI Mini2 drone with enough payload capacity to haul a length of fine-gauge magnet wire up to around 100 meters above ground level. A collecting electrode made of metal mesh was connected to the wire and suspended below the drone. Some big nails were driven into the soil to complete the circuit between the drone and the ground.

[Jay] went old-school for a detector, using a homemade electroscope to show what kind of static charge was accumulating on the electrode. Version 1 didn’t have enough oomph to do much but deliver a small static shock, but a larger electrode was able to deflect the leaves of an electroscope, power a beer can version of a Franklin bell, and also run a homemade corona motor. [ElectroBOOM] makes a guest appearance in the video below to explain the physics of the setup; curiously, he actually managed to get away without any injuries this time. Continue reading “Drone Replaces Kite In Recreation Of Famous Atmospheric Electricity Experiment”

Whirling Shutters On This Field Mill Measure Electrostatic Charges At Distance

Hardly a person hasn’t experienced the sudden, sharp discharge of static electricity, especially on a crisp winter’s day. It usually requires a touch, though, the classic example being a spark from finger to doorknob after scuffing across the carpet. But how would one measure the electrostatic charge of an object without touching it? Something like this field mill, which is capable of measuring electrostatic charge over a range of several meters, will do the trick.

We confess to not having heard of field mills before, and found [Leo Fernekes]’ video documenting his build to be very instructive. Field mills have applications in meteorology, being used to measure the electrostatic state of the atmosphere from the ground. They’ve also played a role in many a scrubbing of rocket launches, to prevent the missile from getting zapped during launch.

[Leo]’s mill works much like the commercial units: a grounded shutter rotates in front of two disc-shaped electrodes, modulating the capacitance of the system relative to the outside world. The two electrodes are fed into a series of transimpedance amplifiers, which boost the AC signal coming from them. A Hall sensor on the shutter allows sampling of the signal to be synchronized to the rotation of the shutter; this not only generates the interrupts needed to sample the sine wave output of the amplifier at its peaks and troughs, but it also measures whether the electrostatic field is positive or negative. Check out the video below for a great explanation and a good looking build with a junk-bin vibe to it.

Meteorological uses aside, we’d love to see this turned toward any of the dozens of Tesla coil builds we’ve seen. From the tiny to the absurd, this field mill should be able to easily measure any Tesla coil’s output with ease.

Continue reading “Whirling Shutters On This Field Mill Measure Electrostatic Charges At Distance”

“Who Is John Galt?” Finally Answered

For those who haven’t read [Ayn Rand’s] philosophical tome Atlas Shrugged, there’s a pretty cool piece of engineering stuffed in between the 100-page-long monologues. Although fictional, a character manages to harness atmospheric static electricity and convert it into kinetic energy and (spoilers!) revolutionize the world. Harnessing atmospheric static electricity isn’t just something for fanciful works of fiction, though. It’s a real-world phenomenon and it’s actually possible to build this motor.

who-is-john-galt-thumbAs [Richard Feynman] showed, there is an exploitable electrical potential gradient in the atmosphere. By suspending a tall wire in the air, it is possible to obtain voltages in the tens of thousands of volts. In this particular demonstration, a hexacopter is used to suspend a wire with a set of needles on the end. The needles help facilitate the flow of electrons into the atmosphere, driving a current that spins the corona motor at the bottom of the wire.

There’s not much torque or power generated, but the proof of concept is very interesting to see. Of course, the higher you can go the more voltage is available to you, so maybe future devices such as this could exploit atmospheric electricity to go beyond a demonstration and do useful work. We’ve actually featured the motor that was used in this demonstration before, though, so if you’re curious as to how a corona motor works you should head over there.

Continue reading ““Who Is John Galt?” Finally Answered”

Embed With Elliot: The Static Keyword You Don’t Fully Understand

One of our favorite nuances of the C programming language (and its descendants) is the static keyword. It’s a little bit tricky to get your head around at first, because it can have two (or three) subtly different applications in different situations, but it’s so useful that it’s worth taking the time to get to know.

And before you Arduino users out there click away, static variables solve a couple of common problems that occur in Arduino programming. Take this test to see if it matters to you: will the following Arduino snippet ever print out “Hello World”?

void loop()
	int count=0;
	count = count + 1;
	if (count > 10) {
		Serial.println("Hello World");

Continue reading “Embed With Elliot: The Static Keyword You Don’t Fully Understand”


3D Printed Wimshurst Machine

Steampunk extraordinaire [Jake von Slatt] has released his latest creation. This time he’s built a Wimshurst machine from mostly 3D printed parts. The Wimshurst machine is an electrostatic generator and was originally invented in the late 1800’s by James Wimshurst. It uses two counter-rotating disks to generate an electrostatic charge which is then stored in two Leyden jars. These jars are also connected to a spark gap. When the voltage raises high enough, the jars can discharge all at once by flashing a spark across the gap.

[Jake’s] machine has a sort of Gothic theme to it. He designed the parts using Autodesk’s 123D Design. They were initially printed in PLA. Skate bearings were used in the center of the disks to ensure a smooth rotation. The axle was made from the fiberglass shaft of a driveway reflector. The vertical supports were attached the base with machine screws.

The Leyden jars were made from sections of clear plastic tube. The caps for the jars were 3D printed and are designed to accept a short length of threaded 1/8″ pipe. Copper wire was used for the interior contacts and are held in place with electrical tape. The metal sectors on each disk were made from pieces of cut aluminum tape.

You may be wondering how this machine works if it’s almost entirely made out of plastic. [Jake] actually painted most of the parts with a carbon paint. This makes them electrically conductive and he can then use the parts to complete electrical circuits. Unfortunately he found this to be rather ineffective. The machine does work, but it only produces sparks up to 1/2″ in length. For comparison, his other machine is capable of 6″ sparks using similar sized Leyden jars.

[Jake] actually tried rebuilding this project using ABS, thinking that the PLA may have been collecting moisture from his breath, but the result is still only 1/2″ sparks. He suspects that the bumpy surface of the plastic parts may be causing the charge to slowly leak away, preventing a nice build up. He’s released all of his designs on Thingiverse in case any other hackers want to give it a whirl.

Static Bleeder

When you are in the middle of the desert, pretty much every solution to a mechanical or electrical problem is a hack. [Sgt.M] who was deployed in Iraq sought out the help of radio guru [H.P. Friedrichs] about a static problem he was having. When dust storms would blow in strange things would happen in camp. Humming and crackling could be heard and [Sgt. M] actually had an electrical arc from a lamp to his hand at a distance of about 2 feet.

[Friedrichs] helped him find the problem. Their antennae were acting as static electricity collectors in the dust. All that dust friction in the dry air constantly built up a charge. The solution was simple, discharge the electricity at the antenna when it isn’t in use. Several solutions are outlined on the page, so check them out.