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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Cat vs. Human Escalates with Armor-Plated Feeder

Wars generally increase innovation as the opposing sides try to kill each other in ever more efficient ways. Even the soft war waged daily between felines and their human servants results in innovation, to wit we offer this armor-plated automated cat feeder.

The conflict between [Sprocket H.G. Shopcat] and her human [Quinn Dunki] began with a thoughtfully provided automatic food dispenser. Like human vending machine customers who witness a just-purchased bag of Cheesy Poofs dangling on the end of the dispense auger, [Sprocket] learned that the feeder would dispense a few fishy nuggets when nudged. [Quinn] embarked on an iterative design process to control [Sprocket]’s off-schedule snacking. Fastening the feeder firmly to the floor, and adding obstructions to prevent her from pawing up the dispense chute — nothing seemed to stop the clever feline’s raids. [Quinn] then pulled out all the stops and whipped up a [Sprocket]-safe enclosure for the feeder from 1/8″ plate steel and copper. This seems to have put the cat back on the straight and narrow, and it doesn’t look half bad either.

All kidding aside, [Quinn]’s approach to this problem is pretty instructive. Careful observations informed several cycles of reasonable modifications until it became clear that only the most extreme solution would work. There’ve been tons of cat feeders here before, from the simple to the complex, but we think all would fall prey to the clever [Sprocket] without a little up-armoring.

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