2022 Sci-Fi Contest: Schrödinger’s Trigger Is Trained On Electrons, Not Cats

While it’s true that Hackaday scribes and their families are sadly unable to compete in our contests, Hackaday alum are more than welcome to throw their hat in the ring. [Legionlabs] even made a game of it — they used only parts from the scrap heap, and even played beat the clock to build a real, science-fictiony, working thing in eight hours or less.

Okay, cool, but what does it do? Well, put simply, a rising edge on the input drives one of two outputs, lighting one of two drool-worthy flanged LEDs. Which output will [alight] is unknowable until observed, thus the Schrodinger’s aspect. In practice, the output is determined by sampling. In this case, the sampling is of the time difference between three electron-tunneling events.

Stage one of Schrodinger’s Trigger is a pair of inputs — one variable 10-15 VDC input and 5 VDC input. Then comes the electron-tunneling event generator. [Legionlabs] is reverse-biasing a semiconductor junction (a 2N551 transistor). What does that mean? If we consider the junction as a diode and apply voltage in the wrong direction, what happens? At best, nothing; at worst, the smoke monster appears to admonish us.

But with a semiconductor acting as a diode, some electrons are bound to jump across the junction. This is known as tunneling, and is a useful phenomenon as it is purely random.

Stage three consists of amplifying the signal from these rebel electrons via hex inverters. Why not op-amps? The CD4069s were cheaper and within reach. Finally, the amplified signals are sampled with an ATtiny12, and some assembly logic figures out which LED to light.

It’s nice to see an entry that leans more toward the science side of things while winning aesthetically. We dig the nice ABS enclosure, and are totally envious of [Legionlabs]’ access to flanged LEDs and those glass table top mounting point discs in the corners.

Routing IP Over Instant Messages Is Possible Yet Impractical

Telegram is an instant messaging app, well known for its focus on security and encryption. It’s used by government officials, journalists, and the paranoid, and can also handle VoIP calls, in addition to its text messaging capability. [PiMaker] wondered if all this encryption could be put to good use, and decided to try and route IP over Telegram, as you do.

The project is called Teletun, and it works! It uses telgram-cli, a command line interface for the instant messaging network. The actual IP routing is handled with a Python script, and [PiMaker] recommends that in use, the user should “pray to the gods for mercy”. Reports are that bandwidth is limited, but latency can go as low as 100ms, which suggests Telegram is indeed a fairly instant messenger.

Tunneling over instant messaging services is good practice for any aspiring hacker, but likely to be unwieldy for any practical purpose. If you can think of one, other than irritating the intelligence agents tapping your communications, throw it down in the comments below. Otherwise, consider other oddball ways to (ab)use Telegram.

Harvesting Energy From The Earth With Quantum Tunneling

More energy hits the earth in sunlight every day than humanity could use in about 16,000 years or so, but that hasn’t stopped us from trying to tap into other sources of energy too. One source that shows promise is geothermal, but these methods have been hindered by large startup costs and other engineering challenges. A new way to tap into this energy source has been found however, which relies on capturing the infrared radiation that the Earth continuously gives off rather than digging large holes and using heat exchangers.

This energy is the thermal radiation that virtually everything gives off in some form or another. The challenge in harvesting this energy is that since the energy is in the infrared range, exceptionally tiny antennas are needed which will resonate at that frequency. It isn’t just fancy antennas, either; a new type of diode had to be manufactured which uses quantum tunneling to convert the energy into DC electricity.

While the scientists involved in this new concept point out that this is just a prototype at this point, it shows promise and could be a game-changer since it would allow clean energy to be harvested whenever needed, and wouldn’t rely on the prevailing weather. While many clean-energy-promising projects often seem like pipe dreams, we can’t say it’s the most unlikely candidate for future widespread adoption we’ve ever seen.