Create an Aurora Of Your Own

Throughout our day-to-day experiences, we come across or make use of many scientific principles which we might not be aware of, even if we immediately recognize them when they’re described. One such curiosity is that of caustics, which refers not only to corrosive substances, but can also refer to a behavior of light that can be observed when it passes through transparent objects. Holding up a glass to a light source will produce the effect, for example, and while this is certainly interesting, there are also ways of manipulating these patterns using lasers, which makes an aurora-like effect.

The first part of this project is finding a light source. LEDs proved to be too broad for good resolution, so [Neuromodulator] pulled the lasers out of some DVD drives for point sources. From there, the surface of the water he was using to generate the caustic patterns needed to be agitated, as the patterns don’t form when passing through a smooth surface. For this he used a small speaker and driver circuit which allows precise control of the ripples on the water.

The final part of the project was fixing the lasers to a special lens scavenged from a projector, and hooking everything up to the driver circuit for the lasers. From there, the caustic patterns can be produced and controlled, although [Neuromodulator] notes that the effects that this device has on film are quite different from the way the human eye and brain perceive them in real life. If you’re fascinated by the effect, even through the lens of the camera, there are other light-based art installations that might catch your eye as well.

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Artistic Images Made With Water Lens

It’s said that beauty and art can be found anywhere, as long as you look for it. The latest art project from [dmitry] both looks in unassuming places for that beauty, and projects what it sees for everyone to view. Like most of his projects, it’s able to produce its artwork in a very unconventional way. This particular project uses water as a lens, and by heating and cooling the water it produces a changing image.

The art installation uses a Peltier cooler to periodically freeze the water that’s being used as a lens. When light is projected through the frozen water onto a screen, the heat from the light melts the water and changes the projected image. The machine uses an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi in order to control the Peliter cooler and move the lens on top of the cooler to be frozen. Once frozen, it’s moved again into the path of the light in order to show an image through the lens.

[dmitry] intended the project to be a take on the cyclical nature of a substance from one state to another, and this is a very creative and interesting way of going about it. Of course, [dmitry]’s work always exhibits the same high build quality and interesting perspective, like his recent project which created music from the core samples of the deepest hole ever drilled.

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Continuous Seltzer Deployment System Solves Our Bubbly-Water Sourcing Problems

Seltzer water – that bubbly, carbonated water that disappoints sugar-craving children everywhere – has experienced a steady rise in popularity over the past few years. This is perhaps partly fueled by the availability of countertop carbonators such as the SodaStream.

Not satisfied with the tedious and pedestrian process of manually carbonating individual bottles of water, [piyoman] has instead built a tidy little tap of unlimited cold, filtered seltzer. It’s no easy gag. The build uses a commercial carbonator pump, reverse osmosis water filter, bulk tank, and a standard CO2 cylinder to create a constant source of carbonated water. Most of this setup is stuffed into a dorm-sized fridge (tetris-style) and topped with a fancy beer faucet to dispense the resulting bubblewater.

At roughly $800 for the documented system, you need to have a great reason to build your own. But [piyoman] provides detailed instructions, a parts list, and suggestions for cost savings and future improvements if you do take on a system like this for your seltzer needs.

Cheaper Carbonation Options

While looking at how DIY carbonation has been done in the past we found [Richard Kinch’s] Carbonating at Home with Improvised Equipment and Soda Fountains page which dives into many other options. His site – a wonderful, dense demonstration of the beauty of “web 1.0” – walks through the basics of carbonated water, discusses CO2 tanks and gauges, and shows how to build a simple carbonation cap for making seltzer in standard PET soda bottles.

120 Second Shower Cap

Do you have a couple of minutes? Literally and precisely, two minutes. That’s how long these ten songs play. So what? A short song is not new, but these ten songs are part of a campaign to encourage residents of Cape Town, South Africa to cap their showers at one-hundred-twenty seconds. Some of us do not have to worry about droughts or water bills, but most of us are concerned about one or both of those, and this ingenious campaign alerted people to the problem, gave them the means to time themselves, and made it pleasant, not oppressive. The songs are freely available, and one might even pique your listening tastes from the biggest stars in South Africa.

So, where is the hack? Some of us have experimented with egg timers on the towel rack, timers on the showerhead, servos on the faucet knobs, or occupancy sensors, but those are strong-arm techniques or only for measuring, not regulating water use. These songs attack the most viable vector, the showerer. Or is it showeree? Telling people there is a drought is one thing, but giving them the ability to regulate themselves in such a way that they comply is a hacker’s approach. The songs on the site do not autoplay so there will be no hanging out under the water spray to find the best song. Which is your favorite?

Build Your Own Two-Stage Water Rockets

Water rockets are one of the most fun and exciting science-adjacent activities one can take part in during the summer, and are popular with children and adults alike. Designs range from a bike pump with a cork in a bottle, up to significantly more advanced hardware. [Air.command]’s two-stage water rocket definitely fits into the latter category.

The build is initially somewhat confronting in its complexity, but after a thorough read-through the operating principles become clear. It’s an all-mechanical setup which relies on the weight of the upper stage and the initial acceleration of the rocket to keep the two stages coupled. It’s only when the first stage stops delivering thrust that a spring forces the two stages apart, and the upper stage rockets ever higher.

Parts-wise, everything is fairly accessible – with pieces cribbed from garden hose fittings, retractable pens and other household ephemera. It’s not the easiest thing to put together, but with perseverance and some tweaking and tuning, it’s definitely achievable for the home gamer, with no advanced tools or techniques required.

Now that you’ve got a two-stage rocket under construction, you might want to consider upgrading your launchpad. Video after the break.

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H2gO Keeps Us from Drying Out

The scientific community cannot always agree on how much water a person needs in a day, and since we are not Fremen, we should give it more thought than we do. For many people, remembering to take a sip now and then is all we need and the H2gO is built to remind [Angeliki Beyko] when to reach for the water bottle. A kitchen timer would probably get the job done, but we can assure you, that is not how we do things around here.

A cast silicone droplet lights up to show how much water you have drunk and pressing the center of the device means you have taken a drink. Under the hood, you find a twelve-node NeoPixel ring, a twelve millimeter momentary switch, and an Arduino Pro Mini holding it all together. A GitHub repo is linked in the article where you can find Arduino code, the droplet model, and links to all the parts. I do not think we will need a device to remind us when to use the bathroom after all this water.

Another intrepid hacker seeks to measure a person’s intake while another measures output.

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Extracting Water from Fog

Most of us take it for granted that water is as close as your kitchen tap. But that’s not true everywhere. Two scientists at MIT have a new method for harvesting water from fog, especially fog released from cooling towers such as those found from power plants. It turns out, harvesting water from fog isn’t a new idea. You typically insert a mesh into the air and collect water droplets from the fog. The problem is with a typical diameter of 10 microns, the water droplets mostly miss the mesh, meaning they typically extract no more than 2% of the water content in the air.

The team found two reasons for the low efficiency. Water clogs the mesh openings which can be somewhat mitigated by using coated meshes that shed water quickly. Even in the lab that only increases the yield to about 10%. The bigger problem, though, is basically only some of the droplets hit the mesh, and even those that do may not stick because of drag. Fine meshes can help but are harder to make and have low structural integrity. Their solution? Inject ions into the fog to charge the water droplets and impart the opposite charge on the mesh.

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