Better History Through X-Rays

Even if you aren’t a giant history buff, you probably know that the French royal family had some difficulties in the late 1700s. The end of the story saw the King beheaded and, a bit later, his wife the famous Marie Antoinette suffered the same fate. Marie wrote many letters to her confidant, and probable lover, Swedish count Axel von Fersen. Some of those letters have survived to the present day — sort of. An unknown person saw fit to blot out parts of the surviving letters with ink, rendering them illegible. Well, that is, until now thanks to modern x-ray technology.

Anne Michelin from the French National Museum of Natural History and her colleagues were able to foil the censor and they even have a theory as to the ink blot’s origin: von Fersen, himself! The technique used may enable the recovery of other lost portions of historical documents and was published in the journal Science Advances.

Continue reading “Better History Through X-Rays”

a very slapdash x-ray machine on a table

Building An X-Ray Machine

While we typically encourage hackers to make their own tools or machines when practical, x-ray machines don’t usually make that list. Despite the risk of radiation, [William Osman] has done just that and built a homemade x-ray machine. After receiving an eye-watering medical bill, [William] resolves to make his own x-ray machine in the hopes of avoiding future bills. Thanks to his insurance, the total owed was smaller but still ridiculous to those who live in single-payer health care countries, but it got William thinking. What if he could make an x-ray machine to do cheap x-rays?

Armed with a cheap high voltage DC power supply he acquired from an online auction house, he started to power up his x-ray vacuum tube. A smaller power supply energizes the cathode and forms an electron beam. Then the high voltage (30-150kv) is applied as a tube voltage, accelerating the electrons into x-rays. Safety measures are taken somewhat haphazardly with Geiger counters and lead sheets. With a finger bone cast in ballistic shell [William] made his first x-ray with a long exposure on a DSLR. The next items to go in the x-ray “chamber” were a phone and a hand. The results were actually pretty decent and you can clearly see the bones.

We’ve seen homemade X-Ray machines here at Hackaday before, but not one that is constructed perhaps so haphazardly — his approach makes this obvious: don’t try this at home. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Building An X-Ray Machine”

X-Ray Sleuthing Unveils The Fake In Your Adaptors

Lets face it, the knock-off variety of our favourite adaptors, cables and accessories are becoming increasingly challenging to spot. We would be the first to admit, to have at some point, been stooped by a carefully crafted counterfeit by failing to spot the tell-tale yet elusive indicators such as the misplaced font face, the strategically misspelled logo or perhaps the less polished than expected plastic moulding and packaging. When you finally come around to using it, if you are lucky the item is still more or less functionally adequate, otherwise by now the inferior performance (if not the initial cost!) would have made it pretty obvious that what you have is infact a counterfeit.

[Oliver] recently found himself in a similar situation, after acquiring a seemingly original Lightning to Headphone Adaptor. Rather than dismay, [Oliver] decided to channel this energy into an excellent forensic investigation to uncover just what exactly made this imitation so deceptive. He began by comparing the packaging, printed typeface and the plastic moulding, all of which gave very little away. [Oliver] concluded that atleast superficially, the clone was rather good and the only way to settle this was to bring out the X-ray, of course!  

The resulting images of the innards make it blatantly obvious as to why the adaptor is indeed very fake. For a start, compared to the original adaptor, the clone hosts a far more thin BOM count! If you are really serious in getting some training to better spot counterfeits, check out a post we featured earlier on the subject!

Rosalind Franklin Saw DNA First

It’s a standard science trivia question: Who discovered the structure of DNA? With the basic concepts of molecular biology now taught at a fairly detailed level in grade school, and with DNA being so easy to isolate that it makes a good demonstration project for school or home, everyone knows the names of Watson and Crick. But not many people know the story behind one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century, or the name of the scientist without whose data Watson and Crick were working blind: Rosalind Franklin.

Continue reading “Rosalind Franklin Saw DNA First”

Quickly Prototyping X-ray Backscatter Machines

Ben Krasnow is one of those people no one has a bad opinion of. He’s part of the team at Verily (Google’s Life Science Alphabit), where he’s busy curing cancer. He co-founded Valve’s hardware division and his YouTube channel, Applied Science, is an exploration of building very high-tech tools very quickly and on a very low budget. Ben has built everything from an electron microscope to a liquid nitrogen generator to a robot that makes individual chocolate chip cookies with ingredients in different proportions. He’s curing cancer and finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

The focus of Ben’s talk at this year’s Hackaday SuperConference is building low-cost scientific apparatus quickly. From Applied Science, Ben has cemented his position as a wizard who can find anything either on eBay or at a surplus store. The real trick, Ben tells us, is getting his boss and accounting to understand this rapid prototyping mindset.

Continue reading “Quickly Prototyping X-ray Backscatter Machines”

Hackaday Prize Entry: A $100 CT Scanner

What do you do when you’re dad’s a veterinarian, dumped an old x-ray machine in your garage, and you’re looking for an entry for The Hackaday Prize? Build a CT scanner, of course. At least that’s [movax]’s story.

[movax]’s dad included a few other goodies with the x-ray machine in the garage. There were film cassettes that included scintillators. By pointing a camera at these x-ray to visible light converting sheets, [movax] can take digital pictures with x-rays. From there, it’s just building a device to spin around an object and a lot – a lot – of math.

Interestinly, this is not the first time a DIY CT scanner has graced the pages of Hackaday. [Peter Jansen] built a machine from a radiation check source, a CMOS image sensor, and a beautiful arrangement of laser cut plywood. This did not use a proper x-ray tube; instead, [Peter] was using the strongest legally available check source (barium 133). The scan time for vegetables and fruit was still measured in days or hours, and he moved on to build an MRI machine.

With a real source of x-rays, [movax]’s machine will do much better than anything the barium-based build could muster, and with the right code and image analysis, this could be used as a real, useful CT scanner.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Disabling Tap To Pay Debit Cards

XRAY of Debit Card

Some people aren’t too crazy about the rush of RFID enabled credit & debit cards, and the problem is, you don’t really have a choice what card you get if the bank sends you a new one! Well if you really don’t like this on your card for whatever reason, it’s pretty easy to disable.

[James Williamson] recently got a new debit card with RFID technology — the problem is it was messing with his access card at work, the readers would beep twice, and sometimes not work. He decided to disable it because of this and that he didn’t really use the tap to pay feature, nor was he completely convinced it was as secure as the bank said.

Since these RFID chips use antennas made of copper wire, he could have just started slicing his card with a knife to break the antenna — but, since he has access to a CT scanner, he thought he’d scan it to figure out where everything was.

Simply make a small notch in the edge of your card, or snip off one of the corners. This breaks the antenna and prevents power to the chip when held near a reader — though if you don’t have access to a CT scanner you might want to double-check next time you buy something!

Now there is another side to this — maybe you actually like the whole tap to pay thing, well, if you wanted to you could get a supplemental card, dissolve it in acetone, and then install the RFID chip into a finger ring for Jedi-like purchasing powers!