Marx Generators

Ah, the Marx generator. I have fond and not so fond memories of building my first one. It worked very well, I knew this because of the sort of out of body feeling I had when I got zapped by it. Anyway, it works by charging up a bank of capacitors in parallel and then are discharged in series. It will turn a few wimpy volts into something that will quite literally take your breath away. This site has a nice semi tutorial on how one is built. Go have a read and start scrounging in your junk box for some parts (mind you, keep a hand in your pocket to avoid making a dead short across your chest and through your heart. It’s not a sure thing but it helps)

Marx generators at
More info over at Wikipedia 3D Printer

I went to the bi-monthly hackerspace meeting last night. They had a guy there giving a talk about an open source 3D printer that he and his company is working on. I posted photos of it on Flickr. The thing is called ‘‘ and will, once finished, print 10cc of volume per hour, cost under $1000, takes a weekend to build, and is made of off the shelf parts. The frame is made of this stuff called ‘80/20′, think adult sized Erector set and the other bits like motors are available from McMaster-Carr or the guys that build the Makerbot (electronics).

Zapping Mosquitoes With Frick’en Lasers!

We live in amazing times.

…If Microsoft founder Bill Gates unleashes more mosquitoes at this year’s Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, Nathan Myhrvold will be ready for him. Myhrvold demonstrated a “Death Star” laser gun designed to track and kill mosquitoes in flight. The device was crafted from parts purchased on eBay by scientists at Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures Laboratory. As Myhrvold explained, a child dies every 43 seconds from malaria. Current methods for eradicating the disease aren’t working very well. There’s no viable vaccine yet, and although mosquito nets work, people don’t always use them. When given free nets by public health organizations, many people in the developing world use the nets for fishing instead. So until the time comes when malaria can be controlled, Intellectual Ventures thought it might be a good idea to try to control mosquitoes. Myhrvold’s team demonstrated the system onstage using a green laser light rather than a real laser for safety reasons. They let loose mosquitoes in a glass box rigged with a camera on one side of the stage, then pointed the laser device at the box. The laser lights quickly located the mosquitoes in flight. After the live demo, Myhrvold showed a video depicting mosquitoes being zapped for real in flight. They’re currently examining how cost effective it would be to deploy the device in places like Africa.

[via Wired: Epicenter ]
Intellectual Ventures Laboratory

Airborne Laser Testbed Successful in Lethal Intercept Experiment

Spotted this real-world application of way cool technology today:

Airborne Laser Testbed Successful in Lethal Intercept ExperimentFeb. 11, 2010 – At 8:44 p.m. (PST)
A short-range threat-representative ballistic missile was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform. Within seconds, the ALTB used onboard sensors to detect the boosting missile and used a low-energy laser to track the target. The ALTB then fired a second low-energy laser to measure and compensate for atmospheric disturbance. Finally, the ALTB fired its megawatt-class High Energy Laser, heating the boosting ballistic missile to critical structural failure. The entire engagement occurred within two minutes of the target missile launch, while its rocket motors were still thrusting.

ALTB video

[via Launch-Alert mailing list]
Airborne Laser Testbed Media Gallery

My thoughts on the Apple iPad

It’s the long awaited tablet from Apple, the iPad. I figured it would be called the ‘iSlate’ or the ‘iTablet’ but I guess that’s why I don’t get paid to predict such things. So, this being a tech blog I figured I should say a few things about it. Why not, other people do on their blogs…

Apple iPad - Photo from AppleIt’s the long awaited tablet from Apple, the iPad. I figured it would be called the ‘iSlate’ or the ‘iTablet’ but I guess that’s why I don’t get paid to predict such things. So, this being a tech blog I figured I should say a few things about it. Why not, other people do on their blogs.

First, I doubt that iPad will be merged with the Mac laptop line. I can see them eliminating the low end laptop but only if sales started to fall for those units. Maybe the Air will be retired because of the iPad, not sure. I’d have to see the sales numbers on the laptops to make any further observations on that.
Continue reading “My thoughts on the Apple iPad”

Bigshot: Focus on Cool!

I can only hope that this eventually makes it into the regular market:

A camera designed for kids can be much more than just a toy: it can serve as a powerful educational medium.  We believe that such an educational camera must have a radically different design from that of a typical consumer camera.   (a) It should be designed as a kit for assembly by students.  The assembly process should not only demystify the workings of the camera, but also expose students to various science and engineering concepts.  (b) It should include features that cannot be found in other cameras, allowing students to explore new creative dimensions.   (c) It should be low-cost, with the potential to serve as the basis for a scalable social venture.  Bigshot has been designed with these goals in mind.

The killer is the rotating lens board on the front. The lens wheel (or polyoptic wheel as it’s called)has three settings: normal, panoramic, and stereo. Normal is what you would think  it is, normal photo. The panoramic lens gives you a 72 degree field of view and creates a nice barrel distortion, and the stereo is a small prism that acts as a beam splitter to shoot a left and right image onto the sensor.Software that comes with the camera will adjust the distortion from the pano lens and create red/blue anaglyph stereo images when you use the beam splitter. Oh, did I mention that the camera can be powered by either a single AA battery or a few cranks on the built in dynamo?

[via MAKE]

Bigshot: A Camera for Education.