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Scrounging for Fun and Profit

michael posted about 13 years ago | from the five-finger-discount dept.

Hardware 145

Guinnessy writes: "According to Toni Feder on Physics Today, scrounging used equipment is worthwhile if you can avoid the pitfalls of wasting time and compromising scientific goals. Feder interviews experimenters who have dug up everything from dewars to nuclear reactors."

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Scrounging or no? (1)

zer0vector (94679) | about 13 years ago | (#2159033)

Is it considered scrounging when you pick up the several hundred thousand dollar diode laser you just dropped on the ground in the rain? Just wondering cause a strikingly similar situation occurred recently.

Another one for MARGE SCHOTT!! (-1)

fp_troll_bitch (320424) | about 13 years ago | (#2159042)

w00t! I lub her like the sun.

Re:Another one for MARGE SCHOTT!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159096)

The honorable senator is HOT!

I sure would like to lick her sloppy slit with the Secret Service hunks watching and masturbating and shooting their hot cum on my sweaty back.


fp_troll_bitch (320424) | about 13 years ago | (#2159178)

Marge Schott is not a senator you fawking idiot.

Re:U=DUMBASS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159201)

I know!

I meant Hillary but Slashdot ate the friggin subject line!

Jewish girls (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159366)

I sure would like to pork a Jewish girl.

Unfortunately there aren't any in my country.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159045)


ajfk;ldsfs (-1)

insomniac (33758) | about 13 years ago | (#2159048)


first? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159049)


Damn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159053)

A Petatwat laser? I thought she quit working the strip years ago!

I'm Scrounging (-1)

TrollMan 5000 (454685) | about 13 years ago | (#2159066)

For Karma. Can anyone point me in the right direction for some? New, secondhand, no difference!

Inheritance... (3, Funny)

Moonshadow (84117) | about 13 years ago | (#2159068)

When Bruno Bauer inherited Zebra, a retired 2-trillion-watt pulsed-power machine...

Man, I wish my rich uncle would die and leave me a 2-trillion-watt pulsed-power machine!

Re:Inheritance... (2, Interesting)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 13 years ago | (#2159160)

Those power figures can be misleading, depending on the pulse duration, power being energy/second. I've plans for a 100,000 Watt Laser that runs off of a 6v lantern battery. Sure, it actually is 100,000 watts, but the pulse duration is only 10 nanoseconds, and the light pulse that comes out is only about 6 feet long, so the amount of energy is, well, what can be supplied by a 6v lantern battery, nothing earth shattering there.

Scrounging Junk - Eimac Radio Transmitter Tubes? (2)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | about 13 years ago | (#2159439)

Speaking of neat junk I've scrounged, anyone want three Eimac 450TH transmitting tubes? 450 watts RMS in class A mode (lots more in class C), thoriated filament directly heated. Filaments are good, no shorts with an ohmmeter, were replaced from a big Toronto radio station as part of a normal maintenance cycle.

Want 'em? Visit my site! []

Re:Inheritance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159514)

That's even bigger than 1.21 gigawatts!

Free Dewars? (2, Funny)

still cynical (17020) | about 13 years ago | (#2159071)

Whoohoo! Count me in! suppose they didn't mean Scotch?

Dot Bombs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159073)

Anyone know where to find local dot-bomb auctions? (Milwaukee, WI area). I'd like to pickup some cheap equipment.

OT::Dot Bombs (1)

A Commentor (459578) | about 13 years ago | (#2159289)


dumpster diving (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159074)

well, like the guy in the article, i wouldn't mind picking up a petawatt laser myself... unfortunately, i doubt my mom would let me keep it in the basement.

(some people just don't appreciate legitimate scientific inquiry!)

Re:dumpster diving (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 13 years ago | (#2159457)

Some of my most exciting finds were in the dumpster behind the local phone company service offices. 8)

Cyclotron (4, Interesting)

zpengo (99887) | about 13 years ago | (#2159079)

A friend of mine once came into the possession of an ancient and discarded cyclotron. This was a particle accelerator of the old variety, unreliable and weak by todays standards, but relatively inexpensive. It was a hunk of odd parts about two feet in diameter, and would have looked like a Doctor Who prop to anyone who didn't know better.

He purchased it for just a few hundred dollars from the lab which had been clearing out their parts warehouse. It took him a few months to get it working again, but a few weeks ago I was present when he performed his first successful "atom smashing" in his upstate New York backyard.

A glorious experience, to say the least.

Re:Cyclotron (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159216)

Dude, that guy better hope Walter Peck doesn't hear about this!

Re:Cyclotron (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159260)

Mod this up, it even took me a moment to realize who he was talking about, but then couldn't stop laughing :) (Star Trek IV for those who still can't figure it).

Re:Cyclotron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159309)


I think you mean Ghost Busters. []

Re:Cyclotron (5, Interesting)

glitch! (57276) | about 13 years ago | (#2159333)

If Microsoft or the entertainment industry were making laws, reusing old equipment would be illegal...

After all, this scavenging activity causes lost sales for new equipment and supplies. By their reasoning, recycling old gear is the same thing as theft. Of course, if they stated it that way, everyone would just laugh, so maybe they would try to couch it in terms of public safety or "the children".

Is this farfetched? Well, yes. But keep an eye on companies that want to lease you a product (from cars to computers) or license it (software, music, movies). The next step is month-to-month rental, with extra points if you become dependent on their service for your livelihood or well-being.

And it must really be cool to have a home cyclotron :-)

Re:Cyclotron (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159820)

Farfetched? No. Complete bullshit more like it. Get your head out of your ass.

Re:Cyclotron (1)

Extimes (250515) | about 13 years ago | (#2159502)

I'm assuming that a cyclotron is a particle accelerator?

Re:Cyclotron (2)

cybercuzco (100904) | about 13 years ago | (#2159583)

Atom smashing, bah, why back in the day we smashed atoms the old fashioned way, by hand! Or should I say, the gave us big hammers and a block of uranium and we had at it, and we liked it!

"unreliable and weak" (1)

FredGray (305594) | about 13 years ago | (#2159700)

This was a particle accelerator of the old variety, unreliable and weak by todays standards, but relatively inexpensive.

I'm willing to bet that it can be made far more reliable than the big accelerators of today: it has many fewer parts, and they are all much more accessible. You're also not subject to overbearing safety rules that make everything take much longer than it really needs to (without providing much improvement in safety). For reference, during operating periods, the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron at Brookhaven National Laboratory [] tries to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On average, beam is delivered successfully for about 100 out of those 168 hours.

If your friend is going to run this cyclotron, I recommend that he learn about radiation safety and put together a radiation monitoring system.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159085)

had to try once.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159093)


Whuhu, dumpster diving (2)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | about 13 years ago | (#2159094) 3/stephensdumpsterA/104-0517296-7823930

University dumpsters (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159095)

At my university, UConn, the dumpsters outside the engineering and physics buildings are always full of interesting stuff. old networking equipment, lasers, computers, magnets, peices of metal. lots of goodies..

Re:University dumpsters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159324)

so you're the one i always see jumping in and out of the dumpsters....

Re:University dumpsters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159612)

so you're the one i always see jumping in and out of the dumpsters....

if theres something good in it you will definitely see me jumping in! a few years ago, my friend was rummaging through the dumpster outside the physics building, and found a laser, two macintoshes and an old security camera. but a better place to be is part of the cleanup crew that cleans the dorms at the end of the spring semester. so many people leave things behind, like minifridges and TVs.

Re:University dumpsters (1)

Bilbo (7015) | about 13 years ago | (#2159653)

I had a friend who would actually take orders for things people wanted him to look for in this dumpster diving at RIT. Funny thing is, he'd find them!

It is absolutely freaking unbelievable what students will throw out at the end of a semester!

UConn Dumpsters! Woo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159793)

Do I know you?

My family got our current printer from the Depot Campus dumpster. (LaserJet 4+ with JetDirect card and the corner of the plastic banged off. Sweet.)

Oh, and there's a `Coherent Everlase' laser in the hallway of the Physics building that's been sitting there for at least a year. It's the size of a Buick. *drool*.

Not that I have *any* idea what I'd do with it.

Re:UConn Dumpsters! Woo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159874)

i've seen that laser in the physics building! it's huge! its been there forever... i remember last year there were dozens of old computers and printers stacked up in the hallways on the first floor of UTEB. i doubt those security cameras work, so it would have been easy to take one of two.

it would be neat if we brought that huge laser out and fired it up during spring weekend.. that would kickass!

Petawatt Laser! (1)

Mdog (25508) | about 13 years ago | (#2159099)

My friend thought he'd hit the jackpot when he lifted a laser from an old cat-scan machine from a hospital and made a crude rave device...this article is talking about making *anti-matter* with a laser that the governemnt wasn't interested in anymore. And I only end up being offered used 486's!

Heh.... (4, Funny)

EFGearman (245715) | about 13 years ago | (#2159113)

Think about it for a second. A whole new season of junkyard wars... With nukes...

Eric Gearman

Re:Heh.... (3, Funny)

tuffy (10202) | about 13 years ago | (#2159423)

"On this week's challenge, you'll have just ten hours to build a working fission reactor. Then, tomorrow morning, whoever can generate the most watts of electricity in one hour will move on to the semifinals."

(Anyone else excited about the new season airing in the US on September 12?)

Re:Heh.... (1)

zer0vector (94679) | about 13 years ago | (#2159555)

Of course to get into the true JW spirit they should use the energy to grind coffee, or harvest a field of wheat.

Dewars? (1)

El Camino SS (264212) | about 13 years ago | (#2159122)

Honestly, I don't think that it is a good idea to remove the dewars.... remember the last time? AKIIIIIIRAAAAAA!!!! TETSUUUOOOOOO!!!! (NEO TOKYO EXPLODES) Sorry, I had to do it. Its kinda a /. law.

Orbital Dinosaur project (-1, Troll)

photozz (168291) | about 13 years ago | (#2159126)

HI, I am attempting to procure government financing for an aerospace project. I would like to see USA be the first country to put a fat bloated purple dinosaur into orbit around the sun. Code name "Taco". I have managed to scrounge several 8' 2x4's, a cinderblock and a 55 gallon drum, as a proof of concept. If anyone has access to a pulse rocket, or dynamite, we may be able to take the next step.

Also consider (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159173)

Britney Spears

Re:Also consider (1, Offtopic)

photozz (168291) | about 13 years ago | (#2159248)

Britney Spears: The relative value to the human race of shooting her into space (V=WxA Value=Weight x anoyance)is still lower than the aforementioned dinosaur. Once the commercial viability is set, we may be able to raise private contributions. Perhaps a bake sale. Cher: Not worth the trouble, she is almost dead already. N'Sync: V value again is low, and with the entire band, the payload would be enormous, unless we shoot them up one at a time. They would be worth considering for the test launches though... Michael: Aerodynamically, the best specimen, (the nose..)However he can afford good lawyers.

Re:Also consider (0, Offtopic)

Johnny5000 (451029) | about 13 years ago | (#2159484)


I'm some *someone* can come up with a better use for Ms Spears than shooting her into space?

I have a few in mind myself.


who woulda thunk (3, Funny)

Dambiel (115695) | about 13 years ago | (#2159128)

research scientists scrounge around for stuff?

It makes perfect sense, i know a few researchers who go out every weekend to scrounge for some Dewars [] .

Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (3, Informative)

Prof_Dagoski (142697) | about 13 years ago | (#2159129)

Little tip to junk lovers everywhere: Every physics department has a room or two that they don't use for anything. What happens is that equipment that no one needs gets stashed there and forgotten. I've dug up everything from high precision mirrors to fiber optic by the yard, and bits of machined metal I couldn't identify but thought looked cool. It helps if your department hasn't redecorated and refurbished its digs in a long, long time.

Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (1)

randombit (87792) | about 13 years ago | (#2159382)

What happens is that equipment that no one needs gets stashed there and forgotten. I've dug up everything from high precision mirrors to fiber optic by the yard, and bits of machined metal I couldn't identify but thought looked cool. It helps if your department hasn't redecorated and refurbished its digs in a long, long time.

I use to work in the physics dept at my school (JHU). The phyiscs department building is brand new (it's this crazy fortess), but nonetheless I get the feeling there are tens of thousands of strange artifacts waiting to be discovered in the rooms in the basement. This is probably influenced by going into the room with the VBNS routers, and finding hundreds of ... old rotary phones. Just sitting there in a huge pile. If they've got that there, who knows what else they've got...

Actually when the local ACM chapter changed rooms, we inherited maybe 100+ feet of fiber. Didn't have any use for it, but it was kind of odd...

Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159491)

Those old rotary phones were probably from the dorms, back when rotary phones were in fashion; don't count on there being anything else of interest.

Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (2)

JabberWokky (19442) | about 13 years ago | (#2159610)

Those old rotary phones were probably from the dorms, back when rotary phones were in fashion;

I agree... and who says they can't be in fashion again? A terribly cool hack that I've always wanted to do is to take an old, original Bell, black and heavy and ugly, rotary phone, and turn it into a cellphone and carry it around. Bonus points if you do like I've been planning and put a socket in the bottom for a stock cell phone, and make the handset and dial work. That way, you just drop your regular cell in before you walk into Dennys, and then start making calls.


Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 13 years ago | (#2159802)

Rotary phones are still great for one thing- waking up people who sleep like logs. I have a red plastic rotary phone on my nightstand that is loud enough to wake the dead. On my other nightstand I have a cordless phone that I actually use. When people ask about the rotary, I tell them that's how Commisioner Gordon gets a hold of me.


Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159646)

"we inherited maybe 100+ feet of fiber. Didn't have any use for it."

You should build one of those cool color changing fiberoptic trees like they sell at Spencers in the mall.

Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159412)

sounds great. shame you have to have a key (student workers, proff.) to get into the room adjacent to the back room extension foyer interstice (mighty dusty!) [ Please step over the thin line chromotography chamber/aquarium, don't mind the fuzzed out osci/graph. ]

Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (3, Funny)

Chris Y Taylor (455585) | about 13 years ago | (#2159480)

Back when I was in college I helped the physics dept. clean out their junk room. In exchange, they let me keep whatever I wanted out of the unneeded equipment. I got some really big lenses, some nice frount surface mirrors, and a tube powered oscilloscope that was originally purchased for NASA's Gemini program (and still had the appropriate labels on it). I had trouble explaining to the campus police why I was pushing a "late model oscilloscope" back to my dorm at 3am, but when they found out I was an mech. engineering major they smiled knowingly and left me alone. Among the uses I put it to was helping keep my underheated dorm room warm in the winter.

Re:Go check out your physics dept's unused rooms (3, Interesting)

cybercuzco (100904) | about 13 years ago | (#2159614)

Its true, I work at a campus lab, and we have a room called the "craporium" everything that we want to get rid of but cant throw away goes there. I once found a declassified report from 1963 on the effects of all out Nuclear war with the russians (1000 megaton bombload) The report estimated that 180 days after war was beginning the US power supply would be back to 75% of prewar levels. The big assumetion the report makes is that power plants themselves would not be targeted, that only city centers and military bases would be targets. oops.

for anyone?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159138)

that's some really cool stuff the got there. anyone know if there are requirements before you can pick up some of those more advanced suplus items? i'm sure some guy can't just walk off the street and ask for a super laser, can they? and if they can, i got dibs!

We've seen this (2)

Moonshadow (84117) | about 13 years ago | (#2159139)

Geeks can build some cool stuff with scavanged parts, like a nuclear reactor [] .

Haha... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159148)

I am homosexual.

No you're not (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159222)

I think you're a drunk European trying to get attention.

Re:No you're not (-1)

CmdrTaco on (468152) | about 13 years ago | (#2159270)

I think you're right. Europeans don't mind being called or calling themselves homosexuals. Probably because they all are (especially the French and Sweeds).

Re:No you're not (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159329)

There's something disturbing about these Friday afternoons.

Every week we've got hordes of drunken Europeans disturbing our peace while we're wasting company time on Slashdot.

CmdrTaco ought to do something about it, don't you think so?

God Yes! (4, Insightful)

rgmoore (133276) | about 13 years ago | (#2159155)

Scrounging and scavenging equipment is a vital skill for all experimental scientists. It's usually more along the lines of finding the unused goodies that somebody has stashed in the back of their lab than finding the expensive stuff described in the article, but everyone without military-class bugets learns to do it. (Actually, I'll bet that even the best funded darlings do a lot of scrounging, too) Figuring out how to use the components is sometimes a bit of a trick, but there are few things as fun as finding a pile of junk and figuring out how how those components are going to help your next project.

Sumbitted for your approval... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159159)

Found on Yahoo! under "Recreation->Hobbies" Dumpster Diving []
guarenteed goatse free : iving/

Re:Sumbitted for your approval... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159442)

Ah, one of Larry Ellison's favorite hobbies...

Computers are the most useless (1)

orlinius (181137) | about 13 years ago | (#2159188)

From the article: "Computers are the most useless--they are right up there with disposable diapers in landfill."

This is so true. Although people tend to get nostalgic about computers, especially in the Linux crowd - let's face it - a computer older than 4 years is certainly useless, drains electricity for no aparent reason; at nowadays prices you can cheaply replace it with something many times more powerful.... Just reminded me of a thing I saw on TV - some sort of university in the US was giving old, used computers to schools in Africa, so kids there are not so distanced from the Internet age. The old crap they showed was competely useless junk. When I imagined the shipping cost they paid for these things.....

Re:Computers are the most useless (2, Interesting)

KC7GR (473279) | about 13 years ago | (#2159617)

I cannot agree entirely with this statement. I would say that, more accurately, it depends heavily on the TYPE of computer in question.

Example: The early-90's vintage Sun "Lunchboxes" (the SPARC IPC, IPX, Classic, and LX) make wonderful small web or mail servers. I should know; My 'net presence depends on them. Electrical-wise, you can easily run a pair of them on what a single PC pulls. Reliability-wise, they're light-years ahead of most PCs outside the big server-class systems.

Processing power? Heck, does it really matter? They get the job done, and they get it done pretty darn quick. Remember that SPARC architecture is radically different from any PC, and NetBSD runs pretty darned efficient no matter what platform it's on.

Best of all, I acquired a whole stack of them for less than $100.00. Beat THAT with a stick!

The same holds true of some of the later MicroVAX systems. Right now, I'm working on cleaning up a VAX 4000/200 minitower, getting it ready for NetBSD, and to be an NIS master and boot server for my domain. Its power drain at full load (which I won't ever reach) is about the same as a mid-sized PC.

In short: Yes, the vast majority of retired PCs are not very versatile. Then again, IBM never designed the PC to be a long-lifer. The success of the entire PC line surprised the crap out of IBM as much as it did many in the industry.

HOWEVER -- Don't expect minicomputers, workstations, or other such equipment, ESPECIALLY in the non-PC realm, to follow the same pattern.

In my physics student days... (2, Interesting)

OmniGeek (72743) | about 13 years ago | (#2159227)

at the University of Maine at Portland, my favorite physics professor (and scrounging mentor), Charles Armentrout, equipped most of the physics labs from scrounge when UMP's new science building went way over-budget on a big concrete estimating error. They were able to finish it (less 2 floors that were dropped from the design), but couldn't furnish it much. Charlie's scrounging skills meant the Physics labs were fully equipped, while the chemistry labs were just so much empty space. Scrounging just plain rules.

Television (3, Funny)

cnkeller (181482) | about 13 years ago | (#2159234)

Anyone else see potential for Laboratory Wars?

Great Stuff (1)

aprentic (1832) | about 13 years ago | (#2159263)

I've gotten some great stuff second hand.
Most of my computer stuff:
A dual proc PIII 650 soon to be upgraded with 60
GB of hardware raid.
2 sparc20s
My friend has gotten some even cooler stuff.
He has an old centrifuge (which he hasn't found a use for yet.
He also got a still which had previously only been used for distilling distilled water (they needed really pure water for this experiment). Now he uses it to make moonshine ;)

Here's a US govt surplus auction site (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 13 years ago | (#2159271)

right here [] . Enjoy.

Re:Here's a US govt surplus auction site (1)

Nick Number (447026) | about 13 years ago | (#2159634)

Interesting site. A lot of the stuff looked pretty good until I read the Condition Codes. A lot of things have classifications like this:

F7 & F
Economically reparable material which requires repair, overhaul, or reconditioning. Includes reparable items which are radioactivity contaminated.

I don't think I want to roll those dice.

look smart (5, Interesting)

xeno (2667) | about 13 years ago | (#2159288)

"If you get a 100-kV power supply built in 1950, chances are you'll be happy. There is continual improvement, but no quantum leaps. Computers are the most useless--they are right up there with disposable diapers in landfill."

Oh, how true that is. And it applies on a personal level. I have a basement full of computer crap to prove it. I thought "Oh, I'll put them together and make some usable systems for a local charity." BZZZTT! The local charities won't even take anything less than a P5 or pm601 system. They say 486's and 040's cost more to test than they can sell them for. Frankly, it's hard to find a place to dispose of them.

But peripherals, cable and infrastructure stuff? That's a different matter. I picked up three fiber transceivers from Value Village a month ago for $5ea. Ditto ($7) for a HP Deskjet 1600 (the big 9ppm postcript color inkjet w/jetdirect). IMHO, local thrift stores are great for this sort of stuff IF you don't get sucked into buying more stuff to fix the great deal you got.

Looking for little stuff like power adapters, modems, printers, etc? Head for the local thrift store. Looking for wiring or shielding? Check out industrial supply places (like Pacific Iron & Metal [] in Seattle, where you can get castoff spools from the local telcos). Looking for bigger infrastructure bits? You can get rackmount cases, cable, sensors, and all manner of interesting bits directly from telco salvage units, places like re-pc [] , or if you're nearby, places like Boeing Surplus []

A little time spent doing some smart looking can save a lot of cash. Otoh, A lot of time looking can be a huge waste. You just gotta know when to stop and pay retail.


Scrounge -- New Tangent (2, Insightful)

behindthewall (231520) | about 13 years ago | (#2159294)

An important thing about scrounge is that it can push someone off into a direction they might not otherwise have taken, or even considered.

How often has a chance encounter or off-topic exploration resulted in a true find. That dohickey may lead you to something great.

yea ... (1)

ReidMaynard (161608) | about 13 years ago | (#2159359)

like hunting rats with a .22

UW Madison Plasma Physics Group (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159296)

Those folks scrounge everything. I used to work there, and there are whole floors of scrounged equipment. I remember building a power supply in an old cabinet for some visiting resaerchers. Took a week of labor and a few thousand in parts. Without leftover parts and the cabinet, it would have taken a month or two to order a switching supply for $50K.
Dale is the king of surplus equipment. Glad to see he's still there.

recycle, reduce, reuse (1)

Tregod (441880) | about 13 years ago | (#2159306)

GREAT! Now i can strip the metal off that old russian missle burried in my back yard and use it as a make-shift trash can lid to fly down a snowy hillside. Ah.. what would we do without science?

Re:recycle, reduce, reuse (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 13 years ago | (#2159487)

Rather use a slab of titanium off a retired nuclear sub, wouldn't you? Titanium is light, strong and has a +5 coolness factor (For reference: Boron carbide has a +7 coolness factor and Depleted Uranium is +10)

Scrounged Equipment (1)

sulli (195030) | about 13 years ago | (#2159317)

So that's what Banjo [] is running on!

Shades of Austin Powers (2)

cnkeller (181482) | about 13 years ago | (#2159410)

As part of the NTF, the Petawatt will be open to the wider user community. Bauer and his colleagues plan to use it for fusion energy, plasma, atomic physics, environmental, and materials science studies, as well as in research for stockpile stewardship--DOE's experimental and computational program for safeguarding US nuclear capability.

Just once, I'd like for someone to have a sense of humor and say, "our plan is use this L-A-S-E-R to destroy cities unless you pay us one hundred billion dollars..."

(Translation) (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 13 years ago | (#2159422)

A bigger hammer, even if it's used, is still a bigger hammer and OK.

While I was a hobbyist, many moons ago, I used a lot of scrounged eq (some of it looked a heck of a lot better than they stuff they had in the college physics labs, to boot!) and did pretty well. As a result, however, I have a tendency to scrounge before I'll actually fork over the really big zorkmids for new stuff. (Hmm, could that be a problem?)

Revealed: Jar Jar after having his ears bobbed! []

store (2)

British (51765) | about 13 years ago | (#2159424)

There's a store based off this, it's called AXMAN SURPLUS.

Need a bunch of Teddy Ruxpin heads?(just the guts) Go to Axman.

where's a good friend when you need one (2)

nanojath (265940) | about 13 years ago | (#2159463)

From the article...

"Bauer landed both Zebra and the Petawatt laser through personal contacts"

DAMN I know the wrong kind of people...

Sometimes I think... (4, Interesting)

cr0sh (43134) | about 13 years ago | (#2159494)

That if you don't scrounge, then, well... you are just a wannabe geek.

Here in Phoenix, AZ - I scrounge on everything (hell, just yesterday I managed to obtain a couple of old PCs from my work - nothing of great interest in them, but the cases are nice - they were headed for the trash, from what I understand). I have several sources - both in the "pay-as-little-as-you-can" to "free-for-the-taking":

1. My work (free old junk)
2. Apache Reclamation and Electronics (cheap small and LARGE junk)
3. Electronic Materials and Computers (E^3) also known as Elitech (sometimes get ripped off here)
4. Dave's Computers (still checking this place out - owned by a guy who got shafted at E^3)
5. Some place on 9th Ave and Madison (Westech or something - want to check this place out soon)
6. Global Recycling (still need to check this place out - they are only B2B, so need EIN or something)
7. Equipment Exchange (behind BOB on Grant or Lincoln - great place for strange and big manufacturing stuff)
8. There is also a metals company off of (Washington?) across from Greyhound Park that is cool

For everything else - late night Friday/Saturday runs through dumpsters! Behind Nortel, Honeywell, many business/industrial office parks - great fun. Just bring a flashlight, some gloves, and throw a few boxes in the truck (to tell security guards you are moving and looking for boxes - most of the time they will leave you alone, or at worst, ask you politely to leave - don't hassle 'em, don't stick around - just apologize, thank them, and LEAVE).

I remember one time near Metro Center finding a stash of old computer equipment, another time behind a Honeywell finding some old minicomputers and terminals, and a big winchester drive (all the stuff was too big to even THINK about lifting). One time over at a Nortel my friends and I found some kind of telephone equipment rack - we grabbed that real quick. Another time we found a bunch of Narcotics Monthly magazines (funny thing, this was in a business park - not sure WHY these were there, unless some PI had an office there).

For the rest, there is always online retailers of used/surplus junk (I have a ton of links, too many to list here). Of course, the final place to check is Ebay.

Great fun buying and finding used stuff...

Prof. Morse at UCB (1)

groove10 (266295) | about 13 years ago | (#2159504)

I can't believe they had such a big section on Prof. Morse. As a student who works in the same building as him, I know that he is undoubtably the best scrounger on this campus. It's true his stuff is really old (like that huge bank of capacitors he has), but he seems to pull it all together. He has to do this becasue he probably doesn't get much money from NSF, et. al.

Think what *I* could do with that thing... (3, Funny)

mblase (200735) | about 13 years ago | (#2159527)

As part of the NTF, the Petawatt will be open to the wider user community. Bauer and his colleagues plan to use it for fusion energy, plasma, atomic physics, environmental, and materials science studies, as well as in research for stockpile stewardship--

--and nobody's yet proposed taking charge of it for the sole purpose of world domination? What's wrong with these geeks??

The things I would do with a petawatt laser combined with, say, a small collection of orbiting satellites simply boggle the mind....

Warning about scrounging (4, Informative)

lavaforge (245529) | about 13 years ago | (#2159558)

Be careful what you scrounge, it can be dangerous sometimes.

When I was in high school me and a buddy of mine helped the chemistry department head "inventory" the stock during a big move. We got everything under the sun. Unfortunately, we found out that some of the containers were mislabelled, and nearly blew our heads off opening a can of ether.

Just a warning that scrounging isn't risk-free.

Re:Warning about scrounging (4, Funny)

Johnny5000 (451029) | about 13 years ago | (#2159597)

Before my computer programming days I worked in a biology lab.

Not only did we find a bunch of mystery chemicals with no labels, but we found herring sperm.

Unfortunately it was expired. Oh, the things I could have done with the herring sperm.

That's got to be quite a job, working in the herring sperm factory.

*wakes up in the morning*
"Dammit, If I have to whack off one more herring, I'm going to die. I'll just die."

"oh lord, when will you dry up this river of herring sperm I see before me?"


the National Labs... (1)

jpellino (202698) | about 13 years ago | (#2159559)

Argonne, Sandia, etc... have acres of stuff that they use for a contract then can't actually sell - it's a major drool factor that one can get their hands on... Then there's the surplus Buran shuttle that the Russians had to dump a few years back. Don't remember who got it. Maybe Cosmosphere in Kansas?

Re:the National Labs... (1)

AdamInParadise (257888) | about 13 years ago | (#2159867)

Now it's an attraction in a theme park near Moscow. Sorry, no link.

Gimme Gimme (1)

G0nz0 (320899) | about 13 years ago | (#2159562)

Man, I've been asking for that 2 ton laser ever since I was a kid. No one's ever been nice enough to give ME one.

holy shiznuts! (2)

Dr. Awktagon (233360) | about 13 years ago | (#2159590)

PETAWATT laser?? God damn! Do you hear me? God damn!

Nice to see (1)

Uttles (324447) | about 13 years ago | (#2159609)

I'm glad to see resourcefulness acknowledged by the slashdotters. It's a nice break from the Microsoft whining. Maybe we should give this guy some sort of award for teaching, something like the "First Annual MacGyver Award" or something...

Unit II, yes nuclear, kaput :_( (2)

twitter (104583) | about 13 years ago | (#2159676)

Yep, the whole boiling water reactor all it's supporting equipment whent to the waste heap when the second unit of this power plant was not built. Thanks, Jimmy Carter (stupid pig, not nuclear engineer) for making the cost of building it three or four times greater than the cost of building unit I and only marginally safer! Anyone who wanted it was welcome to pay freight to cart it off. No one wanted it, and it was eventually hacked into pieces. Other large components such, as feed water pumps, suffered the same fate.

Unit I had longes first run of it's type and has been 1GW onto the grid for 15 years. Unit II scrap and large multi million dollar hole.

just my 2 cents per kilo watt hour.

Supercomputer made of old diapers (2, Redundant)

Chris Y Taylor (455585) | about 13 years ago | (#2159722)

"Computers are the most useless--they are right up there with disposable diapers in landfill."

One of the scientists in the article claims (and a lot of commenters seem to agree) that old computers are as useless as disposable diapers. The researchers at Oak Ridge, TN would probably not agree. There was an article in the latest issue of Scientific American describing the Stone SouperComputer that was built at Oak Ridge National Labs because they needed a supercomputer to model environmental regions, but they couldn't afford one. They cobbled together a Beowulf cluster out of a bunch of obsolete surplus PCs that the lab had laying around.

The article can be found online at:

The photos that accompany the article are great.

Not bad for a bunch of "disposable diapers."

disposables? (1)

daanger0us (473406) | about 13 years ago | (#2159784)

Many computers some of us here at slashdot may think of as disposables can come to great use for underprivilaged kids, schools, non-profit orgs, etc...

Imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159788)

Imagine scrounging together a Beowolf Cluster!!!

Not Just for Physicists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2159815)

About time such an article appears, but don't forget the other sciences (Chemistry, Biology, etc.). I have saved at least $20,000-$50,000 by buying used equipment to start my new Biochemistry lab in a West Coast Medical School. Why pay $700 for a shaking platform when you can find one for $20 on the web? Same your money for the absurdly expensive reagents like restriction enzymes and detergent buffers. Below I've listed some tips for the would be Biological/Chemical scrounger: 1) As the article says, skip the computers. Buy only analogue instruments that have CHART RECORDER OUTPUTS. Using these, it's trivial to capture the output and store on a computer (companies that cater to high school science classes sell things to do this for as little as $70, see for example Vernier Software). Also, analogue instruments are much easier to repair. 2) Ignore the initial comments of your colleagues. When I started, my colleagues called me "Jed Clampet", but have now changed their ways and scrounge themselves :) 3) Check the internet for sites like, essentially an e-bay for used scientific equipment. 4) Appreciate the fact that you are helping to save the environment, and teaching young-uns to be self sufficient. 5) Rent Mad Max to get in the spirit of things. Right on then, enjoy.

Trashing? (2)

Grendel Drago (41496) | about 13 years ago | (#2159836)

How come everyone calls it `scrounging' or sometimes `dumpster diving'?

It was always `trashing' up at UConn...

-grendel drago
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