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Comments

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DIY physics: A spark chamber on a steel tower, for no reason.

Gibbs-Duhem Wow! (6 comments)

This sounds amazing, and if anyone can get it done it looks to be Dr. Ruuska. It looks like he's built everything from LED rotating galaxies to flying bikes already, I look forward to seeing the video! Maybe it will prove that luck exists or whatever that entropy measuring project has been trying to do.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Stay Fit In the Office?

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Enroll in Martial Arts (372 comments)

Totally agree with this. Martial arts are perfect for nerds.

I can't stand things like running because even though I know that in principle there are lots of details to pay attention to, I want something where both my mind and body are engaged.

Now I teach karate at MIT, and it's awesome teaching to people who are also nerds. My favorite is describing that a punch works like a torsional wave where an impulse is put into your spinal column at your hip level and then it moves up your body to your shoulders and then out your arms. Explaining karate techniques in terms of energy and momentum is incredibly helpful when you know those concepts. Learning kata and bunkai is also very interesting, particularly when you get to the point that you're making up new bunkai for existing kata. This is very interesting creative, intellectual, and physical work that nicely integrates all aspects of your fitness.

I also love that martial arts are the one sport where you continue to get better and better as you age. If I'm sparring with some 60 year old, odds are I will lose and lose badly. Sometimes hilariously badly. I like the idea of a sport where in 30 years I will actually be better than I am in my "prime" for most sports.

about a year and a half ago
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Aircraft Carriers In Space

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Babylon 5 (409 comments)

This is basically the best reason to read the Honor Harrington series of novels. It blows every other science fiction writer away in terms of portraying reasonable space combat.

Rules:
1. Always wear a space suit in combat. Duh.
2. You don't know where your enemy is until c*\Delta x has passed. This is both advantageous and disadvantageous.
3. Surprise! You can only decellerate as fast as you can accelerate! What? You mean I have to spend half of my time rushing at my opponent slowing down?
4. Laser beams hit at the moment you know they've been fired (not that they're used much, lasers are weak).
5. Lots of people die all the time. I think they killed billions of soldiers in a major war.
6. Yes, even your friends and main characters. Stray missiles suck.

It's fantastic.

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Hacking Urban Noise?

Gibbs-Duhem Re:What, specifically, did you do? (474 comments)

I don't know if this is the best solution for everyone, but I just have my computer generate pink noise. It's got roughly the quality of a rain storm, and after a few minutes I don't even notice it anymore. I can use it to sleep through anything, and I live with roomates who are, shall we say, active at night.

about 2 years ago
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The Panic Over Fukushima

Gibbs-Duhem Re:I'm still blown away (536 comments)

This seems from the reports I've read to be pretty spot on. I would add an addendum to an earlier comment about this being why no nuclear plants will ever be built in the US again though; the current designs are generally "passive fail", meaning that unless electricity is supplied to the control systems, the plant will just... stop being just sub-critical and will go non-critical very quickly. For instance the pebble bed designs. My (somewhat, I'm probably giving myself a little too little credit) understanding is that these plants use nuclear fuel that just... can't react on it's own due to the sheathing materials. I think those are pyrolytic carbon still though, so of course there will still be problems with burning if they are exposed to air, the accompanying release of hydrogen, etc (I think).

This seems very honestly to be the entire focus of the nuclear industry -- designing plants which are safe to operate no matter what, which maintain reasonable cost-effectiveness. It's basically the holy grail.

I think the current problem is:
1. Natural gas is cheap, coal is cheap, they are cheaper to build and easier to maintain.
2. The regulatory process and validation work to get a new plant design is intimidating. Probably even intimidating as compared to the design of fighter jets.
3. Nuclear *is* scary to the vast majority of people. This is residual in large part from Long Island, and based in concerns over running reactors commissioned in the 60s still being operated. *That* part I am scared of. But as a scientist and engineer, I think that these are solvable problems so long as safety and the concepts of "fail safe" systems engineering based on the Therac-25 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therac-25) which seem to have very permanently changed the way that people fundamentally think about how to do system engineering. These problems had not arisen and become understood when those plants went into operation. A current plant definitely would do a far better job of that.

Heck, it even effects me on a daily basis (at this point in my career I would classify myself as a systems engineer); I think all the time "What happens if all this equipment just stops working" and the answer is always "go to a safe operational mode". The are different ways to do that. You have the F-16 style of doing that, which includes crazy amounts of unstable control algorithms. But by *far* the preferred mechanism is physical. For instance, if I have a furnace I expect to go to 2000C, and monitor the temperature with one thermocouple while I use a single additional thermocouple as a safety, is not really enough. I would *far* rather have a thermal fuse that blows hard when a temperature exceeds some set ultimate super failure limit and shuts everything off immediately. I don't trust thermocouples to be reliable, and I don't trust the controls equipment to respond properly in an emergency.

But in one of these pebble beds, the sorts of controls they are integrating are way beyond "having power", by far the best safety integration is to design it such that electricity failing causes large physical things to happen. Dumping the pebble bed entirely, or dumping immediately a mediator into the reactor that is only prevented from triggering by constant electricity. Some of the designs I've seen literally place the reactor under a ridiculously large tank of water held closed by electricity. I don't know in what way that would fail, but it would be far superior to what happened in fukoshima.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Depressing Sci-fi You've Ever Read?

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Thomas Covenant (1365 comments)

I thought they were happy endings...ish?

Not as happy as the lord of the rings, but way happier than brazil.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Depressing Sci-fi You've Ever Read?

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Ender's Game (1365 comments)

Jeez man, spoiler alert?

The movie isn't even out yet!

more than 2 years ago
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Why VCs Really Reject Startups

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Hard truth (217 comments)

This is true about patents in some areas, but not others.

I say this as someone who has easily worked around patents before, and nonetheless has heard repeatedly from investors that *some* IP is critical for self-defense and protection of core technologies.

more than 2 years ago
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Why VCs Really Reject Startups

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Hard truth (217 comments)

Yes, absolutely. I'm a startup founder (not a web startup, which actually seems to make it much harder to find VC's nowadays, by the by).

I've got tons of impressive credentials, but if my startup idea sucks, or I've got serious issues with my team ability to implement it, of course I would want to know! I can't fix a problem I am too inexperienced to understand. If the solution is a search for a new co-founder who has more experience, then heck yes I want to know that so that I can do it! I want my startup to succeed, not flounder forever.

Even more, if it's got serious fatal flaws then it's worth me seriously thinking about whether or not I should be doing it. I can make an extremely nice salary at a regular job, even a job at another startup to learn really useful stuff at in terms of doing my own. Why would I want to waste tons of my time and spirit on a project that makes no sense, or won't work for team reasons?

I have gotten far more negative feedback than positive feedback from potential funders. I have never taken offense; the criticism isn't about me as a person, it is about me in the context of my startup. If the feedback I got was about how my religion or gender or sexual orientation or race was wrong or something ridiculous like that it would be one thing (although I am easy going enough that frankly I probably still wouldn't take offense). But if it's practical concerns about my skills with leadership, or my team's lack of expertise, or whatever that's incredibly valuable to know! Anyone that gets offended by free advice is doing it wrong. Yeah, the VC may be wrong, but you get what you pay for.

more than 2 years ago
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Sharing Electronic Schematics

Gibbs-Duhem Re:just tried it; not sure its a great idea (70 comments)

The problem I was talking about is where a schematic with 50 parts on it is a giant rats nest of stuff all on a single page that someone then tries to fit onto a single page/monitor, making extensive panning and zooming necessary to understand what's going on. Following the rules I outlined prevents that problem by making it so you can simply print out the images on a normal sized piece of paper and find everything completely legible (and similarly with most monitors).

The problem that you are talking about is one that can be solved with any moderately competent image viewer. Even firefox's automatic image scaling is perfectly capable of handling it, within reason. If that's all that this javascript tool accomplishes, then it is incredibly sad how slow it is. On my computer it hangs for a good 20 seconds when trying to zoom in or out, and god forbid I try to drag the image. Surely a better tool for dynamic image viewing already exists -- the one on amazon.com seems to work fine, after all, for the same task.

And yes, the PNG image is 2952x2202 pixels, but it's also 70kB... this isn't exactly an unwieldy image. And if it were a vector graphic or pdf, it'd probably be even smaller. I only chose not to do that because there is less support for it in browsers... like how I can't open PDFs inline in firefox very pleasantly.

more than 3 years ago
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Sharing Electronic Schematics

Gibbs-Duhem Re:just tried it; not sure its a great idea (70 comments)

If it had labels for logical blocks, I think that the schematic you linked to would be perfectly legible. A bit overkill, but at least it's not messy. What if there were two LEDs? Three? Four? There is definitely a limit where no matter how obvious the connection is, it increases legibility to use named nets.

more than 3 years ago
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Sharing Electronic Schematics

Gibbs-Duhem Re:just tried it; not sure its a great idea (70 comments)

Yeah, I definitely agree with this. This seems to be a solution to the problem "how can I make illegible and amateurish schematic drawings more readable without learning anything?"

Use a frame that limits the total schematic size to a standard paper size. Use named nets and labels on nets instead of actually connecting wires between parts (except for trivial connections like capacitors). Put lines in your schematic that separate logical blocks of your schematic. Label logical blocks with a title (AC Rectifier, Boost Converter, Control System, ADCs, Filters, etc). This makes it trivial for someone to look at your schematic and rapidly identify errors. It makes it simpler for *you* to rapidly identify errors!

Just follow these four simple rules and your schematics (pretty much regardless of software used to make them) will suddenly appear to be fairly professional (if not perfect). For examples, take a look at this. I'm not an EE by any means, but the more you separate functionality into logical blocks and limit your size with frames, the closer it looks to "professional".

http://saikoled.com/lightshield/
http://saikoled.com/lightbrick/
http://web.mit.edu/neltnerb/www/artwork/design.html

(for the last link, some fairly complex schematics are shown in the "New Schematics and Diagrams" section. The ones near the top are duplicates of what I published on the other website.)

more than 3 years ago
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MIT Develops Fast Charging Liquid Flow Batteries

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Am I the only one who saw this? (135 comments)

You can either have academic labs researching things which are commercially interesting, and then give the professors working on it the perk of having the opportunity to commercialize it first (or at least royalties), or you can have academic labs researching things which the professor is academically interested in, and hope that it is commercially interesting. It is difficult to get both.

Either you get people complaining that publicly funded research isn't free to the public to use, or you get people complaining that stuff invented in academia has no practical application. And since there aren't any industrial research labs left, that means either no commercially interesting research, or encumbered research.

Not to mention that it would be *damn* hard to get professors to work for peanuts (seriously, I've seen what these people make for their qualifications) while training basically all high-skill future scientists, and under a contract where all work they do they can't even commercialize because some big company will snap it up underneath them.

No, I'm afraid that I have to disagree with your position. Yes, I have a bias because I am working very hard to commercialize technology that my lab invented, but I also think that is is more than fair to give the actual inventors first dibs on trying to commercialize something. I would have left academia in a hurry and just did all my work as a trade secret pretty quickly otherwise.

National labs of course are a totally different story. Usually their inventions are licensed under reasonable terms in only non-exclusive licenses. But those inventors are *working* for the government as opposed to just having a small fraction of their costs paid for by a government grant.

more than 3 years ago
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Asus To Ship Ubuntu 10.10 On Three Eee PC Netbooks

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Retailers (142 comments)

I dunno, they seem to manage fine with iOS and android. We're talking about netbooks, so the different form factor makes people intuitively not expect it to be *exactly* the same as what they've always used. And Unity is closer to looking like android/iOS than windows, which makes even more sense if the device is looking more like a phone than a desktop... although I definitely agree that not including Unity is an obvious choice. That stuff is just a disaster at present.

more than 3 years ago
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Using Flywheels to Meet Peak Power Grid Demands

Gibbs-Duhem Re:New tech? (325 comments)

If memory serves, the giant flywheel that MIT uses to spark their fusion test reactor is rigged with explosive charges to blow it to pieces if it ever came loose. I believe the calculations show that without detonating it, it would likely continue *through* several buildings before landing in the Charles River... could have been an urban legend though.

more than 2 years ago
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Using Flywheels to Meet Peak Power Grid Demands

Gibbs-Duhem Re:Cool, energy arbitrage (325 comments)

I have heard from electric companies that they have absolutely no problem with this. People doing "energy arbitrage" are essentially helping the power companies even out the grid, which means said power company doesn't have to turn on the expensive natural gas generators as often (or purchase less natural gas power when they are on). You're just getting into the business of providing space and equipment to do grid leveling informally.

more than 2 years ago
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Using Flywheels to Meet Peak Power Grid Demands

Gibbs-Duhem Re::-) but a serious question, what % loss? (325 comments)

The efficiency of an electric motor can be in excess of 90%. Energy is transferred to a flywheel via electric motor, and extracted (mostly likely) through the same electric motor, so your maximum theoretical efficiency is going to be your motor efficiency squared. If they tried hard, probably something like (92%)^2 or something like 85% total storage efficiency.

This is of course assuming that mechanical losses are zero, but given the design they are very likely to be close to perfect. There will also of course be some energy lost indirectly in levitation/cooling/ohmic stuff outside of the flywheel.

I think the thing about this article that bugs me the most is they say that the flywheels can store 20MW. What on earth kind of way to measure an energy storage device is that? 20MW for 0.5 seconds? 20MW for three days? Embarrassing.

more than 2 years ago
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Stamping Out Low-Cost Nanodevices

Gibbs-Duhem Wet-embossing? (24 comments)

Hopefully someone who is on an academic IP address can explain why this is any different than the standard wet-embossing techniques that we've been using to do this kind of thing for the last decade and a half... those SEM images sure look awfully similar to the stuff I was doing back in 2001. Maybe they're just saying that they crush the porous substrate whereas with standard techniques we suck up solvents in substrate inks? That would be kind of neat, although it seems like it'd be limited in utility so I imagine it's more clever than that... do they crush some porous substrate and then manage to lift off the pattern or otherwise remove the crushed portion? Do they have a technique to deposit different substrates on the same device? Otherwise, it's not really going to be useful for most electronics right? I mean, making a pattern of n-type silicon isn't going to make a useful device unless you can deposit p-type and conductor on the same device and manage high degrees of alignment... maybe they mean that this can be used as memory? DIffraction gratings by themselves are rather boring...

A shame that the article doesn't say what the substrates actually are. I do like the photos of the little tubes, although without a scale bar I'm not sure what I'm looking at.

more than 2 years ago
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TI vs. Calculator Hobbyists, the Next Round

Gibbs-Duhem Dodged the bullet... (301 comments)

Wow, I'm glad that my TI-89 from literally 1998 still works perfectly... I use that thing *all* the time at work. I would be furious if I could no longer use the eigenvalue and eigenvector solving software. Did they cripple it in any other ways since then? As is with the stock OS I can solve fairly complex integrals without even simplifying them...

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Affordable, High-End, Audio-Responsive, Hackable LED Light

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "SaikoLED is a little company in the US that after 5 years of engineering, feedback, and installation experience is launching a pretty awesome open source and open hardware audio-responsive RGB+W Arduino-based LED light for a starting price of $79. The light is being launched using a new crowdfunding platform, also launched today, called Crowd Supply where you can donate now if you like.

There is a wide variety of really neat stuff in the technical blog which is also being used as a repository for general Arduino and LED Lighting know-how. Some examples which generally include both media and code are autonomous audio responsive mode, a deriviation for how to convert from HSI colorspace to RGB+W optimally, how to get 4 channels of 16-bit PWM on any ATmega32u4 based device (including Arduino Leonardo), a color changing surface that can be used as either a beautiful table for artwork or as a neuroscience tool to study the function of flicker phosphenes in generating geometric hallucinations, how to get arbitrary color correction functions using HSI colorspace, cool shades that make neat patterns on walls, and a start to extensive documentation about how the device works from a low level to a high level. On top of it all, they plan to run events like the myki Challenge and donate a portion of their lights to schools and hackerspaces if they get funded."

Link to Original Source
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How to enable 16-bit PWM output on Arduino Leonardo

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Gibbs-Duhem writes "This tutorial has extensively commented code explaining how to configure the registers on the Arduino Leonardo to do 16-bit and 10-bit PWM outputs in hardware. It's directly written for the SaikoLED MyKi LED Light, but it's based on the Arduino Leonardo, so the same code will work for both. With 16-bit PWM output you have a lot of cool new options like arbitrary scaling functions to map an 8-bit value onto a different function, or to allow much dimmer LED light outputs. An example video showing red and blue LEDs side by side with 8-bit versus 16-bit PWM is shown here."
Link to Original Source
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Sound Responsive High Power LED Array

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem writes "This video shows operation of a neat project using some new digital analysis chips to produce hacker-friendly sound-responsive LED modules similar to old color organs, but much smaller, easier to set up, and modular. As usual, the boards are open-hardware, and both eagle schematics and board layouts are available on the website. The artist is constructing a 10x10 array using a Kickstarter Project, which will put out 25,000 lumens of light for a display at Burning Man. This work is from the same artist who previously built wifi LED lighting for some pretty cool installations around the country and lights with ultra-high CRI and added ultraviolet LEDs for use with artwork display."
Link to Original Source
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Autonomous Sound Responsive High Brightness LED Modules

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem writes "This is a cool little art project on Kickstarter where a bunch of individual high power LED lights are souped up with built in audio analysis hardware and an onboard microphone. At scale, these modules put out over 250 lumens a piece, and can be assembled into enormous arrays in any shape or size for under $50 per module for a modern version of the color organs built in analog back in the day. By the same artists who put together quite a few other cool audio oriented high power LED lighting systems, and other sophisticated lights for use with artwork previously covered on Slashdot. As usual, schematics, design information, and board layouts are available for the project."
Link to Original Source
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Ask Slashdot: How do you protect data on Android?

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem writes "Dear Slashdot,

It makes me very nervous that my android phone has access to my email/AIM/gtalk/facebook/... protected only by a presumably fairly easily hacked geometric password protection scheme. Even more because simply attaching the phone to a USB port allows complete access to the internal memory and SD card regardless of whether a password is entered. I have no idea how much of that information ranging from cached emails to passwords stored in plaintext is accessible when mounting the device as a USB drive, and that worries me.

I have a lot of sensitive information in my email, including passwords for websites and confidential business/technical strategy discussions (not to mention personal emails ranging from racy emails from boyfriends to health discussions). My email and messaging client passwords are difficult to type (or even remember), so I would ideally want them saved in the device, although at least having something like a keyring password that needed to be re-entered after a time delay would make me feel better. This leaves me relying on encryption and OS level security to protect me.

I'm okay with this on my real laptop and computers as my hard disks are software encrypted and I make a habit of locking my session whenever I leave my desk. For instance, if I lost my laptop, the odds of the thief getting access to my information is minimal. However, I don't feel that this is at all true for my phone (which is frankly far more likely to be lost).

How is it that the slashdot security pros handle this issue? Do you just not use email or the many other incredibly convenient capabilities of new android smartphones due to the risk? Or are there specific ways in which we can guarantee (or at least greatly augment) the existing security practices?"
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ARM Based Arduino Replacement at SparkFun

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "The LeafLabs Maple, an ARM device designed to be pin compatible to the Arduino with a strikingly similar and familiar development environment has reached a new milestone — being carried by SparkFun (http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10664). By swapping the popular "avr-gcc" compiler with CodeSourcery's "arm-non-eabi-gcc," LeafLabs manages to provide a nearly identical programming experience to Arduino despite targeting a completely different architecture. Also, while some Arduino shields are incompatible due to certain capabilities being allocated to different pins, several of them are currently supported and there are more to come."
Link to Original Source
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New method to meet cost targets for solar hydrogen

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem writes "A report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy has concluded that a novel University of Colorado Boulder method of producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight is the only approach among eight competing technologies that is projected to meet future cost targets set by the federal agency.

The process, which is being developed by Professor Alan Weimer's research team of CU-Boulder's chemical and biological engineering department, involves an array of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays and create temperatures as high as 2,640 degrees Fahrenheit. The process consists of two steps — each involving reactions of a thin film of metal ferrite coating with a reactive substrate contained in a solar receiver — to split water into its gaseous components, hydrogen and oxygen."

Link to Original Source
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Arduino based high powered LED lights over WiFi

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "This awesome video was produced by some MIT Engineers recently. They've started a fully open-source, open-hardware high power LED lighting project that they designed to be modular enough to control with the Arduino (or any other control system)! Using their open-source firmware, you can set up the Arduino to connect to WiFi and receive Open Sound Control packets. Then, they went further and released open-source software for PureData and Python to do music analysis and make the lights flash brilliantly in time with the music! A full Instructable was also posted in addition to the existing documentation for design and assembly on their website, http://saikoled.com"
Link to Original Source
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MIT Engineers release Open Source LED Lighting

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "Four MIT Engineers, Brian Neltner (covered previously on slashdot for his work at http://led-artwork.com/ ), Daniel Taub, Perry Hung, and Russel Ryan, have in their spare time taken it upon themselves to produce an open-source, flexible, modular, and extremely high power LED light based on custom open hardware, and designed to make it easy for hobbyists to start using high power lighting in their projects. The "Saiko5" ( http://saikoled.com/saiko5/ ) is documented from circuit design and assembly all the way to case design and control software, and is all released under creative commons and GPL licenses.

The fixture they designed outputs over 800 lumens of focused LED lighting. It is controllable entirely over WiFi and is based around either an Arduino ( http://arduino.cc/ ) or a Maple ( http://leaflabs.com/devices/maple/ ) along with their open-source and open-hardware Light Shield ( http://saikoled.com/lightshield ). The firmware developed by these engineers uses the Open Sound Control ( http://www.opensoundcontrol.org/ ) protocol, a successor to the popular MIDI and DMX control schemes.

On the software side, the Saiko5 has fully open-source Python ( http://www.python.org/ ) example scripts which can be used as a backend to allow any software running on the computer to control the lights with simple commands such as "flash". At a higher level, they have also released an example audio analysis patch using the open-source version of Max/MSP known as PureData ( http://puredata.info/ ). The result is a variety of awesome videos showing the interaction of the LED light fixture with music which are posted at http://saikoled.com/applications/ .

The authors also posted a handy Instructable ( http://www.instructables.com/id/Ultra-bright-LED-Color-Changing-Spotlight-using-Op/ ) with step-by-step instructions for how to construct one of these light fixtures!"

Link to Original Source
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MIT student gets artistic with LED art.

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "This is some really cool artwork built by an MIT graduate student. He's designed custom LED light fixtures which are seven times brighter than the closest similar commercial models, and include colors which can't be reproduced by a normal RGB cluster (including two ridiculously bright UV LEDs) in order to create some beautiful mixed media artwork. The author's goal is to eventually publish a guide to make getting into creating such artwork more accessible to the general public.

The site includes lots of great photos and a movie of the art in action. It also has in depth descriptions of the theory involved in this relatively new form of art, an explanation of how the paints were chosen, and an in depth technical discussion of how such lights are designed with schematics and board layouts for those who might wish to build their own lights.

It's a bit heavy on the technical details for a typical artist, but it's a goldmine of experienced technical advice for an engineer looking to get into making their own LED based lighting."

Link to Original Source
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Switchgrass Ethanol produces 540% energy gain.

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "BBC News is reporting on the first large-scale study of cellulosic ethanol using actual measured values from a 5-year study involving ten farms from three to nine hectares. The results show that ethanol derived from switchgrass contain approximately 540% more energy than is needed to produce it. Switchgrass and other fast growing crops are very attractive for cellulosic ethanol production because, unlike corn or other food crops, the entire plant is used.

The study includes real measured values for fertilizer, diesel fuel for transport, fuel used for seed production, and herbicides. The remaining energy input to be measured is the efficiency of the actual biorefineries which would convert the switchgrass cellulose to ethanol, so the study was forced to estimate those values. The numbers for that stage of the process are due out soon, with six refineries scheduled to be opened by 2010 which are "above the pilot plant scale.""
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Top Inventions of 2007

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "Time Magazine is reporting on the best inventions of the year. Alas, the top invention is the somewhat well-known iPhone, but there are some extremely cool projects included that I had certainly never heard of, including a device for capturing waste heat from car engines to increase efficiency up to 40%, a novel car designed to run entirely on compressed air claiming to have a range of 2000km with zero pollution, a James Bond style GPS tracking device that police can use to avoid high-speed chases, a small-scale printing press capable of printing and binding a paperback book in 3 minutes for under $3/book (and $50k per machine), a microbe-based technology for turning soft sand into sandstone, a water-based display which uses computer controlled nozzles to produce coherent gaps in the water, and a way to convert type A, B, and AB-negative blood into type O."
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Free tuition for Math, Science, and Engineering?

Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "Sen. Max Baucus (Dem from MT) wants free college tuition for US math, science, and engineering majors conditional upon working or teaching in the field for at least four years.

It's difficult to see anything that pumps money into education as a bad thing, but is this the best way to help the country create a more stable, educated workforce to compete with India, China, and Canada? It certainly seems that the "trickle-down" effect could help high school education as well, as more graduates look to teaching as a way to repay their debt to society."

Link to Original Source
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Gibbs-Duhem Gibbs-Duhem writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) writes "Nice to see that some market forces are working against DRM. Of course, the big difference between this situation and music is that the professors aren't being paid to submit to the journal, so the journal turning around and restricting access to that work is even more ridiculous. Here is a case where the threat of those professors no longer publishing in that journal may well be enough of a danger that the SAE removes the DRM from their software.

From the Article:

The MIT Libraries have canceled access to the Society of Automotive Engineers' web-based database of technical papers, rejecting the SAE's requirement that MIT accept the imposition of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology.

SAE's DRM technology severely limits use of SAE papers and imposes unnecessary burdens on readers. With this technology, users must download a DRM plugin, Adobe's "FileOpen," in order to read SAE papers. This plugin limits use to on-screen viewing and making a single printed copy, and does not work on Linux or Unix platforms.

MIT faculty respond

"It's a step backwards," says Professor Wai Cheng, SAE fellow and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, who feels strongly enough about the implications of DRM that he has asked to be added to the agenda of the upcoming SAE Publication Board meeting in April, when he will address this topic.

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