jump to navigation

The Homemade Muon Detector October 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
add a comment

Dazzling in complexity, the little chart above details the fate of cosmic rays (high-energy protons hurtled from the sun) which impact our atmosphere, leaving a byzantine collection of particles and EM emissions.  Some of these suckers are relatively easy to detect; the muon possibly the easiest.  Scientists studying the output of our sun can use more information about cosmic ray bombardment and an array of muon detectors would be really useful for this as muons (and other particles) are generated within a cone-shaped shower, with all particles staying within about 1 degree of the primary particle’s path.

Enter Spencer Axani, doctoral student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has whomped one up for a mere hundred bucks, and published a paper with detailed construction plans (no Instructables project yet, however.  I checked):


Straightforward as heck, a plastic brick and a photomultiplier tube are locked up in a light-tight box.  Muons hit the brick, generate a photon on decay and the photomultiplier generates enough juice to tell there’s been an event. An Arduino is used (yes, an Arduino) as a peak detector and a Python script crunches the time-stamped data for delivery to a PC.

He took it around Fermilab to test it out in Real Life:


Neat-o, right?


Homework:  The Desktop Muon Detector: A simple, physics-motivated machine- and electronics-shop project for university students , S.N. Axani, J.M. Conrad, and C. Kirby, Physics Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Extra credit:  http://www2.fisica.unlp.edu.ar/~veiga/experiments.html

Much Better Gluten Quantitation by GP-HPLC-FLD October 14, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science.
add a comment

Katharina Anne Scherf*, Herbert Wieser, and Peter Koehler combined gel-permeation high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection to develop a sensitive technique that can detect both gliadins and glutenins in purified wheat starch. The new method identified higher amounts of gluten in 19 out of 26 samples than the ELISA analyses did. And, according to the new test, 12 samples that had been labeled gluten-free contained between 25.6 and 69 milligrams of gluten per kilogram of starch. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization have set the maximum limit for gluten in products labeled gluten-free at 20 mg/kg.


Homework:  Improved Quantitation of Gluten in Wheat Starch for Celiac Disease Patients by Gel-Permeation High-Performance Liquid Chromatography with Fluorescence Detection (GP-HPLC-FLD), Katharina Anne Scherf*, Herbert Wieser, and Peter Koehler, Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Lebensmittelchemie, Leibniz Institut, Lise-Meitner-Straße 34, 85354 Freising, Germany J. Agric. Food Chem., 2016, 64 (40), pp 7622–7631. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b02512

Working Remotely October 14, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants.
add a comment

working remotely

I may yet end up with the sort of life I once thought would be very desirable, a quiet country life with a comfortable salary.  I recently landed a gig as a technical writer doing disaster recovery document processing, which has some remote work.  Good thing, too: it’s five hours from my house one way.

Mad Scientist Tutorial October 13, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Geek Stuff, Science, Toys.
add a comment

An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) generator can overload various kinds of circuitry, causing all sorts of merry havoc among the pinks.  You can make a little baby one and overload poorly-protected circuits up close, although a hammer is more certain to succeed.

Have I Mentioned my Fear of Heights? October 10, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Toys.
add a comment

JetPack Aviation CEO and Chief Test Pilot David Mayman flies the JB10 in Monaco.  Is the JB supposed to stand for James Bond?  Still no flying car, though.

Universal Molecular Diagnostics by Affinity October 10, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
add a comment

Rice University researchers have invented a technology that could potentially identify hundreds of bacterial pathogens simply, quickly and at low cost using a single set of random DNA probes. Richard Baraniuk, Amirali Aghazadeh and Rebekah Drezek whomped up a batch of five random probes and used them to identify 11 known strains of bacteria, providing a genomic-based test for identity of pathogens.  This is a big deal because usually each species required its own DNA probe.

Their new study includes several computer simulations, including one that shows how a random selection of five probes can identify 40 different strains of bacteria, and another that demonstrates how the system can accurately differentiate between 24 different species of Staphylococcus.

Rather than identifying a target strain based on a 100 percent match with a specific probe, Rice’s system tests how well the target DNA binds with several different random segments of complementary DNA. UMD uses a mathematical technique called compressive sensing, which was pioneered in the field of digital signal processing. With compressive sensing, the disease DNA need not bind with 100 percent of the probes. Instead, the new system measures how well the disease DNA binds with each of the random probes and creates a specific binding profile for the test organism. It then uses deductive reasoning to determine whether that profile matches the profile of any known pathogens.

With larger numbers of probes, it works even better:

No special hardware is required for this approach, other than the tried and true PCR with which we have become familiar over the last twenty years (thank you, Kary Mullis and LSD). The special sauce is the computer code which figures out the relative affinities.  This can be made available everywhere pretty cheaply, versus specialized DNA probes which require expensive facilities and a lot more regulatory testing.

Homework: Universal microbial diagnostics using random DNA probes, Amirali Aghazadeh1,*, Adam Y. Lin1,*, Mona A. Sheikh1,*, Allen L. Chen1, Lisa M. Atkins2, Coreen L. Johnson2, Joseph F. Petrosino2, Rebekah A. Drezek1 and Richard G. Baraniuk1, Science Advances  28 Sep 2016:Vol. 2, no. 9, e1600025 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1600025

You Would be Smug, Too October 10, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
add a comment


Jeff Bezos tweeted this picture of his boots and booze after completing a bucket of milestones in space exploration:

  1. Five flights of the same, reusable Blue Origin spacecraft within a year
  2. Separation of booster rocket and capsule with safe return for both
  3. Restart of booster rocket at only 3300 feet and safe return
  4. Safe return of capsule with one deliberately failed parachute.

The boots say “step by step, ferociously” in Latin. 

Smug and pretentious.  And well deserved.

Statcheck Checks PubPeer Stats and Conclusions October 10, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Science, Toys.
add a comment

“When starting this project, I wouldn’t say [this was a big problem],” Nuijten tells me. “We’re detecting when people are making rounding errors, who cares?”

But she and some colleagues in the Netherlands were curious enough to check. They built a computer program that could quickly scan published psychological papers and check the math on the statistics. They called their program “Statcheck” and ran it on 30,717 papers.

Rounding errors, and other small potential mistakes in calculating the statistics, were rampant. “We found that half of all published psychology papers … contained at least one p-value that was inconsistent with its test,” Nuijten and her co-authors reported in 2015 in the journal Behavior Research Methods.

Most striking was that the errors weren’t entirely random. Most of the errors tipped the results in favor of statistical significance. And around 13 percent of the papers contained an error that could potentially change the paper’s conclusions.

–Shamelessly stolen from Vox.com

If You Leave it Open, They Will Come October 1, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Uncategorizable, Video.
add a comment

…for breakfast:

…and dinner:

We were out for lunch, so no clue how he survived the Arctic Chill without us. Probably begged from the folks down the street.