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Better Neutrino Detection Through Beta Decay November 9, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Japan, Science, Toys.
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Once upon a time scientists studying the sun couldn’t have the faintest idea of the internal activity of the Sun. One bright (see what I did there) scientist realized that monitoring neutrinos, the massless, chargeless, non-interacting particles that zip through the universe barely interacting with anything at all, might give a useful clue to the machinations therein.  I mean, they knew neutrinos are part of the solar flux,so it’s just a matter of detecting massless, chargeless, non-interacting particles.

Oh, crap.

Well, luckily neutrinos do not remain neutrinos forever; they decay into detectable particles…eventually.  Not often to be sure, as billions pass through a square centimeter every second without leaving any decay particles. Those decay particles can be detected with rather elaborate photomultipliers in a huge cavern in Japan somewhere: “It consists of a tank filled with 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water, surrounded by about 13,000 photo-multiplier tubes. If a neutrino enters the water and interacts with electrons or nuclei there, it results in a charged particle that moves faster than the speed of light in water. This leads to an optical shock wave, a cone of light called Cherenkov radiation. This light is projected onto the wall of the tank and recorded by the photomultiplier tubes.1“ Despite the heavy hardware only a few thousand are detected every year, which should tell you something about the likelihood of a decay event…not very damn likely.

Thing is, the theoretical number and the actual number didn’t match; the experimental result was one-third of theoretical, indicating something must be wrong with the theoretical understanding, or the experiment is crap. It turned out that neutrinos oscillate among three forms (electron, muon and tau) and detectors were primarily sensitive to only electron neutrinos.

Here’s where science gets really intricate; pour another shot and I’ll tell you why. In a distantly-related field, other scientists observed variations in the rate of beta decay of radioactive elements.  Once again, either the data is crap or the theory, and the theory says the decay rate should be constant.  Looking at the data over time, they found that the beta-decay rate matched the neutrino data, indicating a one-month oscillation attributable to solar radiation. Many now believe that neutrino emissions from the Sun are somehow affecting beta decay.

If that’s not strange enough for you then feature this: the same guys who figured this out are going to use beta-decay experiments here on Earth to monitor massless, chargeless, non-interacting neutrinos, and thereby the Sun.

 

1. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing all that much.  It is 11:30p.m. and I’m tired. Sue me.

Homework:  P. A. Sturrock et al. Comparative Analyses of Brookhaven National Laboratory Nuclear Decay Measurements and Super-Kamiokande Solar Neutrino Measurements: Neutrinos and Neutrino-Induced Beta-Decays as Probes of the Deep Solar Interior, Solar Physics (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s11207-016-1008-9

Brain-Computer Interface Restores Locomotion November 9, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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You heard me. Watch the video and be amazed.

The researchers think it could be ready for human trials by the end of the decade.

If it sounds familiar, it might be because Star Trek thought of it first:

Image result for spock's brain

Homework: Capogrosso, Marco, Milekovic, Tomislav, et. al, A brain–spine interface alleviating gait deficits after spinal cord injury in primates, Nature

A Shortage of Imagination November 8, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Hello Kitty, Photography, Toys.
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hello kitty armour

There are lots of creative notions and flights of fancy I come up with in the shower, after a couple of scotches or in the drowsy state which precedes real sleep.

This is not one of them.

The Homemade Muon Detector October 15, 2016

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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):

image

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:

image

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

Mad Scientist Tutorial October 13, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Geek Stuff, Science, Toys.
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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

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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.
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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

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https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/bezos1-980x551.jpg

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.
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“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

Superbowl Warmup (uh, sorta) September 30, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Toys, Video.
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Surface Chemistry Weekly Review September 19, 2016

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Things are happening in the thrilling world of surface chemistry (which I know you all care about deeply), so I will attempt to translate from Science to Normal and explain the usefulness of each advance (as I see it. I am never wrong).

First, and array of carbon nanotubes was created by drawing up a substrate from a solution of high-purity nanotubes, causing them to string out nicely.

Abstract Image

The resulting array of CNTs were etched with electrons scoring a resist coating, the remainder of which was washed off with acetone.  Not sure how they got the palladium contacts attached, but that may be just standard solution chemistry.  I can think of two ways to do it, if the CNTs can take it.

The upshot of all this is an array of CNT FETs (50 per micrometer!) with “quasi-ballistic conduction” (meaning really fast, almost effortless electron flow). As reported in Science “The saturated on-state current density is as high as 900 μA μm−1 and is similar to or exceeds that of Si FETs when compared at and equivalent gate oxide thickness and at the same off-state current density. The on-state current density exceeds that of GaAs FETs as well. This breakthrough in CNT array performance is a critical advance toward the exploitation of CNTs in logic, high-speed communications, and other semiconductor electronics technologies“, that last bit being a trifle understated.  This is equivalent to Silicon-based FETs, and more advances are coming.  This technology will most likely supplant silicon-base transistors in the not-too-distant future, giving you and me the ever-increasing computation speed and lower power demands that we associate with The Future of Computing.

Homework: Quasi-ballistic carbon nanotube array transistors with current density exceeding Si and GaAs, Science Advances  02 Sep 2016:Vol. 2, no. 9, Gerald J. Brady1, Austin J. Way, Nathaniel S. Safron1, Harold T. Evensen, Padma Gopalan and Michael S. Arnold

 

Next, Kiel University (Germany; it’s OK, I had to look it up, too) materials scientists found a way to microscopically etch metals so that they could be strongly joined by glue.  Their etching process results in a water- and grease-repellent metal surface which takes glue beautifully: “…the here described novel nanoscale-surface sculpturing based on semiconductor etching knowledge turns surfaces of everyday metals into their most stable configuration, but leaves the bulk properties unaffected.” Possible improvements to everyday life include surface prep for painting, aluminum removal from titanium implants and of course, using glue for metal parts assembly, which will save buckets of time and money, as welding is expensive and often impractical.

Not exactly surface chemistry, but I include it because I feel it’s a fundamental advance in materials science techniques.

Homework:  Making metal surfaces strong, resistant, and multifunctional by nanoscale-sculpturing, M. Baytekin-Gerngross et al, Nanoscale Horiz. (2016)

 

Materials researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a technique that allows them to integrate graphene, graphene oxide (GO) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO) on silicon at room temperature by using a nanosecond-pulsed laser.  They have foolishly tried to insist that this is to be used for medical sensors (and it may well be), but the reduced form of graphene oxide is a semiconducting material.  This could be an alternate route to large-scale manufacturing of graphene-based semiconductors, which means (once again) low-power, small devices for The Future of Computing.

Homework: Wafer scale integration of reduced graphene oxide by novel laser processing at room temperature in air, Anagh Bhaumik1 and Jagdish Narayan, J. Appl. Phys. 120, 105304 (2016)

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading this far; you are very brave.

Some Things Speak For Themselves September 19, 2016

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Sorry about this.

Wicked Waves August 31, 2016

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New from TOOOL  USD30.

Every Girl Should Have One August 29, 2016

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When I think of all the pool floats I have bought for my girls, I cringe when I realize I could have bought them this.  They never would have asked for another (for one thing. For another, the other kids at camp wouldn’t have swiped this sucker, that’s for damned sure).

From Amazon.

Gluten-free Bread Adventures III August 27, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Toys, Uncategorizable.
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Well, not exactly, except the yellow thingie below is a toast-cutter for punching

out bat-logoed bread, while the egg cup is, well, um, yeah.  Looks like fun.  It comes as a set from Amazon.

Gluten-free Bread Machine Adventures II August 23, 2016

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in which Our Hero tries Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Wonderful Bread Mix, using the package directions exactly.  The bread machine in question is the Black and Decker All-In-One Deluxe(tm) Automatic Breadmaker, set for Regular crust and Rapid rise.  This nominally takes 1:58 to bake.

 

IMG_20160823_164152

Delicious with butter so far.  Have not yet tried the toast  Update possible at breakfast.

Monster 6502 June 30, 2016

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MOnSter 6502 (prototype PCB)

Monster 6502 is a circuit-board replica of the classic (in that it appeared an Apple II) MOS 6502 microprocessor. It is the project of a couple of very serious nerds who will be running BASIC programs on it at the local reverse-engineering meetup next Wednesday.  I can’t wait to meet the guys who wrote the following snippets in the FAQ for this project:

How many components are there on the board?

In total, there are 4304 components on the board. There are 3218 transistors and 1019 resistors that comprise the “functional” part of the 6502. In addition to these, there are also LEDs sprinkled throughout that indicate the values of various control lines, registers, and status bits, as well as additional transistors and resistors (not counted in those “functional” totals) that are necessary to drive those LEDs.

As of the current design, the statistics are as follows:

  • Components that correspond 1:1 with transistors in the original 6502:
    • Total active transistors: 4237
      • 3218 enhancement mode n-channel MOSFETs
        • 2599 discrete
        • 619 located on 161 quad transistor array chips (25 of these 644 transistors were not used)
      • 1019 depletion mode MOSFETs (the MOnSter 6502 uses resistors in place of these MOSFETs)
  • 525 Additional parts present only in the MOnSter 6502:
    • 167 LEDs
    • 123 extra MOSFETs for driving the LEDs
    • 20 filter capacitors
    • 2 zero-ohm jumpers for net tie reasons
    • 8 current limit resistors
    • 167 resistors for the LEDs
    • 36 diodes (for ESD protection)
    • 2 connectors (5 V power, 40-pin “ICR” ribbon cable)
  • Total parts: 4304
Are you nuts?

Probably.

Are you going to make one out of vacuum tubes next?

No.

Is there going to be a soldering kit version of this?

No. (But on the other hand, “Anything is a soldering kit if you’re brave enough!”)

Exciting update: yeah, it was just great. Never before in the history of the world has anything so pointless been done so very well, with thorough design, component selection and pre-assembly testing carefully prepared against the day that an obsolete processor’s ghost could be made to rattle the chains of Integer BASIC. Woz would be so proud.  I have some Blurricam™ footage:

Important Update June 30, 2016

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Housewife Replacement June 23, 2016

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This is SpotMini from Boston Dynamics.  Usually BD makes enormous, noisy hulking robot mules to haul stuff around for the military…but the military said they were too loud and nixed the program.  So, here’s Spot, tidying up after breakfast.  All Spot needs now is the correct voice-activated response to “Get me a beer, will ya?” I see an enormous market for that.

Exciting update:

Told you so.

Silicon Valley Robotics Meetup June 17, 2016

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I went a Meetup named Beer and Bots as part of Silicon Valley Robotics  in San Francisco (held at Comet Labs on Mission Street; thank you for your generosity) for a meeting featuring, well, beer and bots. 
It was almost all schmoozing, though there were three demos: An EE, who demonstrated a $150 black box robot platform (I have his card and will report more on this later);  Tap Interface guys tapwithus.com showing a Bluetooth gizmo for one-handed typing without a keyboard; and a robot gripper guy with a robust gripper that is fairly cheap, can hoist beer bottles despite guys trying to remove them by hand, but gentle enough to not wreck a tortilla chip (my test for gentleness).  Also met a recruiter from a contract robotics engineering firm, from whom I might get a little work here and there. Among other things I learned that Andra (boss of this little show) doesn’t have time to arrange any more robotics job fairs and is looking for someone to help with that kind of thing.  Could be me, maybe; I have some bandwidth coming available soon.