Gaussian pistol

Oh, the things I have seen. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

Errrr, wait. That’s not right. Sorry – had a moment where I think I called upon the spirit of Roy Batty.

What I meant was, I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff posted on the web. And it’s not always posted on the more visited or more “cool” sites. So here we’ll take a peek at one of the cooler things I’ve seen online that wasn’t posted on absolutely every major geek site out there (sure, a lot of them covered it, but one or two had to have missed it). Check out this home built Gaussian pistol (also known as a rail gun – at least to gamers).


  • Two coils are precisely pulsed in sequence (350 Amp peak) to fire a steel projectile
  • Two infrared sensors detect the projectile position within the firing tube
  • Controlled by a PIC microcontroller
  • Powered by 8 AA NiCd battery pack
  • Built-in battery charger
  • Bar display tracks capacitor bank charge progress
  • Battery and Fault LED indicators
  • Laser targeting sight
  • Makes no sound when fired

Man, that looks like a cool project. (via DIYlive)

[tags]Gaussian pistol, Handheld rail gun, Do it yourself, DIY[/tags]

XKCD comics hit funny high point again

I haven’t posted one of these in a while, but I still read XKCD every few days to see the latest comics there. I usually get a good laugh out of them. But when I see the really good ones, I have to share. I used to believe this would happen, and I bet most other kids did, too.


[tags]XKCD, Swingset physics, Weightlessnes to a child[/tags]

Blue lasers get power bump, speed bump naturally follows

Recent research in Japan has produced a more powerful blue-violet diode laser which will make for faster next-generation disc burning.

Japanese Nichia Corp. has developed a blue-violet semiconductor laser diode, featuring a power high enough for burning Blu-Ray and HD DVD media at high speeds.

Nichia’s new laser diode is able to emit pulsed light at 320mW, while it offers a stable operation of 1,000 hours, according to the company. The diode could be used for optical discs including Blu-ray and HD DVD, allowing 10X speed recording with a double-layer disc and 2X speed recording with a four-layer disc. Currently blue-violet semiconductor laser diodes offer a pulsed output of 130 mW.

Production on this new laser is expected to begin in early 2008. Along with the improved lasers, however, improved disc materials will be needed to get the expected speed improvement. (via Electronista)

[tags]Lasers get more frikkin’ power, More powerful blue-violet diode laser for more burning speed[/tags]

iPod to be the new Black Box?

In what I can only call a beautiful use of technology, light aircraft manufacturer LoPresti SpeedMerchants is set to put Apple iPods into airplanes to act as flight data recorders (obligatory short link if that one is broken) for one of its light planes.

The company says it plans the “full integration of the iPod into the Fury’s avionics systems”. The iconic ‘white box’ iPod will serve as a digital data recorder, nicknamed ‘black boxes’ by the general media. The iPod, with suitable software, acts as a hard disk with the ability to record over 500h of flight time data.

. . .

The iPod can also act as an audio recorder, and can be used to capture two-way cockpit conversation and communication with air traffic control.

The iPod FDR would work with the patented iPod Dock Connector port on the bottom of the iPod, for which there is a large software developer community. “This is the perfect marriage of a consumer product to the aviation market” says Siegel. “The iPod has an ideal product spec for aviation. It’s light and small, with very low power requirements and a simple interface. There are thousands of developers passionate about writing applications for the iPod. With such a large body of programmers we literally have no idea what the next great aviation application may be.”

I’m curious how the iPod will be protected from explodificationizing in a truly catastrophic crash, but I leave that to smarter people to figure out. This is just a really cool project that I figured should be shared with others. I wonder if this will catch on and become standard for more aircraft, too. (via Danger Room)

[tags]iPod = the new Black Box?, Using the iPod to record aircraft flight data[/tags]

Stem-cell research showing a real payback

In what is currently a one-of-a-kind stem-cell success story, doctors in an Indian hospital claim to have restored the ability to walk to a man paralyzed after a fall from the 4th floor of a building.

Chennai, Feb. 25 (PTI): Doctors at a hospital here have claimed they successfully used stem cell therapy to enable a 25-year-old man, who injured his spinal cord in a fall in July last year, to walk normally again.

This is the first time that Indian doctors have resorted to stem cell therapy to cure spinal cord problems, said J S Rajkumar, chief surgeon of the corporate Lifeline multi-speciality hospital.

. . .

Its doctors, in collaboration with the Indo-Japanese joint venture Nichi In Centre For Regenerative Medicine (NCRA), used autologous or “own body” stem therapy in December 2006 to treat Ali who started walking on his own, Rajkumar told reporters Saturday.

Note that this feat was accomplished with stem-cells from the man’s own body, so fetal stem-cells played no role in this. Also, it is worth pointing out that currently doctors don’t know if this is a repeatable event, or if the planets lined up just right to make this work. (via Wired’s Bodyhack blog)

[tags]Stem-cell success story, Walking ability restored to paralyzed man[/tags]

Security, the Mac, Mac users – fanatical devotion != secure

Last week, the BBC wrote on security on the Mac and the apparent attitude Mac users take towards security. Highlighting the “Month of Apple Bugs” (MOAB) project web site, the BBC discusses the security reality of Mac computing. I suppose due to the brevity of the article there isn’t a lot of the really good information on security I’d like to see, but the BBC basically showcases the reality of security the MOAB project revealed while still pointing out that ultimately, the Mac has yet to be hit by a big, nasty worm or virus like Linux, Windows, Solaris, and so many operating systems have.

Apple Mac users are still too lax when it comes to security matters, an independent researcher has said.

Kevin Finisterre caused ripples in the Mac community when he started a website in January revealing a different bug in Apple systems each day of the month.

While some observers dismissed the survey, Apple recently issued a patch to plug holes outlined by Finisterre.

Apple owners’ attitude to security was “one of the main reasons we started the campaign,” he said.

Apple makes great play of the fact that its OSX operating has yet to be attacked by a virus while Windows XP machines are plagued with problems.

In the end, real-life commitments prevent the MOAB project creator from continuing regular work on it. He does note, however, that he would be glad to continue working on it if someone could put up the capital required to keep it going.

[tags]Apple security, the Month of Apple Bugs (MOAB) project[/tags]

A few soldiers give ammo to anti-military idiots

In a news story sure to be used as “proof” that our military members are bad people, we hear of four military men who raped a 14-year-old girl in Iraq and killed her and her parents and younger sister. Rather than focusing on the reality that there are bad people in any large group, expect idiots everywhere to present this as a damnation of the entire US military. It is a disturbing occurance, but this is 4 people in group of well over 100,000 (and yes, I know there are other abuses, but again those are small numbers out of a large deployment).

Cortez, of Barstow, Calif., pleaded guilty this week to four counts of felony murder, rape and conspiracy to rape in a case considered among the worst atrocities by U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

In his plea agreement, he said he conspired with three other soldiers from the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division to rape 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. The girl, her parents and a younger sister were all killed.

There will be all kinds of speculation for why this happened, but ultimately none of that matters. Theses idiots did something stupid, and the entire US military will be judged for this, likely along with the entire nation. (via Michelle Malkin)

[tags]4 military personnel on trial for rape and murder of 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family[/tags]

iPhone too expensive, may sell poorly

I believe this recent survey, which shows people largely aren’t willing to spend $500 for the iPhone, should surprise almost no one. Just as unsurprising, at lower price points, the number of people willing to buy goes up.

Online market research firm Compete Inc. surveyed 379 people in the U.S., most of whom had heard of the iPhone and have shopped for an iPod, to find out how interested they are in the device to produce the uncommissioned report. The iPhone is a combined music player and cell phone that Apple plans to start selling in the U.S. in June.

Among the 26 percent of respondents who said they’re likely to buy an iPhone, only 1 percent said they’d pay $500 for it. When Apple introduced the iPhone in January, it said it would cost $500 on the low end.

This cost point factored in to my prediction of less-than-desired sales levels when the iPhone was first announced, although I called it based purely on an instinctive view of typical consumers and business buyers. If the price does drop significantly come launch day, then I’ll revise my prediction based on what Apple and Cingular do release the phone at. (via Electronista)

[tags]Survey shows consumers largely unwilling to pay $500 for iPhone, Apple’s challenge of finding correct iPhone price[/tags]